CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
America's New War: Bush Administration Building a Case Against Osama bin Laden
Aired October 1, 2001 - 17:00 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.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: And hello again from New York City. I'm Bill Hemmer. Tomorrow morning marks the 21st day, the third week, since terrorists struck this city. There is a lot to cover in the coming hour, but we start with Joie Chen in Atlanta with the latest developments there. Joie, hello.
JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Bill, good afternoon. The Bush administration today began providing evidence to its allies linking Osama bin Laden to last month's terror attacks. Senior administration official telling CNN that the evidence was expected to be sent out beginning today. Pakistan's president is to get the material in a special meeting with the U.S. ambassador in Islamabad.
The Peace Corps says that it has suspended operations in Turkmenistan, Kurdistan and Uzebekistan. Three hundred Peace Corps volunteers have already been pulled out of those former Soviet republics known as the Central Asian nations. The Peace Corps said the decision was made because of security concerns.
And President Bush hopes to reopen Washington's Reagan National Airport. Officials say a final decision has yet to be made. The airport remains closed because of its location near the White House and other government buildings.
The U.S. aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk left Japan today for duty in the Indian Ocean. Sources tell CNN that ship will be used as a floating base for special operations troops and helicopters.
And President Bush says the United States is making progress on several fronts in the war against terrorism. Speaking at FEMA headquarters, Mr. Bush said 50 bank accounts linked to Osama bin Laden have been frozen.
And again, on the lead story of the hour, making a case, let's go back to Bill now -- Bill.
HEMMER: OK, Joie. For weeks now the president has been saying he will share evidence with U.S. allies that link Osama bin Laden to the attacks here from 9-11. That process apparently has begun. To the State Department in Washington and CNN's Andrea Koppel.
Tell us about the process, Andrea. What have we found out about this delivery of information? ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, Bill. Well, you know, the expression, "the check is in the mail"? In this case, it's a diplomatic cable that's being sent out to several U.S. embassies in English-speaking countries. I'm told that it's going to be Great Britain, Canada and Australia to begin with.
This is the first round. And in these diplomatic cables, sources telling us: the evidence. The proof, that you mentioned, the Bush administration has been telling people around the world that it has and that it would be providing. In the words of one senior source, he said: "It's going to make the case in a logical kind of way, but without providing every morsel of evidence." This is going to be in the first round.
Now, the second round, we're told, is supposed to take place within about 48 hours, and that's supposed to include a number of NATO countries as well as South Korea, Japan and Singapore.
The third round, we're told, is pretty much everyone else. And as you can expect, in each round you will have a varying degree of evidence that's included. Closer allies, obviously, will be getting more evidence.
Now, Pakistan is a special case, we're told, and in that instance, the evidence would be provided, in the words of one senior administration source, "eyeball to eyeball between the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Wendy Chamberlin, and General Pervez Musharraf, the president of Pakistan." Bill?
HEMMER: Andrea, yesterday Pervez Musharraf said here on CNN with Christiane Amanpour that he had not seen any evidence. Is there talk at the State Department that once that evidence goes out, between the first cable, the second cable and the third that you described there, that Pervez Musharraf and others will be satisfied with what the U.S. has come up with?
KOPPEL: Well, that's certainly the hope and the expectation, but nobody is saying that right now, Bill. What's going to take place is these cables are going to go out. They're going to go out to U.S. embassies and then to U.S. -- either the ambassador or some senior diplomat will then go to the host country and lay out the case.
In the case Of Pervez Musharraf, the U.S. is going to try to present as much evidence as it feels it can without compromising what's known as "sources and methods" -- that's everything from human intelligence to satellites and other high technology. But in the case of Pakistan, the U.S. is certainly hoping that they'll be able to make the case to Pakistan. But they already feel that Pakistan is going to cooperate, Bill.
HEMMER: All right. Andrea Koppel at the State Department with the latest from there. Andrea, thanks to you.
Now to the investigation and new clues in tracing the money trail, raising again the possibility that there may be others who were involved and still at this time at large. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
(voice-over): Mohamed Atta, the man suspected of steering the first 767 into the World Trade Center, was said to have received cash transfers from Pakistan since last year. Pakistan is a common conduit for money coming out of Afghanistan.
According to a source knowledgeable about the investigation, about $100,000 was deposited into Florida banks and in turn, Atta would distribute the cash to others in the plot by buying money orders. They were issued not only to some of the suspects identified by the FBI, but to other possible associates. The FBI is now trying to track down those other names.
For more on this information throughout the evening, CNN's Eileen O'Connor and Susan Candiotti both working the story in Washington at this hour.
Let's check some of the other latest developments we have right now in the investigation. Britain today says it has frozen nearly $90 million of Taliban assets. Treasury Chief Gordon Brown saying the move was aimed at choking off terrorism's financial lifeblood.
Also, Mohamed Atta may have looked for crop dusters outside the U.S. An investigative source saying the Egyptian may have tried to obtain crop dusters in Mexico and other Central American countries. Investigators have already said Atta made inquiries in Florida about crop duster planes there.
From Virginia, a man and a woman appeared in federal court today on charges of aiding suspected hijackers. Luis Martinez-Flores, accused of helping two suspected hijackers obtain false I.D. documents. And the FBI says that Kenys Galicia has admitted that she signed residency forms for two suspected hijackers.
New York's mayor has made history today here in the city of New York. Still to come, Rudy Giuliani and a powerful appeal to the United Nations. Will that message, though, be heard?
CHEN: And, Bill, in just a moment here, your chance to be heard in this newscast. Log on at cnn.com/community with your questions for former Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman. The topic today: protecting the nation's food supply from terrorism. We'll be back in a moment.
HEMMER: New Yorkers today bid farewell to a Navy hospital ship. Here, the USNS Comfort has provided shelter to thousands of disaster relief workers, helping with the rescue and recovery efforts. That ship now headed home to city of Baltimore.
"Incomprehensible. It's the face of evil." That is how House minority leader Dick Gephardt describes the devastation at the World Trade Center. Gephardt, one of 109 lawmakers who toured the site earlier today, guided there by New York Governor George Pataki, who thanked them for the federal aid they have approved thus far. Lawmakers said the people of New York were the inspiration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), HOUSE SPEAKER: Out of this tragedy have come thousands and thousands of stories about the valiant efforts of firemen and just ordinary people. The Congress should do no less. We will work, will we come back to New York again to see this town full of people, and to see this town rise back from the ashes that we saw today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HEMMER: Also, the president's coming back to New York. He's scheduled to come back on Wednesday of this week. He'll talk to schoolchildren at an elementary school here. The White House says the president will talk about how to help the city recover from the attacks of 9-11. In addition, on that visit -- the second since the Towers were hit -- we'll focus in part on the children and what they have experienced thus far.
Also, the mayor, Rudy Giuliani, has been a guiding force since the attacks, and today he made history. The first New York mayor in nearly 50 years to address the U.N. General Assembly. The topic today: Quite obvious. To the U.N. and Richard Roth, who was watching the speech, along with us.
It appeared to be quite a remarkable delivery earlier, Richard. I'm curious to know the reaction thus far today.
RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, very stirring comments by the mayor of New York. He came to the U.N. General Assembly, of course, in the wake of 6,000 dead and unaccounted for at the World Trade Center. And there were people from more than 80 countries who were lost in that disaster. So there was a receptive audience for this mayor. He received a lot of applause when he took the General Assembly roster and he met first the Secretary General Kofi Annan of the U.N.
Of course, Mayor Giuliani has given the U.N. a bit of a hard time over the years, regarding everything from diplomatic parking, unpaid parking fines by diplomats to the U.N. General Assembly policies on the Mideast. But later Giuliani told the General Assembly, look in your hearts and recognize there is no room now for neutrality on the issue of terrorism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI (R), NEW YORK: Let those who say that we must understand the reasons for terrorism come with me to the thousands of funerals we're having in New York City -- thousands -- and explain those insane, maniacal reasons for the children who will grow up without fathers and mothers, and to the parents who have had their children ripped from them for no reason at all. Instead, I ask each of you to allow me to say at those funerals, that your nation stands with America in making a solemn promise and pledge that we will achieve unconditional victory over terrorism and terrorists.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROTH: The mayor said good intentions are not enough to conquer evil, and he warned the 189 countries not to follow the mistakes of former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who negotiated with Adolf Hitler before World War II broke out.
Secretary General Kofi Annan followed the mayor of New York, and once again, he urged everyone to stay united against terrorism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: Terrorism will be defeated if the international community summons a will to unite in a broad coalition, or it will not be defeated at all. The United Nations is uniquely positioned to serve as a forum for this coalition and for the development of those steps governments must now take, separately and together, to fight terrorism on a global scale.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROTH: Of course right now it's easy for the world to condemn terrorism. There is still a lot of action that has yet to be done or carried out. The Security Council has gone on record with a very stiff anti-terrorism measure, telling and ordering all governments to freeze assets, stop the movement of potential suspected terrorists, and basically to track the money -- money laundering, all of these things, to stop the financing of terrorist acts -- Bill?
HEMMER: What a start today. Richard Roth, the U.N. Richard, thank you.
Also in New York, the American stock exchange, back to business today. The trading floor reopening for the first time since September 11th. At the end of the day, stocks down across the board. The Dow Jones Industrials on the New York Stock Exchange dropped about 11 points. The Nasdaq gave up about 19 points. And the benchmark S&P 500 gave up about 2 1/2 points in trading today.
How safe is the nation's food supply and can it be protected from a bioterrorist attack? When we come back here, the former agriculture secretary Dan Glickman joins us live to answer those questions and a lot more on this topic. Back with more after this.
HEMMER: Many have noted how the terrorists took a familiar mode of transportation, a common commercial airplane, and turned that plane into a devastating weapon: enough to make you wonder what other common tools may be less secure than we though before. To Joie in Atlanta with more on this -- Joie? CHEN: Bill, you know, September 11th really has changed a lot about what we all think about -- about the risks and the threats that out there. Including this question: What about our food supply? What dangers might be used by terrorists to get to our food or our drinking water supply? Joining us today and taking our questions from cnn.com/community, former Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman is with us. And he has agreed to take questions from our audience.
Mr. Secretary, we appreciate your being with us, and our audience does have a number of concerns about the food and water supply. We're hoping you can give us some perspective here and help us to understand that. Let's get the first question from our Web audience up.
This is from Baton Rouge, Louisiana: "Mr. Secretary, is our food vulnerable to terrorist attack?"
DAN GLICKMAN, FORMER AGRICULTURE SECRETARY: Well, I think we're less vulnerable now than we were a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, the tragedy has caused to us increase our vigilance. We're spending more money, the government is better organized. But I'm not saying that we're not vulnerable. There are some potential vulnerabilities, in terms of our livestock supply, in terms of terrorists getting hold of food distribution systems, but I do believe we're in better shape now than we were a few months ago.
CHEN: We're certainly more aware of the possibilities. Let's get the next question from our audience on Web. This is from Greensboro, North Carolina. "What is the United States doing to protect our food supply?"
Has there been a significant change, sir?
GLICKMAN: Well, in the first place, the government is better organized. It started during the last administration, but USDA, the Department of Agriculture has joined with the other agencies under the rubric of the National Security Council to engage in an interagency process to do our best, to provide the resources that we need to protect our water and our food. That could include pesticides, it could include water, it could include the safety and health of animal agriculture.
But it is going to take more resources. This is something that we cannot rest on our laurels about. We take for granted this wonderful and bountiful safe food supply that we have. But unfortunately, it is under threat like everything else in our society is.
CHEN: Indeed. We have another question from the Web chat audience now. Let's bring that up. San Diego, California asking: "What safeguards or restrictions are there for people buying, flying a crop duster?"
Did this fall under the Ag Department?
GLICKMAN: Well, actually, it falls as much under the FAA as it falls on the Ag Department. But that does speak to a good question, and that is the coordination of the regulatory activities. I mean, the FAA monitors flying, flight safety, flight patterns. And you know, pesticide use and what you put in a crop duster may be subject to the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency or the Department of Agriculture. Now, as you know, we shut down this industry for a couple of days while we examined some potential terrorist threats. And now that industry is back in operations.
But one of the things we have to do is to get a control over all of these problems so that there is some sense into the coordination of it. And that's why this new Office of Homeland Security the president talked about could be very effective in ensuring that kind of sensible regulatory control.
CHEN: Another question here from the Web audience, Mr. Secretary. This is from Oregon. "What types of agents could be introduced into our food and water and what should we look for?"
What does the government look for?
GLICKMAN: Well, I think the government is probably looking for everything. I mean, we have heard about this horrendous stories of possibly anthrax or Botulism. You know, I don't think those are very likely. I think what would be more likely is somebody trying to totally mess up the economics of, let's say, livestock, by putting foot-and-mouth disease or something into the total supply of animal agriculture.
But let me just tell you this. On the other side of the coin is, is that for the first time we see all segments of agriculture, from the food processing industry to transportation to the farm production sector, alert to the problem. We did not have that before. And what we now need to do is ensure that the government puts the resources in to have the necessary inspectors at our border and inside the United States to monitor it.
HEMMER: Former Secretary of the Agriculture Department for the United States, Dan Glickman. Thank you for being with us and taking questions from our audience.
Again, this is our opportunity to reach out to the Web audience at cnn.com/community. If you log onto that site, you can offer up your questions.
Later in this hour we're going to talk about the issue of curbside luggage check-in and security at the nation's airports. You can get your questions to us at cnn.com/community. We'll see you back here in a little bit -- Bill.
HEMMER: OK, Joie. More now on some of the threats that may be out there. My guest is Nathaniel Wice, co-author of "Alt.culture: an encyclopedia of '90s Culture." Nathaniel has also written for magazines, including "Esquire," the "Village Voice" and "Spin" and much more.
Nathaniel, hello to you. You've been looking into things out that could help people get information, and you've also been looking at things that are good, bad, right or wrong. But what you say is there's a ton of bad information out there. Define "bad" for us.
NATHANIEL WICE, "ON" MAGAZINE: Sure, just plain wrong, hysterical, alarmist. I just got one today in my e-mail that I hadn't seen in about a year, which is a clingerman virus, that's supposed to be a sponge in a blue envelope, and it causes near-instant death, and watch out for blue envelopes in your mail. This is something that was going around probably a year and a half ago, and just -- there's a lot of this junk that's coming back now because people are so nervous about what's going on.
HEMMER: Yes, and also, Nathaniel, in the research that you've done, Tommy Thompson, the Health and Human Services secretary, last week and again, last night, came out and said if there were a bioterrorist threat in the U.S., "we are ready," in his words.
How ready is the U.S., based on what you found out?
WICE: Boy, you know, one of the great things about the Web is you can go see for yourself what the government is saying. And different parts of the government are saying no. If you go to the Centers for Disease Control, cdc.org, there's a lot of information there that can get you pretty scared pretty quickly. And I guess, you know, one of the good things that may come out of this is being more prepared for what might happen.
HEMMER: So you mentioned CDC. Also, FEMA, I believe, has a good Web site. Would you recommend that?
WICE: Sure, fema.org, and the World Health Organization is another great one. That's who.int.
HEMMER: This seems to be the second large story branching out of what happened here back on September 11th. In a general sense -- you referred to it in your first answer -- in a general Sense, is there a overreaction right now, a sense of paranoia? Or is it indeed warranted?
WICE: Oh, boy. I'm not a terrorism expert, but I think that people, you know, we're all looking for what we can do ourselves. And one thing is maybe not passing on rumors or urban legends, or sort of a friend-of-a-friend or, you know, Diane Sawyer's assistant's friend told me -- and to be a little bit more calm and maybe check around and see how accurate some of the information is.
Another really excellent site is snopes.com, where they're really running down a lot of these urban legends and hoaxes, and trying to track them.
HEMMER: And with time, the information will be useful and helpful for a lot of people with so many questions, indeed, huh, Nathaniel?
WICE: Yeah, I think, you know, the Internet has been a real tool during the last few weeks of coping and responding, and we should all try to keep it that way.
HEMMER: All right, Nathaniel Wice from "On" magazine with us today. Appreciate it, Nathaniel. Thank you very much to you.
WICE: Thanks, Bill.
HEMMER: Also, a note to our viewers. Tommy Thompson, the Health and Human Services secretary, will be a guest tomorrow morning, 7:15 a.m. East Coast time here on CNN. Hope to have you then.
Still to come though, this news hour, Afghanistan's approaching winter -- a closer look at its impact on America's military strategy.
HEMMER: Coming up now at half past the hour, time for a check on the latest developments, and for that, back to Atlanta and Joie again -- Joie.
CHEN: Bill, first up here, President Bush said today that the nation's armed forces are ready to fight. He said it may take time to get at those behind the recent terror attacks, but he said the United States is closing in on the suspects, slowly but surely.
The aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk was added today tot he anti- terror campaign. Kitty Hawk departed Japan this morning. It is the fourth U.S. aircraft carrier assigned to Operation Enduring Freedom.
Law enforcement sources tell CNN that up to $100,000 was sent by wire to one of the 19 suspected hijackers. The sources say the wires were sent from Pakistan, but the money behind them may have come from elsewhere.
Also today, CNN has learned that suspected hijacker Mohamed Atta may have inquired about crop dusting planes in the United States, Mexico and Central America. As it happens, Atta was the one who got the wire transfers from the unknown sources in Pakistan.
For more on the question of what U.S. military forces might face in the region, back to Bill.
HEMMER: All right, Joie. President Bush has said the U.S. armed forces are indeed ready, but what will they face, possibly, and how will the bitter Afghan winter affect operations? In a moment we'll put those questions to our military analyst, retired General Wesley Clark, but first is CNN's Karen Maginnis from Atlanta, talking about the winter in Afghanistan.
KAREN, hello to you.
KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Bill. It's been a long time since I've talked to you, but in regards to the weather across Afghanistan during the winter months, that's when they see most of their precipitation. Now, during the summer months, very little. But the snowfall is not going to be occurring just yet.
Naturally, with these high peaks on the Hindu Kush mountains -- they're up around 20-, 25,000 feet -- yes, they have snow year-round there. They are snow-capped mountains. But November is a fairly dry month, daytime highs usually in the 50s, nighttime lows just averaging above the freezing mark. So you might get some days where there's a rain-snow mix.
However, take a look at December, January and especially February. February seems to be the month where we see the bulk of the wintertime snow. Most of this activity is due to an area of low pressure, or areas of low pressure that are moving away from Iran and Iraq, and move across this region and really dump heavy amounts of snowfall. It's not uncommon to get some snowfall totals around a foot to two feet. Those are very common amounts on the windward side of these mountains.
About the only area that doesn't see the bulk of the snowfall is in the southwestern quadrant of the country. But then we do start to move off and into the month of March. That's when we start to see things dry out just a bit as well. But temperatures start to rebound in March, and that's when we start to see the rainfall.
But during the summer months, very, very little in the way of precipitation there. But we really have to watch out during the months of January and February -- Bill.
HEMMER: OK, Karen.
Retired General Wesley Clark, the former commander of NATO, with us live now in Arkansas. Sir, good to see you.
RET. GEN. WESLEY CLARK, FORMER NATO SUPREME COMMANDER: Nice to see you, Bill.
HEMMER: Take us back to the air war you helped direct over Yugoslavia three years ago, two-and-a-half years ago. How much did the weather play a part then in what you could or could not do?
CLARK: Well, it was a big factor. About 50 percent of the days in that air war, we lost half of our sorties or more. Now, we were going against Yugoslavia, which of course has a different weather pattern. And we were flying day after day in this campaign.
But what we did find is that weather does make a difference. Here, the weather will also make a difference.
HEMMER: Yes, indeed. And talk about that in Afghanistan. Given the forecast that Karen just mentioned, how could it play a difference, knowing that the mountains are much taller and, indeed, the climate is different from that of Yugoslavia?
CLARK: Well, I think there will be two primary considerations. First is cloud cover. And second is temperature.
With cloud cover, it interrupts the ability to see from overhead. So it means that we have got to get eyes lower, eyes on the ground underneath the clouds. And it means that if we're going to strike, we have to be able to strike through the clouds. We have the full array of equipment to do that if we are going against fixed facilities or if we have people on the ground who can direct the strikes. So there will be some impact. It will be an impact primary in reconnaissance.
Now, as far as temperatures are concerned, of course, it's more uncomfortable to be outside. And I noticed, when she was giving the temperatures in Afghanistan, they were Kabul temperatures. And, of course, right outside Kabul, in high ground, the temperatures will be much colder at night, even starting now.
But this may be an advantage for us. We can handle that cold weather. But the people that are there that are living it day in and day out, maybe it will drive them indoors. In the ruined villages, maybe they will be gathered around fires and other things. So we may be able to find them more easily than we could in warmer weather.
HEMMER: Let's move to a different topic: a military response.
Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, today gave an interview. And he said -- and I want to quote him now -- he says: "It appears the U.S. will take action in Afghanistan. The Taliban days are numbered."
Was he tipping his hand? Does he know something that we do not know at this time? Or is he stating, for all intents and purpose, the obvious?
CLARK: I think he is stating the obvious.
I think there is no question that forces are being assembled. The diplomacy is under way. The information is being addressed to various national leaders around the world -- it will go out to the world public -- tying Osama bin Laden to this. And, of course, the Taliban is protecting him.
So there's no question that the Taliban is going to make of itself a target. And the president of Pakistan is merely indicating where the balance of forces line up. And they will line up heavily against the Taliban.
HEMMER: I know about an hour and a half ago, you heard Jamie McIntyre's report from the Pentagon about the USS Kitty Hawk heading to the region without planes, to be used as a floating base of sorts to stage possibly special operations from that aircraft carrier.
How critical is that, knowing that, at this point, Pakistan is not on board on the land; Saudi Arabia is not on board on land; Iran today said stay out of its airspace? How critical, then?
CLARK: Well, it sounds critical. But we don't know yet what the final answer from all of these countries might be. And there is a process here that will unfold. But having that aircraft carrier and that flexibility there, yes, that's very important.
HEMMER: General Wesley Clark, appreciate your time. We will talk to you again tomorrow. Thank you, sir.
Afghanistan's former king today struck a deal today with the Northern Alliance aimed at ousting the Taliban. The king's senior adviser says the ultimate goal is forming a new government that would take power if the Taliban was defeated. The 87-year-old former king had lived in exile in Rome, Italy since he was overthrown in a coup back in 1973.
As just mentioned, Iran says it will take action against U.S. warplanes that -- quote -- "repeatedly violate its airspace," this in the event of a U.S. attack on Afghanistan. Iran's defense minister implied that isolated mistakes would be tolerated. But he said repeated violations would be interpreted by Iran as planned measures.
A car bombed exploded in West Jerusalem today -- no injuries there. But the Islamic Jihad reportedly has claimed responsibility for that incident in the Middle East.
Back here in the U.S., curbside check-in making a comeback -- and when we come back here: why the FAA has done a bit of an about-face on this issue -- that and more in a moment.
HEMMER: Word to us in from the White House: Apparently, the president has signed off a new security measures to reopen Reagan International Airport. Again, this is the only major airport in the country that has been closed for the past 20 days, dating back to the September 11 attacks in New York and in Washington -- the Associated Press reporting the president has signed off on this new deal and will announce his plans for the future of that airport possibly tomorrow.
On Tuesday, lawmakers in Virginia have complained loudly that the shutdown for that airport is costing them economically at this point -- again, possibly more information on this later this evening and again tomorrow.
In the meantime, though, the nation's transportation secretary says the transportation system is safe and secure. But Norm Mineta concedes it does remain vulnerable to the possibility of more terror attacks. Mineta took Amtrak today from Washington down to Philadelphia to show his support for the nation's railways. Despite giving rail travel an official thumbs-up, Mineta said there are a few soft spots that remain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NORMAN MINETA, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: What we are looking at are those vulnerable spots. But we feel confident that, given all of the local law enforcement working with the railroad enforcement security people, that rail is a safe mode of travel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HEMMER: Also, other news concerning the nation's travel and the airports: to be specific, the government saying curbside check-in will be allowed again, but only at certain airports, and, apparently, also only for certain airlines.
CNN's Patty Davis, watching this story throughout the day, with more now -- Patty, hello.
PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Bill.
Well, yes, curbside check-in is back at many airport across the country. But we were at Washington Dulles Airport today. And, in fact, there wasn't much use of those skycaps -- passengers saying they did not yet know that curbside check-in was available -- the FAA lifting its ban on curbside check-in for airlines who meet the FAA's beefed-up security requirements.
And sources tell CNN that the airlines are using what called the CAPS system. It's a computerized-assisted passenger screening system. If a passenger is flagged, then they must check in at the ticket counter for more rigorous screening -- now, the transportation secretary saying he hopes this will ease the long lines, some two hours-plus in some instances -- the airline industry, meanwhile, looking at how many passengers are actually flying these days -- the industry saying that, as of Sunday, their flight were about 67, 68 percent full.
That's compared to about 53 percent on the previous Sunday. Now, you have to take into consideration, normally, you would have about 70 to 75 percent flights -- filled to 70, 75 percent. And that looks really good. But, at the same time, there are about 20 percent less flights flying -- so, slowly but surely, the airline industry getting passengers back in the air -- American Airlines, though, showing that -- you can see how dramatically the passengers fell off.
They are saying that if you look at first 10 days before the terrorist attack occurred on September, that their load factors were off about -- passengers boarding off about 2.5 percent. After the date of September 11, their passengers boarding fell about 50 percent -- so dramatic falloff in September for airlines in terms of passengers boarding -- those numbers just starting to creep back -- Bill.
HEMMER: And, Patty, quickly here -- surely it's more convenient for passengers to get that curbside check-in -- more convenient for the airlines, too. Are they worried about security, though, when it comes to taking those bags from the curb and putting them on the plane?
DAVIS: Well, some passengers do say that they are worried about that, indeed.
Many are just finding out that it's just starting. So we haven't heard from that yet. The airlines themselves are happy to be offering this service. They have been inundated with passengers inside, some with waits hours and hours to get to the ticket counter. So -- between 40 and 60 percent of passengers do check in at curbside. And this will certainly help ease crush at the ticket counters -- Bill.
HEMMER: Indeed, you're right. The pictures looks daunting for many folks trying to wait in line and get through that airport. Patty, thanks -- Patty Davis in Washington.
With that, time for us to check in in Atlanta -- some e-mail and more -- here's Joie once again -- Joie.
CHEN: Bill, we figured that this was a good opportunity. Many of our viewers have questions about airport security. And we are taking those questions at CNN.com/community.
Joining us to answer some of these questions and issues that our audience is bringing forward to us is Con Hitchcock of the Aviation Consumer Action Project. He joins us from Washington this afternoon.
Thanks very much for being with us, Con.
CON HITCHCOCK, CONSUMER EXPERT: My pleasure.
CHEN: I want to get you some of these questions straight from the audience now on the Web.
Lathrop, California asks: "What was the reason curbside check-in was halted? What are the dangers of curbside check-in?"
This is an important point.
HITCHCOCK: Absolutely. I think you have put it in context.
On September 11, when the unprecedented attacks took place, what the government decided to do was to close the airspace system and to take a number of comprehensive steps, one of which was the ban on curbside check-in. What has happened since September 11 is that, as the system is rebuilding, there are reforms being put into effect. And it's possible to try to get the curbside check-in now back in place.
The concern that your viewer has is that -- curbside check-in, there was an initial concern that it's easier, possibly, for luggage to get separated from somebody getting on a plane. You now have a situation -- or you have had for a while -- international flights, you have passengers who are matched with bags before you get on. For domestic flights, you also have the screening system that is in effect that was just mentioned.
And so the government and the airlines are now in the position that they can start reintroducing this particular feature as a means of easing some of the congestion at airports.
CHEN: All right, another question from our Web chat audience, Con, for you -- getting this to you from the Web chat audience.
This is Tampa, Florida's question: "Why hasn't the government taken over all aspects of U.S. airport security?"
There is some movement in this direction, some interest in having that happen.
HITCHCOCK: Well, you know, the interesting thing is that, until September 11, the United States was the only major nation that did not view security as being primarily a government responsibility. It was placed on the airlines. We are moving away from that. Some of the concern is fundamentally questions about cost. It costs money to put sky marshals on planes. It costs money to have the increased type of security. That's something that I think the flying public is willing to pay for now, where as that was something that we didn't perceive the threat to be quite as it is until September 11.
CHEN: Yes, I have heard from some of the airlines that they would like the government to do just that.
All right, another question from the Web audience here, Con.
From Baton Rouge, Louisiana: "Do they X-ray all the luggage before it is loaded on a plane?"
I have always wondered this myself. If I hand off luggage at the desk there at the check-in, does it get X-rayed somewhere?
HITCHCOCK: There's good chance that it would be being checked out ahead of time. I think that the odds of security are even greater now in light of the events of September 11.
I think one of the things for us as passengers to do is, when we think about security a lot of times is to think about issues before you leave home, in terms of what you're packing in luggage, what you want to carry on. Try to get information so that you can be savvy about what's going on at that airport and also try to take less time getting through.
CHEN: I just want to make clear here, Con: There is a way for them to do it? It's not just when I go through the live security checkpoint to get into the terminal myself? My luggage does -- there's some possibility that it can be X-rayed underneath there somewhere in the bowels of the airport?
HITCHCOCK: That is correct. It's checked when you go through to make sure that there's nothing obvious. Some of the concern has been expressed about: Is everything being checked? Is everything there? And, obviously, that is something that's being looked at very closely these days.
CHEN: All right, another question from our Web chat audience. Let's take a look.
This is from Ohio: "Were 4 inch blades and box cutters previously legal?"
And this is the thing you hear often from folks: Gee, how is it they got even got 4 inch blades and box cutters on board?
HITCHCOCK: My understanding is, it was permitted.
I use to carry a pocket knife, a Swiss army knife on board. When I was stuck in California after September 11, I went down to the post office and mailed it home, because I knew I wouldn't be able to get something like that on any more. So it's just one of the ways in which things are being tightened up. And other sharp objects as well -- a woman on flight next to me said that she had her tweezers confiscated before getting on the plane. This was two or three days afterwards, after the attacks.
CHEN: Well, I think some people will look forward to that greater security. And some people might be a little offended . But we will see how it works out.
Con Hitchcock is with the Aviation Consumer Action Project. We appreciate you joining us and taking questions from our Web audience today.
HITCHCOCK: My pleasure.
CHEN: Thanks very much -- Bill.
HEMMER: All right, Joie.
As we were talking with Patty Davis earlier, passengers are starting to return slowly to the air. Last Thursday, flights were said to be an average of 46 percent full compared to 39 percent the Thursday before -- still a long way to go, though, which is why airlines have started to pare down their payrolls -- nearly 100,000 workers expected to be out work sometimes very soon. And that's a concern to many back on Capitol Hill.
CNN's Kate Snow keeping an eye on what is being done to help them out -- Kate, where do things stand on this Monday afternoon?
KATE SNOW, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bill, no one want to be accused on Capitol Hill of ignoring displaced workers. That's why there is so much talk.
But there is a difference of opinion about how much should be done to help them and who really needs this help -- White House aides up here on Capitol Hill for meetings with congressional aides this afternoon. House Democrats have been pushing to provide an extra year of unemployment insurance to those in the airline industry or related industries -- Senate Democrats, according to sources, now willing to go with a little bit less than that: providing between 13 and 26 extra weeks of unemployment insurance -- all sides also talking about money for worker training -- also a way to help those laid off pay for medical coverage.
And Democrats want to help also those who don't have unemployment insurance in the first place, who wouldn't be eligible for that -- but Republicans saying that that wouldn't be very many people. In fact, they told White House aides today at this meeting, that they say 90 percent of those laid off will be eligible for unemployment insurance for the normal six-month period. And there are ways to extend, they say, that government program as well -- so Republicans saying that Congress may end up adding, if you will, some bells and whistles on to existing law to try to appease the Democrats and try to make this look like they are helping workers.
And, indeed, they say they really do want to help workers. But they feel that this existing law that already is in place might be the best thing that they can do and that that is already there for them -- Bill, back to you.
HEMMER: All right, Kate. It's said to be cyclical industry, but this is a cycle that no one wants to face at this point. Kate Snow, thanks again.
Tens of thousands of refugees fleeing Afghanistan, creating a humanitarian crisis at the border -- the plight of these people, the other victims of these terrorist attacks, is coming up.
But first, here's a look at some other news happening today:
(voice-over): A busy first day for the U.S. Supreme Court, opening its new term with a moment of silence for the victims of last month's terror attacks -- then on to business, rejecting an appeal by Terry Nichols, convicted for his role in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
The justices also suspended former President Bill Clinton from practicing law before the high court, giving him 40 days to argue why that order should not be permanent. Clinton's lawyer says the former president will contest it.
And from the sports world, Michael Jordan talks for the first time about his second comeback in the NBA.
MICHAEL JORDAN, WASHINGTON WIZARDS: Hopefully, I can provide the relaxation for many of us so that it can help us deal with a lot of the social issues and some of the issues that we are dealing with.
HEMMER: And that's a quick look at other news today.
HEMMER: Caught in the middle of this war on terrorism are the innocent: hundreds of thousands of Afghans fleeing for the borders. It's a humanitarian crisis that may reach epic proportions.
CNN's senior Asia correspondent Mike Chinoy recently went inside some of the camps in neighboring Pakistan.
MIKE CHINOY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a dusty river bed under a relentless sun sits the Jalozai refugee camp, home to 60,000 people. Most fled the fighting and famine in Afghanistan before September 11. Now, more are on the way. They're arriving, as we did, to a scene of misery and desperation. Yet the U.N. fears that over a million more may be risking their lives to reach places like this.
Medina Mohammed Aslam (ph), a widow, and her three children arrived from Kabul last Friday. Now, they're living in this threadbare tent, surviving on emergency rations from the World Food Program. I was afraid of war, she says. That's why we left. We paid someone to smuggle us across the border on mules. We had no food or water for four days.
With more than two million Afghans already in this country fleeing two decades of misery across the border, Pakistan doesn't want these people. In the hope of discouraging new refugees, the government stopped registering those arriving from Afghanistan in early August. Yet they come. For aid workers like Roy Olliff of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, the new influx fueled by the September 11 attack has turned what was already a crisis into a catastrophe.
(on camera): Compared with what you and your colleagues have seen elsewhere, how bad are the conditions here? How do they stack up compared with other crises?
ROY OLLIFF, UNHCR: I think it's probably fairly well recognized by most of the humanitarian aid people that this is one of the worst situations that we've ever seen in a crisis situation.
OLLIFF: Well, the people were struggling as it was and they've been through a lot and then they came here and they're absolutely jammed together. You can see the conditions of some of the tents here. There's very, very little, very little shelter. When they first came here it was freezing cold and there was a problem of hypothermia and then as the months went by then it became extremely hot and there was the problem of dehydration.
CHINOY (voice-over): A few minutes from Jalozai is another camp called Shamshatoo. All its 60,000 residents arrived well before September 11. Pakistan has accepted them as legitimate refugees, a status reflected in their somewhat less squalid living conditions. There are regular supplies of water and food, even a school, in tents provided by UNICEF, for some of the youngsters.
Yet the trauma of what's been happening in Afghanistan is never far away. In my village, there was heavy fighting, says Mohammed Naveed (ph), holding his grandson, Abdul Malik (ph), and there was no water and no bread.
Mohammed Madjwan (ph) showed us his wounds. He was caught in crossfire between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance. I was hit four times in the hand and twice in the chest, he says. The bullets in my chest are still there. I don't have the money to have them removed.
As the political maneuvering over Afghanistan's future continues, it was clear the people we spoke with cared less about who runs the country than whether it will be safe to go back. I will return home, says Medina Mohammed Aslam, but only when peace has been restored.
Afghanistan was facing a humanitarian disaster long before the terrorist attacks in the U.S. But those events turned the plight of the Afghans into an international crisis. Still, it may be a long time before the refugees here can go home.
Mike Chinoy, CNN, at the Jalozai refugee camp, Pakistan.
HEMMER: And on this topic, that raises another question: How might the plight of those refugees play into a U.S. military strategy?
Back to Joie for more on this.
CHEN: Bill, a little more background here.
Mike Chinoy has already told us that this is a refugee crisis that has been building for -- decades of fighting, and then, of course, in the last few years, has been drought as well.
Take a look at the situation as it stands now. By expert estimates, fears of a pending military strike could push the number of people going for safety to well over three million. And it's getting harder for them to get help already. Relief organizations tell us that all Western aid workers have been forced from the areas under the Taliban control.
They are now only allowed -- you see up in the top there -- in that portion of the country controlled by the Northern Alliance. That is this area up in the top here. They do have some other areas as well. But, basically, that's it for the Northern Alliance. So how are the refugees getting out?
Well, the Pakistani border is officially closed. But we're told that the largest numbers are making their way through the Khyber Pass. You've heard of this before. It is a very rough crossing, 33 mile strip to the west of Kabul. It goes across, into Pakistan -- a very, very rough crossing. At one point, it is only 3 yards wide. It is a key link, though, from Afghanistan into Pakistan.
Let's talk about the impact that millions of refugees might have on any military strategy. Joining us again this hour is retired General Wesley Clark, former NATO commander.
General Clark, you have faced this issue with Kosovo as well, the issue of refugees and how that affects military strategy. Can you line that up for us real quickly?
CLARK: We tried first to be very protective of the refugees, not to attack them or strike them in any way. And then secondly, we diverted resources to help take care of them and assist the U.N. humanitarian agencies in doing so.
But I think this is a very important part of the U.S. strategy. I think we have got to work with the refugees. We have got to help those people because we are the people -- the United States is the power that is a positive force in this case. And it's very much in keeping with our ethic and our morality to help these refugees.
CHEN: A quick word from General Wesley Clark. Thanks very much. We will see you again.
And we will be back with more from Bill after the break.
HEMMER: The scene from Central Park just a short time ago -- many people coming to remember about 700 of the World Trade Center victims, all of whom employees of Cantor Fitzgerald, a brokerage and bond house. Many attending this service received teddy bears today handed out by the company in remembrance of the victims. That is certainly one company that took a devastating, devastating toll from the attacks on 9/11.
With that, that concludes our coverage for this hour here on CNN. For Joie Chen in Atlanta, I'm Bill Hemmer live in New York. See you again tomorrow.
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