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President Bush Backs National Intelligence Director; Interview With NYPD Commissioner

Aired August 2, 2004 - 20:00   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): In the dog days of August, confronting an invisible enemy in financial nerve centers, where anything on wheels could be a threat.

TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: The preferred method of attack, what's being suggested in the reporting are car and truck bombs.

COLLINS: The nation steps up the war on terror.


COLLINS: Good evening, everyone. Thanks for joining us tonight. I'm Heidi Collins. Paula Zahn is off tonight.

We are going to devote much of the program now to the new terror threat. Parts of New York, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. are under a code orange after the discovery of what one official calls a treasure trove of evidence, detailing a frightening al Qaeda plot targeting America's financial heart.


RIDGE: These intelligence reports have provided a level of detail that is very specific.

COLLINS (voice-over): And with that, three U.S. cities went on high alert. In fact, one senior intelligence officer called the al Qaeda plan chilling. The strategy appears to be attacking key financial institutions, targeting icons like the New York Stock Exchange, Washington, D.C.'s International Monetary Fund and World Bank buildings, and Prudential Financial in Newark, New Jersey.

On Sunday, Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge responded by raising the threat level from yellow to orange in northern New Jersey and Washington and ordering heightened awareness in New York City's financial district.

RIDGE: The quality of this intelligence, based on multiple reporting streams in multiple locations, is rarely seen. And it is alarming in both of amount and specificity of the information.

COLLINS: Officials say information gathered from two arrests helped spark this latest alert. Intelligence obtained after the arrest of an al Qaeda operative in Pakistan three weeks ago indicated that al Qaeda has been watching U.S. financial institutions for years, gathering information on everything from parking structures and security camera locations to pedestrian and traffic patterns. They even knew whether security guards at specific sites carried weapons.

A second source of intelligence, Tanzanian-born Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, arrested last week in connection with al Qaeda's 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. But while security officials have an idea where al Qaeda might attack, there is no indication when an attack might take place, a fact that President Bush says should remind everyone to remain vigilant.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All the institutions of our government must be fully prepared for a struggle against terror that will last into the future.


COLLINS: This latest threat underscores the recommendation by the 9/11 Commission calling for a national director of intelligence. And today, President Bush acted on that. He called on Congress to authorize the position, although with significantly less power than the commission wanted.

Joining us now from the White House, Frances Townsend, assistant to the president for homeland security.

Ms. Townsend, hello and thanks so much for being with us tonight.


COLLINS: I want to ask you, as you know these terror warnings are highly specific. But there are some people who say that by putting out this much detail, this much information, specifically about them, that other targets become less secure. Any risk in saying too much?

TOWNSEND: Well, you know, Heidi, it's interesting, because when we don't say many specifics, we get accused of not giving the public enough information. We went out this time with a level of detail, because we thought it would be helpful to the public.

But let me assure you, Heidi, we went out with as much as we felt we could, but we didn't go out with everything we had. This is a continual stream of intelligence. And so, as we develop additional information on other targets, we go to those corporations and entities and work with them to harden their security. When DHS went out with their security alert to the financial sector, they went out to the entire sector about measures they could take to improve their security.

The good news here is, the financial sector is one of the most advanced in the country in terms of the security measures they do take.

COLLINS: All right, well, as we mention mentioned in the introduction, President Bush did announce today that he is in favor of creating this position of national intelligence director, but not with as much authority as the 9/11 Commission had recommended. Listen to what he said a little bit earlier today.


BUSH: I don't think that the person ought to be a member of my Cabinet. I will hire the person and I can fire the person, which is -- any president would like. That's how you have accountability in government. I don't think that the office ought to be in the White House, however.


COLLINS: Ms. Townsend, why not have this position in the White House?

TOWNSEND: Well, it wasn't a matter of giving this new director of national intelligence less authority than the commission suggested, quite the opposite, Heidi. The president wanted to ensure that there was not even the appearance of politicization by having that person inside the White House.

He wants the person outside and completely autonomous, where they can bring to him all dissenting views and all alternative analyses, so he gets the best possible intelligence.

COLLINS: Well, then tell me a little bit more about that. How exactly will this position improve the lines of communications to the president, the ultimate decision-maker, without muddying those lines of communication and just having another cook in the kitchen, if you will?

TOWNSEND: Heidi, the president was very clear. He didn't want this person in between him and any of the operating agencies, for example, the secretary of defense, the secretary of state, the FBI director.

On operational matters, he will go directly to them and they will be accountable to him for those operations. On intelligence matters, though, remember, there are 15 independent agencies that comprise the intelligence agency. He didn't want 15 different opinions. He wanted one person to pull it together and let him see the best of the analyses, along with alternative views, so he could get a complete picture.

COLLINS: Who's going to do this job?

TOWNSEND: Well, the president hasn't announced that yet. But you heard him say that. He'll hire him. He'll fire him.

COLLINS: All right, in these latest threats that we've been learning so much about, actually, as of yesterday, has the president considered actually calling Congress back into session now instead of waiting until September? TOWNSEND: You know, I've heard a lot of talk about this. The fact is, Congress began committee hearings the end of last week. They have more committee hearings that were today and go on through the rest of the month. This is the kind of work that Congress would have had to have done in advance of really considering any legislative changes.

So I think, in fairness to Congress, they've already begun their work. Two of the really important recommendations from the commission will also be on their plate. And that is reorganizing their oversight of intelligence and homeland security. Secretary Ridge said his leadership and department, his new department, made 140 appearances. That's the kind of distraction we don't need. We need good, effective, efficient oversight, and we're hoping the Congress will take those recommendations seriously as well.

COLLINS: But it just seems like there's so much to do, Ms. Townsend. We're talking about at least two things that I know. Congress is going to have to revise this 1947 National Security Act and, as we've been talking about, so many recommendations from the 9/11 Commission that they're going to have to start implementing. Why not start sooner than later?

TOWNSEND: Well, all I'm saying, Heidi, is, I think they have started. I think the process of having these hearings and gathering the facts is what needs to be down before they will be able to take action. And they're doing that now.

COLLINS: All right, from the White House this morning, we appreciate -- or this afternoon -- this evening, I should say. Sorry. I've been on all day. And so have you.

Frances Townsend, assistant to the president for homeland security, we do appreciate your time tonight.

TOWNSEND: Thank you, Heidi.

COLLINS: And when we return, the target, protecting the nation's financial nerve center and more -- when we come back.


COLLINS: This certainly is not the first time the terror alert level has been raised, but this mobilization of resources and manpower is especially impressive. But then so is the determination of Americans to go on with their lives and get about their business, however unusual the circumstances.

Here's homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: At the New York Stock Exchange, this was not a workaday workday. There was a heavy blanket of security. The mayor, a governor, a senator opened the session to quell qualms about the new threat warnings. MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (R), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: New York City is not going to be cowed by the terrorists. Make no mistake about that.

MESERVE: And Bloomberg appeared to be right. At the Stock Exchange and Citigroup buildings in New York City and at Prudential Financial in northern New Jersey, many people did face down fears and forge on in a sea of security personnel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was downtown when 9/11 happened, and, you know, you just got to go on with your life.

MESERVE: But some, apparently, did not share that attitude.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The building is a lot less occupied than it normally is. It almost feels like a Sunday.

MESERVE: Two potential targets in Washington, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, were also steeped in security. Vehicles were checked for explosives, and there were steps inside as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've reviewed the emergency procedures, even gone through a walk-through of the exits of the back.

MESERVE: With the entire city of Washington stepping up to threat level orange, special response teams were deployed in the subways inspecting stations, trains, even tunnels.

In this election year, security is not simply a safety issue. Democrat John Kerry used the threat increase to scold the administration for not moving faster to secure the country.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe this administration and its policies is actually encouraging the recruitment of terrorists.

MESERVE: From the Rose Garden, the president fired right back.

BUSH: It is a ridiculous notion to assert that because the United States is on the offense, more people want to hurt us. We're on the offense because people do want to hurt us.

MESERVE: Bush used the new terror to help make his case for intelligence reforms. As the day went on, the web of security expanded. In New York, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly stressed the need for cooperation.

RAYMOND KELLY, NYPD COMMISSIONER: We're working closely with private security people. We have definitely some of the best in the world right here in New York. We've met with a group of them last evening and continue to the have meetings with them.

MESERVE: In Washington, the street in front of the World Bank, open early in the day, was sealed off. And the U.S. Capitol Police announced new street closures and inspections of every car driving by the Capitol or its office buildings. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we think this will help move the traffic, but reduce the risk to the visitors, to this Capitol, to the people who work here, to the members of Congress, as well as the symbolic institution and the buildings that represent the United States of America.

MESERVE: It left the public asking, how much more? How much longer?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It could go until the election. It could go as long as the inauguration or beyond.

MESERVE: The secretary of homeland security started this day with a wish.

RIDGE: I'd like to see the market go up, so we could send a signal to bin Laden and his crew, you're smart. We're smarter. You're tough. We're tougher. You're resolved. We're more resolved.

MESERVE: Ridge got what he wanted. The Dow Jones closed up more than 39 points and terrorists did not strike.


COLLINS: Homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve with that report.

While security is visibly tighter in New York, this latest alert technically hasn't changed anything. New York City has been under code orange or high alert ever since 9/11.

Here to talk about life on alert and what's changed with this latest warning, New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

Commissioner Kelly, thanks, as always, for being with us tonight.

KELLY: Good to be with you, Heidi.

COLLINS: Is it your understanding that the threat is imminent?


Again, I think it's important to focus on just what this information is. It is a vulnerability assessment of specific -- building-specific facilities. There's no operational plan associated with this information. It's very detailed, yes, but there's nothing that would indicate an imminent operation.

COLLINS: Detailed like never before. But New York City, as we have just said in the piece, has been on code orange for quite some time.

KELLY: Right.

COLLINS: I know that things are a little bit different today. We've seen vehicle searches. We've seen diversions from different tunnels getting into the city. We've seen certain roads closed. Is it exhausting? How long can New York City keep this up?

KELLY: Well, we've been doing variations of this for quite a while. We've redeployed 1,000 officers in our department for a counterterrorism duty. But it is a strain on the officers, no question about it. It's a strain on our budget.

But much of this, as I said, we've been doing on a regular basis. So it's done straight time. Some of it, though, will have to be on overtime. So it hits us in the budget. We're not getting, as we've said on many occasions, what we think we should be getting from Washington. But I guess the short answer is, we'll do it as long as it's necessary.

COLLINS: Of course.

What was your feeling, though, personally, when you heard of specific targets, NYSE, Citigroup buildings. It's different. How did it feel?


It was surprising, no question about that. And everybody in the intelligence community I think would echo that. They've never seen this level of specificity. So it was jolting, but I think the intelligence folks in Washington did an excellent job producing this information. It's only about 96 hours old, maybe even less than that, but it was put forward. It was made public.

And you see a significant response to it.

COLLINS: What about other financial institutions, though? Can you really concentrate only on the ones that have been mentioned? Are other ones then left as more vulnerable?

KELLY: Right. No, we're not only concentrating on what was mentioned. We have met with the security directors of many institutions. We've deployed our resources at these facilities. And, of course, the security directors themselves are ramping up their response to the challenge. So we're certainly not just focusing on the identified buildings.

COLLINS: How do you keep up? I mean, these guys could switch targets at any moment, right?

KELLY: Yes. As I say, we have a pretty comprehensive program in place, but this shows the level of detail and sophistication of our enemies. And we know that they take a long time in doing reconnaissance.

So it wouldn't be a natural step for them to go and just target a building that they haven't done a lot of reconnaissance on.

COLLINS: To move on quickly, one thing that has happened, commercial traffic indefinitely banned coming into the Holland Tunnel. What kind of economic impact could that have on this city? KELLY: Well, it's tough to be a truck driver these days, no question about it. We ask their patience. Again, there's another route. You can go to the Lincoln Tunnel and George Washington Bridge. There's no commercial traffic to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. We've rerouted trucks from the Williamsburg Bridge to the Manhattan Bridge.

So it's difficult. It's challenging. And we ask the patience, certainly, of the truck driver community, you might say, but we'll do it as long as we deem it necessary. This is an evolving stream of intelligence. We'll see if that changes our approach in the days and weeks ahead, but we're now approaching the Republican National Convention. We'll probably remain at a higher state until the convention, which is the latter part of this month.

COLLINS: Yes, not far away.

KELLY: Right.

COLLINS: What happens with that? Any chance that that could even be canceled when you hear about threats like this, as specific as they are?

KELLY: I would seriously doubt that. I don't think that will happen at all. I think we are, as I say, at a higher level here. We've been that way for a while. I think we know what we're doing. We have experienced police officers. We have practiced drills and have had them for the last couple of years virtually every day.

And I think -- I think most citizens in New York feel safer as a result of what we're doing. It's an uneasy time. Post-9/11, the world is an uneasy world that we live in, but I think there is a certain comfort level in New York City that we kind of know what we're doing. We're using our resources appropriately.

COLLINS: You're a recognizable figure. And people see you on the streets. They come up to you and they say, what? I feel safe? Or they say, what are you guys doing? Or how should they feel?


COLLINS: Do you say they should feel safe.

KELLY: Yes, I would say the most common remark is that the police department and police officers are doing a good job, and, keep it up.

COLLINS: Were they cooperative today, the people of New York?

KELLY: Yes, yes, they are. And always when these crises emerge, New Yorkers are terrific, very gritty, tough people. And they respond.

COLLINS: They know how to do it.

KELLY: They know how to do it. Right.

COLLINS: Commissioner Raymond Kelly, thanks so much for your time tonight, as always.

KELLY: Thank you, Heidi.

COLLINS: Appreciate it very much.

Coming up next tonight, trucks. They deliver almost everything, including the threat of terrorism. Guarding against trucks as bombs -- when we come back.


COLLINS: Part of the horror of 9/11 was the unexpected use of commercial airliners as missiles. It's not that the country was immune to terror before that, but for almost two decades, attacks targeting Americans came in a simple mobile and deadly form of truck and car bombs.


COLLINS (voice-over): From Baghdad to Bali to Beirut, it's been a favorite tool of terrorists time after time, delivering deadly results. Few Americans would have worried about something like a car or truck bomb until October 23, 1983, the day a truck carrying a ton of explosives drove into a U.S. Marine Corps compound in Beirut, Lebanon. The explosives went off; 241 Americans were killed. One decade later, a truck bomb was used in the first attempt to destroy the World Trade Center.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can see thick, black billows, smoke billowing from the federal court building downtown.

COLLINS: Perhaps taking a cue from terrorists overseas, Timothy McVeigh chose a truck bomb to bring down Oklahoma City's Murrah Federal Building in 1995, killing 168 people in the process.

The list goes on, Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, 1996, the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, Bali in 2002, and now it seems almost every day in Baghdad. Experts say, besides delivering deadly results, they're a cheap, low-tech way to cause a lot damage. And with more than two million trucks on American highways, a rolling bomb would be frighteningly inconspicuous.


COLLINS: Our next guest knows quite a bit about truck bombs, including the most effective ways to stop them. Aaron Cohen is president of IMS Security. He's also a former counterterrorist commando with the Israeli Defense Forces. Mr. Cohen is joining us from Toronto tonight.

Thanks for being here, Mr. Cohen. We do appreciate your time, as always.

Israelis lived with the threat of these types of bombs against their troops in Lebanon since the '80s and never really thought that this would happen on their streets, but it did. Are Americans next? AARON COHEN, FORMER ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCES COUNTERTERRORISM COMMANDO: It's definitely a possibility.

And the reason why is because we had several planes crashing into the World Trade Center and into the Pentagon. Everything is possible now, and everything needs to be looked at. It's definitely a possibility.

COLLINS: You said that, even in the face of all of this heightened security, as we have at least experienced today, that's for sure, for the terrorists, were there's a will, there's a way. And in that case, why haven't there been any attacks, at least in the past three years, here in the United States?

COHEN: Well, I think it's a combination of different things.

I think, one, it has a great deal to do with the amount of troops potentially that we have abroad. The reason why is because there's plenty of targets over there. Getting paperwork isn't as easy as it used to be. The borders have definitely tightened up. The fact is that our security here has gotten a lot better, so it is more complex. We're not a wide-open society. We're a little more aware of our surroundings.

And then another important one is obviously the fact that, by doing nothing, it has also created a certain amount of psychological awareness. And that's really what terrorism -- it's important to remember that. We're dealing with a psychological war. Doing nothing also has an effect, because it keeps us sort of wondering what can happen next.

COLLINS: You mentioned overseas. Wouldn't just one terror attack right here in the United States produce much more terror than it would if something were to happen in Iraq?

COHEN: I don't think it's really fair to compare a loss of life overseas that's American fighting terror on an operational level to losing an American here in this country in a defensive way. I think they're both equally tragic.

But, unfortunately, there's a lot of things going on right now and


COLLINS: What makes you say that, though, Mr. Cohen?

COHEN: Well, I just think that a life is a life. You can't weigh and balance the scales of lives. Everything has to be taken very seriously. And, at the end of the day, everything has to be done in order to reduce risk, regardless of where we are.

COLLINS: Well, let's talk a little bit about logistics, if we could.

What exactly are some of these things that these high-profile companies are doing and are going to have to continue to do to reduce this threat?

COHEN: I think the key is going to be, again, multilayered systems.

What does that mean? That means putting as many levels between you and a potential terrorist, which would mean, the more layers, the more levels that you have, the more things would have to go wrong for the terrorist to be successful. What does that mean? It means literally having a multifailure event.

It's not unlike protecting your house. The only difference now, in this case, specifically, based on the details of the planning of the terrorist audit that has been released, we're talking about looking at trucks and different measures to protect a specific building.

COLLINS: But not every building and not every potential target has that multilayer system in place. So wouldn't these potential terrorists just go somewhere else that's an easier target?

COHEN: Absolutely. Absolutely.

And it's known with terrorists that they will take the path of least resistance, just like a straight line. One of the interesting things that was pointed out about this audit, from the terrorists on to our security for these buildings, the Prudential building, the IMF building, the World Bank, etcetera, is that one of the things that they were looking at -- and it wasn't specifically operational information or intelligence that they got about a planned attack. They were just auditing us.

What was interesting was them looking at the reduction of security on the weekend. Terrorists will go where there is no security. And it's not unlike any other criminal or gangster or thud, which means that it's not enough to just take specific intelligence and apply it toward one place. It's important and it helps, but we have to look at the places that, like, we were discussing a second go, are really, really dear to us.

What does that mean? Wherever there's groups of people, there needs to be eyes watching. Otherwise, in the end, ultimately, you're going to fail.

COLLINS: So you're saying that every commercial building, every governmental build, every school, every -- anywhere that people gather, every stadium. I mean, the list could go on and on and on. None of them can afford for one single second to be less than highly vigilant.

COHEN: If you do not take the appropriate measures to reduce risk and to at least have some type of security layering, you're going to be open or more open to a potential attack. At the end of the day, again, it's about reducing risk. The more eyes watching in a defensive measure is going to reduce the chances of us being attacked.

And that's also just -- you know, again, that's one part of the counterterrorism game. There's the defensive, there's also the operational, and there's also the punitive. So everything, you know, is just sublayers of larger layers.

But the more we have between us and them, the more things have to go wrong for them to get to us, so you have to do everything that's possible. Otherwise, in the end, you're going to have a problem.

COLLINS: Quickly, before I let you know, how easy is it for these terrorists to get a hold of explosive devices in order to make a truck bomb in the United States?

COHEN: Well, it -- you know, explosives and suicide vests and packing -- I mean, we saw Timothy McVeigh. It wasn't that difficult for him to get his hands on this stuff. I think today it's more difficult than it was, let's say, you know, two years or three years ago and then, obviously, after what happened 10 years ago.

But it's not as easy as people think it is to be able to get these materials and to be able to assemble them properly, but, with the right amount of money, it can be done, and that's why, again, everything needs to be looked at -- because it is a definite risk.

COLLINS: All right. A step in the right direction with many more steps to go.

COHEN: Absolutely.

COLLINS: Aaron Cohen, we appreciate your time tonight so very much. Thanks again.

COHEN: Thank you for having me.

COLLINS: Next, an old problem, a new danger. Heightened concern about what crosses the border into America when we come back.


COLLINS: The country's first line of defense against terrorists is our borders and the men and women who patrol them. It was an alert agent at a Washington State checkpoint who foiled the so-called millennium bomb plot in December 1999 against Los Angeles International Airport, detaining an Algerian man whose car turned out to be full of explosives.

While the border of Canada is longer, it's the border with Mexico that pose a greater problem. That is 2,000 miles long and sees an estimated 300,000 illegal crossings every year, mostly people hoping for work in the United States.

But some who live nearby say it's a prime opening for terrorists. CNN's Ed Lavandera reports from one border town, Del Rio, Texas.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Cars jam their way into the U.S. every day along the southern U.S. border. Heightened security inspections might slow down movement in areas like El Paso, Texas, on Sundays, but most of the U.S.-Mexico border doesn't look like this.

It's most often vast, unforgiving terrain dotted by small border towns, and it's in these towns where community leaders say the country is the most vulnerable.

MAYOR DORIA ALCALA, DEL RIO, TEXAS: The border needs a lot more attention.

LAVANDERA: Del Rio, Texas, Mayor Dora Alcala feels like it's just a matter of time before terrorists start taking advantage of the southern border region. It's difficult to patrol, and agents are already overwhelmed with the thousands of illegal immigrants who come to the U.S. looking for work every day.

ALCALA: Our small communities are strapped. We do not have the financial resources to deal with the day-in and day-out security measures that are pending that are there, and we have to be careful about.

LAVANDERA: In recent years, several hundred more Border Patrol agents have been stationed at various points along the southern border from California to Texas. When illegal immigrants are captured, federal officials say there is now a better background check system in place that will help prevent terrorists from slipping into the country.

But what bothers most officials here along the border is that hundreds of illegal immigrants from countries other than Mexico are being caught and released every day, as long as they sign a paper promising to show up in court.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They now come across the border, in some cases just throw their hands up, and knowing that they're going to be arrested, processed and then set free. So they don't even haven't to run anymore, and who knows what some of these folks might be up to? Again, you just never know with terrorist cells being set up around the world now.

LAVANDERA: That's what scares Tony Castaneda, the police chief in Eagle Pass, Texas.

(on camera): If were you a terrorist, would you try to get into the United States through the -- through a border town?



CASTANEDA: It's so easy. It's easy.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): It's easy, Tony Castaneda says, because, in a border town, illegal immigrants can blend in and disappear, even people not coming from a Latin-American country. CASTANEDA: If you can go to a university and learn how to speak Spanish and you're, you know, from the Middle East or you're a terrorist, and you master the language and then just come across and say, hey, I'm Honduras or I'm from Colombia, but you're still, nevertheless, a Middle Easterner, I mean, you could very easily pass. Light color complexion, you know, fair skin, it's very easy.

LAVANDERA: The faces seen coming across the southern border into the U.S. usually tells stories of people searching for a better way of life, but, in the age of terror, security officials now have good reason to believe that more sinister individuals might be lurking in this rugged, remote land.


COLLINS: Ed Lavandera joining us from Del Rio, Texas.

Ed, officials that you spoke with painting a pretty bleak picture about the security of our border. You're there. Do you have any sense that the efforts are really being stepped up, given the new threat warning?

LAVANDERA: Well, what we see at the border checkpoints and we've seen throughout the day and we've heard reports is that there have been some -- the border crossings at the high traffic areas, where that seems to be a little bit slower than normal.

But, again, these are areas that deal with a lot of commerce, a lot of 18-wheelers moving goods back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico. So that's rather typical, and we -- we're also told, you know, a things happen behind the scenes that we're not aware of.

But the local officials, once you get beyond the federal level, the local officials are the ones that seem to be the most nervous.

COLLINS: Are those local officials, in your eyes from spending time there, overtaxed? I mean, are there enough people to actually patrol that huge border?

LAVANDERA: Well, you know, what the -- we heard from the police chief in Eagle Pass, and he told us frankly that his officers don't make any kind of immigration stops.

So, you know, he says he sees anywhere between 10 and 50 illegal immigrants walking through his town on a daily basis, but that that issue, that immigration issue, isn't his concern.

Now, of course, if he does see something that's extremely out of the ordinary, his officers will respond to that, but it's not a situation where they're on the offensive in this situation.

COLLINS: Obviously, an incredibly porous border there.

Ed Lavandera from Del Rio, Texas.

Thanks so much, Ed. LAVANDERA: Sure.

COLLINS: Coming up next now, the tip that triggered the threat and the heightened state of alert when we come back.


COLLINS: U.S. and Pakistani officials tell CNN members of al Qaeda arrested in Pakistan provided crucial information that may have played a key role in raising the security threat level in the United States. Pakistan's information minister says one of those arrested is an al Qaeda computer expert.

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge will only say that American intelligence received specific information that led to the higher threat level. But he also says that information sprang from what he calls aggressive interaction with American allies.

And a senior U.S. counterterrorism official tells CNN that Pakistan provided the CIA with documents that contained details of American building, infrastructure and potential weaknesses.

Joining us from Islamabad, Pakistan, tonight to talk about the exchange of information is CNN Terrorism Analyst Peter Bergen.

Peter, hello to you.

Let me get to the first question about these sources. How reliable is the information that is coming from this computer expert?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, Pakistani officials say that he may have been the source for some of the information that led to this heightened alert in New York and Washington.

How reliable the information is coming from him? I would suspect the information is not coming from him directly in the sense that he's telling people information. It's information derived from documents and computers and also information from somebody called Ghailani who was arrested earlier this week who was involved in the embassy bombing attacks in Africa in 1998.

Both of these men are providing information, not necessarily what they're telling interrogators, but the captured documents, the cell phone numbers, the stuff that may be in their computers. All this is the stuff that is the most reliable form of information.

COLLINS: You know, the relationship over time between the United States and Pakistan, as you well know, has been chilly at times, now seems to be getting a little warmer, the United States officials and Pakistani officials working together on these two particular captures. What does it say about this country's role in the war on terror?

BERGEN: After 9/11, President Musharraf was given a pretty explicit choice by the U.S. administration, you're either with or against us. He decided to be with the United States in a pretty profound way. In fact, he narrowly survived two assassination attempts by al Qaeda just this last December. His prime minister- designate, Shaukat Aziz, was also the result of a serious assassination attempt, which he also survived.

So Pakistan is doing, I think, a reasonably good job under the circumstances. Seventy-five Pakistani Army people have been involved -- have died in al Qaeda operations since 9/11. We've seen a large number of al Qaeda arrests since 9/11, including Ahmed Sheikh Mohammed, the operational commander of the 9/11 attack, and a variety of other important al Qaeda operatives.

In fact, the most important al Qaeda operatives have been arrested in Pakistan since 9/11 rather than in countries like Afghanistan. So I think the Pakistani government is doing what it can.

COLLINS: Talk to us, though, a little about Osama bin Laden now. Does any of this shed any light on not only his whereabouts but on the degree to which he is involved in orchestrating possible terror attacks?

BERGEN: Well, it sheds no light on where the (inaudible) is. A variety of U.S.-Afghan-Pakistan officials that I talk to say that they just have no idea where he is. The general view is he's in Pakistan. But this kind of -- the people that we've just talked about, the people who've been arrested this week in Pakistan are very unlikely to know where bin Laden is.

This is an organization that operates in a kind of compartmented cellular structure where even, let's say, the 9/11 hijackers, most of the people who were the 9/11 hijackers, they knew they were on a suicide mission, but most of them didn't even know what that suicide mission was going to be.

COLLINS: What are we learning from this documentation? Anything about how these senior al Qaeda members are communicating with one another?

BERGEN: Well, based on what U.S. officials have told me in the past, the top leaders of al Qaeda are not using satellite phones, they're not using cellular phones, they're not using radios. Anything that can be intercepted electronically they're not using. They're using couriers.

Now the information that we've heard today and the past week indicates that the computer experts may be converting the couriered messages into information that then is distributed on the Internet. I think -- to answer your question directly, I think the top leaders are communicating by courier. People lower down the chain are communicating on the Internet.

COLLINS: All right. Peter Bergen tonight. CNN terrorism analyst.

We appreciate your time very much.

BERGEN: Thank you, Heidi. COLLINS: Coming up next, we move on from terrorism to the controversy in the Kobe Bryant trial. Missteps and the media, after this.


COLLINS: Damage control today by the Colorado judge presiding over Kobe Bryant's case. Judge Terry Ruckriegle is set to release more than 150 pages of edited transcripts from a closed-door hearing held in June. This follows Friday's release of 19 pages of the transcripts as well as an apology. The reason: A court clerk mistakenly made the transcripts public in late June. They contain information about the accuser's sexual history.

CNN is not identifying the woman, seen here leaving the courtroom. The judge ordered the transcripts remain sealed. A media organization sued. In addition, on at least two occasions, the Eagle County court has mistakenly posted the woman's name on the Internet.

Here with insight on this situation now is Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Good evening, Jeffrey.


COLLINS: And joining us from Redwood City, California, is Court TV Correspondent Beth Karas.

Beth, hello to you as well.

Thanks, you guys, for being here.

Still awaiting for these transcripts. Been waiting and waiting.

TOOBIN: It's been a minute-by-minute vigil all day. We thought they'd be out by now. They're not out yet.

COLLINS: They are not out. But let's talk about how sensitive they're going to be and why the delay?

TOOBIN: Well, the reason they're going to be -- they're going to be extremely sensitive, and the reason is these transcripts talk about, we believe, the 72 hours, what the accuser was doing, what sexually she was doing that the judge then ruled is now admissible because the defense lawyers asserted these could be alternative explanations for the evidence in the case, that the sexual evidence in the case came from some alternative person, not Kobe Bryant. But this is the testimony that made the judge rule that way. That's what will be released.

COLLINS: So, Beth, do you agree with that?

BETH KARAS, COURT TV CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I do. Now, as Jeffrey said, we're not sure exactly what happened behind those closed doors. But, as you know, he's letting in that 72-hour period, from the time she had the rape kit examination done at the hospital, which was 16 hours after she had sex with Kobe. So it will be about two days before sex with Kobe Bryant and roughly a day after.

TOOBIN: And what makes this especially sensitive and difficult and time consuming is that he's got to edit out -- the judge -- everything that doesn't relate to that 72 hours. We assume that's the rule he's going to use. But that's easier said than done, and you can see why it's taking a while.

And here, of course, this is a case where there's been mistake after mistake by these court administrators releasing stuff that shouldn't have been released.

COLLINS: Yes. Obviously, a very tough job there.

Now listen, Beth, on Friday, as you know, the judge apologized to Bryant's accuser for the court inadvertently making information about her sexual past and -- her identity, that is -- public for the third time. In fact, you can see it on the screen. This is exactly what he said.

"For all of those who come through these doors, victims and defendants alike, whose names are never known and never sought, I can only assure you I have learned lessons from these mistakes and that we will give our best human effort not to let it happen again."

His apology described as extraordinarily rare, but what does it mean for the case?

KARAS: Well, you know, I can tell you that the alleged victim's lawyer is not accepting this apology as enough. He thinks the judge should have personally reached out to her, to the family, independent of a court appearance.

But you're dealing with a case that has both sides ex parte communications by the judge, having contact with one party, one side or the other, even though she's not -- I mean, the state's bringing the charges, not her. It would still probably be inappropriate for the judge to reach out alone.

What is it going to do to the case? It's probably not going to have too much of an effect. It hurts her. She feels victimized a second time here. Jurors are going to be questioned about this, whether or not they've had exposure to these errors on the part of the court, and just to throw in Court TV's access for a camera in there, I think it doesn't bode well for us to get the camera.

TOOBIN: I was...

KARAS: That's a pending decision.

TOOBIN: I was going to echo that. I think, in terms of practical significance, it means cameras in the courtroom is dead in this case because this judge is not going to risk an inadvertent disclosure of her name in a broadcast of the trial. So I'm afraid Court TV and CNN are going to be out of luck there. COLLINS: Yes, this is probably true. But, you know, apology aside, Jeff, the accuser's attorney saying that she is -- no longer going to trust a judge, basically doesn't trust the court anymore either.

TOOBIN: Well...

COLLINS: Is there a chance, even after everything she's gone through to this point, that she could just drop out?

TOOBIN: It is possible she could. It seems unlikely. Remember, trial is supposed to start August 27, just a little more than three weeks away. You would think if she was going to drop out, she would drop out by now.

She also doesn't have the legal right precisely to drop out, although it would be very hard to try this case if she were not cooperating. I think she's going to go through with it. She's been this far, but it's been an ugly experience for her, to say the least.

COLLINS: Beth, do you think this is the first step toward a mistrial?

KARAS: No, I really don't think it is. I think this case is going to go forward. It will take the better part of a month to try.

What I find interesting is that the defense fought hard to suppress the medical examination of Kobe Bryant and won the suppression motion and now they want to use the results because the results of his examination show no other DNA but hers. Yet when she goes to the hospital -- I think her exam was a few hours after his -- there is DNA from an unknown source, not Kobe, some other man. So they want to say she had sex after.

Kobe doesn't have any other person's DNA but hers, but she's got DNA that's not Kobe's.

TOOBIN: What a shock! The defense wants evidence that helps its case.

KARAS: But they wanted it suppressed. Now they want it in.

TOOBIN: That's true.

COLLINS: Quickly, guys, before we let you go -- Beth, I want to ask you, you know, despite all these media policies and Colorado's rape shield law, of course, which has been so prevalent in this case, she's not been able to keep her anonymity. What does this say to victims now?

KARAS: Well, this could have a chilling effect on victims, but the rape shield law is still very much in force and effect.

If you read the Colorado law, it has a provision in there that says this does not keep out evidence of sexual history that will -- I don't remember the exact words -- but that is relevant to or goes to the defense in the case, here, of course, the defense's heeding cause, her vaginal injuries.

She went to the hospital with underwear with semen from another man and her blood on it. So they're going to say that isn't from bleeding after, that was from bleeding before. So this is really relevant evidence close in time to her sexual encounter with Kobe Bryant. It's totally within the rape shield law.

For other victims out there, they are protected still by the law.

COLLINS: All right. Beth Karas, Jeffrey Toobin tonight. Thank you both so much.

We'll be back in just a few moments.


COLLINS: Thanks for being with us tonight, everybody.

Tomorrow, Private Lynndie England whose smiling face became an icon of the Iraq prison abuse scandal is set to appear in court. Will she stand trial? We'll look at that tomorrow.

For now, though, LARRY KING LIVE is coming up next.

Good night, everybody.


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