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CNN NEWSROOM

Extreme Flooding in the Midwest; Hundreds of Taliban, Accused Terrorists Break Out of Prison; Tim Russert Dies

Aired June 14, 2008 - 22:00   ET

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


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, breaking news. 24,000 people forced from their homes. And that's in just one city.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We didn't think it would get this high, but it's gone. It's gone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Des Moines, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids. We're live all over the state covering this story as it happens.

Video never seen before. This man is about to be publicly executed by al Qaeda. A special report on al Qaeda in Iraq.

While in Afghanistan, 400 accused terrorists, even attempted suicide bombers, have broken out of prison. Uh-oh.

New details about Tim Russert's medical condition and what it means to your heart and mine.

In politics, polling Hispanics. Are they for McCain or for Obama? We'll tell you.

And how about artist, conservative Cuban-Americans. They're voting, Republican, right? What's change?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not enough for somebody accompany and you would say "Viva Cuba Libre," (INAUDIBLE) they're going to win us over. I want to hear what they're going to do for our country, the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: "The League of First Time Voters," takes you to Miami. A happening newscast chock full starts now.

All right. Here we go. So much going on. Hello, again, everybody. I'm Rick Sanchez. This is a breaking news night because of the floods that are right now devastating the Midwest.

I want you to look at these pictures. Let's put some of these up, if we could. In Cedar Rapids, 24,000 people have had to leave their homes. Hundreds, hundreds of blocks are still under water. Much of the city's drinking water is polluted. So others can't drink it. We're going to take you there in just a little bit.

In De Moines, levees are breaking proving no match for the fast moving waters. The evacuations there, we have learned are now mandatory. And we've learned of yet another death there as well.

In Iowa City, residents are under a curfew tonight. In fact, our reporter, we're told, had to get a permit just so he can talk to us tonight. Here's the reason for all of this.

We put this map together so you can get a better sense. These are three swollen rivers. Among nine in the Midwest that are at or above flood levels never seen before. Well, here's what we're going to try and do this for you throughout the course of the night as we follow this story.

We're going to be talking to Christian Farr. He's in Iowa City. He's got a special permit. He's the one I told you about just moments ago. Jim Acosta is in the middle of the thick of things, literally fishing at some point he tells us, in the middle of the town. This is at Cedar Rapids. Yes, fishing.

Dan Simon is in Des Moines where fear is rising along with the waters. That's him on the bottom left there. And then, of course, Jacqui Jeras there in the orange. She's going to try and make sense of all this for us. And she's going to try and show us how and where these rivers are overflowing right now. All right, gang, hold on.

Desperate sandbagging efforts in that city in the home of the University of Iowa taking place right now. I want you to take a look at some of these pictures. Again, this is Iowa City. That's where the major university there is in Iowa. And that's Christian Farr. He's joining us now to try and bring us up-to-date on what's going on in Iowa City.

Christian, what's going on there? Start around Robin if you would.

CHRISTIAN FARR, WTTW REPORTER: Well, let's give you an idea of where we are right now. We're in Coralville, just outside of Iowa City. We're staying in a Marriott right next door to a condo complex relatively new here in Coralville. And this is just 100 yards from the Iowa River. And between the Iowa River and this hotel and this condo complex sits a pond as well as some homes.

Well, the pond has now been engulfed by the Iowa River. And those homes, well, if you look out some of the windows in the hotel, you can only see the roof. More than 600 homes have been evacuated here. Now, there is some good news.

What we have here in Iowa City is a reservoir spillway. It acts like a dam and hopes to detour the water. Something else that is pretty good news, normally, the Iowa River crests at around 25 feet. It's possibly going to crest at 33 to 34 feet late Monday. But those estimates have been pushed up possibly to Monday afternoon. And possibly even tomorrow, which means those numbers would be reduced. Of course, a lot of people trying to find temporary shelter. And we're trying to stay up-to-date on this.

Rick?

SANCHEZ: I'm going to join and ask all our reporters of this so we got a better sense of what's going on. But, Christian, tell us if you would, how much of Cedar Rapids looks the way where you are right now?

FARR: Well, as I was driving around here and coming through, it took quite a while to get here from Chicago. It's normally supposed to take about four hours to get to Iowa City. Took me over eight hours to get here. And you can see all of this water back here. This is what a lot of the area looks like.

And like I said, behind this, we've got some homes. We have a pond. You can't see either one of these things because this river has swollen so much. And of course, people trying to find a place to live right now.

SANCHEZ: All right, Christian, hang in there, man. I know you're in a difficult situation. We'll be checking back with you as well as other reporters throughout the show. And I misspoke when I said Cedar Rapids. You're in Iowa City, obviously.

Now we'll want to go to Cedar Rapids. This video showing nothing downtown but water. In fact, we're told that's dirty, nasty water. As for clean drinking water, that's a whole different story and very difficult to acquire in that area tonight. Look at the water as it flows. Now that's a differentiator here.

CNN's Jim Acosta has a front row seat tonight with a flood of 2008. Look at that.

Jim, where are you? What's going on? And tell us about the people.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN GENERAL ASSIGNMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rick, it wouldn't be a flood in Cedar Rapids if we didn't have raging floodwaters going behind us here. And that is exactly what I'm standing in right now. So I'm going to have to be a little bit careful.

But officials here in Cedar Rapids are just getting their arms around the magnitude of the situation here. And you just have to look at the numbers. Some 400 city blocks of this town covered in water. 24,000 people evacuated from their homes.

Some $375 million in counting in terms of economic losses. We've managed to go back to some of the homes in this community earlier this evening. Many of the residents in this community are going to be dealing with foundational issues and foundations that have been washed away in many cases. And officials are starting to get inside in some of these homes and figure out exactly what kind of casualties they're dealing with. Officials saying earlier today that they did find the body of a 50- year-old woman yesterday afternoon. And they feel that although that is very tragic information, they are very fortunate at this point when you consider all of those numbers to have only one fatality in this town considering the magnitude of what is happening here.

And I can tell you as the water is going down here, we're seeing all sorts of things right now. It's not just the people in this community who are bewildered, it is the wildlife as well. And if you'll just pardon me as I grab this net here, Rick, we are finding fish that are just lining up in this area right here trying to make their way out of this downtown area. And just a few moments ago, this area right here was just filled with fish.

I got one right here if I can just get him in here. Just unbelievable what is happening right now.

SANCHEZ: No, I mean, it was amazing.

ACOSTA: And it's just unbelievable to see this kind of water just flowing through this community. This entire downtown area is just totally under water behind me. It's going to be days before it goes down. About two inches an hour right now. And that's roughly two feet a day. So you can just do the math, Rick. It's going to be days before things get back to normal.

I'm going to try to get back to my fishing now. I anticipated actually being able to net one here. But it's just incredible to see this kind of devastation down here, Rick.

SANCHEZ: Man versus fish and fish wins again. You know, that's usually the case, by the way.

ACOSTA: It's a fish story.

SANCHEZ: Yes. Hey, you know, what is amazing though is to watch those waters. I mean, it's an irony and I'm going to take advantage of the opportunity to say here you are in Cedar Rapids and we're seeing rapids in places where you're not supposed to see rapids. How much of the city looks like this?

ACOSTA: Nearly all of it. Where we're standing right now, this entire downtown is covered with water. Typically the Cedar River flows right by downtown Cedar Rapids. And that river has spilled over its banks and into the downtown. The entire downtown is covered.

If you can see these buildings behind me, they're entirely pitch black right now because the power is shut off here. And in addition to the power being an issue, you mentioned the drinking water earlier.

Three of the four pumping stations in this town were flooded out. And so people here are being urged to conserve water because at this point they don't know how long the drinking water is going to last here. SANCHEZ: Wow. All right, listen, Jim, we'll check back with you. Let us know if you catch the big one.

ACOSTA: I'll see if I can get one.

SANCHEZ: Yes. In the meantime, we'll be checking back with your location as well.

All right, that's Cedar Rapids. Let's go to Des Moines now. This is where all major levee has been crushed and where things could get far worse before they get better as well. This is where our man Dan Simon has been following things for us, to bring us the very latest.

Dan, what's going on?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, Rick. There was a levee breach here this morning. And that caused a significant amount of flooding in a neighborhood called Birdland. Now this is not a Cedar Rapids situation, but nonetheless it is very difficult and painful and traumatic for the people who are going through this.

At least 20 homes have taken in water and several businesses. This all started when that breach occurred early this morning. About 3:00 in the morning, a 100-foot gash in that levee. And the water just started gushing.

Now, National Guard Troops raced to the scene and try to keep the waters in check. And if you see behind me, you can see exactly what they did. They put up really what amounted to a sand barrier to try to keep those waters in check. But, unfortunately, the water just got right through it and started invading some homes to the left of your screen, behind that water there, about 270 homes.

I can tell you about 20 of them have taken in water. The good news, it appears that Des Moines has already experienced the worst of the flooding. The water levels are receding. And all the evacuation orders have been lifted except for this one neighborhood, which is called Birdland.

Rick, back to you.

SANCHEZ: All right. Dan Simon, just one of the triad of reporters that we have out there on the scene tonight following these situations for us. Thanks so much for that report, Dan.

I want to take a moment now if I possibly can to try and show you some of the still pictures that we've been getting to try and capture this story for you. I mean, just take a look at some of this. These are people who are sending us these pictures, by the way. Houses submerged under water.

Think about the cleanup that's going to be involved in something like this. Hundreds of city of blocks underwater as well. This is in Cedar Rapids. Look at that. It's just one of them. You see the car over there? Just the very top of the car. The roof poking out of the water. Now, look at this one. This toy, a child's hobbyhorse tricycle floating next to a street sign. And the top of the street sign, six or seven feet tall, by the way. This picture brings it home as well.

Now, a lot of us have been looking at this because it's changed so much over the last couple of days. That's that island right there in the middle of the city. You can totally see how widespread the flooding is. Last week, it was a city. Tonight, it's a flood zone.

All right. Let's bring in Jacqui Jeras now.

Jacqui, we have been watching this thing all day long. Can you give us a sense because, you know, it's one thing to look at a reporter who is standing in a flood? It's quite another to have a more amplified look at just how big this is.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. This is a huge deal. It is hard to tell. You know, you see floodwaters everywhere, everywhere. But unless you were up in the air, it's really hard to get a grasp on how widespread it is.

I wanted to just kind of give you a little tour of the Iowa City area, which is right along the Iowa River. We saw it in the live report there from Christian just a few minutes ago. And I want to show you the area. He's up here in the Coralville area, way up over there. This is into the city and this is the University of Iowa area.

Basically, everything west on this map is flooded and covered in water right now. This is Kinnick Stadium, the home of the Iowa Hawkeyes. And right up here, this is a softball stadium. And one of our I-reporters sent us a picture of what this looks like right now.

Check out this picture from Jack Kregel. He took this picture just this afternoon. And quite a tour also he gave us around the campus area. Look at how deep that water is. You can barely even see that there. This is also a picture from the Burlington Street Bridge.

Look a little close, yes, that's not a road in the middle right there. That is a river of water where it shouldn't be, moving right through that area. This is worse than the floods of '93 for Iowa City. And, unfortunately, it's not over with just yet. All of the bridges have been cut off. The river is already at record levels. But it's not expected to crest until Monday night into Tuesday morning.

This is Highway One that connects the East Bank and the West Bank. It's the only bridge that's still open at this time. If this gets cut off and closed off, basically there is no way for people on the East Bank to get on over to the West Bank. And this is the main connector too, by the way, to interstate 80, which will get you anywhere across parts of Iowa.

This is the waste water treatment plant area. This could possibly be jeopardized as a levee expected possibly to be overtopped here. But the water supply itself is doing OK in the Iowa City area. This map will show you, this is the Iowa River and where it goes. Here is the Cedar River which moves through Cedar Rapids and the Des Moines River that moves through Des Moines.

And all of these come together down into the Mississippi River. And so we're real concerned about what's going to happen in Northern Mississippi later into next week. And we'll go back and show you all the flood gauges here that you can see. Here's Southeastern Iowa. Here's the St. Louis metro area.

This will be the area that we're watching real closely over the next couple of days. We may see more record flooding. Look at that, Rick. All those dots there that you can see are flooded right now.

SANCHEZ: While, you know, we're in a worse case scenario business, so let me ask you the worse case scenario of question. Let's suppose over the next couple of days, they continue to get many more inches of rain, what happens then?

JERAS: Well, really, anything could happen, Rick. I mean, we could see secondary crests. You know, a lot of these rivers in this area are starting to go down right now, but they're still in flood. If we get too much rain on top of that, we'll watch them rise back up and really anything could happen. We're talking levees already breached, we could very well see more breaches and could just be an unbelievable situation.

SANCHEZ: Yes. And unfortunately, something Americans, our viewers have gotten all too used to. When they hear the word broken levees or levees breached, they think of one thing, and it's not something that we have -- well, certainly good thoughts about. It was the experiences that happened in New Orleans.

We're going to stay all over this story. Jacqui, thanks so much. Let us know if anything changes and we'll get back to you right away.

By the way, if you're wondering what you can do to help out -- all you got to do is go to cnn.com/impact. You'll find links to the Red Cross and other organizations that we have provided there so you can help the good people of Iowa.

Coming up, there is new video. It has secret files that we at CNN have been able to acquire for you from the government. They include, among other things, public assassinations. It's amazing.

Also, hundreds of Taliban, accused terrorists have broken out of a prison in Afghanistan. The number and the means by which they did this is extremely alarming, details ahead.

Also, details about Tim Russert's medical condition. New details. And how is your heart? We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Tim Russert, my colleague at NBC, had an apparent condition not previously reported. That, and my own memories, of a man who for me personally stood out from the rest. I'll tell you how. That's ahead.

Welcome Back, I'm Rick Sanchez. Right now there is an urgent fugitive man hunt in Afghanistan times 400. That is how many suspected Taliban militants have busted out of prison in Kandahar and where are they? Who knows? Perhaps scattered all over Kandahar Province, which already has a high Taliban presence.

And by the way, 600 others got out who were common criminals. But here's a real troubling part of this story. These 400 guys, some of them attempted suicide bombers, didn't just walk out of jail. They were sprung by their comrades who used truck bombs to blast holes in this prison. Strangely enough, listen now to the official reaction from NATO.

Quote, "We admit it. Their guys did the job properly, but it does not have a strategic impact. We should not draw any conclusion about the deterioration of the military operations in the area. We should not draw any conclusion about the strength of the Taliban.

All right, so NATO says that we're not to draw any conclusions from this development in Afghanistan. But here's a very curious statistic from the war on terror. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told NATO leaders that more U.S. and allied troops died in combat in Afghanistan last month, in Afghanistan last month than in Iraq.

That's never been the case before, ever. Here's a breakdown on this. 17 American and allied troops died fighting in Iraq in May. In Afghanistan, 19.

Coming up, the Hispanic vote -- Obama or McCain? And what about conservative Cubans who have always been Republican?

Also, who's winning hears and minds in Iraq. The U.S. or al Qaeda. The bloody details -- don't watch this -- in a special report.

And details of what may have contributed to Tim Russert's all too sudden demise. Back in two.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Coming up, CNN gets exclusive access to a treasure trove of secret computer documents. Files that seem to show just how al Qaeda conducts its deadly business in Iraq. It's an exclusive and sometimes tough to watch report. You'll see it just ahead.

But first, what I'm going to do now is I'm going to drop by instinctive competitive nature for a moment because it's safe to say that Sunday mornings are going to be hard to get used to without Tim Russert hosting "Meet the Press."

I knew the man who died yesterday. I worked with him. In my chosen career field, television news is most certainly diminished tonight because he's gone.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TOM BROKAW, FORMER ANCHOR, "NBC NIGHTLY NEWS": It's my sad duty to report this afternoon that my friend and college, Tim Russert, the moderator of "Meet the Press" and NBC's Washington bureau chief, collapsed and died.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): This is how much of the nation learned that a news icon was gone, from another news icon.

BROKAW: Tim was a true child of Buffalo and the blue-collar roots in which he was raised. For all of his success, he was always in touch with the ethos of that community.

SANCHEZ: Tim Russert an active, 58-year-old, who exercised, took heart medicine and by all outward appearances was gregarious, easily amused, anything but unhealthy. In a sound booth, while he was doing a very Tim Russert thing, recording voiceovers for Sunday's "Meet the Press," he fell. And despite all attempts to bring him around, he died at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C.

But here's the cautionary tale of the untimely death of Tim Russert. Of people who suffer so-called sudden cardiac death. Russert was right in the zone. A man in the average age window of 58 to 62. He was being treated for coronary artery disease. And now we learn, had diabetes as well.

His famously workaholic ways in the high pressure, never slow down world of network television news, if there is a face on high risk for heart attack, perhaps that face would look like Tim Russert's.

TED KOPPEL, FORMER HOST, "NIGHTLINE": But I think we need to learn something from this. You can't work people 20 hours a day, month after month after month after month without some kind of consequence.

I don't know what it was that was wrong with Tim. I don't know why Tim died. But all I can say is that man worked too hard.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: Tim Russert's death got me to thinking. Guys my age and frankly in my condition, many of you out there have a bit of a gut check to do tonight. Sudden cardiac arrest kills 850 people a day. 850 people a day in the United States. That's more than breast cancer, that's more than lung cancer, that's more than strokes and more than AIDS combined.

Dr. Raymond Gibbons is a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic who is good enough to join us. A fellow one time Minnesotan I can say. You know, last night, I was so affected by this that I got on the Internet and I just couldn't stop reading. Suddenly I was immersed in knowledge -- you know, everything from doctor.com to medical.com trying to figure out what is it, coronary disease?

And you know what I found out, doctor? Something I guess that you studied a long time. It's an awful lot like the plumbing under our sinks, isn't it? I mean, it's a pipe and if it gets clogged or worse, if something inside there breaks off and clogs it even worse, you get a heart attack and you usually can know it's coming, right?

DR. RAYMOND GIBBONS, PROF. OF MEDICINE, MAYO CLINIC: No. You can't, Rick. Thanks for having me this evening.

SANCHEZ: Sure.

GIBBONS: Coronary artery disease is a build up of fat and cholesterol in the wall of the blood vessels that supply the heart. As it gets worse, it may get to the point where it restricts blood flow to the heart during exercise, leading to chest tightness or heaviness. That serves as a warning sign both to the patient and their doctor that something is amiss.

SANCHEZ: You're saying sometimes there is no warning sign. That there's no way of knowing?

GIBBONS: Sometimes. Right. Unfortunately, before the blockage gets that bad to cause problem, it can suddenly break open and cause a blood clot that blocks the blood vessel and stops blood flow to the heart. That causes a heart attack.

SANCHEZ: Now, we learned tonight, doctor, that Tim Russert had diabetes. We didn't know that yesterday. We do also know that he had that condition that you were describing earlier. I guess it goes by many names. We don't know if he ever had angina or anything like that. So given those two things, was this just prone to happen to him?

GIBBONS: The risk of heart attack in any individual can be estimated from their age, their gender, whether they have diabetes, hypertension, elevation in cholesterol and whether they smoke. Tim Russert's risks would have been increased by his diabetes.

SANCHEZ: Let me ask you something, because we got to checking tonight and one of my producers, Amy Chilike (ph), pulled out a test that she found. It's called the Framington -- Framingham Test. Is that right? Are you familiar with it?

GIBBONS: I am very familiar with it. So, for every adult American over the age of 40, the American Heart Association recommends that they have a risk assessment using the Framingham Score.

SANCHEZ: Yes, that's it. That's it. Right and I did it. And there's age, gender, total cholesterol, HDL, smokers, systolic blood pressure. Those are the things you fill out. Now, go to the next page if we can, guys. I want to show folks at home what we did once we filled it out. Is it there? Right.

There's mine. 49, male, 230 cholesterol, 40, smoker -- yes, I smoke cigars when I play golf, systolic blood pressure, 120. And then it goes on to tell me that I got a score of 15 -- 15 percent. What does that say about me and how concerned should I be?

GIBBONS: Well, the 15 percent is your risk of developing symptoms from coronary artery disease in the next 10 years. And that may include angina, heart attack or death. You're at intermediate risk. You have some work to do.

By comparison, I'm 58, same age at Tim Russert. My HDL cholesterol is low. My blood pressure is low. I don't smoke. I don't have diabetes. I exercise a lot. So, my HDL cholesterol is high. My risk over the next 10 years is only six percent. Quite a bit lower than yours.

SANCHEZ: Well, I tell you --

GIBBONS: But it's good that you know your numbers. You're already doing better than most Americans.

SANCHEZ: Well, I tell you, Dr. Raymond Gibbons, we thank you. And maybe some real good will come out of this because, I think, a lot of guys like me will probably going to go out and try to do everything they can now to not just get educated about their situation but try to improve upon it, which is the real key in stuff like this. Thanks, Doc, I appreciate it.

GIBBONS: If we can encourage -- if we can encourage your viewers to do what you did and compute their risk score, there will be some good that will come out of this tragedy.

SANCHEZ: Thank you. It's called Framingham, by the way. And you can find this link -- we can put it up to the heart attack risk test on cnn.com. And you can do it for yourself. Just go to CNN's Russert coverage. And you'll see the link. It's called risk assessment tool under the "Don't Miss" section to possibly help all of us.

Wolf Blitzer, by the way, is going to lead our remembrance of Tim Russert tomorrow at 11:00 a.m., a special, "LATE EDITION."

Also, how -- what Tim Russert once did for me that others would not do. This is personal. I'll share it with you.

And, a new report that says America's image in the world is improving because George Bush's presidency is ending. We're looking into this.

Also, terrorism on tape. Al Qaeda's secret captured in Iraq. We have got them for you in a CNN exclusive. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Welcome back. Over the last two weeks, our Michael Ware and his Baghdad bureau colleagues have been very busy. What they've been doing is looking into some computer hard drives that have been obtained by us here at CNN. Hard drives filled with materials seized from al Qaeda by U.S.-allied Iraqi militias.

Now, these militias provided copies of the al Qaeda hard drives to the U.S. military and eventually to us, to CNN. Among the thousands of documents and ours or sometimes very graphic video, there are some fascinating insights about how al Qaeda actually does business. Now, we should warn you, some of the video that you're about to see is tough to watch. Here now, CNN's Michael Ware.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL WARE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Al Qaeda gunmen brought this man here to die. Staged for maximum impact, he's to be executed on this busy market street. We don't know why. The al Qaeda members who recorded this tape offered no explanation. But the anticipation is agonizing, leading to a moment we cannot show you.

A punishment for betraying al Qaeda or for breaking their strict version of Islamic law? Either way, it was public executions like this that would help lead to the unraveling of al Qaeda in Iraq and al Qaeda knew it. Its leaders recognized their greatest threat was not the U.S. military, but the men in the crowds who witnessed these slaughters and who would eventually turn against them.

In fact, in this secret memo three years ago, a senior al Qaeda leader warned against a backlash for the public executions. They were being carried out, he wrote, in the wrong way, in a semi-public way. So, a lot of families are threatening revenge and this is now a dangerous intelligence situation.

But U.S. intelligence did not pick up on this weakness, for more than a year. Most of these men were once insurgents, some even members of al Qaeda. But now, they're on the U.S. government payroll, paid to assassinate al Qaeda.

All of these secrets come from here, the town of Ramadi. Al Qaeda computer hard drives were discovered here when one of these U.S.-backed militias overran an al Qaeda headquarters. As for the al Qaeda members, they showed them no mercy. Eventually, the secret hard drives were passed along to both the U.S. military and to CNN.

Until recently, this man, Abu Saif, was a senior al Qaeda commander. He's now changed sides and confirms these are genuine al Qaeda in Iraq documents. Documents that reveal a network that's sophisticated, well organized, meticulously bureaucratic and thorough.

Rear Admiral Patrick Driscoll is the U.S. military spokesman in Iraq

REAR ADM. PATRICK DRISCOLL, U.S. MILITARY SPOKESMAN: It's kind of unique we do have -- because you have kind of comprehensive snapshot of al Qaeda at a time where it was a network or a unit.

WARE: In one local headquarters alone, more than eighty execution videos were cataloged not for propaganda but would never made public. But it's proof of killings for al Qaeda superiors.

DRISCOLL: I was kind of surprised when I saw the degree of documentation for everything. Pay records, those kinds of things.

WARE: In addition to pay sheets, hit list and membership application forms, there are detailed list of prisoners held, tried and executed. And then this, architectural schematics for storage bunkers on a U.S. base, proof al Qaeda has infiltrators inside America's compounds.

And despite the administration's insistence al Qaeda in (INAUDIBLE) by outsiders, in the secret correspondence obtained by CNN, the orders are given by Iraqis. Non-Iraqi fighters are used to mostly in frontline roles such as suicide bombings. And these pages contain a complex strategy for planning and executing a three-month wave of simultaneous al Qaeda attacks.

DRISCOLL: You're talking about an organization that's a network of networks -- that's pretty resilient. And there's still determined elements in the al Qaeda hierarchy that want to win in Iraq.

WARE: Win to restore their own harsh justice. Here, al Qaeda gunmen punishing these, dangling them from an overpass and shooting them from below.

While al Qaeda today no longer wheeled to this power, the U.S. military is wary of its return.

DRISCOLL: The threat of al Qaeda, if not watched carefully and not pursued aggressively, will come back and be the largest threat.

WARE: Though al Qaeda in Iraq is now under pressure as never before, these documents and videos warn its threat is more organized and more menacing than many ever imagined. After all, al Qaeda remembers when not so long ago it was welcomed by waving children.

Michael Ware, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: Wow. The report says that finally America's image in the world is starting to improve, but it's not something President George Bush will want to hear. That report -- ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Welcome back to the world headquarters of CNN. I'm Rick Sanchez. Did you know that America's image is apparently improving around the world?

A new study by the Pew Research Center surveyed 24,000 people. They've found many people believe the next president is likely to change U.S. foreign policy for the better. 22 out of 24 countries in the poll feel that Barack Obama should be the president of the United States. That's the world's speaking.

And the survey showed so many people are tuning into the U.S. election worldwide. It's even surpassing American interest. More people in Japan, for example, 83 percent say they are heavily interested in the American race for the White House. That compares to only 80 percent of Americans. Fascinating stuff.

Let's break it down for you. Alex Kingsbury is good enough to join us. He's with the U.S. News and World Report, recently returned from Iraq and has written many articles about the war. A lot of people would ask, "Why should we care what the world thinks about us?" To that, you would reply how?

ALEX KINGSBURY, U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT: Well, the world is interconnected, as we all know, and, you know, we interact with the world and they interact with us. And a lot of people perceive that the U.S. does run the world in many ways. And true or not, the way the world feels about us is quite important to us economically, diplomatically, militarily, and so forth.

SANCHEZ: What do they think Barack Obama can or will do? Why is there -- there's, you know, Obama thing going on around the world?

KINGSBURY: Well, the results of the survey are not as precise as we would like, obviously. But they do indicate that people in the majority of these countries feel that the change will be positive. And it's unclear, exactly.

The results don't tell us what they think the change will be or why a particular change will improve. But they do feel that Obama will be a departure from George W. Bush. And that's widely seen as something positive around the rest of the world.

SANCHEZ: Let's look at the flip side of that then and ask the question, what happens then if McCain is elected? I mean, if they didn't like Bush, if you believe the Democratic talking points about, you know, McCain being a continuation of Bush, what will that mean?

KINGSBURY: Well, I suppose we can find out. You know, McCain does have some support in many countries. It's not that he doesn't have any support. It's just that Obama's support is significantly higher in most countries.

And then there are some countries like, you know, Japan, where, as you mentioned, 83 percent of the people are closely watching this election, and places like Turkey and Egypt are lower.

They feel that even if Barack Obama does become president, that things aren't actually going to change that much. They view it as more positive, but that U.S. foreign policy really won't be that much affected by it.

SANCHEZ: Interesting yes or no question. Biggest effect on the world according to us, or at least the way they see us -- Abu Ghraib. Yes or no?

KINGSBURY: The survey doesn't go into it. So, I'm not going to speak for behalf of billions of people, unfortunately.

SANCHEZ: Well said, well said. Covered yourself well. Thanks. Hey, listen, that's great stuff. That's an amazing -- that's an amazing study to consider. We'll have you back.

Coming up, the Latino lean. Who are Hispanic voters backing in the '08 race? And what about Cuban-Americans? Could they actually get behind a Democrat? We'll find out. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Welcome back. I'm Rick Sanchez. The presumptive presidential nominees reaching out tonight to flood victims in the Midwest. Barack Obama used some elbow grease and helped fill sandbags in Quincy, Illinois. Residents there facing their worst flooding in 15 years. Earlier today, Obama held a town hall meeting in Pennsylvania.

John McCain also holding a town hall meeting, but in Washington. He issues a statement from his wife Cindy and himself extending their, quote, "Sympathies to all who have lost loved ones in the flooding.

Tonight, a look at John McCain and Barack Obama by the numbers and from the Latino perspective. A "Wall Street Journal" poll taken this week says Barack Obama leads with Latino voters, 62 to 28 percent. Now, that's a surprisingly large number, considering Latinos were very much in favor of Hillary Clinton in the primaries and not Barack Obama.

And then there's Hispanics in Miami, where anti-Fidel Castro sentiments make people more conservative and more Republican. Now, I wanted to know if that's still the case. So, I went there for this week's "League of First Time Voters."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: It is time, I believe, to pursue direct diplomacy with friend and foe alike, without preconditions. Now, there must be -- there must be careful preparation. We will set a clear agenda. As president, I would be willing to lead that diplomacy at a time and place of my choosing.

SANCHEZ (on camera): Any president or person running for president of the United States, over the last 50 years in this country, who would have said, I'm willing to sit down and talk to a Castro, would have been decimated. Am I right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is true.

SANCHEZ: What's changed?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not enough for somebody who come to me and say "Viva Cuba Libre" and (INAUDIBLE) and say they're going to win us over. I want to hear what they're going to do for our country in United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As younger voters, second, third generation voters want to hear more than just Cuba, Cuba, Cuba because we've heard it a lot of times.

SANCHEZ: Here's a question for you we threw. Raul Castro is now the President of Cuba. It's no longer Fidel Castro. Why not talk to this new president?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he's still a Castro. That's what we have to realize.

SANCHEZ: So, you can't negotiate with him and you can't deal with him because his last name is Castro?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The situation does not -- should not allow for us to just normalize relations right away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that being able to talk to Raul Castro, Obama being able to do that, it's more of a symbolic gesture. Right now, the people in Cuba are apathetic about what's going on. You know, a lot of them think that nothing's going to happen; nothing's going to change because it's been a lot of the same for the last 45, 50 years.

And I think if a United States president is so bold as to go over there and ask Raul to have a meeting without any preconditions, OK, we're not saying that all of a sudden the Cuban government is going to change. But everyone in Cuba is going to see a leader of the free world is coming across 90 miles from his home country to go over there and just have a conversation. That is enough support to awaken those dormant feelings of trying to escape this regime.

SANCHEZ: How would that go over in Little Havana? Not well?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that if you open up talks without any preconditions you're legitimatizing a regime that shouldn't be legitimatized.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our window of opportunity was when there was no one supporting Cuba. Now that there is someone supporting Cuba, again, we do not have that leverage of -- OK, come to us and we'll take care of you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think there should be negotiations without any preconditions because -- well, we really don't have the power to insist on preconditions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I think with a regime that's so symbolic, to put preconditions, we will not get to the meeting. And without the meeting, we can't get progress. I feel like having points before you get to the table, just makes it -- just creates more obstacles to get to the table -- a table that we've been trying to get to for years.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: Coming up, what Tim Russert once did for me that others would not do. This is very personal.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, Cameron (ph), this is your father.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, JJ, it's Mommy. I love you very much. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mommy just missed you.

CAROLYN LECROY, CHAMPIONING CHILDREN: The children of incarcerated parents are the silent victims of the parents' crimes. These children, they're forgotten sometimes.

My name is Carolyn LeCroy and I started "The Messages Project" so that incarcerated parents can keep in touch with their kids.

In 1994, I was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana. I was very fortunate. My children came to see me all the time. And there would be women who never got visits and I would look at them. If they were this unhappy, what about the children?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray.

LECROY: I know how important it was for my children to see me. When I got out, I took a bad situation and I made something good of it.

Just talk it from your heart. That's what this is about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Taylor, this is Daddy, buddy. I love you and I hope you enjoy this.

LECROY: They know they've made mistakes. But they're still human beings and they have children and they all love them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is from your daddy, OK? What is that?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Daddy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have two books here. I hope you enjoy it. One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish. Black fish, blue fish, old fish, new fish. This one has a little star. This one has a little cross. Say, what a lot of fish they are.

LECROY: We have found with the videos, for many, it's reestablishing a bond that got broken. It's hard when any parent is in prison. So, I think that makes all these children heroes.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Welcome back. I'm Rick Sanchez. Before we go, one more thing on Tim Russert -- something I've never told anyone except my wife. This is personal.

Many years ago before CNN, I went to work at MSNBC from local television. I wasn't ready. And for the most part, I kind of stunk up the joint. I mean, I really wasn't very good and I was scared. I felt like I wasn't fitting in. What's worse, I had to debrief people that I was intimidated by Tom Brokaw, Chris Matthews, Brian Williams and Tim Russert. Brokaw, Williams and Matthews, pretty much let me know that I didn't belong. And listen, this is not something I can hold against these guys because they were right. Then there is Tim Russert. Never once did he ever give me a disparaging look. To the contrary, he went out of his way to always help me on the air and off the air.

I'm not scared anymore. Not at all.

You know, I've heard hundreds of people say over the last 24 hours that Tim Russert was different from everybody else. They're right.

Good night.

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