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America Under Attack: Israeli Prime Minister, Foreign Minister Offer Condolences to the American People

Aired September 11, 2001 - 16:58   ET


JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Judy, thanks very much. Joined here on this set by Miles O'Brien, our resident pilot, and certainly has quite a bit of understanding about the wheres and why-fors and what significance they might have in putting together what happened.

Miles has some additional information now, and that is really important to understanding.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is our first clue as to what is going on. Obviously more information will come out as the air traffic control tapes and hopefully the cockpit voice recordings come out. But let's take a look at this.

These are actual archival information from the radar tracks, from the FAA ground centers. And these are the two plane that ended up at the World Trade Centers, the two towers. Both of them left Boston within 15 minutes of each other, both were headed to Los Angeles, perhaps no coincidence, heavily laden with fuel. Both of them made extreme and noticeable deviations and were headed in the wrong direction for 30, perhaps 40 minutes, thus clearly giving air traffic controllers quite a bit of attention. There must have been some communications back and forth. It's unclear now.

CHEN: This is certainly something the air traffic control folks would have seen.

M. O'BRIEN: Clearly and the fact that two planes were doing this must have seemed odd. We don't know what the conversations were. But suffice to say they would be odd. Now take a look at this flight, this is United 93. This took off from Dulles Airport, was headed for San Francisco. Once again a coast to coast flight, heavily laden with fuel flew on out to from Newark to about Cleveland. Then took its dog leg, was headed pretty much to the D.C. area, and then disappeared off the radar screens right here, outside of the Pittsburgh area, in a place called Shanksville. We don't know what happened there. What is kind of odd about this one, Joie, is that at some point after flying past Pittsburgh, the pilot apparently radioed and changed his destination to DCA, which is Ronald Reagan National Airport. Unclear what that means.

Let me just kind of put this onto one graphic, if you will. Let's put up that graphic and I'll the Telestrator to show you exactly what is going on. Here are the important cities. First of let's take a look at 8 a.m. and see what happens at 8 a.m.

That was the first departure. This is flight -- American Airlines Flight 11, was headed out this way to Los Angeles. 81 passengers, 11 crew members. Now 8:15. United Flight 175 heads out a little different route across, also headed for Los Angeles. That was at 8:15.

8:21 a.m. Dulles Airport is your location, and that is American Airlines Flight 77, a 757. 58 passengers and crew. It headed off onto Los Angeles. We don't have a radar track on this, so I'm doing a little bit of speculation there.

Finally, United Airlines Flight 93 at 8:43 departs Newark Airport and begins its trip all the way over to Cleveland. Now let's get the impact times. 8: 45, American Airlines Flight 11 impacts at New York at the World Trade Center. 9:03 the United Flight 175 impacts at World Trade Center.

9:45 a.m. -- of course, all these times are eastern times -- the flight American Airlines flight that was headed from Dulles to San Francisco -- excuse me, Dulles to Los Angeles, hits at the -- excuse me. I was drawing -- I should have been drawing that to New York. I was drawing it to Washington -- hits at the Pentagon -- my apologies on that -- and finally United air ends up outside of Pittsburgh. I've made a bit of hash there. But that gives you a sense of how well coordinated this was and how sophisticated an operation this was.

A couple of points to remember. The fact that if you can fly a 757, you can fly a 767. Identical cockpits. So if you were training somebody to fly that aircraft, they are more or less interchangeable. But the point that is worth mentioning here is you had four large airliners on transcontinental airliners with extreme deviations. The air traffic control system clearly was upset by this. I am very curious to hear what they have to say about the radio transmissions and whether at some point the big picture was ever analyzed. It's done by individual centers. Maybe the big picture was not analyzed.

CHEN: Miles O'Brien, thanks for your all your insight on this. Now we return to Aaron Brown up in New York.

AARON BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joie, Miles, thank you. That is a great point. You do wonder if air traffic controllers were ever able to put the pieces together. And if they were what they must have thought, what went through their minds this morning when they realized that they had not one anomaly, but that they several going on at the same. All -- one heading to Washington and two heading here in New York.

CNN's Tim O'Brien has been working the phone, as all of us have been throughout the day, and he joins us from Washington with an extraordinary piece of information on the Pentagon crash. Tim, are you there?

TIM O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I am. Our understanding is that Barbara Olson was on the plane, a frequent commentator on CNN and the wife of solicitor-general Ted Olson. She called her husband twice during the hijacking to tell him the plane had been hijacked. And they lost contact once and she called back.

After the first call, Olson called the command center at the Justice Department to inform them of this hijacking, and they said they knew nothing about it but would track it down. Olson -- Barbara Olson told Ted the following story, that all of the passengers were herded to the back of the plane, including the flight personnel, including the pilot. And the only weapons she mentioned were knives and cardboard cutters. You would think that there were machines or any other kind of gun that she would have mentioned that. But the only -- only weapons she mentioned were knives and cardboard cutters.

I asked Ted if she made any reference to nationality of the hijackers or any suspicion about the motives, and he said she made no reference to that at all. They didn't have a whole lot of time to talk.

She said to Ted, "What do I tell the pilot to do?" -- somewhat typical of Barbara, a take-charge kind of person. But there was nothing they could do. They were all trapped in the back of the plane.

BROWN: Did she or was she able to tell Mr. Olson how many hijackers were on board the plane, or at least how many she may have seen?

T. O'BRIEN: I asked Ted that. No, but she referred to them as more than one. And incidentally, she wasn't even supposed to be on this flight. She was booked on a flight yesterday, but today is Ted's birthday, so she wanted to be here this morning to have breakfast with him before she left.

BROWN: And...

T. O'BRIEN: Sad story.

BROWN: It's a horrible story, and one can only assume that it is one of many horrible stories that we will hear in the hours ahead.

It says something about the world we live in that people, while this was going on, were able to make cell-phone calls. We heard earlier today of another call that was made from a plane, that there was some awareness on the ground, perhaps not formal awareness, but some awareness of what was going on at least on some of those -- excuse me -- on some of those planes.

Mr. Olson must be devastated.

T. O'BRIEN: Well, you can imagine. He's surrounded by friends, but this is tough for everybody, tough for the country, but it's particularly tough for the loved-ones.

BROWN: It is indeed.

Tim, thank you for your efforts.

T. O'BRIEN: Sure. BROWN: Thank you for your efforts. We appreciate that.

Again, Barbara Olson one of the 200-plus passengers on four different airliners, and we have no reason to believe that any of those people survived the crashes here today here in New York, in Pennsylvania outside of Pittsburgh, and at the Pentagon in Washington.

We still do not have a very good feel, to be perfectly honest, for how many people have died today. We have no particular feel, to be perfectly honest, how many people have been injured. We can only surmise that we are talking in the hundreds, the thousands of people certainly have been injured today. How many of those will survive we do not yet know. Judy?

WOODRUFF: And Aaron, this may be another point. We want to say God bless the souls of those who have lost their lives today or are dying or are dying as we speak in hospitals and in places where they cannot be reached.

I think that even those out there who may not believe that there a God at a time like this, we all reach out for a higher being and we want to believe that there is someone who can bring us salvation.

Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon. Questions today about the whereabouts of some of the top people in government in the United States. We've known the president's been flying around the country. The vice president's been out of sight. The secretary of defense, Mr. Rumsfeld, has also been out of sight. What can you tell us about him and what else is going on there?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, a short time ago, he did come out and inspect the damage here at the Pentagon, along with the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers. We're so far away, though, we could barely see that it was them. It had to be pointed out to me by a Pentagon official who they were.

The secretary of defense, though, initially ran to the scene, apparently, of the tragedy, and actually assisted getting some people onto stretchers. Was then brought back to the national military command center in the bowels of the Pentagon; the secure war room area where he has been receiving intelligence briefings and informational updates.

The Pentagon says that it can account for all of the senior military leadership. None of them were killed in this attack. However, there have been some...

WOODRUFF: Jamie McIntyre, I am sorry to interrupt. We're going to go to Israel, the prime minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon.

ARIEL SHARON, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL (through translator): ... of terror attacks, the worse that have ever been seen. We express our deep regret and send our whole-hearted condolences. We are ready to extend whatever aid and assistance is required.

War against terror is an international war, a war of a coalition of the free world against all the terror groups and against whoever believes they can pose a threat to freedom. This is a war between the good and the bad, between humanity and those who are blood-thirsty.

The criminal attack today on innocent civilians in the United States is a turning point in the war against international terror. Even if the war against terror is long, and even if the terror will try to raise its head again, there won't be any room in the world in which terrorists, their assistants and those who send them, to be able to find a shelter or a refuge.

The government of Israel has decided tomorrow a mourning day in a show of solidarity with the American people. I would like to send my condolences to the American people, to President George Bush and to all the citizens of the United States. In this very difficult hour, our hearts are with you.

QUESTION (through translator): Could you tell the Israeli public what are the impacts of these attacks on the people here?

SHARON (through translator): I have already said very clearly that there will only be a statement. There won't be any other statement apart from what I have already said. We have to wait and see what happened. Our stand vis-a-vis terror is very well-known, very firm and decisive, and we will act accordingly.

PERES: On behalf of the people in Israel, I wish to send our (OFF-MIKE) and against our common values. The fight against terror is an international struggle of the free world against the forces of darkness who seek to destroy our liberty and our way of life. I believe that together we can defeat these forces of evil.

At this most difficult hour, all Israelis stand as one with the American people. Our hearts are with you and we are ready to provide any assistance at any time.

The government of Israel has declared a day of mourning tomorrow as we bow our heads and share in the sorrow of the American people.

WOODRUFF: Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon talking briefly with reporters, offering first of all his condolences to Americans, saying whoever believes that -- or saying rather, this has been a threat to freedom. He went onto say, this is a criminal attack on innocent civilians, and he called it is a turning point in the war against international terrorism.

He went onto say -- he said, "Even if this war is long, there will be no room for terrorists to find refuge." He also said that tomorrow in Israel will be a day of mourning.

Now, we want to go back to the Pentagon to CNN's Military Affairs Correspondent Jamie McIntyre. You want to pick up where you left off, Jamie? Describing the situation there and also what secretary of defense Rumsfeld is up to.

MCINTYRE: Well, Judy, the fires are still burning here in some parts of the Pentagon, as you can see from some of the smoke that's coming up from behind me. There will be a recovery effort that will get under way fairly soon. The -- a lot of heavy equipment has brought in. So-called urban rescue units that are usually used in the event of a earthquake have been brought in from some of the local fire departments from Fairfax and Montgomery county in order to assist in finding the bodies of people here.

They have not given any casualty figures, but we know that people died in this incident, including -- not the least of which is the more than 60 passengers who were on that American Airlines Flight 77 that took off from Dulles Airport this morning. One of the eyewitnesses to this incident was a TV reporter himself who was in traffic and actually saw the plane come in. I talked to him earlier today. His name is Mike Walter of "USA Today Live."

MIKE WALTER, "USA TODAY LIVE": I was heading north bound on 27 in the traffic this morning. It was the typical rush hour. It had ground to a standstill. And I looked off. I was, you know -- looked out my window. I saw this plane, the jet, American Airlines jet coming. And I thought, this doesn't add up. It's really low. And I saw it.

It just went -- I mean, it was like a cruise missile with wings, it went right there and slammed right into the Pentagon. Huge explosion. Great ball of fire. Smoke started billowing out, and then it was just chaos on the highway as people either tried to move around the traffic and go down either forward or backwards. We had a lady who in front of me who was backing up and screaming, "Everybody go back, go back. They have hit the Pentagon." And you know, it's just sheer terror.

MCINTYRE: What goes through your mind when you see something like that?

WALLACE: I have asked that question of a million people. And the only thing -- I just kept uttering it over and over again, oh my God, oh, my God, I can't believe this. And I think that's what goes through your mind, is that you just can't believe that something like this could happen.

And yet I was sitting there listening on the radio to the accounts of what had happened in New York. I had just listened to the president. And you'd think as a journalist I would put two and two together and think, oh, my God. But it didn't even occur to me.

MCINTYRE: Obviously this was an enormous tragedy. But did you witness any of the rescue or any of the victims?

WALLACE: I have to tell you, I got out and walked over and I saw parts of the plane. The debris was actually on the overpass there. And I watched as this military personnel just came running out with stretchers and tarps and set up a triage unit. And I just couldn't help but feel for these guys. Those are their friends and comrades in there, and yet they immediately jumped into action. It was unbelievable to watch.

And the toughest thing for me right now is I have a 14-year-old daughter and a lot of her friends have parents who work in the Pentagon. And I just talked to her on the phone and those kids are going through the agony. They don't know if they are okay. So it's tough. I mean, this really hits home.

MCINTYRE: Judy, there's still a lot of work to be done here. This part of the Pentagon had undergone a major renovation. Some of the people here told me stories about heroic efforts, others described how some of the new architecture of the renovated Pentagon may have helped saved their lives. One navy officer told me about how he saw the flames rush by his window, which shook. But because they are made of new tempered glass that had been put in to increase security, they did not break.

The work will continue throughout the night. Pentagon officials say they do hope to reoccupy the other part of the building that's not affected. It's a huge building. 24,000 people work here. But it may be a number of days before anybody's able to go back to work. Judy?

WOODRUFF: All right. Jamie McIntyre reporting from the Pentagon. And Jamie, your interview reminding us that first and the foremost, this is a horrific human tragedy. Families with hearts broken in New York, in Washington and all across this nation.

Just a quick word on what we have been learning. We do expect tonight president George Bush will speak to the nation in a televised address. We don't have much more information than that in terms of when. In addition, we are told that the four leaders of Congress -- the House Speaker, Dennis Hastert; the House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt; and over in the Senate side, Tom Daschle, the Democratic leader, and Trent Lott, the Republican leader. All four of them will come together, I am told, at 7:30 on the east front of the Capitol for a news statement, perhaps a news conference.

We all know that at times of crisis, the very visceral fights that go on between the political parties in our country fall away. It may only be for a brief period, but this is one of those times when political partisan differences are being put aside to come together to speak to the country.

Joining me here in the Washington studio, a familiar name, a familiar face, best-selling author of so many novels: Tom Clancy. Mysteries, at the heart, Tom Clancy, of the military community, the intelligence community. People in our newsroom have been saying today that what is happening is like right out of a Tom Clancy novel.

But have you -- could you possibly imagine something like this to write about?

TOM CLANCY, AUTHOR: No. One of the problems with being a writer of fiction is you can't keep up all of the madmen in the world, as much as you try. And I -- I frankly would have thought that this was not a credible threat, to have four separate people decide to commit suicide in the same way in the same morning.

WOODRUFF: Why not? CLANCY: Because ending your own life is not something the average person does. Everyone is assuming that these are Islamic terrorists. If so, they have defiled their own religion. Islam does not permit suicide. It says you go to hell if do you something like this.

WOODRUFF: But we see suicide bombings in the Middle East and in Israel.

CLANCY: Judy, we saw people in Northern Ireland -- Catholics -- acting like savages. And Protestants acting like savages. So now we have a few who call themselves Muslims acting like savages. It happens. It's not because of their religion. It's because they are fools.

WOODRUFF: What does this say now? You've -- you've done a lot of reporting. You not only write fiction, you do a lot of reporting from inside the intelligence community, inside the military community. What does this say about how prepared as a country?

CLANCY: People always ask that kind of question when things go wrong. But you don't ask the question when things don't go right. And the reason is you can't tell when things go right in that business. One of the things that I have been saying for a lot of years is that we need to upgrade the human capability -- the human intelligence capabilities in the CIA and our four-star intelligence community, because you can do a lot with satellites, you can do a lot with eavesdropping techniques, but you can't -- you can't find out what is in a person's mind except by talking to that person. And so the agency needs to increase its human -- its human intelligence capability.

The CIA has about 20,000 employees. Less than a thousand of them are actually field intelligence officers. That number should be at least doubled. But America as a nation doesn't love our intelligence community. And certainly the news media does not love our intelligence community.

WOODRUFF: I'm going to interrupt you, Tom Clancy. I am told Aaron Brown in New York has a development -- Aaron.

BROWN: Well, Judy, another -- just in the last few seconds, another building -- we will speculate carefully here that it was building No. 7 -- one of the buildings in support of the World Trade Center towers has collapsed. Those of you who have been with us for a while, you can see, indeed, that the smoke color has changed, gotten much lighter.

So we believe that yet another building -- this would be the third building -- has collapsed. Likely building No. 7. Although we also heard that there were problems at building No. 5. And it's possible that 1 went down, too. Again, another building in the World Trade Center complex appears now to have caved in after these attacks -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Aaron, we're looking at these pictures, Tom Clancy and I, as we sit here in the Washington studio. And just as I come back to Tom Clancy, I want to read just a portion of the statement issued by Secretary of State Powell, Colin Powell, calling these attacks a terrible tragedy; terrible tragedy befallen not just my nation, but all of the nations of this region, all the nations of the world, all those who believe in democracy.

Tom Clancy, you were saying, sure, we can ask these questions about failed security, failed intelligence, when things go wrong. But we have every right to the ask these questions, don't we?

CLANCY: You have the right to say anything you want. But as a practical matter, of one of the things we have to do, if you want to prevent things like this from happening, is to build up defenses. And your first line of defense against terrorism is an intelligence- gathering capability. When is the last time that CNN or the news media in general said, "We ought to put more money into the human intelligence capability of the CIA." Answer: You never do it. Never.

WOODRUFF: We wouldn't take a side on something like that, anyway, in terms of what do you fund.

CLANCY: But you always take a side on saying that they have failed. Why not help them succeed once in a while?

WOODRUFF: Are you saying that they are significantly underfunded in that area? Not just the CIA but the FBI?

CLANCY: Human intelligence is de-emphasized. The FBI's job is...

WOODRUFF: Spying is what we are talking about.

CLANCY: That's what intelligence officers do, is they spy. And the CIA has 20,000 employees, about 800 of whom are actually spooks. And of them, maybe as many as two-thirds of them get outside and do spook operations.

WOODRUFF: And we know that...

CLANCY: And we need to do better that. We need to do more than that. You gather information of this type by putting people out on the streets, the same way cops gather information from informants. This isn't rocket science. This is a matter of hiring the people and letting them do the work.

WOODRUFF: I am going to turn it back over to the Aaron. My question is: how do you know what to believe? We had an Arab journalist in London just today saying we had this information a few weeks ago. It was coming. We didn't know whether or not to believe it. Back to Aaron in New York.

BROWN: Thank you. We have talked a number of times today about the fact that it is simply too dangerous for officials to get in and around these buildings. It's very, very dangerous. And the proof of that just a few moments ago, when another building in the complex -- that is the World Trade Center, or was the World Trade Center -- collapsed. We can show you what that looked like.

These are taped pictures, taken literally just a few moments ago when that building went down. We are seeing them for the first time. This is -- correct me in the booth, but I believe that was in fact a piece of tape that we got just a bit ago of the second plane hitting the south tower of the Trade Center just a little bit after 9:00 this morning.

Again, a third building at the trade center has collapsed within the last three or four minutes. Building No. 7. This is no small building, as you can see. At 47 stories, it would stand out in most American cities. It looks small, I guess, when you look at what was the 100-plus stories of the World Trade Center. But building No. 7 is 40-plus stories, almost 50, stories collapsing as well. And if we can go back to the tape and see it one more time, and I will look at it with you. Again, this occurred just in the last several moments around trade center building.

Building No. 7. 47 stories. Maureen Madden, CNN producer, is in the area. Maureen, what can you tell us? What did you see?

MAUREEN MADDEN, CNN PRODUCER: Well, about two minutes ago, we had to see seven World Trade Center go down, which holds the office of emergency management of the city of New York on the 23rd floor there. What we heard from the fire department and N.Y.P.D. is that the whole south part of the building was engulfed in flames at one point and it was a matter of time to -- to collapse. They were just waiting for it to collapse. They have been waiting for, for about a half hour. When it went down, it was quick, it was quiet, and we saw a lot of smoke come up. And now, the smoke is pretty much gone off to the side, going towards the east side of Manhattan.

BROWN: All right. So unlike the collapse of the first of the towers, way back this morning around 10:00 or so this morning and then the second tower, which collapsed shortly thereafter, at least -- at least where building No. 7 is concerned -- the building that among other things, housed the -- this emergency response team for the city of New York -- at least they had some warning. They had signs that this might happen and they were able to get as many people away from the area. And the people in the area, of course, are firefighters, EMS personnel and literally thousands of police officers who have cordoned off the area.

MADDEN: Correct, about five minutes ago...

BROWN: For those of you who have been with us throughout the day, we have shown you a number of times a pieces of video, pictures of a plane coming into the building. We now have another piece of video that will show the same thing, different angle. If we can roll that and take a look now. This, again, was shortly after the first -- wow. Oh, my gosh.

I wonder -- this -- this comes to us from PAX-TV. I wonder, guys, if we can rescue that in a moment and show that again. You saw the fire coming out of first building and then the plane coming out of the lower left-hand side of your screen. It looks to me -- and I'll confess, I don't have the greatest monitor here -- you can almost see the nose of that plane coming through the other side of the building. That may have been an illusion as we looked at it here. But that's how it looked to us, as the flames -- these are fully-loaded planes, fully loaded with jet fuel. They were headed from the east coast to the west coast. So they had an enormous amount of jet fuel.

Jeffrey Beatty, a security consultant said to us a little bit ago, "This was low-tech, high concept." The plane was the bomb. And you just saw the bomb go off. That was around 10:00 this morning. That -- that was around 9:00 this morning, about 9:08 this morning.

Ben Wedeman, who normally reports for us -- I am sorry, we will get to that. Let's get back to Washington and CNN's Judy Woodruff -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Aaron, again, pictures that have everyone here riveted. We are told -- I don't know whether we have this picture right now available to show our viewers -- but I am told that just a short time ago, driving up Massachusetts avenue, which is one of the main thoroughfares here in the nation's capitol -- goes all the way from the Capitol out to northwest Washington beyond the Naval Observatory, where the vice president lives, and beyond on out into the Maryland suburbs -- there was observed a convoy of military vehicles, Humvees. Military vehicles driving up slowly, patrolling, appearing to patrol the area, going out away from the Capitol, toward Northwest, toward Maryland.

Now, perhaps this is just a patrolling effort, but the sight of it has to be something to cause comment. Because normally at this hour in Washington you would see an enormous amount of just rush hour traffic. But today is not like any other day.