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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Did Terrorists Learn Valuable Info from the Blackout?

Aired August 15, 2003 - 19:20   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Has the power blackout given terrorists an idea. That's the question we're going to ask our next guest. Perhaps has it given them an idea and an opportunity?
Let's bring in Jamie Metzel into the conversation. He is the project director for the Council on Foreign Relations Independent Task Force on Emergency Responders.

We appreciate you joining us.

JAMIE METZEL, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Pleasure to be here.

COOPER: Terrorists watching this, what have they just learned?

METZEL: Well, the terrorists have learned there are key nodes in our network of critical infrastructure that are highly vulnerable. And that if they can identify those nodes and hit them they can inflict a lot of damage on us.

COOPER: Has this pointed out key vulnerabilities that, a) maybe we didn't know about before or we did know or at least we should have known about before?

METZEL: Well, we know that we have key vulnerabilities not only in the electrical grid, but in many other areas. Our public health system is not in great shape. Our chemical facilities aren't adequately protected. So we've known that we've had these key vulnerabilities.

But what this has shown us yet again is how vulnerable we are. And that's why the United States needs to engage in an overarching systematic threat and vulnerability analysis so that we can identify our key areas of vulnerability and begin a long, difficult and expensive process of correcting those vulnerabilities.

COOPER: John King in Washington, go ahead.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: If I could jump in. I'd like to ask a question. You say a long and expensive process, sir. Some say which is the more important, in security, of visible police presence around power plants, especially nuclear power plants, or investments in the technology that would create the firewalls that obviously did not exist when this all cascaded yesterday?

METZEL: Well, it's not an either or. We need both. But what we need to do is have a process for determining how to allocate our scarce and limited resources.

We need security, we need technological investment. We have many vulnerabilities, not only in the electrical grid. We need a better, less politicized process for figuring out where our greatest vulnerabilities are and that will allow us to better spend our limited resources.

COOPER: John, you raise an interesting point. Jamie, you just said we need a less politicized process. But as John King well knows, I mean, this will end up being all about politics.

John, where is the money going to come from according to Republicans and according to Democrats?

KING: Well, it depends on what we're talking about in terms of the money. In terms of improving the grid, if you're talking about more technology, more transmission lines and even more power plants, that money will come from a number of places.

The states, of course, say they don't any money. They're all broke right now. And so they say the federal government should put up most of the money.

To anyone watching at home, this is one of the reasons this is not done. The reason this is delayed time and time again is because everyone knows when it is done at least some of the money, and many say the bulk of the money, will come out of individual's electricity Bills and that is a tough sell for the utility companies and it is a tough sell for the politicians.

There are debates -- NIMBY, not in my back yard -- about where you build these things. It is an incredibly complicated issue.

COOPER: Absolutely. Jamie Metzel, appreciate you joining us and John King, as well. Thank you very much.

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