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First Open Hearing in Congress Examining U.S. Intelligence Failures on September 11; How Do Interrogators Get a Person Willing to Die to Talk

Aired September 18, 2002 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm Anderson Cooper.

Tonight: what the government really knew before September 11.

ANNOUNCER: The pre-9/11 warnings, but were they enough to have prevented the attacks?


KRISTEN BREITWEISER, WIDOW OF 9/11 VICTIM: Our intelligence agencies suffered an utter collapse.


ANNOUNCER: Tonight: the first hearing that takes on the U.S. intelligence failures and the emotional response from those who were affected the most.


STEVEN PUSH, FAMILIES OF SEPTEMBER 11: Our loved ones paid the ultimate price for the worst American intelligence failure since Pearl Harbor.


ANNOUNCER: Plus: cracking al Qaeda, getting information on future terrorist plots. How do interrogators get a person to talk who is willing to die for his cause?

A $15,000 umbrella stand? What about a $6,000 shower curtain? Tonight: the latest revelations about another CEO who created a corporate culture of greed and excess.

The tallest peaks on Earth, accessible only to the bravest, most skilled adventurer. Tonight: a blind man's journey to climb farther than the eye can see.

Live from the CNN Broadcast Center in New York, for Connie Chung: Anderson Cooper and Carol Lin.

COOPER: Good evening, everyone.

One year after 9/11, revelations tonight about what the U.S. really knew.

LIN: Did the U.S. have intelligence information about the possibility of an attack?

When it was revealed this spring that President Bush was briefed a month before September 11 about possible al Qaeda hijackings, national Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said no one could have predicted al Qaeda would use a plane as a missile. But at an historic hearing today, the first session open to the public, congressional investigators said U.S. intelligence agencies had reports of exactly that possible scenario at least three years before September 11, 2001.

On the story tonight: CNN national security correspondent David Ensor.


DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the first open hearing of the House-Senate probe into possible intelligence failures, the committee staff director was questioned about 400,000 classified documents she and her staff have reviewed.

SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI (D) MARYLAND: Do you believe that there is a smoking gun on what went wrong or were there just a series of total disconnects?

ELEANOR HILL, INQUIRY STAFF DIRECTOR: If you mean by smoking gun that somebody had information of when, where, how this was going to happen in the United States government, we have not found that.

ENSOR: But Hill's report does say there was evidence of a threat to the U.S. homeland from al Qaeda, and evidence the terrorists wanted to use planes as terrorist weapons. In August, 1998, the intelligence community obtained information that a group of unidentified Arabs planned to fly an explosive laden plane from a foreign country into the World Trade Center.

The report also says in the fall of 1998, the intelligence community received information concerning a bin Laden plot involving aircraft in the New York and Washington areas. And, it says in April of 2001, the intelligence community obtained information from a source with terrorist connections who speculated that bin Laden would be interested in commercial pilots as potential terrorists.

SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D), INTELLIGENCE CHMN: Collectively, I think there was enough there that we should have done a better job of seeing what was coming and hopefully with luck stopping it.

ENSOR: The committee also discussed a dispute with the Bush administration over whether it can make public information about a senior al Qaeda figure whom CNN has learned is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, information the committee says that suggests U.S. intelligence knew about him since 1995 and badly underestimated his importance. (on camera): The report reveals more unconnected dots before 9/11. But CIA officials say: Remember the context. It's easy now to connect the dots among literally tens of thousands of other intelligence reports. It was not so easy before the attacks.

David Ensor, CNN, on Capitol Hill.


LIN: Now, part of the hearing today focused on the cost. And we are talking about the human cost of 9/11. Members of Congress heard from two people who lost spouses in the attacks. You're about to meet one of them.

But first, here is what they had to say today.


BREITWEISER: President Bush stated that there would come a time to look back and examine our nation's failures, but that such an undertaking was inappropriate while the nation was still in shock. I would respectfully suggest to President Bush and to our Congress that now, a full year later, it is time to look back and investigate our failures as a nation.

PUSH: Initially, I thought 9/11 would be a wake-up call for the intelligence community, but I was mistaken. The intelligence agencies and the White House have asserted that no mistakes were made. They couldn't possibly have conceived that anyone would use commercial jets in suicide attacks on buildings. They asserted that al Qaeda is impossible to penetrate.

Such a can't-do attitude is profoundly un-American. It also raises the question of why taxpayers should continue to spend tens of billions of dollars annually on the intelligence community if it cannot protect us.


LIN: Well, that was Steven Push, whose wife, Lisa Raines, was on board the hijacked plane that struck the Pentagon.

Now, since then, he has quit his job and helped start Families of September 11, a lobbying group. And he's sued the Saudi royal family and large banks, saying they tolerated and even funded the terrorists. And now Steven Push is setting his sights on Capitol Hill and demanding radical reform to the way the U.S. fights terrorism. He joins us tonight from Washington.

Steven, this was a big day for you. Thanks so much for joining us tonight.

PUSH: Thank you for having me, Carol.

LIN: Well, it seems like what you heard at the congressional hearing today confirmed your worst suspicions. Were there any surprises at all?

PUSH: Yes, there were surprises.

I was surprised to learn that CIA Director George Tenet declared war on al Qaeda in 1998 and swore that he would provide every personnel and other resource necessary to run that war and yet actually did nothing, diverted no personnel and no resources to the search for Osama bin Laden. In fact, they only -- at the terrorism center that the CIA runs, they only had three analysts analyzing data on Osama bin Laden.

LIN: At the same time, even you yourself acknowledged at this hearing that it's a really tough job to fight terrorism, that the intelligence community was juggling a lot of bits of information, and, as you saw in our report from David Ensor, that they had no specific information that this attack would occur on September 11. Could it have been prevented?

PUSH: Yes, I believe it could have been prevented.

They didn't have to know the exact date and time of the attack in order to foil it. For example, they knew -- the CIA knew that two of the hijackers on my wife's plane had attended a terrorism conference in January of 2000 in Kuala Lumpur. They should have put those men's names on the terrorism watch list so that they could be stopped at the border and not allowed into the country. They didn't do that and those men entered the country.

Then, when they came to the country, they took as a roommate an FBI informant. And the FBI agent who was working with that informant showed no curiosity about who his informant was living with. There were so many opportunities for them to disrupt if not the whole plot, at least a part of it. And yet, repeatedly, they failed to do so.

LIN: Steven, on that note, you made a very impassioned plea at the hearing. And I want to share that moment with our audience right now.


PUSH: The time for incremental reform of the intelligence community ended on September 11, 2001. The ossified intelligence bureaucracy must now be thoroughly restructured. If it isn't, the next attack may involve weapons of mass destruction, and the death toll may be in the tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands.


LIN: Steven, I watch that moment and I'm thinking, here you are testifying before Congress. And yet, a year ago, you were a public relations executive living your life. And suddenly you have found yourself having to be an expert on how the American intelligence community works.

What was it like for you to sit there and criticize your government? PUSH: I've been reading the news reports about September 11 almost from the beginning. I had kind of a news blackout for two weeks right after the attacks.

But then when I -- when the shock wore off and I started reading, it immediately became obvious to me that something was wrong here, that this could have been prevented, when I read about Moussaoui and how they weren't able to get a warrant on him. And then, month after month, new revelations came out: the Phoenix memo; the fact that some of these hijackers were living with FBI informants; and now a flood of new information from the Joint Intelligence Committee's report.

And the senators and congressmen at the Intelligence Committee said that they didn't think this was the end of it. They want to have an independent commission follow on what they're doing, because they feel that, by the end of this Congress at the end of this year, they're not going to be able to get all the answers.

LIN: Steven, you sound angry. Is it love that pushes you forward or is it anger over what happened?

PUSH: I'm angry. And it also is love for my wife.

When you love someone, you want to protect them. And it's very frustrating that I was not able to protect my wife. And so I'm going to dedicate myself to trying to prevent other families from having to go through what I'm going through. There's no amount of money, no amount of time is going to heal my wounds or bring my wife back. But I feel, if I can save other people's lives, maybe that will bring me some comfort.

LIN: You also know, in asking for this independent inquiry, it's similar to blue-ribbon commission that was established after the JFK assassination. And even then, after so many years of questions, more answers were not necessarily discovered after all that inquiry. It is possible that you may never get the answers that you seek. Are you resolved to that?

PUSH: I recognize that we may never have all the answers, that we won't have all of the answers, because there are some things that are just unknowable, like what exactly happened on my wife's plane before it crashed.

We also will never be 100 percent safe. But what 9/11 revealed is that there was some major systemic problem in our intelligence community. We have an intelligence community that was designed around the Cold War. The Cold War ended 10 years ago and yet they're still operating in the same mode. They haven't restructured themselves and reorganized themselves to fight this new threat.

After 3,000 people died, that's enough. They have to make radical changes. They have to reorganize the intelligence community so that they can fight the threat that we're facing now.

LIN: Steven Push, it's pretty clear that those congressmen were listening very closely to your testimony. Thank you very much.

PUSH: Thank you.

LIN: I hope you can make a difference in the future -- Steven Push.

PUSH: Thank you very much.

LIN: Well, still ahead: When top al Qaeda leaders are caught, how is the United States going to make them talk? There are ways. And we're going to find out right after this.

ANNOUNCER: Still ahead: the inspiring story of a world-class climber who wouldn't let the loss of his sight keep him from touching the tops of world's tallest peaks.

CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT continues in a moment.



ANNOUNCER: Federal investigators spent years trying to figure out how the crash of EgyptAir Flight 990 happened on October 31, 1999, off the coast of Nantucket.

The Boeing 767 plummeted from an altitude of about 30,000 feet, then rose briefly, only to fall again. The jet dove at an angle of 40 degrees and came close to the speed of sound. The flight went down with 217 people on board. No one survived.

The Egyptian government, which essentially overseas EgyptAir, asked the U.S. to investigate the crash, but then accused U.S. investigators of a cover-up. With no evidence of terrorism or mechanical failure, what were the final findings of the investigation into EgyptAir Flight 990?

The answer when we return.



COOPER: Prosecutors in Buffalo today say six men, all American citizens, accused of attending al Qaeda training camps should not be granted bail.

Following the proceedings and joining us tonight from Buffalo with new information on these men tonight: CNN national correspondent Susan Candiotti.

Susan, thanks for being with us.

Prosecutors began laying out their case today. Did we learn anything new from them? SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There was a particularly interesting piece of evidence, as well as other information that they entered in: for example, plane tickets that proved that the men had traveled over there and some cash that was found during a search of their former homes here in the Lackawanna area.

And that was this. It was an e-mail sent by one of the defendants, Mukhtar al-Bakri. He was the person who was arrested over the weekend in Bahrain. Now, this is an e-mail the government says was sent back last July, just this past summer.

And here's what it said: "The next meal will be very huge. No one will be able to withstand it, except for those with faith. There are people here who had visions and their visions were strong. And their visions were explained that this will be very strong. No one will be able to bear it."

Now, this was an e-mail that was sent from al-Bakri, according to the government, to an uncharged person here in Western New York. Now, we asked federal prosecutors exactly their view of what al-Bakri meant when he said it. And remember that he talked to the FBI when he was arrested in Bahrain over the weekend.


WILLIAM HOCHUL, PROSECUTOR: What we said in court today is that Mr. al-Bakri admitted that it referred to a large explosion which was being planned by al Qaeda against Americans.


CANDIOTTI: So this, Anderson, the government says, is proof, part of the proof they're offering, that these men, in the opinion of the government, are a danger to the community and a risk of flight if they are permitted to have bail.

COOPER: Susan, you were in the courtroom today. How did these guys appear to you?

CANDIOTTI: Well, they were very attentive as to what was going on. They listened very closely. Many of them were taking notes.

And, in fact, during one of the courtroom recesses, they looked and saw some of their friends and relatives in the audience. They smiled, then waved at them. In fact, one of the community leaders, the imam, was also in the courtroom this day. And during a courtroom recess at about 5:00, he took his prayer rug, put it outside in the hallway, and prayed.

And so the men were paying close attention as to what was going on and conferred often with their lawyers. They're wearing the standard prison-issue outfits, the beige uniform, shirt and pants, while they were in the courtroom. They were led in in handcuffs, but they did not have to wear them while they were in court. COOPER: Given that these men are alleged to have traveled overseas to Pakistan and Afghanistan, it would seem highly unlikely that they would be granted bail. Is there any chance that this might happen?

CANDIOTTI: Well, especially in this climate.

Well, that's a good question, Anderson, because the judge was also asking some very pointed questions of these people -- of the government, for that matter. For example, he was saying: "Now, wait a minute. I just want to remind everyone here that there is no evidence -- the government admits it has no evidence -- that these men were planning any kind of attacks here in the United States or anywhere else." So the judge keeps making those points, that he wants to give these people every right they have.

Also, the defense continues to contend that their clients are peaceful men, would not do any harm to the United States, and cannot be prosecuted simply for traveling overseas.

Here's what a defense counsel had to say.


WILLIAMS CLAUSS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: The government has to prove today, by clear and convincing evidence, that they're a danger to the community. We don't think they've done that. They have to prove that there's a risk of flight. We don't think they are.


CANDIOTTI: And the defense will get to explain its case when court resumes tomorrow afternoon, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Susan Candiotti, thanks very much. It's been a long day for you. We appreciate you joining us tonight.

One of the questions raised by the capture of any American al Qaeda is how to get them to reveal what they know.

Well, joining me now from Washington is security consultant and former FBI chief hostage negotiator Clint Van Zandt.

Clint, thanks very much for being with us.


COOPER: Let me ask you. You've got these six guys in custody in Buffalo right now. They're American citizens. They have lawyers. They have rights. How do you get them to talk?

VAN ZANDT: Well, yes.

And you can't do the things that we see done on television, Anderson. They're not going to be tortured. We're not going to shoot them full of sodium Pentothal. This now becomes an intellectual, a psychological chess game. And we have to bring pressure on them. And it's going to be done a number of different ways: No. 1, through the local community.

We know from media sources, we're told, as well as the government, that the local Middle Eastern community in the Buffalo area cooperated in this investigation. If that in fact is the case, we need this continual level of cooperation. We need the community to impact on these six individuals. We need their family members to impact.

And there's going to come a time the government, through their attorneys, is going to look to broker some type of deal. The bottom line, Anderson, look, these guys allegedly went to al Qaeda summer camp. I mean, this is terrorism 101. If you do something like that, if you go to that type of camp, and then come back to the United States and don't tell the FBI, don't tell the authorities, "Hey, I was just a tourist and I got swept up in this," if you keep something like that silent, the government needs to know why. "What are you a part of? What type of cell activity was this?"

COOPER: Right.

But what you're saying -- which actually kind of scares me a little bit tonight -- is that, basically, you're talking about using the kind of cop techniques that I watch on "Law & Order" just about every day for people who are allegedly -- and we say allegedly -- international terrorists or would-be international terrorists. Do those techniques, those good-cop/bad-cop techniques work on these kinds of people?

VAN ZANDT: There are so many tools we have in our tool belt.

And when it's an American citizen who has their constitutional rights guaranteed -- and that's another interesting issue. We look at life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We've got those rights, too. But the first one of those, Anderson, is life. And we have to gather information to protect the lives of Americans and foreign nationals all around the world before you can ever get liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

COOPER: So do you get one of these guys to try to roll over on the other ones? Is that...

VAN ZANDT: That's one of the things you can do.

It's always first in, first out. The first who comes in, the first who gives the information, he or she is going to be the first one who is going to their way, if they have to go their way, with a new identity. That's something, the Witness Protection Program. There can be deals offered for them, for their family members.

The government has a lot of cards in its hands that it can play if in fact it can get these six people to the table and one or more of them indicates a willingness to engage in this game.

COOPER: All right, Clint, only a few minutes left. And I'm going to talk with Mike Boettcher about this more in a few minutes.

But I just want to talk to you just a little bit more about this. Let's talk about people who are not American citizens, who are enemy combatants who are being held overseas in undisclosed locations. How do you get these guys to talk, these people who are willing to commit suicide for their cause? How do you get someone like that to open up?

VAN ZANDT: A whole 'nother world, whole 'nother world.

And we can split hairs further. We can say, is it U.S. interrogators or is it interrogators from another country? The Egyptian interrogators, the Jordanian interrogators, they are famous for extracting information in ways that you and I wouldn't want to think about.

But as far as Americans, we can use sleep-deprivation. We can change their environment. We can make a certain type of offers to them. But we're still -- the bottom line, Anderson, we're still the good guys. We still don't torture people. That's television. It's movies. There's still a way to go about it, because the bottom line is, if we're ever going to prosecute someone, if we're ever going to use that information, it has to be done in a legal way.

That's what the FBI is there for as part of that interrogation team: to make sure we get the information, but to make sure, if we have to use it in court, it's legal.

COOPER: Two things I've heard from various covert operatives who I've been talking about this is that, A, torture doesn't really work, that often you get information which is false out of it. I'd like you to comment on this after this.

And also that -- I'm being told that some of the techniques are pretty basic. It's things like feeding very bad food and then offering -- I've heard that down in Guantanamo Bay, some of the detainees are then offered a McDonald's filet-a-fish sandwich as an inducement to maybe give something up.

VAN ZANDT: When you start to look at Maslow's hierarchy of needs and the different stages, what do you need to function, there's just surviving. There's food. That's long before you get to the very top, where you're dealing with music and self-actualization.

So you address the very basic human needs of a person. If you deprive someone of those basic needs and then slowly introduce them back again, all of a sudden you may have won yourself a friend, a convert, and someone who may be willing to talk to you.

COOPER: Does torture work?

VAN ZANDT: I don't think it does. I agree, like you have just said.

You can torture someone. My biggest fear and challenge, Anderson, is that if we've got someone who knows there's a nuclear device ticking away in Manhattan or Cleveland and they say, "I know where it is; I know what time it's going to go off, but I'm not going to tell you; what are you going to you do about it?" that's the time we have to find ways to make people talk.

And, Anderson, when lives are on the line, sometimes the Constitution and the right to life or liberty have to be balanced again.

COOPER: All right, well, Clint Van Zandt, thanks for being with us. We all want to know what's going on in those interrogation rooms in undisclosed locations. We appreciate you adding your perspective to it. Thanks a lot, Clint.

VAN ZANDT: Thank you.

COOPER: Coming up later tonight: You won't be able to get Rosie O'Donnell between the sheets anymore -- the sheets of her magazine, that is.

Stay with us.

ANNOUNCER: Coming up: another former CEO and the big money he spent on personal items. Guess who paid for them? -- when CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT returns.


COOPER: So, in a moment, we're going to look at some of the outrageous items the head of Tyco had the company buy for him, items that Leona Helmsley would kill for.

Have you ever seen a $6,000 shower curtain, Carol?

LIN: No. And if I do and I want to buy it, you have to shoot me.



LIN: That's a promise.


COOPER: So our question tonight: Is a Rosie still a Rosie without "Rosie"? We'll try to figure it out.

ANNOUNCER: Next: First, it was Jack Welch and his luxury skyboxes, and now another high-powered CEO and his benefits package. Wait until you hear what he got.

CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT will be right back.


LIN: Dennis Kozlowski, the multimillionaire former head of Tyco International, could be going from his allegedly ill-gotten mansions tomorrow to a jail cell on New York's Rikers Island. He's been indicted on charges that he used Tyco in effect as his personal piggy bank. And tomorrow, a judge will decide whether he can make bail by using the very same stuff prosecutors claim he bought with company money.

Now a new Tyco report out has detailed just how much stuff and what kind of stuff Kozlowski bought. We didn't even know there was such a thing as a $1,600 notebook. So we've asked "Fortune" magazine's Andy Serwer to fill us in on Kozlowski's spending habits.

And a big shopping list it was for a period of time.

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE": Oh, my goodness. Some of this stuff just boggles the mind, doesn't it, Carol?

LIN: It's amazing.

Let's take a look at the list that we compiled just today alone: for example, a dog umbrella stand for $15,000, shower curtain for $6,000, sheets for almost $6,000, and a metal waste basket, $2,200. It had to be pure silver or gold.

SERWER: Yes, I don't know where you get this stuff from. I live in Manhattan. And sometimes my wife drags me to some of these expensive shops, but I've never seen anything like this stuff before.

LIN: You'd almost have to go out of your way.

SERWER: Custom made, maybe, made out of precious metals? It's hard to figure.

LIN: Yes, it had to be.

Now, there were always rumors that he had collected these sorts of things or that he had spent company money on an art collection, or whatnot. But this is the first official list coming out in court from the SEC.

SERWER: That's right.

The art collection is what got him in trouble in the first place. If you remember, back several months ago, he got into trouble with a New York City DA because he bought paintings and allegedly didn't pay his taxes on them, shipped them out of state to avoid those sales taxes. Then we heard word of the famous, the now infamous $6,000 shower curtain. That was leaked out of this report.

The report is now out. And it has these just amazing lists of items that he bought. And, of course, the real problem is not that he bought them, but that he bought it with company money. That's the real problem.

LIN: Right. And these are loans that the company gave to him at a preferred rate that were supposed to be for something other than personal gain, right?

SERWER: Right.

Or, in the case of some of these items, he simply expensed them, put them on what amounts to an expense account. So there were several things that were going on at the same time, the loans for the apartment. The personal items that were in the apartments usually did go through that way.

LIN: The total is astounding: some 200 loans of $274 million over a five-year period, including several real estate deals. For example, we discovered here in the listings an apartment costing almost $17 million, furnishings $11 million. Talk about gilded furniture.


He had an apartment on Park Avenue, an apartment on Fifth Avenue, all the best streets. And, again, in America, anyone is free to buy expensive real estate. Here's to you. Nothing wrong with that. But doing it on the company's dime and on the shareholders' dime, Carol, without letting the company know, without letting the shareholders know, that's the real problem here.

LIN: So a man allegedly worth hundreds of millions of dollars now has to come up with $10 million in bail money by tomorrow.

SERWER: And he's having a tough time getting it, apparently, because the authorities are saying, every time he tries to use something as collateral, they're saying: "Well, that may have been purchased through ill-begotten gains. So, we're freezing your assets."

His attorney was saying he can't even go to an ATM -- I think he's crying a little bit -- but that he can't even go to an ATM to get the money out. But, clearly, raising the $10 million is a bit of a problem. It's a huge amount of money. And, as you said in the open, if he doesn't get that money, he could be doing time in Rikers, which is a very tough jail.

LIN: Tough place. Hard to imagine that, but it may happen.

SERWER: It might.

LIN: Now, the board of directors had to know that these transactions were going on. Did this go unnoticed or did it go unchallenged?

SERWER: Well, this is a big question with Tyco. There are two sides.

One is that Kozlowski was complicit, working with people on the board, that they did know about these expenses and these loans. The board is taking the position that, "We didn't know, that he railroaded these things through, that he obfuscated, that he hid these loans."

LIN: But somebody had to sign on the dotted line to release the funds. SERWER: Well, but, of course, his chief financial officer, Mark Swartz, has been indicted also. So he apparently was involved in this scheme, so the board members saying it's those guys. In fact, the company was the party that issued this report, saying: "These are the bad guys. We're not the bad guys. The bad guys, the authorities have those now. We don't have anything to do with that."

LIN: Now, another famous CEO is going to court tomorrow, Jack Welch, in his divorce proceedings. We're surely to learn more about his compensation package, which was pretty shocking, indeed.

Do you see a distinction between these two cases? Or is this just greed run amok all across the board?

SERWER: Well, I think there is an undercurrent of greed in both cases.

However, it's important to note that there's two big differences with Jack Welch. First of all, he has not been accused or indicted in any way. Second of all, GE freely admits that it gave Jack Welch all these perks and all these benefits. So that makes Jack Welch a very different animal right now than Dennis Kozlowski.

However, you have to say that both of them received pay packages, compensation, and took money from their companies that I believe is excessive.

LIN: But is it the cost of doing business? Isn't it part of the capitalistic society that, in order to get the top talent and be competitive, that you've got to pay the price?

SERWER: Well, it is true. And that's what GE is saying about Jack Welch, that they had to give him this benefit package to keep him on. Look what he did for GE. No CEO was more successful.

On the other hand, in this era, after the stock market has crashed, after so many investors have gotten burned, it just doesn't sit well with American shareholders right now.

LIN: Something to think about when we bag our sack lunch tomorrow.

SERWER: That's right.

LIN: All right, thank you very much, Andy Serwer of "Fortune" magazine.

SERWER: OK, Carol.

LIN: We'll be right back.

ANNOUNCER: Next: He broke through the barrier of blindness to reach the top of the tallest mountains on Earth.

CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT returns in a moment.


COOPER: All right, so I got to be honest. For me, an impressive athletic feat is getting out of bed by noon on Saturday. That is difficult. So, climbing the tallest peaks on each of the world's seven continents would be, to say the least, a bit beyond my reach.

But you're about to meet a guy who did just that. And he did it without ever seeing the view.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First out of the gate is Erik and Ellie.

COOPER (voice-over): Erik Weihenmayer is a born athlete. He scuba dives, skydives, runs marathons. And now, at 32, is the youngest man ever to scale the seven summits, the highest peaks on each of the world's seven continents.

It's a remarkable feat, made all the more so because Erik Weihenmayer is blind. Erik was 13 when a rare retinal disease robbed his sight. Thankfully, it didn't rob his determination. By age 25, he had scaled Mount McKinley in Alaska, all 20,323 feet of it. Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro came next. Here, at 13,000 feet, he married his wife, Ellie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You may now kiss the bride.

COOPER: Over the next several years, Erik climbed five more peaks, from South America to Australia.

To make it to the top, Erik follows the sound of a bell attached to the climber in front of him. He's the first blind man to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Why does he do it? Well, he'll tell you it's not for the view. It's for the satisfaction, knowing you can do whatever you want with your life. Erik Weihenmayer is doing just that.


COOPER: Well, Erik finished his seventh-summit quest just this month, scaling Mount Kosciuszko in Australia. But perhaps the most exciting thing he's ever done is appear with me right here on CNN tonight.

Thanks very much for being with us, Erik.


COOPER: I've got to say, congratulations. Seven summits, this is something -- to put it into perspective -- only about 100 people in the world have ever done it. I think only about 30 of them are Americans. And certainly you are the first and only blind person to have done all these.

How does it feel? WEIHENMAYER: I think it's exciting. I've always sort of felt the mountains were beautiful places, even though I can't see them. But I also like this idea of being a pioneer, being the first person to try to do something. And you flop on your face 100 times, but you are kind of learning as you're going. And it makes it extra exciting.

COOPER: You said the mountains are beautiful. I think when people describe the beauty of the mountains, they describe it in very visual terms. Obviously, you can't. To you, how are the mountains beautiful?

WEIHENMAYER: The mountains, I love them.

I experience them differently than a sighted person. When I'm climbing, I'm judging the terrain under my feet, whether it's a certain feel of rock or ice or snow, and the steepness and the wind in my face, the sun. When you get up high on an actual summit, you can actually hear sound vibrations that are moving through space. And they actually sound -- the sound sounds different depending on what the terrain is like around you. So even sound in mountains is different.

So I'm totally there. I'm just -- sort of my view is different from someone with sight.

COOPER: You were 16 when you started climbing, just three years after you lost your sight. Why climbing? Why did you pick that?

WEIHENMAYER: Well, I realized I wasn't going to be a very good basketball player or a football player. Those were the sports my brother brothers were into, my dad.

And so on a fluke, I went rock climbing. I got invited by a group of blind kids to go rock climbing. And I found that, when I hung from this rock, I could scan my hand across the face. I could feel the holes I was looking for and I kind of could create this road map in my mind. And I was a little 130-pound monkey when I was 16. And I thought, "I love this sport."

I remember getting to the top of this first rock face and literally feeling like blindness wasn't such a big deal. I could do something. I could do something as good as anyone, maybe even better.

COOPER: Mount McKinley, you were 25 years old when you climbed it, the highest peak in North America. It was a pretty tough climb for you. You had some close calls.

WEIHENMAYER: Yes, we did.

There were earthquakes that happened that collapsed these huge seracs, these ice walls near our camp. Going up over the summit ridge on our 19th day, it's like a 2-foot-wide ridge. And there's huge drop-offs on both sides. It's just like Everest. And I remember our team leader, Chris Morris, saying, "Boys, if we fall here, if any of you fall here, we all fall." And that was a lot of responsibility, because I was still somewhat more inexperienced as a climber. And I knew that, roped together with these team members, if I fell, I'd drag them with me. So I've always prided myself on being a member of the team, not just sort of being some token blind guy getting dragged up the mountain, spiked on top. I wanted to be a team member.

COOPER: Well, how do you do it? How do you climb?

WEIHENMAYER: I use these two long trekking poles and an ice ax. And I literally am leaning on them and I'm listening to a person in front of me. I'm listening to their footsteps. And I'm listening to a bell that they may hang from their ski pole. And I'm able to follow them.

And they communicate with me: "Big rock on the left. Big drop- off on the right." Sometimes they'll whack a rock with their ski pole just to save their voice to let me know it's there. So it's a little communication and it's a lot of following.

And when I'm rock climbing, believe it or not -- or ice climbing, I'm actually less at a disadvantage, because, as I said, I can feel my way up the ice. And everyone's sort of moving at a snail's pace. So, once things happen slowly, I'm actually at more of an advantage.

COOPER: What's next? You've climbed seven summits. Are you going to scale down now? Are you going to kind of lay back? You've certainly earned it.

WEIHENMAYER: Well, life's a little bit of a balancing act.

I have got this beautiful family. I have a beautiful wife and daughter. And I love being at home. I love just -- my daughter, Emma, doesn't know me as a climber. She knows me as the daddy who gets down on his knees and barks like a dog, you know? And so I realize you've got to keep things in perspective.

In terms of adventuring, though, I will be adventuring the rest of my life. I'm going off into to peak called Carstensz Pyramid in West Papua in February, if the political climate is right there. And I'm learning how to paraglide. And the seven summits is great. But it's a lot -- the meaning for me is in the doing, not in the finishing. So I just -- I always like to look forwards, not backwards.

COOPER: All right, well, Erik Weihenmayer, thanks very much for being with us. You have a Web site And we appreciate your joining us.

WEIHENMAYER: People can see more photos and so forth about all the different climbs from that.

COOPER: Thanks for being with us, Erik.


COOPER: All right.

Well, still ahead: a sad day for us all. Say it ain't so. "Rosie" magazine is no more.

We'll be right back.


COOPER: All right, welcome back.

So, have you seen the new issue of "Rosie" magazine? You probably haven't. And I've got a little summary for you if you haven't: "Cancer bad, chocolate good. Celine Dion loves her family." That's all you need to know.


LIN: Don't forget about the crossword puzzle; 24 across is go, as in G-O. And, apparently, Rosie took 24 across to heart.

COOPER: Yes, that's right.

She announced today she's cutting her ties to the magazine, citing a dispute with her publisher, G&J USA Publishing. Take a look.


ROSIE O'DONNELL: Unfortunately, this summer, my relationship with G&J has changing. During the past two months, they have moved to take away the editorial control I had under our agreement. It went so far that, while I was on vacation with my family in Miami in July, the CEO of G&J, without my permission, called a senior staff meeting in my personal office, in my personal office.


LIN: That's mad.

COOPER: Oh, in my personal office. You know what? I've been at CNN a year. I don't have a personal office. I share a cubicle with Jack Cafferty. Do you have any idea what that's like? In her personal office. So what?

LIN: I don't know.

Well, you know what? It's a sense of entitlement. Her name is on the magazine. It was her premise. It's her image. She, up until this issue with Celine Dion on the cover, was on the cover every single month. So she has a sense of entitlement.

COOPER: This thing is going to get good, because she's hired Mary Jo White, who is a former U.S. attorney, who is a heavyweight former U.S. attorney. But who the publishing company has hired is a pretty heavy hitter as well, in terms of lawyers. And this thing is going to end up in the courts. Just grab a box of popcorn, because this thing is going to go on and on. And it's going to get good. LIN: Do you think it's because she's gay? Because ever since she came out, the gay mother of three children, it's been nothing but trouble nothing for her. She's got nothing but bad press.

COOPER: I wouldn't say it's because she's gay. I think the problem is that her personality and her public persona seems to have changed. And I don't know how much of that is her coming out.

But she used to, on TV, portray herself in one way. She was like this nice, funny, sweet woman. All of sudden, she's now like this, ballsy, butchy biker, you know, stand-up comedienne..


LIN: Keep going, Anderson.

COOPER: No -- stand-up comedienne. It's true. She's doing like blue comedy routines in some comedy club and saying all sorts of things. And I think people are like, "Well, who is this person?" And I think you've seen it in the magazine. The magazine has an identity crisis.

LIN: When you get famous, I think there's a sense of entitlement. When your name is on the product and you feel it represents you, you want the world to know who you really are, right?

COOPER: And fair enough.

LIN: And that's what she wants to do. She wants to talk about anti-depressive drugs that she's taking. She wants to talk about her bad childhood. She wants to deal with the reality.

COOPER: More power to do. She could just buy a biker magazine and call that "Rosie."

LIN: And there you go.

COOPER: She'll do fine. Don't worry about her.

Tomorrow: Is the U.S. preparing for war against Iraq and will the U.N. support it? That's the question we're going to be asking.

LIN: And coming up next on "LARRY KING": James Dobson, head of the conservative advocacy group Focus on the Family, talks about God's role in the September 11 attacks.

Thank you so much for joining us. For all of us at CNN, good night.

COOPER: Good night.


Failures on September 11; How Do Interrogators Get a Person Willing to Die to Talk>

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