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America's New War: Search for Suspects Worldwide

Aired September 19, 2001 - 06:00   ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: But the search for suspects is worldwide and authorities say they now have netted 49 material witnesses in their massive manhunt for conspirators.

CNN's Justice Department correspondent Kelli Arena brings us up to date now on the investigation from Washington.


KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: And the attorney general is lobbying to give investors -- investigators more power to do their jobs.

Now to date, the FBI says that it has received more than 50,000 leads and a manhunt continues for 185 people that the FBI has identified as individuals who many have information about last Tuesday's terrorist attacks. There are at least 49 people in INS custody and at least 4 people are being held in New York as material witnesses. Among those, a San Antonio doctor who was taken into custody last week, Albador Alhazmi (ph). Now he has a similar last name as two of the hijackers, and investigators are looking into whether he trained at the same flight school as another hijacker.

Now while the investigation is making progress, the FBI is asking for -- the public for help. It's seeking and recruiting citizens with proficiency in Arabic and Farsi. Meanwhile, the attorney general is warning once again that there is information that more people involved in the plot to pull off Tuesday's attacks remain in the United States. And sources tell CNN that some confiscated material suggest that the terrorists had backup plans to their hijacking plot. The attorney general says that's why Congress needs to move fast to change some laws, most notably wire tap laws.

Kelli Arena, CNN, Washington.


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And staying in Washington, we're getting a better idea today of the chaos that followed the assault on the Pentagon. Now this comes from Arlington County 911 dispatch tapes that have just been released. Listen to them now as we show you Department of Defense images of the destruction.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) 911 OPERATOR: OK, (INAUDIBLE) responding to check the area of the Pentagon advise on Channel 1 please. I have Delta 35, Cruiser 34 and Delta 352 (ph).



911 OPERATOR: OK, one unit at a time.


911 OPERATOR: Motor 11.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm direct and there is visible smoke coming from that area -- high visible smoke.

911 OPERATOR: Motor 11 direct.

Units, once again, we're -- keep all traffic on 1 Adam (ph) restricted until further notice. Units responding for the report of the plane crash advise on 1 Adam one at a time. I have Motor 11, Cruiser 34, Cruiser 49, Delta 10, Delta 453, Delta 35 and Delta 452 (ph). Any other units standby response (INAUDIBLE) other.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) 23, I'm going to (INAUDIBLE) 304 and I will be standing by for further instructions.

911 OPERATOR: 23410, thank you. Cruiser 50?


911 OPERATOR: Channel 4 is that (INAUDIBLE) to respond for now or do you request additional?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) standby until we see what we've got.

911 OPERATOR: 10-4.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) respond for traffic.

911 OPERATOR: (INAUDIBLE) responding for traffic.


911 OPERATOR: Copy. Motor 2 responding for traffic also.


911 OPERATOR: Motor 11.


(END VIDEOTAPE) HARRIS: And as hard as that is to look at, Attorney General John Ashcroft says there is a very real concern that there may be more terrorist attacks planned against the U.S. And the FBI has launched a manhunt for nearly 200 people now.

CNN's Bob Franken joins us now live from the Pentagon with the latest.

Good morning, Bob.


In about three and a half hours, it will be one week -- one week since that nightmare played out here at the Pentagon, played out, of course, throughout the city of Washington and around the world. One week, they've still discovered less than 100 of the 188 bodies that they believe will be inside the Pentagon.

It was about 9:40 in the morning Eastern time when that plane crashed into the building here on the other side and caused the scenes that you saw just a moment ago. These scenes that were shot almost immediately afterwards by members of the Pentagon. Everybody else in the media was trying to figure out what to do. They were locating wherever they could, and, of course, they were not given proximity anywhere near this.

The rest of the city of Washington was awash in rumors, rumors that there was -- there was a car bomb at the State Department, a rumor that was untrue. Rumors that there were going to be problems at the Capitol, but of course this was the target this time. And a week later the search goes on through the rubble. They still try and reconstruct and put up the support beams to make it safe to begin a rebuilding process that's going to take at least a couple of years and several hundred million dollars to correct.

As far as planning for the retaliation is concerned, we're hearing an awful lot about that. Members of the administration, the Defense Secretary and the president at all saying that this is going to be unprecedented. It's going to operate under remarkable rules of secrecy. There is going to be unprecedented secrecy because the explanation is is that it is required in an -- in an atmosphere where terrorist organizations get their information from the press in many cases.

There are going to be significant press restrictions, restrictions that were already quite severe as implemented in the Persian Gulf War. There is going to be very little opportunity to travel with military units to be anywhere near the action. And media organizations can probably raise some questions about whether or not that means that the United States would be fighting a secret war that goes against the grain of the open disclosure that is part of the United States tradition.

There will be very highly compartmentalized planning, meaning that one part of government that has no reason to know will not know what the other one is doing. Again, all in an effort to try and keep secret from organizations, terrorist groups that operate in secrecy so they're going to explain that they're going to fight secrecy with secrecy -- Leon.

HARRIS: Well, Bob, with all of that, how do you get a sense at all of how exactly we'll find out when there has been any progress made in this?

FRANKEN: Well, it sounds like -- it sounds like the plan would be for the United States to rely on the government to say this is what happened and this is what we will show you happened. At the moment as the plans seem to be, there would be no access by news media who are not very severely controlled. The news organizations, of course, will argue that this goes against the tradition of openness in the United States. You can expect this to be quite significantly debated. Administration officials explain, however, that this is a new world. The world of terrorism requires this kind of restrictive coverage.

HARRIS: Yes, that's the kind of thing that normally is criticized in this country when it happens in another country, but in this case, it's -- we're being told it is necessary here.

FRANKEN: But we have to allow this debate, Leon, to go on. They, of course, do make the argument that this is a different environment then we've ever faced before.

HARRIS: Yes, no doubt. Bob Franken at the Pentagon, thank you.

Carol, over to you.

LIN: All right. Strong words there, and of course with the United States Attorney General John Ashcroft warning that there could be more terrorist strikes yet in the United States, let's go to Kelly Wallace. She is at the White House.

Kelly, in light of what the attorney general is saying that the possibility of more terrorist strikes, does this put more pressure on President Bush to move more quickly with any military action?

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the answer to that the administration would say because of that continued threat out there, every agency of the federal government is on a high state of alert and precautions are being made for the airlines, for government buildings to protect the American people. The White House saying that the president has tried to put this message out that it will take time and that the administration is not going to rush into any action, that this will be a planned operation. And again, the message we've been getting all along that it could take weeks, months, even years.

We're seeing the president, Carol, sort of juggling a few different roles. We'll see him as Commander in Chief meeting again with his national security team trying to come up with some military options. As the nation's top diplomat, he will be meeting later tonight with French President Jacques Chirac to kind of shore up that International Coalition Against Terrorism. And then in this role as sort of the motivator for the American people at this difficult time. The president will have an event this morning where he will be calling on Americans to donate to charities, donate supplies, money to help with the search and recovery efforts.

WALLACE: The president sort of using the bully pulpit to address a variety of concerns. We saw him do that yesterday afternoon when he traveled to an Islamic Center here in Washington, D.C. The reason for that trip, growing concern in the administration about harassment, discrimination, even violence against Arab-Americans and Muslim- Americans. In fact, the FBI now has 40 hate crime investigations underway after reported attacks against Arab-Americans and Muslim- Americans. The president saying any American who decides to take out his or her anger on Arab or Muslim-Americans should be ashamed.

The president doing another public event yesterday, traveling to the Pentagon. There he was thanking reservists, kind -- rallying the troops. There the president talked of a long and difficult war and said that there will be costs to this campaign. And then he delivered really his strongest language to date, sort of conjuring up images of the wild, wild West when talking about the man the administration says is a prime suspect, Osama bin Laden.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Osama bin Laden is just one person. He is representative of networks of people who are -- who absolutely have made the -- their cause to defeat the freedoms that we take -- that we understand, and we will not allow him to do so.

QUESTION: Do you want bin Laden dead?

BUSH: I want him -- I want -- I want justice, and there's an old poster out west, as I recall, that said Wanted: Dead or Alive.


WALLACE: Well following those words, reporters had many questions for the president's spokesman, Ari Fleischer, asking if the president's words meant that the administration no longer supports a decade's old executive order which prevents the United States from engaging in any assassinations overseas. Ari Fleischer, the president's spokesman, saying that order remains in effect, but he also said it does not prevent the United States from acting in self- defense -- Carol.

LIN: Kelly, does it prevent the United States from offering very specific incentives like money to, frankly, get somebody else out there to do the job for it?

WALLACE: Well that is a good question. Certainly lawyers would have to look at that. It depends on really how you sort of define self-defense. Many reporters trying to hammer away at Fleischer yesterday to say going after bin Laden, going ahead and trying to target him, is that acting in self-defense? Ari Fleischer not answering the question. So it doesn't appear this administration will answer that. As Bob Franken just reported, lots of secrecy about the plans, the steps, the operation that this administration will take.

But very clearly, we heard Vice President Cheney, rather matter of fact, on a Sunday talk show where he was asked if he would like -- he said if I had bin Laden's head on this table that would still not end terrorism concerns around the world. Saying it's not just bin Laden, there are terrorism cells around the world. And when that interviewer asked if he would like to have bin Laden's head, Mr. Cheney said he'd like it right now.

LIN: All right.

WALLACE: So you can see tough talk from the White House.

LIN: Much tough talk, and certainly the Taliban in Afghanistan warning that any strike against Afghanistan might very well increase the chance of terrorism against Americans all around the world.

Thank you very much. Kelly Wallace reporting from the White House this morning.

HARRIS: Sign of some tough talk but it's tough talk the American public wants to hear right about now.

And let's check in now at ground zero. CNN's Alessio Vinci is there standing by. And we understand that there is quite a challenge there for those who -- the engineers who are actually helping the rescue workers right now pick through that rubble there.

Alessio, good morning.


Well, it's been a gigantic rescue operation here. We have been here all night and I can tell you that we have seen a lot of activity here. And we're still only getting the feeling that nobody here is really wants to give up the hope that perhaps somewhere underneath a big pile of rubble there might be still some survivors, although, of course, the chances of finding anybody alive after a week are really grim.

Lots of activity, as I said. We have seen several rescue workers going in. We've even seen a team of FBI agents. Of course this is not just a disaster area, it is also a huge crime scene. FBI agents there perhaps looking for some evidence that can give us some more clues about who these hijackers really were.

A week after the crash, as I said, the big pile of rubble behind me still smoldering. We understand that there is still some fires underneath the big pile of rubble. And one of the rescue officials telling us that it is considerable that some survivors, although unlikely, some survivors may still be alive in small pockets of air and, therefore, this rescue operation is proceeding extremely slowly because they have to remove the pieces of bricks one by one using their hands because they don't want to use the heavy machinery that would shift the big rubble and eventually close those air pockets. Most firemen with whom we have been speaking are telling us that it is their duty to continue this search operation despite the fact that the chances of finding anybody alive are really grim. And others are telling -- are telling us that they have a special motivation.


CAPT. DALE BROWN, INTERMOUNTAIN FIRE DEPARTMENT: Every firefighter faces disasters at one point of another, usually much smaller than this. I think every guy here realizes that death is a part of any kind of situation, this is just on a much larger level. I think most guys right now they're dealing with it OK. Most guys with the New York Fire Department are just feeling this tremendous loss. Most of them know somebody.

JACK O'BRIEN, RESCUE WORKER: And the enthusiasm is still there by the police department and the fire department and the contractors, but there's a lot less people there working. But everybody there is working hard and really hopeful. I think everybody wants to be the one that finds somebody.


VINCI: Leon, we've been asking many rescue workers here how long it will take to remove all of this rubble. Some estimates say 500,000 tons of rubble still remain behind me. The answers vary between two months and a year. So, of course, nobody really here really knows how long it will take. One thing is sure, Leon, is that it will take a lot longer before life will be returned to normal behind me here in lower Manhattan.

HARRIS: Yes, that is...

VINCI: Back to you, Leon.

HARRIS: That is for sure. Alessio, let me ask you something because you referenced that rubble there. I read a report this morning that some experts believe that that rubble might actually be holding the basement together and if it's -- if it's removed that might actually cause more problems. Any word at all yet on how long before they actually reach the basement where many people believe there might actually be a survivable chamber?

VINCI: It is unclear how low they went underneath the level. One of the rescue workers told me yesterday that they went so deep as to the sixth level underground. And if I understand correctly, there are seven levels, although, of course, it is a large area and of course it is separated in different sections. So it is unclear how deep they went so far. However, we also understand that there are certain areas where they can't even get there so it is really difficult for me to say how soon they will get to this large area where some survivors some people say may still be there.

HARRIS: Yes, they are still holding out hope. Alessio Vinci, thank you very much. We'll talk with you later on and much throughout the day -- boy. LIN: It sounds like they're actually getting to that basement level,...

HARRIS: Just about.

LIN: ... but it's a 16-acre field so they've got a really wide stretch to search through.

HARRIS: Yes, about 70 or 80 feet deep so that's going to be a real technical challenge for them.

LIN: All right, well hope is still alive out there.

In a couple of hours, traders are going to be back on Wall Street.

HARRIS: Yes, and many are hoping, if you want to use that word again, that things are going to pick up today. Question though is will there be more selling than buying again today? A huge sell-off yesterday. And try and get a feel for Wall Street's recovery coming up next, don't go away.




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