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AMERICAN MORNING

New Tape From Osama bin Laden; Final Words in Moussaoui Case; Gas Gauge

Aired April 24, 2006 - 09:01   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, the voice of terror with a new message. A new tape from Osama bin Laden. We're live with more on the latest threats from the al Qaeda leader.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Amid growing tension about a nuclear program described as irreversible, Iran's president meeting right now with the press in Tehran. We're there live with the latest.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Life or death for Zacarias Moussaoui. I'm Jeanne Meserve at the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia. Jurors begin deliberating that question today.

SUMI DAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Sumi Das in Hammond, Indiana, where drivers are finding a bit of relief from high gas prices, and it's still $2.89 a gallon.

S. O'BRIEN: And let the race really begin. The New Orleans mayoral race down to incumbent Ray Nagin and Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu. We're going to talk with one of those men just ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.

Good morning. Welcome, everybody.

M. O'BRIEN: Good to have you with us.

You know, he may be hiding in a cave, but he continues to torment. For the second time since January, we're seeing an Osama bin Laden diatribe, or, more accurately, hearing one. U.S. intelligence experts say the taping being played on the Al-Jazeera TV network is, in fact, authentic.

National Security Correspondent David Ensor is following all this for us from Washington.

David, what are your intelligence sources saying about this tape?

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're confirming, as you mentioned, Miles, that it is indeed bin Laden's voice. And analysts are saying the goal seems to be to remain relevant after all the years in hiding.

The al Qaeda leader wants Muslims to see what he calls a crusader Zionist war against Islam. He speaks of a global conspiracy to divide Muslims from Palestine to Iraq to Chechnya. And for the first time, bin Laden adds Sudan to his war on Islam list. Westerners tend to see that conflict in Sudan's Darfur region as black Christians under attack from Muslims backed by the government. Bin Laden doesn't see it that way. He doesn't like the government, but he sees the West going after oil.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

OSAMA BIN LADEN, AL QAEDA LEADER (through translator): I call on the Mujahedin and their supporters, especially in Sudan and the Arabian peninsula, to prepare for a long war against the crusaders and plunderers in western Sudan. Our goal is not defending the Khartoum government, but to defend Islam, its land and its people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ENSOR: Bin Laden also decried the cutoff of most Western funds to the new Hamas government in the Palestinian territory.

So, what you have primarily here, Miles, is an effort to remain relevant and to show that he's following the news.

M. O'BRIEN: And I guess that's an important point, because in mentioning specific items, it sort of timestamps the recording, doesn't it?

ENSOR: It does, indeed. In fact, he mentions the Jericho raid by the Israelis on a Palestinian prison. You may remember this was back on March 14th. So, clearly, the tape was made after that date -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: David Ensor in Washington.

Thank you very much -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Continuing our CNN "Security Watch," deliberations are set to finally begin today in the Zacarias Moussaoui trial. Jurors have to decide whether the admitted al Qaeda member will face death or face life in prison.

CNN Homeland Security Correspondent Jeanne Meserve for us in Alexandria.

Good morning to you, Jeanne.

MESERVE: Good morning, Soledad.

This is the lawyer's last chance to influence the outcome of this case. Each side will get about an hour to summarize their position.

Jerry Zirkin is expected to close for the defense. He is expected to cite testimony that Moussaoui had a difficult childhood, that he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, that he was a minor part of the plot, and that he should not be made a martyr, that life in prison would be much more difficult than a death sentence for him.

Prosecutor David Raskin will close for the government. He is expected to remind the jury of that excruciating testimony they've heard about the pain and suffering of 9/11 victims and their families. But probably the strongest element in the prosecution's case is Moussaoui himself. He testified in the first part of this phase that he was supposed to be part of the 9/11 plot and that when he was arrested in August of 2001 he lied to authorities in order to allow the plot to go forward. Also, his testimony in the second phase of this trial, where he said he had no remorse for 9/11 and that he would kill Americans again any time and any place.

After the lawyers are done, the jurors will get their instructions, then they'll get the case, and they will begin weighing those arguments and the fate of Moussaoui.

Soledad, back to you.

S. O'BRIEN: Jeanne, thanks. Let me ask you a quick question.

Moussaoui's lawyers, as you well know, have tried and tried and tried to drive home the point that he they think he's schizophrenic. Do you think that they have any chance with that? I mean, how strong was their case?

MESERVE: They put forward two mental health experts who said that he did suffer from paranoid schizophrenia, a third mental health expert who said he was ill but didn't draw that conclusion. Prosecutors did bring forth one of their own experts who refuted that testimony.

Whether -- whether it will carry weight with the jury, I just can't predict. These are 12 individuals who, of course, we've heard nothing from, and we just have no idea how seriously they'll take this and which side they might take -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Jeanne Meserve for us this morning.

Jeanne, thanks.

You'll want to stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: So, what is the price point that will drive you off the road? We may find out soon.

The price of a gallon of gas has jumped 24 cents in the past two weeks. The average price now for regular unleaded, $2.91. In some places like Chicago, over $3. And that's why some Chicagoans are driving to Hammond, Indiana, to fill up.

CNN's Sumi Das live in Hammond.

Good morning, Sumi.

DAS: Good morning, Miles.

Well, we are only 23 miles away from Chicago, but we're only a stone's throw away from the state line. You may not guess it, but Hammond, Indiana, is actually a destination for a good number of Chicago motorists, and the reason is right over my shoulder -- $2.89 for regular gasoline, $2.98 for mid-grade -- mid-grade, and $3.07 for premium.

Now, according to the latest Lundberg Survey, the national average is $2.91 a gallon, but it goes much higher than that. There are a number of places where folks are paying more than $3 a gallon for gasoline. Washington, D.C., is one of those places. Also, Illinois, Wisconsin. And in the West, Nevada and California.

There's about a 60-cent range between the highest and the lowest prices for gasoline in the country. The folks in beautiful San Diego have the pleasure of living in that city, but they are also paying $3.12 a gallon. And the folks in Boise are probably feeling pretty lucky right now, $2.54 a gallon there.

Now, over in Chicago, the cost of regular gasoline is $3 a gallon, but that difference in savings, the 11-cent difference between Hammond and Chicago, is enough of a reason for people to make the drive out here to fill up their tanks. And it may seem a long drive, but I guess if you've got a gas-guzzler and it's costing you $70 to $80 to fill your tank, you may think it's worth it -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: I did the math, Sumi. It would cost me about $9 in gas to do the round trip, and I'd save about a $3.50 on a fill-up there. So it's not going to work out for my gas-guzzler.

DAS: And then there's the fact that time is money, right?

M. O'BRIEN: Well, there is that, too. I wasn't even accounting for that.

All right. Sumi Das in Hammond, Indiana, thanks very much.

S. O'BRIEN: We've been telling you this morning about a fairly rare event. This is the president of Iran. Maybe we can show the live picture there of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has been taking questions from international journalists. That's only the second time it's happened since he's been in office.

He has been insisting consistently that Iran's nuclear program is not a threat to the world. We want to update you a little bit on what he has been saying.

For example, he has underscored in his press conference the nation's peaceful intentions, as he calls them. He says there's no evidence that -- that Iran is diverting its nuclear powers to non- peaceful intentions.

He says, "They have bombs on the other side and they want me to abide, but we will not abide," he said in his press conference. "We will not abide," what they are saying.

He also a talked a little bit about the IAEA. One of the big questions, of course, is that -- the influence and the force that this watchdog organization can have in Iran. He says, "We are against chemical, biological and nuclear weapons destruction, and we believe that the international organization, the IAEA, should be looking into these instead of becoming an instrument for the major powers," he goes on to say. And he also said there this: "It will clearly say that I'm against the policies of the U.K. and the U.S. administration. I'm a peaceful man. I love peace. But this is not right, and whoever criticizes you, you attack him."

A little bit of what we have been hearing from this press conference. We're monitoring it and we're going to continue to update you throughout the morning about what the president of Iran has been saying to international journalists -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Happening "In America" this morning, a manhunt in San Diego. Police on the lookout this morning for two escaped inmates. One other escapee was captured just a few hours after the men broke through the fence surrounding the jail's exercise yard. One of the inmates on the loose was being held on two murder charges, the other charged with child molestation.

This day in California now, an Alta home may soon be entirely swallowed by a giant hole. One man was killed when the foundation suddenly gave way. Experts believe the hole was actually caused by an old underground mine beneath the foundation, triggered by recent rains there. The expanding hole now is 30 feet across, and it has kept crews from reaching the body of that man.

Five are dead after two single-engine airplanes collided 20 miles north of Anchorage, Alaska. The planes were flying at an altitude of between 500 and 800 feet when they collided. The pilot of one the planes killed, along with his three children. The pilot of the other plane also killed. Searchers found the planes in a remote area, and they were obviously found close to each other on the ground there.

Time for the forecast now. Chad Myers in the weather center with that.

Hello, Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hello, Miles.

(WEATHER REPORT)

MYERS: Back to you.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, that's too bad. All right, Chad. Thank you.

Still to come this morning, the race for New Orleans' next mayor down to two candidates. This morning we talk to one of them, Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu, find out what his strategy is for defeating Mayor Ray Nagin.

M. O'BRIEN: Then in business news, why an Indian court is protecting scotch whiskey. Why not?

S. O'BRIEN: And here come the exurbs. A look at the new commuter towns that are cropping up even farther beyond the suburbs.

That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: The closely-watched mayoral race in New Orleans has ended in a runoff, but Mitch Landrieu is one step closer to following in his father's footsteps. His father was the last white mayor of New Orleans, and support from blacks and whites could help son Mitch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. GOV. MITCH LANDRIEU (D), LOUISIANA: today in this great American city, African-American and White, Hispanic and Vietnamese, almost in equal measure came forward to propel this campaign forward and loudly proclaimed that we in New Orleans will be one people, we will speak with one voice, and we will have one future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

S. O'BRIEN: Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu joins us from New Orleans this morning.

Nice to see you, Lieutenant Governor. Thanks for talking with us. Congratulations on coming in second, I guess.

LANDRIEU: Thank you so much. Good morning.

S. O'BRIEN: How are you feeling about the race and how it went?

LANDRIEU: Well, I feel terrific. It was hard fought. We had 23 candidates in the race. Getting to the second primary is quite an accomplishment, and I'm excited about it.

S. O'BRIEN: Mayor Ray Nagin walked away with 38 percent of the vote, you took 29 percent.

What do you think -- what role do you think race played in this election and will place in the runoff?

LANDRIEU: Well, race is always a difficult issue that we've not adequately dealt with in New Orleans or really anywhere else in the country. In this particular race, the thing that I'm most proud of is we have gotten an equal measure of support from the African-American and the white community. So, people seem to be saying it's an important issue but it's not the only issue. And we want to rise above it and focus on things that put us on higher common ground.

S. O'BRIEN: Ray Nagin walked away with a lot more black support than you got. What are you going to do to try to get some of those black voters to your side?

LANDRIEU: Well, that's -- I guess that's one way to look at it. Sixty-two percent of the voters said that they want a change, and this is the only campaign where African-Americans and whites spoke with one voice. So we're going to continue to talk about the message of unity. We're going to continue to talk to the message of finding higher common ground where folks kind of stay focused on schools, housing, jobs, evacuation, levees, the things that really matter to the day-to- day existence of the people in New Orleans.

S. O'BRIEN: Here's what Mayor Ray Nagin had to say. And, by the way, I should mention that he declined to be interviewed by us. This is what he said after the election. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR RAY NAGIN (D), NEW ORLEANS: I stand here before you a humble man, someone who never thought that I would have this kind of support after some of the crazy things I've said.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

S. O'BRIEN: Some might say, ooh, that's an understatement almost, Mr. Mayor.

Are you surprised at the support that he got? Are you surprised by the fact that he won by that margin?

LANDRIEU: No, I'm not really surprised. We expected him to get exactly what he got. And remember, 62 percent of the people have talked about change.

One of the issues in this campaign is being able to restore our credibility nationally and internationally. The mayor obviously has to speak with one voice and has to put on a good face and a good story to the rest of the nation so the nation knows that the help that they've given us is going to be spent well. And I intend to do that as mayor of the city of New Orleans.

S. O'BRIEN: Two hundred ninety-seven thousand eligible voters, registered voters, a 36 percent vote. And some people said, well -- well, that's good news considering how scattered everybody is. Other people have said, well, that's very low and very off, you know, decently, from the last election.

Where do you fall on that?

LANDRIEU: Well, I think it's mixed news, really. Normally, people voted around 50 percent. We've had elections that have had lower turnout than we had this week.

I think given the devastation that we're under right now, it was pretty good. We would all like it to be better. It's very important that everybody has a voice in the future of the city of New Orleans.

So, the more people that vote, the better, I think. And hopefully more will show up in a couple of weeks.

S. O'BRIEN: There are certainly lots of people who will say, you know, the big issue is, what's going to happen? Before they can make a decision about rebuilding, are the levees really going to be protecting people? Will there be your house, where someone's thinking about putting a park?

I mean, what do you tell people who come to you and say, listen, I just want to -- I just want to come back into the city, what are you going to do for me?

LANDRIEU: Well, the most important thing is safety. Obviously, levees to protect this particular area is the most important.

Right now, the Corps of Engineers is moving us to back to level three strength. We really need Category 5, and we ought to get about the business of having that discussion with Congress and with the American people. Then you have to give the people the information they need so they can make good decisions about their future. And we're going to try to do that in a very aggressive way within a very short period of time of taking office if I'm elected.

S. O'BRIEN: All right. Well, we'll see what happens when the runoff happens.

Nice to see you, Lieutenant Governor. Thanks for talking with us.

LANDRIEU: Thank you. Thank you for having me. Have a great day.

S. O'BRIEN: Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu.

Thank you, and likewise -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Still to come on the program, something John Lennon fans could only imagine, conjuring the late singer's spirit for a television show. Will you be a believer?

And in "AM Pop," we'll talk to the actor Willem Dafoe. Wait until you see him in his latest role. It's sort of a hybrid of Karl Rove and Dick Cheney in the new satire "American Dreamz." How did he prepare for the role? The answer is on your doorstep.

Stay with us for more AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: Will it be instant karma or simply mind games? And crass ones at that. A controversial TV producer says he's ready to reach beyond the grave to talk with none other than John Lennon on live TV.

Entertainment Correspondent Sibila Vargas with the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SIBILA VARGAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Pay-Per-View is hoping to give John Lennon fans the chance to do something they could only imagine, watch him make contact from the afterlife. JOE POWER, MEDIUM: What we've got now is we've got an active energy which means John's presence is actually in the cabin (ph) building.

VARGAS: It's all part of a planned televised special called "The Spirit of Lennon," where psychics hold a seance in hopes of capturing the spirit of the late Beatle and mediums try to channel him in Lennon-related sites like Liverpool's Strawberry Fields.

(on camera): They also visit the Beatles' American record company Capitol Records here in Hollywood, but some critics say it's in bad taste.

KURT LODER, MUSIC JOURNALIST: It's amazing that people are even interested in it, and it seems to be some sort of grotesque offshoot of the national fascination with celebrity.

VARGAS (voice over): Paul Sharratt, the show's producer, has been criticized before. The Pay-Per-View special "The Spirit of Diana" attracted some half-million viewers.

PAUL SHARRATT, PRODUCER, "THE SPIRIT OF DIANA": People were very, very, very angry about that particular show. I personally can't see these people who believed in this great world, they believed in the afterlife, why shouldn't they want to speak again if they can?

VARGAS: Sharratt was hoping Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, would participate.

SHARRATT: She hasn't spoken herself, but through a representative she -- he denied that John Lennon was interested in the spirit world. That's certainly not the case as we've researched it. I'm sorry that she's not happy, but I guess that's life.

VARGAS: Yoko's spokesman, Elliot Mintz, calls the special "tasteless," "tacky" and "exploitative." But the producers are hoping the spirit of Lennon will make believers out of skeptics.

(on camera): So, in this special we will have some type of guarantee, you're saying?

POWER: You'll have more than a guarantee.

SHARRATT: We do actually have a voice on a track of audio which is unexplainable how got there. If this is what it appears to be, it is actually the voice of John Lennon.

VARGAS (voice over): Audiences who tune in will have a chance to judge for themselves.

Sibila Vargas, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

M. O'BRIEN: OK. The Pay-Per-View special is set for tonight. It will cost you about 10 bucks. And if you're willing to do that, I have some swamp land for you. And you can buy it, John Lennon's CD, and listen to his spirit that way. That would be another way to do it.

Anyway -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes. What was that again?

M. O'BRIEN: I don't know.

S. O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, more top stories, including this one that we've been monitoring all morning: Iran's president is speaking about his country's nuclear ambitions. We're going to tell you what he has to say.

Then, dissecting the latest audiotape believed to be from Osama bin Laden. Terrorism analyst Peter Bergen will join us to discuss the message and the significance.

Those stories ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: Get the latest news every morning in your e-mail. We invite you to sign up for AMERICAN MORNING "Quick News" at cnn.com/am.

Still to come in our "AM Pop" segment, we will talk to actor Willem Dafoe. That's him there with Dennis Quaid in the new movie "American Dreamz." That's "Dreamz" with a "Z".

Does he look like someone familiar in the White House to you? We'll ask what he did to get into character.

That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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