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CNN NEWSNIGHT AARON BROWN

Terror on Tape: Bin Laden's Declaration of War on America

Aired August 20, 2002 - 22:00   ET

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


AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, again everyone, it's nice to be back in New York.
It seems that this is our week to use this space to talk about journalism. And tonight's issue is tricky in some respects, because it involves money, and the tapes, the al Qaeda tapes, that we have been running since Sunday night. We paid for the tapes. We didn't pay a lot of money in the scheme of things, about $30,000 for hundreds of hours of tape, but there should be no doubt we absolutely paid for them, that's the fact. Now here's the context, and it's important. News organizations pay for tape all the time. Newspapers buy pictures, TV networks pay people for video. We bought pictures of planes hitting the Trade Center towers, and when we found someone who had better pictures than the first set we bought, we paid for those pictures too. We pay for pictures of tornadoes, of police beatings, Rodney King, for example, all sorts of things in a day when it sometimes seems like everyone has a video camera. It is routine for us. Producers and correspondents in the field are authorized, within limits, to buy tape on the spot if they feel it is legit and its newsworthy.

What is not routine here, obviously, are the tapes that we bought. They are extraordinary. It is not surprising that our acquisition of them, and apparently a similar batch obtained by CBS News has created somewhat of a stir. I can tell you that CNN, and I believe CBS as well, took great care and caution to make sure that the money we paid did not end up in the hands of al Qaeda. Which leads me to the problem.

I can't tell you much more than that, and this goes beyond a basic journalistic principle of protecting a source. To say more, to tell you how this transaction was made, who the conduits were, how we checked them out, to say any of that runs the risk of endangering not just them but our own people, my friends and colleagues on the ground, in some pretty nasty places.

Neither I, nor CNN, will say or do anything that could place their lives in greater risk than they already are. Look, at some point the relationship we have, me and you, the network and you, this relationship has to be based on trust. You have to trust that we report carefully. You have to trust that we use the power that is a network of this size and scope properly, and you have to trust in our good judgment and in our honesty. And this is one of those times.

We'll have more on the tapes themselves later, but "The Whip" begins at the Pentagon, starting with Barbara Starr. The reaction on a story we first reported last night about a possible covert operation in northern Iraq that had been talked about within the Bush administration.

Barbara, today's headline please.

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No public reaction to that canceled military mission. But the Pentagon still had plenty to say about Saddam Hussein - Aaron.

BROWN: Barbara, thank you, back with you in just a moment. This I know is a first, a member of CNN's senior management is in "The Whip." Oh my goodness, sometimes executives can be reporters too, Eason Jordan is in Baghdad, tonight. He directs news coverage for us.

Mr. Jordan, a headline, please?

EASON JORDAN, CNN CHIEF NEWS EXECUTIVE: Yes, indeed, Aaron. From the Iraqi capital tonight, tough talk, taunts and threats directed against the Bush administration with one Iraqi official here calling President Bush, I quote, "an idiot." And this official going on to say, if there's going to be a ground war, let's get it on, and let's get it over with. The U.S. will be defeated - Aaron.

BROWN: Eason, thank you, back to you shortly. "The Whip" seems to be dominated tonight by stories involving Iraq, so we go to Berlin next, where there was a siege today at the Iraqi embassy there. Gaven Morris is covering that.

So Gaven, a headline from you tonight.

GAVEN MORRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The siege ends peacefully with the four hostages released without harm. But already the speculation has begun just what motivated the obscure group that sparked today's security scare - Aaron.

BROWN: Gaven, thank you, back with all of you shortly. Also coming up on the program, correspondent Kelli Arena from the Justice Department trying to save one of the most widely criticized ideas in the war on terror, operation TIPS. Opponents say it would turn average citizens into domestic spies.

They often say journalists write the first draft of history, we think this draft is about as good as it gets. The words and the pictures of 9/11 from "The New York Times." We'll talk with a couple of contributors to a new book called, "A Nation Challenged."

And, one conservative compared it to forcing students to read "Mein Kampf," in 1941. Inflammatory words from a story that seems far more complex to us than that. Should a group of college freshmen have to read a book about the Koran.

All that and Jim Lehrer of "THE NEWSHOUR" with us tonight. So it's a very full hour.

We begin with a number of stories dealing with Iraq. The first comes out of the Pentagon. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, who chooses his words very carefully, today came very close to saying, Saddam Hussein is supporting and harboring al Qaeda. His remarks came in response to a question about a story we first reported last night about military plans to take out a suspected poison factory in the northern part of Iraq, a place with possible connections to al Qaeda. The defense secretary was asked what evidence he has that Saddam is hosting, supporting and sponsoring al Qaeda. Here again is CNN's Barbara Starr. Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld strongly maintained that there are al Qaeda in Iraq, and that Saddam

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld strongly maintained there are al Qaeda in Iraq and that Saddam Hussein knows all about it.

DONALD RUMSFELD, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: In a vicious repressive dictatorship that exercises near total control over its population, it's very hard to imagine that the government is not aware of what is taking place in the country.

STARR: But the secretary refused to discuss any plans to launch a covert mission against a facility in northern Iraq, where Kurdish militants affiliated with the al Qaeda were suspected of testing chemical and biological agents. Sources say the site, where the poison agent Ricin was tested, has now likely been disbanded and any plan to attack it now withdrawn. It was a primitive facility in the part of northern Iraq not controlled by Saddam Hussein.

All the secretary would say is that he doesn't buy the notion that the Iraqi president was unaware of the al Qaeda activity.

RUMSFELD: What I have said is a fact, that there are al Qaeda in a number of locations in Iraq, and the suggestion that those people who are so attentive in denying human rights to their population aren't aware of where these folks are, or what they are doing, is ludicrous.

STARR: But Rumsfeld did not make a direct link that the presence of al Qaeda inside Iraq would result in a U.S. attack, and he would only answer hypothetically when asked about the policy of launching preemptive strikes, emphasizing that his answer did not involve Iraq.

RUMSFELD: And in weighing the things, you'd have to make a judgment, or net. Do you think that you're acting most responsibly by avoiding the threat that could be characterized, X numbers of people dying, innocent people. And its that kind of an evaluation one would have to make.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: So no movement today on the question of when the United States might launch a military attack against Iraq, but this chapter is far from closed. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will meet with the president tomorrow at the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas, along with the rest of the national security team to discuss military spending and national missile defense. We're told that Iraq is not on that agenda - Aaron. BROWN: For those of who all remember the build-up to the Gulf War, there was the long build-up, the United States moved hundreds of thousands, and the allies moved hundreds of thousands of troops in. Wouldn't there be something similar that would at least give us some idea that the country was on the move, it's not going to happen overnight, is it?

STARR: Well, Secretary Rumsfeld actually would much prefer that it would happen overnight. His view, and the view of most military leaders today is that Desert Storm was over a decade ago, and that day and age has passed, that the U.S. military would never again have the luxury of having a six-month build-up. Their concern of course is if they do start some sort of build-up, this would back Saddam into corner. He might react by launching some type of weapon, perhaps against Israel, forcing Israel to react. So it's really the great military dilemma at the moment. If you are going to launch an attack against Iraq, something sufficient to result in a regime change to get Saddam out of power, how do you do that without giving him any advance warning. It's a real challenge at the moment.

BROWN: Barbara, thank you, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

This issue of Iraq has no shortage of challenges. The president's effort to line up allies against Iraq hit another stone today. The Canadian government said it is not likely to take part in a military action unless the United States builds a stronger case for war.

But, oddly enough, and we've seen this happen before, the Iraqis may turn out to be their own worst enemies in that regard. Today, a senior Iraqi official said it would be foolish for Iraq to let U.N. weapons inspectors back in the country. This is one time when I don't want to steal the lead, I'd be taking it from one of my bosses, so we'll go back to CNN's chief news executive Eason Jordan who is in Baghdad tonight.

Eason, good evening. Again.

JORDAN: Hello, Aaron. Well, indeed, yes, that senior official was one of many cabinet officials I met here in Iraq over the past four days. I've met with officials all across the spectrum and actual there's not much of a spectrum. They all say pretty much the same thing. They're all members of the president, Saddam Hussein's high command in Iraq. They say that they fully expect war, they're ready for war and they're confident of victory.

But they have some very tough talk for Washington and for the Bush administration in hiding behind the cloak of anonymity. They don't want their names to be used. They had called President Bush an idiot. They say that he's in the hands of the Zionists. They say he's a puppet of Ariel Sharon, the prime minister of Israel. Although Israel, in fact, in this country, is effectively a banned word. This country does not recognize the right of Israel to exist.

On the U.N. weapon inspections, the leadership here basically sees this as no-win proposition. They are not prepared to go back to square one, to basically welcome the inspectors back, and say, start where you like, end whenever you want, go where ever you want to go. The Iraqis just say this is not tenable, it's not acceptable. And they won't have it. This official, as you said, said it would be foolish to allow that to go forward. And this official accused Hans Blix, the U.N. chief weapons inspector, of being a tool of the United States, and an official in the U.N. who is being blackmailed by the U.S. government.

I should also point out the senior official said, quote, "we would appreciate it," if the U.S. would invade Iraq on the ground, because the Iraqi military would relish a fight on the ground, a fight the Iraqi military is confident of winning.

Here in Iraq, people are prepared for war. They have been stocking up on food supplies. I met last night with the trade minister who said that the government has doubled the ration amounts of food for Iraqi citizens. And people are out buying food and preparing for the worst while hoping for the best - Aaron.

BROWN: Let me throw out a couple of questions, the first one that I suspect has occurred to viewers here, why is the senior news gathering executive for the Cable News Network in Baghdad at all?

JORDAN: Aaron, this is trip number 12 for me since the end of the Gulf War 11 years ago. We have a very, very tough time here in Iraq. There had been officials in the government who have accused me of being a CIA agent, accused my colleagues of being CIA agents. We've been in very tough spots here. CNN has been banned for periods of time from Iraq altogether. Today, just in the last few hours, I've learned that there are a number of CNN journalists who have been banned from Iraq. They're not allowed to return here. We would like to have our own satellite transmissions from in Iraq, for example, bypassing intermediaries, and that for now has been rejected. So it's a real fight that we have to keep here in Baghdad to continue reporting for you and for our viewers all over the world.

BROWN: All right. Now back to the substance of these meetings. When these people say, we would relish a ground war against the United States, essentially, bring it on, have they lost - is their memory short? Do they not remember what happened 10 years ago?

JORDAN: Aaron, they have a very clear recollection of what happened 10 years ago. But they also have never faced a situation where the U.S. government is trying to overthrow the regime here. So it's a fight for their lives, it's not a fight over Kuwait. It's a fight for their survival. And they're absolutely determined to play this one out to the very end and win this one in a big way on the ground. They don't think the U.S. has the stomach for a fight in Baghdad in the capital city of Iraq.

BROWN: Eason, thanks, Eason Jordan, who's in Baghdad tonight. Appreciate your work.

One other development concerning Iraq, and it took place in Germany. It is causing complications in Washington, and confusion just about everywhere, about who it was who stormed the Iraqi embassy in Berlin, and why they did it. Here again with that is CNN's Gaven Morris.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MORRIS (voice-over): From the beginning, Berlin's authorities described the occupation as a dangerous incident. Within half an hour of the first report of a disturbance at Iraq's embassy, a hundred armed officers were on hand. Five men had burst in to the building, and taken four hostages.

JOERG NITTMAN, BERLIN POLICE SPOKESMAN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): There are injured people, two of them lightly wounded, I can't say anything about the degree.

MORRIS: A previously unknown group calling itself the Democratic Iraqi Opposition of Germany claimed the occupation as a peaceful protest, it said, the first step towards the liberation of Iraq. Its aim, the downfall of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi National Congress, broadly recognized as the opposition in exile, condemned the embassy attack but not without some empathy.

ENTIFADH QANBAR, IRAQI NATIONAL CONGRESS: Iraqis in Germany are frustrated with the policies of the German government and their resistance to liberate Iraq. And I think they tried to voice their wishes out through this action.

MORRIS: Germany has now opted out of any possible U.S.-led military campaign aimed at removing Saddam Hussein. Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder opposes any such action and his people agree: A recent poll shows two-thirds of Germans support Schroeder's stand, just 6 percent are for sending troops to the Gulf. And with an election in a month, Schroeder needs all the local friends he can get.

In the end, this protest was resolved peacefully. Special force police seizing the men after a five-hour stand-off, the hostages all unharmed.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MORRIS: So the question here tonight is was this siege today instigated by a fringe group with no real support or is it a genuine reflection of the frustration felt by many exiled Iraqis now to Germany's increasing to toppling Saddam Hussein - Aaron.

BROWN: Gaven, it sounds like the kind of thing we need to report on. Thank you for your efforts. We'll try to find an answer. Thank you very much.

A quick story before we go to break here that comes to us tonight from the FBI. The FBI has issued nationwide alert to stop and detain a Saudi national whose passport and photo turned up during the investigation of 9/11. Saud Al-Rasheed has not been charged with any crime. He has not been indicted. But FBI says he's armed and dangerous, if they believe that, they do want to talk to him. Officials say the man's photo was found among photos of some of the hijackers that were recovered in the investigation of 9/11. A copy of his passport was also found. They'd like to find him, talk to him and see where it goes from there.

Ahead on NEWSNIGHT, we'll take a look at part two of our tapes, looking inside al Qaeda, a look at the tape of Osama bin Laden declaring war on America and its citizens, this is NEWSNIGHT from New York.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: The al Qaeda tapes now. Four years ago, Osama bin Laden declared war on the United States, the story was reported. I rather suspect it was not much appreciated except for a few people, people in government, intelligence services, and a handful of reporters. For the rest of us, bin Laden was seen as one more radical crackpot, perhaps richer than most, but not a real threat. He was a guy with a small band of followers. We were the United States of America. Needless to say, that was a mistake in judgment. Here's CNN's Nic Robertson.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first to appear from Osama bin Laden's armored jeep, as guns fire a welcoming salute, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's right-hand man and inspirational ally. Exiting from the other side of the vehicle, bin Laden leads the way, accompanied by his military advisor, Mohammad Atef. Atef is now dead, killed last November in coalition bombing.

But, this day, the Twenty-sixth of May 1998, was Osama bin Laden's biggest day ever in public. And these pictures from eastern Afghanistan, part of an exclusive library of al Qaeda tapes CNN has obtained, have never been seen before. Bin Laden is about to declare war on America.

OSAMA BIN LADEN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): By God's grace, we have formed with many other Islamic groups and organizations in the Islamic world, a front called the International Islamic Front to do jihad against the crusaders and Jews.

ROBERTSON: Of all the al Qaeda tapes CNN obtained, this stands out: a record of an event the terrorist leader saw as history in the making for al Qaeda.

(on camera): Do we know where this compound is?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: It's near Khost, it's a place called Zawakil (ph).

ROBERTSON (voice-over): A day journalist, Peter Bergen, who had interviewed bin Laden for CNN the previous year, believes is incredibly significant.

BERGEN: Bin Laden is calling, really, in this very public way with the military commander, the guy who probably planned September 11, and his number two, the guy who really is almost the brains of the operations, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, they are going public. They are saying, we are having this war against the United States. ROBERTSON: A select group of Pakistani journalists and one Chinese writer were invited to record al Qaeda launch its jihad on the Western world, which, while noted at the time, never got wide exposure because no independent videotaping was allowed.

Ismail Khan was one of the journalists there that day.

ISMAIL KHAN, PAKISTANI JOURNALIST: We were given a few instructions, you know, on how to how to photograph and, you know, only take a picture of Osama and the two leaders who were going to sit close to him, nobody else.

ROBERTSON: Could security be the reason we have never seen the video before? That is a question we put to Rohan Gunaratna, author of "Inside al Qaeda."

ROHAN GUNARATNA, AUTHOR, "INSIDE AL QAEDA": Making that tape public would compromise the security of al Qaeda and of Osama bin Laden. They did not release that tape.

ROBERTSON: Perhaps bin Laden didn't want his enemies to know he always carried a weapon, or that even inside the building, attentive bodyguards exuded professionalism worthy of presidential security, or maybe because there were others in the room that day they didn't want identified.

BERGEN: I recognize this bodyguard here from when we interviewed bin Laden in '97.

ROBERTSON: But, neither Bergen nor the journalists at this press conference was allowed to take his picture. Another identity protected: bin Laden's interpreter, who shows up on other tapes recovered by CNN as a military trainer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi.

ROBERTSON: While there were some who wanted to hide, there were others bin Laden wanted to highlight, like the two sons of Sheik Abdul Rahman, the spiritual leader of those convicted of blowing up the world trade center in 1993.

Sheik Rahman himself in a U.S. prison for planning other attacks on New York.

BERGEN: The significance of having Sheik Rahman's son at the press conference can't be underestimated. First of all, Sheik Rahman's son is making clear that they have been fighting alongside bin Laden for many, many years, up to a decade. They also distribute at this press conference what they claim to be the will of their father, Sheik Rahman, calling for attacks on Americans and the will, the purported will states, you know: attack them on the sea; attack them on the land; attack them everywhere; attack their economy. It's a very kind of strong statement.

ROBERTSON: Sheik Rahman's involvement, says Bergen, key for bin Laden, who uses his spiritual guidance as a religious fig leaf from behind which he broadens his terror group's appeal to radicals.

With hindsight, the important moments are easy to pick out. For example, when Osama bin Laden hints at an attack on U.S. targets.

BIN LADEN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): And by God's grace, the men reacted to this call and they are going on this path, and they are doing a good job. By God's will, their actions are going to have a successful result in killing Americans and getting rid of them.

ROBERTSON: Within 11 weeks, al Qaeda attacked U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and perhaps almost as chilling because it did not happen, Ayman Al-Zawahiri appears to justify an attack on the U.S. embassy in Cairo.

AYMAN AL-ZAWAHIRI: And the CIA's station in Cairo is the biggest station for the CIA outside America. There are more than 20,000 Americans in Egypt working with the CIA.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are just a single person.

ROBERTSON: A journalist asks bin Laden why he thinks he has the resources to take on the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is the superpower of this world.

BIN LADEN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): In Islam, there is a natural dignity to be respected. And whoever depends on God, God will give him victory.

ROBERTSON: For bin Laden, the day seems to have been a success. He looks relaxed, even slightly elated, as he poses for photographs with journalists and entertains them over tea and candy. As the journalists prepare to leave, bin Laden looks somewhat less at ease. Notice how he flinches when a rocket-propelled grenade is launched nearby. As he inspects the security laid on for his meeting, fighters are keen to show off their prowess. Where these men are now remains a secret.

BERGEN: We know some bodyguards have shown up. The United States has captured some of bin Laden's bodyguards. Which ones exactly, what it means, I don't know.

ROBERTSON: If bin Laden is still alive, then, likely, his security detail will now be less visible. These pictures, however, an insight in to just how seriously he takes self-preservation, an image never before seen as he set off to wage terror against the West.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: CNN correspondent Nic Robertson. When we come back, we'll talk to Peter Bergen, who you met briefly in Nic's reporting there, talk more about bin Laden. This is NEWSNIGHT on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: We're joined from Washington now by Peter Bergen. You saw him a but ago in Nic's reporting on bin Laden.

Peter interviewed bin Laden in 1997. He is the author of "Holy War Inc." He also is a terrorism analyst for us and a friend and it's good to have him back. Peter, thank you.

I want to try and tie a couple of threads in the program together. Earlier we heard Secretary Rumsfeld talk about al Qaeda operatives in Iraq. We have reported, and it's always been my impression, that there is no particular love loss between Saddam and Osama, that in the cult of personality that is Iraq, there's no room for bin Laden.

Talk about the relationship, if there is one, between these two?

BERGEN: I think the relationship is a rather poor one. I mean, after -- when the formal part of our interview is over, Peter Arnett, the correspondent, asked bin Laden what he thought of Saddam. And Saddam -- and bin Laden said he thought that Saddam was a bad Muslim. That was in '97.

Don't forget that the reason that we are in this war at all between bin Laden and the United States is because bin Laden -- the really, the initial thing was because of United States putting troops in Saudi Arabia, and bin Laden had offered the Saudis that he would fight Saddam.

And it was sort of in a fit of pique, almost. He was annoyed that the Saudis didn't turn to him and his troops to get rid of Saddam from Kuwait. so even as early as 1990 he's against Saddam. And one of the interesting things about the tapes, Aaron, is that in -- one of the 64 tapes is documentary about Saddam Hussein.

And that documentary takes a very dim view of Saddam Hussein. Not only typical things that anybody in the West would, for instance Saddam's use of chemical weapons against the Kurds in Iraq, but it also, it has a rather Islamic perspective, that bin Laden (sic) is not a good Muslim.

So al Qaeda is very unsympathetic to Saddam. Saddam is a secular leader. He's tried to dress himself up recently in the garb of Islam in an effort to make himself more popular. But I think most people understand it's a sham.

And Rumsfeld earlier today saying that al Qaeda is in Iraq I think is a tiny bit disingenuous for the following reason. The al Qaeda people who are in Iraq is are in Kurdish part of Iraq, which is not under Saddam's control at all.

Rumsfeld surely must understand that. It's under -- essentially under the control of U.S. Air Force, because the United States is patrolling the no-fly zone over that area which allow the Kurds to do what they want. So the al Qaeda people in Iraq are in the part that is not controlled by Saddam at all.

BROWN: And there's no -- there's no evidence that you know of, since these tapes were made or this documentary was made, that there's been any rapprochement between al Qaeda or bin Laden and Saddam?

BERGEN: In 1998, December of '98, bin Laden met with someone called Hajazi (ph), who was at that time the Iraqi ambassador to Turkey. He's actually a very senior member of Iraq's intelligence service.

That's a not insignificant meeting. And also we do -- there is the possibility that Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker, may or may not have met with an Iraqi intelligence agents in Prague before he came to this country.

The Czechs have stepped back from that story.

BROWN: Well, and I -- sorry to interrupt, but it is my understanding, at least, it's been very hard for American intelligence to place Atta there at all. They know where he was two days before. They do not know that he was in Prague that day.

BERGEN: And even if he was, you know, one meeting maketh not an Iraqi-al Qaeda conspiracy. I mean, you meet with all sorts of people that you don't do business with. The fact is, al Qaeda's kind of world view is very different from Saddam. Saddam's Baathist party is a secular party. Al Qaeda is anything but secular. So I'm just very suspicious of attempts to link the two. And there's not a lot -- there's very little evidence that there are links.

BROWN: Peter, a nice job of tying up some things for us tonight. We appreciate it. Peter Bergen in -- are you in Washington? In Washington tonight.

BERGEN: Thank you, Aaron.

BROWN: Thank you. We were in Atlanta together the other day.

And as we said last night, there's much more to this story to report, certainly more than we can fir in any one program, and so we'll take it in chunks throughout the week. Tomorrow night, the Robertson report takes a look at the al Qaeda training regime, the making of terrorists.

Much different than the Internet recruiting tapes which many of us have become familiar with over the last year. Later in the week, inside an al Qaeda bomb laboratory. And on Friday, more on what the tapes have to say about Osama bin Laden.

We'll try to wrap it up on Friday night. So there's still a ways to go here as we take a look at these tapes.

Still to come tonight, Operation TIPS, a program to keep you safe, eh? Or a government attempt to invade your privacy? The answer depends on who you ask. The controversy goes on.

We'll take a look at a new book by the "New York Times," "A Nation Challenged." That and more as NEWSNIGHT continues from New York.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Recently, there was a column written by a UPS delivery guy, someone who knows the people on his route better than anyone. Someone, in short, who would be a perfect enlistee for operation TIPS, the program the Justice Department wants to set up to get ordinary people, utility TV, cable TV guys, that sort of thing, to report on anything suspicious.

Well, this UPS fellow wasn't having any of it, saying the program would create an army of Barney Fifes -- his words -- a group of bumbling busybodies. And this is just some of the lighter criticism of a plan that has been savaged by civil libertarians, liberals and conservatives, the fear of neighbors spying on neighbors.

So the government has tried to come up with TIPS lite, as some people are calling it. It's not yet clear whether it's lite enough to satisfy the critics. Here's CNN's Kelli Arena.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The government says Maine lobstermen like these can help in the war on terror, by spotting suspicious activity as part of its Operation TIPS program.

The same was originally said about postal and utility workers, but not anymore. In the face of scathing criticism, the Justice Department backed off.

DEBORAH DANIELS, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: It didn't occur to us that, again, people would be thinking about people going on their private property. So we decided in both of those cases that really in order that the message be clear that we do not want anyone intruding on anyone's privacy.

ARENA: The proposal is now limited to workers in public places, including those who work on ships, trains and trucks, who would call an 800 number to report anything suspicious. What's more, Attorney General John Ashcroft has assured critics complaining about "Big Brother" tactics that information called into the tip line will not be stored in a special database, but passed on to appropriate authorities.

Besides scaling back the program, Justice officials have launched an aggressive lobbying effort. Opponents are diverse: from House Republican leader Dick Armey, to the ACLU. And Justice's effort to revamp the program has done little to appease concerns.

RACHEL KING, ACLU: What we are concerned about is, once you make somebody a citizen informant, you have sort of deputized them to become, in effect, a law enforcement agent, and we don't think that is a good idea.

ARENA: Senior senators are vowing to kill the program. The Republican-controlled House already has. REP. DICK ARMEY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: I just don't think it fits our concept of our liberties in America. I don't think there is a threat that justifies a program of this nature.

ARENA: When Congress reconvenes, Justice officials say they will make their case on Capitol Hill, and they are taking their fight to the public as well, providing information on government Web sites, through op-eds and television interviews.

DANIELS: We are committed to making sure that we provide a way for law-abiding citizens who see publicly observable suspicious activity to have a way to report it. That is all we are trying to do.

(on camera): If the full Congress kills the program, then the battle's over. If not, Justice officials say that the plan is to put Operation TIPS in place this fall.

Kelli Arena, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Still ahead on NEWSNIGHT, "A Nation Challenged." Pictures and stories, truly the pictures and stories of our life of the last year. We'll talk to one of the reporters and photographers for the "The New York Times" behind this extraordinary work. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: There were a sea of names tucked inside the metro section of "The New York Times" today, two pages worth of the names. The latest list of World Trade Center victims was released by the medical examiner's office. It may sound like a cruel joke to say there was anything good about the list, but there was one thing: it was shorter by four names. The number of dead have been revised down to 2,819. One victim had been listed twice. Three others were first reported missing, but their families never got back in contact with the city, the hope now is that they in fact survived.

We find ourselves just weeks now from the year anniversary. In many ways and in many forms, we're all going to relive this tragedy. A number of books have been published and we're not in the business of rating them. But we will say you could do a lot worse than picking up a copy of "A Nation Challenged" which is published by "The New York Times," both in word and in picture after picture, this is a stunning account of the day and the days that followed. We're joined tonight by two of the contributors, Dan Barry and photographer Ruth Fremson.

Nice to see you both.

What story was - what did you write if anything on September 10, what was the last story you wrote that had nothing to do with this?

DAN BARRY, REPORTER, "NEW YORK TIMES": I don't remember what the last story was. I remember I was preparing for the primaries, I was supposed to do an analysis of the Democratic primaries. BROWN: The New York City primaries, the election was that day.

BARRY: That's right.

BROWN: And Ruth, do you remember the shot you took before the eleventh?

RUTH FREMSON, PHOTOGRAPHER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I have no idea. But the same as Dan, the morning of the eleventh I was out by 6 a.m. at a polling booth in Queens to photograph voters coming to the polling places.

BROWN: How soon did you get back Downtown, do you remember?

FREMSON: Well, about 10 minutes before the first tower came down. I was already down there photographing the evacuation and the wounded people being brought out.

BROWN: And did you just go there, or did your beeper go off, did someone tell you to get down there? How did...

FREMSON: My cell phone went off, it was my sister calling from Washington saying, are you at the World Trade Center? a plane just hit it. And then my beeper went off simultaneously from the office.

BROWN: And did you go down there that day?

BARRY: No, I was one the rewrite people working in the newsroom. I had to get from New Jersey to New York and all the means of transportation were denied. But the Circle Line (ph) was coming over to New Jersey and dumping people off, and so I went back over on the Circle Line.

BROWN: What was it like in the newsroom?

BARRY: It was intense, it was almost hyper ventilation, but it was serious, it was like, we know something awful has happened and it was very, very business-like. It was intense but straightforward and business-like. It's like a dream. It's like a dream.

BROWN: It's interesting. In the essay, one of the essays you wrote, and there may be others, you said something in it that I remember saying the next day. I went back in the air, I think, 7:00 in the morning the next day and I said, this is one of those moments where you wake up hoping that you have just experienced this terrible nightmare. And that's what it - it's what it felt to me, it's that sense that, oh, my God, it's real.

I want to show a couple of pictures here. Do we have the picture of the policeman in the deli that Ruth shot? Here we go. Tell me - tell us about the shot. It's a wonderful, wonderful shot.

FREMSON: The first building had just come down. And there were a few people that had staggered into the Stage Door Deli on VC (ph) Street Downtown. And I was in there also trying to catch my breath, and I turned around and there was this policeman and the fireman that were in there, were trying to catch their breath. And it's pitch black outside because still that's the cloud of smoke from the building. And I remember thinking it was very important to document that moment.

BROWN: When you saw it, when you framed it, did you say, this is an incredibly powerful shot? or did you just click?

FREMSON: I was just reacting. I knew it was important to work, I knew it was important to record it. But I was just reacting to what was in front of me.

BROWN: A couple of others, you went overseas for a while. And there's a rally picture. If we can put that up. And then I want to see, also the mother, where were you and what happened here?

FREMSON: This was in Islamabad, and I had just arrived in Pakistan. And it was before the American bombing began. And in fact, all these hands went up when there was a call for who was going to go for jihad. And there were several thousand people at this rally. And I remember looking at it and feeling the anger and the hostility in the crowd, but wondering how many of these people are really going to quit their day job and go fight jihad, if you will.

BROWN: Were you afraid?

FREMSON: No, not here. I was getting a sense of the place.

BROWN: One more shot, and then I want to go back to Dan for a second. Tell me about this picture, this is Afghanistan, isn't it?

FREMSON: This is an Afghan refugee, but it's taken at a refuge camp in Pakistan, just across the border near Peshawar in northern Pakistan. And it's an Afghan woman who had fled her village near Jalalabad to get away from the bombing with her family. And she had come with I think there were 10 children, and she had been in labor with this newborn child on the back of a...

BROWN: It's hard on our monitor here, but if you look on the left side of the picture in upper left you can see this newborn.

FREMSON: Right. She had been on labor on the back of a donkey for six hours and gave birth to this baby just as she arrived at the refugee camp. And when I saw this, I just saw how devastated she was and exhausted. She never once touched the baby the whole time we were there.

BROWN: I'll talk about words for a minute. As you have spent most of the last year writing about this.

BAARY: That's right.

BROWN: Has it in any sense redefined how you think of your work, your business, the business of journalism?

BARRY: It's hard to imagine writing about any other story. And I know that we will - we all have to move on, it will be hard to imagine not comparing every story in the future to this one because it's the defining story of our lives.

BROWN: That's exactly right. I think you're a little younger than I am, but we're all sort of the same generation in the news business. And this has been the year, journalistically, of our lives. In some sense, none of us wanted it.

BARRY: No.

BROWN: But all of us, I think, appreciate the opportunity to have participated in it? Does that make sense.

BARRY: It's a privilege to bear witness.

BROWN: Your contributions in the book, you wrote an essay, what is it you want people to draw from this?

BARRY: From that essay?

BROWN: Yes.

BARRY: That there were reverberations throughout the city for that first week, and that the city was both under both physical and emotional siege. And it's hard to remember now, but there was a Coast Guard cutter in the harbor, there were taxi drivers not knowing which way to go, and it was a difficult time that shouldn't be forgotten.

BROWN: Thank you both for coming in. I know how much you look forward to doing television tonight. We appreciate your time. Your work is fabulous, thank you.

BARRY: Thank you.

BROWN: Jim Lehrer when we come back. This is NEWSNIGHT on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: On quick political note, four-term Republican Representative Bob Barr has lost a special primary election in Georgia. AP has now called the race in favor of another veteran conservative, Representative John Linder. Barr, you will recall, led the House impeachment of President Clinton. He's a regular on talk shows, among the most conservative members of Congress. This is one of those redistricting races and Mr. Barr came out on the short end.

On we go. No long introduction here, just quickly one the best parts of this job is getting to meet people I've long admired and respected. Jim Lehrer is one of them. He is of course the anchor of the "NEWSHOUR" on PBS. Seems to be the moderator of choice for presidential debates. The rest of the time he is an award-winning novelist, a prolific writer of gripping the off-beat and at times achingly sad. His latest effort, "No Certain Rest" is a modern mystery that begins during the Civil War. We're very pleased to have Mr. Lehrer with us tonight.

Nice to see you.

JIM LEHRER, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ANCHOR, "THE NEWSHOUR WITH JIM LEHRER": Thank you.

BROWN: If you had to choose between writing novels and writing news copy.

LEHRER: Well, fortunately I don't have to choose, but if I had to choose, I would - it would be a close call, but I would write my novels, because - but I, fortunately, don't have to do that.

BROWN: You're blessed by not having to make the choice. Have you always had - one of the reasons I think I ended up in the daily news business, I'm one the great procrastinators, I assume this is true of most daily journalists, that they need the deadline. You obviously don't. You can discipline yourself to write.

LEHRER: I can. I can. I told somebody one day that writing is now a natural act for me. It's not something - I could write at 5:00 in the morning, hung over, hanging by my thumbs underwater. I don't have to think about it. If I waited until the sun was just right and the breeze was just right, I would never write any fiction because I never have that kind of situation. So I write every day on my fiction as well as my news writing. And but my news writing is not heavy news writing. It's just give me the facts, ma'am, type stuff. So it doesn't really intrude on what I'm doing in my fiction writing.

BROWN: All right, give me 30 seconds on the book and then let me ask you questions about the news business.

LEHRER: Like yesterday, two Civil War relic hunters, come across the remains of a Union soldier buried in a shallow grave just off of the official battle ground at Antietam, where the bloodiest day in U.S. military history occurred, on September 17, 1862. They found this Union soldier buried face down, his hands tied behind him, shot from behind through the back of the head. An archeologist from the National Park Service, an anthropologist, the Smithsonian are given the job, who is this guy? what happened? They find out and my novel is that forensic detective story of their finding out what actually did happen on the battlefield in 1862 and what are the present day ramifications of those guys having found out what happened. That's the novel, "No Certain Rest." Certainly applies to what you were just talking to Dan and Ruth about. "No Certain Rest" comes from a quotation which saws that what happened on this ground at Antietam was so jarring, so monumental that the ground will shake forever. And it will never be able to rest, just like the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and whatever.

BROWN: Do you look at "The Post" or "The Times" book section every week to see how your books are doing, the ratings?

LEHRER: Oh, sure. Absolutely. I mean, I want people to appreciate what I do. But I would still write even if I wasn't doing well. It's - this is my 13th novel, Aaron, I've been writing fiction since I was 16-17 years old. And it's an integral part of my life. It's not a luxury. It's not something I do kind of in addition...

BROWN: This is something you have to do. LEHRER: Exactly. I don't have any choice anymore. And it gives me a great, great pleasure. I get a huge kick out of it. It's great fun.

BROWN: About 30 second left. Do you ever look at your life and go, I'm about as lucky as it gets. I've got this really interesting news program that is somewhat removed from the ratings pressures that - of commercial television, I'm writing these books, I'm married happy, my kids are doing great. You must feel incredibly blessed.

LEHRER: I am incredibly blessed. There's no person I have ever met or heard of that I would trade places with.

BROWN: Would you come back and talk to us when you have more time?

LEHRER: Got it.

BROWN: Nice to meet you. I'm honored to meet you.

LEHRER: Thank you, Aaron.

BROWN: Thank you. Thanks for joining us. We'll see you all tomorrow. Good night from all of us at NEWSNIGHT.

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