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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
New York City Responding to 'Specific Threat' to Subways; Rove to Testify Again in CIA Leak Probe; Bush Defends Miers
Aired October 7, 2005 - 12:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And once again, standing by, waiting for comments from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. And we're expecting an update on the situation in New York City with regard to the transit system and the threat to that transit system that has placed the entire system on high alert and made the morning commute very interesting, indeed.
When the mayor steps to the microphones and makes comments specifically about the situation on the ground with regard to the subway station in New York, we will bring those to you live.
First, some headlines.
A little more than an hour -- than a half hour ago, President Bush said New York transit authorities exercise their own prerogative in publicly announcing the subway threat. He declined second-guessing the move, but security officials in his administration said they doubted the credibility of the intelligence. The latest on the subway alert in just a moment.
Authorities in Lawrence, Kansas, say as many as 25 people are unaccounted for after an early morning apartment fire. Nineteen people were hospitalized, some suffering injuries after jumping from the burning building. The cause of the blaze is unknown.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas Tuesday. The meeting had been planned for last Sunday but rescheduled after Hamas rocket attacks. Representatives for both men are working out final details for the summit that will touch on a number of topics.
There are conflicting opinions on how credible the information is that has prompted New York officials to beef up subway security. This, while crews are ratcheting down their response to a possible hoax at Penn Station. For a while, the station's main entrance was closed, as well as an Amtrak platform area.
We have a live report from Barbara Starr at the Pentagon momentarily.
But first, let's check in with CNN Senior Correspondent Allan Chernoff, live in New York with the latest.
ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SR. CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Tony. As you can see behind me, the main entrance to Penn Station here on 8th Avenue is now open. I just came up through it, took the subway down from our office, and everything is operating normally right now.
Sure, you have plenty of police, National Guard throughout the entire station, but everything is open. All the trains operating normally right now.
Earlier this morning, when the northern portion of Penn Station was temporarily closed off, you still did have some access to this massive complex, Penn Station. Subway entrances right behind me here on this corner. In fact, we have four different subway entrances. All of them did remain open.
What was shut down was what you're looking at right now, the main waiting room for Amtrak. And people, investigators in hazardous material suits, were going through what appeared to be some green soapy substance coming out of a Pepsi bottle. Not sure if we can actually determine in that picture, but we have seen pictures showing that, indeed, it was a Pepsi bottle.
They've determined that it was a harmless substance, what appears to be pretty much of a hoax. But the law enforcement officials here not taking any chances, certainly on very much high alert.
Earlier today, the president was asked whether New York is overreacting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, our job is to gather intelligence and pass them on to local authorities. And they make the judgments necessary to respond.
And the level of cooperation between the federal government and the local government is getting better and better. And part of that level of cooperation is the -- is the ability to pass information on. And we did and they responded.
QUESTION: So you don't think they're overreacting?
BUSH: I think they took the information that we gave and made the judgments they thought were necessary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHERNOFF: And that is giving some confidence to people on the subway today. Certainly the subway still quite busy. New Yorkers take this in stride, because most New Yorkers recognize this city is a target.
There is no question, if you ask almost any native New Yorkers, sure, the terrorists want to hit us. But New Yorkers go about their business, they just keep their eyes open. And as the mayor said yesterday, if you see something, say something. And increasingly, New Yorkers are taking that advice quite seriously, pointing out to law enforcement when they see a suspicious package, something such as this morning in the waiting room of the Amtrak, as well, the green substance coming out of that bottle.
Tony, back to you.
HARRIS: Very good. Allan Chernoff for us, just outside of Penn Station in New York City.
Allan, thank you.
Now for the more alleged source of the subway threat, let's go to CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr, who is live at the Pentagon with the latest.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Tony.
Well, apparently, it is now emerging that all of this ties all the way back to Iraq. What U.S. officials, military and defense officials are saying is, over the last couple of weeks, they gathered intelligence -- that's all they'll say -- that had that New York City subway threat in it.
And then, as a result of that intelligence on Wednesday night, they conducted a raid in a place called Musayyib. That was south of Baghdad.
It was a targeted raid. It went after three specific suspects by name. They found them and detained them, we are told. And they believe they were part of an al Qaeda cell inside Iraq planning attacks outside of Iraq, perhaps in the United States.
Now, well-placed sources tell CNN that this raid involved both U.S. and Iraqi special forces, and they were backed up by the U.S. intelligence community, the CIA -- Tony.
HARRIS: Barbara Starr for us at the Pentagon.
Barbara, thank you.
Now to dig a little deeper on the story, let's check in with Clark Kent Ervin. He is a security analyst and has been following the developments here very closely.
Clark, good to see you again.
CLARK KENT ERVIN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Good to see you, Tony.
HARRIS: What do you make of all this?
ERVIN: Well, as it happens, coincidentally, I was making my way up to New York just this morning and was in the middle of this.
HARRIS: Oh, OK. ERVIN: I have to -- I have to say that the New York officials appear to me to have done everything exactly right. It's absolutely critical to be on hair-trigger alert. We never know when the threat might actually materialize and be an actual danger. And as the correspondents noted, there's no question but that New York is at the very top of the terrorists' list.
HARRIS: And they didn't shut down the system. Whatever the threat was, they responded in a way that seems to have been effective. But they didn't shut the system down, which means it feels like it was at least measured.
ERVIN: That's exactly right. And so, hats off to the New York officials for responding appropriately here.
HARRIS: But you know what? There is already some second- guessing going on. There are questions coming from folks like me, I guess, wondering if, perhaps, New York City overreacted. What do you think?
ERVIN: I don't think they overreacted. As I say, and as everyone knows, New York is at the top of terrorists' lists.
Just nine days ago, according to the newspapers this morning, about nine people were arrested in Paris. And among other things, they were plotting to attack Paris subways.
We all know just a few months ago, in July, that 52 people were killed and 700 were wounded in successful bomb attacks in London. And two weeks after that, there was another attempt that was not successful.
It's just a matter of time before an attempt happens in this country, and New York is the most likely target. So I don't think they overreacted at all.
HARRIS: But here's the rub, Clark, and you know it as well as I do. There was this moment where there seemed to be mixed signals. The folks at Homeland Security and the White House, the information going to New York, seemed to be suggesting that this was not necessarily a credible threat. And then you have New York taking that same information and responding the way it did today.
ERVIN: Well, I guess I'd say two things about that. First of all, intelligence really is an art. It's not a science. It is very, very difficult, almost impossible ever to have intelligence that's 100 percent rock solid.
On the other hand, I think the president was right in saying that it's the job of the federal department, the job of Homeland Security, our intelligence services, to pass on actionable, arguably actionable information to local officials, and then for local officials to make their own judgments as to whether take measures in response to that threat information. So I think the system worked exactly as it should in this particular instance. HARRIS: And so, Clark, if you're a New Yorker, you have more or less confidence than -- officials cried wolf, or do you like the fact that they responded as aggressively as they did?
ERVIN: Well, I'm in New York so often, I'm a de facto New Yorker. And certainly, if I were a real New Yorker, I would be very heartened by this response.
And also, as you pointed out, the fact that New Yorkers took it in stride and went about their daily basis, just as the mayor urged them to do last night, also speaks very highly for them. So I would be heartened if I were a New Yorker, and New Yorkers should be pleased with their own response to this kind of danger, which is only going to continue. Unfortunately, it's not going to end anytime soon.
HARRIS: Clark Kent Ervin, good to talk to you, as always, sir.
ERVIN: Thank you, Tony.
HARRIS: Thanks for taking the time.
Coming up at the bottom of the hour, we'll have an inside look at New York City's version of the CIA and why the Big Apple has taken such an initiative. That's just ahead in just a couple of minutes.
Stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.
One of President Bush's most trusted advisers, Karl Rove, will testify before a grand jury in the identity leak of a CIA agent. It's the fourth such time Rove has testified in the Valerie Plame investigation.
CNN National Correspondent Bob Franken is live in Washington with more on this story.
And good afternoon to you, Bob.
BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, Tony.
We haven't seen him today. More likely, the testimony would come next week, as the grand jury, that we thought, is going to start providing us some answers. Apparently still has some questions.
FRANKEN (voice-over): Karl Rove, one of the central figures in this investigation, and a central figure in the political career of George W. Bush, will be testifying for at least the fourth time before this grand jury.
Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, according to sources, has not given Rove any assurance he will not face indictment as this probe continues into the public disclosure of Valerie Plame's identity. Plame, who was an undercover operative for the CIA, is the wife of Joseph Wilson, who had become a harsh critic about the administration's claims about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction.
After an uproar following the disclosure of Plame's identity in 2003, Fitzgerald began his investigation. Under pressure, including in one celebrated case jail time, several reporters testified. Some, including "TIME" magazine's Matthew Cooper, said they had discussed the matter with Rove.
Rove's lawyer repeatedly insisted his client did not identify Plame as a secret agent, did not know she was one. He also contends, Rove is appearing voluntary, that he's not received a so-called target letter, which would identify him as a person the grand jury was likely to indict.
Also named a source for reporters is the vice president's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
As Fitzgerald's prolonged investigation seems to be entering its final phases, the president continues to dodge questions about whether he will remove anyone from his administration who might be indicted.
BUSH: I'm not going to talk about it until the investigation is complete. And it's important that the investigation run its course.
FRANKEN: Rove's lawyer says the prosecutor has told him that no decision has been made on whether there are going to be any charges. Of course, Tony, that means no decisions have been made on whether there won't be any charges.
HARRIS: That's true. Bob Franken. Bob, thank you.
A deadly day for U.S. troops in Iraq. Roadside bombings killed six Marines in two separate attacks in Anbar province on Thursday. Four Marines died in a blast near Karma, two others died while patrolling in Qaim. All six were members of the 2nd Marine Division Expeditionary Force -- 1,953 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq since the war began in March of 2003.
As coalition forces remain in harm's way in Iraq, the journalists who tell their stories also face danger. CNN's Jennifer Eccleston is among those seeing the war firsthand as an embedded reporter. Just ahead, her "Reporter's Notebook."
The United Nations nuclear watchdog agency and its leader are this year's winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. The International Atomic Energy Agency and Director General Mohamed ElBaradei were honored for their work in preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. ElBaradei led the IAE in dealing with suspected weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOHAMED ELBARADEI, IAEA DIRECTOR GENERAL: There's a lot of lessons that we have learned over the last 20 or 30 years, and I think what the Nobel committee is saying right now is, not only that we salute your achievement, but we also urge you to continue to strengthen the regime because the dangers we are facing in the next few years are absolutely unprecedented and could threaten our very survival.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: The 63-year-old ElBaradei was recently appointed to a third term as the head of the IAEA.
A federal fight over the flu? The White House is taking a proactive stance in the battle against the avian flu. A live report just ahead.
Also, setting standards for prisoners of war. I'll speak with Senator John McCain about his amendment to a Pentagon spending bill.
And later, birthing a baby in silence? Jeanne Moos takes a unique look at the pregnancy of actress Katie Holmes.
HARRIS: President Bush is again today staunchly defending his latest Supreme Court nominee, attorney Harriet Miers. CNN's Elaine Quijano is live in Washington with the latest on the president's defense of Miers' candidacy -- Elaine.
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon to you, Tony, from a soggy north lawn here. But what is so notable about the reaction to Harriet Miers is that the sharp criticism has been coming not from Democrats, but from conservatives within the president's own party.
Now, they say that the president had an opportunity here that he wasted. They feel that Harriet Miers was not as qualified or not as experienced as other conservative candidates who are available.
Now, they're not convinced about her credentials. Some concerned about how she would rule on abortion. And now some prominent figures within the conservative community are calling for her nomination to be pulled.
Now, President Bush today was asked whether he would rule that out, and here's how he responded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: She is going to be on the bench. She will be confirmed. And when she's on the bench, people will see a fantastic woman who is honest, open, humble and capable of being a great Supreme Court judge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUIJANO: Now, the White House insists that Harriet Miers is well qualified and that she is someone who will strictly interpret the law. But that does not seem to be good enough for some conservatives who, again, are opposing her nomination -- Tony. HARRIS: CNN's Elaine Quijano at the White House.
Elaine, thank you.
Canada's latest mystery illness has been solved. Canadian health authorities are identifying the malady as Legionnaires' Disease. It's blamed for 16 deaths, and hospitalizing another 30 residents of a Toronto nursing home. Legionnaires' Disease was suspected early, but doctors had to wait on autopsy results from victims for confirmation.
Back in town, but out of pocket. Up next, the latest from New Orleans as residents struggle to get basic services.
And more on the New York City subway threats. We'll take a closer look at how intelligence gathering has changed in the Big Apple since 9/11.
And also, we're standing by for comments from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. We understand he has take a five-minute break. He answered questions on a number of other topics in a morning news conference.
He asked to take a bit of a break, a five-minute break, and that at that time he would come back and he would answer all questions related to the situation with regard to the terrorist threat against the city subway station. There you see him at the podium.
Let's go now to New York and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: Are we ready? OK. We'll be happy to take questions on other subjects.
QUESTION: Mayor, both you and the commissioner (OFF-MIKE). Today, the White House spokesman said that the terror threat is of dubious credibility. He said the same thing yesterday. And the homeland security spokesman is also saying that this threat has little credibility.
What are New Yorkers to make of the disparity from what you said yesterday and what the federal government is saying today?
BLOOMBERG: Look, it is very different being an analyst in Washington looking at data as opposed to being here in New York where you have to take responsibility to protect people's lives.
We believe that there is some credibility to this, and if I'm going to make a mistake, you can rest assured it is going to be on the side of being cautious.
I have an obligation to take care of the 8.1 million people who live in this city and all the people that come into this city every day. And we will do exactly what we did. When we see a threat, we are going to increase our presence wherever that threat is.
We have people that I believe have the ability to analyze information, and together we have made a decision, and it was the right decision.
Be happy to take another question.
QUESTION: How much longer do you anticipate these heightened measures to continue, Mayor, if nothing new is learned?
BLOOMBERG: That's always one of the conundrums. When you ratchet up security, you're never sure. It will depend in the days coming how the events unfold. There are stories of continued operations overseas, and based on what the results of those are, that will influence our decision. But if we do and when we do reduce the efforts, we will do it slowly and with a great deal of thought.
QUESTION: Do you have any new information on whether any of those involved in the plot are in the U.S.?
BLOOMBERG: Ray, you want to answer?
RAYMOND KELLY, COMMISSIONER, NEW YORK CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT: That's, obviously, part of an ongoing investigation. And part of the information that we have, of course, is classified.
As the assistant director of the FBI had said yesterday, we're restricted as to what information we can put out in this manner. But that's certainly part of the investigation that's ongoing.
BLOOMBERG: Yes, I might also point out, remember, that a lot of our information comes from the FBI. And what you see in Washington is different intelligence agencies looking at either different information or evaluating it differently.
BLOOMBERG: Well, we first were briefed on the information, there were activities planned overseas to try to prevent anything from happening. And people from our security forces had their lives in jeopardy and we certainly did not want to compromise those actions.
Also, based on the information we had, the plans to do anything were not imminent, so we had, we believed, a little bit of freedom. But, nevertheless, we have to constantly balance telling the public with making sure that our security forces, who put their lives in jeopardy, can be effective and can stop things.
When, after a few days, those operations had yielded some results and we had made a judgment that it was time to step up the police presence in the subway system because the timing was now starting to become relevant, at that point, you have no choice but to inform the public.
It would be obvious to them something's going on. And, at that point they have a right to know.
QUESTION: You found out yesterday morning that two people had been nabbed in connection with this...
KELLY: Would you just say that again, sir?
QUESTION: Was it yesterday morning when you found out people had been nabbed?
KELLY: Well, we were aware of ongoing operations. And, yes, I think in terms of timing it was yesterday morning when we were informed that people were taken into custody. Yes.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) before you had that meeting, would that have jeopardized the agents' lives or would that jeopardize the operation?
QUESTION: What was the jeopardy...
KELLY: Well, it may have jeopardized the operation, precisely.
So that's why we didn't go forward with the information until those operations had taken place.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Would it not have been effective to get this announcement out before rush hour to tell riders to be more vigilant and cautious?
BLOOMBERG: Well, the operations were going on and continue to go on right now. And in the interest of protecting the public, we have to make a decision. Jeopardizing an operation which could prevent a terrorist attack is very high on our list of things not to do. You want to make sure that we stop anything from taking place.
And until we were ready to start ramping up the security and the timing of the threat was starting to become more relevant, there was a decision made to -- which I think is the right one; I made it -- to go and to continue to protect the operations overseas.
And I want to, once again, thank one of the journalists who did have the story who understood that by releasing the story earlier would have jeopardized our ability to conduct that operation overseas and the lives of our young men and women who were involved in that operation.
KELLY: We deployed additional resources for yesterday's rush hour. We did it before the rush hour. The announcement was made a little later than when we initiated the deployment of additional resources.
QUESTION: I just want to clarify. You don't mean to imply that when you say it's different for an analyst in Washington and your own role in protecting people's lives, you're not implying that the analysts in Washington don't have responsibility for people's lives?
It sounds as if you're implying...
BLOOMBERG: No. The analysts in Washington work for other agencies and they've got to do the analysis that they think is appropriate for their job. We are very different. BLOOMBERG: We are a part of government that has to make decisions to deploy resources and to be held accountable for our performance and protecting the public.
And even as I pointed out in Washington, the FBI attached more credibility to a lot of this information than other agencies. That's just a fact of life. And you'll never get consensus in the intelligence community I think on any one thing.
QUESTION: Are you considering heightening subway security other than adding more police officers, anything on a permanent basis, metal detectors, anything that you're considering?
KELLY: Well, we look at transit security on a day-to-day basis.
Obviously, we have a program with the MTA to put cameras in the transit system. We look forward to that. We think that's going to be very helpful.
But we make an analysis, as I say, on a daily basis. We did increase our bag searches. As the mayor said, we'll make a judgment as we go forward as to how long we continue that increased number of bag searches.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) metal detectors?
BLOOMBERG: I think that's not really very practical given there are 3-odd million people a day.
QUESTION: I was wondering if what you're really talking about is a difference of philosophy, that the philosophy in the bureaucracy in Washington may be to look and study before they take action, whereas the philosophy of a mayor who has to protect people may be far different because, as you said, you need to be proactive in taking care of people.
Do you think there's a difference...
BLOOMBERG: Well, I can't speak to what goes on in the minds of other agencies. I can tell you that what we do here is that we continually plan for events and how we would respond to those.
We also work very hard at gathering intelligence, as you know, and doing analysis, as well. But in the end, you have to make a decision. The intelligence information you get is never going to be so explicit and so guaranteed to be correct. By the time you get that, the event has already taken place.
This is a function where you have to look at the information and make a judgment, consulting, but in the end, you will find that not everybody is on the same page.
And as I pointed out before, if I have to make a mistake, it is going to be on the side of protecting the people of this city.
In this case, I don't think that we made the mistake. I think we did take the appropriate action. And hopefully we will prevent anything from happening, and that's exactly what you want us to do.
QUESTION: Do you have any indication that any of these Iraqis or insurgents or any of the operatives had actually visited New York or working in New York around this time?
KELLY: That's all a matter of ongoing investigation.
QUESTION: Did you ride the subway this morning? And what did the passengers say to you?
BLOOMBERG: I did. And I had a very nice conversation with a young lady in Spanish. And I can tell you that security never came up. She talked about her job and she talked about taking the subway and she talked about how nice it was to meet the mayor.
Other people seem to be engaged in reading their newspapers, dozing, doing the things that -- chit chatting, doing the things they normally do. The train that I was on was about as crowded as it normally is.
I came downtown a little bit later than normal because I had two breakfasts earlier at Gracie Mansion. And then when I came down, it was a touch past rush hour, but the train was reasonably full.
QUESTION: Did you or the commissioner worry about holding this information and not putting it out, knowing obviously that there was security interests involved in terms of the soldiers there, but did you worry about not putting it out earlier?
BLOOMBERG: There is no question. It is a conundrum that I think one of the newspapers pointed out today.
You have to balance and make a decision. And if you were to put out every bit of information whenever it came in, number one, the public would be flooded with information, most of which would turn out to be fallacious and be just too much for people to use in terms of making decisions.
We are paid to gather the information, to analyze it and then the decision as to when to put things out, you have to balance the public's right to know, public safety, with making sure we prevent an event.
And I think this one was very clear that if we -- we had a luxury, as a matter of fact, since the information said that there was not going to be a threat for the immediate future for the next few days and the operation taking place overseas would probably be over by that time.
We certainly worked with the one reporter who had the story and explained to him, and he was very cooperative and deserves a lot of thanks from this administration.
QUESTION: Are you or the commissioner can explain what happened in Penn Station this morning? There was an incident there. KELLY: Yes, there were two jobs at Penn Station. One was a suspicious package that turned out to be trash. The other was a green bottle. In that bottle was a dye and an acid. It looks like a prank. Describe it kind of like a Drano-type substance.
Our police Office of Emergency Service officers went in, made an initial determination, then brought it to the Department of Environmental Protection. They're making a final analysis of it.
But it appears to be, as I say, a prank, and service was restored about -- full service was restored about 11:30. I think only some Amtrak trains and some Long Island Railroad trains were affected.
QUESTION: I had a question. When you said "we," in terms of the overseas operation, were there any New York people that were over there that were involved with that from the NYPD? I know that sometimes...
BLOOMBERG: We did not have anybody involved in that. I don't know where the people who were involved in the operation come from. They may have come from New York City. We have a lot of our men and women overseas working to keep us safe (OFF-MIKE) the effect may be on our streets, but you can see that we live in a world where something that happens one place has a very big effect on all of us.
QUESTION: Do you still think it was a credible threat? Has anything changed from yesterday? Has the White House view of this changed your view of this? Are you where you were yesterday, this is a credible threat that you take seriously?
KELLY: We did exactly the right thing. We did precisely what should have been done in this situation with the information that we had. This was very specific information. The mayor was made aware of it early on.
As the mayor said, we waited for the operations to take place. And I can't think of anything else that should have been done other than what we proceeded to do.
QUESTION: Does it do a disservice to the people, what the White House is saying today and that Homeland Security is saying today?
BLOOMBERG: No, it doesn't do a disservice. That's for them -- we have got to worry about doing what's right for the people of this city.
And let me end it with the following: If given the same circumstances again, I would make exactly the same decision. Our obligation is to look at every threat, respond when we think there is some credibility to it, and to err on the side of protecting the public.
And if we do that every time, with a little help from God, we will continue to live in a city where you can be safe. I feel safe in this city. I feel safe on the trains. I feel safe walking down the street. It's an amazing turnaround in this city. We are devoting the resources. The commissioner has over 1,000 young men and women working on intelligence and counterterrorism -- and that is all tied up in this. in our decisions.
We have an extensive staff that really does know what they're doing. And we gather intelligence, as you know, around the world. We have our own police officers stationed in many cities.
All of this comes together to, when there's a threat, act appropriately and make the best decisions for the people of this city.
And thank God, today we can all continue to go about our business, and that's exactly what we should do and not let anybody think that a threat against us is going to change us enjoying the freedoms that were won over the last 235 years and continue to be fought for around the world.
Thank you very much.
HARRIS: There you have it. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, wrapping up a news conference where they took questions about the situation on the ground right now in New York City. And you saw there the mayor defending the city's response to the information out of Washington of a specific terror threat to the New York City subway system.
And you heard mayor say that if it was a mistake, answering a question as to whether or not the city may have overreacted to the information about that threat, if it was a mistake to be made, it was going to be on the side of safety. That if there was a mistake to be made in this case, the mayor was willing to make it on the side of safety.
A lot of information about this threat, the mayor added, came from the FBI. And that there were different opinions of the information coming out of various organizations and agencies in Washington, and that the mayor could not wait for everyone to agree on the intelligence in this case.
And then we got an update on the situation this morning at the Penn Station and the Amtrak platform. It was an apparent hoax. There were two different episodes that were talked about. There was one that involved trash at one of the locations inside of Penn Station, then there was the other that involved this green, soapy substance that was in a Pepsi can that turned out to be absolutely harmless.
The mayor and the police commissioner of New York just wrapping up a news conference just moments ago.
The Bush administration is threatening to veto legislation that would ban the torture or mistreatment of military prisoners. The proposal, authorized by Arizona senator John McCain, it is tacked on to a $50 defense spending bill the Senate unanimously passed this morning.
Senator McCain joins us live with more on amendment and the debate that follows. Senator, good to talk to you.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Thank you. Good to talk to you.
HARRIS: Well, I have to ask you. This amendment is being talked about, written about in some circles, as a blow to the president and his authority to prosecute the war on terror. You obviously don't see it that way. Tell us why.
MCCAIN: Well, first of all, neither I nor General Colin Powell, who strongly supported this and wrote a letter in support of it, nor the 28 generals, retired generals, including former chairmans of the Joint Chiefs of Staff think this would be, in any way, a blow to the administration. In fact, we think it would be very helpful because it would send a message to the world that the United States of America does not engage in torture. We will not treat people inhumanely. We will adhere to treaties that we are signatories to, and the men and women who do the interrogating will have clear instructions as to how to conduct interrogations.
HARRIS: Senator, who gets to decide what is cruel, what is inhumane, what is degrading treatment? Who gets to decide?
MCCAIN: That will be in a thing called the Army Field Manual, which is being developed as we speak as to what techniques can be used to elicit information. And many times, that intelligence information is very important.
HARRIS: What kind of behavior would you like to see discontinue immediately?
MCCAIN: Well, inhumane, degrading, cruel treatment. I don't think that anything that happened that you saw pictures of at Abu Ghraib is acceptable. Making people believe that they're drowning is not appropriate. Beatings. I mean, there's a long, long list of things that I think is inhumane and cruel. There are many things that are acceptable and allowable and effective.
And, by the way, torture doesn't work and everybody who knows about that tawdry business will attest to that, as well. But, again, look, when people like General Colin Powell and others support this because the damage that's been done to America's image throughout the world, this shouldn't be a confrontation with the administration. We should be working together.
HARRIS: Here's what you said yesterday. Speaking about -- this sort of ties to the comments about Abu Ghraib. "We demand that intelligence without ever really clearly telling our troops what was permitted and what was forbidden. When things went wrong, we blamed them and punished them." Are you discouraged by the fact that it doesn't seem to be the case that more people in command were held accountable for what happened?
MCCAIN: I'm disappointed by that because it's well known that prisoners were moved around that prison, so-called ghost prisoners. Privates can't do that. It took people at a higher level to be able to do that. But, now, I'm most interested in fixing the problems so that we send the message to the world that that's not what America does. And, by the way, this isn't about treatment of prisoners. It is about the United States of America. It's about us.
HARRIS: Respond to this, then. "This amendment is an overreaction, an overreaction to the misdeeds of some bad actors."
MCCAIN: Well, you could say that, but, unfortunately, continued controversy and continued lack of specific instructions, as recently as a West Point graduate Captain Fishback (ph), who wrote to me and said that for 17 months, he and his friends have been trying to find out what's acceptable and what isn't acceptable.
And by the way, we are signatories to the Geneva Conventions for treatments of prisoners at war. We, under the Reagan administration, signed an international agreement that we wouldn't engage in torture. All this does is codify what we've already agreed to over the past many years.
HARRIS: Senator, you listened to the speech from the president, the terrorism speech yesterday. Did you listen to that speech and see the finish line, a finish line?
MCCAIN: No. I saw a long, hard struggle ahead against -- in the war on terrorism. I think it's still very difficult in Iraq, but I certainly agree with him...
HARRIS: Let's take you back to New York City now and national correspondent Allan Chernoff, who has new information on the situation on the ground there at Penn Station.
ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Tony.
Well, Penn Station is entirely open right now. In fact, as I speak, I can hear the subway trains running right underground, right under where we're standing at the moment. So everything pretty much back to normal after, perhaps, a little bit of a scare this morning, people in hazardous materials uniforms checking out what turned out to be a non-hazardous substance, a green substance coming out of a Pepsi bottle in the main waiting room for the Amtrak trains. Also, that waiting room used for the New Jersey transit trains, which travel under tunnel or underneath the Hudson River to New Jersey just west of Manhattan.
So everything pretty much back to normal. The mayor earlier, just a little while ago, was addressing questions from the media, and said he would prefer to err on the side of caution, explaining why the NYPD and the entire city on full alert after this threat against the New York subway system -- Tony.
HARRIS: Allan Chernoff in New York. Allan, thank you. More now on the threat against New York's subway systems. Security was noticeably tighter near the tracks today as the city responded to information from an FBI source, but since the 9/11 attacks, New York Police created its own intelligence-gathering apparatus.
CNN's national security correspondent David Ensor was granted exclusive access to a police department that now has its own eyes and ears overseas.
DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATL. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Outside the Empire State Building, a police SWAT team arrives without warning. Heavily armed officers move in to sweep the rooftop observation deck.
High visibility today, huh?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unbelievable.
ENSOR: High above the same building a police helicopter surveys Manhattan, looking for anything suspicious.
How good are the optics?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very good. This camera consists of three lenses.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're eastbound on 42nd at this time.
ENSOR: Down on 42nd Street a police commander orders 75 squad cars out on surprise patrols throughout the city. New, unconventional ways doing business, ordered by Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
POLICE COMMISSIONER RAY KELLY, NYPD: I think we're doing things here certainly that we haven't done before. But I don't think any municipal police agency has ever done. The reason we do it, we believe we're at the top of the terrorist target list.
ENSOR: And Commissioner Kelly has hired a top 35 year CIA veteran to set up New York's own CIA, complete with officers overseas.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He should be there sometime during the first week or two.
ENSOR: Each day Kelly is briefed by his top deputies handling counter-terrorism and intelligence gathering.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm in the business of establishing trip wires or listening posts that involve informants of sorts. We won't go into that. But I don't get my intelligence from reading the newspapers.
ENSOR: NYPD has detectives based in Britain, Israel, Singapore, Canada, France, the Dominican Republic and soon Jordan. They're gathering and sharing first hand intelligence on potential terror threats in New York City.
Why can't New York rely on the CIA or the FBI to protect it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Neither the CIA nor the FBI are in the subway systems protecting it. It's cops that go down there and do that.
ENSOR: And based on what it heard about the July 7th London attacks, the NYPD tightened its security tactic is in the subway that very same day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were able to act quickly because we had that detective in London.
ENSOR (on camera): Before the 2001 terrorist attacks the NYPD had no more than a couple of dozen officers working full time on the terrorism beat. These days it's a thousand and sometimes more.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anything unusual, out of the ordinary?
ENSOR (voice-over): Another new weapon for the police, Project Nexus (ph), which in the past three and a half has enlisted more than 25,000 businesses to help in tracking suspicious activities. Many intelligence professionals say NYPD could be a model, more nimble, better equipped and motivated, more likely than the federal government to stop the next attack against this city.
David Ensor, CNN, New York.
HARRIS: CNN security watch keeps you up to date on safety. Stay tuned day and night for the most reliable news about your security.
On the front lines to tell the stories from Iraq, up next, CNN reporter Jennifer Eccleston shares her thoughts on the dangers faced by many journalists in the war zone. We're back in a moment.
HARRIS: Well, the cost of war can be measured in the number of lives lost, both military and civilian. Danger lurks for those covering the story, as well. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 56 reporters been killed in Iraq since the war began.
Our Jennifer Eccleston is among those on the front lines. Here's how she sees it.
JENNIFER ECCLESTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's day 10 of our embed, and Producer Arwa Damon, Photographer Gabe Ramirez and I find ourselves running through the middle of what Marines call IED Alley.
(on camera): They, they think there is an IED buried where? In the actual pavement or? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's in the rubble over there.
ECCLESTON: In that rubble?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
ECCLESTON: So you're going to put some C4...
ECCLESTON: And every town we went to, Marines detonated and exploded these IEDs along the very same road where we had just walked minutes before. I have to say that at that stage, it did bring a question to mind of what am I doing here? Why are we doing this? And then we'd look at each other and we'd shrug it off and laugh a little and move on.
ECCLESTON (voice-over): It's my fifth trip to Iraq since the American Invasion. After so many close calls, I'm beginning to wonder if the odds will inevitably work against us. It almost happened a few days ago. This simple triggering device, made of household items, rigged to an artillery device nearly killed Arwa. Our vehicle is totaled. My heart stopped.
ARWA DAMON, CNN PRODUCER: And it was insanely frustrating to have had such a near death experience, to have seen the orange flames jump up in front of the vehicle, to hear the detonation, and not have it on camera.
So the first thought in my head when I saw you, was damn, I don't have nightscope on the camera, I missed that shot. Which might seem completely and totally absurd to anyone else.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, we're taking incoming rockets.
ECCLESTON: Insurgent gunfire and rockets had us trapped on this roof in Eastern Karbala for over an hour.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yankee four to Yankee six. What's going on? Roger. Anybody under -- anybody know what that machine gun fire was?
ECCLESTON: The tension in the air was suffocating. We needed to find a way to tape the action that we could hear in other areas, but we could not see. So when Captain Conlin Carabine (ph) made the decision to fire a tank round into a suspected insurgent hideout, we scrambled to get that shot.
But what came out of the dust was traumatic, surreal. Young women, young children with their hands up in the air in submission. Their faces caked with dust and blood, wailing, crying, some in a state of shock.
ECCLESTON: Why do we run to danger instead of doing what normal people do -- run away? This is a story that has value. This is story that needs to be told. And that's what we do. We're storytellers. We bring people a slice of life, a slice of reality.
And is it worth getting blown up? That's something I think about all the time. Probably not, but until such time, I think there's a -- this is important. There is value to what we do, so that's why I keep doing it.
Jennifer Eccleston, CNN, Western Al Anbar Province, Iraq.
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HARRIS: And that wraps up this hour of CNN LIVE TODAY. I'm Tony Harris, in for Daryn Kagan. There is much more ahead on CNN's LIVE FROM with Kyra Phillips.
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