Return to Transcripts main page
Thousands of Americans Still Trapped in Middle East War Zone; Five- Year-Old Girl Missing From Front Yard in Salt Lake City.
Aired July 19, 2006 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NANCY GRACE, HOST: Tonight, 25,000 Americans trapped in a war zone, as bombing continues in Israel and Lebanon. But tonight, at least Americans won`t have to pay the U.S. government for their rescue.
What are the legal implications of the U.S. commandeering a cruise ship? And tonight, wait until you see just released photos of the conditions on those U.S. rescue ships. We know, unfortunately, that al Qaeda sleeper cells exist within the U.S., but what about Hezbollah?
And tonight: Volunteers, police, family, friends, all searching for a 5-year-old little Salt Lake girl who vanished from her own front porch. Where is little Destiny Norton? Tonight, we take your calls.
But first tonight: Americans flee Lebanon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The situation there is very grim at the moment. It`s just very upsetting. We`re lucky that we`re out, but we really feel for the people who are still left in Lebanon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Straight out to Christiane Amanpour. She is joining us from Israel. Explain to us -- welcome, Christiane -- what is going on there.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, today`s been a day of very fierce clashes. I`m standing here at the Israel-Lebanon border, a little town called Metula, where earlier this evening, there was a huge amount of outgoing artillery fire and potential infiltration by Hezbollah, and lots of Israeli ground troops here searching them out. We haven`t got it confirmed that they came through, but elsewhere along the border all day, there was also intense clashes between Israeli forces and Hezbollah.
Despite the Israeli assault, though, Hezbollah is continuing to rain rockets down on the northern part of Israel -- by some counts, some 120 rockets throughout the day today. An we saw impacts all over the hillsides as we traveled around the area. And we have also seen that they have hit as far south as Nazareth, which happens to be a big town of Arab Israelis, and they have also hit Haifa again. In Nazareth, two children were killed. Haifa, we hear of no casualties.
But at the same time, Israel keeps up the massive air assault on Lebanon, on parts of Beirut, and the casualty toll is mounting high there. It`s about a 10-to-1 ratio in terms of 10 times more casualties in Lebanon than over here in Israel, and that is beginning causing concern in parts of the international community. Most particularly, the International Red Cross is starting to question the huge number of casualties on the Lebanese side -- Nancy.
GRACE: Tonight, Christiane Amanpour, CNN chief international correspondent, is joining us from Metula, Israel. Christiane, explain to me how badly Nazareth has been hit.
AMANPOUR: Well, we didn`t actually go there, but from the reports that we`ve heard from there, rockets did fall there, and they have caused casualties. As I said, two children, age 3 and 9, were killed there. So you know, it`s also a big impact because it`s an Arab town in Israel. It`s a majority Arab town. So you know, for the people there, it`s an incredibly, you know, difficult thing, as it would be for anywhere which has received any kind of rockets or missiles or any of these kind of attacks that have been going on now for the last eight days.
GRACE: Christiane, any word on how severely Hezbollah`s infrastructure has been hit?
AMANPOUR: Well, that`s, you know, the huge question. I don`t know whether you can hear, but there is outgoing artillery in our area, and it`s been going on sporadically overnight. But how hard has it been hit? Some sources say, in the Israeli military, that maybe 50 percent of the capacity has been taken out. But for us, it`s really impossible to know. And certainly, today was one of the heaviest days of clashes, with one of the heaviest barrages of Hezbollah rockets coming over into parts of northern Israel. So it`s unclear.
What we`re told is that, periodically and quite regularly, small Israeli units of ground forces are going into the border area to try to take out infrastructure -- in other words, bunkers, tunnels minefields, things like that -- trying to take out emplacements that have allowed Hezbollah to sit very close, if not on the border, and be able to fire salvos of rockets into northern Israel. And that is their aim, to end that capability once and for all.
GRACE: Christiane, exactly how close are you to the Lebanese border?
AMANPOUR: A few -- right now, a few hundred meters. I mean, we`re in this town, where just down the road behind me is the fence, that beyond that fence is Lebanon.
GRACE: So far, a lot of missiles. Are we looking at ground war?
AMANPOUR: Well, you know, when you talk to the Israeli military and politicians, nobody wants to talk about a ground war. They have very bitter memories of the quagmire, the 18-year quagmire they were embroiled in from 1982 until they left in 2000, the Israeli forces. And they don`t want to get involved that again.
And they`re very clear and careful to tell us that what`s happening now in terms of the small units, they say, that go in and out across the border to do special operations -- this is not an occupying force. This is not a huge force. This is not a ground war or a ground invasion.
On the other hand, the chief of staff, the head of the Israeli forces, has said that while they`re not contemplating a ground war now, he has told the Israeli cabinet ministers and others that that remains a possibility. And there are some who believe that you cannot take out this kind of military infrastructure by air power alone. So it still remains to be seen whether that will happen.
Many people think that there may be another week left in this and that Israel, while it conducts its operations in the field, also has an eye to the international community and just how long the international community will tolerate this massive assault over on Lebanon.
GRACE: CNN`s chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, with us from Metula, Israel. My question is, is there any hope -- do you believe there`s any hope that the Israeli soldiers will be returned?
AMANPOUR: Well, again, it`s a hard question. We don`t know. We`re told that they`re still alive and that the -- certainly, Hezbollah people have said that what they wanted to do was enter in indirect (ph) negotiations with Israel to not only hand back those two prisoners, but also to get back Lebanese prisoners who`ve been held by Israel for several years. That, they say, was the aim of this thing from the very beginning.
It was an act of war that they conducted by crossing an international border, killing Israeli soldiers and taking those two. And they -- many people say they may have miscalculated, that they did not expect this kind of massive Israeli response. But for Israel, it`s about the soldiers, but it`s also about not allowing this kind of militia to be armed and sitting on the border with a sort of a neverending ability to rain rockets down on this part of Israel.
So it`s a difficult situation, one that many people who I talk to, many diplomats, say there won`t be a ceasefire until there is some kind of political idea of where to go next.
GRACE: Christiane Amanpour, joining us from Metula, Israel. Stay safe, friend.
Take a listen to what the government had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our end game is actually totally in accordance with the U.N. resolutions. That`s U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559, U.N. Security Council Resolution 1690, which call on the international community to bring about the disarmament of Hezbollah as a military organization and for the Lebanese army to deploy its forces in all of Lebanon. The whole idea that you have this independent military force, Hezbollah, a law unto itself, a proxy of Iran and Syria, as an independent force in Lebanon that can stir up this sort of trouble, as we`ve seen over the last week, that`s just not a sustainable situation. It`s not good for Lebanon. It`s not good for Israel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: What about the 25,000 Americans that were trapped in Lebanon? Let`s go out to CNN correspondent Chris Burns, joining us from Cyprus. Welcome, Chris. What`s the latest on the evacuations of Americans?
CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Nancy, we`re watching a string of buses taking Americans over to this processing center for customs, from the ship, the Orient Queen which has arrived just about an hour or so ago here in Larnaca. A string of eight ships arriving from various countries -- commissioned by various countries (INAUDIBLE) from Lebanon carrying some 7,000 people who decided to vote with their feet and give up on any kind of early solution or resolution to this conflict, deciding to come to safer ground. That`s where they (INAUDIBLE).
This is a very, very long process. These people are coming through here in bus after bus. One came in on an ambulance. She had her face -- a cut to her face, and it looked like maybe she was -- maybe she was hurt in one of the air strikes, but it`s not clear at this point. But these people are going on -- most of them, on to the airport. We`ve taken on charters (INAUDIBLE) U.S. ambassador to Cyprus was here to see some of them come off (INAUDIBLE) said that they believe that most of these people will be able to leave very soon on charters back to the States.
GRACE: Chris Burns is with us from Cyprus. How many Americans do you believe have evacuated so far, and how many are lined up to leave?
BURNS: Well, we`re looking at about (INAUDIBLE) to a thousand off of this ship, a few hundred over the past few days, but thousands more in the next few days. What we`re hearing from officials, it could be anywhere from 5,000, 6,000, 7,000 people, Americans wanting to get out of Lebanon. There are altogether some 25,000 residents, Americans there, plus a few thousand people on vacation.
So it doesn`t look like everybody wants to leave, but it is a very high number, and that`s what it`s going to take, not only these cruise ships like this one, but also U.S. military ships, naval ships. Eight of them here in the area, and they will also be helping in the effort, along with several helicopter that are carrying the most urgent cases, people who are injured or people who are ill or elderly or some children. They`ve been using those to take them out at a faster rate because it only takes about a half hour to fly here. Boat takes about five, six hours.
GRACE: Joining us from Cyprus, Chris Burns, CNN correspondent. Chris, we`re trying to imagine what the evacuation is like for our fellow Americans. What is it like? What is each leg of the evacuation? How do - - what`s the procedure?
BURNS: Well, what we`ve heard on the Lebanese side is that for some, it`s been rather frantic. We were talking to some students who left from American University. They`d just gone through the classes, and early afternoon, they got the call that they had to leave in 10 minutes. They had to pack whatever they could and leave most of what they had behind just to jump on a Norwegian chartered ship that arrived yesterday.
Others, it`s a bit more orderly, and but it`s also the question whether they get on that certain -- that certain boat or whether they have to wait until the next day. Of course, there is some bitterness -- still bitterness by some Americans over there that they`re not being able to leave as quickly as they can, that it is taking a while to do that.
So they get on these ships or on these helicopters and come over here to Cyprus. They are brought through the customs building here and then placed on buses to take them to the airport.
Now, some of them can`t take planes right away. They do have to get hotel rooms. These hotels are filling up here in the middle of the summer season. So there is talk, if they do run out of hotels, that there might have to be sort of large halls set aside for people to be able to sleep overnight or for a couple of days until there is a flight out. So that is the process right now.
GRACE: Chris, to whom do the ships belong? I heard you say a Norwegian. You mentioned the Orient Queen. They`re not necessarily American liners.
BURNS: No, they`re not. The Orient Queen is a Greek ship, I believe, either a Greek or Greek Cypriot ship.
BURNS: And the other one that has commissioned is actually a Saudi- owned ship, a Panamanian-flagged ship, that has been -- that carries as many as 1,400 people. And that has just been commissioned. There could be a third that they`re looking for, but those are the two ships that are being used right now.
GRACE: How long will it take the Americans to get home?
BURNS: Well, the ones that we`ve talked to said that they -- they`re actually -- some of them are jumping on planes this evening or tomorrow morning, so they should be back Stateside -- it`s about, I`d say, a 10-hour flight to get back to -- or an 8-hour flight back to the States. So some of them, if they`re lucky, they can get on a plane and they can get back very quickly. Though it`s a question, too, of getting a ticket to -- buying a ticket to get on the plane, and some of them have told us it`s costing thousands of dollars to buy these tickets because you have to buy them at the last minute.
So it does -- there has been that debate over the cost, and that the U.S. evacuation from Lebanon over here is -- the government decided it is going to be cost-free for the evacuees, but from here on out, they`re on their own. They do have to buy their own plane tickets, and that could run in to some money.
GRACE: To CNN correspondent Bill Schneider. It doesn`t seem quite right that the prices are so terribly high for Americans trying to get out of a war zone.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: That`s right. There was a law passed, a change of law in 2003, that said -- it was passed by Congress. It said that Americans, if they`re evacuated from natural disasters or civil wars or global hotspots, they have to pay the cost of a commercial air ticket plus one dollar.
Now, this outraged a lot of people, you included. It got through the Congress. There were a lot of protests from Democrats and Republicans. The administration agreed to waive the requirement that they repay that money. But once they`re in Cyprus and out of the immediate war zone, they, of course, have to pay the way home, which could involve a lot of money for these people. So it still could be very costly for them. But the cost that is borne by the government of evacuating them out of Lebanon, the government is going to assume because the administration, under pressure, has agreed to waive that fee.
GRACE: Yes, they got pressure, all right. It`s just unheard of that Americans being rescued have to pay thousands of dollars to the government, especially when you watch Congress and one boondoggle after the next, just throwing our money straight out the windows of Congress~!
Bill Schneider is with us from Washington. Chris Burns joining us from Cyprus. Shortly, we`ll go to Josh Mitnik (ph) in Haifa.
But very quickly, let`s go to "Trial Tracking." President Bush using his first (INAUDIBLE) in the White House against a bill that would allow stem cell research. This is just one day after the Senate eased its limits on federal funding for stem cell research from embryos.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This bill would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others. It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect, so I vetoed it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To my war-ravaged country -- you are all aware that seven continuous days of an increasing Israeli onslaught on Lebanon have resulted in an immeasurable loss. The toll in terms of human life has reached tragic proportions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Seeing the images of war overseas, it leads us to wonder what is the threat on America, if any. I want to go straight out to Charlie Hurt with "The Washington Times." The Hezbollah -- we`re very familiar, unfortunately, that there are sleeper cells of al Qaeda here in America. But what about Hezbollah?
CHARLIE HURT, "WASHINGTON TIMES": Well, certainly, the last couple of days and then again tomorrow, Congress is issuing resolutions siding 100 percent with Israel on this issue. Obviously, they view Hezbollah and those related factions as being, you know, complete enemies to the U.S.
And it`s kind of amazing, Nancy, because when you -- you know, in this town as you know, you can`t get Democrats and Republicans to agree on pretty much anything. And yet the resolutions that they have passed in support of Israel have been very hard-liner against Hezbollah, very hard- liner against other Arab countries, and 100 percent in support of Israel.
GRACE: Joining us now, Steve Emerson, author of "American Jihad." Steve, thank you for being with us. Surprisingly, in both Michigan and North Carolina, smuggling rings were broken up that were funding Hezbollah. Yes, that`s right, right here on our soil!
STEVE EMERSON, AUTHOR, "AMERICAN JIHAD": Nancy, they`ve been doing this for years. In fact, these cases go back -- there are about a dozen cases involving procurement of weapons, money smuggling, drug trafficking and also material support, including direct fund-raising for Hezbollah terrorism, on American soil. In Charlotte, North Carolina, a major case that spun another case in Detroit.
There are active Hezbollah organizational members in Los Angeles, San Diego, New York, Potomac, Maryland. And they all are involved, Nancy, in some degree or another, in fostering the support of Hezbollah, although they have not yet undertaken any act of violence here in the United States.
GRACE: Let`s go out to the lines. Doug in Vermont. Hi, Doug.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, Nancy. My question is, the news has alluded to some Israeli bombing of Lebanese army sites. Is there a non-Hezbollah army? And if so, how big are they and what can they do?
GRACE: Is there a non-Hezbollah army? How big are they and what can they do? To Chris Burns, CNN correspondent joining us in Cyprus. Did you hear the question?
BURNS: Non-Hezbollah army (INAUDIBLE) not that I know of. That`s something sort of beyond my knowledge.
GRACE: I heard the same reports today. What about it, Bill Schneider? Are you familiar with that?
SCHNEIDER: There is a Lebanese army. The Israelis expect the Lebanese army to take over the patrolling of southern Lebanon. So if that`s what the caller is referring to, yes, there is an army in Lebanon.
And what`s a little puzzling about the entire mission of Israel in this attack is they`re holding the Lebanese responsible, they`re bombing a lot of sites in Lebanon, but they expect, in the end, the Lebanese army to take over the patrolling of southern Lebanon and to drive Hezbollah out. Well, you know, if they`re attacking the Lebanese army, that`s going to be kind of difficult.
GRACE: Back to you, Steve Emerson, author of "American Jihad." What is the possibility of sleeper cells of Hezbollah here in America?
EMERSON: Well, Nancy, they have a capability of carrying out attacks in dozens of countries, including the United States. Now, when you ask the question, What is the potential, that really lies on whether, in fact, there are going to be external directions from Teheran or from Hezbollah other cells, and we don`t know the answer to that question, unfortunately.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel a connection to this country, and half of my family is still there. And half of them that are still there are American citizens, so they`ll eventually get out. But they still have to do the same thing we did, and it`s only getting worse day by day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: We got a hold of some very surprising photos today, photos of Americans and the conditions they are enduring on their way out of Lebanon. There you go. Now, hold on, Rosie (ph). I didn`t ask for the cruise line photos. Show me the evacuation photos. No, no, those people are on a luxury cruise liner, having fun. Are those mimosas? Yes, I think they are.
Chris Burns, CNN correspondent joining us from Cyprus. I don`t know if you can see a monitor, but this is some pretty lux digs that the Americans are coming home on. Did you see that? I want to go there!
BURNS: I don`t see them myself, but yes, some of these boats are very nice, actually. But others are not. In fact, there was one, that Norwegian chartered one, that came over yesterday with some American University students who were referred to by some (INAUDIBLE) as being a floating refugee camp, full of flies and -- and not at all a luxury cruise liner. So...
GRACE: Chris Burns...
GRACE: I know you are absolutely correct. This was the exception to the rule, our fellow Americans being boarded up on cruise ships, as Chris is describing, very disturbing conditions. But at least they`re being brought out of a war zone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FOUAD SINIORA, PRIME MINISTER OF LEBANON (through translator): We Lebanese want life. We have chosen life. We`ll reject death. We have survived wars and destruction, and we will do that again. And I hope that you will not leave us alone at this time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Before September 11, Hezbollah was responsible for more American deaths than any other terrorist organization. The most fatal was in 1983, the deadliest strike on Beirut, 241 U.S. servicemen killed by Hezbollah.
I want to go now out to Josh Mitnick. He`s a reporter with the "Christian Science Monitor." Josh, thank you for being with us, reporting from Haifa, Israel. Tell me what the day has been like in Haifa.
JOSH MITNICK, "CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR": Well, Haifa continues to be sort of a ghost town, people staying inside and in shelters, standing in safe rooms, not going to work. Air sirens going off throughout the day.
GRACE: Josh, have you been in the shelters? What are they like?
MITNICK: The shelters, some have been some of them have been cleaned up and are actually -- have air conditioning. Some have Internet access. Others, people have told me, can be like saunas because of the heat here in the middle of the summer.
GRACE: Josh Mitnick with us, with the "Christian Science Monitor." He`s reporting from Haifa, Israel. Josh, tell me, are the citizens there supportive of this action?
MITNICK: A poll published in the leading Israeli daily today said that 81 percent of Israelis still support this war, even though many of them have to sit in -- are facing rocket attacks, so that bodes very well for the government at this stage.
GRACE: To Daniel Sieberg, CNN technology correspondent, it`s amazing to me that citizens there are actually getting home video of these attacks.
DANIEL SIEBERG, CNN TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: That`s right. In fact, it`s increasingly being used in this conflict. We need to preface what we`re going to show you by saying that CNN can`t verity the authenticity or the origin of any of the video we`re going to show you.
But sites like YouTube, which is where anybody can post video from around the world and share it with anybody else, is getting a lot of traffic and a lot of video. The first one you`re seeing on the screen here is apparently from a 14-year-old in Israel who`s using his camera to show you what`s it like to run outside to his shelter.
He says, "Look what we have to do to get to our shelter." You can hear the air raid sirens in the background. It`s some pretty compelling stuff, and it really speaks to how the average, everyday person is able to use the Internet, whether it`s through video on sites like YouTube, or blogs and to tell their story, Nancy.
GRACE: Are we hearing from Americans on the blogs that are there in Lebanon?
SIEBERG: There are some sites that are Americans that are commenting on what`s happening. There are a lot that are on both sides, in a sense, so you have some people, perhaps, who are in Beirut, somebody who might be in Haifa. You`re getting a real sense of the international community commenting on all of this.
The next video actually that you`re seeing right there, this is taken apparently in Haifa. Again, you can hear the air raid siren in the background. The video quality not that great. That`s because the person who posted this video says they used a cell phone camera.
This also speaks to how easy it is to capture this experience and to post it on the Internet. It`s very easy to share these days, so that speaks to how easy it is and the nature of it just being everywhere in a sense.
GRACE: Daniel, one thing I don`t understand is how they`re managing to get online in a war zone.
SIEBERG: Well, they certainly run into some trouble when there are bombs going off. And, you know, some of the bloggers that I`ve actually talked to online said they have to contend with explosions in the area, with the Internet going offline.
In one case, a gentleman used his laptop and a wireless Internet access to stay on, but he would get kicked off every so often. It`s tough. And, you know, in this case, the video you`re seeing right now, this is actually an explosion that happened in the background in Beirut. You get the explosion shock wave that comes towards you shortly after.
And it`s some pretty amazing and compelling video that people are capturing on their own and providing this voice. You know, a lot of them say that they prefer to circumvent traditional media and provide this alternative to what`s out there. So, you know, the blogs have been around for a while, the Internet, but video is certainly adding a unique flavor to this particular conflict.
GRACE: Back to Steve Emerson, author of "American Jihad." Steve, it is amazing to me that Hezbollah is actually raising money here on American soil.
EMERSON: Well, you know, that`s the freedoms that we have in this country allow them to do a lot of things. Now, when the U.S. government can actually prove that they`re raising money for Hezbollah, they will indict as they have done in various cases.
But often enough, Nancy, it`s very difficult to prove that they`re actually raising money without disclosing sensitive methods of intelligence collection. But I would say to you that they have raised tens of millions of dollars from the haven of the United States over the course of the last dozen years.
GRACE: And how influential is Hezbollah there in Lebanon?
EMERSON: Well, Hezbollah basically is the de facto power player in Lebanon. It`s a state within a state, but it really calls the shots. The Lebanese army is deferential.
One of the reasons why the Israelis actually went after some of the targets of the Lebanese army was that they suspected there was collusion between the Lebanese army and Hezbollah. But on the other hand, Hezbollah really does call the shots, and in a sense Hezbollah, directed by Syria and Iran, they`re calling most of the shots in Lebanon.
GRACE: And, Steve Emerson, there are various sects, I guess, would be the branches of Hezbollah. What is a threat to America from any of them?
EMERSON: Well, there`s definitely a greater threat overseas to American targets. Hezbollah last attacked an American target in 1996 in the Khobar bombings in Saudi Arabia. That was Saudi Hezbollah, and there are various branches throughout the Middle East and Persian Gulf.
The U.S. branches of Hezbollah are more antonymous, and they`ve been more directed for the second tier of fundraising, procurement of weapons, training, recruitment. We don`t think that there`s any active attempt right now to plot some type of attack on the United States itself, but certainly, if they were activated, Nancy, they could cause a lot of damage.
GRACE: Well, we know they`re right here on American soil already. They`re raising money, like the Girl Scouts going door to door selling cookies. We already have them convicted in multiple states, Michigan, North Carolina, with cigarette scams, raising millions of dollars here on American soil, Hezbollah, here, not in Lebanon, not in Israel, not far away, but here.
So we know that they are here. And if they`re willing to twist the law the way they have to get illegal funds, what will they do next?
To Bill Schneider, CNN correspondent, back to the Americans being rescued. Why did our government reverse itself so quickly on forcing Americans to pay thousands of dollars, $5,000 sometimes, to come home?
SCHNEIDER: A combination of common sense and political pressure. They knew that the idea of charging Americans for being rescued was an outrage. You expressed it; members of Congress expressed it.
It was widely expressed, and the administration looked ridiculous, even though that was the law passed by Congress. It was indefensible, and they knew that they could not sustain that position, and they quickly reversed themselves, because they looked ridiculous.
GRACE: At this juncture, I`m asking again, Bill -- and I`m going to pose this to Charlie Hurt in a moment -- if the Israeli soldiers were returned, would this end or has this gotten so much bigger now?
SCHNEIDER: It has been bigger. I think the Israeli solders` return would be the beginning of the end, but the Israelis also insist that they want to push Hezbollah out of the border area of southern Lebanon so that they can no longer pose a continuing threat, as they have for many years by sending rockets over the border and endangering Israelis. They insist that that is now another equally important war goal besides the release of the hostages.
GRACE: Charlie Hurt is with us. He`s the Capitol Hill bureau chief of the "Washington Times." Charlie, what it take to end this? And ultimately, what threat is there to America`s homeland?
HURT: It`s hard to say what will be required to end it, but certainly I think that the Bush administration sees this as somewhat of an opportunity to advance other causes, in terms of trying to bring a close to what they call the war on terror.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK NORTON, FATHER OF DESTINY NORTON: I just want her found.
ANNOUNCER: Rick Norton is devastated.
RICK NORTON: I just want her back.
ANNOUNCER: In the hours after his 5-year-old daughter disappeared, he has been wandering the streets searching for her.
RACHAEL NORTON, MOTHER OF DESTINY NORTON: We came out, started looking for her. And since she didn`t respond like she usually does, I called the cops.
ANNOUNCER: One of the best bloodhound teams in the Mountain West is on the job, but tonight no luck yet. For Destiny`s extended family, they still have hope, 16 hours into the search.
RICK NORTON: I hope there is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Tonight, we are looking for a 5-year-old little girl missing from her own front yard in Salt Lake City. Take a look at Destiny Norton. She`s just 5 years old.
Let`s go to KTVX reporter Heidi Hatch. Bring us up to date, Heidi.
HEIDI HATCH, KTVX REPORTER: Well, we are now 72 hours into this search. And of course, the statistics we all know get worse and worse in every hour. Police at this point say they really don`t have any of the suspects, they don`t have any really great leads to go on right now, so they need people to call in. And they`re just hoping for that one tip that will send them in the right direction. They don`t have it yet, though.
GRACE: Joining us now, special guest, this little girl`s mom and grandmother are with us. Let`s go out to Destiny`s mom, Mom Rachael Norton.
Ms. Norton, thank you for being with us. What happened the night Destiny went missing?
RACHAEL NORTON, MOTHER OF DESTINY NORTON: Nothing out of the ordinary. We gave her a bath, and we were cooking dinner. And she asked her dad if she could go outside for a second because dinner was almost done, and he said yes. And five minutes later, he went out to inform her dinner was done, and then we could not find her anymore.
GRACE: You`re taking a look at video of 5-year-old Destiny. She`s now been missing 72 hours. What did you do when you realized she wasn`t in the front yard?
R. NORTON: We freaked out. We started walking up and down the streets calling her name. We started searching the yard. And after about 10 minutes of doing that, and we could not find her, then I called the police, because it`s not normal for her to ever leave the yard.
GRACE: Here`s a shot of where Destiny went missing.
Have you been questioned by police? I understand you took and passed a polygraph.
R. NORTON: Yes, we were -- I was questioned on Tuesday and did a polygraph on Tuesday. And then Rick, Destiny`s father, did his yesterday. And we went back in again today to answer just some more standard questions.
GRACE: Now, police have also done a search of their home. What was removed?
R. NORTON: Well, we allowed her to finger paint in her bedroom, so there were some complete hand prints on the wall of her room, so they took a chunk of the drywall out that had her handprints on it. And there was some other pictures that we had painted together on the wall that they thought might have fingerprints on it, so they took those, too, and then just an article of clothing.
GRACE: Is that for the tracker dogs?
R. NORTON: Yes. That was for the tracker dogs to see if they could get any scent.
GRACE: To Rachael`s maternal grandmother -- excuse me, to Destiny`s maternal grandmother, Leslie Borchardt. Ms. Borchardt, thank you for being with us. What can you tell us about Destiny?
LESLIE BORCHARDT, GRANDMOTHER OF DESTINY NORTON: Oh, she`s a beautiful child. She`s very sweet, articulate, bright, brilliant, gorgeous, sweetest little girl you`ll ever see.
GRACE: Heidi Hatch with KTVX is with us. Heidi, I understand that police questioned a man once accused of crimes against children, a man that had also been acquitted.
HATCH: They did. They called him. And the first day they had him there for questioning probably for about 10 hours. He was the best lead they had at that point. He`d been seen in the neighborhood. And once they realized that he had been in for court at some other time for a possible sexual offense, they really wanted to look at him more. But it turned out, as the day went on, they just really didn`t feel like they had anything there. He was sent back home, and now they`re kind of back to square one again.
GRACE: Why was he even questioned to start with? What did he have to do with anything?
HATCH: I believe that he had been seen in the neighborhood around the same time. You might be able to ask her mother a little bit more about this, but I understand that he was in the neighborhood the evening she disappeared. Family and neighbors had seen the car and knew who he was, so they sent out the Amber Alert originally with his description, his car. And he actually turned himself into police after seeing that on TV himself, went in there and was questioned.
GRACE: The man, 51-year-old, Sevkija Ferhatovic, has been cleared at this point.
To Ray Giudice, defense attorney, where should police go now?
RAY GIUDICE, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Nancy, they`ve done everything they should do textbook-wise. They`ve interviewed the inner circle, the family, the next of kin. I`m amazed that there`s 103 registered sex offenders in the general area of where this young girl lived, and they`ve apparently interviewed all 103. I`m not saying they`ve cleared them, but they have interviewed them.
They`ve got to continue with this physical ground search of probably a couple-mile radius in case she`s lost or has fallen into a water hole or something like that. But I`ll tell you, after 72 hours -- and I hate to be a pessimist on this -- but the fact that -- there`s probably some nefarious activity here, and she`s not lost.
GRACE: To Jim Porfido, defense attorney, why is it, Jim, that the police always start with the inner circle, mother, father, in adult cases, boyfriend, husband, and then go out from there?
JIM PORFIDO, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, Nancy, the obvious thing is to eliminate anyone that has any connection. They have to gather information initially, and that`s part of the job of the investigation, to rule out any suspects.
And I think that perhaps the story that was given by the mom may have raised a question in their mind. They have to do that, unfortunately. It`s part of the job; it`s part of the investigation, that they have to rule out anyone that`s close in the family before they start to look at other suspects. The problem is that time is wasting in these cases.
GRACE: It certainly is, 72 hours now passed. To Andrea Macari, instructor of psychology, Dr. Macari, this is in her own front yard. That`s incredibly brazen. What does that tell us about the kidnapper?
ANDREA MACARI, INSTRUCTOR OF PSYCHOLOGY: Well, I think you said it all. The fact that he`s so courageous, so brazen. I do want to tell the parents that it`s important to remember to be proactive, that the key is not to ask "what ifs" but to answer "what now?" In other words, what now can I do to bring my baby home?
GRACE: I want to go back to the mom, Rachael Norton is with us. Rachael, at first people thought there had been a discrepancy, an inconsistency in your explanation as to what happened to Destiny, that there had been an argument of some sort in the home and that she had gone outside to cool off, which is very unusual for a 5-year-old little girl. But from what I`m hearing, your explanation covers all of that. Explain what happened that evening.
R. NORTON: Well, the argument actually was not an argument. All it was, was that we have -- I have another daughter who will be one in a couple of days, and both of them wanted to sit on my lap. And so they were basically fighting over who was sitting on Mommy`s lap.
I was not fighting or arguing, nothing with my daughter at that time period, so -- and I heard the same thing that supposedly gotten in an argument and she ran out, and that just did not happen like that.
GRACE: Have police taken samples for DNA of Destiny, such as her hair?
R. NORTON: Yes, because I happened to have -- before I gave her the bath that night, we had trimmed the underneath of her hair, so I had fresh hair in the bathroom so -- from when it happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
R. NORTON: We were getting ready for bed, and I just gave her a bath. She put on one of my shirts. We came out and started looking for her. And since she didn`t respond like she usually does, I called the cops.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Destiny Norton, just 5 years old, still missing now, 72 hours. Straight out to Heidi Hatch, KTVX reporter, is there a reward?
HATCH: There is a reward. It is $15,000. And some people in the community have come up with that money, and any money is helpful at this point, but what they really need now is feet on the ground. They need people looking.
GRACE: Heidi, tell me how extensive the search is.
HATCH: The search is going on right now. I believe they`ve had about 300 people so far today, which is fantastic when you think about that many people giving up their days to come in. But when you look in retrospect back to 2002, when we were searching for Elizabeth Smart, there were literally thousands of people came out.
What`s making the difference right now? I really don`t know. And I just hope that they can get more people out there. I know that last time they had the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. They also had the backing of the Loyola Recovery Center (ph).
And when you have people who have been organized, who have done it before, it works a lot better. The people who are down there right now are putting in their best efforts and working as hard as they can, but there`s only so much you can do when you haven`t done this before. You don`t know exactly what to do and how many people you need and where to send them out, so doing their best, but certainly need more people and more people who really know what they`re doing.
GRACE: Very quickly to Destiny`s mom Rachael Norton, what do you think happened to your girl?
R. NORTON: I really don`t know. I have a gut feeling that -- I know she did not run off. So, unfortunately, I just -- my feeling is somebody probably snagged her.
GRACE: If you could speak to her now, what would you say?
R. NORTON: That I love her, and I miss her, and I want her to come home.
GRACE: You are seeing video of Destiny Norton. She is 5 years old. The tip line: 801-799-INFO. Please help us find this little girl. Thank you to Destiny`s mother and grandmother.
Tonight, we remember Army Private Michael Bouthot, just 19, killed, Iraq. From Fall River, Massachusetts, he leaves behind parents and a sister. He was in a culinary arts program. He loved to sing and play drums, two months shy of his 20th birthday. Michael Bouthot, American hero.
Thank you for being with us tonight, and thank you to all our guests. Nancy Grace signing off. See you tomorrow night, 8:00 sharp Eastern. Good night, friend.