August 28, 2007 Tuesday
SHOW: CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL 8:00 PM EST
Idaho Senator Denies Role in Sex Scandal; Martin Luther King Statue Outsourced?
BYLINE: Ted Rowlands, Dan Lothian, Dana Bash, Rick Sanchez
GUESTS: Kareem Shora, Dan Savage, Keith Boykin, Kevin McCullough
SECTION: NEWS; International
LENGTH: 7690 words
HIGHLIGHT: Idaho Senator Larry Craig speaks out, denying charges that he engaged in lewd behavior in an airport bathroom in June. Why is a statue honoring Martin Luther King being outsourced? Police in Seattle search for two men who took several recent ferry rides
SANCHEZ: Welcome back, everybody. I’m Rick Sanchez.
Here is a story we told you about out in the open because this is about — it’s a controversy and a mystery both going on at the same time in Seattle. It focuses on fear of terrorism and also on the other side, fear of discrimination against Arab-Americans. It starts with a couple of guys on a passenger ferry. Are these nefarious characters or just victims of our own fears or someone with a camera?
We sent CNN’s Ted Rowlands to Seattle to investigate.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There is a chance, according to the FBI, that the ferry system near Seattle, which shuttles more than a million passengers a month through scenic Puget Sound, is being targeted for attack. There is also a chance that these two men have a perfectly good explanation for what they were doing earlier this summer, taking picture after picture on board passenger ferries.
CAPTAIN STEPHEN METRUCK, U.S. COAST GUARD: It is very, very interesting and odd what they were doing, so we really would like to locate these individuals.
ROWLANDS: So odd, says Coast Guard Captain Stephen Metruck, that authorities feel they absolutely need an explanation. Here is why. The two men were scene on several different ferries on multiple routes taking notes and photographs, and apparently measuring different areas of several ships, including the cargo hold of one boat.
One ferry employee became so concerned he took photos of the two men using a cell phone camera.
(on camera): According to the FBI, some of the specifics as to the two men’s behavior included, according to witnesses, them pacing off different areas of the ship, seeming to measure different areas. They were also seen taking photographs of things like this, restricted areas that only employees can go, and they were also seen in one instance studying an emergency evacuation poster like this one.
CAPTAIN MARK THOMAS, WASHINGTON STATE PATROL: When a pattern of behavior starts to develop with numerous reports, that obviously causes greater concern.
ROWLANDS: Concern enough to launch an investigation to find them including according to the FBI an exhaustive surveillance operation. But after the cell phone photo was taken of the two men, they seemed to vanish, leaving their identities a mystery.
While investigators acknowledge there could be an explanation, they say without one they have to assume the worst.
LARRY CARR, FBI: When we vetted out this through the traditional investigative techniques, and we got no answers, at that point in time we have got to step it up, because the result of not doing anything at that point in time is a ferry blowing up, capsizing, and thousands of people lose their lives. We can’t let that happen.
ROWLANDS: With so much concern and no sign of the two men, the FBI decided to go public, releasing the camera phone photos to the media, in the hopes that someone would recognize the men. Their pictures appeared in local television and newspapers, prompting almost 200 tips, but no positive I.D.
Meanwhile, several groups in Seattle are criticizing the decision to release the photos, saying essentially that the two men haven’t done anything illegal and the photos only further the stereotype that people who look Middle Eastern are possible terrorists.
NASEEM TUFFAHA, AMERICAN-ARAB ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMITTEE: We just want to ensure that there is one standard being implemented for suspicious behavior for both people who are appear to be Middle Eastern and those who appear not to be Middle Eastern.
ROWLANDS: Don’t expect an apology from the FBI, which says they never publicly speculated about the men’s ethnicity.
CARR: We have had some criticism. Unfortunately, we can’t let that stand in our way. When you break it down to just the facts and you separate yourself from any personal issues or agendas that may be present, you look at the facts, and I don’t know how we can determine that there is any other way that we can go about it. We simply have to I.D. these individuals.
ROWLANDS: And find out exactly what they were doing.
Ted Rowlands, CNN, Seattle.
SANCHEZ: And, just to be clear, we here at CNN were among the many media outlets that broadcast the pictures of the two unidentified men that you just saw in that report after the FBI released the pictures asking the public for some type of help. But was that the right call?
That’s something Kareem Shora wants to weigh in on. He’s an attorney with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. And he’s good enough to join us now.
You know, what is interesting about this is the FBI really never mentions the ethnicity, but I imagine there’s people in the Arab- American community who might think that they probably shouldn’t have released these pictures to begin with. Are you among those?
KAREEM SHORA, AMERICAN ARAB ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMITTEE: Rick, we have heard the concerns from the local community in Seattle.
However, overall, we think that we’re an asset to the FBI’s efforts and in this incident and other situations in the past.
SANCHEZ: So, do you see this as profiling?
SHORA: Not at all. Not at all, Rick.
I think the idea is that we have been able to establish bridges with the FBI in other situations, and we feel that we can become an asset in this situation, calling on our community to cooperate and work with the FBI to make sure that any suspicious behavior regardless of who the individual may be is reported to law enforcement.
SANCHEZ: So, what is your beef then?
SHORA: The situation is that we’re used to working with the FBI so closely in other incidents, and in this situation, the FBI chose not to reach out to the community ahead of time. Given the post 9/11- world we live in, let’s all be realistic. We know what we’re talking about. We’re talking about terrorism. And it is a threat against all Americans regardless of whether you’re Arab-American or not. We feel that we could have been an asset in helping law enforcement reach out and see if the community is aware of those individuals or whether we can help in that…
SANCHEZ: So, I get it. You’re saying, look, it is OK to do what they did, but they should have come to us first; they should have tipped us off, right?
SHORA: Not tipped us off, just work with us as partners. This would not be first time. Again, there have been situations in the past around the country where we worked with the FBI very closely and have been successful in helping their efforts out.
SANCHEZ: So, what do you think you would have done? They would have come to you with a couple of pictures and said, hey, check and see if anybody in your community knows who these two guys are?
SHORA: That is very true. It is a very small community. And again let’s not get ourselves where — we all know we live in a post- 9/11 world. And we feel that we have an obligation…
SANCHEZ: Well, you said that before. But let me stop and ask you. You have seen the pictures now. Do you know who these guys are?
SHORA: Obviously, I personally do not. But the job — there is no real gripe.
The issue is that the situation has been made — you mentioned yourself that CNN actually played those pictures over and over again.
SHORA: And it seems like the media is definitely publicizing the situation a lot more so than it is. I think it’s the job of everyone to help out.
SANCHEZ: Let me ask you, then, because you’re kind of being — you’re on the edges of this argument, and I want to see if you can attack it a little more directly. Do you think it was proper for the media to report this, for the media to show the pictures and for the police to say we have got a couple of guys on a boat; we don’t know much about them, other than the fact that they may have been acting a little bit mysteriously, and we have got this picture? Is that right?
SHORA: As long as — absolutely. As long as the standard is being applied of suspicious behavior, then you did your job, the police did their job, and we need to do our job as a community to work with the FBI and try to resolve the situation.
SANCHEZ: So, you’re saying all we want to do is help. And we appreciate that.
SANCHEZ: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Kareem Shora, thanks so much for your insight. Good guest. We will get back to you.
SHORA: Thank you