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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Londoners Recovering from Bombings; Congress Gears Up for Battles Over Supreme Court, Rail Security; Southeastern U.S. Braces for Hurricane Dennis

Aired July 8, 2005 - 13:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SIR IAN BLAIR, COMMISSIONER: Clear from the timings of these events that, no, it could not have been done by one person, but the question is, are they still at large? They're either at large in the UK, at large somewhere else or they're dead, and I don't know which ones of those they are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Far but implacable resolve from the commissioner of the London police department a day after that city's bloodiest violence since World War II.

He says more than 50 commuters are now known dead but can't say exactly, because investigators still can't get to the scene of the deadliest explosion, far beneath Russell Square on the Piccadilly Line.

CNN's Matthew chance is at King's Cross just a short walk away. He's joining us now live with more -- Matthew.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Wolf.

And the train that you refer to there where the emergency workers still can't get to was actually between King's Cross station here in central London and Russell Square. So the train on the Piccadilly Line, one of the deepest lines on the London Underground system, is somewhere beneath our feet in this area right here.

Emergency workers are saying they've been trying for the past day and a half also to try and get to one of the carriers that is deep inside one of those tunnels, but because the damage that the bomb caused has actually disrupted the structure of that tunnel, and so they're finding it very difficult.

According to the police commissioner, Ian Blair, there's also a number of other factors making it very hazardous for the emergency workers and the forensic times to get there, including actual vermin, you know, rats and mice, actually in the Underground system that are posing a potential hazard for the emergency workers and the forensic team.

So they're going to deal with that. It's going to be a long and drawn out process but, Wolf, scouring these crime scenes for every bit of evidence they can is crucial to gathering evidence so that those responsible for these bombings can be found and brought to justice.

BLITZER: Matthew, what about the people on the street? You're speaking to Londoners. What are they saying on this day after this horrible terror attack?

CHANCE: Well, obviously people are horrified about what's happened to them, but there is also a sense in which people in this city expected something like this to happen.

It doesn't diminish the impact of the actual fact when it happens, but certainly we've been warned by the authorities. We've been warned by the police that we've seen how crowded and congested it can be in the rush hour traffic in the tubes, in the Underground railways, on the buses, obviously presenting themselves as prime targets for potential bombers.

We were warned time and time again, and I speak as a Londoner myself, by the authorities, by the police that this kind of thing would happen and could happen.

It's been very shocking now that it has happened, but as I say, not altogether unexpected. The mood amongst most Londoners, very much that they must not let this affect their daily lives, must not let it disrupt their lives too much. So they're very much going about their daily business as much as close to normality as they can.

Having said that, how this will actually affect the mood of people in the city or affect the security in this city is still very much an unknown thing at this stage, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Matthew Chance watching the story for us. Matthew, thank you very much.

The royal family was out and about today but not on public transit. Queen Elizabeth visited workers and the wounded at Royal London Hospital, vowing terrorists, and I'm quoting now, "will not change our way of life."

Earlier Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall visited St. Mary's Hospital marveling at what the heir to the throne called "the resilience of the British people." The duchess says she's proud to be one of them.

President Bush is now on his way back to Washington from the G-8 summit that was largely overshadowed by the events in the London Underground. The president departed Gleneagles, Scotland, having agreed to greatly increase aid to Africa but without any bold new moves to combat global warming.

Awaiting Mr. Bush's return to the White House, CNN's Bob Franken. CNN's Ed Henry is on Capitol Hill.

First to you, Bob. Give us the sense of what the mood is there. What's going on?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Washington is like a vacuum. Nature abhors a vacuum. Washington abhors a lack of intrigue when it comes to rumors and gossip. It's like a big high school here.

And the rumor du jour is the same one it's been now for quite some time, and that has to do with the rumored resignation of the Supreme Court chief justice, William Rehnquist. Nobody has anything in particular. He is still on the court. But the rumors had it that he was going to resign this morning. We know that didn't happen, that he's waiting for the president to come back. That hasn't happened. That it's going to happen next week.

The truth of the matter is, is that William Rehnquist left his home today, went to work at the court, no sort of announcement from there. The president comes back and goes to a 5 p.m. Eastern or shortly thereafter appearance at the British embassy here in Washington to officially express his condolences and the condolences of the nation for the attacks in London. Then he comes back to the White House. Nothing further announced on his schedule.

Next week he meets with members of the Senate, bipartisan members for consultation, among other things, on a replacement for Sandra Day O'Connor and anybody else who might have by that time been named as somebody who's going to resign from the Supreme Court, if anybody we don't know, Wolf.

BLITZER: We also know the vice president, Bob, had a physical checkup today at George Washington University Hospital. What's going on?

FRANKEN: Well, he went to the hospital this morning, previously announced, an annual physical, and his office says he passed with flying colors. Perfectly normal.

BLITZER: Vice President Dick Cheney. There are pictures of him from before, but he seems to be just fine, having suffered four heart attacks, but before he became vice president of the United States.

Bob Franken, thanks very much.

Let's go up to Capitol Hill, to Ed Henry, our congressional correspondent. He's gauging reaction here in Washington, as well. What are you getting, Ed?

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the bottom line is that senators on both sides of the aisle like to believe that they're in the know on those high-profile stories like potential Supreme Court vacancies, but they're just like us. They're watching and waiting all of these swirling rumors.

And I can tell you there's a fair bit of angst on both sides about the possibility of one, two or even three more Supreme Court vacancies. Those are the rumors flying around this morning on the Hill.

On the Democratic side, there's a bit of a realization that perhaps President Bush may not just be tinkering with the Supreme Court, but he might actually have a vast conservative makeover of this court that could reshape social policy for the next quarter century. On the Republican side, there's obviously some joy about the idea that they could have multiple vacancies that, as I said, the president could reshape social policy.

But there's also angst on the Republican side about the fact that multiple Supreme Court confirmation fights could get unwieldy and could also increase some division on the conservative side of the aisle for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist as he tries to shepherd through at least one Supreme Court nomination this summer and fall.

After all, in the wake of just the first vacancy, Sandra Day O'Connor's retirement, there's already been some conservatives taking shots at Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, suggesting he's not conservative enough to be picked for the high court.

There's also now concern on the Republican side that a long, drawn-out battle over O'Connor's successor could make it difficult to get a successor in place by the first Monday in October.

That's why President Bush has now tapped former Senator Fred Thompson to work the Senate, the former chamber where he served as both a staffer and a senator to try to make sure and smooth through this process, whether it's one or more vacancies.

Also, Ed Gillespie, well-known Republican strategist, former Republican National Committee chairman, he's going to try to shepherd this from the outside, mobilize this like a presidential campaign to make sure that conservative groups are more on the same page than they've been in recent days.

We're also hearing that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist on Monday is going to make a strong push to finish up the highway bill, finish up a lot of the leftover appropriation -- appropriations bills. The bottom line is a lot of Republicans up here say they realize that, with one or potentially more Supreme Court fights brewing, a lot of the oxygen is going to be sucked out of the room, and they need to get as much business out of the way as possible right away, Wolf.

BLITZER: I know the Senate, the House, they're in recess right now, but what about the terror attacks in London? You've been speaking with members, with staffers on the Hill. What are they saying about what happened in London and the implications for policy here in the United States?

HENRY: Well, Wolf, obviously in the immediate aftermath, it's -- it's a lot like it was after 9/11, where you're seeing a lot of statements from Democrats, from Republicans on both sides of the aisle, trying to come together on the war on terror, but immediately we're seeing a potential policy battle next week about rail security.

There's a lot of -- there's a big fight developing about whether or not there's enough money being spent on rail security in the United States. There are experts pointing out that some $6 billion a year is spent on aviation security. Only about $50 million in actual rail security. And in the wake of these bombings, there are some, especially on the Democratic side now, pushing for even more money for rail security. There are some talk, though, that funds will be cut on the Senate side. There's going to be a vote on the Senate side on rail security funding next week. You could bet that, while there's a lot of unity now, there will be some division next week about exactly how this money is going to be allocated -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry reporting for us. He'll be watching this story, clearly, for all of us here at CNN. Ed, thank you very much.

We're just getting this in to CNN, the governor of Alabama, Bob Riley, has just declared a state of emergency in anticipation of Hurricane Dennis reaching the Gulf of Mexico and moving towards Alabama, the Florida Panhandle. Let's listen to what the governor just said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. BOB RILEY (R), ALABAMA: We went through this last year. We learned a lot of things last year and I think we have all of the assets in place today, but we're going to need cooperation from all the people, especially in the southern part of the state. I want to encourage, and I'll do this two or three times today, if you're living in Mobile and Baldwin County, seriously think about going ahead and leaving today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The governor of Alabama, Bob Riley, speaking out just a few moments ago. Hurricane Dennis moving over Cuba, Haiti, even as we speak, moving into the Gulf of Mexico, expected landfall in the coming days. We'll continue to watch this story for you. We're tracking Hurricane Dennis as it moves towards the United States.

Now, more on what happened in London yesterday. You may know a group calling itself al Qaeda of Jihad in Europe claimed responsibility for the London attacks, but that's far from the final word on the culprits.

Joining us now with some special insight, Steve Coll of "The Washington Post," managing editor, at least he was until recently. He's the author of the important book "Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and bin Laden." He's now preparing yet another book, which I'm sure will be excellent, as well. Steve is joining us from London.

Give us your sense on this group that has claimed responsibility, Steve Coll, for this terror attack yesterday.

STEVE COLL, AUTHOR, "GHOST WARS": Well, I'm not sure it's really even a group or it hasn't demonstrated enough coherence to qualify as a group. It's a claim that follows a pattern of similar claims, some of which have turned out to be valid, some of which have turned out to be false. One aspect of the pattern is the use of the Web and sort of grabbing the moment immediately after an attack to claim it in the name of al Qaeda. That doesn't mean that anybody else in the movement that we now think of as al Qaeda knows who these people are.

BLITZER: There are some sources here in Washington, Steve, telling our Barbara Starr, our Pentagon correspondent, among others that perhaps, perhaps there could be some sort of link to the al Qaeda in Iraq organization, led by Abu Musab al Zarqawi. What do you make of that?

COLL: Well, I mean it's very difficult to know at this stage, working from evidence from the crime scenes, but if you just look at the context of al Qaeda radicalism and violence today, it's a reasonable conjecture to be interested in the Zarqawi organization, because it is one of the most robust sort of franchises of al Qaeda right now.

It's very active on the Web. It does a lot of international sort of incitement and communication. And from what we know, it has been attracting volunteers from Europe, as well as other regions to fight in Iraq. And so there's been reasonable speculation that, whether now or in the future, some of those who have gone to Iraq to join Zarqawi are going to return back to Europe and attempt to carry the war to European soil.

BLITZER: Is it -- I mean, it surprises me, but let me get your sense that there have been so relatively few of these major terror attacks on western targets since 9/11, given the vulnerability, given the nature of these so-called soft targets. What do you make of that?

COLL: Well, I think it's difficult to interpret with a lot of confidence, but it's true that the frequency of spectacular attacks has been rather less than what some people feared and predicted immediately after 9/11.

The old core al Qaeda leadership around bin Laden had sort of gotten into a pattern of really settling only on the most spectacular attacks and trying to be patient and to plan carefully so that when they hit, they really made an impact.

But what we've seen since September 11 is that it's been much harder for that old core al Qaeda leadership to cross borders and to plan and to finance those kind of sophisticated attacks, and in their place has arisen more spontaneously generated local attacks that imitate the al Qaeda model in many ways, as we have -- saw in London yesterday, but which don't have the sophistication and the resources to really top previous al Qaeda ambitions or to deliver on some of the more grandiose al Qaeda threats.

BLITZER: You are getting ready to come out with your new book. I know you're working on it. Is it going to be ready any time soon, Steve?

COLL: I also require patience and long planning cycles for my work, but I'm chipping away at it. BLITZER: We'll look forward to it. "Ghost Wars" was a great book, still is an important book for our readers to read. Steve Coll, the former managing editor of "The Washington Post," reporting for us today from London. Steve, thanks very much.

COLL: Thanks, Wolf. Glad to do it.

BLITZER: And please go to CNN.com any time for the latest on the London attacks. You can get maps, first person accounts, a history of al Qaeda attacks and video on demand, all at CNN.com.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER (voice-over): Ahead on CNN, who's behind the bombings, and will they try the same methods in the U.S.? A terror expert shares chilling insights.

Later, a "CNN Security Watch," on guard against terror.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To show us, in fact, where the threats are emerging.

BLITZER: CNN takes you inside America's National Counter- Terrorism Center.

Next, Dennis the menace.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm just happy I'm not going to be down here when it comes.

BLITZER: The deadly hurricane forces Florida evacuations. We're tracking the storm as it clobbers the Caribbean.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Summer vacations being cut short in the path of approaching Hurricane Dennis. No longer happy campers in the Florida Keys are packing up under orders to evacuate. Emergency officials are strongly urging Keys residents to do the same.

Florida interstates are filling up, and traffic is slowing down as more and more people heed authorities' advice and seek higher and drier ground.

Let's get the latest on Hurricane Dennis. Rob Marciano following all of that from the CNN Weather Center.

What is the latest, Rob?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, good idea that they're evacuating there on the Keys, because rain squalls have been peppering those islands for the past couple of hours. These are the outer bands of what is now a very intense Category 4 Hurricane Dennis. Center just -- actually, it's now beginning to rake -- head inland in through, say, Trinidad and Cuba with winds of 150 miles an hour. It's 250 miles to the south southeast of Key West, Florida.

And Category 4 status and for the most part it's supposed to remain through its integrity, 131 to 155. That's what that means for winds. That's damaging wind. A storm surge of 13 to 18 feet. Very large trees blown down, and that kind of storm surge can bring inland flooding to maybe six or more miles, depending on your elevation.

All right. Here's the storm. You see the eye of it raking the southern coastline and now heading in to Trinidad. It will weaken somewhat as it goes over the island of Cuba, but there aren't any very big mountains there, and it's pretty narrow so it won't stay very weak for very long.

The track brings it to the Northeastern Gulf of Mexico by early Sunday morning. Landfall somewhere in here Sunday afternoon, Sunday evening. Right now the National Hurricane Center says it should hold on to Category 4 status. So that's not good for residents who have been dealing with these hurricanes, well, in the last 10 months.

So a similar track, Wolf, to that of Ivan, you know, just about 10 months ago with -- and that had Category 3 status. So hopefully, this thing will weaken. There is a chance of that. But right now the official forecast calls for it to make landfall sometime late Sunday as a Category 4 storm.

BLITZER: One quick question, Rob, before I let you go. How reliable is this track that we're seeing? Because they can make a left turn, a right turn, sudden shifts. How much should our viewers who are watching right now assume that it's going to go exactly where they're now suggesting it will go?

MARCIANO: Well, that's why we give that yellow cone. They call that the cone of uncertainty. Basically, residents from southeast Louisiana all the way to the western shores of Florida have to be on the lookout. We obviously get a better handle on it as the days go on. And so look for updates throughout the day today and tomorrow. But certainly residents of western Florida over to southeast Louisiana need to keep an eye to the sky and to their Local stations and right here CNN.

BLITZER: And they have to take these warnings very, very seriously.

MARCIANO: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Rob Marciano, thanks very much for that.

MARCIANO: You bet.

BLITZER: At least 49 people now confirmed dead in London after yesterday's multiple rush hour explosions.

We've seen plenty of the images from the aftermath, even some camera phone videos shot taken inside what's called the Tube in London. Investigators are certainly combing all electronic surveillance material they have, which is extensive, given London's many electronic eyes.

Our national security correspondent, David Ensor, knows a great deal about all of this. He's joining us now live here in Washington with more.

David, what are you hearing?

DAVID ENSOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Great Britain, as we know, has long and deep experience, unfortunately, fighting terrorism. And for the program that airs Sunday night at Eastern -- at 8: p.m. Eastern Time, we looked at some of the tactics that they found worked with them with an eye to finding what might work here, maybe headed here.

And one tactic, as you mentioned, is closed circuit surveillance cameras. They are everywhere in London. They didn't stop the bombings yesterday, but they could be useful catching the terrorists. They were put in place originally because of terrorism by the Irish Republican Army.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ENSOR (voice-over): In the 1980s the IRA began a bombing campaign aimed first at the leaders of the country. They almost succeeded in killing Prime Minister Thatcher and her cabinet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And later that day the IRA issued a statement which went along the lines of, "Today you were lucky but just remember you've got to be lucky all of the time. We only have to be lucky once." And I quietly repeat that mantra to myself every day.

ENSOR: Mike Dalron (ph) is the assistant commissioner of the City of London Police.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are we doing?

ENSOR: His force is charged with guarding Britain's economic heart, which was the IRA's target in the early 1990s.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a bomb at Bishop's Gate Road. This is not a hoax.

ENSOR: The first step, make London's financial hub easier to defend. Over a hundred streets leading into the city were reduced to what is now less than 20.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See if we can zoom in on it.

ENSOR: New technologies were deployed, especially closed circuit TV cameras, used first in Belfast, cameras that soon became omnipresent as both government and business bought them by the thousands. (on camera) Walking along this street or any street in the city of London, one thing is almost certain. You're on camera. A person living and working here can expect to be filmed dozens of times each day, either by police or by privately-run surveillance cameras.

An independent closed circuit operator's group estimates that Britain has at least 500,000 live cameras. That's 1 for every 120 people.

Are there people here who regard that as an intrusion?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I think by and large the public of Britain realize that those cameras are actually discriminating against thieves, potential terrorists.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Most people understand that these things are there to help sort of protect them against serious threats.

ENSOR (voice-over): Dame Stella Remington (ph) was the director of MI-5, Britain's domestic intelligence agency, which fights terrorism by spying on Britons far more extensively than the FBI does in the U.S.

(on camera) Where would you say the line is drawn in this country in that age-old debate between how much security you have and how much liberty you're allowed ?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I think the line -- the line is moving. More of our civil liberties are being intruded upon as the government takes responsibility for trying to look after us.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ENSOR: Prime Minister Blair's government is looking now, for example, at national I.D. cards, ones that could have biometric material on them.

Already in Britain if you're arrested for anything, even if not found guilty, you have to give a DNA sample.

The line between security and liberty there may be moving some more in the wake of these London bombings, and that could happen here too before long, Wolf. And that is why we wanted to look at what Britain and, in fact, also Spain, France and Israel have been doing in their fight with terrorism, which has gone on so much longer than ours.

BLITZER: David Ensor has done a lot of work on this and it's paid off. David, thank you very much for that.

And to our viewers don't forget this Sunday night not only will we show you the impressive tools the city of London has in place to fight terror, but we'll take an in-depth look at what's being done around the world.

David Ensor has done a fabulous job getting this program ready. Don't miss a special "CNN PRESENTS: WINNING THE WAR ON TERROR." It airs Sunday night, 8 p.m. Eastern, 5 Pacific here on CNN.

Surviving on the subway. What lessons can you learn from the bombings in Britain? That's just ahead on our CNN special coverage, "London Terror." We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the fallout from the terror attacks in London yesterday. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

The attacks on London's Underground are reverberating in U.S. cities that rely on subways, especially New York City. With more than 700 miles of track, New York's system is both vital and vulnerable.

CNN's Adaora Udoji talks with security analysts about the risks and what riders can do to minimize them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ADAORA UDOJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The subway, a lifeline for busy New Yorkers, and they know the risks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that it's nearly impossible to completely protect people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just have to pray and hope that, you know, we're safe.

UDOJI: There is more you can do. The experts say people are potentially their own best protection against terrorism.

BO DIETL, BEAU DIETL & ASSOCIATES: Can you stop it completely? No. Can you try? Absolutely. Can you minimize it? Yes, through intelligence and through awareness.

UDOJI: Security specialist Bo Dietl says, since 9/11, New York has stepped up security, practicing emergency drills, budgeting millions of dollars on security every year.

City officials have more police out patrolling railways. They've fortified stations, installed more surveillance cameras and removed trash cans where bombs could be hidden.

But other cities had security, too. In 2004, a terrorist bomb killed 191 people in Madrid, Spain. And in Moscow, 49 people died in two suicide bombings. Tokyo, 1995, a sarin gas attack left 12 dead, 5,000 injured.

New York has learned from all that. Detectives today stationed around the world gathering intelligence, but the police cannot be everywhere all the time.

Here's the bottom line. A bomb ripping through a train, biological or chemical weapons released underground, could be treacherous along the city's 720 miles of tracks. COMMISSIONER RAY KELLY, NEW YORK CITY POLICE: Certain situations you're not going to be able to do too much other than wait for rescue workers.

UDOJI: If there is fire or fumes, security expert Bo Dietl says go in the opposite direction but try to stay on the train. Outside it, there are more dangers: electrically charged tracks, other trains coming.

Ultimately, he said preventing an attack is critical, and that takes everyone's help. Five million riders a day could mean 10 million extra eyes watching for anything suspicious.

DIETL: Somebody is carrying it in a knapsack. Someone leaves the knapsack. Immediately you see somebody -- some package that looks suspicious, go to that cop. That's the most important thing. Everybody has their eyes and their ears open.

UDOJI: Adaora Udoji, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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