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Terror Plot; We Need to Control our Borders; Marine Massacre?; Deadly Month; Taliban Comeback?; Forgotten Rape?

Aired June 6, 2006 - 23:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: ...CNN Broadcast Center in New York. Tonight, sitting in for Anderson, John Roberts.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: They could have been your next-door neighbors. They were husbands, fathers, and sons. And authorities in Canada say all of them had one thing in common -- terror.

Tonight, 17 suspects stand accused of plotting to blow up sites in two Canadian cities. That and worse.

CNN's Jeanne Meserve reports.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It sounds like a movie script. Terrorists storm parliament and the headquarters of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in downtown Toronto, taking hostages.

When their demands to free Muslim prisoners and remove Canadian troops from Afghanistan are not met, they behead hostages, including Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

But this is not a script. These are the Canadian government's allegations against Steven Chand, one of the Canadian terror suspects, according to his attorney. The lawyer says, prove it. He has seen no evidence, only a synopsis of the charges.

GARY BATASAR, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: This is a two-year investigation that was going on. One would think that the two-year investigation would have brought forth a lot more evidence than eight pages and a one-page synopsis of Mr. Chand.

MESERVE: Family members at the courthouse found themselves in a scrum. Media and public interest in this case is intense. This is, for Canada, something like 9/11, a jolt, a realization that terror can hit you where you live.

In court, defense attorneys complained that security is so tight, they have been unable to meet with their clients privately, a violation, they said, of the suspects' rights.

ARIF ZARA, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Regardless of the allegations and charges, everybody's entitled to be treated equally. And I think that unequal treatment, just because of these allegations, is improper.

BATASAR: This is not Guantanamo. This is Toronto, Canada.

MESERVE: Terror suspects Yasim Abdi Mohamed and Mohammed Dirie did not make an appearance in court today.

Last August, they were stopped crossing the Peace Bridge from Buffalo, New York, into Canada. According to court documents when Canadian Customs frisked them, they found guns and ammunition hidden under their baggy pants. The men told authorities the guns were for their personal protection, the documents say. They pleaded guilty and are now in jail.

The allegations of remote terrorist training camps, plans for massive explosions and even beheadings are grisly.

But some experts are even more disturbed by the bigger picture, the proliferation of local homegrown terror groups that may be able to blend into their surroundings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is one of our biggest nightmares, and it, frankly, is the pattern that we saw in Madrid and we saw in London and maybe we're now seeing in Toronto. So we have to assume it's a real possibility here in the United States.

MESERVE (on camera): The suspects appeared in court in white t- shirts, gray trousers and shackles. Some were somber, but others smiled and waved at friends and family in the courtroom, apparently oblivious to the gravity of the charges against them.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Brampton, Ontario.


ROBERTS: For more on the alleged terror plot, I spoke with two experts, Richard Falkenrath is a CNN security analyst and former deputy Homeland Security adviser to President Bush. Pat D'Amuro is also a CNN security analyst and is the CEO of Giuliani Security and Safety. They joined me earlier.


ROBERTS: Richard, let's start with you. Is there a new generation of terrorists growing up very close to us?


ROBERTS: Does Canada have a serious problem here?

FALKENRATH: Yes, there is. I mean it's pretty clear the pattern of the future here are these homegrown terrorists, these ad hoc groups that come together rather loosely, not centrally directed from al Qaeda central like the 9/11 hijackers were, but rather forming on their own and staging attacks on their own of their own design with weapons of their own manufacture or acquisition.

That is the threat we've seen in Madrid, in London, and now preempted in Toronto. ROBERTS: A little frightening that it's this close to us.

Pat D'Amuro, if there is a case of homegrown terrorism just across the border in Canada, what's to say that something similar isn't going on here? Could there be another Oklahoma City bombing in the works, just different people, different reasons?

PAT D'AMURO, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Well, there could be. And we know for a fact that there have been organizations and groups that have started their terrorism activities here in the United States.

Lackawanna Six is a prime example of a group of individuals, second-generation United States citizens, and looking to harm the national security of this country.

ROBERTS: Try to uncover homegrown terrorism. What are the best tools to do that?

D'AMURO: Well, it's the same investigative tools that you use. It's the techniques that they use, the national security tools that we've been hearing about in the media with the telephones, Internet activity. Source information is critical.

ROBERTS: Isn't it getting to know the community, though, as well?

D'AMURO: Much more so. And the FBI and many other organizations are doing much more now, reaching out to the communities and trying to develop information and letting individuals know that law enforcement's there, and it's their responsibility -- they'll be the first set of eyes and ears that tell us of an event that may take place.

ROBERTS: Richard, these Canadian allegations sound spectacular. Take over parliament, behead the prime minister. Do you think this group was really capable of that?

FALKENRATH: Well, we'll see how capable they turn out to be. The first report was that they were planning on building a bomb with the fertilizer that they had acquired, and blowing up the parliament. I thought that was very credible.

This later report that we got at the end of the day from their defense attorney, that they were going to storm the parliament, take all these hostages, behead them. That, I think, is rather incredible. That's not really a tactic that they had much chance of succeeding at.

But building a large truck bomb, absolutely. That's one of our biggest nightmares.

ROBERTS: Anything to suggest that this group arrested in Canada posed any threat in the United States? Two of them apparently were caught returning to Canada from the United States.

FALKENRATH: That's right. It is a very porous border. And if there -- my own opinion, if there's terrorists in Canada, they're effectively in the United States. I mean, the barriers to enter here for a determined infiltrator are very limited.

So we need to be extremely worried about this cell and their likely linkages into the United States, which I'm sure are high on the investigative priority list now.

ROBERTS: All right. So, Pat D'Amuro, we have what appears to be another potential threat against the United States. And on Capitol Hill today, we had the former co-chairmen of the 9/11 Commission, Tom Keene and Lee Hamilton giving a failing grade to preparations in defending this nation against terrorism, particularly on the issue of airline security, nuclear security, funding cuts to both Washington and New York. Do you agree with that assessment?

D'AMURO: There's a lot more work that needs to be done. And technology is going to be a big piece of that. When you hear of some of the revamping of the counterterrorism programs down in Washington and how do we secure a 4,000-mile border, technology's going to have to play a major role in that. And this country, quite frankly, isn't there yet.

ROBERTS: And Richard, this Canadian threat, does it represent a new terror concern along our northern border that the U.S. needs to address? Have we been focusing on the wrong border when it comes to national security as opposed to economic security?

FALKENRATH: Well, it's not really a new threat. We've known about the problem in Canada for quite some time. I think it's clear, though, when you're worried about terrorism, you look north. You look at Canada. If you're worried about low-wage workers without proper documentation, you look south, and you look at Mexico.

We haven't seen terrorists trying to infiltrate the United States from Mexico. Mexico is not a hotbed for Islamic extremism. Canada is. It has this history and it's why we need to work with the Canadians so carefully on these issues.

ROBERTS: Yes. We all remember what happened with Ahmed Ressam (ph), who tried to get into Washington state from British Columbia with explosive materials on board. Something to watch for.

Richard Falkenrath and Pat D'Amuro, thanks very much.


ROBERTS: The developing story in Canada also dramatizes the risks of a porous southern border. You can be sure that was on the president's mind today as he visited the southwest.

Here's CNN's Elaine Quijano.


ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Bush chose the only U.S. Border Patrol Academy in the country to deliver his latest pitch on immigration reform.

With the House and Senate bills far apart, Mr. Bush suggested both sides share basic beliefs.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And while the differences grab the headlines, the similarities and approaches are striking. We all agree we need to control our borders. There's a common agreement that the federal government has a responsibility to control the borders.

QUIJANO: This facility in Artesia, New Mexico, is where Border Patrol agents are trained in everything from checkpoint operations to immigration laws.

By highlighting their work, Mr. Bush hopes to persuade skeptical House Republicans that he is tough on border security, but also that a temporary guest worker program and what he calls earned citizenship are vital to reforming immigration laws.

Critics call that path amnesty. But during a second stop in Laredo, Texas, the president took issue with those critics.

BUSH: Amnesty is something that nobody's for in America. I'm not for it. But in order to frighten people, you just say the word "amnesty."

QUIJANO (on camera): Next up for President Bush, he will travel to a Catholic charities facility in Omaha, Nebraska, on Wednesday. During that visit, he's expected to discuss the need for immigrants to assimilate into American society.

Elaine Quijano, CNN, Artesia, New Mexico.


ROBERTS: In just a moment, new details on the alleged massacre in Haditha, Iraq. Why making the case may be slow and difficult.

Also, Senator Joe Biden on a question of accountability. Where should the buck stop when it comes to problems in Iraq?

And a bitter memory.


LIZ SECCURO, RAPE VICTIM: I remember thinking that I was going to die and that my mom and dad were not going to find me.


ROBERTS: She's remembering a trauma from 20 years ago. A man asked for forgiveness. She asked that he be charged with rape.

You're watching 360.


ROBERTS: Tonight, sources at the Pentagon are telling us it may be another week yet before charges are filed against Marines suspected of killing an Iraqi man in Hamandiya back in April. This is one of two alleged atrocities now under investigation.

The other one, involving 24 civilians killed in the village of Haditha last fall. As for that, today we got the outlines of a possible defense strategy.

CNN's Jamie McIntyre reports.


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even before a decision is made whether to charge anyone with killing unarmed men, women and children at Haditha, defense lawyers are busy constructing an alternative version of events. Aimed at countering the perception the deaths were the result of a murderous rampage by Marines bent on revenge.

If the cases come to trial, look for attorneys to question the idea Marines knew that only unarmed civilians were in the houses in a village believed to be a hotbed of insurgent activity.

They may call witnesses like Corporal Scott Jepsen, who told CNN he was in Haditha, but not at the scene.

CORPORAL SCOTT JEPSON, U.S. MARINE CORPS (on the phone): I believe that insurgents did dwell inside those houses there, and they did live with their family members. And I think that's part of the reason why the insurgency is so strong in that area. That they do -- they do live in those houses there in Haditha.

MCINTYRE: Defense attorneys will paint a picture of a confusing day of nearby firefights and day-long battles in which unmanned spy planes tried to track insurgent movements and may have been used to direct Marines to clear the houses of suspected insurgents.

One attorney tells CNN he's been told that the members of Kilo Company didn't know their fellow Marine Lance Corporal Miguel Terrazas, died in the IED attack on their convoy until they returned to the base at the end of the day, undercutting the contention the Marines were seeking vengeance.

One problem for defense lawyers, how to explain the allegedly false report by Marines that the bomb blast also killed some of the civilians, which the evidence -- gunshot wounds clearly disputes.

But Pentagon sources confirm what experts have been saying. The long delay in beginning the investigation, along with the refusal so far of the families to allow the bodies of the victims to be exhumed, is making it hard to get the kind of evidence that can make a murder charge stick in court.

(On camera): Sources say the investigation into Haditha could now drag well into the summer, as investigators have decided they need to re-interview some witnesses and try again to get access to the bodies in order to get the kind of forensic evidence they need to link individual Marines to the killings.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the pentagon.


ROBERTS: Whether or not charges ultimately come of it, this is red meat for critics of the administration and especially the secretary of defense.

Some of those critics include his top former military commanders, though he still retains a loyal core of defenders, both in and out of uniform.

Safe to say, however, that Senator Joe Biden, Democrat of Delaware, and presumed presidential candidate, is not one of them. We spoke earlier this week.


ROBERTS: Senator Biden, no charges have been leveled yet in the Haditha incident, but if what's alleged is true, is this a failure of leadership and policy?

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: I think it's a failure of both leadership and policy. And I think, you know, one of the things you've got to look at, 99 percent of our troops over there, these are guys and women who are doing God's work. They're working hard. They're serious. They're decent. And that's all the more reason why this should be dealt with swiftly.

I don't mean that, you know, not give all those accused their due in court and justice, but the idea that this was known back the end of last year in November, we're finding out about it now. The idea the secretary of defense told, allegedly, told the Marine Corps to stop briefing the Congress on this. I mean, look, this is a thing we should just be straight up front about and deal with it and move on.

ROBERST: Should someone take the fall for this other than the criminal charges? And if so, who should that be?

BIDEN: Well look, I think this goes all the way to the top. In the old days, you'd have somebody, you know, that old notion of the gentlemanly or ladylike position to take, which is to say, look, I was in charge. It happened on my watch. I didn't let this be known to the president. If it wasn't known to the president for very long, and I stand forward and say, here's what I should do.

ROBERTS: Well, if somebody goes, who should go?

BIDEN: I think the secretary of defense should go. I don't think he should be in his office this morning. But again, look, it's not personal about him. He's a good guy. But somebody has to -- think about this. You can't answer this question, I know, but has there ever been an administration you can think of where no one -- no one has been accountable for anything? Anything?

ROBERTS: Well, they've held several people accountable for certain things, Larry Lindsey they held accountable for saying that the war was going to be costly. General Shinseki they held accountable for saying it was going to take more troops.

BIDEN: And that was a truth.

I guess you get held accountable when you move from the catechism, when you move from the script.

"TIME Magazine" actually basically broke this thing. Initially, the reports said a bomb killed all these people. "TIME Magazine" comes along with photos that these folks weren't killed by bombs.

Look, our whole reason they taught as a nation, is that we have a value set that is different from the rest of the world in that we hold ourselves accountable, accountable to decency.

These things happen in war. And look, the other part of this the civilians let these guys down. These poor devils -- you can understand how this -- not excuse it -- understand how it happens. They go with too few troops, without the proper equipment, without the proper body armor, without being told of any plan how to deal with the counterinsurgency or civil war, and they're in the middle of it.

ROBERTS: So are you suggesting the idea if, again, this is true, is that this may be one of those things that happens in a lingering occupation...

BIDEN: Absolutely positively.

ROBERTS: which there have been, according to critics, several problems along the road.

BIDEN: And where people aren't properly trained.

ROBERTS: And some that the White House has even admitted to.

BIDEN: And where people aren't trained.

ROBERTS: Can we expect to see more of this if, again, this is true?

BIDEN: Well, my guess is the longer we're there, the more difficult it's going to be for these folks, not knowing who their enemy is, not knowing where they'll be, and it does not excuse the conduct that's alleged to be so barbaric here, but it does put you in a circumstance where you can see. You can understand how things will happen that wouldn't happen if, in fact, we had a different circumstance.

When you don't know who -- you've been there. I've been there six times. You ride down the street, you don't know what vehicle pulls up next to you is a bomber. You don't know whether somebody puts their hand up, they're putting their hand up to shoot you. I mean, it is a very difficult to spot to put these troops in.


ROBERTS: The politics is one thing, but bloodshed is quite another. And for the month of May, the violence reached a very grim toll. We'll have those numbers from Baghdad.

Also tonight, the return of the Taliban. We'll take you back to the frontlines. Ahead on 360.


ROBERTS: There was more blood and tears in Iraq today. A mortar attack in Baghdad killed two people. More of the same after an incredibly deadly month of May.

Here's CNN's John Vause.


JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: May set a grim record in Iraq, the bloodiest month ever for civilians in Baghdad.

And if there were any doubt, police today made an especially gruesome discovery. At that man's feet, in those fruit boxes, nine severed heads wrapped in plastic.

Police found them near the city of Baquba, north of Baghdad. Earlier on Saturday, they found more boxes, eight heads in them. Police speculate they're Sunnis, the victims of payback for the murder of a Shiite.

In recent weeks, Iraq has seen a dramatic escalation in violence.

(On camera): In fact, figures from the health ministry show almost 1,400 Iraqi civilians died in shootings and other violent attacks last month in Baghdad alone -- more than any other month since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

(Voice-over): So bloody, the democratically-elected prime minister vowed to impose a strict new law and order plan in Baghdad.

The parties that are against the political process have increased their bloody attacks, he said, not naming the groups, but accusing them of trying to topple his unity government.

Hours earlier in Baghdad, a roadside bomb killed one woman at a bus stop. A U.S. military convoy was the target. Four mortars were fired near the interior ministry, killing two civilians.

Where is the government? Where is Bush? Who occupied our country? Why do they kill us? said this woman, grieving after two students were murdered on Monday when gunmen opened fire on their school bus.

To end the violence, the prime minister must rely heavily on Iraqi security forces. Suspicious Sunni groups say they were involved in Monday's brazen kidnapping of more than 50 people in downtown Baghdad.

We have enough evidence to prove the involvement of the Iraqi authorities, he said, but did not say just what that evidence was. The new Iraqi government has been in office little more than two weeks. A brief record marked by increased suspicions and more violence against civilians than ever before.

John Vause, CNN, Baghdad.


ROBERTS: The number of people killed in Baghdad last month is 35 times greater than what you'd find in some of America's biggest cities. Here's the raw data for you.

By comparison, approximately 37 people were murdered in New York City in May, while 41 people were killed in Chicago, and about 42 others met the same grim fate in Los Angeles.

To match the nearly 1,400 deaths in Baghdad for the month of May, you'd have to combine the murder totals in Los Angeles for three years, 2003 through 2005.

Coming up a look at whether the Taliban is making a comeback in Afghanistan.

But first, Erica Hill, from "HEADLINE NEWS," joins us with some of the other stories that we're following tonight.

Hi Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, a tragedy righted today when the body of a young woman who was buried in the wrong grave was exhumed. It was believed that 19-year-old Whitney Cerak had died in an April van crash. But, in fact, it was the body of Laura VanRyn who was put in her grave. Cerak was, in fact, still alive and in a coma at the time. An Indiana coroner's office confused the identities of the two women and gave their families the wrong information.

Turning to Wall Street now, fears about inflation drove the markets down for the second straight session today. The Dow dropped 46 points to just a shade over 11,000. It had lost nearly 200 points yesterday. The S&P 500 lost a point, the NASDAQ fell nearly 7.

In Indonesia, 11,000 villagers have been evacuated from around the Mount Merapi Volcano. Lava and superheated clouds of gas are pouring out of the mountain. Its lava dome is growing and there are fears that it is going to blow. It is one of the world's most active volcanoes -- John.

ROBERTS: And some spectacular pictures coming off the shoulder of that mountain.

HILL: Absolutely.

ROBERTS: But now, of course, it's time for our shot of the day. And this one, like others we've shown you, may be a little tough for animal lovers to watch. Take a look at this. A black bear stuck up in a tree at a condominium complex in Rockland County, New York. They shot him with a tranquilizer dart. He hangs on for a little while.

HILL: He's hanging there. Poor guy.

ROBERTS: Hanging on, hanging on, hanging on, and then...

HILL: And then...

ROBERTS: You know those fake nails that you get in Rockland County. They just don't hang on forever.

HILL: Watch out, you're going to get some hate mail for that one.

ROBERTS: Yes, the bear fell about 25 feet. It looked nasty, but apart from losing a tooth and that nail, of course, the 300 pound animal was unhurt. He was taken into the nearby Catskill Mountains and released.

HILL: Well that's good for him. And you know, if you showed that bear, you really can't get away with...

ROBERTS: Yes, of course, you had to know, this one was coming.

HILL: There you go!

ROBERTS: Another bouncing bear.

HILL: Bear on the trampoline.

ROBERTS: Out of the tree, on the trampoline, ooh, down on the nose, and we...

HILL: A nasty fall there, too.

ROBERTS: ...have to remind you, of course, that the bear, even though he bounced fairly high, was unhurt. A little embarrassed.

HILL: And apparently didn't lose a tooth or a nail on that trampoline.

ROBERTS: No, he lost nothing on that except for his dignity.

Thanks, Erica. We'll see you soon.

HILL: Thanks, John.

ROBERTS: No laughing matter coming up next though. New fears that the Taliban is making a comeback in Afghanistan. Coming up, as killings rise, see how coalition forces are trying to strike back.

And more than 20 years after a trauma that she says changed her life, the man sent her a letter seeking forgiveness. Her answer? She had him charged with rape. Hear her story ahead on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROBERTS: Iraq isn't the only place where U.S. forces are facing growing trouble. In Afghanistan, the Taliban seems to be making a deadly comeback.

Across the country, last month alone, some 400 people were killed in attacks there. The Taliban is likely responsible for some of those deaths. And it may be linked to this bombing today in the courtyard of a school and mosque in eastern Afghanistan. Three people were killed, and seven others wounded.

While east of Kabul, two U.S. soldiers were killed in a separate bombing.

All of this comes just weeks before NATO forces are expected to replace U.S.-led operations in part of the country. They'll come face to face with the Taliban.

Tonight, we take you to the frontlines of one battle in an Afghan village.

CNN's Brent Sadler reports from Zabol Province in southern Afghanistan.


BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Armored Humvees launch a crucial mission -- "Task Force Warrior." 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, is heading to remote southern Afghanistan.

Everything these soldiers face is extreme. Danger, heat, and the terrain. Precarious driving in six-ton vehicles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just go straight. There you go. Now go straight.

SADLER: Routes turn into rivers, slowing us down to a few miles an hour. Choking dust is a constant companion, thick enough to swallow the convoy. Hidden bombs can strike anytime. And as I found out myself, so can crippling illness from the dirt and flies.

But "Task Force Warrior's" orders are to endure and reach out to Afghan villagers for vital support. That is not easy in the Arghandab Valley where opium poppies flourish and militants hold sway.

CAPT. CHRIS WILKINSON, TASK FORCE WARRIOR: Ask him why is it every time Americans come into this valley, we get shot at.

SADLER: This villager claims the Taliban are like shadows, and he doesn't see them.

Army pilots inside this U.S. Blackhawk helicopter fly fast and low. Machine gunners with weapons locked and loaded. Hostile territory below. Places for the enemy to hide and shoot.

In recent weeks, the pace and scope of insurgent attacks have increased. New Taliban fighters claim U.S. military officials infiltrated from across the border in Pakistan. Taliban groups have mounted coordinated attacks, but have suffered heavy losses. Improvised roadside bombs are often aimed at U.S. convoys. Even in previously less dangerous areas where hostile engagements have risen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Over the last about two weeks, we've had at least one every day. One either direct-fire contact or indirect fire or an IED strike, or we find an IED.

SADLER (on camera): Think Arizona when describing this terrain. Some 9,000 square miles of dust, rocks and high mountains. (Voice-over): The Taliban has largely been suppressed by U.S. forces here in Zabol Province, but the Taliban is by no means defeated.

Afghanistan is in the throes of a pivotal transition. From overall American to NATO military command. Supporting a moderate, democratically-elected government in Kabul.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have inserted ourselves in the area where the Taliban has traditionally operated with impunity. And we've been doing that by supporting the Afghan national army, getting out there and being with the people, and it's been successful.

SADLER: But heaps of money has recently been made from these harvested opium poppies, filling the pockets of drug barons, criminals, and the Taliban, cash that refuels the insurgency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The poppy harvest that a lot of these young Taliban have participated in, in my opinion, has been harvested, and they're now moving to work for Taliban commanders and trying to interdict coalition forces and Afghan national army forces.

SADLER: The soldiers want these tough mountain people to help them track the movements of Taliban fighters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The enemy in this area is probably attempting to do the same thing. We know that one of the things that they do is try to tell the people that they are in control in this area.

SADLER: U.S. commanders think they can change that. A U.S. C130 sweeps low into this disputed valley. Dropping supplies for "Operation Mountain Thrust" to win villagers' support and squeeze the Taliban.

But at dusk, the Taliban mounts an unseen attack, throwing U.S. and Afghan troops into a firefight. So intense, they need air support. An Air Force A-10 ends the combat with its heavy cannon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do not take your food, and we do not shoot at you. We do everything we can to make sure you are safe.

SADLER: It's tough selling that U.S. logic to these doubting minds. The elders lost one of their own in the fighting and seem to blame the U.S. as much as they blame the Taliban.

Outside the meeting place, children line up for toothpaste, something they have never seen before. Illiteracy runs at around 85 percent. Health education is virtually nonexistent.

To demonstrate goodwill, the soldiers brought a medical team with them. But villagers stay away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why would you not want to bring people to get help from doctors?

SADLER: Because, this elder explains, a patient the Americans tried to help was killed in an ambush. But there's another more important explanation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we ask them -- I ask the people why they're not coming, the biggest reason is because of fear. They're afraid of the Taliban.

SADLER: The battles for control of southern Afghanistan are being fought on the ground and from the air. But it's here in these villages, say U.S. commanders, that the war will be won.

Brent Sadler, CNN, embedded with U.S. forces in Zabol Province, Southern Afghanistan.


ROBERTS: And back here at home, a woman's struggle to cope with a terrible wrong she claims says she suffered. She says that she was raped by a man 20 years ago. She thought she was moving on with her life until he suddenly reappeared. The story, coming up on 360.


ROBERTS: Every year, according to the FBI, nearly 100,000 Americans are the victims of sexual assault. The pain of what happened may never go away, especially for the woman that you're about to meet.

She says she was raped 20 years ago. It has taken her that long to tell her story. And just as long to get what she hopes is justice.

Here's CNN's Paula Zahn.


PAULA ZAHN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In October 1984, then 17-year-old Liz Seccuro was a few weeks into her freshman year at the University of Virginia. A sheltered young girl from a suburb of New York City, away from home for the very first time. Fraternity and sorority parties were a big part of the social scene.

LIZ SECCURO, RAPE VICTIM: We felt safe. You know, we went with friends, and we felt safe, and there was never any sort of -- you know, we got dressed up. It was just one of those things. It was the culture. It was very southern, it was very gentile. It was very charming in a way.

ZAHN: One night began like many others that fall when a male friend asked Liz to go to a fraternity rush party.

SECCURO: I was in sweats. I was studying. I didn't want to go out that night. And he said, please, you know, if you bring a girl, you know, it just looks better for you. I understand that completely.

I remember having one and a half beers. I mean, I remember the color of the cup. I remember how big they were. I was playing foosball.

ZAHN: Liz says she got separated from her friend, that she wanted to leave, but was afraid to walk home alone. Then she was given a drink that she says made her feel numb. And she met a young man who she says read poetry to her and tried to kiss her.

She says she rejected him, and that's when things turned ugly. She was forced into an empty room, she says. The young man was fellow UVA Student William Beebe. And Liz says what happened next forever changed her life.

SECCURO: Door closed, he shut the lights, ripped my clothes off, threw me on the bed. It was that fast. It was just so -- it's like it was planned.

ZAHN (on camera): What is the last thing you remember happening at this frat house party?

SECCURO: I was in the middle of the rape itself. And my brain -- I think the brain protects you from things that are too horrible to possibly absorb.

And I remember saying to myself, you know, it's OK to go to sleep now. This was about -- you know, I can't even put a time on it -- a few minutes into it. And I looked out the window. And I saw a street light. And I remember thinking that I was going to die and that my mom and dad were not going to find me, that I'd be in this room. And I just said, you know, it's OK to just go to sleep. And that's what I did. That is the last thing I remember.

ZAHN (voice-over): Liz says she woke up the next morning naked and bruised. Wrapped in a bloody sheet. She reported the rape to the university and says she was told that the local police didn't have authority on campus.

The University of Virginia says they, at the time, offered to help Liz navigate the legal system. They also say that they explained that the incident could also be handled internally by campus authorities.

But before anything official could be done, William Beebe dropped out of school, and Liz didn't pursue the matter.

She graduated from UVA, but struggled in her adulthood with constant fear, self-doubt and bad relationships.

To this day, she says, the nightmare plays over and over again in her head. SECCURO: I'm seeing my hands in front of my face. I'm seeing -- I'm seeing so many different things. I'm just seeing the house that night. I'm seeing the friend that I went with. I'm seeing the person's face. You know. And that's the other thing. The thing that also happens, which is really quite frightening, now that this is back in the forefront. Five times a day, I see someone on the street who I am convinced is that guy.

ZAHN: But Liz did go on. Two decades later, she's happily married with a successful career as an event planner.

So some 21 years later, Liz, you have moved on as much as you could.


ZAHN: You got married, you started a successful career.


ZAHN (on camera): You had a beautiful child.


ZAHN: Then one day you go to the mailbox...


ZAHN: ...and you receive an odd-looking envelope with a vanilla scent on it.

SECCURO: Well, who writes letters anymore, you know? And I put it in my lap, and I saw the postmark first. And it said Las Vegas. And I honestly, I don't know anyone who lives there. I was like, this is odd. And then I saw the return address sticker.

ZAHN: And you knew immediately?

SECCURO: I knew immediately what was -- my planet just -- my whole world just cracked in half. I didn't even have to open it. I knew what it was.


ROBERTS: So what was in that letter? The name on the return address, William Beebe, the man Liz says raped her. After all these years, what could he possibly have to say to her? The story when 360 continues.


ROBERTS: Before break, we told you about Liz Seccuro, who says she was raped in college at the University of Virginia. That was more than two decades ago. She never thought that she would see her alleged attacker again. But that all changed when he contacted her.

Once again, here's CNN's Paula Zahn.


ZAHN (voice-over): A simple trip to the mailbox. A seemingly innocuous letter. It dramatically changed Liz Seccuro's life.

It was a letter from the man she says had raped her when she was just 17 and still a virgin. After 21 years, it was a letter of apology from William Beebe.

I'm going to read an excerpt from that letter. Quote, "In October 1984, I harmed you. My prayer is that you be free and happy in your life." When you saw those written words what was your reaction?

SECCURO: On the one hand, it was validating. And on the other hand, I've been anything but free and happy in my life. And how dare you -- how dare you write to me? I just felt like I was grieving at that time.

ZAHN (on camera): Are you sorry you ever opened up that letter and read it?

SECCURO: The personal me, there are days. But no, I'm not because I know that no matter what the outcome, I mean, this torture has to end at some point.

ZAHN (voice-over): But why, after so long, would this man reach out? William Beebe would reveal later that after struggling with alcohol for years, he had turned to AA's 12-step program. Step number eight, make a list of all the persons we had harmed. And step number nine, make direct amends to such people.

Beebe also invited Liz to contact him anywhere, anytime with anyone. And so began a very unusual correspondence.

(On camera): But Liz, as tormented as you were by the phrases in this first letter, you decided to start e-mail communication with William Beebe.

SECCURO: I had to.

ZAHN: Why?

SECCURO: I wanted to know why. I wanted to know who he was. What led him to this behavior. What -- why, you know, what led him to that night to be that person.

ZAHN (voice-over): Beebe wrote about his tumultuous life after leaving UVA. An excerpt from one of his e-mails dated September 22, 2005, "I always felt a tremendous guilt for the way in which I imagined my conduct had damaged you. I did not know how I was going to set about repairing the wrongs I believed I could never fully right. Most especially in the situation with you, which haunted me most of all." And in an e-mail dated November 30, 2005, what appears to be an admission. "I want to make clear that I'm not intentionally minimizing the fact of having raped you. I did."

(On camera): Liz says the e-mail relationship began to frighten her. There is no statute of limitations on rape in Virginia. And she says there was no other choice. It was time to come forward and finally tell her story to the police.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Beebe, did you think the statute was up?

ZAHN (voice-over): The result? On January 4, 2006, William Beebe was arrested at his home in Las Vegas.

TIM LONGO, CHARLOTTESVILLE VIRGINIA POLICE CHIEF: A most recent arrest for a serious sexual assault that occurred some 22 years ago.

ZAHN: This is William Beebe today.

SECCURO: He's had 20 years of freedom, and I've had 20 years of being imprisoned in my mind. I've had 20 years of, you know, bad relationships, bad decisions lack of self-esteem. I've had 20 years of questioning who I am.

ZAHN: But this tale, with all of its twists and turns, still isn't over. William Beebe now denies that he raped Liz.

We tried to contact Mr. Beebe through his attorney to get his side of the story and received this statement. "Regrettably, Mr. Beebe cannot provide details about a pending case. At the appropriate time, Mr. Beebe's innocence will be established in a court of law and any misunderstanding about the events in question will be put to rest. Mr. Beebe did not rape Ms. Seccuro. He treated her thoughtlessly in a college sex encounter, for which he is sorry."

But remember the e-mail in which William Beebe admitted to the rape? Why would he confess to a crime he didn't commit? More from his attorney.

"In their e-mail correspondence, when Ms. Seccuro first described the encounter as a 'rape,' Mr. Beebe did not challenge her recollection. Under the circumstances, he considered that response inappropriate. In his reply to Ms. Seccuro's emails, Mr. Beebe sought only to avoid conflict, not to answer for a crime he didn't commit."

Your reaction?

SECCURO: My reaction is that is the most ludicrous thing I have ever heard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Beebe, can we get a comment from you?


ZAHN (voice-over): Last march, Liz faced William Beebe...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's emotional.

ZAHN: a preliminary hearing in a Charlottesville court. He will be tried in November on rape charges. William Beebe could spend the rest of his life in prison.

Liz Seccuro says this is about justice, not revenge.

(On camera): So even if this trial ends in acquittal, you will have thought you accomplished a great deal?


ZAHN: Liz knows what a jury trial might mean. She says that testifying at the preliminary hearing was devastating. She fears the trial will be even worse.

Is there just a little part of yourself that ever says to yourself, you know what, Liz, it was enough that he admitted to me in an email that he raped me?

SECCURO: you know what? The trauma of what I will face in the courtroom is nothing compared to the trauma of that night. I'm fine with it. You know? Bring it. You can't break me. Because he already did. So whatever they try and do to me, on the stand, I've already lived through 10 times worse. So, no. In answer to your question, no. There's no little piece of me.

The only part of me that's left is the part that fights for this. And I have to honor that part. I have a responsibility to that 17- year-old who didn't get justice, to take it through. And it's not stubbornness or anger or resentment. It's just -- it's just who I am. It's what I have to do.


ROBERTS: Again, William Beebe's trial is set to begin in November. You can see more stories like Liz Seccuro's on "PAULA ZAHN NOW," weeknights, 8:00 p.m., Eastern, right here on CNN.

And more of 360 in just a moment.


ROBERTS: "AMERICAN MORNING" is in Iowa this week to show how rising gas prices are having an impact. Tomorrow, truckers watching their profits drain away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Instead of running into a convenience store and buying a bottle of pop or a bottle of water, carry it with you, you know -- any place that you can cut costs and if it isn't absolutely necessary, don't bother.


ROBERTS: Paying the price in the Heartland, tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING," starting at 6:00, Eastern, right here on CNN>

"LARRY KING" is next. He takes us inside San Quentin Prison, home to some of the most notorious criminals in history.

We'll see you back here again tomorrow night.


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