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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Family Members of Terror Suspects
Aired June 23, 2006 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and the world to bring you tonight's top stories.
Happening now, authorities say they're home grown terrorists. Family members say they're victims of a setup. It's 7:00 p.m. in Miami, scene of a dramatic raid and new questions tonight about fighting terror.
Also tonight, a compelling interview with the sister of one of those suspects.
And this hour, a new opening potentially for a missile test launched potentially by North Korea. The Pentagon right now ready with plans to shoot it down. It's 7:00 p.m. here in Washington. We have all the new developments in this dangerous international showdown.
And the hurricane threat of 2006. If disaster strikes, will it be due in part to global warming? A new report is stirring up fresh debate and storm warnings. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Tonight, seven terror suspects are in custody, accused of plotting to wage war against the government and trying to rival the 9/11 attacks. Five of them appeared in federal court in Miami today in handcuffs and under heavy security.
Last night, federal agents swarmed into a warehouse in the Liberty City area of my Miami and busted the group described as Al Qaeda wannabes. You saw it begin to unfold right here in THE SITUATION ROOM 24 hours ago.
The suspects are accused of plotting to bomb the Sears Tower in Chicago and other targets. Tonight, new details and new questions about the bust, the alleged plot, and how it fell short. Let's begin with our chief national correspondent, John King -- John?
JOHN KING, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Attorney General Gonzalez described the suspects today as men who somehow came to view their home country as the enemy. But experts who have read this indictment have say if the government is going to prove its case, it better have stronger evidence than this.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KING: To prosecutors, a textbook post-9/11 sting operation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our mission, given to us by President Bush, is to prevent terrorism.
KING: To others, though, an indictment that raises fresh questions about aggressive administration tactics in the war on terror.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would have expected to see a lot more meat in the indictment.
KING: The indictment runs just 11 pages and acknowledges those charged did not have the necessary tools or money to launch attacks. And it concedes they had no contact with Al Qaeda, meetings and offers of help instead from an FBI operative posing as an Al Qaeda representative.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He agrees to supply machine guns, boots, and other equipment to these conspirators. He's really involved in every aspect of the crime, and, you know, that gives rise to the possibility that these men will have a good entrapment defense.
KING: The government says the case is solid.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They did request equipment; they did request funding. They swore allegiance to Al Qaeda.
KING: Intent is key to the government's case. The indictment says alleged ring leader Narseal Batiste first decided to bomb the Sears Tower and other targets, then went looking for Al Qaeda help.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that's not an entrapment issue. The intent was preexisting. It was simply a question of means.
KING: The Miami came on the same day of other news that stoked the country's most polarizing post-9/11 debates, where to draw the line between aggressive law enforcement and civil liberties like free speech and privacy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're just casting a very wide net and seeing what falls into it. And most of what falls into it are innocent people.
KING: The administration makes no apologies for its tactics, including in this case. And, Wolf, says that being aggressive in this Miami case, it prevented threats from becoming attacks.
BLITZER: John King, thanks very much for that.
And there's a new tape just out tonight from Al Qaeda's number two leader for the first time, acknowledging the U.S. killing of the Iraq terror leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Our senior Arab affairs editor Octavia Nasr is joining us from the CNN Center. She's been watching this tape. She has details -- Octavia?
OCTAVIA NASR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, experts did say there will be a tape, but they didn't expect it to be out so soon. Also, a major production with subtitles, translation, and graphics. Here's a taste of what we are dealing with.
NASR: Wearing his black turban, a signal of mourning, and only two weeks after Zarqawi was killed by a U.S. raid, Al Qaeda's number two man had this to say.
AYMAN AL-ZAWAHIRI, AL QAEDA LEADER (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): We express grief to the Islamic nation regarding the death of one of its soldiers, one of its heroes, one of its scholars, our brother, the martyr, as we consider him to be, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
NASR: The Arabic news channel Al Jazeera obtained the tape and aired portions of it. It is unclear how and when the tape got to the network. But the few minutes it chose to air carried new threats against the United States.
ZAWAHIRI: Yes, Bush, there isn't a single person who will be killed that we won't get vengeance for, God willing.
NASR: The tape also carried the message to what he called the Mujahedeen in Iraq, a message that Zarqawi's death shouldn't stop them fighting.
ZAWAHIRI: My Mujahedeen brothers in Iraq, I tell you that Abu Musab is dead. But if you are fighting for God's cause, I say to you, never abandon your weapons.
NASR: The tape is by as-Sahab, a group that has produced Al Qaeda videos in the past. Its name means "clouds" in Arabic, perhaps appropriately because it leaves many experts looking for clues as to where the video was shot and how it reached the outside world.
And, Wolf, some experts I spoke with tonight are saying that they could hear passion and anger in the voice of Zawahiri, something they tell me they haven't heard in a long time.
BLITZER: Octavia, thanks very much for that. Octavia Nasr, monitoring his new development, this video tape aired on Al Jazeera.
The Bush administration today is also strongly defending a newly revealed secret program to try to track people suspected of bankrolling terrorism. Treasury Department officials now acknowledge that in the weeks after the 9/11 attacks, they obtained access to a massive international financial database.
The program was disclosed late yesterday after "The New York Times" rejected administration requests to keep it secrets. Vice President Dick Cheney is criticizing the news media for getting these details out to the public.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I find most disturbing about these stories is the fact that some of the news media take it upon themselves to disclose vital national security programs, thereby making it more difficult for us to prevent future attacks against the American people. That offends me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: But some critics are firing right back at the Bush administration. Tonight, they're likening the monitoring of private financial records to the National Security Agency's once-secret monitoring of phone records.
In a statement today, for example, Democratic Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts writes, "Like the domestic surveillance program exposed last December, the Bush administration's efforts to tap into financial records of thousands of Americans appear to rely on justifications concocted without regard to current law."
And now that we know that the Department of Treasury is secretly eying millions of bank records, might the exposing of that information in the news media be a real threat to national security, as the vice president insists? Let's bring in Howard Kurtz from CNN's "Reliable Sources" and "The Washington Post" -- Howie?
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": Wolf, the Bush administration has repeatedly asked the press not to reveal the existence of secret programs aimed at terrorists. But once again, three major newspapers today pushed ahead with publication.
KURTZ: "The New York Times" and "Los Angeles Times" rejected appeals from Treasury Department officials in disclosing that authorities have examined the banking records of thousands of Americans and others suspected of having ties to Al Qaeda. As with earlier scoops on the domestic surveillance program and secret CIA prisons overseas, editors listened to the administrations arguments, but declined to spike the stories.
"New York Times" editor Bill Keller says he's convinced that the administration's access to a vast repository of international financial records is a matter of public interest. At "The Los Angeles Times," editor Dean Baquet says the paper weighed the government's arguments carefully, but decided the program's extraordinary reach was newsworthy.
"The Wall Street Journal" also published the story, but said its editors were not asked to withhold it. Conservatives, some of whom say journalists should be prosecuted for revealing such secrets, are furious. CNN commentator Bill Bennett said this morning that he encountered great anger among listeners to this syndicated radio show. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fury this morning was about "The New York Times," and it wasn't fury about people having their bank records looked at. It was hundreds of people calling and saying, "Look, we're in the a war on terror." And people are wondering about "The New York Times" and other outlets as to when they will stop interfering with these intelligence programs.
KURTZ: White House spokesman Tony Snow was peppered with questions about the story
TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Obviously, we didn't want to print it. But we also wanted to make sure that as the reporters went through it and as the editors went through it, that they were fully informed so that they could make their own judgment.
KING: Public reaction to these clashes tends to fall along partisan lines. Liberals praising the press for exposing government secrecy, conservatives asking which side journalists are on in the war on terror.
Back to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Howie, for that.
And please be sure to tune in Sunday morning, 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Howard Kurtz anchors CNN's "Reliable Sources." Among his guests this Sunday, CBS News anchor Bob Schieffer.
Jack Cafferty is joining us now from New York with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: There is a huge image problem when it comes to how westerners and Muslims see each other. And solving it could go a long way in calming global tensions. A poll by the Pew Research Center found many Americans and Europeans view Muslims as fanatical, violent and arrogant. On the flip side, most Muslims in the Middle East and Asia see us, westerners, as selfish, arrogant and violent.
Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright calls this a very serious divide with complete misperceptions of each other. And the research shows just how conflicting some of the views are.
For example, you remember those riots all across Europe in reaction to that Danish cartoon about the Muslim prophet Mohammed? A majority of westerners blamed the rioting on Muslim intolerance. Meanwhile, 90 percent of the people surveyed in Jordan, Egypt, Indonesia, and Turkey, blamed the rioting on western disrespect of Islam.
So, here's the question. How do westerners and Muslims change the perceptions each has of the other? Emails to caffertyfile@CNN.com, or go to CNN.com/caffertyfile.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you very much for that. Jack Cafferty will be back with your email later this hour.
Coming up, missile defense. Fresh plans to shoot down a North Korea missile if the U.S. is attacked. Barbara Starr watching the story.
Also, global warming. Are rising temperatures to blame for severe hurricanes? Mary Snow taking a closer look.
And Senator Hillary Clinton sounding an alarm over this question. Is the Saudi government right now offering scholarships to students who want to attend American flight schools? Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Welcome back. What kind of outdoor activities might a day of good weather inspire in North Korea, where it's already Saturday? Some military officials fear it could cause a provocative act. Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has details -- Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, several sources say the next few days may provide ideal weather and atmospheric conditions for a North Korean missile launch.
The U.S. military believes North Korea has completed preparations for the test launch of its Taepo-dong-2 long-range ballistic missile. The Pentagon has completed its preparations, as well.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has signed orders, detailing how the U.S. would try to shoot down the missile if it appeared on an attack trajectory for the U.S. U.S. spy satellites and radars are already watching. If there is a North Korean launch, there will be just minutes to tell President Bush.
DONALD RUMSFELD, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The president would make a decision with respect to the nature of the launch, whether it was threatening to the territory of the United States or not.
STARR: The president will have to almost instantly decide whether to order a shoot down. The U.S. has 11 missiles it could use to try to intercept the Taepo-dong. Only North Korea knows if it will conduct the launch, and whether the missile will carry a warhead. In a CNN interview, Vice President Cheney offered a clue that the missile may have enough boosting power to launch a satellite.
CHENEY: This is a first test of this particular Taepo-dong-2 missile. We believe it does have a third stage added to it now, but again, we don't know what the payload is.
STARR: The Bush administration has already drafted three versions of a public statement. One says there was a launch and it was no threat. The second says there was a launch, it was an attack, and the Bush administration had to launch a missile to shoot it down. The third version says there was a launch, it was an attack, the Bush administration launched a missile, and failed to shoot down the North Korean Taepo-dong -- Wolf?
BLITZER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Thank you.
So should the United States launch a first strike to try to knock out that missile? I put that question to the former CIA director James Woolsey.
BLITZER: Let's talk about North Korea for a moment. William Perry, a former defense secretary during the Clinton administration, he served at the Pentagon when you served at the CIA.
Together with Ashton Carter wrote a piece in "The Washington Post" saying, among other things, this: "If North Korea persists in its launch preparations, the United States should immediately make clear its intention to strike and destroy the North Korean missile before it can be launched. Diplomacy has failed, and we cannot sit by and let this deadly threat mature." Do you agree with that?
JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER DIRECTOR OF THE CIA: Yes, I do. Bill Perry and Ash Carter are very serious, able men. I served with them both in the Clinton administration. I've known them both for many years. This is a responsible article. We simply should not let North Korea have an intercontinental ballistic missile that has nuclear weapons...
BLITZER: So you go in and you knock out the missile on the location before it can even take off?
WOOLSEY: As they say in their op-ed piece in "The Washington Post," it would be relatively easy to do. A few submarine-launched cruise missiles, not nuclear, something high-explosive, could take this out very easily. It's a fully fueled, thin-skinned missile sitting on a pad. It would be a very simple task.
BLITZER: For every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction, as they say. The South Koreans are very nervous, as you know. There's still 20,000 or so U.S. troops along the DMZ. What if the North Koreans decide to respond?
WOOLSEY: We would not, I think, need to involve South Korea in this at all. In North Korea attacked South Korea for any reasons, we would emerge victorious from that conflict. I think it could be relatively short conflict. But North Korea would, I don't think, do something that suicidal as attack South Korea.
They really are sitting there very vulnerable. They're trying to get attention to themselves. They've ruled by this crazy fool, Kim John Il, who's sort of a cross between Caligula and Baby Doc Duvalier. I think that we simply can't let them have an intercontinental missile to go along with their nuclear weapons and put the United States at risk. BLITZER: James Woolsey, thanks for coming in.
WOOLSEY: Thank you.
BLITZER: And still to come tonight in THE SITUATION ROOM, global warming and killer hurricanes. Is there a link? It's a controversial debate. Now a new study takes a position.
Plus, more on the alleged Miami terror plot. Relatives of the accused men -- and there are seven of them -- insist they're innocent. The sister of one of them will join us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back. With last year's hurricane season behind us and this year's season just getting under way, many want to know what's fueling all the hurricanes. Well, there's a new study that names a usual suspect. Let's bring in our Fredricka Whitfield. She's joining us from the CNN Center with details -- Fred?
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello to you, Wolf. Well, this new report adds to the debate over whether global warming contributes to hurricanes.
WHITFIELD: This year's hurricane season opened on the heels of a record year in 2005, which included the devastating Hurricane Katrina. But has global warming been a factor in the high number of storms? A new study claims that global warming contributes more to high ocean temperatures than other factors like natural cycles or El Nino. CNN spoke with the director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, which conducted the study.
TIM KILLEEN, NATIONAL CENTER FOR ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH: The global warming increase in sea surface temperatures associated with greenhouse warming gave roughly half of the observed increase in the sea surface temperatures, about .5 degrees Celsius.
WHITFIELD: Warm ocean water is the fuel for hurricanes. And last year, ocean water temperatures were unusually high. If global warming is contributing to hurricanes like Katrina, it would provide an argument for trying to slow global warm. But one of the nation's top forecasters says natural cycles are to blame, not global warming.
WILLIAM GRAY, COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY: I think that's a gross exaggeration, that that's not true. Nature functions this way.
WHITFIELD: Regardless of the reasons, hurricane experts say we should be prepared for another stormy season.
MAX MAYFIELD, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Even without invoking the global warming arguments, the research meteorologists are telling us that we're in this very active period for hurricanes that may very well last at least another 10 to 20 years.
WHITFIELD: And forecaster William Gray told us today that he thinks the study's finding are ridiculous. But one study last month came up with a similar finding -- Wolf?
BLITZER: Fred, thanks very much for that.
Just ahead, more on our top story, the arrests of those seven men who allegedly wanted to wage war against the United States. Did they really pledge their lives to Al Qaeda, or simply pledge good works in the community? I'll ask the sister of one of those men who are accused.
And Senator Hillary Clinton wants answers. Is the Saudi government offering Saudi scholarships to go to U.S. flight schools? Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Welcome back to THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Let's go to CNN's Fredricka Whitfield once again at the CNN Center for a quick look at some other important stories making news.
WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks so much, Wolf.
Well, a former Reno, Nevada, pawnshop owner accused of killing his wife and then shooting the judge that was presiding over their divorce is now back in the United States. Darren Mack turned himself in to Mexican police last night. He was flown back this morning to Dallas, Texas, where is being held. Mack has been on the run since the June 12th shooting.
Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta will step down from his cabinet post next month. White House spokesman Tony Snow announced Mineta's plans at today's regular briefing. Snow says Mineta was not forced out of the job. The 74-year-old Mineta has served as transportation chief for the past 5 1/2 years. He's the only Democrat on President Bush's cabinet.
The World Health Organization reports a slight shift in the potentially lethal bird flu. It says the virus that killed seven of eight people in one Indonesian family on Sumatra island last month had mutated slightly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says this is the first evidence of the virus passing from one person to another, and then another. Health officials insists does not increase the likelihood of a human pandemic -- Wolf?
BLITZER: Thanks, Fred, very much.
More now on our stop story, the arrest of seven men accused of wanting to wage war against the United States. Did they really want to launch attacks more murderous than 9/11, or are they religion loyalists, gravely misunderstood?
BLITZER: And joining us now is Marlene Phanor. She's the sister of Stanley Phanor. He's one the seven suspects arrested last night.
Marlene, what was the first thing that went through your mind when you heard this allegation that your brother is a terrorist?
MARLENE PHANOR, TERROR SUSPECT'S SISTER: It didn't panic me. It didn't scare me. It didn't really shake me up or nothing because I know it's false accusations. My brother -- hello?
BLITZER: Go ahead.
PHANOR: Yes, my brother is a humble man. I felt like my brother and the group, besides the leader -- I dis-include the leader.
BLITZER: Who's the leader? Who was the leader?
PHANOR: Narseale Batiste.
BLITZER: What do you know about him?
PHANOR: There's nothing I can really say about him. The only thing I can say about him, when he do come and pick up my brother to go work out, or go to the temple and study and do their meetings, he seems like a pretty nice gentleman.
I can't say nothing wrong about him, because I never been around him that much to know what type of person he was, but from the distance and from the time he came to the house and pick up my brother, he seems like a very nice man.
BLITZER: Is your brother a Muslim?
PHANOR: No, sir. He's not a Muslim. He's a Catholic.
BLITZER: Does he go to church?
PHANOR: Excuse me?
BLITZER: Does he go to church?
PHANOR: Yes, he goes to church. He's a Catholic. We're at the St. Mary's Catholic Church.
BLITZER: Is he ...
PHANOR: On 75th and 2nd Avenue.
BLITZER: Is he very political, your brother? Does he have strong political views?
PHANOR: No, I can't really say that.
BLITZER: How do you think he got caught up in this alleged conspiracy?
PHANOR: Well -- I don't know what was their plans, I don't know what their meetings used to be, but it never came about terrorists, it never came about bombing, it never came about anything in that such way.
All I know, my brother tried to help the community. The temple where they doing their meetings and everything at, that temple was for them to have all their meetings, and to get together and help the community.
BLITZER: Was that temple a Muslim temple?
PHANOR: I'm not sure, but I know my brother is a Catholic.
BLITZER: Why did -- does the government say he is also known as Brother Sunni?
PHANOR: Well, no all call themselves brothers. Why, I don't know, but the whole little group call themselves brother.
BLITZER: Did you ever hear your brother being called Sunni?
PHANOR: Yes, that's his nickname. It's not Sunni, it's sunny, like, is it a sunny day. Yes, that's his name.
BLITZER: So, confusion is that he was called Sunny, not Sunni, because Sunni, as you know, is one of the religious groups in Islam.
PHANOR: No, I didn't know that, but now that I know, no, it's not for that. That's his nickname, and it's spelled, S-U-N-N-Y, as a sunny day. That's his nickname every since birth. But all of them call themselves brother. I don't know -- it's Brother Nas, Brother Dee (ph). I guess each of them abbreviate their -- beginning of their first name for that, but -- my brother, no, my brother ...
BLITZER: Marlene, did your brother have a full-time job?
PHANOR: Yes, sir.
BLITZER: What did he do?
PHANOR: He's a construction worker and from work, when he come from work, he goes to the meetings.
BLITZER: At the meetings he does whatever they all -- all those guys do at the temple?
PHANOR: Yes, all the guys, they're all there. They all gather up, they do readings, they meditate, they exercise, you know, it's something -- it's something they all get together and, you know, do among themselves.
They humble themselves. They try to have peace within themselves. They try to help, you know, each other, and they try to make, you know, a better community for our community. BLITZER: Did your brother have any hatreds, did he hate any groups of people?
BLITZER: Not at all. My brother -- anybody who know my brother know my brother is a very sweet person. Always. Everybody loves my brother. Nobody have nothing to say wrong about my brother at all.
BLITZER: Is your brother married? Does he have children?
PHANOR: No, he's not married. But my five, he claims them as his.
BLITZER: So he helps you in raising your five children?
PHANOR: He helps me, he helps my five kids and also my mother. He's our supporter right now. He's the one that supports us.
BLITZER: So what do you think about this whole ordeal? Speak from your heart. Tell us how your family feels?
PHANOR: My family right now is hurting, because it's something unexpected, unbelievable, and not true. My brother is a strong-minded man. He's not a follower. If anything, he's a leader, but at this point, for this here, he's not a leader. He's under someone, which is Narseale Batiste. Narseale is over the whole group.
Narseale, to my understanding, from what I've been hearing and listening on the news, Narseale has been deceiving the group. Whatever he knows, whatever undercover that came to talk to him, and give him money and -- you know, there's a lot of stuff I just learned today that I never knew. And that type of money, if my brother had it, we would have had it, too.
My brother's from paycheck to paycheck. And whatever this group is doing is for helping the community, but what Brother Nas, which is Narseale Batiste is doing, he's deceiving them, and I feel like it's a conspiracy what he did towards the group. Whatever he had planned, whatever was in his mind, whatever him and the Feds elaborated to do or plan or whatever it is, the group has nothing to do with it.
BLITZER: The sister of one of those suspects, arrested last night in Miami. We're going to continue to pursue this story.
Up ahead tonight, two developing stories. First, has the government mishandled more private information of the U.S. military and their family -- also -- families, that is?
Also tonight, why Hillary Clinton is demanding answers to this question: Is Saudi Arabia right now offering money for aviation school in the United States?
And mission to Mars, why one famous scientist says it's essential for the very survival of the human race. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Welcome back.
Right now, there's some fresh fears over reports suggesting some Saudis are getting scholarships from the Saudi government to study at American flight schools. One U.S. senator has written a letter asking the U.S. government to look into it.
Let's bring in Mary Snow. She's joining us from New York -- Mary.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Senator Clinton sent the letter to dated today to both Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.
In it, she says 9/11 family members brought to her attention that the Ministry of Higher Education and the General Authority of Civil Aviation of Saudi Arabia are offering scholarships to Saudi men and women to study subjects related to civil aviation in the United States.
Now, some of the 9/11 terrorists went to U.S. flight schools and Senator Clinton cites the 9/11 Commission's report, highlighting existing vulnerabilities within U.S. flight schools. She says, quote, "I'm concerned that the program brought to my attention could provide a platform for further exploitation in the absence of proper security controls."
And Senator Clinton calls on Secretaries Chertoff and Rice for prompt action, saying "The family members of September 11th victims and all Americans deserve to know that the federal government is not," in her words, "asleep at the switch."
Now, we have placed calls to the Saudi Embassy and representatives for the Saudi government, but we have not gotten any response so far. We've also placed calls to the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department. Now, this letter was received late today. It's not clear whether Secretary Rice or Secretary Chertoff have had a chance to see it. Wolf?
BLITZER: Mary, thank you very much. For years though, the U.S. government has invited Saudis to come train, to fly f-15s, F-16s, other war planes at U.S. air bases in the United States, that program has been going on for many, many years. We'll continue to watch this story. Once we get reaction from the Saudi government and from the Departments of State and Homeland Security, we will bring it to you here on CNN.
New terror headlines once again raising the question, how safe are we? CNN national security correspondent David Ensor takes a closer look at one possible nightmare scenario.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: WTOP News time 10:32. The high cost of gas. DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An average morning in the nation's capital. Fair weather, wind out of the southeast at about ten miles an hour. Congress is in session. The president is in the White House. Buses along the mall are carrying tourists to and from museums and other sights. Suddenly, an explosion. A massive bomb in a school bus rips into a museum and federal office buildings nearby. Suddenly, there are hundreds of dead, thousands of injured.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Always when we respond to incidents, life safety is first.
ENSOR: In such a scenario, District of Columbia Police Commander Kathy Lanier (ph) and Fire Battalion Chief Larry Schultz, the on-site emergency commanders, would be on the front lines.
CHIEF LARRY SCHULTS, WASHINGTON, DC FIRE DEPARTMENT: Every engine company in the city is equipped with detection device. So, right away as they approach a scene, we would have a good idea what we are dealing with.
ENSOR (on camera): Under this scenario, devised by a Washington think tank, those devices detect radiation, a dirty bomb, about a pound and a half of CCM 137 added by terrorists to 3,000 pounds of TNT.
COMMANDER CATHY LANIER, WASHINGTON, DC METRO POLICE: The law enforcement, when they arrive, they are going to put on protective equipment.
ENSOR (voice-over): It is the natural human instinct to run. It's what people did on 9/11 in New York and at the U.S. Capitol. It was the right instinct then. But with the dirty bomb, it could be a mistake.
SCHULTS: If you're in a building, and the envelope of that building hasn't been ruptured, in other words, you don't have the broken windows, there's no structural damage to the building, you are much safer off staying where you are, keeping the windows closed, shutting off the AC system.
ENSOR: Why shouldn't I run?
LANIER: Once you come out into the open air, you are exposing yourself to contaminants that not only can be harmful to you but that you can take home and actually bring into your own home and contaminate your own family.
DEPUTY MAYOR EDWARD RISKIN, WASHINGTON, DC: This is the emergency operations center. This is the nerve center.
ENSOR: Deputy Washington Mayor Edward Riskin showed us where a dirty bomb explosion in the nation's Capitol would initially be managed.
RISKIN: If this is what was on the screen, we would be gathering information from the field. We would obviously be doing a lot of coordination with the federal government. This is federal property as a terrorist incident. The FBI would be the lead investigative agency.
ENSOR: In fact, Schultz and others say, a dirty bomb laced with CCM-137 would not make many people sick, though it could raise cancer rates in the population. And it would not be terribly difficult to clean up.
PHIL ANDERSON, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: The psychological aspect of this thing is something altogether different. You could have a perfectly safe city, free from radiation and a fearful public that would continue to be unwilling to live and work in Washington.
ENSOR: First responders in Washington have rehearsed reacting to a dirty bomb. They believe they are ready, if it should ever come to that. Much would depend on whether Washingtonians would panic or keep their wits about them and listen to what the authorities advise.
BLITZER: David Ensor, our national security correspondent reporting.
Now a developing story we're following. We're learning of yet another significant data breach involving the United States military. Personal information on thousands of Navy personnel. That information apparently has now been compromised. Let's bring in our Internet report Abbi Tatton. Abbi?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's the personal data of 28,000 U.S. soldiers and their families. It appeared on a civilian web site. We don't know the location of that web site. We do know from the U.S. Navy that it's now been taken down. What we're talking about when we say personal data, that's names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers.
The U.S. Navy is now investigating just how this data breach happened, and working on identifying who is effected and notifying them, as well. Congress is responding already. Democratic Congressman Ed Markey already writing a letter to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asking for an explanation Wolf. We should say that there's no indication at this time that any of that data has been used illegally. Wolf?
BLITZER: And there's no connection between this apparent breach and the millions of other military veterans and active duty whose information may have been on that lap top that went missing?
TATTON: No, these are two separate incidents. That was a stolen lap top that happened at the beginning of May. That from the Veterans Affairs, involving some 26 million identities, personal data of those people. This, today, a separate incident, involved the U.S. Navy. Wolf?
BLITZER: Abbi, thanks very much. To our viewers stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.
Up ahead, real estate prospects that are pretty far out. When we come back, welcome to the future, actually contemplating colonies in space. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Not so long ago it was science fiction. Now, missions to mars are a fact, and some say humans will start colonizing the red planet sooner than you may think. CNN's Mary Snow once again joining us for our welcome to the future report. Mary?
SNOW: Well, Wolf, world renowned physicist Stephen Hawking recently suggested that colonies on Mars might one day be a necessity. Now, it seems hard to fathom, but some say it's not far off into the future.
SNOW (voice-over): Are natural disasters, global warming or threats of nuclear war putting the planet Earth on a collision course with disaster? World famous physicist Steven Hawking says he fears the earth could end up like the red hot planet of Venus.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whenever Steven Hawking speaks, we all listen.
SNOW: And many scientists listened when Hawkings recently said that the danger to Earth is so great, that humans should look for a new home. Hawkings believes a permanent base can be built on the Moon in 20 years and a colony on Mars in 40. People living on Mars that soon? Astrophysicist Michael Shara doesn't think so.
MICHAEL SHARA, ASTROPHYSICIST: I think that the timescale of 40 years for a colony there is very optimistic. Wouldn't surprise me to see humans land on Mars in 40 years.
SNOW: Others predict the first human explorers could touch down on Mars in a decade.
ROBERT ZUBRIN, THE MARS SOCIETY: Mars is the North America of the new age of exploration. It's a place where we can establish a new branch of human civilization.
SNOW: Robert Zubrin uses private funds to simulate Mars stations, like this one in the desert. Next year, his group plans to put six researchers 900 miles from the North Pole and simulate life on Mars for four months.
ZUBRIN: They won't be able to go outside without wearing simulated spacesuits and have to talk to each other by radio.
SNOW: Zubrin hopes studying Mars-like conditions, such as a nonbreathable atmosphere with no surface water, will speed up the process. The costs are astronomical; the challenge is fierce. But even pessimists have a glimmer of hope of humans reaching Mars.
SHARA: But a full-fledged colony, I think that's at least a century away. And I hope I'm proven wrong.
SNOW: Well, for the near future, the astrophysicist we spoke with for this story says before anything happens on Mars, he expects a colony of astronauts to be living on the moon in 50 years -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Mary, getting back to the other story you reporter here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Senator Clinton raising questions about Saudi scholarships to Saudi nationals to come to flight schools here in the United States. I understand we've just received a statement from the Department of Homeland Security.
SNOW: Yes, Wolf, we just word from Jared Aiken (ph), who is press secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, saying that they had not yet seen that letter, but pointed out that there is a program in place, a Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, it's called.
And he says that the DHS would be keeping tabs on students who came into the United States, saying it was established to address concerns of foreign students entering the U.S. to do harm. So, it's a program specifically designed, he says, to keep tabs on foreigners coming in. And I'm sure we'll be getting more reaction in the next coming days.
BLITZER: Thank very much for that, Mary. We'll continue to monitor that reaction.
Let's go to New York with Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: A new poll found that many Americans and Europeans view Muslims as fanatical, violent and arrogant, while most Muslims in the Middle East and Asia see westerners as selfish, arrogant and violent. The question is, how do westerners and Muslims change the perceptions each has of the other?
Jordan in Flushing, New York writes, "How about a press corps that doesn't paint the other culture as violent, thoughtless and cruel. How about governments that don't use other cultures as scapegoats for their own problems. It's never going to happen, but hey, you asked."
Travis is Boulder, Colorado: "Build a time machine, go back to 1636 A.D., and stop the first battle between Christians and Muslims. Other than that, it appears that over 1000 years of fighting and mistrust between the two religions is not going to be solved by some clever program."
Kathy in Wisconsin: "Perceptions can change when people wise up and realize that our elected officials function on lies, deceit, and promoting fear and distrust in everyone. Soldiers have never met the persons they are ordered to murder, and yet they're expected to view citizens of another country as an enemy. This makes no sense."
Youssef in Caldwell, New Jersey: "Jack, get it right. Muslims teach children at elementary school to hate Christians, Jews, anybody that isn't Muslim. It's going to take hundreds of years to change that."
J.J. in Los Angeles: "Jack, intolerance between two cultures is the same as intolerance between the right and left. First, news outlets including CNN need to stop demagoguing and increasing fear and misunderstanding of other cultures. Translation? Less curmudgeons like you on the air."
And Jacquelyn in Chicago: "How do westerners and Muslims change the perceptions each has of the other? Swap children" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, have a great weekend. We'll watch "IN THE MONEY," Jack's weekend program, Saturday and Sunday, Saturday, 1:00 p.m. Eastern, replayed 3:00 p.m. Eastern on Sunday.
Let's go to Paula in New York for a preview of what's coming up at the top of the hour -- Paula.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Between the two of you, we'll be watching TV all weekend long.
BLITZER: That's good.
In just a few minutes, we're going to go deep into the backgrounds of the suspects in the Miami terror plot. Who are they? What do we know about any motive tonight, and what are people who know them saying about them tonight? And, does the government have a case at all?
We will also turn to a baffling medical mystery. How would you feel if you suddenly started seeing tiny strings coming out from underneath your skin? We're going to meet patients who say it's happening to them, even though some doctors don't buy it at all.
But of course, the most important story tonight is continuing to follow the fallout from this terror story -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll be watching, Paula. Thanks very much. Paula Zahn, coming up at the top of the hour.
ZAHN: See you Sunday.
BLITZER: Still ahead, cancellation frustration. Jeanne Moos has details. Stay with us.
BLITZER: A New York man found that canceling his AOL account is easier said than done.
CNN's Jeanne Moos reports.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): That AOL catchphrase ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've got mail.
MOOS: ...has been temporarily eclipsed by ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cancel the account.
MOOS: Bronx resident Vincent Ferrari had heard so many tails about how hard AOL supposedly makes it to cancel your account, that when he went to cancel his, he recorded the call.
VINCENT FERRARI, FORMER AOL CUSTOMER: I don't know how to make it any clearer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last month was 545 hours of usage.
FERRARI: I don't know how to make this any clearer, so I'm just going to say it one last time. Cancel the account, please.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, explain to me what ...
FERRARI: I'm not explaining anything to you. Cancel the account.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's the matte? I mean, I'm just trying to help here.
MOOS: Vincent posted the call to his own blog, Insignificant Thoughts, and sent it to other Web sites.
FERRARI: I think it touched a nerve with people. I mean, everybody apparently knew this was going on, but nobody had ever taped it before.
MOOS: It took Vincent a total of 21 minutes to cancel his account. The highlight was the four or five minutes he spent with a customer service rep who identified himself as John.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, is there a problem with the software itself?
FERRARI: No, I just -- I don't use it. I don't need it. I don't want it. I just don't need it anymore.
MOOS: Eventually things escalated.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know what anybody's done to you, Vincent ...
FERRARI: You're annoying the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of me. That's what you're doing to me. Cancel the account please. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, and that goes both ways, my friend.
MOOS (on camera): What was your favorite part of the call?
FERRARI: Favorite part was definitely when he asked to speak to my dad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is your dad there?
FERRARI: My dad?
I'm 30 years old, the account is in my name, the card is in my name, and there he's going, oh yes, can I speak to your dad -- it's like, come on, man, my dad?
MOOS (voice-over): As the recorded call generated news coverage and countless e-mails, Vincent got a personal call and a written apology from AOL, CNN's sister company.
(on camera): "We have zero tolerance for customer care incidents like this. Deeply regrettable and also absolutely inexcusable."
(voice-over): AOL says John is no longer with the company.
(on camera): The guy got fired. Do you feel bad?
FERRARI: You know, you never want to be the reason a guy lost his job. But in the end, I wasn't the reason he got fired. He was the reason he got fired.
(voice-over): And all those e-mails sent to Vincent's blog by folks angry at AOL, the head of corporate communications said they are being sent to service reps marked "required summer reading."
Vincent says that though AOL brass were sure nice to him ...
MOOS (on camera): They must hate you now.
FERRARI: I'm thinking right now I'm probably on a dart board in his office.
MOOS (voice-over): Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: And from there, let's go to Paula in New York -- Paula.
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