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PAULA ZAHN NOW
Terror Probe in Miami; Cheney on Iraq
Aired June 22, 2006 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you all for being with us tonight.
We continue covering that breaking news tonight out of Miami. Federal officials are conducting raids in several parts of Miami as we speak as part of a domestic terrorism investigation, one we have been told has gone on for several months now.
We now have some local television pictures of agents who are raiding a warehouse in what is considered the urban part of Miami. Just moments ago, in an exclusive interview with Larry King, FBI Director Robert Mueller had this to say about this ongoing operation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: We do have an ongoing operation in -- in Miami. We are conducting a number of arrests and searches. And we will have more about that when the operation is concluded, probably tomorrow morning.
LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Big concern?
MUELLER: I don't want to get too much -- because it is an ongoing operation, I really can't get into the details.
But whenever we undertake an operation like this, we would not do it without the approval of a judge. We have got search warrants and arrest warrants and the like. And, so, yes, it's a concern.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: And we're trying to piece together some of the information that has come our way.
Of course, you have to know that we don't want to jeopardize this ongoing investigation. So, we are limited about exactly what we can say about what has happened so far. But it is fine for us to confirm the fact that documents have been seized. Arrests have been made. We are told that those who were arrested posed no immediate threat to folks living in the Miami area.
Right now, I'm going to bring Pat D'Amuro into our discussion, a former FBI man himself and one of our security experts here at CNN.
Pat, what do you make of what we have learned so far?
PAT D'AMURO, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Paula, we have heard that this is a domestic terrorism case. And it's important to note, as -- as I just told John, that -- that we make sure that we understand the difference between the two. A national security case on an international terrorism matter, the tools are totally different that the FBI uses.
You heard the director say that they have been before a judge. On a domestic terrorism case, all the domestic terrorism matters in this country are handled in a criminal court, which means that the level of probable cause needs to be much higher to conduct searches, conduct arrests and so on.
No imminent threat tells me that the bureau was involved in this case early, that they had -- they were on top of this matter, and they made the arrests before any threat was imminent.
ZAHN: Pat, if you would stand by, we are going to bring Susan Candiotti into the conversation. She broke this story right here on CNN.
She joins us now with the very latest from her sources -- Susan.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, just to let you know what's going on, the latest we have, again, is that the FBI is telling us there is this ongoing investigation into some sort of planned terrorist activity that was to happen in Miami, that there is a search warrant that's being executed, at least one of them, and other operations ongoing being conducted by the FBI and several other agencies that are part of a joint terrorism task force in the Miami area.
The FBI stresses, tells CNN, that there is no threat to Miami or any other area due to these operations. And, again, that's no weapons or bomb-making materials have been found, according to the law enforcement source, but that this investigation involved the planning of some undefined, undescribed terrorism activity.
A little while ago, after we reported this several times, we were given a statement by the U.S. attorney's office in Miami, telling us that, earlier today, that the FBI, along with other agencies, executed search warrants as part of an ongoing investigation into a "terrorist- related matter."
I'm quoting here -- continuing -- "The individuals arrested posed no threat to the Miami area community," that a press conference will be held in Washington and in Miami tomorrow to provide additional details.
And, as you know, Paula, FBI Director Mueller himself told Larry king in a pre-taped show with him that we will be running in just about an hour from now, he acknowledged that there is an ongoing investigation, that, because there is a sealed -- there is a sealed document involved in this matter, several sealed documents, they cannot reveal more, but that those details will come out tomorrow -- Paula.
ZAHN: All right, Susan. I'm going to let you to continue to work your sources here, and have Pat rejoin our discussion here.
Pat, come back to that critical point of these documents being seized right now at this stage of the investigation.
D'AMURO: Well, obviously...
ZAHN: Seized and, I should say, sealed.
D'AMURO: Well, the documents being sealed means that the court is imposing that they not be released to the public at this particular time.
As the subjects are arraigned, additional information will come out. And as this case and the investigation proceeds and the court proceedings come out, more and more information will be released about what this investigative matter comes down to.
ZAHN: Let's talk a little bit about the geography here, Liberty City, where this warehouse is being searched. We're told it is in a low-income housing area of Miami.
Not that there's any linkage here, but, Pat, we do need to be reminded that South Florida has been linked to several terrorism investigations since 9/11. We know that several of the September 11 hijackers lived and trained in the area, including Mohamed Atta.
So, this is an area that the FBI has been on top of for quite some time.
D'AMURO: That's correct, Paula.
But I think it's important to note here that, if we're talking a domestic terrorism case, this may very well be a group of individuals that are indigenous to the United States, a militia-type group. That's what we usually talk about, or the bureau usually talks about when they say domestic terrorism.
If it were to deal with some of the international or the al Qaeda people that we're hearing about, that would be classified as an international terrorism case, and not a domestic matter. That's if the information we're receiving is correct.
ZAHN: Tell us about how this joint task force works. We -- we heard Susan Candiotti reading one of the statements from the U.S. attorney's office and also the latest statement from the FBI about the amount of cooperation going on.
D'AMURO: Paula, it's very important.
I think the most effective arm for this government, for state and local governments, is that joint terrorism task force. And what it -- what makes up a joint terrorism task force are all the different participating federal, state, and local agencies that can bring each of their respective powers to bear on an investigative matter in a very quick response time.
That means that you have local law enforcement there that can provide all the resource that they have. You have the FBI, Customs, ATF. The task force situation since 9/11 has increased greatly in the FBI, approaching over 100 joint terrorism task forces throughout the country. It is the effective piece of the federal, state and local government to respond, collect intelligence, and act upon terrorism or threat information.
ZAHN: Pat, you were at the FBI for most of your career. Help us to understand this fine balance that's being struck tonight between confirming by the FBI that this is going on and then leaving out critical bits of information that might compromise the investigation.
D'AMURO: Well, obviously, whenever you see joint terrorism task force activity and arrests being made, that's always going to capture the attention of the media.
This is a situation where they believe that, if this -- this information were to get out prematurely, it may hamper the investigation, or a judge may feel that this information needs to be sealed to protect certain individuals, possibly cooperating witnesses.
So, we will learn more as the judge releases bits and pieces of this information through the court proceeding.
ZAHN: And we know that search warrants aren't executed casually here. Can you give us a sense of what it takes legally to have this operation that we're seeing come down tonight?
D'AMURO: Well, the important thing about a search warrant that -- that we need to -- we need to consider here is that you need to identify that there is some type of criminal material, either contraband or information about a threat that's going to take place, and that you have reason to believe that it is in a specific location.
Those are the two key points that a judge will look at before signing a search warrant. He wants to make sure that the information coming to him from law enforcement authorities is specific as to what type of information you're going to be looking for and where that information is located, before he will sign that warrant.
ZAHN: Pat D'Amuro, if you would stand by for us all night, we continue to have news trickling in. And we would love to bounce some of what we're learning off you. Thanks so much for your time.
For those of you just joining us, just a very quick recap here, because this is about all we can cobble together at this hour -- an ongoing terrorism investigation, considered a domestic terrorism investigation, going on in Miami right now. We are told that there is no threat to the Miami area, that no weapons or bomb-making materials have been found.
We do know there have been several arrests. Documents have been seized. They have also been sealed. And we understand that there will be a news conference, not only in Washington, D.C., tomorrow, but in Miami as well, to provide us with even more details.
We are going to staying on this story all night long. And, as soon as we have more information, we will bring it to you.
Now on to another explosive story, the blowback from the Senate debate over whether to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq. After weeks of partisan attacks and hours of emotional debate, a handful of Democrats bolted for the Republican side and voted against their own party's proposals to give the president his marching orders, a deadline to get our troops out of Iraq. And it didn't take long for a major architect of the war to come out swinging.
Vice President Dick Cheney sat down for an exclusive interview with our chief national correspondent, John King, who joins me now from Washington.
So, you made some news today, John.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: An interesting...
ZAHN: Not you, but your interview subject.
J. KING: An interesting day with the vice president, Paula. Remember, he was a key architect of the administration plan to go to war. Now he's a key player in the election-year defense of the war.
Mr. Cheney has listened all week as the Democrats have said Iraq is a quagmire, as the Democrats have said Iraq has nothing to do with the global war on terror, as the Democrats have said it would actually help the Iraqi government to begin to pull out U.S. troops, to force the Iraqis to make the tough choices.
In our exclusive interview today, the vice president said, wrong, wrong, and wrong again.
RICHARD B. CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There has been significant progress made with respect to what's going on in Iraq.
What the Democrats are suggesting, basically, you can call it withdrawal. You can call it redeployment. Whatever you want to call it, basically it's -- its -- in effect, validates the terrorists' strategy.
There's no way they can defeat us militarily. But their whole strategy -- if you look at what bin Laden has been saying for 10 years -- is, they believe they can, in fact, force us to quit, and, that, ultimately, we'll get tired of the fight, that we don't have the stomach for a long, tough battle, and that we'll pack it in and go home.
If we were to do that, it would be devastating, from the standpoint of the global war on terror. It is absolutely the worst possible thing we could do at this point. J. KING (voice-over): The vice president didn't limit his criticism for Senate Democrats. An old Cheney friend in the House, Democrat Jack Murtha, is now a leading advocate of a quick withdrawal, saying the Bush administration is spending $8 billion a month on a failed Iraq policy.
CHENEY: The fact of the matter is that we are in a global conflict.
Our strategy that we adopted after 9/11 of progressively going after the terrorists, going after states that sponsor terror, taking the fight to the enemy, has been crucial in terms of our being able to defend the United States. I think one of the reasons we have not been struck again in five years -- and nobody can promise we won't -- but it's because we've taken the fight to them.
And if Jack Murtha is successful in persuading the country that somehow we should withdraw now from Iraq, then you have to ask, what happens to all of those people who have signed up with the United States, who are on our side in this fight against the radical extremist Islamic types of bin Laden and al Qaeda?
What happens to the 12 million Iraqis who went to the polls last December and voted, in spite of the assassins and the car bombers?
J. KING: He is unapologetic, to say the least; 54 percent of Americans describe the war as a mistake in CNN polling; 55 percent say things are going badly. Mr. Cheney begs to differ.
(on camera): Why is it that the administration has failed to articulate to the American people, then? The American people don't think you have a plan, sir.
CHENEY: Well, they're wrong. We do have a plan. It's there for anybody who wants to take a look at it.
The Democrats have repeatedly made this charge. It's simply not the case. There is a good plan in place. We are making significant progress, but this is a long-term fight.
J. KING (voice-over): The vice president rejects the notion advanced by Democratic critics that the Iraqi government is under no pressure from the White House to speed up troop training and other security measures.
CHENEY: I think they -- they know full well that we are expecting them to take on more and more responsibility. It's one of the reasons the president went to Baghdad recently.
In all of our conversations with them, they know what we're trying to do, and they have -- they've stepped up to that task and that responsibility. The fact of the matter is, obviously, we've lost a lot of people, which -- wish you hadn't lost anybody. But the heavy casualties are being taken by the Iraqis. There are a lot more Iraqis being -- becoming casualties in this conflict at present, because they are now in the fight. KING (on camera): In the political debate over the war, even your friends say that you have given the Democrats a couple of doozies by saying early on we would be greeted as liberators, by saying about a year ago, the insurgency was in its lasts throes.
I know, factually, you have said you stand by those statements based on the circumstances at the time. You're not new to this game. You've been in national politics for 30-something years. In the political environment, do you wish you could take those words back?
CHENEY: No, I think that, in fact, we are making very significant progress. There's no doubt in my mind but we're going to win. We will prevail in Iraq. We will prevail in Afghanistan. And I think the evidence is there for anybody who wants to look at it.
J. KING: Well, a strong defense of the war -- no apologies at all from the vice president, a very interesting conversation.
He says he finds it liberating that he is not seeking the presidency, liberating in the sense, Paula, that he says he can say what he wants, he can do what he believes is right, not worry about the polls, how it might affect him in the future. He said he knows some consider him to be -- quote -- the Darth Vader of the Bush administration.
But he says, if you were sitting where he was sitting on 9/11, then you would believe you have to keep some things secret. In some cases, you have to go out around the world and find people and kill them. And, if people want to call him Darth Vader because of that, so be it.
ZAHN: All right. There you have it.
Chief national correspondent John King, thanks for bringing that exclusive to us tonight.
J. KING: Thank you.
ZAHN: We very quickly go back to Miami, where a joint terrorism task force raid is under way of a warehouse in the Liberty City, which is in the urban core of Miami.
At this hour, it is believed -- and the FBI has confirmed that -- that this represents no imminent threat to folks living in Miami. A couple of arrests have been made. Documents have been seized. They have now been sealed. And a number of news conferences will be held tomorrow.
But we continue to get news confirmed through the U.S. attorney's office tonight as well. And Susan Candiotti, our reporter on the ground in Miami, will be back with us in a few minutes with the very latest she has learned from her sources.
Please stay with us -- the latest on the terror probe from Miami when we come back.
ZAHN: Welcome back.
More now on that breaking news we have been reporting out of Miami tonight.
As we told you just a little bit earlier on, federal officials are now conducting raids in several parts of Miami as part of a domestic terror investigation.
The pictures you're looking at now are being provided by some local television crews. You see agents now are raiding a warehouse in what is being described as a low-income housing project.
Earlier, from FBI Director Robert Mueller, we learned that this was going on. He confirmed that a number of search warrants have now been executed and are being processed. A couple arrests have been made.
Let's quickly turn to national correspondent Susan Candiotti, who has been following this story. She helped us break it. And she joins us now with the very latest.
Susan, what have you learned?
CANDIOTTI: Hi, Paula.
Yes. Well, law enforcement sources are telling us that what's involved here is some kind of suspected domestic terrorist activity. However, so far, no weapons or bomb-making materials have been found. So, as we indicated, the FBI is saying that they are serving search warrants, at least one of them, that there are these ongoing operations being conducted in the Miami area.
They are being carried out by a joint terrorism task force, which involves a number of federal, state and local authorities. There have been several arrests. The documents in this matter are currently under seal. And that's why they are not revealing -- publicly, anyway -- more information at this time.
The FBI stresses that there is no threat to Miami or any other area at this time, and that we are hearing from the U.S. attorney's office that there will be a news conference held, both in Miami and in Washington, D.C., tomorrow to reveal more information.
This operation, according to affiliate WFOR, has been going on for some time, at least four months, that they have been looking into this suspected domestic terrorist activity.
And, as you know, Paula, our CNN "Security Watch" team is covering the story from several angles. As we are able to reveal more information, we will. But, certainly, all of it will be coming out tomorrow at -- during these two news conferences.
ZAHN: Susan, as you were speaking, we just got a piece of late copy confirming something that -- that you reported.
But now we know the attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, will be holding a simultaneous news conference, according to the Associated Press, in -- in Washington and Miami simultaneously.
Why don't you describe to us what the U.S. attorney's office has confirmed tonight.
So, far the U.S. attorney's office has confirmed that this investigation has been going on, started earlier this day, by a number of different authorities. They're describing it as an ongoing investigation into a terrorist-related matter. That's a direct quote from the U.S. attorney's office here.
And the U.S. attorney's office, as well as FBI, is saying that the individuals involved are not causing any kind or posing any kind of threat, involving whatever activities they are suspected of being involved in, to the Miami area at this time.
That's about all that they're saying publicly about it, other than to add, of course, as we did before, that, thus far, in carrying out these search warrants, they have not found, according to law enforcement sources...
ZAHN: All right, Susan...
ZAHN: ... hold on for just one second, because we're seeing pictures of the first lady and the president emerging from Air Force One, after their lightning-quick trip to Hungary, where the president had, really, basically spent the day attending a European unit summit -- Union summit in Vienna, Austria -- not a lot of details about what went on behind closed doors.
But we do know that he talked publicly about the Hungarian sacrifice some 50 years ago, which he said inspired everyone, and that the United States appreciates the troop support Hungary now has offered to help strengthen a vital region of the world -- he, of course, coming home to a very vitriolic debate in Congress about when U.S. troops will be pulled out of Iraq.
And we are going to have more on that issue a little bit later on.
But we return now. And, as they get on -- I can't tell if that's Marine One or Two. They -- they often change the two helicopters.
Let's quickly go back to Susan, though.
Susan, I was cutting you off as you were making a point, because the -- the president was upstaging you.
You can continue your thought now about the investigation. (CROSSTALK)
You know (AUDIO GAP) there are no weapons or bomb-making materials they (AUDIO GAP) found during the course of executing these search warrants.
And what's important to keep in mind is, because these search warrants are currently under (AUDIO GAP) it would be illegal for authorities to publicly talk about what's in them.
So, at this point, we're talking as best as we can around it, only able to describe it at this time as some kind of domestic terrorist activity that was being planned, but, again, stressing that it was not causing any kind of threat, according to authorities, to the Miami area or any other area at this time.
ZAHN: Susan, please stand by.
And we are going to bring Jim Walsh now into our conversation, a terrorism expert.
ZAHN: Jim, I don't know how much of our -- our coverage you have seen this evening. But tell us what your reaction is to this joint task force raid that is really unfolding before our eyes, live on TV.
JIM WALSH, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY: Well, I think, Paula, it's helpful to keep a couple of principles in mind any time you're this early in a story.
One is that an arrest does not mean a conviction. We have had arrests before, and the story has turned out to be less than we originally thought. But, having said that, with that precaution in mind, a couple of things strike me.
First of all, it is alleged to be domestic terrorism. And here, we're not talking about an individual, like a Ted Kaczynski, a Unabomber, because we're talking about a number of arrest warrants; we're talking about a number of sites being searched. So, that would at least seem to point to a group, rather than an individual.
The other interesting thing here is the location. It's Miami. Now, Miami is not normally associated as a place associated with militias, like were associated with the Oklahoma City bombing. Those tended to be in the Rocky Mountain states or in California.
You have had activity around the Cuban issue that some people have alleged involved terrorist activity. But terrorism is a broad category. So, it may involve any number of activities along a continuum. The final thing I thought that was interesting about your report is the idea that no one in the Miami area is at risk.
I think we can't emphasize that enough. And what that probably points to is that there's no WMD. There's no live explosive that is uncontrolled and that might be used against anyone in Miami at this point.
ZAHN: And, in fact, Jim, that has been confirmed by our sources, that no weapons of any kind have been found, including bomb-making materials.
So, what do you suspect are the documents they're talking about that they have seized and so quickly sealed?
WALSH: Well, you know, it's hard for me to know. But I would guess that the documents likely point, at least in the minds of the federal officials, to a conspiracy to commit an act at some later point, or a conspiracy to aid and abet some group that is thinking about executing an attack.
And, then, the question is, why Miami and why Liberty City, in particular? Those -- those don't normally pop up on your lists. So, that means either this is homegrown in Miami, and therefore relates to Miami politics or the state of Florida or something, or Miami is being chosen because it is a -- like New York, like Los Angeles, it's a leading city that is of significance and that would grab people's attention.
ZAHN: And you made a very good point at the top to remind us that arrest doesn't necessarily mean that a conviction will happen in this case.
But, just quickly, walk us through an investigation that we're told now has been going on for some four months now, and, finally tonight, has yielded in several arrests.
WALSH: Well, I presume that, if it's like any other -- like many of the other investigations we have had -- and, remember, Paula, we have had a number of prosecutions, particularly on the foreign terrorist front, of people that were suspected of helping al Qaeda, training for al Qaeda.
So, there is a lot of experience here. And, obviously, since the Patriot Act, there's a big body of -- of new law and new powers that the federal government has.
So, I would expect, for example, that the -- there have been phones that have been tapped. There may have been infiltrators. There may have been people posing -- police officers, FBI agents posing as sympathizers, who may have infiltrated a group or -- or pretended to sell something of interest, like fertilizer, like we saw in Canada, to this group.
So, if it's been going on for this long, you have got to suspect that the feds have attempted to collect a lot of information from a variety of different means about these people.
Now, again, it doesn't mean that they violated the law. But this sort of multi-month, broad-based investigation, involving numerous warrants and numerous searches, probably means we're talking about a larger group of some kind.
ZAHN: Very quickly, in closing, Jim, the challenge in covering this kind of story is -- is to not give away so many details, that you're compromising the investigation in some way.
But are you surprised about how much information now that the U.S. attorney's office has confirmed so far tonight, as well as FBI, including the director of the FBI in an interview that was just recorded with Larry King just a short while ago?
WALSH: Well, my guess is that they're probably -- they're going to be very careful about the legality of this.
Nothing would be more embarrassing for the FBI than to leak information that then would cause a problem for a trial later on down the road. So, I suspect that they have not -- they have tried to tread very carefully there.
And, frankly, when we think about some of the other cases of terrorism that have been prosecuted, suspected, alleged terrorism that have been prosecuted over the past, you know, five years since 9/11, actually, I think we have probably seen more information in some of these other cases, the Lackawanna case in New York, cases in Oregon and in California. So, I -- I don't see anything that raises a red flag so far.
ZAHN: Well, we appreciate your help tonight. And we would, if you wouldn't mind, love to have you continue to stand by to help us gain a better handle on what is transpiring live, as we watch it unfold from Miami tonight, Jim Walsh.
I did not mention his affiliation with the great institution MIT.
And, as soon as we have more information for you coming out of Miami -- the key point tonight is that there is no imminent threat of terror in Miami, no weapons found, no bomb-making materials. And several arrests have been made -- more when we come back.
Please stay with us.
ZAHN: We continue our coverage of the breaking news out of Miami where a joint terrorism task force is in the process of making a series of raids in Miami, targeting a suspected terror cell, we are told by sources.
What we know at this hour is that there are seven individuals in custody tonight as a result of that raid. We know that a search warrant was executed, that as a result of that the documents have been seized. They've also been sealed. It's not clear when will find out the details of that search warrant and what exactly has been found during the course of these raids.
The most important point though that we need to remind all of you out there is the fact that the FBI is confirming that the Miami area is under no imminent threat of terrorist activity. And once again, the most recent piece of information we had gotten is there are seven individuals in custody. So that's changed a little bit since we last spoke with Pat D'Amuro, a man who spent most of his adult life at the FBI who is our CNN security analyst and joins us right now.
What do you make of those details, Pat? They don't make these kinds of arrests casually.
D'AMURO: No, they don't Paula.
ZAHN: And actually, I guess I need to make that clear. We can't even call it an arrest at this point. We are being very carefully told by our sources that all we can say that there are several individuals in custody.
D'AMURO: Well if they're in custody, that means there must have been an arrest warrant issue. Searches as we know are ongoing. We can see from the photos, we're being told there's no explosive material. That's clear from the pictures we're seeing on television because there is no bomb squads. There's no IED type troops there to bring those devices in. So there must not be any imminent threat as what we're hearing.
What's important to note is that information will come out of this as the days progress. They'll probably be an arraignment if any individuals were arrested tonight. They will be arraigned tomorrow morning and we'll learn more information at that time.
ZAHN: Pat, I know you think it is really important to make a distinction between an international terror investigation and a domestic terror investigation, which the FBI says is what we're looking at here tonight, a domestic terrorism raid.
D'AMURO: That's right. And we heard from Jim Walsh a little earlier that Miami is not noted for having those types of organizations, domestic type terrorism organizations, the militia groups, those types of groups that are usually found in the Midwest and so on. But it's clear to note that there is a much higher level of probable cause on a criminal investigation, on a domestic terrorism investigating, that would need to be shown to make arrests and conduct these searches.
ZAHN: I'm going to bring Jim Walsh back into our discussion of MIT, also a terrorism expert. Jim, please react to what Pat has just shared with us right now.
WALSH: Well I think Pat is right to put his finger on Miami. And the question is whatever is alleged to have taken place, maybe again, it could be a conspiracy that is yet to be operationalized or maybe it was preparations for attack.
Whatever the allegation is, you know, why Miami? Is Miami the organizing ground for such activity to take place elsewhere or it something that's aimed at Miami? And of course, we don't know. Paula, you're probably too young to remember this but Liberty City...
ZAHN: Thank you.
WALSH: ... Yes, I'm not above that sort of thing.
ZAHN: Yes, I know that.
WALSH: Liberty City may sound familiar to some older viewers in that back during the Carter administration, there was, as you may remember, a major race riot in Miami centered around Liberty City, that led to a full federal investigation.
And it was predominantly -- I don't know the status of it today. We're going back, you know, over 30 years now. But then it was a set of riots that was set off within the African American community over grievances about poverty, unemployment, racial discrimination. And it will be interesting to see whether the actual place here has anything to do with the nature of activity that's going on.
ZAHN: Gentlemen, both of you please stand by.
I want to remind our audience of when this was all confirmed for us. We know this investigation has been going on for some four months now. But it wasn't until just a couple hours ago that we got the confirmation that these simultaneous raids were going on. And here is what the director of the FBI told Larry King just about an hour and a half ago about this ongoing investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: Ongoing operation in Miami. We are conducting a number of arrests and searches and we'll have more about that when the operation is concluded, probably tomorrow morning.
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Big concern?
MUELLER: I don't want to get -- because it's an ongoing operation, I can't get into the details. Whenever we undertake an operation like this, we would not do it without the approval of a judge. We've got search warrants and arrest warrants in the like. So yes it's a concern.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: So, obviously, Pat, the FBI director being appropriately cautious here not to compromise, and Jim, this investigation in any way. What is the risk, Jim, of the FBI director getting too far out in front of the facts here or anybody for that matter who's providing us with information?
WALSH: Well I think there are two main risks here. One is legal, that something that will be said that will somehow compromise a trial proceeding. And the second is really perceptual and political. Remember, again, the FBI has successfully prosecuted both domestic and foreign terrorists over the last several years.
But it is also engaged in arrests that is have led no where, that have not led to convictions and that have led to what was once a strong series of charges, then being watered down to a lesser series of charges.
And so I think it's really in their interest to be circumspect, particularly since they don't have all the evidence. They're still collecting documents, they're still going to presumably question or interrogate suspects, if they have them. And so they are appropriately being cautious until they know more.
ZAHN: Pat, what do you think was the most likely cause of this investigation being sparked in the first place? Some informant tipping off the FBI?
D'AMURO: Well there obviously had to be information to open up a preliminary investigation and then a full investigation in order that they would conduct these types of activities. Search warrants and arrests cannot be conducted on preliminary type investigations.
So there has to be a reason why the FBI decided to take this investigation down at this particular time. Usually if there's not an imminent threat of danger, you would usually want to have your investigation continue so that you can continue to develop additional evidence for prosecution, for trial, so to say, or to even try to get the individuals to eventually plead guilty to a charge.
So there had to be some mechanism that sparked the fact that they needed to take the investigation down at this time. Whether there was going to be a disruption of some type of evidence or so on. The reason that there's something under seal, it's usually a request of the federal government that a matter be sealed because there is danger that evidence might be destroyed or additional individuals in the public that may still need to be brought to justice.
ZAHN: Pat, as we look at these picture, they probably belie the intensity of what is going on inside this warehouse, we're told, that is part of a low-income housing project in Miami. It's called Liberty City, which is considered the urban core of Miami. But, give us a sense of what exactly this joint task force is doing on the ground inside that perimeter that we can't see.
D'AMURO: Well, obviously there's a search warrant and a search being conducted. They would have to show in that court document that a judge would approve that there is evidence of a crime, evidence that they're looking for, that would be detailed in that search warrant. And that they have a reason to believe that that evidence would be located at that warehouse. So they would be going into that warehouse looking for very specific items, that are detailed in the search warrant, that they could take been it to keep as evidence and later bring into court to make their case against these individuals.
ZAHN: Let's bring Susan Candiotti back into the picture. She's been working her sources from Miami. Anything new you've learned, Susan?
CANDIOTTI: Just that we can tell you seven people are now in custody as part of this. We knew there was a handful of people. We now have confirmation that seven have been picked up in connection with this investigation, some sort of planned terrorist activity. However, the FBI stresses there is no threat against Miami or the United States due to ongoing law enforcement operations.
Paula, as we know, this investigation has been going on for a good four months now, according to the FBI and law enforcement, other law enforcement sources that are conducting this investigation as part of an ongoing terrorist operation, aimed at domestic targets in the United States. These arrest warrants are being executed as well as search warrants.
The documents filed in connection with this operation are currently under seal. They will be unsealed tomorrow when we'll learn more about it, according to FBI director Robert Mueller, there will be news conferences tomorrow both in Miami and Washington involving the U.S. attorney general himself to discuss this operation that's going on at this hour. So far no weapons or bomb-making materials have been found or seized. Again, this is a domestic terrorist action and activity that was allegedly being planned out of the Miami area and possibly another and that are, the security watch team is working on this around the clock until we could get you more information.
ZAHN: Alright, Susan, please stay with us. Jim Walsh, you think about an investigation going on for some four months. You got to believe that the amount of painstaking work that's gone on between potentially informants and police officials working their sources, very painstaking. Take us inside that process and what it takes to get to this point of this raid tonight.
JIM WALSH, INTERNATL. SEC. & TERRORISM EXPERT: Well, I think it probably is painstaking and it's serious. But it's also important to remember that just because you have a long investigation doesn't always mean it is a fruitful investigation. Sometimes you can investigate for quite a while and still not come up with something very substantive. In fact, if I were to step back a little bit, I would say, listen, anytime there's a suspicion of domestic terrorism, this is serious.
If they violate laws, these people should be arrested and prosecuted. I think maybe some viewers might jump to the conclusion that because it is a serious matter, that terrorists themselves are sort of super terrorists or they're capable of executing 9/11 style attacks. We may discover that these guy, whoever they are, and I'm presuming they're men, these guys are not very well-trained, they're not very well experienced, but they have some grievance against the federal government, against the state government, against an industry, what have you, and they decide to do something but they really don't know what they're doing. We shouldn't be surprise it turns out that this investigation may have rightly stopped what turns out to be some people who are fringe people who don't know what the heck they're doing.
ZAHN: And we're hoping to get good clues when the attorney general holds a news conference simultaneously in D.C. in Miami when some of the documents will be unsealed. Susan, I understand you have some more information from Miami now.
CANDIOTTI: Yes. We do know these are, there are domestic targets involved in this operation that we are, that they are trying to reveal to us. They're working on, rather, that we'll know more about tomorrow certainly at the very, very latest. So what we know is that these seven people that are under arrest were involved, according to the FBI, in some sort of planned terrorist activity, aimed at specific targets located in the United States and the operation may include Miami, certainly does include Miami as well, by virtue of the fact at least seven people are now in custody in Miami and some of those, one of those domestic targets may even be in the Miami area.
ZAHN: You cannot confirm for us where this other domestic target might have been located?
CANDIOTTI: We have been told they are located in different areas but we have been asked not to get into the specifics of that at this time.
ZAHN: OK, we will certainly honor that. But, very critical language Susan Candiotti just used talking about several domestic targets. That is the big mystery tonight. Clearly, the FBI would be telling us more if they didn't feel it would compromise their investigation at this hour. Let's quickly turn to John Zarrella, who is on the scene in Liberty City near this warehouse, where we've been watching this activity around the perimeter of this housing project. John, describe to us what you see from where you're standing.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well it's a very strange scene. There are young children walking the streets right outside this chain link fence that's clearly been opened up by federal agents when they came here earlier today. Children just walking the streets, lots of people are around here now. No sign of any agents or police here any longer. But as you look at this building, which is a rust colored, single story building, warehouse facility on the front side, you can see these giant warehouse doors that are closed shut.
But, around the back apparently where the authorities made their entry one of the doors, it appears, at least that police must have used welding torches to literally torch these hurricane shutter doors, these doors that pull down over the top of the actual door to gain access. Another door it appears very clear that the locks were broken off as the authorities made their entrance into the building. Right now here at the scene very, very quiet. Just people milling around on the corners, looking at the scene. Again, somewhat surreal because the building is surrounded here by this chain link fence.
Children still playing out in the street tonight right here where a few hours ago this police activity went down with so much force as they gained entry into this building. Again, tonight, Paula, very little sign, no sign, in fact, of any activity other than how the police, apparently, the authorities, apparently gained access to this building from the back side. Paula?
ZAHN: John, can you give us any sense at all at how many members of law enforcement we're talking about here?
ZARRELLA: No, not really at this point. It appeared that certainly there were many, many vehicles, many police cars, many FBI agents on the scene at the time, accompanied by some local authorities that were involved, S.W.A.T. team members involved in breaking into the buildings. But, at this point, hard to say exactly, other than what the people here saying that they converged en masse on this location. But nobody really giving us any kind of a description of the numbers of police who were actually on the scene.
ZAHN: And John, within the last hour or so the FBI has told us that there is no imminent threat of terrorist activity in this area and, yet, I'm sure in spite of the people walking around as casually as they are now, there had to be some sense of concern when they saw law enforcement blowing in like this. Were people worried, the ones you talked to?
ZARRELLA: Well you know, some of the folks that talked to us very, very briefly, just literally through a fence and would not go on camera, only made the statement that these people that were arrested were kind of strange, is the way it was put to us. That's all they would say. Then they walked off. I can tell you that local officials here in Miami who say they were notified this afternoon of what had happened, again reiterating there was no imminent threat to the Miami area.
You know, and as many of our viewers well know, tomorrow there is a huge parade planned downtown Miami for the Miami heat, victorious in the NBA championship. So, this certainly was of big concern to the local officials. It was certainly somewhat reassuring to them to find out at least there was a no imminent danger here in Miami.
ZAHN: John, I would love to come back to you more for descriptions of this particular part of Miami we're talking about in Liberty City tonight. But, Susan Candiotti has some new information that I want to get to. Susan, what's up?
CANDIOTTI: Well Paula, just to actually add to what John was talking about, the reason that authorities, I think one reason authorities are stressing that there's no immediate danger to this area is because of what John just discussed, and that is there's a huge parade being planned tomorrow for the world champion, NBA champion Miami heat basketball team. They're talking about more than a couple hundred thousand people who are expected downtown tomorrow. So far, nothing about that parade route is being altered as a result of this operation. That's according to a spokesman for the Miami-Dade mayor. That spokesman said he was notified that the raid would take place earlier today.
At this point that spokesman is saying there's been no call to add any kind of security to the parade route, any kind of changes being made. This has been planned for just a couple days, since the championship was won earlier this week on Tuesday. So, the spokesman added, if anything, this is a plot foiled. How much information she has about it, of course, we don't know. Certainly, we'll know more tomorrow.
ZAHN: Susan, you've given us a lot of information tonight. The most critical piece of information you gave us was just a couple minutes ago. I want to make sure we've got this right. Your sources confirmed that as a result of this raid, there seems to be a sense that there were actually some domestic targets that were chosen under consideration?
CANDIOTTI: In the United States. That's what they want to break up and apparently did break up as a result of this operation. So domestic targets involved in the United States. Obviously, the seven people that have been arrested so far are in Miami. That's not to say the targets were in Miami. But, the operation might not be limited to the city of Miami.
ZAHN: And you can't go beyond just saying that they were targeted. You can't characterize for us if we're talking about a building or a port or anything. We just don't know that or you're not at liberty to say?
CANDIOTTI: Not at liberty to say at this time. Certainly these were, I better leave it there, Paula.
ZAHN: All right. I understand the delicacy of the balance you have to strike here tonight, Susan Candiotti. For all of you out there, the FBI has confirmed these raids are going on, but they have to be very careful about what they share with us tonight as well because they don't want to compromise their case in court down the road and certainly compromise what's going on inside that warehouse at this hour.
We're going to take a short break. But the important strain of news is it seems to be there were several locations targeted by whoever these seven men in custody are tonight and the documents have been seized and sealed and we're hoping by tomorrow morning when the attorney general holds a simultaneous news conference in Miami and D.C. we'll know a whole lot more. We'll take a short break and we will return with more. Please stay with us.
ZAHN: Continuing with our breaking news out of Miami, at this hour a joint terrorism task force in the process of making several raids in the Miami area. Seven men are in custody tonight in conjunction with that investigation. Let's quickly go to Jeanne Meserve who is one of our national security experts here at CNN, who has more news for us now. Jeanne?
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Paula, I talked to two law enforcement source who tell me that these arrests were made in connection with an alleged plot against buildings in two locations. One was the Sears tower in Chicago. The other was the FBI building in Miami. I'm also told by one source that there were additional plans to bomb other buildings in southern Florida.
The sources emphasize that there was no direct threat at anytime to either of these buildings, indicating that they made these arrests early in the game. One of the sources tells me there are at least five arrests. I know we've been reporting seven. That may mean some of them took place earlier, it may mean that some arrests were made subsequent to my source getting his information. But, he told me five arrests. He said that one was in Atlanta and four in Miami. Again, a single source reporting there. They tell me that this investigation has been going on for over a year. Two sources telling me this involved an undercover informant who convinced these people that he was an Islamic radical and this is regarded, being termed as you've heard over and over home grown terror. But I've been told that at least one of these individuals may have had a Haitian background. That's the latest I have here, Paula.
ZAHN: Jeanne, help put this into perspective. You said the arrests came early in the game. There was no direct threat to either the Sears tower or FBI building in Miami or other buildings in southern Florida. Did your sources give you any sense of when this plot was supposed to have unfolded?
MESERVE: No, they did not give me that indication. When I say early in the game, I meant it was made preventatively.
MESERVE: I understand that the local law enforcement officials have been saying that no bomb-making equipment was found with these individuals. That would indicate they were not at a stage to act. But, clearly, law enforcement has established a case against individuals and they feel they have the evidence they need to act against them before they commit mayhem, they would do so.
ZAHN: Were the sources able to characterize the importance of what they think they have found at this warehouse tonight? We have been watching pictures all night long of law enforcement swarming the perimeter area of this warehouse that is in the middle of Miami city.
MESERVE: No. I didn't really get that kind of judgment from these individuals. One of them did tell me however that there does not appear to be any connection between this group and any others, any other recent arrests. For instance, I asked about this cell that was recently broken up in Canada, whether there was any connection there. They said no. They have not found any such connection.
ZAHN: Well it's the kind of information, Jeanne Meserve, thank you so much for the update. Kind of information that sends chill down all of our spine when is Jeanne Meserve is confirming through her sources that it is believed that this plot was in connection with potential bombing of the FBI building in Miami and the Sears Tower. Larry King will be interviewing Robert Mueller, head of the FBI, who has confirmed that these raids are taking place. We will be back with more. Please stay with CNN.
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