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CNN Live Event/Special

Special Report: America Strikes Back

Aired December 15, 2001 - 22:00   ET


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Jeanne Meserve in Washington. We welcome viewers from around the world with SPECIAL REPORT: AMERICA STRIKES BACK.

Here are some of the latest developments we're following tonight. A U.S. official tells CNN the military is "reasonably certain Osama bin Laden's voice has been heard on al Qaeda radio transmissions in Tora Bora." That backs up earlier suspicions that he is in the area.

U.S. military commanders say the ground and air assault on Tora Bora is making progress. General Tommy Franks says al Qaeda forces are now contained in two valleys, with access to food, water and ammunition cut off. He also says Pakistani forces have blocked the escape route into that country.

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan is coming to an end. Based on the lunar cycle, Islamic clerics determined Saturday is the last day of Ramadan and the three-day feat of Eid al-Fitr begins Sunday. Many Muslims had expressed concern about continuing the U.S. military campaign during Ramadan.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is expected to make a televised speech Sunday. Witnesses tell CNN his Palestinian Authority closed more than a dozen Hamas and Islamic Jihad offices late Saturday. That follows days of airstrikes and ground incursions in Gaza and the West Bank by Israeli troops.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration has recalled its envoy to the Middle East. Retired Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni, seated on the sofa on the right, was dispatched last month, to try to broker a cease-fire between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

And the British newspaper "The Observer" reports that it has uncovered plans for a terror attack on London. The paper says the plans were found in an al Qaeda training camp in Kandahar, that they suggest the intended target was London's financial district.

And now the latest on the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Tonight, U.S. military forces suspect more strongly than ever that he is somewhere in the Tora Bora region. That suspicion is being backed up by radio transmissions that U.S. officials say they're reasonably certain are coming from bin Laden himself.

CNN's Nic Robertson joins us live from Tora Bora with more -- Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jeanne, it's Sunday morning here. It has been daylight for about an hour. And already this morning, there have been detonations in the mountains behind me. Several bombing runs, we've been able to see B-52s overhead.

And from our location here, we have also been able to intercept al Qaeda radio messages. We've heard them after bombing, calling out to colleagues to see if they're OK. And the news now coming from U.S. officials that Osama bin Laden's voice has not only been picked up they believe coming from the mountains on these short-range battlefield radio systems, but also they've done voice analysis on it. And they do now firmly believe that that is the voice of Osama bin Laden.

The only fly in the ointment, if you will, could be that this could be a tape recording of Osama bin Laden. And it could also be a radio transmission coming into this region and being retransmitted here, from somewhere else.

But these are very, very outside possibilities. And all the indications are, U.S. officials are telling us, is that Osama bin Laden is with the al Qaeda forces in the mountains behind us.

Through the night, there was extensive bombing. We saw multiple bomb bursts on the ridges. The bombs now are falling just behind the ridgeline from us, perhaps indicating that the al Qaeda forces are being pushed south of here. That's toward the border with Pakistan.

Also on the ground, mujahideen forces have been moving through the mountains, again, pressuring the al Qaeda forces on the ground. However, the commanders here have talked about the surrender of al Qaeda forces, but we have seen none of that so far.


(voice-over): A single bomb breaks the mountain's silence. Above the impact, smoke and dust climb skyward. On the ground below, no one observing from this distance can know what's happening.

In the air, more bombers circle, awaiting targets. Higher still, according to the Pentagon, U-2 spy planes scour the rugged mountain terrain for clues. Was the target hit? And are they one step closer to capturing Osama bin Laden?

During the day, lulls in bombing often lapsed into lengthy gaps between detonations. Despite the relative quiet, local commanders barred the international media from the frontlines. Once beyond the tightly controlled checkpoint, however, mujahideen fighters could be found gathering firewood from crater-ridden bomb sites, a far cry from the columns that al Qaeda fighters, local commanders have said could emerge from the mountains before sunset.

The mujahideen fighters feel safe here, the frontline area until recently, an indication al Qaeda forces are being pushed back. (on camera): Without accurate information from the bomb blasts at mountain tops and cave systems, it is impossible to tell how the al Qaeda fighters are faring. What is clear, is the territory they can call their own is gradually being eroded.

(voice-over): Intercepted al Qaeda walkie-talkie transmissions indicate a group under immense pressure, preoccupied with their own survival. Hints, too of casualties and shortages of ammunition.

And then the lull ends. And so the cycle continues, squeezing ever harder, the unseen fighters below.


ROBERTSON: Indeed the cycle really is continuing today. As I said earlier, there are -- there have been explosions in the mountains behind us, just on the rear of the ridge line right behind me -- Jeanne.

MESERVE: Nic, you mentioned voice analysis having been done on recordings of those radio transmissions that they believe are from Osama bin Laden. How did that process take place? Did they have the capability of doing that sort of voice analysis right there on the ground?

ROBERTSON: There are U.S. special forces here on the ground. We know. We've seen them. We've been by local commanders they're in position. They will be within radio range of the al Qaeda forces on the ground. And also, there are electronic eavesdropping devices flying in the sky and various of the surveillance planes. We know the U-2 has been up there, as well as other surveillance planes over flying this area.

So it's unlikely that the sophisticated type of equipment that would be used to do that voice signature analysis would be here on the ground. Certainly, the capability exists if the information, the voices are recorded here on the ground to transmit it to, or pass that information out of the region. And also, the aerial surveillance picking up those signals, too, will likely be able to pass on the transmissions for analysis somewhere else.

But it does appear to be perhaps the first conclusive indication that Osama bin Laden really is with those al Qaeda forces here.

The hint, of course, that he was there all along has been in the fact that there's been such an intensive campaign here to drive out the al Qaeda forces for over two weeks, a campaign augmented by the mujahideen forces on the ground. It really has been, and still is, a very, very intense effort. And it is beginning to focus more and more and more on just one small area of the mountains -- Jeanne.

MESERVE: Nic Robertson near Tora Bora. Thanks, so much.

And for some insight into the hunt for bin Laden and analysis of the military operation, we're joined by retired Army Major General (sic) Jean Hanratty, a former Ranger and special forces officer. He's at the CNN Center in Atlanta.

Thanks a lot for joining us.

MAJ. JEAN HANRATTY (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Thank you, Jeanne.

MESERVE: You were in special forces yourself. Explain to us what the U.S. special forces on the ground at Tora Bora are likely doing?

HANRATTY: Well, first of all, I'd like to correct my rank. I'd have a lot of back pay coming if I were a retired Major General. I was a Major.

MESERVE: I'm sorry. I think that was my mistake. I saw "Jean" and read "General." I'm sorry.

HANRATTY: Wish that it could have been. Well, those guys that are on the ground there right now, you can rest assured, are very, very busy. One of the things that they principally want to do is keep their eyes on the target. They keep shrinking the perimeter around the al Qaeda. And I think they're doing a very good job of it. And there's absolutely no place to run and no place for them to hide now.

MESERVE: Well, exactly, how did they do that? How do they shrink that perimeter you're talking about?

HANRATTY: Well, I think that's -- they've made very, very adequate use of the air assets and bombing these guys. And 'twixt that bombing and the pressure from the Eastern Alliance, they just keep pushing these guys further and further along the ridge lines, and further and further south. Their backs against the wall right now.

They know principally where a lot of cave entrances are. They've watched him. They've hit them. And they just, slowly, but surely, just started demolishing them.

MESERVE: Do you think they started going into those caves? And what did they do when they're in there?

HANRATTY: Well, of course, they're going to go into them. There's a lot to be learned. And there's a lot of things that have been left behind, that'll be picked up, that our forces will use and send on back for analysis, for further assessment of just what the opposing force is up to at this present time.

MESERVE: What sorts of things are they likely to find in there, that could be useful from an intelligence point of view?

HANRATTY: Well, I think some of the things that you really like to get your hands on, you know, are maps, which might indicate some other current disposition. I'm sure that they might have outlines of other plans and names and phone numbers of people that are a part of this network from throughout the world. So when it's done here, it's not done elsewhere.

MESERVE: The terrain, the weather, are these special forces ready to deal with that?

HANRATTY: Quite so, Jeanne. They trained for this in all different types of terrain and all different types of climates year- round. I don't think that there at any disadvantage whatsoever in dealing with that at the present time.

MESERVE: Do you think they're going to find Osama bin Laden?

HANRATTY: I really do. And I think he's right there. And I think they've got the stranglehold on him. I've thought that all along. And I think between what they're finding out with the signal intelligence and picking up some of his transmissions, and they're probably voice fingerprinting him.

And what they're finding out from human intelligence, with the human sightings of him that's being passed around, that they've got a pretty good fix on it. I doubt very seriously that they would've been wasting time with all the assets they've got deployed in the Tora Bora area, if they didn't think that he was there.

MESERVE: OK, and I'm going to get it right this time. Thank you, retired Army Major Jean Hanratty. Thanks so much.

HANRATTY: You're very welcome.

MESERVE: And southwest of Tora Bora, U.S. Marines are busy setting up shop at the International Airport in Kandahar. It's a big improvement over there, based southwest of the city, Camp Rhino. And there are other plans for this newest U.S. outpost, as CNN's Mike Chinoy reports.


MIKE CHINOY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As Marines consolidate their hold over Kandahar Airport, they may soon have a new role, prison guards. A detention center is being built at the airport. Its purpose, to hold up to 300 al Qaeda fighters if they should surrender or be captured at Tora Bora.

It's here that U.S. interrogators hope to question any detainees, seeking to learn more about the inner workings of Osama bin Laden's terror network. So far, the Marines' most prominent prisoner has been John Walker, the American fighting for the Taliban. Until Friday, he was held here at Camp Rhino south of Kandahar, possibly in this container.

Those who saw him regularly said he was confined to a stretcher, recovering from a gunshot wound and responded to questions with one- syllable answers. Now he's been airlifted to the USS Peleliu in the Arabian Gulf. So far, we're told, he hasn't shaved the beard he grew to demonstrate his Islamic faith and his support for the Taliban.

Meanwhile, operations at this remote base, where the Marines first deployed in Afghanistan, are starting to wind down.

(on camera): Having served its purpose, Marine officers say it's simply too much of a logistical nightmare to continue to maintain Camp Rhino.

(voice-over); The camp sits in the middle of the desert. The Marines have been forced to fly in 3,000 gallons of water a day. Not to drink, but just to keep the dust down so that the air strip remains operational. Even so, helicopters, transport planes and other sensitive equipment have been stretched to the limit, as have the troops working in this forbidding terrain.

The plan is to move the whole operation to Kandahar Airport. Conditions there now remain grim, and there's concern about possible attacks from Taliban and al Qaeda fighters, who've melted into the surrounding local population.

But every night, the Marines are flying in reinforcements. And once the facility in Kandahar is secure, repaired and fully operational, officers say the Marines will hand over to the U.S. Army and then leave Afghanistan, their mission accomplished.

Mike Chinoy with the U.S. Marines in southern Afghanistan.


MESERVE: U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan will have less to worry about come tax time. President Bush has signed an executive order authorizing tax breaks and an automatic filing extension for forces on the ground and in the air over Afghanistan. The order also covers some support personnel.

Their boss, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, is working the diplomatic angle of the war on terror. He's on a tour of former Soviet republics, discussing their support for the U.S.-led effort. Today, he was in the Armenian capital, Yerevan. Rumsfeld is also reassuring the fledging countries that the U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Treaty will not spark a new arms race. Rumsfeld's next stop is Tbilisi, Georgia.

And this reminder, National Security adviser Condoleezza Rice will be one of Wolf Blitzer's guests tomorrow on "LATE EDITION." Tune in at noon Eastern time. That's 9:00 a.m. Pacific.

Major developments in the world's other major hot spot. Israeli tanks on the move. Yasser Arafat makes a move. And Washington moves a key player out. Plus, one journalist's journey through Afghanistan at the side of a key anti-Taliban commander. He shares his "Reporter's Notebook" just ahead.


MESERVE: Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat is expected to call for a halt to armed clashes in a speech to be televised tomorrow. That, as Israel temporarily took over Betanun (ph) in northern Gaza today. Israel later pulled out of the area, saying the incursion was part of its continuing crackdown on Palestinian terrorist activities.

Meanwhile, the U.S. envoy who has been trying to bring the two sides together is going back home.

CNN White House correspondent Kelly Wallace reports.


KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Summoned back to Washington, U.S. special envoy Anthony Zinni meets with Egypt's president Saturday, before leaving the region empty- handed. His departure, a setback for the Bush administration, especially since Zinni had pledged to remain in the Middle East until Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a cease-fire.

Sensitive to any notion the U.S. is throwing in the towel, the State Department issued a statement Saturday, saying "General Zinni will remain engaged and return to the region."

MARC GINSBERG, FMR. U.S. AMBASSADOR TO MOROCCO: I believe the United States has to seriously begin asking how do we get ourselves out of the hole we're in?

WALLACE: During Zinni's three week mission, the violence actually worsened. More than 100 Israelis and Palestinians have been killed, with Islamic militants claiming responsibility for a series of suicide bombings against Israelis and Israel's frightening Palestinian targets it says are involved in terrorism.

President Bush, for his part, continues to place the blame squarely on Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Chairman Arafat has said that he intends to fight terror, bring those to justice who are killing, murderers in the Middle East. And now it's just time to perform.

WALLACE: Absent so far have been calls from the United States for Israel to exercise restraint.

ANDREW CARD, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The Israeli government, I think legitimately, is trying to protect itself, but we've got to get to a level of violence that is far reduced from what it is today.

WALLACE: But Arab leaders say the time has come for the Bush administration to put pressure on Israel.

ADEL AL-JUBEIR, SAUDI ADVISER: The U.S. has been critical of the Palestinians. It should be critical on both sides. We believe that the two parties are having a difficult time restoring trust between each other.

WALLACE: U.S. officials say they are telling the Israelis there will be consequences to their actions, and that they will eventually to resume a dialogue with Mr. Arafat, whom Israelis call "irrelevant."

(on camera): So for now, the Bush administration's first major Middle East peace mission is in tatters. General Zinni and U.S. officials to meet in Washington this week, to figure out just what to do next.

Kelly Wallace, CNN, the White House.


MESERVE: And joining us now to talk about latest developments in the crisis in the Middle East is Marc Ginsberg, former ambassador to Morocco.

Thanks for coming in.

GINSBERG: Good evening, Jeanne.

MESERVE: Kelly Wallace posed the question, "What does the U.S. do next?" What's your answer?

GINSBERG: Well, General Zinni's maiden voyage hit a few icebergs, to say the least. This is a difficult introduction to the region. He has to come back here. And the administration has to reassess whether or not sending him back out there is going to result in any effective cease-fire.

First, we wanted a seven-day cease-fire. Then we wanted a 48- hour cease-fire. I think he'd be happy for a 10 minute cease-fire at this point. The administration, I believe, needs to compel the Palestinians to propose to their own people what are the terms of an agreement that is a compromise-able solution with the Israelis.

They've claimed they wanted to go back to the '67 borders as a precondition for settlement. That's not a starter for the Israelis. It's important for the Palestinians to have a plan that can compel the Israelis back to the table.

MESERVE: Well, are the Palestinians going to do that? Is there any hope of that?

GINSBERG: I think the Arab League and the European Union and the United States are going to have to band together, to try to make that happen. The green light that General -- that Prime Minister Sharon received from Washington, I think, is being taken a bit too far at this point.

MESERVE: Well, the Arab League is meeting next week, I believe. Are they likely to take any sorts of steps that you think they should?

GINSBERG: I have very little confidence that the Arab League, on its own volition, will do this. I think they will listen to the European Union and the United States, if we did precondition that meeting to have something more than just condemnation of the current situation and support for Chairman Arafat. He is under siege, but indeed, Hamas is going to have to be eradicated one way or the other for a resumption of talks.

MESERVE: Well, Chairman Arafat will make a speech tomorrow. We're told that he's going to say peace is the only option. He is now taking steps to close down the offices of Hamas and also of Islamic Jihad. Is this enough?

GINSBERG: It's not enough, but he is taking those steps. Its' very difficult, I believe, for the Israelis to claim, on the one hand, his irrelevant, and then that he's taken these steps. If he's going to continue with these steps, he needs the encouragement and support of those parties to accomplish the objective, the Arabs, the Europeans, and the Americans.

If, however, these are half-hearted and he is not prepared to take the steps, then the consequences are speaking for themselves. The Israelis, in effect, have gone into the territories and begin arresting those leaders, from us, that he himself, Arafat, has refused to arrest.

MESERVE: Now the Israelis, in taking those steps, in taking military action, making the arrests, are they making it more difficult for Yasser Arafat to do what you believe he has to do?

GINSBERG: Well, you can look at two ways, Jeanne. On the one hand, Arafat may have done everything possible, as far as he's concerned, short of starting a civil war among the Palestinians. And he's, matter of fact, signaling to the Israelis, "I won't do it. I can't do it. You're going to have to do it." That's the most optimistic way of looking at it.

The most pessimistic way of looking at it is that he is unprepared to do what is necessary. And it's going to take something from the exterior of his own authority, to cause him to change his mind and to, in effect, use the forces that he has on the ground to do this.

MESERVE: Now in the U.N. this morning, there was a resolution being considered that would've set up an international peacekeeping force to go in and protect the Palestinians in essence. The U.S. vetoed that. How does that play and impact on this situation?

GINSBERG: Well, I think one of the reasons why General Zinni got short-changed in Amman, as well as in Cairo on his way home, is because our Arab allies, King Abdullah and President Mubarak essentially said to General Zinni, look, we can't compel Arafat to do what we believe you want him to do. If you're going to veto a resolution that ultimately calls on the Israelis to restrain themselves, the Americans vetoed that resolution because it did not take into account, of course, the terrorism that was being by the Palestinians against the Israelis.

These resolutions, however, have no real bearing on the ultimate situation. Because right now, we're in a tit for tat situation. And everyone is going to have to take a step back here in Washington and ask themselves, "How do we recalibrate the situation on the ground, as well as the diplomatic initiative that needs to be taken?"

MESERVE: And we have to leave it there. Marc Ginsberg, thanks so much for joining us tonight.

GINSBERG: Thank you, Jeanne. MESERVE: And just ahead, dealing with alerts, warnings and cautions, how the government plans to decide how to let you know when there may be danger from terrorists. And why federal agents are cracking down on some charities as part of the war on terrorism. Stay with us.


MESERVE: Welcome back. Today is the deadline for states to report the status of their terrorism preparedness to federal officials. Dealing with terror threats, credible or otherwise, is a fact of life in a post-September 11 world.

CNN national correspondent Susan Candiotti has more on the government's efforts to decide when to sound the alarm and when to keep silent.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We've heard the major warnings.

JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: That there may be additional terrorist attacks.

CANDIOTTI: All three sounded alike.

TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY DIRECTOR: We thought it was appropriate to, again, put out a general alert.

CANDIOTTI: Looking for a better way to categorize warnings, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge is considering unveiling, as early as next month, a multi-level alert system, similar to the military's five stage DefCon, or defense conditions, describing threat levels.

(on camera): But how do authorities decide whether a threat rises to a level where everyone should be warned? In the past, officials say, if the source of a threat could not be judged reliable, the public rarely found out about it.

(voice-over): A former, senior Clinton administration official says that's how threats were handled during the Millennium celebrations.

JAMES STEINBERG, FMR. DEPY. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Even if we had a generalized sense that there was a greater danger or risk, if you couldn't pinpoint the time or the place of the threat, it wasn't very useful information to make public.

CANDIOTTI: Since September 11, some of the less credible threats were not public by the White House, but were publicized by state officials. In late October, California Governor Gray Davis announced an FBI warning about an uncorroborated threat to West coast bridges.

GRAY DAVIS, GOVERNOR, CALIFORNIA: This one was time specific and location specific. And I felt it was appropriate to tell people what I was doing to prepare for that threat.

CANDIOTTI: The source turned out to be unreliable.

This week, Texas Governor Rick Perry an unspecific, unsubstantiated FBI tip, threatening schools in that state. Two days later, the threat turned out to be not credible. Harry argued people had a right to know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We should know. We want to know about it and take care of our kids. That's the main thing, you know.

CANDIOTTI: There's always a worry about crying wolf. But nowadays, no one wants to take chances. Since September 11, authorities have more threats than ever to deal with.

HARRY BRANDON, FMR. FBI COUNTERINTELLIGENCE OFR.: It might be a phone call simply made between two people in another part of the world, but that may tie in with something else that's happening in another part of the world. And so, you put it together.

CANDIOTTI: Described as a complex dance, all too easy to stumble at times.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, Washington.


MESERVE: A second effort to get rid of anthrax in the Hart Senate building has been postponed again. It's now expected to begin between 5:00 and 6:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. The building was first fumigated two weeks ago, but tests showed some anthrax spores remain inside. The second fumigation has been on hold because of equipment problems. The building was shut in October, after an anthrax-laced letter was opened in the offices of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.

And coming up, the latest development in America's new war. Also ahead, Israeli tanks move into Palestinian territory, sparking more violence and more bloodshed, we'll have update of the crisis in the Middle East.


MESERVE: And let's catch you up to date now on the hour's latest developments. U.S. military officials have been listening in on some battlefield radio broadcasts in eastern Afghanistan. And one of the voices they've heard may have been Osama bin Laden's. U.S. officials say they're reasonably certain of that. Other intelligence sources they picked up the radio transmission yesterday. And after running tests, they are now confirming that voice was bin Laden's.

Around Tora Bora, it's another day of intense bombing by U.S. warplanes. For weeks now, the U.S. has focused a lot of firepower on that region in eastern Afghanistan, where al Qaeda fighters are trapped. In the last two days alone, the U.S. has dropped more than 400 bombs on the area. To the southwest in Kandahar, U.S. Marines try to get the city's airport ready for use. They are clearing unexploded ordnance off the runway. The 1,5000 U.S. Marines at nearby Camp Rhino are making plans to move to the airport after they get the all clear.

In the Middle East, another setback for efforts to get the peace process moving forward again. The United States has told Anthony Zinni to return to Washington. The State Department says that he will go back to the Middle East, but it has not said when.

It is another day of violence in that part of the world. Israeli forces are keeping up their strikes against Palestinian targets, and Palestinians are reacting with anger. Earlier today an Israeli helicopter fired missiles at a Palestinian police station in Gaza. There's no word of any casualties -- at least not yet. At least six Palestinian deaths are reported elsewhere in Gaza.

We get the latest from CNN's Matthew Chance in northern Gaza.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Israeli armor advancing through northern Gaza. Israel is taking its declared war on terrorism to the Palestinian streets.

Across the barricades, crowds of protesters, angry at the presence of Israeli tanks. Among them, armed Palestinian security forces firing automatic weapons. But the stone throwers are just children. They ran for cover together.

In the chaos, Palestinian ambulances moved to rescue the injured. Israeli gunfire pierces the air around them. We saw this boy shot in the head. He's still breathing, as he was hurried away.

Just hours after a U.S. veto blocked a United Nations resolution against the violence, Israel appears to be stepping up its military action. This operation, it says, is against terrorists, planning and executing attacks on Jewish settlements in Gaza. Few accept that here. (on camera): Whatever the Israelis say is their purpose here, many Palestinians are now convinced that war is being waged, not on terrorism, but on their people as a whole. And many Palestinians here at least in Gaza say they will fight back.

(voice-over): New barricades rolled out, as soon as the tanks withdrew enough. With tensions high, protesters told me how these incidents were only fueling support for the actions of militant groups.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are the source of the terrorism. Anyone who kills our children is responsible, because in retaliation, we will kill their children and their old men. As their blood has a value, ours has the same.

CHANCE: Through the black smoke of the burning tires, Israel's military might has once again been revealed. But its unclear whether this hard-line strategy will stem future violence, or fan the flames.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Gaza.


MESERVE: Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is expected to deliver a televised address tomorrow concerning the latest developments in the Middle East. CNN plans live coverage whenever the Palestinian leader makes his address.

Until recently, many Americans probably never heard of Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan. Now that certainly is not the case. Just ahead: a first-hand account of what the situation was like at Mazar-e Sharif while Afghan opposition forces were battling the Taliban.

And more on the U.S. government's expanded crackdown on charity groups suspected of having ties to terrorists.


MESERVE: The U.S.-led attacks near Tora Bora in eastern Afghanistan apparently are paying some dividends in the battle to weed out terrorists. A U.S. official says information gathered from abandoned al Qaeda positions has led to several arrests of suspected al Qaeda operatives in other countries. U.S. troops are helping Afghan opposition forces scour caves captured from al Qaeda. They are looking for documents and other evidence to help them track down members of the al Qaeda network.

The federal government crackdown on American Muslim charities is expanding. One of the groups raided yesterday was the Global Relief Foundation. It's the second-largest such foundation in the United States. The largest -- the Holy land Foundation in Texas -- already has had its assets frozen by order of President Bush.

Allan Dodds Frank, with CNN Financial News, has our report.


ALLAN DODDS FRANK, CNN FINANCIAL NEWS (voice-over): Federal agents in Illinois and New Jersey raided the offices of two Islamic charity organizations as the government moved to freeze their assets. Agents from Customs, the FBI, and Treasury carted out truckloads of potential evidence, including office computers and files from the Global Relief Foundation and the Benevolence International Foundation.

The searches were conducted under warrants issued by a federal judge following the newly passed PATRIOTS Act, and according to Global Relief's lawyer, the warrants are largely classified.

ROGER SIMMONS, ATTORNEY FOR GLOBAL RELIEF FOUNDATION: They spent the next what seems to be eight and a half or nine hours going through all the documents themselves without our aid, without our assistance, and collecting them up and packaging them and putting them in trucks and boxes to take out of here, which obviously will shut down the organization and stop critical -- critically needed food and medical supplies in the dead of winter in areas that desperately need it right now.

FRANK: The Bridgeview, Illinois-based Global Relief Foundation raised more than $5 million last year to fund its operations in 20 countries. Incorporated in 1992, Global Relief's first operations were in Afghanistan.

Global Relief, in a lawsuit filed against major news organizations a month ago, claims it has been defamed by being labeled as a terrorist organization.

The Benevolence International Foundation's East Coast office in Newark, New Jersey, as well as its headquarters near Chicago, were also raided. That group, with operations in six Islamic countries, raised more than $3 million last year. At the Newark building housing the Benevolence Foundation's East Coast office, the custodian said he called a foundation official when federal agents arrived.

AKRAM ABDUL MAJEED, BUILDING CUSTODIAN: The Custom authorities, they came in and wanted to get access to the office of Benevolence. They were able to -- they spoke to the director, and he said it was fine, that they could come in, and he let -- you know, he said, "Open the door and let them in." He had nothing to hide. So basically, that was his attitude.

FRANK: A Benevolence Foundation spokesman said the asset freeze by the Treasury Department will at least temporarily shut down the foundation's relief to the poor.

(on camera): Both foundations have been visited by federal agents before. This latest action took place just as their key fund- raising season during the Ramadan religious holiday was drawing to a close.

Allan Dodds Frank, CNN Financial News, New York.


MESERVE: And New York City officials are doing some charity work of their own. They have agreed to buy 50,000 Broadway theater tickets. It's to boost struggling sales since the terrorist attacks. Tickets will go to those involved in Ground Zero operations, and to shoppers who spend more than $500 in the city around the 1st of the year.

It is a shot all basketballers dream of making. It was banked in off the backboard, and Theo Nelson is now $1 million richer. He sunk one from half court at the Xavier-Cincinnati game, winning a contest. And for all you Bearcat fans out there: Cincinnati went on to beat rival Xavier 75 to 55.

And students at Granite City High in Missouri are waging a war of their own, because school officials are rationing ketchup. A student gets two packets of the condiment with French fries. If that's not enough, it's 10 cents a squirt from the school's dispenser. The students are circulating a petition and boycotting the cafeteria until that rule is changed. And from small town to Tinsel Town: The entertainment industry is know for its riveting special effects, and it turns out that the military uses some of the same technology to help in the current war.

CNN's Ann Kellan explains why Uncle Sam has turned to Hollywood for help.


ANN KELLAN, CNN SCIENCE CORRESPONDENT: What does this 3-D military weather map have in common with the giant waves in the movie "The Perfect Storm?" Those waves and weather effects were created by SGI, formerly Silicon Graphics, the technical wizards of special effects.

GREG ESTES: The military and entertainment are the two customers that push silicon graphics the most.

KELLAN: The military and entertainment industry often share technologies, but it's their friendly competition that drives innovation.

ESTES: Sometimes one leads, and sometimes the other leads.

KELLAN: The same hardware and software the catapults riders into Disney's virtual world "Aladdin" helps teach military pilots to fly through mountains and valleys in a virtual Afghanistan.

ESTES: They're actually seeing real aerial or satellite data mapped onto this virtual reality terrain so that they have the information superiority.

KELLAN: You've seen satellite view of earth, the resolution's so good you can zoom into a town, see its buildings, even trees. But Hollywood needs a steady shot, so it develops special stabilizing software. The military benefits from that innovation. This image of a ship was shot with a high-definition video camera from a blimp 3,000 feet away. See the guy walking on the ship's deck? How about now?

JOHN BURWELL, SGI: So here we've zoomed in, you know, by a factor of 50. We've locked down the target. We've stabilized it, and we're able to see what we basically couldn't see before.

KELLAN: Computer software that created many of the effects in the movie "Pearl Harbor" is being used by the military to make exact replicas of buildings and towns. While Hollywood has the time to make its effects perfect, the military can also hurry up and create, developing 3D graphics on the fly. This replica of a Middle East town took a few hours to create from a 2-D satellite image.

EDWARD WARD: What we're able to do is quickly create this for our walk throughs or fly throughs for mission planning or mission preview if they so desire.

KELLAN: Weather graphics too can be rendered in minutes. ROBERT MACE, ANTEON CORR.: This is a tool that allows a war fighter, a commander, staff, right down to the trigger pullers to just be more aware of the environment into which they're going to fight.

KELLAN: The kind of technology that makes war drills come alive for soldiers, and just might be picked up by Hollywood too.

Ann Kellan, CNN.


MESERVE: And coming up after the break: War correspondents risk life and limb to bring us the latest from the front lines. One reporter shares his experiences.

And he's thankful to be alive. We'll talk to a survivor of the attack on the Pentagon. Stay with us.


MESERVE: Welcome back.

We turn now to Afghanistan and the latest on John Walker. He's the 20-year-old American Taliban fighter who surrendered to American forces. Walker has been transferred now from Camp Rhino in Afghanistan to the USS Peleliu. He'll stay there until officials decide what to do with his case.

Military officials captured Walker in Mazar-e Sharif. That's where the first U.S. combat casualty took place. It's also where hundreds of Taliban and opposition fighters were killed.

Journalist Robert Young Pelton spent time in that region, and now shares his experiences with us.


ROBERT YOUNG PELTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Getting into Afghanistan is never easy. Officially, the borders were closed in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan and Iran, but through a contact I made in the States, we managed to go from Tashkent, which is the capital of Uzbekistan, and drive south to the border. When we were at the border, there was a problem because the bridge had been closed. We managed to wait just for a few hours, and then we were taken across the Friendship Bridge.

Once we headed south, you pass through an area of blowing sand dunes and ruined cities. It's almost as if you'd entered another world. Mazar-e Sharif, the largest city here, is the second largest city in Afghanistan. It's also an area that has a number of industries, including gas refineries. They do a lot of agriculture here. It tends to be one of the more powerful areas, and it's not usually included in regional politics.

It was also an area that was controlled by the Taliban. There had been a lot of fighting, and when we came here it was just at the tail end of the offensive that drove the Taliban to Konduz.

Now, I had never met Dostum before, and I was intrigued by his descriptions in the Western media. He was described as a brutal warlord, a man who changed sides easily, a man who'd flee at the first sign of trouble.

A lot of his bad press came from his alliance with the Soviet- backed government of Najibullah. He had a reputation for being very powerful and very brutal to his enemies. The fact that he was fighting in the hills and gaining ground on the Taliban intrigued me greatly.

When we got here, we were very warmly welcomed. I was surprised how quickly we were taken to Dostum and how openly he greeted us, and almost immediately welcomed the idea of us traveling with him, watching him live, staying with him and just getting a general idea of what he was doing. Much of the idea I had of him was shattered in my first meeting. He seemed like a very shy, engaging, open person.

He had just come from negotiating the surrender of thousands of Taliban fighters in Konduz. One of the interesting events that I later witnessed was the Qala Jhangi uprising. We had heard the fighting from our guest house, which was a few kilometers away, but when we actually got to see the devastation it was quite extraordinary.

There were about 40 dead bodies littered around the ground, and a large number of forces, which I later found out belonged to the special forces that fought with General Dostum.

You notice the presence of Americans here. You'll see one or two accompanying Dostum. You'll see groups of them driving by in cars.

I later learned their story, and it was quite an interesting story about how they had taught for two months, coming 75 miles through the Sar-i-pul (ph) area and finally through the Tinyu (ph) Pass and into Mazar. And the thing that impressed me the most was that Dostum had embraced these 14 men as his brothers and fellow warriors, and he very much considers himself aligned with American interests at this point.

I'm Robert Young Pelton for CNN in Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan.


MESERVE: Imagine watching the attack on the World Trade Center, and then have your own office attacked. That's what happened to this man. We'll have his story in just a moment.


MESERVE: The horrific events of September 11 have haunted many of us. And while we grieve for all those who lost their lives, we tend to focus more on New York, and not the Pentagon. At 9:45 on that tragic day, a plane struck the U.S. military headquarters, causing part of it to collapse, killing more than 100 Navy. CNN's Jonathan Aiken brings us the story of one man who survived that attack.


JONATHAN AIKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lieutenant Colonel Brian Birdwell was watching television in his Pentagon office the morning of September 11.

LT. COL. BRIAN BIRDWELL, PENTAGON SURVIVOR: My morning Coke had kicked in, and I had to go to the men's room right after we watched the plane go into -- the second plane hit the tower.

AIKEN: He never made it back.

B. BIRDWELL: I was returning. I had only had taken three, four steps out of the rest room, and then the explosion and the concussion had occurred.

AIKEN: American Airlines Flight 77 had just crashed into the Pentagon. He was 40 yard away.

B. BIRDWELL: I heard the sound, then the concussion knocked me down, and that's when the fireball comes through. I do not recall seeing fire coming at me, whether I was laying on my back or otherwise. I remember -- I am trying to get to my feet to get up, and I'm on fire.

AIKEN: As the first alarms were sounded, Colonel Birdwell fought to stand up and get back to his office.

B. BIRDWELL: As I struggled -- I mean, I didn't wait to call out to my Lord and Savior, I, you know, I because I knew I was in bad shape. And without, you know, God's help, I was not going to get out of here. But I, you know, cried "Jesus, I am coming to see you."

Mel Birdwell was home-schooling their 12-year-old son Matthew when a friend called her and told her a plane had hit the Pentagon.

MEL BIRDWELL, WIFE OF PENTAGON SURVIVOR: So I knew that if he were in his office, that he was standing at the Throne of God, because there is just no way he could have survived it. Because where the plane hit was three windows from his window, from where his desk was.

AIKEN: While plumes of smoke rose from the Pentagon, Brian Birdwell collapsed under a corridor sprinkler, which doused the flames that had burned almost half of his body. He wound up at Washington Hospital's burn unit, tended to by his wife, and Dr. James Jeng, a burn specialist and Navy reservist who himself would be on call for military duty by the end of the day.

DR. JAMES JENG, WASHINGTON HOSPITAL: They attacked the Pentagon. These are my fellow soldiers and sailors, and so from that point of view, yeah, it's a big deal.

AIKEN: And so was a visit from President Bush two days after the attack.

M. BIRDWELL: And the president comes in, and he says, "Colonel Birdwell," and he salutes. And he -- Brian attempts to return the salute, and the president sees that he is returning the salute, and he stands there and he holds his salute with tears in his eyes.

AIKEN: After months of therapy, Lieutenant Colonel Birdwell wears compression gloves that reduce the scarring, protect his hands, and make it hard to use a fork.

B. BIRDWELL: My mom used to teach, you know, how you hold your fork between your middle and forefinger to, you know, to eat properly. Well, now I have to stab, you know, like some untrained or ill- mannered person, and so it looks like I don't have any manners, but I got to do it to eat, so.

AIKEN: Therapy has helped. So has their faith.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lieutenant Colonel Birdwell and his wife Mel are here with us this morning.

AIKEN: The Birdwells went to church on Thanksgiving, but it was the congregation that gave them thanks.

REV. MICHAEL EASLEY, IMMANUEL BIBLE CHURCH: These are the finest people I have ever known in my life. Men and women who serve our country and who love Christ are a very unique combination.

AIKEN: Out of the hospital now and home for Christmas, the Birdwells begin to rebuild their lives. The memories will no doubt linger, and under those gloves will be scares that could take years to heal. And on Christmas, their faith will bring them to the meaning of the holiday, and the holiday will bring them back to the normalcy they crave so much.

M. BIRDWELL: Spending the day together.

B. BIRDWELL: Football.

M. BIRDWELL: And football.

AIKEN: Jonathan Aiken for CNN, Washington.


MESERVE: Up next: focusing on children affected by the September 11 tragedy -- a toy for every little girl and boy who lost a parent. That's the goal of the Salvation Army; and that's coming up after the break.


MESERVE: in New York today, workers brought down the last standing piece of the World Trade Center's North Tower. Crews spent the morning cutting away at the base of the 50-foot-tall section of steel with blowtorches. the section was pulled down this afternoon. Children affected by the World Trade Center attacks are getting a lift this holiday season. The Salvation Army teamed up with a group from Texas to rush a load of toys to New York.

CNN's Brian Palmer has that story.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Guys, just pass them on in now, please.

BRIAN PALMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Toys don't usually make it to the top of a disaster relief checklist, alongside items like food, shelter, and warm clothing. But now that the basic needs of many World Trade Center victims have been addressed, a number of groups are focusing on the holiday-time wants of children affected by the attack. So instead of pails of water, this variation of a bucket brigade is carefully passing gifts hand to hand for these kids.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "Hello, my name is Andrew and I want you to be happy and have fun with this present."

PALMER: Sharon Woolf drove this semi truck full of donated presents from Fort Worth, Texas to New York City.

SHARON WOOLF, CHRISTMAS IS FOR KIDS: I came in this morning about 5:00. And I had a highway patrol escort into town, all the way down, no red lights. It was really nice.

PALMER: Christmas Is For Kids, a Texas-based group, teamed up with the Salvation Army to distribute the toys from a vacant New York City department store. They run the show, but volunteers play key supporting roles.




SHERIDAN: Good, how are you?


SHERIDAN: Jennifer Sheridan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jennifer, are you with a group?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today, we're having many, many children come in from elementary schools around ground zero. And we're going to have parents who lost loved ones for getting toys for their children. We are going to have people who have lost their jobs...

PALMER: Jennifer Sheridan and friends got the day off to pitch in.

What are you going to do? SHERIDAN: I am a shopping assistant. So I'm taking all the kids around, and pick my favorite toys, and convince them that's what they want.

PALMER: The kids themselves, however, have their own ideas. Each child gets to pick out up to three toys, or four, if she's really insistent.

Giovanni Guerrero became a Salvation Army volunteer at ground zero right after September 11. He's now overseeing the toy drive.

GIOVANNI GUERRERO, SALVATION ARMY: It's hard to describe what you see, because you see the joy in their faces when you bring out a toy.

PALMER: Perhaps better than describing the joy is watching it and listening to it.

Brian Palmer, CNN, New York.


MESERVE: And a check of the latest developments is up next, then the CAPITAL GANG.