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The United States Faces a New Kind of Threat from Islamic Militants

A discussion about terrorism with Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Tim Weiner. He writes about the CIA for "The New York Times." He talks about the changing nature of terrorism and specifically the challenges of tracking down Islamic militant Osama Bin Laden.


Other segments from the episode on August 24, 1998

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, August 24, 1998: Interview with Tim Weiner; Interview with Mills Lane; Review of The Beastie Boy's album "Hello Nasty."


Date: AUGUST 24, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 082401np.217
Sect: News; International
Time: 12:06

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

America's military, intelligence and diplomatic services are gearing up for a long war against terrorism. My guest Tim Weiner covers intelligence for "The New York Times." In yesterday's paper, he reported that the American retaliatory missile strikes on Afghanistan and the Sudan last week were just small battles in a war without foreseeable end.

In today's Times, he writes about why military strikes aren't very effective against the terrorists hidden in the hills of Afghanistan. Weiner says that targeting this terrorist network, which is believed to be funded by Osama bin Laden, is different than fighting state-sponsored terrorism.

TIM WEINER, JOURNALIST; INTELLIGENCE REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": What makes the organization such as it is, of Osama bin Laden, different from the state-sponsored terrorist groups that were flourishing in the 1980s is that this guy doesn't have a headquarters, per se. There's no building that you can hit. There's no, you know, bunker in Iraq or clandestine intelligence cell in Teheran that you can fix as a target, either a literal target for missiles or a figurative target for spies. Bin Laden is different.

GROSS: As you pointed out in your article yesterday in the "Times," these terrorists are driven more by theology than politics. How does that complicate things for the United States' attempts to get back at the terrorists and to prevent future acts?

WEINER: The group around Osama bin Laden has a grandiose vision. It's not simply to alter American foreign policy in the Middle East. It's to abolish the United States and to drive pro-American leaders of countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt out of power and to their graves; and to establish a kind of a global Islamic nation that would reach from North Africa, across the Middle East, across Afghanistan and Pakistan, all the way to the Philippines; essentially to unify the nations of Islam as one.

Now, this makes matters difficult. You can't reason very closely with a fellow like this. In the late '70s and early '80s, the United States, through its diplomatic and intelligence services, was able to reach a kind of understanding or something that approached an understanding with organizations like the PLO -- Palestine Liberation Organization. This is not a guy that you can talk to, Mr. bin Laden.

GROSS: Bin Laden helped fund the Mujahadin against the Soviet Union in the 10-year war between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. And the United States, since it was opposed to the USSR during the Cold War, we were funding the Mujahadin in their fight against the Soviet Union. So how close did the United States and bin Laden get during that period? Did we work directly with him?

WEINER: It's unclear that -- there's no evidence that the CIA worked directly with bin Laden during the decade-long struggle of the Afghan people to rid themselves of their uninvited guests from the Soviet Union. They certainly had a common cause. Bin Laden was known to the CIA and to the United States as one of those nice Saudi benefactors who showed up in Peshawar, Pakistan, which was the political base of the Afghan resistance, just east of the Khyber Pass that leads to Afghanistan.

He set up charities. He set up guest houses. He himself bin Laden has said that he imported hundreds of tons of heavy equipment from Saudi Arabia; he's, of course, a construction engineer by trade -- to build roads, to build tunnels, to build underground depots and bunkers for the Mujahadin.

So yes, they were in common cause, and that's when the guy shows up first in the files of the CIA. But as far as them sort of sitting down in a room and working together, there's no evidence of that.

GROSS: What did the CIA give the Mujahadin in terms of arms and other training?

WEINER: Right. When this story starts during the Carter Administration, actually, back in 1979, Christmas week. When the Soviet invaded Afghanistan with 110,000 troops, President Carter and his National Security Council and his director of Central Intelligence began immediately to try to send tens of millions of dollars of weaponry to the Afghan resistance.

This effort grew and grew and grew during the Reagan Administration, until it became hundreds of millions of dollars a year; and in aggregate, roughly $3 billion of weaponry and war material made its way from the CIA's sort of global gun-running organization, through the Pakistani intelligence service known as the ISI, into the hands, or at least we hoped it was getting into the hands, of the Mujahadin.

The Saudis matched this. It's like a fundraising drive on public radio -- dollar for dollar. So the combined contribution of the United States and Saudi Arabia was about six billion -- with a "b" -- dollars over the decade.

GROSS: So in a way, I mean, would you say that the victory that we helped give the Mujahadin in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union boosted their confidence that they could topple superpowers, and now they think they can topple the United States?

WEINER: Well, Afghan guerrillas have a long history of dealing severely with superpowers. The British -- when the British were the superpower in the region in the 1830s and '40s, 150 years ago, sent a 16,000-man expeditionary force to try and subdue the Afghans and about five of them made it back four years later. These guys are tough. They are really tough. And they live and fight under circumstances that very few people in the world could sustain.

These guys basically lived in the mountains and slept on rocks and lived on stale bread and tea for 10 years, and kicked the Soviet Union out. They are not pushovers.

GROSS: Tim Weiner is my guest. He covers intelligence for "The New York Times."

You reported on Afghanistan and went to Afghanistan in '87, '92 and '94. What's the closest that you got to actually visiting one of the terrorist camps?

WEINER: Well, they weren't seen as terrorist camps in '87 and in '92. The closest I ever got in '94 to the two camps that the United States now says are being run as terrorist universities by Osama bin Laden, was about 30 miles in the case -- or 20 I guess miles -- in the case of the one that the United States hit with cruise missiles last week. And about two miles in the case of one that's established in Kunar Province to the north -- in the northeastern corner of Afghanistan.

There's nothing fancy here. I mean, these are above ground -- huts made out of mud, sometimes camel dung, stick, and the fancier ones of concrete. And underground, basically fancy caves that are protected from weaponry fired at them.

Now, the question's not what these camps look like so much as who comes there. After the Soviets left Afghanistan in 1989, but before the Soviet-backed government in Kabul, the Afghan capital, fell in 1992 -- in those four years, people came from all over the world, all over the Islamic world to, first, Peshawar, Pakistan and then over the Khyber Pass and the other mountain passes into Afghanistan.

These were people from Egypt. They were from Sudan. They were from all over North Africa. They were from Palestine and Lebanon. They were from, some of them, Saudi Arabia. They were from all over the Islamic world, from Morocco to the Philippines. And they came to kind of take a drink from this cup -- this winner's cup -- that the Afghan Mujahadin had filled. This was the first victory by an Islamic army over an infidel invading force since the 16th century. It was a big deal.

And they came to kind of drink from this cup of jihad, of holy war, and to learn what the Afghans had learned, and to export this holy war and the techniques of fighting it back to their homelands. They became what were known as the "Afghan Arabs."

GROSS: One of the things that's really hard to reconcile is this: the people behind the holy war see the United States as being the infidels, as being immoral; but Afghanistan is a large exporter of heroin. So how -- how do the people fighting the holy war reconcile their morality with heroin?

WEINER: It's an interesting question, and I'm not sure I know the answer. It is true that there is no more economy in Afghanistan. The endless wars first against the Soviet Union and then Afghan against Afghan that have gone on now for more than 20 years have destroyed Afghanistan. There is almost nothing left in Afghanistan except acre upon acre upon acre of poppies from which opium is produced and heroin refined.

Afghanistan may be responsible for anywhere from a quarter to a third of the heroin consumed by junkies in the United States. These estimates are necessarily imprecise.

How do they reconcile it? I'm not sure they do reconcile it. You know, the Koran says that such intoxicants are immoral, but one gets a sense that the folks who have lived and fought out there for so long are nothing if not pragmatic. And if that's the only way to get currency into Afghanistan, so be it.

GROSS: A lot of the terrorist network is funded by bin Laden's money, and he has -- you said he has an estimated $250 million from the fortune his father made building mosques, palaces and public works for the Saudi royal family. Do you think the CIA or, you know, American intelligence is trying to get to bin Laden's money? Because that's his main contribution, right, is the dough?

WEINER: Yeah, that's the -- I think you could say that the infrastructure of bin Laden's network is cash rather than a building or a formal set of training centers. It -- nobody knows how much money the guy has. He was one of 20 sons of his father, and the sons shared a fortune estimated at $5 billion. So his cut would have been about $250 million.

He may have quite a bit more. According to one estimate, he brought as much as a half a billion dollars to the Sudan when he set him up -- himself up there for business four or five years ago. This money is hidden in a maze that has thus far proved impenetrable to the United States. And if you could take it down and seize it, I suppose you could paralyze his operations.

The money is probably stashed away in a global network of Islamic banks which function different from your friendly neighborhood savings and loan, and probably with a network of money changers in Pakistan and Afghanistan who function as banks. And where else? Who knows. It's a pretty interesting detective story that will probably go on for years.

GROSS: My guest is Tim Weiner. He covers intelligence for "The New York Times." We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.


My guest is Tim Weiner. He covers intelligence for "The New York Times." We're talking about last week's retaliatory missile strikes against the terrorist network in Sudan and Afghanistan, a network funded by Osama bin Laden. The network is believed to be behind the bombings of two American embassies in Africa.

The government of Sudan is saying that the factory we bombed was a pharmaceutical plant that had nothing to do with chemical weapons as the CIA claims it did. The CIA says it has evidence to back up the claim, but it can't disclose the information to the press or the public.

I asked Tim Weiner if, as a reporter, he's willing to accept that.

WEINER: As a reporter, I understand why CIA is loathe to disclose the sources and methods it uses to reach the conclusions that it does. There is a great deal of secrecy, of course, involved in what they do, and they feel that if they are in a position of being forced to say: well, a guy we work with, you know, in the Sudan whose been secretly assisting the United States undercover for the past 14 years told us -- that that could put the fellow's life in danger.

It is true that the degree of secrecy surrounding the military operations against Sudan and Afghanistan were about as secretive as anything since World War II, in that, you know, the Pentagon didn't say: we sent thus-and-thus a ship to thus-and-such location and fired thus-and-such weaponry.

This is something new under the sun. In my opinion, the ability of whoever carried this out -- and let's say for the moment that it was Osama bin Laden and his network -- to carry out two simultaneous bombings in two different locations, that's something new under the sun. The level of logistical sophistication, timing, training necessary to pull that off is high. As one former CIA officer said: "two at once is not twice as hard as one. Two at once is 100 times as hard."

So the United States is saying to itself and to its people: we're up against something new here and we are going to have to fight it in new and different ways. Whether cruise missiles are effective in taking down part of a global terrorist structure remains to be seen. This kind of thing -- if this war -- if it is a war, as they say -- this war is going to go on for years.

GROSS: Are there new strategies being debated that you're aware of?

WEINER: I think that the United States is saying to itself and to its people that this is not the moral equivalent of war. This is war. And this is going to be similar in some ways, perhaps in duration, to the Cold War. And they are going to use some of the same tools that they used during the Cold War -- that is, spies and secret operations; perhaps paramilitary operations run by the Pentagon or by the CIA. And they are going to try and dream up some new techniques.

Now, the problem here is that fighting this kind of war is disproportionately dependent on good intelligence; about 80 or 90 percent of the game is good intelligence. And it is very, very, very hard for the United States to penetrate an organization like Osama bin Laden's. It's very hard for the United States to place a spy in their camp. We'd don't have a lot of spies that look like these guys. We don't have a lot of guys who can speak the language, literally and figuratively, that these guys speak. And to gin up the talent that you need to penetrate and take down an organization like this one is a big, big task.

GROSS: Have there been any estimates about how much damage this terrorist network can actually do?

WEINER: If we take Mr. bin Laden's public statements at face value, this is a man who has vowed to attack American bases overseas anywhere at anytime. While there's no proof that he was the intellectual authors of the bombings at American military bases in Saudi Arabia in 1995 and 1996, which killed 24 American soldiers, he has, after the fact, applauded those bombings. And if the senior officers of the United States military and intelligence and diplomatic services are right, he was planning two or three or possibly more attacks like the bombings that took out the American embassies in Africa two weeks ago.

It's impossible for an outsider to evaluate how good the American intelligence information on this guy is. They claim its extraordinarily good, but they're not going to show it to the press or to the American people.

GROSS: Tim Weiner, thank you very much for talking with us.

WEINER: All right. Thanks.

GROSS: Tim Weiner covers intelligence for "The New York Times." We recorded our interview this morning.

I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.


Dateline: Terry Gross, Washington DC
Guest: Tim Weiner
High: A discussion about international terrorism with Tim Weiner, a Pulitzer Prize-winning intelligence writer for "The New York Times." He talks about the changing nature of the war against terrorism and the challenges of tracking down a figure like Islamic militant Osama bin Laden.
Spec: CIA; Terrorism; Osama bin Laden; World Affairs
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1998 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1998 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.

Date: AUGUST 24, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 082402NP.217
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:36

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Mike Tyson is trying to get his boxing license back. My guest Mills Lane refereed the fight that cost Tyson his license. Lane disqualified Tyson after he twice bit Evander Holyfield on the ear in the WBA championship bout.

Lane has refereed close to 100 championship fights. He recently retired from his position as a district judge in Nevada. Now he has his own TV court show and a new memoir called "Let's Get It On." I asked Mills Lane if he was expecting trouble in the Tyson-Holyfield fight.

MILLS LANE, FORMER NEVADA DISTRICT JUDGE; CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING REFEREE; AUTHOR, "LET'S GET IT ON: TOUGH TALK FROM BOXING'S TOP REF AND NEVADA'S MOST OUTSPOKEN JUDGE": No. I was expecting a rough, tough fight. In my opinion, Mike Tyson the first time was not well prepared; thought he could walk right through Holyfield. Obviously, that didn't happen. I think he got prepared. I think he expected a rough, tough fight. In the first two rounds, it was a real tough fight on the inside.

And then Evander won the first two rounds, and I thought Tyson was coming on in the third. The cut -- the clash of heads was unfortunate, and when that happened, I think Tyson got frustrated and did what he did.

GROSS: The clash of heads -- before there were the ear bites, there was a headbutt. Holyfield butted Tyson, and you had to decide whether that was an intentional or accidental head butt. How did you decide?

LANE: Well, in something like that you'd have to see what you see. What they did is, the fighters were their styles. They both come forward, and their heads just came together. Now, Holyfield's about six-three; Tyson's about five-ten, five-eleven. If Tyson would have just ducked his head, Holyfield would have got cut. But what happened is Tyson stood straight up and that's when he got hit right above -- cut right above the eye. As again, it's a judgment call, but I didn't think it was intentional.

GROSS: But Tyson thought it was intentional.

LANE: Well, he said that, but Mike Tyson's been fighting a long time and he knows that those things happen. And so I -- he -- that's what he said. Whether or not he really believes that is something else again.

GROSS: Let's get to the first ear bite. You write that you didn't realize it, the first time that Tyson bit Holyfield. What did you see happening?

LANE: Well, I was really not in the best position. I was a little bit behind, I think, and to the left of Mike Tyson. I saw they were in close. I saw his head go down, and then Holyfield jumped up and spun around and grabbed his head with a glove, and said: "he bit me." And when I moved around to get into position, I could look at the ear and I could see a tear and a lot of blood. I knew it wasn't a punch, so I drew the only inference you could draw, that it was a bite and that's what it was.

GROSS: And you had to decide what to do: stop the fight, penalize Tyson. How do you decide?

LANE: Well, what I did was, and this is -- I did make a mistake here and I've owned up to that publicly. There's no question about it. What happened is I got them apart, then Tyson pushed Holyfield. I got them back to their respective corners. I determined it was a bite; went to the commission, and Marc Ratner, who is a great man, a great boxing man -- he was the executive director -- got up on the ring, and I, before I got my brain in gear, I got my mouth going, and I said: "I'm going to disqualify him. Marc, he bit him. He bit him on the ear."

So then Marc -- and this is what makes him such a great man -- Marc looked at me and said: "Mills, do you want to disqualify him?" And I thought: "Wait a minute -- we don't -- that's a fair question. We don't know enough yet." So Flip (unintelligible), he got in the ring, looked at the ear. I asked Flip: "Can he fight?" And Flip said: "Yes, he can fight."

Now, then I have to make the decision. Am I going to chase him right then or let the fight go on? So I determined two point deduction would be
legitimate and appropriate. And that maybe they could get the fight together 'cause it was going to be a rough, tough fight. And so I took the two points off, told them: "let's -- come on, let's do it, and let's do it right." And then Tyson bit him again and then after that I just figured that's it -- he's gone.

GROSS: What kind of warning did you give to Tyson after the first bite?

LANE: Well I went to Holyfield's corner and I said: "I'm going to deduct two points and the fight's going to go on." Holyfield's people said: "he bit him; he bit him -- you ought to disqualify him." I said: "Two points off and the fight's going to go on."

I walked to Tyson's corner. I did not speak to him. I spoke to Richard Giocetti (ph), his chief second, a good chief second. I said: "Richie, that's going to cost you two points." So Tyson was standing apparently right to my left or my right, and I heard this voice say: "It was a punch." So I turned and there he was, and I said: "Bullshit, man, you bit him." And he said: "Oh, OK." And so then I -- I said: "OK, two points."

I got back to the center and I said: "OK, knock all that stuff off and let's get it on -- c'mon, let's get it on here." And then they went back to it, and then he bit him again.

GROSS: Were you just like astonished when he did it the second time?

LANE: Yep. I found that very difficult to believe and I felt it difficult to deal with. That's why I chased him right then.

GROSS: And did you think right off the bat: this time he's out.

LANE: Oh, yes. Well, when Holyfield jumped up and said: "He bit me again," the second bite wasn't as bad as the first one. He didn't tear the ear. And you couldn't see blood. So they kept moving around, and finally when the bell rung, and I looked and I could see two little indentation marks in his -- I believe it was his right ear -- or his left ear.

So I said: "That's it, man." I mean, I'm going to disqualify him. So I was just -- "that's it, you're going. You're out of here." And then everything went south.

GROSS: What do you mean?

LANE: Well, it was the -- then there was the disturbance in the ring. He tried to attack the police, and he tried to attack the seconds and tried to get back to Holyfield. But then, you know, they calmed it down pretty quick, but it was a little bit of a demonstration if you were in the ring.

GROSS: What does it sound like when there's 16,000 fans and some thing, you know, absolutely incredible has happened in the ring and you've ended the fight?

LANE: Well, it's -- it's -- it -- you just have to deal with it. It's different. The people were yelling, screaming, throwing things. It was just -- I mean, it just happened. I mean, you just have to deal with it the best you could. And so that's just about how it went down.

GROSS: I guess you have to be pretty confident that you did the right thing, knowing what kind of a reaction it's going to get.

LANE: Well, you have to be a little confident, but I always say you do the best you can with the hand you're dealt. You play the cards as best you can. A lot of folks have said that I should have chased him after the first bite, and you can make a good case for that. I don't disagree with that observation. I mean, I happen to think that my actions were the one to take, but to those folks that said he should have been chased right then, they've got a good point.

GROSS: Why do you think Tyson did it?

LANE: I don't know the answer to that. Your guess is as good as mine. But my belief is -- this is my speculation, if you will -- is that he was in deep. He was getting beat. He was cut. He was angry. And he just was frustrated so he just did it. I don't think he planned it in a long period of time. I just think it was there to be done so he did it.

GROSS: And have you spoken to Tyson or Holyfield since the fight?

LANE: I have not spoken to Mike Tyson. I saw Evander Holyfield in Kansas City when I did a fight in Kansas City. He came to present me an award. It was a surprise. I didn't know that he was going to be there. And it was, you know, "hello" and "how are you, champ?" and things like that.

But I don't -- I try not to get close to the fighters, the cutting in, the managers, the promoters, or anybody involved on the fighters, because as long as I'm an active referee, sometimes I might have to make a tough call and I just don't want to be too close to them.

GROSS: My guest is boxing referee and retired judge Mills Lane. We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.


My guest is Mills Lane, and he's refed around 97 title fights since 1971. He has a new book called "Let's Get It On."

Has refereeing been more of a hobby or a career?

LANE: It's been a hobby. I made my living as a lawyer and -- well, actually I made my living as district attorney -- a prosecutor -- and then as a judge. Refereeing was a hobby. I mean, I made probably -- one year, I think we reported -- I made $30,000 or something like that. But, I mean, that's what we were -- that's what the income tax return showed, and I just -- I turned all that over to my accountant.

So -- but I never made my living doing it, although I didn't mind getting the money, I tell you that.

GROSS: Now, you were a welterweight champion in college, I believe -- yes?

LANE: NCAA back in 1960. The NCAA sanctioned boxing as an NCAA sport. They withdrew it in '60 'cause of that accident in Wisconsin when Charley Moore (ph), the national champion, had his brain -- had an aneurysm rupture and he died. I thought it was terrible that that happened, but I was an NCAA champion. I got to the Olympic trials. I got beat in the finals by the guy that went to Rome. And then I fought professionally my last two years of college, and when I got my degree, I got out.

GROSS: As a boxer, what does it feel like to get knocked out and then to come to again in the ring and to have to get back up on your feet and fight some more?

LANE: Well, if you get knocked out, you don't get back up on your -- and fight anymore that night. The fight's over. I got knocked out once as a pro, and you don't feel anything. I mean, I remember going down the first time. I don't remember the second time or the third time. I remember when I got in the corner, they gave me the ammonia and so I asked my trainer, I said: "Well, what happened?" And he said: "Well, it's all over." And so I said: "You mean I knocked him out that quick?" I thought I won. I didn't -- I couldn't believe I got knocked out.


But you don't feel anything, really.

GROSS: Have your experiences as a boxer affected your approach as a referee?

LANE: Yes, I think it has, but I think my experiences as being a Marine and the Marine Corps and being a fighter have affected my life completely, because in order to be successful as a prize fighter, you have to be disciplined. I always -- I've heard it said -- I don't take originality for it. I wish I could. "If you live without discipline, you die without dignity." Everything is discipline.

So I believe that you -- if you're going to be successful, you have to outwork the other side. You have to outwork the other opponent -- your opponent. And if you carry that philosophy over in life, I think that you're better off. I kind of use this example -- maybe it's not a good one, but it's the one I like, is that I fought at 47 -- 147. In the amateurs, 140 is a pro. So right now, I weight about 45 1/2. And every -- four days a week, I get up and do my road work. And that's 'cause I think it's good for you and I want to keep myself fit.

Now, in life if you've got a job -- like your job apparently is radio. I take it you're public radio. Right?

GROSS: That's right.

LANE: OK, now, you've got things you have to do to make yourself good. And if you don't do them, you're going to fail a bit. So I say that if you go back to getting up in the morning; every morning I get up and get the job done, I think it's great. So anytime you shirk a little bit; anytime you cut a corner; anytime you don't do it the right way, you die a little. And every time you get up and do it the right way, you're reborn.

So my philosophy is is that hey, there's a way to get the thing done, dammit, and get it done that way and get your ears back and get after it. And I think boxing, being a very individual discipline, teaches you that.

GROSS: Well now what's it like when you're up close watching a fighter getting the stuffing knocked out of him?

LANE: Well, I -- it's not a pretty sight. I would say this, it's a competitive thing. That's what boxing or prize fighting's all about, is trying to prevail. But I never let -- try never to let a fight go too long. I'd rather stop one too early than too late. When I think a kid is getting beat the fight is no longer competitive and there's no chance to make a comeback, I stop the fight.

And -- but I don't -- I feel empathy for the guy getting shellacked, and of course obviously you feel some sort of resilience or some sort of joy and anticipation, if you will, for the guy that's got the upper hand.

GROSS: How do you think Las Vegas the big casinos there have changed boxing?

LANE: I don't know if they've changed boxing. I think boxing -- the wedding of big time television and pay-per-view has changed some of the focus and some of the small clubs aren't unable to survive. But I don't think the casinos themselves have changed boxing, save and except for providing for a venue for the fight.

GROSS: Well, tell me more how you think pay-per-view has changed it.

LANE: Well, pay-per-view has spurred the interest in prize fighting. For example, the big purses that are possible. But I also happen to believe, and I don't think it's anything you can -- we can shout about and praise, but I think that in my lifetime and in your lifetime, every major sports event will be on pay-per-view. I think there will be a day when the Super Bowl -- the networks won't be able to afford it and it'll be on pay-per-view; and the World Series may, so I don't think that's the way it ought to be. But I think pay-per-view -- every major event in a few years will be on pay-per-view.

GROSS: Boxing, of course, has always been a very controversial sport because it's two men fighting it out and often hurting each other, sometimes pretty badly.

LANE: Women now, too.

GROSS: OK. And what do you like most about the sport? And what troubles you most about the sport the way it's practiced today?

LANE: Fair question. One, and this is maybe threading a thin needle, but I want to separate out amateur boxing, which is a true sport, from professional prize fighting, which I call a business or a discipline. What I think amateur boxing does -- the sport of boxing -- allows a young man or young woman now -- they have amateur women boxers -- to stand on their own two feet all alone to face a series of difficult questions that have to be answered right now. And it teaches you discipline, hard work and drive. I think those are the things that amateur boxing can do.

Professional prize fighting gives a young man or woman, for that matter, a chance to make lots of money or maybe a chance to get hurt. Is it dangerous? You bet it's dangerous -- no question about that. Is there such a thing as (unintelligible)? You bet -- no question about that. That's just the truth.

But I think the opportunity to do the -- opportunity to be successful in that discipline, if you discipline yourself, if you have the tools and are prepared to do it, the right way is there.

Also, I think for the spectator, if you wish -- if you wish to -- want to watch true courage, if you want to watch somebody transcending what he or she could ordinarily do, if you want to watch true determination and conditioning, and hard work -- the product of all that -- watch your good competitive prize fight.

On the other hand, if blood or seeing somebody get cut turns you off, don't watch it.

GROSS: What troubles you most about the sport the way it's practiced today?

LANE: Well, I think the thing that troubles me the most is what I call the existence of the people known as "flesh merchants" -- the people that don't give a damn about the fighters' well-being; that only want to make a bunch of money off of them and then cast them aside. I think that's unfortunate.

I also happen to think that drying kids down -- making weight -- is dangerous. When I fought in the Marine Corps in the amateurs, my coach -- weight coach -- said: "Mills, get in shape and fight what you weigh. Don't make weight." And I think some of that making weight's dangerous.

GROSS: What was your most controversial decision, outside of the Tyson-Holyfield fight?

LANE: Well, I stopped the Akiwande-Louis fight 'cause I said Akiwande was holding too much. I stopped the McCall-Louis fight because McCall had a nervous breakdown. I don't think that was controversial.

GROSS: He had a nervous breakdown in the ring during a fight?

LANE: He started crying. I mean, he -- actually tears were coming out of his eyes. I don't know what happened to him. I think he had some kind of a breakdown. That was -- I won't say it was controversial, but I -- God, that's about the best I can do right now.

GROSS: When you stopped that fight, did you talk to him at all before stopping it?

LANE: Oh, yeah. I went to the corner. He was on the stool. I got down on my knee in front of him and I said: "Son, something's wrong with you. Do you want to go on?" He looked up at me and tears were running down his face, and he said: "I gotta go on. I just gotta go on." So I said: "OK. Gonna try one more round, but if you don't defend yourself, I'm going to stop it."

So he got out there and Louis threw a right hand and he -- McCall just kind of fell into a clinch, never did anything. And I said: "That's it, son. That's enough."

GROSS: Refereeing prize fights is more of your hobby than your profession. You've made a living as a lawyer and district attorney. Was there any connection between law and refereeing?

LANE: There's a connection between -- let me give you this analogy. When I was a fighter -- fighter to district attorney is the same as referee to judge. It's a -- when I was a fighter, I was an advocate. When I was the DA, I was an advocate for my position. When I was a judge, I was an arbiter in a case or a controversy. As a referee, I'm an arbiter in a controversy.

GROSS: It seems to me that in both positions, you know, in your positions in boxing and in the law, you've ended seeing people in extremes -- people either fighting in the ring or fighting it out in court after somebody's alleged to have broken the law. And I'm wondering how that's affected your view of people.

LANE: Well, I don't think it's affected my view of people that much. I would say this: I am a firm believer that there are good people and there are bad people. I'm also a firm believer that some people are just bad 'cause they're bad. They're just born that way. And if you've seen the movie or read the book "The Bad Seed," I think you can appreciate that.

I also believe, however, people can change. They can recognize their Achilles heel; they can recognize their failures and work hard at being better. But I've seen great people in the courtroom. I've seen great people in the prize ring. And I've seen dregs in the courtroom and I've seen dregs in the prize ring.

So I don't think that boxing or the law has necessarily affected my view of the human race.

GROSS: Mills Lane. He has a new memoir called "Let's Get It On." He has a new court TV show, and he does his own voice in the NTV series "Celebrity Death Match."

Well, next week is country music week on FRESH AIR. We're going to close out the summer season with a series of interviews with influential country performers and songwriters, including Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, George Jones, Tanya Tucker and Charlie Louvin.

Charlie Louvin and his late brother Ira wrote the song "I Like the Christian Life" which "The Byrds" later recorded. Let's hear Charlie Louvin's recent version.


My buddy's tell me that I should have waited
They say I'm missing a whole world of fun
But I am happy and I sing with pride
I like the Christian life

I won't lose a friend by heeding God's call
What is a friend who'd want you to fall
Others find pleasures in things I despise
But I like the Christian life

My buddies shun me since I turned to Jesus
But I still love them; they burden my heart
I'll try to teach them to walk in the by
I like the Christian life

Oh, I won't lose a friend by heeding God's call ...

GROSS: That's Charlie Louvin, one of the people we'll hear from next week on FRESH AIR's Country Music Week.

Coming up, Ken Tucker reviews the Beastie Boys' latest CD.

This is FRESH AIR.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.


Dateline: Terry Gross, Washington DC
Guest: Mills Lane
High: Judge and boxing referee Mills Lane on his life in boxing. He's written a new memoir, "Let's Get It On: Tough Talk From Boxing's Top Ref and Nevada's Most Outspoken Judge" (Crown Publishers). This fall, he will have a syndicated court TV show.
Spec: Sports; Boxing; "Let's Get it on: Tough Talk"; Justice
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1998 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1998 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.

Date: AUGUST 24, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 082403NP.217
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:50

TERRY GROSS, HOST: It came as a surprise to lots of people in the music industry when "The Beastie Boys'" new fifth album "Hello Nasty" went straight to number one on the pop charts. After all, weren't these the bratty guys who peaked commercially over a decade ago with "Fight For Your Right To Party"?

Well, it turns out there's a lot of residual goodwill out there for the Beasties, and says rock critic Ken Tucker, they make the most of it on their new release.


KEN TUCKER, ROCK CRITIC, "ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY": The funkiest white boys in hip-hop are back with a CD that looks back to what already seems like the golden age of rap music. "Hello Nasty" is full of old-fashioned, densely rhymed rapping; rocking the mike so viciously as they put it, with snippets from 10 and 15-year-old rap hits.

The key to its freshness is the way the music is assembled, the way it coheres as old school homage, offered with ferocious energy and up-to-the-minute urgency.


TUCKER: This collection is filled with the sort of playful, yet thought-through metaphors and similes for which George Clinton coined the term "seriously silly." That song "Just A Test" is five cuts into a 22-song CD, and already we're picking up on certain themes, foremost among them, the Beastie Boys' desire to reach out and unite its diverse audience. They shout out in that song:

"we're all linked together
in a chain reaction"

And they mean it.

It's been widely reported that one Beastie, Adam Yauch, has become deeply involved with Buddhism. He's the central organizer for the past three years' annual Tibetan freedom concerts. And certainly much of the Beastie Boys' new-found openheartedness and relative maturity seems at least partly due to this influence.

But more broadly, these boys who've grown over the course of 17 years together, are now approaching their music as art as much as adolescent escape valve.


TUCKER: All of which is not to say that the Beastie Boys have lost their peerless sense of goofy humor. The most often-cited couplet on this album in reviews I've read is the moment when Adam Horovitz boasts:

"I'm the king of boggle
There is none higher
I get a 11 points
off the word 'quagmire'"

Now, that's pretty good and it scans as iambic pentameter, too.

But The Beastie Boys didn't shoot up to number one with technical impeccability or the fact that one tune here samples Stokowski's "Firebird Suite." They make great hilarious videos and they're still fighting for your right to party. Their Beastie men now, but they're still the most playful players in hip-hop.

GROSS: Ken Tucker is critic-at-large for "Entertainment Weekly."

I'm Terry Gross.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.


Dateline: Terry Gross, Washington DC
Guest: Ken Tucker
High: Rock Critic Ken Tucker reviews The Beastie Boys' latest CD "Hello Nasty."
Spec: Music Industry; Entertainment; The Beastie Boys
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1998 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1998 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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