CNN INSIDE POLITICS
Campaign Battle Lines Help Shape Debate Over War With Iraq; More Suspects With Alleged Links to al Qaeda Arrested
Aired October 4, 2002 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington.
The Bush administration is billing this day as a defining day in the war on terror. How significant are the latest arrests?
JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Jonathan Karl on Capitol Hill, where campaign battle lines are helping to shape the debate over war with Iraq.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Bill Schneider in Washington. Who's getting the last laugh? Find out in the punch line to the "Political Play of the Week."
WOODRUFF: Also ahead, outrage in the ad wars. Do some new spots cross the line?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AD ANNOUNCER: But Bush and the Republicans still want to push their privatization plans in Congress, and they will, if you let them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS with Judy Woodruff.
WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us.
Even as the Bush administration presses toward possible war with Iraq, it is trumpeting a triple play in the war on terror: The guilty plea of the so-called shoe bomber, the sentencing of Taliban-American John Walker Lindh, and the arrest of more suspects with alleged links to al Qaeda.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Today is a day of justice for the citizens, the soldiers and law enforcement officers who defend our nation and our values, and defend them each and every day. It is a day both of victory and a day of resolve, of well-deserved thanks for a job well-done, coupled with a rededication to the job that lies ahead. And today is a day of vindication for the nation and President Bush.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena, is here with me now.
Kelli, tell us about these arrests and about the charges against these suspects.
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, five of the individuals are actually American-born U.S. citizens. One of the men that was here, was here legally. He's Jordanian citizen.
The charges against them -- first let's start with what they're not being charged with. That's a specific act of terrorism or a plan to carry out a specific terrorist act on U.S. soil. What they have been charged with, though, is conspiracy to levy war against America, conspiracy to provide material support and resources to al Qaeda, conspiracy to contribute services to al Qaeda and the Taliban and possessing firearm in furtherance of crimes of violence.
The firearms charge comes in -- actually, it was how the whole thing got started. There was a local deputy who got a civilian complaint about shots being fired, and he went to investigate. And lo and behold, there was this group of individuals who were practicing how to shoot firearms. From there, a year-long investigation culminating in these arrests today.
WOODRUFF: Well, in the scheme of things, when you look at the bigger war on terror, how significant are these arrests?
ARENA: The significance here, if what the government says is true, once again, we have identified people within the United States that are, not only sympathetic to the al Qaeda terrorist network organization, but are willing to provide their bodies and their services to that terror organization. And as I said, five of these people are U.S.-born citizens. So, that's the significance here.
And this was after September 11 that these individuals decided that they were going to get the training they needed -- physically and mentally...
WOODRUFF: After the attack (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
ARENA: ... after September 11. And when you saw the hideous pictures and what was going on in this country, and they decided then, according to the government, that they were going to make their way to Afghanistan -- and the government says, they have everything to prove that -- to fight with al Qaeda, with the Taliban against the United States.
WOODRUFF: Well, a remarkable story.
All right, Kelli, thanks very much.
And now, on to the showdown with Iraq. President Bush will give his first primetime speech on Iraq Monday night in Cincinnati. Senior administration officials say he plans to talk directly to the American people about the growing threat posed by Saddam Hussein. The president is said to be hoping to influence members of Congress, who will be debating, and the United Nations as well.
State Department officials tell CNN the administration has softened its position on a proposed U.N. compromise. In an apparent concession to Russia, China and France, the reportedly -- the U.S. reportedly have moved closer to accepting a two-step approach; that is, the first resolution demanding that Iraq comply, followed by a second resolution authorizing force if Iraq failed to cooperate.
Meantime, over on Capitol Hill today, senators have been debating war with Iraq, positioning themselves for next week's vote on a resolution authorizing the use of force.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), ARMED SERVICES CHAIRMAN: The best chance of having Saddam Hussein comply is when he looks down the barrel of a gun and sees the world at the other end, not just the United States.
SEN. JOHN WARNER (R-VA), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: People say, well, where's the smoking gun? Well, let's hope that we don't have a smoking gun. In other words, that gun will not have been fired and leaving a trail of smoke as it was in the year of 1990 and 1991.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: In the Iraq debate, some senators also are trying to position themselves for current and future political campaigns.
Here is our congressional correspondent, Jonathan Karl.
KARL (voice-over): When it comes to Iraq, most of the Senate Democrats facing tough re-election battles this year are lining up solidly with the president, including Max Cleland of Georgia, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Jean Carnahan of Missouri and Tim Johnson of South Dakota.
Even before the debate started, all of these Democrats said they would vote "yes" on the president's resolution, but that hasn't stopped the Republicans from attacking them for being soft on military issues.
Senator Johnson's Republican opponent is hitting him with an ad invoking Saddam Hussein. The issue: missile defense.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AD ANNOUNCER: Yet, Tim Johnson has voted against a missile defense system 29 different times. One of the most liberal records in Congress. Is this a question of patriotism? No. It's a question of judgment.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KARL: Among vulnerable Democrats, Paul Wellstone stands alone in saying he will vote no on war with Iraq. Wellstone has been here before. Back in 1991, he cast his first vote ever against the Gulf War resolution. That vote cost him politically, sending his approval rating down to 35 percent.
Back then, he had more than five years before his next election to recover politically. This time, he has less than five weeks.
Potential presidential candidates are also lining up with the White House, including Representative Dick Gephardt and Senators Joe Lieberman and John Edwards, but the biggest question mark right now is John Kerry. A frequent critic of President Bush's foreign policy, he has been silent on how he will vote on the Iraq resolution.
KARL: Now, John Kerry will be in Iowa tomorrow night speaking at the State Democratic Party's Jefferson Jackson dinner. And what's interesting, Judy, is he will be on the stage with two other potential presidential hopefuls: John Edwards, who is very much for this resolution authorizing force against Iraq, and Howard Dean, the governor of Vermont who is very much against it.
We're told that Kerry will not come up with a decision by then. He's going to think about it over the weekend, and probably announce his decision on Monday.
But I can tell you about one other possible presidential candidate here, Joe Biden. We have learned that Joe Biden is telling his colleagues that he, at the end of the day, will vote for the president's resolution. Even though he has his own alternative that he is still pushing for, he says, if it doesn't pass, he will vote for the president's resolution -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: And you're calling Joe Biden a potential presidential candidate? All right.
KARL: Potential, potential.
WOODRUFF: All right, Jon, thanks very much.
Well, House and Senate negotiators today announced a long-awaited deal to overhaul the nation's election system. The compromise would provide $3.9 billion to states over the next three years to help update equipment and to train poll workers.
CNN's Kate Snow says it is being billed as the biggest change in voting since the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and as an antidote to the 2000 election debacle.
KATE SNOW, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It won't affect the elections next month, but big changes are coming for 2004. REP. STENY HOYER (D), MARYLAND: Today, the United States of America declares its independence from hanging chads, butterfly ballots and a broken election system that nearly provoked a constitutional crisis two years ago.
SNOW: The first batch of money to the states would help replace old, ailing machines with new equipment -- machines that meet national minimum standards, many that work like ATMs. Posters and trained poll workers would help voters navigate the new machines, a problem in last month's Florida primary. And voters would have the right to double- check their ballot, even fix them if they think they made a mistake.
And remember the confusion in Florida two years ago over how to count votes? Each state would now have to come up with its own statewide rules for how to count ballots.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have seen enough of Ritzy Mackler (ph).
SNOW: And to stop dogs or dead people from being registered voters, new fraud provisions. New voters have to somehow prove their identity when they cast a ballot. If there's any question about a voter's identity, they'll at least have the right to cast a provisional ballot, which would count if election officials say it's OK.
SNOW: Judy, those fraud provisions were some of the most controversial items in this bill. In fact, some Democrats still saying they're not entirely pleased with what they have got here. Congressman John Conyers, for one, saying he would not like to have these fraud provisions in there, because he worries that it could discriminate against some voters.
But that said, they are all signing onto this bill, including the Congressional Black Caucus, Democrats and Republicans, Judy. We expect a real vote -- bipartisan vote next week in both the House and the Senate.
WOODRUFF: And some would say it's taken them long enough, but yet, they have finally done it.
All right, Kate Snow, thanks very much.
Well, President Bush made a swing today through Boston, adding to his record-breaking season of campaign fund-raising.
Even as Mr. Bush stomped for GOP gubernatorial candidate, Mitt Romney, his old adversary, Al Gore, was in town, too.
Our White House correspondent, Kelly Wallace, has more on the political calculations.
KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy. Well, you have a neck-and-neck race for governor in the state of Massachusetts, and so that is why both campaigns pulling out all of the stops.
Later this evening, former Vice President Gore out to raise money for the Democratic candidate, Shannon O'Brien. And, as we know, the president there, helping the Republican candidate, bringing in $1 million for Mitt Romney, the former Salt Lake City Olympic's chief.
But then, the scene just two days ago was Baltimore, Maryland, and that is where the president helped to bring in $1.8 million to help Republican Congressman Bob Ehrlich try and beat out Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in the race for governor of that state.
Take a look at these numbers. So far this year, the president has helped bring in more than $132 million in over 60 events, beating the record once held by former President Clinton and former Vice President Gore.
The fund-raising to continue tomorrow, the president will be in New Hampshire to help Congressman John Sununu in his race for the Senate; next week traveling to Tennessee to help Congressman Van Hilleary in his race for governor.
We understand more fund-raisers, more get-out-the-vote events planned. The president to be on the road probably at least two times a week over the next several weeks with White House officials feeling very good about the outlook right now for the GOP -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: That's what we're hearing, as well. Kelly, is it just a coincidence that the president and Al Gore were both in Massachusetts today?
WALLACE: It appears it was. The O'Brien camp saying it appears to be a coincidence, one, the campaign apparently doesn't mind, and aides saying that Shannon O'Brien and Vice President Gore share a commitment to issues, such as the economy and education.
But interesting, when we asked the White House what it felt about the two former presidential rivals being in the same place at the same time, one aide saying, he didn't even know Vice President Gore was there -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, Kelly, thank you.
Well, we'll have an update on the New Jersey ballot battle next. Can GOP Senate candidate Doug Forrester win if Democrat Frank Lautenberg is allowed on the ballot? Forrester will join us "On The Record."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AD ANNOUNCER: Al Qaeda terrorists, Saddam Hussein, enemies of America, working to obtain nuclear weapons.
WOODRUFF: The first campaign 2002 ads featuring Saddam Hussein. Is it fair, or does it go too far?
Plus, our elections countdown. Does anyone really know what the biggest issues are?
And move over "Millionaire," there's a new political game playing out on the Web.
This is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.
WOODRUFF: New Jersey Democrats today filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court alleging that Republican, Doug Forrester, is trying to eliminate competition in his race for the Senate. The brief is a response to the GOP challenge to this week's State Supreme Court decision in New Jersey. And that court ruled that Frank Lautenberg can replace incumbent Bob Torricelli as the Democratic nominee.
Doug Forrester is with me now. He's in New York, and we're going to talk more about the New Jersey ballot battle.
The Democrats are saying, Mr. Forrester, essentially, that you would rather not compete at all. Are they right?
DOUG FORRESTER (R), N.J. SENATE CANDIDATE: Oh, that's a foolish sort of comment. It's the same kind of foolishness, frankly, I think that has driven the Democrats to stop an election in progress in New Jersey.
A lot of people don't realize that fact. You know, this election began, ballots were printed and distributed, and actually people have voted and returned those ballots.
What's particularly ironic is that these are going to men and women in uniform, who are precisely the people who are defending our right to have free elections. We don't think that's right at all. You know, there was plenty of time for...
WOODRUFF: But you're not saying -- excuse me, Mr. Forrester. You're not saying people shouldn't have a choice here, because now that Mr. Torricelli is out of the race...
FORRESTER: Well, there...
WOODRUFF: ... their point is people should have a choice.
FORRESTER: Well, there are five candidates on the ballot right now. Mr. Torricelli was the sixth candidate on the ballot. Mr. Torricelli is still on the ballot. He is trying to get off the ballot, because he's afraid of losing badly. I don't think that that is a particularly wise thing to allow, particularly after an election has started, because it will disenfranchise many voters, particularly the voters that are most important, from my point of view, which are defending, you know, our freedom.
Now, I am relieved that Mr. Torricelli says he doesn't want to run anymore. You know, I've run against six opponents. I've been running for nine months, I've been steadfast. We have been talking about all of the issues.
And one of the things that rankles me most in this race is that the Democrats have tried to suggest that we aren't talking about issues. We are. We're talking about national security, defending families, getting more money back for New Jersey. You know, we're always last. New Jersey is always last.
And, you know, now that the Torricelli-Lautenberg machine has ginned up this idea that they can swap out candidates right at the end...
FORRESTER: ... to supposedly improve their position, you know, I think it's outrageous, because it's going to disenfranchise some voters.
WOODRUFF: Well, let me ask you about that. The Torricelli- Lautenberg machine, as I'm sure you know, Mr. Torricelli and Mr. Lautenberg have not always been on the best of terms, to put it mildly. In fact, they have been political adversaries.
How can you lump them together like this?
FORRESTER: Oh, it's so easy. And I'm aware that there are personal animosities. But you know, Mr. Lautenberg has stepped into Mr. Bob Torricelli's shoes, and the same group of people have just swapped them out.
In other words, if you look at the photographs of the people who held their arms around Mr. Torricelli just -- just a week ago, pledging their undying support and affection for him, are the same people who are now trying to do that to Frank Lautenberg. It's just the same crowd, and these people, we believe, are not honoring an election in progress. That's not good.
I feel like inviting Jimmy Carter in to monitor the election in New Jersey. And this is really inappropriate.
WOODRUFF: Let me ask you, you know, what are you saying to people is the main theme of your campaign now? Because the reporters who were covering you were saying that at every campaign stop before this week, the first thing you would say was, I'm the guy who is running against Bob Torricelli." What are you saying now?
FORRESTER: Oh, it makes complete sense -- I mean, that we needed to do that, because Mr. Torricelli had been there 20 years, you know? He has been there 20 years, and basically the same 20 years that Frank Lautenberg has been there, which is part of the reason that we're talking about the Torricelli-Lautenberg team, because their voting records are so similar.
What I'm saying is that I'm running for the United States Senate, always have been, because I want to reflect New Jersey's honor and integrity, as well as philosophy. There is no question about the fact, in my mind, that if Mr. Lautenberg ends up being my opponent, that he will be easier to beat, because his voting record is so far out of step with New Jersey. We're always last in terms of federal resources. So, we're campaigning ahead.
FORRESTER: I am glad that the official conduct issue is off the table, because that allows us to focus on the other issues that are so important that we've been talking about for so long.
WOODRUFF: All right. Well, Doug Forrester, we would love to talk to you longer. We are going to have to leave it there. We have some breaking news out of a federal courthouse in suburban Virginia. But good to talk to you.
FORRESTER: Thank you so much for having me on. I appreciate it.
WOODRUFF: And we hope to stay in touch with you in the next few weeks -- appreciate it.
FORRESTER: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: We do want to go quickly now to the federal courthouse over in Virginia, where CNN's David Ensor is there covering the sentencing of John Walker Lindh, the American-Taliban.
Susan Candiotti is there with David.
Susan -- hi. I'm sorry. It's you.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's OK. David just stepped aside.
I just left the courthouse, and it official now that the so- called American-Taliban, John Walker Lindh, has, indeed, been sentenced to 20 years in prison. That on two charges: One of supplying services to the Taliban, and one criminal charge of exploding two hand grenades.
Now, he entered the courtroom smiling, although he did sniffle and pause several times, as he read a 14-minute long statement to the court saying, in part, I made a mistake by joining the Taliban and I want the court to know and I want the American people to know -- I'm quoting here -- that I had -- that had I known now what I -- "had I known then what I know about the Taliban, I would never have joined them."
And he went on to condemn the terrorist attacks of Osama bin Laden, saying -- quote -- "His grievances, whatever they may be, cannot be addressed by acts of injustice and violence against innocent people in America."
Again, John Walker Lindh spoke with his family present. He wore a green prison jumpsuit, standard issue.
Also in the room was the father of CIA agent officer, Johnny Michael Spann, who, as you will recall, was killed during a prison uprising, the same prison where John Walker Lindh had been held.
Now, John Walker Lindh, in his statement, interestingly enough did not address his presence or address the death of Johnny Michael Spann. And the judge called attention to that before he was sentenced, and asked John Walker Lindh whether, indeed, he had any role in the death. And quite clearly, John Walker Lindh said that he did not.
Now, this was after the father of Johnny Michael Spann addressed the court for about 20 minutes, saying that he disagreed with the sentence, and he wished it had been more. He -- in his opinion, as he stated -- did not think it was fair.
In the end, the judge said to John Walker Lindh, he said -- quote: "Life is making choices and living with the consequences. You made a bad choice by joining the Taliban."
So again, John Walker Lindh sentenced to 20 years in prison as expected. He must, under the terms of a plea agreement with the court, continue to cooperate with the government. And in fact, indeed, if he is called to testify, for example, against anyone else, he must agree to do so.
Again, Judy, it was interesting to watch, because he was very emotional during the course of reading the statement, sniffled many times, paused many times, nearly broke down.
WOODRUFF: Susan, how believable are John Walker Lindh's comments to the judge that is at least -- this is a quote that I read, that if he had known when he joined the Taliban that it would be sheltering the al Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden, he never would have done so. How believable is that?
CANDIOTTI: Well, that, of course...
WOODRUFF: I mean, wasn't that pretty clear at the time that that's what they were doing?
CANDIOTTI: That, of course, is the main question here, and it will be left to the American people to decide. Even the judge pointed out, some people will think that this was the right sentence. Some people will disagree with it, because of the very circumstances that you mentioned, Judy: How much did he know then?
John Walker Lindh insisted that when he went overseas, it was, at first, to study the religion -- of Islamic religion and then to take up arms.
WOODRUFF: Susan, I'm going to interrupt you, because there's another story we're following very close here in the Washington suburbs. Thank you, Susan Candiotti.
And that is, of course, the shootings in Montgomery County, Maryland, just outside of Washington. The police chief, Charles Moose, is talking to reporters now.
I'm sorry, this is the county executive, Doug Duncan in Montgomery County, Maryland.
(LIVE EVENT JOINED IN PROGRESS)
DOUGLAS DUNCAN, MONTGOMERY CO. EXECUTIVE: ... 15 years, an 11- year-old son, as well as a sister. Jim loved his church and was truly committed to community service in all areas of his life: church, neighborhood, scouts.
The trip to the shopper's grocery store, where he was killed, was to buy groceries for his church and the mentoring program for students at Shepherd Elementary in Washington, D.C., a program developed through the Department of Commerce.
He was a program analyst for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of Marine and Aviation Operations. Jim was a diversity coordinator, a job important to him because of his devotion to equality for all.
The Martin's home was always filled with love and friends. An unassuming man, Jim enjoyed studying Civil War history and began work on a book about his wife's Civil War era ancestors, as well as a book about his childhood in southeast Missouri.
Jim enjoyed the simple pleasures in life, his church, his co- workers, his neighbors, his friends and his shamrock. He will be sorely and deeply missed by all.
The family wishes to continue to grieve in private, and asks that the media respect their wishes. In keeping with that request, the family asked that the media not attend the funeral services.
And again, that was a statement from the family of Jim Martin, the victim killed at Shoppers Food Warehouse on Wednesday night.
And now, for an update on the investigation, let me turn it over to Chief Charles Moose -- Chief.
CHIEF CHARLES MOOSE, MONTGOMERY COUNTY POLICE: Thank you, sir.
At this point, we want to report that the round from the MPD shooting. Earlier, I indicated that they were taken that to their lab. They have certainly at that -- made an adjustment. That round has been turned over to the ATF. Their thought process, that for consistency purposes, let AFT do our work and do their work, and at this point, that evidence is en route to the lab.
MPD has issued an update to their press release, which I'll read: "An autopsy has been conducted, and bullet fragments were removed from Mr. Charlot's body. These fragments have been submitted to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for comparisons relative to the cases in Montgomery County, Maryland.
The department, MPD, is looking into the possibility that Mr. Charlot's murder may be related to those cases in Montgomery County. However, there is no conclusive evidence at this time to confirm the possibility.
The department, meaning MPD, has increased patrols in the area of last night's shooting, and has detectives working with Montgomery County to coordinate the investigations. If Mr. Charlot's murder is determined to be related to the cases in Montgomery County, the department, meaning MDP, will conduct a joint investigation with Montgomery County Police."
And so, again, that evidence is en route to the lab with ATF, and certainly, once it there, AFT continues to keep this as a very, very high priority.
At this point, we'll take questions, and please note that the next briefing will be at 6:00 p.m.
MOOSE: Certainly, we are aware of that. We are making arrangements to have our investigators go to that location. And at this point, that's really all that we have.
MOOSE: We stepped up interstate cooperation at the start of this situation. If you're meaning, have we done anything since this report of the shooting at the Michael's store, we have not.
QUESTION: Chief, do you know if there's a white truck involved in that shooting (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
MOOSE: At this point, I know very little about that situation. We're doing everything we can to get our investigators there. We're watching some of the stuff you guys are putting out. Maybe you've got quicker information than us, but we're trying to, you know, do our job here and keep an eye on that, see what the relationship may be.
QUESTION: Chief, can we talk about that white truck for a minute? Only one witness, to the best of our knowledge, saw that white truck, the white-box truck, at just one of the murder scenes. Is it possible this white-box truck may have nothing to do with this string of murders?
MOOSE: Well, as we've talked about this, again, we've left open all possibilities. So, anything that you can conjecture, anything that you can think of, all of that is possible. We're trying to rely on facts. We feel very confident that we have not located the truck that we're interested in. And we're going to stay on that until we are comfortable that we found a truck that we think we want to find. That, to me, is just good investigative protocol. It is still a priority for us. We still think it has something to do with our case.
I'll remind you, if it didn't, then I certainly wonder why that truck hasn't driven up here to headquarters and have the people driving it explain why they were at the scene that day and let us clear them and clear their name and clear their truck.
So, since I don't have that truck, I can only assume there's a reason. And we're going to continue to look for it.
QUESTION: Chief, did your witness give you a better description...
WOODRUFF: We're listening to Charles Moose, who is the police chief in Montgomery County, Maryland, where, over the course of the last two days, five people were killed in a small geographic area.
In addition, you heard him say that a man who was shot dead in Washington, D.C. in the last 24 hours, they are now wondering, they are now looking into whether that shooting was related. And, at the very end, he was asked about two shootings, possible death in Fredericksburg, Virginia, again, not very far from Washington, but in the state of Virginia.
And we heard Chief Moose say that, "We're making arrangements," he said, "to have investigators go there." We don't have very much information on that.
We're going to take a break. When we come back: continuing coverage of the sentencing, 20 years in prison for John Walker Lindh, the American Taliban.
INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.
WOODRUFF: As we've just been reporting, a federal judge in Alexandria, Virginia, has sentenced John Walker Lindh, the so-called American Taliban, to 20 years in prison for the work that he did alongside the Taliban during and about the time of the attacks on September the 11th.
With us now: our correspondent who has been covering this trial over in Virginia, Susan Candiotti.
Susan, I gather there are family members outside the courthouse who are starting to talk to reporters.
Apparently, they are making their way outside here now, Judy. I can't quite get a view of it exactly. They're not in front of the microphones just yet. However, just a few moments ago, the federal prosecutors who have been involved this case for nearly a year did address the news media briefly and said they were satisfied with the sentence and that, in their view, John Walker Lindh chose to fight, as they said, with the Taliban and provided support to an organization that helped out al Qaeda.
And now through this conviction, they said, it proves that the American justice system works in its fight against terrorism. I asked specifically the question, "Did John Walker Lindh's words ring true to you when he said he didn't know, wasn't aware precisely of what Osama bin Laden's role was and what he was participating in?"
And he said, "Well, based on the evidence, we cannot really answer that question." Clearly, the government in this case dropped all of its charges against John Walker Lindh, including the most serious ones, including conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals and, without naming him, including CIA Officer Johnny Michael Spann. And what he wound up with were two lesser charges, including exploding hand grenades and supplying services to the Taliban.
Nevertheless, he will be spending 20 years behind bars. However, at the age of 21, he'll have a lot of life to live when he gets out at the age of about 40 -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, Susan, thank you very much.
And we are going to take a break. We'll get back to INSIDE POLITICS right after this.
WOODRUFF: Back to politics now and two political ads raising cries of unfairness by both political parties: An online animation at the Democratic Party Web site is designed to dramatize the president's policies on Social Security. But Republicans are not amused. The animation includes a shot of a cartoon of President Bush pushing a woman in her wheelchair over a graphic, kind of a cliff.
The second item raising political hackles is a TV ad for South Dakota Republican John Thune, being used in his Senate race against incumbent Democrat Tim Johnson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AD ANNOUNCER: ... working to obtain weapons, now, more than ever, our nation must have a missile defense system to shoot down missiles fired at America. Yet Tim Johnson has voted against a missile defense system 29 different times, one of the most liberal records in Congress.
Is this a question of patriotism? No, it's a question of judgment. John Thune supported a missile defense system every time. John Thune, putting national defense and American security first.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: And with me now to talk more about these ads: Jennifer Palmieri of the Democratic National Committee -- she's in Los Angeles -- Mindy Tucker of the Republican National Committee, with me here in Washington.
Mindy, to you first.
Tim Johnson is with the president on the resolution against -- to do something about Saddam Hussein. Why, then, is the committee doing this? Democrats say you're trying to politicize it.
MINDY TUCKER, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, RNC: Well, this is about an important issue, missile defense.
And it's important that the South Dakota voters know how their representative in the Senate is going to vote. For the Democrats to say that national defense issues should not be talked about at all in campaigns is ridiculous. People need to know that Tim Johnson indeed voted 29 times against a missile defense and, in fact, has been endorsed and funded by an organization that has praised him for opposing missile defense.
And John Thune was clear. He said this is not about patriotism. It says that in the ad. It's about judgment. And that's clear. People need to know in South Dakota, if they care about protecting our country against threats from Saddam Hussein and the like, we need a missile defense system. Is John Thune going to be there on that issue, or is Tim Johnson? It's clear the answer is John Thune.
WOODRUFF: And, Jennifer, why isn't this a perfectly legitimate issue for the Republican to raise?
JENNIFER PALMIERI, PRESS SECRETARY, DNC: Well, if was about national missile defense, I would have to ask, why is it that Saddam Hussein is in the ad?
I think that because, you know, the Republicans are struggling to find an issue where they can do better than Democrats. And certainly, it's not economic issues. So I think what they were trying to do here is create -- is to fabricate a difference where there really is none, because there's no difference between John Thune and Tim Johnson on Saddam Hussein.
Tim Johnson, as you noted in your lead-in, supports President Bush on a resolution on Iraq. And I think that they're just trying to politicize the Iraqi issue to draw attention away from where John Thune is not doing well. And that's on the economic issues that people really care about.
WOODRUFF: All right, let's move quickly to that animation on the Democratic Party Web site showing the president pushing a woman in a wheelchair.
Mindy Tucker, you know, the Democrats would say, well, President Bush did -- when he ran for president, he did endorse the idea of investing personal savings accounts in private stocks and bonds, in other words, taking some money that would have gone to Social Security.
TUCKER: The problem is, that's not what this ad says. It says that he's going to invest Social Security money in the stock market and, therefore, seniors are going to have no money left. And the illustration of this is supposed to be the president ridiculously pushing an older woman over in her wheelchair. It's ridiculous. It's not funny.
PALMIERI: It's a cartoon. It's supposed to be ridiculous.
TUCKER: But it's not funny. This is not a funny issue. And the biggest problem with this is, the ad lies. I've got the president's executive order that he signed right here. And it says, "Government must not invest Social Security funds in the stock market."
PALMIERI: This is not about the president's executive order. This is about what the president said he was going to do on the campaign trail.
TUCKER: If it's in writing, you're not going to pay attention to it?
PALMIERI: ... which is what he said
TUCKER: So you're not concerned with facts?
PALMIERI: ... the privatization of Social Security.
WOODRUFF: Jennifer, we've only got about 30 seconds. Go ahead, Jennifer. Make your point.
PALMIERI: What we were trying to do is raise awareness of the difference between Democrats and Republicans on Social Security. And I'd say we were successful in doing that.
The Republicans have spent millions of dollars in TV ads trying to run away from their support of privatization of Social Security. And this cartoon is designed to draw attention to the fact that there are real differences. And these guys do support Social Security privatization.
TUCKER: And it shows that the Democrats don't have an agenda. They have to resort to things like this, like they're doing on a number of issues. They can't get things done, so they try to demagogue
TUCKER: It happens every election season.
PALMIERI: This is the first time we've been able to talk about Social Security. So I think the Democrats are doing something right.
WOODRUFF: All right. As usual, we don't have enough time to finish this. But we're going to give you a chance next week. We thank you both. Jennifer, Mindy, we appreciate it.
PALMIERI: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: A look at Democratic chances for keeping control of the Senate -- I will talk with Senator Patty Murray.
WOODRUFF: Yes, it's 32 days before the midterm elections. And let's count down to that crucial vote with the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Patty Murray. We should note that we spoke with her Republican counterpart, Bill Frist, yesterday.
Senator Murray, the Republicans are saying that what you Democrats are doing in New Jersey is, you're corrupting the election process, and, in effect, you're trying to steal an election there that you couldn't otherwise win.
SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, frankly, I'm pretty surprised that the Republican Party is trying to have an election of a candidate without an opponent, on a technicality.
The state Supreme Court in New Jersey, in a unanimous 7-0 decision, said that people of New Jersey have a right to have a choice on a ballot of a candidate who could be their United States senator and represent them on the important issues to New Jersey for the next six years. And I think that's a choice that people in New Jersey want to have. The court has given that to them. And I'm surprised, frankly, that the Republicans have chosen to say, "No, we don't want you to have a choice."
WOODRUFF: Well, if this is the precedent, what is to stop other candidates around the country from simply dropping out close to an election when they're down in the polls?
MURRAY: I doubt very much that this would set any kind of precedent. This was unique circumstances, where Senator Torricelli was plagued by ethics questions for some time. He chose to step down. He said -- and I think because he was saying as he felt -- that he could not let New Jersey voters pick a candidate to represent them based on the issues. And he chose to have his name pulled off the ballot.
That is a really unique situation. I frankly don't see that happening in any other race today anywhere in this country or probably in the future.
WOODRUFF: You were meeting yesterday with Senator Frank Lautenberg, who, of course, has been chosen to go on the ballot, if the courts permit it. Is he getting a promise from the leadership of the Senate that, if he's elected, he will get to regain his seniority position, because he served three terms?
MURRAY: Senator Daschle made it very clear that we are all very pleased to have Senator Frank Lautenberg choose to want to come back and join us again. He was a great colleague of mine for many years in the Senate and is a hard worker. Nobody is making promises of anything. The election is 32 days away. And we're all focused on that.
WOODRUFF: Last question: Yesterday, Senator Bill Frist predicted that the Republicans will net one additional seat in the Senate, giving them the majority all over again. What's your prediction?
MURRAY: I believe very strongly that we have a great chance to not only keep the Senate, but increase our majority by one or two votes, because the people in this country in communities across the country are focused on the issues of jobs, the economy, education, health care, retirement security. And those are issues that Democrats speak to well and Republicans are not today.
WOODRUFF: All right, Senator Patty Murray, she heads up the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, trying to get those Democrats elected to the Senate.
Senator, good to see you.
MURRAY: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: We appreciate it. Thank you.
And we do have this breaking news to CNN just in the last few minutes. And that is from Fredericksburg, Virginia. It's something we told you about a little while ago. A woman was shot, has been shot outside a store near Fredericksburg this afternoon, as you can see on the map, Fredericksburg in the greater Washington, D.C. area.
It's an incident with similarities to the shootings in Maryland on Thursday and Wednesday night. Now, this is Spotsylvania County. Police are saying the woman was loading packages into her car about 2:30 this afternoon outside of a mall, when she was shot in the back. There is no official word on her condition. Witnesses say that she was breathing and speaking. The shot apparently was fired from a distance.
Now, the first thing, of course, on many people's minds is, is there any connection with those shootings in Montgomery County in Maryland just outside of Washington? But, at this point, police are not saying if that's the case, if there is a connection between this incident and the others. They say it is simply too soon to draw any conclusions.
And, of course, CNN following this story and we'll bring you any more information as we have it.
From that, we want to go to another story we're following, a breaking story at the courthouse, the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia. These are the attorneys for John Walker Lindh, James Brosnahan talking to reporters after his client, Mr. Lindh, sentenced to 20 years in prison.
(LIVE EVENT JOINED IN PROGRESS) JAMES BROSNAHAN, ATTORNEY FOR JOHN WALKER LINDH: No. 2, speaking as an individual, now that he has honestly fessed up to what he did, it's time for the American government -- and I include the attorney general, Mr. Ashcroft -- to get out and get some real terrorists.
John is not a terrorist. He's a certified, court-approved non- terrorist. That's the only sane interpretation of what happened today. So it's time for Mr. Ashcroft to deliver some people that will make the American people safer. They're not one bit safer today because John is in jail, not in any way.
And it's his statement that's the centerpiece of it. And that was his statement. We didn't -- it wasn't the lawyers that did it. It was John's statement. So the case is over. The case is done. John's going to do what he can. And that's it.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) not in the courtroom, for the cameras and for the American people who were not in the courtroom hearing the statement, could you just give us the highlights of the statement, please?
BROSNAHAN: Well, the statement was a four-page statement by John in which he made it clear he did not go to Afghanistan to fight Americans. He never would do that. He never did do that. He never fought Americans at any time, No. 1. No. 2, he opposes terrorism in every way, and always has. Three, Islam opposes the attack on civilians and it opposes suicide.
All of these things are true. And I think what's good about federal courts is that you get a lot of truth in there. See, there are some people, including the attorney general, who's afraid of courts. He has got to keep people down in Cuba and places like this. But if we had things in court the way we had today, the truth would come out and you could figure out if someone is really a terrorist, unlike John. You would know it and the American people would know it.
They're entitled to hear these things, not to keep it in secret. And I think it's one of the big issues right now in the legal system.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) people not hearing the statement...
WOODRUFF: James Brosnahan, who is one of the attorneys for John Walker Lindh, the American Taliban, today sentenced to 20 years -- I'm sorry -- yes, 20 years in prison for his work alongside the Taliban during last year.
And you heard Mr. Brosnahan saying: Attorney General John Ashcroft needs to focus on getting real terrorists. John Walker Lindh is not a terrorist, the American people not one bit safer because he's been sentenced to prison.
We're going to take a break. We'll be right back.
WOODRUFF: Our apologies. We don't have time today to bring you the "Political Play of the Week." We promise Bill Schneider will be with us next week.
That's it for today's INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff. We thank you for joining us.
"WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" is next.
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Iraq; More Suspects With Alleged Links to al Qaeda Arrested>