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New Phase in America's War on Terrorism; Discussion with Bush National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice

Aired October 19, 2001 - 07:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: A new phase in America's war on terrorism -- U.S. troops are on the ground in Afghanistan. We'll have an interview with President Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, straight ahead. Also, the widow of a passenger aboard United Airlines Flight 93 takes to the skies in her late husband's name. We'll have an interview with Lisa Beamer. And anthrax -- could a mail carrier's route lead to a suspect?

And good morning. Thanks so much for joining us as we wrap up yet another week here. It is Friday, October 19. From New York, I'm Paula Zahn.

Coming up, we're going to have live reports for John King coverage President Bush's trip to China, Miles O'Brien on U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Susan Candiotti in Washington with the latest on the anthrax investigation. Good morning all. See you in a little bit.

America's war on terrorism moves into a new phase, with U.S. troops now on the ground in Afghanistan. A senior U.S. official tells CNN "a very limited number of American special forces have been deployed in southern Afghanistan in recent days." He would not give any specifics except to say that special operation forces were always envisioned as part of the military campaign.

President Bush in China for an economic summit declined to discuss details of the military operation. He specifically refused to answer when asked if U.S. ground forces were now part of the operation. But in an address at the American consulate in Shanghai, he repeated the mission of the campaign.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As you all know, I committed American troops to a very important cause in the last couple of weeks and I did so with the full confidence that our military is the best in the world. The American people have got the full confidence that our military will fulfill its mission.


ZAHN: And at a charity dinner last night, Vice President Dick Cheney said U.S.-led air strikes have paved the way for the next phase.


DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Joined by British forces we have struck terrorist camps, military training facilities, air fields, air defenses, ammunition storage areas and command and control facilities. The success of our air campaign has cleared the way for further action which the Taliban and the al Qaeda terrorists can neither predict nor escape.

It is important to realize that the military aspect will not always be so visible. There will be times like this when you can watch a videotape of the guided munitions finding their targets. Other successes will come from covert operations that are not seen or heard beyond a very small circle. These operations will require a broader, more realistic approach to gathering intelligence. We are dealing here with evil people who dwell in the shadows, planning to commit unimaginable violence and destruction. We have no alternative but to meet the enemy where he dwells.


ZAHN: The president's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, plays a pivotal role in the war against terrorism and a short while ago I spoke with her in Shanghai, where she's traveling with the president.


ZAHN: Dr. Rice, thanks so much for joining us this morning. Good to have you with us.


ZAHN: Could you describe to us this morning the mission of the special forces that have now gone into Afghanistan?

RICE: Well, Paula, I'm not going to be able to talk about military operations. I can only say that as the president has said, he has ordered the American armed forces to do what we need to do to support the objectives that he's laid out and those objectives include making certain that the al Qaeda leadership cannot stand still and carry out its murderous mission. It means making certain that the Taliban, the regime in Afghanistan that has given its territory over to this terrorist activity, that that regime pays a price and understands the price that it's paid for making a wrong choice and that we are beginning to really degrade the military capability of the Taliban.

The president is determined that when this war is done that Afghanistan will not be territory from which one can launch and train and house and abet terrorists.

ZAHN: I understand and respect that you don't want to divulge exactly what these special forces are doing, and yet Pakistani military officials are describing these operations as search and rescue missions. Can you at least confirm that this morning?

RICE: No, I cannot talk about what special operations are doing, special forces are doing or not doing. The president has just said that he is going to use America's military forces to support his goals and since he's the commander-in-chief, I would suggest that people listen to him and him only. He's the one who's decided how to use our military forces and they're being used in support of our goals.

ZAHN: Secretary Rumsfeld said yesterday America will do everything possible to make the Northern Alliance successful, actually help them move south into Kabul. How do you square that with Pakistan's opposition to an advance on Kabul?

RICE: Well, the, there are several forces in Afghanistan that are not surprisingly very opposed to what the Taliban has been doing to their country. The Northern Alliance is one of those forces or a group of those forces. But, of course, there are others in the south, for instance, who are opposed to what the Taliban is doing. And so what the United States is committed to doing is to making certain that the forces that are opposed to the Taliban are able to play a role in getting the Taliban to the place that they cannot support terrorist activities.

The United States is also committed to working with the United Nations and other powers to assure that a post-war Afghanistan is one in which all our represented, not just the Northern Alliance, but also Pashtuns from the south. I think that that's a very important goal and that goal is going to be carried out.

ZAHN: All right, but I don't think you're fully addressing the question of Pakistan's opposition to that kind of movement to the south. Didn't Secretary of State Powell actually indicate to the Pakistanis during his trip this week that he will respect their wishes to not make that kind of an advance to the south?

RICE: Secretary Powell talked with the Pakistanis about their legitimate concerns about the future of Afghanistan and I believe that General Musharraf is very clear on America's intention and that of other allies to make certain that the post-war Afghanistan is one in which all interests are represented. I think that that is really the issue, is what does the post-war Afghanistan look like? It has to be a broad-based coalition. Afghanistan is a country of many different ethnic groups and its history has been one of ethnic rival, rivals leading to civil war.

Now, the United States and the international community, including the U.N., are committed to creating circumstances and creating an environment post-war in which the many voices in Afghanistan can be heard. And that is really what Secretary Powell committed to when he talked to General Musharraf.

ZAHN: I know we've got just 10 seconds left. Does that mean the Northern Alliance, then, is not an ideal candidate to be part of that post-war government in Afghanistan?

RICE: Oh, I think quite to the contrary. I think that there are many forces in Afghanistan, including those that have been fighting in the north, that one would expect to be a part of a post-war reconstruction of Afghanistan. It's just...


ZAHN: And once again, that was Dr. Condoleezza Rice, who is, of course, President Bush's national security adviser. She joined us from Shanghai earlier this morning.

Now, on to the anthrax attacks. Authorities are hoping that tracking the route of a New Jersey mail carrier who came down with skin anthrax could lead to a suspect.

CNN's Susan Candiotti has been tracking the anthrax investigation. She joins us again from Washington with the very latest -- Susan, good morning.


Where did those Trenton letters come from? Investigators retracing a mail carriers route from start to finish. They're picking apart her every move, trying to pin down where two anthrax letters came from postmarked Trenton, New Jersey. The female mail carrier, who has tested positive for an anthrax skin infection, may provide the answer. Her job, delivering mail to homes and businesses and picking up stamped mail from those same places. She did not pick up from mailboxes.

Another worker at the mail sorting center in Trenton may also have anthrax, testing not complete. Analysis of those Trenton letters might also yield important evidence.


LEWIS SCHILIRO, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Certainly they'll begin from the postmark at Trenton to see if they can trace it from there. They'll be looking to suggest any forensic examination from the letters, whether they get fingerprints, whether there's any other material on there that would lead them to an identification of the perpetrators.


CANDIOTTI: Officials are linking the two letters from Trenton, one sent to NBC's Tom Brokaw in New York, the other to Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle in Washington. The handwriting is similar, but harder to analyze because the author used block letters. And both letters contained similar threatening messages.

In Florida, investigators suiting up again in HAZMAT gear to do another sweep of the still quarantined American Media building, where there were two cases of anthrax inhalation. Armed with copies of the Trenton letters, the FBI is looking again for anything similar.

Centers for Disease Control tests finding similar anthrax strains in Florida and at NBC in New York. Sources say Washington is also believed to be a match and likely came from the same source. Another case of anthrax skin infection revealed Thursday a female assistant to CBS anchorman Dan Rather. He spoke about her with Larry King.


DAN RATHER, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: This is particularly awkward and uncomfortable because it's to serious. And not to put too fine a point on it, but this young woman became a part of a target for an assassin. It doesn't get much more serious than that.


CANDIOTTI: The FBI seriously in need of a break, Paula, now posting a reward of up to $1 million in hopes of shaking loose more tips.

ZAHN: OK, Susan, thanks so much for that update. We'll be checking in with you every hour this morning.

Her husband was one of the apparent heroes of United Airlines Flight 93. He died when his plane crashed in Pennsylvania. Today, Lisa Beamer is taking a stand and urging Americans to take back to the skies. She will fly on the same United flight her husband Todd took on the morning of September 11. She says she hopes the trip from Newark to San Francisco will inspire other Americans to fly again.

And Lisa Beamer joins us now from Newark Airport. Thanks so much for being with us this morning. We appreciate it.


ZAHN: Why are you doing this this morning?

BEAMER: Well, I actually have an opportunity to go to San Francisco to introduce the Todd Beamer Foundation to some of Todd's business associates in the Bay Area. We've established this to help the children who are left from the September 11 disaster as well as other victims of terrorism. But more importantly, we want to build youth who become adults like Todd was and who are able to make wise and courageous decisions when they need to.

So if I hadn't gone this morning to San Francisco it would have been simply because of my fear of flying and my fear of what the terrorists may do. And quite frankly they've already taken more control of my life than I would care to give them and I won't give them anymore. And so I won't be held captive by fear and be held on the ground any longer.

ZAHN: And, in fact, one of the local newspapers here, the "New York Post", has a huge headline this morning with your picture on the front page saying "No Fear." I know that you're very committed to the work that's going to be done in San Francisco and yet do you have any sense of dread getting on this flight this morning?

BEAMER: I don't have a sense of dread, and quite honestly, I'm not actually fearful that anything is going to happen. Obviously this morning as I got up and drove to the airport and went through security and even standing in this parking lot here where Todd parked his car on the morning of September 11 is bringing back a flood of memories and causing me to think through the things that Todd did and felt on that morning. And I'm ready to do that and I'm ready to kind of relive his steps. And in six weeks I've had some time to think it over. And like I said, it's time for me to get in the air because I have to do it and I'm ready to do it.

ZAHN: And what do your kids think about your making this trip today?

BEAMER: They actually, they're still little. They're three and one. They don't actually know where I'm going. San Francisco to them could be down the street. They just know that they're secure and they're loved and they're well taken care of and that, at their age, is what they need to feel I'm doing for them.

ZAHN: I don't think many of us will ever forget the night of President Bush's address to the nation where cameras were trained on you in the House chamber where the president lauded the bravery of your husband on that flight. Before I let you go this morning, just now that you've had six weeks to really internalize the bravery that your husband exhibited, give us some thoughts on that.

BEAMER: Well, Todd, as I've said before, I think was a man who acted courageously and with character and faith in the days of his life leading up to September 11 and I think that that's what allowed him to do what he did that day. And he set a high bar for all of us as far as what we need to do when we're faced with adversity and hopefully if we can make the kind of decisions that he did in little things throughout our lives we'll be able to do them in the big things when we're called upon to do that.

So, you know, it's a great example for me to look to in doing things like I'm doing today and for my children it will be a great thing for them to look at in the future and hopefully for the rest of our country to look at what the people on Flight 93 did and say they were ordinary people and so are we, but this is what we can do when we put our best foot forward and we pull all the character and courage and faith that we have together.

ZAHN: I know you haven't been subjected to the new security procedures yet this morning and yet no doubt you've heard how much longer the whole process has taken. Do you think if...

BEAMER: Actually, I did...

ZAHN: Oh, you actually did.

BEAMER: Yes, I had to deal with that.

ZAHN: Do you think that those regulations -- yes, if those regulations had been in place do you think it would have made much of a difference in Todd's case and the fellow passengers on his plane?

BEAMER: I think so. Actually, a friend of mine who's traveling with me today had a small, about this big fingernail file in his bag and had to take it out and leave it. And if they're finding small things like that, they certainly would have, I think, stopped the knives and box cutters and whatever it is the terrorists used that day. So I think that these steps are definitely making a difference.

ZAHN: Well, your are a courageous woman yourself, Lisa Beamer. Thank you for sharing your story with us and good luck on your trip to San Francisco. I hope you accomplish everything you need to.

BEAMER: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: Take care.




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