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America Strikes Back: Overnight Airstrikes by U.S.-Led Forces Against Taliban Positions; Pakistan Police Brace for Demonstrators; President Angry Over Leaked Classified Information

Aired October 9, 2001 - 22:00   ET


AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again, everyone. Four weeks ago tonight, we sat on a rooftop in New York, barely able to grasp the horror of what we had witnessed all day and reported all day. Four weeks that have changed us all in ways that are hard to measure and impossible to ignore.

Thousands of lives shattered in a matter of minutes four weeks ago today. And today, a defiant celebration of this barbarism from Osama bin Laden's terrorist network.

A spokesman issuing a statement praising the hijackers and warning of more to come. And there was the predictable, but no less chilling call for a holy war. If this isn't precisely a clear admission of responsibility for the terror of September 11, it certainly sounds like it to our ears.

And in Afghanistan today, the United States continued to target al Qaeda, an enemy that claims to be fearless but will only reveal itself on videotape.

We'll get back to the statement in a couple of moments. But first as is our custom, if you can have a custom after three days, a quick whip around the region and Washington, too, to get the headlines of the day.

We start with Chris Burns, who's right now in the northern part Afghanistan. Chris, the headline tonight?

CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, airstrikes overnight by the U.S.-led forces and some bombardments by the Northern Alliance against Taliban positions across the front here, north of Kabul. The Northern Alliance also claiming to have seized a key north-south supply route for the Taliban in the north of Afghanistan. If that is true, then that is a severe blow to the Taliban forces up in the north -- Aaron.

BROWN: Thank you. Back with you momentarily.

CNN's Christiane Amanpour is in Islamabad, Pakistan -- Christiane.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, the police and authorities here bracing for any possible new demonstrations, a heightened police presence on the street, authorities saying that there have been five demonstrators killed over the last two days. And they say that if necessary, they will call out the army. But they say that right now, they have the situation under control.

BROWN: And we'll get back to Christiane. Over to the White House, our senior White House correspondent John King. John, the headline?

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, a senior administration official who watched that chilling statement by a bin Laden spokesman said to me, maybe the President didn't go far enough when he called these people barbarians.

And we saw the President's anger today over what believes reckless leaks of classified information by the Congress, but he's also working on a truce that could be resolved as early as tomorrow.

BROWN: In Florida, the issue is anthrax. Ed Lavandera is there for us and the headline.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, the last week, two cases of anthrax have been discovered in this part of Florida. Now the FBI is heading up a high-tech medical investigation to find the source of what caused that anthrax and in one case become deadly.

BROWN: Ed, thank you. And we'll be back with you as well.

We begin tonight now with the words of the terrorists. Late today Al-Jazeera, the Arab TV network, received yet another tape from the al Qaeda terrorist network. This time, it wasn't bin Laden. It was his spokesman. Yes, even the world's most wanted man has a spokesman these days.

And this is the man, Suliman Abu Ghaith. And in the tape, which runs just over five minutes, he warns Americans there will be more hijackings. He says the terror will continue until the United States ends support for Israel and ends the sanctions against Iraq. Bin Laden said much the same on Sunday.

He says all U.S. interests in the country and around the world are now targets. He praises the September 11 hijackers, without specifically saying al Qaeda planned the attack. And he says that Muslims around the world should fight a holy war against United States.

It is, as was the bin Laden tape on Sunday, chilling and of great concern to the administration tonight, which does not know if the specific language in the tape is just more propaganda or something more sinister, perhaps some message, some code to terrorists here and around the world to take some action.

With that concern in mind, we are simply paraphrasing what was on the tape. We do know that intelligence agencies are now trying to figure out what tape means. We're going to talk about it some. We're joined by Jeffry Goldberg of "The New Yorker" Magazine. Jeffery has reported extensively on the Arab world and joins us tonight from Washington. Jeffrey, good evening.


BROWN: Well, what's your take on the tape? Let's make this pretty simple at the start.

GOLDBERG: Yes, it's actually a very clarifying moment I think for a couple of reasons. One, it's something close to an admission that these are the guys who did it. And it's also straightforward praise of the acts of September 11.

It's also interesting because it's giving us a good sense of the true nature, unending nature of their demands. If you read this statement, and if you have spoken to these guys as I have in the past, we're beginning to understand that this is not an issue of ending sanctions in Iraq or pulling out Jewish settlements from the West Bank. These guys want to remake the world. And they are beginning to give us an inkling into their thinking, and which is very illuminating.

BROWN: I think it was several week ago, I've lost track a bit of time, I talked with someone who said, look, I mean, you could solve the problems between the Palestinians and the Israelis. You can make peace there. It isn't going to change a thing with these guys because what they want is the world in a way.

GOLDBERG: Well, I could tell you a very brief story about that. Last year, I was -- I spent a good deal of time in the main Taliban seminary in the northwest frontier province of Pakistan. And I sat one day with the director of this school.

And I asked him what would satiate his particular vision of Islam. And he gave me a list. He said jihad in Chechnya, jihad in Palestine, jihad in Kashmir, jihad in Bosnia, jihad in the Philippines, the overthrow of the Saudi government, the overthrow of the Egyptian government, Jordan, Morocco, Turkey.

I mean, what we're understanding, I think what we're beginning to understand, is that this is not -- these are not a bunch of guys who, you know, in the old days, when you hijacked a plane, you put down a demand. You said I want to release 10 guys from prison, 10 of my men from prison.

This is not who we're dealing with. These guys are far more ambitious. They want to remake their world in their own image. And I think that's what we're getting.

BROWN: And so, for the other countries of the world, for the West, for the rest, is there an alternative to what has been called the lot that drained the swamp tactic? Basically, you have to drive them out, not of Afghanistan, but somehow take them out of the world?

GOLDBERG: It's a difficult thing. You know, there's a strange silver lining here, if you don't mind me saying. Now that they have admitted, functionally, and have praised this act, you might -- it might not have the effect that they want.

People around the Arab world who have until now denied that it could have been Arabs, denied that it could have been Osama bin Laden, might be repulsed by these statements. And that might go part of the way toward draining that swamp. I'm not overly hopeful on that, but this might backfire on them in the Arab world.

BROWN: Silver lining in some dark clouds. Jeffrey, thank you, Jeffrey Goldberg joins us.

GOLDBERG: Thank you.

BROWN: Thank you very much. We'll talk to you again. We have much more coming up.

ANNOUNCER: Ahead on this CNN special edition, America strikes back, an in-depth look at the TV network plugged in to the turmoil and terror of Afghanistan, al Jazeera. In Florida, hundreds wait and wonder, after getting tested for anthrax exposure.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This afternoon, we're having a family reunion and because we don't know when our last days here may be.


ANNOUNCER: And the fear spreading far beyond Florida, and the devastation of lower Manhattan. Stay with us.


BROWN: In time of peace, the administration, any administration tries to control information. In time of war, that is especially true.

As we reported here last night, the President has decided that classified information will only be shared with a very small number of members of Congress, even members with security clearances and oversight over the administration's polices are being denied information in an effort to minimize the possibility of leaks.

This is making some members of Congress quite unhappy. For more on that, we turn to our senior White House correspondent John King. John, good evening again.

KING: Good everything to you, Aaron. After we first reported this yesterday, there was quite an uproar in the Congress, quite a defense of the President's policy here and in the administration. Officials saying leaks from Congress were putting the lives of U.S. servicemen and U.S intelligence sources overseas at risk.

We saw the President quite animated on this subject today. He said he didn't care if he was causing heartburn in the Congress. But as the President served notice once again today that this war will be a very long one, there was also indications to us tonight that the fight with Congress over classified information might be over quite soon.


(voice-over): The President welcomed a key ally to the White House and word of progress in the war in Afghanistan.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Secretary Rumsfeld summed it up pretty well today when he made it clear that the skies were now free for U.S. planes to fly without being harassed in any way, and that the missions have been successful. And as to whether or not we will put troops on the ground, I'm not going to tell you.

KING: On day three of airstrikes, U.S. officials told CNN there likely will be a role for ground forces soon, with an emphasis on special operations. "Significant role at times, but limited in number," was how one senior official put it.

German Gerhard Schroeder said his nation was prepared to deploy military forces if asked, but like Mr. Bush, he was in no mood to give specifics.

GERHARD SCHROEDER, GERMAN CHANCELLOR: As you might easily understand, it would be entirely unhelpful to spread this kind of information that would only help the enemy that we're trying to bring down.

KING: The President forcefully defended his decision first reported by CNN on Monday to significantly restrict the sharing of classified information about the war on terrorism with Congress. Mr. Bush told his guest there were reckless leaks to "The Washington Post," just as he was sending troops into harm's way.

BUSH: I want Congress to hear loud and clear, it is unacceptable behavior to leak classified information when we have troops at risk.

KING: This Bush memo restricted classified briefings to just eight members of Congress. The leaders of the Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees complained being left out violated their right to oversee government operations.

SEN CARL LEVIN (D), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: The bottom line is that we need to figure out a way that we can carry out our functions. And that requires that there be classified information.

KING: The outlines of truce emerged after several lawmakers raised the issue directly with the President.


(on camera): Administration officials telling us tonight the President believes he has made his point and that he now willing to expand the list, slightly at least, of the members of Congress allowed access to those classified briefings. But first we are told, the President wants to look the four top Congressional leaders in the eyes tomorrow morning at breakfast, and get assurances from them that if he does so, if he allows more members to get those briefings, that they will help him enforce a commitment to secrecy -- Aaron.

BROWN: So was this all to make a point because the President surely had to know there would be this reaction from Congress?

KING: It was mostly to make a point. But still, they will not go as far as they were going in the days immediately after the strikes or in the days just of a few days ago, excuse. Mr. Bush was shown law today by Congressman Tom Lantos of California. That law says the Foreign Services Foreign Relations Committee and the House International Relations Committee have a statutory right he said to access to the classified information of U.S. operations overseas.

We're told the President said, "Look, I'm not trying to circumvent the law, but I have every right to be mad." The members in the room agreed with the President. We're told that they have received new marching orders from the leadership, any more leaks, the President will cut back again --Aaron.

BROWN: John, thanks. John King at the White House tonight.

We got another look today at just how nervous people are about anthrax. It came postage paid to an office in Montreal in a large envelope. There was nothing suspicious about it, except for this. It came from Sun Publishing in the south Florida, that same office building where two men have been exposed to anthrax.

Police evacuated the building in Montreal. A hazmat team was sent in. They took the envelope away for testing. And in Florida, there are few people left who believe the anthrax cases there, the one death and the one man exposed have any sort of innocent explanation.

Plenty of reason to be nervous.

CNN's Ed Lavandera has been following the investigation. He joins us now from West Palm Beach. Ed, good evening to you again.

LAVANDERA: Good evening, Aaron. You hit right on the head. There are a lot of nervous people here in Palm Beach County this evening, even though health officials and authorities here are saying that they're convinced that this case has just been isolated to that building we've been talking a lot about in the last couple of days. And right now, FBI is heading up an investigation, trying to figure out where the anthrax came from.


(voice-over): A second round of anxious people show up at the Palm Beach County Health Clinic for a medical test most of them had never heard of until a few days ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just fast and quick. Just got nose swab and that's it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They did a chest x-ray and that's fine.

LAVANDERA: More than 700 people who either worked at or had recently visited the offices of American Media Incorporated, the parent company of tabloids like "The Sun" and "The National Enquirer," have now been tested for possible exposure to anthrax.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to wait for the results first. You know, hope nothing is positive. And I don't know, it's hard to avoid things because you don't know what -- you know, do not eat food? Do not open your mail? I mean, will not open our bills. You know, send them back. What do you do?

TOMMY THOMPSON, HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: We have been able to narrow down that the inhalation anthrax comes from that building. And it has been conclusively proven that it is the same in both individuals.

LAVANDERA: The office building where the two anthrax cases were discovered is still closed, as health investigators search for the source. The FBI is examining a possible connection to the September 11 attacks, but the investigation is much broader than that. But there are no suspects at this point. So the pressing issue now is determining where the anthrax came from.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whether it is a natural occurring strain or other type of strain, that information right now is being looked by, again what Dr. Wiesma said, high technology.

LAVANDERA: Law enforcement sources say a key part of the investigation will be the nasal swabs taken from people who worked at the American Media Building. Because there were so many tests, the results will take longer than the usual couple of days to come back.


(on camera): Health inspectors here in Palm Beach County are still urging people to remain calm and that there is not an imminent public health hazard to anyone. Another update on the second person who was exposed to the anthrax virus. Eduardo Blanco, 73-years-old. He worked in the mailroom of the building. We're told he's being held in a Miami area hospital. He's in stabile condition and is expected to survive.

Aaron, back to you.

BROWN: Ed, thanks. Ed Lavandera in south Florida tonight. Appreciate your reporting. If there is any comfort to be had in all this, it's that we've only seen two cases of exposure. Still, as good as early warning is, all those people lining up for antibiotics today will tell you, accurate early warning is even better.

Dr. Don Ponikvar is an expert in early warning detection of biological warfare and the like. He's vice President for Crisis Response, an analysis at Defense Group, Incorporated. He's in our Washington bureau. That is a long title, sir. Welcome to the program.


BROWN: Is there any sort of badge like doctors and health professionals wear in hospitals to detect radiation? Anything like that, that would detect the presence of anthrax?

PONIKVAR: Not at this time. There are some research efforts underway through the Department of Defense to develop such thing, but it's sort of the holy grail. The problem has been continually that whereas chemicals weapons can be detected in sort of real time. Biological weapons with current technologies can't be detected that quickly.

It takes 10 or 15 minutes right now for the very best technologies that we have, to be able to get a reading that can be believed and is conclusive. So it's really talking about 10 or 15 minutes. Now that's not bad when really, the critical time for treatment for something like anthrax is really within the first 24 hours.

BROWN: So -- but whatever detection devices are out there, I'm not sure they are in fact out there. Are they out there at all?

PONIKVAR: They're not, no. The Defense Department is working on them right now. There are some handheld devices that are available to some of the response agencies, the FBI and others like that. But as far as being available to local governments, fire, police departments, hazmat teams, those are not yet made available to them. And that's really been a sore point with that community.

BROWN: Well, let's talk about that a little more.

Senator John Edwards of North Carolina is with us tonight. The senator serves on the Committee on Health Education, Labor and Pensions, which held hearings today on bioterrorism. I guess it's my night for long titles.

Senator, nice to see you again.


BROWN: There is this contraption out there, this device out there somewhere in the Defense Department. Any effort being made to get it out in the world as it where?

EDWARDS: Well, what we're, Aaron, right now is trying to make sure that we put in place the resources to make sure that the people who were really on the front lines of this whole biological attack front, your doctor, your emergency room physician, your emergency room nurse, the public health officials. Those are the people who are going to have to identify what in fact has occurred and to get that information to the place it needs to go, so that we can respond in a cohesive, comprehensive way.

And if you just think about it from a commonsense perspective, most of those folks have never seen a case of anthrax, never seen a case of smallpox. And what we have to do is make certain they're properly educated, properly trained, and that we have a system in place, a disease surveillance system in place so we can quickly get that information to the places it needs to go, so that we as a nation can respond. We also, of course, have to make sure that we have the antibiotic and vaccine available.

BROWN: Senator, just to prove that my hindsight is absolutely perfect, shouldn't we have done that yesterday?

EDWARDS: Oh, sure. Yes, some steps were taken in the right direction, Aaron. Of course what happened on September 11 and what's happened since and people's concern about this have intensified the efforts.

But I think right now, there's no question that the Congress is intent on doing something. I have a piece of legislation which we talked about today in the Health and Education Committee Hearing, which deals with these things. And we just talked about. but the truth of the matter is, we are all focused on it. We know we need to do it. And we know we need to do it quickly.

BROWN: So Dr. Ponikvar, back to you for a second. What should people do here? I mean, we're all walking this very fine line between what is responsible and what is panic or anxiety-creating. Are there commonsense things that any of us can do, ought to do, would be foolish not to do?

PONIKVAR: Absolutely. I think that the newly-appointed domestic security adviser, former Governor Ridge, really hit it on the head when he's really emphasizing awareness over anxiety.

It's a matter of really making people aware of some of these steps that can be taken. The biological hazard, there are biological hazards out there, but for example, if some -- if people are indoors keeping the windows closed, turning off air conditioners, things like that, if they get a warning that something happen, can provide a great deal of protection.

Most of the biological hazards enter the body, the most dangerous enter the body through breathing them in, respiration. And so, a simple dust protective filter, hepatyte (ph) filter they're sometimes called, can protect or provide a great deal of protection.

BROWN: So no one should ever -- so no one right now should go outside or do we just...

PONIKVAR: No, no, not at all.

BROWN: Or we just wait until there's a warning?

PONIKVAR: No, the problem is that you're not really going to get a warning. Realistically, you're not going get a warning. And so you really, at this point in time with the type of detection and warning -- the senator hit it right on the head, is that the first line of detection, the first line of defense is really going to be in your public health system.

It's your emergency rooms and your doctors. And at that point, it's when symptoms are starting to appear. And that can be depending on the type of agent that might be present anywhere from hours to days later.

And at that point, putting a mask on is going to do no protection whatsoever. So it really is a matter of making our health officials more aware. And then, as we get the technologies, perhaps putting some types of -- for certain critical types of events, the Olympics or inaugurations or NATO conferences or something like that, where you could put detectors out there.

And the Defense Department does that already. They do deploy certain of the developmental items right now, because it's better than having nothing at all.

BROWN: Doctor, I'm sorry. I hate to interrupt you. We're right in the middle of something important, but I've got to take a break here.

Senator, it's good to see you again. We'll talk to you both again before this is all over. We have much more ahead. We'll be right back.


BROWN: Going into this, there was never any doubt that sooner or later, and probably sooner, the mightiest Air Forces in the world, the United States, would win control of the skies over Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has a dozen or so aging MIG jets and air defenses far inferior to Iraq, for example. The Defense Secretary said today that control of the air is virtually complete. And he showed for the first time a bit of the damage done in the first two days of the attacks.

To help make sense of all of this, we turn once again to the former supreme commander of NATO, Retired General Wesley Clark, who joins us from Little Rock, Arkansas. General, it's good to see you.


BROWN: We're just getting reports in now of a second, I guess this would a second round of daylight attacks in Kandahar. The significance of daylight as opposed to night time?

CLARK: Well, it means that first of all, we're not worried about the threat. Secondly, our pilots can see a lot better obviously of what's on the ground during the daylight. And the pilots have a much better opportunity themselves to get a first look at the damage they've done to the target. So it makes the air campaign more efficient. It also keeps around the clock pressure on the Taliban.

BROWN: And obviously, well I don't know obviously. It suggests to me, however, that enough of the anti-aircraft missiles and the rest have been taken out to make that sort of daylight stuff safer? CLARK: Yes, that's right. That's exactly right. This was not the tough target that we had against the Serbs, for example, in the Kosovo campaign two and a half years ago.

BROWN: All right, let's take a look, quickly, at these damage pictures today. The first picture on the screen is the before in a series of before and afters. This was a terrorist base. What do you see there, by the way, that I might miss?

CLARK: You've got some buildings, maybe some bunkers there, maybe some training pits of some type. Can't tell everything through the television here. You've got to look at these kinds of images with -- you've got to magnify it and really study it and measure it, to know exactly what's there. But it is a facility. And it's spread out.

BROWN: General, would you guess that the copy that analysts at the Pentagon are looking at is a tighter shot, a clearer shot, a better shot?

CLARK: Yes, I think it'll have much higher resolution than what we've got here.

BROWN: OK, take a look at the after now. And even I can explain that one. It's gone.

CLARK: Sure. And you can see the scorched earth, where the bombs have hit as probably B-1 or B-2 flew over the camp and unloaded a string of so-called dumb bombs.

BROWN: And I want to ask that we show SAN missile site, the before and after, but ask you to talk about where you think this is going now, sir, in this the days ahead?

CLARK: All right. Now here's your -- this is prestrike. You can see the various launching areas out on the arms, to control in the center there.

BROWN: And the after?

CLARK: Bang.

BROWN: Yes, bang indeed.

CLARK: So I mean, we hit right into the key radar and the control node at the center of this.

BROWN: And then, there was the sequence with an airport. And I forget, honestly, where this was, but this is the before picture of the airport. It looks like any airstrip anywhere.

CLARK: Exactly. Now what this is these are precision-guided bombs, probably dropped by a B-2. They're satellite guided. They hit right on the runways. And they interdict the runways. They can be filled in. And if we want to use that airfield, it can be repaired in a couple days if you have the right equipment in there to do it. BROWN: And just in half a minute, is the theater there prepared now for ground troops or is there a ways to go before that happens, if that's to happen?

CLARK: Well, we have to get a way to get the ground troops in. So I heard the Secretary say they struck all but one airfield. Maybe that's the airfield where we'll put the ground troops in.

Tough to say right now. They're still a lot of options out there, but I think what the significance of the airstrikes is, it's not only military. It's also a very strong signal to the world that the United States is striking back. We're going to continue to strike back. We're going to continue to keep the pressure on until this terrorist organization and the Taliban that support them are broken.

BROWN: General, good to talk to again. We'll talk again soon. Thank you. General Wes Clark in Little Rock tonight joining us.

Up ahead, the latest on the ground in Afghanistan and Pakistan. New attacks underway in daylight. We'll be right back.




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