Skip to main content
Search
Services


 

Return to Transcripts main page

PAULA ZAHN NOW

North Korea Planning Second Nuke Test?; Dozens of Bodies Found in Baghdad Streets

Aired October 17, 2006 - 20:00   ET

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


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And thank you all for joining us.
Tonight's top stories: at this moment, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on a flight to Tokyo, the first stop in her emergency diplomatic trip to deal with the North Korean nuclear crisis. We're told a second nuclear test could happen at any moment.

We are going to also take you live to Iraq, where bodies continue to pile up in Baghdad streets -- 30 alone found dead.

In the war on terror. It was billed as a huge homegrown terror bust -- Miami's Liberty seven supposedly plotting to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago, but was it all a setup to make the FBI look good?

But we begin with the "Top Story" of the day, the crisis over a nuclear North Korea, all of Asia on edge tonight, after North Korea described the worldwide condemnation of its first nuclear test as a declaration of war. And, right now, there are ominous signs that North Korean scientists are planning a second explosion. Military and intelligence agencies are closely monitoring events in North Korea.

Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has the very latest developments for us now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, a lavish celebration of the communist regime's accomplishments over the past 80 years was broadcast to the world.

But intelligence analysts were looking at different images, images that were picked up from a remote area far outside the capital, and showed what could be preparations for a second underground nuclear test.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: There is speculation that they may want to do something additional. There's also speculation they may not. So, only time will tell.

STARR: According to intelligence and military officials, U.S. spy satellites have seen signs of activity again at several North Korean sites that could be used for nuclear tests.

The Bush administration isn't sure what it all means. At two of the sites, small structures have been put up, perhaps to keep the preparations hidden. U.S. officials say, what worries them most is that the new activity is very similar to what happened just before the first test.

The U.S. is also closely monitoring statements by senior North Korean officials and military leaders for any sign that additional nuclear tests are in the works.

One thing that got analysts' attention was a statement on North Korean television that the U.N. sanctions are -- quote -- "a declaration of war." Intelligence analysts know that kind of rhetoric has been increasing anxiety in China in recent days. There are worries additional tests would further destabilize the region.

The U.S. believes a defiant Kim Jong Il might soon pursue a second test, because the first test seems to have partially failed, and he may want to prove he has a nuclear weapon that works.

JAMES LILLEY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SOUTH KOREA: He's thumbing his nose at the world. He's going to do this and get his people mobilized. He's going to appeal to all of his Third World friends in Iran, Venezuela, Castro in Cuba, Shahir (ph) in -- in Sudan. These are his people. He is saying: I can stand up. This is my nuke.

It's a show.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Paula, tonight, the Bush administration says it simply does not know what North Korea has planned next.

But one intelligence official tells CNN that they are indeed looking at evidence that plans for nuclear tests may be under way at as many as three North Korean sites. Nobody can anticipate that they are going to detonate three weapons, perhaps only one at one site. But it's the same problem they had about a week ago. What will happen, when, and where exactly will it happen? -- Paula.

ZAHN: Barbara Starr, thanks so much for the update.

Next, our "Top Story" turns to the diplomatic race to rein in North Korea.

Right now, as we mentioned at the top of the hour, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is on an urgent mission to Japan, South Korea, China, and Russia, to turn up the pressure on their rogue neighbor. She will also reassure them that the U.S. will react to any of dictator Kim Jong Il's deadly threats.

Now, that's especially important for South Korea, locked in a tense standoff with the north for over a half-century.

Dan Rivers is in the South Korean capital of Seoul.

So, Dan, we have just heard Barbara explain that there is planning under way, perhaps, for tests at as -- as many as three sites in North Korea. What's the expectation in South Korea, that this will happen when Condoleezza Rice is in the region?

DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there is a suspicion that they may choose to time any second test to coincide with Condoleezza Rice's visit. It would be exactly the kind of thing that Kim Jong Il has done before.

Whenever a line in the sand is drawn, he goes right up to it and steps on over. So, this would be exactly the -- true to fall in the past. There are unconfirmed reports that the North Koreans have told the Chinese that they do plan to carry out a series of tests. That would tie in with intelligence reports of increased activity at those sites that Barbara was talking about.

And, also, you have got to remember that, for example, when Pakistan tested its nuclear bomb, back in 1998, they did a total of six tests. And it is generally perceived that, in order to prove the science on these things, you can't just do one test. You have to do more than one -- Paula.

ZAHN: So, we already know the South Koreans were on edge about the first test. How concerned are they tonight? Or -- it's tomorrow, your time, of course.

RIVERS: Yes.

Well, I mean, they are very concerned. And Condoleezza Rice is due in Tokyo. She then is going to come here to Seoul to hold a three-way talk with the foreign minister here and with delegates from Beijing and Tokyo. So, this will become a real diplomatic focus here.

And the concern is that, perhaps, that the timing of this may coincide with her arriving right here in Seoul. Just a few hundred miles to the north, you know, is the test site, where all this is being planned. So, people are concerned in the diplomatic community.

What surprised me, being here, though, is how relaxed everyone seems on the streets. You know, normal life is going on completely. Yesterday, there was a civil contingency drill, with an air raid siren sounding, and no one took any notice at all. I mean, these sorts of drills have been happening for 50 years. But, certainly, yesterday, no one seemed to be paying a blind bit of notice at all.

And you would think that that was just a week after the first test that people would be more on edge, but they certainly seem pretty relaxed here -- Paula.

ZAHN: Dan Rivers, reporting from Seoul, South Korea, thanks so much.

As we continue our "Top Story" focus on North Korea, we take a closer look now at one country that holds the key to successful sanctions. And that is China. The two nations share a border that's more than 800 miles long. And controlling what goes into and out of North Korea simply can't happen without help from Beijing. That's why Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is headed there.

And China has already committed to sanctions against North Korea, but can we trust them to follow through?

Well, our Kathleen Koch has been looking into that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): China, the world's most populous country and North Korea's ally against the U.S. in the Korean War -- but since North Korea's economy collapsed, China has provided most of its food and energy.

Foreign policy experts say that gives it powerful leverage it has used before, and could now, though the rest of the world may never know about it.

BATES GILL, FREEMAN CHAIR IN CHINA STUDIES, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: In the past, China has been willing to shut off some of its energy shipments to North Korea for short periods to express their unhappiness with Pyongyang. So, they are capable of doing these things, but they will do it in a very quiet and nonpublic way.

KOCH: Hence, say longtime diplomats, China's initial declaration after the sanctions vote that it wouldn't check cargo bound for North Korea, followed the next day by quietly beginning inspections at a major border crossing, a face-saving gesture for its neighbor.

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: By nature, foreign policy- wise, China is a very cautious country. So, this is why, on the sanctions, they are kind of being coy.

KOCH: So, what does China want? To keep Kim Jong Il, a known quantity, in power.

PETER BROOKES, SENIOR FELLOW, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: The stability in North Korea, despite as bad as their behavior, is better than a failed state, than civil war, than chaos, then refugee flows into China.

KOCH: Chaos in the forms of millions of refugees pouring into China and uncertainty over who is in control of North Korea's nuclear weapons.

With Kim Jong Il, China maintains some influence on a peninsula where the U.S. and its 50,000 troops are already a powerful presence. Its relationship with the United States, its largest trading partner and key to its future in the global community, is another factor in China's actions.

BROOKES: It is very important, because the United States is a country that probably could get in the way -- in the way, the most, of China's ambitions.

GILL: It's a delicate balancing act for them. And they don't want the United States to take unilateral action, or to try and achieve a solution on the Korean Peninsula that would be principally in American interests. KOCH (on camera): So, experts predict China will continue walking a tightrope in the North Korean nuclear crisis...

(voice-over): ... tightening the screws on its neighbor enough, but not too much, and working closely with the United States and other nations as a team player in the six-party talks, while, all the while, advancing and protecting its own interests first.

Kathleen Koch, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And We just heard about remembering the millions of potential refugees that could flood into China if North Korea collapses. Well, take a look at this.

China is quickly building a concrete and barbed-wire fence along its border with North Korea. So, can we trust China to help us deal with this rogue state? A good question for our "Top Story" panel tonight.

Frank Gaffney is president of the Center For Security Policy. He worked on arms control policy during the Reagan administration. Former Senator James Sasser was ambassador to China under President Clinton. And John Pomfret, author of "Chinese Lessons," he is the former Beijing bureau chief for "The Washington Post."

Good to have all you with us.

So, John, I know you spent a lot of time in China, and a lot of time along the border with North Korea.

Can we trust China to do what we want it to do?

JOHN POMFRET, FORMER BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, at this point, it seems to me, we really don't have any choice.

But the other issue is, we have to remember that there is about a quarter-of-a-million North Koreans who live right on the other side of that border in China. Many of them are businessmen. So, the Chinese might be checking trucks going along the border, but there's an awful lot of smuggling activity that happens there as well.

ZAHN: Do we have a choice, Frank Gaffney? Or is it really up to China to make sure that North Korea doesn't expand this program?

FRANK GAFFNEY, FOUNDER & PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR SECURITY POLICY: Well, look, I think we have to be clear about China's interests. And I think they're not consistent with ours. They are not a friend. They are certainly not an ally of ours.

I believe that they are looking in this context of North Korea and what's best for China on the Korean Peninsula. And, more generally, at a time when they are reportedly firing lasers at our satellites, they're building up strategic energy and economic and military and alliance and geographic capabilities that are almost certainly going conflict with our interests over time, we have got to understand that China is going its own way.

They are enabling this regime in Pyongyang to stay in business. So, I think we can trust them to continue doing that, but that's not going to be, I believe, in our interests, or, for that matter, the interests of the region or the world beyond.

ZAHN: What about that, Ambassador Sasser?

You just heard Frank Gaffney say, not an ally, not a friend. And -- and, yet, how critical is China to diffusing the situation in North Korea?

JAMES SASSER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO CHINA: Well, China, I think, is very critical to it.

China supplies about 70 percent of North Korea's oil, supplies of 60 percent of their food aid. And China is allied with the United States and the other nations in the region in wanting to see a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.

But, as one of your other guests said earlier, this is a very delicate balancing act for China. They don't want to destabilize that Korean regime in North Korea, to the point that it collapses, sending hundreds of -- hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of refugees across the border.

China shares a lot of interests with the U.S. in that region of the world, and also in other areas. After all, China now owns $300 billion worth of U.S. government securities, and is helping us finance our budget deficit.

ZAHN: So, you are basically saying you think China does have an incentive to -- to follow through...

SASSER: Oh, no question.

ZAHN: ... in the way the U.S. and -- and -- and maybe the other five nations might demand of it?

SASSER: Well, I think China will -- will follow through to a certain level.

And the two key players here are China and South Korea. Let's not leave the South Koreans out. They have got a lot at stake here. And they provide an enormous amount of economic aid to North Korea.

ZAHN: John, we are going to take a look at some pictures now today in North Korea, some huge celebrations, marking the 80th anniversary of the rule of the ruling party.

The timing of this is interesting, is a time when Barbara Starr is reporting that -- that we know plans are under way, potentially, at doing more underground tests at as many as three different sites. How -- how does this all link together?

POMFRET: Well, I mean, it makes lot of sense. As one of your earliest guests said, Kim Jong Il is a master at brinkmanship. And you -- you -- you draw a line in the sand, and he will cross that line, almost on every occasion he's been given.

So, I think it makes perfect sense that he's contemplating another series of nuclear tests. He's -- doesn't really feel like there's any downside to it. And he is going to push -- push the international community as far as it can be pushed.

ZAHN: All right, trio, we got to leave it there.

Frank Gaffney, James Sasser, John Pomfret, thank you all. Appreciate it.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Next, our "Top Story" coverage moves on to the war in Iraq, the alarming scale of violence in Baghdad, where, yet again today, dozens more bodies have been found in the city streets.

And a little bit later on, our "Top Story" in politics: With 21 days to go before the midterm election, what effect will almost a half-dozen corruption scandals have on your vote?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Our "Top Story" is moving on now to the fight for Iraq, a nation that is reeling from ever-escalating violence, and facing the bloodiest October since the war began.

Our Baghdad bureau chief, Cal Perry, is beginning another day of covering the deadly toll of Iraqi and American war dead. He joins us now.

Cal, there's been so much talk about preventing this war from spiralling into a civil war. Do most people there believe they are already in a civil war?

CAL PERRY, CNN BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Paula, to be honest, I think we are going to be using that term more and more, as we continue to cover the war.

And, certainly, for Sunni politicians, when it comes to the sectarian fighting, they have said the situation is -- quote -- "out of control." When you look at the numbers, from a sectarian level, from sectarian fighting, the numbers are staggering: at least 600 bodies found since the beginning...

(COUGHING)

PERRY: Excuse me -- since the beginning of this month in the capital alone, and heavy fighting throughout the country.

We have seen, in Balad, over the course of this weekend, sectarian fighting killing nearly 60 people, and we're talking about mass executions here, 19 at a time, 35 a day later.

I think this is the benchmark that people are going to judge this government on. And it is certainly a point of vulnerability for both the prime minister and the parliament -- Paula.

ZAHN: So, what is it that the Iraqi government can do now to stop this violence?

PERRY: Well, the prime minister has embarked on a political campaign to bring tribal leaders all around the same table, to try to get Sunni and Shia leaders on the ground level to start getting along, and to disarm militias.

This has been a major point of contention. There are big armed groups across the country, these militias that many believe people are causing to the sectarian violence, that they are actually operating as death squads. So far, he has been unable to fold to that pressure, unable to get the militias to really disarm.

And for the U.S.' part, they have been unable, at this point, to openly confront the militias on the streets. They are feeling the brunt of these attacks. Fifty-four U.S. soldiers have been killed since the start of this month -- Paula.

ZAHN: That's a staggering number. What do they attribute that to?

PERRY: I think it's really two things.

We're talking about Ramadan, and the insurgents promising an uptick in violence. Many insurgents, radical Islamists, believe that, if they are able to martyr themselves during the Ramadan holiday, that this is a more effective attack on U.S. troops. We have seen this across the country.

U.S. troops are also more involved on the ground than they ever have been. We have seen tens of thousands of boots on the ground in Baghdad, and throughout the country, including the Triangle of Death, south of Baghdad, sweeping through fields, looking for ammunition, looking for weapons.

But, Paula, when you talk about sweeping huge areas of the country, you talk about exposure. And, during Ramadan, the U.S. military has really paid a heavy price.

ZAHN: Cal Perry, thanks so much.

A little bit later on tonight, you can get an inside look at how Iraqi insurgents are targeting American soldiers at 10:00 p.m. on "ANDERSON COOPER 360."

We're going to get back to our top stories in just a few minutes, but, first, let's move along to Melissa Long. She's standing by tonight with our countdown.

MELISSA LONG, CNN PIPELINE: Mmm-hmm. ZAHN: Melissa.

LONG: Good evening, Paula.

Nearly 21 million people went to the Web site today. And a lot of them were very interested in learning more about Larry King's exclusive interview with John Mark Karr, who was briefly a suspect in the JonBenet Ramsey killing. Karr said he never confessed to anything, and plans to move to Atlanta to be with family.

Story nine also from Georgia tonight: A nurse ticketed for having an obscene bumper sticker that referred to the president is now suing county officials. She says her right to free speech was violated. State law prohibits lewd stickers or decals on cars.

Story eight: Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid facing an ethics controversy following reports that he used campaign funds to give bonuses -- Paula.

ZAHN: An interesting time for him to be facing those charges...

LONG: Mmm-hmm.

ZAHN: ... as we head into this midterm election.

Thanks, Melissa.

Coming up next: the "Top Story" in politics tonight -- the Mark Foley scandal is only one of nearly a half-a-dozen scandals grabbing headlines. What could they do to sway your vote three weeks from now?

Also, the "Top Story" in the war on terror -- the feds say they planned to blow up a skyscraper, but is the case against Liberty City seven just a federal setup to make the FBI look good?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Our "Top Story" in politics tonight, corruption in Washington -- tonight, 21 days before the midterm election, at least five major figures are in the headlines tonight.

Republican Congressman Curt Weldon is the target of an FBI investigation into whether he used his influence to get his daughter's company $1 million in contracts with foreign lobbyists. Weldon says he's done nothing wrong.

Today, the House Ethics Committee heard from the chief of staff to Majority Leader John Boehner, as it continues the investigation into disgraced Congressman Mark Foley's racy e-mails to former pages.

Federal prosecutors also looking into a rafting trip retiring Republican Congressman Jim Kolbe took back in 1996. Two ex-pages joined him for that. Kolbe's spokeswoman said nothing bad happened.

President Bush's former head of the Food and Drug Administration, Lester Crawford admitted in court today he owned tens of thousands of dollars in stock in companies the FDA regulates. He will probably be fined for conflict of interest.

And Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid promises to pay back $3,300 in campaign contributions he used to give Christmas bonuses to people who worked at his condo. He's also owning up to some land deals he failed to report, as required.

A lot to think about before you vote.

Let's go straight to our "Top Story" political panel tonight, congressional Dana Bash -- there she is -- chief national correspondent John King, and White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux.

Some very dramatic introductions there, trio.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: John, we -- we mentioned we're just three weeks away from the election. You happen to be in a red state. How concerned are Republicans there that these controversies might sink them?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they are certainly not helpful, Paula.

This is Missouri. You noted -- you noted it's a red state. It is one of the key Senate races this year. Republicans think, if they can hold this seat, they will probably hold their Senate majority.

What Democrats will tell you is, these corruption scandals play best with independent voters, who would think, one, they don't like Washington. Number two, though, the Democrats are trying to sell this as Republicans trying to protect their power at all costs. That's one of the reasons the allegations against Senator Harry Reid don't help the Democrats make that pitch.

It's not a top issue, but they do think it could affect some people, perhaps some conservatives moved on values issues, independents move. But it's certainly not at the top of the list -- Paula.

ZAHN: And there is a lot of talk, Dana Bash, among Democrats that they have found a new block of voters, single women. There are some public service ads out there now to try to encourage those women to vote.

Let's all watch those together.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I made a good choice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of a sudden, I -- I felt liberated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You got all that energy flowing inside, and you go in and commit, it's a beautiful thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: So, how critical are these women to the Democrats winning back the House or the Senate?

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they could be very critical, Paula.

But the problem is that single women, historically, really don't vote. I did a story on this in 2000 that I and others called the "Sex and the City" vote. Single women in -- in 2000, I should say, 22 million -- 22 million -- single women just didn't go to the polls.

In 2004, there was a really big effort, what you are seeing, obviously, continuing now, to try to get out the vote, to try to convince them, look, your vote matters. You have to go vote.

And, to answer your question, for Democrats this year, there is one Democratic pollster, for example, who is working with one grassroots group to try to convince Democrats that this is really a target area for them, because, according to this pollster, Democratic women, single women, especially, are even more anti-war, more anti- Bush, more anti-incumbent than the electorate overall. So, this is a critical vote for Democrats, and Republicans, really.

But the question is, are they actually going to go vote?

ZAHN: So, Suzanne, that's a -- that's a very good question.

And both John and Dana have explained to us the challenges for the Republicans and the Democrats. What is the Republican strategy going into this midterm election, so they don't lose the House and the Senate?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're certain -- they are certainly running out of time.

And the White House strategy has been very focused here. It is, of course, to frame the debate, control the message, to talk about the economy, lowering taxes, as well as national security.

Another part of it, Paula, is wooing the friendly media. It was about a month ago -- and this has worked in the past. About a month ago, the White House quietly ushered in a group of conservative radio hosts to get one-on-one with the president to talk with him.

We also saw, just this past week, Fox's Bill O'Reilly, he actually got the royal treatment, actually, his black sedan pulling up to the front gate of the White House. Usually that is treatment only for dignitaries.

Vice President Cheney, of course, was on Rush Limbaugh and what we're going to see next week is actually what they call here at the White House radio day. They're going to set up a big tent, pitch a tent, on the North Lawn and have about 40 or so conservative radio hosts set up to do interviews with cabinet members, with senior staff, to get the message out. We're going to see President Bush hitting the road. Just tomorrow, he's going to be going to North Carolina but also Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia. All of this is to try to get those millions of conservative voters and those particularly the radio hosts hit the most, to get out there to the polls and vote.

ZAHN: John King, you get the last word tonight because you are so outnumbered by the women. Will the Democrats take back the House and the Senate?

KING: Well, most Republicans privately, Paula, would tell you right now they think it would be very difficult for Republicans to hold onto the House. They do think they can hold onto the Senate, but they're not as optimistic as they were a few weeks ago.

Here's the key thing for Republicans. Suzanne and Dana have both mentioned how important turnout is in the midterm elections. The Republicans do have a stated voter turn out effort. It worked for them in 2000, 2002, 2004. They hope it works again. And they have a boatload more money than the Democrats. The question is, is money and people enough? The issues tide is moving against the Republican right now.

ZAHN: I guess we'll know that in about three weeks and then maybe a day or so. Dana Bash, John King, Suzanne Malveaux, part of the best political team on TV. Appreciate it.

More top stories still to come. Right now, let's check back in with Melissa who has more of the countdown.

LONG: Paula, story seven comes out of Kentucky tonight, and authorities are busy searching for a missing 10-month-old boy. They say he disappeared after a social worker took the child to his mom's home. The social worker was found dead late Monday.

Story six, from Iowa. A first court appearance today for man accused of killing his parents and three younger sisters. Shawn Bentler is now charged with first-degree murder.

And story five -- Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin's daughter carrying on her dad's legacy. Bindi Irwin is scheduled to host a wildlife program next year for the Discovery Kids Network. The working title for the program will be "Bindi, The Jungle Girl." And she's a very composed 8-year-old, Paula.

ZAHN: She is, but I hope she's not exposed to too much dangerous stuff. Melissa, thanks.

Coming up next, top stories in the war on terror. An eye-opening investigation into the hunt for homegrown terrorists, why so few of them get any serious prison time.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Our top story in the war on terror tonight, whether we're really making headway at all. Today, President Bush signed new bill on terrorism. He called it a vital tool that will save American lives. One provision moved some foreign suspects closer to trial before military commissions.

But here at home, there are some real questions about whether the war on terror is getting any results. Out of more than 400 terrorism cases filed by the Justice Department since 9/11, only about half of them have led to convictions. As for the sentences, half amounted to less than 28 days in prison.

So is the FBI looking for terrorists in the right places? You might remember that on this program just a few months ago -- this all broke on our air -- we reported on an alleged terror plot in Florida, suspects with ties to al Qaeda, planning to take down the Sears Tower in Chicago.

Investigative correspondent Drew Griffin has a closer look at that case.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Their defenders say they were easy marks: seven poor, black men, many still living with their mothers in Miami's Liberty City, all immersed in a religion that outsiders considered odd. The U.S. attorney general called them terrorists.

ALBERTO GONZALEZ, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: This case clearly demonstrates our commitment to preventing terrorism through energetic law enforcement efforts aimed at detecting and thwarting terrorist acts.

GRIFFIN: It was a scary scenario -- homegrown terrorists pledging allegiance to al Qaeda and allegedly planning to attack Chicago's Sears Tower and an FBI building in Miami. But the case of the so-called Liberty City Seven and others raised doubts about the FBI and the Department of Justice's success in catching real homegrown terrorists.

A conservative, Reagan-appointed federal appeals court judge in Chicago, Richard Posner, has studied terrorism cases across the country. It's led him to question who the government is accusing of terrorism and has him wondering, where are the real terrorists?

RICHARD POSNER, U.S. APPEALS COURT JUDGE: The hopeful interpretation of the FBI's failure to have come up with really dramatic prosecutions of obvious terrorists is that there aren't any, which would be great. But the other alternative is that because they are focusing on who they can catch, they are missing the most dangerous people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My son never hurt anyone.

GRIFFIN: On the very day of her son's arrest in Miami this past June, Elizine (ph) Phenor told us her Son, Stanley, could not possibly be a terrorists. We heard the same thing a few doors down at the home of Julian Alibris (ph). UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Never been in jail, never.

GRIFFIN: She said her son, Lyglenson Lemorin, was a construction worker, not a killer. It is true each of their sons had previous arrests for minor crimes. They worked for this man, Narseal Batiste, a contractor. After work, they and others would gather to practice their religion and drill in the martial arts.

A year ago, Batiste talked to a shopkeeper of Arab descent about creating an Islamic government in the U.S. Batiste thought that al Qaeda might be able to help. By chance, that shopkeeper turned out to be an FBI informant. John Miller is assistant director of the FBI.

JOHN MILLER, FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: We didn't go to them and propose a plot. They came to a confidential source of the FBI and they proposed a plot. When we met with them, they sought to further that plot.

GRIFFIN: But one lawyer who has closely followed the case of the Liberty City Seven says it is starting to look more like something concocted by the FBI.

JEFFREY WEINER, FRM. PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION: There is no plot, there was no plot. This was created and choreographed by the FBI.

GRIFFIN: Lawyers involved in the case in Miami are prohibited from discussing it, but Miami lawyer Jeffrey Weiner, past president of the National Criminal Defense Attorneys Association, says he speaks for the defense, which he says used the entire Liberty City case as a setup.

WEINER: I think that the government went ahead and made these people look like they are evil terrorists, when in fact, they're nothing of the sort.

GRIFFIN: Court filings in the case indicate that after that initial conversation with the informant, the FBI pushed that plot forward. And the FBI paid two confidential witnesses a total of $27,000 to direct the Liberty City Seven, offering the men money supposedly from al Qaeda for surveillance video and photos of potential targets.

The FBI informants brought them in together under one roof, a shabby warehouse. The government called it a terror headquarters. The families of the accused said nonsense.

(on camera): If fact they say the whole idea of a warehouse was the FBI's and its informants, paid for by the FBI and then wired. The whole idea of a terrorist plot came from the FBI to blow up buildings, again from the FBI. Even the idea to conduct surveillance video came from the FBI along with the camera to do it.

WEINER: These men are all indigent. They had no money even for food. The clothes they wore were whatever they could pick up cheap, old and tattered. GRIFFIN: FBI Assistant Director Miller says if the 9/11 hijackers had been arrested early on in their planning, that plot may have also seem far-fetched.

MILLER: But ultimately the people who make these criticisms are never the people who at the end of the day would have been responsible had something gone forward.

GRIFFIN: The challenge for the Liberty Seven defense, the suspects did indeed take these pictures of federal buildings and they did pledge an oath to al Qaeda. But in the end, Weiner expects the case will be widdled down. Guilty pleas on minor charges. Drew Griffin, CNN, Miami.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And when we come back, we're going to stay with our top story on the war on terror with a rare inside look at how the FBI is fighting for the hearts and minds of American Muslims.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Now more on our top story on the war of terror. Are we not making enough progress here in America simply because our intelligence agencies don't know enough about Muslim communities in the U.S.? One recent report points out that more than five years after 9/11, only 33 FBI agents speak Arabic. Justice correspondent Kelli Arena has a rare, inside look at the FBI's efforts to build bridges with American Muslims.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Nawar Shora is on a jihad and said so right in front of a room full of new FBI agents.

NAWAR SHORA, AMERICAN-ARAB ANTI-DISCRIMINATION CMTE: Struggle is the literal translation of jihad in Islam and it's the daily struggle to be a better person, to resist temptation.

ARENA: The FBI and Shora agreed to let us tape this lesson to underscore their efforts at working together. But more than five years after the September 11th attacks, both sides admit talk alone won't help bridge the culture gap that still exists between agents and the Arab American community.

SHORA: True or false, all Arabs are Muslim and all Muslims are Arab.

CROWD: False.

ARENA: It's all about building trust and there's a long way to go on that front.

SHORA: You don't want to say, my, your daughter looks lovely or god, your daughter is hot. Bad idea.

ARENA: Trust is key if the FBI wants help keeping on top of the terror threat.

(on camera): FBI officials says it is possible the Arab American and Muslim communities would get the first hint if Islamic extremists were planning attacks and hopefully alert authorities.

(voice-over): Just as Shora has reached out to help bridge differences, the FBI is also reaching out to the Arab American community.

JOE PERSICHINI, FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: We will never make advances without dialogue.

ARENA: Joe Persichini heads up the FBI's Washington field office. He and Shora belong to an FBI advisory council that deals with everything from outreach to hate crimes against Arab Americans.

IMAM MOHAMED MAJID, ADAMS CENTER: I discovered that a mosque in Springfield run by an imam from Iraq. We can invite him maybe to come to the next meeting.

ARENA: The scenario is repeated in FBI field offices around the country and officials say the outreach effort in general has helped. Take for example arrests made in Miami of men allegedly planning attacks against government buildings. It was a tip from the community that got the ball rolling.

ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: A number of our cases have come from individuals in the Muslim American community who have alerted us to potential threats.

ARENA: But a love affair it's not. Many Arabs and Muslims still view the FBI as an enemy, one that targets, interrogates and arrests with little to no evidence of wrongdoing.

ASHRAF NUBANI, ATTORNEY: There's a lot of things that have happened in the past to back that up. The surveillance of mosques, for example, up to before the start of the Iraq war the FBI went into the Iraqi community to question or interview Iraqis.

ARENA: Part of the problem is that the FBI hasn't been successful at recruiting Arab American agents who would be more readily accepted and even Arabs in the communities who do have a good relationship say they don't have much to show for it.

KAREEM SHORA, AMERICAN-ARAB ANTI-DISCRIMINATION CMTE: When we work with you, we would like to you also speak out publicly and say we work with these organizations on this effort or that effort, which was constructive in helping us do our job. We don't feel we hear that enough.

ARENA: Still, Nawar Shora firmly believes the only remedy is to keep both sides talking.

SHORA: Understanding plus communication equals trust. That's my secret formula.

ARENA: Kelli Arena, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Now we're going to turn to our top story panel. Joining me now, Drew Findling, criminal defense attorney, Bill Gavin, former assistant director of the FBI in New York and Arsalan Iftikhar with the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Welcome all. So Drew, you watched Drew Griffin's piece. And he raised some very troubling questions about the very public arrests of the Miami Seven. And there are people out there who really think the only reason these arrests were made was that the government wanted to make it look like the war on terror was going OK. Do you think that's true?

DREW FINDLING, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I don't think that this was an attempt by the government to create this illusion of accomplishment. I am troubled however that we have taken these young men and sent in paid informants, that is folks that are nothing more than actors that were getting paid to seduce them into doing something that these poor guys would have been otherwise never able to accomplish on their own. I think being deeply involved in the criminal justice system, we have enough problems with criminals in our society. We don't need to start creating criminals and that's exactly what we did here. We gave these folks an opportunity to commit an act there's no way they would have been able to avail themselves to. And that's just un-American as far as I'm concerned.

ZAHN: And Bill, we mentioned you at one time were Assistant Director of the FBI here in New York, do you have a problem with the way those informants were used in the case?

BILL GAVIN, FORMER ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, FBI: Yes and no, Paula. You know, lots of times you have to go back to the propensity of these people to commit the crime. If in fact, they had the propensity to do it -- if you look back in 1993 with Omar Abdel-Rahman and that group of people who were going blow up the Holland Tunnel, the garage to the U.N. building, the Lincoln Tunnel and 26 Federal Plaza, which I had a real interest in, we had an informant mixed into the middle of that when we found out what was going to happen.

ZAHN: But you're not telling me tonight that the Miami Seven was capable of pulling off a plight that they are accused of trying to pull off.

GAVIN: One never knows -- until you explore it, you never know.

ZAHN: And Arsalan, let me ask you this. A lot of people thought that these men were picked on because they were Muslims, that the actions of the FBI were racist.

ARSALAN IFTIKHAR, COUNCIL ON AMERICAN-ISLAMIC RELATIONS: Well, you know, to a lot of American Muslims since 9/11, you know, they've felt a definite impact of many of the Justice Department's law enforcement initiatives, where American Muslims were presumed guilty in the court of public opinion before ever being proved guilty in a court of law.

I think, to their credit, the FBI has worked to help build these bridges between the American Muslim community, but as your piece said, we still have a long way to go.

ZAHN: Drew, how much more needs to be done to build bridges between the Muslim community and these law enforcement agencies?

FINDLING: Well, I think that clearly there has been accomplishment, and let's recognize the fact that nobody does anything but condemn terrorism. However, Bill hits on two, I think, great points. The one is the predisposition of citizens to commit a crime, whether they be Muslim or these poor Haitian guys. There's no showing that they had the predisposition to be terrorists. Rather, Paula, what they did is they exercised their first amendment rights and expressed their dissatisfaction our government. That's no reason to send people in to cultivate criminality.

And the second thing is sending somebody in. Bill said, send somebody in. And I agree with that. If you find something like this and you send FBI agents in, interview them, as soon as do you that, these guys are going to be spooked. That's going to be the end of their activity.

ZAHN: All right.

Bill, need a final word, we only have ten seconds.

Is the FBI under too much pressure to make terrorism-related arrests?

GAVIN: I don't think they are under too much pressure, Paula. I really believe that they have to go where the problem is, and I can't help but salute what's being done, in terms of the communities, both the law enforcement community and the Muslim communities getting together to try to understand each other's and make them nonproblems for the future.

ZAHN: We got to leave it there.

Drew Findling, Bill Gavin, Arsalan Iftikhar, thank you all.

Now we're going to take a quick biz break. On Wall Street stocks ended a three-day winning streak, the Dow dropping 30 points, the Nasdaq falling 18. The S & P, down five.

But the top business story today, a gigantic real estate deal. Met Life has agreed to sell two apartment communities in New York City for $5.4 billion. And today the Chicago Mercantile Exchange said it will buy the Chicago Board of Trade, also known as the CBOT, $8 billion.

Right now we're going to go back to Melissa Long as she wraps up our countdown tonight -- Melissa.

MELISSA LONG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Number four, this hour's top story, and learn more about the key players in the nuclear dispute. Do check out CNN.com/specialreport on North Korea.

Story three, the Justice Department is looking for actor Wesley Snipes tonight. An arrest warrant was issued after an indictment for tax evasion. He's accused of failing to pay tens of millions of dollars in federal income tax -- Paula.

ZAHN: Bet they find him.

Melissa, thanks.

When we come back, find out why this big rock is number one on the countdown. Well, eventually you'll see it. There you go. Melissa will fill us in next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Right now we have some new developments in a story we told you about on the show last week. A rare case of a drunk driver actually charged with murder. Tonight, Martin Heidgen is guilty of two counts of murder for the horrifying head-on crash that killed seven year-old flowergirl Jennifer Flynn after a family wedding on New York's Long Island. A chauffeur was also killed. Prosecutors say Heidgen had at least 14 drinks. He faces 25 years to life when he's sentenced next month.

Now we go back to Melissa Long, who's standing by to wrap up our CNN.com countdown -- Melissa.

LONG: And Paula, story two is about man who killed his family in Indiana 17 years ago. After a summer trial he has been sentenced now to 160 years in prison. Prosecutors say Jeff Pelley killed his family so he could go to the prom.

Story one about an extremely rare find in Texas -- rather, Kansas. Scientists have dug up a meteorite they believe fell from the skies some 10,000 years ago. It weighs 154 pounds, found in a wheat field. And they believe that they could some time use this radar technology to help them to explore Mars -- Paula.

ZAHN: Ten thousand years ago. That is an amazing find.

LONG: It is.

ZAHN: Melissa, thanks.

ZAHN: That wraps it up for all of us here tonight, But I want to tell you what we got for you tomorrow night. In our "Vital Signs" segment, senior medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports on some of the experimental procedures being done on emergency room patients without their consent.

Yes, that's right. You're in the emergency room, you have no idea, but while you're being treated, they're experimenting with your body. And it's perfectly legal. We're going to score that tomorrow night and find out how you can get any control over that. So please join us tomorrow night, we'll be back here, same time, same place. In the meantime, have a really great night. Thanks again for dropping by. "LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now. Good night.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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