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PAULA ZAHN NOW
Iranian President Defends Nuclear Program; Al Qaeda's Most Notorious; Three Wisconsin Teens Charged With Plotting High School Massacre
Aired September 21, 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: And thank you, all you out there, for joining us.
Two of the biggest thorns in President Bush's side, the leaders of Iran and Venezuela, are topping our "Top Story" coverage tonight.
We are going in-depth to see what kind of impression they're making, both here in the U.S. and all over the world. They have been very busy in New York today.
At the United Nations, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad once again insisted his country's nuclear program is peaceful, telling reporters -- quote -- "We do not need a bomb." He also says the U.S. nuclear arsenal should be dismantled.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez continues mocking President Bush. At a Harlem church, the Venezuelan leader compared him the president to cowboy actor John Wayne, and calling him, among other things -- quote -- "a sick man, full of complexes."
Well, the president isn't even in New York to hear any of this. He spent most of the day in Florida, campaigning for Republican candidates.
Let's get straight to the Iranian president first. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been on a real P.R. blitz here in New York all this week. His face has been just about everywhere, starting with his U.N. speech, but also in news conferences and interviews.
Aneesh Raman has all the details for you tonight.
ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Whatever you think of Iran's president, this week, you simply could not ignore him. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was everywhere, gracing the cover of "TIME" magazine...
RAMAN: ... delivering a prime-time address at the United Nations. And, for a man who rarely gives interviews to Western journalists...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC ANCHOR: Interview with the president of Iran.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAMAN: ... a sit-down with NBC, a day later with CNN.
MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): And we -- we love the American people, as we love our own.
RAMAN: And if by today, you thought he was done, there was more -- a news conference at the United Nations filled with words of compassion for a people whose country he has called to be wiped off the map.
AHMADINEJAD (through translator): I'm not anti-Jew. Jews are respected by everyone, like all human beings, and I respect them very much.
RAMAN: It was all, of course, an aggressive attempt by Ahmadinejad to challenge the definition of Iran as a state sponsor of terror and to challenge the image of its president as a man intent on gaining a nuclear weapon, something all week he has denied.
So, did it work? His closest audience of course, were, New Yorkers. And, while they got the message, they weren't dropping their guard.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a fascinating -- it's a fascinating thing in this world of P.R., how he presents himself, as just this normal guy, the son of a -- a blacksmith, I believe, and a family man. I just hope it's not a ticking time bomb, what he has got going on behind closed doors.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was very passive regarding the U.N. General Assembly meeting, but when he started speaking about the Jews, I felt very strongly that this is something that should not be tolerated.
RAMAN: And she was not alone. Thousands this week poured out at a pro-Israel rally to condemn the past statements of Ahmadinejad, that Israel be wiped off the map, that the Holocaust was a myth. And hundreds of Iranian-Americans came out to demand Ahmadinejad step aside.
RAY TAKEYH, AUTHOR, "HIDDEN IRAN: PARADOX AND POWER IN THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC": I think there are certain misperceptions about Iran. But, in terms of the views of Ahmadinejad, I'm, frankly,, not sure if the American public has informed views of him. But to the extent that they are aware of him, I think he has contributed to some of the caricature that has come about.
RAMAN: So, it seems, after one week of being everywhere, and talking to virtually everyone, even with a softer tone, it will take more than words to change America's image of Iran.
ZAHN: And Aneesh Raman joins me now for a "Top Story" panel, along with Martin Indyk, former U.S. ambassador to Israel, and "New York Times" reporter David Sanger.
Great to have all three of you.
Aneesh, you, in your piece, just showed what appears to be this pretty active P.R. campaign Ahmadinejad was on.
What exactly was his goal here?
RAMAN: Well, Paula, I think it's twofold.
First, when I was in Iran just a few weeks ago, it was interesting, the extensive coverage that was given to President Bush's approval rating within the U.S. The lower it went, the more coverage it was given on the government-backed papers, on the government-run news channels.
I think the Iranian president saw this as an opportunity, a moment of weakness for President Bush among his own people, and Ahmadinejad thought he could come and present a divergent case about his program, about he as a leader, than what Americans have heard from President Bush.
Another point is, of course, Iran has already defied that U.N. deadline. They know that time, in U.S. officials' words, is not indefinite. And whenever pressure mounts on this government, they tend to be more passive in their rhetoric.
So, that's why, this week, we heard nothing nearly as controversial from the Iranian president as we have heard before, instead talk only of peace today, saying that he's not anti-Jew and that he wants the world to be filled with compassion and peace -- Paula.
ZAHN: You say not nearly as controversial.
Yet, Martin Indyk, he still wants to commission a study to prove that there wasn't a Holocaust. I know you met him last night. You find him scary. Is he crazy?
MARTIN INDYK, DIRECTOR, SABAN CENTER FOR MIDDLE EAST POLICY AT BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: No, no. He's crazy as a fox, Paula.
He's clearly very wily, very cocky, I would say ignorant, but calculating, in terms of how he is basically using this opportunity in New York to score points, I think more than to make points. He wasn't interested in having any kind of dialogue. It was a dialogue of the deaf, in that sense. He was just interested in basically rebutting anything that was suggested that might be positive, or even any criticism, of course. ZAHN: So, David, based on what we heard during this trip, do you think this puts more pressure on the administration to engage more directly with Iran?
DAVID SANGER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, the administration has a choice ahead of it, Paula.
One choice is, stay on the course they're on, which is basically to say, we won't engage with them, unless they first suspend their enrichment of uranium. The other possibility would be to say, well, we will go ahead and talk with them, even if they have not suspended their enrichment of uranium. On the one hand, that's what we're doing with North Korea. We're engaged in talks. They haven't gone anywhere in the past year, but we're engaged in talks, even as they are producing nuclear fuel, at a lot faster pace than the Iranians are.
But it would mark a big backing-down for the Bush administration, and I think the history of this administration is, they're usually pretty reluctant to do that.
INDYK: I think that this cockiness that David also refers to is -- is an indication that he thinks he's on a roll at the moment.
We're bogged down in Iraq. By definition, if Iraq is out of the picture, Iran is dominant in the Gulf. And he sees us as short of breath, and I don't think he is looking to make any concessions in negotiations.
ZAHN: Gentlemen, appreciate your input tonight.
Aneesh, Martin, and David...
INDYK: Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: ... good to have you with us.
SANGER: Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: And coming up, we have got other top stories we're following tonight, including 14 men the government considers some of the most dangerous in captivity.
ZAHN (voice-over): Al Qaeda's all-stars, suspected terrorists the government blames for attacks that horrified the world. Now they're in Guantanamo with hundreds of others. Tonight, who they are and what they're in for, and why some people think that being at Gitmo is bad for the war on terror -- all that and more when we come back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ZAHN: Still ahead, the "Top Story" in the war on terror: putting alleged terrorists on trial. Our in-depth coverage looks at those the government calls the worst of the worst. Just exactly who are they? And what are they accused of doing? We will cover that shortly.
But we continue our "Top Story" coverage right now with today's incredible public appearance by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez while he was here in New York. A decidedly undiplomatic performance at the U.N. yesterday made some diplomats cheer, some laugh. And others simply walked out. But, today, he had a different audience. And this was a wild, cheering one, at that, at an uptown Manhattan church.
Christine Romans was there.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thundering applause in Harlem -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez throwing kisses to the crowd, to cheers of, "This town loves you" -- a classic performance from Venezuela's president, part Socialist Revolution, part Hugo Chavez book club -- a day after famously calling President Bush "El Diablo," Chavez still throwing insults.
HUGO CHAVEZ, VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT (through translator): He is a sick man full of complexes, very dangerous, because he now has a lot of power.
ROMANS: He called Bush a cowboy and an ex-alcoholic, overshadowing an event meant to show solidarity with America's poor. He's expanding his discounted heating oil program, giving 100 million gallons of oil to 459,000 American families, earning cheers and applause from the 500-plus at an historic church in Harlem, a crowd that included anti-war protesters, neighborhood schoolchildren, Native American tribes, and actor Danny Glover, who called Chavez a visionary -- Chavez slamming capitalism and the U.S. embargo on Cuba, while pledging support for Iran's nuclear program and Bolivia's coca production, and speaking, he said, directly to the American people.
CHAVEZ (through translator): We are not the enemy of the United States. This is a lie. We are friends of the American people. And you here are representing these people. And we want to work together with you and cooperate.
ROMANS: He said Native American tribes and American blacks are the true owners of American land, the survivors of a European massacre 500 years ago, a genocide, he said, no one wants to talk about.
Not everyone was so enthusiastic about Chavez's theatrics. And Harlem's congressman, Charlie Rangel, said he appreciates the discounted oil, but not the vitriol.
(on camera): Chavez invoking Simon Bolivar, Jesus Christ and God -- he says he's not afraid after calling President Bush the devil. He says, if anyone tries to kill him, he has got God on his side. Christine Romans, CNN, New York.
ZAHN: All right. So, what's the deal with President Chavez's anti-Bush rant? Was he just talking to the folks back home?
Rick Sanchez joins us tonight from the Venezuelan capital of Caracas. He has just landed.
So, Rick, we have heard him spew that President Bush was the devil, an ex-alcoholic, a sick man full of complexes. How is that playing in Venezuela? I know you have had a chance to talk with folks there tonight.
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, well, it all depends on who you ask, of course, as in most situations.
It's a -- it's a -- it's a tale of two countries here, Paula. Those on the lower economic rung not only like his policies, but revere the man. Those who are middle- to upper-income despise his policies and, quite frankly, despise the man.
Meanwhile, after his performance yesterday at the United Nations, it's safe to say Hugo Chavez is in all his (AUDIO GAP) glory. Look at one of the papers here. It says, "The president is acclaimed at the United Nations. No single dignitary received a similar ovation as Hugo Chavez."
It's obviously the kind of press that he has been wanting to get here in his own country and also the kind of press that he wants to get worldwide in the model after Fidel Castro. Of course, Fidel Castro had to deal with a lot of different things, like needing money from the Soviets.
Hugo Chavez has his own money, and it comes in the form of oil.
ZAHN: Let's talk about this model of Fidel Castro. Yet, protesters outside the U.N. accusing him of being Fidel's little pet, almost like a -- a pooch that's pulled around on a leash. How are they similar leaders?
SANCHEZ: Well, it's almost a symbiotic relationship that they have.
It's -- here's the big example. Fidel Castro sends doctors to Cuba, and Hugo Chavez sends oil.
Pardon me. Fidel Castro sends doctors to Venezuela. And Fidel Castro sends doctors here into Venezuela. So, it's -- it's an interesting relationship that they have. No doubt that they have lots of meetings, but the big difference, of course, is that, look, Hugo Chavez doesn't have to depend on the Chinese. He doesn't have to depend on the Soviets. He doesn't have to depend on Arab nations. He doesn't have to depend really even on the nonaligned summit that Castro has held for so many years. Hugo Chavez, right now, because of the price of a barrel of oil, the one that he brags about helping to drive up, is basically using oil as a diplomatic measure. And a lot of people around the world are saying he's quite effective at it at this point. And, of course, the coup -- the coup for him was what he was able to do at the United Nations yesterday to get more attention on himself.
ZAHN: Well, he certainly did that.
SANCHEZ: A la Fidel Castro, we should add.
ZAHN: Absolutely. Pretty similar track there.
Rick Sanchez, thanks so much. Didn't want you to think anything wrong -- was wrong with your TV set out there. That was -- that was quite a delay in our interchange in our conversation.
Our "Top Story" coverage continues in just a minute.
First, let's check in with Melissa Long. She's in her Pipeline studio. She's counting down the day's top 10 stories on CNN.com.
Melissa, what's up?
MELISSA LONG, CNN PIPELINE: Hello, Paula.
The Atlantis crew is back on planet Earth. And millions of readers wanted to learn about NASA's mission. Number 10 on the list: the landing at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, just before 6:30 this morning, Eastern time, just before the sunrise, as you see. The crew of six spent 12 days working on the International Space Station.
CNN.com readers were curious about a story that you have covered in detail tonight. That's at number nine: Iran's president insisting that his country plans to make no nuclear bombs. He added that his government was ready to talk about suspending uranium enrichment, but gave no time frame to do so.
And number eight: The investigation is under way into the security breach at the U.S. military base that commands most of the war on terror. Military officials say two teenagers were able to drive a stolen car on to MacDill Air Force Base near Tampa, Florida, yesterday. Those teens, Paula, are under arrest.
ZAHN: It makes you wonder who's going to take the fall for that. Pretty bad.
Melissa Long, thanks so much.
We continue now with our "Top Story" coverage in the war on terror, and that's the new deal between the White House and Congress on how to put alleged terrorists on trial. Next in our in-depth coverage: the man who will likely be the first to face justice. The U.S. they are some of the bloodiest terrorists in the world.
And, then, a little bit later on, a "Top Story" "Outside the Law": three teenagers charged just hours ago with planning an attack and a massacre at a Wisconsin high school. We will take you inside that plot.
ZAHN: Our "Top Story" coverage turns to the war on terror and the deal finished just a couple of hours ago on interrogating terror suspects and putting them on trial.
You probably know that a battle has been raging for weeks between the White House and a small group of Senate Republicans led by former prisoner of war John McCain. They are demanding the law require the president to stick to the letter of the Geneva Conventions, which ban torture. Now that they have a deal, the president says it's what he wanted.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm pleased to say that this agreement preserves the most -- single most potent tool we have in protecting America and foiling terrorist attacks.
And that is the CIA program to question the world's most dangerous terrorists and to get their secrets. The measure also creates military commissions that will bring these ruthless killers to justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Now, while this battle dragged on, the Bush administration transferred 14 suspects described as the worst of the worst who were being held in secret CIA prisoners to Guantanamo Bay. The military says they are expected to face hearings within three months.
Tonight, justice correspondent Kelli Arena has some inside details on what the government says these 14 alleged terrorists did.
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Behind the barbed wire at Guantanamo Bay, in isolation, sit 14 men the U.S. government considers the most notorious terrorists ever captured, allegedly, the masterminds and architects of infamous worldwide attacks, like 9/11, the bombing of the USS Cole, and the two U.S. Embassy bombings in Africa.
PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: These guys planned mass murder.
YOSRI FOUDA, AL-JAZEERA CORRESPONDENT: They are, by far, the biggest fish.
JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: It's really hard to exaggerate the importance that these people represent in the U.S. counterterrorism effort. ARENA: They have been held for years in secret CIA prisons, their locations unknown, until recently, when President Bush announced they were being transferred to Gitmo.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These are dangerous men with unparalleled knowledge about terrorist networks and their plans of new attacks.
ARENA: The government claims the stories of these men reveal an interconnected web of criminal masterminds and dedicated foot soldiers who span the globe. Their paths have intertwined for years through a dark network most people never know.
One person who does is Bob Grenier.
BOB GRENIER, FORMER CIA STATION CHIEF: Well, I spent two-and-a- half years of my life chasing Abu Zubaydah.
ARENA: Grenier was CIA station chief in Pakistan from 1999 through 2002. He helped track down Abu Zubaydah, the facilitator, one of the 14 in custody. The government hails him as the first high- profile terrorist captured within months of the 9/11 attacks. Officials claim Zubaydah, a Palestinian Saudi, was hired by Osama bin Laden himself to help terrorists move between countries.
Zubaydah, Grenier says, made al Qaeda function.
GRENIER: This was an individual who was a trainer. He was a recruiter. He understood bomb-making. He was a forger. He was a logistician. This was somebody who made things happen.
ARENA: During questioning, officials say Zubaydah provided information that led to the capture of another al Qaeda lieutenant, Ramzi Binalshibh, the intermediary from Yemen.
Binalshibh was a student in Hamburg, Germany, in 1998, where he became close friends with three of the 9/11 hijackers. Intelligence officials say the four young men traveled to Afghanistan in 1999, joined al Qaeda, and pledged loyalty to Osama bin Laden.
PAT D'AMURO, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Binalshibh was also supposed to be one of the 9/11 hijackers, but could not get a passport into the United States.
FOUDA: This is why he ended up being the coordinator of the operation.
ARENA: U.S. officials say the combined information from Zubaydah and Binalshibh next led to the most significant terrorist captured so far, his name, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind, known simply as KSM.
MCLAUGHLIN: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is an evil genius. This is -- if you look at all the things he was involved in, it's stunning.
ARENA: Interrogators claim KSM was essentially the CEO of the 9/11 operation.
BERGEN: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, very interesting guy, sort of professional terrorist, had been involved in terrorism his entire adult life, studied, in the United States engineering, was involved in a plan to blow up a dozen airliners in Southeast Asia, and was really the guy who came up with the 9/11 idea.
ARENA: Yosri Fouda, chief investigative reporter with Al- Jazeera, is one of the few journalists to personally meet both KSM and Binalshibh. It was seven months after 9/11. In his two days with them, Fouda says KSM never stopped to rest.
FOUDA: Most of the time would be sitting in a corner on the floor, handling five or so mobile phones, text -- you know, sending text messages, receiving text messages. And he was hardly off duty.
ARENA: One of the alleged terrorists in that KSM network, Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, the money mover, whose role in the 9/11 attacks was to allegedly get funds to the hijackers.
GRENIER: And they needed to have somebody who was sophisticated enough to make those arrangements, and to do it in a discrete way.
ARENA: Another alleged KSM associate, Walid bin Attash, the confidante, the man who officials say Osama bin Laden literally trusted with his life. The Yemeni was the al Qaeda leader's personal bodyguard, selected by bin Laden himself to be a 9/11 hijacker, but, like Binalshibh, was unable to get a visa.
D'AMURO: We know him as Khallad, was very instrumental. He was an individual that actually helped, we believe, through intelligence reports, funneled some moneys to two of the hijackers.
ARENA: KSM allegedly told interrogators what he knew about another al Qaeda operative in custody, helping the CIA understand exactly how important he was. That information, officials say, helped stop a terrorist plot dead in its tracks.
ZAHN: And our "Top Story" coverage of the world's worst alleged terrorists continues in just a minute -- up next, part two of Kelli Arena's report. How did investigators learn about an entire series of plots to attack the U.S. on land and at sea?
Then, a little bit later on, tonight's "Top Story" in crime: three teenagers charged just hours ago with plotting a massacre at a Wisconsin high school. How did they plan to do that?
ZAHN: Tonight we continue our rare look at the 14 suspected terrorists recently transferred to Guantanamo Bay after they spent time held in secret CIA prisons. Now according to the government one of those alleged terrorists was the key to unraveling a series of plots to attack the U.S., both on land and at sea. Once again, here's justice correspondent Kelli Arena.
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nabbed in Pakistan in 2003, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, or KSM, the architect of 9/11, revealed to investigators a vast web of suspected terrorists spanning the globe.
JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: He managed to connect all of these people together into a network.
ARENA: KSM's information led U.S. officials, they say, to several alleged terrorists who were actively putting together another 9/11-style plot, this time to attack the West Coast. One of those alleged plotters was Majid Khan, another one of the 14 who was recently transferred from a secret CIA prison to Guantanamo Bay. In 1996 Khan moved with his parents from Pakistan to Baltimore where he worked at his family's gas station. In 2002 he returned to Pakistan where officials say he was recruited by al Qaeda.
MCLAUGHLIN: His major significance for them is knowledge of the United States.
ARENA: Interrogators claim Khan was sent to southeast Asia with money to help operatives there fund that West Coast plot. The plan was to allegedly crash a commercial jet into L.A.'s Library Tower. At least three other operatives, now in custody, were allegedly involved in that plot, Ali al-Aziz Ali, who happens to be KSM's nephew, another man, known only as Lillie and another called Zubair, who in turn, led investigators to the most important capture in southeast Asia, an alleged terrorist known simply as Hambali. The government claims he and henchmen already had a long and deadly track record.
PETER BERGEN, TERRORISM ANALYST: This is the group that blew up a bomb in Bali, killing 200 people, attacked the Australian embassy in Indonesia, attacked a J.W. Marriott Hotel in Indonesia.
ARENA: Intelligence officials say the capture of those men involved in the West Coast plot potentially saved thousands of lives.
BOB GRENIER, FMR. CIA STATION CHIEF: I strongly doubt, had it not been for the capture of KSM and the successful interrogation, that we would have found Hambali in time.
ARENA: These weren't the only terrorists who were caught mid- plot. Intelligence officials say there were other plans to attack U.S. interests, but this time at sea.
ARENA (voice-over): Officials claim al Rahim al-Nashiri was the mastermind behind the USS Cole bombing, which killed 17 sailors. They say he was planning more of the same when he was captured. BERGEN: Nashiri was al Qaeda's, sort of, director of Gulf operations, planning to attack additional shipping, planning to attack additional American targets in the Persian Gulf region.
ARENA: Officials claim interrogations with detainees in U.S. custody also led to the capture of an entire second tier of operatives, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, an alleged master forger, who led Hassan Dourad, who they say transferred weapons and supplies, and Abu Faraj al-Libi, a Libyan communications expert. Al-Libi allegedly helped organize two assassination attempts on Pakistani President Musharraf. In the end it was the Pakistanis who got him, capturing him alive.
GRENIER: That occurred in May of 2005, and as a matter of fact, I was with the chief of Pakistani intelligence, having breakfast with him as a matter of fact, when one of his aids came up and whispered in his ear, and he then announced that Abu Faraj had been captured.
ARENA: Intelligence officials say al-Libi had started to climb the al Qaeda management ladder and was taking on a bigger leadership role. He was the last high-profile terrorist taken into custody.
BERGEN: They planned additional violence, additional death, additional mayhem. That is how they made thousands of more body bags, both in the United States and its allies around the world.
ARENA: But history proves al Qaeda is relentless. Those 14 men in custody have surely been replaced, and there are associates, supporters, and commanders, including Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri, who are still free and dangerous.
PAT D'AMURO, FMR. FBI ASST. DIR., NEW YORK: There are still individuals out there, part of al Qaeda, that can do significant harm to the United States and its allies.
ARENA: Kelli Arena, CNN, Washington.
ZAHN: And when our in depth coverage continues a top story panel looks at just how much trouble the world's worst alleged terrorists could cause all together in one place and on trial for their lives. Right now, though, let's go back to Melissa Long, who continues our countdown.
LONG: And Paula, troubling report out of Iraq comes in at number seven tonight. The Iraq defense ministry says insurgents are now using unwitting kidnap victims as suicide bombers by planting explosives in the victim's cars, allowing them to drive off and then blowing up the cars by remote control. U.S. officials say they are aware of this latest development.
Story number six takes you to Missouri, the woman accused of stealing a new born baby and attacking the mom pleads not guilty. Little Abby was reunited with her family this week. And millions wanted to learn more about President Bush's conversation with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. Mr. Bush said that the U.S. would go into Pakistan to go after Osama bin Laden if the U.S. received good intelligence on bin Laden's location, and we just want to promote CNN.com right now. If anybody wants to go on the website they can watch 18 minutes of that exclusive interview.
ZAHN: Melissa, do you mind if they wait for maybe another, I don't know, 20 minutes or so?
LONG: Brilliant idea.
ZAHN: OK, thanks. Coming up next is the Guantanamo prison a powder keg that's ready to explode?
Also ahead, tonight's top story in crime.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Two high school seniors and one grad are the key suspects in a school shooting plot that was stopped here in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Who are these kids, and what do we know about them? I'm Keith Oppenheim. That story is coming up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Our top story coverage is focusing on the terror detainees at Guantanamo Bay and the 14 just transferred there, who the government claims are masterminds of attacks ranging from 9/11 to the bombing of the USS Cole, to the embassy bombings in Africa. The question is could their presence at Gitmo make it a powder keg, ready to explode? Let's go to a top story panel right now.
James Taranto, editor of OpinionJournal.com, who just visited Gitmo last month, Dr. Harvey Kushner, and expert on terrorism and author of "Holy War on the Home Front," the secret Islamic terror network in the United States and James Yee, a former army chaplain who ministered to the Gitmo prisoners for ten months. Nice to have all of you with us. Dr. Kushner, what do you think is going to happen when you add these 14 suspected terrorists to the 400 detainees that are already there?
HARVEY KUSHNER, TERRORISM EXPERT: Well, certainly, Paula, this is a different situation, Gitmo, than usual kind of correctional facility. But whenever you bring high profile people who are known in a certain segment, such as gang members and here domestically, you have problems, because people rally, people could cause a riot. I would be concerned about putting these people in there and causing a powder keg situation. I would hope that the military has it under control by keeping them confined to a certain area.
ZAHN: We've already seen hunger strikes. We've already seen suicides, clashes with guards. What is it that you think is going to happen? JAMES TARANTO, OPINIONJOURNAL.COM: Well, I've been to these camps, and this doesn't worry me. Here's why: You've had a number of incidents in recent months. You had the three coordinated suicides, you had the two attempted suicides followed by on the same day a major prison riot in one of the camps. You also had this act of sabotage, where the detainees pulled the springs out of their sinks, and were going to use them to stab people.
But all of these happened in what are called camp one and camp four. These are the two least secure camps, the two camps for the detainees who are best behaved. So what happens is the detainees wait until the guards have their guard down, and then they attack.
The guards are not going to let their guard down for Khalid Sheik Mohammed. He's going to be -- he's going to be under maximum security. He's not going to be that kind of threat.
ZAHN: James, are you pretty confident of that or are you fearful that things could get bad?
JAMES YEE, FORMER ARMY CHAPLAIN: You know, one of the things that I see, though, with the transfer of these high-value suspects to Guantanamo is that if there's a breakdown in the performance of the guards or the interrogators in which information is passed, this is I think how possibly the other detainees might learn of their presence there.
But I would hope that the military keeps them in some type of isolation to ensure that their presence is -- doesn't become a factor.
ZAHN: When James talks about that kind of communication, you know that's going on, you were there. They were passing notes, right?
TARANTO: Here's what's going on. In 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision called Rasul v Bush, which said that the detainees at Guantanamo can petition for habeas corpus. This means that most of the detainees have lawyers. Now, having a lawyer means you have the ability to communicate confidentially. They get letters from their lawyers. Most of their mail is censored by the guards, but the guards cannot look inside the envelopes, so what they do is they use the envelopes...
ZAHN: And the guards don't speak Arabic, either, right?
TARANTO: Well, some of them do. But what they do is -- what the detainees do is -- they think, they haven't been able to confirm this because they can't look inside the envelopes to check -- but they believe that the detainees pass notes to each other in the letters from envelopes which end up being sort of like a diplomatic pouch. The officials can't look inside them.
Now, the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 prevents any new habeas corpus petitions. So these new guys are not going to have lawyers until they're actually charged with war crimes, which will require this new legislation to be passed.
ZAHN: You wanted to jump in here, Harvey.
KUSHNER: I do. Look, I think they're less value, that's why they're being herded together. If they had more value to us, it would have been better to keep them separate. You cause a possible problem that you don't want.
Think of the political ramifications if in fact we do have a mass insurrection inside that facility. Think of what that would do to the president. I think it's a big mistake to put them all in one place.
You know, you don't want to keep all your money in one place, you want to diversify. I think in this particular instance, you want to diversify, you want to keep your assets on the ground but separate. I think it's better, unless we feel there's no value to us any longer and we're taking a chance of something happening which will make major headlines and will cause the Democrats have more fuel in the upcoming election.
ZAHN: James, a final quick thought from you?
YEE: Yeah, you know, I think it would be in the best interest to keep these individuals maybe in Camp Echo, where they are more isolated, and that would help keep their presence being a factor there.
ZAHN: Appreciate our trio of experts here tonight, James Taranto, Harvey Kushner, James Yee. Appreciate it.
YEE: Thank you.
ZAHN: "LARRY KING LIVE" coming up in a few minutes. Hi, Larry. How are you doing tonight?
LARRY KING, HOST, LARRY KING LIVE: Hi, Paula. We've got a most interesting hour ahead. Governor James McGreevey, the former governor of New Jersey, who resigned in disgrace when it was learned that he was homosexual and had appointed a person to a rather high and key office in New Jersey. He had to live all that down and has gone on the road to recovery. He'll be here tonight to explain it all. We'll take e-mails and phone calls as well. Jim McGreevey, former governor of New Jersey, right ahead, Paula.
ZAHN: So where are you tonight? You back in L.A. or are you here?
KING: I'm here, right here in New York. Looking for you, searching, looking, wondering.
ZAHN: Hi there. Nice to have you in town, Lar. Have a good show. We'll be watching.
KING: Thanks, dear.
ZAHN: We're going to get back to our top story coverage in just a moment. First, let's go back to Melissa, who fires off the rest of the countdown here.
LONG: And I'm not in New York, I'm in Atlanta.
Actress Cameron Diaz out in California is accusing a photographer of assault with a deadly weapon. This story number four in the countdown. And now the actress has filed a complaint against the photographer who says she says that photographer tried to run her down with his car in Hollywood yesterday after he attempted to take a picture of her. No arrests have been made.
Number three, Elkport, Iowa will soon disappear. Years of heavy flooding have taken a toll, forced out 86 residents to abandon this 150-year-old town. Most accepted buyout offers from the federal government because the restoration will simply cost way too much. The remaining homes and other buildings will be demolished next week. The residents, however, Paula, say Elkport will live on. They're going to keep their three-member city council meeting regularly.
ZAHN: Good for them. With that kind of legacy, why not? We're going to check back a little bit later on with you.
Now, in a Wisconsin town, the school year is off to a very frightening start. Coming up next, tonight's top story "Outside the Law," three teenagers accused of plotting a massacre and facing the possibility of spending up to 60 or even 100 years in prison.
ZAHN: Our top story "Outside the Law" tonight, a possible high school massacre narrowly stopped. Today, two students and one former student in Green Bay, Wisconsin, were charged with plotting a Columbine-style attack on their school, and police think it was the courage of another student that prevented some incredible grief. Keith Oppenheim is in Green Bay, and he just filed this report for tonight's "Outside the Law."
KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): William Cornell took a seat before a camera in a jail for a remotely televised court hearing. Twenty minutes later, Shawn Sturtz appeared. The two 17- year-old high school seniors are accused of plotting a massacre, a Columbine-style attack inside their own school, East High.
Police say a third suspect, 18-year-old Bradley Netwal, who graduated from East last year, is expected to face the same charges.
CAPTAIN LISA STERR, GREEN BAY POLICE: They were basically friends, and they had the same shared concept that they -- that they wanted to do something terrible to the school.
OPPENHEIM: That something police say was a plot to block off school exits and set off explosives, to trap students by fire and start shooting at random. At the home of William Cornell police confiscated about 20 crudely made explosives, six jars of jelled gasoline or Napalm and ten guns. Authorities believe it was a plan on the verge of happening, stopped in the nick of time when last week senior Matt Atkinson got wind of the plot and told school administrators.
MATT ATKINSON, EAST HIGH SENIOR: I told my mom about it, and everything that I heard, and she basically told me, she said do the right thing. It's up to you.
OPPENHEIM: Because Atkinson may testify, he was instructed not to talk about his relationship with the suspects.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think my parents were a little emotional.
OPPENHEIM: But others did. Cornell and Sturtze both weigh in the rank of 250 pounds. High school staff and students are questioning whether both were teased or bullied.
EMILY SECCOMBE, EAST HIGH SENIOR: In their demeanor you can, you know, see sometimes the pain inside of them, and they were more quiet and not as joyful as some of the kids running down the halls laughing.
OPPENHEIM: The Associated Press reports Shawn Sturtze's mother said her son had been kicked out of school last year for bringing a knife to class. School officials wouldn't comment but principal Ed Dorff told us when Sturtze and Cornell were confronted, both boys acknowledged the plot. They also said Sturtze was becoming angrier over a recent break up with a girl he communicated with online.
(on camera): The principal believes the boys were outsiders, suffering from depression, struggling to be recognized.
ED DORFF, PRINCIPAL EAST HIGH SCHOOL: I think, as much as anything, in a strange sort of way, this is an attempt to identify themselves, an attempt to assert their identity. Hey you know what world, here I am, I'm in control, I haven't been in control in a lot of things, but here I can be.
OPPENHEIM: Attorneys for Sean Sturtze didn't return calls. Bradley Netwall's attorney disputes the allegations. Shane Brabazon, attorney for William Cornell, says his client wasn't doing anything more than talking.
SHANE BRABAZON, ATTORNEY FOR WILLIAM CORNELL: I don't think William had the ability or the mental makeup to follow through with this type of a plan.
OPPENHEIM: On the phone I spoke with a member of William Cornell's immediate family who asked not to be identified and said William was not depressed and has been mischaracterized in the media as a dangerous loner.
The relative told me, and I'm quoting, just because he was shy doesn't make him a killer.
(voice-over): Whether these young men were about to become killers will be the central question in this case. For now Green Bay is feeling relief nothing happened and wondering just how close this school came to becoming another national tragedy.
Keith Oppenheim, CNN, Green Bay, Wisconsin.
ZAHN: And once again the teenage suspects could face 60 years or more in prison if convicted.
Let's go back to Melissa as she finishes up our countdown for us tonight, Melissa.
LONG: And Paula, number two, a break in a murder case that's nearly three decades old. The victim, Janet Chandler, disappeared back in 1979 while working at a hotel in Holland, Michigan. Law enforcement authorities say they've arrested five people in connection with the murder, a sixth suspect was arrested earlier in the year.
And some 22 million readers have made this story number one tonight, the latest on the deadly E. Coli outbreak, linked to Spinach. Federal investigators now say 157 people were affected, up from 146 yesterday. Health officials are focusing on farms and processing plants in California's Monterey, San Benito and Santa Clara counties. And that's the list Paula. Have a great evening.
ZAHN: You too. Thanks for everything tonight, Melissa.
Now we've all heard of people going from the military to civilian careers, as we shift gears here, but Andy Serwer has made a man who made an about-face from civilian life. Here's tonight's Life After Work.
ANDY SERWER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At age 60 Peter Le Bough's life has never had more direction. As a Captain in the New York Guard, an executive director for a military nonprofit, his mission is serving his country.
PETER LE BEAU, VIETNAM VETERAN: Having been in the military, having been in war, I had a firsthand appreciation of what our servicemen and women go through.
SERWER: Le Beau served in Vietnam before a 30-year career in banking. He lost his job in 2002. That's when the Soldier, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen's Club came calling. They provide low cost accommodations in New York City to active and retired military.
LE BEAU: I took about a 75 percent cut in pay to take this job. But the rewards have been priceless. When those kids come here for two or three days, and there's this feeling of warmth and it's their home away from home.
How's the rest of the building? Are we good shape?
SERWER: Le Beau's work at the club has inspired him to join the state Guards. LE BEAU: I couldn't help in active duty because I'm far too old. We do a lot of things that the regular military does, land navigation, search and rescue, and anti-terrorism. And being part of the team of people that are dedicated to preserving our way of life, that's the reward.
SERWER: Andy Serwer, CNN, New York.
ZAHN: A great American.
There is some breaking news to talk about out of the United Nations. Coming up what the Palestinian president just said at the U.N. about peace with Israel.
Then coming up at the top of the hour on "LARRY KING LIVE" Jim Mcgreevy, the former New Jersey governor who stunned the nation by announcing he's gay. He also stunned his wife.
ZAHN: Before we go here, we've got some breaking news out of the United Nations tonight. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has just told the General Assembly that any new Palestinian government would honor all past agreements between Israel and P.L.O.
What that means is that a new Palestinian government would recognize the state of Israel's right to exist. It will renounce violence and it would commit to negotiations aimed at an independent Palestinian state alongside the state Israel. Once again, that coming from President Abbas tonight at the U.N.
That's it from all of us. Thanks so much for joining us. Hope you'll be back same time, same place tomorrow night. Until then have a great night. "LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.
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