Transcript for This day in history: Sept. 10
The Reagan administration in the Soviets have been talking. And the question is a fairly simple one. Are they cutting a deal by which the American reporter McDonnell often the Soviet scientist. Deny these are her off who's been charged with spying here would at least get out of their respective prisons we begin in Washington and ABC's John McWethy. Late today Soviet ambassador Yuri do been in had an unscheduled meeting with secretary of state Schultz the subject neck down aloft. Two days ago negotiations to free gamble off appeared to be going nowhere. Now officials say they are at a critical stage. In the meantime the Reagan administration has resisted for another day taking any overt steps to retaliate so as not to upset the delicate negotiations. It's the objective is to free nick rather than engage in retaliatory actions. The effort is being made and their wrought diplomatic maneuvers. Actions underway discussions whatever the proper noun is to bring about that release both here and in Moscow. One type of retaliation being considered was an order not allowing any government official to participate in the US Soviet conference to be held next week in Soviet controlled Latvia today without the Reagan administration officially ordering it but after substantial behind the scenes pressure the people who put the conference together on the American side said they would not go to the Soviet Union and -- down -- gets out of jail. We will go forward in this conference and we want very much to go forward. But we will only go forward if he is free. Meanwhile throughout the day high ranking officials who commonly do not miss a chance to take a pot shot at the Russians were on usually restrained. Defense Secretary Weinberger. CIA director Casey attorney general Meese and White House chief of staff Regan were all attending a meeting of the American business conference. And the impact on US Soviet relations. It hasn't helped them at all not. Despite restraint in the executive branch pressure for action was building on Capitol Hill. The house voted unanimously to condemn the Dan offer rest and demanded his immediate release. In the senate there was pressure to start kicking Soviets out of the US immediately. If this unwarranted detention of an American journalists. Is endangering US Soviet relations it must be terminated at once before further damage is done. That is precisely what US officials are trying to accomplish right now and though there are few details it appears tonight that both sides are working intensely to find a way to lower the temperature. John McWethy ABC news the sticker. Make that a Los spoke to his wife once again today and he told her he likes the plan that would get him and the accuse Soviet spy out of jail. The question is was battle off talking for himself. Or relaying a message from the Soviets have been interrogating. ABC's dean Reynolds is in Moscow. A portable crib or his wife told reporters he believed. It I think what he was saying was you know let's cool the situation and one way to deal. When the situation is to learn that both says the quote unquote those spies. Those. The I think you know out of jail into the custody of their respective ambassadors. But a colleague at US news and world report here and it fell off could be acting up I'm up but. In fact but not. So you have to her cases. And that is how the Soviets and of Kansas and this is what they wanted. Probably from the beginning. Had it happen any minute telephone call from his wife the day got off better than alligator equate what it. Their ability Bob let up first got ourselves in a lot more comfortable fox. I felt mild US ambassador president that Moscow. They're holding up a clever intelligent diplomat to work out up. Have panel off and never have been helped work on a bombing at five but they're not in the car off what they want your. We're not go. But they cannot happened after that come. Apple often worked with the CIA. Government panel off what I'm doing what his colleague. Are confident that Moscow panel off. This is suspicion at all if I may. Use that word. Anyone who knows the history of relations. Between the American press and the CIA and we'll have an appreciation of that Russian word. In this context. But today Nicholas channel often behind bars. On one point there ABC's president of news Roone Arledge said today as every news president here has said the forum ABC's correspondents are absolutely forbidden. To work with the CIA. The Bush Administration made the biggest news of today when it raised the stated its terrorist alert for the first time since the system was instituted in March. The official threat level has been increased from yellow. Which means there's an elevated threat of a terrorist attack to orange. Which means there is a high threat of a terrorist attack. And there also arming the air defense missiles to so that tomorrow at least every major building in the capital will be covered. On the first anniversary of the September attacks the government is clearly anxious. We're gonna go first to the Justice Department tonight where the attorney general announced all this several hours ago ABC's Pierre Thomas picks up the story care. Peter on the eve of the 9/11 attack the government says new information has come in that is too specific to ignore. ABC news has been told that in the last 24 hours a mid level member of al-Qaeda in detention overseas. Warned the US government of a series of attacks planned for Asia. Information indicates. That al-Qaeda cells have been established. In several South Asian countries. In order to conduct car bomb and other attacks. On US facilities. Ashcroft also said there was information about a possible attack. Against US facilities in the Middle East the US intelligence community has also received information. That one or more individuals in the Middle East are preparing for a suicide attack or attacks. Against US interests. Although the attorney general says there are no specific threats for the US the president says he is reminded of a year ago. Threats. That we have heard. Recently remind us of the pattern of threats we heard prior to September the eleventh. Last summer the intelligence community was expecting an attack overseas. Today the government says the possibility of a domestic attack is hot. Law enforcement sources tell ABC news the biggest concern is the possibility of attacks. By al-Qaeda sympathizers. And sleeper cells acting on their own without direction from senior al-Qaeda leadership. US intelligence has concluded that lower level al-Qaeda operatives. May view the September 11 anniversary. As is suitable time to lash out in even small strikes. To demonstrate their worldwide presence and resolved. Peter tonight here the Justice Department one official describes the boot as tense and pressure packed. Thanks very much here Kurt Thomas at the Justice Department in the past people have been skeptical on occasion. About these alerts from the government but given the anniversary tomorrow it seems to make common sense to everybody. And we now go to ABC's Martha Raddatz who is in Washington as well at the state are both at home and abroad. Martha this is very intense stuff. The precautions the US are taking is taking are really extraordinary Peter and in fact in Washington it is believed there are on. Precedents it. The White House today ordered that anti aircraft systems in and around Washington. Be armed with live missiles. The missile batteries mounted atop humvees were supposed to be part of the defense exercise. They are now taking part you know real fast operation. Fighter camp once again flying round the clock over Washington new York and other cities are armed and ready to go as well. Vice President Dick Cheney has been moved to a secure undisclosed location. He has canceled a speech he was scheduled to give this evening of videotaped message will be provided instead. Overseas at least fourteen US embassies in posts are shutting their doors military facilities are raising their alert. And a new worldwide caution. Warns Americans abroad to be careful. Terrorists to not distinguish between official. And non official targets. And in many cases if they are looking it official targets in front too well protected taking looking for less well protected targets. The al-Qaeda operative told authorities of eight or nine possible targets through out Asia. But pointed specifically. To Malaysia and Indonesia forcing began to seize they are too close. Well al-Qaeda is on the run we know that the al-Qaeda network. Is still far from defeated. The US embassy and Bob rain has also closed and the US military forces in the Persian gulf nation have been placed. I'm the highest level of alert. Threat condition delta. That is based on specific threats in the Persian gulf region but Peter military forces worldwide have raised their threat apple. After nearly two weeks of threatening US military action against Syria. Syria said today it is willing to give up the biggest stockpile of chemical weapons in the Middle East one of the biggest in the world. So how does this change what the US will do next and are Americans here at home safer tonight. Our ABC team is standing by and we begin with ABC's chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl at the White House job. Diane even as the president makes a last ditch effort at a diplomatic solution he's doing everything he can to convince the public. And the congress to support in military. A strike against Syria as one senator who met with the president said today he wants to keep his finger on the trigger. In advance of his big speech tonight the president tried the personal touch today. Going to Capitol Hill for launch with senators. It may be the biggest test yet of his leadership. Asking for support on a national security issue and failing to get it would make him look weak around the world and like a lame duck at home. Today Syria announced it would accept Russia's proposal to torn over their chemical weapons. But despite that the White House is making the most intense effort to win over congress since the battle over health care. President has made clear that the president and his team of directly lobbied nearly 450. Members of the house and senate. Including private briefings for key members in the White House situation room calls from Air Force One and lots of classified briefings. President told Diane Sawyer last night congressional approval is critical. Strikes may be less effective if I don't have. Congressional support. And if the American people don't recognize why we're doing this so soak. Far the president isn't gaining support he's losing it in both the house in the senate more members are now opposing Obama on Syria did supporting him. And today the president told senators he probably won't change public opinion with tonight's speech either I'm good he said but not that good. As for Syria's offer to hand over their weapons the secretary of state John Kerry said today that's only because they're worried about being attacked nothing focuses the mind like the. Prospect of a hanging. As for that Russian proposal there is. Deep skepticism that Syria would voluntarily turn over and see destroyed their entire chemical weapons stockpile after all. Diane as you pointed out as one of the biggest in the world there is little trust of then there's also concern about getting all those weapons together during a raging civil war. As one senior White House official told me just a short while ago we are in trust but verify mode. And mostly just verified there's no trust so what does this mean for congress next John. Well are the votes just aren't there right now what the president said today is look. I want your authorization but the one thing I cannot have is for you to vote down this resolutions the president us actually asked them. To hold back if it looks like it's gonna go down. Don't vote he cannot have a no vote from congress right now it would undermine his diplomatic effort. All right John thank you and as you know tonight as the president addresses the nation 6000 miles away in a palace in Syria a dictator will be listening. And deciding what he will do next bosh Rollins side. And ABC's chief foreign correspondent Terry Moran is in the region for a sides next move. By accepting Russia's proposal today Bashar Al Assad has once again shown he is a strong survivor the ultimate operator. His strength is deceptive that soft listing boards the weak chin. He sure doesn't look like this get. What this guy mostly through Levy but while other Arab Dictators are toppled dead or both. Bashar Al Assad has proven to be far more tenacious wiley and maddeningly successful than US officials guessed. During this high stakes two year long showdown with. Barack Obama is time for. That machine law president Alice others lost legitimacy. That he needs to step down a sought needs to go. Yet here Assad still is even cleverly playing on the fears of the American public in his interview this week with Charlie Rose PBS. Well before the war and with port Clyde and defend people who and accuses the net and and did it and built the company. Let's not fight this war surrounded by a small clique of close advisors none closer than his glamorous wife asthma. Raised in London where friends knew her as Amma she's a former investment banker who is now frequently seen on Syrian TV and into the Gramm doing good works. But she is savvy and tough to. And it yourself told Italian TV in 2010. She weighs in on everything as he wages this. Brutal war and then married couple we've talked about a lot of things I mean I think like most married couple didn't. But colonel Timothy he had the president and he makes the final decision. President Obama may have underestimated decide who's been in power for thirteen years to cool shrewd inherited about family business running Syria like his father did. Alligators here like this they may look like freight Al Gore Leone but he's really Michael.
This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.