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Newsroom/World View

NEWSROOM for June 29, 2000

Aired June 29, 2000 - 4:30 a.m. ET


ANNOUNCER: Seen in classrooms the world over, this is CNN NEWSROOM.

RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: It's Thursday and this is NEWSROOM. Glad you could join us. I'm Rudi Bakhtiar. Here's a look at what's coming up.

The odyssey of Elian Gonzalez draws to a close. A journey that began in the waters off Florida ends in his native Cuba.


JUAN MIGUEL GONZALEZ, ELIAN'S FATHER (through translator): I would like to thank the North American people for the support they have given us, and to the U.S. government.


BAKHTIAR: "Science Desk" looks beyond earthly divisions to stellar collisions: what can happen when certain stars collide.


MIKE SHARA, AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY: You have one new star that was about twice as massive as the previous star.


BAKHTIAR: "Worldview" goes undercover to uncover the secrets of the CIA and its agents.


ANTONIO MENDEZ, FMR. CIA AGENT: If you look very closely at that button, you will see that this particular part of the coat is not an ordinary part.


BAKHTIAR: Then "Chronicle" features a Japanese-American who rode the wave of an American pastime: basketball. He looks at the game then and now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WAT MISAKA, FORMER NEW YORK KNICK: Back in those days, getting your degree was a lot more important relative to playing basketball than it is now.


BAKHTIAR: In today's top story, the end of Elian Gonzalez's odyssey in the United States. The 6-year-old arrived back in his native Cuba yesterday, seven months after he was rescued from a shipwreck off the Florida coast. That accident killed his mother and 10 others who were fleeing Cuba. Elian's arrival in Havana came just hours after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a final appeal from the boy's Florida relatives who were making a last-ditch attempt to keep him in the United States.

During his time in the U.S., Elian became the focus of an international custody battle involving his Miami relatives and politicians in Washington, D.C. and Havana.

John Zarrella looks back at the long ordeal.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): On Thanksgiving Day, it was simply a heart-wrenching tale: a little Cuban boy found by fishermen alive and floating on an inner tube.

SAM CIANCIO, ELIAN'S RESCUER: We just dove in the water and we went after it. And when we got there, it was a human being, it was alive. I mean, the kid was alive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It's definitely a miracle.

ZARRELLA: A symbol of the 40-year plight of Cubans seeking freedom from Castro. And within days, the battle lines were being drawn across the Florida Straits.

While the INS tried to decide how to handle the situation, temporary custody was given to the boy's great-uncle, Lazaro Gonzalez, who lives in Miami. And in the weeks that followed, Elian celebrated his 6th birthday, spent Christmas in Miami, went to Disney World. Elian got plenty. What he didn't have was his father.

In early January, the federal government ruled.

DORIS MEISSNER, INS COMMISSIONER: We have determined that Elian should be reunited with his father, Mr. Juan Gonzalez.

ZARRELLA: That determination set a series of events in motion. Civil disobedience broke out on the streets of Miami as Cuban Americans protested the decision. Through it all, the attorney general stood her ground.

JANET RENO, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think it's important that we recognize that what is at stake here is a bond between a parent and his child.

ZARRELLA: Elian's Miami relatives moved quickly, asking the federal court to require INS grant the boy a political asylum hearing. As the legal maneuvering began, Elian's two grandmothers flew in from Havana. But the visit did nothing to pry Elian loose from his Miami relatives. That didn't change until federal Judge Michael Moore ruled that granting asylum is within the discretion of the attorney general.

Within a week, the attorneys for the Miami relatives filed a motion with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals seeking a swift hearing. It was now the end of March. By the end of the first week in April, pressure on the Miami relatives increased immensely. Elian's father, Juan Miguel, arrived in Washington expecting and insisting to be reunited with his boy.

But negotiations for a voluntary transfer of the boy to his father went nowhere. Attorney General Reno came to Miami to personally try to work out an acceptable arrangement. It didn't happen, and the family was ordered to turn Elian over the next day. They refused.

On April 19, the Miami relatives and their supporters won a short-lived victory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: American people, thank you!

ZARRELLA: In Little Havana, there was jubilation. The appeals court ordered Elian Gonzalez must remain in the United States while the appeals process is under way. But the court would take no side over Elian's custody. Three days later, armed federal officers took Elian before the sun came up.

But now, Elian was back with his father and family at a secluded retreat outside Washington. In Miami, the INS raid leads to political turmoil. In the weeks that follow, Elian and his family are seen only briefly. On May 18, a three-judge panel from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals hears the case. Two weeks later, June 1, it rules Elian is not entitled to an asylum hearing. Elian's father makes a brief public statement.

GONZALEZ: I want to thank the American people.

ZARRELLA: The Miami relatives insist the fight is not over. They ask the full appeals court to review the case. On June 23, the court rules unanimously against the family's appeal.

The Miami relatives have one last hope, but the U.S. Supreme Court turns them down. Seven months after he arrived on an inner tube, the way is cleared for Elian Gonzalez to return to Cuba.

John Zarrella, CNN, Miami.


BAKHTIAR: Elian and his family received a rousing and emotional welcome upon their arrival at the airport in Havana. They were engulfed in hugs from relatives, and several hundred schoolchildren cheered and waved small Cuban flags.

It was a much different scene among Cuban-Americans in Miami. Many shed tears of sorrow and frustration as the plane carrying Elian and his family left the United States for Cuba.

Bob Franken has more on this end to an international tug of war.


BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The celebration at the last home for the Gonzalez family in the United States could be seen from the news helicopters hovering overhead. After a seven-month legal battle, the Supreme Court refused to take up the case, and the Gonzalez family, inside their ever-present security bubble, could head for Washington's Dulles Airport.

GONZALEZ: We are happy to go home. Thank you.

FRANKEN: By coincidence, President Clinton had just finished a news conference.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We upheld here what I think is a quite important principle, as well as what is clearly the law of the United States.

FRANKEN: Even as the Gonzalez group contended with the last- minute immigration and customs paperwork, those who had fought so hard to keep him here were dealing with a defeat they knew was inevitable.

REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R), FLORIDA: We knew that once the Clinton administration was hell-bent on sending him back, it was just a matter of time.

FRANKEN: When it was time to go, an eager Elian ran onto the aircraft only to be called back to the door by his father for a last wave. Then from his father, a clenched fist as he stepped inside the plane.

(on camera): The international drama seems to be over. Elian Gonzalez, his family and entourage return to Cuba and, they hope, a normal life.

(voice-over): While Elian Gonzalez is gone from the United States, he will not necessarily be forgotten. His departure leaves behind bitter feelings in the Cuban-American community that will likely reverberate at least through election day in November.

Bob Franken, CNN, Washington.


BAKHTIAR: In our "Science Desk," we do a little stargazing. But before we start, did you know the normal color cycle for medium stars is blue to yellow to red? That's why when a red or yellow star suddenly goes blue, it means a significant change has taken place. The theory is, in collisions, fresh hydrogen is brought into the core of the star, thus prolonging its life.

Ann Kellan takes us to some star wars.


ANN KELLAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two stars crash into each other. In this simulation, one is eating the other up. Scientists theorize this happens a thousand times a day in our universe, from the center of our own Milky Way to far-reaching galaxies. But how can we be sure, since no one has ever seen a two- star collision?

SHARA: The nearest one is a billion light years away from us. So the likelihood of directly picking it up is really zero. We've inferred this from our observations and our computer simulations.

KELLAN: With the help of Hubble and other telescopes, they've studied the offspring of these collisions called blue stragglers.

SHARA: It's like finding teenagers hanging out in an old folk's home. They have no business being there. There's no other way to make them other than to collide stars.

KELLAN: The crashes occur where stars cluster.

FRANK SUMMERS, ASTROPHYSICIST: This star cluster is a collection of about 6,000 stars. When we set it in motion, you see sort of swarming of the stars, one around each other, and you can also see some of the stars being kicked off. They're ejected from the cluster. And the star cluster actually sort of self-destructs.

KELLAN (on camera): Because there's such a variety of stars out there, the type of collision depends on the types of stars that collide.

(voice-over): When neutron stars hit head-on, these atomic fireballs the size of Manhattan can leave a black hole in their wake. On the other hand, when two less potent stars, like our sun, collide...

SHARA: Then you have one new star that was about twice as massive as the previous star.

KELLAN: It's unlikely our sun will get hit considering its closest neighbor is 4 million light years away.

Galaxies also collide. Here six warp into one. Even our own Milky Way is gobbling up a smaller galaxy that got a little too close.

VICKY KALOGERA, HARVARD SMITHSONIAN CENTER FOR ASTROPHYSICS: In the end, we'll be learning things about how gravity works in very intense environments that we could never approach on Earth.

KELLAN: And it may help prove Einstein's theory of relativity. He said gravitational waves determine how objects move through space. These collisions could produce those waves. And if they do, it would be further proof that Einstein was right.

Ann Kellan, CNN, New York.


BAKHTIAR: The science of secrecy in "Worldview": We'll meet a master of disguise, and we'll let you in on the tricks of the trade of a powerful U.S. Agency.

TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: Perhaps more than anything else, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency is known for its secrecy. Now, like the peeling of an onion, some of the CIA's hidden layers are slowly coming to light. A recent visit with a retired agent revealed a rare glimpse into the shadows of international intrigue.

Judy Woodruff takes us inside the CIA.


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Antonio Mendez has been an artist most of his life, and today his paintings sell for thousands of dollars. However, it was not so long ago that his canvas took an entirely different form.

For years, instead of paintbrushes, Mendez used tools like rubber cement, scissors or a comb to craft his work for his employer, the CIA. His job was to create disguises, conjuring up such convincing new identities for agents that even their own families were not able to recognize them.

A. MENDEZ: I went back to Washington for 10 days of disguise training. And when I came back to Denver where my wife was waiting for me at the gate at the airport, I did two things: I changed my hairline and I put on a pair of glasses. What I didn't do is I didn't make eye contact, and I walked right past her just like this.

WOODRUFF (on camera): And she didn't...

A. MENDEZ: And I went like that. And she said, where'd you come from?

WOODRUFF (voice-over): Antonio Mendez came from the Nevada desert, yearning for an escape to a more exciting and adventurous life.

A. MENDEZ: I was applying to a blind ad in the "Denver Post," "artist to work overseas with the U.S. Navy." So I answered the ad just to see what it was, and the next thing you know I was in a motel room with the blinds drawn talking to a CIA recruiter, and that's when he broke cover.

WOODRUFF: In 1990, Mendez broke his cover when he retired from the CIA.

(on camera): How do you describe over the years what your job was at the CIA. A. MENDEZ: The job title that I would use as the descriptor for what I did would be the technical operations officer. And in the lore, that's the Q branch, in the James Bond lore.

WOODRUFF (voice-over): And like Q from James Bond, he has a collection of gadgets, like this mole.

A. MENDEZ: I have put a piece of spy gear inside of a mole like that for somebody to carry across the border, and that spy gear was what we call a bullet lens.

WOODRUFF: Or this coat that was actually used by the KGB.

A. MENDEZ: If you look very closely at that button, you will see that this particular part of the coat is not an ordinary part.

WOODRUFF (on camera): There's a lens underneath there, right?

A. MENDEZ: Exactly. And what's going on here is there's an actuator in my pocket that is firing that lens, and that lens is part of a camera.

WOODRUFF: That's amazing. But you've got to be aiming it in the right...

A. MENDEZ: Yes, well it takes a little practice, you know. Nobody said spying is going to be easy.

WOODRUFF (voice-over): He joined the CIA during the heyday of spy versus spy. His specialty was exfiltration: getting friendly agents out of hostile territory. He plied his trade in all the hot spots of the Cold War, including South East Asia and Moscow.

This photograph was taken by Mendez. The little car next to the bus was being driven by KGB agents who were tailing him at the time.

A. MENDEZ: Every day when you go to work, you're looking at an enemy that you can love to hate. That's part of the romance of it. And that was really great that, you know, against the USSR because they were static and they were formidable and they were bent on our destruction. So everybody understood what the Cold War was about.

WOODRUFF: His most prominent mission did not involve Moscow, however, but another nemesis of the United States: Iran. In 1979 when Iranian students took 52 Americans hostage, six U.S. embassy employees managed to escape and hide out at the homes of Canadian diplomats based in Tehran. The job of getting them safely out of Iran was assigned to Antonio Mendez.

A. MENDEZ: What I had to do was present an idea that was so interesting and so, you know, alluring that everybody could believe in it. And the idea of a motion picture scouting party was what I came up with.

WOODRUFF: Using a Canadian alias and passport, Mendez created a fake movie production company called Studio Six. He made up a movie poster for the fictitious film and even took out ads in Hollywood trade papers announcing the production. Then he flew to Iran with six fake Canadian passports and a risky plan.

A. MENDEZ: What you have to think about in these cases is what is the worst case? What happens if, in fact, you know, you're all caught? What would they do? Obviously it would go badly for the six. It would go certainly bad for the two CIA officers -- myself and my partner -- because we're the ultimate Satan.

WOODRUFF: Mendez disguised the six American diplomats as Canadian filmmakers looking to make a movie in Iran. The ruse worked to get them out of the country, an accomplishment for which he received the CIA's intelligence star for valor from President Carter.

(on camera): You're thinking about changing the way somebody looks. How do you do it?

A. MENDEZ: Well, what we do first is try to figure out what the problem is that we're trying to solve. And it's kind of like doing magic: You have to know where the audience is. And the audience may be in the round like when you're surrounded by hostile surveillance, or it may be at one vantage point.

WOODRUFF (voice-over): Mendez believes that all it takes to change one's appearance is the subtle alteration of only a few features.

A. MENDEZ: What we would do, for instance, to change a mouth line is we might give you what we call a "plumper." This happens to be an ordinary kleenex rolled up.

WOODRUFF (on camera): What do you do? You put it in the mouth to make the mouth look bigger?

A. MENDEZ: Yes, yes. And I can just show you how this would work here. You would just -- if you stuff your mouth full of paper like that, pretty soon your -- well, the first thing you can see is my speech pattern is changed.

WOODRUFF: It's changed. Are women harder than men, easier than men?

A. MENDEZ: Women have been at it much longer than men. I think women understand it, and it's a natural thing for them to do.

WOODRUFF: Alright, if you were going to change me and you had to do it in just a few minutes, what would you do?

A. MENDEZ: Well, we hadn't met before, but it's not unusual for me to suddenly have this kind of situation where they'd say, we've got to get this person out of here. And so what I would do is grab whatever's available.

WOODRUFF (voice-over): Which is essentially what Mendez did. He gave me a new jacket...

A. MENDEZ: This is a very good piece of spy gear because it's bright and it's very compressible.

WOODRUFF: ... covered up my blond hair...

A. MENDEZ: This is what we'd call a detractor.

WOODRUFF: ... and changed my gender.

A. MENDEZ: You might go out with this in your hand.

WOODRUFF (on camera): I don't have to be a woman. I can be a guy, right?

A. MENDEZ: Exactly. At this point, we don't know. We might want to use something that I made up here, which we'd call a "band-aid mustache."

WOODRUFF: That's good. I think my husband will like this.

A. MENDEZ: And the whole point of it is that this hat, nose, sunglasses and everything are highly compact.

WOODRUFF: So if I went around the corner, if I turned around and came back...


WOODRUFF: ... and whipped these off...


WOODRUFF: ... take this back, get rid of the mustache, take off the jacket really fast, if I've got less than 60 seconds to do this.

A. MENDEZ: Yes, 45 seconds is the max, by the way. I've turned into a little old lady in 45 seconds.

WOODRUFF (voice-over): Mendez has a whole bag of tricks. He has made masks like this for agents.

(on camera): What do you think? Do you think CNN would hire me?


(voice-over): Or he can do something simple like slide this package of coins into a shoe to change my gait.

A. MENDEZ: And that just lays down in the bottom there.

WOODRUFF (on camera): But normally you'd give me two, right?

A. MENDEZ: No, no, one.

WOODRUFF: You'd just give one?

A. MENDEZ: Yes, that way you're going to favor that leg. There you go. WOODRUFF: Hey, you're right about the -- it changes right away.


WOODRUFF (voice-over): This sort of deception came easy to Antonio Mendez.

A. MENDEZ: You are in the know but you can't share that other than with your fellow officers. The ability to have a strong moral compass and know the difference between a lie that you should tell and one you shouldn't is very important.

WOODRUFF: After spending their career blurring truth and fiction, many retired agents are challenged by life after the CIA.

A. MENDEZ: Initially, I think there's a long period of decompression where you're kind of bouncing around.

WOODRUFF: Mendez has focused his energies on painting, writing a book called "Master of Disguise," and spending more time with his wife, Jonna (ph), who is also a retired CIA agent and former chief of disguise.

JONNA MENDEZ, ANTONIO'S WIFE: There used to be a statistic in our office, in the office of Technical Service, that retiring was like dying because our retirees typically didn't live very long. I think 18 months was an average.

WOODRUFF (on camera): Is that right?


J. MENDEZ: It was like jumping off a speeding train, going from 100 miles an hour to zero. And people that didn't have something to go to, that didn't have a life outside of their work, they did not do well at all

WOODRUFF (voice-over): Still, 10 years after the "master of disguise" dropped his cover and picked up his paintbrushes, Antonio Mendez continues to carry a career full of memories, many that remain in the shadows.

A. MENDEZ: The operative word was intrigue, and that word was the operative word every day for 25 years. It was intriguing. And every day you got a chance to get your hand on the lever, you know, to alter the course of world events. So, it was great fun.


ANNOUNCER: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, seen in schools around the world, because learning never stops, and neither does the news.

BAKHTIAR: Tiger Woods, who won this year's U.S. Open, could be considered one of the greatest athletes of our time. So you can imagine the excitement of an 11-year-old boy when he got a private lesson from the pro golfer. The boy won a contest sponsored by the Cartoon Network, a sister network of CNN.

Brian MacMillan (ph) of CNN Student Bureau Reports.


BRIAN MACMILLAN, CNN STUDENT BUREAU (voice-over): It was a dream come true for 11-year-old Cameron Murphie.

CAMERON MURPHIE, 11-YEAR-OLD CONTEST WINNER: I got some big package in the mail. Yes, and it included a hat, a key chain and some letter saying that I had got to meet Tiger Woods and bring a couple of my friends.

MACMILLAN: Not only was he able to meet golfing sensation Tiger Woods, he also got some free lesson with him.

And what does Cameron want to learn how to do?

MURPHIE: Hit the ball.

MACMILLAN: Tiger showed the kids some of his old and new tricks, and he says that this kind of event means a lot to him.

TIGER WOODS, PRO GOLFER: It's special. Any time you get to help out these little kids and they've never played the game before. This will maybe spur them on if they want to get interested in it.

MACMILLAN: Young Cameron attends Pine Lake Middle School. And after the lesson, Tiger urged students to be good leaders and role models.

WOODS: For some reason, when you get a kid helping out a younger kid and just take them under the wing like a big brother or big sister, it's amazing what can happen, what can transpire.

MACMILLAN: After all was said and done, Cameron's mom, Margaret Murphie, says she isn't surprised that Cameron won.

MARGARET MURPHIE, CAMERON'S MOM: That's Cameron. He just -- that's how life is with Cameron: He wins things. We always want him to pick our lottery ticket.

From Issaquah, Washington, Brian MacMillan, CNN Student Bureau.


BAKHTIAR: OK, the NBA season is over, but how about some basketball trivia? Can you believe Michael Jordan was third in line during the 1984 NBA draft pick? Well, here's another good one. Who's the NBA's all-time scoring leader? That would be Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, with 38,387 points. And who's the all-time NBA rebound leader? An old-timer: Wilt Chamberlain, with 23,924 assists.

Now, name the first person of Asian descent to play professional basketball in the United States. Well, that's a toughie.

Here's Anne McDermott with the assist.


ANNE MCDERMOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 1947 and everybody was aware that Jackie Robinson was breaking baseball's color barrier. That very same year, Wat Misaka was breaking basketball's color barrier, but hardly anyone noticed. Maybe that's because Misaka, a Japanese-American from Salt Lake City, who signed a contract with the New York Knicks, only played three games.

MISAKA: Just one afternoon, Ned Irish called me in his office and told me that he had some bad news to give me.

MCDERMOTT: He's not sure why he lost his $3,000-a-year job. He said he didn't feel discriminated against. Maybe the fact that he was only 5'7" had something to do with it. But he shrugged if off.

In those days, pro basketball was nothing compared to college hoops, and he had plenty of great memories from his years with the University of Utah. In 1947, the school became the equivalent of national champs with some help from Misaka at the foul line.

MISAKA: There was less than two minutes left in the game and the score was tied, so, you know, it was getting kind of choke time. We won that game by one point.

MCDERMOTT: After his pro career fizzled, he did get another offer to play for the Harlem Globetrotters. But Misaka declined the opportunity to break another barrier and decided to go back to school.

MISAKA: Back in those days, getting your degree was a lot more important relative to playing basketball than it is now.

MCDERMOTT: But it's the basketball career of the retired engineer that's getting attention now, thanks to a new exhibit at the Japanese-American National Museum in Los Angeles. And Misaka is proud of that, but doesn't dwell in the past. The game of today, he says, is just too interesting.

MISAKA; A lot more flamboyant and fun to watch.

MCDERMOTT: He admires Shaquille O'Neal and occasionally gets off the kind of shot that the Shaq of old was once famous for.

Anne McDermott, CNN, Los Angeles.


BAKHTIAR: Well, that wraps it up for us here on NEWSROOM. We'll see you back here tomorrow same time, same place. Bye.



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