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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
"Defending America"; Homeland Security To Dominate Bush Administration; Lone Wolves Pose Danger to Law Enforcement, Citizens
Aired January 19, 2005 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: And good evening from a wintry Washington, D.C. I'm Anderson Cooper.
The inauguration of President George W. Bush about 15 hours away, and the security here on the Capitol and all across Washington tonight is unprecedented.
PAULA ZAHN, HOST: And good evening, everyone. I'm Paula Zahn.
Homeland security is sure to dominate this Bush administration, as it has over the past four years. So just how safe are we, and what is being done to protect us?
A CNN Special Report, Defending America, starts right now.
COOPER: He stared into the eyes of the devil himself on 9/11.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL TOUHEY, FORMER U.S. AIR GATE AGENT: He had the deadest eyes I've ever seen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Tonight, meet the first man to confront Mohamed Atta, the mastermind of the 9/11 hijackings.
It's the ultimate nightmare, a nuclear attack on American soil. Tonight, the real threat of mass destruction. We examine how easy is it for terrorists to get nuclear weapons, and what would happen if they used them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This would make 9/11 seem a toothache.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Four and half months since the bloodiest terrorist attack in Russia, hundreds of innocent children massacred. Could it happen here? Are our children potential targets for terrorists? Tonight, lessons learned from the Beslan attack, and a look at what's being done to keep your kids safe in school.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Each school district makes it up as they go along.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And the daunting challenge of trying to keep terrorists out of America. Tonight, we take you to the front lines, our borders. A story of one man who has made it his life's mission to protect the homeland.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In terms of the bad guys coming across, we need to be correct 100 percent of the time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: This is a CNN Special Report, Defending America. From our nation's capital, here is Anderson Cooper and Paula Zahn.
ZAHN: And welcome back.
You're looking at the podium on the West Front of the Capitol, where, at noon tomorrow, President Bush will be sworn in for his second term. It comes at a time when his foremost preoccupation, the country's foremost preoccupation, is the very subject we're going to be examining in depth tonight, and that is our vulnerability to terrorism.
COOPER: Yes, the oath Mr. Bush takes tomorrow is very American, it's short, workmanlike, to the point, only 35 words from beginning to end, the end being his pledge "to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."
And late this afternoon, an example of just how tough that job may be. Federal agents alerted Massachusetts authorities to be on the lookout for four people wanted in connection with a possible terror threat in Boston.
Now, reports indicate the men, Chinese nationals, may have sneaked across the U.S. border with Mexico. We are following this story very closely, and we're going to bring you the very latest information as we get it over the course of the next two hours.
If it turns out to be true that these suspects did sneak across the Mexican border, and law enforcement forces sources stress the reports are uncorroborated right now, they'd be just a drop in the torrent of people who illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border each year.
So tonight, we begin our special coverage there, the place many fear is literally America's soft underbelly when it comes to terrorism.
Here's CNN's Ed Lavandera.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two worlds collide in Bill Johnson's back yard, he and his family, farm and ranch, 160,000 acres along New Mexico's border with Mexico.
BILL JOHNSON, RANCHER: We're the windshield when the accident happens. I mean, this is where the bird's going to hit. So we're just going to keep our eyes peeled.
LAVANDERA: What his family sees is a vast, largely unprotected frontier. When the first Johnson stepped on this ground in 1918, the border was marked by a lonely monument. Crossing was based on the honor system.
BILL JOHNSON: You just had to report to a customs station and tell them that you crossed the border.
LAVANDERA: It looks like an outdated relic next to the fences and barbed wire that straddle stretches of the border today.
JAMES JOHNSON, BILL JOHNSON'S SON: "The destruction or the displacement of this monument is a misdemeanor punishable by the United States or Mexico."
LAVANDERA: James Johnson is Bill's son, the fourth-generation family to learn the farming and ranching way of life. But he's also learning something his ancestors knew little about, the high-stakes underworld of border life.
BILL JOHNSON: I don't know if we'll catch any buses coming back and forth right now.
LAVANDERA: Johnson takes us for a drive around the farm, where he has a front-row seat to watch hundreds of people cross into the United States illegally. Every day, Johnson says, he sees about 10 buses cruising along the border line to a colonia, small village, called Vascepas (ph).
BILL JOHNSON: There is no running water. Most of the houses there are all outhouses. I mean, that's truly a -- that is close to third world living as you can get.
LAVANDERA: As we stand on the fence line, a van appears.
JAMES JOHNSON: The way he's driving all of a sudden now, the way he's driving at a high rate of speed and everything else...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's -- he is (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
JAMES JOHNSON: It's probably a load that's going to cross later on tonight.
There on the back of the van, it says "Routa las Chepas (ph)," and what that is, is showing that's all that van does. That's just your ride to get to this Chepas.
LAVANDERA: The ride costs $1, Johnson says. The passengers will wait for nightfall, then make their move north.
JAMES JOHNSON: These smugglers don't care who they are smuggling. They don't have a conscience. Moving a terrorist would not be a big deal to them.
So what they do is, on the Mexican side, they'll actually head west and come around the hill, and then they have just basically a free trail going north.
LAVANDERA: They start the crossing here in the town of Palomas, about 15 miles from the ranch, just over the Mexican border. Palomas is dusty and unforgiving, a place sustained by the movement of soon- to-be illegal immigrants.
ROBERTO DELGADO, REPORTER: It's a small town of about 1,500 people.
LAVANDERA: For 18 years, Roberto Delgado has reported for local TV stations on this forgotten stretch of border.
DELGADO: This in the middle of nowhere.
LAVANDERA: Delgado says a town like this is governed by smugglers, and an unwritten code these migrants live by -- say little.
DELGADO: They are scared. If you go to ask them, they are afraid to talk.
LAVANDERA: Delgado describes this forgotten, depressing town as the promised land.
DELGADO: It's weird to say that, saying that, but this is the real thing. Is -- Palomas is the place, the perfect place to cross to the U.S.
LAVANDERA: This man won't tell us his name, but says he was caught by the Border Patrol the night before. Now he's back in Palomas, planning his next move. He's trying to get back to a job in Albuquerque.
He says, "We tried to cross, but we got caught. But most of us will try again. I'm not sure yet what I'm going to do next."
Hundreds of other soon-to-be-illegal immigrants gather in the town square. They spend most of the day standing and waiting. Delgado suggests it would be easy for a terrorist to blend in here.
DELGADO: Nobody asks you your name. Nobody asks you, Where are you coming from? Probably it's good spot to hide.
LAVANDERA (on camera): Here on the outskirts of the town of Palomas, the only thing that separates Mexico from the U.S. is a couple of miles of steel posts, mostly intended to keep people from driving across the border.
But what happens when there are no more posts, and it becomes virtually impossible to tell where one country ends, and the other begins? How do you defend this?
(voice-over): Illegal immigrants and smugglers migrate away from the spots where federal agents patrol the most, so crossing points change and evolve.
When the Border Patrol cracked down in California, that forced more illegal traffic to Texas. Beefed-up enforcement in Texas pushed illegal immigrants toward Arizona. Millions spent by the Border Patrol in Arizona is now funneling illegal traffic here to New Mexico, where there are fewer border agents, and where the border is sometimes unmarked, and often simply a couple of strands of barbed wire.
SAL METO, U.S. BORDER PATROL SPOKESMAN: We are monitoring that very closely, and are shifting our resources, people and technologies, to that area to respond to the -- to mitigate the traffic.
LAVANDERA: Border Patrol officials say there hasn't been a huge jump in the number of people caught here.
JAMES JOHNSON: There's been a lot more people coming over here.
LAVANDERA: But James Johnson says, all that shows is illegal immigrants are finding a way through.
JAMES JOHNSON: There's no doubt that hundreds and hundreds and hundreds leave here at night, and make it. And if they didn't make it, it would stop.
LAVANDERA: Ed Lavandera, CNN, Columbus, New Mexico.
ZAHN: And from border security to airport security. Few of us will ever forget how easy it was for the 9/11 hijackers to actually walk through security checks to board their flights.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL TOUHEY, FORMER U.S. AIR GATE AGENT: I said, I just put -- I put two people on that plane. And I was feeling horrible. You know? And (UNINTELLIGIBLE), here I was thinking that these guys were terrorists.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: How one airline employee's split-second decision might have changed history.
And so many children lost, so many struggling to heal. The lessons learned from the Beslan tragedy, when our special report continues. We'll be right back.
ZAHN: And we join you from the West Front of the Capitol tonight, where, at about noon tomorrow, the president will be sworn in for his second term.
And none of us will ever forget where we were on that terrible day in September 2001. We all have our own story to tell. But what you're about to hear is the story of how one man might have changed history. On that day, standing at the counter in front of him, with an airline ticket in his hand, was evil personified.
Here's Drew Griffin.
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, FORMER U.S. AIR GATE AGENT: Crystal clear, and blue skies. It was just a fabulous day, you know, to go to work.
GRIFFIN: One hour and 43 minutes into Touhey's day, two men approached his ticket 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, (UNINTELLIGIBLE). It's not nice, but I said, Jeez, if this doesn't look like two Arab terrorists, I have never seen two Arab terrorists.
GRIFFIN (on camera): That was your...
GRIFFIN: ... first reaction.
TOUHEY: That was my thought as I'm looking at them. I'm looking at their licenses and I'm looking at them. And that thought ran through my mind.
GRIFFIN: Where did that thought go?
TOUHEY: I don't know. It -- at this -- 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 says, 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 the deadest eyes I have 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 border 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 him them ticket, I gave them the boarding cards for the Boston flight. He says, he says, "Isn't this -- isn't there one-stop check-in?" 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 just put -- I put two people on that plane. And I was feeling horrible. You know, I said, Here I was, thinking that these guys are terrorists, you know. And I -- I just had a flashback. And I says, Now the poor bastards are dead. And then you got the word on the second plane, and then it was like a punch in the stomach.
GRIFFIN: 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 (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- like, 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, passing 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? And I says, Well, these guys had on -- they were very business- looking. They had on ties and jackets. And I says, And 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, this 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 says, I feel bad about all of them people that got killed. And she says, What did you have to do with them? 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 nonpolitically- 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 mean, I have to admit, that helped. I -- after seeing all the information that was available, I said, 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. And I ignored him.
GRIFFIN: Drew Griffin, CNN, Scarborough, Maine.
COOPER: He scared the devil in the eye.
As that report makes clear, we don't see things quite the way we did before 9/11. That is especially true for the man you're about to meet, John Miller, the homeland security chief for the city of Los Angeles. Wherever he goes, he says he is always asking himself, What if?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN MILLER, LOS ANGELES HOMELAND SECURITY CHIEF: I mean, every time you go into a subway station, or go by any major public facility, I'm always thinking, That's very vulnerable to an attack. Here's the three ways you could attack it. That place has great standoff from the street, you know, you could never attack it with a truck bomb. This place is a sitting duck.
It's just a way of thinking, because you build it into your head, having studied each attack and all the different countries intimately, down to what succeeded for the bad guys. How did they fail? What really worked for them in terms of the structural thing?
Everywhere you go, you're doing a instant vulnerability assessment. It's probably a terrible way to think. When you look at a crowded theater and think, Boy, wouldn't this be a vulnerable target? But I think it's necessary to the job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, it's no secret that despite the hard work of men like John Miller, men and women who are border agents, there are gaping holes in our security, gaping holes in our borders.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In terms of the bad guys coming across, we need to be correct 100 percent of the time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Earlier we showed you our southern border. In a moment, we're going to take you on a wild ride along our northern borders, where snowmobiles and high-tech gear are used to stop terrorists in their tracks.
Plus, terrorizing the children. The school siege in Russia that shocked the world. Our question tonight, have we learned the lessons of Beslan? Are our kids, are our schools any safer today?
Defending America continues in a moment.
COOPER: And welcome back to our special report, Defending America.
There, a live picture of the White House, where there is much anticipation tonight about the events tomorrow.
Talking about 9/11 this evening, one of the things, of course, that was so shocking about September 11, 2001, was that our technology, our jet aircraft, was used against us in a very primitive but a very deadly way.
After that day, it's hard for many of us, I think, to look at an airplane the same way.
The same could be said of September 1, 2004, when terrorist attacked Beslan, Russia. All of us suddenly saw schools in a new way. Suddenly innocent children in a classroom could become victims.
Tonight, we look at the lessons of Beslan, those learned and those we should have learned by now.
Moscow bureau chief Jill Dougherty takes us back.
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Tamara Skaeva prays her little boy someday will forget what happened that September morning. But four and a half months later, 7-year-old Demir (ph) is afraid of every noise, especially the sound of footsteps.
TAMARA SKAEVA, SURVIVOR (through translator): It reminds him of the sound of the terrorists when he was approaching the tiny room where we were hiding. We were silent. We didn't even breathe, hoping maybe they wouldn't notice us. Then we heard those scary steps of the fighter in his boots. He broke down the door. We saw him, all dressed in black, with a mask on his face and a huge gun in his hands.
DOUGHERTY: The worst terror attack in Russian history began September 1, 2004, the festive opening day of school. In Beslan, North Osetia (ph), a city of 40,000 near the border with the wartorn region of Chechnya, students, teachers, and parents were in the courtyard of Public School Number One.
Suddenly, a group of 32 heavily armed men and women in masks and camouflage stormed in, herding everyone into the gymnasium.
Initial government reports said there were 350 hostages. In reality, it was more than 1,200.
The terrorists videotaped themselves as they strung explosives from the basketball hoop. Officials said 10 of them were Arab fighters, but have never produced proof. The hostage takers demanded the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya, and the release of imprisoned fighters.
The government said no. Russian security forces took up positions. A tense standoff began. The terrorists, reportedly high on drugs, would not allow food or water to be brought in. In the blistering heat, the hostages began to drink their own urine.
On the third day, an explosion ripped through the gym. Investigators still are not sure what triggered it. It was pandemonium, a bloodbath. As terrified, half-naked children and their parents ran from the building, the terrorists opened fire, shooting them in the back. When it was over, almost 350 hostages were dead. All of the terrorists are believed to have been killed.
Russia's most-wanted man, terrorist Shamil Basaiv (ph), claimed responsibility for masterminding the attack. SKAEVA: You know, I've tried taking Demir back to school, but the noise of the kids running in the hallway terrified him. He was covering his ears and begging me to take him home.
DOUGHERTY: Tamara Skaeva asked a relative, a policeman, if Beslan's schools are any safer.
SKAEVA: He said, What are you talking about? We haven't been paid in three months. Forty people have resigned. They have no weapons, no flak jackets. And if they had them, they're so bad that they don't even wear them.
DOUGHERTY: At the cemetery in Beslan, three mothers visit the graves of their children. Today is the birthday of Alana. She would have been 10 years old. She used to play the piano, they tell each other, and she loved to dance.
The winter wind has blown over the evergreen trees parents brought here for the Russian Orthodox Christmas. And Susanna Dudieva puts the decorations back on, just as she used to for her son, Zaurt (ph). He was 13 when he died.
"Is it any comfort," she asks, "that they're little angels in heaven?"
Susanna has started a mother's committee to help victims of the massacre, and demand authorities carry through on promises of a thorough investigation, not a whitewash.
SUSANNA DUDIEVA, BESLAN MOTHERS COMMITTEE (through translator): Nobody can prove to us there were no weapons hidden in the school before the attack. We have proof of it. We have witnesses who saw how the weapons were taken out. We have witnesses who saw the terrorists in the school and near it the day before the attack, people who have recognized some of them.
DOUGHERTY: Marina Misikova is a policeman's widow. She's raising three children of her own. And since that day last September, she's caring for two more, sons of her sister, Laura (ph), who was killed the third day of the siege as she was forced to stand in the window as a human shield.
MARINA MISIKOVA, SURVIVOR (through translator): I still can't forget what happened. It's in my soul. You can't lock yourself at home, but I'm living like a zombie. After the tragedy, I have no more reason to live. I've seen so many children dying, beautiful children, babies. But I'm trying to be strong in front of the kids.
DOUGHERTY: All eight of them, including the children's grandmother, were in that school gymnasium for almost three days. Like many parents in Beslan, Marina thinks her children still aren't safe.
MISIKOVA (through translator): What kind of security are you talking about? Have you seen it? It's ridiculous! A young guy sitting in the middle of a hall? They need to install videocameras everywhere. They need to change the entrance doors, install good locks. Those guys without weapons, without radio? At one school, they don't even have a working telephone. What can they do? Who can they protect?
DOUGHERTY: Half of the 600 children who survived are now enrolled at Beslan's School #6. Today, visiting missionaries from the United States are handing out gifts, new backpacks. Two new schools are under construction in Beslan. The district finally has enough textbooks and desks. Families that lost a loved one received $3,500 from the Russian government, as well as $600 to pay for the funeral. Donations from around the world helped even more. The Beslan Community Council is distributing another $37,000 to each victim's family. But the council's chairman says they need more than money.
MAIRBEK TUAEV, BESLAN COMMUNITY COUNCIL (through translator): People who suffered did not really need humanitarian help as much as they needed psychological help and support.
IRINA AZIMOVA, SCHOOL #6 PRINCIPAL (through translator): When the children go to school, they're back in the atmosphere they're used to. They're with other kids, and kids are the best psychologists for each other.
DOUGHERTY: The parents say their children need better psychological counseling.
Beslan's School #1, where so many died, is still standing, frozen in time like a shattered clock. Families still bring flowers and pray nothing like this will happen again. Jill Dougherty, CNN.
COOPER: It's the ultimate nightmare, a nuclear attack on American soil. Tonight, the real threat of mass destruction. We examine how easy is it for terrorists to get nuclear weapons, and what would happen if they used them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This would make 9/11 seem like a toothache.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And the daunting challenge of trying to keep terrorists out of America. Tonight, we take you to the front lines, our borders, a story of one man who has made it his life's mission to protect the homeland.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOUGLAS FRIEZ, N.DAKOTA EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: In terms of the bad guys coming across, we need to be correct 100 percent of the time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
*ANNOUNCER:* CNN SPECIAL REPORT: "Defending America," will continue in a moment.
COOPER: And Welcome back to our nation's Capitol, this the scene where tomorrow President Bush will be sworn in for his second term.
Tonight, in this two-hour special reporter, we're taking an unblinking look at how this country, how all of us are vulnerable to terrorism. Tonight, a new alert and a report out of Boston of a possible terror threat. We want to bring you up to date on that right now. Police there are looking for four Chinese nationals said to possibly -- and we say possibly -- have been smuggled across the border from Mexico. These are their photographs. Police say the threat is based on a single uncorroborated source, but nevertheless, they would like to talk to these four individuals.
ZAHN: At the top of the program, we saw just how porous our border with Mexico is. Now we're going to turn our attention to the north, to the much longer border with Canada, twice as long as that southern border. For years, it was virtually unguarded, but in this post-9/11 era, that has all changed. And CNN's Keith Oppenheim takes us to the northern reaches of North Dakota.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Larry Jerde walks in the cold, just feet from the U.S.-Canadian line. This is where he grew up, where North Dakota and Minnesota meet Manitoba, Canada.
LARRY JERDE, U.S. BORDER PATROL: See this little rise right in front of us? Goes to that cottonwood tree there? That's Canada.
OPPENHEIM: And it is where, 27 years ago, he decided he wanted to be an agent for the U.S. Border Patrol.
JERDE: My father was a Border Patrol agent, so I sort of knew about the job, and it looked like sort of an adventure to me.
OPPENHEIM: The adventure now is high stakes. Larry Jerde is part of a group watching 900 miles of border, which before 9/11 was protected by only 30 agents. Now the Border Patrol says that number has gone way up, though, it won't say by how much, and it's clear this line of defense is still stretched thin.
(on camera): How tough a job is it?
JERDE: At times, it's very tough, the amount of areas we have to cover with the amount of people we have, in the conditions we have.
OPPENHEIM (voice-over): The conditions can be brutal. Winds howl across the plains.
JERDE: With the wind chill, it's probably more like 30, 35 below. But you don't stand out around in it, it's a pretty nice day. OPPENHEIM: Jerde and his agents use snowmobiles like most police officers drive squad cars, scouring the frozen tundra for signs of anything suspicious.
JERDE: We're looking for any sign of human to come through.
OPPENHEIM: Yet even in this intimidating weather, illegal immigrants enter, and authorities can only guess at how many attempt to get through.
GLEN SCHROEDER, U.S. BORDER PATROL, GRAND FORKS: I don't want to see organized smuggling develop to the north of us with an infrastructure to the south of us. It allows for the passage of people, of terrorists, terrorist weapons into the United States, and then the ability to leave this area and go to other parts of the country.
OPPENHEIM: Last year, Jerde and the agents in his district arrested more than 1,300 illegal aliens. Cases often start with a tip.
JERDE: People talk. We have a lot of people out here that tell us what's going on in their own backyard.
OPPENHEIM: Many times, helicopter crews fly out for a first look.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're able to get out there and see if there's anything crossing out there, vehicle signs, foot signs.
OPPENHEIM: And while Jerde gets backup from the sky, he gets the same from underground.
JERDE: It's like a suitcase, easily carried.
OPPENHEIM: A variety of sensors, buried in strategic locations, detect metals and motion.
(on camera): To show you how technology can help, I'm going to demonstrate something that I'm going with the permission of the U.S. Border Patrol and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. I am just on the Canadian side of the border. A few feet that way, is the United States. There are sensors all around here. The Border Patrol won't say how many or where they are. But you can be sure of this, when I walk from here, Canada, to over here, the United States, that incursion across the border has been picked up by those sensors, which alert federal agents at a command center more than 70 miles away.
(voice-over): Along with sensors, there are cameras. At this U.S. Customs office, Larry Jerde and other agents can monitor what happens overnight when smaller border crossings shut down. But surveillance cameras recently installed stay on.
JERDE: Jason, why don't you show him Ambrose.
UNIDENTIFIED BORDER PATROL OFFICER: This one here is Ambrose, North Dakota, which is approximately 240 miles away, on the western half of North Dakota.
OPPENHEIM: While the equipment is evolving...
UNIDENTIFIED BORDER PATROL OFFICER: The next one's on that risk assessment.
OPPENHEIM: ... so are relationships across the border. Since 9/11, Jerde and other agents formalized their meetings with Canadian authorities.
JERDE: ... where they get together and share information.
OPPENHEIM: This is every day?
JERDE: This is every day.
OPPENHEIM: They both work in the same place?
JERDE: In the same room, at the same time.
JOHN FERGUSON, ROYAL CANADIAN MOUNTED POLICE: Not only coming to the table, certain information we have, but we're able to check that information against information that our partners have.
OPPENHEIM (voice-over): Still with all of the improvements, the challenge is daunting.
DOUGLAS FRIEZ, N.DAKOTA EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: In terms of the bad guys coming across, we need to be correct 100 percent of the time.
OPPENHEIM: And for his part, Larry Jerde doesn't like overconfidence.
JERDE: What mix technology and manpower is required to make our borders safe? We're in that process now.
OPPENHEIM: For those trusted with the first line of defense, like Larry Jerde, there has been a realization that an open crossing, however inhospitable, is an invitation to danger. That is how September 11 changed the landscape here.
JERDE: It was a heck of a way to open eyes, but I think it's -- from bad will come good. And I think we're on our way.
OPPENHEIM: Keith Oppenheim, CNN, Pembena (ph), North Dakota.
COOPER: As you watch this program tonight, we're not talking about creating fear, we're really trying to inform you, to see what we are doing to defend America and what more needs to be done. It's very easy to become frightened when you hear some of these security experts talk. Some of the scenarios they consider are truly terrifying. But there is much that should give you comfort tonight about how secure this country is. We like to look at all sides of an issue, so here's CNN's security analyst, Richard Falkenrath, with some encouraging words about defending America.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD FALKENRATH, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: I actually don't think we're that easy of a target for terrorists. I think they're finding us a pretty difficult operating environment, particularly since 9/11. That's why we've seen more attacks abroad, in Europe and in Asia and Africa. The United States is hard to get to. It's long travel. And our border security is very good by the standards of any developed democracy. So it's a tough place to get to. And then once you're here, if you're not familiar with the culture and the society, it's not that easy to function.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, next on "Defending America," nuclear weapons, dirty bombs and a shady underground.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very plausible that a well-organized and sophisticated terrorist group might be able to put together at least a crude nuclear bomb.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: We're going to take you inside one of the most dangerous black markets in the world, where just about anything can be bought. And later, patrolling the homeland, civilians, citizens like you, turned weekend warriors, take to the skies to keep America secure.
COOPER: And welcome back to Washington, D.C., the nation's Capitol. There is no prettier site tonight than that right here. President Bush, of course, inaugurated tomorrow.
As we continue looking at security here at home, the worries brought about by attacks abroad. The first bombs went off at 7:39 AM. In minutes, several more explosions from dynamite that was hidden in gym bags ripped the trains apart, 191 people died, nearly 2,000 were injured in last year's Madrid terror attack. The horror that happened there is still being felt here at home.
Many Americans who rely on the rails every day, day in, day out, are now traveling with an unwelcome companion, fear. They want to believe they're being protected. The question is, are they? CNN's Jason Carroll investigates.
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is one morning Karen Callahan can relax at home with her cup of coffee, a day off from work as a paralegal. She relishes days like this -- no 30- minute train ride into Manhattan, no security worries. KAREN CALLAHAN, SUBWAY RIDER: I feel like a sitting duck. That's what I feel. I feel like every time I get on that train, you know, it could happen.
CARROLL: We joined Callahan on her commute home through the world's largest train station, New York's Grand Central. This is where security concerns her most.
(on camera): Do you think about it very often?
CALLAHAN: I do. Probably every day.
CARROLL (voice-over): This single mom of two sees the train as her only choice, so she tries to minimize her risk.
CALLAHAN: I tend to go in the very first car for a few reasons, one of them being that it seems that it would be easier to get out.
CARROLL: Senator Joe Biden says Callahan's security worries are not unfounded.
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: There's no basic security. It is bizarre, absolutely bizarre! I'm actually angry about it.
CARROLL: Biden communities daily from Delaware to Washington.
BIDEN: It's been three-and-a-half of years this. I mean...
CARROLL: He's so angered by lapses in security, he introduced legislation.
(on camera): Do you see any things around here that you think could be improved?
BIDEN: Well, for example, what you could improve is people just standing here with the dogs, just bomb-sniffing dogs. I mean it's basic block-and-tackle stuff. I mean, basic stuff.
CARROLL: You're also talking about having someone just sort of walking through sometimes...
BIDEN: Yes, I mean, just for example, just the idea that one of these Amtrak policemen would be able to walk through with bomb- sniffing dogs. There's not sufficient cops. There's not sufficient fencing. There's not sufficient cameras. It's just -- it's criminal.
ASA HUTCHINSON, DEPT. OF HOMELAND SECURITY: We're grateful for that voice and that support for increased security.
CARROLL (voice-over): Asa Hutchinson is in charge of border and transportation security for the Department of Homeland Security. He says many lessons were learned from last year's terrorist bombing on a passenger train in Madrid -- 191 people were killed. Hutchinson says 70 new inspectors were hired this year to work with 400 already in place, $150 million dedicated to rail security. HUTCHINSON: You certainly have to worry that we're doing all that we can to protect those rails, and also the whole system. And so you're concerned about it, but also, you take steps every day to build upon that. Much has been done.
CARROLL: But critics insist not enough. New York lawmakers gave train and subway security a "D," citing unprotected tunnels, rail yards, and in particular, lack of surveillance. So at a train station in Philadelphia and another in the New York, we waited to see how long it would take for security to notice an abandoned bag left in clear view. After 10 minutes, nothing. That wouldn't surprise Callahan, who takes it upon herself to keep an eye out.
CALLAHAN: There was a man sitting behind me with a backpack. And you know, just -- he looked like one of the people that might have been on the airplanes. And he got up and he looked around in just kind of a suspicious way to me, and then he walked off. And right then, a man wearing almost the same jacket, same backpack, sat in the very seat behind me. So (UNINTELLIGIBLE) help it. And if there was a cop, a trooper, on it, I think I might have said something.
CARROLL: Back to the bags. Twenty minutes pass. In Philadelphia, an officer and his dog look over the bag. Our producer steps in and identifies it. But in New York, still nothing. Those who track terror tactics say the U.S. could learn from Great Britain's experience from its train system and threats by the Irish Republican Army.
BRIAN JENKINS, SECURITY EXPERT: If people are admonished to notify authorities of suspicious activity or abandoned parcels, if you then have readily available communication systems for them to do that, telephones that are marked, and you provide rapid response when reports are made, then, in effect, you have closed the loop.
CARROLL: In New York after 30 minutes, one person stopped but is too rushed to report the bag. We conclude the experiment.
HUTCHINSON: We know there's some vulnerabilities we need to continue to work on, and we are aggressively.
CARROLL: For example, this pilot program to test train passengers and their luggage for explosives. But for now, it's just a test. Amtrak says since 9/11, it's added police, increased use of bomb sniffing dogs and requires passengers to show ID. But Karen Callahan believes even more should be done, but she's not holding her breath.
CALLAHAN: I think it all comes down to money. I think it's just probably too expensive to have security on all the trains at all times. Yes, I think it's money.
CARROLL: So she'll keep riding and keep watching who is sitting nearby. Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.
(END VIDEOTAPE) ZAHN: And if you think it's an inconvenience to be on the lookout for abandoned bags at train stations or wait in security lines at airports, consider what people routinely go through in countries like Israel, where terrorism is an ever-present reality. Here's our senior analyst, Jeff Greenfield.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: If there were an effort to genuinely try to keep this country fully secure from a terror attack, we would be living in a different country. And I believe once you get finished (ph) with the rhetoric, everybody knows it. If you tried, for instance, to impose the kind of security measures on Americans that are routine in a state like Israel, I just don't think it would be possible. You would be talking about, for instance, bag searches of everybody entering every movie theater, stadium, supermarket, school, bus. You would be talking about what they call friction. That is, the slowing down of normal, everyday economic and social interaction. That would probably make this country unworkable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: And it just also says our nation's security and economy are closely tied. Coming up next, what if a terror attack involving a weapon of mass destruction was carried in one of our seaports?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know that we're vulnerable and there are gaps, but we're trying to make sure it doesn't happen here. But we believe it will happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: And we're going to also take a look at why some think importing trouble is simply a matter of time. And almost all of our consumer goods enter the country in truck-size shipping containers. Thousands arrive every day. Could a terrorist smuggle a nuclear device inside one of these containers?
ZAHN: And welcome back. As we finish the first hour of our look at "Defending America" from here in Washington, on this glorious night before the inauguration, an update on a possible terror threat in Boston. Police there are now looking for four Chinese nationals wanted for questioning, who may have entered the U.S. from Mexico.
With the very latest on this breaking story, let's turn to Dan Lothian, who joins us from Boston. Dan, what do we know at this hour?
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Paula. Well, I am in Framingham, which is a suburb of Boston, and we are at the state emergency management bunker. This is where they have issued what they call a partial activation, not the full crew but about a dozen or so agencies, from fire to some of the other emergency police agencies in the region, in the state. They have them here. They tell me that they don't have anything that they are responding to, but they're here in place just in case anything happens.
Now, the governor and the mayor and law enforcement officials here in the state have said that they are indeed keeping their eyes out for four Chinese nationals whom they believe made their way into the country, might be making their way to the Boston area to carry out some kind of terrorist attack, although they say this comes from a single source and it is not substantiated.
But what they are saying is that the public should be aware that this is taking place, but the public should not panic. The governor, who was in the nation's capital for the inauguration festivities, had a press conference there earlier this evening, will be returning to the state, he says, not because this is such a panic situation, but he wants everyone to understand that he's coming back here, it's a safe place to be, not to panic -- Paula.
ZAHN: A reminder of what we're up against in this country after 9/11.
Dan Lothian, thank you.
He looks like he's getting socked with the same weather, Anderson, that you and I were getting socked here with earlier today here in D.C.
COOPER: Yes. It is definitely a wintry night here in Washington, D.C.
We'll continue to follow that story out of Massachusetts throughout the next hour. Over the last hour, we've looked at the safety of our trains, our schools, our borders. For a moment, we want to talk about what security officials call a nightmare scenario, one that hasn't happened, but one we must be aware of, a nuclear bomb in the hands of terrorists.
David Mattingly takes a look.
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Macau, a small island in the South China Sea, once a Portuguese colony, now controlled by China. For decades, Macau has been the seedy underbelly of Asia, a steamy neon-slathered gateway to the international underworld.
It's a place where Chinese gangs came to spread violence and North Korean spies learned to operate in the West. Today, it is a place where tourists come to test their luck in the casinos and to satisfy other urges in the arms of prostitutes. But look more deeply into the shadows and some say you will likely find a base of operations. For a sophisticated North Korean smuggling network that in the past moved drugs, counterfeit money, and intercontinental ballistic missiles. MATTHEW BURN, MANAGING THE ATOM PROJECT: North Korea is a country that has a history of selling any weapon it had to virtually anyone who would buy.
MATTINGLY: So could a terrorist group come to the island shopping for nuclear material and would the North Koreans sell it to them? The experts that study the threat fear the answer could be yes. In fact, they say the transaction would be surprisingly simple. A North Korean agent operating unnoticed slips into one of the hundreds of bars. He meets an al Qaeda middleman.
He makes an exchange. Then the al Qaeda operative heads into the night getting lost amongst the tourists and the prostitutes on the prowl. All it takes is a small bag like this, big enough to easily hold enough highly enriched uranium or plutonium to incinerate the core of an American city.
BURN: The amount of plutonium you would need for a nuclear bomb would fit easily in a coke can.
MATTINGLY: Matthew Burn studies the security or insecurity of the world's nuclear material.
BURN: It is very plausible that a well-organized and sophisticated terrorist group might be able to put together a crude, nuclear bomb.
GRAHAM ALLISON, FORMER DEFENSE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: If we keep doing today what we're doing the likelihood is more likely than not.
MATTINGLY: Graham Allison, a Harvard professor and former Defense Department official, warns in a new book that we are dangerously vulnerable to a terrorist nuclear attack.
ALLISON: No event like this has happened in the American history. This would make 9/11 seem like a you know, a toothache.
MATTINGLY: Steve Flynn has been studying for years long before 9/11 how terrorists might attack the U.S. with a weapon of mass destruction.
STEPHEN FLYNN, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: The reality is, the Central Intelligence Agency has said the more likely way a weapons of mass destruction will come into the United States is in a ship and likely to be in a shipping container.
MATTINGLY: Most about the size of the typical truck trailer containers like these are the vehicles of choice on the super highway of international trade. The busiest container port in the world is Hong Kong. Just an hour away from Macou. Despite many efforts made by the U.S. and other governments and private industries since 9/11 experts like Flynn say containers are America's Achilles heel.
FLYNN: There are between 16 and 18 million containers worldwide. Where anybody can get a container, order to their home or workplace, they can load it up. You close it off. You put a 50 cent lead seal with a number on it and then you hand it to a transportation provider. Somebody you may not otherwise invite into your home.
Flynn's new book, America the Vulnerable, is a stark warning.
MATTINGLY (on camera): On a scale of 1 to 10, how prepared are we for that attack?
FLYNN: We were on 9/11 a 1. And today, we may be getting up to a 3. We got a very long ways to go.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): The U.S. Government admits there was a problem. It says it is moving quickly to fix it.
TOM RIDGE, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: In the past efforts to secure this vast global industry, both here and the United States and throughout the world, were isolated, they were scattered, and they were uncoordinated. The United States and the United States' coast guard recognize the problem and took specific actions to secure our homeland and the global economy.
MATTINGLY: But despite these efforts, Steve Flynn and others argue containers could still be the poor man's nuclear missile.
(on camera): Will we know what is in the boxes?
JOHN MEREDITH, MANAGING DIRECTOR, HUTCHINSON PORT HOLDINGS: No. I don't think you'll -- you'll know for certainty on ever single container.
This one old camera's or one of the new ones?
MATTINGLY (voice-over): John Meredith moves more boxes than anyone else in the world, 44 million a year. He's a managing director of Hutchinson Port Holdings, the largest port operator in the world with 44 facilities in 17 countries. And he is very worried about what could be put into one of those boxes.
MEREDITH: So many millions and millions and millions of products are coming, flowing into the country and no one at the moment is tracing where they came from and tracking how they got there.
MATTINGLY: Meredith says companies like his are ready and able to improve container security. With the devices like X-ray machines, radio seals on containers and radiological detectors, but he says, the U.S. Government needs to set an uniformed standard for all companies shipping containers into U.S. Ports. There's no one person or one agency in charge. Responsibility for container security lies across multiple agencies.
MEREDITH: The ports are now secured. But what is not secured is the supply chain. The movement of the boxes through the system and that is the Trojan horse.
MATTINGLY: And if the Trojan horse, a nuclear device hidden inside a container were detonated, ports would shut down and so would the global economy. FLYNN: If you shut those down for a period of two to three weeks, we shut down the global trade system. That's what we're talking about playing with here.
MATTINGLY: If that bomb made it to an American city, the human toll would be even worse.
David Mattingly, CNN, Los Angeles.
ZAHN: And when our special report, "Defending America," continues, part two of David's report on the potential for nuclear terror if terrorists actually did smuggle a nuclear device into an American city. What would happen and how could we possibly even prepare for that?
ZAHN (voice-over): Also ahead, they were unthinkable acts of terror over the skies of America. FAA and NORAD's failure to secure the skies cost thousands of innocent lives. Tonight, three and a half years later, are they better prepared?
DEAN IACAPELLI, AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: We're vigilant. We're paying attention, and we're listening and we're watching. And when we see something or we hear something, we're going to report it.
ZAHN: In the midst of trying to defend against international terror groups, are we ignoring domestic terrorists?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love this country. I just can't stand the bastards in it.
ZAHN: Tonight, CNN investigates the growing threat from homegrown.
ANNOUNCER: CNN's special report, "Defending America," will continue in a moment.
ZAHN: And we join you once again from the nation's capital.
If nuclear material can be purchased on the black market overseas, could a terrorist smuggle it into the U.S.? It's a nightmare that some say could be a reality, a nuclear bomb detonated in a major U.S. city, thousands upon thousands of lives lost.
The question is, how easily could that happen?
Once again, here's David Mattingly.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MATTINGLY (voice-over): This is the port of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the nation's biggest container port. Forty-three percent of all the goods that come into the U.S. by water in shipping containers come through here.
FLYNN: The Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach is arguably not only America's most critical port, but potentially the most important port in the world.
MATTINGLY (on camera): It is one of the single biggest engines driving the U.S. economy, a gateway to more than $200 billion in annual trade, with more than 5,000 ships unloading over 9 million cargo containers a year.
If the numbers don't impress you, consider this. Without this port, store shelves would empty, factories would close, and untold thousands would find themselves out of a job.
(voice-over): If terrorists inserted one of their agents somewhere into the long chain of companies involved in sending a product from a factory in south China to the United States, they would be in a position to get a nuclear device into a box, then on to a container, into the frenzy of commerce heading West, and onto a ship headed for California.
And the device would not have to detonate to the blow a hole in the U.S. economy. If authorities got a tip about a nuclear device in one of these boxes, they might well shut down the port to find it.
FLYNN: And so if you shut down this port you're talking about -- these are the warehouses for the entire national economy. We don't have big warehouses anymore. It's in this transportation system.
MATTINGLY: Steve Flynn has been banging the drum, raising awareness about maritime security he says is deeply vulnerable.
FLYNN: Most Americans I meet are simply flummoxed by the fact that, well, we can track -- FAA can track airplanes, it turns out we can't track ships.
FLYNN: It's a fool's game to be playing this way if there are things that we could be doing at reasonable costs to rein in this risk, not to eliminate it, but to rein it in.
MATTINGLY: Here, the federal government is testing how its agencies would react if a dirty bomb shipped to the U.S. in a container exploded in the Port of Los Angeles.
The exercise mobilized the FBI, Department of Energy, FEMA, the Coast Guard, Customs, the EPA, and Defense Departments, and an army of local authorities. Similar exercises were held across the country.
JOHN MILLER, COMMANDING OFFICER, LAPD COUNTERTERRORISM BUREAU: Our goal here is to take the lessons of 9/11, where we've seen failings in coordination, command, communication, and try and stress those and fix them. MATTINGLY: In the post-exercise analysis, authorities concluded some things work well. Some things, like communications between the 50 agencies involved, did not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, chief, we got five critical need to be transported. I can't get EMS 6 to answer.
CHIEF NOEL CUNNINGHAM, PORT OF LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT: Well, we know we're vulnerable, and are there gaps, but we're trying to make sure it doesn't happen here. But we believe it will happen.
MATTINGLY: A dirty bomb blowing up in the port, threatening surrounding neighborhoods, is one terrible possibility.
But there's one much worse. In this scenario, a bomb similar in size to those used on Japan in World War II comes into the L. A. Port in a container and is loaded onto a truck. The truck drives into downtown Los Angeles, and the bomb is detonated by remote control.
MATTHEW MCKINZIE, PHYSICIST, NRDC: Thirty-two thousand people would die. These people would die as a result of intense blast, high winds, intense heat radiation from the fireball. A further 160,000 people, though, could die as a result of exposure to fallout.
MATTINGLY: Matthew McKinzie is a physicist working for the Natural Resources Defense Council. Using the same special software that helps the federal government gauge the impact of a nuclear war, he can create a model for a catastrophe. Just enter the city, the date, and the size of the bomb, a simple point and click for the ultimate terrorist attack.
MCKINZIE: What the code shows is a hole basically, burned and blasted out of the center of Los Angeles.
MATTINGLY (on camera): What about the radiation?
MCKINZIE: The radiation, the fallout plume, impacts a much larger area of Los Angeles.
MATTHEW BUNN, HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT: A nuclear bomb is what happened to Hiroshima, where an entire city was obliterated in an instant by a single bomb. That's what we're talking about here. And unfortunately, it does not take a Manhattan Project to make a nuclear bomb. Potentially, even a relatively modest cell of reasonably skilled people could put together at least a crude nuclear bomb that would be capable of incinerating the heart of any major city in the world.
MATTINGLY: Any city, like Los Angeles, or maybe New York, or Washington, D.C., the cities attacked on September 11.
BUNN: No one, of course, can reliably calculate the probability of a nuclear terrorist attack in the United States, but I believe it's likely enough that it significantly reduces the life expectancy of everyone who lives and works in downtown Washington, D.C., or New York. MATTINGLY: David Mattingly, CNN, Los Angeles.
COOPER: Those are certainly chilling words.
The war on terror goes on. Of course, what's been done to secure the sky since 9/11? We're going to take a look into that coming up next. You're also going to meet some very unusual weekend warriors. They're helping with that big job of keeping America's skies safe from terror. And most of you probably don't even know they're up there.
ZAHN: And we join you once again from Washington, D.C., on the night before the president's second inauguration. We're told the president is now up to about the 18th draft of the speech he will deliver tomorrow.
Back to our special here. In its report, the 9/11 Commission concluded that, on the day of the attack, there was a lack of communication and coordination between the agencies charged with defending U.S. airspace. Primarily, that responsibility falls to the FAA, the Federal Aviation Administration, and NORAD, the military's North American Aerospace Defense Command.
Well, more than three years after September 11, the question remains, are they any better prepared to work together in the event of another terrorist attack?
ZAHN (voice-over): When terrorists boarded four commercial airliners on September 11, Ron Geoffroy was working the early shift at the traffic control center handling American Airlines Flight 11. The Boston-to-Los Angeles flight did not respond to a command to climb to 35,000 feet.
RON GEOFFROY, AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: We knew that Flight 11 had been off our radar scope for quite some time. I don't believe it was realized it was a hijacking until after the transponder went out and things started to go, so to speak, south.
ZAHN: Controllers understood why they couldn't locate Flight 11 when this voice spoke from the cockpit.
MOHAMED ATTA, 9/11 HIJACKER: Nobody move. If you try to make any move, you'll endanger yourself and the airplane.
ZAHN: The Boston center notified the FAA Command Center in Virginia Flight 11 was hijacked. The center also called a regional Air Force base.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a hijacked aircraft headed towards New York, and we need you guys to -- we need someone to scramble some F-16s or something up there. ZAHN: The Air Force ordered two F-15s to take off, but too late. One minute later, disaster.
IACAPELLI: All the pilots landing in La Guardia and in the area reported that something just hit the World Trade Center.
ZAHN: Dean Iacapelli saw the flaming tower on TV at his New York air traffic control station, where already another plane in trouble entered New York airspace, United Airline Flight 175 also off its route from Boston to Los Angeles. Its radar transponder was off, radio calls to the cockpit unanswered. The control manager told the FAA Command Center a second hijacking was under way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have several situations going on here. It's escalating big time. And we need to get the military involved with this.
IACAPELLI: We didn't know what altitude it was at. We didn't know where it was going. The plane made a sudden turn and started heading back towards Manhattan.
ZAHN: But just as the North American Aerospace Defense Command, NORAD, received word of the second hijacking, Flight 175 crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center.
RETIRED LT. COL. BILL GLOVER, U.S. AIR FORCE: The U.S. scrambled two F-15s.
ZAHN: Lieutenant Colonel Bill Glover was in charge of the Air Warning Center at NORAD headquarters in Colorado.
GLOVER: There was still some thoughts when the first crash occurred that maybe it was an accident. When the second crash occurred and we saw that, the room went silent.
ZAHN: NORAD had a full staff of on duty that morning for an exercise simulating an intercontinental missile threat.
GLOVER: They just threw those exercise books away and we started working the attacks.
ZAHN: Around this time, flight controllers in Indianapolis lost American Flight 77. The Washington-to-L.A. flight disappeared from radar, a possible crash. Nobody saw when hijackers turned that plane back toward Washington. The FAA did not ask the military for help. And Flight 77 flew more than a half-hour undetected. Washington controllers spotted it only minutes before it hit the Pentagon.
The Air Force deployed two F-15s from a base in Virginia. They would be airborne when the fourth hijacked plane, United Flight 93, made a U-turn over Cleveland, and flight controllers heard this over the radio.
ZIAD JARRAH, 9/11 HIJACKER: Would like you all to remain seated. There is a bomb on board and are going back to the airport, and to have our demands." ZAHN: Thirteen minutes later, the FAA was still discussing what to do, unaware there were already fighters in the air.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do we want to think about scrambling aircraft?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, God, I don't know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a decision somebody is going to have to make probably in the next 10 minutes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, everybody just left the room.
ZAHN: Passengers on Flight 93 took matters into their own hands, causing the hijackers to crash the plane in Pennsylvania 125 miles from Washington.
More than 10 minutes later, the White House authorized a shoot- down, unaware Flight 93 was already down. A conference call between the White House and the Defense Department was under way. But, remarkably, the FAA was not on it.
LYNNE OSMUS, FAA HEAD OF SECURITY: We needed to improve our communications with....
ZAHN: Lynne Osmus has been in charge of security for the FAA since 2003.
OSMUS: I think our connection with NORAD has vastly improved.
ZAHN: The FAA and NORAD now run a permanent conference call, The Defense Event Network, known as the DEN. The Transportation Security Administration and law enforcement agencies are on the line.
OSMUS: It's run out of our headquarters behind me. We have TSA in there, operation center in Herndon on, and we have got our 30 air traffic facilities on real time around the clock. There is no bureaucracy to get through. It's immediate real-time notification on the DEN.
ZAHN: NORAD's Bill Glover describes What would happen if, for example, there was a minor incident involving an unruly passenger on a flight over Jacksonville, Florida.
GLOVER: The Jacksonville air traffic control center will immediately would go onto the DEN and announce that. And everybody involved, from the civilian side, all the way up to the headquarters, NORAD, now we know that there is a problem.
ZAHN: But the FAA/NORAD connection is a work in progress. Senator Mark Dayton, who has oversight of the military on the Senate Armed Services Committee, sees last summer's panicked evacuation of the U.S. Capitol as an example how the new system can break down. A private plane with a broken transponder carried Kentucky's governor into Washington's restricted airspace for Ronald Reagan's funeral. The FAA failed to share information it knew about the plane on the DEN.
SEN. MARK DAYTON (D), MINNESOTA: Having an open line of communication doesn't guarantee you that people are listening on the end of the line or that there's going to be the high level of response that's necessary to be immediately effective.
ZAHN: With so few minutes to spare in such incidents or an actual attack, faster communication with the military is critical.
OSMUS: We critique this every day. We're comfortable that we've made huge improvements, but we're not complacent.
ZAHN: To improve its response to airliner problems, NORAD is now also patched into the FAA's radar system. Anything flight controllers see, so can the military.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They need to take a look at this plane.
ZAHN: That helped NORAD deploy fighter jets two years ago when there was suspicions about an Air India plane flying from London to New York.
GLOVER: It tells us exactly where this aircraft is based upon a flight plan. So now the decision makers here can determine what airfield they want to scramble based upon where our alert birds are.
ZAHN: NORAD won't say how many, but today it has significantly more fighters on alert than it did on 9/11, when only 14, a pair at each of seven bases, were protecting domestic airspace.
GLOVER: We've identified certain cities as potential risks. And we will schedule irregular air patrols based upon that.
ZAHN: Air traffic controllers say they now monitor their planes from a safety and a security perspective.
IACAPELLI: We're vigilant. We're paying attention, and we're listening and we're watching. And when we see something or we hear something, we're going to report it.
ZAHN: But during a hijacking, flight controllers say there's little they can do except alert the problem and direct other planes out of the way. On 9/11, they executed an FAA order to stop all traffic, safely landing 4,500 planes. Still, military scout is part of the job for controllers like Ron Geoffroy, who see themselves on the front line in defending America, a duty begun on 9/11.
GEOFFROY: I think we look back and we say, we did everything we possibly could in coordinating, in getting the message out and in saying that, you know, there is something wrong here. We do what we can at the position. Beyond that, it's basically out of our hands.
ZAHN: When the 9/11 Commission released its report just six months ago, it criticized government agencies across the board and it called problems in managing and sharing information pervasive and it said the task now facing the nation is to meet the challenges of the future.
Anderson and I are back from the nation's capital on the west front, where the inauguration will unfold tomorrow.
COOPER: And the security here is incredibly tight. Even just to get into this area around the capital, you need a special I.D.
And all evening long ,we've been seeing helicopters passing overhead, no doubt having something to do with the security preparations under way.
ZAHN: And tomorrow, at this time of the ceremonies, you're going to see some 6,000 Capitol Police in place. What you're seeing now in this picture are Army, Navy and Air Force personnel actually doing some housekeeping chores, sweeping some of the snow.
COOPER: A thankless job and they're doing it very well.
ZAHN: Yes, just pile up on these chairs. It is pretty cold.
Should we share with the audience what an upscale operation, though, we have under way here?
COOPER: This is proof that we truly are basic cable. We are here with a...
ZAHN: Electric blanket that we're sharing, yes.
COOPER: Electric blanket.
ZAHN: That's come in -- we have a space heater down, too, that you can't see in the shot.
COOPER: Yes. And also have these little hand things, these little hand warmers.
ZAHN: I have those in my boots.
COOPER: And I bought this new hat today which I'm too vain to actually wear on TV but...
ZAHN: See, that's going to work when you're outside as we will be tomorrow for seven hours (UNINTELLIGIBLE). It's going to keep us doing our jobs.
COOPER: It looks kind of ridiculous.
ZAHN: Very nice, Anderson.
COOPER: Thank you. You can see why I don't want to wear it on TV. We've been talking all this evening about defending America. What you've seen so far tonight is the threat really from foreign enemies. But domestic terrorism is far more immediate. Could it be right outside your door?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard an explosion from the house, and instantly knew it was a shot and I heard the glass hit the front porch after the shot. It was just a weird -- it was almost like it was in slow motion almost.
COOPER (voice-over): Terrorism home grown and the hunt for what they call the lone wolves. Plus there's another group of dedicated Americans keeping the skies safe. Next, volunteer manpower, and these guys are mission ready. Weekend warriors ready to take flight for our safety.
COOPER: We've seen how those paid to defend American skies changed what they do since September 11. But at any given moment an estimated 64,000 Americans are helping defend the nation's skies for free. They're part of a vital volunteer group that had its start looking for and bombing German U-Boats during World War Two. With the largest fleet of single engine planes at their disposal these patriotic patrols are now playing a key role in protecting the homeland from above. CNN's Jonathan Freed reports from New Orleans.
JONATHAN FREED, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If it looks like a typical lawyer's office, that's because it is. But Rock Palermo is not your typical small town attorney. This member of the Louisiana Bar has an alter ego as a colonel in the Civil Air Patrol, a civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Airforce. Palermo is a pilot and part-time crusader for homeland security where the bar is set for him at 10,000 feet.
ROCK PALERMO, LAWYER, CIVIL AIR PATROL PILOT: I'm proud that we've been the eyes for many years since World War II.
FREED: Palermo is one of 60,000 volunteers across the country who man the Civil Air Patrol's missions, including security reconnaissance flights, disaster relief and performing 85 percent of all inland search and rescue operations.
PALERMO: All those missions, you know, serve our local communities, and, you know, that's really the best reason to join Civil Air Patrol or join any organization is to help your fellow man, and Civil Air Patrol enables us to do that.
FREED: Palermo says the Patrol's pilots save an average of 100 lives every year, while also saving money because most missions are flown using small, relatively inexpensive to operate, single-engine planes. Members pay dues and even pay for their own uniforms.
Since September 11, there have been increasing emphasis on (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for homeland security. On this flight our aircraft is acting as a practice target for the military flying into restricted airspace triggering a fighter jet intercept.
An intercept could happen any time an unauthorized aircraft enters the area. Authorities first try to warn the aircraft away by radio but if a plane doesn't respond or doesn't comply, that's when the intercept occurs and the plane is escorted out of the area.
Entering the no-fly zone, Palermo briefs the crew. To protect national security, we're not allowed to tell you how long it takes for the fighters to intercept us, exactly where we are or even how high we're flying. But we can show you what it looks like when the United States Air Force swoops down on you literally from out of the blue. The fighters order us to rock our wings, the sign for surrendering to an intercepting aircraft. Once they see we've complied, the jets instruct us to leave the air space.
Do you ever pinch yourself and say I cannot believe that I have the opportunity to do this?
PALERMO: Yes. I never would have thought that I would be routinely flying missions in which an F-15 or F-16 could come alongside in formation. It's a unique experience that not many pilots, unless they're in trouble, get to experience.
FREED: The privilege, though, comes with a price as some members spend dozens of hours away from home and work every week.
How important is your family support to enable you to do this?
PALERMO: Very important for all our volunteers, both family support and support from our co-workers when we're called for duty. Many times there's not much notice.
The satisfaction is what keeps all of us going, the satisfaction in be it a volunteer firefighter on the ground or emergency manager or another Airforce person saying job well done or you made our mission or you helped us solve a problem is all the thanks we need. Now I am getting emotional.
FREED: When emotions bubble, Palermo says he draws on the mental discipline he's acquired as a lawyer to stay focused while in uniform so he's always ready for the next time his country calls. Jonathan Freed, CNN, New Orleans.
ZAHN: Coming up next on "Defending America" a bloody shootout in a small town. A man with a gun and a gripe against the government. American's lone wolves, homegrown terrorists, armed and dangerous. What's being done to stop them.
ZAHN: And we're back again from Washington, D.C. tonight.
Assassins and mass murderers stalk the pages of U.S. history. Names like Lee Harvey Oswald, Timothy McVeigh, they of course, will live in infamy. And in this next report on our DEFENDING AMERICA special, Rick Sanchez looks at who is defending us against the lone wolves in our own back yard.
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Abbeville, South Carolina, a town that prides itself as the birthplace of the Confederacy.
CRAIG GAGNON, CHIROPRACTOR: There you go.
SANCHEZ: Chiropractor Craig Gagnon is called "Doc" in Abbeville. He got a strange phone call one morning from one of his patients.
(on camera) And she says what?
She says, "Craig, this is Rita Bixby. I just wanted to let you know that it's begun and Steven has shot a deputy."
And I said, "Well, when did this happen?"
She said, "About 15 minutes ago. He came into the house and Steven shot him."
And I said, "Well, how is the deputy?"
She goes, "Well, I don't suppose he's doing too good right about now, seeing how Steven shot him with a seven millimeter."
SANCHEZ: Hell was about to break loose in Abbeville that day, and it wouldn't be just a shootout. It would be a family's declaration of war against the government. And Gagnon would find himself right smack in the middle of it.
Because after the call from Rita Bixby, Gagnon and his partner raced to the scene, where they found a car with an engine still running, a deputy's car. So when they saw another officer arrive, they tried to warn him.
"Don't go towards the house," Gagnon's partner shouted. It was too late.
GAGNON: Then I saw -- when I heard an explosion from the house and instantly knew it was a shot. And I heard the glass hit the front porch after the shot. It was just a weird -- it was almost like it was in slow motion almost.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got shots fired.
SANCHEZ: What he heard was a second shot, a second officer down. Constable Donnie Ouzts now lay dying just steps from the Bixbys front door while his fellow officer, Danny Wilson, lay dying inside the Bixby home.
Police, even Gagnon, tried talking Steven and Arthur Bixby out of the house. It didn't work. They were headed for a showdown, a massive gunfight.
GAGNON: When they started finally exchanging gunfire, you could hear the service revolvers of the agents, "Bap, bap, bap, bap, bap, bap, bap." And you hear Steven in the house, "Boom, boom, boom." So it would be an exchange, bap, bap, bap, bap, boom, boom, boom! Bap, bap, bap, boom, boom!
SANCHEZ: Hundreds, maybe thousands of rounds were exchanged, and it took all that, as well as countless canisters of tear gas, over 13 hours to get the Bixbys to give themselves up to be charged with first degree murder for the death of the two officers.
(on camera) And what was this all about? This small chunk of land. The government wanted to expand Highway 72 onto their property. How much property? We'll count it for you. One, two, three steps.
(voice-over) It was government surveyors preparing the piece of land three days earlier that had apparently set off the Bixbys, but local law enforcement officials are convinced there was more to it. They call it an ambush, a setup against anyone wearing a uniform.
CHIEF NEAL HENDERSON, ABBEVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT: Whether it was the UPS man, the mailman, a meter reader, whatever, the first person who step foot on that property that day was going to get it.
SANCHEZ: In fact, in court the day after the shootout, Steven Bixby revealed what touched off the family's rage.
STEVEN BIXBY, MURDER SUSPECT: Why did I do it? We didn't do it. They started it. They started it. And if we can't be any freer than that in this country, I'd just as soon die.
SANCHEZ: Even though the Bixbys would actually have gained, not lost land, Bixby referred to the government as communist bureaucratic dictators and claimed that he had a constitutional right to revolution.
BIXBY: Ruby Ridge, Waco. This country has shown what it is. I love this country. I just can't stand the bastards in it.
SANCHEZ: The Bixbys brought their defiant antigovernment and pro-property rights stance with them when they moved to South Carolina.
BIXBY: I'm originally from New Hampshire where the motto is live free or die. They brought the hostile aggression on.
SANCHEZ: Back in New Hampshire a superior court judge had feared the Bixbys so much she asked for and received around the clock law police protection.
In law enforcement terms, Steven Bixby is a lone wolf, driven to act by his antigovernment views. And he's not the only one. Even though the nation's attention has shifted since 9/11 to the threat from al Qaeda, the danger here at home remains enormous. MARK POTTOK, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: Luckily for all of us, up to this point they have not been as organized or nearly as sophisticated as al Qaeda.
COOPER: They have not been as organized, but that doesn't mean they're not trying. When we come back, these lone wolves and the people hunting them, part two of Rick Sanchez's report, when DEFENDING AMERICA continues.
COOPER: And welcome back. A live shot from our nation's capital, the west side of the Capitol, where President Bush will be sworn in tomorrow.
We just heard the story of Steven Bixby, a so-called lone wolf who had allegedly acted on his hatred of the government through a shootout with police and is charged with killing two police officers. His case is not unique, however.
Here's CNN's Rick Sanchez.
SANCHEZ (voice-over): Investigator Joe Roy watches things that would make your stomach turn.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There isn't a Jew on this earth that deserves to live for the thing they've done to our race.
SANCHEZ: On this day, he's monitoring a speech from Reverend James Wigstrom (ph) at a neo-Nazi rally.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because they're all going to die. I say that with my heart. What you do with it and how you handle it is strictly going to be between you and...
SANCHEZ (on camera): A lone wolf?
(voice-over) At the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama, Roy and others keep a constant watch on people who may be driven to act after hearing such hateful language, people who evolve from hate-filled to violent like Oklahoma City bomber Tim McVeigh and quite possibly, Steven Bixby.
However, since 9/11, the hunt for these types has not been the top priority for U.S. law enforcement.
(on camera) Do they ignore domestic terrorism at their own peril?
JOE ROY, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: Sure. I think anybody who ignores it is at their own peril.
POTTOK: It's not only Osama bin Laden and people with turbans on who are capable of blowing you and your family up. That there are actual, you know, real life Americans, people from -- you know, people who are our neighbors.
SANCHEZ (voice-over): People like William Krar, arrested in Texas with enough sodium cyanide to potentially kill thousands. He's now in a federal prison.
And Steven Geordi (ph), arrested and convicted for planning to firebomb abortion clinics.
And what about the anthrax killer? Remember him? The one who terrorized all of us after 9/11, but still hasn't been caught.
(on camera) Do you think that person -- that person out there, the anthrax killer, is a lone wolf?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I don't think there's any question.
SANCHEZ (voice-over): Mark Pottok was a newspaper reporter who joined the center after seeing the carnage that Tim McVeigh wrought on Oklahoma City.
Now he runs "The Intelligence Report," the center's magazine, which exposes extremists groups on both right and the left.
POTTOK: What is our aim? Our aim is to destroy these groups, if possible.
SANCHEZ: And they've had success by working with law enforcement and brining civil suits against groups like the Neo-Nazi National Alliance, whose former leader wrote the book that inspired Tim McVeigh.
POTTOK: Two year ago, these people were all staff at the National Alliance. Every one of these people is now gone. Gone, gone, gone, gone, gone.
SANCHEZ: Security here is tight for good reason. They've made lots of enemies, even been fire bombed.
(on camera) Do you worry about your own safety? For the safety of this building and the people who work inside here?
POTTOK: The reality is that there are close to 30 people in federal prison for various plots over the last 20 years to blow this place up or to assassinate its founder.
SANCHEZ (voice-over): There's something else that worries Pottok and Roy these days, and it may be a byproduct of their own success. While they've managed to splinter or eliminate large well-organized hate groups, they may have made it harder to keep track of their former members, who could be spurred to act after hearing speeches like this one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And give them the holocaust that they rightly deserve. SANCHEZ (on camera): Whether it's a small town in the South like Abbeville or a big city in the Midwest, the question that remains is how many others? How many others, living perhaps in communities like our own, could have an ax to grind against the government?
(voice-over) And are willing to act on it, as Steven Bixby is now accused of?
POTTOK: It's inevitable that we'll see another Bixby shootout. There will be something more like this. There's something like it almost every year.
SANCHEZ: But how do you stop it? How do you stop the lone wolf?
In Abbeville, the chief of police knew Steven Bixby, even drove him around town, thought he was loud, strange, but capable of murdering two police officers on that day, in December 2003?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You never would think nothing like this would happen in a town of 6,000 people. This guy here, you never saw it coming. I never saw anything like this coming.
ZAHN: Once again, that was Rick Sanchez reporting for us.
Coming up tonight on "LARRY KING LIVE," a look ahead to tomorrow's installation from Liz Cheney, the daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney, as well as the children of former presidents Ford and Carter.
That's "LARRY KING LIVE" at 9 Eastern. We'll be right back.
COOPER: I want to give you a quick update on the Boston terror alert.
A short time ago in San Diego, an FBI spokeswoman downplayed the situation, saying the information was released to the public prematurely.
Authorities still want to question four Chinese nationals. Law enforcement officials say they received an anonymous uncorroborated single-source tip that all four of these people, plus two Iraqis, had been smuggled into the United States from Mexico and could be headed to the Boston area with unspecified dangerous materials.
Stay tuned to CNN for updates on this and other stories concerning your security.
ZAHN: And, of course, since 9/11, there have been no missile attacks. No bombs have exploded on our trains. We've considered those possibilities over the last couple of hours, and we've looked at what being done to make us safer.
And there's more at 10 p.m. Eastern. Here's a look.
AARON BROWN, HOST, "NEWSNIGHT": I'm Aaron Brown. Coming up after "LARRY KING LIVE," "DEFENDING AMERICA" continues.
L.A. was spared on 9/11 but remains in the crosshairs for a future terrorist attack.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Los Angeles encompasses something that, if you are Osama bin Laden, goes to what you don't like about America.
BROWN: Tonight, meet LAPD's counterterrorism chief, whose job it is to prevent attacks by conjuring up the unthinkable acts of terror.
And the Texas Gulf Coast, dotted with pipelines, refineries and chemical plants, where a terrorist attack could cause unimaginable carnage. Tonight, one town's constant worry of having to wonder what if disaster strikes?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know that the wolf is at the door. It may not be making sounds or anything like that, but we know it's there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: And that is it from two very cold people tonight. Remember, you can see live coverage of President Bush's second inauguration tomorrow getting underway at 7 a.m. Eastern here on CNN.
It's going to be a warm spell by tomorrow.
COOPER: It's going to be much warmer.
ZAHN: Nine degrees now with wind chill. By tomorrow it's supposed to be about 30 degrees.
COOPER: That sun will be shining. After the morning's festivities and the afternoon coverage, after the swearing in, join Paula and I for all the coverage of the festivities, starting at 7 p.m. Eastern Time.
ZAHN: Again, thanks for joining us. Have a good night everybody. "LARRY KING LIVE" is next.
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