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The Situation Room

Tunnel Threat in Maryland; Interview With Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah

Aired October 18, 2005 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's 5:00 p.m. here in Washington. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where we're standing by for a news conference on a developing story. Maryland's governor expected to speak momentarily about the terror threat that shut down the heavily- traveled Harbor Tunnel under Baltimore. Investigators are looking for six people. We expect new information this hour.
And it's also 5:00 p.m. in Southwest Florida, potentially in the path of Wilma. It's now a hurricane and expected to gain strength in the coming days. We'll have a new forecast for you that's just out this hour from the National Hurricane Center.

And it's already midnight in Baghdad, where in just a few hours, Saddam Hussein will go on trial for the massacre of his own countrymen, joining a long list of notorious names who faced similar tribunals.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And we are standing by for a news conference by the Maryland governor, Robert Ehrlich, on the threat that closed the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel earlier today. We'll bring you that as soon as it happens.

First, though, our Homeland Security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, is standing by with the latest details. Jeanne, what do you know?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, sources now telling CNN that a couple of people are being questioned in the Baltimore area in connection with the alleged plot, though none are under arrest. Sources say some may ultimately be detained for immigration problems.

Sources say the purported plot involved the shipment of explosives into the Port of Baltimore disguised as cocoa. They would then be driven into one of the city's tunnels and detonated. Officials say fewer than 10 people identified as Egyptians were allegedly involved.

BLITZER: All right, Jeanne. Hold on one second. We're going to pick you up in a moment. But Robert Ehrlich, the governor of Maryland, is speaking out.

GOV. ROBERT EHRLICH (R), MARYLAND: ... investigation of a possible attack against Baltimore's tunnels. Today that investigation led to an operation. The operation has included a number of interviews and other activities.

At 11:30 this morning, with an abundance of caution, and at the recommendation of the FBI, the Maryland Transportation Authority Police closed the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel and restricted access to the Baltimore Fort McHenry Tunnel.

Today's operation was executed successfully. State, city and county police have trained for this operation for years. It was seamless. Our number one priority in situations such as this is always public safety, job one for government at all levels.

I want to thank our partners, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Maryland Transportation Authority Police, the Maryland State Police, the Baltimore City Police, and the Baltimore County Police. This truly was a joint effort at all three levels of government, and as I just said, multi-jurisdictions within the Baltimore metropolitan area. Both Baltimore County and Baltimore City well represented at every step along the road.

We were prepared and will certainly have a lot more to say. We will be available to answer your questions. But at this time, I want you to hear from Chief McLhinney.

CHIEF GARY MCLHINNEY, MARYLAND TRANSPORTATION POLICE: This was a massive operation and undertaking by the Maryland Transportation Authority, along with our partners, on a state, local and federal level. This is exactly what we've trained for. It's what we've been asked to do.

The men and women of this agency and the other agencies involved performed above and beyond the call today. Once the order was given by myself from the command center, we were able to close one tunnel and limit access to the other tunnel, and remove all vehicles from that tunnel in slightly less than two minutes.

The operation today involved 80 police officers from the Baltimore City Police Department, the Baltimore County Police Department, as well as the Maryland Transportation Authority and Maryland State Police.

Like I said, this is what we train for, this is what we were asked to do today. And without hesitation, I gave the order, and the men and women of this agency executed that order.

Thank you.

EHRLICH: Captain.

KEVIN PERKINS, FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Thank you, Governor, Chief.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, along with the Department of Homeland Security, shared information with state, federal and local -- our state, federal and local counterparts regarding a threat of undetermined credibility to an unspecified tunnel in the Baltimore area. The information was somewhat specific as to date and time, and this required appropriate investigation follow-up to be conducted. At this point, no evidence collected to date has corroborated the threat as it's going on. However, the investigation is still ongoing. And that being said, the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force, along with our state and local -- other state and local partners, fully support the actions that have to be taken to protect the citizens of Maryland.

Baltimore's joint Federal Bureau of Investigations terrorism task force consists of members from the federal -- other federal agencies, state and local law enforcement officers. This investigation will continue, and we will remain in close touch with all state and local elected officials and other law enforcement officers to keep them apprised of appropriate information.

Thank you.

QUESTION: Have any people been taken in for questioning? And have any arrests been made?

PERKINS: I can't say at this point whether or not any arrests have been made. Interviews have been conducted today. Interviews are ongoing at this time.

The interviews are more along the lines to determine whether or not the threat is credible. The information that we have is that we need to follow up with certain individuals in an effort to determine the credibility of the information.


PERKINS: I'm not going to comment on the specifics of the investigation.

QUESTION: There were reports that an individual working in a cocoa market in Baltimore was taken into custody and is of Egyptian origin. As far as we know, he was taken into custody not in Baltimore (INAUDIBLE).

PERKINS: I'm not going to comment again as to specifics of the investigation, other to say it's ongoing and there -- our interview is currently ongoing at this point.

QUESTION: Did you know that this (INAUDIBLE)?

PERKINS: The state -- all of our partners in the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and in this case, as the governor mentioned, and as Chief McLhinney mentioned, that would include Transportation Authority Police, the state police, the Baltimore City and Baltimore County Police departments. Ranking echelon members of those departments have been in our command posts since the first day this took place, since the first day we received the threat information.

It's unfortunate in the day and age in which we live that we have to follow every single one of these threats. We do that. The closure of the tunnel was just one specific aspect. There was an awful lot of other things ongoing at the time and throughout the last week or so to try to follow up and ascertain the credibility. And we are going to -- we have to continue to do that in order to assure the safety of the citizens of Maryland.

QUESTION: Captain, what else was happening -- what else was happening besides the tunnel closure today? What else can you tell us the FBI was doing?

PERKINS: In this case, interviews, as I've mentioned. A number of interviews have taken place of individuals in the city.


PERKINS: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: Were you looking at the tunnel itself, specific vehicles going through the tunnel?

PERKINS: Well, as I said, the threat itself was nonspecific to an unspecified tunnel in the Baltimore area. It was not specific as to types of vehicles or anything else. So what we were attempting to do at that point is just follow up, and in an abundance of caution, to try to ascertain additional credibility to the threat, if that did exist.

QUESTION: Officials complained of hearing about this operation from the news media. Was that the way this was supposed to work? Was there a disconnect there at all?

PERKINS: I can't comment to that.

Gary, would you -- other than the fact to say that all of the -- all of the agencies we mentioned heretofore had been very much involved in the command post in the planning issue issues. Gary?

MCLHINNEY: Yesterday at approximately 4:00 p.m. we opened up a tactical operation center here in our headquarters building. That center has been manned ever since throughout the night by members of the Transportation Authority, the Maryland State Police, the Baltimore City Police, Baltimore County Police.

All of the partners in this investigation have been aware of everything we were doing. I personally conducted a briefing this morning at 8:00 a.m. and laid out our plans that were going to occur later in the day -- and all those personnel were present -- including the possibility of the tunnels closing, and what preparations we had made throughout the night for that event.

QUESTION: Was the threat specific to today and that's why you closed the tunnel today? This has been a two-week investigation. Why not close the tunnels sooner?

MCLHINNEY: The decision to close the tunnels today was based on the totality of the investigation. It was based on everything that the FBI was doing today, as well as information that we had already received.

QUESTION: If it was not specific to today, this person wasn't going to blow up the tunnel or whatever today (INAUDIBLE).

MCLHINNEY: I don't think we're commenting on the exact.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He can't even comment on the premise of your question.

QUESTION: All right. Governor, you mentioned several agencies. You thanked the FBI and several Maryland state agencies. But you didn't mention the Department of Homeland Security.

EHRLICH: Actually, Dennis, in fact I talked to the director today. We have been...


EHRLICH: Yes, I did. And Dennis Schrader, my director of Homeland Security, is here as well. He will be -- Dennis, you want to come up here? We have been in constant contact with both the feds, and obviously through Dennis' work on an hourly basis.

Dennis, you may want to comment on that as well.

DENNIS SCHRADER, MARYLAND DIRECTOR, HOMELAND SECURITY: Yes, sir, Governor. This is an unprecedented opportunity for us to work together with both the FBI and DHS. We're constantly comparing information, coordinating back and forth. And that's what went on today.

QUESTION: There's no evidence of a specific plot apparently, I think you've said. Are any of the people that -- whose names you received or who were interviewed of interest in other ways?

EHRLICH: I'm not -- other than the fact that we have conducted interviews, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on that, as far as how the investigation goes and what interest they may -- what interest they may play.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) related (ph) to the tunnels closing? Is there a connection there?

ERHLICH: Again, we were conducting interviews today, but I'm not going to comment on protocols and what we've done, and what took place today. I think the tunnel closure, again as was said, was in an abundance of caution, it's something that I felt was necessary at the time. And the appropriate authorities who are charged with protection of our citizenry made that -- made that choice and we fully support them.

QUESTION: Governor, a lot of people are worried about the tunnel tonight and the safety of the tunnel. Question, you're speaking four hours after the tunnel reopened. Why wait this long to speak to the people of Maryland when the TV newscasts are on? I mean, why...

EHRLICH: Well, actually, I've been talking to the press all day. So...

QUESTION: Can you confirm how many people you have in custody and what their nationalities are?

EHRLICH: No, I'm not -- I cannot comment as to anyone being taken into custody or any particular nationalities at this point.

QUESTION: Governor, is this going to be the new normal -- is this going to be the new normal of state and local officials sort of taking the charge for these investigations as opposed to federal taking charge?

EHRLICH: Well, it is a classic partnership. And to some extent, on the intelligence end we're the junior partners. And to some extent, on the operational end, the federal government is the junior partner. But when you combine the two ends of every operation, that's really what it boils down to.

The intelligence occurs, the intelligence passes through channels. The intelligence needs to be interpreted. It is interpreted. And then we're contacted. And on the operational end, from personnel to assets, obviously state and local government play an integral part, as you saw play out here today.

BLITZER: The governor of Maryland, Robert Ehrlich, joined by officials from the Maryland Transportation Police Department, as well as the FBI, explaining what's going on as a result as a terror threat that has been fully -- that continues to be investigated right now.

Jeanne Meserve, our Homeland Security correspondent, has been listening to this and watching it together with us. Very interestingly, as you reported, Jeanne, a number of interviews -- the FBI using that word pointedly -- a number of interviews under way right now.

MESERVE: That's right, a number of interviews. But as far as we have been told, no arrests at this point. A possibility there will be detentions because of immigration problems on the part of some of these individuals.

As is somewhat to be expected, we heard less on the record from these officials than we've heard on background from some of our sources. What they have told us is that the purported plot involved the shipment of explosives disguised as cocoa into Baltimore. They would then be driven into one of the tunnels, unspecified as to which one.

Sources have told us that fewer than 10 people identified as Egyptians were purportedly involved in this. The intelligence, as you heard the official say, is uncorroborated. Its credibility has not at this time been established.

And as you also heard in this press conference, officials saying that they are all singing off the same sheet of music. They want this to be perceived very differently than the transit threat in New York City was perceived almost two weeks ago.

BLITZER: All right, Jeanne. Thank you very much. We'll continue to monitor this story. And to our viewers, please stay with CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.

Let's go up to New York. Jack Cafferty standing by there. Hi, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks. Hi, Wolf. It's been over four years now since the terrorists struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and that plane went down with all those people on board in Pennsylvania.

And life in this country hasn't been quite the same since that fateful day. We don't have government officials telling us to go out and buy plastic sheeting and duct tape and seal up our homes, and those color-coded alerts don't go up and down like yo-yos, the way they did in the weeks and months right after the terrorist attack. But we still have our moments when we're put on alert, when we're frightened, when we're afraid of thinking the unthinkable.

A couple of weeks ago, New York City crawling with cops, particularly underground, as there was a perceived threat to the subway system, the largest mass transit system in the nation. This city had been hit before. The people here understandably were on edge for a couple of days.

Today, the harbor closing -- the Harbor Tunnel closing down in Baltimore. I'm sure the people in Baltimore, Maryland, won't sleep quite as soundly tonight as they did maybe last night.

The question this hour is this. Do you pay less attention to security threats now than you did right after September 11?


BLITZER: All right, Jack. Thanks very much.

Up next, the storm called Wilma, it's now a hurricane. And there's a new forecast that just has come out from the National Hurricane Center that has Florida potentially in its path. We'll tell you what's going on.

Plus, the trial of Saddam Hussein about to begin. We'll show you what everyday Iraqis are saying about this historic event.




In Central America, and even in Florida, it's not welcome news. A weather system named Wilma is now a hurricane, churning in the Caribbean. It's the 12th hurricane of this season and threatening parts of Cuba, Honduras, even Florida. Let's get the latest from our meteorologist, Jacqui Jeras. She's joining us from the CNN Hurricane Headquarters.


BLITZER: Zain Verjee is joining us now from the CNN Center in Atlanta with a closer look at some other stories making news. Zain?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says tighter security alone won't stop illegal immigration. He says the nation needs to give migrant workers a legal way to gain employment. Chertoff testified before Congress in support of a guest worker program proposed by President Bush.

In Southern California they're cleaning up after mudslides. The deluge of mud followed severe thunderstorms and hail the size of walnuts. More than 100,000 people lost power, and a truck driver was killed when his tanker crashed and caught fire. It was just one of the scores of accidents caused by the storm.

The head of a lab caught up in a major scandal over sports and steroids is facing time behind bars. Victor Conte has been sentenced to four months in prison, followed by four months of home confinement and two years of court supervision. Conte plead guilty to distributing steroids. He runs the Bay Area cooperative known as BALCO.

Retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has been named as the grand marshal of the 2006 Tournament of Roses Parade. Parade organizers call O'Connor a shining example of what intelligence and determination can bring. She'd also get to toss the coin at the start of the Rose Bowl. O'Connor plans to leave the high court when a successor's confirmed.


BLITZER: Zain, thank you very much.

Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the hunt for the world's most wanted terrorist. We'll get an update on the search for Osama bin Laden. Afghanistan's foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah, he is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He's been meeting with top U.S. officials. We'll speak with him live.

Plus, a real life courtroom drama about to get under way. We'll show you what to expect when the trial of Saddam Hussein begins in Baghdad.

We'll be right back.


BLITZER: It's been four years now since President Bush first declared he wanted Osama bin Laden captured dead or alive. But the al Qaeda leader remains America's most wanted fugitive -- a serious disappointment for the Bush administration and its allies in the post- 9/11 war on terror. Joining us now here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the foreign minister of Afghanistan, Abdullah Abdullah. Mr. Foreign Minister, welcome to Washington. Thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: Are there still al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan?

ABDULLAH: Inside Afghanistan, no.

BLITZER: There are no operations under way, no al Qaeda operations, no safe houses, if you will?

ABDULLAH: No al Qaeda bases inside Afghanistan. Some remnants of Taliban in al Qaeda from time to time. They launch operations inside Afghanistan. They cross the border inside Afghanistan. No bases.

BLITZER: What's your latest information on the hunt for Osama bin Laden?

ABDULLAH: This is an ongoing effort. This has been an ongoing effort in the past few years. And I have no specific information about certain details of it, but I think the war continues against terrorism and against al Qaeda in Afghanistan and other places. Where are we in that? In the end (ph), I'm not the best person to ask the question.

BLITZER: Is there an ongoing effort, though, to find him, his number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the former leader of the Taliban, Mullah Mohammed Omar? It's surprising to a lot of people, given the fact you now control your country, there's a NATO involvement there, a U.S. military involvement. Why is it so hard to find these terrorists?

ABDULLAH: Osama bin Laden , my feeling is that he's outside of Afghanistan.

BLITZER: Where do you think he is?

ABDULLAH: He's outside Afghanistan.

BLITZER: How do you know that?

ABDULLAH: There are coalition forces inside Afghanistan. There is the international security assistance forces. Our forces are involved in the search. And it would be very difficult for Osama bin Laden to hide inside Afghanistan.

BLITZER: So you think he might be, where, in Pakistan?

ABDULLAH: Maybe in the areas of the borders.

BLITZER: In those tribal areas along the Pakistan-Afghan border?

ABDULLAH: It is possible.

BLITZER: What about Iran? Because there's been some suggestion by some analysts saying he might be hiding out in Iran. ABDULLAH: One can guess such things, but I'm not of the opinion that he should be in that territory.

BLITZER: Do you think the movement of U.S. troops and equipment, specifically helicopters, to help in Pakistan with the devastation from the earthquake has hurt the hunt for terrorists in Afghanistan? Most of that equipment coming from Afghanistan to neighboring Pakistan.

ABDULLAH: No, I don't think so. The capacity of the U.S. forces, the coalition forces inside Afghanistan to deal with the issue of terrorism, it has not been affected because of the humanitarian operation on the other side of the border, or in Pakistan.

Some equipment has been moved from here to there. We also, Afghanistan, in itself, sent a few helicopters which we had to help the operations. But that level of support in the humanitarian operations will not affect the capacity of the war against terrorism.

BLITZER: There are still about 18,000 American troops in Afghanistan right now. Is that right?


BLITZER: Eighty-four of them have been killed this year, which is a significant increase from the past year, which suggests the insurgency in Afghanistan continues -- we pay a lot of attention to the insurgency in Iraq -- but the insurgency in Afghanistan continues.

Listen to what Dr. -- excuse me, what General Jason Kamiya, the operation commander of the U.S. military in Afghanistan is quoted as having said a few weeks ago. He said, "I'm not ready to sign up to the fact that the Taliban are crumbling. There still will be an enemy insurgency next spring in Afghanistan."

You agree with that assessment?

ABDULLAH: The -- that's a military analysis of a U.S. commander inside Afghanistan. My view would be that with the continuation of the efforts, Taliban will crumble. And to date, they have changed their tactics, like now they're turning against the ordinary people, civilians, aid workers, and so on and so forth. And the number of casualties which you mentioned, unfortunately there were some accidents as well, like crash -- helicopter crashes and so on and so forth.

But the Taliban are not finished in Afghanistan. They are still trying to gain control of territory in southern and eastern parts of the country. And the efforts of Afghanistan and the coalition forces, led by the United States, continue and shall continue -- should continue -- in the coming months.

BLITZER: Dr. Abdullah, thank you very much for joining us, the foreign minister of Afghanistan. Good luck to you. Good luck to everyone in Afghanistan.

ABDULLAH: Thank you.

BLITZER: Appreciate your coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, he ruled through fear and an iron fist for decades. Now, in just a few hours, Saddam Hussein goes on trial -- the former dictator becoming a defendant. We will have details.

Plus, word of a record jackpot sending Powerball sales surging. Our Ali Velshi will show you why that's a mixed blessing for some small businesses.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: Just hours before his trial begins, Saddam Hussein is described by his lawyers as calm and confident. One of the attorneys visited the former dictator today and he says he'll immediately ask the court for an adjournment, allowing more time to prepare for the case.

Our chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, has more on the upcoming trial, which many Iraqis say will be watch -- they will be watching very closely.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Saddam Hussein faces his first trial for crimes against humanity for allegedly ordering the execution of 143 Shiite men from this village, Dujail, after his motorcade was ambushed there 23 years ago.

But his brutal rule bludgeoned the whole nation's humanity, say these Iraqis, who are eager to watch his trial.

"I would cut him up piece by piece," says Mehdi (ph). Now a soccer coach, Mehdi's personal hatred of Saddam began when he was on the air force soccer team. "One day I returned from training," he said, "and I learned that my cousin had been executed that morning."

For years, Iraqis lived in fear of Saddam and the statues and posters that loomed on every corner. But the fear started to fade when he was pulled, graying and disheveled, from a hole in the ground nearly two years ago. And it faded further when he appeared for his first court hearing a year-and-a-half ago.

On patrol with Iraqi troops in one of Baghdad's most dangerous neighborhoods, a new Iraqi soldier tells us: "This trial will make a difference for all the Iraqi people. Saddam Hussein represents a dark period in our history."

His commander agrees. "If the trial is on television and in the press, it would be good, because Iraqis are thirsty for this. I think, if Saddam is executed, 80 percent of the so-called resistance or terrorism will be eliminated." While the majority in Iraq want to see him executed, there are also many, mostly Sunnis, who do not.

"I hope he will be found not guilty and be freed," says Ahmed (ph).

"I think he should get a life sentence, because execution will be too merciful for him," says another customer.

Ama (ph) is the barber, a Kurd. Saddam could later face trial for genocide for gassing the Kurds in 1988. "What will he say to defend himself?" he asks.

And that's what Mehdi, whose cousin Saddam had executed, wants to know, too. "This is what I have been waiting for," he says. "I just want to hear what he has to say, how he will answer to all those crimes he committed against the Iraqi people."

Christiane Amanpour, CNN, Baghdad.


BLITZER: The former Iraqi dictator is poised to become the latest addition to a notorious list.

Our national correspondent Bruce Morton is joining us now with that part of the story. Bruce?

BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as you know, Saddam Hussein is far from the first accused war criminal to go on trial. A look at past tribunals probably won't encourage him much.



MORTON (voice-over): After World War II, the allies tried Herman Goering, Adolf Hitler's second in command. Hitler himself committed suicide as the Soviet army was rolling into Berlin.

Goering was convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to death in 1946, but killed himself just hours before he was scheduled to be executed.

The Pacific war? Japanese General Tomoyuki Yamashita, whose troops killed thousands of civilians in the Philippines, was convicted of war crimes and hanged in 1946. Hideki Tojo, Japan's prime minister and top military commander, was convicted of war crimes and hanged in 1948.

Manuel Noriega, the Panamanian dictator U.S. troops overthrew in 1989, was convicted of drug-trafficking in a U.S. court in 1992 and is serving a 30-year sentence. He will be eligible for parole next year.

Augusto Pinochet, the former president of Chile, was accused of killing thousands his opponents. He's been charged with crimes, but has been deemed to be too sick to stand trial. He's currently undergoing more tests, but he'll be 90 next month, and it's unclear whether he will ever face trial. In fact, under Chilean law, he's too old to go to prison.

And finally, Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic -- he is accused of crimes against humanity in Serbia and Kosovo. His trial before a United Nations tribunal began in 2002. He's been a combative defendant.

SLOBODAN MILOSEVIC, FORMER PRESIDENT OF YUGOSLAVIA: I consider this tribunal a false tribunal and indictments, false indictments.

MORTON: Some expect Saddam Hussein will be, too. And the Milosevic trial is still going on. It's expected to end next year.


MORTON: You will notice, going down that list, that there aren't any acquittals. But you have to remember, in war crimes trials, it's usually the winners who try the losers and the winners who set the rules.


BLITZER: All right, Bruce, thank you very much.

In the age of Internet, though, some war crimes tribunals actually have Web sites. Our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner, has a closer look at some of them. Let's check the situation online. Jacki?

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, well, Bruce just mentioned the U.N. tribunal and the Hague to try former Serbian leader Slo -- Slobodan Milosevic and others -- that Web site online.

It's actually very detailed. They have the latest developments. They have headlines. You can actually watch the trial. There's an audio and video feed on a 30-minute delay. Another one we can take a look at from the United Nations is the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda -- Rwanda. And that is for genocide and war crimes affiliated with that.

And, then, the one you want to take a look at now is the Iraqi Special Tribunal, having to do with Saddam Hussein. They're updating with information and with photographs, as the trial progresses.

We want to make note that the English translation is not official. It's the Arabic that's official. That is just a courtesy. But what we will do, Wolf, is, as this trial progresses, keep checking in with the site and see if there is any information or documents that will be of help.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jacki -- good, useful information.

Still to come here in THE SITUATION ROOM, more on the Baltimore terror threat. I will speak live with Maryland's governor, Robert Ehrlich. That's coming up. And that's the ticket. For some small businesses selling lottery tickets, can mean a very big fortune. But there's a flip side that's not necessarily all that profitable. Our Ali Velshi will explain.


BLITZER: Welcome back -- more now on our top story, the threat that temporarily closed the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel earlier today.

The Maryland governor, Robert Ehrlich, is joining us now in THE SITUATION ROOM. He's on the scene. Governor, thanks very much for joining us.

EHRLICH: My pleasure, Wolf.

BLITZER: Can you clarify whether or not there has been an arrest or two in this investigation?

EHRLICH: Wolf, unfortunately, I'm not at liberty to give you that answer.

I can tell you, though, that, as we speak, new chapters continue to unfold. There are interviews being conducted. I don't know if I'd use the term raid, but certain things are being done, operations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as we speak. So, this thing has been ongoing from -- from this morning.

BLITZER: So -- so, the threat still exists, or is it over with?

EHRLICH: Well, you know, this is a case. They're working a case. They're working intelligence. They're working leads. They're conducting interviews. They're doing their job. And -- and, obviously, we have been working in conjunction with the FBI and local law enforcement. And -- and it's been a very long day. It was a very long night last night, I have to tell you.

BLITZER: There was some suggestion earlier in the day that you were looking for six or eight foreign nationals, believed to be Egyptians, who may be involved somehow in this. What can you say, if anything, about that?

EHRLICH: I can just say that there have been a series of interviews conducted, that the FBI is pleased with the progress they have made today. I'm not at liberty to give you the precise number of interviews, nor if any arrests have been made. But they have been working very hard today. And we are certainly way ahead of where we were this time yesterday.

BLITZER: Knowing what you know right now -- and, obviously, everyone is always smarter with hindsight -- was it prudent to shut down that Harbor Tunnel earlier today?

EHRLICH: Yes, and not as an exercise.

We are obviously in the business of protecting the state of Maryland. We're also in the business of partnership. We partnership with the FBI -- we partner with the FBI, I should say. And the FBI thought it was a good idea. When the FBI thinks it's a good idea, we, generally, also think it's a good idea. We did it. The timeframe there was relevant to us, how quickly we can get it down.

Wolf, you can exercise, but this was not an exercise. This was the real thing. And, to the extent that you're placed once the real thing occurs, there's a sense of satisfaction. Obviously, we do train from time to time, our senior police agencies. But this was a joint local, state and federal effort today.

BLITZER: We're told that the specific threat -- and it's uncorroborated, I take it -- but the nature of the threat was very specific, that there was a -- some sorts of cargo container with the words cocoa on it that, presumably, was going to go into a tunnel and blow it up. Is -- is that -- is that what we -- we were talking about?

EHRLICH: You know, you're asking me questions I cannot answer. I can only tell you that the intelligence gleaned from what various federal agencies told us was that we were obviously at some risk, some danger, that the tunnel was part of this operation, but not the sole part of this operation.

As I have said, there have been various other activities associated with this -- with this operation that have unfolded over the course of the day, and I believe are unfolding as we speak. So, the tunnel is only one aspect of this entire operation.

BLITZER: What happened in those two hours or so that the tunnel was closed that convinced you and your authorities that it was a good idea to reopen the tunnel?

EHRLICH: Working in conjunction with our federal partners, knowing what we knew at that time, we, obviously, deemed it prudent and safe to reopen those -- those tunnels.

BLITZER: Governor, thanks very much for...

EHRLICH: And, obviously...


BLITZER: Yes. Go ahead.

EHRLICH: Obviously, that, also -- that question pertains to what was going on in other places with other people. So, as events unfolded, we deemed it appropriate and, of course, safe to do it at that time.

BLITZER: Governor Ehrlich, thanks very much for joining us. Good luck in this investigation.

EHRLICH: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: And our David Ensor is checking in with his sources. He's getting additional information on what happened. We will check in with David after a short break. Also, fire closes a major route in and out of Manhattan, snarling traffic. More on this three-alarm fire, that's coming up as well.

And, even on a normal day, the trip to work can be a challenge. We will begin a series on commuting with a look at the tradeoff between control and cost.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: More developments now on that potential terror threat -- Baltimore tunnel there.

Our David Ensor is checking his sources. What are you picking up, David?

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, U.S. intelligence officials are saying that, from the outset, they had real questions about the credibility of the information about a possible terror threat to the Harbor tunnels.

And, in fact, an official told me that the information came from a single, uncorroborated source overseas. So, they're skeptical whether there really was a threat. They were at the beginning and they remain so. But they're not second-guessing the decision of local authorities to do what they did, in terms of closing it down. They say, that's a decision that has to be made at the local level.


BLITZER: All right, David, thank you very much.

Let's go up to New York. Jack Cafferty has been going through your e-mail. He's joining us with the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Thanks, Wolf. In light of today's terror threat that closed that tunnel in Baltimore, we're asking, do you pay less attention to security threats now than you did right after September 11?

Alan writes from New Jersey: "I pay more attention to them every day. The longer we go without a serious incident, the more likely we are to have one. It's not possible that we will be able to stop these religious extremists forever."

R.S. writes: "I don't think anyone that watched people throwing themselves out of skyscrapers can ever take a terror threat lightly."

Tiffany in Santa Monica, California: "I pay less attention to terror threats now than I used to, because I have come to the realization that, every day, I am threatened. Whether at level orange or level pink, the chances of me dying every day, whether at the hands of a terrorist or getting hit by a bus, are the same.

Richard in Greenlawn, New York: "All the warnings about September 11 were not properly paid attention to. And so, now, in New York City, the saying is, 'Never forget.' And we never will."

And Helen in Tampa, Florida writes: "When I saw dogs sniffing trucks outside the Baltimore Tunnel, I thought Karl Rove and Scooter Libby had been indicted. This administration cynically uses fear for diversion".


BLITZER: Helen, very skeptical in Tampa.

Thanks very much, Jack. We will see you tomorrow.

A record $340 million jackpot expected with tomorrow night's Powerball lottery. But that's a mixed blessing for the thousands of small businesses that sell the tickets.

Ali Velshi has the story from New York. All right, explain what's going on, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Well, you know, a lot of the -- the convenience stores in this country, a lot of them are gas stations. They have been losing out on the fact that they don't get the same gain that the gas companies get on the price of gas.

Another thing that a lot of lottery companies -- a lot of convenience stores sell is lottery tickets. Now, they -- they have those little machines that are a little more sophisticated than this. But those little machines, where you get your ticket, they're actually -- it actually costs more money to sell someone a lottery ticket than it is in a convenience store when you sell someone milk or -- or -- or juice or something like that, because you have to have the intervention of the clerk.

Now, let's just talk about how many lottery tickets are actually sold in this country. In 2004, $48.8 billion in lottery sales. That's about an 8 percent increase over the year before. About 75 percent -- percent of those, about half of those sales come from convenience stores. And about 75 percent of convenience stores are individually owned. So, there's a lot of gain to people who sell these tickets.

Just so you know, a frequent lottery buyer spends about $7 a visit and shops 4.4 times a week. An infrequent lottery ticket buyer spends only $4.80 a visit and shops only three-and-a-half times a week. So, the convenience store owners enjoy lottery ticket winners, because they come into the store to buy their ticket and, hopefully, buy something else.

So, the $340 million jackpot for tomorrow hopefully is prod -- producing one winner. And that's at least the lottery -- the convenience store owners.


BLITZER: I know you got the winning ticket. And I assume you are going to share the wealth. Thanks very much, Ali.

VELSHI: All right.

BLITZER: Up next, think driving is the best way to go to work? Figures show your daily commute really amounts to a financial commotion. Our Tom Foreman, he is here. He will explain what it's costing you in the first of our commuting experiments.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends over at the Associated Press, pictures likely to be in your hometown newspapers tomorrow.

A car's tires are disinfected as it leaves a quarantined village in western Turkey. Bird flu has killed more than 1,800 birds there in the past two days.

In Taunton, Massachusetts, a woman evacuated from her home makes calls in a shelter. An overstressed -- overstressed dam protecting the small city could breach, prompting 2,000 evacuations.

In Seoul, South Korea, a show of force from female police officers during an anti-terror exercise.

And, in Congo, a female gorilla smashes palm nuts between two rocks to extract oil. Scientists call it a surprising finding in gorillas.

Some of today's "Hot Shots," pictures worth a thousand words.

Every day, it causes millions of Americans headaches and hardships, accidents, fender-benders and a lot more. Yet, we insist on doing it. That would be driving to work. What is it really costing you?

Our Tom Foreman is here with a very personal account of what it costs all of us.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, with gas pushing $3 a gallon, we ask a very basic question. Everybody out there is saying, what can I do? How can I somehow bring my costs under control?

So this week, we're doing an experiment, where we're trying four different ways of commuting to see how it works out. And we started with what most Americans start with. We took a drive.


FOREMAN (voice-over): When Americans want to go anywhere, nine times out of 10, they hop into the car, flip on the radio and step on the gas.

(on camera): The advantage to driving a car is obvious. You have complete control. You can adjust the music. You can pick news, if you want to. You can change the climate inside the car. And you can change directions with a moment's notice.

(voice-over): The cost, however, is extraordinary. We spend about 47 hours a year just sitting in traffic, sitting, burning nine billion gallons of fuel while we're at it. That's 800 times the amount spilled by the Exxon Valdez.

Add up vehicle price, depreciation, fuel, repairs, insurance, and, depending on the type of car you have, you're paying from 32 to 52 cents for every mile you drive. Filling up my SUV now takes about $60, the commute 45 minutes each way. And, when you add everything up, the grand total cost is more than $19 a day just to get door to door.


FOREMAN: Wolf, we were highly conservative on all of these numbers. Everything here, with gas at almost $3 a gallon, goes only up. And tonight on NEWSNIGHT, and then again here tomorrow, we are going to look at using the Metro.

And, today, we had the strangest thing happen. I want you to look at this. This is downtown D.C., which is where we go and look at many, many things. If we fly into downtown D.C. and the Capitol, today, we went from the U.S. Capitol over to the Metro Center to talk to them about the Metro system. I don't know if this tells us anything about the world, but look what we found there a month before Thanksgiving. I'm not kidding. Look at this video, a live wild turkey roaming through downtown Washington, D.C. I don't think it's an editorial comment, but we didn't know what to make of it.

We followed it for about three blocks. It then got away from us. We have no idea where it came from, but there was talk about it looking for a campaign...


BLITZER: And, you know, I have found a lot of turkeys here in Washington.



BLITZER: But that's another story.


BLITZER: Tom, thanks very much.

We are in THE SITUATION ROOM every weekday afternoon, 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern. I'm Wolf Blitzer.

LOU DOBBS TONIGHT starting right now. He's in New York. He's joining us live. Lou?