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Susan Candiotti: The bin Laden tape and terrorism investigation update

CNN Correspondent Susan Candiotti joins us from Washington, DC, where she's currently covering the Justice Department and the terrorist investigations.

CNN: Welcome to Newsroom, Susan Candiotti, and thank you for joining us today.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI: Hello, this is Susan Candiotti. I see a lot of you are on board.

CNN: Susan, the Pentagon today released the bin Laden videotape. What does the Bush administration hope to gain out of releasing it? Are they concerned about any negative consequences?

CANDIOTTI: The Bush Administration says it hopes to establish further proof that Osama bin Laden had prior knowledge of the attacks and, as President Bush has said, give people a chance to see the face of evil. There will undoubtedly be people, the administration and Pentagon acknowledge, who will question where the tape came from and whether it was accurately translated, etc. The administration delayed the tape's release until it said it could secure the translation, and re-check it before releasing it. It stands by its translation and denies the tape has been doctored in any way

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CHAT PARTICIPANT: Are the intelligence agencies admitting there is a significant possibility that bin Laden is no longer in Afghanistan?

CANDIOTTI: Intelligence sources tell CNN'S David Ensor they still believe Osama bin Laden is in Afghanistan. They downplay a published report that bin Laden has left Afghanistan

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Susan, is this just a tape to infuriate the American people in an attempt to use fear and hatred to take away our civil liberties?

CANDIOTTI: There will be those who may argue various motives behind the tape's release and its possible impact. The impact has yet to be gauged.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: What would be the realistic chances of any of the alleged terrorists getting anything resembling a fair trial in the United States, and could the trials be held in another country?

CANDIOTTI: Defense attorneys will undoubtedly argue as they did, for example, in the case of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and co-conspirator Terry Nichols that it will be impossible to get a fair trial anywhere in the United States. That is a position that is sure to be taken. One reason, it is said, the first case (and all subsequent cases) has been scheduled in Alexandria, Virginia, a Washington DC suburb, is because of that district's reputation for moving cases along quickly and its history of favorably viewing government cases which consider the death penalty. Expect a courtroom battle over the issue by defense attorneys.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Susan, are there more arrests pending?

CANDIOTTI: That's a question asked often-- as you can imagine. Authorities are keeping their plans under tight wraps as they did the indictment of Zacarias Moussaoui. I expect there will be others, but have no news to report. Players remain at large overseas and at least a dozen have been arrested overseas where the plot is believed to have been hatched. It remains unclear at this time whether the United States has plans to file charges against any of those people or plans to try to have them extradited if charged. That could be a problem because several European countries, as you're aware, are expected to put up a fight given their anti-death penalty positions

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Susan, why did it take so long for the Department of Justice to file any charges against Zacarias Moussaoui?

CANDIOTTI: The Justice Department says it filed charges when it did because it will file no case before it's ready. Moussaoui has not cooperated, sources say, from the beginning and, sources say, there had been hope that he might have cooperated, which could have strengthened the government's case against any others. The largely circumstantial case against Moussaoui appears to be strongest when it alleges a money link between an unindicted co-conspirator and money sent to Moussaoui for flight school lessons. The strongest link in the government's investigation, if it can be established, would appear to be solidifying the money trail, which is under way, as CNN has reported, between the US and overseas. Sources say they are getting cooperation from several overseas sources.

CNN: Thank you for joining us today, Susan Candiotti.

CANDIOTTI: My pleasure. The investigation continues to take twists and turns and we're staying on top of it with the help of correspondents around the world.

Susan Candiotti joined Newsroom from Washington, DC. She typed for herself. This is an edited transcript of the interview on Thursday, December 13, 2001.


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