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More Arrests Made of Americans With Alleged al Qaeda Ties; Shoe Bomber, Lindh Appear in Court to Confess to Crimes

Aired October 4, 2002 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR (voice-over): Al Qaeda in America? Today, U.S. citizens charged with being part of a terror cell.
JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Count one, conspiracy to levy war against the United States.

BLITZER: The would-be "Shoe Bomber" comes clean but offers no apologies.

Sniper on the loose, is a high powered rifle the tool for a murderous rampage?

JOSEPH RIEHL, ATF SPECIAL AGENT: People who shoot a lot, people who trained previously to shoot these types of weapon at long range would have the capabilities.

BLITZER: "Showdown: Iraq." What's on his mind? The president plans a major speech.

And two young boys, deaf since birth -- a medical procedure could give them a chance to hear. Can prosecutors force their deaf mother to go along?


BLITZER: The Attorney General John Ashcroft calls this a deafening day in the U.S. war on terror. He made the comment while announcing charges against six people, five of them U.S. citizens, all accused of providing support to al Qaeda. That comes on the same day "The Shoe Bomber" Richard Reid pleaded guilty and Taliban-American fighter John Walker Lindh was sentenced.

We have correspondents working those stories coast-to-coast. Justice Correspondent Kelli Arena is on the arrest, James Hattori in Oregon where three of the suspects were taken into custody, our Boston Bureau Chief Bill Delaney on Richard Reid's guilty plea, and our National Correspondent Susan Candiotti on the sentencing of John Walker Lindh. Let's begin with Kelli Arena. She's here in Washington -- Kelli.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, earlier today joint terrorism task forces in Portland and Detroit arrested four suspected terrorist cell members. It follows arrests in Buffalo, New York and elsewhere of individuals in this country accused of having links to al Qaeda. The attorney general says including today's developments, 17 such individuals have been charged since August 28.


ARENA (voice over): These six individuals are charged with being part of an al Qaeda terrorist cell. Five are American-born U.S. citizens. One even served in the U.S. Army as a reservist.

ASHCROFT: Today is a defining day in America's war against terrorism. We have neutralized the suspected terrorist cell within our borders.

ARENA: Four of the accused are currently in custody arrested in Portland, Oregon and Detroit, Michigan. Two remain at large overseas. The six are not charged with planning a specific terrorist act inside the U.S. or anywhere else but rather conspiracy to wage war against the United States to provide material support and resources to al Qaeda and to contribute services to al Qaeda and the Taliban. If convicted, they will face life in prison.

SHERIFF CHARLES BRYAN, SAKAMANIA COUNTY, WASHINGTON: A group of Oregon residents, most of whom were U.S. citizens, after September 11 and the attacks on the United States decided to go to Afghanistan and fight for al Qaeda and the Taliban against the United States military. Five of those individuals left the country. One stayed behind and wire transferred money to support them while they were overseas.

ARENA: The five who tried to get to Afghanistan never made it. At least one made it only as far as Bangladesh. Three returned to the United States. Before that, one of the three, Jeffrey Battle, allegedly joined the U.S. Army Reserves to learn about U.S. military tactics and weapons.

ASHCROFT: While in Bangladesh attempting to gain entry into Afghanistan, Battle caused himself to be discharged administratively from the United States Army Reserve in which he had enlisted in order to receive military training intended for use against the United States.

ARENA: The investigation started a year ago, sparked by a tip from a local sheriff from Washington State where the authorities say the suspects were using a gravel pit for weapons training.


ARENA: Officials would not comment on possible associates but they did say the investigation is still underway. They are asking citizens to be alert and to report suspicious activity, Wolf back to you.

BLITZER: As you know, Kelli, there is another individual James Ujama (ph) connected at Oregon to some sort of a alleged al Qaeda plot. Are these cases related whatsoever?

ARENA: No they're not, at least according to sources. The attorney general was asked that question in public. He refused to comment when he was asked, but when I spoke to sources throughout the day, they told me there was no connection, at least not now.

BLITZER: OK, Kelli Arena, thanks for that report. Let's move on to Portland, Oregon where three of the suspects were arrested. Our James Hattori is there and he has the latest from the scene -- James.

JAMES HATTORI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Wolf. We're outside the Federal Courthouse in downtown Portland where a court appearance is schedule in about an hour for three suspects that were taken into custody here in southwest Portland earlier today. They are, of course, Jeffrey Battle, October Lewis who was described as his ex-wife, as well as Patrick Ford, that's a gentleman who was involved in the alleged conspiracy.

They face charges of conspiracy to levy war against the U.S., conspiracy to provide material support and resources to al Qaeda, conspiracy to contribute services to al Qaeda and the Taliban, plus perhaps the most serious charge carrying the most penalty; possessing firearms in furtherance of crimes of violence. Those charges could bring anywhere from 20 years to life in prison for each.

Now, they were taken into custody in an apartment complex in southwest Oregon, southwest Portland earlier today. We have some footage of them being taken into custody, and also one of the neighbors has described that he saw some suspicious activity going on prior to the arrests and here's what he had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right after 9/11, we saw a big van pull up here and unload unmarked crate, lots of them, and we actually called the Department of Police and reported it.


HATTORI: Now, the attorney general says there's a possibility they're looking at other suspects in the Portland area, no further word on that, Wolf. It's interesting to note that this gravel pit which started this whole investigation is located across the Columbia River just to the north and a little east of Portland. A local county sheriff there was called to the scene on the basis on a noise complaint, and that was shortly, like within weeks after the September 11 attack -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A year long investigation, James Hattori on the scene for us in Portland, thanks very much. Meanwhile in Boston, the man who tried to blow up an American Airlines jet with explosives hidden in his shoes pleaded guilty and declared himself an enemy of the United States. Our Boston Bureau Chief Bill Delaney is joining us now with more on Richard Reid's day in court -- Bill.

BILL DELANEY, CNN BOSTON BUREAU CHIEF: Yes, Wolf, I am in front of the Federal Courthouse here in downtown Boston. Earlier this week, Richard Reid's attorneys said their client's concern over the impact on his family of the negative publicity of a big internationally watched trial is why he decided to change his plea.


DELANEY (voice over): Having sat through proceedings likely to send him to jail for life with an almost whimsical air, occasionally smiling at charges like murder, Richard Reid pled guilty to eight counts answering mostly in monosyllables though at one point saying: "I am a member of al Qaeda, pledged to Osama bin Laden and I am an enemy of your country." There were no deals said U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan.

MICHAEL SULLIVAN, U.S. ATTORNEY: Richard Reid is an al Qaeda trained Islamic extremist while on a martyrdom mission engaged in acts of international terrorism. They were motivated by his hate of the United States.

DELANEY: Federal judge William Young denied a defense request to strike language accusing Reid of being trained by al Qaeda from the original indictment against Reid. Young then meticulously charge by charge made sure Reid knew the gravity of pleading guilty and asked why he decided to. Reid said: "Because at the end of the day, I know I did the actions," including trying to ignite plastic explosive in his sneaker on an American Airlines 767 three days before Christmas last year. Boston's top FBI official praised passengers and crew who subdued Reid, who was alone on the flight not alone in the attempt to bring it down.

CHARLES PROUTY, FBI: I think it's a matter of public record that he did not, that there are indications within the bomb itself that someone else was involved in the construction of it, so he probably did have some help in making it and that is a great concern to us.

DELANEY: Sentencing scheduled for January 8, 29-year-old Reid facing a minimum of 60 years in prison, a maximum of life.


DELANEY (on camera): So there will be no full trial, though the prosecution will have an opportunity to lay out its full case against Richard Reid at the sentencing hearing. Much information that the prosecution has though about Richard Reid's ties to al Qaeda may ultimately now be kept under wraps, only presented to the judge here, the federal judge here in a confidential report, possibly leaving intact some of the mystery of how Richard Reid, this man with just a fifth grade education nearly managed to bring down a 767 alone as he's always claimed -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Bill Delaney for us in Boston, Bill thanks very much. And it's official, the Taliban-American John Walker Lindh is to serve 20 years in prison. A federal judge this afternoon imposed the sentence as part of a plea bargain. Our National Correspondent Susan Candiotti is outside the courtroom in Alexandria, Virginia and she's got the details -- Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. That plea deal came down, you'll recall, last July. When John Walker Lindh walked into the courtroom this day in a hearing that was to last more than two hours, he came in smiling but those smiles quickly disappeared as he nearly broke down in tears several times when he addressed the court for 14 minutes during the course of this hearing.

Let's get right to it, some of the things he said. He said, I did not go to fight against America and I never did. Quoting here -- "I made a mistake by joining the Taliban. I want he court to know and I want the American people to know that had I known then what I know now about the Taliban, I would never have joined them."

He also told the court in a written statement that he read, with his parents sitting there in the front row, he also condemned the terrorist attacks of Osama bin Laden and added this. He said of Osama bin Laden: "His grievances, whatever they may be, can not be addressed by acts of injustice and violence against innocent people in America."

However, the judge did point out and question why it was that John Walker Lindh later told military investigators and the FBI that he had information about possible future attacks that he had heard from the people that he was with yet did not come forward and did not say anything.

You will recall that John Walker Lindh pleaded guilty to only two counts of an original indictment that was ten counts long. He pleaded guilty to supplying services to the Taliban and carrying a couple of hand grenades. The sentence does carry or rather the guilty plea does carry a 20-year sentence and the government said it was not sorry about dropping the other charges.


PAUL MCNULTY, U.S. ATTORNEY FOR EASTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA: John Walker Lindh chose to fight with the Taliban knowing that the Taliban provided protection and support to al Qaeda, the terrorist network. Today's sentence proves that the American criminal justice system is a powerful and effective tool in America's struggle against terrorism.


CANDIOTTI: John Walker Lindh's defense attorneys continue to insist that he was not a member of al Qaeda. On the whole, the judge called the plea agreement fair and just and reasonable although he added maybe not the best agreement, maybe the best.

Back to you Wolf.

BLITZER: Susan Candiotti at the courthouse for us thanks very much. A sniper shooting spree in a Washington suburb; profile of a murderer; the latest on the manhunt when we return; plus parents shot dead in their house, their girl gone missing, now what the DNA evidence reveals. And Washington moves to slow down weapons inspectors from going to Iraq, details on the negotiations. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome back. A series of fatal shootings Wednesday night and yesterday in a normally quiet Washington suburb have shaken this entire area and the sniper is still on the loose. CNN's Kathleen Koch has the story. She's standing by in nearby Rockville, Maryland -- Kathleen.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the focus is beginning to shift now to a new shooting that has just occurred this afternoon in Fredericksburg, Virginia. There was a woman who was shot at the Spotsylvania Mall in Fredericksburg. That's about an hour and half south of Washington. We're here in Rockville, Maryland which is north of D.C.

The police here are sending investigators to check on that case. AP wire service is reporting that the woman was shot outside a Michael's craft store while she was loading packages into her car that the bullet went through her body and police are looking for it right now. But police there, Captain Michael Timm of the Spotsylvania Police Department says that they do not believe she was shot with a high-powered rifle such as the one that apparently was used in the shootings here in Montgomery County.


KOCH (voice over): Police say a high-powered assault or hunting rifle like these was used in the shooting spree, the bullets high caliber most likely a .223. Using them with such deadly precision, experts say, takes skill.

RIEHL: Someone who is very proficient to be accurate, people who shoot a lot, people who have trained previously to shoot these types of weapons at long range would have the capabilities depending on the circumstances of being able to shoot at a target and hitting that target successfully with one shot.

KOCH: And there may now be a sixth victim. A 72-year-old man was shot to death on a Washington, D.C. street corner at 9:15 Thursday night. The five earlier shootings were in Montgomery County but this one happened only a few miles south, just inside the Washington city line. The bullet from that shooting was being examined in a ballistics lab. The case examined for any similarities.

CHIEF CHARLES MOOSE, MONTGOMERY COUNTY POLICE: At this period of time when we have a series of violent acts, but certainly if the signs matches then we have a much higher confirmation that it is related. We just need to please exercise a little more patience.

KOCH: City residents were stunned by the shootings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody is concerned of course when five people are killed you know in a couple of hours, you know. Everybody is concerned.

KOCH: Montgomery County schools remained locked down for a second day, no outdoor recess or off campus lunch. Police say they're still looking for a white box truck with two men inside.

(END VIDEOTAPE) KOCH: And police are also watching this developing case in Fredericksburg, Virginia because before the shooting spree began here in Maryland, there was a shooting where no one was injured when a single bullet was fired into a Michael's craft store on Georgia Avenue here in Montgomery County, back to you Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Kathleen Koch, for that report. Let's get some more details now on what's going on in nearby Fredericksburg, Virginia where there's been yet another shooting.

Dee Morrison of our affiliate WTTG is in a helicopter. She's flying right over the scene. Give us some details, Dee.

DEE MORRISON, WTTG CORRESPONDENT: We're flying now over the scene of the shooting here in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, just outside of Fredericksburg. It happened at a Michael's craft store this afternoon just before three o'clock. A woman was loading packages into her car when she was apparently shot in the back. Police say the bullet went through her and she was alive when paramedics left the scene with here; however, there were no witnesses and they do believe she was shot from some distance away.

Now, of course, we are very concerned because of the earlier shootings in the last two days in the Montgomery County, Virginia area and, of course, the police chief there Charles Moose in a recent press conference has acknowledged that they are aware of this situation here. In fact, they have officers en route.

When asked about similarities in this case to the ones in Montgomery County, he said, "we feel it's important enough to send investigators there" although they are not at this time linking this to those shootings in Montgomery County. We're live in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. I'm Dee Morrison, back to you.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Dee Morrison of our affiliate WTTG, Washington, D.C. affiliate. Thank you very much for that report. Now back to those shootings in Montgomery County. The area is reeling from the impact of the shootings. The victims were linked only by the random and very sudden nature of their deaths.


BLITZER (voice over): They were as different as five people could be but they had one common thread. They were all going through the mundane routines of life at the moment when life was taken away.

The first victim was James Martin, a 55-year-old program analyst for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Martin was an amateur genealogist and Civil War buff who left behind a wife and an 11-year-old son. He was gunned down Wednesday evening in the parking lot of a grocery store.

James "Sonny" Buchanan, was known as someone with a big heart, always ready to help others. Buchanan was the son of a retired Montgomery County police officer. He left the landscaping business but was mowing the lawn of a former customer when a bullet hit him in the chest early Thursday morning. One friend remembered Buchanan for his volunteer work at a local Boys and Girls Club.

GREGORY WIMS, BOYS AND GIRLS CLUB: Sonny was the dad to literally 400 kids. He came to the club two or three times a week, helped with homework, et cetera.

BLITZER: About 30 minutes later, Premkumar Walekar was shot down while pumping gas. Walekar, a 54-year-old cab driver originally from India, would normally not have been at the station but he was trying to finish his runs early so he could enjoy the warm weather later in the day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want everybody to know that my dad was the man. He was the greatest person I met, you know I ever knew.

BLITZER: Less than half an hour after Walekar's killing, 34- year-old Sarah Ramos was sitting on a bench at a shopping center reading when she was shot in the head. Her family and friends declined to be interviewed about her life and police could not provide details.

Lori Ann Lewis-Rivera died about 90 minutes later as she prepared to vacuum the inside of her van at a gas station. Lewis-Rivera was 25 years old, had grown up in a small town in Idaho, and had recently moved East with her husband and preschool-aged daughter.

ROSA MALONE, NEIGHBOR OF VICTIM: She comes and go and all of a sudden she gets caught up in this. This is devastating. There's no words for it.


BLITZER (on camera): In a moment, more on the Montgomery County shootings, what the sniper's weapon tells us, and the latest grim discovery in the Short family killings when we come back. Plus, a man lost at sea for more than two months, an incredible tale of survival. Also, should a state force deaf children to get hearing implants against their mother's will? Our Elizabeth Cohen joins me live with both sides, but first today's news quiz.

At what age does hearing loss begin, 15, 25, 40, 62? The answer coming up.


BLITZER: We continue our coverage now of the Montgomery County shootings in Maryland. Authorities say they're pretty certain the sniper used a powerful hunting or assault rifle with high velocity ammunition. For more on the weapon, the type of person who may be using it, let's turn to CNN Law Enforcement Analyst Mike Brooks. He's joining us now live from Atlanta. Mike, what's your sense, what do you see here in this particular case?

MIKE BROOKS, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well earlier today, the ATF was talking about what kind of person might be carrying out these heinous acts and they were saying that from what they've seen the person who's doing this knows how to shoot a weapon. You know, it's not just something you can pick up and just pick it up and shoot somebody. These are probably -- these shootings have occurred from a long distance and it seems like only one shot was used.

Now, they're saying that they're looking at a possibility of four different rounds that could have been used and hopefully we'll have a comparison very soon from the ATF lab in Rockville, Maryland. And then the shooting in Washington that may be involved, that evidence is probably going to the lab as we speak.

But the one that they're concentrating on, they said most likely and it's the easiest to get ammunition wise is the .223. Earlier today, they showed one of the weapons and this weapon that I have here, this is a Colt AR-15. It's a civilian version of the M-16 that everyone's seen on TV before and it was used in Vietnam. It is used by the military now. This is a semi-automatic version, which means it fires one round for each time you pull the trigger.

Now, this is a .223 caliber weapon. Now it's fairly common and it's fairly to get the ammunition and it's just different variations on a .22. The .223 has a muzzle velocity of about from 3,000 to 3,100 feet per second and that makes it a high-powered weapon and that's what seems like the shooter or shooters in Montgomery County have been used.

BLITZER: Mike, the crime scene investigators, people that are on the scene looking for evidence, they can learn a great deal in terms of profiling a suspect based on the weapon used, the ammunition used, the kind of skill you need to fire a weapon like this.

BROOKS: Absolutely. They're looking at a lot of different things right now, Wolf. Of all the scenes they've been to, they are trying to map out exactly where the shooter was. You know since it was from a long distance, sources have told me in one of the shootings it could have been up to 200 yards and that's a long distance. The maximum effective range of the .223, of the AR-15 type weapon is a long, is about 6,000 meters.

So, you know that's a long way away. But what they can do is try to map where this person was, go back there, use that as part of a crime scene and I've heard that there are, from sources there, there have been no shell casings found at any of these scenes.

So what they did during the autopsies in Maryland at the Medical Examiner's Office in Baltimore, they've been taking, they'll take the fragments, take them to the ATF lab in Maryland, in Montgomery County itself and do a comparison. So, it depends on the size of fragments they have to see what kind of comparison they can get to see if the same weapon was used in all the shootings.

BLITZER: Mike Brooks, our analyst who used to work here in the Washington, D.C. area knows the place quite well, knows the information. Thanks for joining us.

BROOKS: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you and questions about what happened to a nine- year-old Virginia girl who vanished almost two months ago have been answered. Now the new questions are who killed Jennifer Short and why? CNN's Charles Molineaux reports from Rockingham County, North Carolina.


SHERIFF SAM PAGE, ROCKINGHAM CO., N.C.: The skeletal remains recovered in Rockingham County, North Carolina on September 25, 2002 have been determined to be a positive match with the DNA profile of the Jennifer Renee Short case.

CHARLES MOLINEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jennifer Renee Short disappeared under circumstances that were terrifying from the start. On August 15, her parents were found dead in their home in Henry County, Virginia. They had both been shot in the head and Jennifer was missing.

RUBY YOUNG, AUNT: Jennifer, we miss you and we love you very much. Please don't give up because we'll never give up until we find you.

MOLINEAUX: The Shorts' relatives have been offering emotional appeals for Jennifer to be returned, while the murders of her parents are a mystery. Investigators still don't know why they were killed and they have no suspects.

Baffled neighbors describe Jennifer as a quiet, respectful, typical kid who played Little League Baseball while her parents made a point of being there to watch her play.

VALERIE SPADLINTIC, NEIGHBOR: She's just a very sweet little girl.

MOLINEAUX: Last week, Eddie Albert discovered the remains on his property in Rockingham County , North Carolina, 30 miles away from where the Shorts were murdered.

EDDIE ALBERT, FOUND REMAINS: I've never found anything like that before. It was shocking.

MOLINEAUX: First, his dogs turned up a mass of hair. He decided it was a wig. He threw it in the trash.

Two days later, he found his dog Blue with what looked like part of a human skull.

ALBERT: My mind started going backwards a little. If this was a skull, what did I throw in the trash can?

Then, you know, we all know about the little girl up in Basset that's missing.

MOLINEAUX: A police search of the grounds and two ponds turned up more remains which an autopsy revealed were a 9-year-old girl who had been shot in the head. Then, Thursday nigh, investigators with the Virginia division of forensic science finished up their DNA analysis of the remains and determined they'd found Jennifer Short.

The sheriffs involved in the case say this was a heart breaking piece of an ongoing puzzle.


BLITZER: CNN's Charles Molineaux reporting from the very, very grim scene.

U.N. weapons inspectors, should they leave now for Baghdad or wait?

Top level meetings on Iraq under way right now here in Washington, a live report. We'll go to the White House when we come back.

Also, the election mess of 2000, two years later. Lawmakers finally move on a national reform plan.

And did Gary Condit get a bad rap? Police revisit an old lead in the Chandra Levy case.


BLITZER: Lawmakers in Washington say they've reached a compromise on a bill to make sweeping changes in the U.S. election system.

It was prompted by the dispute over Florida's results in the 2000 presidential election. The bill allocates funds for states to update equipment, train poll workers and standardize the ballot counting.

According to one GOP senator, the bill makes it -- quote -- "easier to vote and harder to cheat."

Manufacturers are asking the White House to intervene and end the shut down at more than tow dozen West Coast ports. Ten thousand dock workers were locked out Sunday, accused of staging a slow down after contract negotiations collapsed. Experts say the port shut down is costing the U.S. economy a billion dollars a day.

Let's turn now to the show down with Iraq. The Chief United Nations Weapons Inspector Hans Blix is meeting right now, here in Washington, with the Secretary of State Colin Powell and the National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. This comes amid word that the Bush administration may have found some room for compromise on the issue of inspections.

Let's go live to our White House correspondent Kelly Wallace. She's standing by at the White House -- Kelly.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, that meeting started about 30 minutes ago, U.S. officials hoping to get a sense of what Dr. Blix will need to carry out tough and effective inspections. Also, the administration to convey that it believes the inspectors should not return to Iraq until there is a tough, new U.N. resolution in place.

White House officials somewhat heartened since Dr. Blix indicated that he doesn't believe the inspectors should go to Iraq until they get new instructions from the U.N.

Meantime, though, there is no agreement just yet on a new resolution. The White House is stressing that its position is that there should be one resolution including the consequences if Iraq does not comply with U.N. Demands. Privately though, some officials suggesting there may be some flexibility between that position and the French view, which calls for one resolution spelling out what Iraq must do and then down the road, another resolution spelling out the consequences for Iraqi noncompliance -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Kelly, what do we know about this speech that the president is now scheduled to deliver Monday night on Iraq?

WALLACE: Right, that will come from Cincinnati. It will be the president's first prime time speech solely focusing on Iraq.

Aides say this is a chance for the president to educate the American people. It is part of the p.r. campaign, though, because it comes just as Congress will vote on a resolution whether to give the president the authority to use military force if necessary against Saddam Hussein.

No new policy, though, coming out of that speech. A sign of that: the White House has not asked the broadcast networks to give the White House time and carry the president's remarks live. This administration would definitely do that if a major announcement would be coming out of that address -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Kelly Wallace at the White House, thanks very much.

A battle over implants that would allow two deaf children to hear. Their mother and her supporters don't want the surgery performed, but the government does. Who knows best?

And still ahead, adrift on the open sea for more two months. A Florida's man's remarkable story of survival.


BLITZER: Think mother knows best? Hear about the prosecutors taking one mom to court. Why they want to force her children to get hearing implants. That's coming up next.


BLITZER: Earlier we asked at what age does hearing loss begin? The answer: 15 when people begin to lose the acute hearing they had as children. But most of the loss occurs in older age. Welcome back. A deaf mother in Grand Rapids, Michigan is challenging the state's efforts to compel her to allow her two deaf children to receive hearing implants. Outside the courthouse, where her trial is being held, people gathered today to support Lee Larson. Backers say the state is infringing on her rights as a parent. Larson says she and her boys are doing just fine as they are. She fears the implants are simply too dangerous.

Our medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, is looking at this whole story and she's got this report.

ELIZABETH COHEN, MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this whole story is so interesting because it sort of opens up a real division between the deaf world and hearing world. Lee Larson is a woman who is deaf, both of her children deaf, and she says that they're fine that way and that there's no reason to give them hearing implants.


COHEN (voice-over): Either you're in this world or you're not. And many who do live in this world are outraged hat the other world, the hearing world, has gone to court to force Lee Larson, who's deaf, to give cochlear implants to her sons who have been deaf since birth.

Three-year-old Christian (ph) and 4-year-old Kyron (ph) have been in foster care for about a year. The state of Michigan's concerns about Lee Larson as a mother appear to be resolving and she's expected to get her boys back soon. Except the government thinks that in the meantime they should be given cochlear implants to help them hear.

JOSEPH TEVLIN, BOYS' COURT-APPOINTED ATTORNEY: It would give them access to greater opportunities educationally. Greater opportunities economically when they get older -- to find employment.

LEE LARSON (through translator): I do not want my kids to have a cochlear implant.

COHEN: Members of the deaf community are rallying to the Larsons' cause. It may seem strange. Why wouldn't you want to give a deaf child a chance to hear?

CLAUDIA LEE, DEAF COMMUNITY ADVOCACY NETWORK: It's not like Being -- seeing things blurry and then putting on a pair of glasses -- does not give you -- quote -- 20/20 hearing.

COHEN: Part of the device is warn on the outside and part is surgically implanted inside the head. For some, the implants have been a miracle. The children learn to speak and hear almost as if they weren't deaf.

The government lawyer says the sooner Lee Larson's sons are implanted, the better. The other side points out that the Food and Drug Administration has issued a notification that 52 people, most of them children, have come down with meningitis after having the device implanted. And they add, the implants often don't work and then the critical years spent training with therapists to use them could have been better spent learning sign language.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): And he has white fur and blue eyes. And but the other tiger has orange fur and brown eyes. The baby -- what's the baby going to be -- what will the baby look like?

COHEN: And sign language, the deaf community says, is a full language used to teach kids everything from science to soccer. But that's not enough for the lawyer fighting to give the children implants.

TEVLIN: It would give them the opportunity to live a healthy, happy, normal life.

SHERI ANN GARNAND, DEAF COMMUNITY ADVOCACY NET. (through translator): Look at me. I don't have a cochlear implant and I have language, I'm able to function. My brain is just fine. My life is the same as a hearing person. I can do anything.

COHEN: So now the hearing and the deaf worlds are pitted against each other while two boys wait to see if their world will soon change and if that change will be for the better.


COHEN: There was a hearing on this case today in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the judge is expected to rule soon on whether the boys have to have the cochlear implants.

BLITZER: Elizabeth, a lot of our viewers probably familiar with the fact that Rush Limbaugh had one of these cochlear implants -- seems to be working quite well for him. What's the difference in this particular case?

COHEN: The difference in this case is that these two boys were born profoundly deaf. So it would take years of therapy to teach them what those electronic sounds they're hearing mean. They're not actually not hearing speech like hearing people hear. And it takes years to teach them. Rush Limbaugh or someone who had hearing for decades, of course, remembers what those sounds are like. So it's a completely different ball game.

BLITZER: Elizabeth Cohen, good to have you here in Washington. Thank you very much. Very important.

Here's your chance to weigh in on the story. Our "Web Question of the Day" is this: should a deaf mother be forced to give her deaf children hearing implants? We'll have the results later in this program. Go to my Web page, That's where you can vote. While you're there, send me your comments. I'll try to read some on the air each day at the end of this program. It's also, of course, where you can read my daily online column.

A year and a half after her disappearance, a new focus in the Chandra Levy investigation. When we come back, this cold case heats up as police turn the attention to a new individual. But first, a look at some news making headlines around the world.

In Bogota, three men allegedly linked to the IRA refuse to leave their jail cells for a court hearing today. They're charged with supplying weapons and training Colombian rebels. They deny it all.

One of the richest men in China was detained and questioned by police reportedly for illegal business activities. Yang Bin was supposed to leave today for North Korea, where he's been put in charge of creating that country's first capitalist enclave.

And Queen Elizabeth started a 12-day tour of Canada in the remote northern part of the country. The trip is part of a celebration surrounding her Golden Jubilee as queen of Britain and Canada.

And that's your look around the world.


BLITZER: There's a report of a potentially significant change in the Chandra Levy murder investigation. "The Washington Post" reporting that a grand jury investigating the death of the Washington intern has subpoenaed friends of Ingmar Guandique as the focus on him intensifies.

Sari Horwitz, one of the "Post's" staff writers, is covering the story -- doing an excellent job -- is reporting now live from the newsroom at "The Washington Post." Give our viewers who haven't been following this Chandra Levy investigation the latest details.

SARI HORWITZ, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, there's still no evidence in the 17-month evidence linking any suspect to the death of Chandra Levy, police investigators and a grand jury are now focusing on a man named Ingmar Guandique. He's 21-years-old, a Salvadoran immigrant, and the interesting thing about him is that he was discounted twice by the police in this investigation. He's in a federal prison now in Kentucky.

He was arrested in July 2001 for assaulting two joggers in Rock Creek Park. He pled guilty in those cases. The police interviewed him and discounted him in the Chandra Levy disappearance. Then he went to jail -- he went to the D.C. jail -- and allegedly told an inmate there that he had killed Chandra Levy.

The inmate was polygraphed, did not pass the polygraph and Ingmar Guandique did pass a polygraph and he was discounted again. The police have now discovered that this polygraph was done by a Spanish speaking interpreter rather than a bilingual polygrapher, which has raised concerns.

BLITZER: All right, tell our viewers why that has raised specifically concerns?

HORWITZ: The reason, experts tell us, first of all, there are problems with the polygraph anyway that police say you shouldn't -- investigators tell us you shouldn't discount someone just because they pass an or don't pass a polygraph.

But a problem, when someone speaks a different language, is that there are nuances and there could be problems in missing something in a question or an answer through an interpreter that might not missed if the polygrapher was bilingual.

In todays "Washington Post," you're reporting that the apartment manager where he lived is now saying that right around the time of Chandra Levy's disappearance, she says the apartment manager -- that he showed up with what? Facial scratches and a swollen, cut lip?

HORWITZ: Exactly. We spoke to the resident manager of the building where Ingmar Guandique lived, a block from Rock Creek Park in northwest Washington. The police and FBI, no one's spoken to her on this 17-month investigation.

After we talked to her, she's now been subpoenaed to the grand jury. But what she told us is that around the time that Chandra Levy disappeared, she noticed that Ingmar Guandique had scratches on his face, scratches on his eye, his lip was busted and she remembers this time because he committed a burglary on the building on May 7, and it was the week before, the week of May 1. Chandra Levy disappeared May 1.

BLITZER: And what are you hearing now from Gary Condit, the Congressman who was, of course, at the focus, the center of this storm right from the beginning?

I know that you're in touch with him, getting some reaction. What is he saying?

HORWITZ: Well, neither Gary Condit or his attorney are commenting on this at this point. He -- up to this has been the focus of the investigation, as you know, but now that the investigation is shifting away from him, although, Police Chief Ramsey said no one is excluded and there is a still a grand jury investigating obstruction of charges against Gary Condit.

BLITZER: Sari Horowitz doing some excellent reporting for "The Washington Post" and now for us, thanks very much.

HOROWITZ: Thank you.

BLITZER: ...for that report.

And time is running out for you to weigh in on our "Web Question of the Day."

We'll have that right after we go to New York and get a preview of "LOU DOBBS MONEYLINE." Of course that begins right at the top of the hour -- Lou.


Coming up, the latest in our special series "CEO of the Week." Tonight, we'll be focusing on one exemplary executive in these ethically challenged times in corporate America.

The FBI arrests four people it says are members of a terrorist cell in the United States. All are suspected of trying to travel to Afghanistan and to support the al Qaeda. We'll have the very latest for you.

And, they protect our nation, they risk their lives, they fight our wars. Yet our enlisted military is grossly underpaid. We'll have a special report tonight.

And a crushing end to what was a losing week on Wall Street, again. We'll be talking with the editors of three of the nation's leading business magazines about all of the issues facing investors, consumers and voters.

All of that and a great deal more at the top of the hour. Please join us.

Now back to Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much. An important report on pay for U.S. military personnel on "LOU DOBBS MONEYLINE."

As I said, time is running out for you to weigh in on our "Web Question of the Day:" Should a deaf mother be forced to give her deaf children hearing implants? Log on to That's where you can vote. We'll have the results right when we come back.


BLITZER: An amazing story of survival in our "Picture of the Day." Forty-three-year-old Terry Watson is recovering in a South Carolina hospital from an ordeal that almost killed him.

The Florida man was stranded in the Atlantic Ocean on this crippled boat for more than two months before being spotted and rescued yesterday. Authorities say Watson was suffering from dehydration, delusion and shock and they aren't sure how he survived.

Now here's how you're weighing in on our "Web Question of the Day." Earlier we asked: "Should a deaf mother be forced to give her deaf children hearing implants?" Twenty-three percent of you say yes," 77 percent of you say "no." Remember, this is not a scientific poll.

Let's get some of your e-mails on the arrests in Portland and Detroit.

Ellen writes: "It amazes me that regular U.S. citizens have been able to infiltrate terrorist groups like al Qaeda, but agents in the CIA and FBI have failed."

From Richard: "Plenty of people in this country questioned how much the administration knew in advance of the 9/11 tragedy. But now, do you do not want take preemptive action against the known supporter of terrorism and possessor of weapons of destruction? Unbelievable." And G.V. writes: "Iraqi Vice President Ramadan's duel suggestion is, in my opinion, the most reasonable idea I've heard so far. No brave, young Americans put at risk, no innocent Iraqi citizens being killed."

Up next, "LOU DOBBS MONEYLINE," but first, this news alert.

Tobacco giant Philip Morris says it will appeal the record $28 billion in punitive damages a California jury lodged against it today.

The plaintiff is Betty Bullock, a 64-year-old former smoker who has lung cancer. The jury had earlier awarded her $850, 000 in compensatory damages. Philip Morris is the world's largest cigarette maker.

The man we've come to know as "The Shoe Bomber" says he's guilty of trying to blow a plane last December. A federal judge in Boston today accepted Richard Reid's plea to all eight counts against him. Reid told the court -- and I'm quoting here -- "I know I did the actions" and he called himself "a disciple of Osama bin Laden." Flight attendants and passengers on an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami stopped Reid from detonating explosives hidden in his sneakers.

As expected, a federal judge has sentenced John Walker Lindh to 20 years in prison for cooperating with the Taliban. The 21-year-old Californian had agreed to the term in a plea bargain. In a federal court today in Alexandria, Virginia, Walker Lindh tearfully admitted he had made a mistake in joining the group in Afghanistan.

That's all the time we have today. Please join me Sunday for "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk. Our topic: Iraq. Among my guests: Senators Bob Graham and Richard Shelby, the chairman and vice-chairman of the Senate intelligence committee. That's Sunday at noon Eastern.

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

"LOU DOBBS MONEYLINE" begins right now.


Shoe Bomber, Lindh Appear in Court to Confess to Crimes>

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