Skip to main content /TRANSCRIPTS



Jury Decides Yates Will Spend Life in Prison; Is Airport Security Going Too Far?; Can a U.S. Pilot Still Be in Iraq a Decade After Gulf War?

Aired March 15, 2002 - 17:00   ET


KATE SNOW, GUEST HOST: Now on WOLF BLITZER REPORTS: a Texas jury has decided her fate.

Before they crashed into the Twin Towers, these hijackers learned to fly in the U.S. Can it happen again?

A machine that looks right through your clothing: is airport security going too far?


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: One would hope and pray that he is alive.


SNOW: A decade later, could a U.S. Navy pilot still be in the hands of Saddam Hussein?

And the letter that made "Dear Abby" go to the police.


PAULINE ESTHER FRIEDMAN, "DEAR ABBY": What caught my attention was when he said that the little girls trusted him.


SNOW: A famous columnist takes us into her confidence.

Hello from Washington. I'm Kate Snow, in for Wolf Blitzer. Topping our news alert: a Texas jury saves Andrea Yates from death row.

Andrea Yates will be 77 years old when she is eligible for parole. Today jurors rejected the death penalty and handed down a sentence of life in prison for the Texas mom convicted of drowning her children. We'll have much more on that story in just a moment.

Investigators are trying to find out why a small, private plane collided with a military aircraft over Marana, Arizona today. The pilot of the Cessna was killed. The Army plane belonged to the Golden Knights parachute team, which was training in Arizona. The accident happened after the parachuters had already left the plane.

Security is stepped up at the U.S. embassy in Yemen, after someone tossed a pair of grenades at the building. They bounced off a wall and exploded. No one was hurt, and the suspect is in custody. Vice President Dick Cheney, you recall, was in Yemen just yesterday.

U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni says he's encouraged after meeting with the top Israeli and Palestinian leaders. He talked with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat just hours after Israeli forces pulled out of three West Bank towns. Zinni is in the region trying to end 18 months of fighting.

More now on our top story. Russell Yates says it would have been worse, but not that much worse, had his wife been given the death penalty. Today a Texas jury speedily decided Andrea Yates should receive life in prison for killing her children. CNN's Ed Lavandera brings us more from Houston -- Ed.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, it was almost nine months ago that we first learned that Andrea Yates had confessed to police that she had drowned her five children within an hour after her husband left for work that day on June 20th last summer, just south of Houston in the family's suburban Houston home.

Today one of the final chapters in this story, read here in a Houston courtroom.


JUDGE BELINDA HILL, HOUSTON, TEXAS: As to special issue No. 1, the jury returns the following verdict. We the jury, because at least 10 jurors had a reasonable doubt as to the probability that the defendant, Andrea Pia Yates, would commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute a continuing threat to society, determine that the answer to special issue No. 1 is no. Signed, foreman of the jury.


LAVANDERA: And what that means is that Andrea Yates will spend the rest of her life in prison. She won't be eligible for parole for 40 years. She will be 77 when the parole board will be able to decide if Andrea Yates should be released from prison. Her attorneys say that she was a little confused by how the verdict, the announcement was read in court, because the jury had to answer that one question. What that question meant was whether or not Andrea Yates would be a future threat to society. And since the jury found that she would not be, that means she would spend life in prison.

After court ended, Russell Yates -- the gag order lifted in this case -- he was able to speak with news reporters, as he's anxiously been awaiting to be able to do for the last seven months or so. And Russell Yates saying that he blames the medical doctors who treated him and the institutions and the health insurance companies that didn't offer enough support to help him and his family understand just how much trouble Andrea Yates was in.


RUSSELL YATES, HUSBAND: You know, as a father, as a man, you know, we bought this house. The first thing I did when we bought our house was have a fancy alarm system installed. You know, I had alarms on every window and every door. And my responsibility is to protect our family from people outside our house, you know? You never think you have to protect somebody from inside your house.

And it's really the medical community's responsibility to identify psychosis. I mean, I'm not a medical professional. I don't even know what psychosis is, to speak of. I mean, I know now, but I didn't then.


LAVANDERA: Russell Yates, after he spoke with news reporters, walked a few blocks away from here to meet with his wife, Andrea, in the downtown Houston jail, where she has been for the past almost nine months. Friday is visiting day over at the jail, so he will be able to spend about 15 minutes with his wife this afternoon. We assume that's going on right now.

Russell Yates was asked what he will do now with his life, now that his wife won't be around for the next 40 years. He said he still hasn't made any decisions on what he will do next. Kate, back to you.

SNOW: Ed Lavandera in Houston, thank you.

Defense attorneys say Andrea Yates is relieved she was spared the death penalty. I just talked with her lawyer, George Parnham, to get his reaction.


This has got to be a difficult day for the defense team. She's been convicted, but she'll only have life in prison, not the death penalty. Is that any saving grace for the team?

GEORGE PARNHAM, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, you bet it is. We are, you know, extremely fortunate that we were able to save her life. And we have just a terrific team of lawyers that worked with me, doctors that have seen her in the past and had donated their time to examine her. And to be able to come up there on that witness stand and talk about mental illness, and specifically about Andrea Yates' mental illness.

So we got to message out, hopefully. And perhaps we've turned a page in the history of mental illness in this country, and how it's treated by doctors and by the law.

SNOW: You sat next to Andrea Yates through much of this trial, sir, And it seemed at times that you showed more emotion than she did. How is she feeling tonight? Why haven't we seen more emotion out of her?

PARNHAM: I think we have to realize that Andrea, as she sat there in the courtroom today and every day prior to the actual trial of the case itself, is under 15 milligrams of Haldol. Five in the morning, 10 at night -- it might be vice versa. She is heavily medicated and so as a result, it may appear that she is not feeling the depths of sorrow or despair that a normal mother would feel, given the fact that Andrea, in her psychotic state, took the lives of all of her children.

Hopefully, hopefully she will continue to maintain her emotions and attitude at this level. Because if she ever becomes totally cognizant, with an appreciation of what has happened, her life will be nothing but hell for as long as it lasts.


SNOW: I was just going to say she won't be eligible for parole now for 40 more years, until she's 77 years old. Has she been able to process that? Has she reacted to that?

PARNHAM: No. That issue is a nonentity to her. She is not able to comprehend it, she's not able to understand it. She's not able to appreciate it.

SNOW: George Parnham, very quickly, will you appeal?

PARNHAM: Oh, you bet. This is going up, and I think we've got some excellent grounds upon which to base our appeal.

SNOW: George Parnham, thanks so much for joining us tonight.

PARNHAM: You bet. Thank you very much.


SNOW: Now let's hear what the prosecution has to say. Was justice served? Just a few minutes ago I spoke with Kaylynn Williford


Thanks for being with us. Is the prosecution satisfied with the life sentence?

KAYLYNN WILLIFORD, PROSECUTOR: Whatever the jury had decided, just like I said in my argument, we were going to be pleased with. This was a case that's been extremely difficult on everyone, I think, just learning about this case. And whatever verdict they decided on punishment, whether a life sentence or the death sentence, we were pleased with.

SNOW: Are you convinced that Andrea Yates is not a danger to society now?

WILLIFORD: I think the evidence, in case law, is clear, that if you commit a crime like this, a jury can consider that crime to make a decision on the issue of future dangerousness. And that's what I argued. You never know what will happen down the road. But clearly, someone that kills five children can be considered a future danger. SNOW: The defense team, including even Andrea Yates' husband and family, were adamant that this was a case about mental illness, and that that was part of the reason why she did this. Do you disagree with that?

WILLIFORD: I think she was mentally ill. We don't believe she was faking. But we still believe she knew right from wrong.



SNOW: We're having some technical problems with our tape there. We were talking just a moment ago with the prosecution team.

Moving on to what our Web question of the day is. It relates to this case. We want to know if you agree with the jury's sentence for Andrea Yates. You can vote at While you're there you can also let us know what you're thinking about this case. There's a "click here" icon on the left side of Wolf's Web page. You can send him your comments and he'll read some of them on the air each day.

There's a new development concerning the American fighter for the Taliban, John Walker Lindh. Our national correspondent, Susan Candiotti, brings us the latest.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Defense attorneys for John Walker Lindh now claim they have proof their client never intended to harm any American, despite this key charge by the government.

JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: In the weeks after September 11th, the indictment charges that Walker Lindh remained with his Taliban fighting group. He remained despite having learned of the terrorist attacks on his homeland.

CANDIOTTI: But according to his lawyers, after his capture at this prison uprising in December, the California teen-turned-Taliban told U.S. interrogators a different story. That he -- quote -- "expressed disillusionment upon learning about the events of September 11th." And that "while Mr. Lindh did not agree with the attacks, it was too late for him to leave his unit on the front lines for fear of death."

(on camera): Walker Lindh's lawyers argue this information was contained in the government's very first summary of its interrogation. But, they point out, the potentially exculpatory evidence was left out of another summary prepared by the military in January, based, they say, on the very same interrogation.

(voice-over): Some lawyers say the new information could help Walker Lindh.

RON SULLIVAN, D.C. PUBLIC DEFENDER SVC.: They have a good-faith basis to say that, while Mr. Lindh was initially fighting with the Taliban in an all-Islamic civil war, the moment he learned that the United States of America was involved, he wanted out.

CANDIOTTI: The government charges he conspired to kill Americans overseas by helping the Taliban, and that he trained with and supported Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda's forces. Walker Lindh's lawyers also filed a detailed request for the names of anyone who interviewed Lindh, soldiers who may have taken -- quote -- "unofficial souvenir photos" of their client in custody, and gained access to any detainees held at Guantanamo who knew Walker Lindh.

His lawyers are demanding more specifics about exactly who Walker Lindh conspired with to kill American citizens, as charged. The government has two weeks to respond to the latest defense motions. For now they're not talking. Susan Candiotti, CNN, Washington.


SNOW: U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni is in the Middle East today meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Given the recent escalation in the violence there, Zinni has his work cut out for him. CNN's Michael Holmes reports from Jerusalem.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's early days in a mission the U.S. president says will last as long as it takes to calm the violence that has wrecked this region in recent days and weeks. Anthony Zinni met with the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, in the West Bank city of Ramallah Friday. A meeting, we're told, saw Arafat present a number of ideas to Zinni on how to end the violence.

It was described by Palestinian officials as a frank and candid meeting. Palestinian officials have again said Israeli forces, however, need to leave all Palestinian areas before the talks with Israelis can begin. Thursday night Anthony Zinni met with Ariel Sharon. The Israeli prime minister Zinni bluntly telling him that Israeli forces needed to withdraw from Palestinian towns and cities occupied in recent days.

Israeli military sources say the pullout has been completed in many of those areas. But Palestinian sources say Israeli troops and tanks remain in several areas, including Bethlehem, and called the withdrawals a picture for Zinni. In Ramallah, troops and tanks left behind damaged buildings and cars, and much anger among a population that had been forced to remain in their homes for nearly three days.

Still, Anthony Zinni remains optimistic. He says he believes both sides are committed to ending the violence of the past 18 months -- Kate?

SNOW: Thank you, reporting from Jerusalem.

President Bush visited Fort Bragg, North Carolina today. While there, he gave the troops a pep talk, pressed lawmakers to approve his growing defense budget, and watched as the military went through its paces. CNN White House correspondent, Kelly Wallace, has more.


KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It looks real, but it's not. This is practice for U.S. Army special forces at Fort Bragg. Rioters surround a mock U.S. embassy building while enemy forces overtake buildings nearby. Army Rangers shuttle in on chinooks and black hawks to evacuate embassy staffers.

All the while, the commander in chief looks on. President Bush said the exercise should send this message to America's enemies.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That we're going to be steady, relentless, and we're going to win.

WALLACE: Earlier, Mr. Bush got a thunderous reception and seized the moment to press Congress to make his $48 billion increase for the military, its first order of business.

BUSH: I've heard some of them talking about, you know, it's too big up there. Let me just make this as clear as I can make it. The price for freedom is high, but it's never too high, as far as I'm concerned.

WALLACE: The president said now is not the time to play politics with the defense budget, but Democrats say they support giving the military what it needs for the war on terror, accusing Mr. Bush of being the partisan one. "President Bush is trying to create the appearance of divisions where there similarly are none," said the Democratic Party in a statement. "Sadly, one is left to conclude that he's doing so solely for political reasons."

(on camera): Mr. Bush also came here to outline next steps in the war on terror, denying terrorists safe haven and dealing with the threat of weapons of mass destruction.

BUSH: Whatever it takes to defend the liberty of America, this administration will do.

WALLACE: Throughout the day, Mr. Bush thanked the military for its service and met with families whose loved ones made the ultimate sacrifice when they were killed in Afghanistan earlier this month.

BUSH: To a person they said, Mr. President, you know, don't falter.

WALLACE: The president told the families of Chief Warrant Officer Harriman and Air Force Tech Chapman, their loved ones did not die in vain. Kelly Wallace, CNN, Fayatteville, North Carolina.


SNOW: Checking other international stories. As part of his 12- nation trip, Vice President Dick Cheney took a lunch break today, leaving Oman for a brief visit aboard the USS John C. Stennis. While he was there, he visited with U.S. service members and toured the aircraft carrier. The USS John C. Stennis is in the Arabian Sea. In an exclusive interview with CNN, the Saudi crown prince warned that the United States cannot, in his words, "overcome" Saddam Hussein. And he warned that U.S. aggression against the Iraqi president would create animosity with Arab nations. Cheney is scheduled to meet with the prince tomorrow.

Searching your suitcases, taking off your shoes, confiscating your clippers. But in this new age of tightened airport security, is a machine that can see through your clothes going too far? We'll take a look.

And later, "Dear Abby" makes one of the most difficult decisions in her career. She tell us about it.

First, our news quiz. What is Ann Landers' relationship to Dear Abby? Is Ann her aunt, cousin, twin sister, best friend? The answer, coming up.


SNOW: One of the three concourses at Denver International Airport was evacuated today after a security breach. About 10 people walked through a metal detector that had lost power. All flights out of concourse A were stopped and at least 1,000 people were ordered to leave the area.

Power failure aside, a new system being tested at one of the world's busiest airports may be the ultimate tool in airport security. It is also causing a bit of a stir. The prototypes at Orlando International Airport in Florida can see through clothing for weapons. It can sniff someone for explosives and determine what's in a bottle without opening it.

The American Civil Liberties Union says it amounts to a virtual strip search. Joining us now from New York is Barry Steinhardt, the associate director of the American Civil Liberties Union. And from Orlando, Republican Congressman John Mica. Thank you both for being with us tonight.

Let me start with you, Congressman Mica. You're familiar with these machines. What can they do? What's so special about them?

REP. JOHN MICA (R), FLORIDA: Right now, for the most part, we're dealing with 1970s technology metal detectors. And these are a new generation of detection. It uses either ion scanning, electromagnetic resonates, or high definition of materials. It's completely different, and it can detect plastic weapons, explosives or other materials.

SNOW: Mr. Steinhardt, what's wrong, in this age of fighting terrorism, of having a machine that can stop terrorists from getting on a plane?

BARRY STEINHARDT, ASSOCIATE DIR., ACLU: Well, the particular technology that we're talking about here is in fact a virtual strip search. Those of us who have seen the images that it can produce know that this is the equivalent of being strip searched. And the Congressman is quite right. There's other technology being tested that's far less invasive that will be equally effective. For example, can determine whether or not you're carrying a plastic explosive.

I don't think that most Americans, as they walk through Orlando airport, perhaps on their way to Disneyworld, expect to get strip searched. Orlando is doing a pilot program but there have been other machines like this that have been used in the U.S.?

SNOW: Orlando is just doing a pilot program, right? But there have been other machines like this, Congressman Mica, that have been used in the U.S.?

MICA: We've actually tested this equipment before 9-11 and groups like the ACLU have fought the production and deployment of this type of equipment. They view it as too invasive. I think we've seen that we need this kind of equipment. No one has to be forced to go through. It can be an option and we can also have male and female entry portals where they can go through.

But we can move people through a lot faster without the physical pat-downs that they now get, and other examination and hassle, which I think people want to see.

SNOW: But, Congressman, I've looked at the pictures. This is pretty invasive, if you will. This really shows the outlines of the human body. You don't think that's too much?

MICA: I don't. Not in an era of Richard Reids, when they can be detained, they can fit a profile, they can walk through existing equipment and not be detected. We have a new era of terrorism. There's an indication too that people may be concealing an explosives within their bodies. And we've seen in the Middle East the kind of terror that that exposes us to.

And I think we're going to need this equipment. I'm doing everything I can to get it on-line. Those who don't want to be subject to it, I see their point. And no one's going to be forced to go through it. But I want to get us back to where people can use our aviation system with a sense of real security, and also expedite the process.

SNOW: Mr. Steinhardt...

STEINHARDT: Well, I think is Congressman is being a little unrealistic about two things. First of all, we know that this equipment will be abused. The hundreds of women, including flight attendants, who have complained to the FAA, the DOT, about what amounts to sexual abuse. The pretext the pat-down search can tell you that this equipment will be abused.

Secondly, we are testing an alternative to this equipment. It's the ion detector -- the very one being tested in Orlando. We don't have a problem with that, as long as it's used to look for explosives. But it's far less invasive than subjecting someone to what amounts to a strip search. SNOW: Do you have a problem with that being used for drugs? Because I know that's one of the other issues, that that could possibly detect the presence of drugs.

STEINHARDT: I think there are two problems with it. One of course is that the people at the airports who are doing the security don't need to be further distracted. I fly a lot and I can tell you they have a lot of distractions. We don't need to turn them into drug agents.

Secondly, I don't think that they're authorized and I don't think they have cause, under the Constitution, to be doing drug searches. What they should be looking for is threats to the aircraft and passengers. They ion detectors can properly be used for that. And I think they can be used and we ought to be testing them to see if they can be used just as effectively as this virtual strip search, which we know is going to be abused.

SNOW: Congressman Mica, do you see a day when all of these machines won't be voluntary, when you'll have to go through those kind of machines at an airport?

MICA: I don't see that day. And we are testing different types of equipment. I want as much equipment produced that will do the job as effectively as possible, on-line as soon as possible. We can't wait for tomorrow. And again, no one is going to be forced.

But I want that equipment in place. When we're dealing with hundreds of millions of passengers, they've got to be moved through quickly. It's part of the freedom that we enjoy as Americans. And now people aren't able to fly, feel secure, because you really don't know. And until I get this equipment in those airports -- and most people will volunteer, I'm sure, to go through an expedited line and have the option, again, of the delays and the personal intrusions of another nature.

SNOW: Mr. Steinhardt, just quickly to you, what's wrong with the fact that they're being told that they have to volunteer for the machine? It's not an obligation, so isn't that OK?

STEINHARDT: Well, it's voluntary right now because it's a test. But we know from all the other airport security measures that it won't remain voluntary very long. This is something people are going to be forced to do. They'll either be forced to physically disrobe or they'll be forced to go through this search. That's a reality. I'm sure the Congressman flies more than I do, and he knows perfectly well what the reality is now at today's airports. These steps are not voluntary.

SNOW: Barry Steinhardt of the ACLU, thanks so much. And Congressman John Mica in Florida, thank you very much.

MICA: Thank you. Good to be with you.

STEINHARDT: Thank you, Kate.

SNOW: The first U.S. pilot shot down in the Persian Gulf War, could he still be alive, held captive by Saddam Hussein?

And terrorists in the U.S. for flight training. Can it happen again? Stay with us.


SNOW: A Texas jury has sentenced Andrea Yates to life in prison for drowning her children. She will be eligible for parole in 40 years. It took the jurors just 40 minutes of deliberations to decide her fate. They could have sentenced her to death.

The U.S. government doesn't want to do business with Enron or its former accounting firm, Arthur Andersen. It's suspended the bankrupt energy giant and the auditor from entering into new federal contracts. The General Services Administration says it doesn't consider either of them a -- quote -- "responsible contractor."

An apparent murder-suicide has stunned a rural Oregon community. Police say they believe a man shot to death his four children and his wife, then turned the gun on himself. The family recently moved to Yamhill County from California, where court records show the man filed for bankruptcy.

Pentagon officials says there is no credible evidence a Navy pilot thought to have been killed in action during the Persian Gulf War might be alive and held in Iraq. Lieutenant commander Michael Scott Speicher's plane was shot down in 1991. Months later, he was declared killed in action. Last year, Speicher's status was changed to missing in action based on information from an Iraqi defector. Sources now tell CNN the Pentagon is now considering listing him as a prisoner of war.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says finding out the pilot's fate remain a priority.


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: It is a pilot that was shot down during the Gulf War. In that general time frame, he was declared killed in action. At some later point, in more recent years, he was declared moved from killed in action to missing in action. We have a very real interest in his circumstance, if he's alive.


SNOW: Tonight on the "War Room," we will look deeper into the status of Navy pilot Speicher and whether the evidence points to him being alive. That's at 7:00 Eastern.

Turning to the war in Afghanistan: Operation Anaconda appears to be back in full force.

CNN senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is in the region and reports on the U.S. and allied actions there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Afghan commanders say they have now searched some caves in the Shah-e-Kot Valley area. They say they have found some dead Taliban and al Qaeda members there. And they have also sealed up some of these cave areas.

In the early hours of the morning, both Afghan and U.S. special forces in the village of Shah-e-Kot came under a 90-minute attack from about 10 Taliban or al Qaeda members. The special forces returned fire. Nobody was injured in that exchange. Also, throughout the day we have heard sporadic gun battle exchanges between Taliban and al Qaeda members and also the coalition forces, about a thousand of whom are still on the ground around the Shah-e-Kot Valley area.

There has been also intensive surveillance aircraft activity in the area. We have seen helicopter gunships flying in in the area as well, and also some sporadic bombing in the mountains behind the Shah- e-Kot Valley area.

Operation Anaconda appears to be going on at full force. However, we cannot get into that valley area to get to the caves ourselves to perhaps search for more of the dead Taliban members, al Qaeda members who are rumored to be in there. That is off limits. U.S. special forces are enforcing a military zone and we cannot get in there.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Gardez, Afghanistan.


SNOW: Thousands and thousands of people write to Dear Abby for advice. But one man didn't get advice; he got arrested. We will hear from Dear Abby.

And did they make it? We showed you exclusive pictures of a dramatic run for freedom. We will catch up with them when we come back.


SNOW: Earlier we asked: "What is Ann Landers' relationship to Dear Abby?" Is Ann her aunt, cousin, twin sister, best friend? Ann Landers and the original Dear Abby are twin sisters. But that's only half the answer. Jeanne Phillips is the daughter of the original Dear Abby and now takes care of most column duties, making Ann Landers her aunt.

Now, the person who writes the popular "Dear Abby" advice column recently had a serious dilemma of her own. Jeanne Phillips notified authorities after someone wrote that he was fantasizing about young girls. The man hadn't acted on his thoughts, but he was arrested for possessing child pornography. Dear Abby is based on anonymity. And the decision to pursue this was agonizing.

Earlier, I talked with Phillips about it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SNOW: Jeanne Phillips, thanks for being with us.

You get hundreds of letters. You get letters all the time. What was different about this letter?

JEANNE PHILLIPS, "DEAR ABBY" COLUMNIST: Well, I had never gotten a letter quite like this one, where I felt that somebody was in danger, to this extent.

SNOW: In what sense? What were the phrases or what was it about the letter that caught your attention?

PHILLIPS: What got my attention was when he said that the little girl trusted him and that he was having sexual feelings for her. I became very concerned.

SNOW: You read the letter but, as I understand it, you didn't act on it right away. Why not?

PHILLIPS: That's because I wasn't quite sure what to do. And I wanted to carefully consider my actions.

SNOW: And how long did you wait before you called the police?

PHILLIPS: About two days.

SNOW: When you called the police, did you think that this would be a private matter between you and them? Did you expect them to go public about it then?

PHILLIPS: I'm really glad that you brought that up, because I definitely expected it would be dealt with a very quiet intervention. I had no idea that they were going to say anything to the media at all until my secretary called me and said that the Milwaukee papers wanted to do an interview with me. I was shocked.

SNOW: And are you upset that they went public with this? Or do you think it is going to provide some kind of a valuable lesson or service?

PHILLIPS: I don't think that there was anything to be gained by going public. No, I don't.

SNOW: Does it endanger your feeling with your readers of privacy and anonymity? Is that what concerns you: that people won't feel they can write to you anymore and be private?


People write to me, for the most part, intending that their letters be published. That's No. 1. If they ever say at the bottom of a letter, "Please don't print this letter," we never do. We never have.

SNOW: This gentleman put his address and his name and everything right on the letter, didn't he? PHILLIPS: That's correct, everything, name, address, phone, zip code, everything.

SNOW: Why do you think he...

PHILLIPS: He wanted somebody to intervene. And, as a matter of fact, after he was arrested, he said that he was relieved that he had been arrested, and that perhaps he would get the help that he had not been able to get before, and that it would help him to cope with what he called the monster within.

SNOW: Have you ever gotten a letter like this before in the 20 years that you have been doing the column?

PHILLIPS: No, I' never gotten one like this. I've gotten some doozies, but I haven't got anything quite like this.

SNOW: Do you think people can feel comfortable still writing to you now in light of what has happened?

PHILLIPS: I certainly hope so. Most people don't write to me about wanting to possibly physically harm another person. And so I see no reason why people wouldn't continue to write to "Dear Abby."

SNOW: In his letter, he said he had gone to four different doctors and no one had helped him. Why do you think the doctors didn't recognize that he had an inclination?

PHILLIPS: Well, he didn't say that to me in the communication that he wrote.

But if he said that he had been going to four different doctors and that he hadn't been able to get any of them to agree that he had a problem, I wonder if he wasn't going to a podiatrist, a dentist, a proctologist or a veterinarian.

SNOW: What if you had answered that letter? What would you share with your readers about this man?

PHILLIPS: Oh, I would say: "Please don't be afraid of him. People have a tendency to panic when they confront something that they don't understand. Please know that the man needs help. I hope that he gets it. But I think that he needs our compassion and our understanding."

SNOW: Jeanne Phillips, Dear Abby, thanks so much for being with us. PHILLIPS: Thank you.


SNOW: We showed you exclusive pictures of their run for freedom. When we come back, what's happened to the North Koreans who stormed a Spanish embassy looking for asylum? And a follow-up to another CNN exclusive: what the government is and is not doing to keep terrorists from America's flight schools. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SNOW: We have an update for you on a story you saw exclusively here on CNN. One day after dashing inside the Spanish Embassy in Beijing, 25 North Korean asylum seekers are getting their wish to go to South Korea. The six families and two orphaned girls have arrived in the Philippines, where they will stay for three days before heading to Seoul. The United Nations Refugee Agency thanks China and Spain for quickly resolving the situation.

Immigration issues are also making news here in the United States. CNN broke the story about the INS sending out letters confirming student visas for two of the September 11 hijackers. Many people were shocked to learn that they trained at flight schools here in the U.S. They apparently aroused little suspicion despite their status as non-U.S. citizens.

Has anything changed? CNN's Mark Potter takes a look.


MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At a flight school on Florida's west coast, two students and their instructor head out for a training flight.

GLENN HAPPE, FLIGHT SCHOOL OWNER: Good thing that you're flexible, huh?


POTTER: Normally, there would be 20 to 30 students here. But, since September 11, enrollments, especially from abroad, have plummeted at flight schools around the country.

HAPPE: It is devastating. It's been crushed. I depended on the international market. And, as you can see today, I have only got a couple of students, and American at that, but not nearly enough to warrant keeping the school open.

POTTER: After the September attacks, flight schools became the focus of international attention after it was revealed that some of the 19 terrorists took flying lessons at U.S. schools before hijacking the airliners.

Since then, the U.S. State Department is doing much more thorough background checks of applicants for student visas overseas. And the Justice Department must now give advance approval for international students to train on larger aircraft, those with a maximum allowable weight of 6.25 tons. That would include small jets and large prop planes.

MARILYN LADNER, PAN AM INTERNATIONAL FLIGHT ACADEMY: I look at this as a second layer of information as to what exactly they are going to do here. So I think, in the long term, it is going to be good. POTTER (on camera): But there is still a big gap in the law. A person arriving in the United States on a terrorist visa is allowed to go to school here for up to 18 hours a week without prior approval or monitoring by the U.S. government. And that includes flight training.

(voice-over): At Huffman Aviation in Venice, Florida, Mohamed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi received flight instruction while here on visitor's visas a year before they each flew a hijacked jet into the World Trade Center.

Rudi Dekkers, the owner of the company, says he is very careful now about which students he accepts, but points out he and other flight school operators still face no government requirement to do so.

RUDI DEKKERS, PRESIDENT, HUFFMAN AVIATION: If a student goes to a flight school and they are there, you do not have the obligation as a flight school to say: "Hey, listen, who are you? What are you?" and etcetera, etcetera.

If you feel comfortable with a student and he wants to spend a couple of thousand dollars, you are going to do that.

POTTER: Critics consider the exception for tourist visas a security breach and argue that advance governmental approval to train international students should be required even for small planes.

TOM FISCHER, FORMER INS DISTRICT DIRECTOR: A big bullet or a small bullet can still do you harm. And I say a big plane or a small plane can still do you harm.

POTTER: But after a 15-year-old student committed suicide in January by flying a stolen plane into a Tampa skyscraper, some flight school operators argued small planes can't really do much damage. They favor the flight school industry policing itself.

While all agree complete security is impossible, some feel more should still be done to make terrorism in America at least more difficult.

Mark Potter, CNN, Miami.


SNOW: When we say Senator Gore, I bet you think Albert. Well, you may need to think again. Here is another Gore who may "Tip" her hat in the ring.


SNOW: Now checking these stories on today's "Newswire": Georgia fire-and-rescue crews worked through most of the day to free a construction worker after a trench collapsed over him. That accident occurred at a construction site near Marietta and left the man buried up to his shoulders. He was freed just a few hours ago.

As the wife of former Vice President Al Gore, Tipper Gore is no stranger to Washington politics. Now she is apparently considering a run for the U.S. Senate in Tennessee. A source close to the Gore family says Tipper Gore canceled a weekend trip to consider her prospects. Democrats hope to win back the seat held by Republican Fred Thompson, who has announced he is retiring.

In a moment your turn: "Do you agree with the jury's decision to sentence Andrea Yates to life in prison?" That story and your heated comments on an adoption controversy just ahead.


SNOW: Let's go to New York now and get a preview of "LOU DOBBS MONEYLINE," which begins at the top of the hour -- hi, Lou.

LOU DOBBS, "LOU DOBBS MONEYLINE": Hi, Kate. Thank you very much.

Andersen under indictment and under pressure as more of its clients defect -- We'll have a full report at the top of the hour. And we will hear from some of the Andersen employees. America's department stores are in big trouble. We will tell you what is being done to save them. "ET" is returning to the movies. "Variety"'s editor in chief, Peter Bart, will join us to tell us why this could be a very big gamble for Universal Studios. And the Dow Jones industrials score the fifth straight week of gains.

We will be telling you all about that and a lot more at the top of the hour -- Kate, back to you.

SNOW: Thanks, Lou.

For the first time in public, talk show host Rosie O'Donnell is talking about her homosexuality and parenting. One, she says, has nothing do with the other. O'Donnell has three adopted children.


ROSIE O'DONNELL, TALK SHOW HOST: I don't think America knows what a gay parent looks like. I am the gay parent. America has watched me parent my children on TV for six years. They know what kind of parent I am. So, when you think of gay parenting, you don't have an image to hold onto. I will be that image, because I am a gay parent.


SNOW: O'Donnell says she was moved to discuss her sexuality because of Florida's ban on gay parents adopting.

Here is CNN's John Zarrella in Fort Lauderdale.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hundreds of lesbians and gay men gathered to watch Rosie O'Donnell talk on national television -- about being a gay adopted parent, and the Florida law that prohibits all gay people from adopting.

ROSIE O'DONNELL: People have said to me, Well, you don't want to do this case, because what if they stop watching?

ZARRELLA: O'Donnell, who lives in Miami Beach and has adopted three children outside Florida, has become the standard barrel in a battle to have the 25-year-old law declared unconstitutional, which is Wayne Smith's hope too.

WAYNE SMITH, FOSTER PARENT: As long as the public dialogue continues, and as long as people critically examine the issue, they will come with the right answer on the right side, and that is that the law just has to go.

ZARRELLA: Smith and partner Dan have two foster children.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, what did you do at school today?

ZARRELLA: It's okay in Florida for them to be foster parents, but they can't adopt. Wayne and Dan are plaintiffs in the suit aimed at overturning the law, and O'Donnell's celebrity presence has energized the campaign against it. Thursday, the ACLU blasted the state, calling the adoption ban a national disgrace.

MATT COLES, ACLU: There are 3,500 kids in foster care in Florida waiting to be raised, and there are a substantial number of lesbians and gay men who would be willing to give them those homes, and the state of Florida won't let it happen.

ZARRELLA: This week, former State Representative Elaine Bloom and several Democratic colleagues who voted for the adoption ban, publicly said they were wrong.

ELAINE BLOOM, FORMER STATE LEGISLATOR: We hope that by showing that we recognize that we had a wrong opinion 25 years ago, it will help other people who perhaps shared that opinion then, to show that they, too, can make changes.

ZARRELLA: Current Republican lawmakers say the law stays.

SEN. STEPHEN WISE (R), FLORIDA STATE SENATOR: If you look at the data that the mother and the father bringing up a child makes a significant difference in the behavior of that child.

ZARRELLA: The issue of the law's constitutionality will be taken up later this year by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

(on camera): Given the Republican domination of the Florida legislature, opponents of the adoption ban say they don't expect state lawmakers will be inclined to change the law. Their best, and perhaps only hope, they say, is convincing the courts that the law is wrong.

John Zarrella, CNN, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.


SNOW: Many of you wrote in on the issue of gay adoption.

Sophia says: "All decent people should be able to adopt children regardless of their sexual orientation."

But Chic says: "Gays, whether they have chosen that lifestyle or been born into it, must understand that that lifestyle is not conducive to raising children. While it may be appropriate to allow gays to adopt, stable heterosexual married couples should always be given first priority."

Now to our "Web "Question of the Day": "Do you agree with the jury's sentence for Andrea Yates?" Fifty-seven percent of you said yes. And a reminder: This poll is not scientific.

I'm Kate Snow in Washington. Wolf Blitzer will be back on Monday. And join Andrea Koppel in one hour for CNN's "War Room." The focus: the fate of a Navy pilot shot down during the Persian Gulf War.

Thank you for watching. "LOU DOBBS MONEYLINE" begins right now.


Security Going Too Far?; Can a U.S. Pilot Still Be in Iraq a Decade After Gulf War?>



Back to the top