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Osama Bin Laden May Have Surfaced Again; Training Bomb Goes Right Past Airport Screeners, onto Plane

Aired December 16, 2004 - 07:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Osama bin Laden may have surfaced again. Another audio tape posted on a radical Web site, this one blasting the Saudi royal family.
CNN's security watch. The training bomb that went right past airport screeners and right onto a plane loaded with passengers.

Ranking medicine, like you would a car or dish washer, a new Web site gives best buys on dozens of drugs.

And the giant waves crashing down in Hawaii. It's great for surfers, not so great for drivers, on this AMERICAN MORNING.

ANNOUNCER: From the CNN Broadcast Center in New York, this is AMERICAN MORNING with Soledad O'Brien and Bill Hemmer.

O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome back everybody. Bill Hemmer not back from Japan yet. Miles O'Brien, though, is with us.

Hello. Good morning.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. We think Bill Hemmer is somewhere high above the Pacific sipping on mimosa.

S. O'BRIEN: Or sleeping.

HEMMER: So if you're watching, Bill, good morning to you.

M. O'BRIEN: We'll have this report on the purported Osama bin Laden tape and what is on it in just a moment. Other stories we're following, Olympic track star Marion Jones says her image has been tarnished with steroid accusations, about $25 million worth of tarnish, to be exact. She's brought a huge lawsuit now. We'll talk to her attorneys about motives and what they say really happened.

S. O'BRIEN: Also this morning, a very busy day with CNN's Security Watch. Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is going to be with us later this hour. He's been very critical of federal terror reports, and says it is time that states start working on their own plans to stop terrorists. We're going to take a look at his idea for something called fusion centers.

Mr. Cafferty, good morning.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Fusion centers? S. O'BRIEN: Fusion of all the information from various sources. He'd like to see people on the front lines, like your EMS guy or your meter reader, become essentially like intelligence gatherers.

CAFFERTY: Entirely too practical for the government to tackle.

S. O'BRIEN: It'll never happen.

CAFFERTY: Makes much too much sense.

Video game industry is a multibillion dollar industry. Most of the customers are kids. The games, though, are becoming increasingly violent and sexually explicit, and the governor of Illinois says he doesn't think children ought to be able to buy them. We'll take a look.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, thank you very much, right in time for the holidays. I'm sure lots of kids pressuring their parents for that.


S. O'BRIEN: Thanks.

Let's get right to breaking news this hour. An audio tape said to be from Osama bin Laden has been broadcast on an Islamic Web site. The tape condemns the Saudi royal family for instability in Saudi Arabia, but it does not appear to have any references to specific events.

Nic Robertson is our senior international correspondent. He joins us from London this morning.

Nic, good morning.


We're still reviewing the tape, the recording at the moment. It does appear to be over an hour long. It does set out against a campaign against all Arab leaders, saying that Arab countries throughout history, at least the last century or so, have always been under the rule and influence of either the British and then the Americans. It does make the case against the Saudi royal family, saying there are millions of poor people in Saudi Arabia, yet the Saudi royal family is lining its pockets with millions of the Saudi riyal, the currency in Saudi Arabia.

And it also makes out, it also sets out the case that the violence in Saudi Arabia is a responsibility of the royal family and is part of the global jihad against the United States. But we're still going through this tape, this material and analyzing it. The first indication is from the experts we've talked to, they believe it is Osama bin Laden making the statement, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Focus on Saudi Arabia certainly interesting considering what we've seen happening in Jeddah, which of course you were there covering. Why -- is there any reference to times and dates and things like that that we've been able to find and make a guess about whether this is at least recent tape?

ROBERTSON: So far, no. And of course, we always look for these indications on these recordings. The question is really, why today? Why has this been released today? Today Saudi dissident groups have called for demonstrations in Saudi Arabia, in the capital Riyadh and in the port city of Jeddah.

I talked with somebody who was monitoring those demonstrations. He said they fizzled, that they didn't amount to anything, yet Islamic Web sites have been -- had a lot of chatter on them we're told today, saying that there have been thousands of arrests, that there have been shootouts. What we have heard from Saudi officials as that one shot was fired in Jeddah, two people were arrested there. But from my witnesses on the ground, they say even fewer people have been out on the streets than normal and that the demonstrations haven't amounted to anything. There's been a real campaign by Saudi dissidents to whip up support for these demonstrations. That doesn't seem to have happened. Could it be why this tape from Osama Bin Laden was released today? Maybe. We just don't know yet -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Nic Robertson for us this morning. Nic, thanks very much. And of course we'll continue to check in with you as we get more information on the details from this tape -- Miles?

M. O'BRIEN: As a matter of fact, we'll follow developments on this Bin Laden recording apparently all morning. Also a little later we'll focus on homeland security strategies in the U.S., as well as some glaring holes in airport screening. Right now, however, let's check the rest of the news that we are watching this morning. Kelly Wallace here.

Good morning, Kelly.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. Great to see you. And good morning, everyone.

Now in the news, the most wanted fugitive in Iraq is, quote, "most likely in Baghdad." That's according to a top U.S. general. Islamic militant leader Abu Musab Al Zarqawi was last known to be in Falluja. The U.S. has offered a $25 million reward for his death or capture. Al Zarqawi's group claims responsibility for killing U.S. and Iraqi soldiers and beheading numerous civilian hostages.

In Washington, day two of President Bush's economic summit, getting under way in a little over two hours. Yesterday the president took part in a panel discussion on capping lawsuit damage awards. On today's agenda, a look at future financing challenges and job creation.

CNN will have live coverage of the president's closing remarks at around 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

In Greece, an 18-hour standoff with bus hijackers coming to a dramatic, but peaceful conclusion. The incident ending when the two hijackers threw out their guns and released their six remaining hostages. The hijackers, identified as 24-year-old Albanians, failing in their attempt to get $1 million. Police said the men wanted the money to go to Albania.

And in Hawaii, crews are cleaning up shoreline highways today after the island chain took a beating from huge waves. Not a problem, though, for some of the world's greatest surfers. They turned out for a rare competition that occurs only when waves run over 20 feet.

Look at those pictures there.

Yesterday the surf was cresting up over 40 feet.

Soledad, we talked about this yesterday, a very rare competition indeed, only the sixth time in 19 years those surfers could take advantage of such huge waves.

S. O'BRIEN: Which is probably a good thing, I would imagine, safetywise, right?

WALLACE: Absolutely.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, Kelly, thanks.

Officials at Newark's airport are trying to find out how a bomb, albeit a fake bomb, used for training got past security and onto a plane. That's the focus of our CNN Security Watch this morning. Baggage screeners planted the fake, complete with wires and a timer, during a security exercise. But then, they lost it. It was later found after making it on to an international flight to Amsterdam. Airport officials admit that the simulated bomb was mishandled, but they say that there was no threat to passengers.

Rocco Malanga is Newark, New Jersey's director of homeland security. He joins us this morning.

Nice to see you.

No threat to passengers, well, obviously because it's a fake, but of that's not really the question. The question is, how does something like this happen? And does this mean, essentially, that passengers are not safe?

ROCCO MALANGA, NEWARK, N.J. DIR. OF HOMELAND SECURITY: I would say, first of all, there was no passengers that were put in harm's way with this, but it is very concerning to us how something like that could happen. I think it really comes down to a training issue. I think that they -- I know that there's an investigation under way. We've had conversations with the Port Authority officials and also TSA, that they're looking into this, and how something like this could happen.

S. O'BRIEN: When this becomes public, does that worry you? Because I sort of think that anyone who has an interest on planning a bomb on a plane would say, oh, look, big hole? MALANGA: Well, it is a concern. However, it's not something that can be swept under the carpet. If there is a problem, we need to address it, and that's what they're doing.

S. O'BRIEN: What about what's happening at LAX? There were big concerns about shoulder-fired missiles potentially hitting one of the planes there. Do you think that that's an apt concern?

MALANGA: It's a concern all over the country. We -- it's something that we've addressed in Newark. I know that New York, Chicago, all of the major cities, have man-pad location strategies, and it's something that obviously concerns us very much.

S. O'BRIEN: Senator Barbara Boxer said that the decision makers in Washington D.C. Had very much underestimated the threat. Do you think that's a fair criticism from her?

MALANGA: No, I don't think so. I think that we have assessed the threat. I think that we're taking it very seriously. Of course there's other concerns that we're watching, but this is something that is not taken lightly, and it's something that we're monitoring every day. I won't go into the particular strategies that are being used, but I can assure you that it is a concern, it is a top priority.

S. O'BRIEN: Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, as you well know, has come up with his own plan for protecting, not only his state, but he thinks a model, really, for other states as well. It would basically require regular civilians to kind of be on the front line of intelligence gathering and maybe focus more on intelligence than actually having police officers stand in front of targets and protect them. What do you think of that plan?

MALANGA: I think it's a great idea. I was in Massachusetts about six weeks ago and I heard Governor Romney's presentation. I think intelligence gathering does start at the local level. If you remember, if you go back in history, civil defense. The U.S. government has relied on its citizenry to provide information up the chain, as opposed to information flog down from the federal government. I really believe that terrorism should be treated as a crime, a basic crime. We shouldn't take for granted that the information is going to flow down. Why not use our cab drivers, why not use our bus drivers, why not use our local police officers in the street? That's where the information should be gathered, and that information should be then sent up the chain to the federal government.

S. O'BRIEN: Are you essentially though saying that the cab drivers, and the bus drivers, and the EMS guys and the meter readers should spy on the people they're working with, or working for in some cases?

MALANGA: No, not at all. What I'm saying is that they're the eyes and ears of America. And really, we all need to be vigilant. And this is something that -- the number of calls coming into our centers providing us information has quadrupled. So, we're getting information from people now. What we're saying is that everyone in the street, cab drivers, bus drivers, meter readers, they all see things. If there's suspicious activity, they're going to naturally report it to the police authorities. This information gathering has toe be analyzed. Most of it is going to turn out to be nothing, but if that one thing that's seen in the street by a local police officer, by a firefighter, by an EMS worker, as Governor Romney has said, makes a difference, then we've done our job.

S. O'BRIEN: Rocco Malanaga, it's nice to have you back.

MALANGA: My pleasure.

S. O'BRIEN: The director of homeland security for the city of Newark, New Jersey.

MALANGA: Thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: Nice to see you -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: As we've been telling you all this morning, analysts all around the world, including inside CNN's own newsroom, are carefully analyzing a one-hour audio tape released which apparently is Osama bin Laden. And we had been telling you all this morning we were unable to verify its date. And as we have combed through it, we have found a reference to the December 6th attack on the U.S. consulate in Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden offering praise to the five militants who tried to breach security at that U.S. consulate there. Four of them were killed in the gun battle which ensued, and so there is sort of a timestamp on this audio tape which is out there which, according to all the experts we've been talking to this morning, appears to be authentic, appears to have been Osama bin Laden with an hour-long audio release which came out on an Islamist Web site this morning, once again making reference to that December 6th attack in Jeddah Saudi Arabia. So we're watching that very closely for you. We'll hear from other experts as the morning goes on.


S. O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, more details on the tape that experts now think came from Osama bin Laden. Does its poor quality, though, say anything about where the al Qaeda leader might be hiding?

M. O'BRIEN: Massachusetts thinks it has come up with a better way to protect its people a and better way to spend federal dollars. Governor Mitt Romney will tell us about that.

S. O'BRIEN: And Marion Jones does not like being accused of taking steroids. She's doing something about it. Her attorneys are up next, on AMERICAN MORNING.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Lance Corporal Michael Cox (ph), (INAUDIBLE). I just want to say hi to my mom, dad, David, Gracie (ph), Terren (ph), my cousin Mike, and all my family and friends. I love y'all very much, and I'll see y'all before too long. Merry Christmas.


S. O'BRIEN: A new audio tape which appears to be from Osama bin Laden has appeared on Arabic Web sites today. The voice condemns the Saudi royal family and blames them, not the Jihadis for the current unrest in the country. It also contains a reference to the December 6th attack on the U.S. consulate in Jeddah. CNN experts now listening to that tape. We're going to have more on this developing story coming up in our next half hour -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Track star Marion Jones is suing the man accusing her of taking performance enhancing drugs. Victor Conte, owner of the BALCO lab in the San Francisco Bay area, told ABC that he gave Jones steroids and watched her inject them into her body. Now the $25 million lawsuit accuses Conte of tarnishing the Olympic champion's image.

Joining us from San Francisco, Rich Nichols and Joe Burton, attorneys for Marion Jones.

Gentlemen, good to have you with us.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Good to be here.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. You guys ready to go here, right? You're all miked up and ready?

OK, got it.

All right, give us the basic gist of the lawsuit. How has Marion Jones been defamed?

JOE BURTON, ATTY. FOR MARION JONES: She's been defamed by Mr. Conte, who has finally publicly stated that she used illegal performance enhancing drugs, and she has and continues in this litigation to categorically deny that.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. Why did you single out Mr. Conte and not go after ABC and ESPN as well?

RICH NICHOLS, ATTY. FOR MARION JONES: Well, this is the first time that anyone has taken actually responsibility, public responsibility for alleging that Marion Jones has used performance- enhancing drugs. It's the first time that Marion Jones has had an opportunity to avail herself of the legal system to address these false allegations, and Victor Conte was the first one to come forward and put his name on these false allegations.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, but nevertheless, I mean, you didn't want to shoot the messenger? Most people like to do that.

NICHOLS: Shoot the messenger?

M. O'BRIEN: In other words, ABC -- go after the broadcast that actually aired the defamation, as you allege it. NICHOLS: This defamation action is about Victor Conte and his false allegations against Marion Jones.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, we have a statement from Mr. Conte. He didn't respond to us, but it's on some of the wire services, Reuters and AP. He says this, "This is nothing more than a P.R. stunt by a desperate woman who has regularly used drugs throughout her career. I look forward with all confidence to the court proceedings as I stand by everything I said on the '20/20' special." How do you respond to that, gentleman?

NICHOLS: Well, we look very much forward to Mr. Conte taking us up on our invitation to take a lie-detector test, as Marion Jones did this past June, a lie-detector test that she passed when she was asked the question, has she ever taken performance-enhancing drugs. So that's our response to that, and this is not a P.R. stunt; this is something that we would like Mr. Conte to do.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. What about the burden of proof here, though? How can you prove your case that she hasn't used some of these designer-type steroids that Mr. Conte was peddling?

BURTON: The lawsuit lays out some of the bases that we will prove in court, which was that Miss Jones has been examined by a physician, who has confirmed that she has never used performance- enhancing drugs. She has take an lie-detector test and passed that. Mr. Conte, of course, has never been willing to do that.

M. O'BRIEN: No, I think he says thinks he would take the test, though, wouldn't he?

BURTON: Well, we've never heard that. We've never heard that. And we look forward to it. Because Mr. Conte is simply not credible. And Ms. Jones is the most tested athlete in sports. She's passed over 160 drug tests, and she's never taken performance-enhancing drugs, and we're going to prove that.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, we're going to leave it at that. Obviously this story will continue. We'll keep following. Rich Nichols and Joe Burton, thank you very much -- Soledad.

NICHOLS: Thank you.

BURTON: Thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: Still to come, more specifics on that tape believed to be from Osama bin Laden. And now you can shop for prescription drugs the same way you might shop for a car or a refrigerator. The Consumers Union's going to tell us how to get the best drug for the money. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


S. O'BRIEN: We're back everybody. A Las Vegas gamble looks like it's going to pay off. And another merger, this one involving health care technology. With those stories, plus a look at the markets today, Andy Serwer is "Minding Your Business."

Hello. Good morning.

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Good morning, Soledad.

We actually have two big deals to tell you about this morning, both delivered as promised. Let's start with the big one first, Johnson & Johnson is buying Guidant. That deal was first announced -- or discussed last week, I should say, $25 billion deal. Johnson & Johnson buying the maker of pacemakers, defibrillators and stints. It's all about heart health care.

The other deal Symantec and Veritest (ph), this one all reported possibly a couple days ago. That's a $13 billion deal.

As far as the market action yesterday, the streak continues -- the Dow up 15, Nasdaq up 2, S&P up 2. And we had a giant IPO yesterday that went very, very well. Forget about Google, let's go to Vegas, baby. The Las Vegas Sands up 61 percent on its first day of trading, up to about $46. And both the merger and the IPO, Soledad, a real sign of bullishness on Wall Street. You know, you have to have that kind of mentality if you're going to go ahead with those kinds of thins. Although, this morning, I've got to tell you, rising oil prices and the Bin Laden tape may put the kibosh (ph) on this rally we've seen.

All right, well, we'll keep watching it.

Andy, thanks.

SERWER: Indeed you're welcome.

M. O'BRIEN: Jack Cafferty's here. And Halo is the name of the game, but there's nothing angelic about it.

CAFFERTY: Very nice.

M. O'BRIEN: You like that?

CAFFERTY: Thank you, Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Rolled right off the tongue.

CAFFERTY: Did you get a new writer?

The governor of Illinois wants to make it illegal for anybody under the age of 18 to buy violent or sexually explicit video games in his state. Rod Bogloyovich (ph) says the industries fail to keep these things out of the hands of kids, games like "Grand Theft Auto," "Halo 2," "Mortal Kombat."

Now the industry has its own self-regulated rating system, which includes 'E' for everyone, 'T' for teen, 'M' for mature, and 'HS' for holy -- but there is evidence that the companies are marketing these mature games to boys under the age of 17. It's a $7 billion a year industry. And as it's become more competitive, the amount of gore and sex in the games is increasing. In "Grand Theft Auto," for example, the kids can visit a prostitute and then kill her if they don't want to pay for her. This is rough stuff. Some experts are calling these games, quote, "murder simulators."

The question then is this, "Should it be illegal for minors to buy violent, or sexually explicit video games?"

M. O'BRIEN: Who's going to say yes except for all the 12-year- old boys watching the program?

CAFFERTY: I don't know. I haven't read the mail yet.

M. O'BRIEN: OK, I'm just curious.

CAFFERTY: But I'm going to go do that.


M. O'BRIEN: It's pretty outrageous stuff.

CAFFERTY: Yes, but it is what it is. I mean, there's violence in comic books, too.


SERWER: If you've ever played these games, though, Jack, I mean, you sit there and you shoot people all day.

CAFFERTY: What's different than that and picking up a cap gun or water gun and shooting somebody?

SERWER: True. When we were growing up, BB guns, yes.

CAFFERTY: I don't know.

M. O'BRIEN: To the extent that it puts you in that world and you're role playing, I think it crosses the line.

CAFFERTY: Or you could stay home and watch "Desperate Housewives" or war footage from Iraq. You know, I don't know. I'm not sure. I don't know if I want the government telling me any more than they already overload me with.

M. O'BRIEN: It is a parental issue more than anything.

CAFFERTY: Of course it is.

M. O'BRIEN: I would agree with you on that.

S. O'BRIEN: Thank you, Jack.

Still to come a message believed to be from Osama bin Laden. A tape with statements about anti-U.S. terrorism in Saudi Arabia has just been released. Plus, all the criticism of Homeland Security Department. Massachusetts thinks it's found a better way. Governor Mitt Romney is going to tell us about his plan that he's now passed on to federal authorities. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.



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