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Donald Rumsfeld drops in on troops in Iraq. Interview with Senators Richard Shelby and Dianne Feinstein. Who killed Nicholas Berg?

Aired May 13, 2004 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The brass in Baghdad. A surprise prison and praise for the troops.

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: One day you're going to look back, and you're going to be proud of your service.

BLITZER: Donald Rumsfeld may be getting away, but the abuse scandal is not going away. I'll speak with Senators Richard Shelby and Dianne Feinstein.

Timeline to a tragedy. The mystery behind an American's murder.

MICHAEL BERG, NICHOLAS BERG'S FATHER: My son wasn't released until April the 6th when we filed a writ of habeas corpus.

BLITZER: Does the CIA now know who killed him?

Election shock. A powerful dynasty poised to take the reasons of the world's largest democracy once more.

ANNOUNCER: This is WOLF BLITZER REPORTS for Thursday, May 13, 2004.


BLITZER: Joined by the Joint Chief's chairman and other Pentagon brass, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld today dropped in on U.S. troops in Baghdad. The surprise visit gave him a firsthand look at a prison which has gained fresh notoriety around the world.


BLITZER (voice-over): It was behind these Abu Ghraib walls where U.S. soldiers abused Iraqi prisoners. And it was behind these same walls where Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has now paid a hastily- arranged visit.

RUMSFELD: The people who engaged in abuses will be brought to justice. The world will see how a free system, a democratic system, functions and operates transparently, with no cover-ups.

BLITZER: He toured the facility once used by Saddam Hussein's regime and was briefed by U.S. military commanders before heading over to a townhall-style meeting with U.S. troops at what's called Camp Victory near the Baghdad airport.

Despite enthusiastic reception, the specter of Abu Ghraib hovered over this event as well.

RUMSFELD: In recent days there's been a focus on a few who have betrayed our valued -- and values and sullied the reputation of our country. Like each of you, I'm sure, and like most Americans, I was stunned. It was a body blow.

BLITZER: While assuring the troops the Pentagon would get to the bottom of the investigation and punish all those involved, Rumsfeld also made clear his disdain for the news media and its coverage of the scandal.

RUMSFELD: I've stopped reading the newspapers.

BLITZER: And despite calls for his resignation, he assured the troops he had no such intention.

RUMSFELD: It's a fact. I'm a survivor.

BLITZER: But just as Rumsfeld was trying to buck up the troops, it was also clear they were bucking him up as well. Responding to questions, he said he welcomed the new U.N. resolution that might further internationalize the military effort in Iraq and encourage, perhaps, 15 more nations to send badly-needed troops there.

RUMSFELD: I'm encouraged. I think we will get additional forces.

BLITZER: For security reasons, the secretary, Joint Chiefs Chairman Richard Myers and a team of Pentagon lawyers gave no advanced notice of the overnight trip.

Aboard the aircraft during the 15-hour flight, Rumsfeld denied it was simply designed to deal with the fallout with the prisoner abuse scandal.

RUMSFELD: If everyone thinks I'm there to throw water on a fire they're wrong.

BLITZER: And on releasing publicly more of those prison pictures, he offered this...

RUMSFELD: My first choice would be to release them. But it's my understanding that at the present time the people who have an obligation to take into account the privacy issues, legal requirements under privacy laws and Geneva convention are advising against it.


BLITZER: CNN's Ben Wedeman was at the Abu Ghraib Prison when Rumsfeld arrived. He's joining us now live from Baghdad. Ben, take us behind the scenes. What was it like?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was fascinating, Wolf. Normally people who come to Iraq approach this country with a little bit of dread. But Secretary Rumsfeld seemed to relish the occasion.

We first saw him when he walked into the soldier's mess hall at Abu Ghraib and it was like a pep rally. He seemed to be in very high spirits. The soldiers seemed to be happy to see him as well. And he said, quite openly, that he was here in addition to discuss, of course, the prisoner abuse scandal, he was also here, he said, to look the soldiers in the eye and tell them how much he admired their work. He called it a noble cause.

And we spoke with the soldiers there, most of them repeating what we've heard from senior Bush administration officials, saying that those involved in the abuse scandal were a tiny minority and do not represent the majority of U.S. forces here in Iraq.

And we certainly also heard at the same time that on the outside of the prison walls that there were some angry Iraqis who just saw this whole trip by Secretary Rumsfeld as nothing more than a propaganda stunt -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll see what the fallout brings. Thanks very much, Ben Wedeman in Baghdad.

Did the interrogation techniques used at the Abu Ghraib Prison violate international law? The Pentagon's No. 2 civilian and other military officials got a grilling on that specific issue earlier today. Let's go live to our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: On Capitol Hill today, Wolf, more questions about whether the Pentagon's approved interrogation techniques, which includes things like sensory deprivation and stress positions, violate the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners.


SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: Seventy-two hours without regular sleep, sensory deprivation which would be a bag over your head for 72 hours. Do you think that's humane? And that's what this says. A bag over your head for 72 hours. Is that humane?

PAUL WOLFOWITZ, UNDERSECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Let me come back to what you said...

REED: No, no, answer the question, Secretary. Is that humane?

WOLFOWITZ: I don't know whether it means a bag over your head for 72 hours, Senator. I don't know.

REED: Mr. Secretary, you're dissembling, non-responsive. Anyone would say putting a bag over your head for over 72 hours, which is...

WOLFOWITZ: I believe...


WOLFOWITZ: ... strikes me as not humane, Senator.

REED: Thank you very much.


MCINTYRE: Meanwhile, the Pentagon today confirmed it's gotten another report from the International Committee of the Red Cross. This one about conditions at Guantanamo Bay where the prison -- the man in charge of that prison now in charge in Iraq. He said today in Iraq that report gave the U.S. generally high marks for the humane treatment of the prisoners. We have yet to see the report, though -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jamie McIntyre at Pentagon. Thanks, Jamie, very much.

The Bush administration has stepped up efforts to contain the political fallout from the prison abuse scandal. For more on that let's turn to our senior White House correspondent John King. John, what are you hearing?

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, still a very unpredictable political climate. But on this day, anyway, White House officials believe they have turned down the temperature, if you will. At least a bit. And they believe that Secretary Rumsfeld's dramatic trip to Baghdad is one factor in that, easing, they believe, here the political fallout.

Now the president himself was in West Virginia today, one of the states, of course, he is targeting in November, a critical state for the president. Last time his focus was education. But once again, the president taking a few moments to reflect on the prisoner abuse scandal, sounding very much like the message Secretary Rumsfeld sounded when he was in Baghdad.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to say one other thing about our troops. Like you, I have been disgraced, and about what I've seen on TV, what took place in the prison.

But the actions of a few do not reflect on the fantastic character of the over 200,000 men and women who have served our nation.


KING: Now back at the White House this, hour the president is meeting with about 10 House Republicans to discuss Iraq policy, not just the prisoner abuse scandal, but it of course will be a dominant subject of the discussion. And officials here believe they have turned the tide. Again they say if there are more disclosures it could get damaging again.

But they believe there is less pressure on Secretary Rumsfeld. Several top Republican leadership aides in the Congress telling us that he did himself a favor, making that dramatic trip to Baghdad today.

White House officials also believe Republicans are rallying to the administration side because Democrats came out so quickly demanding that Secretary Rumsfeld resign.

Wolf, another factor in all of this, both Democrats and Republican's say is that dramatic video of the beheading of the American citizen Nicholas Berg. In the words of one key House leadership aide, that helped put things, quote, "in perspective."

No one is saying that the White House is out of the woods on this. Everyone is saying more questions to be answers. But they do believe, at least here at the White House, that the temperature has turned down. And that at least in terms of Republicans criticizing this administration and perhaps saying a senior member of the Pentagon leadership should step down, they believe they have ended that pressure, at least.

And for now, they're trying to say that most of the criticism is simply from the Democrats who oppose this president -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, that's the assessment from the White House. Thanks very much, John King, for that report.

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's visit to Iraq came amid continued violence. Gunfire and explosions rang out near the gold-domed Imam Hussein shrine in Karbala. Coalition forces are trying to avoid damaging the shrine which Shi'ite Muslims consider one of their most holy sites.

In Najaf, followers of the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr stormed three police stations. U.S. troops later arrived to reclaim them. Hospital officials in Najaf said a total of four people died in the fighting.

Here's your turn to weigh in on this important story. Our web question of the day is this. Is Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld doing enough to address the Iraqi prison abuse scandal? You can vote right now. Go to We'll have the results for you later in this broadcast.

New allegations of abuse at the hands of coalition forces. This time, though, in Afghanistan. More shocking details from this Afghan police colonel, plus the investigation into his claim.

Mysterious circumstances. New details emerging right now on the beheading of American Nicholas Berg. Why the young man was in Iraq to begin with and who's behind his death?

Stealth mission accomplished. An inside look at how top administration officials pull off highly-secret trips during extremely sensitive times.


BLITZER: There are now allegations of coalition forces abusing prisoners in Afghanistan. An Afghan police officer has come forward saying he was tortured and humiliated and a human rights group says his experience is not isolated.


BLITZER (voice-over): It is the account of this man that U.S. authorities say they're investigating.

COL. SAYED NABI SIDDIQUI, AFGHAN POLICE OFFICER (through translator): I was blindfolded and about four or five Americans and their Afghan translators were screaming at me, beating me. They were touching me, touching my private parts. They were laughing at me.

BLITZER: An Afghan police colonel, in an interview with the Associated Press details the abuse he says he suffered at the hands of coalition forces in his country.

SIDDIQUI: They left me hungry, thirsty, sexually abused me, they stripped me naked, touched me and while I was naked they were taking photographs, throwing stones and water on me. They treated me like an animal.

BLITZER: These allegations come on the heels of the prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq which has led to charges against seven U.S. soldiers and shocked much of the world. A probe is now underway into the alleged Afghan incidents which are said to have taken place last August in Kandahar, Gardez and Bagram.

LT. COL. TUCKER MANSAGER, U.S. ARMY: Coalition leaders were notified of an allegation of detainee abuse. Upon notification coalition forces immediately launched an investigation into this matter.

BLITZER: The organization Human Rights Watch claims the incident is not isolated, but instead what it calls a systematic problem. In a report out today the group says, quote, "Afghans have been telling us for well over a year about mistreatment in U.S. custody. We warned U.S. officials repeatedly about these problems in 2003 and 2004." In a statement, the U.S. embassy in Kabul says it is not aware of any pictures of the alleged incidents involving the police colonel, but if the allegations are true, appropriate action will be taken.


BLITZER: The alleged victim tells the Associated Press he was held for almost 40 days. He says he first filed a complaint with an Afghan human rights group last August.

More than a thousand new pictures of Iraqi prisoner abuse shown to members of the United States Congress. I'll speak live to Senators Richard Shelby and Dianne Feinstein about the photos and more.

A fugitive terrorist named in the beheading of an American in Iraq. What the CIA knows right now.

And caught on tape. A street brawl that started in a very unlikely place.


BLITZER: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's surprise visit to Iraq, the beheading of Nick Berg, all of this comes on the heels of the prisoner abuse scandal.

Yesterday members of the United States Congress saw more than 1,600 additional pictures depicting the brutalization of detainees at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. Here to talk more about that and more, two guests, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California and Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama. They are both joining us from Capitol Hill. Senators, thanks very much.

Senator Feinstein, let me begin with you, a lot of people suggesting the dramatic trip by Donald Rumsfeld has reassured people about his intentions. He's coming back confident that he did the right thing. Are you reassured?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I think it's too early to tell. I think he's done the right thing by going over there. I think one of the problems with Washington is everybody's too fast to look for a head to roll, and I think the secretary's trip is important. We know that there are things that have gone wrong. Now it's important to correct them and correct them fast. And I think adding the secretary's (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and saying knock it off, there will be no more of this, these are the changes that will be made this, this is the chain of command, this is the supervision and we will put no nonsense is important and I hope he will do it.

Time will tell. The situation will tell, but let me just say one other thing, Wolf. I think the decapitation of Nick Berg concentrates all our sensibilities on who the enemy is. They are brutal, they are unrelenting and I think it's important that we concentrate our sights and get the job done. On the other hand this, this is not a nation that's going to seek to that depth either and that's important.

BLITZER: Senator Feinstein, I take it you're not among those Democrats who wants Rumsfeld to resign.

FEINSTEIN: No. I have said that the point that I have made no statement in that regard.

BLITZER: Senator Shelby, do you now have a good understanding of what exactly happened -- that these atrocities at the Abu Ghraib prison were allowed to go forward?

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: I don't have a good understanding of why they went on, but I -- there's several investigations going on now. The investigations should just follow the facts, how high, how low, it won't matter, but it's hard for me to believe that just three or four, five or six people were involved here. Someone created this environment. Someone put up with this environment. I saw 4 or 500 frames yesterday, photographs of this. They're despicable pictures. It's not the American way. It's really a stain and an insult to our soldiers that are over there fighting and the ones that are there today and we've got to get the bottom of it quickly and the better -- and then we'll be a lot better off.

BLITZER: Are you convinced that the pictures that you saw, the ones where the public is not going to see at least any time soon unless they're leaked that the images are worse than those publicly- released photos that all of us have seen.

SHELBY: I think some of them are probably worse. Some, I wouldn't want to describe on TV and some are probably worse than pornographic too even involving some of our soldiers. It is just not the American way. It's not the value system, but I want to reiterate what Senator Feinstein said. We've got to focus on the fight that we have on hand. We've got to set the standard of the world and we will. We'll reassert ourselves there, but we're fighting an enemy that is as brutal as you've seen on TV with the killing of Mr. Berg the other day. We should not forget that.

BLITZER: Senator Feinstein, I take it you've looked at these photographs, the videotape. Did you emerge from them shaken as so many others?

FEINSTEIN: No. I didn't emerge shaken. I emerged disgusted. You can't imagine the depths of feeling that you feel when our men and women sink to do these kinds of acts. They -- a lot of them were very much worse than what the public has seen. Something went horribly wrong and it's necessary to find that out and correct it and stop it and stop it for all time.

BLITZER: Should we be, the public at large, should the rest of us be able to see those pictures?

FEINSTEIN: I see no constructive purpose that it would serve. The Senate saw it. The House saw it. Both political parties saw that. We know the job that has to be done. I think to put it out in the general public only serves the purrian (ph) interest of people that want to look at it. The fact is it was wrong. It was debased and it was wrong and it's got to stop. And that's what Secretary Rumsfeld has got to come back and give us a clear brief that he has set in motion those things that will prevent this from ever happening again.

BLITZER: Senator Shelby, you served on the intelligence committee. You know a great deal about these matters. Should there be times when the U.S., whether civilian or military personnel should not adhere to the Geneva Conventions and use some forms of torture in order to extract information from suspected terrorists?

SHELBY: I would never be a big promoter of torture. I think it's inhumane. There are a lot of ways to interrogate people for information and a lot of times it works. Generally, where you brutalize people it doesn't work. The information you get is generally not reliable. I think that we've got to set the standards in the world. We have and we will in the future.

BLITZER: What about that? I want you weigh in, Senator Feinstein, as well. FEINSTEIN: I'm a strong believer. I just read Senator Mike Mansfield's statement on the Geneva Convention and why the United States should take it up, apply it and maintain it consistently, regardless of the circumstances and I really agree with that. I really think, you know, we've got a just cause or a just nation. We've got a certain moral informator (ph), we can't be hypocrites. We can't go out there and say one thing and do another and debase ourselves and debase our own people. We can win this thing if we keep our eye on the ball.

BLITZER: Senator Shelby, is the administration, the U.S. military on the right track in Iraq right now. In other words, do you see light at the end of this tunnel?

SHELBY: Well, I hope I see light, but that will remain to be seen in the weeks to come. We've been reassured by Secretary Rumsfeld and also General Myers on the appropriations committee that Senator Feinstein and I served on the other day that they are on the right track. I hope they are. We've got a lot at stake. We cannot cut and run, we must prevail. We should never cede the moral high ground, we should set the standards for the road.

BLITZER: Thanks for spending a few moments with us. We appreciate it very much.

Secretary Rumsfeld's trip to Baghdad might have been a surprise to troops there, but it wasn't a surprise for those responsible for making it happen. We'll have a behind the scenes look at making a secret mission possible.

Ballot bombshell, in an about face, the world's largest democracy elects a new leader. Why the sudden shakeup in India?

An Arab reaction, how the Middle East is reacting to Nick Berg's killing. I'll speak live with the foreign policy adviser to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. He'll join me next.


BLITZER: Welcome back.

The CIA says it believes fugitive terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is the man who likely beheaded Nicholas Berg. We'll have new details on the investigation and the time Berg spent in Iraq. We'll get to all of that.

First, though, a quick check of the latest headlines.

An Israeli helicopter gunship opened fire today on a target in a Rafah refugee camp in southern gas. There were no immediate reports of casualties. The Israeli Defense Forces said they were firing at militants.

A political dynasty is poised to return to power in India following a stunning election upset. Sonia Gandhi is working to put together a government after her Congress Party won parliamentary elections. Prime Minister Atal Vajpayee resigned today after his party's surprising defeat.

Hazmat crews are responding to a train derailment near downtown Denver this afternoon. Part of the 20-car train jumped the tracks near the Coors Field baseball stadium. No injuries are reported; 250 million years ago, the Earth was mostly covered by oceans. Those oceans were full of life until a meteor at least four miles wide hit the planet. The impact killed almost everything alive on the planet. Scientists now say they have found the impact crater. It's located off Northwest Australia.

The CIA now says it believes the man shown in the video beheading American Nick Berg can now be unmasked. He's a fugitive terrorist.

And we have more on that from our national security correspondent David Ensor, who is joining us live -- David.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the CIA has done a technical analysis of that tape showing the murder of American Nick Berg.

And they now say that the hooded man who first speaks on that tape and then later kills Berg by beheading him is with high probability Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of a terrorist group with a $10 million price on his head. Zarqawi is wanted for more than a score of a bombing attacks in Iraq, as well as the murder of an American diplomat in Jordan.

Officials say they now believe the terrorist leader personally killed Nick Berg and they say that parallels with their confidence that "Wall Street Journal" reporter Danny Pearl was also beheaded by a top terrorist, in that case, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the al Qaeda leader who was by the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.

Mohammed has of course been under interrogation by the CIA in an undisclosed location for some time now. CIA and administration officials are refusing comment on a report in "The New York Times" that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed has been subjected to what is called water-boarding, in which a prisoner is strapped down, forcibly pushed under water and made to believe that he may be allowed to drown.

U.S. officials do however confirm that after 9/11 the president approved new rules for interrogation of top terrorist prisoners which allowed additional forms of -- quote -- "pressure." Former officials suggest that those include sleep deprivation, use of heat, cold, light, and loud noise.

U.S. officials draw a sharp distinction in their minds between what they see as the illegal abuse of Iraqi primaries, who should have been protected under the Geneva Conventions, by soldiers who they say were acting without authority and the CIA's use of pressure on al Qaeda prisoners, which they stress has been very specifically authorized in writing by the White House and the Justice Department -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It gets a little complicated, but it's fascinating.

Thanks very much, David Ensor, for that report.

Lots of questions still surround Nick Berg's killing. Now there's new information. Also, behind the scenes of a secret trip during a highly sensitive time, how Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld pulled off today's stealth visit to Iraq. And it's a scene straight from the movies. A Kansas twister rips an entire house off the ground. We'll show you the incredible pictures.

Plus this, aiming for Athens. Find out why these Iraqis are dreaming. They're dreaming of gold.


BLITZER: Welcome back.

We're learning new details about the days and weeks leading up to Nick Berg's execution, but there are still important unanswered questions about whether he was in U.S. custody.

Tom Foreman is standing by to share more on that -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, even as family and friends of Nick Berg gather near Philadelphia for memorial services for him, we still don't know how he wound up in the hands of killers, but we are pulling together a very revealing portrait of his life in Baghdad in the days before he disappeared.


FOREMAN (voice-over): Outside Philadelphia, Nick Berg's father planted an anti-war sign in his yard today and bitterly spoke out about the murder of his son.

MICHAEL BERG, FATHER OF NICK BERG: Nicholas Berg died for the sins of George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld.

FOREMAN: But slowly, the mystery around Nick Berg's death is clearing. Almost all accounts agree the idealistic 26-year-old wanted to use his expertise in telecommunications to help rebuild Iraq, generating business for his small company in the process.

Andy Duke is another businessman who says he met Berg in Baghdad.

ANDREW DUKE, BUSINESSMAN: His business was going swimmingly. I mean, you know, this is one of those areas where telecommunications is just booming.

FOREMAN: And so it begins. March 14, Berg enters Iraq and begins inspecting communication towers. People who meet him say he frequently travels alone and at night, highly unusual for a foreigner, especially one who speaks very little Arabic.

March 24, Iraqi police say they have arrested him at a roadblock. Berg, who is Jewish, tells friends and Israeli stamps and passport raise police fears he may be a spy. The FBI says its agents questioned him three times while he is in custody. His parents are questioned, too. Berg later tells his family in an e-mail released by "The New York Times" agents want to know if he'd ever built a bomb.

On April 5, Berg's family takes legal action, demanding his freedom. And on April 6, he is released. With other Iraqi prisoners now aware of Berg's Jewish background, U.S. officials say they told him the streets of Iraq would not be safe. They urged him to leave the country, even offered a flight out. He refuses their help, but friends he has made in Iraq say he is ready to go.

HUGO INFANTE, JOURNALIST: He say to me: I want to get back home. I think there is no more business here for me.

FOREMAN: On April 9, Berg tell us friends and family he is flying to Jordan. According to the State Department, on April 10, he tells the U.S. Consulate he is traveling by car to Kuwait. Neither family, nor officials hear from him again. One month later, his headless body is found in Northeast Baghdad.


FOREMAN: So we still don't know how he wound up among killers, but we're beginning to get closer to that point. Two interesting things came up today. The family has said all along the U.S. government bears some culpability because they were holding him.

All along, the government kept saying, no, the Iraqi police were holding him. Iraqi police today said they did turn him over to the U.S. government. It still needs to be sorted out.

The other thing, Kelli Arena of CNN over at the Justice Department heard from an official today with the government that in fact Nick Berg had a tangential connection to the accused terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui. Apparently, he was at a school out in Oklahoma. He allowed some other person he ran into to use his computer to send an e-mail and that person was connected to Moussaoui in some distant way. It does not imply in any way that Berg knew anything about him, but it's an unusual coincidence, yet another amazing part of this amazing puzzle of this great tragedy -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A great tragedy indeed. Thanks very much, Tom Foreman, for that.

And to our viewers, you can hear more from Nick Berg's friends tonight on "ANDERSON COOPER 360." That airs 7:00 p.m. Eastern, 4:00 Pacific.

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry says he's spoken with Nick Berg's father, Michael. Kerry says America needs to do a more effective job of winning the war on terror.

The murder of Nicholas Berg has been condemned by several Middle Eastern governments, including the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Joining us now is Adel Al-Jubeir, the foreign policy adviser to the Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.

Saudi Arabia has condemned this murder as well. Is that right, Adel?

ADEL AL-JUBEIR, ADVISER TO SAUDI CROWN PRINCE ABDULLAH: Exactly. We condemn the murder of all innocent people, regardless of where it occurs.

BLITZER: This -- why is it controversial, at least in some Arab countries, to condemn such a brutal act?

AL-JUBEIR: I don't know. You would have to ask those governments. From our perspective, any time an innocent life is taken, especially in a gruesome way, and if it's a murder, as we have seen here, it is condemnable. It violates all the principles of humanity and violates all the principles of any faith.

BLITZER: So there can absolutely, positively be no justification for what happened to Nick Berg as far as Islam or Arab culture or any other reason is concerned?

AL-JUBEIR: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Your Crown Prince Abdullah, he made a very controversial statement, as you well know, a couple weeks ago. I want our viewers to listen precisely to what he said.


CROWN PRINCE ABDULLAH, SAUDI ARABIA (through translator): I don't say -- it's not 100 percent, but 95 percent that the Zionist hands are behind what happened.


BLITZER: He was accusing Zionists of that most recent terror attack in Riyadh. On the basis of what?

AL-JUBEIR: I believe, Wolf, if you look at the context of it, the point that he was trying to make is that there are people in the United States who have been very harsh when it comes to Saudi Arabia, have called for regime change in Saudi Arabia, have called for the dismemberment of Saudi Arabia, and whose -- the objectives that they have called for are the same objectives as those shared by the terrorists.

Osama bin Laden wants to destroy the Saudi state. Osama bin Laden wants to destroy the Saudi government. And so you should understand these comments in that context, that those who are most critical of Saudi Arabia in a very hostile way in the United States, as well as in Israel, share the same objective as Osama bin Laden and those who committed these acts


BLITZER: You're saying that people in Israel want to see Saudi Arabia destroyed?

AL-JUBEIR: No, I'm saying there are some people. We have books that have been published about Saudi Arabia, have been called the "Hatred's Kingdom." There have been calls by some for regime change in Saudi Arabia, for putting Saudi Arabia on the axis of evil. It's really that kind of attitude that is shared by Osama bin Laden.

BLITZER: Is the crown prince, who's the effective leader of Saudi Arabia, equating al Qaeda with Zionists?

AL-JUBEIR: That's not what he was trying to say here. What he was trying to say is that the objectives of those people who have been most harsh toward Saudi Arabia are the same as the objectives of Osama bin Laden. It doesn't mean that they committed this crime.

BLITZER: Because we listened closely to that tape and we had several Arab linguists listen precisely. And what he clearly said was that he believes 95 percent -- not 100 percent, but 95 percent -- that the people who undertook this most recent terror attack in Saudi Arabia was not al Qaeda, but were Zionists.

AL-JUBEIR: That they were behind them when somebody calls for regime change in Saudi Arabia, as we have a number of people here in the United States when people call for dismemberment of Saudi Arabia.

You'll recall the infamous briefing before the Defense Policy Board where the analyst made the case that we should take Saudi out of Arabia. That is not much different from the mind-set of Osama bin Laden, which wants to also replace the Saudi government and install instead a Taliban-like regime.

When you say behind them, it means supporting them intellectually. That doesn't mean financially. It doesn't mean that they put them up to it. It just means that they share the same objective.

BLITZER: Because U.S. officials clearly say that most recent terror attack in Riyadh and all the other ones were the work of al Qaeda.

AL-JUBEIR: We agree.

BLITZER: You agree?

AL-JUBEIR: So have we. Our Interior Ministry issued a statement to that effect. The person who was the ringleader of the attack is a known person, a dissident. He was on -- on our list of -- sorry -- terrorists. He was on the list of most wanted individuals in Saudi Arabia. His picture was plastered all over the country.

BLITZER: Do you want to issue any sort of apology for the comments of your boss, the Crown Prince Abdullah?

AL-JUBEIR: Why apology? I was explaining it to you. There's no apology necessary.

BLITZER: Because of the impression that he left that for that most recent terror attack he was blaming Zionists. AL-JUBEIR: Because, Wolf, what happens with Saudi Arabia, unfortunately, after 9/11 is anything that Saudi Arabia does or says is perceived with a lot of criticism.

It's sort of, we are guilty until proven innocent. It should be the other way around. And so nobody cuts us any slack. And every little thing is exaggerated. Every little thing is inflated. I can look at statements by American officials. I can look at statements by officials of other countries that are outrageous and that have not solicited apologies from them or from anyone else. But when it comes to us, we're always the ones who have to apologize. I don't see a reason to do this here.

BLITZER: Adel Al-Jubeir, thanks for joining us.

AL-JUBEIR: Thank you. Always good to be here.

BLITZER: Behind the scenes of the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld's, secret trip to Iraq.

Plus, a powerful tornado ripped through Kansas, leaving little behind in its wake, a scene reminiscent of "The Wizard of Oz."

Also, more shocking events caught in camera. We'll show you what happened right before this car ended up in the water.

We'll get to all of that. First, though a quick look at some other news making headlines around the world.


BLITZER (voice-over): Despite U.S. protests, a Chinese court has sentenced a prominent dissident to five years in jail for espionage espionage. Yang Jianli has permanent U.S. resident status, but he was arrested two years ago for entering China on a friend's passport to observe labor unrest.

Aristide Asylum. South Africa has granted temporary asylum to former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Aristide is in Jamaica, but U.S. officials had worried his continued presence in the Caribbean region could destabilize Haiti's new government.

Sidetracked. A 36-hour strike is interfering with French train service. Workers are unhappy with the government-backed reorganization plan. This strike has idled some commuter and high- speed regional trains, but shuttle trains between Paris and London continue to run on schedule.

What a kick. Despite continuing violence in their country, Iraqis have something to celebrate. Three months after the International Olympic Committee reinstated Iraq, the Iraqi soccer team has qualified to compete in the Athens Olympics with a victory over Saudi Arabia.

And that's our look around the world.



BLITZER: Sending the defense secretary on a secret mission to Baghdad isn't like booking a vacation online. It's a massive undertaking that's expensive, dangerous and even for reporters covering it, often very, very secret.

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us live with a behind-the-scenes look at what happened -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, these kinds of arrangements are becoming more and more commonplace these days.

According to network executives and reporters we spoke to, today's visit to Iraq by Secretary Rumsfeld and General Myers played out like a spy novel.


TODD (voice-over): Earlier this week, cryptic calls are made to news organizations from the Defense Department.

MARVIN KALB, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: What the public ought to understand is that there is a constant interaction between the media and the government.

TODD: The message this time, a trip will be made. Still kept secret, the people going, the exact time, the destination. Visas are needed. Only a few seats are available. For electronic media, it's up to the network bureau chief to decide how their allotment of seats for the so-called pool. A group of reporters, producers, technical crews from different news organizations selected to go on trips on a rotating basis.

By Tuesday afternoon another call from the Pentagon. The trip is still on, but still no tipoff on exactly who, where and exact time of departure. One network official says they had a good idea who it was from discussions of security procedures and other details, but had to decode other signals to figure out exactly where they were going.

Finally, the bureau chiefs are told. Have your pool crews at a certain place and they give an exact time. This sometimes comes only a day or less in advance.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was just looking for a warm meal somewhere.

TODD: When President Bush made a surprise trip to Iraq last Thanksgiving, one reporter who was on that trip tells us he was in Crawford Texas, with the president at the time, got an hour and a half's notice, had to meet officials at a parking plot in Waco, then got his cell phone batteries confiscated, he believes because cell phones constantly transmit signals that can somehow be tracked.

No one was allowed to report the president's trip until he was on the way back.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The way to gauge this is not today and not yesterday and not tomorrow, but over time.

TODD: One reporter tells us advanced details for this trip by Secretary Rumsfeld and General Myers were kept even more secret than usual because of security concerns, the sensitivity of the prison abuse scandal, and the fact they visited Abu Ghraib prison itself. Network officials say they were originally told not to report this trip or show tape until after Rumsfeld and General Myers left their event at Abu Ghraib.

HOWARD KURTZ, "RELIABLE SOURCES": Journalists who cover the Pentagon or the White House have kind of agreed in advance that if they get the call, if they are summoned to accompany the president or the defense secretary to Baghdad, a mission on which secrecy is obviously important for security reason, that they're going to keep the secret at least until the plane lands or the trip is announced.

TODD: That's the tradeoff. As one former White House official tells us, the price for admission for reporters, keep your mouth shut.


TODD: Another rule for these trips that every journalist knows, let the secret out beforehand and you could be shut out in the future. Access is everything, Wolf. No reporter wants to lose it.

BLITZER: All right, Brian Todd with all the fascinating details -- thanks very much, Brian.

Now let's take a look at other news across the country that's been caught on videotape.

Police in Garland, Texas, say this gang fight was organized over the Internet in a profanity-laced chat room. A grand jury has indicted 34 people, including 27 high school students.

A 15-year-old runaway girl being chased by the Utah Highway Patrol lost control of her car and it went off the road into a water- filled median strip. Even though the car overturned, the car was not seriously hurt. Neither were her passengers, a 21-year-old man and a 17-year-old boy.

And watch this. This dramatic video shows a tornado lifting a house off the ground. Look at this. Tornadoes destroyed three homes in Attica, Kansas, but despite this amazing picture, no injuries are reported.

The results of our "Web Question of the Day," that's coming up next. Plus, we'll tell you about a pilot who went where no civilian has ever gone before.


BLITZER: Here's how you're weighing in on our "Web Question of the Day." Remember, as you're watching this, this is not a scientific poll.

Let's get to some of your e-mails. Bruce writes this: "It seems to me that Secretary Rumsfeld has gone on a long, expensive trip just to find an audience that agrees with him, just another whitewashing job, I think. If he has to keep saying over and over that he and other top military leaders have done nothing wrong, he brings them more fully into the bright light of public scrutiny."

Patricia: "I congratulate Rumsfeld on his speech to the troops in Iraq. He conveyed the majority view on the situation in Iraq and support of the American public at home for the troops in Iraq. We do not need to see any more propaganda about the negatives in Iraq, but need to see the good that our troops are doing."

Let's take a quick look at our picture of the day. This is a test flight, a test flight over the Mojave Desert. The combination aircraft/spaceship was designed by a private owned company that eventually wants to send tourists into space. The pilot, 62-year-old, Mike Melvill, set a civilian altitude record 40 miles above the Earth. He says seeing the sky go from blue to black was the thrill of his life.

That's all the time we have. "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now.


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