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CNN Newsnight Aaron Brown
Congress Holds Hearings on Possible Iraqi Invasion; Russian Mob Tied to Olympic Figure Skating Scandal; Italian Man Cuts His Own Belly at Famous Roman Fountain
Aired July 31, 2002 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
AARON BROWN, HOST: Good evening to you, everyone.
A funny thing happened today on the road to the war with Iraq. The Senate began asking if any such thing makes sense. And it well may. Saddam is clearly a very bad guy. He is ruthless. He used horrible weapons on his own people. He tried to conquer Kuwait. He is probably building weapons of mass destruction. So there are plenty of reasons to be concerned.
There are at least as many reasons to stop and think about this, as a country, before we send our sons and daughters marching into Baghdad. And they will have to do that. The defense secretary made clear yesterday that toppling Iraq is not some neat and clean, low casualty air war. So that is one thing to consider.
And there are others. When last we went to war with Iraq, most of the world was with the United States. Today that is not so. The Arab states, who must sign on, it seems to me, have spoken loudly on this so far. And no is what they've said. Now sometimes no doesn't really mean no in international affairs. Sometimes no means publicly we'd be crazy to say yes. And in some cases, some of the Arab countries are probably doing just that.
But these countries are saying something else. They're saying no, not until the United States does a better job of finding a path to peace in the Middle East. Because while these leaders fear Saddam, he is not nearly as important to them as the war between the Palestinians and the Israelis. So we can't count on those countries, at least not yet.
In any case, there are a lot of reasons to think very carefully about this. There should be thought and debate any time we send our kids into war. Those of us of a certain age know too well what happens when that debate doesn't take place, or worse yet, when an administration is not truthful about either the war or the reasons for it. So I'm glad the debate is on. May it be full and honest and may the administration think long and hard over starting a war without first getting the approval of Congress.
We'll deal with the Iraq in the hearings tonight, but we begin "The Whip" yet again in the Middle East. And yet again, it was another bombing of innocents.
John Vause is in Jerusalem tonight.
John, the headline from you, please?
JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, a week after Hamas promised revenge for an apartment bombing in Gaza City, students at Jerusalem's Hebrew University found out just what that meant. Seven dead, including three Americans, more than 80 hurt. Israel has promised a military response -- Aaron.
BROWN: John, thank you. Back to you at the top.
The reaction from the White House tonight. Kelly Wallace has that. Kelly, your headline please?
KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, President Bush says the attack won't stop him from moving towards peace. But tomorrow Jordan's King Abdullah will be here at the White House telling the administration it is not moving fast enough -- Aaron.
BROWN: Kelly, thank you.
A story that's a very important one for seniors and their children as well, adding prescription drug coverage to Medicare. Kate Snow was working that on Capitol Hill today.
So Kate, the headline from you tonight?
KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, the real headline, it's not going to happen. Remember a few years ago, two years ago to be exact when George W. Bush and Al Gore were promising a prescription drug benefit? Well, it's an election year again this year. And once again, the politics are getting in the way as well as some real differences on how this policy should go, and the Senate is at a deadlock.
BROWN: Kate, thank you.
And a truly stunning turn in a story that consumed the news for a couple of weeks last winter, the scandals involving the Olympic ice skating championship.
Jason Carroll has the strangest story of the day.
Jason, a headline from you.
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, the U.S. Attorney's office called it a classic case of quid pro quo. An alleged Russian mobster now under arrest charged with conspiring to fix an Olympic skating competition -- Aaron.
BROWN: Thank you, Jason. Back to you and all of you shortly. Also coming up in the program tonight, as we said, more on Iraq. What might come next, what the complications are. We'll talk with author Laurie Mylroie. Her writings on Iraq have influenced some of the most powerful people, hawks mostly, in the Bush administration. Also here tonight, "New York Times" reporter Jere Longman, who has done a gripping account of what happened aboard United Flight 93 on the 11th of September.
And we'll take a Roman holiday in "Segment 7." We'll certainly need it by the end the program, I think. We'll find it the waters of the Trevi Fountain. A wonderful story and a gentle way end the program on such an ugly day. And ugly is a gentle word to describe the latest terrorist attack in Israel.
The targets were students, not soldiers. Three Americans died as well as the Israelis killed. And the killer didn't have the decency to kill himself. He just left a bomb in a bag and apparently walked away.
Here's CNN's John Vause.
VAUSE (voice-over): Despite the decades of violence in Israel, there has never been a terrorist attack at Jerusalem's Hebrew University until now. A bag packed full of explosives tore apart the student cafeteria, making this campus, where Jews and Arabs had freely mixed, another bloody landmark.
YURI STEINSAPPER, STUDENT: It's awful. It's -- was always a safe place. It's very many Arabic -- Arab students also here. And I am in shock.
VAUSE: The blast was so powerful, it brought down part of the ceiling, glass from shattered windows sprayed the area. So too metal fragments from the bomb. The narrow streets made it difficult for ambulance crews. In the moments after the blast, police closed the area, fearing another explosion.
Despite summer vacation, the cafeteria was busy with students, many from overseas. Among the dead, at least three Americans, two other students from unnamed countries, and two Israelis.
ALSATIAN GOLDRAM, STUDENT FROM ENGLAND: There was glass flying everywhere. There's blood flying everywhere. This is a disgusting scene. There's total anarchy in there. I go inside. There's bodies everywhere.
VAUSE: In Gaza City, thousands took to the streets in a celebration of revenge. The rally was led by Hamas. The university bombing, it says, was retaliation for Israel's air strike last week, which killed the Hamas military leader Salah Shehade, along with 14 others, including nine children.
VAUSE: And Hamas calls this a first response. And they say there will be more attacks to come. In the hours after the university attack, Israel approved a plan for military action. No specific details on that, at least not yet. But there is now talk here once again. And there are moves to deport the family members of Palestinian militants, deport them to take them to Gaza and demolish their houses -- Aaron.
BROWN: What are the options here? The Israelis occupy now much of the West Bank. They have been reluctant to go into Gaza in a major way. What are the options?
VAUSE: Options are fast running out. We're seeing increasing desperation here on the Israeli side on just what to do. But the officials here do point out that in recent times they have stopped 60 suicide bombings and arrested 133 potential suicide bombers.
They say any military action does take time. And they're asking for the support of Israelis. And they do in fact continually point to the U.S. war on Afghanistan. They say that despite the might of the U.S. military, and the Americans have still not caught Osama bin Laden, at least not yet, Aaron.
BROWN: John, thank you. John Vause in Jerusalem tonight.
The White House reaction to this all was blunt. It would be so because it was a terrorist attack in any case, but it was especially so because American kids died today in Israel as well. And there was anger at the attack, but also to our ears at least, an irritation at the timing with new peace efforts underway and Jordan's King Abdullah due at the White House tomorrow.
We go back to the White House and CNN's Kelly Wallace, who is working that side of the story.
Kelly, good evening.
WALLACE: Good evening, Aaron. It was a very angry President Bush speaking out. Even before the nationalities of the victims were known, he condemned the attack and said it would not deter the U.S. or its allies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I also want make it clear to the killers, they won't stop us from rallying the world to fight their kind of terror. Nor will they stop us from having a vision of peace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: The violence, though, only one of the many challenges confronting the administration tomorrow, when Jordan's King Abdullah comes here. He's expected to press the administration to put more pressure on Israel to withdrawal its forces from the Palestinian territories. He will also urge the president to speed up his three- year timetable for the creation of a Palestinian state.
Now tomorrow Israeli foreign minister Simon Peres, you see him there with Secretary of State Colin Powell, will be at the White House. Today the administration was asked if Israel has the right to retaliate for the bombing. U.S. officials said Israel has the right to defend itself, but also added Israel must be mindful of the consequences for peace.
Now throughout this day, U.S. officials from President Bush on down, saying this latest attack underscores the need to create a new Palestinian security force.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: What's worth pursuing is a detailed plan toward achieving these objectives, a security force that exists to fight terror, not keep certain officials who haven't been able to deliver on the war against terror in office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: President Bush not naming names there, but clearly showing his frustration with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Mr. Bush believes Yasser Arafat must go, but Arab allies, including Jordan's King Abdullah, believe that that issue should be decided by the Palestinian people -- Aaron.
BROWN: Kelly, thank you.
WALLACE: President Bush not naming names there, but clearly showing his frustration with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Mr. Bush believes Yasser Arafat must go, but Arab allies including Jordan's King Abdullah believe that that issue should be decided by the Palestinian people -- Aaron.
BROWN: In the past, Kelly, it has seemed to me the president has been more direct in blaming Chairman Arafat for these sorts of attacks. And he may have been today, but I didn't hear it. Did I miss it?
WALLACE: You didn't miss it at all. Never mentioned Yasser Arafat by name. And never said really -- so this is bigger than one person. What we are seeing is strategic shift, really, over the past several weeks.
Instead of singling out Yasser Arafat, ever since the president said there should be new Palestinian leadership, Mr. Bush never mentions his name. His message, Yasser Arafat must go. He is hoping that there are reform-minded Palestinian leaders this administration can work with -- Aaron.
BROWN: Kelly, thank you. Kelly Wallace at the White House tonight.
Before we change the subject, one footnote on an important story out of the Middle East. The United Nations will release a report tomorrow on the battle in the Jenin refugee camp that took place last spring, March and early April. The battle, you'll recall, in the densely packed streets of the camp, killed dozens of Israeli soldiers and Palestinians. At the time, Palestinians claimed that hundreds of civilians had been massacred. But the U.N. report will say there is no evidence of that. The report further blames both Israel and the Palestinians for putting civilians in harm's way, according to the diplomats who have seen that report.
One other piece of this, the equation at least as it has to do with Iraq. It's a debate that is getting pretty hot behind the scenes, has been for a while. You can't pick up a paper these days without a front-page story, it seems, on this war plan or that. The leaks coming from all directions, including the Pentagon, which tells you something. But leaking isn't the same as public debate. And policy doesn't, or at least should not be made on the front page of the newspaper or the lead story in a television newscast. So today the Senate hearings began on Iraq.
Here's CNN's Jonathan Karl.
JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As President Bush contemplates possible military action against Iraq, Congressional Democrats are questioning the wisdom of such a strike.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: If we invade Iraq, unilaterally, without an alliance and without other Arab nations helping us as well, that it could escalate into a major Middle Eastern war. That's a deep concern of mine.
KARL: The Senate foreign relations committee kicked off two days of hearings on the issue with experts, warning that it would take a massive military operation to topple Hussein.
ANTHONY CORDESMAN, MILITARY ANALYST: I think only fools would bet the lives of others men's sons and daughters on their own arrogance, and call this force a cakewalk, or a speed bump, or something that you can dismiss.
KARL: Democrats made it clear they don't believe the president has made the case for a major offensive.
SEN. PAUL WELLSTONE (D), MINNESSOTA: I think that before any decision is taken about whether or not we go to war, we need to have a careful and deliberate and substantive discussion not only here, but with people in our country. And we'll see whether the case has been made.
KARL (on camera): Most Democrats believe the president must get congressional approval before going to war against Iraq. The White House certainly doesn't agree with that, and neither does the Senate's top Republican.
SEN. TRENT LOTT (R), MINORITY LEADER: What do they want us to say? Oh, Mr. Saddam Hussein, we're coming, we're coming, get ready. You can expect us, you know, two weeks after election day. And by the way, here's the way we're coming. And -- but before we do that, we'll have a huge debate, so you'll know full well exactly what is going on. Give me a break.
KARL (voice-over): But this is not a purely partisan issue.
SEN RICHARD LUGAR (R), INDIANA: If President Bush determines that large scale offensive military action is necessary against Iraq, I hope that he will follow the lead established by the previous Bush administration and seek congressional authorization.
KARL: But with a U.S. military already committed in Afghanistan and escalating violence in the Middle East, senators on both sides said they don't expect military action against Iraq anytime soon, certainly not before the end of the year.
Jonathan Karl, CNN, Capitol Hill.
BROWN: And later on the program, we'll talk with an expert on Iraq about the options the country faces if it is in fact is going to war against Saddam.
Up next, a remarkable development in the Olympic skating scandal. Was it the Russian mob? This is NEWSNIGHT on CNN.
BROWN: There's a story we took a pass on last week involving the Salt Lake City Olympic Games scandal and the French skating judge, who was suspended after she backed the Russian pair instead of the clearly Canadian team, which seemed to almost everyone to be clearly the better team.
The judge ended her appeal, and said little except this. "It is time for the dirty little secrets of the figureskating world to come to light." Either she knew full well what was about to come to light, or her timing was impeccable, because today a new figure entered the great skating drama of 2002, a man thought to be a Russian mobster. This is a plot that before seemed mostly driven by national pride. Now it looks like some twisted sideshow dreamed up by European gangsters.
Once again, CNN's Jason Carroll.
CARROLL (voice-over): The Olympic figureskating finals. Canada's Jamie Sale and David Pelletier skate what many believe is a flawless performance. Their Russian rivals make a mistake but are still awarded the gold. By all accounts, a judging fiasco.
Now the U.S. Attorney's office says this is the man who may have been responsible for it. He's Alimzan Toktakhounov, an alleged Russian crime boss who's under arrest and faces charges of conspiring to fix the competition.
JAMES COMEY, U.S. ATTORNEY: Specifically, the complaint alleges that the defendant and other members of organized crime and other co- conspirators arranged two fixes. CAROLL: The first, the complaint alleges, Toktakhounov worked with Russian Federation officials to find a French judge to support the Russian pair in the figureskating finals. The second, in exchange, the Russian federation supports the French pair in the ice dance finals.
GREG JONES, ACTING ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF THE FBI: This case is basically another example of how organized crime, once they get their tentacles in you, were off to the races. It's a very good example of how they dig in and corrupting those around them.
CAROLL: Following the competition, the French judge, whose vote made the difference, initially said she was pressured into voting for the Russians, but later recanted her story. She's not charged in the complaint, neither is Marina Anissina, the French ice dancer. The FBI has wiretapped phone conversations with Anissina and Toktakhounov.
JONES: It's clear from the complaint that they know each other well. And in fact, one of the conversations as recounted in the complaint is she's essentially apologizing to him for not calling him right after she got the gold. And explained she did so because the French skating federation president told her not to.
CAROLL: Word of an arrest didn't really surprise Sale or Pelletier. The Canadians were ultimately awarded gold medals for their performance.
DAVID PELLETIER, CANADIAN OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: Wherever there's power, wherever there's money involved, there's always, you know, some bad people around.
JAMIE SALE, CANADIAN OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: It's everywhere.
PELLETIER: It's everywhere. It's not only in skating.
SALE: Everything always comes out in the wash. And we've had the same response all along, you know. And we just did our job during the Olympics. We did the best that we could.
CARROLL: And the U.S. Attorney's office is working on getting Tokhtakhounov extradited from Italy, where he was arrested. And Aaron, they say that we can expect more arrests as this investigation continues. It's really quite a remarkable story.
BROWN: Yes. Now look at -- all right, here's my quick question and we're going to move on here. Clearly the Feds knew about this before the event, correct?
BROWN: And so, all this time, there was all this fuss going on about what happened, what didn't happen. There were people in New York and Washington, wherever, going we know exactly what happened? CARROLL: Yes. Well, in their defense, they were looking at this man for other reasons. They were looking at him for other sort of involvement in Russian crime. And I think what they wanted to do was to try to get as much information as they could from these phone conversations, having no idea ultimately where it would lead. And probably, you know, they probably didn't have that much of an idea that it would end up being what it did.
BROWN: Yes, I don't think figureskating fixing is one of the great crimes of our time.
BROWN: But I'm glad they caught him if in fact he did it. Thank you very much.
CARROLL: All right.
BROWN: Helene Elliott covers figure skating for "The Los Angeles Times," has for decades. She joins us tonight from Anaheim, California. It's nice to see you.
Well, it's ice skating, so what else is new, right?
HELENE ELLIOTT, OLYMPICS COLUMNIST, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Well, it's not just figure skating. It's just the integrity of sports. I mean, you go on to any playing field, basketball court, figure skating rink, hockey rink, you go on with assumption or at least the hope that the judging or the refereeing or the officiating is going to be fair and equitable, and you go out there hoping that your federation didn't have to make a deal with somebody else's federation to get you placed higher than perhaps you deserve. I mean, it really goes to the integrity of every sport.
BROWN: The -- this whole notion of deal making, particularly in figure skating, is hardly new. The new element, am I right, is the fact that some outsider, some mobster, whatever this guy is, was involved?
ELLIOTT: Correct. And that raises some very alarming questions, too, is -- was this an isolated incident of somebody who was alleged to be connected to the Russian mob? Or has the Russian mob somehow infiltrated figureskating?
A number of years ago, there were some fears that Russian mafia or alleged Russian mafia figures had been blackmailing some national hockey league players. There were stories that players' families back in the then Soviet Union and in Russia were being threatened, that the mafia people were saying we will kill these people if the hockey players don't give them some money.
ELLIOTT: I mean, the Russian players over here are earning very big money, which the Mafia figures obviously know. BROWN: And has there been around the rink scuttlebutt that there might be going on, or did this blindside you like it did everyone else?
ELLIOTT: I think it really blindsided a lot of people. I think a lot of people were very surprised to see the federal government involved, to see the FBI involved. But again, it goes back to principle. And it goes back to integrity. And if this is what it takes to clean up figure skating and every other sports, then amen, do it.
BROWN: Even without this, this sport took a terrible hit, it seemed just to somebody who watches the stuff. And has the figure skating union, if that's the right term, has it done very much to clean up its act?
ELLIOTT: Well, the international skating union, which governs figure skating and speed skating has, to its credit, taken several actions. They've instituted a series of reforms, among them, a way to minimize this kind of deal making and that kind of thing, that judges marks would be randomly selected. So the judges themselves would not know whose mark is counting at each event. And that supposedly would minimize the impact of deal making.
But you know, when human beings are involved, they will find a way around any measure that's put in place to try and minimize corruption. I think as David (UNINTELLIGIBLE) said a couple of minutes ago, follow the money.
ELLIOTT: Where money is involved, there's going to be corruption.
BROWN: And the money here is where, exactly? Because the money is not really at the Olympics, is it?
ELLIOTT: Well, the money is in endorsements after the Olympics.
ELLIOTT: Gold medalists can command some pretty high figures skating professionally and in shows. And they can have their own shows. They can get commercial endorsements. So there is quite a bit of money involved there, yes.
BROWN: And do you think ultimately the sport will be fine, that because in the end, it's the performances that people come to see. And the performances, all this aside, remains stunning?
ELLIOTT: Well, the one thing that I would like to know, and that nobody has been able to answer out of today was along with this alleged Russian Mafia figure who was charged today, there are some unnamed co-conspirators. I want to know who those unnamed co- conspirators are and whether they're connected with figure skating, because the tentacles of this may reach even deeper into figure skating.
If those co-conspirators are judges or federation heads, we haven't seen anything yet. This is just going to mushroom even bigger than what we thought was hysteria at Salt Lake City. There's still more to come.
BROWN: Helene, thanks for joining us tonight. Good to have you with us.
ELLIOTT: Thank you.
BROWN: Nice job, too. Thank you very much.
The figureskating story tonight. Later on NEWSNIGHT, a special trip to Rome. We're actually going to Rome. We'll tell you more about that in a little bit. Political hot potato, next. Prescription drugs and what the Congress isn't doing about it. This is NEWSNIGHT from New York.
BROWN: Healthcare now and politics. The question of providing prescription drug benefits has bedeviled the Congress. Medicare does not cover most drugs. And drugs happen to be the fastest growing expense for many seniors.
Expanding Medicare is one answer, sponsoring private insurance coverage is another. The Democrats support the former, Republicans the latter. Neither has the votes to make it law yet. And it appears they won't for a while, but there is an election coming up. And until things change, you or your parents won't be getting government help paying for the medicine the doctor ordered.
Here's CNN's Kate Snow.
SEN. GORDON SMITH (R), OREGON: ...that this is probably our last best chance to pass prescription drugs in the 107th Congress.
SNOW (voice-over): On the floor of the U.S. Senate, one last plea. But the vote was a foregone conclusion. Seniors still won't get a prescription drug benefit.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: There's going to be a real feeling that we have let down the seniors of America.
SNOW: Republicans and Democrats practiced how they'd explain it back home, both sides hoping to telegraph a message to seniors. "Sure we let you down, but it's the other guy's fault."
SEN. TED KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Even though the Republicans have sided with the special interests and the powerful interests, we are convinced that we will get an ultimate win on the passage of a comprehensive program. SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R), PENNSYLVANIA: This was designed to fail, so they would continue to have an issue for the November election. They know, the polls are very clear, that Democrats are more trusted on Medicare than Republicans. And so when they go to election time, they can point the finger at Republicans and say, "See, here are these Republicans, they don't care about you."
SNOW: Democrats had scaled back their original plan. This latest version focused on helping low income seniors and seniors with huge yearly prescription drug costs, but the whole plan would be part of the existing Medicare program, an idea that makes Republicans cringe.
SEN. BILL FRIST (R), TENNESSEE: We feel very strongly that that structure is best handled in a public private way. And we conveyed exactly what that is. The Democrats under Democratic leadership of every bill they've introduced is pretty much straight government run.
SNOW: Senator Tom Daschle's explanation was a bit more cynical.
SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D), MAJORITY LEADER: The Republicans cannot say no to the drug companies. They cannot say no to the HMO approach that they have advocated from the very beginning. They are determined to make Medicare an HMO, to make prescription drugs benefits part of that HMO scheme.
SNOW: Republicans, on the other hand, are already Tom Daschle as a sort of political punching bag, blaming him for the failure here, saying he didn't lead the Senate to a prescription drug plan.
Aaron, both sides heating up the rhetoric as we approach this November election, both sides knowing that seniors are the ones that tend to turn out at the polls, particularly in an off-year election when there's no election for president. During congressional elections you tend to see a lot of seniors at those voting booths -- Aaron.
BROWN: Was the administration active in this?
BROWN: Was the administration active in this fight? Were they lobbying for one side or another...
SNOW: OK, sorry, just traffic behind me, I couldn't here you.
BROWN: They've been supportive of the Republican plan that passed in the House. Generally speaking they've supported something that's much more private-based, something that's not based in Medicare. So they certainly didn't lobby for today's bill, which is really a truly a Democratic effort.
But you know, they went through four different incarnations, Aaron -- last week three and then one today -- trying to get something through, and it just kept splitting basically down party lines -- Aaron.
BROWN: Kate, thank you. Kate Snow working late tonight on Capitol Hill. Thank you, Kate.
One other story from the Hill tonight. Congressional Democrats today gave out a report that was then later picked up by Reuters. I also saw it today in the "New York Daily News." It was done by a consumer group founded by Ralph Nader. Now, those are all the disclaimers that go into this story.
What the report shows is that both Harken Energy and Halliburton set up subsidiaries in offshore tax havens when President Bush and Vice President Cheney served in leadership positions in those companies. Now the president at Harken and Mr. Cheney was the CEO at Halliburton.
With all the corporate controversy of late, the White House has called for more scrutiny of these offshore tax havens, which do allow some companies to avoid paying their U.S. taxes. The White House, while acknowledging that in fact Harken did set up an offshore program in the Cayman Islands, denies that the company was trying to avoid paying its U.S. taxes.
And there has been no comment from the vice president's office on the Halliburton situation and what that company's motives might have been.
A few other stories making news around the country today. More violence again at Fort Bragg. This time it is the wife of an Army Special Operations Officer. He -- she, rather, is accused of murdering him. Joan Shannon (ph) was charged in the shooting death of Major David Shannon nearly two weeks ago.
It is the latest in a string of domestic violence cases at Fort Bragg: four wives have been killed, allegedly by their husbands, since mid-June.
Horrifying story out of Chicago. Police are trying to find members of a mob that last night pulled two men from a van after an accident and then beat them to death. The van had veered over a curb and crashed into a stoop filled with people. Both deaths here ruled homicides.
And a story we haven't touched in a awhile: the abduction of Elizabeth Smart in Salt Lake City, which remains unsolved. A judge today entered a not guilty plea to a former handyman for the Smart family, Richard Ricci. He's charged with stealing items from the Smart home -- those thefts not related to the kidnapping.
Ricci is being characterized as a possible suspect in the abduction. He has not been charged.
Still to come on NEWSNIGHT tonight, we'll get the story of what happened on Flight 93 last September 11. Up next, though, we look at Iraq. This is NEWSNIGHT on CNN.
BROWN: More now on the question of war with Iraq -- whether to do it, when to do it, and what happens after we do it if in fact it does happen. Are we looking at a cakewalk, as quite a few of the president's inner circle have been heard to say, or a quagmire that his father and his father's advisers feared the last time around?
We're joined by one of the voices in all of this, Laurie Mylroie, the publisher of Iraq News and the author of a number of books on the region, including "The War Against America." She joins us from Washington. It's nice to see you.
LAURIE MYLROIE, PUBLISHER, IRAQ NEWS: It's my pleasure.
BROWN: Is it in your mind almost a sure thing right now that this war will happen?
MYLROIE: Yes, the president's made up his mind to get rid of Saddam. Presently the CIA has been passed to do it by covert means, but no one, including the CIA director, expects it to succeed.
BROWN: So why -- why is the president so certain this must happen?
MYLROIE: Saddam represents an intolerable threat. Partly it's the weapons he retains, and partly it's prior support for terrorism, including strong suspicions about Iraq's involvement in 9/11 in the part of the vice president's office and the office of the secretary of defense.
BROWN: But it is -- is it not also true that there is within the government a lot of discussion about whether the Iraqis were actively involved in 9/11?
MYLROIE: Sure, this is an enormous scandal. It pales behind Enron and WorldCom, because the Clinton administration turned terrorism, which is basically a national security issue involving states, into a law enforcement issue where we handled it by arresting and convicting individual perpetrators.
BROWN: Well, let me ask the question again, because I'm not sure that your answer and my question matched up there. Within the government, is there a debate over whether Iraq was in some way involved in the attack on September 11?
MYLROIE: Yes. It is the position of the CIA that Iraq has not been involved in any major terrorist attack against the United States save for the attempt to kill George Bush, but that, as I meant to suggest by my answer, is an enormous coverup exercise.
BROWN: So, in you -- let me try this one more time. In your view there is no question that Iraq was involved in the attack on New York and Washington on September 11?
MYLROIE: No reasonable person knowledgeable about the terrorism that begins with the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and knowledgeable about the facts surrounding 9/11, in my view, would conclude otherwise.
BROWN: OK. Let's talk about the kind of war it would be. The secretary of defense said it is unreasonable to expect it will be a neat, clean Kosovo kind of air war, agree?
MYLROIE: That's right. This is going to be the most serious military campaign the United States has been involved in since the 1991 Gulf War.
BROWN: So we're looking at a massing of troops somewhere, not clear to me where -- where would they mass, by the way?
MYLROIE: Well, Kuwait, Turkey. One has to keep in mind that in teh 10 years since the Gulf War, U.S. capabilities have increased tremendously.
BROWN: Which means what, precisely, in this context?
MYLROIE: The ability to launch a simultaneous attack on various targets with precise munitions. That capability didn't exist in 1991. It does now.
BROWN: But that's an air war, right?
MYLROIE: Well, that's the kind of capability that the United States has developed in the past decade, whereas Iraq's military capabilities have degraded, but as I said from the beginning, yes, there will be a U.S. troops involved, launching perhaps from Turkey and Kuwait.
BROWN: OK. Let's just -- let's fast forward, this war takes place, it's successful, Saddam is gone. What kind of government replaces him? Do we know?
MYLROIE: We -- that's something else that has to be decided. There are people who favor the establishment of a federal constitutional government in Iraq, both for the sake of Iraq and the sake of the other Arab countries.
BROWN: Well, what does that mean? That the Iraqis have an election and they vote for whoever they want?
MYLROIE: Yes, like we do in the civilized world.
BROWN: No, I appreciate that, and you should trust that I understand the meaning of democracy here, but I'm trying to understand is there a political system in place in Iraq that makes that even a reasonable possibility?
MYLROIE: Well, it's a totalitarian dictatorship, as we know, but there is an opposition group, the Iraqi National Congress -- this is its platform -- it has capabilities. The Clinton Administration did not support it. Rather it stiffed the organization. And these people will now be meeting with senior officials in the Pentagon and the State Department, and what should have been going on is for the United States to be supporting this organization, and that's what's beginning to happen.
BROWN: And the discussion is beginning to happen. We hope you'll continue to participate in it as we go. Thank you very much, Laurie Mylroie, on the options in Iraq, as she sees them.
A few more items from around the world tonight. The first a welcome update in story that shocked so many people, a story of that gang rape of a young Pakistani woman -- the trial got underway just a couple of days ago, four men facing rape charges. Members of a village council accused of ordering the attack are on trial as well.
The woman who endured it all was set to testify today, but the proceedings ran long, so she's expected to take the stand tomorrow. If convicted, all of the men involved could get the death penalty.
Pope John Paul celebrated mass today in Mexico City, a special mass to canonize the first Mexican saint, Juan Diego. Some controversy about what he looked like. We reported on this last night. But there was no controversy about the event today. People packed the ceremony, about a million people celebrating outside.
And we thought we owed you one good story about whales tonight after the week we had off Cape Cod. Australia's Sydney Harbor today, commuters were treated to the sight of whales frollicking, which is what whales are supposed to do. More than 70 whales have been spotted off southern Sydney since May. And that looks great.
Ahead on NEWSNIGHT, the story of what really happened on board Flight 93 on the 11th of September. This is NEWSNIGHT.
BROWN: Nice little side note to the miner rescue over the weekend. The families got a note during the vigil from the families of United Flight 93. "We consider you our family," they wrote. Flight 93 went down just miles from the mine in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
And there was something about of that event that seemed to hang like a shadow over the miners and their struggle. A terrifying story, yes, but an inspiring one at the same time, which is a good way to describe a new book about Flight 93, written by a reporter who usually covers sports, and covers it well, for the "New York Times."
The book is called "Among the Heroes," a minute-by-minute account that also includes the recollections of some of the relatives who gathered to hear the tape from the cockpit voice recorder back in April. Jere Longman joins us tonight. He lives in Pennsylvania and was sent to Shanksville by the "Times" on the 11th, which explains how a guy who writes figure skating and soccer ended up catching this extraordinary story. Welcome.
JERE LONGMAN, AUTHOR, "AMONG THE HEROES": Good to be here, Aaron.
BROWN: How did you report the story? LONGMAN: Well, September 11, obviously, when like millions of others, I saw the second plane crashing into the World Trade Center in television and called the office and said, "Should I come to New York," or there was rumors about this plane in western Pennsylvania, and they said, "Stay in Philadelphia in case they try to blow up teh Liberty Bell or Independence Hall," and when it became apparent that wouldn't happen, I drove four hours out to Shanksville.
BROWN: Yes, and let me -- I'm having a problem today with questions, I think. Tell me how you were able to report the story of what happened on the plane, given the fact that there was no first- person account of anyone?
LONGMAN: Well, there were at least two dozen phone calls made from the plane to the ground, so that part is well-known.
So I went and interviewed family members and friends, coworkers of all the passengers on the plane. I was able to hear some of the phone calls that were kept on answering machines and heard some calls made from the ground to the plane. They were obviously not received, but -- so I did over 300 interviews of family members, friends, coworkers, government officials.
BROWN: And these tapes, have you heard the tapes?
LONGMAN: I've heard a couple tapes that...
BROWN: These are the voice cockpit tapes.
LONGMAN: Oh, no. I should make that clear. I did not hear the voice -- cockpit voice recorder or see a transcript. I interviewed family members who were given a chance in April to hear the recorder, and I interviewed government officials who had heard the recorder and seen a transcript.
BROWN: What do you think happened?
LONGMAN: Well, in April the prosecutor in the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, who's, the government has said, was the intended 20th hijacker, told the family members that it's his theory that the passengers actually did get into the cockpit using a food cart as a battering ram in this final wild struggle for control of the plane.
BROWN: And they got in, and somehow, did they have to overpower hijackers before they got to the cockpit or had all the hijackers moved into the cockpit?
LONGMAN: That's unclear. But there was -- what is clear is that there was this wild, feral struggle in the last five minutes on the tape. You can hear screaming and yelling in English and Arabic, a lot of crashing sounds that appears to be plates or dishes from the food cart, that kind of thing.
BROWN: Up to that point on the tapes, was it -- were these -- again, now, we're talking about the phone call tapes -- was it hysterical on board the plane? LONGMAN: According to some of the calls, there was some crying. Obviously people were afraid, but I heard a couple of the phone calls made, one from a passenger, one from a flight attendant, to their husbands. And there was urgency in the voices, but I was struck, there was a complete lack of panic. It was -- there was a kind of composure that we might not expect to hear under those circumstances.
BROWN: How are these families doing?
LONGMAN: They are, to varying degrees -- some of them are doing OK. They have good moments and bad moments. For many of them it's getting worse, not better, because once this sort of numbness is worn off, this raw longing has begun, and for some families it's worst. This word closure is just completely inadequate.
BROWN: Yes. It's actually a word we banned from the program?
LONGMAN: It's a taunting word, almost. I mean, some people don't want closure.
LONGMAN: And they won't get it, anyway. They know that.
BROWN: Do we know much about the crew on board the plane and how they handled what was going on?
LONGMAN: Well, there's -- many people have believed that the pilots, Jason Doll (ph) and Leroy Hummer, Jr. (ph) were killed right away, but some investigators believe they were not killed. Midway through the voice recorder one of the hijackers makes a sort of a cryptic reference to bring the pilot back in, which may indicate to some people that one of the pilots or both were still alive.
And when the hijacker was talking, he thought to the passengers, was actually talking to the air traffic controllers, and some investigators believe that one or both of the pilots had the presence of mind to key the audio panels so the hijacker would be talking to air traffic control, so people would understand what was going on with the plane.
BROWN: Any doubt in your mind they were heroes?
LONGMAN: No, no doubt. I mean, they obvious -- we don't know quite how far they got, but they got as far as they could, and it was the one flight where the hijackers were prevented from reaching their target.
BROWN: It's a story of a lifetime.
LONGMAN: It really is, yes.
BROWN: Nicely done. Thanks for coming in very much.
LONGMAN: Thank you, Aaron. BROWN: Tomorrow we'll have more on Flight 93, by the way, a special report by CNN's Sheila MacVicar on what the United States knew before September 11, whether the crash could have been prevented. One of the great questions, I suppose, in hindsight, at least. That's tomorrow night right here.
Last night we began asking you for your ideas on what to do with the World Trade Center site. And we've been looking. We continue to look for more of them. You can submit your vision for those 16 acres, perhaps now the most talked about 16 acres in the country. Go to CNN.com/NEWSNIGHT.
Last evening we gave you a look at a few of the early suggestions. A couple, number mroe have come in, and we'll just pick and choose a few along the way in the weeks ahead.
This one comes from John in Providence, Rhode Island. He sees something similar to the Space Needle times two, to our eye, designed to resemble the original towers at night. He says the lights would be programmed at a symbolic time, and there would be observatories with the victims' names etched in glass.
This one comes from Ken Saunders in Texas. A double arch linked at the middle, a Unity Arch, as he put it. He also sees a restaurant.
Yes, well, a restaurant right there. We got an idea all the way from Islamabad, Pakistan. A plan for four towers as high as the original two, interconnected with a bridge.
From Chicago, this, the entire site as a monument of remembrance. Two face-to-face buildings guarding a center park. It would be two hollow glass structures at the tower footprints, with a circular water current running underneath. This would represent a never-ending healing process.
And from Washington, D.C. this idea. A plaza with a center tower, four matching side buildings. The side buildings would be connected by glass so people could walk through. John calls this a testament to the American way and the American spirit.
We hope to keep these ideas coming for a long time. But we tell you now and we'll tell you every time we do this series, it's not a contest here. There are no prizes. Don't be expect anything from us, OK?
Next on NEWSNIGHT, a trip to one of Rome's most famous landmarks. This is NEWSNIGHT.
BROWN: So this really cool story happened today in Rome, and we wanted to add our two cents worth, as you will see.
(voice-over): This is a story of La Bella Italia, land of great beauty, of great drama, of great passion. Land of great performances, too, and here are a couple.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Marcello, come here!
BROWN: Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg in Fellini's "La Dolce Vita." Ever since the world saw these two dreamily wading through the Trevi Fountain in Rome, tourists have flocked to the place, throwing in coin after coin after coin to bring themselves love and good luck.
The fountain has become the world's most beautiful piggy bank, and, really, where hip-deep performances are concerned, you'd think you couldn't possibly top this.
Ah, but you underestimate the Italian man-in-the-street, or, rather, the Italian man-in-the-water.
That fellow there is Roberto Cercelletta. For years, he and a couple of cronies have had tacit permission to harvest the fountain's coins most days of the week, with a church charity getting the money on their day off.
But then a newspaper reported that Cercelletta and the others were taking in nearly $600 a day. Basta, said the government. Enough. Signor Cercelletta stripped off his shirt in protest. He ranted and he raved and he railed against the fates. He threatened to kill himself, but scaled back on that threat a bit, just touching his stomach with something sharp enough to bring a little color to it. Ah, what a performance this!
He was to the betrayed coin-scoopers what Pavarotti is to opera, the greatest of them all, larger than life. Finally the police talked him out of the water, but to us, now, and forevermore, the Trevi Fountain will always mean Mastroianni and Ekberg and Fellini and Cercelletta.
Arrivederci. We'll see you tomorrow. Good night.
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