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Governor Bush Holds Press Conference on Hurricane; London Terror; U.S. Transit Security

Aired July 8, 2005 - 14:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: On edge, but in service, King's Cross Station in London. Commuters braving the tube as investigators sift through evidence from the British capital's single bloodiest day since 1944.
Welcome back to our continuing coverage. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

They say there's no evidence of suicide attackers in yesterday's quadruple mass transit bombings, but they can't rule anything out yet either. The culprits, says the commissioner of the London Police Department, are either at large in Britain, at large elsewhere, or, he says, they're dead.

At the close of a subdued G8 summit today in Scotland, Britain's prime minister, Tony Blair, rejected the idea that something went wrong with London security.


TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: My opinion is that those people who killed the innocent and caused such bloodshed, that they're responsible, and they're solely responsible.


BLITZER: Queen Elizabeth reflected on attacks of decades past in a visit today to an east London hospital where many of the estimated 700 casualties were treated. The confirmed death toll, 49. But police know there are still bodies they can't get to far below Russell Square Station.

Flowers and cards are piling up outside the entrance to King's Cross today. Commuters are back at the subway station near the worst of the London attacks. But workers trying to recover the bodies from the bomb train face a daunting task.

Lawrence McGinty from ITV News reports.


LAWRENCE MCGINTY, ITV NEWS (voice-over): As King's Cross partially reopened this morning, the recovery operation continued. More than a day after the blasts that killed 21 people, they still having reached the front carriage of the train where it's now known the bomb, weighing less than 10 pounds, was planted. ANDY HAYMAN, ASSISTANT COMM., SPECIALIST OPS: The complexity of getting to the carriage is one of mainly safety. What we don't want, of course, is more injuries as a result of trying to forensicate (ph) the scene


BLITZER: We want to interrupt that report to go to Florida. Jeb Bush, the governor of Florida, speaking about Hurricane Dennis, which is approaching mainland.

Let's listen in.


GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: ... actions that will be ordered by local governments. Craig will talk about the evacuation procedures that are already under way in the lower Keys and what may be happening in the next 24 hours regarding other evacuation decisions. And people really need to listen to their local elected officials through the local media to make sure that they follow the instructions that people give them.

The State Emergency Operation Center back behind me here is at level one, which is full activation. It will be staffed 24 hours a day and are fully prepared for the impacts of Hurricane Dennis.

I signed Executive Order 2005-139 declaring a state of emergency in Florida, and this declaration will make it easier to provide financial support and resources to local communities as they request it. We're also encouraging residents to use fuel supplies wisely with the approach of Hurricane Dennis.

Fuel companies are responding to the needs of residents by increasing the number of fuel trucks distributing fuel to impacted areas, and they'll continue to work to ensure that there is an ample supply. The Department of Environmental Protection is also closely coordinating with the petroleum industry and representatives from the Florida Petroleum Council and the petroleum marketers and the Convenience Store Association to make sure that there is ample supply of gasoline for Floridians as they go about their business to prepare for these storms.

In addition to all the efforts that are going on here, since we are really part of the Caribbean in many ways, too, once again, our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean are being hit by these storms, in many cases before they come to do harm to us. And as we speak right now, the people of Cuba are bracing for a serious, serious storm, and our thoughts and prayers are with them.

With your permission, I'd like to have a -- say a few remarks in Spanish as well.


BLITZER: All right. Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, speaking about Hurricane Dennis, which is approaching the Florida Keys, moving over Cuba right now.

The whole area of the Gulf Coast preparing possibly for landfall sometime on Sunday, perhaps Sunday afternoon, early evening, an area all from Louisiana all the way to the Florida Panhandle. We'll be covering all of this hurricane every step of the way. Our Rob Marciano from the CNN weather center will be joining us shortly for the latest track of Hurricane Dennis.

Let's get back, though, to London, where it's been an eerie day for London commuters. Some steered clear of the city's subway trains, others were determined to ride them despite their fears. Most say they just want things to return to normal.

CNN's Matthew Chance is standing by in London at the hardest hit of those subway stations.

What's the latest there, Matthew?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you say, people have very much started to try and pick up the daily routine of their lives here at King's Cross, one of the main areas, of course, where those bombings actually effected because it's just underneath this area where we're standing right now, between here and the Russell Square train station on the Piccadilly underground line.

But emergency workers are still working extremely hard to try and get to one of the carriages. They still haven't reached the front of the train that was bombed in one of those -- you know, in one of those explosions.

They're saying the situation for them is extremely hazardous because the actual structure of the tunnel has been disrupted and damaged by the -- by the bomb blast. And so it's making it very difficult for them, as well as other hazards as well, like rodents and other vermin and other hazardous materials, to get to the bodies inside and to collect the kind of forensic evidence that they need.

Now, at the same time, while people are going about their ordinary lives and picking up their routine again, there are -- there is a sort of sense of heightened tension on the streets of London. We have seen a number of train stations, this one, King's Cross, and Euston as well, a short distance from here, as well as Victoria Station, across the other side of London, evacuated as a result of security scares.

People saying that people are just -- been told to be vigilant, and they're reporting any suspicious activity or any suspicious package to the authority. And because of the tragic events of the past few days, of course, the authorities have had to respond in this way and do their most to evacuate the areas to try and ensure public security -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Matthew Chance at King's Cross in London for us. Matthew, thank you very much.

At least four Americans are reported among the 700 people wounded in the attacks. Two of them are sisters from Tennessee.

Their father says they were on one of the bombed subway trains. Twenty-one-year-old Kathleen Benton (ph) was injured by shrapnel in her back, leg and neck. Her 20-year-old sister, Emily, had wounds to her feet and an arm, plus some broken bones. Both are recovering now in a London hospital.

Most London commuters say they just want things to return to normal.

Lauren Taylor from ITV News has the story.


LAUREN TAYLOR, REPORTER, ITV NEWS (voice-over): King's Cross Station, exactly 24 hours after the deadly explosion. Many commuters had clearly decided to avoid the area. But the tube was back up and running. An eerie moment for commuters as they passed through the station where 21 people were killed only yesterday morning.

Outside, some stopped to lay tribute to the victims. One man who got out alive had come back to try to come to terms with the ordeal.

MARK MARGOLIS, BLAST VICTIM: I have taken today off. But what I'm going to do today is I'm going to get on the tube and I'm going to ride the tube just to...

TAYLOR (on camera): Are you?

MARGOLIS: Yes. I'm determined to get on the tube today just to prove to myself that I'm OK and comfortable to do it.

TAYLOR: Are you nervous about doing that?

MARGOLIS: I'm very nervous about doing it, but the longer I leave it, the harder it will be. So I'm going to -- even if it's just for one stop, I want to get on the tube.

TAYLOR: And getting on with it was what most workers in the capital had decided to do. Despite of their fears, they were back on trains and buses, which were mostly back to normal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I went to bed last night feeling I didn't want to work today. And I go up this morning and felt I didn't want to travel. But you've just got to get on with it, really.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After that, I think London is a bit resilient and commuters will just carry on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Working as normal. Carrying on. Not being beaten.

TAYLOR: With tubes and buses running, there was a strange air of normality so soon after what had been a total shutdown.

Sarah Crossley decided to make her usual journey to work and described her mixed feelings after yesterday's events.

SARAH CROSSLEY, LONDON RESIDENT: It's quite strange. You'd expect to be shocked or stunned, but, I don't know, London has lived with this sort of thing before. So you just sort of think, oh, and then carry on.

TAYLOR: So, apart from a few closures of underground stations and visible extra security, this was a city determined to return to normal as quickly as possible.

Lauren Taylor, ITV News.


BLITZER: Extra police also keeping a close eye on commuters in this country. The nation's mass transit system is on high alert following the London attacks. Here in Washington, the Metro chief says all trains and rails were searched before the stations opened earlier today.

CNN's Kathleen Koch is outside Union Station here in Washington with more -- Kathleen.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wolf, some 1.2 million people ride the buses and rails here in Washington, D.C., and so far it appears that very few of them were deterred by the bombings in London. Now, Washington D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams himself road the subway to work today in order to show his confident in the safety of the system. Though, at the same time, the mayor is campaigning to get more funding for security for transit systems.

And there was plenty security visible staring on Thursday morning, when the system went on high alert. Police in bulletproof vests, carrying machineguns, patrolled stations, even boarding and canvassing some trains. Bomb-sniffing dogs were visible in many stations searching for explosives. Though some passengers who we spoke to were determined not to change their routines, but they did admit to us that the threat of terrorism was on their minds today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's always a concern, because, I mean, there's no perfect defense.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've just got to keep going about our lives, because if we stop, then the terrorists win.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have faith in the police system and the transit system here that are going to catch anything before it happens. So I can't go around being scared.


KOCH: There have been some suspicious packages found over the last couple of days in Washington. One yesterday in a subway station, one this afternoon just a few hundred yards away from me here across the street from Union Station. But fortunately, they were all false alarms.

So police, though, are encouraging passengers riding buses, subways and even the Amtrak railroad system to be very alert and be on the lookout for suspicious packages or individuals -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Kathleen Koch reporting for us from outside Union Station right here in the nation's capital.

And to our viewers, please stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.

As America's transit systems went on higher alert, the National Counterterrorism Center was already in high gear. Just ahead, CNN cameras take you inside for an exclusive look at those tracking terror.

And we're tracking Hurricane Dennis as well. The powerful storm packing winds of 150 miles an hour and already forcing evacuations on the U.S. mainland. We'll get details from the National Hurricane Center. That's coming up as well.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: When the terrorist bombs rocked London a day ago, alarm bells rang right here in Washington. And some of the places they sounded didn't even exist until the federal government reacted to the attacks of 9/11. Once such place, the newly-minted National Counterterrorism Center.

CNN's David Ensor reports


DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The National Counterterrorism Center in northern Virginia, created in response to the 9/11 attacks, is in high gear since the London bombings.

John Brennan is the center's director.

JOHN BRENNAN, NATIONAL COUNTERTERRORISM CENTER DIRECTOR: Well, as far as we can tell, all of the bombings took place within the course of one hour. So they were very closely timed with one another. And that type of well-coordinated attack really does indicate a degree of sophistication. And so there have been some early indications, in fact, that maybe timing devices were used to set off some of these explosives.

ENSOR (on camera): So that wouldn't be suicide bombs, then. It was timers. It was people who planned to survived and attack again.

BRENNAN: Well, that's right. And that's one of the things we're concerned about. ENSOR (voice-over): Just hours before the London blasts, Brennan showed us the center and how it's supposed to work in situations like this.

BRENNAN: This is truly a world-class facility. We might have up there classified imagery that we would have, as well as then information that comes from clandestine sources that we'll overlay on top of that imagery to show us, in fact, where the threats are emerging, and to correlate the information that comes from technical sources, human sources, imagery and other things.

ENSOR: Next door to the ops center is a high-tech secure conference room that is in heavy use on days like this.

BRENNAN: So twice a day, we have a secure video teleconference with the White House and CIA and FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and the other departments and agencies.

ENSOR: With the touch of a button, the participants can look at classified intelligence or imagery in real time on separate screens.

(on camera): About 300 government employees work here at the NCTC, all of them on loan from other agencies, CIA, FBI, Homeland Security. In addition to them, there are more than 400 private contractors, many of whom work on the extraordinarily complex IT structure that they need here in order to bring in 26 different data systems to this one place.

(voice-over): The ops center has its eye on London, seeking to help the British and looking for any signs of plans to attack this country.

BRENNAN: But there's no indication right now that there is going to be an attack. But again, we are scrubbing the intelligence very, very carefully. We're doing the analysis, we are interacting with our colleagues, we are leaving no stone unturned at this point.

ENSOR: They are looking at the new evidence from London, working to connect the dots.

David Ensor, CNN, at NCTC in northern Virginia.


BLITZER: There's no hard evidence, but analysts say the London bombings certainly point toward al Qaeda. One senior U.S. intelligence official put it this way: "The attack methodology is consistent with that terror group."

Let's get some insight now on al Qaeda's operations in Europe. We'll bring in security analyst Glenn Schoen. He's joining us from Amsterdam.

Glenn, thanks very much for joining us. What's your initial take on what happened yesterday? GLENN SCHOEN, SECURITY ANALYST: Well, obviously, the British have been waiting for quite some time for something to happen. We've seen about 500 to 600 arrests of terrorist suspects there over the past four years. And clearly, they had already disrupted a number of plots in previous years.

The concern right now is that, if indeed this was timing devices, that we might have an attempt at follow-up attacks as occurred in November, 2003 in Turkey, and 2004 an attempt was made in Madrid.

BLITZER: Sometimes they do go for one series of attacks almost as a diversion, and go forward with another more serious attack in the days or even weeks to come. Is that your fear?

SCHOEN: It's one concern. What's interesting here is some of the British analysts I have talked to also have a sense that perhaps because the police had been effective against other networks, that they chose these targets that were perhaps not attacks on the scale that they might have wanted. So it's just possible that because of police successes, these attacks took place and were smaller in scale than might have been.

BLITZER: Is it your sense this has the fingerprints of a well orchestrated al Qaeda operation, or that of some sort of freelance group that will -- that is associated or sympathetic to al Qaeda?

SCHOEN: That's not really clear yet. I mean, what's interesting, of course, is you're looking at the timing of this event. And one of the things that when we look at terrorism analysis is really going to change here, this is the third incident in a year where we have had a major attack or an effort thereto in conjunction with a global meeting.

Last year we had the Asian conference in Bangkok, Thailand, in April. And they had an attack -- or they attempted an attack with a vehicle bomb. That was foiled.

And then two months later, in June of 2004, we had a plot against the NATO summit in Istanbul, Turkey. This is the third one within a year. So it obviously raises the concern also elsewhere in Europe for big events that are coming, like the next winter Olympics in Italy and the next World Cup soccer in Germany.

BLITZER: How much of a higher state of alert in terms of terror warnings, how much is possible given the day-to-day activities of what's happening in Europe?

SCHOEN: Not too much more. It's clearly everybody is sort of tense.

We have seen partial alerts in at least six countries in Europe. Other countries, like the Netherlands, where I am now, holding back just a little bit, saying we don't have a clear indication anything might happen here. But it's clear we're getting close.

There's a concern that al Qaeda will issue new threats during the summer holiday season, and that indeed this attack in London may also have been timed in part to spoil the British tourist vacation season.

BLITZER: So there could be some sort of economic ramifications of this kind of attack as well, because there have been indications in the past al Qaeda wants to go after the financial markets, the economic heartbeat, if you will, of the west. Is that your understanding?

SCHOEN: Yes, to an extent. And, of course, some of these costs are going to be long term, but it could impact tourism.

Another concern, of course, as we saw in the United States and also in Spain, insurance rates go up, security costs go up. So there's a lot of associated costs with an incident like this, even if the British handled it as magnificently as they did yesterday.

BLITZER: Security analyst Glenn Schoen joining us from Amsterdam in Holland, the Netherlands. Thanks very much, Glenn, for that assessment.

People in the predicted path of Hurricane Dennis heading for higher ground right now. The powerful storm forcing residents and even workers on oil rigs to head inland. We're tracking Dennis. We'll go live to the National Hurricane Center just ahead on CNN.


BLITZER: Around the world, people have been paying their respects to those killed in the London attacks. Outside the British embassy in Madrid, people stopped to lay flowers, observe a moment of silence, and sign the condolence book.

A similar scene at the British embassy in the Russian capital, Moscow, where people also are also leaving flowers at a simple memorial.

And at the British embassy in Rome, a wreath hangs amid other flowers on the fence outside.

Italy, a close ally of Britain and the U.S. in the Iraq war, has tightened security at its airports and transport networks.

On Wall Street today, investors are shaking off terrorism fears and focusing instead on the economy. Kathleen Hays has our report live from the New York Stock Exchange.


BLITZER: When we come back, bracing for Hurricane Dennis. Homes and businesses boarding up in the Florida Keys already. We'll go live to the National Hurricane Center for new information on its expected path.

Plus, more on our other stop story, terror in London. Is the wanted terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi behind the deadly attacks?

We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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