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PAULA ZAHN NOW
Alleged Terror Plot Exposed in New Jersey; Radical Anti- American Message Being Broadcast to Palestinian Children?
Aired May 8, 2007 - 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: Good evening, everybody. Thank you for joining us tonight.
Here are some of the stories we're bringing out in the open tonight: what the FBI is calling a brand-new form of terrorism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JODY WEIS, FBI: Today, we dodged a bullet. In fact, when you look at the type of weapons that this group was trying to purchase, we may have dodged a lot of bullets.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: An alleged terror plot is exposed. Just how many homegrown terrorists are still under cover tonight?
Also, you're not going to what Palestinian children see on TV. The anti-American slogans the characters chant are only just the beginning.
Plus, neighbors band together to keep a mosque from moving in. Is it blatant intolerance out in the open? We will debate that.
Out in the open first, though: Federal prosecutors, the FBI, and police are all saying tonight they have headed off a big one. Six Muslim men born outside the U.S. are accused of plotting to launch an assault with automatic weapons against a major military base. But is this as big as it seems?
The suspects have no connection to any international terrorist organization. They made a video of themselves firing guns, but were sloppy enough to take to it a store and ask a clerk to copy it for them. And, at one point today, a law enforcement source even said, these were hardly hard-core terrorists.
Let's get straight to the alleged target, Fort Dix, New Jersey, right now.
And that's where we find Deborah Feyerick standing by live.
Deborah, what's the latest?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, according to the FBI complaint, these men were inspired by bin Laden. They were inspired by al Qaeda, and inspired by at least two of the 9/11 hijackers.
But there's no direct evidence that they were ever sanctioned by the terror mastermind or received any sort of a fatwa, call to arms, from him. Instead, authorities say they were planning this on their own, sort of an independent cell ready to do jihad.
FEYERICK (voice-over): The men in these vans are accused of a plot that was sinister and deadly, five men described by authorities as radical Islamists allegedly plotting to target Fort Dix Army Base in New Jersey and kill 100 soldiers or more, using AK-47s or other assault rifles.
WEIS: Today, we dodged a bullet. In fact, when you look at the type of weapons that this group was trying to purchase, we may have dodged a lot of bullets. We had a group that was forming a platoon to take on an army.
FEYERICK: The initial tip came more than a year ago, when a store clerk contacted authorities, saying he had been asked to copy a video slowing a group of 10 men shooting assault weapons, militia- style, and calling for jihad.
An FBI informant infiltrated the group, convincing them he could get his hands on AK-47s and M-16 semiautomatic weapons. The doctored weapons were delivered last night, with FBI agents and state police soon sweeping in to take out the terror cell.
CHRISTOPHER CHRISTIE, U.S. ATTORNEY: All that, combined with their increased training sessions, the intensity of those, and ultimately their desire to get automatic weapons to complete their plan, told us it was now time to take this down and not let it go any further.
FEYERICK: The five defendants, one of them an alleged sniper from Kosovo, traveled to the Poconos this February for training.
Randy Swiden (ph) says he saw them on the firing range.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they just set up some targets in a 50- yard range and started firing. But they had brought jugs and other, like, paper plates as targets, instead of regular aiming targets.
FEYERICK: According to the complaint, on that training trip, they talked about bombs, C-4 explosives, and the possibility of striking U.S. warships docked in Philadelphia. They watched terror training videos, along with attacks on U.S. military vehicles and personnel.
CHRISTIE: They watched the blowing off of the arm of a United States Marine, and the room burst out into laughter.
FEYERICK: One of the defendants, year-old Serdar Tatar, provided the cell with a map of Fort Dix. Authorities say his family owns this pizzeria near the base and that he used to deliver pizzas there. JOSEPH HOFFLINGER, PIZZA CHEF: No, he seemed like a regular, regular person. You know, he would come in. Hi. How you doing? What's up? You know...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would he hang around?
HOFFLINGER: Yes, he would stay for, like -- he would sit there and have lunch, talk to his father, and then he would go.
FEYERICK: And, according to the FBI complaint, that man, Tatar, suggested causing a power outage here at Fort Dix, saying that that would make this attack a lot easier.
And, even when he suspected that the paid FBI informant was working for the feds, he still told that informant that he was doing this in the name of Allah.
Now, three of the defendants are ethnic Albanians. They're in the country illegally. They ran a roofing company that they worked from out of their home. One of the defendants is a taxi driver, another a convenience store worker, both in Philadelphia.
And a sixth man was charged with supplying some of the weapons. Now, except for one of the men, they did not have lawyers today. They were represented temporarily by a public defender. They did not have to enter guilty pleas. They have all been charged with conspiring to kill U.S. military personnel. And that is a charge that carries maximum life in prison -- Paula.
ZAHN: Deborah Feyerick, thanks so much.
So, what exactly do we know tonight about the suspects? Deborah just mentioned three are ethnic Albanians. They happen to be brothers from Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
And Allan Chernoff has been digging into their background and talking with their neighbors, and joins me now from outside their home.
Allan, what have you found out?
ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Paula, the Duka brothers are known on this block by their Americanized nicknames, Tony, Elvis and Shain.
But, according to prosecutors, they are illegal immigrants, all three of them. They work for their father's roofing company run right out of this home over here. And, after work, neighbors would see them playing soccer on the front lawn.
In fact, one neighbor says the family was very friendly, even helping his elderly father-in-law.
Just one thing a bit strange: They used to keep livestock in their backyard.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL LEVINE, NEIGHBOR OF SUSPECTS: There was a sheep in the backyard. They had chickens back there once. And I think they had a rooster back there. And, from what I understand, it was for Ramadan, the sheep, and it was going to be sacrificed.
So, we didn't think anything of it. We didn't say anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHERNOFF: Some other neighbors, though, did complain. The police came and took the sheep and chicken away.
Now, there is a Marine who lives right across the street. He's done two tours of duty in Iraq. And the mother of the Dukas actually came to his welcome-home party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHAN HILBERT, NEIGHBOR OF SUSPECTS: They just walked over amongst -- with all the family and friends over there, and just gave me a quick welcome-home, and glad I'm safe, and, you know, and shook my hand. I mean, granted, it was just the lady and two of the small kids, but it's just kind of weird.
They come over and you welcome me home from fighting terrorism over in another country. And here you are, the men in your household are plotting to attack a local military installation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHERNOFF: The Dukas' brother-in-law also arrested worked as a taxi driver in Philadelphia. And the two other men charged here were working most recently as clerks, one at a 7-Eleven convenience store and the other at a ShopRite supermarket -- Paula.
ZAHN: So, Allan, from those short bits of conversations we just heard you had with neighbors, it sounded like they didn't have any suspicions about these guys.
CHERNOFF: No, not in the least, certainly not suspecting any terrorism, any plotting at all.
Some of the other people, other than the Duka brothers charged here, neighbors said, well, they kept to themselves, a little strange, but nothing in terms of thinking perhaps these could be terrorists.
ZAHN: Allan Chernoff, appreciate the update.
With me now, justice correspondent Kelli Arena, Clark Kent Ervin, the former inspector general of the Homeland Security Department, whose book "Open Target" comes out in paperback next week.
Kelli, I am going to get started with you tonight. If authorities hadn't gotten that tip, does anybody believe these men would have been capable of carrying out this plot?
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: You know, it depends on what the plot ultimately ended up being, Paula.
Investigators say, you know, if they just wanted to shoot some soldiers that were coming off the base, they probably would have been able to do that.
But, as -- as far as an attack on the military base, it would have been very hard for them to get in. I mean, there were a lot of -- a lot of discussion about why they didn't choose a softer target, like a shopping mall, for example, which, we know, very open, very easy to get at.
ZAHN: So, Clark, what do you make of this plot? We heard one law enforcement official, I guess if you were to read between the lines, basically say that, while you had to take the threat seriously, they were jokes.
CLARK KENT ERVIN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Well, you know, it's a good-news and a bad-news story, Paula.
On the one hand, it's a good news story, of course, because the plot was foiled, foiled because of an alert citizen who was proactive. This is exactly what we want the average American to do, if he or she sees something that suggests terrorist activity, and also really terrific cooperation among the federal and state and local officials.
It is a bad-news story because it points up what I pointed out just today in "The New York Times"' op-ed. And that is that we have grown complacent in this country that the threat of terrorism is real, and that, in particular, the threat of homegrown terrorism is growing.
ZAHN: Well, based on your studying of these homegrown cells, were these guys for real, Clark?
ERVIN: Well, from everything that we are learning today, it appears that they are for real.
They had these bin Laden tapes. They had, in fact, a couple of tapes of two of the 9/11 hijackers. There were audiotapes where they were plotting not only against Fort Dix, but against other military installations around the country.
And I think Kelli makes a good point that it shows that these guys were serious that they going after a really hard target, relatively speaking, like a military installation, as opposed to a soft target. So, they were very serious, indeed. And it sounds like they were capable.
ZAHN: But, Kelli, we should make clear at this hour that law enforcement officials say that there doesn't -- don't appear to be any ties between these men and any well-organized terrorist group.
So, do they fit any terrorist profile at all here?
ARENA: Well, I mean, what they fit is -- is the threat that we have been hearing, you know, from officials for a long time, which is a homegrown threat. These are small groups of individuals who are inspired by what they see on the Internet, the messages that they read there.
And they -- they band together, and they basically fly under the radar, Paula. I mean, these are very hard cells to detect, because there's no overseas interaction; there's no money being sent. So, there's no trail to really follow. And that's why it's really important for people to be aware.
I mean, investigators say, without that tip from that video store clerk, they may have gone undetected for much longer than they did. Maybe they would have been able to pull something off at the end of the day. Who knows? But that's the new threat that's facing this country, are people who are unaffiliated, yet inspired.
ZAHN: So, Clark, how many of those homegrown cells are out there tonight?
ERVIN: Well, that's very difficult to say, Paula. There's really no way to know that.
The only thing that we can say is, it's just logical to assume that al Qaeda, knowing that it's a little harder -- it's not as hard as it should be, but it's a little harder for foreigners to get into the country, are recruiting from among people who are already here, both foreigners who are already here, like these six guys, and Americans, who, increasingly, are being radicalized.
They're going after African-Americans and Hispanic Americans, like Jose Padilla. And Anglo-Americans, like Adam the American -- the chief spokesman for al Qaeda is an American raised in California -- people who don't fit the terrorist profile and people who live in very bucolic neighborhoods, like Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
ZAHN: Got to leave it there tonight, team.
Clark Kent Ervin, Kelli Arena, thanks.
ERVIN: Thank you.
ZAHN: Another story we're following very closely tonight, the fight over bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq. Coming up next: Is a brand-new deadline out in the open, even if it isn't official?
We will also take a look at some children's TV that you absolutely aren't going to believe. It has anti-American messages that you might expect. But that is only the beginning. Wait until you see what it's caused some kids to do.
Plus: Would you want a mosque next door? Well, we're going to visit a Florida neighborhood where some people sure don't. They are outraged. And we will show you what they're up to tonight. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ZAHN: Out in the open tonight: kid's show characters, guns and anti-American slogans. Stay tuned for some children's TV from the Middle East. You're not going to believe what you see.
First: what may be a deadline in Iraq. It isn't official. Congressional Democrats can't get the president to budge in his opposition to anything like that. But Republicans seem to be circling September on their calenders.
House Minority Leader John Boehner, speaking for the Republican members of Congress, says -- quote -- "By the time we get to September or October, members are going to want to know how well this is working, and, if it isn't, what's plan B?"
Well, plan A, of course, is the current U.S. troop buildup. It slowed down the sectarian violence in Baghdad for a while, but now bombings and killings appear to be increasing.
A brand-new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows 57 percent of Americans want a timetable for withdrawal. Will Republicans abandon the president if things aren't better by September?
Let's see what my "Out in the Open" panel thinks.
Niger Innis -- Innis, that is -- is a political consultant, as well as the national spokesman for CORE, the Congress of Racial Equality Crystal McCrary Anthony is a co-host of BET's "My Two Cents." And Cenk Uygur, host of "The Young Turks" on the Air America Radio Network.
Glad to have all of you with us tonight.
CENK UYGUR, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Thank you.
CRYSTAL MCCRARY ANTHONY, AUTHOR & COMMENTATOR: Thank you for having us.
ZAHN: Our pleasure.
So, I want to start off tonight by listening to something that Republican Susan Collins had to say that goes even further than what we heard John Boehner just say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I do believe that there comes a point in September where, if it's evident that the new strategy is not successful and is not going to succeed, that we do have to change course. And that means looking at all the options, including a plan for withdrawing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: If Senator Sue Collins says that, does the president need to be worried about Republicans running away from him?
NIGER INNIS, NATIONAL SPOKESMAN, THE CONGRESS OF RACIAL EQUALITY: I think he's been worried since the midterm elections about the political dynamics here.
But he's commander in chief. He's got to worry, of course, about the politics and about the goodwill of the Congress and the American people.
ZAHN: Yes, but this is not helpful to his case, when you have got a very powerful senator saying...
INNIS: That's true. But she's up for reelection. That's the other thing, too. I mean, she's up...
ZAHN: But there are a lot of them up for reelection.
INNIS: There are a lot of them up for reelection.
And the politics here are very interesting. The Democrats have done a smart thing by dropping the true deadline proposal, and saying that we want a review, we want a report, and we will -- you know, we will then examine if we're going to give all of the funding.
That's a smarter political game. But the bottom line here is policy. And the bottom line here is that Iraq is not the Iraq war. It's the Iraq front, as well as Afghanistan, Somalia. They are all fronts on the global war on terrorism. And, so, the question is -- I mean, we may agree. We may have problems with how al Qaeda got there. But they're there now.
ZAHN: All right.
INNIS: So, the question is how are we going to remove our troops there and -- and leave al Qaeda in a stronger position? I don't think we're going to do that.
ZAHN: We don't have time to debate whether Iraq is the central war -- front of the war on terror.
ZAHN: But I saw you rolling your eyes when he talked about separating...
INNIS: I wonder why.
ZAHN: ... the policy from the politics here.
UYGUR: Well, I mean, Niger, you're right. The problem is the policy. The policy is horrific.
And that's why, for four years, we have been in a mess in Iraq. And they keep saying to us, no timelines, no deadlines. So, when are we ever going to get out? Based on Bush's policy, we are going to be there forever.
UYGUR: And he doesn't even define victory. What is victory?
ANTHONY: We will at least be there until 2009, until January 20 of 2009, which folks seem to think that he's hell-benefit -- excuse my language -- on staying in there until he leaves with a stamp marked Iraq war for the next president.
The problem that I have is that this is a civil war at this point. And it's not our war at this point. And you will have insiders, you know, high-ranking military officials, who will say off the record, and a few on, that this is a war that we're not going to win.
ZAHN: All right.
ANTHONY: We have spent more money there than we spent in Vietnam.
ZAHN: But come back to the politics of it and read the tea leaves, when you have Senator Collins breaking away from the president, whether she's up for reelection or not.
ANTHONY: Trent Lott is breaking away from the president as well. The Republicans do have their constituents to report to.
ZAHN: Well, we should make it clear, this is...
ZAHN: Maybe we didn't make it clear enough, in using that little piece of sound, that she's saying, we have got to get out.
UYGUR: No, Paula, this is actually not the Democrats vs. the Republicans. This is the Republican Congress vs. Bush, because Bush wants to stay there until his term is over. And, if the Republicans go into the 2008 election still in Iraq, they're going to get killed.
UYGUR: And, so, they don't want that. They hate the politics of this. So, they have got -- not the Democrats -- the Republicans have to make the -- Bush change his mind.
Good luck to them.
ZAHN: And they might do that with benchmarks. Is that something that the president might ultimately find acceptable?
INNIS: The American people deserve a report...
ZAHN: You didn't answer any question.
INNIS: No. No, because it's bad policy. It is very bad policy to say -- to communicate to our enemies that are in Iraq right now, hey, guess what? Guys, we're going to leave by a certain time period.
I mean, it's just such a fantasy world that we believe, actually, if we were to leave tomorrow, that it's going to be Disneyland in the globe.
INNIS: The fact is, we have terrorists that are attacking...
INNIS: You just heard the reporting right here on Fort Dix. We were attacked on a military base by some terrorists.
UYGUR: Niger, they live there.
INNIS: That -- that terrorism isn't going to end once we leave Iraq.
ANTHONY: And, listen...
ZAHN: Quick final thought.
ANTHONY: ... unrealistic benchmarks, subjective benchmarks aren't going to make a difference either.
UYGUR: Niger, they live there. We can stay there for 100 years, and they will still live there.
UYGUR: You think they're going to wait us out? Of course they're going to wait us out. (CROSSTALK)
INNIS: When the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government is prepared to rid al Qaeda from that region, then I think Americans can -- can leave.
ZAHN: All right, all of you, stay with me. We have got a lot more to debate here tonight.
I want to bring a children's TV show out in the open tonight. You hope your kids will never see anything like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ITAMAR MARCUS, FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR, PALESTINIAN MEDIA WATCH: Mickey Mouse is America. America is Mickey Mouse. And then you're taking Mickey Mouse to laugh at the United States. It is very, very significant.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Well, it's actually a lot more serious than the Mickey Mouse analogy might suggest.
Out in the open next: something you have got to see, children's television with an overt, violent anti-American message.
And a little bit later on: a neighborhood's fight to keep a mosque out. And why are people there so afraid? Well, we will take you there.
ZAHN: We have a very troubling story for you tonight out in the open: using Mickey Mouse to teach children to hate.
In Gaza, Palestinian TV is running a children's program using a Mickey Mouse look-alike to indoctrinate kids in a culture of violence.
Atika Shubert has the story tonight from Jerusalem.
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Farfur looks like Mickey Mouse, but this Palestinian children's character doesn't talk like Mickey or sing like any Mouseketeer.
Farfur dances with an imaginary gun in his gloved hands, as a young call-in listener recites an ode to an AK-47.
(on camera): This is "Tomorrow's Pioneers," a weekly children's show on Al-Aqsa TV, the Hamas-owned and operated television station in Gaza. And it's been running now for three weeks. (voice-over): Farfur and his human companion, Saraa, encourage children to drink milk and study hard, but also engage in violent acts of resistance against Israel and the U.S.
Farfur cheers for Islamic supremacy in a squeaky voice, saying: "We will win, Bush. We will win, Condoleezza."
Militant propaganda is not new in this part of the world, but using an iconic cartoon character to appeal to children is.
ITAMAR MARCUS, FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR, PALESTINIAN MEDIA WATCH: Mickey Mouse is America. America is Mickey Mouse. And then you're taking Mickey Mouse to laugh at the United States. It is very, very significant. The danger is, it's the mixing of the poison with the drink milk, and the child doesn't even realize that he's being poisoned.
SHUBERT: This video was publicized by groups like Palestinian Media Watch and MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute, privately funded, pro-Israeli groups.
Both Al-Aqsa TV and Hamas refuse to comment on the video. But the Palestinian minister of information was alarmed.
MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI, PALESTINIAN MINISTER OF INFORMATION: It's a very unfortunate video. We communicated with the station as soon as this was brought to our attention. And the station has informed us that they will stop it immediately, and they will do a full revision of it.
SHUBERT: But there's another twist to the story. What exactly are Mickey and his friend saying?
Media watchdog MEMRI translates one caller as saying -- quote -- "We will annihilate the Jews."
But, according to several Arabic speakers used by CNN, the caller actually says -- quote -- "The Jews are killing us."
MEMRI told us it stood by its translation.
YIGAL CARMON, FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT, MIDDLE EAST MEDIA RESEARCH INSTITUTE: Yes, we stand by the translation by the very words, by the context, by the syntax, and every measure of the translation.
SHUBERT: What's for sure is that children in this part of the world are quickly exposed to virulent political messages.
And Palestinian Minister Barghouti says that children in Gaza are more vulnerable than most.
BARGHOUTI: Surrounded by the Israeli army from every direction. Fishermen are shot at when they try to fish. The passages are closed. People cannot move freely from in or out of Gaza. It is a situation of imprisonment for years. And that operation, this apartheid saying of course drives people crazy and creates certain reactions, as the one you have seen.
SHUBERT: The moral of the story, nothing is simple in the Middle East, even Mickey Mouse.
ZAHN: And Atika Shubert joins me now, along with senior international correspondent Nic Robertson.
Atika, it is outrageous any time we see children used. But how effective is this kind of militant propaganda? Does it work?
SHUBERT: Well, we don't know exactly how effective this particular program is, because it's quite new.
Al-Aqsa TV is also a very young station. It has only been running for a little bit more than a year, and it has not got a very wide reach. It reaches, really, only Gaza. And it's far from being the most popular station.
But what's clear is that they are trying to reach a much younger audience with this. And that's what's new here. And it is fairly common to see these kind of propaganda militant videos, but we really don't know what kind of impact it has on those really younger minds, especially those under 8 years old.
ZAHN: But, Nic, we think as many as three million people might have been exposed to this program so far. And, on YouTube, some parts of this video have been shown over and over again, some 25,000 hits.
So, certainly, isn't there an increase in exposure to this kind of material?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there certainly is.
If you look at what's happening...
SHUBERT: Well, there certainly is...
ROBERTSON: ... in Iraq, and if you look at what's happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where we have seen -- where DVDs are distributed by insurgent groups, they're violent. They show their actions. These DVDs are available on street corners. The kids can pick them up. They're very cheap.
They can -- they can watch these on the Internet. The whole message and the dissemination of it in this propaganda war is easily available to children. And, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, a video was released recently showing a 12-year-old child cutting an alleged Taliban spy's head -- an American -- an alleged American spy's head off.
There's been unsubstantiated reports of a 10-year-old suicide bomber in Afghanistan, unsubstantiated reports of young suicide bombers in Iraq. The availability of the message and the actions do seem to be bringing younger and younger participants into the battlefield, Paula.
ZAHN: And the two examples Nic you've just given us make me absolutely sick. Is anybody in the Arab world publicly condemning these campaigns?
ROBERTSON: I think certainly in the west. We've looked and waited to hear a very strong message coming from Arab leaders about the actions of al Qaeda, about the actions of insurgent groups. I think there are low level messages coming from some imams, religious leaders and some mosques. But what I pick up from in Saudi Arabia and in particular in Iraq, from fathers where we might worry in the west about our kids falling into bad company, picking up on drugs, picking up on alcohol, there they're concerned are their kids going to fall into groups and pick up on that radical message, be taken away from their families and turned into would-be suicide bombers. There is a concern in these countries where those groups are very prevalent and prey on those young minds Paula.
ZAHN: And Atika, you've certainly been exposed to some of those children. Just how vulnerable are they to this constant chorus of anti-American, anti-Israeli messages?
SHUBERT: They're certainly very vulnerable. You heard from the Palestinian minister of information. It's more than simply these television shows that are running. It's the influence of their entire lives. It's the fact that they're living with the conflict day in and day out. They simply cannot escape from it. And that's particularly true in Gaza, which is suffering not only from the conflict, of course, but from dire poverty. So when you combine all these factor, it makes children especially vulnerable.
ZAHN: Atika Shubert, Nic Robertson, thank you for your reporting tonight.
When it comes to Americans and Muslims, distrust runs both ways, of course. And in Florida, it is right out in the open tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every mosque is indeed a breeding ground for terrorists.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Just the opposite.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: So how would you feel about a mosque moving in to your neighborhood? Coming up, people who don't want any part of it.
Also, a teacher whose courage makes her a CNN heroine. Wait until you see what she did when a tornado hit her school.
ZAHN: Tonight, how far some people in a suburban Florida neighborhood are going to keep a mosque from opening next door. A Christian clergyman has been leading the fight against the proposed 29,000 square foot mosque and school in Pompano Beach. Well, now he has a new supporter, who has filed a lawsuit to block the project and who is throwing around words like terrorism and radical Islam. Susan Candiotti has the latest for us tonight.
REV. O'NEAL DOZIER, MOSQUE OPPONENT: God has not given me the spirit of fear.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pastor O'Neal Dozier has always been blunt about his opinion of Islam. How would you characterize the Islamic faith?
DOZIER: I characterize the Islamic faith as an evil, cruel, dangerous faith.
CANDIOTTI: Pastor Dozier has been crusading for months to keep a mosque from going up in his Pompano Beach, Florida, neighborhood. Now he's got an ally, a man who is actually suing to stop it.
DOZIER: This seems like a good fight.
CANDIOTTI: The ally is Rodney Wright, a bit of a mystery man. CNN's been unable to reach him. He found this video of him at a zoning meeting about the mosque last year. Wright lives a few blocks from where it is supposed to be built. And his parents own a vacant lot right next to it. In his lawsuit Wright claims the goal of the mosque is to quote, to spread radical Islam throughout the United States far and wide through its relations with known terrorist supporters and groups. Is this your goal?
IMAM HASSAN SABRI, MOSQUE SUPPORTER: No. Just the opposite of that. It's actually the promoting and understanding of Islam.
CANDIOTTI: The mosque's prayer leader Hassan Sabri says its current location a few miles away is no longer big enough. He insists that for years his Muslim community has helped the homeless and been a good neighbor, even participating in ecumenical prayer services. Wright's lawsuit says that's all a ruse and Pastor Dozier echoes that suspicion.
DOZIER: Every mosque is indeed a breeding ground for terrorists.
CANDIOTTI: Oh, come on.
DOZIER: Oh, no. We have documentation showing that even this mosque here, the Islamic mosque of south Florida, have brought in many spokesmen for terrorists.
CANDIOTTI: In part, the lawsuit claims Imam Sabri invited to his mosque a speaker with ties to al Qaeda. You have a history that relates back to al Qaeda?
SABRI: That's nonsense. These people are really true Americans and they care about their security. And this is somebody that they think I am connected to al Qaeda like they say, I encourage them to go to the FBI and to give this information.
CANDIOTTI: We checked with the FBI several times. CNN has asked the FBI whether it has any evidence of terror links of any kind involving the imam or even the mosque's current location. The answer each time has been no. Ronald Wright's Larry Klayman attorney told us his client did not want to speak with us. But Klayman says citizens cannot count on the government for protection.
LARRY KLAYMAN, ATTY. FOR RODNEY WRIGHT: We're like, you know, revolutionary war days, we have to have citizens, concerned citizens come forward to mount their own community defense in a peaceful and legal way.
CANDIOTTI: The city has already approved the new mosque, and the Muslim community plans to break ground this summer, lawsuit or not. Susan Candiotti, CNN, Pompano Beach, Florida.
ZAHN: Back to tonight's "out in the open" panel, Niger Innis, Crystal McCrary Anthony and Cenk Uygur. So what is it? Folks are opposed to this mosque are bigots or do they have the right based on the arrests today and this Islamic plot against Ft. Dix have is a right to be nervous about Muslims in their neighborhood.
UYGUR: We can't fight the one billion Muslims in the world. And it is absurd to say that all Muslims are like the terrorists. That's like saying all Christians are like Jeffrey Dahmer or take the worst Christians you can find or the worst Jews or the worst Hindus and say all Hindus or Jews or Christians are like that. It's of course not right. It's un-American and they have the freedom of religion and every community pulls this because I know they get annoyed by the traffic and especially the Muslim angle, I know, but you got to let them have their freedom of religion.
ZAHN: I understand what you are saying, but are you at all sensitive to their fears about safety?
UYGUR: No. OK. Because then it's the same argument they would have made back in the civil rights era. I don't know, there are some blacks that are, you know, violent and so we got to be wary of all blacks and it's a terrible argument.
ANTHONY: He's using key phrases like nuisance, property value will go down, and they're using all these phrases that, you know, promote hysteria. And as you said, this is the same language that has been used to stop African-Americans from moving into certain communities, Italians, Jewish folks. It is ridiculous. It's racist, it's ignorant and it is just outrageous and to me, a waste of the judicial system's time.
ZAHN: What do you think of this minister making a tie between the imam and terrorist groups when there is absolutely no proof of that?
INNIS: Well, it's in court. So it has yet to -- the burden of proof is going to be on him to prove if it if there's any there there.
ZAHN: So you think it's a valid argument?
INNIS: I talked with him tonight. I talked to Reverend Dozier tonight and he happens to be a friend of mine. I think that, quite frankly, that he is reflecting some of the legitimate concerns that exist within that community. That community is an economically depressed community. It is a community in which the largest prison exists throughout the state of Florida. And there's a concern with Reverend Dozier and a lot of folks within the community itself that either inadvertently or very directly this new center, which moved from a predominantly white neighborhood to a black neighborhood, could be a breeding ground potentially and could tap into the nihilism and the pessimism that already exists in that community.
ZAHN: But the minister wasn't talking about this inadvertently happening. You heard what he said to Susan, that basically there has been contact between Reverend Dozier and members of -- or - the imam and members of a terrorist group.
INNIS: Again, this is going to be in court. And you know, there are going to be burdens of proof.
UYGUR: You can't do this. You can't say that it's just going to go to court because some clown like Klayman is suing. He sued Dick Cheney. He sued his own mother. I mean, these are conservatives who say that they're in favor of torte reform, then they sue their mother. He'll sue anybody. You're libeling these poor people.
INNIS: ... is a manifestation of the community's concern. Why it is this institution, which had been for a couple of decades, in a predominantly white community is making the decision to build this huge center in a predominantly black community.
ANTHONY: Also that's insulting to African-Americans there.
INNIS: Doesn't the black community have a right to express itself? Are virtually all white commission decided to say that it's --
ZAHN: One at a time.
UYGUR: Why do you want to represent the worst in people rather than the best in people? Why do you want to go and say there are some fears and there are some prejudices and let's go represent those? No, let's bring out the best in people. I think what Reverend Dozier does is completely bigoted. To feed into that at all is outrageous. Look what happened at Virginia Tech. A Korean shot a bunch of people right. So are we going to stop Korean churches from coming into the neighborhood? No, one thing has nothing to do with the other.
ZAHN: They're ignoring the legacy of 9/11 and the fears that many Americans have about Muslims, whether you want to admit it or not. ANTHONY: They're fears. They're not realities. They're not realities and to say that it's a reality to me, to play upon the post- 9/11 fear in the same way that we did against the Japanese, after Pearl Harbor, I think that it's shameful. I think it's unfair. It is unfounded. And the fact of the matter is the vast majority of practicing Muslims in this country, around the world are not extremists or fundamentalists. And that's not right. (INAUDIBLE)
INNIS: They have the right to express themselves.
ANTHONY: Sure, but it is unfounded.
INNIS: They weren't hurt by that commission.
ZAHN: And you had your time to express yourselves this evening. Good-bye. Have a good night. Niger Innis, Crystal McCrary Anthony, Cenk Uygur, thank you all.
Tonight, we're bringing a high school dropout's amazing story out in the open. She may have quit school, but she didn't give up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She could have just stopped and she could have said, I can't do this. I'm just going to be trapped in this life forever. She didn't.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: She's one of the people you should know tonight. After you've seen her story, I guarantee you will never forget her.
Also, why is a substitute teacher a full time heroine? Well, it started with a tornado. We'll share her story with you next. We'll be right back.
ZAHN: Right now we're going to take a quick biz break. The Dow's winning streak ended with a four point loss today. The Nasdaq gained about a point, S&P lost two. The scandal over contaminated pet food now includes fish. The FDA today said some fish raised for your dinner table were also fed tainted animal feed from China. The agency says it poses no significant risk to people. Glad they said that.
Also today we learn that China has detained the manager of the Chinese company suspected of selling the tainted ingredient. An official said it wasn't wheat gluten, but wheat flour that was mixed with the chemical melamine.
Expect tighter mortgage lending standards to hurt the housing market this year for the first time since the National Association of Realtors started keeping track back in 1968. Home prices are expected to drop.
Right now, I want to change our focus to introduce you to someone you might think is a pretty unlikely candidate for a high profile job in law enforcement, but as you'll see, she's made a habit of defying all odds, and that's helped take her all the way to the top. Gary Nurenberg has her story in tonight's "People You Should Know."
GARY NURENBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Little Kathy Lanier got in trouble early.
CHIEF CATHY LANIER, WASHINGTON POLICE DEPARTMENT: I dropped out after the ninth grade.
NURENBERG: Became a mother at 15, became a DC cop at 23.
LOU CANNON, WASH FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE: She's the American dream personified.
NURENBERG: Lou Cannon is president of Washington's Fraternal Order of Police.
CANNON: She could have just stopped and she could have just said, I can't do this. I'm just going to be trapped in this life forever. She didn't.
LANIER: Instead of viewing those situations as negative, you just got to kind of move on. Hey, everybody.
NURENBERG: She did. Earned two master's degrees and began a fast climb eventually coordinated huge security events like President Reagan's funeral and catching the eye of a young DC councilman who admired her fight against sexual harassment in the police department.
MAYOR ADRIAN FENTY (D), DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: She would compromise up to a point, she won't take anything from anyone.
NURENBERG: Lanier stayed on the streets during her rise, a vigil for a fallen officer would find her there earning rank and file respect for a white woman on a mostly black mostly male force.
CANNON: She's been out there, she's been on the front lines. She understands.
NURENBERG: When that young councilman was elected mayor, he remembered Lanier.
FENTY: We have the best police chief in the country, and I'm honored to swear her in.
NURENBERG: Her mother held the bible, her son held her mother, the new chief asked the big question.
LANIER: Who would have thought 20 years ago that I'd been standing here today.
NURENBERG: The mayor calls her a role model, dropout, unwed mom, chief of police in the nation's capital. LANIER: Congratulations. Have a good time and be safe out there.
NURENBERG: Gary Nurenberg, CNN, Washington.
ZAHN: Good for her.
We're about to meet another extraordinary woman. She was teaching the day a tornado hit her school. The story of what she did. You got to hear it, absolutely amazing. We'll be right back with more.
ZAHN: Search and rescue operations continue today in Greensburg, Kansas, four days after a massive tornado wiped out the town, killing nine people. This has been an especially deadly tornado season in the U.S. In March a twister ripped through Alabama and Georgia and took 19 lives there. But the death toll might have been even higher had it not been for one very courageous woman named Debra Boyd. She's tonight's "CNN hero."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is Miss Debra your hero?
EMMA SMITH: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you tell me why she's your hero.
SMITH: Well, she just saved me from the tornado.
DEBRA BOYD: We knew it was bad weather, but we have bad weather a lot of times. It wasn't anything out of the ordinary, I didn't think. And then all of a sudden, tornado sirens were going off. There was a tornado coming this way. This was full of parents. We were pushing them into this office. We had gotten them all in and I was like the last person and I was about to close the door, when I saw Emma with her mother Barbara. She had no idea that a tornado was about to hit. There wasn't time to yell or -- I just ran out and grabbed Emma and grabbed Barbara and we ran, I said we've got to get down.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Front door blasted out, glass went everywhere.
BOYD: The wind had just taken one of the trophy cases, put it right there where she was. I just took them over to the side and got on top of them.
SMITH: Mama was on my head and Miss Debra's hair was on mine. They were trying to protect me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I shudder to think what would happened to us had I been standing in that front door when that glass blasted out and the trophy case shattered everywhere.
BOYD: It's just really something that I did. There wasn't time to do anything else. I really never thought of myself as a hero.
SMITH: Well, she's a super girl because she's not a man like superman.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: And if you know someone like a Debra Boyd, we encourage you to nominate him or her for CNN hero award. As you just heard, they have to be a super girl or superman. You will find all the details on our website at cnn.com/heroes. Just a few minutes away from "Larry King Live." Tonight, Larry goes backstage with comedian Howie Mandel on the set of "Deal or No Deal." That's coming up at the top of the hour. We'll be right back.
ZAHN: Tomorrow, the shocking truth about gangs in the military, how neo-Nazi, black, Asian and Latino gangs infiltrate the armed forces, learn to kill and take their deadly skills back home to the street. That's it for us. Thanks for joining us.
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