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Operation Anaconda Over But Pentagon Not Sure How Many Enemy Forces Destroyed; Israel Withdrawing From Palestinian Areas

Aired March 18, 2002 - 22:00   ET


AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: This is a sad day for us after a sad weekend, and I want to take a moment or two to talk about it here. A friend died last night. He was not a young man, though early 70s is still too young to die, and his death was not surprising. He had cancer. At one level, I'm glad he didn't linger longer with pain, replacing the memory of a life well lived.

Ed Grossman was a teacher. I met him a few years back when he asked me to talk to his fifth grade class. Afterward, we went to the town diner and we had lunch and we did this several times each year, the diner, his house or ours, a restaurant, his wife and mine, our daughter, all of us.

He became my daughter's fifth grade teacher, his last class before he retired, and she once said in the nicest compliment I could ever image, "I'm sure glad Mr. Grossman waited one more year before quitting." So am I. He was a fabulous teacher. He taught until he was 70. In truth, he could have made almost as much money collecting his pension, but he was a teacher and he had an ego and I think it made him crazy thinking someone else might teach a class when he still could.

He was more than a teacher, of course. He was a husband and a father and a grandfather. He loved to play tennis, which he did non bad knees and a fair sized belly, and while he loved books and words and talked at love, he was not at all above lying on the couch and watching the ballgame at night.

But mostly he was a teacher, and for almost a half a century he taught elementary school students, my daughter and thousands of other kids who understand the founding of their country, a whole lot of math I don't get, the importance of a good newspaper and the wisdom of the Kipling poem "If" better, because of him.

Ed left the world in a sad and troubled state, but he leaves behind thousands of former students who are smarter, more thoughtful, more generous, a little funnier and far better able to make this world right than they ever would have been without him.

On to the program, we spend a lot of time tonight on something we haven't talked much about in a while, the hunt for Osama bin Laden, why the trail seems to have gone cold. That starts off the whip tonight. Jamie McIntyre is at the Pentagon. Jamie, the headline, please.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Aaron, some senior Pentagon officials think there were holes in the U.S. dragnet late last year when Osama bin Laden appeared to be surrounded but eluded capture. It was a lesson the U.S. military thought it learned in Operation Anaconda, which it says is a success, even though it can't say how many enemy forces were killed or how many got away -- Aaron.

BROWN: Jamie, thank you. Is bin Laden still alive? A fascinating hint from a member of the family. David Ensor worked the story, David the headline from you.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aaron the headline is that one of the half brothers of Osama bin Laden, one of the half brothers who grew up with him in his mother's house says that he has reason to believe that Osama bin Laden was at least three weeks ago still alive.

He believes he is still alive now. He also denies reports that he had kidney problems requiring kidney dialysis, and he's in denial about whether bin Laden was behind September 11th -- Aaron.

BROWN: David, we look forward to the report. On to the Middle East, the Vice President is in Israel. Michael Holmes is in Jerusalem for us. Michael welcome to the whip, a headline from you please.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, Dick Cheney arrived her hoping to see a ceasefire or a ceasefire agreement in place. That didn't happen. However, some good news, some progress. Israeli tanks and troops pulling out of key areas that were under Palestinian control, places like Betjala (ph) and Bethlehem. Today in Israel, they are back under Palestinian security control -- Aaron.

BROWN: Michael, thank you, back to you shortly. A shift now for us, closing arguments today out West in the dog mauling case in Los Angeles. Thelma Gutierrez has been covering that, is again tonight, Thelma the headline.

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Aaron, closing arguments began today in Los Angeles in the case of a woman mauled to death by her neighbor's dogs. Emotions ran high as defense attorneys for a San Francisco couple made their final appeal to jurors. The prosecution argued the couple is criminally responsible for her death -- Aaron.

BROWN: Thelma, thank you, back with all of you shortly. As we said, we'll be taking an in-depth look at the hunt for bin Laden, and we'll also remember why we're hunting for the guy in the first place. A report from Ground Zero, a new book by retired firefighter Dennis Smith on the chaos of the early days at Ground Zero and the brotherhood that's gotten infinitely stronger despite its losses since September 11th.

Not all heavy stuff for Monday. Thankfully, this one gets our best drama without a doubt award, allegations of conspiracy against the movie "A Beautiful Mind" up for eight Oscars Sunday night. Jeff Greenfield has some things to say about that and we'll get the buzz as well from Hollywood reporter Kim Masters, all of that in the hour ahead.

We're glad you're with us. We begin with Operation Anaconda. It's over, we're told, but did it really do what it was supposed to do? General Tommy Franks today said yes it did. He called the battlefield a very different place from two weeks ago when that battle began. What the general didn't say was how many enemy fighters took part, how many died, and perhaps most importantly, how many got away.

But he made clear there are more battles, similar with perhaps equally murky results ahead. So we go back to the Pentagon to start things off and CNN's Jamie McIntyre -- Jamie.

MCINTYRE: Well, Aaron, Operation Anaconda was named for the snake that surrounds and crushes its prey, but as Operation Anaconda came to a close, one that was expected originally at the last two or three days, ended up lasting more than two weeks. It was still uncertain how many of those forces were actually surrounded and crushed.

The Pentagon privately is sticking to its estimate of 500 to 700 killed, even though there are only several dozen bodies so far that have turned up on the battlefield, but the Pentagon says it's hunt for al Qaeda and Taliban will continue.

This lesson about how hard it is to encircle a prey is one the Pentagon thought it learned in December, when it appeared that Osama bin Laden might be surrounded, but then slipped from its grasp.


MCINTYRE (voice over): In mid-December, the U.S. briefly believed Osama bin Laden was surrounded in Tora Bora by two converging Afghan armies, but either bin Laden got away or was never there, illustrating problem number one, a lack of good intelligence.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We think he's in Afghanistan. We are chasing him. He is hiding. He does not want us to know where he is. We are asking everyone we can to help.

MCINTYRE: Problem number two argue some senior Pentagon officials is that the U.S. may have miscalculated, relying too much on rival Afghan warlords to block escape routes and ill-equipped Pakistani troops to seal the border.

JIM PHILLIPS, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: I think we learned at Tora Bora, that we needed a higher component of Americans on the ground. We couldn't depend on the Afghans because they have a way of very quickly changing sides, as the Taliban learned.

MCINTYRE: In fact, there is some evidence, Pentagon officials say, that some Afghan allies took bribes to look the other way.

PHILLIPS: Unfortunately at Tora Bora, it seems there were many trails that were not blocked and that many of bin Laden's fighters probably escaped. MCINTYRE: Other Pentagon officials defend the strategy. Pouring a large force of U.S. ground troops into Afghanistan, they argue, would have upset the delicate alliance with local Afghans.

MAJOR GENERAL DONALD SHEPPERD, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It's hard to say that it was a mistake at Tora Bora. We went with what we had and we went with what we had to do at the time, which was the Afghan forces and the Special Forces doing most of the fighting.

McINTYRE: But Pentagon sources say Central Commander General Tommy Franks was convinced not even 5,000 U.S. troops would have been enough to block bin Laden's escape.

SHEPPERD: If I were bin Laden at the time and I was in this Tora Bora area, I would want to operate in an area where I had sympathy with the people in the area, and that's this whole area that I've circled here on the map. He's got a great deal of sympathy and tribal support in that area.


MCINTYRE (on camera): And now, three months later, the U.S. still doesn't know if Osama bin Laden was ever in Tora Bora and whether he's dead or alive. The working assumption is even if he did slip into Pakistan, they think he's back in Afghanistan now hiding and the U.S. believes eventually it will find him -- Aaron.

BROWN: Why do they believe that he's back in Afghanistan?

MCINTYRE: Well, that's what the latest intelligence indicates, but the Pentagon is first to say that it's intelligence has been conflicting and inconclusive. That's why if you ask anybody here, they'll tell you where's bin Laden, they say "we just don't know."

BROWN: Jamie, thank you. Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon. In a moment, we'll talk with a writer who may have uncovered a new connection between al Qaeda and Iraq. A former director of the CIA calls it quite a scoop so we'll get into that in a little bit.

Also about bin Laden himself, CNN has learned his family has been in touch with him, at least so the family claims, as recently as three weeks ago, just one of the things we found out when we sat down with one of Osama bin Laden's younger brothers, and we'll bring you the detail on that a little later in the program as well.

On to the Middle East now, Vice President Cheney arrived today in Israel, the latest stop on a mission that has turned out very different from the one originally planned. His trip was aimed at building a coalition against Iraq, but day-by-day it has become clear that the Arab states want nothing to do with a war in Iraq unless and until the administration gets more involved with the Israelis and the Palestinians.

The administration had hoped to chart a different course, something other than full engagement in the Middle East but now it seems it has no choice and so for the latest on the events today, we go back to Jerusalem and CNN's Michael Holmes. Michael, good evening.

HOLMES: Good evening to you, Aaron. That's right, well as we said Betjala and Bethlehem were two key places where there were, until this evening, Israeli tanks, Israeli troops. Israelis announced today, Israeli security sources that they would pull out of those areas and they duly did, also three other areas one in the West Bank, two in the Gaza Strip.

We do need to say that there are still troops in a couple of other areas and they will be remaining there for the time being. However, they don't seem to be the stumbling block. The stumbling block was places like Bethlehem and Betjala. Betjala's been a problem for the Israelis. Palestinian snipers can have a clear shot, as it were, across to Israeli citizens who live across in the area called Ghelo (ph) a familiar name to many viewers.

Mistrust here is very high. Palestinians say they want Israel to withdraw to the pre-intafada, that is September, 2000 positions. That's not likely to happen in these negotiations. There was, as you said, hope that Mr. Cheney would arrive here to ceasefire news. That has not happened.

He has told advisers that he feels the mistrust here is very high. However there is still some hope. These movements, these withdrawals do give some hope that there will be an announcement, perhaps not today, not tomorrow, perhaps later in the week that there could be a ceasefire. Aaron.

BROWN: Do we know anything about who is doing the negotiating here? Are the Americans shuttling between the two sides? What is happening?

HOLMES: Absolutely, every day General Anthony Zinni is leading the charge. The U.S. envoy, he is constantly shuffling back and forth. He's met with Yasser Arafat more than once. He's met with other Palestinian, senior Palestinian negotiators more than once, and he's met with Ariel Sharon on a couple of occasions, and of course, Dick Cheney did as well.

Dick Cheney has not met with Palestinians. It was hoped by the Palestinians he would call on Yasser Arafat and perhaps discuss the Palestinian side with him. No plans for a meeting. He still - it's about 5:00 a.m. here, just after. He doesn't leave for a few hours. There is still time for a meeting, but his aides tell us it's not likely.

So, when Dick Cheney came here, he said that he would meet with both sides if General Zinni thought it would be helpful. Because he hasn't met with the Palestinians, one thinks that perhaps it was decided they're not close enough yet for him to be directly involved, also a feeling from the White House that they didn't want him to be involved because it could undermine General Zinni in some way. So at this stage, it is still General Zinni leading the charge. Aaron.

BROWN: Michael, thank you. Michael Holmes in Jerusalem for us tonight. Getting back now to the case against Iraq, the official line being that Saddam Hussein wants the bomb, has chemical and biological weapons, is a threat to his own people and to Iraq's neighbors and therefore ought to be toppled. There you got foreign policy in one sentence.

Tying him to September 11th or to al Qaeda has not been especially successful. They may have the same goals and they may have the same enemies, but evidence linking the two has been very sparse. But now come reporter Jeffrey Goldberg, writing in this week's New Yorker that he believes he has found the link and he joins us from Washington to talk about his reporting tonight. Jeffrey, it's nice to see you again.

JEFFREY GOLDBERG, "THE NEW YORKER": It's nice to see you.

BROWN: Take 30 seconds, I guess, and lay out the link between the Iraqis and al Qaeda.

GOLDBERG: Well, what I came up with, I just got back from Kurdistan, Iraq and Kurdistan, and what I found there was a terrorist group, most people don't know about, I didn't know about before I got there, called the Ansar Al-Islam, which means supporters of Islam, and it's a Sunni fundamentalist terror group in the style of Osama bin Laden.

And, it's assumed that it had - it was assumed that it had connections to Osama bin Laden, but what I learned over there and I can go into it a little bit if you like. What I learned is that it might also have close ties to Saddam's regime. In fact, it might actually be co-sponsored, if you will, with Saddam's regime, and if this was true and if some of the other allegations that I report on are true, then it reveals a closer and deeper and more permanent kind of relationship between the Iraqi Intelligence Service and al Qaeda than we previously thought of.

BROWN: I don't think this will surprise you at all. A senior government official said to us today, told CNN today, that while he had great respect for your reporting and in no way wanted to denigrate that, was absolutely confident people told you the things that you reported, he just did not believe the facts were true.

GOLDBERG: Of course, I mean I've heard that too and the thing I would say to that, I mean I talked to other government officials who say they do believe it's true. You know the senior government officials can be anyone.

The thing I will say about that is this. When I got to Kurdistan and when I started doing this reporting, I was helped greatly by the Kurds. They even gave me access to prisoners that they held from al Qaeda, and I asked the Kurds, "why are you letting me talk to these people and why are you telling me so much?" And they said in essence, "well you're the first American to show up since September 11th and we're trying to get some attention for this problem."

And I said, "does that mean that the CIA hasn't been here and they haven't interviewed the same people that I'm interviewing now" and they said "no, and you know, when you go back to Washington, could you please tell them that we have some interesting things going on here and maybe they should come out and look."

BROWN: And just one more question on that vein, and again I don't think any of this will be surprising to you, that the official suggested that - I'm trying to think of how I want to phrase this, that perhaps you're being used, that there are people within the U.S. government and on the periphery of the U.S. government, who very much are hawks on Iraq and would very much like to find this link and that perhaps you're being used by them.

GOLDBERG: Well, since they had no idea what I was doing before I got to Kurdistan, while I was in Kurdistan, until about two days ago, I find that hard to believe. They can't use me if they had no idea what I was doing, and you know sure, I was wary. I still am wary of the charges, but you know I will say this. I found the people I spoke to credible. I found it incredible that there's a good chance that I was the first American ever to find these people and talk about these charges. You know we're journalists. It's not the first time today that someone said that I've been used for something. All sources use reporters to get their message across, but I think there's something here that at least warrants further investigation and that's what I said in the magazine. I said, "there stories are interesting enough and compelling enough and credible enough to warrant further investigation."

BROWN: They do indeed. It's a fascinating piece in New Yorker. Jeffrey thanks. Jeffrey Goldberg from Washington tonight. Ahead on NEWSNIGHT, tonight closing arguments in the dog mauling case. We'll have a report from Los Angeles, and a little bit later, bin Laden's younger brother, one of them, he's got a lot, talks about the world's most wanted man, all ahead on NEWSNIGHT on Monday on CNN.


BROWN: A bit of good news in the dog mauling trial. It's nearly over. From the beginning, we said that this story falls into that category of water cooler story and it does. We ought not lose sight of the stakes and the realities here either.

A woman lost here life, killed in a horrific way. A couple, perhaps not an especially likable couple, faces a long stretch in prison. We heard a lot of strange and ugly things during the trial, but today it came down to the basics. Should Robert Noel and Marjorie Knoller be held responsible for what their dog did to the woman next door. Here again, CNN's Thelma Gutierrez.


GUTIERREZ (voice over): Emotions ran high during closing arguments in the dog mauling trial.

JIM HAMMER, PROSECUTOR: Do not let them get away with their lies. Don't let Marjorie Knoller get away with murder.

GUTIERREZ: Prosecutor Jim Hammer says Marjorie Knoller did little to save Diane Whipple's life and even contributed to her death. HAMMER: By the time she committed that intentional act of going into the hallway with two dogs, if you believe here on anything, one dog with no muzzle and no restraint, with this dog knowing what it would do, the crime was complete.

GUTIERREZ: Hammer reminded jurors there were more than 30 separate incidents leading up to Whipple's death in which the dogs showed aggression, warning signs he says, Knoller and Noel ignored.

HAMMER: When she left that house, she knew 100 percent certain that if there were a problem with those dogs, his wife couldn't control them. She couldn't even control one.

GUTIERREZ: The couple is charged with involuntary manslaughter and keeping a mischievous animal that killed. Knoller is also accused of second degree murder.

HAMMER: These dogs are time bombs. There were the earlier explosions. This time it killed a woman.

GUTIERREZ: But the defense says not true. No one ever complained about the dogs, that they were merely pets who went berserk.

BRUCE HOTCHKISS, ATTORNEY FOR ROBERT NOEL: Diane Whipple was killed in the hallway of her building by a family pet. The absolutely unthinkable happened and everybody is saying "my God, how could that happen."

GUTIERREZ: Both defense attorneys argue the D.A. vilified the couple because they needed someone to blame, so they turned to Robert Noel because of his association with prison inmates, one of whom the couple adopted.

HOTCHKISS: He wrote letters that are offensive to many people, and he had an interaction with a prisoner that is offensive to many people.

GUTIERREZ: Bruce Hotchkiss reminded jurors that that alone is not a crime, (inaudible) as the D.A. buckled under public pressure in San Francisco to prosecute someone for Whipple's death.

NEDRA RUIZ, ATTONREY FOR MARJORIE KNOLLER: Maybe he wants to carry favor with the homosexual and gay folks who were picketing at 2398 Pacific.

GUTIERREZ: The very place where Diane Whipple was savagely mauled to death on January 26th, 2001.

RUIZ: It was a tragic accident.

HOTCHKISS: The District Attorney has had to coddle together a case, and I want to talk about that as we go through. It is a case full of passion and prejudice.

HAMMER: It was not a question whether someone was going to be mauled or killed by these dogs. The only question on January 26th was, when and who and where.


GUTIERREZ (on camera): The prosecution will put on its rebuttal argument tomorrow morning and the case should go to the jury by the afternoon. Aaron.

BROWN: Thelma thank you. Thelma Gutierrez in Los Angeles tonight. Quickly from a different courtroom, in this case Houston and the Andrea Yates case, today she was formally sentenced to life in prison for drowning her five children. The judge dismissed her and said, "good luck to you Mrs. Yates." She'll be eligible for parole in the year 2041.

Up next, Osama bin Laden in the eyes of someone who knows him well, one of his brothers. A CNN exclusive as NEWSNIGHT continues for Monday.


BROWN: For a while now we, that is to say CNN, has been working on arranging an interview with Osama bin Laden's family. His mother is the first choice. She seems to know him best, but there were others. Now, as you know, bin Laden's family is not like yours. His father had many wives who produced many children, so while bin Laden has many siblings, not all of them know him, which probably suits many of them just fine.

But we have found a younger brother and he has given us a window into the man who is now the world's most wanted and perhaps the most hated. Our report tonight was prepared by CNN's National Security Correspondent David Ensor.


ENSOR (voice over): Osama bin Laden's wealthy family, a powerful Saudi dynasty, officially cut him off and disinherited him years ago. The ties of blood are not so easily severed.

Sheikh Ahmad Mohammed, son of the same mother, grew up admiring his big brother, Osama.

SHEIKH AHMAD MOHAMMED, BROTHER OF OSAMA BIN LADEN (through translator): He is my brother. I know him. I lived with him for years. I know how much he fears God.

ENSOR: Sheikh Ahmad told CNN's Rula Amin the family has its own information that Osama bin Laden is still alive, or was as of three weeks ago. He says he does not believe Osama could be behind the attacks of September 11th.

MOHAMMED (through translator): I can't say. The way I know him, no way. He wouldn't.

ENSOR: Of course, the way Sheikh Ahmed and his mother see Osama bin Laden is in stark contrast to the way most of the world does. PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: This is overwhelming evidence to show that bin Laden was behind the September 11th attacks. If his family chooses not to believe that, that's just how families operate.

ENSOR: Ahmad Mohammed and his mother last saw Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, at the wedding in January of 2001 of one of Osama's sons.

MOHAMMED (through translator): He loved his family and friend's gatherings. He especially adores his mother. First comes God and then his mother.

ENSOR: At the wedding, Sheikh Ahmad says his brother Osama told him that it was not true, as widely reported, that he had kidney disease requiring kidney dialysis to live.

The bin Laden family officially denounced Osama in the mid-90s when he attacked the Saudi Royal Family for allying itself with the U.S. against Iraq. But none of his blood relatives have been on television with an interview until now, and Ahmad Mohammed knows him far better than most.

A look at the family tree helps explain why. The patriarch, Mohammed bin Laden had at least 11 wives, four at a time under Muslim law, but he kept divorcing and remarrying, fathering well over 50 children. Osama bin Laden's mother is Hamida Gana (ph). Some know her as Alia (ph). A Syrian, she is now married to a man named Mohammed al Attas (ph).

First, Hamida had Mohammed bin Laden's son, Osama. Then she married al Attas and they have four children, including Ahmad Mohammed. Osama and his four half siblings grew up together in their mother's house.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you go to the movies?

MOHAMMED (through translator): When we were very young, when we used to go to Beirut, Osama was 12. He used to take us to the movies, but then that was the end of it. Since he turned 14, he stopped going to the movies.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What movies did you see?

MOHAMMED (through translator): Cowboy, karate movies.

ENSOR: At 14, Osama became too religious, his brother says, to go to movies any more. Osama bin Laden has been quoted as saying his father never married his mother. In his words, that it was not a Koranic union. Such temporary unions with concubines were common in those days for wealthy Saudis, say Syrian and Saudi observers.

ALI AL-AHMED, SAUDI INSTITUTE: She was not a wife. She was not a wife. She was not married to the father of Mohammed bin Laden.

ENSOR: But the father nonetheless accepted him as a son?

AHMED: Yes. Yes he did accept him as a son.

ENSOR: Osama bin Laden was promised his share of his father's millions. but saw little of the patriarch who died when he was 11- years old. As a result, his mother shaped him more than anyone.

ADIL NAJAM, BOSTON UNIVERSITY: The mother was supposed to be more liberal than many of the other bin Laden wives. So it is surprising how he turned out.

MOHAMMED: It's my mother who is worried most. God be with her. She's the most worried about him. 24 hours she's worried about him. Concerned for him. She's the only one who is constantly thinking of him. More than any of us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She watches the news?

MOHAMMED: She's an expert now. More than any media person. She watches all the news and all the different TV channels. We get her all the newspapers, the interviews. She's always discussing it.

ENSOR: The bin Laden's $5 billion company was founded by Mohammed bin Laden, here with then Saudi King Faisal. He made a fortune expanding the grand mosque in mecca and medina and building roads and palaces for the Saudi royal family.

The bin Laden group, now headed by Baker bin Laden on the right, has had partnerships with Motorola and General Electric. Family members owned apartments in this upscale Boston building. They've given millions to Harvard University for its share in Islamic Studies.

When the planes hit the twin towers, it was also a disaster for the bin Ladens. Two dozen of them were living in the U.S., according to a family spokesman. For their own safety, the Saudi government quickly arranged for a charter jet out of Boston's Logan Airport to spirit them out of the country.

BANDAR BIN SULTAN, PRINCE, SAUDI AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: His majesty felt it's not fair for those innocent people to be subjected to any harm. On the other hand, we understood -- had the high emotions. So with coordination with the FBI, we got them all out.

ENSOR: Since then, the bin Laden family has agonized over whether or not to public denounce their brother's activities.

BERGEN: I think you just have to understand the nature of Saudi society. This is a very private family. It is a very closed society. Information is very hard to get hold of. And the national tendency is basically to sort of stonewall.

NAJAM: Osama has actually attacked the single biggest asset that the family has. The single biggest asset of the family was, until now, their name bin Laden. Because that was a name that would open doors. That was a name that spelled power. And unfortunately, now that is a name that spells terror.

ENSOR: Though Ahmad Mohammed says he cannot believe his brother, Osama, committed the crimes of September 11, he does want Americans to know he does not approve of them.

MOHAMMED: What happened was terrible. Any Muslim wouldn't accept this. In our religion, this is not permitted.

ENSOR: This interview with CNN is not an interview we understand that the bin Laden family or the bin Laden company particularly wanted to see happen. And it is an interview that may put additional pressure on that powerful family to speak out against the terrorist in their midst. Aaron?


BROWN: Well, let's try a couple. Just finish that thought a little bit. Why would this interview put pressure on the family to do more if they didn't want it out there in the first place?

ENSOR: Neither the bin Laden family nor the Saudi government wanted to see a member of Osama bin Laden's family out in public praising him, saying what a good person he was, saying that he doesn't believe that bin Laden was behind the attacks.

The message that the Saudi government wants put across and therefore also the bin Laden group which is very close to the royal family is that the Saudi government understands that Osama was responsible, opposes him from the start, banished him from the kingdom many years ago.

BROWN: And David, one more quick point that came up in the report. Is there, in fact, any evidence that the family has, the family has suffered since September 11? Either in Saudi Arabia or anywhere else in the world where they do business?

ENSOR: No, there isn't except in the sense that it has become more difficult for the bin Laden group to use that name. That name has no longer got the cache it once did, at least in the Middle Eastern world. Other than that, no, my understanding is there's been no suffering, so to speak, for that family or that company.

BROWN: David, thank you for your work. And I know you would join me in thanking Rula Amin working Saudi Arabia for her work on this. It's been a complicated thing for everybody to put together. We appreciate everybody's efforts. Thank you.

And ahead on NEWSNIGHT, a report from ground zero. While we're looking for bin Laden and talking about bin Laden in the first place, we'll be joined by retired firefighters and author who spent months down there. This is NEWSNIGHT from New York.


BROWN: Another body was found in ground zero over the weekend. And it is now not very clear how many more they're going to find. The clean up has raced ahead so much faster than expected. And there are really now only a couple of areas that need to be worked, one in the north part of the site and the other in the south part of the site. It's a very tough thing for the firefighters who are still working there to find their brothers and so many others are still missing. One of them told a reporter over the weekend we can't make more dirt. Look at ground zero now. It's almost hard to picture the chaos immediately after the attacks, but you get a vivid reminder of those days and weeks.

In the book report from ground zero, a new book by retired firefighter Dennis Smith, who went down to ground zero on the 11th and stayed for three months. And we're pleased to welcome him here tonight.

Nice to see you.


BROWN: Does the book do what you wanted it to do?

SMITH: Well, yes, it does. You know, when I set out to write this book for the first four days I never even thought about writing a word down. I had no notes whatever. And then when I decided the following week that somebody was going to write a book and I wanted to be that person, because I have access to all these firefighters. They all know me. They trust me. You know, they've known me for many, many years.


SMITH: And it's a history. And when you read this book, you will understand comprehensively what happened at ground zero on September 11 and the days and the months following. There will be a lot of books written. And you know, I took a lot of these first person accounts. I talked to dozens of people who were there very principally in the first day. And there will be no revisionist history based on this book I'll tell you that.

BROWN: There is, and we alluded to it in the lead, there's a cold reality coming, which is that those two remaining corners almost of the site are going to be worked. And they're going to find, who they're going to find. And then they're not going to find any more. And that's going to be extraordinarily painful to the firefighting community.

SMITH: Rudy Giuliani said -- he told those group of widows that they will continue the search and recovery effort until the last stone is turned. And that last stone will be turned probably in six or eight weeks.


SMITH: We have found a little over 800 of the 2800 who have been killed. There will be more. People will remain hopeful. There is still time. There are still two fairly big piles. But when that day comes, the realization will be that there's no more searching to be done. And it's going to be very difficult. BROWN: Maybe this is naive. Wouldn't be the first time. Why have they found so few people, firefighters and others?

SMITH: Well, you know, just to give you an example, these floors were meant to take about 200 pounds perfect square inch pressure. They were subjected to 2500 pounds per square inch pressure. Now when you multiply that, you're talking about millions of pounds in this dynamic weight that caused this pancake collapse. And so, we worked down there. We never found a telephone. You know, a faucet, a door knob, a desk, a chair.

BROWN: It just seems things vaporized.

SMITH: Everything atomizes is probably a better word, that things would turn essentially to their, you know, most essential form.


SMITH: And it's just something that we all will live with. It takes some time getting used to the certainty of it.

BROWN: I want to talk about firefighters for a bit. We've all learned a lot about firefighters, I guess, in the last six months. It's an unusual fraternity. It seems to me in many ways, they see the world in a kind of narrow way. They are out there trying to prove themselves to each other it has always seemed to me all the time. These fair what I'm saying, fair descriptions?

SMITH: Yeah. I think firefighters are the most wonderful people I have ever met in my life. And I work with them for many years. And it may sound self-serving to say that, but I've been out in the larger world for a long time. And I know what I'm talking about. They're very true people.

And they, you know, when do you go into a firehouse and you're a young probie (ph), they really take you underthe wing and they show you the historical understanding of that job and what you have to do as a firefighter to meet their approval.

BROWN: Thanks for coming in. Good luck with the book. As we were sitting down here, you said there could be a number of books written about this and there are. This is one of the first ones out. We wish you nothing but the best of luck.

SMITH: Thank you, sir.

BROWN: The book is called "Report from Ground Zero." Dennis Smith, thanks for coming in tonight.

SMITH: Thank you.

BROWN: When we come back, and we need to do this it seems to me, we'll change the tone and the pace a bit. The controversy over "A Beautiful Mind." Jeff Greenfield joins us. We'll talk a little bit about the Oscars. Kim Masters here as well. This is NEWSNIGHT from New York. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: I don't know about you, but it doesn't seem like such a smart idea to get Russell Crowe angry. And he is. So is Ron Howard who directed him in "A Beautiful Mind," up for best picture and a slew of other awards at Sunday's Oscars.

They're mad because there are allegations, this is so weird isn't it, of dirty tricks campaign against their movie by rival studios. The studios, of course deny it. Who would admit such a thing? But the rumor million keeps churning.

Jeff Greenfield has a pretty sharp eye for campaigns of all sorts. And he thinks Crowe and Howard have nothing to worry about. "If this is a campaign," he says, "Michael Dukakis could have run it better." Oh, my.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now let me get this straight. Powerful unnamed forces in Hollywood have apparently tried to hurt the Oscar chances of "A Beautiful Mind" by charging the movie white washed the lead character John Nash.

In real life, the rumor mill goes, Nash had homosexual liaisons, uttered a lot of anti-Semitic statements. One, would the Oscar voters supposed to reject the movie because the real life Nash was supposedly gay? There is no more pro-gay rights community in the world than Hollywood. Anybody see "In and Out?" "My Best Friend's Wedding." "The Next Best Thing." "Kissing Jessica Stein." If the filmmakers were looking for Oscar votes, they should have stressed the gay theme.

Two, the anti-Semite rumor, I promise you, will get more votes for the film, because voters, Jewish and non-Jew want to prove they can't be swayed by malicious rumors. Shrewd move, guys.

Three, this latest twist in the Oscar battle proves once again that the line between politics and entertainment is disappearing before our eyes. A week or so ago, it was that negative campaign for president of the Screen Actors Guild. Now it turns out the Hollywood studios may have the morals of campaign consultants. You know, I remember when Washington used to accuse Hollywood of corrupting all morals and values.

Four, the story also proves, surprise, that Americans are far more interested in the battle over the Oscar than say the battle over who becomes governor or president. Which leads me to this incredibly clever idea for increasing voter turn out. Pass an Oscar primary law that permits ordinary citizens to vote for the nominations if and when they cast their ballots for high political office. At last, a choice the voters can care about. The heck with Bush versus Gore. Let's try Denzel versus Russell.


BROWN: Why not. Nice to have Jeff back on the program, too. Denzel versus Russell. Not much time left for the Academy members to cast their ballots. Final Oscar ballots have to be in tomorrow. A little more on the Oscar intrigue with Hollywood reporter from "Esquire," Kim Masters.

Kim, nice to see you.


BROWN: Is this actually happening or is this in that sort of category, whatever the Hollywood equivalent of urban myth is?

MASTERS: Well, you know, trying to -- the allegation from Universal, which is pushing "A Beautiful Mind," is that Fox, which is pushing "Moulin Rouge," is behind this. I think the connection between the campaign is possibly going to be more difficult to draw than a connection between Iraq and al Qaeda, because how do you prove that it happened?

BROWN: I love when guests listen to the whole program, too, by the way. That's a great thing. Thank you.

MASTERS: Yes. I'm up on the news now.

BROWN: Yes, so proving it is going to be a little tough?

MASTERS: It is tough. I mean, you know, I mean it's funny because I've spoken to executives at Universal to say that other reporters have sort of finked on the guys at Fox, but I wouldn't fink on the guys at Fox. And you know, if they tried to spin me because it doesn't pay as you know for journalists to start ratting out their sources.

And even if some reporter said so, it's obviously not proveable. You know, there are those who are now arguing that Universal has cast this as a way of getting sympathy. Oh, we're the victims of this terrible smear campaign. Don't be swayed, Academy members. Vote for the movie any way. BROWN: Now not suggesting for a moment that Fox has done anything, but has anyone tried to spin you on this?

MASTERS: Well, yes.


MASTERS: But I can't say that -- nobody has called me up to say did you know that John Nash was an anti-Semite. But they've called up, as they often do, to say, you know, my movie can win and their movie can't win, and my movie is better. And this is something that's been going on for some time now. It sort of has its genesis in the fight between Dreamworks and Miramax, which started with "Saving Private Ryan" against "Shakespeare in Love."

BROWN: What do they want to you do?

MASTERS: You know, people are so desperate for votes out here, that they will do almost anything. They will trek to the motion picture home where the retired actors are, even though may be two or three members that still are in the academy. And they'll screen their movie because they will leave no stone unturned. And I think part of the reason is that here we don't have post- game analysis, as we do in national elections or local elections, where we say this one won by this many votes and this is why. Nobody knows how the Academy votes, even after the fact. And there are sometimes ties.

So as the studio publicists tell me, look you know, a vote's a vote. And we don't know if we're neck and neck with "Lord of the Rings" or we're way ahead. And we'll never know. So we just have to do whatever we can do, that might conceivably turn up a vote. And they are spending themselves silly, you know, in the newspaper ads which you see in "The New York Times" and 'The L.A. Times," if not "The Washington Post".

BROWN: About a half a minute or so. Is it about money. Is it about ego? Or is it about both?

MASTERS: Yes. It's about money, it's about a bump at the box office, it's about showing the talent that they'll mount the campaign that wins, and it's about showing that you care about making a movie that's Oscar worthy. All of those things.

BROWN: It's really weird.

MASTERS: It is. It's gotten incredibly weird. I mean, people here are just getting really loopy on the subject.

BROWN: And one effect of it is it's probably more people who watch the broadcast on Sunday anyway. And we'll see how it turned out. Thanks for joining us. Nice to talk to you.

MASTERS: Thanks for having me.

BROWN: Thank you. I love the al Qaeda/Iraq reference, too in the interview. That's great.

Coming up, a preview of a special program we're working on for tomorrow night. We'll take a look at that as NEWSNIGHT continues from New York.


BROWN: I don't think we've ever done this. Before we go tonight, a brief word about tomorrow's program. We're going to spend a good deal of our time tomorrow talking about the turbulence and the torment surrounding the Roman Catholic church over allegations of sexual abuse by priests.

Most everyone I think now knows the broad outlines of this, but often in the day-to-day reporting of anything, we get so caught up in the trees, we lose sight of the forest. And so in the pieces we'll run and the guests we've booked, we'll try and look beyond the day-to- day.

We'll spend some time with both defenders and critics of the church. Get to know a parish priest from a small rural town in Kentucky. Father Gary Hayes is a man clearly loved by his congregation and someone who's had an astonishing and emotional tale to tell about how he was sexually abused as a teenager by his parish priest.


GARY HAYES, FATHER: Depending on how drunk he got, you know, he'd come over and sit closer or put his hand on your leg. And put his arm around your shoulder. And try to kiss you. It's just, and then it's just times of trying to fight him off.


BROWN: We'll call it "Sins of the Fathers, Catholicism in Crisis." It's a large part of our program tomorrow. NEWSNIGHT beginning at 10. We hope you'll join us. We're glad you joined us tonight. It wasn't necessarily an easy ride tonight. Thanks for being here. We'll see you tomorrow. Good night.


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