Skip to main content


Return to Transcripts main page


Nightmarish Al Qaeda Plot Against Los Angeles Foiled; Former FEMA Director Michael Brown to Tell All?; New Jill Carroll Hostage Video; Long Tradition In Arab Press Of Cartoons Jews Find Offensive; Fresh Allegations Of Abuse At Guantanamo gay

Aired February 9, 2006 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's 5:00 p.m. here in Washington, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where news and information from around the world arrive at one place at the same time.
Happening now, eerie echoes of 9/11. President Bush is detailing a horrifying plot he says was planned and stopped back in 2002. It involved al Qaeda hijackers, shoe bombers and an evil scheme: smash yet another plane into one of the country's tallest buildings.

Abducted American journalist Jill Carroll pleading for help. On a new videotape, Carroll talks about her condition and her captors and says -- and I'm quoting now -- "Please give them whatever they want."

And fiery rhetoric and red-hot rage in Iraq, Iran and other parts of the Muslim world again. Fresh outbursts over those controversial cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed. When will it end? And is this all misplaced anger?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

President Bush says sinister threats to the United States have not gone away. And to illustrate it, he's revealing fresh details of a nightmarish plot he says was stopped. It involved a planned plane hijacking and a West Coast plot against a skyscraper.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We know now that on October 1, 2001, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the September 11 attacks, had already set in motion a plan to have terrorists operatives hijack an airplane using shoe bombs to breach the cockpit door and fly the plane into the tallest building on the West Coast. We believe the intended target was Liberty Tower (sic) in Los Angeles, California.


BLITZER: The White House says the president misspoke when he said "Liberty Tower." What he really meant to say was Library Tower.

We're standing by, by the way, for a news conference with the mayor of Los Angeles. We're going to go there live. He's been complaining that he wasn't informed of what the president was going to disclose today, that he was taken by surprise. We're going to go hear what the mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, has to say. We'll go there live once that news conference begins.

But let's check in with our reporters covering this story.

Our Kareen Wynter is in Los Angeles. Dana Bash is over at the White House.

Let's start, though, with Kelli Arena. She's got the latest -- Kelli.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, today we heard, as you said, some new details from the president about a plot that we first reported on back in 2003.


ARENA (voice over): It started just after the September 11 attacks. The White House says the same man who planned the 9/11 attacks started plotting attacks on the West Coast in October of 2001.

According to the administration, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed targeted the U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles, the tallest building on the West Coast. He sought help from a Southeast Asian terrorist named Hambali to recruit men for the plot.

BUSH: Rather than use Arab hijackers as he had on September the 11th, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed sought out young men from Southeast Asia whom he believed would not arouse as much suspicion.

ARENA: The men met with Osama bin Laden, swore an oath of allegiance, then Mohammed trained them to make shoe bombs. The plan was to use the bombs to hijack a commercial jet which would then be flown into the tower.

Before the men could get much further, the leader of the terror cell was arrested and other members of the cell believed the plot had been aborted.

The president won't say what country assisted in that arrest. Apparently, some partners in the war on terror prefer to remain anonymous so they won't stir anti-American sentiment at home.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was later arrested and revealed details of the plot to interrogators.


ARENA: You know, Wolf, it's interesting. The administration will not say whether this investigation was helped by the NSA surveillance program even as critics are asking for success stories to back up the administration's argument.

BLITZER: Kelli Arena reporting.

Thank you, Kelli, very much.

A lot of people in Los Angeles are reacting to this doomsday scenario. Let's go out to L.A. CNN's Kareen Wynter is standing by with more on this part of the story -- Kareen.


You can just imagine the buzz that could be surrounding this, especially from employees inside the tower. They're not so much surprised by the announcement. In fact, many of them told of us that they've known about this for years.

What they are surprised about, however, is the attention that this is getting all cross the nation. Some workers also said that they feel very, very safe, especially with the safety procedures, the measures that have been in place since 9/11 and that continue. They refer to, Wolf, the evacuation drills, fire drills. They say it's quite frequent around here.

Also, steel pylons. You may or may not be able to see over my shoulders in the distance, but some people also contend that they're really at the mercy, Wolf, of targets of terrorists because this high- rise is so high.

One of the only evacuation measures would be off the top, the helicopter landing pad. And so some people are concerned whether or not they would be able to get off there in time.

The mayor, again, is holding a news conference right now. We're hoping to find out more details on some levels of preparedness here -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Kareen. We're going to watch that news conference and go there live once it happens.

Kareen, thank you very much.

Kareen also will be back in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour with more on this story.

With the plot apparently foiled four years ago, and the president first mentioning it last year, some are wondering why mention it again right now.

Let's bring in our White House Correspondent Dana Bash. She's got more on the timing of this speech.

Why now, Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a senior official said, look, they are always looking for examples to back up the claim that they are doing well and having some success in the war on terror. And frankly, from an imaging communications standpoint, what better way to do that than to give a revelation and more information about a building that we can all send reporters to, to stand in front of, and show, really illustrate the success that they are talking about.

Now, Kelli mentioned the fact that the White House has been talking about the fact that, in the NSA surveillance program that is quite controversial, of course, they have been saying that that has stopped some attacks since 9/11. The White House would not say whether or not this particular attack was helped by that program, but they were using very similar language in talking about this attack.

They said that this is -- or the president himself said it's a reminder that we can't be lulled into the illusion that the threats have disappeared. And Fran Townsend, the president's top adviser on homeland security, also said it's a reminder of the importance of information-sharing.

So Wolf, it is no secret politically that Republicans do see terrorism as a top issue for them this year. And it's also no secret, as we saw today, that they're looking for different ways to communicate that issue and different examples. That's what happened today.

BLITZER: All right, Dana. Thank you very much.

Dana Bash at the White House.

And this other item in our CNN "Security Watch." The government's multimillion-dollar plan to check the names of domestic airline passengers against its watch list, that's now on hold. The program is called Secure Flight. The Transportation Security Administration says it wants to scrutinize the program's information technology system. Critics of the program fear it could be used for domestic surveillance.

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

The man many say bungled the response to Hurricane Katrina is set to talk, seemingly to clear his name. Michael Brown is now threatening a tell-all that could be damaging to the White House.

Let's bring in our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve. She's got details -- Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, when Michael Brown appears before a Senate committee tomorrow, he may say more than the White House would like.


MESERVE (voice over): Michael Brown intends to answer senators' questions fully, completely and accurately, says his lawyer.

BUSH: Brown, you're doing a heck of a job.

MESERVE: Until now, Brown has complied with the White House request not to discuss with congressional investigators his communications with top administration officials. But Brown's lawyer wrote the White House last Friday saying, "Unless there is specific direction otherwise by the president, including an assurance the president will provide a legal defense to Mr. Brown if he refuses to testify, Mr. Brown will testify about particular communications with White House officials."

The lawyer describes Brown, no longer a government employee, as between a rock and a hard place, Congress and the president.

Senator Joseph Lieberman, ranking Democrat on the committee probing the Katrina response, says he hopes critical questions about who in the White House knew what, when, and what they did about it will now be answered.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: I tell you, I take it as a very important moment here, and an encouraging moment that Michael Brown, through his lawyer, has essentially said he's prepared to come in and tell the committee everything he knows tomorrow unless the White House tells him not to.


MESERVE: Brown's lawyer had asked for a White House response to his letter by last night. The White House said this afternoon it is working on one -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jeanne, thank you very much.

Jeanne Meserve reporting.

Let's check in with Jack once again. He's in New York with "The Cafferty File."

Hi, Jack.


Sometimes you come across a story and you read it and then you say to yourself, "No, this can't really be happening." Like this one...

An elementary in Brockton, Massachusetts, suspended a six--year- old boy for three days for sexual harassment. He allegedly put two fingers inside a classmate's waistband.

The boy said he touched the girl's shirt after she touched him. They're six. A child psychiatrist says the first-grader may have touched his classmate but kids that age are too young to even know what sexual harassment is.

No kidding.

The boy's mother is outraged. She said she can't even explain to her son what he did wrong because he's too young to understand. The school only says sexual harassment allegations are always investigated.

Here's the question: Are 6-year-olds a sexual harassment threat?

E-mail us at

BLITZER: All right, Jack. Thank you very much for that question.

I want to go right out to Los Angeles. The mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, speaking about the president's disclosures today that the tallest building was a target.

MAYOR ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA (D), LOS ANGELES: The city of Los Angeles has implemented significant security measures since that time. Furthermore, we have received no new information indicating additional operatives are planning this attack.

This does not change the fact that Los Angeles is a target. We have been targeted several times in the past. And we will continue to be the subject of terrorists' planning.

This only proves what I, along with other big city mayors have stressed, and that is that all federal homeland security funding should be threat-based and that local governments like Los Angeles and our first responders are on the front lines and need additional resources from the federal government. Given the known terrorist plots against our city, I believe that Los Angeles deserves more funding for protecting our assets and our people here in the city.

We're doing all we can to prevent and mitigate the effects of an attack and have implemented the following measures to ensure the public's safety.

The Los Angeles Police Department's Operation Archangel has worked closely with the Library Tower management to evaluate the building's security and evacuations plans. LAPD has conducted a vulnerability assessment and bomb blast mitigation study to determine how best to diminish the impact of an explosion within the building.

These measures are being implemented at critical infrastructure sites throughout Los Angeles, not just at the Library Tower.

All Library Towers security officers have been trained in LAPD security officer terrorism awareness course which focuses on surveillance, detection, recognition of threats and pre-incident indicators such as the suspects' irregular behavior. This training has also been offered to other Los Angeles's high-rise building security officers.

In addition, the Los Angeles Fire Department has developed an exercise of coordinated high-rise rooftop program and specifically trained fire companies for this task. The Los Angeles Fire Department has the capability to rescue 350 people per hour from a high-rise fire with coordinated air resources.

This capability has been exercised continually in the past several years at high-rises throughout the Los Angeles region such as the twin towers in Century City, the AON Building downtown, the Civic Center Complex, and the MGAM (ph) Building in Beverly Hills.

The Los Angeles Fire Department has also trained thousands of Los Angeles workers and residents in community emergency response team training. One hundred Library Tower employees have been trained by the L.A. Fire Department. And I encourage all Angelinos to become cert volunteers.

We made great progress in enhancing our prevention and response responsibilities, but I believe that we can do more. Just like week, I proposed a counterterrorism and disastrous preparedness proposal that would 83 new permanent positions to the police and fire departments. In addition to that, I have said that in the following budget, in July, we'll ask for and hope to implement a second phase of that effort.

This proposal will increase counterterrorism intelligence, coordination and analysis among federal, state and city agencies. It will enhance the city's ability to respond to a terrorist or a natural disaster event impacting critical infrastructure. The proposal will also augment the city's mass disaster training and planning capabilities.

Protecting Los Angeles is my top priority. And I must reaffirm, as I have on a number of occasions, that there is no imminent threat to Los Angeles, specifically no imminent threat to the Library Tower or any other critical asset in Los Angeles. And we have implemented significant measures to ensure the public safety and security.

BLITZER: The mayor of Los Angeles, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, speaking at a news conference on this day that the president of the United States disclosed details of a plot several years ago, right after 9/11, to try to blow up the tallest building on the West Coast, the Library Tower, as it's called in Los Angeles.

Mayor Villaraigosa complaining that he learned about this while the president was on television today delivering his speech, that there had been no heads up given to him by the federal government.

Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, reacted to that charge earlier today.


SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: My understanding was that we did reach out to officials in California, and Los Angeles, to let them know, I think it was yesterday, that the president would be talking about this. And the word I heard was that there was great appreciation for the notification that we provided.


BLITZER: We're going to continue to stay on top of this story and bring you more details as they become available.

Up ahead, new video and an urgent plea from an American journalist held hostage in Iraq. Details of what she's asking be done right now.

Also, violent protests over caricatures of the Muslim prophet. But is there a double standard? We'll show you why some say yes.

And new developments in the lawsuit that some feared could shut down BlackBerry service. We're going to have details on what the company is now saying.



BLITZER: Just over an hour ago we saw some new heartbreaking video of Jill Carroll, the American reporter being held hostage in Iraq. And she's making a new plea.

CNN's Aneesh Raman is in Baghdad. He's joining us now with the latest details.

Aneesh, update our viewers.

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the tape first airing just hours ago on the Kuwaiti-based network AlRai. This is the first time we hear directly from Jill Carroll, unlike the two previous tapes. We hear her voice as she makes an urgent appeal.


JILL CARROLL, JOURNALIST HELD HOSTAGE IN IRAQ: It's Thursday, February 6 -- February 2, 2006. I'm with the mujahedeen. I sent you a letter written by my hand, and you wanted more evidence. So we're sending you this letter now to prove I'm with the mujahedeen.

I'm Here. I'm fine. Please just do whatever they want, give them whatever they want as quickly as possible. There is very short time. Please do it fast.

That's all.


RAMAN: Now, Wolf, AlRai says this tape, along with a copy of the letter that Jill Carroll refers to, was dropped off at their Baghdad office hours before it was put to air. It is the first time, again, as I say, we hear from Jill Carroll.

She is composed in this video. In the previous one that aired on January 30 she was clearly distraught, she was crying.

In this video, like the last one, she is wearing a traditional veil. We also can surmise that the backdrop, it seems, is the same in both.

Now, the only deadline we have heard, specific deadline from the group holding her, was in the first videotape, a 72-hour deadline they set for the release of all female Iraqi prisoners. That came and went. There was no word on Jill Carroll.

We have now seen two more tapes with no specific deadline attached to either of them, but chilling words from Jill Carroll at the end there, saying there is simply a short amount of time left -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Aneesh. Thank you very much.

Aneesh Raman in Baghdad.

And we have just received reaction to this new video from Carroll's employers and her family. "The Christian Science Monitor" editor saying in a statement -- let me read it to you -- "It is always difficult to see someone speaking under a coercion and under these circumstances. We are seeking more information about the letter that Jill refers to in the video. We remain in constant contact with Jill's family and are still doing everything possible to obtain Jill's release."

Carroll's relatives also issued a brief statement saying -- and let me quote -- "The family is hopeful and grateful to all those working on Jill's behalf."

Coming up, freedom of speech, responsibility, and double standards. We're going to talk about the cartoon controversy that's sparking deadly rioting around the world.

And tonight in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour, President Bush says he hardly knows him, but e-mail from the lobbyist Jack Abramoff suggests differently. We're going to show you how the disgraced Republican lobbyist described their relationship.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome back.

More now on the terror plot targeting an L.A. skyscraper revealed by President Bush earlier today.

Here to talk about that and more with us, the former defense secretary, William Cohen. He's a member of our CNN Security Council. He's a CNN world affairs analyst, head of The Cohen Group here in Washington.

I want you to listen to what the president said earlier today. Listen to this.


BUSH: The terrorist strategy of attacking innocent Muslims is beginning to backfire and expose them for what they are, murderers with no respect for human life and human dignity. Despite the violence and the suffering the terrorists are wrecking (ph), we're winning the war on terror.


BLITZER: Here's the question: Are we winning the war on terror?

WILLIAM COHEN, FMR. DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think it's too early to declare victory much as it was too early to declare victory of "Mission Accomplished" as such to indicate that the war was over. I think it's an ongoing struggle.

In fact, I was in Munich listening and participating in a conference in -- on security in Munich last week, and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld indicated that we are in a long struggle. It brought to mind John Kennedy's phrase, "A long twilight struggle." Then against communism, now against terrorism.

And so I think it would be impossible to have any metric that says we're winning today, we're losing today. We're in a long fight, as such that will take decades, if not longer to finally prevail over.

BLITZER: If this is an ongoing war, it looks to me -- and maybe you disagree -- that the whole cartoon controversy over the Prophet Mohammed is a weapon that some of those terrorists might be able to use to foment anger against the United States and the West.

COHEN: Well, I don't think it's any question about it. I think much of the initial reaction was spontaneous. But it's become clear that the last few days, much of it is now be orchestrated.

It will have several kinds of impacts.

On the one hand, it allows for a venting of their frustration and rage. But it also tends to unify the Muslim world at a time when there's great controversy in Iran and the Iranian president may be helping to -- or trying to shift, at least, responsibility for what's going on in Iran with the nuclear weapons and so forth.

But secondly, it may have a counter-reaction; mainly, that much of the Western world and those Muslim nations that are moderate in nature and scope, will see this as a real threat, that Iran possessing a nuclear weapon, given this kind of potentiality for enflaming public opinion, would be even far more dangerous than we have know to date.

So it may have a counterproductive effect for those who are enflaming the passions right now.

BLITZER: Here's what the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, said yesterday. Listen to this.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: Iran and Syria have gone out of their way to enflame sentiments and to use this to their own purposes.


BLITZER: I assume you agree with her on that.

COHEN: I think there's clearly a case to be made for that. But I think, also, we have to keep in mind that it's really -- it is an offensive act when you insult someone's religion. And we ought to take that into account.

We believe in freedom of speech. But we recognize there are limits on our freedom of speech. We don't shout falsely "Fire" in a crowded theater. We don't allow people to wear certain T-shirts during formal addresses by the president and so forth.

So we have our own limitations. But I think a sense of decent respect for someone's religion is certainly called for.

But by the same token, this does not give license to those who then seize upon this offensive caricature and cartoon to then start burning all of the embassies down and enflaming people's emotions to the point where they're creating mayhem and murder.

BLITZER: All right.

COHEN: So we have to be careful what we say and respectful. But at the same time, we also have to point out this should not be an excuse for those leaders in the Muslim world to seize this to try to enflame passions against all of us.

BLITZER: We're going to have more on this coming up, but thanks, Secretary Cohen, for joining us, as usual.

COHEN: A pleasure to be here.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

Coming up, more on the cartoons. Many say they are offensive to Islam. But what about cartoons offensive to other religions/? We're going to show you why some say there's a double standard.

And thousands of rare recordings by rock legends online for the first time. Our Internet reporters are on the story. If you like rock 'n' roll, you're going to want to stick around and learn about this.


BLITZER: Welcome back.

Muslims around the world have been staging some angry and sometimes violent protests in response to those cartoons of Prophet Mohammed. Many feel the caricatures, which first appeared in a Danish newspaper, are insulting to Islam.

But there's a long tradition in the Arab press of cartoons many Jews find offensive.

CNN's John Vause takes a closer look.


JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Is this cartoon offensive? Does this one attack a religion? Could this be considered malicious?

For Israelis and Jews, the answer is almost certainly yes. But, for years, Arabic and Islamic newspapers, many government-owned and run, have rarely held back when it comes to cartoons that are blatantly anti-Semitic, despite official protests from the Israeli government.

DORE GOLD, JERUSALEM CENTER FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS: The usual response of various Arab governments has been, well, we don't control them. They will, in fact, use Western concepts like freedom of the press. But we know very well that these are official newspapers, whose editors are appointed by presidents or kings in various Arab governments.

VAUSE: Amr Okasha has drawn many cartoons for one of Egypt's biggest-selling newspapers. He has no problem depicting Jews, especially Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, with the worst anti-Semitic stereotypes, ugly, bloodthirsty killers, with hooked noses and curls.

"I can draw Sharon and say that he's a killer," he explains. "But I would not draw his prophet, and say that his prophet is a killer."

Many of the Arab and Islamic cartoons are similar to those drawn by the Nazis. Robert Rozett, an historian with Jerusalem's Holocaust Memorial, says that's more than coincidence.

ROBERT ROZETT, HISTORIAN, JERUSALEM'S HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL: Well, it can't but bring up the associations of the Nazi period. And, since the Nazi period is the bleakest period in Jewish history, in which six million Jews were murdered by this horrible machine that was set up, it brings all of those associations with it.

VAUSE: But Islamic leaders say, mocking the Prophet Mohammed is the ultimate insult to Muslims everywhere, and cannot be compared to what they call political cartoons attacking Israel.

"If those cartoons deal with the Israeli occupation, then they're not anti-Semitic. We're against the Israeli occupation," he told me, "not Semitic people."

(on camera): For years, Israeli and Jewish groups have tried to bring the world's attention to the anti-Semitic cartoons and statements in the Arabic and Islamic media. Right now, though, the Israeli government is steering clear of this controversy, only saying, it highlights the need to show respect for all religions and people of all faiths.

John Vause, CNN, Jerusalem.


BLITZER: For more now on the cartoon controversy, we're joined by CNN contributor William Bennett of the Claremont Institute. He's also host of the radio talk show "Morning in America." And, also, joining us is James Zogby. He's president of the Arab American Institute here in Washington.

Gentlemen, thanks very much for joining us.

Do you want to react, first of all, Jim, to that piece that John Vause just filed...


BLITZER: ... about the so-called double standard that exists?

JAMES ZOGBY, PRESIDENT, ARAB AMERICAN INSTITUTE: There's no question that the cartoons that were shown, many of them go way over the top, and, frankly, have been criticized, and ought to be criticized, and we ourselves have criticized them.

The point, however, is that this, what we're seeing take place in Europe, is actually something very different. It actually began as an internal European problem. It was a newspaper that has a long history of anti-immigrant advocacy sticking their finger in the eye of local Muslims, trying to prove a point: Our culture is superior than yours. You will not overtake us.

It was born of the insecurity of a European elite that's afraid of those they still consider guests in their midst, that they have refused to incorporate into their body politic.

As it spread into the Arab world, another sensitivity, insecurity took over, and that was the fact that there is a deliberate insult against Islam. And Muslims are an iconoclastic religion. They don't use icons, and they find them deeply insulting.

But what went -- was worse than that was the refusal, initially, of the Danish government even to meet with ambassadors to talk about it. I think this could have been diffused in September. It didn't. And it's now being exploited, frankly, by people on all sides, both those in Europe and those in region, for their own agendas. But the initial spontaneous response in the Arab world was very genuine. And it was born of an insult against the prophet, no doubt.

BLITZER: You can understand, Bill, that feeling among many Muslims that this is beyond the pale, when you insult....


BLITZER: ... the Prophet Mohammed.


And if I were a Jew watching what CNN just led in with, I might be a little upset, too. But CNN doesn't have the solicitude for Jews it has for Muslims. Your policy is not to show these cartoons that were shown in Denmark, but to show one after another of the most anti- Semitic cartoons they could come forward with.

CNN -- I don't mean to pick on CNN, just because I work for you. But NBC, "The New York Times," other media -- the Virgin Mary in cow dung, that was fine. We can show that everywhere. Now, the Islamists have won, in that they have intimidated the major news media from showing these cartoons.

They have lost, however, in the wider world, because people see that this is just totally nutty behavior, that these cartoons are shown and people, as a result, want to kill people, behead people, burn buildings down. And, whatever the argument with the Danes, what is the point of burning the Jewish flag? What is the point of burning the U.S. flag and saying death to Israel and death to the United States?

People get a good, close look at this and say, you know, these people are unhinged.

BLITZER: But, you know, on these -- showing of these anti- Semitic cartoons, I think you will find that most Israelis, certainly most Jews, want the world to see some of these caricatures, in order to shed some light on what the -- images that have been portrayed...


BLITZER: ... in a lot of these public...


ZOGBY: Let's understand -- let's understand...


BENNETT: They nevertheless...


BENNETT: They nevertheless...


BLITZER: All right. It's a totally different...


ZOGBY: We all have our taboos.

BENNETT: That's because they're on open society. That's because they believe in open debate and discussion.

ZOGBY: We all have our taboos.

And, frankly....

BENNETT: And we all have our sacrileges, too.

ZOGBY: There isn't -- right.

And there aren't, in this instance, occasions where the taboos that we have about Judaism and about Israelis and even about Christians are violated in the same way. And we have to clear about that. And I think it's fair that we have these taboos. We shouldn't poke fun at the Holocaust.

We shouldn't deny it. We shouldn't deal with the sacred images or the most deeply held feelings of other faiths in this way. Islam is a religion that is iconoclastic.


ZOGBY: There are no images allowed. We have to be sensitive to that.


ZOGBY: And the Danes were not making a freedom-of-the-press issue here.

BENNETT: Equal time here. Look...


ZOGBY: They weren't making an issue even about Islam. They were making an issue about the superiority of their culture. This is an anti-immigrant paper. And they were trying to make a point.

BENNETT: This isn't the first time, nor will it be the last time, that we will see this kind of eruption. We -- I am in an -- in an iconoclastic religion.

Yours is, too. We're in the same faith, the Catholic Church. We take our icons seriously. We take the Virgin Mary seriously. We take the crucifix seriously. The crucifix in urine, which was all over the mass media, a lot of us were offended by it.

Now, if there's a new policy, which is was now we're going to be all as -- as sensitive to Judaism and to Catholicism as we are to Islam, fine.

ZOGBY: And we should be.

BENNETT: I don't believe it. I don't believe it.

ZOGBY: But we should we.


ZOGBY: We should be.


ZOGBY: The point, quite simply, is that we should be, Bill.

BENNETT: I promise you, they have won. They have silenced -- these -- these mobs have silenced the mainstream media, who are afraid of the mob.

ZOGBY: What would be the point of showing them? What is the point...

BENNETT: To show what the story is about.

I will tell you -- I will you one...

ZOGBY: The story is very clear to most people who have read this story.

BENNETT: I will tell you.

ZOGBY: What is not clear is the instinct that caused the Danish paper...

BENNETT: Well...

ZOGBY: ... to publish it in the first place...

BENNETT: These...

ZOGBY: ... and the deeply held grievance...


ZOGBY: ... in the region...

BENNETT: I would like to interrupt.

ZOGBY: ... that is, in fact, behind this spontaneous response that is, yes, being exploited by extremists, no doubt.

BENNETT: One of the difficulties with the cartoons is, they hit pretty close to the bone. I mean, is there...


BENNETT: Is there -- excuse me. Is there no argument that radical Islam is connected -- connected to violence? Is there no suggestion that, in the name of Islam, in the name of the Koran, in the name of Allah, people are having their heads cut off? These things hit their target.

ZOGBY: This was not about radical Islam.

BENNETT: This is ...

ZOGBY: This was about the Prophet Mohammed. Let's be fair here.

BENNETT: Well, the Prophet Mohammed is tied into Islam.

ZOGBY: It ...

BENNETT: I think you would concede that.

ZOGBY: Then, in fact, it's fair...

BENNETT: And as people -- just a second. ZOGBY: Then it's fair...

BENNETT: Let me finish. Let me finish.

ZOGBY: ... to take Israeli policy and portray it as Judaism?


ZOGBY: It's not.

BENNETT: This is...

BLITZER: Go ahead.

BENNETT: This is not an exercise in free speech.



BLITZER: Let me -- let me play for you this excerpt of what the secretary-general of the United Nations, Kofi Annan...


BLITZER: ... said today on this subject.


KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: Freedom of speech is not a license. It does entail exercising responsibility and judgment. And, quite honestly, I don't understand why any editor will publish a cartoon at this time which inflames and pours oil on the fire.


BENNETT: We now have a new policy on cartoons.

Let's go beyond cartoons. The other story out of Iran is the story of the two young girls who were raped. A girl defended herself and stabbed her attacker. She is now sentenced to be hanged, under Islamic law. This isn't a caricature. This isn't a cartoon. This is a peek into the soul of that faith, when it's run through a government.

BLITZER: I'm not familiar with that story. But go ahead.

BENNETT: It's a real story. And it deserves...

ZOGBY: And, frankly...

BENNETT: It deserves...

ZOGBY: ... I'm familiar with Islam. And it's not a peek into Islam. It's a peek into the outrages that take place in contemporary Iran, which is not synonymous with Iran. BENNETT: Oh, it's run by Islamic...

ZOGBY: And we cannot do that. The policy of Israel on the West Bank is not...

BENNETT: ... theology. It is Islamic theology that runs it.

ZOGBY: ... synonymous with Judaism. The policy of Catholics during the Inquisition is not synonymous with my church.

BENNETT: Fair enough.


BENNETT: ... that's...

ZOGBY: Nor is the policy of the policy extremists synonymous with the Prophet Mohammed.


ZOGBY: Let's be fair and use one standard. I agree that we have double standard.

BENNETT: Here's the standard.

ZOGBY: Frankly, I think that the way this story is cast is the wrong double standard.

BENNETT: Here's the standard. Catholicism is as Catholicism does. Judaism is as Judaism does. And, by God, Islam is as Islam does. And what it's doing right now, I wouldn't want to be associated with.

ZOGBY: Well, as President Bush has said, correctly, hundreds of millions of believing Muslims do not -- do not -- practice these things, did not burn embassies.

BENNETT: Where are they? Where are they?

ZOGBY: Do not behead people.

BENNETT: Where are they?

ZOGBY: They, frankly,, are insulted at the outrage committed against their prophet, number one. And, number two, they're watching this situation unfold with great fear, because their agenda is not the same as the agenda of those who are extreme in their own midst.

BENNETT: I wish they would speak out. I wish they would speak out and take to the streets, like these people do, when we see the beheading and beating of people.

BLITZER: We have to leave it there, unfortunately -- a good discussion.

Bill Bennett, Jim Zogby, thanks very much for coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

ZOGBY: Thank you.

BENNETT: Thank you.

BLITZER: And just to reiterate CNN's policy, CNN is not showing the negative caricatures of the likeness of the Prophet Mohammed because the network believes its roles is to cover the events surrounding the publication of the cartoon, while not, unnecessarily, adding fuel to the controversy itself. That is the CNN policy, like so much of the mainstream American news media.

Still to come, some forceful action is being taken against detainees at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Bases, involved in a hunger strike. Our Brian Todd is going to be standing by. He's going to join us, tell you what's going on. That's coming up next.

And, then, in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour, Jack Abramoff has been doing some e-mailing, in which he talks about his relationship with President Bush. It's a relationship the president says simply doesn't exist. We are going to look closer at the e-mail and all angles of this story.



BLITZER: There are fresh allegations of abuse concerning the treatment of terror detainees at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Our Brian Todd is standing by. He has details -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, one attorney for detainees says the U.S. military was embarrassed by recent hunger strikes at Guantanamo Bay, and determined to stop them.


TODD (voice-over): Attorneys representing nine detainees at Guantanamo Bay make allegations of abusive treatment to end recent hunger strikes.

TOM WILNER, ATTORNEY FOR DETAINEES: Some decision was made somewhere, saying, we don't a hunger strike anymore.

TODD: Tom Wilner visited Guantanamo very recently. He says his client, a Kuwaiti named Fawzi al-Odah, was warned recently he would be punished if he continued his hunger strike. Wilner says al-Odah, who had allowed himself to be fed through tubes, ended his hunger strike last month, after seeing another detainee being strapped to a restraint chair like this one.

WILNER: They would strap people to a chair, strap them all up, put a mask, basically, on them, I'm told, hold their head back, and force tubes in, and take them out at the end of each feeding.

TODD: Wilner and another attorney say some detainees bled and fainted after that treatment.

Joshua Colangelo-Bryan represents three detainees. He won't say what happened to his clients. But, during a recent visit to Guantanamo, he says he heard, hunger-strikers were overfed while restrained.

JOSHUA COLANGELO-BRYAN, ATTORNEY FOR DETAINEES: After the feeding WAS done, detainees were kept strapped into their chairs. So, they couldn't go to the bathroom, except on themselves.

TODD: The chief military spokesman at Guantanamo tells CNN, a restraining system is used to feed hunger-strikers. But he said -- quote -- "Allegations of inhumane treatment for hunger-striking detainees are absolutely false."

The White House also weighed in.

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We know that al Qaeda is trained in trying to make wild accusations and so forth. But the president has made it very clear what the policy is. And we expect the policy to be followed. And he's made it very clear that we do not condone torture and we do not engage in torture.


TODD: Something, however, has clearly happened recently at Guantanamo to affect the hunger strikes. U.S. military officials there say, from 84 hunger-strikers reported at around Christmastime, there are now four, three of them being forced-fed through tubes -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brian, thank you very much -- Brian Todd reporting.

Lou Dobbs getting ready for his program. That begins right at the top of the hour.

Lou, what are you working on?

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you.

Coming up at 6:00, we will have all the day's news.

And Yahoo not only in business with communist China -- now facing allegations of helping the Chinese government convict political dissidents and send them to jail. We will have the special report.

And we have been telling you, on our broadcasts, about the export of American jobs to cheap foreign labor markets. Now our government is trying to change what has been a longstanding policy and permit foreign investors to take complete and outright control of American airlines. We will have a special report on that, a great deal more. We hope you will be with us -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Lou. We will be watching. Up next, proof that the times, they are a-changing. Recordings from music legends never released before now available online -- we are going to tell you how to get them.

And it's the fear that stalks the streets of cities, the corridors of power, from Washington to Wall Street, and everywhere in between: What's going to happen to my BlackBerry? There's a backup plan. We're going to tell you about that as well.


BLITZER: Let's check in with CNN's Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN Center with a look at the "Bottom Line," business stories making news today. Hi, Fred.


Well, perhaps you would worry about what you would do without your BlackBerry. Well, you may have to worry a little less. The company that makes the portable e-mail device lost a patent suit over its software. Without a settlement, most BlackBerry sales and service would be shut down by the end of the month. But now the company says it has a backup plan involving revised software.

And it looks you will never have to worry about being with O. in your life. If the Oprah Winfrey television show and magazine are not enough for you, Wolf, well, get ready for an Oprah channel on satellite radio. XM Satellite Radio plans to launch "Oprah and Friends" in September. The president of XM promises -- quote -- "an amazing radio experience."

Ca-ching all the time for her, Wolf.

BLITZER: I think it's amazing.


BLITZER: Thanks very much.


BLITZER: Thank you, Fred.

BLITZER: The movie version of the best-selling novel "The Da Vinci Code" won't hit theaters for months, but, today, the studio behind the film is bracing for a backlash already. How much of the story is fact? How much is fiction? There's a new Web site aimed at determining just that.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, Sony Pictures is so aware that this film may cause controversy that, almost 100 days before its release, they have launched this site, "The Da Vinci Challenge." It's a forum for Christian scholars and professors to go online and discuss some of the theological issues raised by the film. And it's not the first site we have seen out there anticipating the movie.

This is the blog out of Father John Woulk (ph). It's out of Rome, Italy. Father John (ph) is a priest with Opus Dei. That's the Catholic organization depicted as secretive and conservative in the movie. He says most of that is just plain wrong. And he's addressing it at his site.

Dan Brown, the author of "The Da Vinci Code," addresses many of these issues at his Web site. Bottom line, he says, it's a novel and, therefore, a work of fiction -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Abbi, thanks very much.

Up next, Jack Cafferty, he's back with your e-mail.

Also, the wonder of it all -- recordings once thought lost forever, they're now available online. We will tell you where.


BLITZER: Johnny Cash, The Doors, Miles Davis, right now, for the first time, hundreds of their lost recordings and many others are being made public. Where can you hear them? Where else? Online.

Our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner, has the story -- Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, playing behind me, it's the video of The Who in Lenox, Mass., in 1970. This video is part of a larger collection amassed by famous rock promoter Bill Graham.

It was bought by an entrepreneur named Bill Sagan a couple of years ago for about $5 million. A lot of that memorabilia online at Now, they found -- found a bunch of audio and video that has never been heard or seen before, other than the people who were actually at these shows.

They're streaming a lot of the audio on this radio station they have got, 75 songs in a row, from the mid-'60s to about 1975. You can hear Jimi Hendrix right now. Take a listen.




SCHECHNER: The only thing many of these artists, Springsteen, Zeppelin, all of these have in common, Wolf, is they were all promoted by Bill Graham.

BLITZER: Jacki, thank you very much.

Let's go up to New York.

Jack Cafferty has got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: An elementary school in Brockton, Massachusetts, has suspended a 6-year-old boy -- 6 years old -- for sexual harassment. The boy's mother is outraged, says she can't even explain to her son what he did wrong, because he's too young to understand.

So, the question we're asking is, are 6-year-olds a sexual harassment threat?


Trevis, Boulder, Colorado: "Has everyone gone nuts? Young kids, who have no concept of sexuality, goof around and touch each other playfully all the time. This is absolutely preposterous."

Luke writes: "I'm an elementary teacher in Spring Hill, Tennessee. The allegation of sexual harassment is absolutely ridiculous. A kid this age has a lot bigger things on his mind, such as, what time is gym, daydreaming about his dog, and remembering his mom told him to keep his finger out of his nose."

Ivy writes: "As a first-grade teacher in the Bronx, I believe it's reasonable and appropriate for a 6-year-old to be held responsible for sexual harassment. My students are very tough. They are exposed to a lot of inappropriate behaviors and materials in their homes. The child may not completely know what is wrong, but they need to be taught. And their parents are not helping. If suspension will do it, then I'm all for it."

Aaron in Watertown, Wisconsin, writes: "Of course 6-year-olds are a harassment threat. Their mothers teach them these filthy thoughts as babies. Do you honestly think those little sickos don't get ideas when they breast-feed?"

Carol in Reno writes: "Kids learn by example and by trying things. You can't even be affectionate with your own children in public anymore, for fear someone is going to accuse you of child abuse. We have let the pendulum swing way too far."

And Emmanuel writes from San Francisco: "Are Labrador retrievers a sexual harassment threat?" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Emmanuel from San Francisco, do you understand what he's talking about?

CAFFERTY: I assume he is making reference to the absurdity of thinking of a 6-year-old child as a sexual harassment threat. That would be my guess.

BLITZER: All right. I think you're probably right, Jack. Thanks very much. See you in an hour, back here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We are here weekdays 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern, back 7:00 p.m. Eastern, just an hour from now.

Until then, thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starting right now -- Lou.


© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines