The Enemy Within
Aired January 12, 2002 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Terrorists in America: THE ENEMY WITHIN.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're talking about people who have infiltrated surreptitiously, who are attempting to blend in, who are abating detection the best they can.
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ANNOUNCER: Elusive and lethal, trained killers riding the rails of advanced technology.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are up against a new problem that will require new resources and other kinds of investigative techniques.
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ANNOUNCER: But how far will the government go in the war on terror?
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was denied the right to face his accusers, to question them. It was like fighting ghosts.
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ANNOUNCER: Tactics, technology and what America may be giving up in the name of national security.
WILLOW BAY, HOST: Welcome to CNN PRESENTS. I'm Willow Bay.
A new year, a renewed sense of confidence. With the Taliban defeated, and the leaders of al Qaeda on the run, Americans are looking to enjoy life again. They are beginning to out, entertain, even travel again. But Americans do so in the shadow of an ongoing nationwide terrorist alert. There is an enemy within, and behind the scenes of everyday American life, the FBI and other agencies are at war.
Over the next hour, the domestic front in the war on terror. We begin with CNN's Mike Boettcher and the hunt for those ticking bombs known as sleeper cells.
MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kabul, November, 2001, chaos and confusion in the midst of a rapid Taliban collapse. In a pile of documents left behind during a hurried al Qaeda retreat, a green book -- notes of a student terrorist.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "To work in the cities, you need small, separate groups, whose members do not exceed four. It's preferable that these members be from the cities, because moving in the cities, you need individuals who are accustomed to this type of life, because cities are loaded with government spies. The government is alert in many cities, because most of its business, its people, fortune and communications are concentrated these. These represent the heart of the government."
BOETTCHER: They are among us. They are in our cities, dormant, living normal lives, waiting for extraordinary orders. They are sleeper cells, and they are here. The FBI has already opened at least 150 investigations of individuals and groups, suspected sleepers.
Viet Dinh is with the U.S. Justice Department.
VIET DINH, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: We know for a fact that al Qaeda uses sleeper cells. Terrorists do not come dressed in a T- shirt that says, "I am a terrorist."
BOETTCHER: Steve Pomerantz, who once headed the FBI's counterterrorist section, knows the frustration of trying to find these hidden terrorists.
STEVE POMERANTZ, FORMER FBI AGENT: By their very nature, when we talk about sleeper cells, we're talking about people who have infiltrated surreptitiously, who are attempting to blend in, who are evading detection to the best way they can.
BOETTCHER: Some may have been in our midst for years; others are still on their way. Several high-level intelligence sources, some part of the anti-terror coalition, and others who once served the Taliban, reveal a recent example of how these sleeper agents mobilize, then disappear in our midst.
They tell CNN that in the confusing days of mid-September, about 250 al Qaeda terrorists slipped from the chaos of Afghanistan and made their way to an unidentified Indian Ocean island off the coast of Africa. From there, they went there separate ways. Some went west, others traveled east. They were not running away, they were on their way to a mission, suspect intelligence sources. But where? In what countries? And for what purpose? Nobody knows and rarely does anyone find out.
POMERANTZ: Well, the first and clearly most important element in dealing with these sleeper cells is get intelligence information that they exist, and who -- at least one name that you can -- some place you can start to focus to investigate them. BOETTCHER: A chance arrest at a U.S. border crossing gave investigators one place to start, an opening into the underground world of sleepers. In December, 1999, Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian member of al Qaeda, was apprehended in Port Angeles, Washington as he tried to drive a carload of explosives from Canada into the United States. An alert U.S. Custom's agent became suspicious, and he was arrested.
Ressam was convicted of attempted terrorism. His target: Los Angeles International Airport during millennium celebrations. A classic sleeper. He was trained in Afghanistan, then sent to Canada to wait for the time of its planned attack. Ressam talked, a lot. Coalition intelligence sources he provided information that led to the arrest of other sleepers in Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom and Germany, but not in the United States. And more than a year-and-a- half later, 19 other sleepers succeeded where Ressam had failed.
From the Center for the Prevention of Terrorism at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, Professor Magnus Ranstorp has closely followed the phenomenon of sleepers.
PROF. MAGNUS RANSTORP, UNIVERSITY OF ST. ANDREWS: It is a virtual nightmare to unearth and to detect all those constituent individuals when we don't have a dossier of many of these individuals, because one of the things that Western and U.S. intelligence did, in the 1990s, was to take the eye off the ball on these.
BOETTCHER (on camera): But what is being thrown at the United States is terrorism's version of a curve ball, hard to follow as it approaches the target. Sleepers who look as we do, dress as we do, act as we do, and in secret, hate what we do.
(voice-over): Al Qaeda manuals described a tactic, a simple lesson in blending in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Have a general appearance that does not indicate Islamic orientation. Avoid visiting famous Islamic places, like mosques, libraries, Islamic fairs, et cetera. Avoid seclusion and isolation from the population."
BOETTCHER: The most radical of terrorist movements allow themselves to take the tactic to the extreme. Known as Takfir, they are allowed to deviate from strict Muslim practices, drinking, drug taking and womanizing are permitted in the name of their terrorist mission and their ultimate goal -- purification of Islam.
John Louis Brugier (ph), a French magistrate responsible for investigating, arresting and prosecuting terrorists, believes sleepers who adhere to Takfir, are the most dangerous of all.
JOHN LOUIS BRUGIER, FRENCH MAGISTRATE: They are generally good looking guy, jacket and suit. And some of them have the right (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to drink alcoholic beverage. They don't go to mosques. They don't have Islamic relationship, in order to hide themselves. BOETTCHER (on camera): When you speak of Takfir, the description you give seems to match the description of the actions of Mohammed Atta that U.S. authorities say.
BOETTCHER: Do you think he subscribed to Takfir?
BOETTCHER (voice-over): Out there, in our midst, U.S. investigators are convinced there are other Mohammed Attas blending in, fitting in, sleepers waiting for an order, waiting to be awakened.
In that pile of papers left behind in a classroom in Kabul, a terrorist chilling to-do list, things to buy before a long sleep.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "A personal weapon, you get a permit for it, a new picture, two new suits, and some good black shoes."
BAY: From evidence gathered in Afghanistan and here in the U.S., it's now abundantly clear that terrorist networks rely heavily on computers and the Internet. In many ways, technology is the terror lifeline.
Coming up, new tools and new laws to take down a new high-tech threat.
BAY: A terrorist sits down at a computer, logs in, an e-mail pops up, something interesting, something intriguing. With a click, the e-mail is opened, and the FBI has their man. A virus is deployed that gives the authorities total access to the terrorist's comings and goings in cyberspace.
As CNN's Jeanne Meserve reports, that scenario isn't nearly as far-fetched as it seems.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Endless code flying across the Internet, a lifeline for terrorist networks and cells, like those of al Qaeda.
PROF. JOHN ARQUILLA, NAVAL POST-GRADUATE SCHOOL: Terrorists today are extremely sophisticated in their use of advanced information technology.
MESERVE: And it is this reliance on technology that presents an opportunity for high-tech surveillance that can target, denigrate and destroy terrorist networks. It's an opportunity that Professor John Arquilla (ph) of the Naval post-graduate school in Monterrey, California, is urging U.S. intelligence to exploit more fully, with better funding and attention.
ARQUILLA: For decades, we have approached the business of intelligence gathering as though we were street sweepers cleaning everything before us and sifting and sorting. Now we have the ability to move in a much more targeted and direct way at the information that's needed.
MESERVE: And the FBI has been doing some of that with Carnivore, or DCS-1000 as it's now known. It is essentially an e-mail wiretap. The FBI places it at as suspect's Internet service provider and programs it to sniff out specific keywords in the target's e-mail from the subject line or the to-and-from headers. But Carnivore is no silver bullet.
Daniel Sieberg is the science and tech editor for CNN.com.
(on camera): Is there some way that someone could protect against Carnivore?
DANIEL SIEBERG, TECHNOLOGY EDITOR, CNN.COM: Well, there is. That's where encryption comes in. Carnivore, to my understanding anyway, and at least what the FBI has said in the past, can't get around encryption.
MESERVE (voice-over): Encryption, the masking of e-mail and data so that it no longer looks like text. It has bedeviled the FBI for years, and it is thought to be the reason the FBI is now working on a mysterious project called Magic Lantern. Officially, the FBI will do little more than acknowledge Magic Lantern's existence, but computer and security experts believe that it may be similar to some commercially available software.
SIEBERG: There are a number of different programs, and one of them that we can demonstrate is put together by a company called SpectorSoft.
MESERVE: The program can record keystrokes, allowing law enforcement to read messages before they are encrypted. It also can take snapshots of the screen every few seconds, providing a whole photo album detailing, for instance, what Web sites have been visited.
The commercial programs must be physically installed on a computer, and it is illegal for a private citizen to do so surreptitiously. That's not the case with the FBI's Magic Lantern, which reportedly can be sent to a suspect's computer over the Internet in the form of an e-mail attachment, like a computer virus.
MESERVE (on camera): We were talking about Carnivore and the fact that it's put somewhere and someone has to collect it and then look at it. It's not real-time collection of data.
MESERVE: And time can be very critical in these investigations.
SIEBERG: Uh-huh. MESERVE: Is Magic Lantern different?
SIEBERG: It is different. Carnivore is set up, and it does tend to gather this information over a period of time, and then like we discussed, they have to go back and look at it later and review what they have gathered. With Magic Lantern, it is more in real-time, because the Trojan Horse virus plants this program, or opens this back door. They can sit there and watch what someone is doing in real-time; at least that's the theory here.
MESERVE (voice-over): And that's what's making civil libertarians nervous. They fear that electronic surveillance technology is advancing so quickly that it's outpacing the law, creating loopholes that could lead to abuse. For instance, privacy advocates contend that it is an open question as to whether the covert and remote installation of something like Magic Lantern on a computer requires a search warrant.
David Sobel is general counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington.
DAVID SOBEL, ELECTRONIC PRIVACY INFORMATION CENTER: This activity is surreptitious and increasingly veiled in secrecy. There are not many opportunities to conduct public oversight of these activities. The courts, particularly after September 11, are finding that their role in overseeing these activities is limited.
MESERVE: Limited in part, civil libertarians say, because of the expanded powers granted to law enforcement by the recently enacted USA Patriot Act. But the Justice Department does not agree with that interpretation.
MARTHA STANSEL GAMM, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: The provision in the USA Patriot Act, at least on the criminal side that address electronic surveillance, are not nearly as sweeping as a lot of people believe.
MESERVE: Martha Stansel Gamm (ph) is the lead attorney for the computer crime section of the Justice Department.
GAMM: This is not a circumstance in which law enforcement has asked for or needs the ability to run around invading people's privacy without getting proper legal authorities. One of the things that the Justice Department has wanted to make the public understand is that we are up against a new problem that will require new resources, and may require us to use other kinds of investigative techniques.
MESERVE: Indeed, experts say cyber snooping must evolve further, if law enforcement is going to win the war against terrorism. And some experts, like John Arquilla, believe the new electronic surveillance technologies will give the average citizen more privacy, not less.
ARQUILLA: Cyberspace-based means are far more closely targeted, and do far less intrusion than the existing systems, which listen to a very substantial percentage of the average Americans telephone conversations, for example. So I think on balance, we're looking at a situation where moving to the new clandestine technical means creates fewer dilemmas for civil liberties.
MESERVE: Civil liberty questions will no doubt be some of the most important to answer as the high-stakes game of high-tech one- upsmanship escalates between law enforcement and terrorists. Even now, experts say, the likes of Magic Lantern can be outfoxed in various ways, which means the FBI is likely already hard at work on the next generation of spyware.
BAY: International terrorist organizations may use advanced technology to hide and manage their sometimes vast financial resources. But where do terrorists get their funding?
When we return, money from America: Are U.S.-based charities bankrolling worldwide terror?
BAY: If technology is terror's lifeline, money is its lifeblood. Cutting off the funding for international terrorist groups is a top priority of the federal government. And the money police aren't just targeting suspected bankrollers abroad, they're also looking here in the U.S.
CNN's Allan Dodds Frank examines the crackdown on Islamic charities.
ALLAN DODDS FRANK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jerusalem, 1997. Suicide bombers kill five, wound 192. The terrorist organization Hamas takes credit. Investigators discover possible connections between Hamas and some charitable organizations in America.
Now the United States government says it has strong evidence that a network of U.S.-based Islamic charitable organizations has been funding not only Hamas, but also Osama bin Laden and his worldwide al Qaeda network. FBI agents, last December, raided the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, the biggest Islamic charity in the country.
Money raised by the Holy Land Foundation is used by Hamas to support schools and indoctrinate children to grow up into suicide bombers. Money raised by the Holy Land Foundation is also used by Hamas to recruit suicide bombers and to support their families.
GHARSHAN ELASHI, HOLY LAND FOUNDATION: We are strictly charitable organization, and we have no relation with any terrorist organizations.
FRANK: According to Holy Land's tax returns, the foundation raised more than $13 million in the year 2000 to support its programs in the Middle East. But the U.S. government has blocked the financial assets of the foundation. JIMMY GURULE, UNDER SECY. OF TREASURY/ENFORCEMENT: If the money trail leads us to a charitable institution, a charitable organization that's funding terror, that funding mechanism must be cut off.
FRANK: The Holy Land Foundation and its chairman, Gharshan Elashi, declined to speak to CNN.
FRANK (on camera): Are you convinced it's a smear campaign?
FRANK (voice-over): But an earlier press conference, the group's spokesman complained about the government's action.
SHUKRI ABU BAKER, HOLY LAND FOUNDATION: This is a black day, a terrible tragedy for the American Muslims and for American civil liberties.
FRANK: Holy Land, and other charities targeted by the government, say they are being unfairly singled out, victims of anti- Muslim feelings since the September 11 attacks.
(on camera) This mosque in southwest Chicago is the centerpiece of one of the largest Muslim communities in the United States, and within a few miles of here are office for most of the major Islamic charities now under investigation by the federal government.
(voice-over): Thousands of Muslims live in this suburban community, which houses two of the largest American Islamic charities. The Global Relief Foundation and the Benevolence International Foundation. On December 14, the government blocked the assets of both charities.
In Global Relief's offices, there is disbelief, even as workers resumed their prayer rituals days after the FBI raid.
Mohamad Chehade, the executive director of Global Relief is still upset about the FBI seizure of many personal items from his apartment. His wife and three daughters also remain rattled.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I felt very saddened and hurt when I found out my wedding pictures were missing.
FRANK: Mohamad Chehade is trying to resume a normal schedule. But at his office, the government's actions have brought work to a standstill, even as the mail brings in stacks of new donations.
MOHAMAD CHEHADE, GLOBAL RELIEF FOUNDATION: This is a donation of $15,000.
FRANK: They pile up before being deposited into blocked bank accounts.
Compassion in action throughout the world, that is the motto of Global Relief, which began in 1992 by focusing on Afghanistan. Global Relief says in the year 2000, it raised $5.3 million from about 20,000 donors. The money funded the foundation's operations in 20 countries, including many hot spots suspected by the U.S. of harboring terrorists.
(on camera): Why do you think the U.S. government has a notion that you are somehow supporting terrorist organizations or terrorist activities?
CHEHADE: We believe, really, it's about organizational profiling now. We are a Muslim charity, operating in Afghanistan, operating in hot spots.
FRANK: Do you think it's possible that any of your funds or programs have supported any of the terrorist groups the United States government is opposing?
CHEHADE: I would say it's impossible. We do not tolerate violence or acts of terrorism. So we make sure -- we ensure that our money is spent on the proper way.
FRANK: That claim rings hollow in Washington
GURULE: The government has clear and credible evidence that Global Relief is supporting terrorist activities.
FRANKS: But do you have reason to believe that it's related to al Qaeda or the Taliban?
GURULE: Yes, we do.
FRANKS: In fact, while refusing to cite specifics, the government admits it is investigating numerous charities and the way they interact.
The government crackdown bothers some legal experts.
PROF. DAVID COLE, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY LAW CENTER: If you've got a general program of assistance to the needy, and some of the needy are needy because their, you know, father was killed in a suicide bombing or was arrested for a criminal activity, that shouldn't undermine the legitimacy of the general program. If, on the other hand, you can show that these entities are supporting children of suicide bombers in some special way, then I think you can make an argument that they are, in fact, seeking to support the terrorist activity.
FRANK: Although much of the government's evidence against Global Relief and other charities remains classified, Mohamad Chehade vows to contest the case.
CHEHADE: There must be organizations to fulfill the relief obligations of Muslims, whether they are in the states or somewhere else.
BAY: Racial profiling is a buzz word that used to conjure great unease in the United States. But are Americans growing more tolerant of the practice, at least when it comes to those of Arab descent?
Coming up, national security versus civil rights.
BAY: The terrorist profile, who fits it? Is it accurate? Is it fair? The Justice Department says it's now going after 6,000 Middle Eastern men in this country, who are considered deportable aliens, singling them out from more than 300,000 such people of other nationalities. The reason? Those men may fit the profile of a terrorist.
The government insists it's not using racial profiling. But Arab-Americans say they live under an unfair cloud of suspicion. An American dilemma from CNN's Kathy Slobogin.
KATHY SLOBOGIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The 19 men, who brought terror to America on September 11, lived among us. They blended in. When they boarded the planes, no alarms went off. But one thing makes them stand out. There were all Arabs. That fact has exposed a painful thought line in this country, where reasonable suspicion can become discrimination. For Arabs living here, the national state of alert can mean they are suspect.
Airport security can mean being pulled off a plane. A Secret Service agent, on his way to protect the president, was barred from an Americans Airlines plane on Christmas Day, he says because he is Arab- American. The airline says he was armed and hostile to the pilot.
Complaints of ethnic profiling have skyrocketed, according to the Council of American-Islamic Relations, from a few a year before September 11 to more than 160 since then.
Dearborn, Michigan has the largest concentration of Middle Easterners in the United States, a community, many here feel, now lives under a cloud of suspicion.
ABED HAMUD: There is no question we are being watched. There is no question we are suspicious to many people.
SLOBOGIN: Abed Hamud has lived in America for 12 years. He and his family came from Lebanon, three generations of them. His parents have six children, 10 grandchildren were born here. Every weekend, they get together for a family feast.
HAMUD: We like it, because of the kids. Because we grew up in Lebanon where the family -- sense of family was very strong.
SLOBOGIN: The Hamuds are all U.S. citizens. Abed Hamud knew he wanted to be a citizen the day he got here.
HAMUD: When you work hard to be become an American, that day is a turning point in your life that you will never forget. You can't help but cry. You have tears in your eyes when the federal judge says, "I now say that you are a United States citizen," and when he asks you to pledge the allegiance to the flag.
SLOBOGIN: But Abed Hamud says for people like him, being American is not the same since September 11.
HAMUD: There is a chilling effect on any political speech that sounds like dissent. Who can stand up today and talk about the rights of Palestinians to not die at the hand of Israelis? You can't do this anymore.
SLOBOGIN: The political chill for this community deepened when the Justice Department announced the FBI wanted to interview 5,000 men of Middle Eastern descent; 500 of them were from this area.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was my last thing on my mind to happen here, especially in the United States.
SLOBOGIN: This man, afraid to reveal his identity, is one of those men questioned by the FBI. He has lived here for five years and has a wife and three children who are citizens.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I have never done nothing wrong. I've been here five years, and I've never even had a driving ticket. And I work and pay taxes like everybody else. I respect the law; I'm against terrorism. But the way they send me the letter, I feel I'm a suspect.
SLOBOGIN: The Justice Department says these men are not suspects, that the interviews are voluntary.
DINH: We are not going out doing a dragnet of everybody, calling everybody in for arrests or questioning.
SLOBOGIN: Assistant Attorney General Viet Dinh says the Justice Department is simply focusing on people from countries where al Qaeda has operated, that the interviews have generated useful leads.
DINH: How do we go about identifying these people? We use criteria that our intelligence indicates that is the criteria that al Qaeda uses in order to identify people whom they would associate with.
SLOBOGIN: But this man is afraid that if he was singled out for questioning solely because he is Arab, come another attack, he could become a suspect for the same reason.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But when I got that letter, that's what changed everything in my life. It seems to me to be ethnic profiling.
SLOBOGIN: Abed Hamud understands the government's need for information. He is prosecutor in Detroit. But he sees a double standard for Middle Eastern men in the Justice Department's tactics.
HAMUD: Imagine that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in reverse, I'm fighting drugs in Detroit, and I decided most of the drug dealers happen to be African-American males between 18 and 35, so that maybe I'll start saying that the prosecutors will want to interview all African- American males from Detroit between 18 and 35; do you think that's acceptable?
SLOBOGIN (on camera): Profiling has become a buzz word, synonymous with racial discrimination. But to many in law enforcement, criminal profiles, if done correctly, are useful tools, narrowing the pool of suspects. Race or ethnicity can be a factor, but just one factor. The real giveaway is behavior.
(voice-over): Remember Ahmed Ressam, the al Qaeda terrorist who tried to cross from Canada into the U.S. at Port Angeles, Washington two years ago? He was traveling under the pseudonym, Benny Norris.
U.S. Customs inspector, Diana Dean (ph), noticed he seemed nervous.
DIANA DEAN, U.S. CUSTOMS INSPECTOR: And I said, Where are you going? And he answered, "Seattle." And then, I said, Why are you going to Seattle? And he said, "Visit." And by that time, he was just becoming so agitated that, you know, it was just out of the ordinary. He shouldn't have been that upset by, you know, just a couple of routine Customs questions. So it was his demeanor.
SLOBOGIN: Suspicious, Dean and other agents searched his trunk. It turned out he had a carload of explosives and planned to blow up Los Angeles Airport. Inspector Dean says it was Ressam's behavior, not his ethnic origin, that gave him away.
HAMUD: Did you find out who your prosecutor is?
SLOBOGIN: Abed Hamud says profiling that focuses on behavior is the only kind that will prevent terrorism. He fears the government will lose a valuable resource, if it makes that in Arab-American communities feel like automatic suspects.
HAMUD: If it's true that most terrorists come from Arab or Muslim background. And if it's true, then they could hang around in Arab or Muslim communities. Who is the most likely source for the government to catch them? It's the Arab and Muslim community.
SLOBOGIN: Those communities are more likely to cooperate, says Hamud, if they feel they belong here.
HAMUD: Because they are the ones who one day will see something, who will pick up their phones and say, come and see my neighbor. It's because we become an average citizen.
SLOBOGIN: For now, Abed Hamud doesn't feel like an average citizen. When he gets on a plane as an Arab-American, there is a difference.
HAMUD: I know one thing -- I couldn't help but think on the plane that if this plane crashed, I would not be listed as a victim. They would list me as a suspect. They would go through the manifest, and they would find an Arab name. That's in my mind.
(END VIDEOTAPE) BAY: Since September 11, hundreds of immigrants have been detained in connection with the terrorist attacks on America. And yet, many still have not been charged with any crime related to those attacks.
Just ahead, the fallout from a roundup.
BAY: Attorney General John Ashcroft is vowing to use every legal means available to wipe out the terrorist threat in America. To that end, 460 immigrants are now being detained in connection with September 11, but only a fraction of those detainees currently face criminal charges relating to the September terrorist attacks.
So is this justice, or justice denied? CNN's Candy Crowley takes a closer look at the lives behind the statistics.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For the family of Mazen Al-Najjar, even breakfast hurts.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To think that you have all these, you know, blessings and he's totally deprived of that. I mean, he is somebody who has not hurt a fly, and yet today, you know, a month later, he's still in solitary confinement 23 hours, lockdown. Not having the freedom even to hug his daughters.
CROWLEY: Mazen Al-Najjar is in the federal penitentiary in Coleman, Florida, arrested on the basis of a deportation order for a run-of-the-mill immigration violation, held because he is suspected of so much more than that.
U.S. authorities say there are about 460 people picked up since September 11, who are still being held on immigration violations.
CROWLEY (on camera): They're not particularly crimes you're interested in. I mean, they're really excuses to pull the person in.
DINH: Right. What we are doing is simply using our process or our discretion to the fullest extent to remove from the street those who we suspect to be engaging in terrorist activity.
CROWLEY (voice-over): Mazen Al-Najjar's story is really two stories about the same man, the one his family describes, an American- educated Ph.D., the father of three American-born children, a Palestinian who has lived in the U.S. for more than 20 years.
SAMI AL ARIAN, AL-NAJJAR'S BROTHER-IN-LAW: Mazen has never touched a gun in his life. And all his work has been devoted to books and knowledge, to writing and discussions.
CROWLEY: And the Mazen Al-Najjar, the U.S. government says has ties to terrorist organizations. The INS has videotapes it believes bolsters the case. Al-Najjar's brother-in-law, controversial for his own involvement in these organizations, says the groups in question include a charity for Palestinian orphans and an Islamic think tank he and Al-Najjar set up while professors at the University of South Florida.
AL ARIAN: We thought that we can act as a bridge between both cultures.
CROWLEY: There was also an academic journal, co-edited by Al- Najjar and another professor, Ramadon Abdullah Shulah (ph), who left the U.S. in 1995, and then showed up in Syria as the leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Soon after, the FBI raided the center looking for evidence.
DAVID COLE, ATTORNEY FOR AL-NAJJAR: The end result is no criminal charges were ever filed. And the government was never able to put forward any evidence to show that this group, in any way, shape or form, supported the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
CROWLEY: But in May of 1997, Al-Najjar was arrested for overstaying his visa. He was held because the FBI said classified evidence showed his connection to terrorist organizations. Days became months, became years, the family went to Congress.
NAHLA AL-ARIAN, AL-NAJJAR'S SISTER: He was denied the right to face his accusers, to question them or to present evidence on his own behalf that would establish his innocence. It was like fighting ghosts.
CROWLEY: Three years and seven months after Al-Najjar's arrest, a judge deflated the government's classified case, ruling it contained no evidence, public or secret, of terrorist ties. Though still fighting deportation, Al-Najjar was released and went home to Tampa in December of 2000.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope this is the end of the nightmare.
CROWLEY: Nine months later, America woke up to its own nightmare. His family says Al-Najjar organized a blood drive. Then one Saturday last November, he left home to find coins for the laundry, and the FBI picked him up, citing the deportation order. In a press release, the Justice Department also repeated charges that Al- Najjar has terrorist ties. He had been free less than a year.
COLE: He was volunteering at the school, volunteering at the mosque and living a lawful, you know, law-abiding life. During that period of time the INS does not claim that he engaged in any kind of conduct that in way threatened anybody, but less the national security.
CROWLEY: Mazen Al-Najjar is being held in 23-hour lockdown solitary confinement. No press is allowed to talk to him. The Justice Department cites security concerns.
Just about 800 miles north of Coleman, in Alexandria, Virginia, Agus Budiman also sits in a detention center. He is charged with helping a friend fraudulently obtain a driver's license. Budiman told lawyers the friend wanted a U.S. souvenir. The FBI says the friend is an associate of Osama bin Laden; his name, Mohammad Belfas, whereabouts, unknown.
Additionally, Budiman's address was on the visa application of Ziad Jarrah, hijacker of the Pennsylvania plane. The address was listed as well on the application of Ramzi Binalshibh. U.S. authorities think he was the original 20th hijacker, thwarted because his visa was rejected.
Finally, authorities say Budiman and Mohamed Atta, the man thought to have led the September 11 attacks, knew each other in Germany, attending the same mosque.
Like Mazen Al-Najjar, Agus Budiman is in jail, accused of a relatively minor crime, but stays in jail because of major suspicion, two stories out of hundreds, the totality of which some find troubling.
COLE: We're not saying, I'm willing to give up my liberty for my security. We're saying, I'm willing to give up his liberty for my security. That's an easy call, but it's not a fair call.
CROWLEY: The Justice Department will not comment on specific cases that are pending, but expect no apologies.
DINH: The death tolls are way too high, and the consequences are too great. And we have to prevent first, and then we prosecute second. We do that by ensuring that those persons whom we suspect of being terrorists, are removed from the society to which they would do harm.
CROWLEY: Unusual cases for unusual times, but, says the Justice Department, entirely constitutional. Still, to the family of Mazen Al-Najjar, back again fighting ghosts, it feels entirely personal.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know why they are so vindictive like this. What's happening? We are not responsible for September 11. We condemned it. It's horrible. But we cannot just victimize people because of that. We cannot get revenge on innocent people.
BAY: When America goes to war, national security often takes precedence over civil liberty. It has happened time and time again in this nation's history. But how far will America go this time? Some perspective on that when we return.
BAY: One of the first casualties of war is often civil liberty. It has been that way throughout American history, with some of the nation's most revered presidents casting aside the Constitution in ways many would find unthinkable today. With a look back at liberty and war in America, here is CNN's Bruce Morton.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The United States guards its Constitution carefully. And the rights, the liberties it guarantees? In war, those may take a beating.
JAY WINIK, AUTHOR/HISTORIAN: In Abraham Lincoln's day, during the Civil War, he basically embraced this notion that the Constitution is not a suicide pact. In war, the rules change, things change, security has to come to the fore.
MORTON: Terror sharpens the choices. What is a suspect knows of a terrorist plot? How far can the government go in trying to find out what he knows?
Philippine police arrested this man, Abdul Hakim Murad, in 1995. He says they tortured him. Colonel Randolfo Mendoza (ph) denies that, saying physical torture won't work.
COL. RANDOLFO MENDOZA: If the interrogee or the briefee is under duress, you can expect that the information is also a manipulated one.
MORTON: Mendoza says they scared Murad, threatening to turn him over to Israeli agents or the FBI. Murad confessed to a complicated plot as potentially catastrophic as the attacks on the U.S. last September: Kill the pope while he was in Manila, plant bombs to blow up 11 U.S. airliners over the Pacific, hijack and then crash jetliners into the CIA and a nuclear power plant.
Mendoza, while denying Murad's torture charges, raises a real question.
MENDOZA: If a bomb is about to be exploded in 30 minutes, I think everything must be done to grill the suspected terrorist.
MORTON: How far would you go? Israel has probably had more experience with suicide bombers than anyplace else. This is the discotheque bombing that killed 21 last year, and one Likud member of the Knesset says, "do whatever you have to do to stop these attacks."
RUBY RIVLIN, KNESSET MEMBER: We know very well that when people are ready to be suicide, and they are ready to give their lives for their beliefs, that it's very difficult, very, very difficult to fight terrorism. There is no way for me to fight terrorism unless I used special methods. You call them tortures. OK, I agree, because I don't want to be hypocrite.
MORTON: Now, Americans are finding themselves in the difficult position of wondering just how far they should go in order to prevent future terrorist attacks.
WINIK: I don't think that's something Americans would prefer to do. But I think if you also asked Americans what should we do with potentially a nuclear weapon or a dirty nuclear bomb is going to go off, I think most Americans will probably say you have to do what you can. ANTHONY ROMERO, ACLU EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: But we have criticized governments, like China and the former Soviet Union and Cuba and other countries, because they have been known to be torturers, because they have been known to be human rights abusers. That would be an enormous irony for the American government to now use those same tactics that we have been so vociferous in criticizing.
JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve.
WINIK: What this administration is doing with its recent anti- terror legislation actually pales in comparison to what previous presidents have done in wartime.
MORTON: He's got a point. Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus so people could be detained without the government having to go before a judge and justify its action.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He arrested and detained, often for years, some 13,000 people, who didn't even know why they were being put away.
MORTON: And at one point, he even arrested 32 Maryland legislatures so they couldn't vote to secede from the Union. Woodrow Wilson in World War I, it was a crime, among other things, to criticize the draft.
FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We must, and will, prevent our land from becoming a victim of aggression.
MORTON: Franklin Roosevelt in World War II used secret military trials to convict eight Nazi saboteurs who had landed in the U.S. Six were electrocuted. The Supreme Court upheld those trials. And Roosevelt put Japanese-Americans, who lived on the West Coast, into camps.
ROMERO: We took 120,000 Japanese-Americans, most of them were U.S. citizens, we took them from their home. We put them in internment camps. We denied them the most basic rights under our law.
MORTON: At the time, there wasn't any great storm of protest. In fact, most wartime presidents trimmed civil liberties and didn't suffer for it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More power to you, President Roosevelt. The entire country is behind you.
WINIK: We don't judge those presidents harshly. We judged them as on the whole as having done the right thing -- as having been wartime presidents who ensured the security of the American people.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.
MORTON: Americans, polls say, support this president's anti- terror efforts, but many do worry.
ROMERO: When we win the war against terrorism, we want to make sure we recognize our country. We've got to make sure that, as we protect the American people, that as we advance our safety and our security, that we also protect the liberties and the freedoms that make it a great country.
WINIK: There is good news here, because what we see as after each time when the war ends, inevitably and invariably, not only do civil liberties re-emerge, but they re-emerge stronger than ever before.
MORTON: Unless you're one of those Japanese-Americans in a camp. They got an official apology almost half a century later in 1988.
Still, in a democracy, wartime does pose a struggle between freedom and order. And terrorism asks new questions. What is the suspect really does know where the bomb is planted? How far do you go? Truth serum? Psychological tricks? Torture?
WINIK: How far to go, I think that's a debate and a discussion that this administration has to have internally, and to some extent, the country has to ask publicly.
MORTON: How far to go in a democracy? Tough question. A good debate to have.
BAY: If in times of war, many Americans seem willing to put national security ahead of civil liberties, it's likely they do so, trusting that in times of peace, the nation will once again find common ground. But peace may be a long way off in the war on terror. As the enemy seeks to attack America, not only from outside, but also from within.
That's this edition of CNN PRESENTS. I'm Willow Bay -- thanks for joining us.
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