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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT
Cracking Down on the Media in Egypt; Egyptian Reporter Speaks Out
Aired February 3, 2011 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Is al hell about to break loose in Egypt? Armed thugs hunting down journalists.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICHOLAS KRISTOF, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I was about to get in my taxi. I realized there were a line of thugs with clubs, with nails embedded in them.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: What's behind this extraordinary menacing crackdown?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KRISTOF: I have a terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. Does that means there may be something that they don't want us to cover coming up.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Tonight we cannot reveal where Anderson Cooper and our CNN colleagues are reporting from. But we vow to bring you their stories.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: The Egyptian government must demonstrate its willingness to ensure journalists' ability to report on these events to the people of Egypt and to the world.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Furious protests spread across the region. What does it mean for Israel? Is an explosive situation about to get much, much worse?
This is a special edition of PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT. The story the Egyptian government does not want you to know about.
Good evening. President Mubarak says if he steps down Egypt will descend into chaos. But could anything be more chaotic than what's been happening in Cairo all day? Journalists hunted down and beaten. Egypt's own people attacked by government thugs. The video I'm about to show you may be difficult to watch but we must watch them.
The first shows an Egyptian police van mowing down several pedestrians without stopping.
Another second deeply disturbing video. We don't know precisely where it was shot or precisely when but it's consistent with other recent scenes in central Cairo. It begins with demonstrators throwing rocks towards some armored vehicles.
And a siren can be heard as a fire truck approaches rapidly from the right. As the crowd scatters, a man is run over by the same fire truck which doesn't appear to slow down.
Want to go straight to Anderson Cooper in his undisclosed location in Cairo.
Anderson, you've been attacked again today while in the car. It's getting ridiculously dangerous for journalists. It's outrageous what's happening there. Clearly a deliberate attempt by the government to stop you guys out there you reporting the truth.
Talk me through your day and how bad it's been.
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: Well, I can't honestly tell you many details of my day just because I can't give away any locations but, you know, the incident was -- it was a brief one. It was an unpleasant one. We were -- we had -- we were in a vehicle.
We had to go down a certain road that was blocked by pro-Mubarak demonstrators. And they set upon our car and, unfortunately, the driver of the vehicle I was in slowed down somewhat unfamiliar with trying to get through these kind of road blocks, and somebody -- I didn't see who it was -- threw a rock through my window, shattering the window.
You know, I got some minor cuts and really nothing but we were all OK. We -- you know, we really immediately started screaming to the driver, go, go, go, go and we were able to get out of there. The car was pretty badly damaged but again that was a minor incident comparing to what had happened to numerous journalists today.
Being pulled out of vehicles, being taken away, being interrogated, being beaten. We heard of journalists being stabbed. It is -- without a doubt this is an orchestrated effort to stop the world from seeing what is happening in and around Liberation Square.
And, you know over the last 10 days we have seen -- I should say the first -- you know, over the last four or five days since Saturday and Sunday and Monday and Tuesday, we saw the best of Egypt. We saw a multicultural, multidimensional group of protesters, group of people, Egyptians coming forward voicing their opinions, talking about democracy and freedom. And what we have seen in the last two days is the worst in Egypt. We have seen thugs on the streets, systemically attacking people, descending upon peaceful protesters and now systemically trying to find and beat up foreigners and westerners and other -- people from other Arab nation who are reporting, simply trying to tell the truth what is happening here.
MORGAN: Anderson, you've covered a number of dangerous assignments. Have you ever known one where so many of the media have been badly beaten, stabbed in one case, kidnapped and threatened with beheading? Have you ever known the collective media come under such an attack?
COOPER: In such a large-scale systemic way, no, I've been at the fall of President Mobutu in Zaire that's now Congo when, you know, soldiers were -- who haven't been paid were running riots and beating up reporters and grabbing cameras. This is far more orchestrated.
We have the vice president of Egypt today on the television saying that satellite channels, news channels were part of some sort of foreign conspiracy against the Egyptian people. I can tell you that sent a chill through -- certainly through my heart and I'm sure through many reporters here on the ground who are simply trying to do their job, trying to talk to pro-Mubarak demonstrators, as well as anti-Mubarak demonstrators. Trying to broadcast the truth.
That sent a message to thugs on the street that reporters are legitimate targets and that they are to be -- they are suspicious and part of a plot. And it is -- I mean that is throwing a match on a very -- on very, very dry wood here.
MORGAN: Yes, I thought it was an incredibly insensitive and frankly outrageous thing to have said, and clearly part of the conspiracy that's going on there to stop the media telling the truth and to stop the protests.
Anderson, I want you to listen to a conversation I had just now with "The New York Times" columnist Nick Kristof, and then come back to you afterwards.
KRISTOF: Well, a whole series of foreign journalists have been attacked, arrested, beaten up. Two of my colleagues at "The New York Times" were arrested. "The Washington Post" reporter was arrested. You had thugs attack the Reuters office.
Brian Hartman from ABC was threatened with beheading. Greg Palkot from FOX was hospitalized after a beating. You had a Greek reporter who was stabbed with a screwdriver. Anderson Cooper was beaten up. Christiane Amanpour and Anderson both had their cars attacked. And it just goes on and on and on.
As far as we can tell, there's really been a deliberate effort by the government to send out the word, to target journalists, and the -- I mean I guess I have a terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach that that means there may be something that they don't want us to cover coming up.
MORGAN: Yes, I mean the word that we're getting back here is that tomorrow may be a big, big day for the protests and it may well be what's going on here is a preemptive strike to prevent the media from covering what may be the retaliation from Mubarak's side.
KRISTOF: Yes, I mean the presence of the media, effectively we raise the cost of repression by having cameras around, by having journalists around, we make it harder to kill people, to arrest them, to crush a peaceful democracy movement. And so it is a very, you know, eerie feeling that it's open season right now on reporters and I mean at the end of this -- as foreign reporters we have foreign passports, you know, we can leave, we can go home and we have a certain amount of protection because of our nationality and our status.
But those people at Tahrir Square, they have none of those protections. They're taking all of the risks and, you know, I worry deeply about them.
MORGAN: Nick, we've seen some horrifying images emerging today. One in particular I saw of what looked like a police van deliberately running people over in the street. What kind of activities are now going on against these protesters by pro-Mubarak forces tonight from what you can gather?
KRISTOF: Well, it's a continuation of what we saw very abruptly really in the early morning hours Wednesday. You had the government send out police, members of the ruling party, and a lot of just frankly thugs who are all around the town. They're trying to block people from entering Tahrir Square. They're going after human rights monitors, journalists.
When I arrived at Tahrir Square this morning, kind of a standard entrance, the Qasr El Nile Bridge, one of the major bridges over the Nile River, there were -- I was about to get out of my taxi and then I realized there were a whole line of these thugs with nails embedded in them.
I mean they -- they looked like Central Casting's notion of gangsters and I decided that was maybe not the opportune place to get out of the cab so I tried various other routes to get into Tahrir Square. At 2:00 I was turned back by soldiers but finally I was able to find a way in. And later when I left I had to have help, of course, and three people in Tahrir -- three local people volunteered their services to lead me out by secret passages and I just tremendously admire their courage and willingness to help us.
MORGAN: Nick, what was your reaction to Mubarak's interview with Christiane Amanpour, because he was trying to make out that although President Obama has asked him to go now, that will descend the country into chaos? I mean it seems a pretty ironic statement given what we're witnessing today. With scenes chaotic to put it mildly.
KRISTOF: Yes, I mean for 30 years Mubarak's systematic policy has been to prevent any kind of a secular, reasonable opposition so that he can say, if it's not for me then we're going to have chaos in Egypt. And at times American officials have kind of believed that, but in the last few days I think that has lost all credibility because we had a peaceful secular -- largely secular democracy movement that was actually quite well organized and certainly very peaceful.
And then Cairo has descended in chaos in the last couple of days because the president has sent his thugs to try to crush that movement.
MORGAN: It's 4 a.m. on Friday morning in Cairo. I wish I could show you live pictures from Tahrir Square, but there are no cameras left there to record what's going on. It remains a sinister mystery.
Anderson, we just heard from Nick there. He is feeling pretty ominous about why the media have been so brutally treated. He thinks and fears, as I'm sure many journalists do, that it's because something very unpleasant may be about to happen. What's your thoughts on this?
COOPER: Well, it's hard to predict, you know, what -- I mean the next few hours will hold. But, you know, what we have seen already is ominous enough, and is maybe a precursor of what we're going to see ahead. I don't know.
You know, I fear -- I mean I think, you know, Nick makes incredibly important points that, you know, let's not have the story, you know, even though unfortunately now journalists become part of the story because of this systematic campaign to target them. Let's never forget that the people in that square, in Liberation Square, as Nick said do not have, you know, the capabilities and the possibility of, you know, getting on an airplane if one is able to -- if you can actually get to the airport.
You know, they are -- they believe they are fighting for life and death, and you know it's important to remember that as we watch what happens over the next several hours.
MORGAN: Anderson, thank you very much for this report. Please stay safe there. We know it's incredibly dangerous. You're doing an extraordinary job for us. We appreciate it. Thank you.
Earlier today Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman flatly denied that the government had any connection with the violent pro-Mubarak actions in Tahrir Square. A short time ago I spoke with Senator Bob Casey, chairman of the subcommittee that deals with Egypt. Here's what he told me about the leadership.
MORGAN: You met with Vice President Omar Suleiman last July.
SEN. ROBERT CASEY (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Right.
MORGAN: What were your -- what were your recollections of meeting? What kind of guy is he?
CASEY: Well, he's very capable, very bright, a lot of experience in intelligence matters and in matters that are more military and security in nature. As he's a very capable person, I don't think he's the kind of person who could be the leader of this transition.
Probably the best thing that could happen here and this is -- there's no rule book or guide book for this but if there's representation by the military, representation by civilian authorities, and especially representation by the pro-democracy forces who have been working so hard to bring about this change -- if you have a coalition of folks to come together and begin this process right now and, of course, President Mubarak has to get out of the way and allow this process to take place so they can transition.
MORGAN: Omar Suleiman said earlier today that he firmly blames the media, including western media, for inflaming the rioting that we've seen in Egypt. Seemed a pretty ridiculous statement to me. What was your take on that?
CASEY: Well, I think it's not just a misreading of what happened on the ground but I think it indicates sometimes what happens to leaders when they're -- when they're not observing what is plainly evident.
This was a movement that came from -- it came from the hearts of a real people in Egypt who have been suffering for so long without those basic rights. The world has changed and we have to be -- I think here in the United States, both the administration and the Congress, have to continue to be constructive. I think the president has by pushing but not trying to dictate to the Egyptian people.
MORGAN: I want to bring in my colleague John King now.
John, there's a report in tonight's "The New York Times" that the White House has a new plan to encourage President Mubarak to cede power immediately to Vice President Omar Suleiman. Is this actually new or has this been the -- the sort of plan below ground that's been going all the time?
JOHN KING, CNN'S JOHN KING, USA: No offense to the two fine reporters from "The New York Times" that wrote that report, Piers, and they do have some new information in there, but the basic thrust of it is something we've been reporting since Tuesday afternoon.
I just went back to look at the transcripts to make sure that -- we're all tired, we've been working long hours -- that I wasn't losing my mind but I had this conversation with Anderson on his program Tuesday night that the administration and Senator Casey in your interview with him just made a very important point.
They can't dictate, of course. This is a decision for the people of Egypt to make. But the administration as we've reported Tuesday night is in every conversation and Vice President Biden had a conversation with Vice President Suleiman just today suggesting President Mubarak has to go very quickly. As soon as possible.
You would have a transitional government come into play. It is the administration's hope that Vice President Suleiman would lead that government. That he would have the blessing of the top two military officials. The commander and the field marshal, the defense minister and the army field marshal. And then they would also bring in some outreach to the opposition for immediate consultation in the government and then a dialogue about elections and political parties and so on.
What is interesting is the escalation of this throughout the week. Secretary Clinton spoke to Vice President Suleiman yesterday, Vice President Biden spoke to him today. They are clearly, Piers, not getting what they want on the other end of the phone conversations.
MORGAN: John, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held a press conference earlier today. Let's see a little bit of what she had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: We condemn in the strongest terms attacks on reporters covering the ongoing situation in Egypt. This is a violation of international norms that guarantee freedom of the press and it is unacceptable under any circumstances.
We also condemn in the strongest terms attacks on peaceful demonstrators, human rights activists, foreigners and diplomats.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: I mean, John, she's pretty strong there in her condemnation of the attacks on the journalists. I mean the reason I think it's of paramount importance to discuss what's going on against the media is it clearly what is happening is an attempt to gag the world's media to the extent where we have no live footage at all now from Tahrir Square.
We have no idea what's going on. We have no idea what is happening to these protesters. And that is censorship of the worst kind by a kind of totalitarian regime. What concerns me is that you have Secretary of State Clinton saying that. You have at the same time Vice President Omar Suleiman coming up blaming the media for inciting the riots to start with. He's the guy we're about to put in charge apparently.
KING: Well, and that is why there is profound reservations and anxiety at the highest level of the administration tonight, Piers, because Secretary Clinton delivered that message because just as you just said in a conversation with Nick Kristof and with Anderson, the administration fears what is going on here has a parallel in not-so- distant history and it's called Tiananmen Square, where the Chinese tried to kick everybody out, did kick everybody out, and then horrible things happened. The tanks rolled in and things.
That is the fear of the administration that their friends in Egypt, their traditional allies in Egypt have taken a turn to the dark side, if you will. They hope that doesn't happen. They say in their conversations they're getting back from the Egyptian military, that the military wants to play a responsible role so they say what they're hearing about the overall picture -- responsibility, keeping stability -- is encouraging but the actions, especially the beatings of the journalists, kicking people out, the blackout, if you will, has them incredibly anxious.
MORGAN: You spoke to Senator John McCain earlier. I watched that interview. It was fascinating in many respects, but I was struck by him saying that he felt this was potentially the most dangerous situation we have seen in the Middle East for a very long time.
Is that your reading of what's going on here, John?
KING: It is and there are people watching out there who are fans of Senator McCain and there are some who are critics of Senator McCain, because he's been so active in politics in recent years including being President Obama's opponent.
But whether you like him or don't like his policies he is one of the few people in the United States Senate who travels constantly to that region. He goes to Iraq, he goes to Afghanistan, he goes to Yemen when he can. He goes to Israel, he goes to Egypt. So he knows the region very, very well.
His view is, he worries about the domino effect, but he also answers the critics -- there are some critics on the right saying President Obama should stand by Mubarak. Senator McCain says that's just unsustainable at this point. That the genie is out of the bottle and there may be dark days ahead, there may be instability and unpredictability ahead, but he believes, especially at this moment, the United States has no choice to stand for freedom and democracy even though there's a lot of risks about what would come next in Egypt.
What would come next in Yemen. What would happen to Israel if you had these weeks or months or years of re-adjusting in the region. He sees that there's a great risk out there but he says at this moment in time he believes President Obama is doing the right thing by saying Mubarak must go and we need a transitional government.
MORGAN: John King, thank you very much.
KING: Thank you.
MORGAN: When we come back, CNN's Nic Robertson broadcasts live from inside Egypt. And a brave young reporter on the front lines in Cairo defies authorities to get her story out. I'll talk to her live in a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dozens of cases of journalists from all over the world -- Poland, Russia, Brazil, Turkey, Spain, Canada, Britain and the U.S. and more journalists who have been beaten, arrested, their equipment destroyed, which have succeeded pretty much in stopping any live images of what's happening here from going out.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: I'm joined now by senior international correspondent Nic Robertson who is in Egypt tonight. More trouble brewing.
Nic, I'm not going to reveal where you are. These are the first live images we have seen from Egypt pretty much all day. You're an experienced journalist, you worked at CNN a long time.
Have you ever seen anything like quite like this against the media?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, this is a concerted effort and campaign to intimidate -- intimidate and confiscate equipment and it's having an effect. It is stopping us getting to the story in many cases. It's tough to get out where we are.
It is not only the pro-Mubarak supporters. It's even people on the street turning aggressive because of what they're hearing on state television. They don't have to be in a demonstration, just talking to fishermen today, they turned against us because they think we're part of the problem here, Piers.
MORGAN: And that's mainly because their vice president has been on television today effectively blaming the media for the rioting and I would argue inciting the protesters to come and attack journalists.
ROBERTSON: Yes, the anti-Mubarak faction have been welcoming, have brought us in. They sometimes get too keen and too angry in front of the cameras and it makes it difficult for us to do our job of reporting but they haven't been beating us up.
The pro-Mubarak faction and those that support the government here have been and they've been -- they have been targeting foreign journalists when they see them. Chasing -- we've been chased through buildings here, we've had cameras damaged here. We had an incident earlier today where it took a couple of army soldiers to get us extricated from a situation.
Each time you go out, you really don't know what's going to happen.
MORGAN: The significance of this -- I'm going to repeat this, it's not because we care too much about the safety of journalists against the safety of protesters. It's that if we don't have the cameras, if we don't have the journalists on the ground able to bring images of what's going on, we will have no idea what's happening to those protesters.
And that is an absolute outrage and is censorship, and you know I don't know how this ends but it's very ominous, it seems to me, Nic, that we are seeing no scenes out of Tahrir Square and there are lots of warnings on the ground, the good old kickoff big time tomorrow, in fact in a few hours' time. This is serious stuff, isn't it?
ROBERTSON: It is. I mean if I look at the way our behavior has changed over the last week since we've been here, we have been able to go less far and less far each day from our hotel.
We've been using smaller and smaller cameras. We've been doing more indoors. It's just -- when you look at that pattern it's a direct result of the pressure that's being put on all the journalists here, both local and international, who are trying to cover the situation here, trying to get a fair and balanced picture out of what's going on, and there's a concerted effort to stop that fair and balanced picture getting around the world, Piers.
MORGAN: And Nic, there can't be any doubt now surely that the thugs are acting on the directions of the government, can there?
ROBERTSON: You know, it's hard to say. Is it coming from the very, very top of the government? Is it coming from people within the government who've got vested interest? What in-fighting is there within the government? Are they government officials who fear they're going to go -- get -- lose their jobs through this? So they're there fighting to retain their jobs and whatever kickbacks they get from their positions of power here.
That's a concern. We've heard protesters telling us that they think that people who -- there was one particular official they mentioned who'd contributed a lot of money to Mubarak's re-election campaign. He was kicked out of -- he's been forced to resign, kicked out of office and they think he's trying to get his own back on the president as well because he's lost a big investment here.
So there's a -- there are many different potential scenarios, but the buck does stop at the top because the president is the man who oversees it all and can give direction and can rein in whether or not he specifically authorized some of the things that's happening, Piers.
MORGAN: Nic, thank you very much. We're going to come back to you before the end of the show.
I want to turn now, though, to an Egyptian journalist who's determined to get her story out despite of the crackdown of reporters in Cairo.
Sarah Sirgany is deputy editor of "The Daily News" in Egypt. She joins us via Skype.
Sarah, you -- you're there now. You're risking your life, it's not to overstate things, by doing what you're doing. It's incredibly brave. It's also increasingly dangerous in your country. What's been your experience as a journalist trying to get your story out there?
SARAH SIRGANY, DAILY NEWS EGYPT/INTL. HERALD TRIBUNE: Today was the first time throughout the past 10 days that I feel actually scared closer to Tahrir. We've had a security issue throughout the country since then. But Tahrir has always been the safest place. It's where the demonstrators are.
Today I was taking pictures and I wasn't even in Tahrir. I was on the bridge overlooking it and an army officer came and told me to delete the pictures. I told him I was Egyptian and he said OK, just hide the camera. And he was pointing to the pro-Mubarak mass on the bridge throwing rocks at the demonstrators down there.
But the problem is it hasn't been just around Tahrir or around the protesters, it's been everywhere. It's not just the thugs, it's people have been charged through state TV, through callers who call on satellite TV saying that they saw foreigners inside the demonstrations inciting them and turning them against the country and giving them money, so that now anyone who looks even remotely foreign is targeted by the people.
MORGAN: Sarah, you've --
SIRGANY: Cameras are --
MORGAN: I was going to say you've been tweeting --
MORGAN: You've been tweeting today. One tweet said thugs are wreaking havoc. Do you feel the thugs have now got control of the streets?
SIRGANY: I'm definitely afraid even to drive through the city. I took an American journalist to the airport and I was afraid -- just driving through the city. I love the city. It's always been the safest place in the world for me. Because we don't know who are the people, what are they thinking.
They don't have to be thugs. They could just be people that have been charged by thugs, have been -- have been like -- they were told to target anyone that is looking foreign or American or anyone they feel that is not -- they don't trust and that what made me feel unsafe.
MORGAN: Sarah, how long do you think you can continue to use Twitter, to use your computer to try and get information out to the west?
SIRGANY: As long as I can, there's no -- the situation is very unpredictability. We didn't have Internet, but once like right before the crackdown the Internet was back on in the country. We don't know why. Is it for the people to see? Is it to create some divisions between the protesters themselves, because there are some online campaigns calling for people not to protest tomorrow, which is -- which is supposed to be the Friday of the departure, as has been dubbed by the protesters.
They've called for a lot of -- for all the numbers that came on Tuesday and last Friday to come back again to Tahrir to assert certificate their demands. But now there are Facebook campaigns calling on people to stay home so that there will be no bloodshed on the streets.
So I don't -- I'm not sure exactly why the government put the Internet back on. But we're going to use it.
MORGAN: Well, there are reports, Sarah, I know there is a possibility that people acting on behalf of the government have been deliberately putting the Internet back on so they can spread messages using twitter and Facebook to stop the protests.
SIRGANY: Definitely, definitely. But then again you cannot counter them too much, because once they spread the message you find people close to you, friends that buy into that, and they start calling you, asking you. I've had that. I've had friends asking me not to go back to the demonstrations, to stay home, to stay safe. It's -- you don't know who you're talking to anymore.
MORGAN: Sarah, listen, please stay safe. You're doing an extraordinary job. Please come back on the show tomorrow night if you can. I'd love to talk to you again. I think what you're doing is heroic and I salute you for it. Thank you.
SIRGANY: Thank you.
MORGAN: We're seeing ominous signs tonight. The furious protests could spread across the Middle East. When we come back, what does that mean for Israel?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL: This is a peaceful, largely open border. We're in the Nagab (ph), and on other side of this wire fence lies the Sinai Peninsula. Behind me you can see the Egyptian military watch tower, and 26 miles in that direction lies Gaza.
And 85 percent of this desert is used by the Israeli military for training purposes. And when the uprising began in Egypt just over a week ago, the concern on both countries' parts was there might be potential instability on the Sinai Peninsula.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Violent protests in Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen, and the unrest appears to be spreading. What does this mean for Israel? Here now is Mort Zuckerman, editor in chief of "U.S. News and World Report," and in Tel Aviv Martin Peretz, editor emeritus of "The New Republic."
Mort, you've met President Mubarak. You know him well. What do you think is really going on here?
MORT ZUCKERMAN, EDITOR IN CHIEF "U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT": Well, he's coming to the end of his term. There's no question about that. What he has I think concerned with is how he leaves and what he leaves behind him.
And he is somebody who has been in power for 30 years and he's not about to just drop everything and leave. So we have to handle him with a certain amount of sensibility to what, in fact, it's going to take to get him to cooperate with us. For us to in a sense humiliate and publicly is not the way that's going to happen.
MORGAN: You're a senior publisher. You're the owner of "The Daily News," as well. When you see journalists being beaten, stabbed, kidnapped, threatened with beheadings, what's your view of that?
ZUCKERMAN: Well, I think it's horrible violence. I mean, it often happens in these kinds of situations. That doesn't make it any better. I think it's terrible when that happens, but it happens over and over again in these situations, and that's the last one of the problems that you have when you want to be a journalist on the front lines.
MORGAN: There's a report in "The New York Times" tonight suggesting that there are now advance plans from president Obama that president Mubarak will stand down immediately and be replaced by the vice president in conjunction with senior members of the army. Do you think that is a credible plan that's going to work?
ZUCKERMAN: If they accept it, if the army accepts it and if Suleiman is willing to do it and if Mubarak is willing to give him that blessing, yes. I just don't know that Mubarak is going to leave. This may be an American plan. It has to be an Egyptian plan for it to work.
These are -- look, Mubarak is not Saddam Hussein and Egypt is not Iraq. You know, so we have to find some way. There's an old saying in that part of the world, "The Arab world is a tent supported in two poles. Saudi Arabia is one, and Egypt is the other." You lose the pole in Egypt, that whole world can come apart. That is something that would be greatly against our interests.
So we have to be very careful about how we make these transitions, and as Tony Blair says, we have to manage these transitions because the consequences of getting it wrong are disastrous for us.
MORGAN: Are the consequences of Mubarak staying on, though, not equally disastrous? When you see the growing violence between the two factions, that's not going to get better, is it?
ZUCKERMAN: I don't know. I don't know the answer to that I don't think it's good if he stays. But the one thing you want to make sure of however he leaves you don't want to make sure the next people are dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. That would be a disaster for us and a disaster for the PLO and Jordan and for Saudi Arabia.
MORGAN: The Muslim Brotherhood are the leading opposition in Egypt. ZUCKERMAN: By far.
MORGAN: There's no sign at the moment of extremism there. But I -- you know, a lot of people say they're playing a game here.
ZUCKERMAN: Piers, let me just mention one thing. How about Hosni Mubarak come into power? He was sitting next to Anwar Sadat who was killed by the Muslim Brotherhood. You go back through the whole history of the Muslim Brotherhood, if you think that they are the kind of people you want to play bridge with then you and I play a different game of bridge.
These people are absolute -- they are the radical Islamists, and that the difference in that part of the world is between the moderate Islam and moderate Arabs and radical Islamists. We have to make sure if we can, and we don't always control it, that we don't get a reputation of a place where we make it possible for the radicals to take power. That would be a disaster for every interest the United States has.
MORGAN: I want to go to Marty in Israel. Marty, let me ask you straightaway. What is the mood like in Israel about what's going on in Egypt?
MARTIN PERETZ, "THE NEW REPUBLIC": The mood is very sober, very skeptical, skeptical of -- and skeptical of the United States' power in this situation. The -- Obama actually in my view has really very little standing in the Arab world and it's because he cosseted them as soon as he got into power. He went to Cairo in June of 19 -- of 2009, praised them to the skies without ever really prodding them to do something that might have prevented this disaster.
MORGAN: What is your take on the aggression towards the media?
PERETZ: Well, frankly, I thought that you guys were and women were engaging in a little professional narcissism. Revolutions are not birthday parties, and what happened in Beijing, in Prague, in Budapest, in Berlin was about the same as what's happening now.
And since the media has, in fact, made itself by announcing its technique techniques a very legitimate target in a certain way. I mean, it's cruel, but if you're going after the regime, the regime will go after you. This regime is not a sweet regime. This regime is not tolerant. And what's happening to foreign reporters happens routinely in the entire Arab world on the day-to-day basis.
MORGAN: Well, Marty, I respect your opinion. I don't agree with it. I don't think it's narcissistic when so many journalists are being attacked, beaten, stabbed, and threatened with beheading, but I respect your opinion. Thank you, Marty, in Israel. Thank you, Mort, for coming in today.
Next, who is behind spreading chaos in the Middle East? Are Islamic extremists to blame?
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MORGAN: Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman blames the Muslim Brotherhood for the violence in Cairo. But who are they? How dangerous are they? I'll ask Peter Bergen, CNN National Security Analyst and the author of "The Longest War." Peter, what are the answers? Tell me about the Muslim Brotherhood. I hear all sorts of opinions about them. In your expert opinion how extremist are they, how dangerous are they?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I don't think they're very dangerous at all, piers. You know, this is a group that's been around since the 1920s, certainly when it was founded in opposition to the British and certainly it had a terrorist ring in the 1950s, but over time, this is a group that is increasingly just engaged in normal politics.
And certainly, you know, some militants have been Muslim Brotherhood initially and have gone on to terrorist groups. But somebody like Ayman al Zawahiri, the number two in Al Qaeda, has written a book, an entire book criticizing the Muslim Brotherhood for mostly on the very simple reason that the Muslim Brotherhood engages in democratic politics which people in Al Qaeda thinks is against Islam.
So in fact there is a great deal of hostility between Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood and these groups have very little in common other than they both think that, you know, they both have a certain view of Islam. Al Qaeda is much, much more radical.
MORGAN: Peter, if there is a situation as we see in Egypt right now which is a kind of political void where no one is quite sure what's happening isn't that exactly the kind of situation that Al Qaeda would want to get involved with. So even though there's no link at the moment, is there not an increasing danger that there might be?
BERGEN: Well, I think, Piers, part of the -- why I think that's quite unlikely is these Egyptian militant groups that killed more than a thousand Egyptians in the '90s and culminating with a horrific massacre in Luxor in '97 where a group of militants went hunting tourists from -- in the Luxor ruins motoring more than 50 of them, these are kind of activities really destroyed the group of these militant groups in Egypt. There was a lot of repression by the government but the population turned against these groups.
So Al Qaeda and its ally groups in Egypt, they don't have any legitimacy at all. Al Qaeda opportunistically will I'm sure in the next week or so release a tape. We may hear from Ayman al Zawahiri, we may hear from bin Laden. In fact I think we'll hear from both of them trying to take some kind of credit for this or insert themselves in opportunistically. But, you know, their role in what's going on in Egypt is zero, absolutely zero.
MORGAN: What I've been told all week is that the real danger for America as far as the White House is concerned would be Yemen, because is it has a much poorer populist and much more extreme faction there and there is a tipping point which if Yemen reaching it could turn into the next Afghanistan. What's your view of the Yemen? BERGEN: You know, Piers, it could become the next Afghanistan. It's one of the poorest countries in the region. It's running out of oil. It's running out of water. It has two wars going on. It has Al Qaeda.
But the one big difference between Egypt and Yemen is that President Saleh, the Yemeni dictator, as it were, has allowed a little more political parties to function and so we're not seeing the same violence in Yemen because there's been more outlets for political parties to do what they do.
MORGAN: Peter Bergen, author of "America's War on Al Qaeda," thank you very much.
BERGEN: Thank you.
MORGAN: When we come back, an Egyptian judge who says President Mubarak should stand trial for crimes against humanity.
MORGAN: Going straight back to Nic Robertson in an undisclosed location in Egypt. Nic, you spoke to a local judge who wants President Mubarak criminally charged. Tell me about that.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He's a judge that's come out on the streets here with the anti-Mubarak protestors. He is a well-respected judge who's gone toe to toe here with the regime. He told me he was incredibly proud of the youth for doing what his generation couldn't do here.
But he said when he watched what happened in the center of Cairo, when I asked him if Mubarak should go before an international tribunal for crimes against humanity, he agreed wholeheartedly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course, of course. Very recently internationally lawyers and human right also push it.
ROBERTSON: Will that convince him to step down?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course. He has no choice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTSON: He says that the only other pressure that needs to come on President Mubarak needs to come from President Obama and other western leaders. They need to be sending the same message that human rights groups and others in the country are sending -- he needs to step down.
MORGAN: Nic, how popular do you think this judge's sentiments are?
ROBERTSON: Oh, they're widely popular. They're widely popular with everyone here that wants to see Mubarak step down. No one is in any doubt that responsibility goes to the top and that for the actions they've seen here, the way that they see the police in plain clothes, security forces, whatever, have been coming on the streets, pretending, if you will, this is what the activist say, pretending to be pro-Mubarak protestors, they say the government's responsible and that he should be facing criminal proceedings, Piers.
MORGAN: Nic Robertson, thank you very much.
We could be just hours away from a major confrontation in Cairo -- a live report from the scene when we come back.
MORGAN: It's just before dawn in Egypt and we're expecting a major confrontation in Cairo within a matter of hours. Ivan Watson, our reporter on the ground, has more. Ivan, what is the state of tension there, because we keep hearing that the reason the media is being brutalized is because of fears there may be something appalling about to go down?
IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We really don't know what could happen next. We don't really know why the government has cracked down so hard on the media, where you have reporters from Egypt, Sweden, America, turkey, Russia, polish, Canada, the U.K., other Arab countries all have been either beaten or detained or had their equipment destroyed, as well.
One of the reasons is perhaps the Egyptian government is simply embarrassed of the coverage it's seen so far of the clashes that have erupted out here that even the U.S. government has suggested might be state sponsored. The Egyptian government denying that and promising to conduct an investigation.
A more ominous scenario, Piers, would be if the authorities wanted to stop the video transmissions ahead of perhaps some kind of Tiananmen Square style massacre of the demonstrators in the Tahrir Square.
MORGAN: Ivan, do you feel apprehensive about your own safety there?
WATSON: When we spoke this time last night, I was much more afraid, really, because I had no idea. I was inside the square with the demonstrators, and had no idea what could be coming.
I think I'm shocked at the campaign of violence and intimidation against every media representative in the city, as well as against human rights activists. You know, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch as well as some human rights activists were encircled in a pair of offices in Cairo, came and hauled away in a mini bus. Those are some pretty chilling activities there.
I think everybody is quite concerned about what measures the government may take next, seeing it has adopted increasingly draconian and desperate measures to try and stop information and especially images from getting out of here.
MORGAN: Ivan Watson, stay safe, please. Thank you very much for that report. And thank you for watching "Piers Morgan Tonight."