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Search on for More Suspects in Alleged Plot to Attack Transatlantic Flights; A History of Terror; TSA Screening

Aired August 11, 2006 - 06:29   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: The search is on now for more suspects in that alleged plot to attack transatlantic flights. Already, 24 people are in custody in Britain. More arrests are expected.
Let's get right to CNN's John Vause. He's in Wathamstow in England this morning.

Hey, John. Good morning.


Yes, in Wathamstow, here in London's east, we know many of those who have been arrested -- in fact, nine of those who were arrested overnight, nine of the 24, came from this suburb in London. That information coming, of all places, from the Bank of England, which overnight froze the assets of 19 of those who were arrested for allegedly taking part in this terror plot.

Now, Channel 4 here in Britain reporting that one of those arrested was, in fact, a worker at Heathrow airport. Witnesses saw him being taken away by police in his work uniform. Also, another suspect employed by a Muslim charity.

We've been around this neighborhood here, Wathamstow, and there are police and police tape outside a number of properties which have been raided. The police remain on guard. Searches of those properties are ongoing.

We understand police are looking for evidence, not just for a future court case, but also for whoever else may have been involved in this, even though it's believed that the British authorities say that they have -- they've rounded up most of the major players. They're still looking for anybody else who may have been involved in this alleged terror plot -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: So, John, when they say they have rounded up most of the major players and they're looking for anybody else who may have been involved, does that mean that they believe there are, in fact, major players who are still on the lam, whether they're inside the country or outside the country by now, or are they saying that there's a handful of people sort of tangentially involved who they'd like to track down?

VAUSE: The sense I'm getting here, from -- from what we're getting from the British authorities, is essentially that they've got most of those involved. There was -- there were some reports that maybe between five and 10 people were still outstanding, but what we understand is that the main -- main organizers of this alleged terror plot have been brought in, and there may be just a few others who are bit players, if you like, who are yet to be rounded up -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: John Vause for us this morning.

John, thanks.

The alleged plot to destroy those passenger planes headed to the United States, it's not new. In fact, it's been attempted before in the Philippines.

Maria Ressa has details about that and joins us from Manila this morning.

Hey, Maria. Good morning.


Actually, you're right. In 1995, authorities here foiled the plot to bomb airplanes headed to the United States from Asia. And, a year earlier in 1994, a test run succeed. A Philippine Airlines flight headed to Japan exploded in midair.


RESSA (voice over): In 1994, Philippine Airlines Flight 434 left Manila for Cebu in the central Philippines en route to Tokyo. On board was this man, Ramzi Yousef, who bombed the World Trade Center a year earlier. He carried with him liquid explosives hidden in contact lens bottles. Midair, he put the bomb together and planted it inside the life jacket under his seat.

Then he got off in Cebu. Two hours later, the bomb exploded, tearing a hole in the plane.

It turns out this was a test run for a much bigger plot commonly known as Bojinka, which called for detonating 12 bombs on airplanes headed to the United States from Asia. If it had been successful, 4,000 people would have died.

Yousef was working with his uncle, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, known to U.S. intelligence as "KSM." Six years later, U.S. officials say he would be the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks. And according to intelligence documents, Yousef himself said KSM gave credit for 9/11 to ideas he had in the Philippines.

An accidental fire in Yousef's Manila apartment allowed suspicious investigators to unravel the Bojinka plot before anything could happen. Why did the plotters want to bring down all those planes?

According to this 1995 Philippine intelligence document, the "bombing of U.S. commercial aircrafts will result to great pressure against the U.S. government, whom Muslim extremists condemn for providing political, economic and military support to Israel."

After 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed would try again. This time, training and equipping attempted shoe bomber Richard Reid. His December 2001 plot to bring down an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami was foiled by alert passengers.


RESSA: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was a top al Qaeda leader working closely with Osama bin Laden, who himself green-lighted what they called the planes (ph) project, better known to us as 9/11. Part two of that project called for suicide pilots from Southeast Asia to attack buildings on the West Coast of the United States. Although Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is now in U.S. custody, his ideas live on -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Yes, clearly, the idea is living on with lots of strength.

In those two cases, the one where the nitroglycerin exploded, essentially, and then Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, those are two different chemicals, but in small enough sizes that, theoretically, you could transport them on to a plane.

RESSA: Absolutely. What they were looking for were low-density liquid explosives that they could mix together. And what those two things actually -- what we've seen in the progression of their plots have been, the first contact lens bombs which they tried out on that Philippine Airlines flight created a very small explosion that tore a hole in the fuselage and basically made it difficult for the plane to land. It did land successfully, though, an hour later.

But, on the next trial runs that they were trying to do to get through airport security, they moved beyond nitroglycerin, which can be sighted in airport scanners much easier, to something called nitromethanine (ph). What they were looking, again, is something that would not appear on airport scanners. It has to be a low-density liquid, and then if you combine it with another liquid, then you can have a larger explosive.

The other thing is, on their other runs, other test runs on airports that they did after that Philippine Airlines flight, they took far more bottles of liquids on board with them. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, in an interrogation report with U.S. authorities, said that he, at one point, took 14 bottles of contact lens cleaner. He emptied them out, and then he filled it with nitromethanine (ph) -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Interesting. Interesting. All leading back to some of the word that we are hearing in this most recent plot.

Maria Ressa for us this morning.

Thanks, Maria.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: That's good information. Still to come this morning, everything you need to know before flying this morning. We'll show you what the TSA is doing to make your trip safer and how it could affect your check-in.

O'BRIEN: Plus, a vote that could end the fighting in the Middle East could happen today. We're following developments at the United Nations this morning.

HARRIS: And some good news from the oilfield in Alaska. It could mean you're paying less at the gas pump.

We'll have that just ahead.

Stay with us here on AMERICAN MORNING.


HARRIS: Happening "In America" now, 18 San Francisco police officers who were suspended after making a controversial video are suing the city for $20 million. The video which parodied life on the force has been criticized as racist, sexist and homophobic. The officers who were black, Hispanic and white claim they are victims of racial bias. They say four other officers of Chinese descent who took part were never punished.

The U.S. Army says it expects to reach its goal of recruiting 80,000 new soldiers this year. The Army fell short of its target last year. And officials say the war in Iraq is to blame. The Army, meanwhile, denies it is now taking volunteers who previously would have been rejected.

The Kentucky governor's political future could be determined today in court. Ernie Fletcher is hoping a judge will dismiss misdemeanor charges against him. The charges, including criminal conspiracy and misconduct, are the result of a year-long hiring investigation.

BP says it will comply with federal regulators and conduct more stringent tests of its pipelines. Meanwhile, the company says a shutdown at its Alaska oilfield caused by severe corrosion and leaks may not be as bad as initially feared. As a result, BP says it may be able to avoid closing down the entire oilfield while new pipelines are installed.

And now to the story of the really big one that didn't get away. Take a look at this: two guys to hold up the big fish.

A Colorado man caught a 46-inch pike weighing more than 30 pounds. The man says it took him 20 minutes to hook it, land it and reel it in.

Reeling in Chad Myers this morning with a look at the forecast. Chad is at the CNN Center in Atlanta.

Chad, good morning.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I think he bought it at the store. No, I'm just kidding.

HARRIS: I don't think so.

MYERS: I don't think they sell those big ones at the store.

HARRIS: That's right.

MYERS: Good morning, Tony.


MYERS: Back to you guys.

HARRIS: Oh, shoot, I'll have to cancel those plans.

MYERS: Yes, you know.

HARRIS: Oh, man.

MYERS: You might have to have that mask it's so bad out there.

HARRIS: That's right. All right, Chad. Thank you.

MYERS: You're welcome.

HARRIS: Still to come on AMERICAN MORNING, an inside look at baggage screening. Where does your luggage go after you check it in? And who else is sifting through your things?

Plus, new attacks in the Middle East. Will the U.N. vote today to end the hostilities? A live report from Beirut is coming up.

Stay with us on AMERICAN MORNING.


HARRIS: You know, since 9/11 the way we prepare to travel by air has changed dramatically. There's an ever-growing list of things that are and are not allowed on a plane. And it's the screening that takes time and patience.

CNN's Melissa Long takes you to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, where the TSA is working to speed things up.


WILLIE WILLIAMS, TSA FEDERAL SECURITY DIR.: We're going to remove all of these machines, these one and two-ton machines that have been in the lobbies.

MELISSA LONG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): You may soon start to notice small changes at major airports that could bring back some pre-9/11 travel conveniences.

BENJAMIN DECOSTA, HARTSFIELD-JACKSON AIRPORT: You'll come through the ticketing lobby and they'll do their ticketing and drop their bag and be on their way, instead of having it screened by TSA employees here in the lobby.

LONG: Atlanta's airport handles anywhere from 12,000 to 20,000 bags a day. Now passengers won't have to lug their suitcases to a bomb detection machine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The check-in is great, you know, when you can pre-board and then all you have to do is check the bag right there and go quick.

LONG (on camera): So these bags are coming in from the -- from the original terminal where people checked in?

CHRISTOPHER WHITE, TSA: Right. The bags that are coming down this belt have been checked to the airlines. The airlines take it, put it on their belt, it's interconnected with ours. It will come down here like that bag. It will eventually go around here and into one of our almost a dozen explosive detection systems.

LONG (voice over): If the machine detects anything suspicious, it diverts the luggage to a separate belt and sends an image to a TSA officer.

WHITE: This is the room where images are sent for closer inspection. If they make the determination that there's no threat in the bag, it's automatically routed right back to the airline. We never touch it again. If the bag does require additional scrutiny, it's routed to our physical inspection room.

LONG: This is the only area where officers physically inspect questionable luggage. The system is not completely operational yet. It's expected to be in line with the entire airport, including international airlines, by the end of the year. While other airports have similar screenings, the federal security director says Atlanta's is the best.

WILLIAMS: It will be probably the safest and most efficient way to clear bags in the country.

LONG: And they hope a model for all airports to emulate.

Melissa Long, CNN, Atlanta.


HARRIS: Well, the TSA hopes this screening process will allow more officers to be moved from searching baggage to working the security lines, all in hopes of getting travelers through the airport faster.

Up next, Andy is "Minding Your Business."

Andy, good morning.

ANDY SERWER, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, "FORTUNE": Good morning to you, Tony. Some surprising implications for the world of business from that terror plot. And we will tell you all about that coming up next on AMERICAN MORNING.



JAY LENO, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": I guess you know, U.S. and British authorities foiled a terrorist plot. The plan was to blow up planes in midair.

Unbelievable. How frightening is that?

That makes flying almost as dangerous as Amtrak now.


LENO: Remember the good old days when the only bomb you had to worry about on the plane was the Rob Schneider movie? Remember? Remember? What happened to those days?


LENO: Oh, it's "Deuce Bigalow".

And now they're not letting anyone on planes anymore with liquids or beverages of any kind. No beverages of any kind. That's why the huge delays. The pilots are hanging around the gate chugging their beers.


LENO: They're trying to use all that extra time. You can't hide the flask anymore.

You can't bring anything on the -- nothing. Did you see people today in line at Heathrow going through security? Look at this. It's unbelievable.


LENO: You can't -- it's horrible. You can't bring anything on. Oh, man!


HARRIS: Just go naked. You can't check anything.

SERWER: There's some humor in it.

HARRIS: There's some humor in it.

All right. We want to refresh your memory now on the new carry- on rules.

Here's AMERICAN MORNING'S Dan Lothian.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): After 9/11, the crackdown on contraband at airports resulted in boxloads of items like scissors, lighters and nail clippers. After shoe bomber Richard Reid tried to blow up a plane, screening shoes became mandatory. But over time, some illegal items became legal again and security checks appeared more random.

A practice that rankles critics.

REP. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Scissors of this length are allowed on to domestic flights in the United States. If any of those terrorists today were able to get a scissors of this length into a passenger cabin, it could have helped them in their perpetration of their attacks.

LOTHIAN: Now a foiled terror attack has led to the ban on items like lotion, mouthwash, perfume. But liquids have been a known threat for years.

(on camera): While everyone is applauding law enforcement efforts and intelligence that uncovered the alleged London-based plot, some experts support a smarter, more aggressive and consistent approach when it comes to what passengers can carry onto an airplane.

CLARK KENT ERVIN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: We need to get a step ahead of the game rather than relaxing security measures, as TSA has done. We need to be tightening them.

LOTHIAN (voice over): But at Boston Logan Airport, starting point for the two airplanes that hit the twin towers, the man in charge defends the current security strategy.

TOM KINTON, DIRECTOR, MASSPORT: We have to react to intelligence. When intelligence tells us we need to step up to prevent certain things from getting on board those aircraft, we'll do it. Where intelligence comes in that tells us we can relax that, that gets relaxed, but then we focus on other things.

LOTHIAN: TSA officials say they have pushed hard to have screeners focus more on bombs and bomb components rather than small scissors and tools. But security analysts say much more needs to be done.

ERVIN: We need to literally think outside the box and think of every conceivable way that we can imagine by which would be -- we could possibly be attacked.

LOTHIAN: The difficult job of securing air travel, where the enemy's weapon of choice is always changing.

Dan Lothian, CNN, Boston.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HARRIS: Oil prices impacted by the terror scare in London.

Andy's here "Minding Your Business."

Yesterday, or was it the day before -- yes, it was yesterday we were talking about the fact that oil prices were actually coming down a bit.

SERWER: That's right. And it's directly because of the terror plot, Tony.

The ripple effect still being felt acutely in the world's financial markets. Basically, what happened yesterday, the price of oil -- this is the price of oil this morning. It's bouncing back up. But it was down over $2 yesterday because of the perception that there would be lower demand for jet fuel because of all these problems and less people flying. We bounce back a little bit this morning.

Now, interestingly, you might think the stock market would have gone down yesterday.

HARRIS: Right.

SERWER: In fact, it did not. It went up.

Why? In part because of those lower oil prices, interestingly. Also, there were some nice earnings that came in from retailers like Target.

Now, this morning, European markets are bouncing back, and futures here in the United States are also up. So we can see some resiliency going on here a little bit.

As you might expect, the airlines did take a bit of a hit. But again, maybe not as much as you thought.

For instance, British Airways, they took a big hit, down almost 3 bucks. But American Airlines, unchanged. And Continental and United just down fractionally.

And right now, here's the screen where you can see these guys. So it's interesting.

You know, it's not what you'd expect, necessarily.

HARRIS: Right.

SERWER: You know, you might expect a big selloff, you might expect the price of oil to go one way. It went the other way. You'd expect the airlines to get really, really hurt. They haven't been.

And, you know, everyone's sorting this out. Consumers, customers, airline executives, security personnel, governments, and also traders on Wall Street. We're all sorting through this news, Tony.

HARRIS: And again, it points out just how much speculation, Andy, there is in this market.

SERWER: That's right. There is. And also how global everything is.


SERWER: And how things are all connected. You know, markets in Australia, Britain, the United States all responding to the news.

HARRIS: Hey, we're near the top of the hour. What are we talking about next hour?

SERWER: We're going to talk about GM and its product mix, and the fact that it may not be making as many SUVs as it has been.

HARRIS: Might not be a bad idea.


SERWER: Yes, that's right. Figuring it out.

HARRIS: Yes. Andy, thanks. Appreciate it.

SERWER: Thanks, Tony.

HARRIS: A look now at stories that we're working on.

American on alert. Heightened security at the nation's airports. What you need to know before you fly.

Then, the latest on a foiled terror plot out of London, the arrests, the investigation, and what's next.

Plus, the U.N. could vote on a resolution to end the Mideast violence today, but why has it taken so long?

Some good news at the Prudhoe Bay oilfield in Alaska could impact gas prices.

And the silver anniversary of a computer marriage made in heaven. The IBM PC turns 25. And desktops have never been the same.

Stay with us.

Time now for another quick check of the forecast. Chad Myers at the CNN Center in Atlanta.

Chad, good morning.

MYERS: Do you remember that thing, Tony?

HARRIS: Yes, I do.

MYERS: You had two floppy disks...

HARRIS: I'm old enough to remember. MYERS: And then you used to write from one to another.

HARRIS: That's right.

MYERS: And that was the upgrade from taking the phone and putting in the...


HARRIS: Right. Right.

MYERS: Oh, man. That was amazing. I was working at the weather service in D.C. then.


MYERS: The next hour of AMERICAN MORNING starts right now.

O'BRIEN: Thank you, Chad.

At this hour, the urgent search for suspects. There are more arrests expected in the alleged plot to attack flights from Britain to the U.S.

HARRIS: And stepped-up security causing delays at airports around the world. Everything you need to know on this AMERICAN MORNING.

O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome back, everybody.

I'm Soledad O'Brien.

HARRIS: And I'm Tony Harris, in for Miles O'Brien.

O'BRIEN: Here's the very latest, what we know right now.

More arrests could be coming in that plot investigation. Police still searching for suspects even though British officials say the major players are already in custody.

The Bank of England has seized the assets of 19 of those arrested. They've also published the names of those suspects.

Sources with detailed knowledge of the investigation are now saying that two of the alleged plotters left behind videotapes, martyrdom videotapes. That's much like the tapes that were left behind by some of the 9/11 hijackers.

And airports are still on alert. Extra security in place, including that liquid ban for carry-on luggage. Passengers are being told to expect more delays today.

CNN has an extensive team of correspondents on both sides of the Atlantic working on this developing story. We'll talk about your safety this morning.


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