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Breaking News: Bin Laden Tape?; Interview With Governor Mitt Romney; Holiday Shipping

Aired December 16, 2004 - 07:30   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. It's just about half past the hour on this AMERICAN MORNING. Miles O'Brien is filling in with us, because Bill is traveling back from Japan.
You're here tomorrow, too, right?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, yes, I think it's a long trip. He's on a boat. He'll be back eventually, don't worry.

S. O'BRIEN: Sure. In a few minutes, more on the latest tape said to be from Osama bin Laden. On the tape, an apparent reference to the attacks against the U.S. consulate in Saudi Arabia. Those happened on December 6. Nic Robertson is going to join us in just a moment about the significance of this as the search continues for the al Qaeda leader.

M. O'BRIEN: Also, this is the busiest week to send packages all year, but they won't all get through, we are sorry to tell you. So, you're probably already too late for a lot of things. We'll get a report on what's being yanked at the biggest sorting facility in the world. What can Brown do for you this morning? That's coming up.

S. O'BRIEN: Wow! Thanks for bumming out everybody who hasn't gotten their act together to send out their things. Thanks, Miles. We appreciate that.

M. O'BRIEN: Sorry.

S. O'BRIEN: It's nice to have you. Did I say that already?

M. O'BRIEN: You can just pay through the nose and do the overnight thing...

S. O'BRIEN: All right.

M. O'BRIEN: you know, if you have to.

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

M. O'BRIEN: All right.

S. O'BRIEN: Let's get right to those developments on that audiotape said to be from Osama bin Laden. It's been broadcast on an Islamic Web site. The tape has a reference to the December 6 attack on the consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Nic Robertson, senior international correspondent, joins us again from London this morning.

Hey, Nic, good morning again. What's the significance of this date now, dated reference on this tape?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, if we take the basic assumption that Osama bin Laden didn't likely have any pre-knowledge of that attack on the U.S. consulate, that means the time between the release of his message and that event happening is about the shortest time we've seen in any Osama bin Laden, any al Qaeda message, a reference in the message to a recent event, the shortest possible time.

And that appears to indicate that they feel Osama bin Laden feels very comfortable and secure about his lines of communication, and that at a time when many people are beginning to feel the trail for Osama bin Laden has gone cold. He seems to feel that his lines of communication are good, good enough to get messages out pretty quickly, albeit over the Internet. This is not one of his recent video messages, so perhaps slightly easier to put it out over the Internet -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Is there a significance then that it's on the Internet and not sent to a television station like we have seen in the past tapes?

ROBERTSON: Al Qaeda has shown that it can use many different methods of communications, delivering physical audiotapes, physical videotapes and this release over the Internet. Perhaps they're doing it to maintain their security. Perhaps they feel that the other route, the other message, the video trail that they had was compromised. Their tapes have been delivered to Al Jazeera, the Arab news broadcast, one of their offices in Pakistan. Perhaps they feel that now they're being too closely watched.

But certainly, this message and the reference to recent events, the attack on the U.S. consulate in Jeddah, is the shortest time we've seen so far, and an indication that Osama does appear to be able to get out the message he wants to get out. And this message is all about Saudi Arabia predominantly and all about linking that to al Qaeda's global jihad, as he calls it, against the United States.

S. O'BRIEN: Some people have talked about the poor quality on this recording. Could that be significant of anything? Maybe indicative of some of the conditions where Osama bin Laden might be hiding?

ROBERTSON: Whenever you listen to these recordings, you listen for the quality and you listen to see if you can pick up anything in the background. There doesn't appear to be any background noise. Perhaps the quality here is an indication of the type of audio compression, the sort of scaling down of the file size, if you will, of the audio message itself to get it out on the Internet.

It's very long, and the message is over an hour long, perhaps just a little more than 70 minutes. So, perhaps the physical scaling down of the size of that audio file led to some of the degradation in quality.

Osama bin Laden speaks in fairly short sentences. He doesn't sound too animated. But, again, that can be a function of this audio compression.

So, I think in the issue of quality, I don't think we can learn too much there from it, just about the way that the file was scaled down -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: What about what else he talks about? In addition to the reference to the December 6 attacks, anything else of significance that he references? Or any message?

ROBERTSON: A similar message as to what we've heard before, but coming over very clearly is that the Saudi royal family is the root of the problems in Saudi Arabia. He says there are millions of people starving in Saudi Arabia, yet the Saudi royal family is lining its pockets, he says, with millions of riyals, the Saudi currency.

And he goes on, again, to link the violence in Saudi Arabia with the United States, with the global jihad against the United States. But, really, that part of the message is quite old. It's this time reference and surprisingly quickly, quickly delivered following the attack on the U.S. consulate -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, a quick turnaround. Nic Robertson for us this morning. Nice to see you. Thanks -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Let's check some other headlines this morning. Kelly Wallace here with the story of the fake bomb that got away.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. Great to see you both. Good morning again, everyone.

"Now in the News."

As Miles was talking about, the Transportation Security Administration is trying to figure out how airport screeners lost a fake bomb during a training exercise. The dummy device, planted in luggage at Newark Liberty International Airport by TSA trainers, several hours later the bag containing the bogus bomb was found by airport security aboard a plane in Amsterdam.

To the Pentagon now, with the military vowing to fix the potentially deadly problem of poorly-armored vehicles in Iraq. Military commanders say 98 percent of Army Humvees will have the proper armor installed by March. Defense officials estimate that in the next six to eight months they will have spent more than $4 billion to make sure vehicles in the war zone have enough armor to protect the troops.

And less than two hours from now, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan meeting with top White House as he seeks support to keep his job. Annan, sitting down with Secretary of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, who has tapped as Powell's successor. Some members of Congress have called for Annan's resignation over the corruption scandal in the U.S. oil-for-food program.

A quick look at other stories "Now in the News." Back to you -- Soledad.

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


S. O'BRIEN: Well, this morning in the "CNN Security Watch," Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, he wants cities and states to take an active role in securing their own piece of the homeland. He's calling for the creation of fusion centers to share intelligence gathered locally by police and the private sector. Governor Romney joins us from Boston this morning.

Nice to see you, sir. Thanks very much for being with us.


S. O'BRIEN: Walk me through some of the specifics of your plan. How exactly would it work?

ROMNEY: Well, we want to see every state in the nation put together a fusion center, an intelligence center that gathers information from their state, gathers information from first responders, police, fire, EMS workers, as well as individuals in the private sector that indicate a pattern that might lead to terrorism.

Fundamentally, we recognize that we can't protect the homeland by just putting a cop out on the corner of the street. We have too many bridges, roadways, hospitals, schools, tunnels, trains. You just can't protect all of the possible terrorist targets. You have to find the bad guys before they carry out their bad acts. That requires intelligence. And the states and localities are going to finally have to be a major part of that.

S. O'BRIEN: So, are you saying that the police then would be pulled off doing things like covering those targets? And there are so many of them, too numerous really to count. And going into the intelligence part of it, as you're talking about?

ROMNEY: Well, of course, we continue to have the police doing the work that they do, and they are critical eyes and ears on the ground. That's something that you wouldn't reduce. But if we actually increased the number of police tenfold we still couldn't protect all of the possible targets.

Fundamentally, to protect our homeland, we have to have the kind of intelligence work that helps us identify the people who want to attack us, how they're going to attack us, and then going and getting them and getting them out of our country. You can't just stand in front of every school, every hospital, watch every mile of train track, look at every aircraft coming in and out of a community. It's impossible to guard everything. You have to get the bad guys.

And that's why our law enforcement has to be recruited, if you will, into the effort of gathering information, processing it, analyzing it in fusion centers, feeding to it the federal government where it's in turn analyzed with international terrorism information and provided as intelligence capability.

S. O'BRIEN: It sounds like a great idea. It sounds also very expensive. How you pay for it when, frankly, as you well know, everybody is scrapping for every dime of the homeland security dollars, and there's just not enough to go around?

ROMNEY: Well, there's absolutely no question. But the first responsibility of government is to protect the life of its citizens. And we have a committed enemy that's trying to take down our government, trying to take down our way of life and our country. And we're going to have to defend ourselves against that enemy.

Right now, fortunately, the fighting is mostly going on overseas. But we have to prepare for defending our homeland. And focusing entirely on first response, meaning what we do after a bomb goes off, is probably a mistake. We should also be focusing on prevention. And prevention means gathering information, learning how we can protect ourselves better from attack rather than just how to respond to it once it occurs.

S. O'BRIEN: You've criticized the government for the confusing intelligence reports that are made public. And everybody kind of doesn't exactly know what to do. What would you do? How would you make it more clear?

ROMNEY: Well, the first thing that we have to deal with is making sure that the information we receive at the state and local level is information that we can act upon. Right now, every state seems to get a different source of information. And we have different pipelines, if you will, of communication going in to the Defense Department or the CIA or the FBI or Justice or the Department of Homeland Security.

We recommended in our task force that we instead have a single conduit, a single pipeline, if you will, where information is processed by the federal government and sent to the states and localities, declassified information that we can then share with law enforcement. And in turn, we want to send back through that same pipeline information that we gather in our fusion centers.

There's a lot of sharing going on, but we need to do a better job analyzing the data that we get and providing it in a way that the cities and states can respond to.

S. O'BRIEN: Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney joining us this morning. Nice to see you, sir. Thanks.

ROMNEY: Thank you, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, today is one of the busiest days of the year for shipping companies as Americans send millions of holiday packages to loved ones. With so many packages, how do they know what's being shipped is safe?

What can Keith Oppenheim do for you? He can deliver us a live update from the biggest and busiest sorting facility in the world just outside Chicago?

Good morning, Keith. There's a report on the wire that there's actually a fire near this facility this morning. Have you heard about this?

KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we have. There were apparently seven trailers that caught fire. We don't know what the contents of them were, but it's small crisis in the middle of a huge amount of volume. And we'll show you that right now.

Get these figures, Miles: nearly two million parcels to be distributed today alone at this main distribution hub outside Chicago.

And with us to talk about the technology and security is company spokesman Mike Joel.

Mike, tell us about security. Do you know what's in all of these packages? And if so, how do you know?

MIKE JOEL, UPS SPOKESMAN: Well, nothing is more important to UPS than safety and security. We know what's in most of these packages because our customers have already told us electronically by sending all of that information to us.

OPPENHEIM: But if you don't know exactly, or you're suspicious about a package, what do you do? Do you just open them up and look inside?

JOEL: Well, we have an obligation to do that. If there is something that we think is unusual about it, or something that we think is suspicious, we'll certainly do that.

OPPENHEIM: One of the things you have to be really careful about is the security around the perimeter of this entire place. Why is that so important to you, especially around this time of year?

JOEL: Especially with the kind of merchandise that we have in here, Keith, it's very important to us that our employees are secure and that the packages are secure. There's a lot of merchandise that moves through here. So, we have airport-level security in and out of the building.

OPPENHEIM: They were asking me about the fire. Does it appear to be under control? Or are you investigating it now?

JOEL: It's under investigation right now. We don't know what the cause or the origin is. But the bottom line is we're still operating, as you can see.

OPPENHEIM: Mike Joel, company spokesman, thanks a lot today.

And just to give you a sense of the volume worldwide, this is a huge company with 357,000 employees, Miles. And during the Christmas season, they are projecting at UPS that they will deliver 340 million packages. That may sound like a big number, but the context is it's projected to be 40 million more than last year. And even when you account for the couple of extra Christmas shopping days, that sounds like commerce is pretty good.

Back to you.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, Keith Oppenheim, thank you very much.

You know, knowing my luck, my packages will be in those burning trailers, you know? You watch. All right.

S. O'BRIEN: Don't worry. It will be fine. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and it will be fine.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.


M. O'BRIEN: Still to come on AMERICAN MORNING, stop the music. Andy Serwer tells us why you may not have an iPod under the tree for Christmas. I put a few on order. I hope I'm not in trouble. I think I'm in trouble. They're in the trailer. The iPods are in the trailer.

S. O'BRIEN: Stop already.

Also coming up in our next hour, Los Angeles officials feel the need to protect passenger planes from getting shot down. We're going to hear about the danger of shoulder-fired missiles.

M. O'BRIEN: We probably shouldn't talk about (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And when several drugs can be used to treat a condition, which one is best? Which is cheapest? Which gives you the best results for the money? We'll show you a one-stop solution to all of these questions next. Stay with us for more AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: Well, when you're comparing the price of performance of various products, "Consumer Reports" is second to none. But you're probably thinking about cars or home theaters or that kind of thing. Well, they've launched a new Web site, which rates the best buys on prescription drugs.

Joel Gurin is executive vice president of the Consumers Union, which heads up "Consumer Reports."

Joel, good to have you with us.

JOEL GURIN, CONSUMERS UNION: Well, thanks for having me.

M. O'BRIEN: Tell us about the Web site and how you were able to verify and come up with determinations on what drugs are best. That's not an easy thing to do. GURIN: No. This was a challenge for us. But we were lucky to be able to work with a 12-state program now of researchers, who are pooling together the best peer-reviewed studies on drug information. And together, with our own medical advisers and our internal medical experts, we pulled together "Consumer Reports" best buy drugs, which is now available free on the Web.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. And just like when you see all of those commercials over and over again, it's important for people at home to realize this is not meant to take the doctor out of the loop. And I know you want to stress that...

GURIN: Absolutely.

M. O'BRIEN: .... because you don't want people making decisions without consulting.

GURIN: No. The first and last advice in every one of our reports is please talk to your doctor. The whole purpose of this is to have a set of information that doctors can use and patients can use to have a good conversation together.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. Let's talk about some of the recommendations.

GURIN: Sure.

M. O'BRIEN: Give us an example. Arthritis. You know, you see so many advertisements of that. Obviously a common affliction these days with our aging population.


M. O'BRIEN: What do you recommend?

GURIN: Well, we recommend -- and, again, these best buy drugs are the ones we recommend that most people look at first. They're not for everybody, but it's a good place to start that conversation with your doctor. We recommend the generic ibuprofen, which is available in a higher strength by prescription than it is over the counter. And also a drug called Salsalate, which is also a generic.

M. O'BRIEN: Now, you recommend generic prescription because you want to keep the doctor in the loop? Or is it cheaper going that route as opposed to buying a bunch of Advil?

GURIN: Well, mostly because of two reasons. We want to keep the doctor in the loop, and depending on your insurance coverage, it may actually be cheaper.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. How about acid reflux? That's another common affliction.

GURIN: Sure.

M. O'BRIEN: You see an awful lot of advertisements on that one as well.

GURIN: Yes. For acid reflux, heartburn, ulcers, Prilosec OTC is the "Consumer Reports" best buy drug. That's a prescription drug that has recently gone over the counter.

M. O'BRIEN: And, once again, that's based on cost and it's efficacy, right?

GURIN: Exactly. We always start with safety and efficacy before we look at cost for these drugs.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. And some of the other drugs you're going to be looking at in the future.

GURIN: Well...

M. O'BRIEN: I mean, you've got to sort of go by category, I guess, right?

GURIN: We've actually done cholesterol-lowering drugs already. We recommend generic Lovastatin for people who only need mild reduction, and Lipitor for people who need more cholesterol reduction. We're looking next at anti-depressants and blood pressure medicines. And we'll probably get up to 20 categories in the next year or two.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. Tell us the Web site.



GURIN: .org.

M. O'BRIEN: Joel Gurin is with the Consumers Union and "Consumer Reports." Thank you very much for your time.

GURIN: Thank you.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. Appreciate it.

Of course, we will underscore it just like we began this. Consult your doctor before taking any medication. OK? Now, just to point that out,, and you can probably Google you way into that if you forget that as well -- Soledad.

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

Still to come this morning, what is the hottest gift for Christmas? It's the one that's just about sold out. Andy Serwer has got that story just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. Stay with us.


S. O'BRIEN: Welcome back.

A hot holiday gift might not be available if you're a last-minute shopper. Andy Serwer is "Minding Your Business."

Are you a last-minute shopper?

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Yes. Big time. I mean, I haven't started yet, right? I'd better get going here.

O. O'BRIEN: Yes, that would make you a last-minute shopper.

SERWER: Yes. There is no question, Soledad, that the "it" gift of this holiday season is Apple's iPod. And unfortunately, a lot of stores, particularly Web sites, say they are running way low.,,, major shortages. listen to this.

Listen to this: Best Buy says, though, as far as the stores go, a vast majority of our stores have at least one. Or make that had at least one. I love that. We have at least one. Well, thank you. You can still probably get these babies at the Apple stores or Apple's Web site.

Let's just run through a couple numbers here real quick. Merrill Lynch says that Apple should be selling four million of these babies this quarter. They cost about 300 bucks apiece on average. So that's kind of on the low end. That's $1.2 billion of sales.

S. O'BRIEN: Wow!

SERWER: No one saw it coming, like, say, a year ago with these things.

You can go down. You can go down to one of the stores. I was down at the Soho store, an Apple Soho store. You see people lined up to buy $300 and $400 items. I mean, you don't see that very often, people in a line to buy $400 things.

S. O'BRIEN: It's not like the Cabbage Patch doll.



SERWER: Apple says -- I love this line. This is very simple. The PR person says, we are making them and shipping them as fast as we can.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Santa's elves are working their little...

SERWER: They just love that.

S. O'BRIEN: They're making money hand over fist.

SERWER: They just love that. As fast as we can. Just click click click.

CAFFERTY: I got mine. Whoopi Goldberg sent me one.

S. O'BRIEN: That's right.


M. O'BRIEN: That's pretty cool to say that.

CAFFERTY: Thanks, Whoopi. Well, it's true.

M. O'BRIEN: Was it engraved for you?

CAFFERTY: No. I was -- they were making fun of me that I have no technology sense whatsoever. And so she sent one and said a guy like you shouldn't be without one of these. And she sent me an iPod.

M. O'BRIEN: Now, my 12-year-old boy -- speaking of no technology sense -- I think he was assuming I wouldn't get that Halo is a bad thing. He put it on his list.

CAFFERTY: The video game.

M. O'BRIEN: And I did the due diligence on that.


M. O'BRIEN: And...


M. O'BRIEN: I'm not doing it.

CAFFERTY: No. So he'll watch it at his friend's house.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, that's it.

CAFFERTY: Or he'll download it off the Internet.

M. O'BRIEN: Or something.

CAFFERTY: Yes, believe me. How old is he? A 12-year-old boy. He'll figure out a way to see it if he wants to.

The governor of Illinois, though, nevertheless wants to make it illegal for people under the age of 18 to buy violent or sexually- explicit video games. Rod Blagojevich says the industry has failed to keep the games out of the hands of kids. The industry has its own rating system, but there's evidence that the companies, some of them are actually marketing these mature games to boys under the age of 17.

It's a multibillion-dollar industry. It's become more competitive. And along with that, the amount of gore and sex in the games has increased. Some experts call some of these things simply murder simulators.

The question is: Should it be illegal for minors to buy violent or sexually-explicit video games?

Giselle in New London, Wisconsin: "No parent who has a child with violent tendencies and is easily affected by disturbing images is going allow it in his or her home, let alone give the child money to go out and buy it."

Doug in Bloomfield, New Jersey: "These games should be put in the same category as pornography."

Len in Riverview, New Brunswick: "It is impossible to stop the flood of violence in any media now. Rather, what should be done is that parents take a larger role in screening what their child is watching or playing."

Reg in Thunder Bay, Ontario: "Minors should definitely not be allowed to watch such violence and sexuality. They should go back to watching war atrocities on CNN and "Desperate Housewives" on ABC."


CAFFERTY: And Ian in Providence, Rhode Island. There's a bit of a protest movement apparently starting among "The Cafferty File" letter-writers. We had Dave from Japan on whining the other day about we don't give away cups or t-shirts or any of that stuff that some of the other CNN programs give away. So this guy, Ian, writes to me: "Jack, regarding yesterday's show, I'm with Dave and Rex" -- another guy who was whining about this. "At least other CNN viewers get cheap, meaningless tokens. All we get from you is public humiliation and steaming bowls of sarcasm."

Dave and Rex, if you're watching, how about a Cafferty contributors union meeting at my place this weekend. Well, apparently there could be some organized pressure to get cheesy...

SERWER: Boy, can you imagine what that crew is like?


SERWER: What that crew would be like?



CAFFERTY: I don't want to be anywhere around those guys.

M. O'BRIEN: Why don't you give away the iPod?


M. O'BRIEN: Why don't you give away the iPod today?

S. O'BRIEN: That's a gift.

CAFFERTY: What if I told you I had already given it away?

SERWER: To a family member perhaps.

M. O'BRIEN: Probably. A daughter maybe? CAFFERTY: What if I told you I've already...

S. O'BRIEN: When they play the music, you all, do you know what that means?

CAFFERTY: What does it mean?

S. O'BRIEN: We've got to move along.

CAFFERTY: Well, that's your job. I just sit over here.


SERWER: See, I stir the pot.

S. O'BRIEN: In a moment, the city's top stories, including this new tape likely from Osama bin Laden. Its message claiming that the terrorists should not be blamed for deadly acts of terrorism in Saudi Arabia. We'll explain ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


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