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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Authorities Continue Search For Steve Fossett; Will Larry Craig Resign?; Terror Plot Foiled in Germany
Aired September 5, 2007 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: No doubt, we do have a big show tonight. Here is what we have got.
First of all, arrested -- a terror plot being called massive and imminent.
Also, here's the weapon. That's probably something that you have in your own medicine cabinet.
And then Larry Craig, should they, could they make him quit? It's OUT IN THE OPEN.
SANCHEZ (voice-over): He's flown around the world. Now, he's lost somewhere down there.
Mexican truckers invade tomorrow, legally. Some Americans say it just ain't right.
On fighting terror, what do you say?
(on camera): Afghanistan, good?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Afghanistan, good.
SANCHEZ: Iraq, good?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fair.
SANCHEZ: Not so good?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not so great.
SANCHEZ (voice-over): Hooligans attacking a perfectly good car for fun?
Why are patients demanding Botox getting ahead of people who are really sick? That's sick and OUT IN THE OPEN.
SANCHEZ: And hello, again, everybody. I'm Rick Sanchez.
You know what? It's now less than a week before the 9/11 anniversary. And, tonight, there's a frightening reminder. It's an al Qaeda-linked bomb plot that has been busted in Germany. The alleged target -- and this is important -- Americans.
Here is what we all need to know perhaps as much as anything else. Experts are saying that al Qaeda is back and saying they're back in a big way.
Let's try and flesh this out with you with CNN's Frederik Pleitgen. He's at the U.S. air base is in Ramstein, Germany. CNN's Paula Newton is in Frankfurt. You know that's important because that's where a major international airport. Also, justice correspondent Kelli Arena, she is in Washington.
Frederik, we're going to begin with you.
These suspects, they seem different. They seem more nefarious. They're trained. They're funded. Their explosives were aplenty, right?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN BERLIN BUREAU CHIEF: Yes, Rick, that's absolutely right. And I'm right here at the Ramstein Air Base.
And that of course was one of the main targets of these terrorists. Now, one thing that German authorities are telling us they say that very much surprised them was the fact that these terrorists were in fact very well trained. Two of these terrorists were in fact German nationals who had converted to Islam, and one of them was a Turkish national. And they say that all of these terrorists, they believe, had been to Pakistan for training in training camps that were linked to al Qaeda.
And the German interior minister also said that he believes that the orders for these terrorist attacks came directly from al Qaeda in Pakistan -- Rick.
SANCHEZ: Let's talk to Paula Newton.
And the question really from an international perspective, we had some arrests yesterday. They say they were sophisticated. More arrests today. Again, not talking about yahoos here. Talking about sophisticated, trained members of al Qaeda, they say.
What does that say about al Qaeda at this point in time?
PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Again, this is really bringing to life what we have been hearing in intelligence reports for months, Rick.
And that's the fact that al Qaeda has regenerated itself. We saw this percolating a little bit in Britain. Rick, as you remember, Britain dealing with its own terror plots. And authorities there, as they began to unravel a lot of those plots, would begin to see more involvement from perhaps those al Qaeda elements in Pakistan. And that's what made them very fearful.
As authorities have been saying, al Qaeda is back. And their stock and trade right now, Rick, are these cells in Europe. SANCHEZ: All right. If that's the case, let's bring in Kelli Arena to talk about this domestically, because you do begin to wonder what some of our own officials are doing about this.
We heard Chertoff's report earlier in the summer and it almost sounds like something is brewing. How are they responding to this, Kelli?
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, here in the United States, they're troubled by a few things, one, that these did involve Muslim converts who don't typically fit the profile of what law enforcement is looking for.
I mean, they're German. They have easy access to the United States. This was a plot that was hatched in Europe, very close to the United States. And there's no question here that everyone says, look, we cannot let our guard down just because this is happening over in Europe. I mean, these are people who could easily make their way here. We see a growing jihadist movement around the world. We're at risk.
SANCHEZ: Frederik Pleitgen, Paula Newton, Kelli Arena, pros, all of you, thanks so much for bringing us the insight on that story. We thank you once again.
Now I want to do something else. I want you to come back with me real quick, because I want to show you something to kind of really get a sense of how you break this story down, because this is the bonanza for terrorists, at least as far as Europe is concerned.
What we're talking about Ramstein Air Base there. Now, let's bring you into this. A lot of people would say, all right, there it is right there. OK? We will clear it as we go in. This is a Google Earth map. This is that entire area. Why is this important?
A lot of people would say this is like the brass ring. It's the largest American community outside of the United States; 34,000 Americans live here. Most of them are military families or they're workers that are associated with U.S. forces there.
There's hospitals. There's airports. There's infrastructure buildings. It's almost like a U.S. city inside Germany. Now, go back, Will, if you would. Go back to the other area. We're going to show you another part now. You see Frankfurt right there? Frankfurt, that's important as well.
And the reason Frankfurt is important is because it's a huge international airport, home to one of the busiest airports in the world. In just the first six months of the year, 26 million people have gone through Frankfurt Airport there.
One other thing I got to show you, and I think this is really important, because this really makes us understand what they could do with a bomb like this. Remember, we're talking about hydrogen peroxide. And most of you would think, hydrogen peroxide? How do you turn hydrogen peroxide into a bomb? Well, you see that bus right there? That's in London. That was a double-decker in London. The guy who blew this up had hydrogen peroxide that he was wearing in a backpack. Think about this.
Will, take me back out here. He's got hydrogen peroxide just in a backpack. You can't put that much in a backpack, right? So, how much damage, then, could you do with what we're talking about with this bust in Germany today, 1,500 pounds of hydrogen peroxide? It starts to boggle the mind, doesn't it?
That's why we have invited an expert to break this down for us. Let's go over there. Let's talk to him about this question. His name is Kevin Barry. He's a former New York City Bomb Squad detective. He's also with the International Association of Bomb Technicians and Investigators.
Thanks for having...
KEVIN BARRY, INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BOMB TECHNICIANS AND INVESTIGATORS: Nice to be here.
SANCHEZ: It's really nice that you came in and talked to us.
All right, how much damage can you do? If you can do that much damage with a backpack, how much damage could you do with 1,500 pounds?
BARRY: You could more damage that the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, the Murrah Building. That was estimated to be at about 1,100 pounds. The Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, 1983, was probably less explosive than that.
SANCHEZ: When you think of hydrogen peroxide, you don't think of a bomb. You think of something that I put on my kids' ouches all the time. How does suddenly -- and don't take us through the Normandy invasion plans here, but how does this become a bomb?
BARRY: Hydrogen peroxide is an oxidizer. You mix it with a fuel. You mix it up. You get the right creative mixture, which we don't want to tell people.
BARRY: And you put a detonator in it, and you have got a high explosive, and you can make an improvised explosive device with it.
SANCHEZ: But that's a lot of stuff. How do you hide it? How do you store it? How do you move it from one place to another?
BARRY: Based upon the reports, it looks like they have been under surveillance for almost a year. And that's why that intel that we heard in the past that came out is now starting to come to fruition as to what it was about. They have been collecting probably in liters or half-liter containers this hydrogen peroxide in order to put it in larger containers, like they did in '93 in the World Trade Center.
SANCHEZ: I just went out to Phoenix and I talked to the guys on ATF who are part of this huge task force, this worldwide task force -- you're probably familiar with it -- on bombs.
SANCHEZ: And the ATF guys told me that if somebody here in the United States tried to do that, they would be knocking on their door within five minutes, because there's no way they could get that amount without them being tipped off.
Are they right?
BARRY: They're correct.
SANCHEZ: In the United States...
BARRY: In the U.S.
SANCHEZ: ... we would probably be safe from something like this?
BARRY: Somewhat, but you can't say always, because where there's a will, there's a way. And they are good at it.
SANCHEZ: How about the detonators? And a lot of times what you see is an al Qaeda signature after the bombing. You guys go in and you look at the detonators and you're able to make a determination as to where this was set up, what kind of individual did that. Are they going to be able to do that with this bomb in Germany? And what do you think they will learn?
BARRY: This may be very difficult, because they're using HMTD, which is hexamethylene triperoxide diamine.
SANCHEZ: Big word. Our viewers are confused.
BARRY: We can't spell it either.
BARRY: HMTD and TATP is a favorite peroxide-based, two favorite peroxide-based explosives used in the Middle East.
They have information on the Web site on how to build it, how to mix it, and how to make it.
SANCHEZ: But you think -- and we will leave it at this -- you think that we're better prepared now than maybe even the Germans may be since this thing kind of got away from them, didn't it?
BARRY: They interdicted at the right point. There was a reason they did, and the same reason that they interdicted in London. SANCHEZ: But they let it go for quite a while.
BARRY: They certainly did, because they want to turn around and pull out the different members of the cell and see how many other cells they're interacting with.
SANCHEZ: But they were watching them the whole time?
BARRY: Based upon what we have heard so far.
SANCHEZ: That's important information.
Detective Kevin Barry, it's great of you to come in here and talk to us.
BARRY: Nice to see you.
SANCHEZ: Really great information. We appreciate that.
Well, we have been fighting this war on terror since 9/11. The question is, are we winning?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it should be over by now. I feel it's going on too long.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Next, some of your thoughts about the war on terror. We are taking it to the streets.
Later, if Larry Craig doesn't go away, should the Senate have the right to just kick him out?
Plus, why this guy deserves a real American standing ovation.
SANCHEZ: Now to the question that we raised at the very top of this show. Al Qaeda is back and in a big way, and we better be prepared for it.
Yesterday, eight people were arrested in Denmark, three more arrests announced today, as we have been telling you, in Germany. Is this what Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff meant in July when he said that he had a -- quote -- "gut feeling" about terror attacks happening this summer?
In fact, let's go back to that. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I believe we're entering a period this summer of increased risk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Those are words that make you think, huh?
Let's bring in now Paul Cruickshank. He's a terrorism analyst at the Center for Law and Security. He's the one there on the left of your screen. Also, former FBI Assistant Director Bill Gavin.
Thanks, gentlemen, for being with us here.
BILL GAVIN, FORMER NEW YORK FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Pleasure.
SANCHEZ: Paul, I want to begin with you.
Let's talk about the international angle, because that's the part you know. And I want to take you back to some of Chertoff's words, not the one we saw just a little while ago, but these.
He says -- and we quote. Let's put that up on the screen if we can, Will.
"We could easily be attacked. The intent to attack us remains as strong as it was on September 10, 2001."
What is he saying with that and how do you interpret it?
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, FELLOW, CENTER ON LAW AND SECURITY: Well, the intent is still absolutely there.
Al Qaeda was an organization which was invented to attack the United States. They have maybe -- they may be stronger now than they were even at the time of 9/11. The National Intelligence Estimate released in July said that they regenerated their operational capabilities to attack the United States.
And the events in Denmark and the events in Germany seem to underline that point. It was U.S. interests that they were after in Germany.
SANCHEZ: In other words, they can't hit a U.S. city. It may be too difficult. The ATF has a stronghold here, according to what they told me when I went to their bomb school. But a city like Ramstein is perfect. There's a lot of Americans there, 35,000, right?
CRUICKSHANK: That's exactly right. And it's used obviously the war of Iraq. And for al Qaeda, it's easier to kind of recruit European operatives. The European population, the Muslim population is more radicalized than Americans, American Muslims, who really are not radicalized at all. So, al Qaeda can pick off these people, and they can train them in Pakistan in these safe havens and unfortunately they have gone operational in recent times.
SANCHEZ: That's interesting. We have seen these stories about Lackawanna, for example, and other places. But compared to what they have in Europe, it's a tiny radicalization, right?
CRUICKSHANK: That's absolutely right. And, also, the key difference is that these operations in Europe, they seem to be quite sophisticated now. The London bombings was quite sophisticated. And this operation in Germany today has been very sophisticated.
SANCHEZ: It's almost like it's a different school to recruit from.
Let's bring in Bill Gavin, FBI guy.
You know what I want to know from you? And I think this is interesting. The Germans, pardon the pun here, but literally allowed this thing to germinate until they moved in. Would you have done that?
GAVIN: Well, it -- it all depends. I think they have been looking at this, Rick, for well over a year and another reason why Chertoff had to say what he had to say. But letting that go up to the point that they let it go to is a little big dangerous, but it looks like they probably had a good handle on it.
In this country, we do stop them a long time before it comes to a possible fruition...
SANCHEZ: But doesn't it come down to being able to make your case, too? Because then you have got some judge out there saying, hey, you know what, Mr. Gavin? I'm throwing your evidence out. There's nothing to show here that they did anything. Sorry.
GAVIN: You're absolutely right, Rick. It's a trade-off sometimes.
The United States tries to bring these events down when they think they have enough information and enough evidence to bring it to court and try it.
Now, I think probably juries are probably a little bit more sympathetic these days toward bringing a terrorist in there than they would be in the past. But, right now, that's what the United States does. The Germans, they will have a plethora, a real ton of information to bring in there to show any judge to get these convictions that they're looking for.
SANCHEZ: I want to talk to you a little bit about what Paul just said. Because I think what he just said is really interesting. And I think Americans need to know that.
The radicalization of the fundamentalist Islamic movement in the parts of Europe, they have a huge recruiting class from which to draw, whereas it appears here in the United States, he says, we don't have that. That's a huge advantage.
Is he right? Is that what you're finding as well domestically? GAVIN: I think Paul is right on target there that the radicalization is much more intense in Europe. They're pretty close to the well there, too. So if they jump over into the Mideast for training and come back again, whereas it's a little bit more difficult a little less sophistication, of course, in the United States with the radicalism that you see here. Not that they're less intent on doing something evil. It's just that they probably don't have that heartfelt wish that the radicals in Europe have.
SANCHEZ: Paul, I want to bring you back and I want to show you something else. Remember, I told you a little while ago we had -- we have been looking now, given what has happened in the last couple of days, to some of the comments that Chertoff had made back in July.
Here's another one.
Go ahead, Will, if you can.
Chertoff says, "You see an enemy that is improving itself just as we're improving ourselves."
Is this reflected in today's arrests, the fact that al Qaeda has really been able to almost create a new force within itself?
CRUICKSHANK: Well, that's right on the money. You know, al Qaeda is definitely stronger now than at the time of 9/11. The Iraq War has sort of fuelled more energy within the jihadist system.
SANCHEZ: Say that again.
CRUICKSHANK: The Iraq war has fuelled more energy within the jihadist system.
But also the United States is much, much stronger and much more alert now than it was before at the time of 9/11, that it's much, much more difficult.
SANCHEZ: So, it's like two well-oiled machines going kind of at each other, both of them really at their apex, right?
CRUICKSHANK: That's absolutely right.
SANCHEZ: The Americans are as strong as they can be militarily to do this, but so is al Qaeda.
CRUICKSHANK: But unfortunately it only takes one successful operation, and the United States has to be successful all the time.
SANCHEZ: Let's finish with this, gentlemen. Are we doing everything we can in this country that needs to be done to make sure that al Qaeda doesn't continue to grow, that we're not feeding into their recruiting base? And I know, Paul, this is a good question for you, but I would like to get Bill's perspective on this as well as an FBI guy.
Bill, take it away. GAVIN: We're doing a whole heck of a lot to get the right thing done. It's just that we have some constitutional restrictions as to what we can do and what we can't do. I think one of the things we're doing that is so much better than what we ever have done before, Rick, is sharing the information that we have among not only our cohorts here in the United States, but among friends overseas.
GAVIN: We do a lot of work with the intelligence forces and we share that, and we're better able to connect the dots...
SANCHEZ: Let tell you, as a correspondent, Mr. Gavin, working this story, I have been out there, and you're right. I have seen the evidence where you guys have been sharing that information.
We got to go, but we got 20 seconds left.
Paul, I will give it to you. Is the United States, is the West doing enough to make sure that we don't help them recruit?
CRUICKSHANK: Well, I think there's a certain amount we can do in the West, but at the end of the day, this is a battle within Islam. It's moderate Muslims who are going to win this battle. And there are signs that they're starting to win this battle in Europe, that they're realizing the danger within their own communities.
BLITZER: But we need and we need to get to them. We need them on our side.
CRUICKSHANK: You're absolutely right. We absolutely need them. And that's the crucial element here.
SANCHEZ: Great conversation.
Bill Gavin, Paul Cruickshank, we thank you both for being here with us today.
What do you think we're doing right? What do you think we're doing wrong when it comes to fighting terror? As an American citizen or as a citizen of the free world, are we prepared? Time to take it to the streets, folks, and talk to people just like you.
SANCHEZ: How would you guys characterize the war on terror? What do you think of it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we're doing OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It might be a little overblown.
SANCHEZ: How are we doing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How we doing? I think we're failing right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we're doing great on the war on terrorism.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think we're doing too well. It seems like we're losing our rights here in this country.
SANCHEZ: Raise your hand if you don't think we're doing a good job on the war on terror. All of you?
What are we doing wrong?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it should be over by now. I feel it's going on too long.
SANCHEZ: What is good? What is bad?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, the good thing is, we're catching the bad guys. But I think that a lot of people is suffering over there.
SANCHEZ: How do you get to the bad guys without making the good guys mad at you also?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow, that's a tough one.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's real hard because you can't tell who's good and who's bad over there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't have to kill the innocent people. You go to the bad people, not the innocent people.
SANCHEZ: You don't necessarily have a better plan, though?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I don't have a better plan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's for people a hell of a lot smarter than me to figure out.
SANCHEZ: Time to bring you up to date on some of our video.
In this case, it's not really video. This is the remnants of Felix in Central America. And there's stills. Stills sometimes capture the dramatic effect of something even better than video. And look at this. This is a town called Bilwi. It's in Nicaragua. It was a Category 5 storm when it came ashore in this particular town. Obviously, it moved afterward. It killed at least nine people, destroyed 5,000 homes in Nicaragua.
Now I want to show you London. Look at this video, because it's probably going to make you mad. Three vandals have nothing better to do than go around trashing people's cars, in this case, $40,000 cars. This is a Lotus. They taped themselves doing this. You can actually hear them.
Will, put the sound up for just a little bit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Yes, real funny, right? And then they posted this on YouTube, so that people can see it. Some irate Lotus owners say that they have tracked the vandals down through the Internet and are now telling police to step in.
You know what else? The day that Larry Craig told the country that he was quitting the Senate, he was already phoning people to say, you know, maybe I might change my mind. I think I'm going to take it back. How do we know? Take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LARRY CRAIG (R), IDAHO: ... that this thing could take a new turn or a new shape, has that potential.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Next, Larry Craig's secretly recorded phone call. He didn't think this was going to get out. It did. Tonight, it's out in the open.
Later, he's down there. He's down there somewhere. Ride along on the search for the legendary pilot Steve Fossett, lost in a desert.
SANCHEZ: Welcome back, important information to share with you.
The Fred Thompson watch is now at a fever pitch. He's doing a commercial. He's doing "The Tonight Show." He's posting something on his Web site tonight. What's he up to? Well, he's running for president. And now they say it's really official official, finally. John King is going to have the details in just a little bit. He's going to be joining us, so stay tuned for that.
Well, the latest now on Senator Larry Craig's sex scandal. Tonight, Senator Craig on tape. What you're about to hear is something that the senator did not think would be made public. This happens, by the way, about the same time that he begins to realize that maybe he shouldn't be resigning after all. Remember Saturday?
What he says here was probably meant for one of his lawyers. But Craig somehow dialed the wrong number, and whoever got the message that he actually left turned the tape over to "Roll Call," a Capitol Hill newspaper. Uh-oh.
Here it is.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) CRAIG: Yes, Billy, this is Larry Craig calling. You can reach me on my cell.
Arlen Specter is now willing to come out in my defense, arguing that it appears, by all that he knows, that I have been railroaded and all that. Having all of that, we have reshaped my statement a little bit to say it is my intent to resign on September 30.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: If Craig does stay in the Senate, then he's going to face an ethics investigation. And that will keep the story going even longer, which is the last thing Republicans want.
So, on that score, congressional correspondent Dana Bash is joining us now.
Some of his colleagues, I would imagine, are not happy about the idea of having this scandal continue to be in the press and talked about by Americans all over the country.
Dana, am I right?
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That is the understatement of the year, possibly, when it comes to this, what Republican leaders consider a political nightmare. They thought they had it really behind them, Rick. They even boasted about the fact that they were able to get push Senator Craig to resign so fast.
But today, four days after the Republican thought that Senator Craig resigned, he picked up the phone, and it was actually Senator Craig saying, well, I'm going to resign, but only if I'm not able to get all of these charges cleared.
So that's something that is definitely frustrating the Republicans here. But, privately, they say, yes, this is going to keep the story going. But they think, at the end of the day, the senator is going to have to resign, because it's so, so hard to wage this legal battle that he's waging to actually overturn a guilty plea that he signed admitting to this disorderly conduct in the men's room in the Minneapolis Airport, Rick.
SANCHEZ: I was told by one of the producers who had a conversation with you earlier in the day that you were going in to cover a conference that some of the GOP was having. In other words, they got together. Boy, only to be able to be a fly on the wall. What can you tell us you have learned about that meeting?
BASH: Yes, I wish.
They had their weekly luncheon today, the Senate Republicans. And we understand, CNN has learned that there was spirited and passionate discussion about whether or not the Republican leaders really did the right thing in pushing Senator Craig to resign so fast. We are told that some Republican senators got up and said that they think that their leadership simply rushed to judgment, really chastised them.
One of those senators, Rick, was Ted Stevens, we are told. Ted Stevens is himself apparently under federal investigation. You remember, his home in Alaska was raided this summer. Others, though, we're told, in fact, most, applauded the Senate leadership for abruptly and really forcefully saying that Senator Craig should resign and making clear to the American public that, politically, at least, they don't have any tolerance for this kind of scandal.
SANCHEZ: I talked to Craig's lawyer yesterday, a fellow named Stanley Brand, nice guy. And he tried to convince me during our conversation that this should not be an ethics violation. This is just a little misdemeanor and it should be thrown out, and they're wrong to even investigate it as such.
What are you hearing on that score?
BASH: He said the exact same thing formally, Rick, to the Senate Ethics Committee today. He wrote them a letter saying pretty much that, saying it's unprecedented in his view for the Senate Ethics Committee to be investigating a misdemeanor, especially on something that has nothing really to do with the senator's official duties.
Well, he was -- that was rejected pretty much out of hand. The Senate Ethics Committee late today, Rick, wrote a letter, and they made clear they think that they do have a right and really a responsibility to be investigating this, because it really has to do with the way this reflects on the Senate, whether or not this conduct that Craig was engaged in really directly had to do with his duties.
So, they say they're going to continue to investigate the matter. That was definitely bad news for the Craig people because they're making clear, they have 25 days try to clear his name and so far, it's not looking very good.
SANCHEZ: Nobody covers their beat like Dana Bash. We thank you for brining us up to date on that, we appreciate it.
BASH: Thanks Rick.
SANCHEZ: I want to bring you over to the Smart Board again. I want to show you this picture, this is meaningful. This was very an emotional moment on the floor of the U.S. Senate, today. Senator Tim Johnson from South Dakota returned for first time in nine months. He had a brain hemorrhage in December and since then he's had to learn to walk and to talk all over again. This is special, folks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN TIM JOHNSON (D), SOUTH DAKOTA: Today, I've come home to the United States Senate. This has been a long and humbling journey. A journey that had taken longer than some people have liked, and I count myself among them. But, I return to work today to this great body with a renewed spirit and a sharper focus.
(END VIDEO CLIP) SANCHEZ: He's a good man, so say both Republicans and Democrats. Something they agree on. His Senate colleagues gave him a standing ovation. He said he's been given a second chance at life.
Buckle up, everybody. We're riding along on the urgent search to find a missing aviator somewhere down there, legend Steve Fossett. Back on the ground, driver about to get lots of company, trucks from Mexico coming in out in the open. Do we need to be worried about this? We'll talk to somebody who is.
And don't try this at home. Not that you could. Right, guys? How strong is he? You'll see for yourself.
SANCHEZ: Here is the perplexing question of the day. Where in the world or the desert is millionaire adventurer, Steve Fossett who disappeared without a trace in a small plane, Monday. Fossett holds 23 aviation records. So, for him to be missing in a small plane seems somewhat strange. Our Ted Rowlands is covering the rescue operation. He's good enough to join us now.
Hey Ted, I can understand losing a plane in the ocean, in one of the Great Lakes, in the jungle, in a forest. But wouldn't it seem if something is lost in a desert, it would be pretty easy to find at some point? I mean, wouldn't it stick out?
TED ROWLANDS, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well no, because frankly this terrain is mountainous in areas along the high desert. We're talking a high desert with brush, sage brush, and the shadows themselves can play tricks on searchers. And this is -- the only way to search the area is by plane. So, depending on the wind, you have to have your search apparatus up fairly high and you're looking down with binoculars. So, it's difficult, in fact, to find anything in this type of a region. And today, there was an example of it.
There was high excitement here this afternoon. They thought they had found Fossett's plane, turned out to be old wreckage for years and years ago nestled in the side of the high desert area that no one had seen for years. They continue to search tonight. We just found out that the search efforts are not going to be suspended overnight. That was the original plan. We just found out that they will be sending up C-130s, one at 10:00 this evening, which will go for a number of hours and then another one will go at 3:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.
So, a little bit of a departure. They say they're going to continue to search overnight. Bottom line, today they had perfect weather conditions to search for Steve Fossett and at this point, still, they have not been able to detect him. As every hour goes by, of course the level of concern goes up. His loved ones and people around the world who are hoping for the best, here, getting nervous that he may be in trouble.
One of the things, specifically, that makes people nervous is the fact that he had with him a watch which could, theoretically, be used to put out a distress signal. No signal has been detected. Some people theorize that that mean he's having medical problems and if that's the case, of course, time is of the essence.
The reality, the sobering reality is searchers say to search the 600 square miles that he could be in could take up to a week. If he's healthy, he could last much longer than that. If not, it could be a problem. But they will continue to search tonight and then they'll be back in the area in earnest tomorrow morning.
SANCHEZ: And I don't know if you said this, I may have missed it. But no flight plan, right? There's nothing that they can go on that he left behind?
ROWLANDS: No, technically, he should have filed a flight plan, but the reality of it is, he was he was only going to be up for three hours. A guy with his experience, it happens all the time. You don't file a flight plan, that's the bottom line in this case. So, it would have helped dramatically, but who would have foreseen something like this?
SANCHEZ: Big mistake, nonetheless. Ted Rowlands all over the story. We thank you, man.
Time to bring you what is some of our favorite video of the day, and some of the viewers' as well. We're going to start with Spiderman. This is in Moscow. Take a look at this right here. I'm going -- to see him, right there in the middle of your screen. I mean, could you imagine doing something like that? He's going all the way up the building. And what's interesting about this is, it's a guy named -- he's French and his name is Robert, Alan Robert. French skyscraper, who actually calls himself Spiderman. Made it all the way to the top of the tallest building in Moscow, police waiting though, until he got to there and then the detained him.
Now to Bogota, Colombia. This is an interesting situation, because it's a fight between some of the police officers there. They come in their SWAT gear. The family living behind that house that seems to be barricaded is not only yelling at them, but then they start attacking the police.
They say that they've been living there illegally, that they haven't paid their rent or their mortgage in five years. So they start hitting the police with just about everything they got. Watch that police officer, right there, he just gets hit in the torso and the hand, that's what he's protecting, there. Finally, they were able to try and put this to bed, but it was quite a mess.
Also, what do you do when you've won the World's Strongest Man competition and you've done so three times? OK, that's what you do. Can you imagine being strong enough to be able to do something like that? He's actually bending a pot, and then he gets to a place where he can actually move a car, as well. Bill Kazmaier, he's helping raise money for the YMCA in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Some of the top pics on this particular day.
Also coming up on this day, it's an invasion from Mexico, and it starts tomorrow. Their trucks are heading our way, folks, for our highways. Yep, and by the way, it's going to be perfectly legal starting tomorrow. But is it perfectly safe for Americans?
And then later, people who want cosmetic surgery, they're jumping to the front of the line. How's that possible? We're going to ask. You'll be able to see it as well.
SANCHEZ: Starting tomorrow, Mexican truckers are going to be able to cross the border and deliver their goods anywhere in the United States. That has a lot of folks rankled, some screaming. They're saying look, this is a security breach. Those critics include the Teamsters Union. And joining us now, Teamsters vice president, Chuck Mack.
Thanks for being with us, sir.
CHUCK MACK, VP, INTL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS: Thank you very much.
SANCHEZ: First question's a tough one, is that your real name?
MACK: Yes, it is.
SANCHEZ: Chuck Mack. What a great name for that. So, you think this is a bad idea. Could you tell the American people why?
MACK: It's sacrificing the economic security of American workers and the public safety and health on an alter of free trade. I mean, there's no worse example of the influence of money in government decision making than the pilot program to open the border to Mexican trucks.
SANCHEZ: Why? Why, why, why, why, why is this no worse example, as you say?
MACK: It's -- it's -- the Congress of the United States voted against opening the border 411-3. The Sierra Club, an environmental groups oppose it, the labor movement opposes it, non-government groups oppose it. The question is, who's in favor of it?
SANCHEZ: We'll tell you, the administration will tell you, and I think this is one of the arguments that they raise. They say something like, look, if we let them -- if we let our truckers go into their country, then we got to let their truckers come into our country. It's only fair, according to the NAFTA agreement. To that, you say what?
MACK: This is not about fairness. It's not about consumer friendly cost or prices. This is about big money and it's about large multinational, multibillion dollar corporations increasing their profit at the expense of American workers and at the expense of American highway users by opening the borders to trucks and drivers that are questionable in terms of truck safety.
SANCHEZ: Well, just to be fair, here's what they say. All right? And we looked it up. They say they've ramped up enforcement, ramped it up so much that now these people are going to have to pass applications before they're allowed into our country. They're going to do safety audits. They're going to do driver reviews, and they're really not going to let anybody in who they feel is not safe. By the way, everybody is checked at the border, they say. So, it's not like they can bring in any contraband. To that, you say what?
MACK: It's the big lie, just to push their agenda to open the border and to decrease transportation costs. In the United States, a person who gets a commercial driver's license has to pass six written tests: A driving test, a drug screen, a physical examination, a criminal background check, and a personal driving check. That does not apply anywhere near -- those standards are not applied anywhere near they are in Mexico as they are in the United States and that's the discrepancy.
SANCHEZ: You know, what's interesting?
MACK: The playing field here is not level. And that's it reason that we're so opposed to it. Our members and other drivers in the United States have to meet those standards. Those standards don't apply in Mexico. And just because those borders are opened up and you're going to have a truck once in a while inspected doesn't mean it's going to make it safe, going to make it fair to the American worker and American public.
SANCHEZ: And it's going to cost a lot of American jobs it seems, in many ways, as well. Chuck Mack, you represent the Teamsters well, thanks for being with us today, sir.
MACK: Thank you very much.
SANCHEZ: In presidential politics now, former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson must be close to the all-time record. He's only let us know about -- what, about 800 times now that he's going to be getting into the race for the Republican nomination. Well, here comes 801 or whatever it is. It's a commercial that you're about to see, so it's got to be the real thing, right? all right, here we go. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRED THOMPSON, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Today, as before, the fate of millions across the world depends upon the unity and resolve of the American people. I talk about this tomorrow on Fred08.com. I invite you to take a look and join us.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fred Thompson, Republican for president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Chief national correspondent, John King, is joining us now. I mean, it almost become to the point where people laugh when they talk about this because, he's in, he's in, he's in, he's in, but when is he really in? Is this the real deal -- John.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATL CORRESPONDENT: Guess what, Rick. He's really in, Rick, this is now the real deal, whether it's 802, 9,076, pick your number, Fred Thompson just sat down next to Jay Leno, taping the "Tonight Show" and said, "I'm running for president of the United States." He'll also have an announcement on his Website tonight, just after midnight. And now we find out, Rick, if it's worth the wait.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(voice-over): On the one hand, it sounds silly to say he's late to the race, but the first voting is four months away and the others have been in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and beyond for months.
WHIT AYRES, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: Expectations are sky-high, which means he better perform flawlessly out of the blocks or a lot of people are going to start grumbling that he's not the great savior we though he was.
THOMPSON: On the next president's watch, our country will make decisions that will affect our lives and our families far into the future.
KING: Thompson is angling for a conservative base that hasn't coalesced around one candidate. Prompting his commitment to outlaw abortion is more than lip service.
THOMPSON: I don't think you can do anything halfway.
KING: On Iraq, he's in no rush to talk about bringing troops home.
THOMPSON: Right now, we need to make every effort to make sure that we don't get run out of there with our tail between our legs before we've done the job.
KING: Thompson is a former federal prosecutor, made his mark as the Republican council on the Senate Watergate Committee, and served eight years in the Senate from Tennessee. But bring up his name and one word trumps all others.
AYRES: Actor. He's known as an actor. Senator Thompson is not that well known. In many ways, he's a vessel into whom many Republicans have poured their hopes and dreams. We'll see whether those hopes and dreams get realized.
SANCHEZ: You know what's interesting, John? When I read the bloggers who like him, they say outsider, Reaganesque, fresh faced. When I read the bloggers who don't like him, they say Washington insider, who was actually a lobbyist at one point. Who do you believe?
KING: Boy it's going to be tough for Senator Thompson because now that he's an official candidate, Rick, guess what -- the other candidates will try to help define him. He's been able to define himself, mostly, for the one part, but he does have a split career. In one way he is very much like Ronald Reagan. Was an actor, a self- made millionaire, comes from a small town in Tennessee and that's the story he wants to spin. A man from a modest family who went on to live the American dream who now believes he's the right fit to be president of the United States. But between a lot of those jobs, and between his jobs in elected politics, he has been a lobbyist in Washington, and some of those clients are probably somewhat controversial. So, now that he's a candidate, he won't be the white knight anymore, he's going to have to get involved in the debates. He's skipping one tonight, but there's plenty more to come.
SANCHEZ: Nobody knows national politics better than John King. Thanks, John, appreciate it. Nice background behind him too, huh?
We're going to be bringing a medical outrage, now, OUT IN THE OPEN. Why are doctors letting people who want cosmetic surgery jump in front of patients who may actually have serious problems and need to see the doctor?
SANCHEZ: And we welcome you back. I'm Rick Sanchez. All right, so what's wrong with this picture? Odds are that if you try to get an appointment with a dermatologist to check out a mole to see if it might be malignant, cancerous, you may have to wait 26 days to see a specialist, but if you call and you ask for a Botox wrinkle treatment, you wait maybe eight days. Seems crazy, right? Well, that's the finding in a new study and medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, is here to tell us more in tonight's "Vital Signs."
So, you spoke to a woman who actually had this very thing happen to her. I imagine she's not too happy about it, huh?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh no. She's not at all happy about it. He name, Rick, is Liz Contreras, and she noticed this funky looking mole on his leg, it had a weird shape, a weird texture. Here's Liz, right here. It was changing color and she called dermatologists and she called and she called and finally found one with the shortest wait she could find, two months. She waited two months. That's what the dermatologists told her, that's how long she had to wait.
Now, shy says the minute she walked into that waiting room, she understood why the wait was so long.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIZ CONTRERAS, PATIENT: It was quite unlike any doctor's office I had ever seen. The ladies behind the counter, behind the front desk were all wearing kind of snug-fitting black t-shirts that read "Botox" in rhinestones across their chests. There were ads for cosmetic procedures all over the office. I have cancer. I just didn't think -- it just doesn't seem right that I had to wait for so long to see somebody to find out that I had cancer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Yeah, but you know, I bet you had it something to do with cash money, like the guy who goes in and pays cash gets ahead of the guy who has insurance that's going to cover his -- he's going to wait six months or so. By the way, one of my producers says you had this happen to you? Is that true?
COHEN: That's right, well not with Botox, I wasn't trying to get Botox, but I was trying to get my daughter in because she had has terrible eczema. Any parent of a child with eczema knows how horrible it is. It's this scaly, awful rash, the kids itch it and itch it. My daughter's legs were bleeding because she itched so much. And so, I called some dermatologists to find out how long the wait was going to be. And what I found was that it was going to take about three weeks to get her in to be seen.
And then I had my producer call and say I wanted Botox, the called the exact same doctor, and that doctor said, hey, come on in this afternoon. So my kid to get some relief from her eczema was going to take three weeks, but Botox, come in right now.
And the American Academy of Dermatologist, the president there, she questioned the validity of this study that showed how long these waits are, but she did say in a letter to CNN, she said, there is a shortage of dermatologists and she also said there has been a maldistribution of their work force. I'm not quite sure what she means by that, but those were her words.
SANCHEZ: But I was right when I said that, though, right? Because, I mean, I know a lot off doctors and sometimes they give me the skinny and they say, look, if somebody's going to come in and they're going to pay cash and they're going to be in and out, you know, that's a good patient for us and we're running a business, here. The other guy is coming in and we might have to wait six months to get paid by them, and that's after fighting with the insurance company. That's got to have something to do with it, right?
COHEN: Oh, the authors of this study, out at the University of California in San Francisco, they were very clear about this, Rick. They said when you have a cosmetic procedure, doctors make more money off of those than they do for a real medical procedure. It's very clear.
SANCHEZ: Sounds practical. Elizabeth Cohen, thanks so much. Interesting report.
Stick around because we're about to compress two hours into 30 seconds. How are we going to do that? Well, we're going to love the results in this City by the Bay. Wait until you see this. It's one of these interesting reports we bring from time to time. Technical, too.
SANCHEZ: We spent a lot of time, during this newscast, trying to hunt for the best videos out there. Now, this is as good as it gets, folks. This is the last chunk of the San Francisco Bay Bridge, laid into place. Now, it's not being done by insects, those are people, real people, real workers. It took over two hours to get the 6,700 ton section where it belonged. So, they put a camera there, and this is part of a project, by the way, to make the bridge hold up better in earthquakes. It's time-lapsed photography, right? Five billion dollar retrofit brought on by the Big Loma Prieta Quake in 1989. So they finally got it done.
That's it for us. Thanks so much for being with us. I'm Rick Sanchez. Look for you again, right here, tomorrow. LARRY KING LIVE starts right now.
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