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PAULA ZAHN NOW
London Terror Attacks
Aired July 7, 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: If you're just joining us, it's 8:00 p.m. on the East Coast, 1 a.m. Friday, London time. In just over 16 hours since the explosion that shook London's transit system and raised terror alert levels here in the U.S. and in many other countries, this hour we're going to focus on the bombing investigation, but we begin with some of the latest in this very fresh story.
British security forces have started to investigate the worst attack on London since World War II. Four explosions during the morning rush hour, at least 37 people are dead, 700 people are wounded.
Christiane Amanpour joins us now from London, where she has been working this story all day long.
Christiane, what's the latest from there?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, in terms of the movement of traffic and things returning somewhat to normal, there's all these streets that have been cordoned off, particularly where I am at King's Cross, which was the second station hit today, and which had the highest number of dead -- 21 dead here. Trains and -- rather, cars and buses and road traffic is now being allowed to go past this King's Cross area. We're just sort of in front of the area of King's Cross, the station there.
The investigations continue; these stations are being treated as crime scenes and their forensic investigators are trying to find out what they can about the perpetrators and exactly how they committed this crime.
So that is what's going on here, Paula.
ZAHN: This is a city that has been exposed to terror before. How would you describe the immediate reaction to these very -- what appear to be orchestrated attacks?
AMANPOUR: Well, on several fronts from the civilians around London and even those who we've talked to in terms of who are involved in this, stoic for the most part and just resilient. Because this is a very resilient city and it's not one that's easily frightened.
But from the emergency services -- the police and all the others as well -- an immediate call to action and jumping into action, that they had told us that they had planned and rehearsed for years since 9/11. And they say their responses went according to plan. ZAHN: Christiane Amanpour, we really appreciate the update.
Now, some of the questions we've all been asking about the London attack: exactly who is responsible -- a group linked to al Qaeda, or some other independent terror cell? Were they suicide bombings? If so, that's a deadly new turn in Europe. And how did they manage so many nearly-simultaneously (sic) attacks in one of Europe's most secure cities, in London?
Here's Becky Anderson with the latest on the investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gents, we need to clear, now, Russell Square.
BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a massive crime for investigators to solve: dozens killed, hundreds wounded and thousands are potential witnesses. The first three blasts hit London subway trains during London's morning rush hour. At 8:51, then 8:56, and at 9:17. The fourth peeled away the upper half of a double-decker bus. That was at 9:47. Four explosions in less than an hour.
A starting point for investigators: it seems at least like a coordinated attack. But who did it and how? A claim of responsibility quickly showed up on a little-known Islamist group's website. The self-proclaimed "Group of al Qaeda of Jihad Organization in Europe: said the blasts were, quote, "in retaliation for the massacres Britain is committing in Iraq and Afghanistan. But investigators aren't jumping to conclusions.
BRIAN PADDICK, LONDON METROPOLITAN POLICE: We will be looking at that as well as any other leads, but at the moment, we don't know whether that's a genuine claim or not.
ANDERSON: Late in the day, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the bombings have the, quote, "hallmarks of an al Qaeda-related attack." Investigators are interviewing survivors, trying to determine if suicide bombers set off the explosions.
PADDICK: We don't know -- it's too early to tell. We don't know whether these were packages left on the transport system or whether the bomber was actually there when the device detonated.
ANDERSON: There's plenty of evidence to sift through, including pictures like these, shot by a cellphone camera during the evacuation of a subway car. There were security cameras at the stations as well.
PADDICK: Clearly, we've had considerable success in the past using closed-circuit television footage in order to trace the movements of the people involved. That will be one of our first priorities, as well as securing whatever forensic evidence we can secure from the various scenes.
ANDERSON: Forensics teams were on the scene even as victims were being treated and onlookers kept away. The security level on London's transit system had been lowered in just the last month or so. Authorities say they had no intelligence that led them to expect such an attack at this time. And they say a lower security level was entirely appropriate for their intelligence at the time.
ZAHN: And that was Becky Anderson reporting from London for us tonight.
One of the most terrifying images from today, the final explosion above ground, a horrific blast that ripped apart a double-decker bus near London's Tavistock Square. Jeevan Deol was there, and ironically, he happens to be a professor who specializes in security matters at London University. He's also writing a book on al Qaeda.
Thank you so much for joining us, sir. You were right around the corner as this bus exploded. Describe to us what you saw as you walked toward the scene.
JEEVAN DEOL, BOMBING WITNESS: I was, Paula, and it had been an eerie morning. I walk through a number of side streets in the area on my way to work and there were already far too many people on the streets, there were sirens. So I already had a pretty uneasy feeling in the stomach. And as I came up to the back side of this very big building you've been seeing on the television all morning and all afternoon -- the British Medical Association building -- there was just a massive crump of an explosion, the sound of what seems to have been metal ripping, glass breaking, an incredible whoosh, a moment of silence and then after that just screaming, panic and mayhem, and crowds of people coming in the direction where I was.
And it was really quite frightening. A lot of them were spattered with blood -- some of it didn't seem to be their own. So it was quite clear, even then, that it was a massive explosion.
ZAHN: And I know you were probably in a state of shock as you witnessed this carnage. How quickly did police and emergency services respond?
DEOL: To be honest, I think there were already people on the main roads, because people were being directed away from the two nearest tube stations. But for the side streets where we were and setting up those cordons for the bus, it seems to have been something around 15 minutes. But you really do lose proper track of time as this was going on, so in a way it seems like it's taking forever and it probably isn't.
But once they were on the scene, everything calmed down very quickly. It was very efficient. People were not panicking in their crowds. They were sort of milling around, trying to text, trying to phone, trying to get in touch with family and friends.
ZAHN: I guess that's what's so surprising to all of us, even those of us who went through 9/11, to see the level of calm among the British public.
DEOL: I think that's partially because we're used to having to worry about IRA terrorist campaigns. There have been bombing campaigns on the British mainland before. What was really surprising to me was that I had always thought when this attack came that there would be visible racial tension, visible anti-Muslim feeling on the streets, and that just wasn't the case. And the area where I live, the area where I was, is one that has a relatively large-sized Muslim population, but people were there standing on the barriers, standing on the cordons, and nobody was even paying any attention to who anyone was. And that, I think, shows us the way that London does pull together in a crisis.
ZAHN: Jeevan, we are very early into this investigation, but we mentioned at the top of this interview, you are an expert on al Qaeda. Does this, based on what you've seen here tonight, have the markings of an al Qaeda attack?
DEOL: It does, it bears the mark of what we call an al Qaeda- affiliated attack. One thing, of course, as you've been saying yourselves, is the simultaneous series of attacks. A second thing is the fact that if you look at Madrid, if you look at New York, al Qaeda and associated are media managers -- they like to attack at the start of a newsday and they like to get a lot of coverage. The third thing is that they aim at targets which create economic disruption -- economic and social disruption. And so for these reasons, it does look like an Islamist attack, or one that's coming from a group loosely, or more tightly, affiliated with al Qaeda.
ZAHN: Well, Jeevan Deol, we really appreciate your insights and we know it's not easy for you to relive what you witnessed earlier today. But thank you for joining us and sharing some of your thoughts with us. We appreciate it.
DEOL: Thanks, Paula.
ZAHN: Our pleasure.
Coming up, an unknown group claims credit for the bombings on a website: is it really the work of al Qaeda?
And defending against terror at home: America's transportation system goes to Code Orange. What does that mean, and how safe can we really feel -- when we come back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...some smoke, people panicking. And then people started to calm down. People wanted to get to the back of the train, away from the danger area but there was nowhere for them to go. And then they took us off the train and made us walk all the way back past it all -- dead bodies on the tracks, train blown open...
ZAHN: Searing, painful images to try to understand 16 hours after these massive attacks in London. We don't know yet who was behind today's bombings in London, but front and center in just about everyone's thoughts, Islamist terrorists. And as we've reported, an Islamist website quickly posted a claim of responsibility from a group that used al Qaeda as part of its name.
Senior international correspondent Nic Robertson has been looking into the question of who did it. NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Genuine or not, the first claim of responsibility form the secret group of al Qaeda's jihad in Europe. The four deadly blasts "revenge," their statement read, for British massacres in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Their claim, on Kalla, a radical Islamist website, to have repeatedly warned the British government -- none received.
PADDICK: The police service received no warning about these attacks, and the police service has received no claims of responsibility.
ROBERTSON: So is the al Qaeda in Europe claim credible?
PADDICK: We are treating this as a terrorist incident. We are keeping an open mind as to who the perpetrators might be.
PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: This attack has al Qaeda or its affiliates' hallmarks all over it. It's multiple attacks, it's long-term planning, it's attacking an important symbolic event, the G- 8.
ROBERTSON: But postings on the Kalla site cannot be verified. And so far, there are only the slenderest indications al Qaeda in Europe may be anything more than a shadowy fiction.
Shortly after the Madrid train bombings in March last year, a Portuguese news magazine quoted Sheik Omar Bakri Mohammed, leader of the radical Muslim group, al Majaroun in North London, saying an attack in Britain was inevitable, because a group he called al Qaeda in Europe he said was on the verge of launching a big operation.
BERGEN: The al Majaroun -- somebody's going to look at this pretty carefully and are going to be looking at these people because they've already been associated with acts of terrorism outside Britain and also with terrorist plots that were fortunately averted last year.
ROBERTSON: Significantly, however, al Qaeda in Europe's web- posted claim has failed a key barometer of jihadi faith.
PAUL EEDLE, TERRORISM ANALYST: When those statements are posted, they're then picked up and repeated on a host of other web forums and e-mail lists. That just has not happened in the -- in the case of this -- of this posting.
ZAHN: And Nic Robertson now joins us with more details.
So, Nic, give us a sense of how long this investigation might take.
ROBERTSON: Well, I think what -- what's very important here is that police and security forces were very quickly on top of the attacks. We heard from the fire brigade in London within hours, or at least sources that had talked to them, saying that this was not a -- radiological devices had not been used, and that British security forces very prepared for the possibility of chemical or biological. It wasn't any of those things.
But the fact that they were analyzing at that very early stage what it might be, because they had operations to deal with this type of attack, an indication of how quickly they're going to sift through it. But where they come up with problems is in those underground tunnels, is getting access to the forensic evidence. Is it safe for them? Can they do it quickly? Can they do it safely?
Then there's -- then, once they got that forensic evidence, what will it tell them? They will have to go through many thousands of hours of video camera surveillance from around those stations. So, it is very -- so, it is likely going to take them several days at least before they can begin to shine some light on exactly how all this happened -- Paula.
ZAHN: And I guess we have to remind ourselves, Nic, with -- as you have talked about today, with the Madrid bombings, it wasn't until just, what, four months after those attacks that we could conclusively know that it was al Qaeda that was involved.
ZAHN: Nic Robertson, thanks so much.
Joining me now from Washington, CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen.
Peter, good to see you.
Peter, what did you read into British Prime Minister Tony Blair's comments today, when he said -- quote -- "We know that these people act in the name of Islam"? Does the prime minister know something that investigators don't know at this hour?
PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, I think he's making a reasonable operating presumption.
I mean, the universe of possible groups that would do this does not include the IRA, who usually give a warning. So, you have got to ask yourself, who has the motive and ability to do this? Jihadist groups fit into that category.
You know, just last year, Paula, in London, a group of British citizens were arrested with a half-a-ton of ammonium nitrate in a locker held near Heathrow Airport. Now, ammonium nitrate was used in the Bali attack, in the Oklahoma City attack. So, I mean, it's -- there's a group of like-minded militants in London. I mean, a number of them have tried to do terrorist operations inside the United States.
You remember Richard Reid, the so-called shoe bomber, who tried to bring down the American Airlines flight.
BERGEN: So, you're really got a group of people who are quite militant. In Nic'S piece, he mentioned this guy, Sheik Omar Bakri Muhammed. I've met with him in the past.
He was defense a spiritual mentor of a couple of Brits who went to Israel and conducted a suicide attack in 2003. So, you know, there are -- there are these groups of people. The kind of attack that happened, the date that it happened with the G8, all these things lead you back to what Tony Blair said, which is, the operating presumption is, it's some sort of jihadist Islam group.
ZAHN: And, Peter, we heard you say in an earlier report at the top of the hour that you believe this has all the hallmarks of an al Qaeda attack attached to it. Be more specific.
BERGEN: Well, I would say there are six factors I would look at.
One is, Britain is the closest ally to the United States. Two, Britain has a large presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. Three, these were coordinated attacks designed for mass casualties, obviously, with some planning attached. Four, there is this group of like-minded militants in London.
Also, by the way, London of course is inside the European Union. So, people relatively easy -- other European militants could have been involved in this. They don't need to have their passport checked at the English border. And then, of course, the G8 Summit, a symbolic event. So, I think take -- take these things together and you come to the conclusion that the only group that really would have the ability and motive to do these things would be a jihadist group. And that is what the prime minister himself has said.
ZAHN: And how strong are jihadist groups in Europe right now and more specifically in Great Britain?
BERGEN: I think they're pretty strong.
I mean, the home office, the equivalent of the home office in Britain, recently released report, suggested there were sort of 10,000 sympathizers for al Qaeda or similar organizations. Britain government estimates suggest 300 to 600 Brits have trained in places like Kashmir or Afghanistan.
In fact, London is known as "Londonistan," because it's such a hotbed of Islamic militancy. Now, of course, the British government and the British police have done a very good job of averting a lot of plots. But that doesn't change the fact that there are a number of militant groups in London which have operated for some period of time.
ZAHN: OK. Finally, Peter, if this ends up being an al Qaeda attack, is it conceivable that Osama bin Laden would have involved in any phase of the operation?
BERGEN: I doubt it, I mean, except for the ideological phase.
You know, he's called for attacks on members of the coalition in Iraq on a number of occasions. And we have seen attacks on the Spaniards, who are part of the coalition. we have seen attacks on British targets in Istanbul back in 2003. And now we've seen this. So, I think in an ideological sense, but not in a kind of operational sense.
ZAHN: Peter Bergen, thanks so much for the update. Appreciate it.
Just ahead, America goes on heightened security alert. But are we still vulnerable? And just one day after winning the Olympic bid, London and all of Britain goes from the thrill of victory to the fear of the unknown and a tremendous amount of pain.
Please stay with us.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were trying to tell people to calm down, which they eventually did. And most people sat down and sat on the floor, sat in the seats. And then we could hear the screaming coming from the carriage just in front of us, who took the full blast. And there was people trapped, twisted. There was bits of the carriage missing, seats missing, and people covered in blood and no help.
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ZAHN: What you've all been looking at are just terrible reminders of the terror that London suffered through earlier today. The London attacks triggered heightened security here in part of the U.S. as well.
The terror alert level was raised to orange for cities with mass transits systems. That means a beefed-up police and canine presence for trains, busses, tunnels and ferries.
Joining me right now, national security correspondent David Ensor, who is back from a briefing by high-level security sources looking at any potential increased danger here in the United States.
David, good evening.
What did you learn?
DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, let me just first tell you that, from that briefing, which is still under way, we learned from a senior U.S. intelligence official that the British have found evidence that timing devices were apparently used to detonate at least one or more of the explosions that went off in London this morning.
So, that would lean investigators against the theory of suicide bombers and towards the idea of terrorists who wished to survive the attacks and perhaps attack again. It's a significant piece of evidence. But, obviously, they're going to have to look further into what exactly is behind that.
Now, as you mentioned, the -- well, let me just go on for one second to explain that, over in Virginia, there's a new center called the National Counterterrorism Center that was set up after 9/11. And we got an exclusive look at it yesterday. This is their operations room.
And there, they -- they try to track all the intelligence that is coming in, whether it be from overseas, whether it coming through CIA, FBI, Homeland Security. They try to put it all together and try to make sure they connect the dots and don't miss any evidence that attacks might be plotted here.
Now, as you mentioned, the state of alert has been raised by the Department of Homeland Security today for cities with mass transit. And officials say that they will put out -- the DHS will put out a bulletin, later tonight, which will be a little bit more specific, saying that the current threat assessment has been raised, that they continue to be concerned about the possibility of direct attacks on our homeland, as well as elsewhere, although there is no specific evidence of planned attacks.
They are worried about the targeting of mass transit, of aircraft as targets or weapons. They're worried about public gatherings, commercial buildings and vehicle-borne explosive devices. They say that the U.S. needs to be prepared for the possibility of attack, although, as I mentioned, they have no specific evidence thereof.
ZAHN: David, you know better than anyone else, there's tremendous amount of cynicism among the American public about this color-coding system.
ZAHN: Even Governor Tom Ridge, when he left Homeland Security, conceded that there are huge problems with it.
So, what are we supposed to make of it as commuters tomorrow when we wake up, that this level has been changed for folks using mass transit?
ENSOR: To be frank, I really think the color-colored system is more directed at local officials than it is at the public.
It is -- today in Washington, there were police in riot gear in the metro stations. There was work being done to try to make sure that the underground trains in this city are as secure as they can be. And that was because it was code orange. That set up changes in the security structure locally. The public just needs to be aware, be careful, but not to overreact.
ZAHN: Very good advice, indeed, David Ensor.
I wanted to repeat the headline from David's report from the security briefing that he just got, that there was evidence of some timing devices having been used in one or more of the explosions, which David said has led some people to sort of lean against the theory perhaps that suicide bombers were involved with the attacks in London this morning.
We'll have more for you on the other side of this break, as our special coverage of the London terror bombings continues.
For Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair, less than 24 hours after one of his best days came one of his worst.
And do the bombings represent a failure of intelligence and security or is the truth that, no matter what we do, we're all vulnerable to attack?
All that when we come back.
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I spent some time recently with the prime minister, Tony Blair. I had an opportunity to express our heartfelt condolences to the people of London; to the people who lost lives.
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ZAHN: President Bush from earlier today in Scotland, where he was attending the G-8 Summit. What a difference a day makes.
This morning's newspapers in Britain carried banner headlines, excited articles about London's being awarded the 2012 Summer Olympics. The Friday papers are now out, check out these headlines. The contrast couldn't be more stark.
We just heard President Bush expressing condolences to his friend Tony Blair and to the British People. And as Robin Oakley shows us, this has been a week of incredible highs and lows for British prime minister.
ROBIN OAKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Tony Blair, it's been like a Dicken's novel: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. On Wednesday, following London's victory in the quest for the 2012 Olympics, he was hailed in the British media as a politician who'd rediscovered the "golden touch." His own exhilaration was obvious. TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Well, it's not often in this job that you sort of punch the air and do a little jig and embrace the next -- the person standing next to you. So, you know...
OAKLEY: Within 24 hours, his worst nightmare became reality. Mr. Blair's, security chiefs had long warned him that there would one day be a terrorist attack on Britain.
As Mr. Blair was chatting with President George W. Bush and greeting G-8 leaders, the terrorists made reality of those predictions.
(on camera): As he met China's President Hu, aides got first word of the attacks, not enough, at first, to interpret. But the grim details mounted and then, they confirmed to Mr. Blair that had what first been reported as an electrical power surge on London's underground subway, was likely a deadly attack.
Two hours later, he confirmed that terrorist action was reasonably clear. He'd be off to London for a few hours to get first- hand reports.
(voice-over) Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was summoned to fly north from London to come and chair the G-8, while Mr. Blair flew south. Before he did so, the prime minister made his second statement. Flanked by 13 grim-faced world leaders, not just the G-8, but others who'd been at the summit like the presidents of China and Brazil and the prime ministers of India and Mexico, Mr. Blair read out their public pledge to help him battle terrorism.
BLAIR: We will not allow violence to change our societies or our values. Nor will allow it to stop the work of this summit. The perpetrators of today's attacks are intent on destroying human life. The terrorists will not succeed.
OAKLEY: Backing Mr. Bush over the Iraq war has cost Britain's prime minister dear. It shredded his parliamentary majority at the election. But this time, it's the president who's lending a helping hand. Back in Gleneagles, he the lead the chorus of support for Mr. Blair.
As for Mr. Blair, he went on from Downing Street for what officials tell CNN, was a private visit to police headquarters at Scotland Yard -- more painful detail.
And finally, on what must have felt like his longest day in office, he then flew back to Gleneagles to pick up on summit business. The communiques will still emerge, but Mr. Blair knows that headlines won't be about climate change and African aid. This will be remembered as the summit during which the terrorists hit Britain and stole his agenda.
ZAHN: That report was from Robin Oakley. Joining me now is Richard Haas. He's president of Council on Foreign Relations and happens to be the author of a brand new book called "The Opportunity," a book that argues that this is America's moment to change history and reshape the world into a better place. Good to see you.
To borrow a phrase from your book, "if we are to reshape the world into a better place, you've got to win this war on terrorism." Can we?
RICHARD HAAS, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: If by win you mean eliminate it, Paula, no. There's no ending it any more than we can eliminate disease despite all the progress we've made.
But if by win you mean reduce terrorism to a level where it's simply doesn't or fundamentally change the way we live our lives, I think the answer there is, yes. And by the way, we're doing it.
Over the last three years or four years, there's been enormous strides in terms of intelligence, in terms of law enforcement cooperation. The world has become a tougher place for terrorists to succeed. But that said, from time to time, they will succeed as we saw today in London.
ZAHN: So, from time to time, what are we talking about here?
HAAS: Well, what we're talking about is this is now part and parcel of life. Just again, let me come back to the disease metaphor. You can't eliminate disease, so there's steps you take to reduce your vulnerability. If you get hit with something, there's steps you take to get better.
Well, fighting terrorism will takes the same thing. We've got to try to go after the terrorists. We all have to take steps to reduce our vulnerability. We also have to manage the consequences like this morning in London when the terrorists succeed, but we can't eliminate it. There's not going to be a ceremony on the battleship Missouri like there was ending the war. You're not going to have that kind of ceremony in the war against terrorism
ZAHN: How much do you think today's attacks -- we recognize the fact there's no confirmation of responsibility tonight or who carried this attack though -- let me phrase this differently, I'm getting a little interference in my ear. If Britain was attacked like this -- and this is a country that has be prepared for routine terrorist attacks, what does this tell us?
HAAS: It tells us that we're all vulnerable. It's part of being a modern society. Whether it's our transportation systems or whether it's things like shopping centers or schools. There's and unlimited number of soft targets.
So, they're not just after the White House in this country, or government buildings. Ultimately, every place is a battlefield. Which is, again, why the whole idea of war is perhaps not the best metaphor. This is fought by people who are not wearing uniforms. They don't use traditional weapons and everywhere is potential target.
ZAHN: Do you think the fact that Britain is involved in Iraq is the reason why the country was attacked today?
HAAS: No. My hunch is it's more fundamental than that. If you recall, 9/11 happened years before we were involved anywhere. It's true the Brits are involved in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the problems that the terrorists have with countries like Britain, go far beyond any specific policy.
ZAHN: Let's come back to what happens between Prime Minister Tony Blair and the president. We saw President Bush making some very pained remarks about what happened in London, but a large number of Brits really dislike President Bush. According to a recent Pew poll, 3/4 said his re-election made them feel less favorable toward the United States. Is there anyway with what he's going to say at the G-8 Summit, he can soften that British public opinion?
HAAS: I think it's actually an opportunity for the president to expand his relationship beyond the prime minister with the British public. And by what he says, by how he says it, he can bond and could probably reduce some of the hostility that people there feel.
This could actually be a moment to some solidarity, just as was the case after 9/11 here. When, if you remember, even the French published in the newspapers: We are all Americans now. This actually could be a chance for George Bush to build some personal connections to the people of Britain and the people of Europe.
ZAHN: We thank you so much for dropping by.
HAAS: Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: Richard Haas. And congratulations on your latest book.
When our special coverage continues: After the attacks in New York, Madrid and now London and heightened security, the question haunting us all: How can we ever feel safe?
We look at that when we come back.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had no idea. I assumed we'd hit a train, hit something, just because we were still in one piece, there was no fire. All of the windows were blown in and some of the metal had been bent withinside (SIC) the carriage. It was a pretty hard impact, but no idea at the time that is was -- could have been a terrorist attack.
ZAHN: A very heart-felt reaction today from outside the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., to the carnage experienced in that country earlier today, nearly four years after 9/11. And yet with another terrorist attack on a western city, you have to wonder, will we ever truly feel safe again?
Joining from Washington, former Deputy CIA director and CNN national security adviser John Mclaughlin. Here in New York with me, former FBI investigator Bill Daily. And in Little Rock, Asa Hutchinson, former undersecretary of Homeland Security.
Before I get to what's happening on the home front, Bill Daily, a very quick reaction to David Ensor's reporting just a couple minutes ago from sources -- security sources who have confirmed that there is evidence of timing devices having been used in one or more of these explosions. What does that tell us?
BILL DAILY, FRM. FBI INVESTIGATOR: Well, certainly, it goes along with some of the earlier thinking, which was that these devices were inside the cars. Cell phones would not have the capability, because of no transmission capability in the tubes to be able to send them off. And also would rule out the suicide bombers, at least in the cases now that they feel as though they had this information. I don't -- I would say, categorically, in all of the cases that this is how it is, because sometimes they very the trade craft.
ZAHN: All right. Back to the homefront with Asa. Right now, cities across the country are making some precautions now with their mass transit systems. We heard some of what's going to happen in Washington D.C., New York, Los Angeles. Will these precautions make any difference at all?
ASA HUTCHINSON, FRM. UNDERSECRETARY HOMELAND SECURITY: Oh, absolutely. I think, first of all, they're a strong deterrent if there was anything planned. The presence of law enforcement officials, the higher alert level in times past have deterred action.
Secondly, I think it gives the public confidence. We want them to continue traveling. We do not want to give the terrorists a victory by simply having the threat. And so this is very helpful, I think, to the continuity of our transportation systems, and the higher security level is very important.
ZAHN: Are we doing enough, though Asa?
HUTCHINSON: We have to do more every day. And I think we also have to have balance. I think that whenever you look at al Qaeda and what they do, I mean, it was an aviation attack. It has been a train in Madrid. We'll see what's happened in London. But obviously, here in the United States, we can't just simply focus on what has happened, but also what could happen. And there's many vulnerabilities. So, you have to be smart about the spending of money.
We're getting safer. And the response today, I think, has been very good in terms of the increased security measures that went into place very quickly, the transit systems are prepared to do this. And so, we're getting better at making them more secure.
ZAHN: John, what are some of the lessons that we here in American can learn from what happened in Britain? A western city successfully infiltrated by terrorists on a transit system that carries some 3 million people a day.
JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, FRM. CIA ANALYST: Well, I think one of the messages here, Paula, is that vigilant as we are, there's no guarantee or perfection in fighting terrorists. The British are among the best in the world at this. And that had some tremendous successes in the last year, wrapping up two major networks. Networks, that were in some respects tied to people here on the North American continent. But still, how do you weigh 100 successes against one failure?
So, I think one of the messages here is, to answer your first question, can we ever feel safe? Well, not in some absolute sense. This will take relentless vigilance on the part of our citizens, relentless offensive action overseas by people who are fighting these terrorists and a relentless effort by all parts of our government to form bonds with other countries around the world that share this commitment.
ZAHN: Sure. And a lot of people were hoping that one of the things to come out of this G-8 summit maybe is a heightened sense of cooperations.
Bill Daily, I want to come back to a point that John was just making, about how proactive Great Britain has been in the war on terror. Was today's attack an inevitable attack? Or was there a lapse in security?
DAILY: Well, Paula, I don't think any of these attacks are inevitable. But I believe that this is a true indication, that no matter how sophisticated you are, there's someone who can look at some of your soft points.
And as much as we spend money, as Mr. Hutchinson was suggesting, to have a strong deterrence, there has to be a balance, because we can't be at all places all of the time. And citizens really need to realize that in this world -- it's a very difficult, difficult thing to realize -- is that you are vulnerable and we can't protect you every place you are.
ZAHN: And Asa, you better than anybody else can answer this question, because of your involvement with Homeland Security, we also know that this is a weary America public coming off 9/11. There's a certain amount of cynicism toward the color-colored system. Are people going to take it seriously when they hear that we now see an orange code for mass transit in America?
HUTCHINSON: I think when it's carefully used, as it has been -- we went to orange alert, but it was a narrow orange alert in limited portion of the transportation sector. Previously, it was the financial sector in response to specific intelligence. And the public accepted this because they knew exactly what they needed to do.
And so, I think it's becoming refined and accepted and having an appropriate response. So, I think we can continue to use it. It might need to be adjusted.
But whenever an industry and the public learns to react to it, I think you have to be hestitant about throwing it away.
ZAHN: Well, we've learned an awful lot from all three of you tonight. We really appreciate your help. Asa Hutchinson, Bill Daily, John McLaughlin, again, nice to have you all with us tonight. "LARRY KING LIVE" is just ahead in about 12 minutes from now. Hi, Larry. What's coming up tonight for us?
LARRY KING, HOST, LARRY KING LIVE: All right, Paula, good to have you back. We'll, of course, follow the same story with report from London and other spots in the world. We'll also have James Woolsey, the former head of the CIA coming to us from Aspen.
And in our studios, the mayor and police chief of Los Angeles, a big city that has its worries as well. All that ahead at the top of the hour, Paula.
ZAHN: We'll be with you, Larry. Thanks so much. See you then.
There's another unpredictable danger we're following tonight. This one a deadly force of nature. Dennis, shifted into category 3 hurricane just a few hours ago. And already it's 130 miles an hour winds. Just short of becoming a category 4. Florida governor Jeb Bush has declared a state of emergency. And early, tourists in the Florida Keys were ordered to get out.
Rob Marciano has the storm in his sights in Atlanta. Rob, what do you see? It all looks like dancing color bands there.
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yeah. It looks pretty on the TV screen. Unfortunately on the ground, it's a whole nother story as we experienced last year with the amount of hurricanes that slid into Florida.
This actually taking a similar origin and path as Charley and Ivan of last year. It is a major hurricane now as you mentioned. Right now it's splitting between Jamaica and the Southeastern tip of Cuba. As you can see the eye right in there.
It has strengthened over the last several hours, strengthened rapidly, actually, since yesterday. We have winds sustained now at 130. We get them up to 131, and that's a category 4 storm, much like Charley when it hit into Punta Gorda last year.
Northwesterly, moving at 15 miles an hour. What this will with the storm. It will rake the southern coastline of Cuba overnight tonight. It might even be a category 4, that's the official forecast. Over the western end of Cuba during the day tomorrow, weakening somewhat.
But category 3 status early Saturday morning, pretty close to Key West, Florida. It looks like much of the Keys are going to experience hurricane force winds during the early part of Saturday. What it does after that -- right now, the official forecast goes into panhandle of Florida as a major hurricane.
There is still some time to see some uncertainty with that forecast, but that is what it's looking like right now, Paula. We'll keep you updated.
ZAHN: Good reason for the tremendous concern we see along that coast here tonight. Rob Marciano, thanks so much.
In a moment, we turn back to our extended coverage of the London terror bombings. What the experts say we can do to prevent terrorist attacks. Please stay with us for more.
ZAHN: And welcome back to our newsroom in New York here tonight. Millions of Americans rely on public transportation to get to and from their jobs. Today, it's hard to imagine anyone not thinking what if it happened here. Adaora Udoji put that very question to the experts today.
ADAORA UDOJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The subway, a lifeline for busy New Yorkers, and they know the risks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that it's nearly impossible to completely protect people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just have to pray and hope that, you know, we're safe.
UDOJI: There's more you can do, the experts say. People are potentially their own best protection against terrorism.
BO DIETL, SECURITY SPECIALIST: Can you stop it completely? Can you try? Absolutely. Can you minimize it? Yes. Through intelligence and through awareness.
UDOJI: Security specialist Bo Dietl says since 9/11, New York has stepped up security, practicing emergency drills, budgeting millions of dollars on security every year.
City officials have more police out patrolling railways. They've fortified stations, installed more surveillance cameras, and removed trash cans where bombs could be hidden.
But other cities had security too. In 2004, a terrorist bomb killed 191 people in Madrid, Spain. And in Moscow, 49 people died in two suicide bombings. Tokyo 1995, a sarin gas attack left 12 dead, 5,000 injured.
New York has learned from all that. Detectives today are stationed around the world, gathering intelligence. But the police cannot be everywhere all the time.
Here's the bottom line: A bomb ripping through a train, biological or chemical weapons released underground could be treacherous along the city's 720 miles of tracks.
RAY KELLY, NYPD COMMISSIONER: In certain situations, you are not going to be able to do too much, other than wait for rescue workers. UDOJI: If there is fire or fumes, security expert Bo Dietl says go in the opposite direction, but try to stay on the train. Outside it, there are more dangers. Electrically charged tracks, other trains coming.
Ultimately, he said, preventing an attack is critical, and that takes everyone's help. Five million riders a day could mean 10 million extra eyes watching for anything suspicious.
DIETL: Someone is carrying a knapsack, someone leaves a knapsack. Immediately, you see somebody -- some package that looks suspicious. Go to that cop. That's the most important thing, in that everybody has their eyes and their ears open.
Adaora Udoji, CNN, New York.
ZAHN: And when our special coverage continues, we return to London for the very latest on the investigation. Some new things out about what might have been involved in these very highly calibrated attacks.
ZAHN: A poignant gesture of condolence from the U.S. to Britain today as the U.S. Army band played "God Save the Queen" outside the British embassy in Washington.
Before we go to "LARRY KING LIVE" at the top of the hour, I'm going to quickly recap for you where we stand at this hour. British investigators are looking to who set off four bombs on the city's transit system. U.S. authorities have told CNN that at least one or more of the explosions may have been triggered by some kind of timing device. At least 37 people killed in these attacks, 700 wounded.
We're going to get the very latest from London and our own Christiane Amanpour, who is going to give us a sense of what Brits will be waking up to, 2 a.m. local time there now. What will they see, Christiane?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the investigations will continue. We're at Kings Cross, which had the highest number of deaths, 21 confirmed at the explosion here. It was the second explosion this morning.
It is 2 a.m., as you say. The morning papers are already out, and as you can imagine, it is only this that is in the newspapers.
There's a slight sense of inevitably. Sad, sad inevitability. People of England had expected this in the aftermath of 9/11, in the aftermath of the Iraq war, and for them, it was a question of when it would happen.
But perhaps especially shocking is that today they should have been waking up with jubilation, after winning the bid to be the host of the Olympic Games in 2012, and instead, they have woken up to a terrible nightmare -- Paula.
ZAHN: Not the arc that anybody in the world wants to see, the highs followed by the deep, deep trough.
Christiane Amanpour, thank you so much for your update tonight. We want to thank you all for joining us. And we want to encourage you to stay with CNN all night long for continuing coverage of the terrorist attacks in London. The brand new news out of CNN sources, they now believe that one or two of the explosions are tied to a timing device that has been discovered. That's the very latest on the investigative front. Please join Aaron Brown at 10:00 p.m. as well, but first, "LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now. Again, thanks for dropping by.
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