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America Under Attack

Aired September 11, 2001 - 22:14   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Now a CNN special report: "America Under Attack." Here's Paula Zahn in New York, Wolf Blitzer in Washington and Bill Hemmer in Atlanta.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. You have heard some of our leaders calling today one of the worst days in American history. You are joining us now some 13 hours after two hijacked commercial airlines crashed into the World Trade Center, taking down the North Tower, taking down the South Tower as well as an adjoining building.Some 50,000 people worked in this complex.

As I look behind me tonight, a disturbing sight. And after we look at this shot, we will try to fast forward to this evening. No trace of what used to be the tallest buildings in New York City. Just a smoldering black hole. The Empire State Building now the tallest building in the city.

The strikes happened 18 minutes apart. The first one at 8:45. By 10:30, both towers had collapsed.

An untold number of victims are still trapped inside the wreckage of the building. Mayor Giuliani and the police chief confirming they believe there are people who are still alive. Unfortunately, rescue workers cannot get to them at this hour because of falling debris, because of smoke and because of structures of buildings that might continue to collapse.

Mayor Giuliani said the death toll could be horrendous. He said the numbers are going to be very, very high.

What we can tell you tonight is the city is confirming that some 265 firefighters are believed to be dead. The police chief saying among the dead, the chief of the fire department as well as the deputy chief. Some 85 police officers missing tonight.

CNN's Peter Viles takes us back to the start of this dreadful day. I need to warn you the pictures are graphic. Some of you might find them disturbing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETER VILES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just before 9:00 a.m. Eastern, Americans awaken to shocking pictures from New York.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just saw the entire top part of the World Trade Center explode.

VILES: Minutes earlier, at 8:45, a hijacked plane had slammed into one of the World Trade Center towers. 9:03 a.m., a sickening sight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh my god!

VILES: A second plane crashes into the Trade Center.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can see the damage to that, about the middle of the building, just incredible what we are witnessing here.

(SCREAMING)

VILES: People on the ground look on in horror as workers in the Trade Center towers fall, or maybe even jump, to their deaths.

9:30 a.m., the president in Florida.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today we've had a national tragedy. Two airplanes have crashed into the World Trade Center in an apparent terrorist attack on our country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The airport is being evacuated. You need to go home.

VILES: 9:40, all American airports have been closed, but there are still planes in the sky, and minutes later one of them crashes into the Pentagon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Several Army officers I talked to reported hearing a big explosion, seeing shards of metal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VILES: 9:59, as the Pentagon burns, the South Tower of the World Trade Center buckles and collapses.

(SIRENS)

10:29, the second Trade Center tower collapses, an American landmark is in ruins.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here it comes. I'm getting behind a car.

VILES: Thousands feared dead, lower Manhattan shrouded in smoke and debris.

10:48, police in western Pennsylvania confirm that a fourth hijacked plane crashed a half hour earlier outside Pittsburgh.

Noon: Shock and disbelief. As the dead and wounded are taken to East Coast hospitals, officials in New York and Washington report a shortage of blood and appeal to Americans to donate their blood. Late afternoon, New Yorkers are evacuating Lower Manhattan by the thousands, parts of the city unrecognizable. A third building at the Trade Center -- this one 47 stories -- collapses. At Bellevue Hospital, an official says, quote: "It is a catastrophe of unparalleled proportions."

Peter Viles, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And if you were with us through Mayor Giuliani's news conference, you can see how tough it is for anybody to sort out the magnitude of what this city endured as well as what Washington endured today.

I was on the phone earlier with a city official who believes the death toll will go into the thousands. Once again, that is impossible to even get a sense of the number of injuries and the number of deaths because of the fact that rescuers simply cannot get into that perimeter area surrounding the World Trade Center because of fears of further structural collapse.

I wanted to let you know what we can also tell you, New Yorkers can expect in the morning. The city from 14th Street down will be closed off to civilians at least until Thursday. All New York City public schools, parochial schools and private schools will be closed tomorrow. All, as I mentioned, all businesses below 14th Street will be closed as well.

The nation's airports have been completely shut down at least until noon Eastern on Wednesday. The stock markets, as you can see on the screen, will also be closed. And you know that the news from the Asian markets that are now opening is not good, opening to a 17-year low.

But once again, New Yorkers are going to wake up to a sky-scape they barely recognize. The two towering World Trade towers no longer exist.

And Wolf, throughout the next hour, we will hope to be bringing you more information from some of the trauma centers in the area that are trying to treat patients.

We know for a fact some 300 victims are being treated at St. Vincent's hospital, and we are going to go to our reporter live there to get a better sense of what their condition is at the moment.

BLITZER: Paula, President Bush was very succinct in his remarks tonight, insisting, quote: "Today, our nation saw evil, confirming the worst fears," when he said, "these thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror."

He began this day on a routine assignment in Florida, promoting his education agenda, when he got the word of the plane crash, the plane attack on the World Trade Center towers in Manhattan. He was immediately flown shortly thereafter to Barksdale Air Force base in Louisiana for security considerations. His security personnel not believing it was safe yet to return to Washington.

From Barksdale, he was flown to Offutt Air Force base in Nebraska, home of the strategic command, where he remained for several hours, participated in a telephone conference call with his national security advisers. Eventually, it was determined that it was safe for him to return to Andrews Air Force base outside of Washington.

He came in under unprecedented escort protection from F-15s and F-16s, eventually landing at Andrews Air Force base outside of Washington. We are taking a look at some of those escorts that accompanied Air Force One on the way back to Washington. And once he landed at Andrews, he was flown by Marine One, the Marine helicopter, to the south lawn of the White House.

Once again, almost unprecedented decoy helicopters, Marine helicopters, joining him in order to get to the White House. The president spoke for just under five minutes, and he spoke from the heart.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good evening. Today, our fellow citizens our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts. The victims were in airplanes or in their offices -- secretaries, businessmen and women, military and federal workers, moms and dads, friends and neighbors.

Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror. The pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning, huge structures collapsing have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness, and a quiet, unyielding anger.

These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat, but they have failed. Our country is strong. A great people has been moved to defend a great nation. Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.

America was targeted for attack because we are the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world, and no one will keep that light from shining. Today, our nation saw evil, the very worst of human nature, and we responded with the best of America. With a daring of our rescue workers, with the caring for strangers and neighbors who came to give blood and help in any way they could.

Immediately following the first attack, I implemented our government's emergency response plans. Our military's powerful, and it's prepared. Our emergency teams are working in New York City and Washington, D.C., to help with local rescue efforts. Our first priority is to get help to those who have been injured and to take every precaution to protect our citizens at home and around the world from further attacks.

The functions of our government continue without interruption. Federal agencies in Washington, which had to be evacuated today, are reopening for essential personnel tonight and will be open for business tomorrow. Our financial institutions remain strong, and the American economy will be open for business as well.

The search is under way for those who are behind these evil acts. I've directed the full resources of our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and to bring them to justice. We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.

I appreciate so very much the members of Congress who have joined me in strongly condemning these attacks. And on behalf of the American people, I thank the many world leaders who have called to offer their condolences and assistance. America and our friends and allies join with all those who want peace and security in the world, and we stand together to win the war against terrorism.

Tonight, I ask for your prayers of all those who grieve. For the children whose worlds have been shattered, for all whose sense of safety and security has been threatened, and I pray they will be comforted by a power greater than any of us, spoken through the ages in Psalm 23. "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for you are with me."

This is a day when all Americans from every walk of life unite in our resolve for justice and peace. America has stood down enemies before, and we will do so this time. None of us will ever forget this day, yet we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world.

Thank you. Good night, and god bless America.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: President Bush speaking at the White House almost two hours ago from the Oval Office, his first nationally televised Oval Office address. Our senior White House correspondent John King is at the White House.

John, from that address, the president met with his top national security advisers, what do we know about that meeting?

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, the president immediately proceeded to that meeting at the White House situation room that lasted a little under an hour. We are told on the national security side the president was brought up to speed on U.S. military deployments around the world, including the status of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf region, as well as the deployment today of naval vessels from Norfolk, Virginia up along the Eastern seaboard of the United States.

Also, that meeting was expanded beyond the normal national security meeting in a way to take into account the devastating effect of this tragedy. The transportation secretary, the health and human services secretary and the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency brought into that meeting as well to discuss with the president and his national security team the steps the federal government is taking to try to deal with the devastation of this.

Now, we are told from sources earlier today that senior administration officials told key members of congress that they are, quote, "certain," based on the evidence they have gathered so far -- "confident," I'm sorry, not certain, "confident," based on the evidence gathered so far, that people and organizations associated with Osama bin Laden are responsible for this. But coming out of the national security meeting tonight, I was told by a senior administration official they do not want to jump to conclusions here. The administration will say nothing publicly about that. This official saying, quote, "we are going to take a little time to sort this out."

So, the president being briefed by his team. He is here at the White House tonight. That meeting is now over, but look for the president tomorrow to have more public events. The goal here is to send reassuring signals to the American people. We are told the first order of business tomorrow is a bipartisan meeting with the congressional leadership here at the White House -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And John, the president was also sending a very powerful signal to the enemies of the United States when he said this, let me read this line from his speech, he said: "We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them," which suggests that some states may eventually be paying a price if the U.S. concludes that they were responsible as well.

KING: It certainly does. The president's very strong words there come at a time this administration -- and especially the prior administration had been criticized by some by not taking stronger actions against the governments that have provided safe harbor and financial support to Osama bin Laden. Again, the administration publicly not assigning any blame, but we do know from the intelligence briefings provided to key members of Congress, that is the administration's at least a preliminary conclusion.

Again, three sources I spoke to on Capitol Hill say the administration officials used the word "confident" that the evidence they are gathering so far pointed to the bin Laden organization -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, John King, stand by at the White House. I want to bring in our military affairs correspondent Jamie McIntyre. He's at the Pentagon, which saw devastation there as well. Jamie, first of all, what do we know about the casualty count at the Pentagon?

MCINTYRE: Well, Wolf, just a short time ago we got the first estimate of how high the death toll may be here at the Pentagon. It could be as many as 800 people killed, according to Arlington County fire officials who say they've been told by Pentagon officials that the range of missing persons here is somewhere between 100 and 800. So that's the range that the death toll could take here at the Pentagon. Arlington County fire officials also say that the work tonight, as fires continue to burn here at the Pentagon, is to remove some of the debris, take some of the front of the facade off, so that firefighters can go in in the morning in full force and try to put out what remains of the fires that, as I said, are still burning here, more than 13 hours after the crash took place.

Now, in addition, Pentagon officials insist that they're going to have the building open in the morning, at least large portions of the building on the other side that were not affected by this incident, as a symbol that the fact that the U.S. military headquarters has not been shut down by this terrorist action -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And Jamie, just to remind our viewers, about 20,000 people on a daily basis go to work at the Pentagon, which is of course just outside of Washington. It was the Army's section of the Pentagon that took the brunt of this attack, wasn't it?

MCINTYRE: Well, actually, it hit at the fourth corridor -- if you're familiar with the Pentagon from your Pentagon days -- in an area that had just been renovated. That actually is an area where there are a lot of Navy offices. There were also a lot of Army offices along this side of the Pentagon over here that were also affected by the blaze.

A couple of interesting notes, one is that this marks a dividing line between where the Pentagon was just completed being renovated and another area that they were just about to start on. That meant that there were fewer people in both of those sections, in one case because some people had not yet moved into new offices; in other cases because they have just moved out of old offices.

And in the new area, which is on this side and didn't burn as much, some of the new improved fire security systems helped a lot, including a sprinkler system that was installed on one side of the Pentagon, had not been installed on the other. That was a big help in keeping the fire down.

BLITZER: And Jamie, while we have you, what have you been hearing about troop deployments by the military in the aftermath of this attack?

MCINTYRE: Well, I've only heard of one significant move so far, and that is the decision to hold the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf region. The Enterprise had just been relieved by the Carl Vinson in the Persian Gulf and was on its way home. Pentagon sources tell me that orders had been sent to the ship to hold up to stay in the area of the Arabian Sea and await further orders, a signal that the United States may have something in mind in terms of some sort of a military reaction -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon, please stand by.

I want to go to Bill Hemmer in Atlanta. He has more on this devastating day -- Bill. BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Wolf, thank you. On a normal day, and I underscore the word normal because we are far from that at this point. On a normal day, any airline that would go down on the U.S. would be given what we consider a wall-to-wall coverage, but today in Western Pennsylvania, just another element, another aspect of this still unfolding tragic story. To David Mattingly near Shanksville, Pennsylvania where United Airlines flight 93 went down this morning at about 10:20 a.m.

David, good evening again to you.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Bill.

We are officially in the tiny town of Stony Creek township, Pennsylvania, that's just outside Shanksville, southeast of Pittsburgh. The FBI here at the crash scene will confirm only one thing, that there were 38 passengers and seven crewmen aboard the United 757 when it crashed here in a field of an old strip mining area.

Officials at this location have been reluctant to call it an act of terrorism until evidence is uncovered that actually indicates this. In the meantime, there are hundreds of state troopers and emergency personnel securing the crash site, calling it a crime scene, in preparation of a federal investigation.

Now, witnesses in the area said the plane hit the ground at a 45- degree angle, causing a tremendous explosion, rattling windows miles away from here. All that's left of the 757 appears to be small pieces of debris, raising concerns that the investigation here on the ground could be a long and difficult one.

Of course, the search is on for the all-important black box, the flight recorder. There is also a great deal of interest in what could be another key piece of evidence, if it proves to be authentic -- a 911 call originating from the plane and taken by a 911 operator in a Pennsylvania county just west of here. That tape is now in the hands of the FBI. If it proves to be authentic, it could be the lone surviving voice of an eyewitness on board that ill-fated aircraft, and with it may be some answers about what happened on board the airplane, and maybe some answers as to why this plane crashed here in this field, instead of into another terrorist target.

Now, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge surveyed the area earlier today, calling on Pennsylvanians to offer prayer and cooperation. As night fell, we began to see trucks coming by with trailers loaded with equipment that looked like communications equipment and lighting equipment, obviously preparing for a lengthy investigation here -- Bill.

HEMMER: All right, David, thank you. David Mattingly in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, southeast of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Throughout the evening here, the human faces have been put on this tragedy in more ways than one. We are starting to get an idea of some of the people who were on board the various flights that took off today. A partial list of some of the better recognized names on board: David Angell and his wife Lynn from Pasadena, California -- the executive producer of NBC's "Frasier," "Wings" and "Cheers" -- was on board one of those planes.

Daniel Lewin, 31 years old, co-founder of Akamai Technologies, Garnett Bailey -- his friends called him Ace -- director of scouting for the L.A. Kings, the National Hockey League. Also, Mark Bavis, also a scout with the L.A. Kings. And throughout the night, you've heard the name Barbara Olson being mentioned several times, a frequent contributor to "LARRY KING LIVE" and CNN through legal commentary.

Outside of that, we are also starting to pick up different stories across the country, repercussions from this story -- indications that some gas lines in different parts of the country are snaking more than an hour or more in length, also an indication that some people are afraid of a supply disruption. Nothing confirmed on a disruption of supply, but as a result some gas stations in Dallas, Texas, $5 a gallon; Indianapolis, $5 a gallon; parts of Ohio, also $5 a gallon for gasoline at this point.

Here in the state of Georgia, getting reports at various grocery stores and supermarkets that people flocked to the groceries today, stocking up on water and canned goods. We don't say this out of fear or trying to incite some sort of fear, or worry, or concern. It's just the reports we are getting from people and the way they are reacting to what we have seen now for the past 13 and a half hours, originating this morning about 9 a.m. Eastern time in New York City.

Speaking of New York, back to Manhattan and Paula Zahn -- Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks, Bill. I think people here are just beginning to grasp the sheer horror and the tragedy of the multiple attacks on this city today. Once again, the first hijacked jet slamming into the World Trade Center about 8:45, the second attack about 18 minutes later.

And one of the more chilling developments tonight, both the mayor of New York City and the police chief confirming they've reason to believe that people are still alive and trapped inside the wreckage of the two collapsed towers, as well as an adjoining building, building 7, that made up a part of that World Trade complex.

The firefighters union confirming tonight that 265 firefighters presumed dead. The police chief confirming tonight the city of New York lost its fire chief as well as its deputy fire chief, some 85 New York police officers missing, some presumed them to be dead. We know that in area hospitals, according to the mayor, some 600 patients, or victims are now being treated.

Part of the challenge in getting to what the mayor believes to be potential victims who may still be alive is the fact that there's a tremendous amount of smoke still billowing from the collapsed towers, there's still so much structural damage they are fearful that rescuers could go in there and get injured again, as well as the fumes. It's not clear when any rescuers will be allowed to penetrate this perimeter area. The mayor confirming tonight that the fatalities will be horrendous. The numbers, he told us, will be, quote "very, very high."

Right now, we are going to listen to Maria Hinojosa's report who will give you a perspective on exactly what happened after these initial attacks and how New Yorkers reacted to them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At ground zero, running in the streets is the only form of escape. But on those same streets, the chaos and vibrations couldn't be avoided.

Further north, New Yorkers gathered at Times Square, in humble silence and disbelief, everyone looking up to the big screen. Downtown, the mass exodus began.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw everybody crying in the streets. Saying their prayers and crying. I saw different races and nationalities and creeds who usually have differences with one another come together and bond. And love and respect.

HINOJOSA: Along Fifth Avenue, people flooded to the streets to watch together.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God, inside the first building...

HINOJOSA: The faces of New Yorkers, solemn, quiet, praying. A father trying to give security to the innocent ones. The tiniest of faces, protected. Streets filled with anger and shock.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have never witnessed nothing like this in my entire life. Human beings, parents, daughters and sons, jumping out of the window at least from 80-something floor. None of you want to witness that. I'm traumatized for life.

HINOJOSA: The street, where now everyone shares the pain out in the open without shame. The street where office chairs have become eerie stretchers outside a hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have had multiple types of injuries, from severe burns to blunt injuries and multiple fractures.

HINOJOSA: The street where a depleted mayor summons some strength. MAYOR RUDOLPH GIULIANI, NEW YORK: New York City is a lot stronger than this. And we're going to overcome it and the people of New York City are going to give an example of how to stand up to terrorism. You just don't be afraid.

HINOJOSA: But Times Square is empty. The streets are silent and the city mourns.

Maria Hinojosa, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And I think it is fair to say millions of people were in a state of shock today, based on the conversations I've had with people who witnessed the attack. That state of shock is turning to outrage.

Joining me right now is Scott Hess and Jennifer Ruth, both of who whom were working in the area at the time. I should make it clear before we go any further, some 50,000 people worked in the World Trade Center area. You were not far from there. Both of you were evacuated from your workplaces. What did you see, Jennifer?

JENNIFER RUTH, WITNESS: I work at the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) World Financial on the 35th floor and my cubicle faces the World Trade Center and we saw the hind end of something entering the building and the gaping hole through the building and the debris started to fall. Then we evacuated and crossed street and saw the second plane before it actually hit the building. At that point everyone panicked and screamed and started running north on West Side Highway.

ZAHN: At that point police hadn't blocked off streets. So you were able to run as fast as you could?

RUTH: Right.

ZAHN: What do you remember about what you saw?

SCOTT HESS, WITNESS: After we evacuated the building the first tower was on fire, we saw bodies either leaping or falling from the upper floors. And it was just -- it was a chilling, chilling scene. And a few minutes later, almost in a very surreal action, the second plane, actually could almost see, United Plane, I thought.

ZAHN: And that has been confirmed this evening.

HESS: Right, it just smashed into the building and people were just screaming and crying and it was -- the fire just, you know, started to explode.

ZAHN: Some of the police officials have said tonight they were surprised about how orderly the evacuations were not only from your two buildings -- you would expect those to be more orderly than those at the World Trade Center bombings -- but that isn't exactly what you experienced in the street?

HESS: There was a little more panic in the street. For the most part, things were fairly organized once we got to the West Side Highway, but there were people grieving and crying and some of the schools were being evacuated. But overall, people just needed to get north and just get out of the area.

ZAHN: You saw, as you said, the first attack. You also saw the second plane slam into the south tower. You heard the mayor tonight say they have reason to believe that people are still alive in the wreckage. Are either one of you that optimistic based on what you saw? You were very close. RUTH: Very close -- but I left before I was able to escape the scene before the buildings actually fell. And so I don't know what it looked like after that point. People were still evacuating and had the opportunity to get out as I was getting out.

ZAHN: Most companies are advising people not to go to work tomorrow. All the public school, private schools, parochial schools will be closed. As you wake up tomorrow morning, I'm sure you have no sense of what that day will be like that awaits you, but give us a preview of what you think it might be like.

HESS: Just walking down to the -- getting off the subway and looking at the World Trade Center for basically the last 18, 19 years every day, it's just not there any more. And walking up the West Side Highway just turning around on a continuous bases they were just not there anymore. And just seeing this billowing smoke.

ZAHN: It is so eerie out there right now and one of the things I was impressed by the day is that there was plea made for people to donate blood. I went late this morning to donate blood. The lines were wrapped around the block. I was told that in some hospitals there wear four and five hours waits to donate blood. This doesn't surprise you?

RUTH: Not at all. Everyone has been so effected by this, just immediately in the streets. As soon as I got home after the incident everyone was glum and quiet in the streets. People stayed outside to see if they could get a view. But it was just complete quiet.

ZAHN: Jennifer and Steve (sic) we appreciate you dropping by, and we know that not only has this been a very traumatic day for you, but Senator Warner said earlier today, one of the worst days in American history. You're very lucky to be alive. Thank you.

Right now we are going to check in with Rose Arce, who is one of our producers who has basically been at ground zero most of the day. We find her right now at St. Vincent's Hospital where several hundred people are being treated right now. Rose, give us an update if you would.

ROSE ARCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Paula, I'm actually right here on 8th Avenue. And over my left shoulder you would see the twin towers on any other night clearly. But tonight, there's nothing. It's completely dark.

I spent most of the day about two blocks from there on the top floor of a building that's just north of the World Trade Center. From there we can see people rushing to the windows as fire was billowing out of the top of the building where the first airplane hit. People were rushing to the windows, they were taking clothes. One thing looked like a blanket they were waving.

And suddenly there was another explosion and you saw folks start to jump out of the window of the building and plunge. I saw at least six people do this. Folks were pushing each other. Some people screaming for help and just falling out. There was chaos on the ground. You could see emergency workers rushing to the scene.

Right now it is pretty quiet behind me but this is an emergency route. right over here, 8th Avenue, it is a straight shot from the World Trade Center uptown. And we have been watching emergency vehicles rushing by us into the hospital that's up the street.

ZAHN: Rose, I want to make a clarification now, the police chief earlier reported that they believe there were people alive and most people interpreted that as alive in the wreckage in the World Trade Center.

The police commissioner is issuing clarification. It says they believe there are people alive in nearby buildings downtown, not the Trade Center. Once again, neither officials of the Pentagon or officials here in the city could confirm the magnitude of the tragedy witnessed here in New York City and in Washington today. But once again, the mayor says the statistics will be horrendous and the number of deaths will be very, very high. It's time to go back to Washington now and Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Paula. We are getting some new information now from our Susan Candiotti in Miami. She's reporting that the FBI has begun the process or will soon begin the process of executing search warrants in more than one location in South Florida including what she says are the homes and post office boxes of several individuals.

This is in response, Susan Candiotti is reporting, to information gleaned from the investigation into today's terrorist attacks in New York and here in Washington. One source tells Susan this: "We're looking at South Florida ties to some of the people we're looking at. That's because authorities are basing their investigation on the passenger manifests of these hijacked airliners, four of them today. And they are taking information from other sources as well."

We'll be following this one additional note. She says a search will also be done in Daytona, Florida. Susan Candiotti will be joining us shortly. I do want to report once again what she is saying, that the FBI has begun the process of search warrants in South Florida as well as Daytona.

Susan is now in the phone with us. Susan, give us a perspective. What exactly do you know is going on?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is my understanding accord to law enforcement sources, Wolf, that the FBI is in the process of executing search warrants. That is to say in the process of putting the paperwork together. The execution of them may not begin until the morning or early morning hours. What they are going to be executing the search warrants on are homes as well as some may only be post office boxes, I'm told.

They are basing the information on the request for a search warrant on information coming from passenger manifests of the aircraft involved, among other information they have. I talked to various other sources. I'm told "we're look at South Florida ties to some of the people that we're looking at."

When I asked if they are looking at names on the manifests that may only turn out to be passengers, I was told, no, we are basing our search warrants on more information than that. They are looking at more than one location, I'm told, in South Florida as well as other locations in Central and or North Florida including Daytona Beach -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Susan Candiotti in Miami, thank you very much. And our Jonathan Karl, our congressional correspondent has been talking with members of congress who also have been receiving intelligence briefings.

John, tell us what you're hearing now?

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm outside the Capitol police headquarters here on Capitol Hill, where attorney general and also the FBI director have both been briefing about 75 members of Congress.

I can tell you in general, the one bit of information here is that they believe, according to attorney general, told members of Congress these were teams of three to five operating on each one of these planes and they believe in each one of the where they have direct information they were armed with only knives.

Besides that, members of Congress I have spoken to that were in this briefing expressing frustration at the lack of information.

They wanted to know about the plane that went down outside of Pittsburgh. They wanted to know where was that plane's destination. They wanted to know more about the nationalities of those who were involved with this attack. And they said they got essentially no new information on any of that.

But again, the one thing that they did get out of this was that, according to the attorney general, what the attorney general told the members of Congress here, those were teams of three to five operating on each one of those planes.

Now, there will be another extraordinary briefing of law enforcement officials tomorrow at 12:30 on the floor of the House of Representatives, because every member of the House -- and Senate, for that matter -- obviously wants to get briefed, wants to get these questions answered. There will be a closed briefing on the floor of the House, we are told, tomorrow at 12:30 with law enforcement officials.

BLITZER: Jonathan Karl, so many questions and still so few answers. Thanks so much for joining us.

And I want to bring in now the former U.N. ambassador, United States ambassador to the United Nations, an energy secretary during the Clinton administration, Bill Richardson, who was one of the last high-ranking U.S. officials to actually go to Afghanistan and meet with Taliban leaders. He met with them in late 1997. And also, Julie Sirrs, a former U.S. defense intelligence agency analyst, a specialist on the Taliban and Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden.

First to you, Secretary Richardson. What is your sense right now, knowing the Taliban, knowing Osama bin Laden, hearing these reports, what -- do you believe that Osama bin Laden is responsible for this?

BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER ENERGY SECRETARY: My gut feeling, Wolf, is yes. Every indicator which is similar to the bombing of our two embassies, to the USS Cole, the modus operandi, the three to five, that most likely it is Osama bin Laden. I believe that intelligence is also indicating that he's now in Afghanistan. If that is the case, I think this new policy makes sense, and that is that any nation that harbors such a terrorist would also be the beneficiary of a retaliatory effort by the United States.

My view, again, is that the Taliban have been playing this game, that know we contain him. When I met with them, they said he's not perpetrating any terrorist acts, he's under our control. That's not case. He operates in a wide network throughout Afghanistan, other countries. I think it's critically important that if he is in Afghanistan, that he be turned over, that he be brought to a swift, swift retaliatory effort.

BLITZER: Julie Sirrs, you're a former DIA, Defense Intelligence Agency, analyst specializing in Afghanistan and the Taliban and Osama bin Laden. What's your take?

JULIE SIRRS, AFGHAN INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: I agree with Ambassador Richardson and other experts that I know. You've had heard throughout the day that, yes, all the indicators do seem to point to Osama bin Laden being responsible for this attack. And yes, I also agree with Ambassador Richardson that the Taliban, and as the president said, share at least equal responsibility in this act, if that does turn out to be the case that bin Laden is behind it.

They -- Taliban officials have claimed after the 1998 embassy bombings, after the Cole attack, that bin Laden could somehow be controlled the by them, and I think this shows, if anything, that they're working with him, that they're cooperating with him, that that's perhaps even the best way to understand bin Laden's organization, that it includes not just bin Laden and his extremist network worldwide, but it is very much helped by the safe haven the Taliban provides and even by the assistance of some neighboring countries, including particularly Pakistan.

I think it needs to be said now. It's something many of us, American officials, have believed and private experts on the subject as well.

BLITZER: Let me ask, Ambassador Richardson, do you believe Pakistan should share some of the responsibility, if in fact Osama bin Laden is proven to have been responsible for these attacks?

RICHARDSON: Yes, there's no question that the Pakistanis have a lot of influence on the Taliban. When I visited the Taliban, it was arranged by the Pakistanis who have a lot of leverage over them -- territorial, financial.

I think it's important that the international community rally behind the United States, NATO, nations like Pakistan, others that have influence with the Taliban in Central Asia. This should be an international community. This is an attack on the international community, not just the United States. The United Nations needs to be involved. We need to have a multinational effort, but the United States should lead that. If they are the perpetrators, they should be the recipients, the Osama bin Laden organization, the whole network of a very strong retaliatory strength.

BLITZER: All right. Ambassador Bill Richardson, Julie Sirrs, I want to thank both of you for joining us. We have to leave it right there.

And Paula, before we go to you, just to recap the headline from our Jonathan Karl reporting on a briefing that the Attorney General John Ashcroft gave members of Congress, that the U.S. government now believes teams of three to five individuals carrying knives commandeered those four airliners earlier today, destroying them and themselves in the process --Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks, Wolf.

The city here is still paralyzed by the impact of the terrorist attacks here earlier today and somewhat chilled by what the mayor of the city has just shared with us. He said he believes the fatality numbers will be horrendous, that they will be in, quote, "very high indeed."

We do need to clarify one thing that the police commissioner told us was misinterpreted coming out of that news conference that he just held with the mayor. We were led to believe that police officials thought that there were people alive in the World Trade Center. That apparently is not the case. The police commissioner is now reiterated that he believes there are indeed people alive in nearby buildings downtown.

Now, once again, to understand the impact of these two explosions, the explosions, the crashes happened 18 minutes apart. Within an hour and a half, both the north tower and the south tower of the World Trade Center had collapsed, and adjoining buildings collapse at 6:00 tonight. There is a lot of debris in the area, rescuers can't get into the World Trade Center perimeter. We can confirm, though, 600 people are being treated in area hospitals.

We are going to go to Greg Clarkin right now who is at St. Vincent's hospital where a large number of those victims were taken -- Greg.

GREG CLARKIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Paula. We are indeed very close St. Vincent's hospital, and this is one of the trauma and triage centers in Lower Manhattan.

They tell us they have treated about 327 patients. They have three fatalities at St. Vincent's. Now here to help us sort it out and describe what it was like inside St. Vincent's is Dr. Andrew Feldman. He is the chief of sports medicine. He has been at work at St. Vincent's now for upward of 10 hours. Doctor, can you give us some sense of the type of injuries we saw first off in St. Vincent's?

DR. ANDREW FELDMAN, ST. VINCENT'S HOSPITAL: Well, there's a whole host of injuries, anything you would see in any other kind of a major trauma. Obviously, a lot of broken bones, cuts and bruises, but a lot of blunt trauma, chest trauma, head trauma, things like that.

CLARKIN: And what type of infrastructure, what type of system was in place to kind of deal with the influx of the victims that we saw today?

FELDMAN: Well, at St. Vincent's, we're a level one trauma center, which means we're prepared to do this type of stuff. We take care of a lot of accident victims in New York, and we have for many years. And I am very proud of the staff and the other doctors in the facility for how they handled this.

But basically, we are really set up for this type of environment.

CLARKIN: Have they given you any kind of expectations what's in store for you tomorrow? Any kind of heads up, any tips what you may be in for?

FELDMAN: Basically, more of the same, because obviously there is thousands and thousands of people to dig out, and all of them are going to have some sort of an injury, and basically since we're so close to the World Center, that there will be coming our way.

CLARKIN: And the injuries will shift to a different type, correct, as they start to pull people out of here?

FELDMAN: Well, I mean, the longer people are buried, I think the more severe the injury, and there is going to be a lot of smoke and gas inhalation and people are going to be dealing with that in the next 12 to 24 hours, I believe.

CLARKIN: Dr. Feldman, thanks very much for joining us.

And Paula, that's the view of one gentleman who was inside St. Vincent's, again. They have treated 327 people, three fatalities. Paula, back to you.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, Greg. We can confirm that there's a desperate plea for New Yorkers to donate blood, and every indication is that New Yorkers are doing their best to live up to that challenge. In some hospitals, lines are wrapped around the block of people waiting in line to give blood, but indeed there is still a shortage, and the city very much wants folks who are capable of donating blood to do just that.

Right now, I'm going to check in with Susan Lisovicz, who is out in Hoboken, New Jersey. Susan, if you would, try to set the scene for our viewers who weren't with us earlier today to help us understand after the two towers crashed, the drama of people trekking out of the city, with roads closed around them, bridges closed, and how they've made their way across the river to New Jersey?

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Paula, it was just a surreal scene. Hoboken, New Jersey, which is where I live, is a very busy town that's directly opposite the financial district. You have buses, ferries going to the World's Financial Center, which is across the street from where the World Trade Center once stood, and the path train, which runs underneath the Hudson River. The first stop in New York City is the World's Financial Center.

Instead today, the ferries were transporting people who were fleeing for their lives. In fact, one of the cameramen that I worked with earlier today in Hoboken, was just running, and they boarded the ferry -- he doesn't live in New Jersey, but like many other people just jumping onto the ferry just to get out of harm's way.

Ferries were also used to transport victims, as well, of the smoke inhalation and other injuries. In fact, the PATH train entrance -- of course, no access to New York City -- was a triage center. Dozens of ambulance from all over New Jersey treating people. All the hospitals in the area on stand by. I went to the lone hospital, St. Mary's in Hoboken.

And as you mentioned, in New York City people lined up around the block, long line as people lining up, giving their names and phone numbers to donate blood. The hospital was just simply overwhelmed. They said normally they take one or two people to give blood. They just simply couldn't accommodate the many volunteers that were coming forth to try to lend their hand in any way. Just a surreal scene.

Jet fighters overhead. I saw fully outfitted S.W.A.T. team in the mayor's office. That was offset by one of the most beautiful days of the year. Spectacular Indian summer day. One person who was watching it with me said there's really not a cloud in the sky -- except for the huge billowing cloud of smoke that was coming over from the World Trade Center. Paula?

ZAHN: You described that beautifully. Because as I stand here on this balcony tonight, it is one of the those crystal clear nights and so eerie. As I look over my shoulder where the World Trade Center once stood, there's nothing but a big black hole with smoke continuing to billow out of it. Susan, was there any sense of anger among the people you spoke with?

SUSAN: Oh, most definitely. But I think the overwhelming emotion is one of shock. People were comparing it to Pearl Harbor earlier today. I think everyone recognized the magnitude of what happened. I was actually in the mayor's office in Hoboken when the building was collapsing. We had a perfect view of the building. Even while the mayor was planning this emergency of unprecedented proportions, everybody's eyes were red rimmed because they knew. Everybody knows somebody who got hurt. Everybody knows families of somebody who got hurt today in what we saw in downtown Manhattan.

ZAHN: I guess, Susan, it's this stage that we all shudder to think how many fatalities we may be facing in the days to come. Susan, thanks so much for that report. Before I go back to Bill Hemmer in Atlanta, just a very quick update. The mayor of the city confirming that the fatality numbers will be very, very high. One city official telling me on the phone into the thousands. People believed to be alive, trapped in buildings nearby -- what is left of the World Trade Centers. The mayor also confirming that tonight or earlier today New York City not only lost its fire chief but its deputy fire chief as well.

The firefighters union confirming that 265 firefighters, those were among the first 400 -- first on the scene, presumed dead. 85 police officer missing tonight. So Bill this is a city, as I said earlier this evening, is just beginning to grasp the magnitude of the tragedy that was endured here in the city today.

HEMMER: We're about seven hours from sunup tomorrow. Indeed, tomorrow the image is going to much darker than we see tonight. Paula, thank you.

Quite a bit of information to pass along to you at this point. Senior White House officials indicating to CNN the air traffic control center for the United States should be up and running tomorrow by noon eastern time. We had been led to believe earlier today that this indeed would be the case. At this point, all air traffic in the United States -- for the first time in history -- has been shut down. But again, we're getting an indication that noon eastern time tomorrow air traffic control should be up and working again tomorrow.

Now tonight, we continue to put a human face on this tragedy that unfolds not only in New York City and Washington and Pennsylvania, but also in San Francisco. Several of those airplanes bound for California are affiliate in San Francisco. KTVU has done an interview with a woman by the name of Alice Hoglan. She's a flight attendant. Her son, Mark Bingham, was on board United Airline Flight 93 today, bound for San Francisco.

Apparently he used the plane's air phone to call his mother in San Francisco shortly before that plane crashed in Western Pennsylvania. Among other things, he told his mother that three men were on board and they had threatened with a bomb. Here that interview from KTVU. Alice followed by Cathy Hoglan, who is the aunt of Mark Bingham on board that flight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CATHY HOGLAN, AUNT OF VICTIM: I love you very, very much, in case I don't see you again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He said that?

HOGLAN: That the plane has been taken over by hijackers and then I said we love you very much too, Mark. Let me go get your mother.

ALICE HOGLAN, MOTHER OF VICTIM: I got on the phone, Mark, and he said hi, mom, this is Mark Bingham. Gave me his last name. And he said, "I want to let you know that I love you and I'm flying," I think he said, "I'm in the air. I'm calling you on the air phone of the airplane."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In his seat?

HOGLAN: I presume so. He said I want you to know I love you very much and I'm calling you from the plane. We've been taken over, there are three men that say they have a bomb. And I said who are they, Mark? And he said, he repeated that he loved me and he said -- I don't think he said I don't know who they are. He just -- he became distracted there, as if someone was speaking to him. And he said something to the effect of it's true, and then the phone went dead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HEMMER: Alice Hoglan, Cathy Hoglan. Mark Bingham on board United Airlines Flight 93. Again that went down today with several others in Western Pennsylvania. The first of many stories we will be hearing throughout the evening and into tomorrow and the rest of the week.

Also, the brother of the pilot on American Airlines Flight 11 says had a, quote, "sinking feeling" when he heard about this morning's terrorist attacks. Jim's Ogonowski's brother John was the pilot of the first plane to hit one of the World Trade Centers today. Flight 11 was traveling from Boston bound for L.A. 92 people on board. He says his brother was a former Air Force pilot who had just celebrated a birthday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM OGONOWSKI, BROTHER OF PILOT: I ask all of you for your prayers, for, as I refer to him, as Brother John. And I ask you to also pray for our whole country today in this tragedy that's impacting our whole country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HEMMER: Ogonowski had a farm in the area of Boston, Massachusetts. Also at this time we're keeping an eye on Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Why, you ask? Because in Kuala Lumpur, the Petronas towers are located, extending 1483 feet into the air, the tallest buildings in the world. The reports we're getting from Malaysia and through the Associated Press is that both towers have been evacuated. Apparently, another threat has been issued against those buildings. But again, there is nothing here to confirm that report. What we do know is that thousands have been led out of those towers and into the streets of Kuala Lumpur. Normally we would not report a bomb threat. But given the circumstances of today, certainly the story out of Malaysia is relative.

Back in this country, we mentioned tomorrow air traffic control should be operating, according to the White House, up and ready at noon eastern time tomorrow. But tonight, those airports are a very different scene. I'm going to take to you two of them now. Bill Delaney is at LoganInternational in Boston. In Los Angeles at LAX, we have CNN's Frank Buckley. First go to Bill in Boston, Massachusetts. Bill, good evening to you. BILL DELANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening to you, Bill. Very eerie, of course, here since early this morning. This usually very busy airport eerily quiet all day. Particular shock, particular impact here in Boston because of course, the two planes that crashed into the World Trade Center originated here in Boston. 157 people in all killed on those planes. Dozens of their family members at a hotel nearby just outside Logan Airport at the Hilton Hotel here being counseled amid the question, how? How could two planes have been infiltrated, to all appearances, by hijackers, by terrorists?

Now, airport officials here tonight, Bill, insisted that Boston's Logan Airport is as safe as any in the world. But this major airport, like other major airports in the United States, has a history of allegations of lax security, particularly in the late '90s when the federal aviation administration, the FAA, did a particular study of Logan; a year and a half, two years in which FAA officials repeatedly dressed as passengers and repeatedly breached security here. They brought guns, they brought even pipe bombs on to planes. They got on to planes locked away on the tarmac.

They repeatedly breached security; some 136 violations in the late '90s here during that study, leading to some $178,000 in fines issued against Logan Airport just those couple of years ago.

Now, Logan Airport enhanced its security since then. For example, there are some 300 locks that lead from terminals to tarmac here at Logan Airport, 26 of them, it was concluded, were so insecure they were subsequently permanently locked. But this an airport with notorious incidents in its past. Two summers ago, a teenageer dressed as an Hasidic Jew managed to get over a fence here -- a fence with razor wire on top of it. He managed to get himself onto a London-bound airplane, made it all the way to London.

Now, this airport has also repeatedly found people with possibly dangerous implements on them. The airport was shut down several months ago when a man with a gun -- gun that turned out to be harmless --was captured at a check point. But the airport was shut down and people were evacuated.

So the airport security here, officials tell us, is very much like security at other airports. In fact, that FAA study, though they denounced on many levels the security here, said the security here in the late '90s was not all that different than security at many other major airports.

Officials here already saying they will probably end curb check- in here as soon as the airport reopens. They will probably begin more random security checks. 28 million people go through this airport every year.

Now, the long hard questioning of how this could have happened at Boston's Logan airport. Back to you, Bill.

HEMMER: Bill, hang with me a second. Curious to know your insights on a personal level, knowing that you've covered the Boston area for many years. Outside of the airport itself, what have you noticed about civilian traffic, downtown on the streets in the stores, et cetera, through the course of today?

DELANEY: It's -- of course, not on the level of the extraordinary scenes in New York. But this was a different Boston today. Traffic is something that's fundamental to life in Boston. It's always tangled throughout downtown Boston. But today, that changed dramatically as the day wore on. It got thinner and thinner. Here at the airport itself, that eeriness I described as we began our conversation, Bill, from 10:00 in the morning or so, people leaving the airport. By midday, it was completely empty. As the city itself also emptied. Buses and trains -- the fares were taken off buses and trains, so people could leave work and go home.

School children sent home early. All public, state, federal and city offices closed. So a very different Boston today. I'll leave you with maybe one haunting image that stuck in my mind. At this eerily quiet airport, late in the afternoon, right around dusk, one F- 15 jet circling the airport. We have been unable to even figure out exactly from officials here why that jet was out here. But it left an eerie tone to a eerie day in the city of Boston, this one F-15 fighter jet circling, again and again, Logan Airport.

HEMMER: So very far from normal today. Bill Delaney in Boston. Bill, thank you. To the other end of the country: LAX, Los Angeles International Airport. Three planes were bound for there today. CNN's Frank Buckley outside there this evening. Frank, what's the scene there?

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bill, the same eerie scene that our colleague Delaney is describing there in Boston, same thing in Los Angeles. A very eerie scene at a very quiet LAX. As you say, three flights bound for Los Angeles, American 11 from Boston, American 77 from Washington/Dulles Airport, and United Airlines Flight 175 also from Boston.

None of those planes came here, obviously, to Los Angeles today. But a few people did come to Los Angeles Airport, perhaps to greet friends and family who were going to be getting off those planes, perhaps just to come to get information after hearing of the tragedies.

They came, they were understandably shaken up. We will spare you the intrusion into their private grief. We will not show you that video. But we will show you the view inside of LAX as it was being evacuated. As the airport was being closed today, they also evacuated not just the American and United Airlines terminals, but also the Bradley International Terminal. In fact, all of the terminals were evacuated here at LAX.

LAX was closed. No flights in or out. And that effected thousands of passengers. On an average day there are some 160,000 passengers on 2100 flights that go in and out of this airport. By this afternoon, however, LAX was completely empty, except for the security personnel and key personnel that were needed to keep the facility operating.

Those thousands of passengers stranded by all of this were still searching for hotel rooms late into the day. I was talking to a hotel manager nearby, who was telling me the story of seeing pathetic scenes of passengers pushing those yellow carts with their luggage up Century Boulevard right near the airport, going from hotel to hotel, trying to get accommodations.

As far as we know, most or all of them have found some sort of accommodations. We have talked to some hotel managers who told us the airlines have provided for those accommodations for some of the people here. We do know that only one flight arrived into LAX this evening after the airport was closed down. The FAA confirming that a lone American flight was allowed to come in at 6:30 p.m. local time to assist in the grief effort here at LAX. Bill?

HEMMER: frank, don't mean to put you on the spot, but I know you've covered the l.a. area. Bill Delaney was relaying some of the concerns at Boston's Logan International Airport about security concerns. Have there been concerns at LAX as well?

BUCKLEY: Well, there have been at times. We have had situations here over the years in which people have somehow breached security, gone through the metal detector and they've had to actually evacuate an entire terminal of the airport, getting everyone out of the terminal because someone had somehow gone through the metal detection system.

They felt that there was a security alert there, and by the time the personnel had caught up with that person, that person was gone. So yes, there have been concerns along those lines over the years, even here at LAX.

HEMMER: Frank, again, as the White House is indicating, they expect air traffic control to be operating again tomorrow at noon eastern time, which means 9:00 West Coast time. Frank, it is quite possible LAX could get back to some sense of normalcy by your time tomorrow morning. Frank Buckley in L.A., Bill Delaney in Boston.

Now Wolf Blitzer in Washington, D.C. Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Bill. I want to bring in three experts on national security who have been monitoring today's dramatic developments. Here in Washington Senator Chris Dodd. He's chairman of the Senate Rules Committee. He's also a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In Los Angeles, the former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who served during the first term of the Clinton administration. And also here in Washington, Jim Steinberg, the former deputy national security adviser to president Clinton.

Let me begin with you, Senator Dodd. When we spoke on Sunday, when I interviewed you Sunday on "LATE EDITION," you made the point that the president's national missile defense shield was not really targeted at the real threat facing the United States. What you said you worried much more about was a terrorist attack against a U.S. target, specifically in New York. Was someone asleep at the switch? SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: Well, look, tonight we're going to worry about these families, the human dimension, the loss is staggering. The president and everyone is going to rally behind. Obviously we want to go after the people responsible, do it in a responsible way. Even those harboring these people, as the president said tonight. He will have total support from Congress.

Obviously, there questions have to be raised here about this. You've had today somewhere between 15 and 20 terrorists commandeer four aircraft at three airports and attack two major targets in the United States. How does that happen? And today is not the day to raise that question, specifically, but certainly that will be a question raised by people across the country and as we talk with people in our intelligence agencies.

The issue of a national missile defense is an important debate. I happen to be one who believes there's rationale for investing research dollars in that area. But it's a lower priority, in my view, and I think this view is shared by many of my colleagues in Congress, many Democrats and some Republicans who believe that there's a higher degree of danger that we face from the very kind of thing we saw today, that we have seen on recent terrorist attacks. So while we support the idea of some research in missile defense, this nation faces a far greater threat from the kind of tragedy we witnessed in New York and Washington.

BLITZER: Secretary Christopher, once the U.S. government learns specifically who is responsible for these attacks today against targets here in the United States, what should president bush do?

WARREN CHRISTOPHER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, he obviously will have take very strong action. Wolf, I think we have to focus not only on the direct perpetrators, but those who support them, as well as perhaps those who are -- give a place to them. The United States cannot sit back and just try to find out who the people on the firing line here in the United States were. We have to find out where the support came from, who might be harboring them in the future.

I worry a little bit that the Bin Laden solution is too glib, too easy for us. We have to get deeper. We have to drill down and find out what has really happened here, what has violated our security, why we had so little intelligence about this. We have a whole big issue ahead of us. All of the old issues, I think, are going to fade until we resolve this particular problem.

BLITZER: Jim Steinberg, you were President Clinton's deputy national security adviser at the time of the twin embassy bombings in East Africa for which the U.S. retaliated against targets associated with Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan as well as the factory in Sudan. It doesn't seem to have done much good, if in fact Osama Bin Laden's operation was in fact responsible for today's attacks.

JIM STEINBERG, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We still don't know who is responsible. But I think what we have learned is that you can't deal with this in terms of just a single military strike or single shot. This is a long-term effort. We didn't stop the embassy bombing in Africa, but we were able to thwart a number of other efforts by groups like Osama Bin Laden, as we saw around the time of the millennium.

This is going to be a day in and day out kind of effort. We have to develop the intelligence sources. We have to work with other countries to make sure there is no support for these kinds of efforts. We're going to be in this for the long haul. This is the major threat facing our country.

BLITZER: Senator Dodd, what do you recommend that President Bush do? Same question I asked Secretary Christopher. If the U.S. knows definitively who was responsible and who may have been protecting that terror operation, what should the United States do in terms of military retaliation?

DODD: Well, I think former secretary has it right. I think you've heard others talk about it here today. That is, first of all, assure the American public -- which he did tonight. I commend the president for his speech. Tomorrow the Congress will rally behind him. This nation will speak with one voice in these coming days.

He ought to take advantage of the offers that have been made by President Putin and others, allies, competitors around the globe that care about this kind of an issue, build the coalition of support, and as Jim Steinberg has said, and as others have pointed out today, this is not a silver bullet solution where one raid, one attack against one group by Bin Laden or others is going to solve the problem. This is a systemic response. We have to organize in the weeks and months and years ahead, if we are going to ultimately defeat terrorism. I hope the president will do that.

BLITZER: Secretary Christopher, briefly, you have been around -- before we go to Secretary Christopher, Bill Hemmer is in Atlanta. He has some additional news he wants to report. Bill, share that information with us.

HEMMER: Thank you. I apologize for the interruption. CNN's Deborah Feyerick by telephone on the George Washington Bridge -- New Yorkers know it as the GW Bridge -- with a breaking story there about a vehicle, possibly a truck, that may have been loaded with explosives inside.

Deborah, what are you finding out? Deborah ? Deborah, Bill Hemmer, CNN Center, Atlanta. Can you hear me?

Clearly, in the interest of live television, we're having a difficult time establishing our connection with Deborah. We will try and hang on at this point. Deborah, can you hear me? Bill Hemmer in Atlanta. All right, three times does not work. Apparently difficulties with the cell phone there.

What we're getting right now through the Associated Press and through Deborah at this time right now -- Steve, give it to me again? okay, we're getting a report through the associated press that there are cell phone calls being made from those possibly trapped inside the World Trade Center. again, getting that report through CNN's deborah Feyerick, also through sources at the Associated Press. We are going to try and establish that telephone line.

We don't mean to frustrate our viewers. Clearly at this time, we're trying to get it just as much as your are. Let's go back to Washington and let Wolf continue for a moment. Then we will come back and straighten things out here. We'll get our facts straight, get our telephone line established. For now, back to D.C. and Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks, Bill. I want to bring back Secretary Christopher, who is old enough to give us some perspective -- historic perspective -- on this day in American history. There's been a lot of comparisons to Pearl Harbor, which you of course lived through. What is your sense of this day?

CHRISTOPHER: This is a tough, tough day for America, Wolf. I think we need to be calm and focused and relentless. We responded before as we did after Pearl Harbor. I remember how that brought the nation together. We've been through a number of difficult days in the United States.

One event that I remember and that was the assassination of Martin Luther King and riots in 26 cities around the country. Quite different in nature than this, but nevertheless, our nation has pulled through these things and we will pull through this with great strength.

But we must, as I say, be relentless in the pursuit of finding out, getting to the bottom of this and finding out who did it and then taking very, very strong action.

BLITZER: Jim Steinberg, based on your career in studying terrorism and counterterrorism, can the American public assume this operation -- the one that happened today --is over with? That they can go back to work tomorrow and relax?

STEINBERG: I think we have to have a balance here. We need to take prudent precautions. I think we have seen the military and other officials today take measures to make sure that we understand the scope of these things. I think people do need to take precautions as we go forward until we learn more about who was behind this and have some confidence.

At the same time, we can't let these kinds of terrorist forces intimidate America or so change our way of life that we can't carry on about our business. It's that balance that we're going to have to draw in the days ahead.

BLITZER: Senator Dodd, will America be different as a result of what happened today?

DODD: Well, clearly. Obviously we have got to go back and tighten up security and take a look at what present procedures are to minimize what occurred. My hope would be, though -- that the terrorists today had a success. This was remarkable success. Obviously questions will have to be raised about it. But I don't want to give them the additional success of watching us all of a sudden start to tailor, trim our Bill of Rights or the rights that Americans enjoy. If we do that, then they really win here.

It's going to be important that we take those steps we need to, but not to give them the added victory of watching America's civil liberties be so restrained that the nature of our society changes as a result of their actions.

BLITZER: Secretary Christopher, you've been involved in these situations. How does a president, how does a vice president, a secretary of state, a secretary of defense balance the need to show the terrorists that the U.S. will not capitulate to what they're doing, while at the same time taking the precautions necessary to protect the citizenship?

CHRISTOPHER: Well, I think the United States has been through things like that before. We ought to learn from some events after Pearl Harbor. We ought to be very careful in the way we treat Arab- Americans and not regard them all as being guilty, if it turns out Osama Bin Laden is at the bottom of this. I think we all regret what we did to the Japanese Americans during World War II. So we have to learn from the past.

On the other hand, the primary focus at the present time has to be to get to the bottom of this, to drill down, to find out what caused this and then to improve our security intelligence. I think this is a defining day for the United States. We won't be the same for some time again, September 11, 2001 is a very black day for the United States and we will be some time recovering from it.

BLITZER: Jim Steinberg, there seems to be a nuance, perhaps a very significant nuance of difference in the policy enunciated by President Bush today as compared to what President Clinton did after other terrorist attacks against U.S. targets when President Bush said this: "We will make no distinction" -- let me repeat that -- "we will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them."

The Clinton administration, the administration for which you served, did make a distinction. Am I right?

CHRISTOPHER: I wouldn't say there was a distinction, Wolf. We took some fairly tough measures against the Taliban government. We also tried to get others to support us in that. We got the Saudi government to cut off some of their contacts with the Taliban. We put some pressure on Pakistan to try to do that as well. I think we can all support what President Bush said tonight.

I think that to the extent that is there further indication that notwithstanding their commitments, that the Taliban has tolerated terrorist activities on its territory, I think it's entirely appropriate to hold them accountable.

DODD: Let me just say I agree with that. I think you can go beyond harboring. The president said harbor. But I think those who finance them, those who train them, any of these countries -- this is a new chapter tonight, and whatever may have been the policy in the past, the action today, I think, has changed that forever. BLITZER: Senator Dodd, I want to thank you. Secretary Christopher, of course we want to thank you. Jim Steinberg in Washington, thanks so much for your insight. We're learning a lot today, obviously, somewhat sadly.

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