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New Intelligence Report on New Generation of Terrorists; Clinton Defends Efforts to Get Bin Laden; Venezuela's Foreign Minister Angry at Airport Detention

Aired September 24, 2006 - 18:00   ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Carol Lin.
And straight ahead in this hour, is the fight for Iraq helping to spawn terrorism in other countries? Well, we've got an assessment of the war's global impact.

Plus, former President Clinton lashes out at critics who say the 9/11 attacks were his fault. Wait until you hear his fiery remarks.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I'm meteorologist Jacqui Jeras. It was a weekend filled with severe weather, and now it's a night filled with severe weather-related delays.

We'll have the latest in your back-to-workweek forecast coming up.

LIN: Thanks, Jacqui.

We're also going to start with a quick look at some of the other stories making news right now.

And we begin with alarming news from Afghan President Hamid Karzai. He says terrorism attacks in his country are increasing and Karzai doubts a recently signed pact by Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf and tribal leaders in Pakistan will actually help reduce the violence. Now President Bush is to meet with both leaders at the White House on Wednesday.

And France's foreign minister says he has seen no evidence to convince him Osama bin Laden is dead. This word comes a day after a French newspaper citing a leaked intelligence report claimed bin Laden died last month from typhoid poisoning.

And a horrifying discovery in East St. Louis, Illinois. Three missing children found dead in the family's own home. Their bodies were found hours after police arrested a family friend. The woman is charged with killing the children's pregnant mother and with the death of her fetus ripped from her womb.

In southern California, a positive sign for crews battling blazes in the Los Padres National Forest. Winds have died down just a bit, allowing helicopters back in the air. The fire started on Labor Day and has burned about 200 square miles of brush. Our top story now, the war in Iraq and the view of the United States intelligence. A classified report delivers a sobering view on whether the controversial war with all of its costs has made the United States safer from the threat of global terror. Reporting for us, live from the White House, CNN's Elaine Quijano -- Elaine?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And Carol, the timing of this information cannot be emphasized enough. Of course we're just six weeks away from those congressional midterm elections and this information coming out, a clear intersection of policy and politics.


QUIJANO (voice-over): The stories appeared on the front pages of the "New York Times" and the "Washington Post," outlining conclusions selectively leaked from a classified national intelligence estimate dealing partly with Iraq.

The estimate, completed in April, cites the Iraq war and insurgence as the main recruiting vehicle for new Islamic extremists. Yet former deputy CIA director John McLaughlin, who has not seen the estimate, says the information is sobering but not surprising.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Frankly, I didn't find a lot new in this press article. We've known for months that the movement is decentralizing. It's clear that Iraq is a major problem, and that the only real question is what do you about Iraq at this point?

QUIJANO: Six weeks away from congressional midterm elections, Democrats are using the leaked report to argue that Republicans have mismanaged Iraq and the larger war on terror.

REP. JANE HARMAN (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE CHAIRWOMAN: Even capturing the remaining top al Qaeda leadership isn't going to prevent copycat cells and it isn't going to change a failed policy in Iraq.

QUIJANO: But Republican Senator John McCain, who just last week reached a compromise with the White House after a public rift over detainee legislation, says success in Iraq is still crucial.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: They didn't need any encouragement to attack us on September 11th. These people are after us anyway and we've got to win the war both psychologically, as well as militarily.

QUIJANO: And in a rare occurrence, Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, weighted into the political debate saying, quote, "the estimate highlights the importance of the outcome in Iraq on the future of global jihadism, judging that should the Iraqi people prevail in establishing a stable political and security environment, the jihadists will be perceived to have failed."

(END VIDEOTAPE) QUIJANO: Now, in a statement, the White House re-stated the administration's policy of not commenting on classified documents. But in a sign of just how high these political stakes are, an administration official essentially did comment on this document, saying that the "New York Times" characterization of the NIE was not representative of the whole estimate. Back to you, Carol.

LIN: All right Elaine, we've got more as well.

Democrats are seizing on the report about Iraq and they're saying, we told you so. Senator John Kerry says the report confirms that the war is a giant recruiting poster for terrorists and he says, "make no mistake," Kerry says, "there is no way to regain the lost ground on terror without redeploying out of Iraq and making Iraqis stand up for Iraq. We must set a deadline," he says, "to get out of the war and refocus on the real war on terror." Again, the words of Senator John Kerry, former Democratic nominee for president.

Well former President Clinton delivers a fiery blast at critics who portray his administration as weak on terror. Now Clinton spoke to FOX News and he says he regrets not killing Osama bin Laden, but that he insists he did all he could.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I worked hard to try to kill him. I authorized the finding for the CIA to kill him. We contracted with people to kill him. I got closer to killing him than anybody's gotten since.

And if I were still president, we'd have more than 20,000 troops there trying to kill him. Now, I've never criticized President Bush, and I don't think this is useful. But you know we do have a government that thinks Afghanistan is only one-seventh as important as Iraq.

And you ask me about terror and al Qaeda, with that sort of, sort of dismissive thing, when all you have to do is read Richard Clarke's book to look at what we did in a comprehensive, systematic way to try to protect the country against terror. And you got that little smirk on your face, you think you're so clever, but I had responsibility for trying to protect this country. I tried and I failed to get bin Laden. I regret it, but I did try. But at least I tried. That's the difference in me and some, including all of the right-wingers attacking me now. They ridicule me for trying. They had eight months to try, they did not try. I tried, so I tried and failed. When I failed, I left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy and the best guy in the country, Dick Clarke, who got demoted.


LIN: Well Dick Clarke is Richard Clarke, the former White House terrorism czar. He says the Bush administration was soft on al Qaeda up until 9/11. You're going to hear more from President Clinton during this hour, so stay right there. In the meantime today, the White House responded to Clinton's remarks. Spokesman Peter Watkins says, and I'm quoting here, "The record paints a very different picture than what President Clinton is suggesting. Looking forward," said Watkins, "we will fight the war on terror by staying on the offense."

Well we're going to take a look at what some of you are actually saying about Clinton's comments on the blogs. That's in about 30 minutes, right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Also I'm going to be talking with David Remnick, editor of the "New Yorker" tonight at 10:00 p.m. about President Clinton. He wrote a profile on the ex-president in this month's magazine, spent a lot of time with him so we want to find out what's behind this fiery outburst there.

Meantime, also tonight at 8:00 Eastern, "CNN PRESENTS: The Poverty Trap: A Conversation with Former President Clinton." Now trillions have been donated to end poverty, but it's still not fixed. Dr. Sanjay Gupta discusses some possible solutions in a provocative chat with Clinton. "CNN PRESENTS: The Poverty Trap," tonight at 8:00 Eastern.

Now that story purporting the death of Osama bin Laden is prompting more official denials. Today, the French foreign minister says, as far as he knows, bin Laden is still alive. Saudi Arabia says the same, as do officials in the United States and Britain. Still, the French journalist behind the published account is standing by his story. CNN's Jim Bitterman interviewed him.


JIM BITTERMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In a town square in rural France, the reporter whose article set off speculation about bin Laden's death is convinced the intelligence memorandum he published is accurate. Laid Sammari, a national reporter for the regional paper "East Republican," frequently writes about intelligence matters, but rarely has he seen a leak of this sort involving classified information from France's Foreign Intelligence Agency, a memo stating that a reliable source had given Saudi intelligence officials exact details of bin Laden's death.

LAID SAMMARI, "EAST REPUBLICAN" JOURNALIST (through translator): That is to say that on the 23rd of August in Pakistan, after coming down with typhoid, and the memorandum adds that he could not be treated because of the absence of medical assistance.

BITTERMANN: French and American intelligence sources could not confirm the contents of the memo and said there was no new information on bin Laden's health. But there was tacit confirmation that the memo is authentic from French president Jacques Chirac, who said Saturday that he had ordered an investigation into how the memo found its way into print.

Sammari says he cannot reveal who gave him the memo but that it circulated three days ago through the president and the prime minister's offices, as well as the offices of the interior and defense ministers, passing through the hands of perhaps 50 people, in addition to those in the Foreign Intelligence Service. The reporter believes the memo will turn out to be true.

SAMMARI (through translator): The note ends with information according to which the Saudis are waiting to localize the burial place of the body before making an official announcement of bin Laden's death.

BITTERMANN (on camera): Sammari says it's up to someone else to prove whether bin Laden is still alive. All he is sure of is that Saudi intelligence has a source that claims the leader of al Qaeda is dead.

Jim Bittermann, CNN, Nancy, France.


LIN: And here's a quick heads up. In our second half-hour, we're going to speak with an official from the international Red Cross. Tomorrow Red Cross experts are scheduled to visit some notorious terror suspects, some of the baddest of the bad at Guantanamo Bay. I'll bring you details right near in the NEWSROOM.

ANNOUNCER: You're watching CNN, your severe weather headquarters.

LIN: You have seen these pictures out of the Midwest? Roads that look more like rivers? That's the scene in Kentucky, after a weekend of violent storms. At least nine people were killed as the storms moved through parts of the south and the Midwest. Most of the deaths though were in Kentucky.

In north Texas, high winds tore the roof off of this apartment building. That's what's left of it. And then the ceiling started to cave in, forcing residents to get out fast. The area was also hit by heavy rain and hail.

And in Arkansas, two people are missing after a river flooded, stranding nearby campers. Officials say the river flooded so fast, people were hanging from trees. Dozens were rescued.

Oh my goodness, to put up with all of that? Jacqui Jeras, you have been tracking some of the severe weather for the last several days and it looks positively deadly out there.


LIN: New worries tonight about the care of some terror suspects -- the care that they're getting at Guantanamo Bay. Coming up, Red Cross officials head to Cuba to see for themselves.

Also is Hillary Clinton worse than Satan? If she is, you believe Jerry Falwell.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Better than George Bush.

MOOS: Anything else?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Much better than George Bush.


LIN: Chance of run, Oprah run. Her lawyer's response, tonight in the CNN NEWSROOM.


LIN: Authorities in East St. Louis, Illinois, say three missing children found dead were apparently drowned. That is the preliminary findings of an autopsy done today. Their pregnant mother was killed just days before. Her fetus, ripped from her womb. Now there's been an arrest in that attack. The suspect will be arraigned tomorrow. Police are still investigating the children's deaths. We get more now from CNN's Fredricka Whitfield.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR (voice over): At this East St. Louis, Illinois, public housing unit, the gruesome discoveries were made.

CAPT. CRAIG KOEHLER, ILLINOIS STATE POLICE: I would also like to thank the public for all of their help in this, the volunteers who did searches, and individuals who called in and provided us leads and eventually led to the discovery of the children.

WHITFIELD: Inside apartment 28-J in the washer and dryer the lifeless bodies of 7-year-old DeMond, 2-year-old Ivan and 1-year-old Janela Tunstall.

KOEHLER: I would not say that it was searched before.

WHITFIELD: Overlooked when police first entered the Tunstall family's apartment look for photographs, a tip suggested they go back.

KOEHLER: I have children of my own. All of these investigators have children of our own. So it's a very emotional time for all of our departments and the families involved in this case.

WHITFIELD: The extensive neighborhood search began after their 23-year-old mother, Jamella Tunstall, seven months pregnant, was murdered, her fetus cut from her womb, her body found in a weedy lot. Hours after the arrest of a suspect, 24-year-old Tiffany Hall, described as family friend and sometimes babysitter, the search for the missing children ended horribly. Fredricka Whitfield, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE) LIN: The foreign minister of Venezuela stopped and questioned when he tried to leave America. Was it fall-out from the controversial visit from Venezuela's president or simply a mistake? It depends on who you ask. The story, next.

Plus Bill Clinton lets loose as he attacks critics of his efforts to stop Osama bin Laden. Wait until you see what he had to say and how he said it.



GERRI WILLIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ben Franklin once said nothing is certain but death and taxes. Yet when it comes to property tax, don't be so certain. From 2002 through 2006, property tax collections were up 35 percent, which is double the growth of people's income. But don't take the rise at your property tax in face value because you can fight City Hall.

Here's how. Review your assessment for mistakes. More than 60 percent of homes are assessed too high. That's according to the American Homeowners Association. Go over your assessment to make sure the details are correct, things like the number of bedrooms and baths or lot size.

Also, check up on your neighbors. Compare your tax burden with what your neighbors pay. Property taxes are public record so do some research and make sure what you're paying is in line with your neighborhood. You can find them at the assessor's or county clerk's office.

Then it's time to challenge the tax man. Normally you have between 60 and 90 days after getting your bill to contest it. When you go to the assessor's office, bring along as much evidence as possible to help prove your case. The odds are in your favor. More than 70 percent of those who find an error and contest it, end up with a lower tax bill.



LIN: Venezuela's foreign minister is full of fury and outrage, and he is directing it at the United States. Nicolas Maduro accuses security at JFK Airport of illegally detaining him. And he's already received an apology from the State Department, but he wants more. Our Ines Ferre reports.


INES FERRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Venezuela's foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro, calls his detention at JFK Airport Saturday part of the regular abuse of the U.S. government, coming just days after his boss, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, berated President George W. Bush at the United Nations. He sees no coincidence. NICOLAS MADURO, VENEZUELAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): The intent of political retaliation against our country, the Bolivian Republican of Venezuela, why? Because President Hugo Chavez came to say the truth to the southern countries?

FERRE: Maduro says he was illegally detained for more than an hour by airport security and that officials violated his diplomatic rights when they tried to frisk him and at one point handcuff him.

MADURO (through translator): As soon as we explained who we were numerous times with our passports and invoked ore international rights, at that moment it got worse. The verbal violence and abuse increased.

FERRE: A State Department spokesperson confirms there was an incident with a foreign minister, saying it "... regrets this incident. The United States government apologized to foreign minister Maduro and the Venezuelan government." But a senior administration official said Maduro didn't identify himself ahead of time to airport security officials and that there were several red flags that prompted the additional security check.

That official also saying "... the Venezuelan mission working out of New York knows better. There are procedures and processes to request airport courtesies for dignitaries. You don't come to the airport and buy a ticket with cash a half hour before the flight."

The Transportation Security Administration says that Maduro was never detained and that everything happened in a open public place following standard TSA protocols. Maduro is demanding an investigation and says he has notified U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Ines Ferre, CNN, New York.


LIN: Kind of caps off an interesting week last week. Of all the news that came out of the United Nations last week, probably the most unexpected moments were courtesy of Maduro's boss, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez as he compared President Bush to the devil. While Chavez was grinding his own axe in America, our Rick Sanchez decided to check out public opinion on Chavez in Caracas. More from Rick here in the NEWSROOM.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I was looking over my shoulders perhaps more than I would in Latin America countries because I knew that I was on the air saying things that the government wasn't going to like. No government ever likes anything you say about them. They're only going to pick the negative stuff to criticize you.

So when I went on the air and said things that were critical of the Chavez administration or that others said in my reports, I always feared, well, I wonder if tomorrow they're going to knock on the door and ask me to leave, put me in a car and get me out of here or worse. It was a thought that crossed my mind. That's all it was. I never had any incidents other than the fact I felt that I was being watched and on two occasions they came, took down my number, recorded me, wanted to look at my video.

As a journalist you don't want somebody looking over your shoulder. I have a right to report what I see fit. This is true freedom of expression and freedom of speech.

This is the best government you think they've had here. (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

I call it simultaneous translation. What it means is I'm able to go into an area where people speak Spanish because I am bilingual and I'm bicultural. I figure to really capture the essence of what the people are thinking and saying at that time, and really compress into that moment talk to them in their language and then do the simultaneous translation so then you share it with your audience in English.

(SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE) Pro-Chavez or anti-Chavez? You're pro Chavez.

All I'm doing for the viewers, being that go-between that takes you into that moment and brings you that situation as it's happening, and I think it's worked pretty well so far. It's a way of just being -- it's a way of sharing the moment with the viewer. Sharing an honest moment, an honest communication with people without having to go through the whole translation process, which oftentimes is a bit cumbersome for the viewer, and they tend to figure it's another filter, and every time you add a filter in our business, I think you lose a level of trust as far as the viewer is concerned. So whenever you can bring it down, you are doing yourself and you're doing the communication and you're doing the viewer a favor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yesterday the devil came here.

SANCHEZ: When I asked some of the people that I talked to, some of the poor people, 80 percent that I was talking about, should he have said that the U.S. president is the devil in his own back yard? I expected they'd say well, just as a matter of decency, no, that's not something he should have said. Quite the opposite. They said he should have said it because we think that Bush is Satan. Those are their words.


LIN: You know, we hope to keep you in the loop with all of our CNN correspondents and their stories behind the stories. So as often as possible we're going to do just that. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, some of the most feared terror suspects in the United States -- actually in U.S. custody have been moved to Guantanamo Bay and now the international Red Cross is headed there to see how they're being treated. I'll talk with a representative next.

Plus, Jerry Falwell uses the "D" word when talking about Hillary Clinton.

Also, heated comments from Bill Clinton about claims he didn't do enough to stop Osama bin Laden. Stay in the NEWSROOM.


LIN: Former President Clinton is defending his terror fighting record and his efforts to catch Osama bin Laden. And he says he wanted bin Laden killed. In a testy interview with Fox News, Clinton says he took bin Laden more seriously than his critics did.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Why didn't you do more to put bin Laden and al Qaeda out of business when you were president? There's a new book out, you may -- I suspect you've already read called "The Looming Tower" and it talks about the fact that when you pulled troops out of Somalia in 1993, bin Laden said, I have seen the frailty and the weakness and the cowardice of U.S. troops. Then there was the bombing of the embassies in Africa and the attack on the "Cole."


WALLACE: May I just finish the question sir? And after the attack, the books says that bin Laden separated his leaders, spread them around because he expected an attack and there was no response. I understand that hindsight is always 20/20.

CLINTON: Let's talk about it.

WALLACE: But the question is, why didn't you connect do more to connect the dots and put him out of business?

CLINTON: All right. Let's talk about it. I will answer all those things on the merits, but first I want to talk about the context in which this arises. I'm being asked this on the Fox network. ABC just had a right-wing conservative running their little pathway to 9/11, falsely claiming it was based on the 9/11 Commission report, with three things asserted against me directly contradicted by the 9/11 Commission report. And I think it's very interesting that all the conservative Republicans who now say I didn't do enough claim that I was too obsessed with bin Laden. All of President Bush's neocons thought I was too obsessed with bin Laden. They had no meetings on bin Laden for nine months after I left office.


LIN: Clinton accused Fox's Chris Wallace of what he called a conservative hit job and he asked whether Wallace had challenged the Bush administration on its handling of the war on terror.

The blogs as you might imagine are on fire with the reaction to the interview with former President Clinton. Now over on the political left, at America blog, supporters are ecstatic. John in DC writes: George Bush knew al Qaeda was a problem for just as long as Bill Clinton did. So why didn't Bush take Osama on before September 11th?

But the right leaning bloggers at see things much differently. Kathryn Jean Lopez dismisses the former president's argument. Quote, it was Bill Clinton's Tom Cruise moment she writes, though Cruise sounded saner talking about antidepressants to Matt Lauer -- ooh. Now, stay tuned to CNN for more with former President Clinton. At 7:00 Eastern, "CNN Presents: In God's Name, A Global Summit with Bill Clinton" Christiane Amanpour hosts.

Call it the week for devilish politics. First Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez calling President Bush the devil at the United Nations and now it's the Reverend Jerry Falwell. He says the prospects of Hillary Clinton in the White House would run - running for the White House -- would actually energize his conservative political base better than the devil himself could. A Falwell aide says the reverend's comments were off the cuff and not meant to demonize the New York senator. Her office has yet to comment.

So far, this year's primary elections in one word, problematic, plenty of glitches, as numerous states try to embrace the high-tech way of tallying the vote. CNN's Gary Nurenberg has that story.


GARY NURENBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Students of American voting are worried about the November election.

SHELLEY FUDGE, SAVE OUR VOTES: There is no proof that the votes are going to be counted the way the voters intended.

NURENBERG: The 2000 presidential election and those famous hanging chads from punch card ballots helped prompt a nationwide rush to new voting machines. This year --

DEBORAH MARKOWITZ, NATL. ASSN. OF SECRETARIES OF STATE: One out of every three voters are voting on new technology.

NURENBERG: Deborah Markowitz is Vermont's secretary of state.

MARKOWITZ: Whenever you're deploying new technology, statistically, there is going to be failure.

NURENBERG: Ask poll watchers about technology used in Ohio's primary election in May.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It wasn't working.

NURENBERG: It drove candidates nuts.

BRIAN FLANNERY, OHIO GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: This is not communist China here. This is America and this has got to stop.

NURENBERG: Illinois had machine troubles in its primary in March. In Maryland's primary earlier this month -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's a very bad screw up.

NURENBERG: Numerous problems included one county's failure to distribute the electronic cards that unlock voting machines, causing thousands of voters to wait or walk away.

HOWARD DENIS, MARYLAND COUNCILMAN: We have to address the chaos, the confusion, the fiasco, the debacle that characterized the election.

NURENBERG: This weekend, nearly two weeks after the Maryland primary, votes were still being counted.

DONNA EDWARDS, MARYLAND CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Some machines didn't record votes and we don't know the reasons for these things.

NURENBERG: Donna Edwards is a congressional candidate who had to wait nearly two weeks to learn that she lost.

EDWARDS: You don't do the testing while you're trying to put the shuttle up in the air. You do it beforehand and we haven't done that with the system.

NURENBERG: A group called Save our Votes has a plan.

FUDGE: There is no way to make a perfect, flawless electronic voting system. Therefore, we must have paper ballots as a backup so that we can do audits and recounts.

NURENBERG (on-camera): With control of Congress at stake, no one wants a repeat of the troubles that plagued the 2000 election but as the country has rushed to find alternative ways to vote, there is no guarantee as yet that they will be problem-free either. Gary Nurenberg, CNN, Washington.


LIN: CNN certainly wants you to express yourself in the upcoming elections. That's why the CNN election express yourself bus is coming to a town near you. It is chock-full of information on current political issues and it allows you to express your political views through shout out video portraits, online interaction and on-sight activities. Right now it's in California. Next stop, Tuesday, at the San Francisco Giants home game. Final destination is New York City, November 7th.

Stick around, because in about 20 minutes we're going to tell you about Oprah Winfrey's unlikely presidential run. An "Oprah" fan is taking it upon himself to put the talk show queen into the White House. Jeanne Moos has the story you won't want to miss, straight ahead.

Now concerns tonight about some of the care of the terror suspects that are, that they're getting at Guantanamo Bay. Next, in the newsroom, Red Cross officials head to Cuba to see for themselves.


LIN: Monday the Red Cross begins a series of face-to-face visits with 14 men the U.S. considers key suspects in the war on terror. Now until last month, held in secret prisons by the United States, all 14 are now at Guantanamo Bay. Here's CNN's justice correspondent Kelli Arena with more details.


KELLI ARENA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Behind the barbed wire at Guantanamo Bay in isolation, sit 14 men the U.S. government considers the most notorious terrorists ever captured, allegedly the masterminds and architects of infamous worldwide attacks like 9/11, the bombing of the "USS Cole" and the two U.S. embassy bombings in Africa.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These guys planned mass murder.

YOSRI FOUDA, AL-JAZERRA CORRESPONDENT: They are, by far the biggest fish.

JOHN McLAUGHLIN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: It's really hard to exaggerate the importance that these people represent in the U.S. counterterrorism effort.

ARENA: They have held for years in secret CIA prisons, their locations unknown, until recently when President Bush announced they were being transferred to Gitmo.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These are dangerous men, with unparalleled knowledge about terrorist networks and their plans of new attacks.

ARENA: The government claims the stories of these men reveal an interconnected web of criminal masterminds, dedicated foot soldiers who span the globe. Their paths have intertwined for years through a dark network most people never know. One person who does is Bob Grenier.

BOB GRENIER, FMR. CIA STATION CHIEF: I spent two and a half years of my life casing Abu Zubaydah.

ARENA: Grenier was CIA station chief in Pakistan from 1999 through 2002. He helped track down Abu Zubaydah, the facilitator, one of the 14 in custody. The government hails him as the first high profile terrorist captured within months of the 9/11 attacks. Officials claim Zubaydah, a Palestinian Saudi, was hired by Osama bin Laden himself to help terrorists move between countries. Zubaydah, Grenier says, made al Qaeda function.

GRENIER: This was an individual who was a trainer. He was a recruiter. He understood bomb-making. He was a forger. He was a logistician. This was somebody who made things happen.

ARENA: During questioning, officials say Zubaydah provided information that led to the capture of another al Qaeda lieutenant, Ramzi bin al Shibh, the intermediary from Yemen. Bin al Shibh was a student in Hamburg, Germany in 1998 where he became close friends with three of the 9/11 hijackers. Intelligence officials say the four young men traveled to Afghanistan in 1999, joined al Qaeda, and pledged loyalty to Osama bin Laden.

PAT D'AMURO, GIULIANI SECURITY AND SAFETY: Ramzi bin al Shibh was also supposed to be one of the 9/11 hijackers, but could not get a passport into the United States.

FOUDA: This is why he ended up being the coordinator of the operation.

ARENA: U.S. officials say the combined information from Zubaydah and bin al Shibh next led to the most significant terrorist captured so far. His name, Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, the mastermind, known simply as KSM.

McLAUGHLIN: Khalid Shaykh Muhammad is an evil genius. If you look at all of the things he was involved in, it's stunning.

ARENA: Interrogators claim KSM was the essentially the CEO of the 9/11 operation.

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, very interesting guy, sort of professional terrorist, had been involved in terrorism has entire adult life, studied in the United States, engineering, was involved in a plan to blow up a dozen airliners in southeast Asia and was really the guy who came up with the 9/11 idea.

ARENA: Yosri Fouda, chief investigative reporter with al Jazeera is one of the few journal journalists to personally meet both KSM and bin al Shibh. It was seven months after 9/11. In his two days with them, Fouda says KSM never stopped to rest.

FOUDA: Most of the time would be sitting in a corner on the floor, handling five or so mobile phones, text, you know, sending text messages, receiving text messages and he was hardly off duty.

ARENA: One of the alleged terrorists in that KSM network, Mustafa Ahmad al Hawsawi, the money mover, whose role in the 9/11 attacks was to allegedly get funds to the hijackers.

GRENIER: They needed to have somebody who was sophisticated enough to make those arrangements and to do it in a discrete way.

ARENA: Another alleged KSM associate, Walid bin-Attash, the confidant, the man who officials say Osama bin Laden literally trusted with his life. The Yemeni was the al Qaeda leader's personal body guard, selected by bin Laden himself to be a 9/11 hijacker but like bin al Shibh was unable to get a visa.

D'AMURO: We know him as Kalad (ph), was very instrumental. He was an individual that actually helped, we believe through intelligence reports, funnel some monies to two of the hijackers.

ARENA: KSM allegedly told interrogators what he knew about another al Qaeda operative in custody, helping the CIA understand exactly how important he was. That information, officials say helped stop a terrorist plot dead in its tracks.


LIN: That was CNN's justice correspondent Kelli Arena. The White House says the alleged terrorist plot mentioned at the end of her piece was planned for 2002, a year after 9/11. The alleged plan was to crash a commercial jet into the library tower in Los Angeles, the tallest building in the state.

Now, back to the international Red Cross. It is well aware that tomorrow's visit will be closely watched and criticized. It's not an easy job to be neutral about people who are accused of some of the worst terror acts in history. Earlier I spoke with Simon Schorno. He is with the Red Cross.


LIN: You tell us that this is a big development for the international Red Cross, to be able to interview these particular prisoners in person. Why so?

SIMON SCHORNO, INTL CMTE OF THE RED CROSS: Well, the international Red Cross has been trying to gain access to persons held incommunicado by the United States for many years now and publicly voiced our concerns for those people. And so the fact that we're now able to see those 14 is an important development and we welcome the opportunity to talk to them in private in Guantanamo.

LIN: So what is the Red Cross going to ask them? What is the Red Cross going to do?

SCHORNO: Well, really, we're not doing anything different with those 14 than we do with everybody else when we first meet a detainee, that is, give the detainee the possibility to speak in private with us. So we don't interrogate the person. The detainee can raise any issues he wishes to raise in private with a (INAUDIBLE) delegate and a translator, an (INAUDIBLE) translator without the presence of anybody from the detaining authority and (INAUDIBLE) to our own lists, so that we have the names and then we can forward the trajectory (ph), the detention of that detainee.

LIN: Can you talk about what these suspects have told you in public or is it completely confidential?

SCHORNO: No, it is 100 percent confidential what the international Red Cross will do that once the visits have been carried out, once the reporting has been done. We will transmit our observations to the detaining authorities and to the Department of Defense in Washington and this information will remain 100 percent confidential.

LIN: Simon, what if they tell you they've been tortured in the secret prisons, what if they tell you of abuse? What do you do with that information and how do you know you can even believe them? SCHORNO: That's why we want to talk to them. We want to assess what they tell us, and these are the first 14 that we see, so it is a new development in our relationship this far with the U.S. But we will use this information and make the necessary interventions. Again for us...

LIN: What do you mean interventions? If a prisoner tells you they have tortured and abused, what is the intervention there?

SCHORNO: First of all we try to understand where the abuse took place and if it did take place and the kind of treatments that that might have taken place and then we discuss our findings with the authorities, in this case, DOD and we will follow up the file case by case and try to --

LIN: How do you follow it up? What if the DOD says well, they're lying; that didn't happen?

SCHORNO: Well, you know, for us, it's a long-term process, a process of dialogue with authorities in detention places, always a rather difficult one. I'm not saying this is necessary.

LIN: In this case there is a political overtone. They have every incentive in the world to make the United States look bad.

SCHORNO: Sure, but again we are professional. For us we do listen to the point of view given by the authorities. We have our own observations and again we've done this for years all over the world and then we bring in the perspective of the detainees. So the (INAUDIBLE) is trusted by the American government, by the authorities to do this work because it does it professionally and is able to bring this professional crinical approach if you will to this work.

LIN: Simon, you know that there are people out there who say that these prisoners don't deserve this. They don't deserve the world attention. They don't deserve the care and consideration of the international Red Cross. What would you say to those people?

SCHORNO: For us, we are neutral, independent, impartial organization and we treat every prisoner captured in a conflict or in a situation of violence with the same, in the same way.

LIN: Is that hard to do?

SCHORNO: You know, that's what we do. That's our job. We're humanitarians. We're not politicians. We're not judges. We're humanitarians and we carry out our humanitarian mission. It is not always easy, but that's the job we have chosen and we try to do as professionally as we can.

LIN: Simon Schorno, thank you very much.

SCHORNO: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE) LIN: Simon also tells me that the Red Cross plans on being in Guantanamo about two weeks, due to just sort of the process down there. He says that they may not be able to talk with the 14 high- profile suspects until sometime next week.

Now, the first hat in the next presidential election is in the ring, sort of.


MOOS (voice-over): Oprah for president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Better than George Bush.

MOOS: Anything else?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Much better than George Bush.


LIN: Could it be? The story next in the CNN newsroom.


LIN: Oprah for president? It's a question one Kansas City man is hoping you'll actually consider, and he carries out his own personal Oprah for president campaign. There's only one problem, Oprah Winfrey isn't on board. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Imagine this was Oprah in her inaugural gown.

"THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW": We are buying you a house!

MOOS: How about the White House? Oprah for president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You got to be kidding.

MOOS: Tell that to the guy behind this tee shirt and that bumper sticker.

PATRICK CROWE, NTL DIR., OPRAH FOR PRESIDENT: It will take a presidential a-ha moment.

MOOS: That's the phrase Oprah herself uses to describe the moment when an idea calls her to action. Retired Kansas City teacher and car wash owner Patrick Crowe put it on the cover of his Oprah for president book. There's only one catch, Oprah's lawyers are telling him to stop all this. The smoking gun website got hold of the legal papers accusing Crowe of infringing on Oprah copyrights and trademarks.

Oprah has her own campaign song, even if she doesn't know it. It's on the website where they don't ask for dollars. They ask you to write-on dollars Oprah for president, and put it into circulation. As for possible Oprah running mates, Dr. Phil for VP? That's what Crowe wants plastered on a car wash he owns.

PHIL McGRAW, TALK SHOW HOST: When she comes into a room, everybody in the room feels better.

MOOS: Other suggestions for VP? Hillary Clinton or even Barack Obama. Oprah for president.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fantastic. She knows how to get things done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I don't like Oprah. She's just someone that seems really fake.

MOOS: As a candidate she'd have to avoid moments like the one recently when she fumbled trying to pump gas saying she hadn't done it since 1983.

OPRAY WINFREY: Well, this can't be possible.


WINFREY: You do it just like that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, you have to hold it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is going to take all day.

MOOS: Sort of like when the first President Bush fumbled with a grocery scanner. Patrick Crowe says that barring a court order, he'll keep pushing for an a-ha moment. Oprah for president?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Better than George Bush.

MOOS: Anything else?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Much better than George Bush.

MOOS: Though the campaign may bomb, Oprah wouldn't.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


LIN: OK and there's still much more ahead on CNN this evening. Next, Christiane Amanpour examines the roots of world religious conflicts with former President Clinton.

And then at 8:00 Eastern, she follows the trail of AIDS in Africa, in "Where Have All the Parents Gone?" Only on CNN, be right back.