Skip to main content


Return to Transcripts main page


Iran Behind Attack on U.S. Military?; British Terror Arrests; State of the Economy

Aired January 31, 2007 - 08:59   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.
I'm Tony Harris.


For the next three hours, watch events as they come in to the NEWSROOM live on this Wednesday, the 31st day of January.

Here's what's on the rundown.

Terror plot. British police hauling in eight suspects today. Scotland Yard outlining their alleged plan to torture and execute a soldier on videotape.

HARRIS: Gunmen pulling off a daring ambush at the Florida home of a small-town sheriff. The lawman's wife and three others die in the shootout.

COLLINS: Clemson University calling for a dialogue on race relations. A student party called shockingly insensitive.

The pictures in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Disturbing new questions about Iran's possible involvement in Iraq and whether Tehran had a role in an attack on U.S. troops. We're told military investigators are looking into whether Iranians were behind a daring ambush in Karbala. Five U.S. soldiers, as you will recall, were killed.

Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr joins us live this morning.

Barbara, first of all, more questions now about Iran. How much of this is kind of a tough sell for the White House for people skeptical? Because, of course, they may remember the case for weapons of mass destruction.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Tony, what military and intelligence officials are emphasizing with all of these revelations that come almost every day now about Iran's involvement in Iraq, they say it is a theory, it is not a conclusion. They know they don't have the absolute hard evidence at this point to prove any of this, but in the case of the Karbala attack, indeed, one of -- one of the leading theories they're looking into is that there was Iranian involvement behind that attack, either Iranians themselves involved or Iranian-trained operatives working through Shia militia groups.

They say this attack was more sophisticated than anything they believe the Shia militias could have pulled off by themselves. So it is a leading theory now, not a conclusion, though -- Tony.

HARRIS: Still can't help but ask the question, Barbara, given the nature of this attack, a horrible attack, why float this kind of explosive charge without some hard evidence attached to it?

STARR: Well, I think that this is coming out sort of from behind the scenes from what investigators are seeing. Reporters are asking a lot of questions, and what our sources are telling us is this is a theory that they are looking at.

Clearly, the U.S. military is going to go along with the political guidance of President Bush that Iran will be dealt with through diplomatic initiatives, of course, on the nuclear program. But on the question of Iraq, the military and the White House making it very clear, trying to send a strong signal to Tehran not to mess in Iraq and not to launch attacks that could lead to U.S. troops being killed.

They are finding an awful lot of indicators that that's what's going on. They're trying to assemble the evidence.

HARRIS: All right. Just another question I have to ask you. Why does the administration seem so focused on singling out the Iranians as meddling in Iraq when we are know that there are other actors on the ground from other countries causing problems for us in Iraq?

Here's Ken Pollack. Let me have you listen to Ken from the Brookings Institution on this very subject Monday.


KEN POLLACK, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: The Iranians aren't the only ones there. And there are other groups who are doing the same thing. Increasingly, our own allies in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, Turkey, all of them are now providing some degree of covert assistance to some of the Sunni groups.


HARRIS: Barbara, why not a more evenhanded approach to this problem in Iraq?

STARR: You know, Tony, what underlies the theme that Ken Pollack is expressing here, as well as military and intelligence officials, he hits the nail on the head. There are a lot of groups, and what the concern is, in all of these areas, the Shia, the Sunnis, the Iranians, that you're beginning to see something more than just an improvised insurgency, if you will. You're beginning to see institutionalized, more formalized structures, more support, more networks, more money, more training coming in on an awful lot of fronts and an awful lot of different new tactics that U.S. troops are beginning to face. So maybe this insurgency on many different fronts is actually taking a step forward.

HARRIS: Good stuff. Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr for us this morning.

Barbara, thank you.

The aging F-14 fighter jet, it may be the newest U.S. weapon against Iran, but not the way you think. A Democratic lawmaker wants to stop the Pentagon from selling leftover parts from the retired aircraft. Those parts are critical to Iran. It is the only country still trying to keep F-14s still in the air. The Defense Department has already agreed to pull the parts off the market for now while it studies security concerns.

Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon vows to make the ban permanent within a few months.

COLLINS: A country in crisis, a leader possibly in peril. Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki sat down for an exclusive interview with CNN's Michael Ware. The Iraqi leader concedes his country is reeling from violence and volatility, but he insists with Washington's help, it can be pulled back from the precipice.


NURI AL-MALIKI, IRAQI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): One of the major issues for President Bush's plan, which we consider support to our Baghdad security plan, is the extent to which there is a need for additional troops, American and multinational, to support the operations. And we agree this will be assessed by those in the field, the military commanders. And if their assessment is for more, we will ask for these troops.

But we believe that the existing number, with a slight addition, will do the job. But if there seems to be more need, we will ask for more troops.

We don't want to rule a (ph) force. And we have announced that future operations will not only be military, but will also have political efforts on its side, national reconciliation efforts and the containment efforts.

We do not want to kill the people and drown the country in blood. And we welcome every step that brings a setback for the militias or terrorists and a desire to join the political process so we can minimize the losses and blood. But, this all has to happen under the umbrella of national will, the government, and the law.


COLLINS: Prime Minister Maliki, who has been accused of showing favoritism toward a radical Muslim cleric, vows to apply that law equally to everyone. Terror at a chilling new level. British police arresting eight suspects in what's called a major counterterrorism operation. The raids taking place in central England. Grisly details of the alleged plot still emerging.

CNN International Security Correspondent Paula Newton joining us now live from Birmingham.

Paula, the very latest on this?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Heidi, the very latest we can tell you is to confirm what CNN has already learned, that's that this was a plot to kidnap a British Muslim soldier off the streets here in Birmingham, to torture him, behead him, videotape it all, and then post it on the Internet. We are also told that that would have come with demands, one of them being that British troops pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

This is a new and very grisly terror tactic. It's essentially importing some of the terror that we've seen on the streets of Iraq to Birmingham, and it's taken a lot of people here by surprise.

We are expecting to have a police briefing in about an hour, Heidi. The problem is here, that because they don't want to prejudice further legal proceedings, especially here in Britain, many times they will not confirm any of these details to us unless they come out in open court.

Our sources, though, say that what they were really looking for were -- the people involved in this plot -- was to actually copy some of the tactics used in Iraq. And they wanted to underscore that someone from the Muslim community was to be targeted. They wanted to label, brand this person a traitor, and send a very political message not just to the British government, but to those in their own community that this is the way so-called traitors would have been dealt with -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Paula, when we talk about this, though, as a possible new terrorism tactic by way of possibly abducting just one person and killing them, versus these mass casualties that we have seen, what do the British police have in mind? Is it possible they could change their entire tactic as far as fighting back and counterterrorism?

NEWTON: We certainly have seen that since the bombings of July 7th of 2005, the police and intelligence officials have changed their tactics. And what that involves, Heidi, in many instances, is infiltrating those communities, trying to get tip-offs, informants, and certainly lots of resources and time spent on surveillance. We are told that in this operation they were under surveillance for several months.

What they are trying to do, Heidi, as best they can is stay one step ahead of what is still an evolving, certainly terrorism plot, and to do that they need to get on in the inside. They say that this time this is what happened. They felt that it was time to pounce because they felt this plot was about to come to fruition, as they put it. But it is a very delicate process, and they realize that a lot of the traditional ways that they would fight this kind of terror just couldn't be used anymore. And so in the last year they've really stepped up surveillance and certainly trying to infiltrate these communities and these terror plots -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. Well, we will continue to watch out for that news conference coming our way.

Paula Hancocks, thanks so much for that.

HARRIS: The search is on for clues and possibly more victims in a deadly propane gas explosion. It happened at a general store in southern West Virginia. The blast killed at least four people and seriously injured five others. A volunteer firefighter and paramedic are among the dead.

Firefighters had been called in to help with evacuations after a leak was reported in a propane tank. The sheriff said one ambulance on the scene disintegrated. Seven homes and a nearby school suffered minor damages.

COLLINS: Deep freeze in the Deep South. Chad Myers joining us now for an update on all this nasty weather coming our way down here, huh?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: A little bit. Yes, Heidi.


HARRIS: And still to come, shootout in a small town in Florida. After a sheriff's wife and a deputy are killed, what went down?

That story ahead in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: A mother's phone rings. It's the police with terrible news about her daughter. And it gets worse.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The arresting officer called me and she said, "Oh, by" -- you know, "I need to let you know what's going on. Your daughter was raped at 2:00 this afternoon, but I've arrested her now and I have to take her down to county jail."


COLLINS: An alleged rape victim hauled off to jail instead of to a hospital. Outrage in Florida -- in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: And from Main Street to Wall Street, President Bush heads from the heartland to the heart of corporate America. Jobs, taxes and your money -- in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COLLINS: Getting down to business. President Bush taking his economic pitch to Wall Street. It's part of a new focus on pocketbook issues.

CNN's Kathleen Koch is live at the White House now with early details of the president's speech.

Kathleen, why is the White House focusing on this issue right now?

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Heidi, frankly, the president's advisers believe that he hasn't gotten enough credit for what he's done on the economy.

Now, the president actually just a few minutes ago arrived at Andrews Air Force Base, boarded Air Force One. Going to be heading to New York City very shortly to make the speech.

The issue is that most Americans polled show -- believe that economic conditions are good. But at the same time, most Americans disapprove of the job that President Bush is doing in handling the economy.

So the White House made the choice to leave economic news out of the State of the Union speech and highlight it this morning in this speech up in New York City. Now, Press Secretary Tony Snow says that President Bush will talk about expanding free and fair trade, keeping taxes low, reducing reliance on foreign oil, dealing with entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid, creating better and more efficient legal and healthcare systems.

Now, the main message though will be much like in his speech yesterday at the Caterpillar plant in Peoria, Illinois, and that is that the U.S. economy is thriving.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a strong economy. And the fundamental question is, what are we going to do to keep it strong?

It's one thing to say today's economy is strong. I say it because inflation is down, interest rates are down, wages are on the increase. Unemployment rate nationally is low. People are working and putting more money in their pocket. And the question facing the country is, what are we going to do to make sure it's strong tomorrow?


KOCH: Now, President Bush is not expected to announce any new economic initiatives in today's speech. Democrats, for their part, contend that the White House isn't being straight with the American public, is painting an overly rosy picture. They point out that since President Bush took office that the U.S. has seen record deficits, a rise in poverty, and the loss of one in five manufacturing jobs -- Heidi. COLLINS: What else is on the president's schedule today, Kathleen?

KOCH: Well, CNN has heard from congressional aides that the president is going to be meeting later today with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a bipartisan delegation of lawmakers who have just returned from a fact-finding mission to Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, while there, Pelosi shot out a lot of different press releases. Among them, calling for a political solution to the problems in Iraq, for U.S. troops in Iraq to be switched from a combat role to focus on training, forced protection, border control. She also called for more U.S. troops to fight the "forgotten war," she calls it, in Afghanistan.

So, that meeting not officially on his scheduled, though we are told it will happen and it should be quite interesting when it does -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. We know you'll be watching it for us.

Thanks so much.

KOCH: You bet.

COLLINS: Kathleen Koch, live from the White House.

HARRIS: A small town in grief, a sheriff's wife shot to death outside her home in Marianna, Florida. Also killed, a sheriff's deputy responding to the incident. Two suspects later killed at a police shootout.

A state attorney believes the gunman targeted Jackson County sheriff John McDaniels' home. Now word yet on potential motive. The community expressing condolences.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know what to say. You know, shock really. (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's pitiful, and (INAUDIBLE). And my heart goes out to John and Mellie and all of them, because he's a very dear friend of my family.


HARRIS: Well, we expect a news conference out of Florida later this morning. And how about this for a postscript? McDaniel is no stranger to violence.

Twenty-seven years ago while working as a sheriff's deputy, he responded to a robbery call and found his father shot to death. A serial killer later confessed to that crime.

And still ahead, don't drink the water. A family says it got the message too late. Now a father is dead.

That story coming up in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: And we are "Minding Your Business." Ali Velshi is here now with a preview.

Hey there, Ali.


Yesterday you saw the biggest jump in oil prices in 16 months. Let's see what happens today. We're waiting to see how much oil we have on hand in the United States some time in the next hour, but I'll give you information on it in the NEWSROOM when we come right back.


COLLINS: Cold weather heats up oil prices.

Ali Velshi is "Minding Your Business" now with us this morning.

Hi, Ali.

It seems -- it seems at least logical that when it gets colder outside your heating bill goes up. And it just kind of depends on how much the oil costs.

VELSHI: Yes, right. And what we've seen is we saw record oil prices in 2006. And then 10 days ago we saw oil below $50 a barrel, which was quite something, because we've seen these unseasonably warm temperature.

The U.S. is the largest consumer of oil in the world. So when weather -- and also Europe had warm weather. So big consumers not using that oil. We saw the price of oil go down.

Now we've seen a big spike. Yesterday we saw the biggest jump in 16 months for the price of a barrel of oil.

Now, already we're sort of seeing -- we're sort of seeing some movement today. Oil hasn't started trading here in New York for the day in the biggest way, but we're waiting for an inventory report to tell us how much oil is on hand.

And oil has been going up, so has natural gas. About 60 million homes in the Midwest of the United States principally use natural gas to heat their homes. So that's going to increase people's costs from an energy perspective. It's also going to translate into gas -- gas prices, because you always see that price move to the pumps almost immediately.

That's interesting, because today is the Fed meeting. We're going to get an announcement on interest rates. No one is really expecting the Fed to raise interest rates when it makes its announcement at 2:15 Eastern, but, you know, these increased oil prices, increased energy prices, it's not just what you pay for energy or to fill your tank up. It works its way through the entire system because everything we buy is manufactured or transported. COLLINS: Yes.

VELSHI: So, you know, it's got people wondering. It's going to definitely affect trading and markets today.

COLLINS: And also the OPEC cuts. I mean that certainly has something to do with it.

VELSHI: Right. Yes. Good thing you mentioned that.

Tomorrow is when OPEC cuts another 500,000 barrels a day of oil production. This was a scheduled cut. It's meant to keep oil in that $50 to $60 range, which is kind of where it is. But we touched $57 a barrel yesterday, so that will be interesting to watch.

The other thing is there's an industry that is very, very dependent on oil, and that is, of course, the airline industry. We've just -- you know, we're in earnings season right now, so we're starting to see the reports from the airlines, and it's interesting that despite the high prices of oil, a number of airlines have reported profits for the last three months of 2006.

JetBlue, US Airways, AMR, Southwest, all profitable. Little losses at Continental and United. And, of course, Northwest and Delta are both in bankruptcy protection so they don't report earnings.

COLLINS: It is very surprising.

VELSHI: Right.

COLLINS: Because usually when we see those fuel costs go up, boy, the airlines are just hammered.

VELSHI: But there's lots of demand right now. You know, these airlines have cut and cut and cut, as you know, over the last few years. So they've got fewer staff, fewer planes, fares have been going up, and people still want to travel.

COLLINS: It costs a fortune to fly these days.


COLLINS: All right. Ali Velshi, thanks so much for that. We'll check in with you a little bit later on.


HARRIS: And there's this: a search at sea for a pioneering computer scientist. Sixty-three-year-old Jim Gray (ph) was last seen boarding his yacht Sunday. Gray (ph) is a major player for Microsoft. He is credited with devising the computer technology behind ATMs and online shopping.

The Coast Guard is searching a 16,000-square-mile area between San Francisco and the Farallon Islands. Gray had reportedly set sail to the islands to scatter his mother's ashes. Iran's influence in Iraq and the Middle East, how much of a threat does Iran pose? We will talk to CNN's Aneesh Raman, who knows the country inside and out.

COLLINS: Raid in Birmingham, England. Scotland Yard says terrorists targeted a British soldier. The torture plot and live police briefing coming up in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: An attorney outraged over the way police treated his client.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was raped, and then she was raped again.


HARRIS: An alleged victim victimized a second time by the system.

Ahead in the NEWSROOM.


COLLINS: Listening, listening long to the opening bell on this very day where the president will be at this very area a little bit later on today giving a report on the economy.

But right now just to let you know, we are looking at some numbers here today. Things ended up about 12,523 yesterday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, that was up by about 32 points or so. So we'll be continuing to watch that and, of course, bringing you the president's remarks. At least some of them when they happen a little bit later on today.

HARRIS: And among our top stories this morning, a terrifying potential crime broken up in a counterterrorism raid today. That's how British police are characterizing the arrest of eight suspects captured in raids this morning in Birmingham, England. A security source tells CNN the plot, if carried out, would have involved a chilling new tactic. The source says the suspects planned to kidnap a British Muslim soldier serving in Afghanistan. He was to be tortured and beheaded with the grisly scene playing out on the Internet.


JOHN O'CONNOR, FORMER SCOTLAND YARD CMDR.: One of the major problems that they've got in their hearts and minds campaign are the Muslims who exercise their freedom of choice to join the British army or the security services or the police. And if they can try and make an example of people like that by doing a public execution, that is a dreadful form of terrorism that impacts on an individual's right to make freedom of choice.

And of course these extremists don't want freedom of choice. I mean really they just want an utter control over the hearts and minds and really it's a manifestation of that extremism that we're seeing now.


HARRIS: We've got live coverage of a news conference by British police coming up at the top of the hour right here on CNN.

COLLINS: Three necessities for war: bullets, bombs and a budget. A Democrat in the Senate wants to end the Iraq war by cutting off the funding. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin proposing a resolution to force the withdrawal of troops in six months.


SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D), WISCONSIN: I happen to think that the fact that our troops are there and in harm's way actually encourages some of this violence, not through any act of our own troops because it's an environment that actually encourages people to act the way they are.

The fact is if we got out of there it might get worse for awhile for the Iraqis, but I also think it gives them a chance to figure out their own future without us standing there with a military force. But in the end, what's most important is the security of the American people. As important as Iraq is, what really matters is that our people be safe and Iraq is bleeding us of our strength. That has to end.


COLLINS: One leading Republican senator, Orrin Hatch, says that action would suggest a lack of support for U.S. troops serving there.

HARRIS: We've been talking this morning about Iran's possible influence in the fight for Iraq and the theory that it could have been involved in an attack on U.S. soldiers in Karbala. CNN Middle East reporter Aneesh Raman was in Iran several times recently and he is with us this morning via broadband from Cairo. Aneesh, great to see you.

Aneesh, I'm going to ask this question this way because I'm just trying to get maximum clarity on this point. Why does the administration seem to be so focused on singling out Iranians as the source of most of the problems in Iraq right now when we know and you know in particular that other actors in the region, for example, Syria, have a hand in causing some problems there?

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN MIDDLE EAST CORRESPONDENT: It's a good question. Essentially the list is longest in terms of accusations when it comes to Iran. Syria has been charged with not doing enough with allowing foreign fighters to pass across its border into Iraq.

But Iran has been accused of really actively engaging with Shia militias there. The U.S. military has long contended Iran is arming training and funding militia groups there and Iran has long denied that. That is why what's happened in Karbala, the investigation is proving itself so significant potentially because if a direct link is proven by evidence by the U.S. military between Iran and attack in Iraq, it will really heighten the tension, make it more difficult for Iraq to deny any involvement beyond support for a Shia -- essentially a Shia majority government.

And it creates a situation of a proxy war between the U.S. and Iran inside Iraq, something that Iraq's prime minister is really now warning against. So Iran proves in terms of the U.S. mindset to be the most sort of active in terms of the situation there.

HARRIS: But Aneesh, as you know, you've mentioned Iran, you've mentioned Syria -- but as you know, Saudi Arabia has said it will not stand by and watch a Sunni bloodbath unfold in Iraq. So there are questions about the role Saudi Arabia may be playing to avoid that.

RAMAN: And not just Saudi Arabia. We've heard the Jordanian king tell Secretary Rice recently that if, you know, Sunni politicians aren't really part of the Iraqi government, the violence will only increase.

You're seeing a broader Sunni/Shia divide really take hold in the Middle East. You have Sunni governments like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, where I stand, that are eager to curb Iranian influence whether that be in Iraq or in a broader sense in the Middle East and they are concerned about as you mentioned, consistent killings of Sunnis by Shia death squads inside Iraq.

They are increasingly feeling they have to take a more active role. The U.S. says that that's the alliance of U.S. allies who want to stabilize Iraq, but that can be redefined as the Sunni countries that are weary of Shia Iran. So Iraq really is at the center of a much broader and tense situation here.

HARRIS: One other point, I want to run Aneesh if we could -- has the U.S. in your mind made some kind of calculation here that it can destabilize, loosen the grip on power that the Iranian president has right now by threatening even in an indirect way, a wider conflict in the region?

RAMAN: Well, clearly the U.S. administration is taking note of what's happened inside Iran over the past few weeks. Growing in vocal dissent against the policies of Iran's president, a majority of members of Iran's parliament telling the president to focus on domestic issues, a paper run and owned -- owned by the country's supreme leader telling Ahmadinejad to focus on domestic issues, stay out of the nuclear dispute.

There is very clear concern within Iran that military confrontation could be in the offing in the coming months. We are seeing at the same time growing opposition, public opposition of the policies of Iran's president. So clearly the Bush administration is hoping to sort of fervent that sort of dissent. The wild card is Ahmadinejad himself. Will he listen to the growing chorus of voices within Iran or will he continue on this defiant path that he's chosen over the past year, Tony?

HARRIS: OK Aneesh, listen to this comment from Ken Pollack from Brookings and then I have a question for you.


KEN POLLACK, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: I think there's also a lot of mixed signals coming out of the intelligence community. There are a lot of people who believe while the Iranians are there providing some level of assistance to the Shia, they're not the source of our problems in Iraq.

They are a minor contributor to it and we need to be focusing our efforts elsewhere. That even if we were to eliminate Iranian influence in Iraq altogether, we really wouldn't make much of a dent in the fighting there.


HARRIS: OK, Aneesh, you have spent a considerable amount of time in Iran? Do you agree?

RAMAN: Well, as Ken noted, the majority of violence we're seeing inside Iraq is really feeding on itself on a street level. Shia versus Sunni, Iraqi versus Iraqi, removing all other influences will only do so much to curb that situation.

It is, of course, in terms of allegations by the U.S., being at some level magnified by the Iranian influence. What is very potentially significant though is this investigation into Karbala because it creates a second scenario, not just the internal strife among Iraqis, but a very open and explicit strife between the U.S. and Iran inside Iraq.

It's a whole another level that has been sort of brewing for some time that adds into that security situation Iraq confronts. But a lot of the violence is just Iraqi on Iraqi and there's only so much that can be done in terms of these other countries to try and curb that. It has to come from within. It has to come from leadership from Iraq's own politicians.

HARRIS: There he is, a man who has spent considerable time in Iran, Iraq and Syria, Aneesh Raman for us. Aneesh, thank you.

COLLINS: Another Democrat joining the jam-packed race for the White House. Senator Joe Biden of Delaware expected to announce today he is running for president. He spoke to CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING" about the war in Iraq and the president's plan to send more troops.


SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: The people who want to cut the troops are this administration. They sent them with too few fellow troops with them. They sent them in without any real plan to win. They sent them without the necessary armor. They sent them with too few provisions.

So if anybody is undercutting the troops, it's been this administration's policy. What I'm trying to do is stop an escalation of a war that everyone acknowledges can only be settled by a political settlement among Iraqis. More American forces, more American forces will not be able to change the Iraqi mentality. They need to get together in a political solution.


HARRIS: Biden will become the eighth Democrat to announce a bid or a presidential exploratory committee. Several Republicans are also in the race.

Want to get this information to you now just into us here at CNN. Our correspondent Dan Lothian is confirming this information happening in Boston. Apparently a section of the highway north of Boston, it's Route 93, if you're familiar with the area has been shut down today. Very busy morning rush hour, of course.

State police are saying that this is a suspicious package. So once again, a portion of Route 93, which is north of Boston has been shut down because apparently of a suspicious package. Our Dan Lothian is reporting this to us as well and has confirmed the information.

The state police telling us that they have shut this down for public safety. And, of course, just to be sure, so we will continue to follow that for you and give you more information if it comes to us.


HARRIS: Still to come, a warning about global warming.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we're standing in a swimming pool with the water up to our chest, when the temperature rises now the water is up to our chin or our nose, and every little wave is going to mean that it's over our head.


HARRIS: Details straight ahead in the newsroom.

COLLINS: Don't drink the water. A family says it got the message too late. Now a father is dead. The story coming up in the NEWSROOM.


COLLINS: A warning about contaminated water. One family says it found out too late and there were deadly consequences. That family says race may have played a role in why they weren't told sooner.

CNN's Rusty Dornin reports.


RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After a long bout with prostate and bone cancer, Harry Holt died last week, leaving a grieving family convinced his death, at age 66, could have been avoided.

Dickson, Tennessee, less than 5 percent of the population is black, but it's been home to the Holt family for generations. Like nearly all of the other poor African-American families in town, the Holts have always lived here on Eno Road. In 1968, when the city needed a dump, this is where they put, right here, just off Eno Road.

Twenty years after the dump was built, the Tennessee Health Department sent Harry Holt a letter, telling him there were low levels of carcinogens in his water well which could be due to a sampling error, but that his water was of good quality.

Holt's daughter, Sheila, believes government agencies knew, but did not tell her family the water was unsafe.

SHEILA HOLT-ORSTED, RESIDENT OF DICKSON, TENNESSEE: We felt like that, if there was ever a problem, that the government would let us know.

DORNIN: Fifty-seven feet from their backyard lies the dump. Federal, state, and county officials were aware that contaminants from illegal dumping of solvents and other chemicals had been leaking there for years.

In 1991, the Holts received a letter from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, saying, a new test had shown unsafe levels in their well, but then further testing showed the levels should not result in any adverse health effects. So, according to the letter, the water was still safe to drink.

But unbeknownst to the Holts, some state officials questioned the sampling. Memos sent between state agencies in 1992 indicated that, if Holt was concerned, he should rely on bottled or city water for cooking and drinking purposes.

But the Holts say, nobody told them that. It wasn't until eight years later, in 2000, that the Holts were warned by the county not to drink the water.

HOLT-ORSTED: Someone should have came and sat them down, like they did with the white families. They sat them down. They told them the dangers, got them off the water.

DORNIN: Kaye Stewart, who lives just over a mile away, on the other side of the dump, was one of those families. This spring has been on her family's land for generations. Now it's unfit for anything.

KAYE STEWART, RESIDENT OF DICKSON, TENNESSEE: Don't drink the water. About three weeks later, they came back, said: Don't use it to cook with. Don't shower with it. Don't wash your clothes with it.

DORNIN (on camera): But they provided you with some water?

STEWART: Twelve gallon a week.

DORNIN (voice-over): That was in 1994. But, despite the discovery of high levels of contamination nearby, the Holts' well, unlike the Stewarts' neighbors, were not retested.


DORNIN: Sociologist Bob Bullard has studied environmental issues and minorities for three decades. He believes the Holt family is the poster child for environmental racism.

BULLARD: Why is it that -- that so many communities of color and poor communities, black, white, brown, whatever, get dumped on? And this -- it's not accidental. It's not coincidental.

DORNIN: The Holts filed a lawsuit against the city, county and state in 2003, alleging discrimination and that they were not properly notified regarding the contamination.

Dickson County officials deny any wrongdoing in regards to both notification and discrimination. The county considers any allegation that the Holt family members were the victims of racism to be baseless and unfounded allegations: "The contamination issues in our county have affected many families, not just the Holt family."

State officials claim they informed the Holts about the concerns.

JOE SANDERS, TENNESSEE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND CONSERVATION: They had information that their water was potentially impacted. There was water available in front of their property. If they had wanted to, they could have gotten on public water at that time.

DORNIN: But state officials could not provide any letters warning the family until after 2000.

HOLT-ORSTED: And they put it away, and it's 12 years later before anybody deals with it. If that's not racism, somebody tell me what it is.

DORNIN: A breast cancer survivor, Holt says, her aunt and cousins who live nearby also have cancer. There is no medical proof that cancers are related to the water. But she remains convinced her family were victims.

Meanwhile, her father was buried in this small local cemetery, a plot overlooking the Dickson County landfill.

Rusty Dornin, CNN, Dickson, Tennessee.


Right now, let's take you to Boston, and update a story we've been telling you about over the last couple of minutes or so. State police there in Massachusetts say they are in the process, and we can see it here, of actually shutting down the northbound lanes of Route 93. A spokesperson for the state police telling us that the transit police noticed a suspicious package on the roadway. Police obviously on the scene. It is going to take some time, although they're making some progress here, to shutdown all the lanes, the northbound lanes. Once they do they will be able to take a better look at the package in question and determine if it is a threat or just garbage. We will continue to follow the story and bring you an update.

HARRIS: And still to come, call to action at Clemson.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really angry. What are we going to do? What are we going to do? What are we going to do about it?


HARRIS: The university responds to an off campus party that went out of bounds. That story ahead in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Clemson University hoping dialogue can calm racial tensions on campus. The school is dealing with a student party some call shockingly insensitive.

CNN's Allan Chernoff reports.



ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The theme of the party was gangsta, and on the eve of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. One white student had his entire body painted black. Partyers taped large bottles of malt liquor to their hands. A white woman padded her buttocks. And another placed silver grills across her teeth, all parodies of African-Americans.

Black students with whom we spoke said, this is not the Clemson they thought they knew.

ASHLEY HARVEY, STUDENT: I was really upset, because, you know, Martin Luther King brought us, as black people, a long way. And that's just really upsetting, you know, just thinking that people would even think about considering doing such a thing.

CHERNOFF: That's just part of the uproar caused when pictures from the off-campus party were posted on just this past weekend.

Harold Hughes was among the more than 100 students who vented their frustration at a meeting with administrators Monday night.

HAROLD HUGHES, STUDENT: And it was just like: OK, I'm really angry. What are we going to do? What are we going to do? What are we going to do about it?

CHERNOFF: White students who heard about the party say they believe no one intended to make fun of African-Americans.

STEPHEN GASNELL, STUDENT: I don't think it was done with the intention of, you know, offending anyone. I imagine they were just -- just throwing a party with a theme. And that's probably about as far as they thought it through, unfortunately.

FAYSSOUX EVANS WHITE, STUDENT: There have been plenty of theme parties like that. I mean, I know people who, like, for Halloween, they dress up like gangsters. And I don't -- I don't feel like that's -- sorry -- racial profiling.

CHERNOFF: The party organizers are refusing to speak with the media, but they did release a statement to the student body, saying, "We are deeply apologetic for any harm and disrespect we have caused."

(on camera): Honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a big deal here at Clemson. In fact, the university holds a full week of events, including lectures, a commemorative march, and service projects. So, students and administrators say, the party was especially hurtful here.

(voice-over): Similar parties were recently head off campus at Tarleton State University in Texas and the University of Connecticut's Law School. At both schools, a campus-wide discussion between white and black students is under way, and Clemson plans to do the same.

ALTHEA RICHARDSON, ASSISTANT VICE PRESIDENT OF STUDENT AFFAIRS, CLEMSON UNIVERSITY: It's not the Clemson way that we do things. And -- and we don't want to pretend like it is. It's -- it was -- it was wrong.


COLLINS: A grisly act of terror to play out on the Internet. British police stopping the suspected plotters. We'll have the story in the NEWSROOM.

American G.I.s ambushed in Iraq. Word that the U.S. now looking for Iran's possible fingerprints on the sneak attack. The investigation in the NEWSROOM.



© 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
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines