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CNN CROSSFIRE

Kidnapped Journalist is Confirmed Dead

Aired February 21, 2002 - 19:30   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Tonight, "Wall Street Journal" reporter Daniel Pearl is confirmed dead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL STEIGER, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": His murder is an act of barbarism. It makes a mockery of everything that Danny's kidnappers claim to believe in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: Should the U.S. government negotiate with hostage takers?

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press. On the right, Tucker Carlson. In the crossfire, former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger and former FBI hostage negotiator Danny Coulson. And then, Associated Press reporter Ian Stewart.

CARLSON: Good evening and welcome to CROSSFIRE. The U.S. government confirmed tonight that "Wall Street Journal" reporter Daniel Pearl has been murdered by captors in Pakistan. For more on this breaking story, we go to CNN's Chris Burns in Karachi.

Chris? We've heard a number of times, twice before, that Daniel Pearl was killed. Are we certain it's true this time and what's the evidence it is?

CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well certainly the evidence is very obvious at this point because it was a videotape that was given or somehow acquired by authorities. That videotape, according to a statement by authorities here, says that it was a recorded video that contains scenes showing Mr. Daniel Pearl in captivity and scenes of his murder by the kidnappers.

The tape appears to be correct. A chilling statement by authorities here, confirming that this is indeed the case. In contrast to about a week or two ago, when authorities said that they had -- some authorities thought that they had found the body of Daniel Pearl. That was not the case. This time it is chillingly correct. Back to you.

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Chris, let me ask you about the kidnappers. The Pakistani government said they were on their trail, yet they were unable to find them before Daniel Pearl was killed. What confidence do we have that they'll be able to round them up now and bring them to justice?

BURNS: Well, when you talk to people close the investigation in recent days, before of course the dreadful news, they had said that they were making a lot of progress, that they had very quickly identified the main, the key suspect, the man believed to be the mastermind behind all of this, Sheik Omar Saeed. He is in custody. And the gentlemen who are accused of sending the e-mails with the pictures previously of Daniel Pearl, showing him in captivity with a gun to his head, also with an e-mail demanding the U.S. release Pakistani prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay after the Afghan conflict.

That -- in fact, the main person who sent that was heard by a court earlier today in which he said, Fahim Nassim said that he had sent that e-mail, that he had worked with Sheik Omar Saeed, that Omar Saeed had actually given him the money to buy the camera, with which to take the picture of Daniel Pearl. And also, he received a scanner to scan the pictures and put on the Internet. So that there had been quite a bit of progress made.

There was a nationwide dragnet. Dozens of people detained, even some of their families. So quite a bit of an effort across the country, this country of more than 140 million people. So very, very difficult to conduct this. And authorities had been saying that they were making a lot of progress, however, the trail had gone cold in recent days as far as actually trying to find Daniel Pearl.

Back to you.

CARLSON: OK. Chris Burns in Karachi, Pakistan. Thanks, Chris.

In the wake of this tragedy, there will be calls to rethink the way the U.S. government handles kidnappings. For years the policy has been clear, no ransom for hostages. That may be changing. Administration officials tell CNN that the government may now be willing to pay for the release of American citizens. About time? Or will the lure of big money only draw more kidnappers? That's our debate tonight -- Bill Press.

PRESS: Mr. Secretary, let me begin with you. It's not so long that we debated, you and I and Tucker, this issue with Reverend Jesse Jackson.

LAWRENCE EAGLEBURGER, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE: Right.

PRESS: And I want to ask you, Mr. Secretary, since you learned of the death of Daniel Pearl today, have you stopped to think that maybe, had we been willing to negotiate with his captors, Danny Pearl might be alive tonight and in fact free?

EAGLEBURGER: I think there are two answers to that question. One, since I don't know and I'm not at all clear that anybody else does -- know exactly who the kidnappers were, it's hard to figure out how you would negotiate with them, but maybe that would be possible. In terms of thinking again about the question of whether, if we had negotiated, he might still be alive, assuming that we could find out who to negotiate with, it might be that he would still be alive if we were prepared to negotiate.

Having said that and demonstrating the ogre that I am, I am still firmly of the belief that the United States government, I emphasize, the United States government should never negotiate with terrorists. If a company, if a private organization wants to negotiate, that's their business. The U.S. government should not.

PRESS: But Mr. Secretary, didn't we learn today that this unyielding principle only results in one thing. And that is, that good people die?

EAGLEBURGER: Look, my friend. Certainly in this case that's true, but what you can't argue about because we don't have any evidence of it one way or the other, but nevertheless, I believe it, is if you begin this process of negotiation, you are simply, and particularly if you then payoff, you are simply inviting others to do the same thing to us in the hopes that they can get then get us to negotiate with them.

Now I know that there will be those experts probably on this program, who will argue with that, but I had still contend that once you start down this road, you open yourself to all sorts of problems. Are we going to negotiate every time an American citizen is captured or kidnapped somewhere? I doubt that we could do it.

CARLSON: Mr. Coulson, thanks for joining us. CNN has just a received a statement from the Justice Department. In it, the Attorney General John Ashcroft says that the United States will bring to justice terrorists responsible for harming American citizens. Doubtless, that's within the reach of the U.S. government. That will probably happen.

What could the U.S. government have done, however, before this tragedy? What possibly could the U.S. government have done to win the release of Danny Pearl?

DANNY COULSON, FMR. FBI HOSTAGE NEGOTIATOR: Well first place, let me just clear up something. We do negotiate with terrorists. We've been doing it since the early '80s. The question is not do we negotiate. The question is do we capitulate?

To say we don't negotiate with terrorists is just not accurate. I have done it. The FBI has been negotiating with them for, like I said from the '80s. And it's something you have to do. You have to establish a dialogue to find out who has the individual. And sometimes the negotiations create an unbelievable treasure trove of intelligence that actually helps you locate them.

That is not the issue. The issue is do you capitulate? Now with regard to what they could have done, the government really is powerless to control the actions of people in the media. They're looking for stories. They have people that want to talk to them. And I think the media has to take some -- learn a lesson from this that they have to be very careful because they're not journalists anymore. First of all, they're Americans. And these adversaries that we have over there view them as potential targets.

So they need to change the way they do business. And it's sort of up to the media to sort of take care of themselves. The government's not going to do it and doesn't have the capability of doing it.

CARLSON: Right, but there are calls now for the government to get involved. And there are also indications from the federal government that it will negotiate or take extra steps to free Americans, journalists or not, when they're taken abroad.

My question again, what in this case possibly could the government have done? I mean, the demands were so radical, it was not possible to accede to them. Should the U.S. government have stepped in and paid off the kidnappers in an attempt to get them back?

COULSON: I don't think they asked for money here. As you said, they asked for things we're not willing to give up. But that doesn't mean you don't talk to them. You have to remember we're at the mercy of the Pakistani government. All we can offer and the government did offer it. The FBI agents go over there and assist in the process, assist in technical type of coverages and the things the FBI does very well.

I think the government did about all it could, especially considering that we're operate in a foreign country that's sovereign and we have not right to go in and conduct an investigation, just to give them advice.

PRESS: Let me ask you, Mr. Eagleburger, about this new administration policy. The White House has adopted a policy. It's not clear to me exactly what it means, but it says it's a new policy for the United States that the United States will consider taking action, any time an American is taken captive overseas. It doesn't have to be anymore a U.S. official.

And it says, considered taking action is left wide open. The way you read it, had that policy been in place, would we, for example, have sent Marines in to get Danny Pearl free? Is that what the policy means now?

EAGLEBURGER: Well, that's why I think it's very hard to define the policy, so-called as you say, because it's fairly clear we're not, in most cases at least, assuming we even knew where the hostage was. In most cases, we're not going to send troops into a foreign country, at least not without the permission of the government, to try to get these hostages freed.

So I'm not sure what the policy means. If what it means is that we will search these people out afterward, if we can, and again, depending on the circumstances, that we will try to search them out afterward and bring them to justice, that's one thing. If what we're talking about is what you postulate, I think it's very dangerous. PRESS: Well, the way I read it, it's we go after them while they're still in captivity. That seems to be the policy, but I want to ask you about another part of it. It does urge, urge is the word, it urges companies and individuals not to pay ransom, but it doesn't prohibit them. And Mr. Coulson has indicated that sometimes even the United States is in there negotiating. So are we in a situation where we say one thing and do another?

EAGLEBURGER: Well, we have been on occasion in the past, yes. There's no question about that. including the famous case of -- in President Reagan's term with the -- in the Lebanese case, but the answer as far as I'm concerned is, a point is well made when they say, talk to these people, but I have problems with is if all you're going to do is talk and not capitulate, as has been put to us here, that may be possible, but it's a slippery slope. I'd prefer not to even do that.

Whether it's been done in the past or not is irrelevant, in terms of my concerns about where it leads us. And what I'm beginning to hear from this administration, and I don't much like it, is that we're going to start down that path. And again, I have to ask the question, are we going to do this for every single American citizen who may at any point be kidnapped? I think there is a point that was made here earlier, which is this is a tragic situation.

But a news man, like a diplomat, like I used to be, you take a special risk. And I don't think you can ask that the government of the United States get into the business of negotiating, to try to get you out of a jam you may get into. That's part of the risk of the profession.

CARLSON: Now Mr. Coulson, the federal government, U.S. government doesn't payoff kidnappers, but private groups, of course, do. And I'm wondering -- it seems clear to me that that encourages kidnapping. I mean, if we're sending -- if private individuals are sending hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars a year to Latin America to free people who have been kidnapped, doesn't that encourage other people to go into the business?

COULSON: Well, in fact, it does. And that's -- it's a two edge sword. If you pay a kidnapper ransom, you're likely to get your principal back. But that encourages them to kidnap other people. It's a growth industry in Latin America. And it sounds like the way things are going other parts of the world, that it's going to be a growth industry all over the world. And people just have to be very careful, but I'd like to reiterate that is not a new policy.

We've been doing this for decades. We've handled them in Russia with the KGB. We've handled them in Latin America. We've had agents in Latin American negotiating. And I know it's a new stated policy, but in practice, it's been going on for a long time.

CARLSON: Well, then, isn't it -- I mean, you've admitted it, that isn't it, therefore, irresponsible of private groups of companies, often composed of former FBI agents to facilitate payoffs to kidnappers? COULSON: Yes, it may very well be, but you have to look at the interests of that company. They're thinking about the immediate problem. They have a cohort, a comrade that's been taken. And they have the ability to get him out. It's human nature. They're going to do it.

I'm not saying I support it. I'm saying it's a fact of life that they will do it. And it's just something they're going to do. They have the money to pay them off and they do it. It's not always a good idea, but, you know, they're in charge. There's not a law that precludes them from doing that. And we have to remember that.

EAGLEBURGER: Nor should there be, if I may, just one minute.

COULSON: Yes, I agree.

EAGLEBURGER: I don't think we should ever make it illegal for a company to pay off. That really has to be their problem, not something we should make illegal.

COULSON: I completely agree.

PRESS: Mr. Secretary, let me just jump to, quickly, to what this says about the Musharraf government. This is a government that we put our trust in. We trusted them to get these captors. We trusted them to got Danny Pearl.

President Musharraf was over here about 10 days ago. He was saying Danny Pearl, he was sure was alive, and they were on the verge of closing in and freeing him. They obviously couldn't deliver. Is our trust in these people misplaced? Do they have control of this country?

EAGLEBURGER: All right, now you're really pushing me here to say something that I will say, but I want to be careful how I say it. The broader interests of the United States, it seems to me, clearly make it imperative that we have a relationship with the Musharraf government.

The Pakistanis have been terribly helpful on the whole Afghan thing. Much as I think they did not do well on this particular case, or at least they didn't meet their promise, that does not lead me to say therefore we have put too much trust in that government. We've got other fish to fry, too.

PRESS: OK, you make that point very clear. Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for joining us. Danny Coulson, thank you for being there.

COULSON: Thank you.

PRESS: CROSSFIRE continues on this same topic. And when we come back, journalists must know what risks they're taking, so why do they take them? We'll talk to former agent reporter, Ian Stewart, who also became a casualty of the war he was covering.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All around the world, American journalists and humanitarian aid workers and diplomats and others do important work in places that are sometimes dangerous.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESS: President Bush's comments on the death of Danny Pearl. His death brings the number of journalists killed so far in the war on terror to nine, more than the number of U.S. soldiers killed so far.

Reporters go to war zones, knowing the danger, and they take unusual risks once they get there to follow the story. But why do they do it and is it worth it?

We turn for insights to longtime AP reporter Ian Stewart, who as ambushed by rebels who are covering the war in Sierra Leone, shot in the head, and survived. And he's written a book about it. Comes out next month. It's called "Freetown Ambush: A Reporter's Year in Africa" -- Tucker.

CARLSON: Ian Stewart, thanks for joining us.

IAN STEWART, AUTHOR: My pleasure.

CARLSON: You were shot. Your cameraman was killed. Did you have any sense of the danger you were facing, covering the war in Sierra Leone?

STEWART: We did. I think any journalist going into a dangerous war zone has to be aware that it's a vitally -- extremely dangerous job that we do. But nevertheless, we have to do it. Somebody has to do this work.

PRESS: Ian, Michael Gartner, there was a forum in Europe a couple of months ago, former president of NBC was asked about this risk taking that journalists take. And many, many do it, like yourself did. His comment was "No video, no story, no words are worth dying for." Do you agree? And if you agree, why did you put yourself in such danger?

STEWART: I agree completely. I don't think any story is worth dying for. There are stories that are worth taking risks for, however. And I think in the case of Afghanistan and Pakistan and what's going on with the war on terrorism, that's a perfect example where the risk is worth taking. I mean, we have to know the information that's going on in these parts of the world. And people have to take risks to cover them.

CARLSON: Now explain to us the motivation? You're going to Sierra Leone or to any war zone. You know it's possible that you might be heard or killed. Why do you do it? Do you do it to tell a story? Do you do it because you want to see history? Do you do it for the thrill? Break it down for us. STEWART: I think really in my case, what I was doing was trying to defend the people. I mean, so many places that I've been to, from Sierra Leone to Cambodia and Congo, these people are just completely disenfranchised. They have no voice in the world. And as journalists, we have a responsibility to give these people a voice to hopefully invoke the rest of the world to defend them when they can't defend themselves.

PRESS: But didn't you really push the envelope? I mean, your bosses at Associated Press probably didn't tell you get into a situation where you could get ambushed and shot. I mean, you made that decision in the field, didn't you?

STEWART: I did. The AP has never said to anyone to -- you have to go to war zone. In my case, I knew the risks and I knew that it was very dangerous. But I chose, I couldn't -- I knew that I wouldn't be able to live with myself, knowing what these rebels were doing in Sierra Leone if I didn't do my best to go in and try to tell their story.

CARLSON: In your telling it, it almost sounds like a political mission to go in and give voice to the voiceless. Do you mean it like that? Or do you mean you just wanted to tell the story because it was there? Or do you think that reporters have a responsibility to speak up for those who can't speak?

STEWART: I think responsibility is a good word. I don't know that I would like to call it a political mission. I think in my case it was moral mission. I mean, we're all human beings. And what's going on in Sierra Leone and in Afghanistan and in Pakistan are often results of situations that we created, we in the West created. And I think as journalists, we have a responsibility to go in and tell is the rest of the world what's the result of what our actions are.

PRESS: Looking back at your own experience, Ian, do you think that you took some unnecessary risks? And do you they can Danny Pearl did?

STEWART: I don't think they were unnecessary. I think they're very unfortunate consequences. I would never want to be hurt the way I was again. And certainly in Danny's case, his death is just horrific. I mean, it's an absolute example of where the people that killed him are just sheer cowards. And they're fighting the war against journalists, rather than against their real targets. So I think they're killing the messenger. And that's just abominable.

CARLSON: And speaking of the killers, what about the men who shot you and who killed your cameraman? Were they ever caught?

STEWART: They were killed right away, immediately after I was shot, they were killed.

PRESS: Do you think that the United States government did enough to try do get Danny Pearl free? Should they have done more?

STEWART: I think the United States did what they could. It was a very difficult situation, I think. Having to rely on Pakistan as a go-between, it makes it extremely difficult, but I think the United States did what they had to do.

PRESS: Do you think it's going to make any difference, Ian now, in your life or the lives of other journalists to go off into war zones? They're going to be more careful now?

STEWART: I think they will. I mean it's just a very sobering example, but this isn't the first time. Journalists have been dying for decades. I mean, we all know the risks when we get into these war zones, but nevertheless, there's always going to be a certain corps of reporters that say it's worth the risk. And I'm willing to do it. And that's very important that we have those people.

CARLSON: Amen. Ian Stewart, Associated Press, thanks very much for joining us. We appreciate it.

STEWART: My pleasure.

PRESS: Thanks, Ian.

CARLSON: They're at the scene of history, while there's still smoke in the air. They head to the frontlines unarmed. They spend their lives bringing news to the world. And sometimes, they're killed doing it. Journalists. What drives them? Our closing comments are next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: I was in Pakistan a couple months ago. And I was in a van full of journalists on the way to a demonstration after Friday prayers. There were police roadblocks, smoke in there. People were screaming, setting things on fire. It seemed like a violent situation, and sort of was.

And I have to say the reporters in the van I was in were cheery and relaxed and totally focused. I was a little concerned, but it just underscored the bravest people I have ever met, outside the military, are journalists. And I don't think enough people know that.

PRESS: I think that's absolutely right. You know, most wars, when you think about it, we would not really know what's going on unless there were journalists like Danny Pearl and Ian Stewart, I guess, who are willing to put themselves on the line, to go in there, to go into some dangerous places and report back to us.

CARLSON: Would not really know what's going on? Do you know what our experience in Afghanistan would be? It would be a grainy black and white picture...

PRESS: Yes, exactly.

CARLSON: ....that you couldn't even understand what it is. And...

PRESS: And I salute those who do it. I've not been a war correspondent. I went to Croatia, to cover when the war in Croatia. I promised everybody I would not go to the war zone. Of course, I did. I was there when they started shelling Bukabar (ph). I could not, not do it. It's in your blood. And something drives you to it. And that's what makes a great reporter, I guess.

CARLSON: So the next time you hear someone beating up on the media. Think about that.

PRESS: Come to their defense and think of Danny Pearl.

CARLSON: Amen.

PRESS: I'm Bill Press. Good-night for CROSSFIRE> See you tomorrow night.

CARLSON: And I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow night, Friday night, for another edition of CROSSFIRE. See you then.

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