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Gunman Holed Up in "Miami Herald" Building; Shia Launch Retaliation for Thanksgiving Bombings

Aired November 24, 2006 - 13:00   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CO-HOST: Hello, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta.
T.J. HOLMES, CO-HOST: And I'm T.J. Holmes, sitting in for Don Lemon today.

PHILLIPS: Rage and revenge in Iraq. Sunni versus Shiite. More than 200 Iraqis killed. Mosques attacked. Reports of people burned alive. Now U.S. troops enter Sadr City.

HOLMES: Putin, he says. A former KGB agent pins his death on Russia's president as he goes to his grave.

PHILLIPS: The Catholic Church and condoms. The pope now considering lifting the ban on the popular contraceptive in the fight against AIDS.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

HOLMES: First we go to a developing story out of Miami. Evacuations at the "Miami Herald" with a reported gunman on the loose in the newspaper building. On the phone with us now Rick Hirsch, who is the "Miami Herald" managing editor.

What can you tell us about what is happening inside your building right now?

RICK HIRSCH, MANAGING EDITOR, "MIAMI HERALD": Hi. Well, I don't know if I would describe it as a gunman on the loose.

There is a gentleman on the sixth floor of the building, as I understand it, surrounded by police. He's a cartoonist for "El Nuevo Herald". "El Nuevo Herald" is a newspaper that is published by the "Miami Herald" media company.

But as far as I know all the employees have been cleared from the sixth floor of the building.

HOLMES: Are employees being taken out of other areas of that building or just the sixth floor?

HIRSCH: They have asked employees to leave. The "Miami Herald" newsroom is on the fifth floor of the building, and they've asked people to leave the sixth floor, as well.

HOLMES: What are you all being told by authorities or otherwise about why this person may be in building and may be armed, maybe be upset even?

HIRSCH: Well, we really don't know why. He's a cartoonist who has done work for the "Herald" over a number of years, or for "El Nuevo Herald" for a number of years. And I don't personally know what he is -- what sort of statement he's trying to make or what he's upset about.

HOLMES: Now where are you right now? Where are you right now? Where am I talking to you from?

HIRSCH: I'm on the fifth floor of the "Miami Herald" building.

HOLMES: So are authorities -- you feel like you're in a good spot, safe spot just to stay put? You are still in the building?

HIRSCH: Well, it's pretty quiet here. You wouldn't -- you wouldn't know there was anything going on.

HOLMES: Would you say work is continuing even in some parts of the building?

HIRSCH: The building has been cleared, as I understand it, with the exception of some of us who are working on this story.

HOLMES: And how many people -- we're looking at your building here on these pictures. How many people -- give us an idea of how many are in that building on a day to day basis? How many employees from all of those floors, really are working?

HIRSCH: Well, on a day-to-day basis, it's hundreds if not 1,000. On the Friday after Thanksgiving it is a fraction of that. So this isn't exactly a weekend day but outside of the newsroom, it's relatively close to it.

HOLMES: And again, you said that just a few of you all are working on the story. Just -- just looking around and from seeing what you can see, are you confident that most people did go ahead and get out of that building and, like you said, just a few of you all left in there working on this story?

HIRSCH: That's correct. And it's my understanding that the sixth floor, where the gentleman is, has been cleared.

HOLMES: And was there ever any sense -- we're seeing some of these pictures. We've seen a lot of police activity. And again, like you're saying to me it seems kind of calm, but again, was there ever a moment of panic where people were running? Or was everything pretty much calm in the building when this all started going down?

HIRSCH: No, things were -- things were fairly calm where I am. We sort of heard about this and, you know, you wonder can this be right? So in a newsroom, the instinct is to find out what's going on with the story, and so we pursued it from that angle. But I -- I'm sure there was a greater sense of urgency on the sixth floor.

HOLMES: All right. Well, Rick Hirsch, the managing editor of the "Miami Herald" in that building, where things are happening right now. We're going to continue to follow this story. Thank you for taking a couple of minutes, and you take care of yourself in that building, all right?

PHILLIPS: Delrish Moss with the Miami police, the public information officer, on the phone with us now.

Delrish, bring us up to date on what's happening in the building.

DELRISH MOSS, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICE, MIAMI POLICE: Basically, what's happening now is we believe that we've evacuated everyone that needed to get out for safety reasons. And we're trying to determine exactly where the subject is at this point. We believe he's on the sixth floor. We believe he's contained on the sixth floor. We believe he's armed with -- the security guard is describing it as a machinegun.

At this point we don't believe anyone is in danger. In particular the person that he was looking for, but we're working to make sure that what we believe is true, and we're trying to assess the facts of it.

PHILLIPS: So Delrish, are you saying that no -- that none of your police officers have come face to face with this alleged gunman?

MOSS: That's right. None of our police officers have come face to face. We're working on information that we've gotten from security thus far and we moved in several members of our SWAT team to try and figure out just what the situation is.

PHILLIPS: So security there in the building said that they saw a man with a machinegun?

MOSS: They said a man armed with a machinegun, a former -- possibly a former cartoonist for "The Herald" came inside with a machinegun dressed in camouflage and said he was looking for an editor in particular.

PHILLIPS: OK. That's what Rick Hirsch was saying with "The Miami Herald", that he's a cartoonist and had done some freelance work for "El Nuevo Herald" and that he was looking for the executive editor, Humberto Castello -- Castello. Does that sound right?

MOSS: That sounds right. The only thing -- the only information I don't have is I don't have the name of the person that he was looking for. But everything else sounds right, everything that we have been able to sort of gather on the scene.

PHILLIPS: Now wire reports are saying that this cartoonist could have a laser gun. Do you think possibly there's any chance that this could have been...

MOSS: What's that?

PHILLIPS: ... a laser gun? Have you gotten...

MOSS: The information that we got initially was that it was a machinegun with a laser sight.

PHILLIPS: Got it. Which would make sense.

MOSS: That's the initial information that we've gotten. And so that is the initial information that we've gotten.

PHILLIPS: Are you getting information right now, Delrish? Is someone talking to you? Are you getting new information?

MOSS: I'm getting new information, but I have a lot of things going on. I'm having a second conversation at the same time, so forgive me.

PHILLIPS: OK. No problem. So the SWAT team has not moved in yet? Is that right? They're just around the perimeter of the building?

MOSS: Yes. We're looking to move in. We're looking to move in. We're trying to assess the building tactically. The disadvantage that we have is this person is a freelance -- freelance cartoonist. He's familiar with the building. Probably more so than any of the police officers that tactically will be moving in.

PHILLIPS: Got it. Delrish Moss, PIO there with the Miami police. We'll keep checking in with you, Delrish. Thank you very much.

Meanwhile, we do have a live reporter on the scene, Rosh Lowe, joining us now.

Rosh, where exactly are you? How close are you to the action?

ROSH LOWE, WSVN CORRESPONDENT: We're right next to the "Miami Herald" building. Let me give you the vantage point from the ground here. This is occurring right in downtown Miami. You have Biscayne Boulevard and North Bay Shore Drive just adjacent, surrounding the "Herald" building.

In addition to that, the challenge for SWAT team members is that you have a causeway coming over into the mainland of downtown Miami. So there are a lot of cars that travel there.

And so we have heard the SWAT team is extremely concerned that if, in fact, this man is armed inside the building, if in fact, he does have the vantage point of an open window, they obviously want to keep the public safe.

What I want to do for you now is give you the perspective of people who are actually inside of the "Herald", people who actually work at the "Herald".

Paul, you work on the second -- fourth floor there.


LOWE: Tell me what it was like for you. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, at first we were told there was someone with a gun. And it didn't seem that serious. And then, as time went on, it became more serious and they evacuated the building.

LOWE: Now you told me before, at first they said you can leave at your own discretion and then they came down and said you have to get out of here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. I guess they realized it was more serious than they first imagined.

LOWE: And what have you heard from someone who works in the building? What occurred here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All I heard was that someone in camouflage went to the sixth floor and is a disgruntled employee and that someone -- he mentioned that there was a new editor in town, and he was in there holding hostages.

LOWE: Now a lot of people are going to have this question. How do you get inside of this building with a gun?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no idea. I don't see how they did that. I have the same question.

LOWE: Yes. That's the question a lot of people here are asking down here on the ground. Here you have a major newspaper in a major city. How do you get inside of a building here with a gun?

And this for background: more than a year ago there was a politician, Arthur Teele, who actually took his life in the lobby of the "Miami Herald" by shooting himself. So the "Miami Herald" has definitely seen its share of these types of scenes and this type of situation here, where they are surrounded by police.

I just want to give you one more...

PHILLIPS: Hey Rosh, let me ask you a question. Rosh, while you -- while you have employees there in the building -- I don't know if that gentleman is still there -- can you ask them what type of -- what type of security do they have to go through? I mean, here at CNN we have to go through metal detectors, so if someone were to try to bring in a gun...

LOWE: Yes. Yes.

PHILLIPS: Can you ask him?

LOWE: Let me ask you this question. They have -- they have a question at CNN. What type of security do they have here at this building? AT most media buildings you go through major security. What is...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's security at both doors. There's someone in the front lobby and someone in the employee entrance, and they carefully view people coming in and out. LOWE: Are they armed?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. No, they're not.

PHILLIPS: So they don't have armed security, Rosh?

LOWE: So they don't have armed security, no, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: OK. But -- and they don't go through metal detectors?

LOWE: You don't go through metal detectors?




LOWE: No. So that's the deal here. You know, you heard it from an employee here. That's a security setup they have inside the building right now.

And some of the employees -- let me speak to you for a quick moment here. What have you been hearing? And she has some good information. What have you been hearing from people?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Basically that this guy came in. He's disgruntled, and he came in armed.

LOWE: Let -- let me ask you, as someone who works inside the building, the "Miami Herald", what is the security you go through every day?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we go through a security entrance where we have to use a gate pass in order to enter the building. So this person would have had -- had to have had the credentials necessary to enter the building.

LOWE: OK. But do you have to go through any metal detectors? Or...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No metal detectors. The main entrance there is a turnstile type entrance, where once again you have to pass security and access with a pass.

LOWE: So the deal here is that basically if you're an employee you can pretty much get in?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right. With a pass.

LOWE: So that's the deal here.

PHILLIPS: Well, Rosh...

LOWE: If you're an employee there, you can get into the building. Yes? PHILLIPS: Does anybody -- And thanks for rolling with me on this. I know everything is kind of happening by the second here.

LOWE: Right.

PHILLIPS: The newspaper inside that building, "El Nuevo Herald", does anybody there work for that newspaper? Does anybody know this executive editor, Humberto Castello?

LOWE: Let me -- let me get the person.

PHILLIPS: Yes, go ahead and work it.

LOWE: I'm going to get the person. You work for "El Nuevo Herald", right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. I don't want to get...

LOWE: Let me ask you one quick question. You're on TV now. Do you know this editor that this guy was allegedly going after?

PHILLIPS: Humberto Castello.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't -- I just know he used to work for comics and that's it. I mean, other than that, I don't -- and I just got some friends in there who work for the telemarketing department. But other than that, I don't -- I don't know the guy.

LOWE: Have you been told by "El Nuevo Herald" not to talk, because we've heard some reports that they're telling some of the employees not to talk?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no. I haven't -- nobody has told me not to talk, but I don't have any information regarding, I mean, this case.

LOWE: OK. So you have some people here of "El Nuevo Herald" coming out. We were told previous here that we weren't going to get a lot of comments.

But I want to show you here, I mean, surrounded by a big media setup here and the police basically shutting down this busy intersection. What you have now if we go down there you can see they said the first course of business was evacuating the sixth floor, which they've done. And you can see some of the employees that are stationed down there at this hour.

PHILLIPS: Got it. And Rosh, we're going to continue to come back to you, but if you can find out anything about the executive editor of "El Nuevo Herald". Apparently this cartoonist was looking for this executive editor, Humberto Castello. So if there's anything you can find out about him, if anybody knows him, just let us know and we'll come back to you, OK?

LOWE: You got it. One last note here before we leave you. We did speak to some witnesses who were out here previous, who said that when the guy came into the building there were some people -- And I know the police are saying that they haven't come face to face with him. There were some witnesses who did say they saw what was a gun.

And in addition to that, that allegedly this man, who was identified by the "Miami Herald" as Jose Varela, came in and said that there is a new editor in town and then went up to the sixth floor. And that's what caused all the commotion.

PHILLIPS: Got it. Rush Lowe -- Rosh Lowe, rather, WSVN, great job. We'll keep talking to you. Thanks, Rosh.

LOWE: All right.

HOLMES: We're going to head back down to someone else who works at the "Miami Herald" there, who is in the same building, Tom Fiedler, the executive editor of the "Miami Herald".

Sir, are you there? Can you tell me, are you still in the building? You don't have to tell me exactly where you are but are you still in the building?

TOM FIEDLER, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "MIAMI HERALD": Yes. Still in the building and in the newsroom. The "Miami Herald's" newsroom is on a different floor from the newsroom for "El Nuevo Herald", where the situation is taking place.

HOLMES: What have you been able to piece together from where you are about -- can you give us any more about how this all kind of initially went down and why, possibly, this cartoonist, who is reportedly in there, reportedly armed, why he might have been going after an employee of that newspaper, "El Nuevo"?

FIEDLER: I can only tell you what I've heard secondhand here that our reporters are gathering and that it -- that it related to this -- to the cartoonist's, I guess, belief that the newspaper was not, in his mind, being properly run. It wasn't telling the truth, is the words that he used in one -- in one conversation. And that he was coming in, and he was taking over from the current editor, and he would tell the truth.

HOLMES: Now, how much do you know? Well, actually, I want to go back to another point. We were just talking about security there with some folks.

Would you say security is an issue? Is it tight? Is it always something that's emphasized there at that building? And does it seem like it should be awfully difficult to get a weapon inside of your building there?

FIEDLER: Well, I would say that I would hope it is difficult to get a weapon in the building, but I think we, in our business, walk a fine line in wanting to appear assessable to members of the public, that they should be able to come and meet with us and speak with us, but at the same time make sure that we provide adequate security for -- for those who work here.

We do have very good security. People have to enter through checkpoints. Employees have to carry coded cards that let them get in. And any visitor who comes in has to be presented at a security desk, be identified, photographed, and so forth. And -- and so to some degree there certainly is a check on who can just come in off the street.

HOLMES: And...

FIEDLER: We don't have weapons detectors here, and that's something that I think is a decision, frankly, that the kind of business that we're in is this -- we're -- we don't want to present a fortress-like face to the community.

HOLMES: What do you know also about the "El Nuevo's" executive editor, Humberto Castello?

FIEDLER: Castello, yes.

HOLMES: Castello, who's -- who's reportedly at this point the person that this cartoonist was looking for? What do you know about him and his reputation around the building?

FIEDLER: I don't -- I know him well.

HOLMES: Know him well?

FIEDLER: I doubt very much this has anything to do with his reputation. And probably this is the act of a -- of a distraught, possibly mentally ill person who has some -- some -- is under a delusion that somehow he knows a truth that isn't being said.

Frankly, I don't think this is about the executive editor himself. It's about the idea of taking over and running the newspaper.

HOLMES: All right. Mr. Fiedler, Tom Fiedler, the executive editor of the "Miami Herald". Sir, thank you for taking some time out with us on the phone here.

FIEDLER: You're -- you're welcome.

PHILLIPS: All right. Let's get to CNN's Susan Candiotti. She's been working her sources.

Susan, what more do you know about what's happening here at this "Miami Herald" building? And do you know anything more about this -- the cartoonist, Jose Varela?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not so much about him, Kyra, but I just got off the phone with the police chief, John Timoney, who told me that this cartoonist is now isolated in the northeast corner of the building in the editor's office whom that man was seeking. That's the office of Mr. Humberto Castello -- Castello. However, Mr. Castello is not in the building. That's the good news. As a matter of fact, the chief said, "I'm with him." So Mr. Castello is safe.

The man appears to be by himself. And Chief Timoney said that his people are now trying to establish contact with Mr. Varela. They've not yet done so, but they're efforting (sic) that.

PHILLIPS: And I'm -- just as we've been talking, I've actually just been Googling Jose Varela, and he's -- he's all over the place. And I mean, he's had cartoons printed in a number of publications and books and seems to have quite a reputation to follow him. So I think that's interesting in itself, who he is and his background.

Meanwhile, you said that the editor is safe with the police chief. The alleged gunman, Jose Varela, this cartoonist, is isolated, actually, in the editor's office there in the building.

Do you know if they have cleared that whole floor? We have reports there are no hostages. Does it look like this cartoonist is in the editor's office and nobody else is on that floor?

CANDIOTTI: That appears to be the case, according to Police Chief Timoney. He said as far as they know all of the employees at "El Nuevo Herald", which occupies a part of the building that you're looking at, have been evacuated from the building.

And so he feels as though everyone is safe at this time as the SWAT team, as their lead hostage experts -- there are no hostages, again. The chief confirms that. They are trying to get hold of the man, talk to him, find out exactly what the problem might be.

You heard, of course, what Tom Fiedler had to say just a few minutes ago. He provided some pretty good insight, I thought, into this alleged gunman, Mr. Varela. But it is also good to know that Mr. Castello is, in fact, with the police chief and is not even in the building.

PHILLIPS: Susan, just real quickly, before we go to break, as I'm reading about Jose Varela, it says that he's a well known member of the Cuban-American community, that he's taken a number of photographs and done original cartoons for a number of books.

I mean, you're -- you're very entrenched in the community there. You know the Cuban -- American Cuban community well. Do you know this name? Are you familiar with him at all?

CANDIOTTI: I'm afraid I'm not other than having seen cartoons published of his in "El Nuevo Herald". But I do not other than that.

PHILLIPS: All right. We'll work more information. Susan Candiotti, appreciate it. We'll keep working this developing story out of Miami.

HOLMES: A town without pity. The vicious vendetta between Sunni and Shiites boils over in Baghdad. A live report is next in the NEWSROOM.


PHILLIPS: A developing story out of Miami, Florida. This is what we can tell you right now. Apparently, a cartoonist that works for the newspaper here in "The Miami Herald" building, "El Nuevo Herald", Jose Varela, right now is holed up in the editor's office there in the newsroom.

A SWAT team, other members of Miami police there on the scene, trying to negotiate with him, trying to talk with him.

He apparently, allegedly had stormed the building, allegedly with a machinegun, demanding to see the editor of the newspaper, not happy with the way he was running the newspaper. We're talking about Humberto Castello. That editor safe with the police chief, not in the building. Nobody apparently on that floor right now.

So the active story is that the Miami police involved with trying to communicate with Jose Varela, this cartoonist, who apparently freelances for "El Nuevo Herald", trying to convince him, apparently, to surrender to police.

No injuries. It looks like the majority of the people have been evacuated from that building. We've been able to talk to reporters and executives that work for "The Miami Herald", that is also located in that building. And we're still not sure what exactly has happened to this point with regard to communication.

But we're following it. We're in touch with the police. And our correspondents there on the scene will bring you more information as we get it.

HOLMES: The Shiites' revenge. A day after the single bloodiest attack of the Iraq war, more than 200 Shiites slaughtered in Baghdad, Shiite death squads are attacking Sunni mosques, Sunni worshippers and laying waste to Sunni neighborhoods.

We'll bring in now CNN's Michael Ware, who's in the Iraqi capital -- Michael.

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, T.J. In the wake of what's effectively been a Thanksgiving Day massacre, this multiple car bomb strike on an overcrowded densely populated Shia ghetto known as Sadr City here in Baghdad, we've seen the blowback begin.

Immediately after yesterday's attack there was mortar strikes on surrounding Sunni neighborhoods. Well, today we now have reports that as many as four, perhaps as many as six Sunni mosques have been attacked. We've heard that two have been burned; two others hit by RPGs.

Now, there's wild and conflicting reports emerging from Sunni neighborhoods or neighborhoods that are predominantly Shia but have pockets of Sunni communities within them, of people being driven from their homes by hand grenade explosions and rocket propelled grenades. There's even terrible reports, completely unconfirmed, of people being pulled from their houses and doused in flammable material and set alight. Either way, what we're seeing is definitely the hints of retaliation by a bereaved Shia population.

All of this despite a crackdown, a heavy curfew on the capital here that's still in effect as I speak.

HOLMES: And Michael, you said a crackdown and curfew. Are those the two things that right now -- the only two things I guess now being put in place to kind of stop this violence? It seems like it's just getting going. But is this the only two methods, I guess, in place right now to try to quell some of this violence right now?

WARE: Well, yes, this is all part of one broader continuum the U.S. military steadfastly refuses to call civil war. But what we've seen is strike upon strike upon strike, the Shia upon the Sunni and the Sunni upon Shia.

While the Sunni extremists of al Qaeda and other Islamic groups use suicide bombings for mass impact, what the Shia have proven so adept at is death squads in government and police uniforms, hauling Sunnis from their home, from their cars at random or targeted and executing them, if not torturing them beforehand.

So all of this is part of a much, much bigger picture.

And yes, last night there was an emergency meeting of the national crisis committee involving the U.S. ambassador, the American general in command of forces here on the ground, the Iraqi prime minister, the national security adviser, the minister of defense and the minister of interior.

Their primary objective last night was to prevent retaliation. That's why they had the curfew. That's why they've reached out to leaders on both sides of the sectarian divide, urging them to call for calm, which by and large, we have been seeing.

Nonetheless, there's a degree to which once this violent sectarian genie has been let out of the bottle, there's no way of putting it back in, curfews or not.

HOLMES: All right. Our Michael Ware for us in Baghdad. Michael, thank you so much.

Of course, one of the major players, proven to be a major player, in so much of what's happening in Iraq and violence, Muqtada al-Sadr, the powerful Shiite cleric. So when did he exactly get to be so powerful in Iraq? And does an end to the violence hinge on his next move? We'll talk more about the man and the mission with General James "Spider" Marks in a few minutes. That's going to be right here in the NEWSROOM.

PHILLIPS: Now al-Sadr's ultimatum. The Shiite cleric at the epicenter of Iraq's latest upheaval, promises a political assault on the government if Iraq's prime minister meets with President Bush next week.

Let's get straight to Suzanne Malveaux at the White House.

Suzanne, in the aftermath of yesterday's bloody day and today's attacks, what does this mean for the Bush-Maliki talks?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, it certainly gives a renewed sense of urgency to these talks. White House officials flatly saying that those talks will continue, despite Sadr's threats earlier today towards Maliki.

What we're seeing here is a very strong reaction from the White House. I spoke with Scott Stanzel, deputy White House spokesman, saying earlier today, condemning the violence, that it was clearly aimed at undermining the Iraqi's people hopes for a peaceful and stable Iraq, that the U.S. is committed to helping the Iraqis, and President Bush and Prime Minister Maliki will meet to discuss the security situation in Iraq. That is the top priority.

And Kyra, what you're seeing here is really a diplomatic offensive by this administration. Vice President Cheney on his way to Saudi Arabia to meet with King Abdullah to discuss the situation, as well as President Bush next Wednesday and Thursday in Jordan, face to face with Maliki. What you have heard publicly from this administration is confidence in his government, in his leadership, but, Kyra, privately there's a lot of concern that either he doesn't have the political heft or will to bring his government together and ultimately to do what is necessary to curb this violence -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Well, as you talk to your sources and you work this beat, anymore information or details about strategy to try to turn things around in Iraq?

MALVEAUX: Well, what you're seeing is two things. It's really two fold. One is kind of an outside-in approach. That's why you're seeing Cheney, Bush, even Secretary Rice, who's going to be in Jordan as well, working with the allies, Iraq's neighbors, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the ones that are friendly to the United States, also of course Turkey and Kuwait, not paying as much attention to Iran and Syria. They've been very hesitant to hold direct talks with those countries. But clearly, trying to bolster Maliki's government from the outside in. Then what you're going to see in a couple weeks or so is this bipartisan commission, the internal review from the White House, as well as the Pentagon talking about inside out, ways to help Maliki's government with the training of Iraqi forces, with the reconciliation of these warring factions, these warring groups. So it really is kind of this dual-prong approach here that you're seeing.

PHILLIPS: Suzanne Malveaux at the White House, thanks.

HOLMES: And as you know, we are keeping an eye on the situation in Miami, where reportedly at the "Miami Herald" office building a gunman has allegedly holed up after going in looking for an executive at "The El Nuevo" newspaper. No injuries, no hostages that we know of at this point. Again, our Susan Candiotti reporting that the man is there holed up, police are trying to make contact with him. Our Susan Candiotti will join us again after this break.

You are watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.


HOLMES: We want to get back to the situation in Miami, at the "Miami Herald" building there, where a gunman is allegedly holed up now, a man who worked for a newspaper that has its offices in that "Miami Herald" building. We're going to go back to our Susan Candiotti, who we had on the phone a little earlier for more on the SWAT situation at the office building.

Susan, you were telling us earlier that you knew that the alleged gunman was holed up in an office there. Do you know if police have been able to get in touch with him yet, make contact with him?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATL. CORRESPONDENT: No, we haven't been able to confirm whether they've been successful as yet. But you're right, T.J., the police chief, John Timoney, said that he's got his hostage negotiators, although we stress there are no hostages of which the police chief is aware of this situation, that his people are trying to make contact with the alleged gunman, who has isolated himself, holed himself up, in the northeast corner of "El Nuevo Herald," the floor that it occupies it in the "Herald" building. He is specifically in the editor's office that he was trying to see, but as you point out that, that editor, Humberto Costello, is not in his office; he is with the police chief and is safe, as is every other employee. As far as the chief knows, they've been evacuated from the building.

Now Tom Fiedler, who's the executive editor of "The Herald," said that man, Jose Barella (ph), is a freelance cartoonist for the Spanish-language arm of "The Herald" of the newspaper. They're together but run separately. Mr. Fiedler said that he had heard that the man was upset about the fact that he felt the paper, quote, "wasn't telling the truth," but Mr. Fielder said, in his view, this man who appeared to be disturbed might be more concerned about how the paper was being run, as opposed to going into the building specifically to see Mr. Costello.

As we had heard, this alleged gunman got into the building somehow, according to a security guard, armed with what appeared to be a machine gun with a laser sight. Now, again, how he was able to get past security guard or how quickly police got there, apparently it must have been in fairly short order, but we're still waiting to get answers to all of these questions.

HOLMES: And, Susan, we see a little activity? Are we seeing some video of police activity around the building. We're looking at some of that video now. But what can you tell us about -- you say they are trying to make contact with him, and of course they'd like to resolve this peacefully. But what, in this situation and in some of these situations like this, are police preparing for? What are they putting in place right now just in case this doesn't work out as peacefully as everybody hopes? CANDIOTTI: Well, normally -- fortunately, since most, if not all, employees have been evacuated from the building, their main concern might be -- and this is pure speculation; we don't know precisely what the police have in mind, but naturally they would like to try to resolve these situations as they always do in a peaceful way, try to talk the man into -- if in fact he is armed with a machine gun as a security guard thought. That has not been confirmed by the authorities, that they can get him to put down the weapon and leave the office peacefully.

Naturally they want to see how they can approach the building. This building is also facing the water and it's on the water, so we also know that the Marine patrol has boats and they're working the outside perimeter on the water, as well as members of the SWAT team that you see on the ground, trying to figure out the best approach to get into the building and to make contact. Obviously they can call the man. There's a phone in the editor's office. So there might be other means as well as to how they are trying to contact him.

HOLMES: And, Susan, do you know yet, have police told you -- I know you've been talking to the police chief there, but the executive editor, Humberto Costello, who's the man that this alleged gunman was trying to go see, has he been able, Costello, to give police any information about why possibly the gunman might have come in and been asking for him? And I know we don't know we don't know this for sure, and you say this might be a disturbed man, so he may not much have reasoning, but has Costello been able to, I guess, kind of help police out in trying to figure out what might be wrong and what might have been upsetting this gentleman?

CANDIOTTI: I would think so, T.J. After all, this freelance cartoonist, who's been identified by people who work in the building as Jose Barella, a freelance cartoonist for the newspaper. Naturally Mr. Costello would have some knowledge of the man, and that would be one thing that authorities in any situation like this would want to talk to him about that, to find out what the problem might be. In fact, Mr. Fiedler, the executive editor of the "Herald" newspaper evidently had some information about that. So, I'm sure the authorities are talking to everyone and anyone who might know more about Mr. Varela and what his problem might be. Other employees, perhaps family members, that would be the norm.

HOLMES: All right. Susan Candiotti, thank you so much. We'll let you continue to do what you do and we'll probably be checking back in with you here in a little bit. And for viewers we do want to let you know we're getting word that we are expecting a press conference sometime soon about the situation there at the "Miami Herald." We're keeping an eye on for you, so follow me. Stay here with us. CNN, we'll be right back.

PHILLIPS: Straight ahead, strike, counter strike, and the bodies pile up in the streets of Baghdad. Is this cleric the key to breaking the deadly cycle or prolonging it? A closer look Muqtada al Sadr, straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PHILLIPS: Sadr City, it's a poor Baghdad neighborhood named for a family whose history is as turbulent as the city itself. Here's a fact check.


ANNOUNCER: In his early 30s, Muqtada al Sadr is an expert at blending Shiite radicalism with Iraqi nationalism. Most of his millions of supporters are young and poor and captivated by his anti- Americanism. Many live in Baghdad's Sadr City a slum of at least two million which used to be called Saddam City. The area was renamed for Sadr's father after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

The father was a prominent Shiite cleric in Iraq before he was assassinated in 1999 reportedly by agents of Saddam Hussein. Sadr assumed control of his father's network of schools and charities using them to expand his support among the poor. One of the biggest obstacles now facing the Iraqi government is Sadr's powerful Mahdi army. Mahdi fighters, who have fought numerous battles with U.S. and Iraqi forces. The most serious were uprisings in Najaf and Karbala in 2004.

Observers say Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is being reluctant to move against Sadr because he controls 30-some seats in parliament. Another vexing problem is Sadr's connection to Iran. The Bush Administration accuses Iran of supplying arms to Iraqi insurgents and militias including Sadr's. A report by the Council on Foreign Relations says that in a recent visit to Tehran, Sadr even pledged to fight alongside Iranians if attacked by the United States.


PHILLIPS: Muqtata al-Sadr is no doubt the driving force in Sadr City. He is a Shiite, not just a majority in that neighborhood, but in the whole country. Iraq is 60 percent Shiite. And as you heard, he heads the militia known as the Mehdi Army. And he has the backing of 30 parliament members and six members of the Iraqi cabinet. For more on Al Sadr's influence, let's get to our military analyst retired Brigadier General James Spider Marks. Spider, good to see you.

JAMES MARKS, BRIG. GEN. (RET.): Good to see you.

PHILLIPS: You were in charge of intel for Operation Iraqi Freedom Had you ever heard of Muqtata al Sadr?

MARKS: Well going into Iraq early on, we certainly had heard about him, but we did not fully understand kind of across the board the significance and depth of his influence. So, the short answer is yes. We knew about him but we really didn't have a sense -- a real granular feel for the type of influence that this young cleric would wield.

PHILLIPS: Now, how does that happen when you are looking at a situation now -- it is obvious this guy has a following. He's got tremendous power. He has the backing from political forces. He has a powerful army. How could that be going into a war and even getting started into the war, not understanding how much power this man can yield?

MARKS: Well, the thing to keep in mind is that the predominate intelligence that we had on Iraq between Desert Storm in the early '90s and our crossing the border into Iraq in spring of '03 was been derived through technical intelligence in support of our mission, very successful mission called Southern Watch and Northern Watch, which was designed Kyra to keep Saddam's army in a box. That was done exceptionally well. That was the primary means of intelligence. There was little to no human intelligence that really gave you a sense of what the feel, the smell, the environment was like on the ground.

So, that's factor number one. And then now factor number two is that across the board the removal of Saddam was the right thing to do and Iraqi people understood that. Sadr understood that. His father had been assassinated as you reported probably an assassination that was directed by Saddam himself and that was Saddam City before it became Sadr City again as we entered into Baghdad.

So those two very, very critical factors put them together and you realize the assumption was that Sadr would stand up and would act as a moderating influence potentially and help provide some degree of influence that would be a degree of calm within Iraq and certainly the Shia population, which is the predominant population within the country. That didn't happen.

PHILLIPS: So Spider, so are you saying then going into this war, prepping for this war, going into this war, that the military and the Bush Administration understood what they needed to do tactically. They understood what they had to do from the air and they understood what the ground troops needed and understood how to take down Baghdad and how to go after Saddam Hussein. But where this war has ended up in a very complex manner is due to there was not enough study on religious differences. Movers and shakers in the different religious communities. The insurgency, the power of the insurgency, is that what I'm hearing?

MARKS: Absolutely Kyra. And I would tell you that the insurgency was not inevitable going into Iraq. That could have been at least if not eliminated, it could have certainly been taken down a little bit had we had more forces going in. Looking back now almost four years at the circumstances that were involved. But clearly what needed to take place that I argue did not take place in sufficient detail is that what was going to happen in this country the day after combat operations, the day after what we call phase three. Major combat operations as you transition to what's called phase four, and that is the stabilization, the growth of governance, re-establishing the infrastructure and finding leaders and at the local level ...

PHILLIPS: And we're seeing the result of that now. Because there wasn't enough prep or understanding. I want to get your response -- Senator John McCain mentioned Muqtata al Sadr a number of weeks ago. Here's what he had to say.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We need to increase our activities, particularly against the sectarian violence. I believe al-Sadr has to be taken out. I believe that the Madhi army continues to pose a threat. I think that it is very clear that we need to increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps.


PHILLIPS: This caught my attention, because everybody has been talking about troops. Should they stay, should they go, should there be more, should there be less? And John McCain came forward and mentioned Muqtada al-Sadr. It had been a long time since we actually heard somebody mention that name and say, look, this guy has got to do. We've got to do something about him.

So how do you deal with it? He has this relationship with Maliki. It seems that they sort of need each other, in many ways, for political reasons, but everyone seems to think, at least from the U.S. standpoint, he's got to go. How do you do it?

MARKS: Well, you know, he's in place and he's not going anyplace anytime soon. So how you eliminate or how you minimize his influence is you've got to get your arm around -- and the U.S. forces, the coalition forces are really working aggressively and, I trust, in multiple areas of governance and in influence to get rid of the Mahdi army.

The militias is the problem. You can't your individual forces involved in stirring up violence, being involved in vengeance killings. And with the loss of the center, you know, the flight of the middle class out of Iraq and the loss of that center, what you end up with is neighborhood fights going on.

How do you get your arms around that? Well, that's driven by militia forces and the availability and access of weaponry. So it becomes very, very local. It becomes neighborhood fights. The way you eliminate Sadr is you eliminate his influence and that's through the militia.

PHILLIPS: General James "Spider" Marks, thanks for your time.

MARKS: Thanks, Kyra.

HOLMES: And coming up in the NEWSROOM, we're waiting on that news conference out of Miami on that SWAT situation there at the "Miami Herald" building. We'll also check back in with our correspondent in Miami for the latest.

And then, of course, attention all you shoppers. I didn't realize this is why they called it a mall. Black Friday, as you know, is here, the day shopping becomes a contact sport. We're keeping an eye on the bottom line here in the NEWSROOM.


PHILLIPS: Electronics are high on the wish list for many folks this holiday season, but one big electronics company has some bad news about its digital cameras. Susan Lisovicz has the details from the New York Stock Exchange.

And I also want to ask if you too if you have been doing your homework on this -- I hope I'm not throwing you for a loop, Susan -- but some people have told me that these digital cameras sometimes just wear out. After awhile, you just have to buy a new one. Are you hearing the same thing?

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN ANCHOR: Actually, no, because I have a brand new digital camera and I haven't been using it that much but I've heard that with other electronics as well, that after a certain point and a certain amount of usage that...

PHILLIPS: They burn out.

LISOVICZ: Yes, and also that it may just be more economically or financially feasible for you just to buy a new one as opposed to trying to repair it or buy a new battery. The batteries sometimes are enormously expensive on that.

In this case, if you have bought a new Sony digital camera -- I want to get the exact names. These are the Cybershot compact digital cameras. You may be experiencing some problems with them. Sony says it will repair them free of charge. The liquid crystal display screens of eight of these types of these models are having some problems, everything from not displaying the images properly to not taking a picture at all.

So all of this, not good. This is the second time in just over a year that Sony announced defects in its digital cameras and, obviously, this has not been a great year for Sony overall, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right. Well, Sony seems to have a lot of problems this year, and they've had a lot of problems this year -- it has. Is there any hope for the near future?

LISOVICZ: Well, it's an enormous company, and it takes these kinds of problems very seriously, but the kinds of problems that you are talking about are really huge by almost any standards. We're talking about the recall -- the huge global recall its batteries -- computer laptop batteries, because of problems where some of them burst into flames.

Then, more recently, we were talking with all of the delays associated with its much-awaited Sony PlayStation 3 and that there is not enough of them at a critical time, so these are problems that Sony has and investors don't like it.


PHILLIPS: We wanted to let our viewers know too we're waiting for a live news conference out of Miami, Florida on that alleged gunman -- that disgruntled cartoonist -- holed up inside the editor's office. The floor has been cleared, no injuries reported.

SWAT team trying to negotiate with him. We'll bring you more information and take that news conference live as soon as it happens. More from the NEWSROOM straight ahead.



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