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CNN SATURDAY MORNING NEWS

Lebanese & Israel Cabinets Mull U.N. Cease-Fire Over Weekend; Fmr. DHS Official Discusses Airport Security

Aired August 12, 2006 - 8:00   ET

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


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. "Now in the News," the fighting rages on in the Middle East despite a U.N. cease- fire resolution. Israeli warplanes pounded suspected Hezbollah targets in south Lebanon. In the deadliest attack, 15 people were killed in a border village. The Israeli military also says it expanded its ground offensive, moving deeper into Lebanon to weaken Hezbollah.
Meanwhile, Lebanon's cabinet votes today on the U.N. resolution. Israel's cabinet takes it up tomorrow. The Security Council approved the measure yesterday. It calls for a full cessation of hostilities. We will have a live report from the region in about three minutes.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the signal had been sent, "do your attacks now." We have more details today about the alleged plot to blow up U.S.-bound planes. A security memo reveals the suspects had been given the go ahead to carry out the plot. We're going to have a live report from London in about five minutes.

In the meantime, federal authorities continue searching for two missing Egyptian college students. They belong to a group of exchange students who failed to show up for classes at Montana State University. Three of them were located and taken into custody last night in Des Moines, Iowa. Six others were picked up earlier in the week.

HARRIS: It's not as bad as they initially thought, BP announcing that the western half of its Prudhoe Bay oil field in Alaska will remain open while the corroded pipes in the eastern half are replaced. The company planned to shut down both oil fields but later determined the western half could operate safely while repairs are made.

And some progress in the battle against a Nevada wild fire. But flames still threaten home in two Reno-area subdivisions. Fire has already blackened 5,000 acres west of Reno. Smoke could affect flights in and out of Reno-Tahoe Airport today.

NGUYEN: I'll tell you what, it has been the season of grass fires, wild fires. They have been going wild in the past few months. Reynolds Wolf joins us now with a quick look at the weather.

The question is, when is Mother Nature going to bring some rain so we that we won't see anymore of these?

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, I'll tell you, Mother Nature is not going cooperate that much. Now it looks like the threat of those fires is actually going to push a little bit more to the east. In fact, as we zoom in, you'll notice we have a red flag warning in effect for other parts of Nevada. We're talking about places like Wildhorse, Elko, even Battle Mountain. That red flag warning occurs when you have strong winds, low humidity, and warm temperatures. They are going to have that combination for today. So certainly an area of concern for us.

(WEATHER REPORT)

NGUYEN: In the meantime, we will update these top stories every 15 minutes right here on CNN SATURDAY MORNING. Your next update is coming up at 8:15 Eastern.

HARRIS: New details emerge about an alleged terrorist plot. We will go live to London's Heathrow International Airport in five minutes. From the CNN Center, this CNN SATURDAY MORNING. It's August 12th.

Good morning, Betty.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Tony. Nice to see you.

HARRIS: Nice to be back. It's 8:00 a.m. here in CNN headquarters in Atlanta, 1:00 p.m. in London...

NGUYEN: A busy man, haven't you been?

HARRIS: Absolutely. Great to be home, thank you.

NGUYEN: And good morning, everybody, I'm Betty Nguyen. We want to thank you for being with us today.

HARRIS: A full cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah, that's what is called for in the U.N. Security Council resolution. Lebanese and Israeli officials take up the measure this weekend. Here are the details. Resolution 1701 calls for increasing the number of U.N. troops in south Lebanon from 2,000 to 15,000. They will be assigned to help Lebanese government troops secure the area. It also calls for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon. That's supposed to coincide with a deployment of the Lebanese army to the area. And the measure also calls for the unconditional release of two Israeli soldiers kidnapped on July 12th. It was their capture, you'll remember, by Hezbollah, that sparked the current conflict.

NGUYEN: Well, things are developing fast in Israel's war with Hezbollah in Lebanon. CNN's Matthew Chance joins us now from northern Israel with the latest developments there.

Good morning, Matthew.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, as well, Betty. Well, that diplomatic protest may have come to a head. The resolution may have been agreed certainly at the United Nations Security Council, but the military activity on the ground doesn't seem to have taken account of that or at least in the last 12 hours or so, perhaps more than that.

Israel's military has been stepping up, expanding its military operations in southern Lebanon, trying to get to areas or pushing their troops into areas just immediately south of the Litani River in places 20 miles north of the Israeli border. Some of the areas deepest -- the deepest areas into which Israeli ground forces have gone throughout the course of this week's long campaign.

What Israel appears to be trying to do is capture as much territory as it can, deal final blows to the Hezbollah militia as it feels the diplomatic clock is obviously ticking now extremely quickly. What we're hearing on the diplomatic front, on the political front from Jerusalem is that the cabinet meeting, which happens every Sunday, will be recommended to accept the United Nations resolution. And after that we may see a scaling down of the military activities being conducted by Israel inside south Lebanon.

Until then, though, seems that they are pressing ahead with the military plan that they said they have had on the table for some time. Coming in the other direction, though, the fire from Hezbollah, at least into northern Israel seems to have diminished considerably. The last report we have from Israeli police says over that the course of this day only three Katyusha rockets have landed in Israeli territory. And so that's a significant decrease from the, you know, dozens of rockets that have been landing at this time every day -- by this time every day up until now -- Betty.

NGUYEN: CNN's Matthew Chance joining us from the border zone there. Thank you, Matthew.

Well, the Iranian connection to the Mideast crisis, here's what we want to talk about right now. Iran may be attempting to re-supply Hezbollah with rockets. Now Iran denies the report, calling it totally baseless, but a U.S. intelligence official tells CNN Iran has made several attempts to smuggle weapons to Hezbollah on planes from Tehran to Damascus.

The official says it is believed at least two shipments made it into Lebanon. U.S. intelligence says Iran initially tried to use a military cargo plane to get weapons to Hezbollah but it may have changed tactics at the end of July, using commercial passenger planes with larger cargo holds.

HARRIS: Just a matter of days a security memo says. That alleged plot to blow up U.S.-bound planes was imminent. We begin in Britain where 23 suspects remain in custody and officials remain on high alert. CNN's John Vause joins us from London's Heathrow International Airport with the latest.

John, good morning.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Tony. It now appears that this investigation not only being carried out here in Britain and Pakistan, but also moving to Germany where officials at the interior ministry tell CNN that they are now looking at a possible connection there with one of the suspects still being held by British authorities.

We also have new details about this alleged plot coming from a security memo from the Department of Homeland Security. According to that memo, a phone call from Karachi, Pakistan, was intercepted by authorities a few days ago which simply said, "do your attack now."

Also according to this memo they say that many of the homes that have been raided by police here in London and also in Birmingham to the north, they found what they call martyrdom videos, those videos are usually made just a day or two beforehand. Also money had been wired according to authorities from Pakistan to Britain, allegedly to purchase airline tickets, all indications that this alleged terror plot may have been just a few days away, maybe a week, maybe to be carried out sometime next week, maybe even on Wednesday.

There are also details about the 24 suspects who were rounded up. As you mentioned, one of those has since been released by British authorities. Apparently all of them are British nationals but many of them are from Pakistani descent and many of them apparently according to this memo had never in the past had a history of expressing radical views -- Tony.

HARRIS: Hey, John, just a quick question. Are travelers there at Heathrow adjusting to life to travel under these new restrictions?

VAUSE: Well, life here for travelers is pretty miserable at the moment. Anyone who is leaving Heathrow, the lines are long, the extra security checks are taking a considerable amount of time. There have been a number of flight cancellations. And also a number of delays, especially on the trans-Atlantic routes. So things are sort of slowly getting back to normal but it's still a very slow going for many travelers today -- Tony.

HARRIS: CNN's John Vause for us at Heathrow Airport in London. John, thank you.

We're talking about the terror plot disrupted in our e-mail question this morning. We want to hear your airport security stories, the good, the bad, the ugly. E-mail us those stories...

NGUYEN: You know those are coming.

HARRIS: Oh boy. The address is weekends@cnn.com. Brace yourself. We'll read some of your responses on the air throughout the morning.

And all day Monday CNN will show you where America is most vulnerable to terrorist attacks. No matter what time you tune in, you'll get specific and essential insight on where the threats are, what you can do to stay safe, and whether the government has a clue. "Target: USA" all day Monday only on CNN.

NGUYEN: Well, stiffer security measures are being enforced at the nation's airports, but should more be done? Hear from a former homeland security inspector general, that is next.

HARRIS: And 20 minutes "HOUSE CALL" focuses on the mystery of autism. Could vaccines somehow be a culprit?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: "Now in the News," there is no let-up in the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah despite a U.N. cease-fire resolution. Now, in one incident four civilians were killed when an Israeli air strike hit a U.N. convoy in south Lebanon. That convoy was evacuating members of Lebanon's army and police force.

Meanwhile, Lebanon's government is set to vote today on the U.N. resolution. And Israel's cabinet takes up the measure tomorrow. In a unanimous vote, the Security Council called for a full cessation of hostilities but it set no date.

And there is new information coming out about the alleged airline terror plot. Authorities say the suspects may have been just days away from carrying out the plan to blow up U.S.-bound planes. A security memo reveals they had been given the go ahead to, "do your attacks now."

Britain's Heathrow Airport remains on its highest terror alert level. Delays and cancellations, they are expected to continue but they won't be as severe as yesterday. Officials say operations should be back to nearly normal by the end of today.

And just a reminder here, we update the top stories every 15 minutes right here on CNN SATURDAY MORNING. Your next update is coming up at 8:30.

HARRIS: Well, the case of two arrested college students in Ohio raises some serious issues. Prosecutors allege they purchased large numbers of untraceable cell phones for terrorist purposes. Defense attorneys say the purchases were innocent and legal and that the young men were victims of racial profiling because they are Arab-Americans. The cell phones can be used as bomb detonators. And prosecutors say the 20-year-old men admit to buying about 600 phones over the past month. Their attorneys say they were buying and re-selling them to make money for college. A preliminary hearing has been set for Tuesday.

Banning liquids, arming pilots, reinforcing cockpit doors, the U.S. government has changed the airline industry since the 9/11 attacks. But is it enough? Can we do more? Joining me is the author of "Open Target: Where America Is Vulnerable to Attack," Clark Kent Irvin, CNN security analyst and former inspector general of the Homeland Security Department.

Clark, good to see you. Good to talk to you.

CLARK KENT IRVIN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: You too, Tony.

HARRIS: Let me start with -- let me go back a little bit. I know airlines -- I guess I'm referring to the story out of Ohio, we know in this case that airlines more and more are using what is called behavioral profiling at airports. Explain that system, how it works and is it effective at this point? IRVIN: Well, that's a technique that the Israelis really have perfected. They look at people and try to spot suspicious behavior, people who are sweating, people who appear overly nervous. And that is deemed by the Israelis to be far more effective than searching for weapons.

It's very, very difficult often to find weapons. It is sometimes like finding a needle in a haystack. It's much easier if you know what you're doing to spot people who have mal-intent.

HARRIS: And perhaps the story out of Ohio indicates that maybe more and more is being used by law enforcement. Does that make sense?

IRVIN: It does make sense. On the other hand, you know, it's a slippery slope. We in this country, rightly so, put a premium on civil rights and civil liberties. And we can't profile people. It's wrong to do that. And furthermore it can be counterproductive.

Al Qaeda knows that whether we admit it or not, we have in our minds a stereotype of terrorists as Arab Muslims. They are actively seeking to recruit people who aren't Arabs and aren't Muslims and aren't males, for that matter. And so we could defeat ourselves if we focus on that unduly.

HARRIS: That's a good point. Clark, I was watching you on Paula Zahn's show the other night. And Fran Townsend was on. She is the White House security adviser, why is she calling these measures temporary that we've implemented at the airports across the country, you know, no liquids of any kind, gels and that sort of thing, creams?

We have known since '94, the plot was uncovered in '95, that terrorists have wanted to use liquid explosives to bring down aircrafts. First of all, why didn't we impose these kinds of restrictions at that time?

IRVIN: Well, you're absolutely right, Tony. I think it is inexcusable. We have known at least since '94. I would argue we probably ought to have known earlier than that. But certainly 12 years ago we learned from Ramzi Yousef that liquid explosives were something that terrorists were interested in.

At the time we should have either worked overtime to develop counter-technologies, which admittedly is very difficult to do, but at a minimum we should have instituted this ban which we're now only doing.

And because there isn't any counter-technology now, it seems to me this ban has got to be permanent until and unless we get some technology.

HARRIS: There you go. It's interesting, so why do you think the administration at least as this point is calling this a set of temporary measures?

IRVIN: Well, my bet is two reasons, one, the government is still trying to figure out exactly what to do here, so they don't want to lock themselves into a particular course of action.

HARRIS: I see.

IRVIN: Secondly, I think they want to reassure the public that while they are being inconvenienced right now, this inconvenience won't last any longer than it has to. But as I say, since there isn't any counter-technology right now, it seems to me that this ban has got to be made permanent.

HARRIS: Are the terrorists out-thinking us, out-working us, out- strategizing us?

IRVIN: Sadly, Tony, the answer to that is yes. You know, we're always one step behind the 8-ball. We always make sure that we don't lose the last war, which is terrific. So as you said in the lead-up, we have hardened cockpit doors. We have armed some pilots. The number of air marshals is higher. That makes a 9/11-style plot harder, not impossible, but harder.

But the terrorists have studied our measures and they have developed countermeasures, including liquid explosives. And so we need to get ahead of the game and not always be one step behind.

HARRIS: Clark Kent Irvin. Clark, good to see you.

IRVIN: You, too, Tony.

HARRIS: Thanks for the time.

IRVIN: You bet.

NGUYEN: Good information there. Hey, more than a million Americans are affected but doctors don't even know what causes it, Tony. Do you know what we're talking about?

HARRIS: Autism, sure.

NGUYEN: That's right. And coming up in just 10 minutes Dr. Sanjay Gupta and "HOUSE CALL" takes an in-depth look at this mysterious and often frustrating condition.

HARRIS: But first, check this out, when we return -- yes, there it is.

NGUYEN: From a tree? Is that water coming out of a tree?

HARRIS: Drink up.

NGUYEN: No way.

HARRIS: It's not sap, no, it's water. It's water. More on...

NGUYEN: That's crazy...

HARRIS: We will...

NGUYEN: ... looking, at least.

HARRIS: We will explain when we come back.

NGUYEN: All right.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: Oh "The WaterCooler."

HARRIS: Strange things going on in our personal water cooler up here today.

NGUYEN: You have issues, that's all I'm going to say.

HARRIS: Your issues have issues. Time now for "The WaterCooler" where we take a little break to tell you about some of the odd and unusual news stories...

NGUYEN: Odd, unusual.

HARRIS: ... that we come across.

NGUYEN: Yes, besides Tony. First let's go to New York from Ralph Lauren has taken window shopping to the next level. Take a look. The store window has been converted to a touch screen catalog. Now you can browse, choose, and buy right from the sidewalk. Merchandise, well, that's mailed to your home. How easy is that?

HARRIS: Well, here's another shopping idea whose time has come. The automated -- I like this, the automated shopping cart is the creation of a student at the University of Florida who was tired of getting his heels clipped at the grocery store. You know that?

NGUYEN: Oh yes.

HARRIS: Yes. You are always worried that someone is going to -- yes. So the hands-free robo-cart follows you through the store. Stops and starts by itself. And doesn't hit anything.

NGUYEN: Now if it could only pay for your groceries. That's what I need.

Hey, skiers are going to appreciate this one. A six-foot tunnel at the Snowbird Ski Resort in Utah. When it's completed later this year, the tunnel will have a moving sidewalk to carry skiers and snowboarders to a slope on the other side of the mountain. The developers say it's the first of its kind in North America.

HARRIS: Now, Betty, the freakiest thing you will see all day, I promise, you could call it the revenge of the tree. In any case look at this.

NGUYEN: That is crazy.

HARRIS: This red oak is located in San Antonio, Texas. And it has been spurting a steady stream of water since... NGUYEN: No. There is something hooked up to it. There is. There is a mechanical thing.

HARRIS: This is since April. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.

NGUYEN: No?

HARRIS: The experts, baffled. Have no clue. No indication of a broken pipe under the tree or, you know, connected to the house or any kind of hoax. Can't explain it. Can't explain it.

NGUYEN: Oh my. And apparently people were drinking that water.

HARRIS: I don't know about that.

NGUYEN: Well, you saw them with their glasses there.

HARRIS: Yes.

NGUYEN: You may want to test it first.

HARRIS: Make sure it was -- there you go.

NGUYEN: Hey, if you think you know what is causing the tree to squirt water, drop us a line because we have no clue. Write us, weekends@cnn.com. We need your help.

HARRIS: Yes. Up next, Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes a compelling look at the mystery of autism. "HOUSE CALL" comes your way in just about three minutes.

NGUYEN: And then at the top of the hour, new developments from the Middle East. The United Nations takes a step toward bringing peace to that region. So why is Israel expanding its ground offensive in Lebanon? We have a check of the day's top stories right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: And good morning, everyone. "Now in the News," with a U.N. Security Council resolution drafted and ready for a vote, the Israeli military stepped up its operations against Hezbollah in Lebanon this morning. War planes blasted targets throughout the south. Power stations are crippled there. A live report at the top of the hour.

It's uncertain what effect these recent attacks will have on Lebanon's response to the U.N. cease-fire resolution. Later today Lebanese cabinet members are scheduled to meet and either vote to approve the U.N. proposal or amend it.

Airports in the U.S. remain on high alert today. A memo suggests the alleged plot to blow up U.S.-bound planes from the U.K. may have been just days away. Authorities think the suspects planned to use liquid explosives. Coming up in our 9:00 a.m. hour, a live report on the effect this new ban is having on airport vendors. In Afghanistan, the U.S. military says three American soldiers died yesterday in an attack in a remote area in the northeast. Three other soldiers were wounded, as was a civilian. A military spokesman says the militants were eventually repelled.

A long night of fighting fire near Reno, Nevada. A wind-driven brush fire burns dangerously close to homes in two subdivisions. The fire has consumed more than 5,000 acres already and threatens 50 to 60 homes. Smoke could impact flights in and out of Reno-Tahoe Airport. Now to Reynolds Wolf for a quick check of your forecast. Reynolds good morning.

(WEATHER REPORT)

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