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CNN Newsroom

Aired November 30, 2001 - 04:30   ET


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

SUSAN FREIDMAN, CO-HOST: Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Susan Freidman.

SHARON FRAME, CO-HOST: And I'm Sharon Frame.

Coming up, the plight of Taliban fighters. We'll hear from one prisoner of war.

FREIDMAN: And in Washington, U.S. President Bush defends his plan to try suspected terrorists in military courts. He told a group of federal prosecutors Thursday that the U.S. must defend its liberties.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ours is a great land. And we'll always value freedom. We're an open society, but we're at war. The enemy's declared war on us, and we must not let foreign enemies use the forms of liberty to destroy liberty itself.


FREIDMAN: Further efforts to crack down on terrorism were announced Thursday by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft. He said the Justice Department will offer incentives to non-U.S. citizens to come forward with information about suspected terrorists.

Eileen O'Connor has details.


EILEEN O'CONNOR, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The attorney general is trying the carrot approach to get information from people here on temporary visas who might have overstayed their visas, and those who are abroad, perhaps wanting to come to the United States.

ASHCROFT: If information that you provide is reliable and useful, we will help you obtain a visa to reside in the United States, and ultimately become a United States citizen. O'CONNOR: Specifically, non-U.S. citizens abroad could be given a non-immigrant visa. Those already here could get the grant of a parole, or the deferral of any prosecutions relating to visa violations. But some immigration lawyers say the program is a promise without any guarantees.

DAVID ROTHWELL, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: What if what he has to say is not enough, from the government's point of view? And in saying, he has disclosed who he is and what his immigration problem is. I don't see anything that would suggest that the government is going to go leniently on people like that.

O'CONNOR: The attorney general denies it is designed as a trap.

ASHCROFT: The instruction is to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and to the embassy offices that they are not to inquire as to the immigration status of the person bringing the information. They are only to receive the information.

O'CONNOR: Still, the move comes on the heels of a memo sent to investigators conducting voluntary interviews, with mostly young men of Middle Eastern origin, here on temporary visas, about September 11th. The directive advises officials to be on guard for potential visa violations.

The memo says: "Affirmative requests provided by the FBI or the United States Attorney's Office to detain immigration violators under no bond should be honored."

This man, despite having a permanent resident visa, received an invitation like this from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Michigan for one of those interviews. He says the potential for more trouble, even if he cooperates, is giving him pause.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...can never -- I can never tell a single word that is going to be misinterpreted.

O'CONNOR: In addition, some lawyers are concerned the incentive of a visa or a parole for violators could invite false leads.

ROTHWELL: The consequences for the person that they would name could be huge. Suddenly someone gets named by an unknown source. They're drawn in. They have no bond, they have no good defenses.

O'CONNOR (on camera): Still, the attorney general says any idea like this one, designed obtain information in the fight against terrorism, is an idea he is going to try. Eileen O'Connor, CNN, Washington.



ANNOUNCER: Martha Londono from North Mills, California asks, How does the government protect our borders? MICHAEL A. PEARSON, INS, FIELD OPERATIONS: Protecting U.S. borders is the federal government's responsibility, accomplished by a number of federal agencies that work in close cooperation. The Immigration and Naturalization Service is at the forefront of that effort, with nearly 10,000 border patrol agents and 5,000 immigration inspectors dedicated to this mission. Immigration inspectors are assigned to nations more than 300 land, air and sea ports of entry, where they ensure that all of those entering the country are authorized to do so. It is a difficult task, made ever didn't by more than one half billion people, both citizens and noncitizens, who cross the border into the United States every year.

The work of the border patrol agents is no less daunting. They are charged primarily with detect preventing the unlawful entry across our land borders between the ports of entry. That is about 6,000 miles of border, excluding Alaska. To enhance their enforcement capabilities, border patrol agents and inspectors are back with high- tech equipment, including underground sensors, and long-range infrared scopes, and have access to a variety of databases that contain information on criminal and suspected terrorists.


FRAME: The father of a CIA operative killed in Afghanistan says he blames Osama bin Laden. Thirty-two-year-old Mike Spann was killed during a Taliban uprising at a prison compound in Mazar-e-Sharif on Sunday. Since the U.S.-led attacks on Afghanistan began, hundreds of Taliban fighters have surrendered to the Northern Alliance and have become prisoners of war.

Coming up, Ryan Chilcote takes us in to a prison in the city of Taloqan. CNN was given the first access to the prisoners of war being held there, and that report in a moment.

But first, Nic Robertson reports on the Taliban's resiliency.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On route to Afghanistan, a U.S. warplane leaves a tell-tale trail in the setting sun, indication of a continuing bombing campaign sources inside Kandahar describe as intense and incessant over the last 24 hours.

In contrast, armed Taliban fighters show up at the border with Pakistan for the first time in days. Pakistani officers move in to tell the Taliban fighters they can not come so close with their weapons an disarm two of them. The moments of tension and amicably, as Pakistani border guards give the Taliban fighters their rifle back.

In a further indication of a possible regrouping of Taliban forces, a Taliban jeep, registered in Mazar-e-Sharif, the northern city the Taliban recently lost to the Northern Alliance, shows up on this southern front delivering a Taliban commander, not seen here before, to a meeting with Pakistani officials.

The commander's message, when asked how negotiations to hand over the border town of Spin Boldak are going...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): As long as Mullah Mohammed Omar is alive and is the commander, we will fight for the spath (ph) and we will fight and we will sacrifice ourselves.

ROBERTSON (on camera): The lack of momentum and talks over Spin Boldak, an indication perhaps that a late night radio address Wednesday by Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar may be striking some resonance within Taliban ranks despite defections by some local commanders.

(voice-over): And with the appearance of new Taliban faces along this frontline, perhaps also a new resolve following massive losses to hold out in the face of increasing allied pressure.

Nic Robertson, CNN, on the Afghan/Pakistan border.



RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Held in this freight container, human cargo captured in the Northern Alliance's dramatic sweep through the country. They are imports, the Alliance says, from outside of Afghanistan who came to fight alongside the Taliban.

COMMANDER MAROUF, PRISON WARDEN (through translator): We have one Pakistani, one Arab and 10 Uzbeks.

CHILCOTE: These men don't know about the hundreds of their comrades who were killed after they staged an uprising that was then crushed by Northern Alliance, U.S. and British forces, and their captors want to keep it that way.

(on camera): Fearful that these prisoners may start a revolt, prison officials here have not told them what happened to the fighters that were being kept near Mazar-e-Sharif. They have also severely restricted the amount of time these men can spend outside of their cell.

(voice-over): But the prison warden let me interview a man in the jail's yard who the warden says is an Arab and a member of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network. He says he is from Afghanistan's Host (ph) province and says his name is Salejohn, an Afghan name. But he does not speak any of the tribal languages of the area, he only speaks Arabic, a language the warden speaks too.

SALEJOHN, TALIBAN PRISONER (through translator): I don't know where Osama bin Laden is and I wouldn't even know Osama bin Laden if he was standing right next to me.

CHILCOTE: Ironically, Salejohn's Arabic makes him the only one of the 12 prisoners that the guards can communicate with. It's a connection he tries to use to identify with his captors. SALEJOHN (through translator): Our commanders told us we're fighting against infidels from Russia and America. But when the Northern Alliance captured us, I didn't see anyone from the America or Russian armies, just Northern Alliance people, and they're Muslims like us.

CHILCOTE: But that might be small comfort.

From across the courtyard in separate quarters, Afghan members of the Taliban look out at their former comrades in arms. The Northern Alliance says the non-Afghan fighters are infidels and will be dealt with separately.

Ryan Chilcote, CNN, Taloqan, Afghanistan.


FRAME: The United Nations spokesman says progress is being made at talks on how to run the post-Taliban government. Now the head of the Northern Alliance delegation says his group will accept an international peacekeeping force for Afghanistan while an interim government is being formed.

Now coming up, Harris Whitbeck takes us to the streets of Afghanistan's capital for reaction to those talks.

But first, Jim Bittermann explains the challenges involved in rebuilding Afghanistan's government.


JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the German mountain top where the Afghans are gathered, it was a day of optimism and ambition. A day on which the delegates agreed to try, before they leave here, to pick not only the people who will serve on a large ruling council. But also the individuals for a national administration. A government, in effect, to run the country. Given the ethnic and tribal complexities of Afghanistan it seems an impossibly ambitious undertaking.

When I skeptically asked Yunus Qanooni, the head of the Northern Alliance group about it, he simply confirmed the delegates' goal.

YUNUS QANOONI, NORTHERN ALLIANCE: We are interested in organizing the transitional setup as soon as possible. We are making efforts so that the lists of names are prepared here.

BITTERMANN: What's more Qanooni appeared to remove a potential sticking point by saying the Alliance could accept an international peace keeping force if it's necessary to get a deal. To those not holding the cards the Northern Alliance does, an outside force for security is a critical concern to ensure there is no pressure on the new administration.

ZALMAI RASOUL, SUPPORTER OF FORMER KING: It's very important that the security of the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) administration should be neutral security force, and that's the reasons it should be acceptable to everybody, at least in the beginning, and we hope that very soon we are able -- altogether to create Afghan national security force to take over.

BITTERMANN: But security is just one of a number of complicated and time consuming issues, which must be resolved by a conference which originally was meant to end this weekend, yet the delegates seem determined.

In their days and nights gathered together here it appears those attempting to re-create their country, have come to understand what the U.N. spokesman pointed out, that the world has never paid so much attention to Afghanistan and before, and probably never will again.

And now they must act in its best interests, not their own. Jim Bittermann, CNN, Koenigswinter, Germany.



HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For the past 20 years, Nasar Salmai (ph) has run a mathematics academy in Kabul. He says he has prepared some of the best students in the country who consistently scored the highest in the national university entrance exam. But during the years of the Taliban regime attendance dropped by more than 60 percent. Many students fled the war in the city, others were too afraid to go to non-religious schools.

"They couldn't think about the future. They were very pessimistic," he says. But there is now a reason for hope, his students say they are keenly interested in the talks in Bonn about a new government.

"I'm optimistic," says 19-year-old Samil (ph). "The people are all tired of the fighting, and we don't want any more problems."

Just a few blocks down the street, a carpenter and his son also dream of a rebuilt nation.

Zakir (ph) says he looks forward to getting an education in a peaceful Afghanistan. But shopkeeper Siad Hamigola (ph) is a bit more pragmatic.

"I hope it works out," he says, "but right now every side seems to be positioning itself for its own benefit."

Years of war have left Afghans deeply skeptical of anyone who seeks power.

(on camera): So the new rulers will not only have to rebuild the country, they will also have to rebuild the trust of its people.

Harris Whitbeck, CNN, Kabul, Afghanistan.

(END VIDEOTAPE) FRAME: Rebuilding the trust of the Afghan people may be the hardest task of all. Thousands have fled their nation's borders, many hoping to escape the harsh Taliban rule. And it wasn't only women who were subjected to the Taliban's extreme rules, Afghan refugees who fled to India tell of widespread discrimination against anyone who wasn't a male Muslim mujahideen.

CNN's Maria Ressa has more from New Delhi.


MARIA RESSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Although his family lived for centuries in Afghanistan, after the Taliban took power, Mehar Singh, an Afghan Sikh, was forced to wear a yellow turban, his home given a special mark.

After the U.S. attacks began, Singh and his family fled, arriving in India a month ago. He says despite talks in Bonn, he only sees trouble ahead for Afghanistan and continuing discrimination against minorities.

"Things will never get better there," says Singh. "We've had war for 20 years, how can that end?"

There are about 11,500 Afghan refugees in India, most of them Sikhs or Hindus. Although they say life was slightly better before the Taliban, most we interviewed said they would never return.

"The people in power now are the same people who were there five years ago," says this man. "Even if things get better, these people will have the same laws and treat us the same way."

Despite that, some talk of the stability the Taliban brought in. Others said they feared a return of the warlords and the breakdown of law and order.

AUGUSTINE MAHIGA, UNHCR: There's been a lot of distraction. There is a lot of animosities and tension. There has to be a process of reconciliation before the atmosphere could be conducive for return.

"That won't happen anytime soon," says Taju (ph) Singh. "We don't think we'd be safe there so how can we go back," he asks.

He and his family have just been recognized as refugees by the U.N. But life in New Delhi will not be easy, they have no home and he has no job.

(on camera): There's little sense of a normal life for many of the refugees here. Despite the hardships their families endured over the decades, Afghanistan was home. Now they've fled but they're finding it isn't as easy to leave the memories behind.

Maria Ressa, CNN, New Delhi.

(END VIDEOTAPE) FRAME: Reporters in and around Afghanistan have been bringing us factual information about the war and stories surrounding it. Without them we would be in the dark about many aspects of this conflict. But our reporters also have personal stories of their travels, travels involving alliances, warfare, bombings and snipers.

Alessio Vinci reports on his Reporter's Notebook.


ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We arrived in Northern Afghanistan after a three-hour journey cruising the Amu-Darya River on a tugboat from the Uzbek town of Termez. I was following the first humanitarian aid shipment from Uzbekistan into Afghanistan. The country was still largely controlled by the Taliban, but the Northern Alliance had just conquered the strategic city of Mazar-e Sharif, one- hour's drive south from this border it now controlled.

For us, reaching Mazar-e Sharif was a priority. There were no international journalists in this part of Afghanistan, hard to reach because of the war and sealed borders of neighboring countries.

As we approached, the dock residents were mainly surprised to see arriving passengers. Some looked preoccupied, or even scared, and I thought, is this how the entire country feels?

Then, carefully, a few broke the silence with a cheer and applause.


The captain of our boat met a friend he had not seen in years. I was happy as they were. I had finally reached Afghanistan.

Driving to Mazar-e Sharif, I wondered if I could trust reports the city was firmly under the control of the Northern Alliance. By day, it appeared that way. Hundreds, if not thousands of armed men on patrol. The streets were bustling with people no longer worried about war or the Taliban. But there was still plenty of evidence of their rule. We soon became the biggest attraction in town, not such a good thing in a war zone.

From my hotel window, a breathtaking view of the blue mosque, the holy shrine of Ali.

By nightfall, the streets plunged into an eerie silence. I was warned about a possible Taliban counteroffensive, even though I had come to cover the aftermath of a war.

It turned out the biggest story I ended up reporting from here was one of the bloodiest battles of this war, three days of intense fighting between Northern Alliance forces and a group of Taliban prisoners who staged a revolt in Qala I Jhangi, a fort near Mazar-e Sharif.

On the second day of battle, reporters approaching the compound were met with mortar shells fired by Taliban prisoners.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go away! Turn the cameras off.

VINCI: U.S. and British special troops, in no mood to be filmed by television news crews, coordinated efforts to quell the uprising. From the outside, we could only hear the sounds of an intense battle, with bullets ricocheting just above us.

Filming a stand-up under these circumstances is not easy. But the story was inside, and CNN's cameraman Alessandro Gentile (ph) and myself climbed the fortress wall, following Northern Alliance fighters. They appeared relaxed. We were scared. And our first thought was to get out of it alive and tell the story of Qala I Jhangi.

Alessio Vinci, CNN, Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan.


FREIDMAN: The shuttle launch was postponed yesterday after a Russian ship failed to dock securely with the international space station. Once NASA is satisfied the mission can proceed however, the shuttle will deliver a fresh crew to the space station.

And when Endeavor does lift off, it will be one of the most secure shuttle takeoffs ever as Miles O'Brien explains.


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Space travel has always been risky business. But these days at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, there are some new dangers looming. This is the first shuttle launch since September 11th, and the space agency is taking some extreme measures to insure Endeavor and her seven-person crew lift off the pad safely and sound.

MAJ. MIKE REIN, AIR FORCE SPOKESMAN: All of our national space assets are very important to America, and the shuttle is the star of the fleet. And, we need to protect our access to space.

O'BRIEN: An Air Force mobile air traffic control squadron set up shop on Cape Canaveral Air Station shortly after the terror attacks. Its high-powered radar scanning a 200-mile radius.

LT. COL. RANDY NELSON, 728TH AIR CONTROL SQUADRON: In communications, the data-linking capability that we provide to the decision makers both up and down channel is literally instantaneous.

O'BRIEN: Airspace around a shuttle launch has always been restricted. Private planes were allowed no closer than five nautical miles from the pad. For this launch, the map has been re-drawn. General aviation banned for 30 nautical miles, and from 30 to 40 miles, private planes will be allowed only with permission and with close contact to air traffic control.

Fighter jets will be there in case a plane goes astray. Last month, they escorted the $2 Billion shuttle to the pad. But don't ask when and where they will be during the launch. Such is the nature of security measures, of course.

(on camera): Simply talking about them undermines their efficacy. But this much is clearly evident. The shuttle is a high profile icon of American technological achievement. And when fully fueled with a half million gallons of liquid hydrogen and oxygen, it has the explosive force of a small nuclear bomb. In short, it is a very tempting target for terrorists.

(voice-over): Nasa is thinking about human targets as well. When the astronauts march out to the launch pad, the public and media will not be there to wish them well as usual. Just one more way the space agency hopes to ensure things do, in fact, go well.

Miles O'Brien, CNN, at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida.


FREIDMAN: Long lines, delays, canceled flights and this was air travel before September 11. Add nervousness to that list these days. Many are having a much harder time traveling by air now. Management at one airport realized this and with the help of some children, decided to do something about it.

Mark Potter has more.


MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With the National Guard on patrol and security at high alert, airports are uneasy places now for holiday travelers. But in Miami, a bit of relief is on the way, for those who take time to look.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: See? And then you do a light coating of blue, and then you do white over it.

POTTER: The plan involves children's art, which will be displayed in an airport terminal. The idea is to soothe travelers' nerves by presenting a still gentle world through young eyes. Nicoya Hudson's painting is called "Your Heart Is in Safety."

NICOYA HUDSON, STUDENT: I'm just really drawing a heart that says something so they won't feel bad when they go to airports. And then I just draw an American flag around it, for some reason.

POTTER: The idea came from Yolanda Sanchez, the director of airport fine arts and cultural affairs at Miami International. Children in Oakland, Los Angeles, and Miami-Dade County were asked to honor and comfort those who suffered or were lost in New York and Washington.

YOLANDA SANCHEZ, MIAMI AIRPORT ART DIRECTOR: We specifically wanted artwork that emphasizes positive values: family, patriotism, love. POTTER: What she received is an impressive collection of artistic emotion from children of all ages. Seventy works will be framed and put on display, right before the Christmas rush.

SANCHEZ: Children's art is so pure. It's so unadulterated. Picasso said it took him a whole lifetime to learn how to draw like a child again.

POTTER: Some of the children wrote messages to explain their work. A Fifth-grader who used to live near the World Trade Center mourned its loss.

SANCHEZ: "When I was born, my family and myself moved, taking a beautiful memory. When I would return to visit some day, that beautiful sight will no longer be because someone without feelings or values tried to take them from us. But in my dream, they will always be there for me.

POTTER: Comfort for weary and nervous travelers from children who can still dream and see the world as a good and decent place.

Mark Potter, CNN, Miami.


FREIDMAN: As part of U.S. humanitarian aid efforts, President Bush has created America's Fund for Afghan Children. In doing so, Mr. Bush called on American children to be the biggest donors. Now some kids in Indiana are answering that call, proving that what's in your heart is worth even more than what's in your bank account.

CNN's Student Bureau reporter Kylie Gandolf has the story.


MONICA WHITTED, TEACHER: All right, we're going to continue our lesson about Afghanistan by first starting...

KYLIE GANDOLF, CNN STUDENT BUREAU (voice-over): This is one lesson Monica Whitted never expected to teach her third grade class.

WHITTED: And we're going to do a little experiment, you are going to be children of Afghanistan.

JOEY HUDSON, AGE 9: They don't have clean water, and they don't have no medicine.

WHITTED: You put these on, you now have no clean water to drink. You will just have to suffer when you're thirsty.

GANDOLF (on camera): Mrs. Whitted teaches her students what it would be like if they lived in Afghanistan. She gives them these tags which tell them about the kind of problems they would have if they lived in Afghanistan.

(voice-over): Before the lesson ends, the students listen to a recording of President Bush during a press conference.

BUSH: Before you leave, I want to make a special request to the children of America.

JONATHAN BISHOP, AGE 8: He told every kid in America to send $1 to Afghanistan.

GANDOLF: On this afternoon, these third graders earn their dollars to send to Afghanistan by having a bake sale.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got dollars (ph). We got dollars (ph). (UNINTELLIGIBLE) it all right now.

WHITTED: Some people think third graders well it (ph) can't make a difference in Afghanistan, why don't we try and see what happens?

ALYSA JONES, AGE 8: They can help Afghanistan with the stuff, like they don't have food and water and everything.

GANDOLF: They track their goal of $1 each, but it soon becomes clear they'll surpass that amount.

WHITTED: Just found out $168 is their total, and he's still going so I'm looking at $200 I think.

BISHOP: I think that's a lot of money.

UNIDENTIFIED BOYS: We're going to send it to Washington, D.C.

DEVIN ICE, AGE 9: And they're going to send it to (ph) Afghanistan. They're going to buy medicine and all that.

GANDOLF: The students earn over $200, but no matter how much money is raised, they know it (ph) sometimes it's just not enough.

WILLIAM CARMICHAEL, AGE 9: Well if I can do anything to help them, I'm going to try (ph) to bring them to America so they can get fed and all that stuff.

GANDOLF: Mrs. Whitted says today's lesson goes beyond just helping others, it's also a lesson on having faith.

WHITTED: You never know until you try. That's just always been important in my life. I think it's a wonderful lesson, and I just want to pass that on to my kids.

GANDOLF: A life lesson learned in the third grade.



GANDOLF: Kylie Gandolf, CNN Student Bureau, Alexandria, Indiana.


FRAME: And boy, what a nice way to end our show, huh?

FREIDMAN: It sure is.

It's also the end of our week, so have a great weekend and I'll see you next Monday.

FRAME: Bye-bye, everybody, take care.




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