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THE SITUATION ROOM

Brand-New Message From Ayman al-Zawahiri; Threat To Attack Sears Tower Came From Within America; Revelation That Government Accessed Millions of International Money Transactions Confirmed by Bush Administration; Sources Say North Korea Completed All Preparations For Missile Launch; New Study Claims Global Warming Contributes To High Ocean Temperatures More Than Natural Cycles or El Nino; Clark Kent Ervin Interview; How Safe Are We?; Could Colony on Mars Happen Soon?; Terror Suspect's Sister Speaks Out

Aired June 23, 2006 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you today's top stories.
Happening right now, a brand-new message from Ayman al-Zawahiri. We'll tell you what al Qaeda's second in command is now saying.

Faces of evil? It's 5:00 p.m. in Miami. Where the government says seven al Qaeda wannabes thirsted for American blood. But the men's families say it's a grave misunderstanding.

Also, what's in your wallet? Does the government know the Treasury Department secretly eyeing millions of back records? But it says you should be worried only if you're sending money to al Qaeda. Is exposing the program a threat to national security?

And might the weather just be perfect to launch a ballistic missile? It's 6:00 a.m., it's Saturday in North Korea, where there may be ideal conditions for a missile launch on this day. How would the U.S. government respond? I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin with a developing story, and it's happening right now. A new videotape from al Qaeda's number two leader for the first time acknowledging the killing of Iraq's terror leader Abu Musab al- Zarqawi. Let's bring in our Arab affairs editor Octavia Nasr. She's joining us from the CNN Center.

You've had a chance to look at this new videotape, Ayman al- Zawahiri, the top deputy to Osama bin Laden. What's his bottom-line message, Octavia?

OCTAVIA NASR, SENIOR EDITOR, ARAB AFFAIRS: Bottom line is, basically, announcing the grief that he's feeling over the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He called Zarqawi a martyr, he called him a soldier, a scholar, and he called also the emir, the prince of all martyrs.

Of course, this tape also contains a direct, personal attack on President George W. Bush. Also, an attack on Iraq's new prime minister, and also the U.S. ambassador to Baghdad. Let's take a listen, quickly, to apportion of that tape, Wolf, if you will.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AYMAN AL-ZAWAHIRI, AL QAEDA LEADER (through translator): Muslim brothers everywhere, we express grief to the Islamic nation regarding the death of one of its soldier, one of its heroes, one of its scholars, our brother, the martyr, as we consider him to be, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

May God rest his soul and allow him to reside in his vast heavens and make martyrdom a light for the allies of God and fire and destruction for the enemies of God, the crusaders, and their treacherous agents and the charlatans who deal in religion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NASR: So you see, Wolf, Zawahiri is wearing his black turbine, signaling mourning. You can see the heavily produced tape, which by now, we are used to from as-Sahab, which means "the clouds." This is the production company that runs the al Qaeda video.

Another one of those tapes, this one surfaced on Al Jazeera, not on the Internet. We expect it to be on the Internet soon. That's how they usually operate. Then we will know how long the message was and what exactly was said. Because, of course, al Jazeera chose two portions to air, not the whole tape.

BLITZER: That little banner underneath Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Arabic script. What does it say?

NASR: Well, basically, it does say, "the martyr of the nation," meaning the Islamic nation, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. They announced it yesterday that there would be a message from Zawahiri announcing the martyrdom of the emir of all martyrs. So we knew about this tape from yesterday; we were waiting for it, were expecting it. It is not a surprise.

All experts are saying that we were expecting this tape. We expected Zawahiri to come out or even bin Laden to come on and basically try to take credit for what Zarqawi did. They're calling him a martyr. And, of course, if you listen to rest of the tape, you're going to hear a comparison between Zarqawi and President Bush.

So basically, they're try to elevate Zarqawi to the level of the U.S. president. Experts are very quickly telling us this is totally propaganda. There's nothing on this tape that anyone should take seriously as far as threats are concerned. Because on it, Zawahiri does say he does remind President Bush of the promise that was made by Osama bin Laden, that they will take revenge for every lost soul.

But experts are immediately saying this is propaganda. Zawahiri is not in a position to do anything but rally troops, you know, to use this expression, for our audience to understand. Basically, this is a propaganda to their supporters, saying, "Just carry on what you're doing. We are here; we support you." But not really a real threat in this message, at least the portions we heard on al Jazeera at this point, Wolf.

BLITZER: It may just be propaganda, but it's pretty sophisticated propaganda. And it certainly underscores the ability of al Qaeda's number two leader to go ahead and produce this kind of videotape only days after the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. We're going to continue to monitor the story, Octavia, and get more on it. One final quick question. How long is the whole videotape, the message delivered in this particular excerpt?

NASR: You know, the portions that al Jazeera aired are just minutes. Usually, those messages are anywhere between 10 minutes to 40 minutes. This one, we don't expect it to be too long, at least the way it was announced on the Internet doesn't seem that it was long. It's just basically to announce that and declare Zarqawi a martyr.

So we don't expect it to be too long. But when we see it on the Internet, usually what al Qaeda does is post these messages on the Internet as soon as they air on al Jazeera or any other network. Then we will know how long and what exactly was said on that tape.

BLITZER: The English subtitles, does al Jazeera put that in, or is that part of the al Qaeda tape?

NASR: That's part of the al Qaeda tape. Recently, what they've been doing is provide us with translation. So basically, they want the world to know exactly what they meant. And basically, the way he announced the martyrdom, sort of quote-unquote of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was interesting because the way I would have translated it, I would have said he announces "the death."

But the way they translated it for us is basically that they are grieving over the death of Zarqawi. So they've been very sophisticated, and basically putting those English subtitles so that their message, at least, is not lost in translation according to them, of course.

BLITZER: All right, Octavia. Thank you very much for that. A good analysis. More on this story coming up.

We'll move on to another CNN security watch development we're following. Two significant developments, in fact, in the war on terror. In the first, court appearances for five accused members of a Miami terror cell whose targets allegedly included Chicago's Sears Tower.

In the other, revelations of another secret government surveillance program, this one targeting certain bank transactions made by thousands of Americans. First, the Miami terror bust. Let's go to our homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve. She has the latest -- Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they allegedly swore an oath to al Qaeda and said they wanted to wage war on America, to, quote, "kill all the devils they could." Although five of the seven were Americans themselves.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE (voice-over): The Sears Tower, a landmark, a symbol. On the list of potential terrorist targets since 9/11. But the threat against it, once believed to come from abroad, came in this instance from within.

ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: They were persons who, for whatever reason, came to view their home country as the enemy.

MESERVE: It is a product of the war on terror, officials say. Unexpected and unwelcome. With al Qaeda disrupted, the seeds of jihadist ideology have dispersed, germinated, and grown into small, local terror cells.

MUELLER: These extremists are self-recruited, self-trained and self-executing. They may not have any connection at all to al Qaeda or to other terrorist groups. They share ideas and information in the shadows of the Internet. And they gain inspiration from radical Web sites.

MESERVE: The London transit bombers are said to have no direct al Qaeda link. Likewise, the alleged Toronto terrorists, who are said to have wanted the prime minister's head. And now, there are the purported plotters in Florida who were caught because someone who knew them grew suspicious.

JOHN PISTOLE, FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR: Let's just say that they were doing things that came to our attention through people who were alert in the community.

MESERVE: Members of local cells plot and plan where they live and work. They belong there. They do not stand out. They are, in short, hard to find. A home grown cell that originated in this California prison was only stopped after some members were caught robbing gas stations and investigators stumbled on to evidence of terrorism.

The absence of a larger organizational hierarchy decreases the likelihood of communications intercepts or unusual travel that might raise alarm bells. The key, say experts, is old-fashioned police work.

GEORGE BAURIES, FORMER FBI AGENT: You have to have a constant surveillance of what's going on within the community. And that means that agents have to be out there working with their informants.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE: No one has a real handle on the number of home grown terrorists in the United States, but officials are worried that their number could be multiplying and their danger growing -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much. Jeanne Meserve reporting. Let's bring in our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner. She has more now on the details of this alleged Miami terror plot and how you can get your hands on the actual federal indictment -- Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, we've posted it online for you at CNN.com/situationreport. It's 11 pages. And while the broad sweeping information is interesting, the minor details are also very telling. For example, on December 29, 2005, allegedly a guy named Narseal Batiste spoke with an undercover agent saying he need necessary materials. Among those were things like firearms, vehicles and $50,000 in cash.

On February 19, 2006, he allegedly told the agent that he needed a video camera to case the Sears Tower in Chicago. Then about four weeks later, two men allegedly told the undercover al Qaeda representative they needed a chip for this digital camera to case out the FBI building in Miami-Dade County. We've also linked online, Wolf, to a gallery of photographs that are associated with this investigation.

BLITZER: Jacki, thank you very much.

And coming up, I'll speak with the sister of one of those men accused. She'll join me life here in THE SITUATION ROOM. That's coming up in a few moments.

Our CNN security watch continuing now with more on the government's secret surveillance of certain bank transactions. Our national security correspondent David Ensor is joining us live with more on that -- David.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN AMERICA BUREAU CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is not about your standard bank transaction, ATM withdrawals, checks written, but about wire transfers of money in and out of the country.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ENSOR (voice-over): The revelation that the government has had access to millions of international money transactions since 9/11 was confirmed by Bush administration officials who said the program is legal and effective against terrorism.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It helped capture Hambali. He was responsible for the Bali bombing which killed more than 2,000 people. It's provided information on domestic terror cells.

ENSOR: U.S. officials spent about two months try to convince "The New York Times" not to publish a story about the program, under which the treasury, CIA, and FBI, can see records of bank money transfers if they have a name or account number and can show there may be a terrorist connection.

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I find most disturbing about these stories is the fact that some of the news media take it upon themselves to disclose vital national security programs, thereby making it more difficult for us to prevent future attacks against the American people. That offends me.

ENSOR: "New York Times" editor Bill Keller said, quote, "We remain convinced that the administration's extraordinary access to this vast repository of international financial data, however carefully targeted the use of it may be, is a matter of public interest."

With board members of the world's biggest banks, the SWIFT is a global banking industry cooperative that acts as a clearing house for transactions word wide, about $6 trillion worth of them every day. Critics charge the program, which uses subpoenas to get access to that data, is an abuse of power.

REP. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The Bush administration may be, once again, violating the constitutional rights of innocent Americans as part of another secret program created in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ENSOR: But administration lawyers insist the program is legal. Some officials admit, in an era when home grown terrorists could be the biggest concern, a program tracking international money transactions may be less useful than before. And by the way, Wolf, the spokesman at the White House did misspeak a little bit. The Bali bombing killed 200, not 2,000 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much for that. David Ensor reporting.

And stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.

Time now for Jack Cafferty, once again, and "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The seven terror suspects arrested yesterday are accused of conspiring to, quote, "wage a war against the United States government," unquote. That's what it says in the federal indictment.

One of the men allegedly asked for al Qaeda training to, quote, "kill all the devils we can," unquote, in the mission that would be just as good or greater than 9/11. The good news is they got these guys before they could actually do anything. The bad news for some is we're supposedly fighting the war against terror over there in Iraq and Afghanistan so we don't need to be fighting it over here.

But the discovery of potential plots being planned by groups living on U.S. soil might teach us otherwise. So here's the question. Do the arrests of the latest batch of terror suspects make you feel more secure or less? E-mail your thoughts to CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you very much.

Up ahead, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld signing off on a plan to shoot down a North Korean missile, but only under certain conditions. We'll go live to Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for details.

Also, global warming and hurricanes. It's a controversial and, so far, unproven connection. Now, another scientific body weighing in on the debate.

Plus, more on the alleged Miami terror plot. Relatives of the accused insist they're innocent. The sister of one of the men will join us live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Zain is off again today. Fredricka Whitfield is joining us from the CNN Center with a closer look at some other stories -- Fred?

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello again, Wolf. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta will step down from his cabinet post next month. White House Spokesman Tony Snow announced Mineta's plans at today's regular briefing. Snow said Mineta was not forced out of the job. The 74-year-old Mineta has served as transportation chief for the past 5 1/2 years. He is the only Democrat on President Bush's cabinet.

The World Health Organization reports a slight shift in the potentially lethal bird flu virus. It says the virus that killed seven of eight people in one Indonesian family on Sumatra Island last month had mutated slightly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says this is the first evidence of the virus passing from one person to another and then another. Health officials insist it does not increase the likelihood of a human pandemic.

A warning today from former United Nations chief weapons inspector Hans Blix. He says North Korea currently stands as the biggest threat to global nuclear security. He also urges the U.S. to back off and show more patience in its negotiations with Iran. Blix made his comments at a nuclear proliferation conference in Moscow today -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Fred, very much.

A warning involving North Korea. What kind of outdoor activities might a day of good weather actually inspire there? Some military officials fear it could cause a provocative act. Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has details -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, several sources in the government are now telling CNN that North Korea essentially has completed all of the preparations for a missile launch and that the window, the optimum time, for that launch could be in the next few days, if the weather continues to clear over the launch site.

But these officials are also saying it is still the case that no one really knows what North Korea will do, what the intentions of the government in Pyongyang are. It's important to emphasize, Wolf, no one at this point here in the Bush administration really expects North Korea to launch a missile in an attack mode, in a trajectory against the United States.

But the U.S. military does, now, have all the orders it needs, all of the signed military orders, about what to do if they do see a missile coming from North Korea in that attack mode. Any decision to shoot down the North Korean missile would have to be made very quickly after launch.

Satellites and radars will be activated at the time. Everything will be looking very closely at that part of the world, trying to determine exactly what is going on if they see the missile begin to launch. Under the standing orders now signed, now in place here at the Pentagon, expect President Bush to have the final say so about whether to use the limited ballistic missile defense capability that the United States has to shoot down a North Korean missile.

As everyone knows, there are 11 interceptor missiles spread out in Alaska and California. But, again, Wolf, what people say is they do not expect that North Korean missile to be in an attack mode. All indications, in fact, are the North Koreans may be using the missile to try to launch a satellite -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

Coming up, home grown terror. How safe are we? I'll ask the former Homeland Security Department inspector general, CNN security analyst Clark Kent Ervin. He's standing by to join us live here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Plus, warmer water and stronger storms. We'll take a closer look at the new debate over the connection between global warming and hurricanes. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. With last year's hurricane season behind us but this year's hurricane season in full swing, many want to know what's fueling all the hurricanes. A new study names a usual suspect. Let's go to our Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN Center. She's pursuing the story and has some details --Fred.

WHITFIELD: Well, Wolf, this new report adds to the debate over whether global warming does, in fact, contribute to hurricanes.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: This year's hurricane season opened on the heels of a record year in 2005, which included the devastating Hurricane Katrina. But has global warming been a factor in the high number of storms? A new study claims that global warming contributes more to high ocean temperatures than other factors like natural cycles or El Nino. CNN spoke with the director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research which conducted the study.

TIM KILLEEN, NATIONAL CENTER FOR ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH: The global warming increase in sea surface temperatures associated with greenhouse warming gave roughly half of the observed increase in the sea surface temperatures, about .5 degrees Celsius.

WHITFIELD: Warm ocean water is the fuel for hurricanes. And last year, ocean water temperatures were unusually high. If global warming is contributing to hurricanes like Katrina, it would provide an argument for trying to slow global warm. But one of the nation's top forecasters says natural cycles are to blame, not global warming.

WILLIAM GRAY, COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY: I think that's a gross exaggeration, that that's not true. Nature functions this way.

WHITFIELD: Regardless of the reasons, hurricane experts say we should be prepared for another stormy season.

MAX MAYFIELD, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Even without invoking the global warming arguments, the research meteorologists are telling us that we're in this very active period for hurricanes that may very well last at least another 10 to 20 years.

WHITFIELD: Forecaster William Gray told us today he thinks the study's findings are ridiculous, that you can't blame last year's hurricane activity on global warming. But one study last month came up with a similar finding that there is a link between global warming and hurricane activity -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I suspect this debate's going to go on for sometime. Thanks very much, Fred, for that.

Coming up, are you better off because of it or perhaps in more danger? Now that we know the Treasury Department's secretly eyeing millions of back records, might it be a threat to national security?

And could a mission to Mars happen sooner than you think? Mary Snow standing by with details. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. With the threat of home grown terror, many are asking, "How safe are we?" Joining us now, our CNN security analyst Clark Kent Ervin. He's the former inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security and author of important must-read new book "Open Target."

Thanks, Clark, for coming in. You look at all this paperwork today, and the indictments of these suspects. How big of a deal is this, really?

CLARK KENT ERVIN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Well, it's a very big deal, Wolf. You know, it's somewhat harder for foreign terrorists to enter our country than it was on 9/11, thanks to tightened visa procedures and the U.S. visit check-in system. So that puts a premium on going after home grown terrorists.

We don't know, of course, how many there are, but the FBI estimates there are at least 1,000 al Qaeda sympathizers in this country and about 300 extremists that they have under surveillance.

BLITZER: Would it be accurate to describe this as a sting on ration?

ERVIN: No, I don't think so. You know, there are some who talked about this entrapment argument. In this particular incidence, if the facts are as they're alleged in the indictment, it's pretty clear that this lead conspirator actually went to somebody he thought was an al Qaeda operative. He laid out the plan, and he sought al Qaeda's help in providing the materials and the weapons to carry out the plot. It was his idea, apparently.

BLITZER: And that al Qaeda operative was actually an FBI informant who put the whole thing together. Here's how the attorney general summed it up earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALBERTO GONZALES, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Today, terrorist threats may come from smaller, more loosely defined cells who are not affiliated with al Qaeda but who are inspired by a violent, jihadist message. And left unchecked, these homegrown terrorists may prove to be as dangerous as groups like al Qaeda.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Do you agree with him on that?

ERVIN: I do agree with him on that. Also, we should mention, of course, that these were all African-Americans. We know that al Qaeda knows that we have, rightly or wrongly, a stereotype in our minds as to what a terrorist looks like, an Arab person. And so they're actively recruiting among the Hispanic population, the Anglo population and the American -- African-American population in order to come up with an additional terrorist profile.

BLITZER: One of -- former federal prosecutors Paul Callan was interviewed by our Kyra Phillips earlier today. And he says this case is by no means a slam dunk. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL CALLAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Defense attorneys are going to come forward and what they're going to say is, you know, these people, they were given the idea of doing these acts by the FBI informant. They're not really criminals. Maybe they're not too smart. Maybe they're not too organized. Maybe they're anti-American. But this is really loose talk. It's not a conspiracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Sort of -- a bunch of strange guys and they got this one informant who sort of put the whole deal together.

ERVIN: Well, they certainly were strange guys. There's no question about that. And they called attention to themselves, which -- they were very unsophisticated. Which again, if the facts are as laid out in the indictment, it's this lead conspirator who actually laid out the thought was a person of al Qaeda and he sought what he thought was al Qaeda's help in carrying out the plot. So it was his idea; it wasn't an idea that the government planted in his head.

BLITZER: That's what John Pistole, the deputy director of the FBI, said today at the news conference. That the initiation, start of the whole thing, was this one lead conspirator, this alleged lead conspirator.

The managing director of the Sears Tower, that huge building in Chicago that all of us are familiar with, said this today. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARBARA CARLEY, MANAGING DIRECTOR, SEARS TOWER: This group never got beyond talking about a workable plot. Federal and local authorities continue to tell us they've never found evidence of a credible terrorism threat against Sears Tower that's ever gone beyond just talk.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So what do you think? Do people who live in Chicago who work in that Sears Tower or other very tall buildings in the United States, how worried should they be?

ERVIN: Well, I think they should be somewhat worried, because there's no question that tower in particular and other iconic symbols of America's financial power are at the top of terrorists' target lists.

On the other hand, it seems to me they should be hardened by the fact that the FBI stepped in at the right time to foil this plot before it could get further. Seems to me the FBI did the right thing. They can't wait too long in the age of terror when waiting too long could mean a catastrophe.

BLITZER: We all remember the danger that domestic homegrown terrorists can do. Just go back to Oklahoma City, and we saw the danger a few guys, what they could do with some fertilizer.

ERVIN: That's exactly right. And a further point to make is that Al Qaeda is attempting to use domestic groups that have grievances against the United States for other reasons to augment their rights.

BLITZER: Cutouts you mean?

ERVIN: That's right.

BLITZER: Clark Kent Ervin is the author of "Open Target", our CNN analyst. Thanks for coming in.

ERVIN: Thank you, Wolf. BLITZER: And what if hackers took down the Internet or a natural disaster knocked it offline? Is the U.S. prepared to respond? A new study says positively no. The United States, in the words of this study, is ill prepared for a cyber catastrophe.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner -- Jacki.

SCHECHNER: Wolf, State Farm, Federal Express, IBM, some of the major corporations concerned about a disruption in Internet service.

The Business Roundtable is an association of some 160 CEOs of major corporations. They've studied this issue for a year, and they had some interesting findings.

First, they say, we don't have a good early warning system. They say there's not enough coordination between the public and private sector. And they say while the government is doing a better job it needs to put more money towards getting this coordination in place and then getting the Internet back up and running.

The White House agrees about this coordination issue. They've outlined out in the national strategy to secure cyberspace. There's also the national cyber security department that just introduced a new e-newsletter, talking about how it's managing cyber risks.

And then the Department of Homeland Security in February conducted an initiative called Cyber Storm. It's an exercise to find out how prepared the government is. We'll know more about that, Wolf, coming up later this summer.

BLITZER: Thanks, very much, Jacki. And stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.

Still to come right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the Treasury Department secretly eyeing millions of bank records. Is that more important -- is that very important for you to know? Or more important for you to make sure these kinds of things remain secret? We'll hear from CNN's Howard Kurtz about the role the news media should play in putting out this information.

And looking for real estate? How about a space -- a little bit of space on the moon or Mars? One expert says that might be a reality sooner than you think. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's a closer look at some of the "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends over at the Associated Press, pictures likely to be in your newspapers tomorrow.

In Baghdad a man walks through the screen of a blaze started when a roadside bomb exploded in the area. No casualties reported.

Off the coast of Guam, a carrier crewman signals an FA-18 hornet during the largest military exercises in the Pacific since the Vietnam War. Twenty-two thousand troops took part. In Reno, a man brings down a steer during the Reno rodeo. He did it in less than 11 seconds. Pretty good.

And in Indonesia, an 18-year-old -- whatever that is, orangutan, holds her 1-month-old baby. Orangutans are facing severe threats from logging, fires and poaching. Conservatives (sic) predict without immediate action, the orangutan could be the first great ape to become instinct in the wild.

Some of today's "Hot Shots", pictures often worth over 1,000 words. Take a closer look at those pictures.

It's Friday so that means Bill Schneider is standing by with the political play of the week -- Bill.

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, House Speaker Dennis Hastert is under pressure to negotiate a compromise deal with the Senate on immigration. So, he had an idea. Let's hold hearings. Who's going to show up? Probably passionate critics of illegal immigration who favor the House's approach, tough enforcement.

A lot people think those hearings are a ruse to kill any chance of passing an immigration bill before the November election. "Oh, no," says Hastert. "We just don't want to rush into things. We want to give the people a say."

Now, Senator Arlen Specter, who's the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, refused to let Hastert upstage him. "I plan to hold some hearings of our own," Specter said yesterday, and he added, quote, "I just developed the idea this morning in the shower."

Too late, Senator. Speaker Hastert has already got the political play of the week -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Bill, thank you for that.

Up ahead, still to come, Jack Cafferty. He wants to know how scared are you, now that seven men have been busted for allegedly plotting attacks against the U.S.? Do you feel more or less safe?

And imagine buying your future home on Mars. Far fetched? One expert says it's nearer than you think. Mary Snow has the story. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Lou Dobbs getting ready for his program that begins right at the top of the hour. He's standing by to tell us what he's working on -- Lou.

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Wolf, thank you.

Coming up at the top of the hour here on CNN, we are all repulsed and angered by the insurgent brutality and the mutilation of victims in Iraq. Tonight on our broadcast, we'll be reporting on violence every bit as barbaric that is going on along our southern border with Mexico. Believe me, you'll be demanding border security after you see our special report tonight.

Mexico is ten days from a critically important presidential election. It's a race that pits the leading member of Vicente Fox's party against a popular left-wing former mayor of Mexico City. We'll be discussing the likely outcome and the implications with Mexico's former foreign minister, Jorge Castaneda.

And the war on the middle class in this country continues unabated. This country's most skilled workers are being shut out of good paying jobs right here at home in favor of foreign workers, and Congress continues to turn a blind eye.

Corporate America's addiction to cheap foreign labor will only grow, if the Senate's so-called comprehensive immigration reform bill passes. We'll have that special report. We hope you'll be with us.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Lou, for that. We'll be watching.

Not so long ago, it was all science fiction. Now missions to Mars are a fact. And some say humans will start colonizing the red planet sooner than you may think.

CNN's Mary Snow is joining us from New York with our "Welcome to the Future" report -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf.

Well, world renowned physicist Stephen Hawking recently suggested that colonies on Mars might one day be a necessity. Now, it seems hard to fathom, but some say it's not far off into the future.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): Are natural disasters, global warming or threats of nuclear war putting the planet Earth on a collision course with disaster? World famous physicist Stephen Hawking says he fears the Earth could wind up like the red hot planet of Venus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whenever Stephen Hawking speaks, we all listen.

SNOW: Many scientists listened when Hawking recently said the danger to earth is so great that humans should look for a new home. Hawking believes a permanent base can be built on the moon in 20 years and a colony on Mars in 40.

People living on Mars that soon? Astrophysicist Michael Shara doesn't think so.

MICHAEL SHARA, ASTROPHYSICIST: I think that the time scale of 40 years for a colony there is very optimistic. Wouldn't surprise me to see humans land on Mars in 40 years.

SNOW: Others predict the first human explorers could touch down on Mars in a decade.

ROBERT ZUBRIN, THE MAR SOCIETY: Mars is the North America of the new age of exploration. It's a place where we can establish a new branch of human civilization.

SNOW: Robert Zubrin uses private funds to simulate Mars stations, like this one in the desert. Next year, his group plans to put six researchers on the North Pole and simulate life on Mars for four months.

ZUBRIN: They won't be able to go outside without wearing simulated spacesuits and have to talk to each other by radio.

SNOW: Zubrin hopes studying Mars-like conditions such as a nonbreathable atmosphere with no surface water will speed up the process. The costs are astronomical; the challenge is fierce. But even pessimists have a glimmer of hope of humans reaching Mars.

SHARA: But a full-fledged colony, think that's at least a century away. I hope I'm proven wrong.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: For the near future, the astrophysicist we spoke with for the story says before anything happens on Mars, he expects a colony of astronauts to be living on the moon in 50 years -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Welcome to the future. Thanks very much, Mary, for that.

Up next, we're getting word of a developing story, potentially very significant. Personal data on thousands of U.S. sailors and their families turning up on a civilian web site. Our Internet team is working the story. We'll have details when we come back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: More now on our top story, the arrest of seven men accused of wanting to wage war against the United States. My next guest is a sister of one of those accused men. Marlene Phanor's brother is Stanley Phanor. Marlene is joining us from Miami. He was also known, apparently, as Brother Sunni.

Do you believe your brother is a terrorist?

MARLENE PHANOR, SISTER OF TERROR SUSPECT: Not at all, sir. Not one chance he is. Not at all.

BLITZER: How did he get -- how did he get wrapped up in this alleged plot?

PHANOR: Well, actually, he -- he's -- there?

BLITZER: Go ahead, Marlene. PHANOR: Actually, he's, um, he was, he was working and he got into this group and they started going to church, trying to help the community. But the guy, the leader, I never know where he came from, who he was. Actually, my brother and them don't even know where he come from. But he came positive for them. He came to them where he can help them and help the community and humble their minds and humble their souls and everything.

BLITZER: Is your brother a Muslim?

PHANOR: No, he's a Catholic, sir. My brother's not Muslim.

BLITZER: So he doesn't believe in al Qaeda?

PHANOR: No, not at all.

BLITZER: Was he part of this...

PHANOR: My brother's Catholic.

BLITZER: Did he participate in what the government alleges was these military activities that these other men supposedly participated in?

PHANOR: Well, yes. Yes. It wasn't nothing violent...

BLITZER: What did he do?

PHANOR: Exercise -- they exercise. They run. They eat proper. They're vegetarians. They don't eat meat. It's just something to humble themselves. They're not involved in womens when they in this session. They not involved in club. They not involved with the -- the society where -- where a lot of violence and all that come in at.

It's just a religious group that they try to put together where they can help the community. And that's all my brother was trying to do, is help the community.

It's something that Brother Nars (ph) tried to put in their head to help the community. I don't know what more to say about him. I don't know how much he corrupted their minds or what is it he said to, you know, bring them into his circle. But whatever it was, it was good, where I can see -- because it's something doing with positive for the community.

BLITZER: Did your brother, based on all the conversations you had, your brother Stanley, did he have strong political views against the U.S. government?

PHANOR: No, not at all. He's not political. He's not against politician. He's not political.

BLITZER: What you're saying, he was just wrapped up in a group of guys he shouldn't have been wrapped up with, is that what you're saying? PHANOR: No, I can't say that, because everybody is -- everybody was doing something for the community. They was trying to help the community, where they taking, like, drugs off the street, young pregnant womens off the street, battered women off the street, homeless people off the street.

Matter of fact, they had -- they just got into this contract, this construction site that they building, they building a construction site to have the community come work with them where they can have money in their pocket every week, you know, something they can do construction.

BLITZER: Did he -- did Stanley have a full-time job?

PHANOR: Yes, he did, sir.

BLITZER: What was his job?

PHANOR: He worked construction. Construction. He's a contractor.

BLITZER: And how old is Stanley?

PHANOR: Stanley is 31 years old.

BLITZER: Single, married, any kids?

PHANOR: He's single. And my five kids are his kids.

BLITZER: Did he take...

PHANOR: My brother's working to help raise...

BLITZER: He helps you raise your children?

PHANOR: All five of them, sir. That's who supports me and my mother, and my five kids, is my brother.

BLITZER: When you heard these charges against your brother, that he was involved in a plot to blow up the Sears Tower, to blow up the FBI building in Miami, what went through your mind?

PHANOR: First of all, when I heard it, my heart didn't beat at one. My heart didn't beat. I didn't get nervous. I didn't panic. Because it was false accusation from the get-go.

When I heard it, it was like, I don't believe they put this out in the world that my brother's a terrorist. He's not a terrorist. He don't have any terror act in him. He's never involved in violence. He's just out here, trying to help the community, help the black power where we stay at to get together and do something positive for themselves.

BLITZER: I see you have some papers in front of you. What is that? PHANOR: Just -- it's something that every night he comes in from work, working seven days a week. All day, every day. And it's something that the media was asking about, and I just went home and got it. It's something they were asking, they were asking my brother about, was he a -- was he a Muslim or was he participating into the terrorist thing. No. The -- what I'm trying to say, what -- what to call it...

BLITZER: All right, you can compose yourself...

PHANOR: OK, I'm sorry. I'm stuck...

BLITZER: I know this is difficult for you, Marlene.

PHANOR: I can't -- I know, I know.

BLITZER: I know this is a heart-wrenching experience for you and your whole family.

PHANOR: Right.

BLITZER: Your brother Stanley, accused of being a terrorist. That's obviously not easy for you to endure.

PHANOR: It's -- it's wrong. It's false accuse. But I would like to read this, that for those who think my brother's Muslim, he's not Muslim.

BLITZER: All right.

PHANOR: He's not terrorist; he's a Catholic.

BLITZER: I'm going to have to cut you off because we're really running short with time. But stand by. We're going to come back to you a little bit later. We'll continue this conversation, take a glass of water. Take a deep breath. And we'll continue talking about your brother Stanley, Marlene Phanor, the sister of one of the men accused of being a terrorist in Miami.

Coming up, Jack Cafferty, he'll have his thoughts on these arrests of these suspects. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check in with Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question is do the arrests of the latest batch of terror suspects make you feel more secure or less?

Donna in Toronto writes, "The tail seems to be wagging the dog pretty furiously here. All that seems to have been uncovered here is a few small people talking big. But I suppose it will be worth a few popularity points for the current administration."

Johnny in Carthage, Texas: "If this is the best that homeland security can do for the funding provided, we're in big trouble. Personally, I think this is a publicity stunt to raise public opinion for Bush and to place brother Jeb in the spotlight for future political advancement."

Anthony in New York: "Yes, the potential victims of the Miami cell are much safer now. The Bush administration is doing an outstanding job fighting terrorists, despite Cafferty's propaganda to the contrary. Good job, President Bush."

Gina in Houston: "These are terror suspects? They had no weapons, no supplies. It sounds like most of their motivation was coming from the government infiltrator. Can anyone say entrapment? Every time one of these 'terror, terror, be afraid' stories appears and fills up the airwaves, I start looking around for the real story we're not supposed to be paying attention to. I guess today's must be the U.S. prying into banking records."

Tim in Virginia Beach writes, "The latest arrests make me feel proud to be a loyal American. Our military is overseas fighting terrorism abroad. Our homeland troops, the FBI, state and federal governments and local police are fighting terrorism here. They all deserve a pat on the back."

John in Florida writes: "Neither. It makes me feel like it's political season again and the GOP is in trouble. Funny how in the months prior to a major election, the news is dominated by terror alerts and terrorists lurking in the shadows, plotting to destroy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It's election time, America, have a dose of fear before you go to vote" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, I'll see you back here in an hour, in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thank you very much.

There's a developing story we're following right now. We're learning of another data breach involving the U.S. military. Personal information on thousands of Navy personnel apparently has been compromised.

Abbi Tatton, what are you learning?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, we're just hearing this from the U.S. Navy. The personal information of some 28,000 U.S. sailors and their families was posted on a public Internet site sometime this month.

Personal data, what are we talking about? Well, it was names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth for these people. We don't know which public web site it was posted on. We do know it was in the form of spreadsheets.

And we do also know from the U.S. Navy that that information has now been taken down. They're now working on finding just how this happened, also finding out who was affected and, in the process of notifying those people of this.

Now, this is an entirely separate incident from that Veterans Affairs data breach. That was with a stolen lap top, involving some 26 or 28 million veterans and active duty military. This is a separate incident today from the U.S. Navy. We should point out that there's no evidence in either of these cases that any of this data has been used illegally -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thank you very much.

And I want to remind our viewers we're in THE SITUATION ROOM weekdays 4 to 6 p.m. Eastern, back in one hour at 7 p.m. Eastern. We'll have more of my conversation with the sister of one of these suspects in this alleged terror plot in Florida.

Lou Dobbs standing by -- Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you, Wolf.

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