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CONNECT THE WORLD

Syria Vows Retaliation For Israeli Strike; Major Human Smuggling Ring Busted In Europe; Beckham Makes Move To Paris

Aired January 31, 2013 - 16:00   ET

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


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Well, tonight, Syria fights back. Damascus threatens retaliation after an Israeli air strike, and Russia is standing by Syria on this one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEXANDER LUKASHEVICH, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN (through translator): There is a very serious breach of the UN charter. This is an unacceptable action against a sovereign government.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN London, this is Connect the World with Becky Anderson.

ANDERSON: We examine how exactly Syria could respond and what it would mean to the region as a whole. Also this hour, 103 arrests in 10 countries: how European authorities busted one of Europe's biggest human trafficking operations.

And...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID BECKHAM, FOOTBALL LEGEND: I chose Paris because I can see what the club are trying to do, I can see the players that the club are bringing in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Bonjour for Beckham, France in a frenzy as David Beckham signs for Paris Saint-Germain.

Well, we begin tonight with what can only be described as thinly veiled threats and warnings of retaliation. Syria and its allies are furious of a reported Israeli airstrike near Damascus. Now Syria says a military research center was bombed in Jamriyah (ph). It's complained to the United Nations saying it has a right to defend itself and suggests it could be planning a surprise response.

Well, other reports suggest an entirely different target. They say Israeli war planes you see video here attacked a convoy carrying weapons intended for Hezbollah in Lebanon. Well, that attack has triggered outrage far beyond Syria's borders. Iran, for one, is warning of severe consequences.

We are following this story from all angles tonight. It's an important one. Nick Paton Walsh on this story from Beirut in Lebanon. Sara Sidner is live for us tonight in Jerusalem. And Middle East expert and big thinker on this show, Fawaz Gerges here with me in the studio.

Nick, let's start with you. A very vocal and very swift response from what has been of late a very quiet Damascus. What do we know?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORREPSONDENT: Well, Syria have said they have the right to defend themselves. They've summed the UN representative to the Golan Heights, that contested area between them and Israel occupied by the Israelis to register their complaint. And their ambassador here in Lebanon has said that they have the capacity for some sort of surprise retaliation, but it's not made it clear at all what that would be.

Here, inside Lebanon, Hezbollah have stood forward and said it was a barbaric assault, but also said they stand by not only with the Syrian army, but also with the Syrian people. And in fact called for political dialogue. Next door, Iran says there will be serious consequences in the city of Tel Aviv. And Russia has condemned the attack.

But in terms of a cohesive, massive outpouring of fury like we've seen in the past in this region against Israel, we haven't really seen that today. And I think many are waiting for the days ahead to see how this percolates out. Much of the response and the anger has been formulaic and rhetorical or vague in the kind of threat's voiced. And I think many are also wondering quite whether the main players who could retaliate -- Hezbollah, Syria, and even Iran -- actually have the capacity at this point, or aren't stretched by other particular conflicts -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Nick, just let's get this played -- clear. What exactly is this alleged target the Israelis are supposed to have hit?

PATON WALSH: Well, if you ask the Israelis they won't comment at all. So in their mind nothing. But if you'd ask the Syria state television their line has been clear, a scientific research center northwest of Damascus Jamriyah (ph). Now clear what happened there in terms of Syrian state's perception, but they were saying in the recent months it has be perceived by what they referred to as terrorists. That's their word for rebels.

Suggestions from Israelis expert, there may have been capacity there to modify missiles, perhaps make them smaller for transportation, that would certainly be rise for concern. But then a senior U.S. official saying they're clear that it was, in fact, a convoy on the move in the direction of Lebanon, quite possibly towards Hezbollah. And that was carrying Russian made SA-17 surface-to-air missiles, very dangerous in the wrong hands. It can take out civilian aircraft or whatever. That of course has not been confirmed, but that appears to be the most consistent point of view that we've heard so far, Becky.

ANDERSON: Nick Paton Walsh for you out of Beirut tonight. Nick, thank you for that.

Israel remaining tight-lipped about the reported strike. But it has on frequently in the past, recent past, about weapons transfers to its long time enemy Hezbollah.

Let's cross to Sara Sidner in Jerusalem. Sara, what is -- or what are the authorities there saying about this, if anything at this point?

SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Israel is not making any comment. You can call the military, the PMs office, the foreign ministry. We called all of those and none of them will say simply a word about the report that Israel indeed did strike inside of Syria.

What we do know is U.S. officials have confirmed it, saying yes indeed there was a strike, the strike was on a convoy according to the information they've been given. And that convoy was carrying, as Nick mentioned, parts of SA-17 missiles, very dangerous missiles that can go very high altitudes and knock out aircraft, including civilian aircraft.

The worry here in Israel has long been, and we understand from sources, that Israel has been warning its allies over and over again over the last several weeks that they are concerned about the weaponry that has been moving from Syria to the Lebanese border, particularly in the hands of Hezbollah, which as you know is a sworn enemy of Israel.

There is also talk from the former intelligence community here, those people who are very high ranking who have a great deal of knowledge about the area. You know, they talked about this particular facility. They said, look, this facility is well known to the Israeli intelligence community. They're not saying that Israel targeted this facility, but they do know that it is in a line of facilities all over Syria that has been involved in helping to make weapons of mass destruction. And we're talking about all sorts of things, including chemical weapons.

This facility they said, though, did not have any chemical weapons inside of it, to try and strike from the air and hit chemical weapons is a mistake, according to a lot of security analysts because it's very hard to control, it can cause environmental damage, for example, and certainly be a very damaging to the population.

That is something that they would have to go on the ground to try and root out. But indeed we are hearing at this hour that the U.S. officials are sticking to the story that Israel was actually targeting a convoy. There was a lot of confusion as to who may be responsible for hitting that facility inside of Syria near Damascus that killed two people -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Sara, thank you for that. Sara Sidner in Jerusalem and Nick in Beirut for you.

Our friend of the show and big thinker Fawaz Gerges with me this evening.

Before we introduce what is another stakeholder in all of this today, which is Russia, just let's work on what we've heard from Nick and Sara today. What do we know for sure? And what do we take from what we've learned today?

FAWAZ GERGES, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: I'm glad you mentioned this, Becky, because we know very little about the nature and substance of the target. All we know is that there was an Israeli attack inside Syria. And the Syrians acknowledged it. The Israelis have been mum about it. There are some leaks by U.S. officials.

The big question is, regardless of the target, whether it was a military facility or whether it was a convoy of trucks, it represents a qualitative escalation in the raging Syrian conflict. The Syrian conflict has spilled over into Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and now Israel. It has the potential to trigger a wider conflict.

I mean, think of the players -- Israel, Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah, the making -- the making of a very, very dangerous conflict.

ANDERSON: I want you and I to just walk to the wall to really get a sense of the context of all of this shortly, but let's just -- if you will allow me -- introduce another stakeholder as I said here which is Russia. It says -- Fawaz said it's still gathering facts on the situation, but says any Israeli airstrike on Syria would be, and I quote, unacceptable. Phil Black has more reaction on that now from Moscow. Have a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Russia is not only traditional allies with Syria, it is also pretty good friends with Israel. Despite that, Moscow has been swift and strong in condemning Israel for the possibility of any airstrike in Syria.

ALEXANDER LUKASHEVICH, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN (through translator): We analyze all the information we receive and if it will be confirmed, then our main conclusion is that it is a very serious breach of the UN charter. This is an unacceptable action against a sovereign government, but again they continue to gather all the details to recreate the whole picture.

BLACK: Russia also mentioned sovereignty when talking about Syria. it has long argued that sovereignty is a key principle of international law and it believes it has been defending that principle whenever it has blocked any international effort in the UN security council to drive the Syrian regime from power.

But now it is talking about Syria and sovereignty again, this time to criticize Israel, a country with which it has been enjoying increasingly positive relations.

Phil Black, CNN, Moscow.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: All right, let's step back for a moment. If Syria were to retaliate against Israel, and of course that is a big if, would other countries be drawn in?

Let's take a look, Fawaz, if you will, at these regional alliances. You said a couple of moments ago that this has the potential for a much bigger regional conflict than we even thought it might two years ago. Work me through what's going on here.

GERGES: So, this is Syria. And this is Israel. If Syria was to retaliate against Israel, it can either fire ballistic missiles, which has the capacity to reach Israel. Lebanon will be in a major theater here where Hezbollah is located, a major, major ally of Syria and Iran too, which is also another major ally of Syria. And that's why I said that any basic retaliation by Syria against Israel has the potential to become a wider conflict involves major players, in particular Iran and Hezbollah.

ANDERSON: How does Russia fit into all of this?

GERGES: Russia's position is very simple. Regardless of the motivation of Israel, Israel's decision to attack Syria violates the charter of the United Nations. It violates the sovereignty of Syria. In this particular sense, it complicates the situation, because Russia is saying if Syria decides to retaliate against Israel, basically it has the right and to defend itself against Israel's aggression.

ANDERSON: Some people will find it ironic that Syria complained to the United Nations today about this alleged attack from Israel when the United Nations is effectively as a body looking to clamp down on what Syria is doing.

Who complains to the UN at this point? Is it Bashar al-Assad himself -- does he pick up the phone? I mean...

GERGES: I mean, think about it, Becky, now. I mean, Assad has been desperately trying to tell the Syrian people that he embodies sovereignty. He is the safe -- I mean, trying to safeguard Syrians sovereignty and national interests. What Israel has done, it has allowed Assad to say to the Syrian people and that's why I believe regardless of what (inaudible) says. In 2007, when Israel attacked Syria, Syria did not retaliate. They are also gambling on the fact that Assad will not retaliate.

In fact, 2013 is dramatically different than 2007. Assad's interests lie in by averting attention from the civil war, from the war that's taken place in Syria to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

ANDERSON: In the meantime, we get this character here, this stakeholder here today saying that the effect of the Israeli strike, if indeed it was strike -- as you say Israelis being mum on this at the moment. But the effect of this could have serious consequences.

How important is the statement from Tehran today?

GERGES: Iran is really the super power of the Persian Gulf. Iran has made it very clear time and again, Becky, if Syria is attacked it will be considered an attack on Iran itself, that is Iran has emerged as one of the most important regional allies of the Syrian regime. And thus, if war were -- or was to break out between Israel and Syria, expect Hezbollah to be a direct player and by directly Iran will be -- would be involved.

ANDERSON: Complicated stuff. Always a pleasure, thank you.

GERGES: Thank you.

ANDERSON: You're watching Connect the World live from London. Still to come this hour it's just about a quarter past 9:00 out of London. Police across Europe smash a major people smuggling ring. But authorities warn many others are still at work. The battle to end human trafficking straight ahead.

Plus, China says if the wounded party after one of America's most respected newspapers accuses Beijing of cyber attacks. We're live across the world on that story for you.

And it was six years ago that David Beckham was introduced to us, all the media in L.A. We all looked a lot younger back then -- well, at least I did. What the super star, though, is up to next. That after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Welcome back.

Now, officials are calling it one of the largest operation to combat human trafficking in Europe. More than 1,200 police in ten countries swooped in on homes and on properties, arresting scores of people this week. All have been accused of smuggling people in boats, freight trains and small hidden compartments in buses and in trucks. Their cargo, well, let me tell you it's people, refugees fleeing places like Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Human beings like you and me.

Atika Shubert has filed this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The numbers tell the story. In one day, 103 suspected human traffickers arrested in 117 different locations with raids carried out by some 1,200 police officers for more than a dozen countries. A success for the European Unions law enforcement agency Europol.

MICHAEL RAUSCHENBACH, EUROPOL: This type of crime is impossible to be tackled on a national level, because the criminals they have created networks all over Europe and other countries and only if you bring back all -- bring together all this information, for instance at Europol, and you provide the investigators with a whole picture of the criminal group it is possible to efficiently investigate.

SHUBERT: What began in Austria and Hungary, these two countries noticed a surge in trafficking, so they launched a police operation in September 2011. More than a year later, it had grown to include 10 other neighboring countries. What were they focusing on, a human trafficking network in Kosovo, that's where it was centered, but with links to organized crime in Turkey.

And this specific group focused on vulnerable people in war torn countries, especially Syria, but also Iraq and Libya. In fact, one of the ringleaders of the group, based in Germany, was actually also a Syrian national.

Now how do they bring people across? Over land from Turkey into the western Balkans and the EU, but also there apparently accounts of people coming through by boat coming in through Greece and moving north. All of these incredibly dangerous journeys.

These photos from Europol show how they were smuggled, stuffed into cramped hiding spaces inside trains, buses, boats and trucks for hours at a time. In a year of operations, 891 smuggling incidents were recorded, at least 7,500 illegal migrants were intercepted.

It can be a deadly journey. This file video from Hungarian police shows a family attempting to cross the border. Hungarian police say they know of at least 16 that drowned while they were trying to cross a river on the Hungarian-Serbian border.

If they survive, many smuggled in become trapped in a life of crime, police say.

NICHOLAS DOVE, EU ROLE OF LAW MISSION IN KOSOVO: It's (inaudible) effect of people who are illegally in countries in Western Europe with no legal status there. How do they exist? How do they work? (inaudible) become involved in street crime and prostitution, a range of things that are hugely damaging to human beings, but also to society and the economy in general.

SHUBERT: One human trafficking network dismantled, but police warn there are still many others at work.

Atika Shubert, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Well, sadly and shockingly, human trafficking is a multi- billion dollar worldwide trade. According to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, it's believed to generate profits, get this, of an estimated $32 billion. It's outranked by illegal drugs and black market arms in the international crime industry, and only by those two industries.

Globally, some 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year. If you've been watching any of our Freedom Project work here at CNN, you will be well aware of these numbers, that is according to a 2007 report from the U.S. State Department.

Of that number, the report says more than 70 percent, 7, 0 percent are female, and half of those are kids. They could be your kids or my kids or any of our kids. So that number is as shocking as it gets, isn't it?

Here to talk about this week's operation and the broader battle to end human trafficking is Aidan McQuade, the director of Anti-Slavery International. He joins me now here in the studio.

We've spoken a number of times over the last year or so when we've been sort of taking a stand here on modern day slavery.

The story that Atika was reporting on there is slightly complicated in that it's not clear whether these people were just trying to get across the border, or whether they were being sold into slavery. Can you tell us any more?

AIDAN MCQUADE, DIRECTOR, ANTI-SLAVERY INTERNATIONAL: Well, it is further distinguished between human smuggling and human trafficking. People smuggling is about taking people across borders illegally. Human trafficking is about moving people at this situation into force labor. So what's been broken up is clearly an issue of people smuggling.

It's not clear yet whether it was an issue of human trafficking. It's not clear whether the intent of the people who were taking them across the border was then to exploit them for forced labor or sexual exploitation.

But one of the other things is most people who are trafficked for forced labor or sexual exploitation are brought in to countries legally rather than illegally at this stage.

ANDERSON: Well, let's talk about that, because we've spent a year or so here at CNN, and we'll continue to report on a plight of those who -- you know, mixed up in modern day slavery, and we're talking about the victims not those who are perpetrating these crimes. Does Europe have a hidden slavery problem?

MCQUADE: I think most of the world has a slavery problem. And we do see considerable aspects of slavery within domestic work, domestic servitude, within construction sector, within catering, within most of the informal sectors and places where people have informal employment across Europe.

ANDERSON: Aidan, is it getting better or worse as we see this? And I'm talking about Europe as a space here, this downturn in the economic cycle. Does that...

MCQUADE: The downturn in the economic cycle has made people more vulnerable and therefore increase risks of trafficking into forced labor and sexual exploitation. The problem is further exacerbated by the -- I think there's been some significant back-pedaling by key governments within Europe and these issues over the past couple of years. For example, this story has been reporting on demonstrates the importance of police cooperation within Europe. And the British government is now talking about opting out of police cooperation within Europe. So we're really missing some of the central points of how we deal with transnational crimes like trafficking as well as a raft of measures within the UK for example, which are being very regressive on the issue of trafficking, which have rendered lots more people, particularly domestic workers, much, much more vulnerable to forced labor.

ANDERSON: We leave it there, sir. You'll come back. I know. Because this is a story that we'll stay on and you'll continue to be an expert witness on for us.

MCQUADE: That's great what you do consistently is very good. It's important to raise these issues.

ANDERSON: Thank you.

We're going to take a very short break. Back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: You're watching Connect the World live from London. I'm Becky Anderson. Welcome back.

Spain's prime minister and members of his ruling party are now embroiled in what can only be described as a corruption scandal. The country's leading El Pais newspaper has published documents that allege that Spain's leaders pocketed secret payments from builders and from other firms. Now the party and those involved have denied these accusations. And the newspaper report illicit payments go back nearly two decades. Our Madrid bureau chief Al Goodman has been, well, having a look at this story for you. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AL GOODMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is Spain's El Pais newspaper, which has the latest allegations about secret payments to leaders of the conservative ruling popular party, allegations that have brought the debate about corruption in Spanish politics and institutions to a new, broader level.

El Pais said the alleged payments off the books went on for 19 years through 2009 to top officials at the popular party, including to Mario Rajoy before he became prime minister in December 2010. The newspaper said the money came from construction firms and other businesses. The funds allegedly had various uses, including tens of thousands of dollars in secretive payments to party officials. But the party quickly denied any wrongdoing or any hidden accounts.

DOLORES DE COSPEDAL, POPULAR PARTY SECRETARY GENERAL (through translator): The only aim of this alleged information is to hurt the Popular Party, its leaders, and certainly to hurt the prime minister.

GOODMAN: But the opposition Socialists said there was a quick way to clear up any doubts.

ALFREDO PEREZ, SOCIALIST PARTY (through translator): I ask that the prime minister himself makes an appearance to answer two simple questions. Did he collect these payments or not? And if so, off the books or above board?

GOODMAN: Other corruption scandals have hit the Socialists and even the royal household, all during the nation's deep economic crisis. Recent government and private polls show Spaniards are increasingly worried about political corruption and the willingness of the parties in the courts to fight it.

Al Goodman, CNN, Madrid.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Well, the latest world news headlines are just ahead. First it was the New York Times and just moments ago word that another major publication says that it was the target of hackers in China. What do you need to know about the future of cyber warfare.

French and Malian troops push through to last major rebel stronghold, but it's come at a cost. We're going to update you on the offensive against Mali's Islamist militants.

And Bonjour to Beckham, football's biggest brand is on his way to Paris.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson in London. Just after half past nine, here. The headlines on CNN.

A student has been shot outside a school in the US city of Atlanta. Police have issued a statement saying a student from Price Middle School has suffered a gunshot injury but is alert and conscious and has been taken to the hospital.

(AUDIO GAP)

ANDERSON: -- student has been taken into custody. Police say all remaining students are safe, and the school is currently on lockdown.

Syria is furious over a reported Israeli airstrike. It says a military research center was bombed in Jamraya. That is near Damascus. Other reports suggest the target was a weapons convoy. Syria has complained to the United Nations saying it has a right to defend itself.

Two Malian soldiers have been killed in a landmine explosion. They were driving through a territory retaken by French-led forces in an offensive against Islamist militants. Right now, military troops are working to secure the last major militant stronghold, which is Kidal. CNN's Nima Elbagir reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: France's defense minister has declared the military campaign in Mali a success, saying his forces had achieved their objectives a lot faster than many had thought possible. But contrary to expectations, this hasn't paved the way for a pullout.

JEAN-YVES LE DRIAN, FRENCH DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): The president of the republic had wanted to halt the progress of the jihadists to the south. That was done immediately.

Secondly, he explained that we needed to accompany the Malian forces and the African ones when they are constituted in the recover and the autonomy and the integrity of the Malian territory.

ELBAGIR: French authorities had initially said they would be leaving Mali as soon as African troops were in position. Now, they acknowledge despite pushing Islamists out of urban centers in the country's north, there remains a significant risk of militant fight back.

Nima Elbagir, CNN, Nairobi.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Well, in a surprise visit, British prime minister David Cameron has arrived in the Libyan capital personally after flying in from Algiers. Mr. Cameron pledged assistance to strengthen Libya's security forces in order to counter Islamic militancy in the region.

Football star David Beckham has signed with French club Paris Saint- Germain. The former England captain has signed a short-term deal ahead of Thursday's transfer deadline about two-odd hours from now. During Thursday's post, Beckham also made a surprising revelation about his salary.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID BECKHAM, MIDFIELDER, PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN: I won't receive any salary. We've decided that my salary will go towards a children's charity, a local children's charity in Paris. And that's one of the things that we're very excited and proud to be able to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Those are your headlines. Now, first it was "The New York Times," now, apparently, "The Wall Street Journal" says it's been the target of hackers in China.

A statement that we got here at CNN just moments ago says, and I quote, "evidence shows that infiltration efforts target the monitoring of the "Journal's" coverage of China and are not an attempt to gain commercial advantage or to misappropriate customer information."

Well, a little earlier, China declared that it, too, is a victim of hacking attacks and wasted no time dismissing an earlier "New York Times" accusation that Chinese hackers broke into its computers, the "Times" says. "No sensitive information has been compromised, and it stresses that it worked with security experts and informed the FBI.

Well, these attacks started as the newspaper "New York Times" investigated the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao. It published controversial articles about his family's wealth.

Well, the "Times" says the hackers appeared to be looking for the names of people who might have provided information for the story. It's a little bit chaotic, this story. Our coverage spans several continents. To try and get to the bottom of this, Mary Snow is on the story in New York, and Steven Jiang is in Beijing.

Mary, let's begin with you from our New York bureau. Not just "The New York Times," but now it seems "The Wall Street Journal." What do we know at this point?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, "The Wall Street Journal" says it has been an ongoing issue. "The New York Times" in its story saying it knew about the hacking for four months, but they kept quiet until the hackers were blocked out of their system.

Now, this was a targeted attack. As you mentioned, it appears the hackers were looking for sources of a "New York Times" investigative piece of the Chinese prime minister. Now, the "Times" says nothing sensitive from the investigation piece was taken, but it says that passwords for every employee were stolen.

Their security experts concluded it was hackers from China, using techniques similar to those they say used by the Chinese military in the past. In a statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry, a spokesman told CNN, quote, "that all such alleged attacks are groundless, irresponsible accusations lacking solid proof or reliable research results.

The "Times" says it has gotten hackers out of its system, but security experts warn that they are likely to come back. Becky?

ANDERSON: Mary, thank you for that. Steven's standing by in -- in China, in Beijing for us, reporting that Chinese television has actually been blocking CNN reporting on this story. We've managed to bring him to you tonight at this hour.

We're -- tell me, where do we stand? It's complicated, this, isn't it?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Becky. The censorship, the censoring of reporting just highlights how sensitive the authorities feel about this, not only about the cyber attacks allegedly sponsored by the Chinese military, but also about the original controversial story on the Chinese premier that may have triggered the latest tack against "The New York Times."

Now, so far, the Chinese authorities have strongly denied any involvement in the cyber attacks against the "Times," calling the accusations baseless and the report itself irresponsible. The Chinese Defense Ministry actually told CNN the Chinese military has never supported any hacker activities.

Now, "The New York Times," of course, their internet security experts traced the origins of these attacks to China based on the patterns and the techniques used. And also, the attacks intensified after the publication of that controversial investigative report.

Now, this wouldn't be the first time this kind of thing has happened. Remember, a few years ago, Google and China had a similar row over exactly the same issue. Google said its servers under attack by Chinese-based hackers targeting Chinese -- information about Chinese dissidents and Tibetan activists.

So, many experts say there is a disturbing trend emerging here when it comes to cyber attacks allegedly sponsored by Chinese government or the military, targeting a wider array of targets around the world, Becky.

ANDERSON: All right. So, you've got the story out of Beijing -- Steven, thank you for that -- and out of New York this morning. Plenty to talk about, then, on the future of cyber conflict.

And for that, I'm joined by Jeffrey Carr, who is a cyber security analyst in Seattle. Both our correspondents doing a really good job at explaining their side of what is, like I say, a fairly chaotic story this evening.

Is it clear -- and we also saw, there, as Steven was talking, that CNN actually got censored by the Chinese authorities for even taking on this story and reporting it today. Is it clear who -- we've got a lot of finger-pointing here, but who is doing what to whom and when? And how?

JEFFREY CARR, CYBERSECURITY ANALYST: No. No. It's absolutely not clear who is responsible for the attack against "The New York Times" and "The Wall Street Journal." Or really Google, even going back to 2010.

It has never been clear that Chinese military has been involved in any attack. The only thing that we know for sure is that China does engage in cyber -- acts of cyber espionage, but so do at least a dozen other countries. Over 30 countries are wrapping up cyber warfare --

(AUDIO GAP)

JEFFREY: -- so --

ANDERSON: So, Jeffrey -- if "The Wall Street Journal" and "The New York Times" are confident of one thing, it is that their computers have been hacked into. Why would that be? What sort of information would the - - the perpetrators of this crime be looking for, if it were -- if it were China or somebody else?

CARR: Well, hackers enter networks for all kinds of reasons. There's all sorts of valuable data that reside, depending -- and it's hard to tell what the motivation was, unless you know what was taken. In this case, nothing appears to have been taken. So, this makes it doubly distressing - -

ANDERSON: Right.

CARR: -- to cast the blame at a particular nation-state with such flimsy evidence.

ANDERSON: It does raise the question why is the finger-pointing going on when actually, at the end of the day, this cyber crime, it seems, is not that bad? Let's remind ourselves that it's not just China in the past who's been accused of these things.

Analysts say a number of other countries have been behind cyber attacks in the past, from 2008 to 2010, for example, the US and Israel have been suspected of targeting Iran with a computer worm called Stuxnet, you may remember that. Stuxnet wreaked havoc on Iran's nuclear program.

In 2008, Georgia accused Russia of cyber attacks, it shut down Georgian websites. The Russian government denied any involvement at that point.

And Google, as we've been talking about, threatened to pull its business operations in China in 2010 after revealing it was the attack of a cyber attack, there. Google claimed Beijing was behind it. Chinese officials, though -- excuse me -- denying the charge.

Whoever is behind the attacks at "Wall Street Journal" and "The New York Times" today, the bottom line here is that cyber war and cyber crimes are what in the past we might have considered to be a sort of physical crimes, in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. It's -- really these days, it is all about cyber crimes. Just how important is it for the future?

CARR: Well, it's critical that we understand the way that crime and conflict is conducted in today's world. Today's world, because of it being so closely networked on a global basis is entirely different than the world of 30 years ago.

So, our risk components are different, the threat landscape is entirely different. And that's why we must be so careful before we accuse one country or another of having launched an attack. Because this drives policy.

Unfortunately, senators and congressmen in the US are not very well informed in matters of cyber security. So, they rely on "The New York Times," "The Wall Street Journal," CNN, and others for their information.

And journalists often are relying on information security professionals who, unfortunately, because it's my profession, do not use proper, rigorous --

ANDERSON: Yes, all right.

CARR: -- techniques.

ANDERSON: Well, let's hope that our viewers, at least, have been well-informed by you tonight, and let's rely on the fact that other organizations don't have the Jeffreys of the world to provide them the expert analysis. We've got to leave it there. I've got to take a very short break. Sir, thank you for joining us.

Live from London, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. Up next, as the battle for Mali continues, the country's renowned musicians take a stand. Have a listen to this, coming up.

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ANDERSON: Well, it's a country renowned for its rich musical heritage, a heritage that is now, sadly, under threat. Ever since Islamic extremists carved out a large portion of northern Mali, music there has been banned.

Now, as military forces work to drive out those militants, the country's musicians have also taken a stand. Led by singer Fatoumata Diawara, over 40 of Mali's renowned musicians have gathered together to record a song calling for peace.

Earlier, I spoke to Fatou, who explained why music was so important to her.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(GUITAR MUSIC)

FATOUMATA DIAWARA, MALIAN MUSICIAN: We have a deep tradition, very strong, where music is -- music is everything there. It's not only to do parties. It's also for very hard stories, when people are dead. The first thing is to play music.

ANDERSON: The Islamist militants are looking to clamp down on music, on women's rights. So, what is the situation at home? How concerned are people?

DIAWARA: Especially it's very sad because we have many women who can't wear what she wants to do in the north today. Women are the first to be -- to suffer when we have this kind of a problem everywhere around the world, and especially in Mali today.

They broke instruments, they broke every -- studio, music studio. We have to start everything again.

ANDERSON: You've rallied some 40 singers, and you've got a song which you hope will raise the profile and raise some money for the crisis in Mali today. Talk to me about the song.

DIAWARA: The song was to give hope to Mali and to creation because politically, we have a very bad situation, and nobody can help us today. Nobody can protect our population, and it was necessary for artists to take this place for our population to tell them the real situation and to say, don't worry. Just to give them hope -- some hope.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: And you can listen to the song "Mali-ko" on YouTube, where all proceeds will go to helping Mali's refugees. Fabulous song.

Coming up after the break, how much will one of the world's highest- paid athletes take home from his new employer? It's a lot less than you might think. The bombshell details from Paris Saint-Germain's signing of Golden Balls, up next.

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ANDERSON: One of the most recognizable names in football is now taking his game to Paris. David Beckham (in French accent), as he will be now called, signed a five-month deal at Paris Saint-Germain. Don Riddell (in French accent) is here with much more on the story that's got the football -- football world -- I quite like that name, Don Riddell (in French accent).

DON RIDDELL, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: You sound like my old French teacher, who was trying to sound French when he wasn't French at all.

(LAUGHTER)

ANDERSON: You used to say, "Get out!"

(LAUGHTER)

RIDDELL: You know me too well, Becky.

ANDERSON: What do we know about Mr. Beckham?

(LAUGHTER)

ANDERSON: Go on.

RIDDELL: Yes. Why Paris, I guess? Well, David Beckham, I think, has a number of reasons why he wanted to go to Paris. And talk about Connecting the World, this is an Englishman who's been idolized in Manchester, Madrid, LA, and now he's heading to Paris, with the help of some millionaire owners from Qatar. That is Connecting the World if ever I heard it, Becky.

Paris Saint-Germain are a team that are on the up-and-up. They spent over $300 million on players in the last 18 months. They're the biggest spenders in Europe. They have very, very big ambitions.

And of course, Beckham has been so successful in so many other countries. I think he wants to add a league title with a club in another country that he hasn't played in before, and with Paris Saint-Germain at the moment, the top of French League. So, there is a good change that he could do that by the end of the season.

And he had his pick of the clubs. During his press conference in Paris on Thursday, he said he really could have picked any one of a dozen top teams.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BECKHAM: I'm very lucky. I'm 37 years old and I got offered -- a lot of offers. More offers now than I've probably had in my career at my age. So, I'm very honored by that.

I chose Paris -- was -- I chose Paris because I can see what the club are trying to do. I can see the players that the club are bringing in. It's an exciting city. Always has been and always will be. But now, there is a club that is going to have a lot of success over the next 10, 15, 20 years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RIDDELL: That's a long time, Becky. He's only there for five months on the current contract. He'll be playing with Carlo Ancelotti, a coach he knows and respects, having worked with him previously at AC Milan.

And you know what? He's not going to be getting a penny. He said his contract is huge, but all the money is going to a children's charity. So, good for him.

ANDERSON: Yes, good for him. The reason he signed up is because his wife wants to go to Paris.

(LAUGHTER)

ANDERSON: We all know that. She's a fashion designer. She loves the idea of going to Paris. Listen, it's great for PSG. Don, when he's been in LA -- I can't believe it, actually -- for six years. I got a chance to speak to him when he arrived in 2007 to the Galaxy. Here's what he had to say back then.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: It's got to be said, this contract is huge. It's reputed to be $250 million over five years, give or take, I guess. How much pressure do you feel under?

BECKHAM: There's a certain amount of pressure that comes with, obviously, the price tag that so many people have been talking about and people will talk about. But I don't think about the money. People say, is it about the money? It's nothing to do about -- nothing to do with the money. My career, my life has nothing to do --

I'm very fortunate to be in the position I am. I'm very fortunate to have done amazingly well out of my game and out of my career.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Don, he's a charming, charming boy. It has got something to do with the money at the end of the day. If I'm right in saying, AEG, which is an entertainment company that owns LA Galaxy, paid him something like 50, $50-odd million for that contract, I think, over -- what was it? - - two or three years.

RIDDELL: Right.

ANDERSON: So, the question to you at this point, at this juncture is, given what we've seen, and the headline ultimately today has been Beckham. This is a transfer window when once we used to see some really interesting deals. The headlines have been Beckham today. Is football now entertainment, ultimately?

RIDDELL: Well, it's a business. And if you're going to buy a player like David Beckham, of course you're buying him because he's a half decent athlete and he was once a fantastic athlete and a great player, and I still think he brings a lot of that to the table.

But I think first and foremost, it's about marketing. There's no doubt that when you sign a player like David Beckham that he comes with a lot of extra bells and whistles. You're probably going to sell more shirts, you're probably going to put more bums on seats in the stadium.

And there's just a buzz and a hype around the whole thing, as we've seen today. There's other transfers going through today, but this is the one that everybody is talking about.

ANDERSON: Yes.

RIDDELL: And that has got to be good for Paris Saint-Germain. He is 37 years old. He is in the twilight of his career, but he still has an awful lot to offer. You're probably not going to hire him to be the fastest man in the French League, but he's got great technique still, great vision. He's dedicated. He'll be a great voice in the dressing room, and I think he will definitely be a positive influence on PSG.

ANDERSON: I tell you what, there's a lot of Premiership teams that would have him down the right on a wet, windy Saturday afternoon in the north of England and would expect him to do great things, or certainly a lot better than most of their right-wingers.

RIDDELL: Yes.

ANDERSON: All right, my love. Always a pleasure, thank you for that. What do you think about today's transfer action? Well, I reached out with a couple of questions on Twitter earlier on.

First I asked -- or I certainly said, "Correct me if I'm wrong, but if Balotelli --" and we're talking about Mario Balotelli going to AC Milan, of course "-- and Beckham are the two transfer headlines in the beautiful game today, ain't the -- the beautiful game simply ain't what it was."

Well, Kweku Ananse responded with, "I totally disagree. That is the beauty of the game, Beck." Another one tweeting to me today, "It's only January. Teams don't like to make major changes to their squads in the middle of the season."

So, I followed that up with, "All right. David Beckham will sign for PSG today, officials for French clubs confirming to CNN. Quality buy or just celeb pulling power? Your call."

Well, I got hit with a lot of tweets on that. Fawad says, "Celebrity pull only." Mark tweeted back, "He's more than that, he is a legend! He is just a god."

There's a lot more there. What do you think? The team at CONNECT THE WORLD wants to hear from you. Facebook.com/CNNconnect, have your say. You can, as ever, tweet me @BeckyCNN.

And if you don't think I'm a real football fan, I can tell you, I've been to every home game -- Spurs home game -- this season apart from one, and it's been wet and windy on most of those Saturday afternoons, but we do it because we're fans.

Finally, for today's Parting Shots, here's a story from a beach on England's west coast, where one very lucky dog walker has come across a clump of, well, something quite revolting with an estimated value of -- wait for it -- upwards of $70,000. So, what makes whale vomit -- seriously -- worth so much?

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ANDERSON (voice-over): Well, despite being commonly known as whale vomit, ambergris is not actually vomit. Rather, it's a gallstone-like object formed of undigested squid beaks and excreted from male sperm whales.

The resultant waxy, stone-line material is one of the most valuable substances in the world, selling for upwards of $20 a gram, around half the current value of gold. Hence its nickname, floating gold.

Over the years, washed up ambergris finds have made a number of lucky beachcombers very rich, indeed. So, if you fancy your chances, choose a beach, start walking, and remember it might look like a rock, but it won't smell like rock. Happy hunting.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Mind your feet if you're walking your dogs this weekend. I'm Becky Anderson, that was CONNECT THE WORLD, thank you for watching. From the team here in London, it's a very good evening.

END