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CNN WOLF BLITZER REPORTS

Al Qaeda Releases Tape Commemorating WTC Attacks; Is Iraq a Step Away From Nuclear Capability?; Colin Powell Gets Personal About 9/11's Impact

Aired September 9, 2002 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Now on WOLF BLITZER REPORTS: Tape timed to release on the one-year anniversary. What is al Qaeda saying this time?
Target Saddam: Is Iraq just a step away from building a nuclear bomb? With troops and equipment on the move, is the U.S. already moving toward war?

Secretary of State Colin Powell gets personal about the first moments of September 11.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: I have two daughters in New York. My daughter Ann and my daughter Ann Marie live in New York.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And his mission is still missing kids and the most wanted, but crime fighter John Walsh has a new show for the American public.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN WALSH: I'm going to show them how that they can change their lives, get involved, and make a difference.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: It's Monday, September 9, 2002. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

Two days before America marks the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the group that launched them appears to be celebrating the assault.

A newly surfaced al Qaeda videotape claims to show pictures of the hijackers planning the attacks. A voice identified as Osama bin Laden praises the hijackers for changing the face of history. CNN national correspondent Mike Boettcher has been reviewing the tapes.

He joins me now live from the CNN Center in Atlanta -- Mike. MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, the tapes were delivered out of the blue to Al-Jazeera this morning and they broadcast part of them this afternoon. They plan on broadcasting the entire context of the tapes later in the week.

Now the first portion of the tape, let's get right into it and take a look at it. It shows the hijackers over a scene of clouds rolling over a mountaintop with the voice of what is alleged to be Osama bin Laden praising the efforts of the hijackers.

He says: "As we talk about the conquests of Washington and New York, we talk about those men who changed the course of history and cleaned the records of the nation from the dirt of the treasonous rulers and their followers." Again, just pictures of the hijackers, only the voice of Osama bin Laden. It surely will not ease the debate on whether he is dead or alive.

There is a second segment to the tape, this purported al Qaeda tape showing Abdul Aziz al-Amari shown here. He was one of the hijackers on Flight 11 that crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, although on the al Qaeda tape here, it shows the Pentagon superimposed behind him. In this tape, a last will and testament, according to Al-Jazeera, he says to America: "Take your hands off the land of the Arabs and stop supporting Jewish cowards. We will get you."

Then there is a third segment of the tape that purports to show al Qaeda members in Kandahar going over plans for the attack before 9/11. You see here on the map coming out of the printer, it shows the Pentagon circled there and then it proceeds to go to a different quality of video that shows a room where four people are and these four are hijackers according to Al-Jazeera. Behind is a banner that says "destruction to America."

Now, more of this video will be forthcoming in the future days here this week, but at a time when the people in the west and other parts of the world are mourning the loss, it appears that al Qaeda wants to trumpet its victory. Wolf.

BLITZER: Mike Boettcher thanks for that report. Let's get a little context now, an expert analysis of this latest videotape. Our CNN Terrorism Analyst Peter Bergen is joining me here live. He's also the author of "Holy War, Inc. Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden" now out in a new version in paperback. Peter thanks for joining us. So what do you make of this Al-Jazeera videotape?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, I think two things; one, it has a very useful effect that any doubt that al Qaeda was behind 9/11 now must surely be erased. As you probably remember, Gallup did a poll in Muslim countries around the world earlier this year and 61 percent of people polled didn't believe that Arabs were behind 9/11. Now, it's al Qaeda itself very clearly saying that they're behind 9/11.

I think the other thing, it has a useful reminder that al Qaeda has not gone away. We are talking a lot about a war in Iraq. After all, it was al Qaeda that killed thousands of Americans last year not Saddam Hussein, and I think continuing to have a big focus on al Qaeda is useful.

BLITZER: But this videotape says nothing whatsoever about whether or not Osama bin Laden himself is alive or dead.

BERGEN: No. I mean when he talked about the 19 hijackers, he obviously is very familiar with them. He wheels off not only their names but their hometowns, obviously seems to know them quite well, but that audiotape could have been made anytime after 9/11. It could have been made in December. It could have been made earlier this year. It could have been made directly after the attacks. So, I don't think that proves anything except that bin Laden knew these hijackers quite well, at least personally.

BLITZER: So, do you believe this videotape will in the end convince those in the Muslim world, the Arab world, who may still be doubters, who believe this was all a big Zionist plot that the Jews were behind the bombing of the World Trade Center, that in the end Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda really did do it?

BERGEN: Well, it's going to be pretty tough to believe the Jews did it after watching this videotape. I mean you've got the people apparently planning, circling the map of Washington. I mean unless you believe that somehow the tape itself is a fake, which of course certain groups of people might believe.

But I think one of the interesting things about that tape is, you know, in the past al Qaeda has -- when it attacked the USS Cole in Yemen, it had somebody shooting the USS Cole in an effort to show the boat actually blowing up. That guy missed his signal and fell asleep.

They later came back and released a video in which they superimposed the explosion on the Cole. So, it's quite possible all this stuff about planning the hijacking is stuff that they kind of cooked up after 9/11 rather than before.

BLITZER: Would you anticipate al Qaeda planning some sort of big terror operation around this first anniversary of 9/11?

BERGEN: Well, we've seen with the arrest of these people in Germany with what appears to be a very large bomb and possible plans to attack a U.S. Army base in Germany that al Qaeda sympathizers, it doesn't have to be al Qaeda itself. Al Qaeda itself doesn't mount operations with a huge degree of frequency, and when it does, they tend to be quite catastrophic.

So, it's possible that smaller groups affiliated or admiring of al Qaeda might do something around 9/11. I'm not talking about in this country. I'm talking about elsewhere. It's a lot easier still to do it outside the United States.

BLITZER: So, al Qaeda, the bottom line is still very much out there even though Osama bin Laden himself may or may not be?

BERGEN: I think so, and unfortunately one of their kind of defining characteristics is patience, and if you don't hear from them for a year or two that doesn't mean they stopped trying to attack Americans.

BLITZER: Peter Bergen, as usual, thank you very much for joining us.

BERGEN: Thank you.

BLITZER: And in another Al-Jazeera report, top al Qaeda officials are quoted as saying that the U.S. Congress was the fourth target of al Qaeda's September 11 hit list. The Al-Jazeera Correspondent Yusri Faouda (ph) says he had an interview with key al Qaeda members Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramzi Beinalshibh in Pakistan in June.

U.S. officials regard Mohammed as one of the highest ranking al Qaeda leaders still at large. Mohammed reportedly said planning for the attacks began two and a half years before September 11 and that the first targets considered were nuclear facilities. Al Qaeda provided only an audiotape of the interview, which Al-Jazeera plans to broadcast Thursday.

Iraq and the United States are locked in a war of words, new allegations of Saddam Hussein's nuclear potential, but where is the proof? We'll go live to Baghdad, the White House, and the Pentagon for the latest. And, time out for Chris Webber, indicted for conspiracy. Details on this developing story still to come.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. As a new report raises fresh questions about Iraq's nuclear program, the Bush administration makes its case for targeting Saddam Hussein. Has the U.S. military already started its build up?

We'll go live to CNN's James Martone in Baghdad, Suzanne Malveaux at the White House, and Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon. But first just how close is Iraq to obtaining a nuclear weapon? A new report suggests it could be closer than we think but that's already a matter of hot debate.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (voice-over): With the Bush administration warning of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and the Iraqi government denying any such capability, a respected international think tank has offered its own independent assessment. Its bottom line, Iraq is still several years away from developing fissile material production facilities needed to build a bomb, but there's a big "if."

GARY SAMORE, IISS: If they were to somehow acquire nuclear material from a foreign source, then they could probably do it much quicker, perhaps within a matter of months.

BLITZER: U.S. officials agree with that assessment and they go further saying the Iraqis have been secretly importing specially designed aluminum pipes that could be used in the uranium enrichment process.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons, but we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.

BLITZER: Former U.N. Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter has been in Baghdad warning against U.S. military strikes and trying to convince Iraq to let U.N. inspectors back in. Ritter says the U.S. allegations are baseless.

SCOTT RITTER, FORMER U.N. INSPECTOR: This is patently ridiculous. These are aluminum pipes coming in for civilian use. They are not being transferred to a covert nuclear processing plant or any covert nuclear activity whatsoever.

BLITZER: Meanwhile, the Bush administration is taking no chances Saddam Hussein might misread U.S. intentions. U.S. officials have informed the Senate Intelligence Committee of a warning formally conveyed recently to Baghdad.

SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D) INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: Our belief is that Saddam Hussein fully understands that if he were to use a weapon of mass destruction that it would result in the annihilation, not only of him, but of much of his society.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: With a former weapons inspector coming to its defense, the Iraqi government is taking full advantage of this public relations opportunity.

Let's go live to CNN's James Martone. He's in Baghdad and he has the latest from there.

James, what's going on?

JAMES MARTONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a busy day today in Baghdad, in Iraq, where journalists were taken to two sites, two controversial sites that the U.S. and U.K. accuse Baghdad, accuse Iraq, of engaging in illegal activities in these two sites.

Now, the first one was Tuwaitha. Tuwaitha is about 20 kilometers south of Baghdad. We were taken there to a site that Iraq says is a peaceful nuclear research facility where they had attempted to have peaceful nuclear research facilities, but that it was bombed.

We saw this Italian factory that was bombed out Iraqis say in the 1991 Gulf War where they were producing, they say, pharmaceutical samples. We also saw very interesting a cooling system, a cooling system for what they say their peaceful nuclear reactor. It was bombed out interesting in 1981 they say by the Israelis in an Israeli raid.

Now, we saw at this Tuwaitha site doctors, doctors working on what they said were samples, samples for surgery that they said they would need in fact, peaceful nuclear elements for, but that they didn't have them. We also were taken to Suleman Pac (ph) interesting with former U.N. Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter.

He took us there to show us a plane that in the west has been allegedly a site for terrorist activity. Scott Ritter, the former U.N. weapons inspector back in Iraq saying that he believes Iraq doesn't have anything to hide, taking us there to show us what he said was the lies of the west, that they were not harboring terrorists in any way. Wolf.

BLITZER: James Martone, our man live in Baghdad, thank you very much. And the Bush administration is stepping up its effort to make the case for a move, at least a potential move, against Iraq. Let's go live to CNN White House Correspondent Suzanne Malveaux. She's on the North Lawn. Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the Bush administration is really setting the stage for tough talks at the United Nations to enforce, to hold Saddam Hussein accountable to agreements that he made ending the Persian Gulf War, or for the United Nations to step aside and allow the U.S. to take action.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice-over): President Bush is courting key U.S. allies to join him in the campaign to overthrow Saddam Hussein today, Canada's Prime Minister Jean Cretien. The two in Detroit reviewed stepped up security measures along the U.S.-Canadian border initiated after September 11.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nearly a year ago, we saw the terrorists, cold-blooded killers, using our openness, the openness of our societies against us. We were awakened to threats that can arrive across our borders. We realize, at least in our country, that we have become a battlefield.

MALVEAUX: But the big question, how far does that battlefield extend and will it include Iraq? Vice President Dick Cheney tells CNN the administration has irrefutable evidence Iraq is rebuilding and resupplying its biological, chemical, and nuclear capabilities.

Today, the president called the head of the United Nations, the European Union, and other world leaders, to remind them that the international community has a responsibility to force Saddam to comply with U.N. Security Council guidelines.

Aides say when Mr. Bush goes before the U.N. General Assembly Thursday he will argue that the United Nations must immediately demand that Saddam allow weapons inspectors back to sites at any place, anytime, and that if Saddam does not comply, the U.N. should step aside to allow U.S. forces to follow through.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'd like to have the support of the international community as we move forward here. We've worked with them in the past on this issue. In a sense, it's the failure of the international effort that puts us in the position we're in today where we have to even think about the possibility of military action in Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (on camera): Now, White House aides say look for President Bush to introduce new evidence about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs and also look for a build up of U.S. troops in the Middle East region in the months to come. Wolf.

BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux at the White House thank you very much. And, there's a development that we're following right now, a potentially important developing involving all the nervousness around the first anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. Let's go live to our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre. He has details -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, let me say first of all that the Pentagon insists this is just an exercise that there is no specific threat. Nevertheless, the secretary of defense has ordered an exercise that involves deploying air defenses at military facilities around Washington, including the Pentagon.

Now, outside the Pentagon today, you can see an Avenger air defense system. That's a portable stinger missile launcher mounted on a Humvee. Right now there are no missiles in the tubes, but officials say this exercise, which will involve about 300 people and go for the next couple of days, will involve some live ordinance.

Now, they say it's a chance to test out some of the procedures, take a look at the feasibility of putting portable air defenses at places in Washington, but they also say as a prudent measure it also gives them some extra options just in case something happens. Wolf.

BLITZER: Jamie McIntyre thanks for that. We'll be back to you shortly with news on the other front, Iraq potential war between the United States and Iraq. Jamie McIntyre with the latest at the Pentagon thank you very much.

The U.S. military moves troops and heavy equipment closer to Iraq's borders. Is it routine or is the Pentagon sending another signal to Saddam Hussein? Colin Powell was half a world away when September 11 hit, and in addition to worrying about his country, he had some very personal concerns as well. My special interview with the secretary of state is just ahead.

And, blown away, residents in Utah get a big, very big surprise. Plus, Gustav gathers strength, the East Coast hunkers down, but first a look at news making headlines around the world.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (voice-over): In a speech to the Palestinian Legislative Council, Yasser Arafat condemned terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians. He also made a reference to stepping down from his leadership post but observers say that appears to have been a joke not an offer. Thousands of Afghans attended the memorial for Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was assassinated one year ago today. Massoud was the top anti-Taliban leader at the time of his death. He was killed by two Arabs believed to be members of al Qaeda.

A demonstration turned violent in Chile. The protest marked the 29th anniversary of the coup that brought General Augusto Pinochet to power. While most of the anti Pinochet marchers were peaceful, some threw rocks and Molotov cocktails. Police responded with tear gas and water cannons.

Floods have forced more than 1,000 people out of their homes in southern France and several deaths are reported. Power is out, roads are out, and trains have stopped running.

Yugoslavia's Belgrade Zoo is celebrating the birth of the 55- pound female Hippopotamus. The zoo director is hoping to send her as a gift to a zoo in the Czech Republic which lost its only female hippo in recent floods, and that's our look around the world.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(AUDIO/VIDEO GAP)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

THOMAS WHITE, ARMY SECRETARY: ...normal operations and the global war on terrorism and that's the principal thrust of our activities.

MCINTYRE: Still, the number of U.S. troops now training in Kuwait has grown to nearly 10,000, more than double the number that have taken part in past exercises. In the past few days, air strikes in Iraq have targeted anti-ship missiles and air defense centers. And, last week, U.S. and British warplanes delivered a heavier than usual blow to an Iraqi air defense facility in the south. Again, business as usual insists the Pentagon.

BRIG. GEN. JOHN ROSA, JOINT STAFF OPERATIONS: Was it bigger than most or not? It was bigger than the ones we've done in the last probably two weeks, but we've done strikes of that size several times over the last ten or 11 years.

MCINTYRE: And what about recent navy contracts for commercial ships to move equipment to the Persian Gulf region? Again, the Pentagon says nothing unusual there.

VICTORIA CLARKE, PENTAGON SPOKESWOMAN: We move people and resources all the time. We have exercises going on around the world. So, I just wouldn't connect too many dots right now if I were people and not read too much into it.

MCINTYRE: This month, the U.S. moved an aircraft carrier back into the Persian Gulf, and last week the British sent its aircraft carrier, Ark Royal (ph), into the Mediterranean Sea for a NATO exercise.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: All of these actions, even if they are routine, have the effect of giving the U.S. a head start for any build up for military action in Iraq. Wolf.

BLITZER: Jamie McIntyre, once again thank you very much. And, as the Bush administration sounds its steady drumbeat on Iraq, is there a way to resolve the situation sort of war? Robin Wright is the chief diplomatic correspondent of the Los Angeles Times.

She's covered the Middle East for some three decades. Her most recent book is "Sacred Rage, The Wrath of Militant Islam" just out in paperback. Robin thanks, as usual, for joining us. So what's the answer, is there a way out of this short of war?

ROBIN WRIGHT, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": I think the United States is taking a detour on the road to Baghdad via the United Nations. Over the next few weeks, the United States with help from Britain, will try to find a means of toughening the weapons inspection to disarm Saddam Hussein, but there will be a clock ticking. This is not an open-ended exercise.

The United States, again with enormous help from the British, will try to get the international community to agree to a forum or a means of clamping down on Saddam Hussein, disarming him within a very specific time frame.

But, the first time Saddam balks, the United States will have in that resolution, if it passes as they want, some kind of provision that allows members of the United Nations to take what actions they feel are necessary to respond to his failure to comply.

BLITZER: Why doesn't Saddam Hussein to diffuse this crisis, simply let these U.N. inspectors back in since he probably can keep them busy for a year or so without them finding a whole lot?

WRIGHT: I think the United States and the United Nations in general probably believes that Saddam will allow the weapons inspectors back. It's a matter of stalling to buy as much time as possible. He's bought four years already.

He stretched an operation that was supposed to take 18 months into eight years. He'll allow them back in but there will be attempts to stall to prevent U.N. officials from getting anywhere close, whether it's palaces or hospitals, where they're hiding their chemical, biological, and nuclear material.

BLITZER: In your new book, in the new edition of "Sacred Rage," you quote Osama bin Laden as saying during the Persian Gulf War, when the U.S. had troops in Saudi Arabia, you quote him as saying this: "Since Allah spread out the Arabian peninsula, created its desert and drew its seas, no such disaster has ever struck as when those Christian legions spread like pests." That underscores where Osama bin Laden is coming from. WRIGHT: Well, it also underscores the turning point for him, which was 1991, when American and other Western troops deployed in Saudi Arabia. And I think that's one of the issues, one of the reasons that the United States and the Saudis are going to be particularly careful about how any kind of military action is conducted. There's great concern about the unintended consequences, the next generation of Osama bin Ladens, the people who might be offended or angry about deployment of more western troops.

BLITZER: Unintended consequences, explain what you mean by that.

WRIGHT: Well, those things that we can't foresee. No one, I mean Osama bin Laden for a decade was an ally, a de facto ally of the United States in Afghanistan in fighting the Soviet invasion. It was only when western troops went to Saudi Arabia that he began to turn against us. And so, I think there's going to be a great deal of attention to whether deployment or military action inspires others.

BLITZER: Robin Wright, excellent new book "Sacred Rage, The Wrath of Militant Islam," thanks for joining us as usual.

WRIGHT: Thank you.

BLITZER: Here's your chance to weigh in on the story. Our "Web Question of the Day" is this: Who poses the biggest threat to the United States, Iraq, Iran, or al Qaeda? We'll have the results later in this program. Go to my web page cnn.com/wolf. That's where you can vote. While you're there, send me your comments. I'll try to read some of them on the air each day at the end of this program. That's also, of course, where you can read my daily online column, cnn.com/wolf.

A storm brewing off the Eastern seaboard, Gustav gains strength, but will the coast be spared? Plus Secretary of State Colin Powell, reflections on September 11 in his own words; and, crime fighter John Walsh hits the airwaves with a new talk show beginning today, but first, today's news quiz.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Tonight on "America's Most Wanted..."

BLITZER: What did John Walsh do before becoming the host of "America's Most Wanted," hotel resort developer, police officer, real estate broker, Secret Service agent? The answer coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to CNN, I'm Wolf Blitzer. Coming up, a one-on-one interview with Secretary of State Colin Powell, his reflections on September 11, but first, a look at other stories making news right now.

NBA star Chris Webber faces charges in an investigation tied to a reputed gambling figure Eddie Martin. A grand jury in Detroit indicted Webber today. He's accused of conspiracy to obstruct justice and lying to a grand jury. Also indicted, Webber's father and an aunt. Authorities say the conspiracy was aimed at hiding gifts Webber received from Martin. Webber plays for the Sacramento Kings.

In Oregon, the home formerly rented by suspected double-killer Ward Weaver is being demolished. The bodies of 12-year-old Ashley Pond and 13-year-old Miranda Gaddis were found at the house last month. Weaver is jailed on unrelated rape charges while prosecutors seek to indict him for the girls' killings.

The storm called Gustav is spinning 220 miles off Camp Hatteras, North Carolina with winds now clocked at 45 miles an hour. A new National Weather Service report out this hour says the storm could hit land tomorrow. Tropical storm watches and warnings are posted for much of the North Carolina and Virginia coasts.

Federal prosecutors have dropped charges against a woman who carried a loaded gun on a flight from Atlanta to Philadelphia. A U.S. attorney says the gun belonged to Nancy Keller's husband, and there's no evidence she knew it was in her carry-on. The screener who missed the gun at Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport has been fired. The gun was found when Keller was rescreened in Philadelphia.

CNN has learned details of an alleged al Qaeda plot that officials say targeted American interests in the Philippines, including the U.S. embassy there. The source of the information is an alleged al Qaeda operative, said to be directly linked to Osama bin Laden. Mohammed Mansour Jabarah was arrested in Oman in March and is now in U.S. custody.

And the FBI says, as the September 11 anniversary approaches, it's getting information about a large number of threats, but none of them are described as credible or specific. In addition to Wednesday's one-year anniversary, there are also meetings of the U.N. General Assembly and the World Bank this month. And the Bureau says those events may be contributing to the increased threat information.

On the day the United States was attacked by terrorists just about one year ago, Colin Powell was conducting his job as secretary of state thousands of miles away from Washington. Recently, I sat down with Secretary Powell and talked with him about what he was doing on that fateful September day and what went through his mind as he made a long flight back to the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (on-camera): Mr. Secretary, thanks as usual for joining on this special day, reflecting back to 9/11. You really isolated at that moment when you looked back. You were in Peru of all places, barely able to get in contact with what was going on in the United States.

POWELL: Yes, I was far away. I was in Lima, Peru. I was having breakfast with the president of Peru, President Toledo. We were talking about trade issues and textile quotas and all of a sudden, a note was handed to me that said something terrible had happened at the World Trade Center, some planes -- plural -- had flown who it. BLITZER: What specifically did the note say?

POWELL: It said that a commercial airliner had flown into the World Trade Center and there was some reference to a small plane, which immediately got my mind thinking that this can't be just a simple accident if there were two planes. And then a moment or two later or a few moments later, another note was handed to me, it said two airliners. And right then, I knew it had to be a terrorist incident. And at about the same time, President Toledo was being given the same information, most of it now coming by a television as quickly as any other means.

And the breakfast concluded. And I told my assistant, "We've got to get back to Washington right away." I was there immediately. As soon as -- yes, it was clear that I had to get home...

BLITZER: It was clear to you this was a terrorist attack?

POWELL: It was clear to me that it was a terrorist attack. It was clear to me that when they went after the World Trade Center; this was a major terrorist blow against the United States and what we stood for. And I was with some 33 other foreign ministers in Lima, Peru, all of the foreign ministers of the democratic nations of the Western Hemisphere.

And we were about to pass a charter of democracy. And I went to the meeting because it would take an hour for my plane to get ready. It was a very moving moment when all of my colleagues in the Western Hemisphere recognized the loss that we had just suffered and expressed their condolences to me and through me to the American people. And then by unanimous vote, we passed this charter in democracy.

And then, of course, by then, I was able to get out of the meeting and race to the airport. By then, I had learned about the Pentagon and the field in Pennsylvania and the dimensions of this catastrophe were becoming clearer and clearer.

BLITZER: But beyond being the secretary of state, you're also a New Yorker. This was, at first, an attack on your hometown.

POWELL: It was an attack on my hometown. I know the area well. I could see the two towers in my mind's eye, as I tried to visualize what it was like to have them struck by airplanes. And then, we went as quickly as we could to the airport and my plane was made ready. And we took off and communications were poor. I only had perhaps two, three radio telephone conversations with my deputy, Rich Armitage, back here in Washington.

BLITZER: Wait a minute! It was one thing for me. I was trying to drive to our bureau when I first heard. The cells were all jammed. But the secretary of state was in a foreign country and he couldn't be in communication with Washington?

POWELL: The cell phones were working, but once I took off, the aircraft communications were limited by what was happening in Washington and in New York and throughout the country, as the entire air traffic system shut down. The communications started to be degraded.

My son, the chairman of the FCC, had to go to New York in the days afterwards to try to get communication systems back up and running. But for that seven-hour period that I spent in that airplane flying back to Washington, hoping they'd let me land, at that point. The whole air traffic system was shut down, but I only had two or three brief conversations with my deputy. So I did not have an understanding of the full extent of what was going on or more importantly, what we were already doing to try to respond to this catastrophe.

BLITZER: So how did you feel being so out of touch?

POWELL: Very isolated. And there was a lot of time to think and also worry because my own department might have been a target for a subsequent attack, the White House.

BLITZER: There were rumors that they...

POWELL: There were rumors that that fourth plane might have been heading to go the State Department, to the White House. We don't know. We're not sure to this day. And there might have been other planes. Who knew at that time? Who knew what else might be going on in the country? Who knew what other kinds of attacks might be underway against us here at home or at our embassies overseas? I have responsibility for 170-odd facilities overseas. Who knew what might have been happening there?

BLITZER: So your mind must have been wandering, worrying.

POWELL: My mind is racing. Of course, I'm blessed with a terrific staff that could watch out for all of these matters. But I had a lot of time on that airplane to think what would be required of me, what would be the required of our department, but more importantly, what would be required of the nation as we responded to this terrible attack upon us.

BLITZER: But in addition to being the secretary of state, you're a husband and you're a father and you're a grandfather. You must have been worried about your immediate family as well.

POWELL: I had two daughters in New York. My daughter, Lynn, and my daughter, Anne Marie, live in New York. And of course, my security people quickly established that the girls were OK. But you know we didn't know what was going. Where there terrorists running around New York City? And so, obviously, I was concerned for my own family, but more importantly, in this instance, I was concerned about my nation and how were we going to respond to this.

BLITZER: And in addition to being from New York, worrying about your hometown, you spent a long time at the Pentagon.

POWELL: I spent a long time in the Pentagon. And this was a building that means a lot to me. It's a building I know as intimately as anyone else and to hear it and -- I hadn't seen the images of the Pentagon at that point -- but then to arrive back in Washington and realize what had happened there as well and all the loss of life that took place there, was deeply disturbing.

And about a week or so later, I -- when things started to calm a bit, I called Donald Rumsfeld and asked if it was OK if I came over to the Pentagon and take a look, get through the cordon of security and rescue workers. And he said, "Of course" and then, he joined me. And the two of us, Don Rumsfeld and I walked that side of the Pentagon.

BLITZER: Because that corridor -- that corridor of the -- I used to cover the Pentagon and I know the area quite well as well -- but when you walk -- you saw that. Originally, you didn't know what part of the Pentagon, whether it was Marines or Army or Air Force or anything else -- you just heard about it.

POWELL: By the time I landed, I knew which part of the Pentagon and I knew it exactly. I know that heliport.

BLITZER: But not at the minute you took off?

POWELL: No, not by the time I took off. I just knew that a plane had gone into the Pentagon, which is astonishing. I mean you're there and you hear the planes have gone into the World Trade Center, then you hear one's gone into the Pentagon. And then, you hear that a third one has crashed into Pennsylvania and you wonder is there a fourth? Is there a fifth? What's going on? Is there somebody who is still up in the air? And of course, that's the reason the whole air traffic system was shut down and why they kept the president, correctly, away from Washington until we had some sense of what was really going on.

BLITZER: So did they let you fly -- land immediately or did you have circle?

POWELL: No, by the time I got into the Washington area, seven hours later, they had cleared my plane. The rest of the air traffic system remained closed. But they cleared my plane to land at Andrews Air Force Base, which is a distance from the -- at least, some distance away from the city proper and of course, they knew it was my plane and not some stranger coming in.

BLITZER: During those seven hours and since then, you've had a lot of time to think how could this happen to the United States of America.

POWELL: Somebody hated us very much. Somebody hated what we stood for. There was an organization out that there we were very familiar with, al Qaeda. They had hit us previously. They hit our two embassies. They were probably were responsible for the attack on our ship, the USS Cole, in Yemen, in the harbor in Yemen.

And so, we knew this enemy was out there, but we didn't understand, of course, until after September 11 how resourceful they were, how good they were at planning such a sophisticated attack and how well they were able to hide what they were doing. And so, it was no surprise that al Qaeda would do anything they could to get at us, but the sophistication of this attack and the amount of planning that went into it, made it clear to us that we had an enemy that was unlike any enemy we'd ever faced before.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Tomorrow, where is the war on terror headed? You'll find out in the second part of my special interview with the secretary of state, Colin Powell.

Be sure and join us, indeed, throughout the day, Wednesday, as CNN marks one year since the September 11 attacks. Our special coverage, "AMERICA REMEMBERS," begins at 6:00 a.m. Eastern. We'll have a number of in-depth reports, including "INSIDE THE FIRE," "BUNKER CAPITOL HILL," "TARGET WHITE HOUSE," "INSIDE THE PENTAGON," and "UNITED 93 LINE OF DEFENSE." And I'll be at the Pentagon all the day, from 6:00 a.m. until into the night on Wednesday.

From crime fighter to talk show traveler, John Walsh tries to take his new TV magic to a new format. A sneak preview when we come back. Plus, the Russians say "bye, bye, bye" and this time, they say they really mean it. Find out why keeping Lance Bass in space is not going to happen, at least not now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN WALSH, HOST, "AMERICA'S MOST WANTED": I'm John Walsh. Welcome to "America's Most Wanted".

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Earlier we asked -- what did John Walsh do before becoming the host of "America's Most Wanted?" John Walsh used to be a hotel resort developer. And his show has helped track down hundreds of criminals on the run. Now, John Walsh is branching out to the talk show circuit. We're talking about the same John Walsh who, for the past 15 years, has spearheaded communal crime fighting as the host of television's "America's Most Wanted."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (voice-over): America's crime fighting tough guy...

WALSH: It's time we hunt them down and bring them to justice at last.

BLITZER: ... is expanding his television presence. Today, John Walsh, host of "America's Most Wanted," began "The John Walsh Show," a syndicated daily talk show.

WALSH: Well, I'm going to cover things that I think are on the minds of Americans. I'm going to show them how -- that they can change their lives, get involved and make a difference.

BLITZER: For Walsh, using the media to capture criminals and recover missing kids has become his career and passion. Twenty-one years ago, Walsh's six-year-old son, Adam, was abducted and brutally murdered. No one was ever charged with the crime. Fueled by anger, Walsh, then a successful businessman, set out to fight for kids and continues to do today by pushing for a nationwide AMBER Alert Notification System.

WALSH: It should have been done 20 years ago, Wolf. Absolutely, the fake, phony b.s. criticism of the AMBER Alert -- last month, the AMBER Alert saved four girls, four kids. The two girls that were kidnapped in California were probably 15 minutes away from being murdered by that low life. They tried to escape. They stabbed him in the neck; hit him in the face with a bottle. They didn't get away. He said he was going to bury them in the shallow grave. If it wasn't for the AMBER Alert, they'd probably be dead.

BLITZER: After Adam's murder, Walsh became an advocate. He appeared on television programs and testified before Congress. His work soon paid off. In 1982, he stood in the Rose Garden and watched President Reagan sign the Missing Children's Act, creating a nationwide database for missing kids. Two years later, Walsh founded the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

ANNOUNCER: "America's Most Wanted," where America...

BLITZER: In 1987, the FOX broadcast network was looking for someone to host a new kind of show that would enlist viewers to help capture violent criminals. Walsh was perfect for the job. He was gritty, fiery, and FOX executives knew the folks at home couldn't help but watch him.

From reenactments and suspect sketches on "America's Most Wanted," to an "Oprah"-style talk show, complete with reunions and tear-jerking segments, "The John Walsh Show" is built around the softer side of the America's crime fighter.

WALSH: And there is a different side of John Walsh. Yes, on Saturday nights, I'm all business. I hate those creeps that I profile and I want to see them brought to justice. But I also have a lot of empathy and passion about things that need to be changed in this country.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And you can find out much more about John Walsh and his new talk show tomorrow night right here on CNN. He'll be a special guest on "LARRY KING LIVE." That's at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

It's the battle of the southern belles. Who will be Miss North Carolina at the Miss America contest? A judge weighs in on the fight when we come back, but first, our "Weekend Snapshot."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (voice-over): A rare Utah tornado destroyed six homes, damaged two-dozen others, and knocked down power lines. Damage is estimated at $1 million dollars, but there are no reports of injuries.

Firefighters made progress in their battle against the week old wildfire in California's Angeles National Forest. They expect full containment by tomorrow.

Heavy rain fell on mountainsides left baron by fires in Southwestern Colorado. The result was mudslides. Seven hundred people attending a show at a dinner theater were trapped for five hours while bulldozers cleared the road leading out.

The game isn't over until it's over. That's an old age sports lesson learned again by a Cleveland Browns linebacker, who flung his helmet to the ground in a premature celebration of victory. The Browns were penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct, setting up a field goal that won the game for Kansas City.

Coming back after a lengthy drive spell, Pete Sampras defeated long-time rival Andre Agassi to win the U.S. Open. It was his first tennis title since Wimbledon in 2000.

Bagpipers attending a convention in New York decided to March through the city's police memorial where they performed several songs in honor the September 11 victims.

There was New Orleans-style funeral in New York for jazz legend, Lionel Hampton. A white horse-drawn hearse pulled Hampton's remains through the streets of Harlem as trumpeter, Wynton Marsalis, blew a funeral dirge. And that's the "Weekend Snapshot."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Now checking these stories on this evening's "Newswire." In New York, the message is clear, but its source is a mystery. A new sign has gone up on a Manhattan billboard. It calls for the rebuilding of the World Trade Center towers bigger and better than before. A line at the bottom of the ad says it was paid for by an asset management firm, which would be honored to relocate in the new towers. The company that owns the billboard says the firm wishes to remain anonymous.

The battle over the Miss North Carolina crown goes on, at least for another day. A federal judge agreed today to give Rebekah Revels' lawyer another chance to argue her case. A hearing is set for tomorrow. Revels is suing to regain the title she says she was forced to give up when a former boyfriend revealed he had topless photos of her. Revels and Misty Clymer, who assumed the title when Revels stepped down in July, are both taking part in preliminary events for the upcoming Miss America pageant.

There will be no -- repeat -- no trip into space next month for pop star, Lance Bass. It's official now, after NASA was notified today by the Russian space agency. Bass, of course, a singer with 'NSYNC, had hoped to fly to the International Space Station aboard a Russian rocket, but, TV producers failed to raise the estimated $20 million fare. If the trip had gone as planned, Bass would have become the third paying space tourist.

Let's go live to New York now and get a preview of "LOU DOBBS MONEYLINE," which begins right at the top of the hour -- Lou. LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS MONEYLINE": Wolf, thank you. Coming up, President Bush tries to recruit allies for a potential attack against Iraq. Today, the president met with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien. We'll have a live report for you from the White House. And a report tonight raising new concerns about the state of Iraq's nuclear weapons program. And today on Wall Street, stocks staged a spectacular turnaround. We'll tell you what powered today's rally. All of that and a great deal more still ahead at the top of the hour. Please join us. Now back to Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Lou. Time is running out to weigh in on our "Web Question of The Day." Who poses the biggest threat to the United States -- Iraq, Iran or al Qaeda? Log on to CNN.com/Wolf. You can still vote. The results when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Now, here's how you're weighing in on our "Web Question of The Day." Earlier we asked -- who poses the biggest threat to the United States? Is it Iran, Iraq or al Qaeda? Look at this, 8 percent of you say, "Iran," 27 percent of you say, "Iraq," 65 percent of you -- 65 percent -- say "al Qaeda." You can find the exact vote tally, and continue to vote, by the way, on my Web site, CNN.com/Wolf. Remember, this is not a scientific poll.

Let's get to your e-mail. Time directly to hear from you. Nick writes us this: "It seems to me that all the blustering the administration has done about Saddam Hussein is just a transparent smoke screen designed to hide the fact that their attempt to deal with the perpetrators of 9/11 has failed."

And this from Bob: "No question Iraq needs to be dealt with, but I am very skeptical of the president's motives. I can't help but feel that he is simply trying to remedy his father's decision not to pursue Saddam after the Gulf War."

But Les offers us a very different perspective. He writes this: "We cannot sit on the fence and do nothing about Iraq. The world watched and held its breath before World War II. We must learn from history and act before anything catastrophic happens. How many times does the United States have to be jabbed with a sharp stick before it reacts?"

That's all the time we have today. Please join me again, of course, tomorrow at 5:00 p.m. Eastern. Among my guests, New York City's police commissioner on September 11 of last year. He speaks out about keeping safe on September 11 of this year. That's Bernard Karat. He'll join me tomorrow live at 5:00 p.m.

Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

"LOU DOBBS MONEYLINE" begins right now.

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