This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," December 12, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.
JOHN GIBSON, HOST: It is "Big Justice" time now. The feds just arrested an illegal immigrant, but did they also arrest a potential terrorist?
A Rhode Island driving school thought it was very suspicious when a 28-year-old student didn't want to learn how to back up the big rig he was learning to drive. He only wanted to know how to drive forward. Not to mention the suspect was trying to get a permit to haul hazardous materials. The school notified authorities.
With me now on the phone is Rhode Island State Police Major Steven O'Donnell, and also with us, FOX News legal analyst Mercedes Colwin.
So, Major O'Donnell, perhaps you can describe the suspicious circumstances in a little more detail. What did this guy mean that he wanted to just go forward?
We may not have Major O'Donnell quite yet. Mercedes, here were the circumstances. This sounds very much like 9/11 guys, who were learning to fly planes only after they got to altitude and only straight to a destination. They didn't want to learn how to take off. They didn't want to learn how to land.
This guy didn't want to learn how to back up. He didn't want to learn how to maneuver the truck, only drive it forward, and he wanted a hazmat permit.
Are the authorities right to find him suspicious?
MERCEDES COLWIN, FOX NEWS LEGAL ANALYST: Oh, absolutely. Here is someone — first of all, he had three licenses in three different states. And just the fact — you hit it right on the head — the fact that he didn't want to know how to drive this huge vehicle, which we've seen on the road, we see these monstrosities on the road, we know how difficult it is — and by the way, I only want to drive straight.
Well, in traffic, on the bridges, you need to be able to back up, you need to be able to turn, you need to be able to do all that, unless you have one single target and you're going forward on that target for some nefarious reason.
GIBSON: The guy's name is Mohammed. He's a Muslim from India. Is that an additional suspicious factor, or are the authorities not paying attention to that fact?
COLWIN: I don't think the authorities in this climate are going to just zero in on someone's surname or their first name. I think they're smart enough to say we have to go much broader than that.
They got in lots of trouble for racial profiling, in fact, in Rhode Island they did, for similar reasons like that. They just zeroed in on surnames, zeroed in on first names, and decided this sounds like a Muslim-sounding name, we're going to raise the red flag and we're going to...
GIBSON: Now, in your experience as a defense attorney, is there any plausible reason the guy would be saying to the truck driving school, I don't need to learn to back up? I don't need to learn to steer around pylons. I don't need to learn how to maneuver this thing? I just want to drive it straight down the freeway?
COLWIN: I think what a defense attorney would say is, like, look, are you hard up for cash? Is that why you want to rush things along? Is that why you're saying to yourself we can only go — I want to just drive straightforward, I just want to go from point A to point B, I want to be able to just get paid for this? I can't really detain myself in learning this, as apparently this school takes weeks and weeks and weeks to learn how to drive this particular truck. That's what the defense attorney can say. I'm not sure how plausible it is.
GIBSON: If we didn't know about the 9/11 pilots and their statements over and over to the flying schools they went to, that they only wanted to learn how to fly at altitude, they didn't care about landing, they didn't care about taking off, would we be in the same circumstance with this young guy?
COLWIN: I don't think so. I think that other people — I think that someone could possibly buy the fact that he wants to sort of speed up the process, learn how to drive it. I think that we've learned from our past mistakes, certainly we did post-September 11.
GIBSON: Rhode Island State Police Major Steven O'Donnell is finally with us on the phone. Major O'Donnell, can you hear me now?
MAJ. STEVEN O'DONNELL, RHODE ISLAND STATE POLICE: I can hear you.
GIBSON: OK. Good. A little more detail if you have it on what this guy was doing at the driving school and what he was telling the people who were trying to teach him how to drive this truck.
O'DONNELL: He was at a driving school in Rhode Island, a rural Rhode Island community, for two days, and he showed little interest in learning the fine arts of driving the truck and had no interest in learning how to back up. The trucking school thought that, as anybody would, suspicious and contacted a highway interdiction type of database information sharing which is connected to homeland security. Homeland security then contacted our fusion center, which works with the FBI's JTTF.
GIBSON: All right. Rhode Island State Police Major Steven O'Donnell, thanks very much. Thanks for checking up on this guy. And, Mercedes Colwin, thanks to you.
COLWIN: Thank you.
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