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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Interview With President George W. Bush; Condoleezza Rice Faces Heat on Capitol Hill

Aired January 18, 2005 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome. Thanks so much for joining us tonight.
Tonight, our series "Defending America" continues with two unlikely warriors in the fight against terrorism. And Condi Rice, who is the president's choice for secretary of state, had a rather interesting day at her confirmation hearing.

But we begin with the celebration of President Bush's second inauguration. This evening, the first couple showed up at a youth concert. First daughters Barbara and Jenna were in the audience, which made the concert one of the hottest tickets in town.

Among the inauguration events tomorrow, a candlelight dinner and a ball where the attire is Black Tie and Boots, of course.

And today, the president also made some news. He sat down with our senior White House correspondent, John King, for an interview you'll see only here on CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Mr. President thank you for joining us this morning.

You're about to begin your second term, after a first term in which, for all but seven months, the country was at war. I want to ask you, as you start the second term, what is different about the threat to the United States and people of the United States? When you look at your threat matrix, the word we learned in the first term in the morning, how is it different now than it was, say, on September 10 or September 12, 2001?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is clear to me we're making progress, that we have dismantled much of the operating capacity of al Qaeda. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, for example, who was the mastermind of September 11, is incarcerated.

That many of the foot soldiers of al Qaeda have been brought to justice one way or the other. Now, that's not to say al Qaeda isn't still a threat, but we have made good progress about dismantling the operating capacity. And we're beginning to make progress about defeating the Salafist movement long term by spreading freedom. If you think about it, we've had elections in Afghanistan, in the Palestinian territory, and soon in Iraq, which will be a major blow to those who can't stand the thought of people being able to express themselves and determine the fate of a government.

KING: When you read the book in the morning and you're briefed in the morning, are there fewer direct threats against the United States or specific threats? Is the volume different?

BUSH: Well, it seems that our efforts have had an effect on the operating capability.

But the enemy is dangerous. And I say that fully understanding that some are saying, well, the administration keeps crying wolf. But it is -- our most solemn duty is to protect the American people. And when we see a specific threat, we act on it. And if we don't see a specific threat, we're still mindful that there is a war on terror.

And I can remember full well addressing the nation right after September the 11th and recognizing that there's a temptation to forgot the pain and agony of that day. And there's a desire by people to kind of slip into the comfort zone of normal life, which we want. But I don't think the president has that luxury. The president must be always mindful that an enemy lurks.

KING: When you look at the vulnerabilities, still, as you prepare to address them in the second term, your secretary of health and human services spoke recently about his surprise that no one has tried to attack the food system. Some mayors in coastal cities talk about they still think the ports are vulnerable to either a dirty bomb or some kind of an attack. If they came to you and said, Mr. President, you can fix one thing, what do you think is the greatest thing you need to focus on?

BUSH: The human intelligence, the ability to get inside somebody's mind, ability to read somebody's mail, the ability to listen to somebody's phone call, that somebody being the enemy.

We have got a commission up and running that will determine why things -- why we didn't find any stockpiles in Iraq. And out of that commission, coupled with the new national director of intelligence, hopefully, the president, this president and future presidents will get the best possible intelligence, both human and, of course, signal intelligence.

KING: Part of the threat comes from the desire to attack America that some obviously have and still have. You have spoken about working with your new secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, on a public diplomacy campaign in the Muslim world.

I want to ask what you think has failed in that regard so far, in the sense that the State Department did reach out and hire a Madison Avenue ad executive to try to help.

BUSH: Sure.

KING: You had an Office of Global Communication here in the White House, at one point, offices in London and Islamabad. We've created an Arab-language television network paid for by the taxpayers in the United States. Where have we failed so far? BUSH: The propagandists have done a better job of depicting America as a hateful place, a place wanting to impose our form of government on people and our religion on people. And it's -- and we're behind when it comes to selling our own story and telling people the truth about America.

On the other hand, I believe that we're beginning to make progress. And Condi is going to work hard to reform and strengthen the public diplomacy efforts. But I made some very difficult decisions that made public diplomacy hard in the Muslim world. One was, obviously, attacking Iraq. But when a free country emerges in Iraq, I think people will begin to see the wisdom of the policy.

The relief efforts from the tsunami, from -- because of the tsunamis, will help Muslims in Indonesia, for example, see that the United States of America is there to help, that our soldiers are there not to fight, but to provide comfort and help as best possible.

KING: Do you ever worry that it's personal, fairly or unfairly, that these groups have decided, so long as you are president of the United States, they will not change?

(CROSSTALK)

BUSH: You know, I don't know. I try not to take things personally in the political world.

I can remember people condemning Ronald Reagan's decisions. And I don't see how they could condemn him personally, because he was such a good guy. But he made some very difficult decisions, which happened to be right, in retrospect. And I believe the decisions I have made will end up making the world a better place. And so, I don't take it personally when people are critical.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And John King now joins us from Washington.

John, I was fascinated by something that you didn't even ask the president directly to talk about, when he said he wants to find out why we didn't find stockpiles of WMD in Iraq. He seems to be really focused on this idea of human intelligence.

KING: It is the ghost, I think, Paula, of the whole debate over going to war in Iraq, one of the criticisms of this president. You heard it in Condi Rice's hearing today. Why didn't we find stockpiles? Why was the intelligence so bad? I asked the president to address a vulnerability here at home, and he wanted to talk about human intelligence.

So, clearly, this is on the president's mind. And he knows that debate is not over. He has yet to pick his new director of intelligence. It still comes up when people talk about the Iraq war. It will of course come out as the administration goes forward. So, it's quite paramount in his mind. That was very interesting. ZAHN: He also seemed to have a pretty candid response about trying to burnish our image in the Arab world. Do you suspect, from what you've been told by the president and his spokespeople, that that will be a priority that he'll make for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, assuming she gets that job?

KING: It will be a priority.

And I think they realize that, for all the millions of dollars they have spent on trying to do that, improve the image of the United States and the image of this president in the Muslim world since September 11, I think they have come to the belief, they realize now they have to prove it by trying to address the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

Look for Condi Rice very quickly to try to move into some Middle East peacemaking. They know that that is the key, that a new Arab- language TV station isn't going to do it. Advertising isn't going to do it. Speeches isn't going to do it. They need to try to deal with the fundamental issue in the region.

ZAHN: And what should we be looking for in part two of your interview on the other side of this break?

KING: I found it interesting. One of the big subplots here in Washington is what a vindication this is for the president, what a vindication this is for the Bush family for a President Bush to win a second term. The president doesn't want to talk about that at all. He does not want to make that personal at this moment.

ZAHN: And, John, I hate to be honest here, but I think I can take a temperature reading by looking at your face tonight. We're going to really freeze at the inauguration, aren't we?

KING: It's a beautiful spring day.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: I can hardly wait.

So, we're going to get back to John's interview after this short break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: And welcome back.

We continue now with CNN senior White House correspondent John King's interview with President George W. Bush.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING: You've talked about changing your language a bit in the second term, that perhaps people thought -- found you too blunt, when you said things like dead or alive about Osama bin Laden, or bring it on, in the early days of the Iraq insurgency. What about with us or against us. That was a defining moment when you spoke about terrorism, that countries around the world are either with us or against us. Some found that too black and white, too confrontational. Do you change that?

BUSH: Not at all. I mean, we've got to win. And we've got to make it clear that people have to make a choice.

And I will continue to be straightforward and plainspoken about my view that freedom is necessary for peace and that everybody deserves to be free.

But you're right, some of my language in the first four years was -- it had an unintended consequence. And I'm mindful of that.

KING: I want to ask you one more question about Iraq and then I may ask to steal an extra minute to ask you a bit about the moment to come. But about Iraq, obviously there's the debate about WMD. Some would say that there was a -- perhaps a greater failing, either of intelligence or in planning, in the idea of the troop levels going in, or the statements from some in the administration that the Americans would be greeted as liberators.

As you look back now, was that an intelligence failing? Was there a misjudgment somehow in the planning?

BUSH: I think it was -- I think what you've just described is what normally happens in war, is that some things happen that you don't expect and some things you expect don't happen.

For example, I can remember the briefings I had on what to do with mass refugee movements or hunger or, you know, what you would expect as a result of a military action, which did not take place.

What did take place was a very swift defeat of Saddam's army, which allowed some Baathists to head to the hills and then let them live to fight another day. And that's what we're dealing with.

The truth of the matter is in the long run, John, that a sovereign government of Iraq is going to have to be prepared and equipped to defeat those people. And that's what I talked to Prime Minister Allawi about today.

KING: The president of the United States is also a former baseball owner. Two-thirds of the American people think this new steroids policy is not tough enough. Some in Congress have talked, saying it's not tough enough. What does the president think?

BUSH: Yes.

I think that -- first of all, I understand how difficult it is for management and union to get along. If you follow the history of baseball, there's been an antagonistic situation between the two. I was very pleased to see that the union and the management was able to come together and put in place a steroid policy. And if it fails, they can strengthen it. But it's a very positive step forward. KING: In closing, sir, assess the moment for me. Is it a personal vindication for you? Some have talked about vindication for the Bush family? And, as you do so, could you help us a little bit with the speech? And I understand that this is a book you've read as you talk about your ideas about promoting democracy around the world.

BUSH: I have.

This is a book by Natan Sharansky, who is -- was imprisoned in the Soviet Union. He's an heroic figure. He's now an Israeli official who talks about freedom and what it means and how freedom can change the globe. And I agree with him. I believed that before I met Natan Sharansky. This is a book that, however, summarizes how I feel. I would urge people to read it. I'm glad you did.

Let me talk about this inauguration. For me, particularly given the fact that these are historic times, in which more and more of the world is beginning to understand the importance of democracy, it is important for the world to see a peaceful transfer of power or, in this case, a continuation of power in a peaceful way. It is a moment for the country to unite.

It is an opportunity for all of us who are blessed to live here to say that we've got a great form of government. It can be improved, but it is a great form of government. And so, I really don't view this in personal terms, John. I view it as a celebratory moment for America. I'm so honored to be the person who has been chosen to lead us for four more years.

I think, this time around, it will be a little different. I'll be a better spectator than I was the first time. The first time, I was pretty well overwhelmed by the moment and stayed focused on delivering the speech. I would hope that, after four years as the president, I will be able to not only stay focused on delivering the speech, but will also be able to take in the sights and sounds of this glorious moment.

KING: Mr. President, thank you for your time.

BUSH: Thanks, John.

KING: Thank you.

BUSH: Appreciate it.

KING: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: John, this is a president who has set a very ambitious agenda for his second term. And if history is his guide, there is a suggestion that this month of August, the end of the summer of this first year of the second term, is do-or-die time. How mindful is he of that ticking clock?

KING: Oh, he's very mindful of the ticking clock. He's jokes with aides and he has talked to reporters in recent days about, he knows that people will try make him a lame duck as soon as possible.

In a second term, you make one big mistake and people in this town try to write you off. And, politically, you are often written off as a lame duck. He knows this first legislative session is critical to him, the period now, the inaugural address, then the State of the Union address, critical to try to build up support, because, if you look at polling right now, Paula, he is not getting that post- election honeymoon.

He knows he needs to try to create some initiative for his initiatives, because it is an ambitious agenda, as you noted.

ZAHN: But what's also interesting about those polls is, when the president is talking about Social Security reform and tax reform, those are not on the top of the list of most of these polls, as far as voters or Americans are concerned. Iraq is their chief concern. How will the president address that, do you think, in his inaugural address?

KING: Well, in his inaugural address, he will talk about the power of freedom and democracy. And he will note that, in his view, freedom and democracy is coming to Iraq. Obviously, what happens in the elections the week, 10 days after his inaugural address will go a long way in how the president can frame the Iraq political debate heading into the second term.

And there's no question about it. Iraq is the big cloud, if you will, over the domestic agenda. If Iraq is bad, if American troops keep getting killed, if the president can't say when they will start coming home, that affects his political standing here at home and it will affect his ability to sell anything else, whether it's Social Security, tax reform, or perhaps some other difficulty in foreign policy that we're not thinking about just yet.

ZAHN: John King, thanks for the excellent interview.

KING: Thank you. Thank you.

ZAHN: Appreciate it.

We should all keep in mind going to the inauguration that the president doesn't have any more elections, except for the election among history writers, which I'm sure he'll give us a footprint in on Thursday.

There's more news ahead, including one of the president's closest advisers taking some heat on Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): The woman who would be secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, under attack.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: Your loyalty to the mission you were given to sell this war overwhelmed your respect for the truth. ZAHN: And firing back.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We can have this discussion in any way that you would like. But I really hope that you will reframe from impugning my integrity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: And on our CNN "Security Watch," "Defending America," imagine running into two of the 9/11 hijackers just hours before they committed mass murder. Michael Touhey was the last line of defense before these terrorists set off on their deadly mission. Tonight, he tells his story.

And then meet the cyber spy mom, scanning the Web for terrorist secrets, tracking them down, cracking their codes -- all that and more when PAULA ZAHN NOW continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: No one in Washington really doubts that Condoleezza Rice will be the next secretary of state. She will most likely be worn in by week's end. But that doesn't mean her confirmation would be easy. It isn't. Rice faced some very tough questions today, especially when it came to the war in Iraq.

And there was a lot of heat when Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer pointed out that American troops went to war over weapons that simply didn't exist.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICE: It was the total picture, Senator, not just weapons of mass destruction, that caused us to decide that post-September 11th, it was finally time to deal with Saddam Hussein.

BOXER: Well, you should you read what we voted on when we voted to support the war, which I did not, but most of my colleagues did. It was WMD, period. That was the reason and the causation for that particular vote.

But again, I just feel, you quote President Bush when it suits you, but you contradicted him when he said, Yes, Saddam could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year. You go on television, nine months later, and said, Nobody ever said it was going to be.

RICE: Senator, that was just a question of pointing out to people that there was an uncertainty, that no one was saying that he would have to have a weapon within a year for it to be worth it to go to war.

BOXER: Well, if you can't admit to this mistake, I hope that you will rethink it.

RICE: Senator, we can have this discussion in any way that you would like. But I really hope that you will reframe from impugning my integrity. Thank you very much.

ZAHN: The Iraq war proved to be the most heated topic in today's hearings, with the elections just 12 days away and insurgency raging. Today, in Iraq, another U.S. soldier was killed by a roadside bomb. And there was a suicide bombing at a Shiite party headquarters.

Condoleezza Rice was pressed on whether the U.S. had sent enough troops to do the job.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Every trip I make, I meet with the flag officers and I have -- they're all telling me they need more force and they needed more force.

RICE: Senator Biden, I would not presume to try to give the president military advice. But I do believe that he got good military advice and I do believe that the plan and the forces that we went in with were appropriate to the task.

We did meet with some unforeseen circumstances.

BIDEN: You wouldn't, if you got to go back, change the force structure?

RICE: I don't think I would, Senator.

BIDEN: OK.

ZAHN: Rice also defended the administration's progress in training Iraqi troops.

RICE: The numbers are 120,000. When they are tested, some perform well and some don't. We have to recognize that this is a very tough ebb environment even to for the best trained forces.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: It sounds like we've got a long way to go.

ZAHN: Rice also pledged to rebuild strained relationships with allies and engage other countries in a dialogue, not a monologue.

RICE: We will spread freedom and democracy throughout the globe. That is the mission that President Bush has set for America in the world.

ZAHN: And on the Middle East, she also sounded on an optimistic note.

RICE: We all believe, and most especially the president, that we have a really good opportunity here, given the election of a new Palestinian leader and given the Israel Gaza withdrawal plan, which is linked to the West Bank through the four settlements that would be dismantled in the West Bank as well.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And joining me now, one of the most powerful Democratic senators, Joseph Biden of Delaware.

So, Senator, do you think Condoleezza Rice was truthful in her testimony before the Senate today?

BIDEN: I think she was evasive in the responses to Senator Boxer's questions about what I think was disinformation. She was literally correct when she said that the intelligence community, a portion of it, said those aluminum tubes were for a gas centrifuge system.

But like others in the administration, she didn't point out that a significant portion of the intelligence community said, no, no, they're not for that purposes. But to use the fancy word, it was disingenuous.

ZAHN: So, Senator, you found her disingenuous. Barbara Boxer, your colleague, basically said Dr. Rice's defense of the war -- quote -- "overwhelmed her respect for the truth." Isn't that going to be a problem for her?

BIDEN: Look, my standard is, if the person is, in my view, the president's choice, someone who has the competence intellectually and practically to do the job, then I err on the side of giving the president his choice. So I will vote for her.

But I wasn't particularly impressed by her performance today before the committee.

ZAHN: So do you think she will be effective if and when she gets this job?

BIDEN: Well, I don't know whether to blame her or the administration. If you noticed she listened, she demurred on all questions relating to international economy and how it affected our foreign policy.

She was pretty straightforward in her discussion about Iran and its nuclear capability and why we weren't engaged with the Europeans. There still seems to be the struggle within the administration between the neoconservative view of the world and the basic Republican internationalist view of the world. I'm not sure which side she is going to come down on.

And if she comes down on the internationalist side, for lack of a better phrase, whether she will really confront in a legitimate way Mr. Cheney and the vice president and Mr. Wolfowitz and others.

ZAHN: Do you see her being her own woman down the road or will she be nothing more than the president's puppet?

BIDEN: Well, if she doesn't establish herself as her own woman, to use your phrase, she will be viewed by her subordinates at the State Department as just that. And that will vastly undercut her ability to run that department.

ZAHN: Senator, as we leave you tonight, I need some help with some math here.

You asked Dr. Rice a very pointed question about the number of Iraqi security forces that are really trained to do the job. She contended it was 120,000. You say, based on your several visits to Iraq, it's closer to 4,000. What are we talking about here?

BIDEN: In the field, if you ask any commanding officer over there, how many Iraqi military are ready to supplant an American force on the ground, you will get a number a heck of a lot closer to 4,000 than you will 120,000. And it's because we've had a really, really lousy training program, up until about three months ago, when General Petraeus took over, and, further, because we have not taken advantage of the offers of the Egyptians, of the French even and the Germans and others to train Iraqi forces.

ZAHN: But, Senator, we're talking about some 116,000 discrepancies here.

BIDEN: Absolutely, positively.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: So how can you support Dr. Rice if in fact her number is that vastly different from yours? You don't believe her number.

BIDEN: Because -- well, I believe her number in this regard.

There are 120,000 people in uniform. Are they trained? No. Are they equipped? No. We are not winning in Iraq. The place is more dangerous. Unless there's a serious course change, we're in real trouble.

ZAHN: So how can you support her if she doesn't have a clear assessment of that?

BIDEN: Well, I support her because the president -- that's the president of the United States' policy.

You know, she is not the one that makes the policy. The president of the United States is saying the same things that she is saying. And the fact of the matter is, I've never seen such concentration of power within the White House and the vice president's office as I'm seeing now. Is he entitled to do that? Yes. Is it a smart thing to do? No. Does it shut out other voices? Yes. I think we're going in the wrong direction. I'm concerned about it. But once she's secretary of state, maybe there will be an epiphany here. But I'm not counting on it.

ZAHN: Senator Joseph Biden, we have to leave it there tonight. Thanks so much for your time.

BIDEN: Thank you.

ZAHN: And now it's time for you all to weigh in.

As secretary of state, would Condoleezza Rice help or hurt America's image around the world? Log onto CNN.com/Paula and let us know what you think.

Coming up next, our special series "Defending America," a chance meeting with the 9/11 hijackers just hours before their deadly attack.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I put two people on that plane. And I was feeling horrible, you know? Here I was thinking that these guys are terrorists.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: The untold story of one man's rendezvous with evil and his split-second decision -- when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: And welcome back. Day two of our weeklong series, "Defending America," looks back at September 11 and the moment that started it all. Not when the first plane hit the first tower, but the moment when the so-called terrorist ringleader arrived at an airport in Maine, heading towards Boston and a connection with infamy.

Michael Touhey took Mohamed Atta's ticket this morning. His story is one you'll only hear here. Here's Drew Griffin.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The 9/11 Commission would describe the dawning of September 11 as temperate and nearly cloudless. By 4:00 a.m., Michael Touhey was already at work at the U.S. Air ticket counter at the airport in Portland, Maine.

MICHAEL TOUHEY: Crystal clear blue sky. It was just a fabulous to go to work.

GRIFFIN: One hour and 43 minutes into Touhey's day, two men approached his counter rushing to catch the 6:00 flight to Boston.

TOUHEY: They had a tie and jacket on. All right? And as I'm looking at them, you know, they're holding their IDs up, and I'm looking at them. It's not nice, but I said, "Jeez, if this doesn't look like two Arab terrorists, I've never seen two Arab terrorists."

GRIFFIN (on camera): That was your...

TOUHEY: Thought.

GRIFFIN: ... first reaction?

TOUHEY: That was my thought as I'm looking at them. I'm looking at their licenses, and I'm looking -- and that thought ran through my mind.

GRIFFIN: Where did that thought go? TOUHEY: I don't know. Immediately, I felt guilty about thinking something like that. I just said, "This is awful." How -- you know, I've checked in thousands of Arabic people over the years. You know, doing the same job. Businessmen. I said, "These are just a couple of Arab business guys."

GRIFFIN (voice-over): But something about these two men was different. Touhey says the younger man, Abdul Aziz Al-Omari, could barely speak English. The other was Mohamed Atta. Touhey says he had the eyes of a killer.

TOUHEY: He did. He had the deadest eyes I've ever seen.

GRIFFIN: Setting aside his gut reaction, Touhey issued the boarding passes. The flight was leaving in 17 minutes. And Atta and Omari still had to clear security. But Atta told Touhey he wanted not only the boarding passes for the U.S. air flight to Boston, but also the passes for their connecting American Airlines flight to Los Angeles. Atta, the mastermind behind the 9/11 plan, was facing the plan's first obstacle, a gate agent with an attitude.

TOUHEY: When I just gave them the ticket, I gave them the boarding cards for the Boston flight. And he says -- he says, "Isn't this -- isn't there one-stop checking?" And I said, "No, you're connecting to American Airlines down in Boston."

GRIFFIN: Had Atta argued, he would have missed his flight. Touhey says the two men turned in a huff and hurried to the gate. Less than three hours later, Touhey was told by a co-worker that American Flight 11 had crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center.

TOUHEY: I said, "Oh, my god." I said, "I put two people on that plane." And I was feeling horrible. You know?

Here I was thinking these guys were terrorists. You know? And I just had a flashback.

I said, "Now the poor bastards are dead." And then you got the word on the second plane and it was like a punch in the stomach.

GRIFFIN (on camera): You knew then that those two guys were involved?

TOUHEY: As soon as I heard it. The second I heard it. I said, "I was right. I was right."

You know, and it was just -- I don't know how you describe it, how your stomach twists and turns. You get sick to your stomach.

GRIFFIN: Still does?

TOUHEY: To this day. Not so much that -- I felt ashamed that I did not react to my instincts.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): His instinct to label the Arab men that morning as terrorists, to slow down their check and to search their bags, to possibly make the ringleader miss his flight, all of that is post-9/11 thinking. On that September morning, hassling two men simply because they were Arabs would not have been politically correct, Touhey says. His job was to get them on the flight, and he did.

Once he and other employees realized what was happening, they called the FBI. And within hours, Touhey found himself viewing this videotape of the two Arab men he had ticketed pass going through security. He told the FBI who they were. He also told them that he observed something curious on the tape.

TOUHEY: And they said, "What do you mean?" I said, "Well, these guys had on -- they were very business looking. They had on ties and jackets." And I said, "If you look at these guys, they both have like open collar, they have like dress shirts with an open collar." I said, "But that's them."

GRIFFIN: Touhey went home after that and watched the dreadful events unfold on television. His wife, a flight attendant, was grounded in another city. He was alone.

The next day, the self-described tough kid from a Boston housing project broke into tears. He talked with a psychologist the airline referred him to, then he called the one person he knew could help.

TOUHEY: I called my mother and she said, "What are you crying for?" And I said, "I feel bad about all them people that got killed." And she says, "What did you have to do with it?" And I told her. And she says, "I'm coming up."

GRIFFIN: His 91-year-old mother told him it wasn't his fault, a judgment he believes the 9/11 Commission has now confirmed. Warnings had been conveyed to the highest levels of government, but no one had instructed Mike Touhey to be more vigilant.

Had there been any kind of alert, Touhey says he would have acted on his non-politically correct gut instinct. Instead, when he read this report, he learned he was far from the only one to allow the hijackers to carry out their mission.

TOUHEY: That helped. I have to admit, that helped. I -- after seeing all the information that was available, I'm saying, "Well, jeez, why am I blaming myself, if they all knew this stuff?" By the time it got to me, it was already, you know, a done thing.

GRIFFIN: Could it happen again? Touhey, who has now retired to rural Maine, says probably not. He also agrees with the 9/11 Commission that another terrorist plot most likely won't involve airplanes. Touhey says he just hopes that the next person chosen by chance to make that first contact with evil, whoever becomes the first footnote of the next attack, does what he did not and reacts when his gut tells him to.

TOUHEY: I had the devil standing right in front of me. You know? And I ignored him. GRIFFIN: Drew Griffin, CNN, Scarborough, Maine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Michael Touhey's name is in the very first footnote of the 9/11 Commission's official report, but he says they misspelled it.

Coming up next, a woman who lives somewhere in the Midwest. We can't tell you exactly where, but she's fighting the war on terror in her own home. We'll be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Well, as you know, it seems the Internet has become the preferred method of communication. Well, it's that way for terrorists, too. And that's where one woman in one Midwestern town comes in. She's defending America by surfing the Web to search for hints of terrorist activities.

Here's Thelma Gutierrez.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Somewhere deep in the heartland of America...

ANNIE, CYBER SPY: You will wear the coat and you will wear it zipped up.

Let's see if you washed her face. Get your coat on.

GUTIERREZ: ... a citizen warrior starts her day.

ANNIE: There's your buddy. Have a good day.

GUTIERREZ: Call her Annie. She won't reveal her real name, her kids' faces or even where they live, because by day, this 49-year-old woman is a stay-at-home mom. But by night, her mundane life in the burbs becomes a hunt for terrorists.

ANNIE: I am getting ready to visit some Islamic extremist militant forums.

GUTIERREZ: Annie the housewife becomes Annie the cyber spy.

ANNIE: These are a few of my favorite forums.

GUTIERREZ: Trolling sites she never new existed.

ANNIE: Al Ansar, Castle Forum.

GUTIERREZ: Annie says she looks for suspicious postings and monitors live forums for ominous chatter into the wee hours of the morning.

(on camera) You don't speak Arabic? You don't read it. ANNIE: Now, but we use software programs to translate it.

Ah, here we go.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): Within minutes, Annie shows me step-by- step instructions for a suicide bomb belt and how to detonate explosives with a cell phone.

ANNIE: There's assassinations, recruiting, training.

GUTIERREZ: But Annie is mainly interested in the talk that goes on between extremist whose she says use code words and hymns to hide messages.

ANNIE: They also can insert pictures on their boards, and inside those pictures are embedded files.

GUTIERREZ: It's a sophisticated cat and mouse game. The government shuts the sites down, but they just pop up again.

ANNIE: We have several FBI contacts. We have the CIA, Secret Service.

GUTIERREZ: Annie and a half-dozen citizens from Canada to Singapore formed the group Phoenix Global Intelligence. They decipher information. Anything sensitive is turned over to authorities.

(on camera) But what if they say that they're not trained intelligence people? They don't even speak the language?

ANNIE: No. We're sort of like a global neighborhood watch program. And after 9/11, what did they tell you? Don't be afraid to call and report anything suspicious. That's what we're doing.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): The group claims cryptic electronic messages on the Internet that they intercepted warned of attacks in advance, like the explosion outside of the Al Arabyia television station in central Baghdad. Seven people were killed, 19 wounded.

ANNIE: We had intercepted messages two weeks before they were bombed.

GUTIERREZ: Taba, Egypt, terrorists attacked the Hilton Hotel last October. Thirty-four tourists die in the bloodbath.

ANNIE: There was another one that happened after we read it online.

GUTIERREZ: Riyadh City, May, 2003, cars packed with explosives detonate in three residential complexes. Thirty-five people are killed, including nine Americans.

ANNIE: There was information submitted to the FBI almost directly down to the time and location.

GUTIERREZ: We contacted the Office of Homeland Security and the FBI. Neither agency would comment on the citizen group or any tips they may have provided.

Computer security expert Clifford Neuman says private citizens can be extra eyes for the government, but they don't typically have the technology to crack codes.

PROF. CLIFFORD NEUMAN, COMPUTER SECURITY EXPERT: If you're looking at communications that are going on within a terrorist network, it is unlikely that a private citizen is going to see those communications or be able to understand those communications.

GUTIERREZ: before you write Annie and her group off as wannabe spies with too much time on their hands, one of the members, a mother from Montana did help catch a wannabe al Qaeda. She was a key witness in the government's case against a National Guardsman.

(on camera) Where was his mistake?

ANNIE: Probably posting on the Internet.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): Posing as an Algerian extremist, Shannon Ross Miller exchanged e-mails with Ryan G. Anderson, a Muslim convert. In the e-mails, Anderson, part of a tank crew promised to reveal U.S. vulnerabilities. Anderson was convicted of attempted treason and sentenced to life.

ANNIE: He responded to coming to a jihad and he didn't know he was talking to. He didn't ever stop to think, "Who is this person I'm talking to?"

GUTIERREZ: Annie says she has the perfect cover.

ANNIE: My family supports me. My mother, she's 80 and doesn't approve, of course.

GUTIERREZ: She says no one would suspect a Midwestern housewife working after-hours as a cyber spy.

Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, somewhere in the Midwest.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Go Annie, go. Time to check in with the King. No, not Elvis, Larry King, he's in town.

Nice of you to come and visit with us on our set, Larry. We're only about 50 yards away from you.

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Yes, I'm going to try to hop over. Paula, you look fantastic tonight.

ZAHN: Well, thank you, Larry.

KING: I also want to thank you for being such a wonderful host in this city, where in my city today, it was 79 degrees. And in your city, it's 70 degrees cooler.

ZAHN: Just wait until you get to the inauguration in D.C.

KING: You're going to be outside, right?

ZAHN: We're going to be outside on the steps of the capitol and we all have our wardrobe planned. We're all going to look like 500- pound snowmen out there.

KING: Is the family provided for?

ZAHN: Whose family?

KING: Yours.

ZAHN: No. They're going to be warm inside.

KING: No, good. No, I'm worried about after you depart.

ZAHN: I'm not going to freeze to death. What's coming up tonight?

KING: Wayne Newton, energy himself. Looking forward to it, Wayne. Always love having him on. Got a lot of things happening. Wayne Newton is our special guest and we'll have phone calls, as well.

And now Paula, back to you here in lovely, balmy Gotham.

ZAHN: So sorry. You used to live here. You should be used to this, Larry. You get spoiled in Los Angeles.

KING: Never saw -- never saw a day like today.

ZAHN: It's pretty brutal out there.

KING: The worst.

ZAHN: Very strange hats people are wearing in New York. Have a good show, Larry.

KING: Thanks, Paula.

ZAHN: When we come back, this is the biggest thing ever in the history of air travel but will it fly? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Before we take off tonight, Jeanne Moos has a little something from our super-sized department. And we're not talking junk food here.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There was nothing plain about the debut of this plane. The European Airbus 380 is the biggest passenger plane ever built. And it got some build up.

Think "Top Gun" meets "Peter Pan." And toss in a little Cirque de Soleil.

An audience of several thousand watched. The leaders of France, Germany, Spain and Britain attended as if it were a coronation.

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: It is simply stunning.

MOOS: It had to be shipped in sections to the assembly point in Toulouse, France.

Its creators describe this double-decker as a cruise ship in the sky, with room for everything from a restaurant bar to a duty-free store, not to mention 555 to 800 seats. It sure makes the 747 look less jumbo and it makes the mothballed Concord look like a bone.

(on camera) Imagine what the Wright brothers would think. The new Airbus is twice as long as the entire first flight of Orville Wright.

(voice-over) Orville's plane stayed up 12 seconds and flew 120 feet. The Airbus is 239 feet in length with a wingspan almost the size of a football field.

But critics take aim at Airbus CEO Noel Forgeard. They call the Airbus Noel's Arc, too big for too small a market.

But already airlines have ordered 149 of these. Virgin Atlantic's CEO talks of having a gym in the sky.

RICHARD BRANSON, CEO, VIRGIN ATLANTIC: We're going to introduce a beauty parlor. We plan to have a casino. And we'll also have a lot more double beds.

MOOS: There may be two ways of getting lucky on Virgin, he joked.

Though the curtain has gone up and Airbus has released dreamy animation of its plane gliding through the sky, the Airbus has never actually flown. Its first test flight is in the spring.

Let's hope all those passenger seats feel a bit more secure than these.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Actually, that looked pretty comfy to me. Jeanne Moos.

Stick around. A few late night laughs when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: OK. Now, it's your turn. The results of tonight's "PZN Meter" question: As secretary of state, would Condoleezza Rice help or hurt the U.S. image around the world? Twenty percent say she'll help; 80 percent say she'll hurt the U.S. image.

Again, not a poll, just a web site sampling. Thank you for logging on.

Tomorrow night, Anderson Cooper and I will bring you a prime time "Security Watch" special report, "DEFENDING AMERICA," from the nation's capitol.

CNN correspondents traveled all around the country to find out if the U.S. is any safer since 9/11. Have we bitten off more than we can chew or have we made real progress in homeland security?

We're going to have some answers tomorrow on a two-hour edition of "DEFENDING AMERICA," beginning at 7 p.m. Eastern, of course, the eve of the inaugural.

And we've got just enough time for a few laughs from some late night comics. Here we go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": Just four more days until the inauguration. The oath of office for president will be administered by Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist. And of course, if he's not feeling up to it, then Regis will fill in for him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: And we'd love for you to join us on Thursday morning. Please tune in to CNN at 7 a.m. Eastern, for our live coverage that gets under way. And then again at 10 a.m. we will start our intense coverage of the inaugural activities.

That's it for tonight. "LARRY KING LIVE" is next. He will go on one-on-one with entertainer Wayne Newton. He'll be taking your calls. Thanks again for joining us tonight. Please join us tomorrow night when we report live from Washington. Good night.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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