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CNN WOLF BLITZER REPORTS

Tenet Comes Under Fire for Faulty Intelligence

Aired July 11, 2003 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST: The CIA director, George Tenet, right now is coming under intense fire for allowing President Bush to go too far in making the case against Iraq in his State of the Union address in January. Will George Tenet be forced out? WOLF BLITZER REPORTS starts right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I gave a speech to the nation that was cleared by the intelligence services.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The president on the defensive over bogus intelligence used to make the case for war with Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We need to have an investigation, find out who was responsible for it and fire him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Under quarantine. A possible outbreak of scars at a Texas Air Force base.

Will basketball star Kobe Bryant face sexual assault charges? Why prosecutors are putting off a decision.

A novelist accused in a real-life murder mystery, charged with killing his wife.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would never have done anything to hurt her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now questions being raised about a similar death years ago.

And a storm called Claudette. A new forecast just out this hour. What might be in store for the U.S. Gulf coast.

ANNOUNCER: CNN live this hour, WOLF BLITZER REPORTS, live from the nation's capital with correspondents from around the world. WOLF BLITZER REPORTS starts now.

BLITZER: It's Friday, July 11, 2003. Hello from Washington. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting.

Democrats have been the loudest, but now some prominent Republicans also want an explanation of how faulty and some say misleading intelligence on Iraq wound up in the president's State of the Union address. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are calling for heads to roll.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): President Bush in Africa, once again talking at Iraq, urging everyone to focus on the big picture, even as his critics back home focus on one controversial sentence in the State of the Union address before a joint session in Congress in January.

BUSH: The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

I gave a speech to the nation that was cleared by the intelligence services. And it was a speech that detailed to the American people the dangers posed by the Saddam Hussein regime. And my government took the appropriate response to those dangers. And as a result, the world is going to be more secure and more peaceful.

BLITZER: His national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, got into specifics, telling reporters aboard Air Force One on a flight to Uganda, "The CIA cleared the speech in its entirety. I can tell you if the director of central Intelligence had said, Take this out of the speech, then it would have been gone without question."

When asked by reporters, Rice denied she was blaming the CIA for allowing the president to utter those words, insisting the mistake resulted from what she called a "clearance process." "We've said now," she continued, "we wouldn't have put it in the speech if we had known what we know now."

But this explanation is not good enough for Democratic critics on Capitol Hill.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: The credibility of our president is on the line, and I believe that he should move forward as quickly as possible to call for a full investigation. We should be able to point to those people responsible for putting that misleading language in the State of the Union address. They should be held accountable and they should be dismissed.

BLITZER: And even some Republicans want more answers.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We need to have an investigation, find out who was responsible for it and fire him.

BLITZER: Former White House official David Gergen, who served under several Republican and Democrat presidents, wonders if CIA director George Tenet will pay the price for the mistake. DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Yes, it absolutely suggests that. It sounds to me, Wolf, as if they have a negotiation between the agency and the NSC over what they were going to say, that the CIA objected strenuously to the idea of asserting it on the basis of U.S. intelligence, and when the NSC came back and said, Well, let's put it -- blame it on -- or Let's attribute this to the British, the CIA said, Well, on this basis, as part of this negotiation, we withdraw our formal objection. And Condi Rice is saying, Well, he didn't object, and therefore we didn't take it out.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And there's more bad news for George Tenet. Another very important member of the United States Congress, another Republican, has just weighed in on the intelligence controversy. In a statement just released, the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, Pat Roberts, said -- and I'm quoting now -- "So far, I am very disturbed by what appears to be extremely sloppy handling of the issue from the outset by the CIA. What now concerns me most, however, is what appears to be a campaign of press leaks by the CIA in an effort to discredit the president. The director of Central Intelligence is the president's principal adviser on intelligence matters. He should have told the president, and it appears that he failed to do so."

CNN later caught up with Senator Roberts later this afternoon. We asked him the key question, based on what he'd said in his statement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator, given that, what do you think? Should George Tenet resign?

SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R-KS), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I'm not saying that. That's not my call. Up to this point, he has had the ear and the confidence of the president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Repeated phone calls to the Central Intelligence Agency this afternoon by me so far have not been returned.

Here's your turn to weigh in on our story. The Web question of the day is this: Whom do you blame for the mistake in the president's State of the Union address on Iraq, President Bush, British intelligence, CIA? We'll have the results later in this broadcast. You can vote at cnn.com/wolf. And while you're there, I'd love to hear directly from you. Send me your comments. I'll try to read some of them on the air each day at the end of this program. That's also, of course, where you can read my daily on-line column, cnn.com/wolf.

Security on the president's Africa tour is being beefed up after -- get this -- a stowaway managed to get aboard the chartered news media press plane. The man traveled with the journalists from South Africa to Uganda, where he was discovered and handed over to the Secret Service. He was not armed. American officials in Iraq are scaling back operations in the once notorious hot spot, at least one notorious hot spot, but new ones literally cropped up overnight, with fresh attacks on U.S. soldiers. CNN's senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, is joining us now live from Baghdad -- Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the most recent attack we know about here about six or seven hours ago in the center of Baghdad, outside the Justice Ministry. A Bradley fighting vehicle was parked there on guard duty. A car drove by, two grenades were thrown at the soldiers by the Bradley vehicle. One soldier was slightly injured in the shoulder. We understand the car made a clean getaway, an indication, perhaps, for the troops they always have to be on alert. And overnight, there've been more attacks. About 70 miles north of Baghdad, two soldiers wounded when their base received two mortar rounds overnight, and the base west of Baghdad, the town of Ramadi, a mortar attack on that base, as well.

Now, the change and draw-down of troop numbers in the town of Fallujah, perhaps in part because the police force there had a demonstration yesterday, a demonstration that called on the U.S. troops to reduce their presence in the town. They had had, until yesterday, at least, 30 troops guarding the police station, the same offices where the mayor -- where the mayor meets with -- meets with other city officials.

Today now U.S. troops have drawn down their numbers there. There are now six soldiers on guard duty at that particular facility in Fallujah, perhaps the police in Fallujah very aware that in the town of Ramadi, just about half an hour's drive away, last weekend police cadets who'd been working with U.S. troops were targeted by unknown assailants, seven of them killed by an explosive device left at the side of the road. Perhaps the police concerned about being associated with the U.S. troops. Certainly, Fallujah has been a very tense town recently. This perhaps may alleviate some of those tensions, Wolf.

BLITZER: Nic, what can you tell us about word that perhaps as early as this weekend, the civil administrator, Paul Bremer, and his U.S. associates, the British associates are going to hand over more and more responsibility to Iraqis?

ROBERTSON: Certainly, that's what some of the political parties here are telling us. They expect as early as Sunday, maybe Monday, maybe a little later in the week, that this governing council of 21 to 25 different Iraqis will be formed by Paul Bremer. It will, we understand, contain both the main -- two main Kurdish parties, the PDK -- the PDK and the PUK -- KDP, rather, and the PUK. IT will also include one of the two main Shia groups, the SIRI (ph), the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, Al Deelwa (ph), an older Shia party. It will include a Sunni party and the Iraqi National Congress and Iraqi National Assembly -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Nic Robertson in Baghdad. Nice, thanks very much. We'll be watching CNN over the weekend for all of these developments.

Meanwhile, the former Iraqi information minister -- once, of course, called "Comical Ali" -- has now surfaced formally in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. Mohammed Said al Sahaf got his nickname for repeatedly declaring American defeat during the war on Iraqi. Mohammed Said al Sahaf tells reporters he wants to return to Baghdad some day but isn't sure he'll be able to do so, although he's not on the U.S. government's Most Wanted list.

And look how much he's changed. This was what he looked like before the fall of Baghdad. Here he is right there. Look at his hair -- dark. Even now, he defends his statements, saying the information was correct, but the interpretations, he says, were not -- dark hair, now becoming very, very white hair.

The Bush administration is expected to decide in the next few days whether to send a so-called peacekeeping force to Liberia. Now the country's main rebel movement is threatening to fight any force that arrives before President Charles Taylor resigns. All the while, the capital, Monrovia, is slipping farther and farther into chaos and misery, as CNN's Brent Sadler reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Monrovia, Liberia's war-shattered capital city, choking on a sea of garbage, 1.5 million poverty-stricken Liberians crammed into a city that's far too small, too over-crowded and in too much trouble. Years of brutal conflict have brought havoc here. Everything is in a tangled mess. The public transport system was shot up or ripped up long ago. Most buildings, even the official ones, are overflowing with internally displaced people. Aid experts warn that any quick-fix mercy mission will almost certainly fail.

DAVID PARKER, EUROPEAN AID OFFICIAL: This country requires sustained international commitment for 10 years and beyond. The bringing of international troops here is just a start.

SADLER: The authorities here are under fire from forces inside and out, so Liberians want urgent help to put a ruined nation right.

(on camera): Incapable of pulling themselves from this morass, Liberians seem destined for even greater distress unless someone can help them bring about lasting peace, someone strong.

(voice-over): And that someone, most people say here, is the United States. Monrovia's mayor, Ophelia Saytumah, and her staff are facing a dilemma: how to keep their city clean and healthy when virtually nothing works. The main power plant ground to a halt when money ran out 10 years ago. Only private generators produce limited electricity now. City officials warn a sanitary crisis is in the making.

Monrovia was named after James Monroe, America's president when Liberia was first settled by Americans for freed slaves. Today, Liberians are proud of over 180 years of history with the United States.

MAYOR OPHELIA SAYTUMAH, MONROVIA, LIBERIA: I think we need to have a relationship. Not just giving, but a relationship, mutual relationship that is rewarding for both parties.

SADLER: And for a capital city that's lived in the dark with virtually no generated power for over a decade, they yearn to see the light. Brent Sadler, CNN, Monrovia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And still to come, I'll speak with Scott Ritter, the former U.N. weapons inspector. Also, SARS at a Texas military base. Has the deadly virus reared its head once again? We'll go live to the Pentagon. Plus: A potential hurricane headed toward the United States. Find out where it just might hit. The latest forecast has just been released. Plus: Jerry Springer in 2004. The talk show host eyes a new job right here in Washington.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Just when the world was starting to exhale from the SARS scare, along comes a story from Texas that has health officials holding their breath once again. Nine people affiliated with the -- Abilene, Texas's, Dyess Air Force base are now being quarantined after showing symptoms of the respiratory ailment. Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is tracking the story. She's joining us now live from there -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Well, at this point, it's all a precautionary public health measure. Officials emphasize no one has been diagnosed with the SARS illness, but indeed, nine people at Dyess Air Force Base in Texas near Abilene are quarantined in their home. They are not going out until officials can determine through testing whether or not these nine people at Dyess actually do have SARS.

Now, a Texas Department of Health official tells CNN eight of the cases are going to be classified as suspect, one probable, but that doesn't mean they have the disease. They are still waiting to get those tests back and see if they do test positive.

All nine people in this area are ill with what is called mild to moderate respiratory symptoms that may be symptomatic of SARS. All of this developed over the last few days, when one airman from the U.S. Air Force returned to the Dyess Air Force Base. He had passed through the airport in Toronto with two other airmen. He became ill, went to the base clinic, had respiratory illness symptoms. They asked him where he had been. He said he had passed through the Toronto airport, and they became very concerned and put him into quarantine. Then these other people, eight other people, the two airmen he'd been with and the others, also came down with these respiratory symptoms.

But in Canada, officials are very concerned that maybe this is not going to be proven to be true and it will have some adverse impact on Toronto, just as the ban to there -- the travel ban, the travel warning was recently lifted. We talked to a Canadian official earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DR. JAMES G. YOUNG, COMMISSIONER OF PUBLIC SAFETY: SARS, in fact, in Ontario is under control. And the risk of, in fact, those troops actually having contracted SARS is extremely, extremely minimal. There has never been a transmission of a case at the airport.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STARR: But again, Wolf, all of this a precautionary public health measure at Dyess Air Force base. Still, officials at the Pentagon are watching all of this very closely. They have been in touch with Canadian government officials, keeping a very close eye on all of this until those test results come back -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Potentially a very scary story, but we'll have to wait and see. Barbara Starr for us at the Pentagon. Thanks, Barbara, very much.

Forecasters say tropical storm Claudette may become the season's first hurricane. It dumped heavy rain today on Cancun, Mexico, before losing some strength and heading toward the Gulf of Mexico. It's now moving northwest at about 14 miles an hour. It has maximum sustained winds of 50 miles an hour. The National Hurricane Center's five-day projection shows Claudette making landfall anywhere from the northern corner of Mexico to the Texas/Louisiana border late Monday or early Tuesday. We'll be watching.

In Atlanta, Georgia, a tragic case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. A 100-year-old tree fell on an SUV during a late- afternoon storm yesterday, killing a woman and her two children. Her husband, who was driving, was not hurt. The accident happened during a thunderstorm that produced winds of up to 60 miles an hour and left thousands in the city without power.

President Bush has declared a disaster in soggy Indiana. Heavy rains, tornadoes and flooding have hit much of the northern part of the state since the 4th of July. About 1,300 homes have been damaged, but the flooding outlook is improving, with drier weather forecast for the weekend. State officials say the situation is getting better slowly.

No charges have been filed against NBA star Kobe Bryant. Is the alleged sexual misconduct controversy over, or is it just starting?

One sentence with huge simplifications. Critics are demanding answers, as the controversy grows over a statement in President Bush's State of the Union address. Who will take the fall?

And it reads like a mystery novel: A woman is murdered and her successful husband is on trial. We'll have details. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're still standing by to speak with Scott Ritter, the former U.N. weapons inspector, on this latest uproar unfolding here in Washington right now over the allegations that Iraq was attempting to purchase uranium from a country in Africa. We'll have that and much more coming up.

Let's check some other developments unfolding right now, as well.

Eric Robert Rudolph is now facing the most severe punishment possible for his alleged serial bombing spree. The former fugitive appeared in Birmingham, Alabama, court today, where he was arraigned on a new indictment that carries the death penalty. Seated just two rows behind him was Emily Lyons (ph), the nurse who was badly injured in the women's clinic bombing Rudolph is accused of carrying out. An off-duty police officer was killed in that blast.

A friend of the alleged victim in the Kobe Bryant scandal is speaking out in front of cameras. CNN's Brian Cabell is joining us now live from Vail, Colorado, with these details -- Brian.

BRIAN CABELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, Wolf. A few days ago, the district attorney here was hoping to have a decision on whether to file charges in this case. By today, it turns out that he just doesn't have all the evidence he needs, so now he says Tuesday, at the very earliest. Apparently, he wants to get everything analyzed thoroughly before he makes a decision in such a high-profile case. That means that Kobe Bryant will have at least a few more days to figure out what's going to happen to him legally.

The files in this case have been sealed by a judge, but as best we can determine over the last couple of days, what happened was this. The young lady, 19 years old, a college student, was working as a concierge at the resort. She was called upon to deliver something to Mr. Bryant's room that evening. Apparently, she went up to that room. There was some sort of commotion inside. She came out a short time later and she was extremely upset. And then the next day, she reported to sheriff's authorities that she had been assaulted.

What type of girl is she? Well, we've talked to a number of people who know her over the last few days. They say nothing but nice things about her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICAH BERNHARDT, FRIEND OF ALLEGED VICTIM: She's a real nice girl. She's always been nice to me. I've always talked to her in the hallways at school and stuff. And she's not really a hottie (ph) girl or anything. She's an outgoing girl, but...

CABELL: She ever talk about any ambitions or anything or what she wanted to do? What sense did you get from that?

BERNHARDT: She was -- she's always -- she seemed like she got her schoolwork done and got things done. She was a cheerleader.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABELL: She's also a very talented singer, according to these friends we've talked to. And we're told that a number of times, she sang the national anthem at the high school basketball and football games. Now, what's apparently holding things up is the lab work at the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. They are taking a look at blood, hair, semen and looking for any foreign substances on items that may have been submitted.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT CANTWELL, DIRECTOR, COLORADO BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: The purpose of doing a forensic examination -- in this case, we're talking about DNA -- it's to also -- it's not only to determine who the suspect, if there's a suspect, but to exclude people that may be mentioned as a suspect. So it's a very good process, you know, to determine an individual who's maybe involved in the crime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABELL: We're told they may have this analysis completed within a couple of days. Again, Tuesday is when they're hoping to announce whether they will file charges or not. If, in fact, charges are filed, we're told don't expect a trial here for at least six months -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We'll be watching. Brian Cabell in Vail, Colorado. Thanks, Brian, very much.

President Bush facing some nuclear fall-out. The issue, of course, weapons of mass destruction, bad information and the push for a war. When we come back, we'll have more on that.

Plus: Truth and fiction collide in a stranger-than-life murder trial, the novelist accused of killing his wife. We'll take a closer look at the case that reads like a mystery novel.

And look at this. Jerry Springer looking for a new job. Find out his plans for 2004.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to CNN. Nuclear fallout, the blame game intensifies over pre-war intelligence, that's coming up in just a moment. First, let's check the latest headlines.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: More now on our top story, the controversy over a claim that Iraq was trying to purchase uranium in Africa. That controversy is clearly heating up. A U.S. official says the CIA approved President Bush's use of the statement in his State of the Union address some four months after asking Britain to drop it. Our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is traveling with the president in Africa and has more now on the fallout from Entebbe in Uganda.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Bush insisted he did not intentionally mislead the American people in making his case for going to war.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I gave a speech to the nation that was cleared by the intelligence services. And it was a speech that detailed to the American people the dangers posed by the Saddam Hussein regime. And my government took the appropriate response to those dangers.

MALVEAUX: Throughout his Africa trip, the president has been dogged by claims he made in his State of the Union address that Iraq tried to get uranium from Africa, an argument used to support the case that Saddam Hussein was trying to develop a nuclear weapons program, justifying the U.S. going to war.

Intelligence officials have since admitted that at least one report that Iraq was trying to get uranium from Niger was false. But Mr. Bush stands by his speech. Earlier, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, traveling with the president, said the CIA cleared the address and that the administration followed the CIA's recommendations to take out the specific reference to Niger.

The administration replaced with the broader claim that Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa. Dr. Rice said that line was approved. And she added, "The CIA cleared the speech in its entirety. If the director of Central Intelligence had said, 'Take this out of the speech,' then it would have been done." But Secretary of State Colin Powell, seven days after the president's address, did not include the Iraq uranium claim in his presentation before the United Nations because the State Department's own intelligence arm found it dubious.

But Thursday, Powell played down the difference.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: You have to make judgments. And at the time of the president's State of the Union address, a judgment was made that that was an appropriate statement for the president to make. There was no effort or attempt on the part of the president or anyone else in the administration to mislead or to deceive the American people.

MALVEAUX (on camera): The Bush administration insists that it's confident in the intelligence it receives, but a senior administration official did acknowledge that the vetting process, determining what gets in the State of the Union, has to be tightened.

Suzanne Malveaux, CNN, Entebbe, Uganda.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And we'll have much more on this issue Sunday on "LATE EDITION." Among my guests this Sunday, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser to the president. That's "LATE EDITION," Sunday, noon Eastern, 9:00 a.m. Pacific.

Let's focus some more on the controversy and the continuing hunt for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Joining us now from Albany, New York, the former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter. He's also the author of a new book just about to come out entitled "Frontier Justice: WMD and the Bushwhacking of America."

No great surprise there, Scott, what you're going to tell us. But tell us right now what you think of this uproar here in Washington over how this one line got into the president's speech? Is it just an honest mistake that happened?

SCOTT RITTER, FORMER U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: No, it's not an honest mistake. It's part of a larger effort of deception that was, you know, taken by the president, by his administration in regards to justifying this war with Iraq. It's not just the nuclear issue, although that's the one that got the majority of the senators and congressmen to change their vote back in October to support this war. It's about chemical weapons, biological weapons, the entire case that was made that Iraq has an ongoing program dedicated to manufacturing and concealing weapons of mass destruction that threaten the security.

BLITZER: But Scott, reference to the nuclear sale, if you will, of uranium from Niger to Iraq, that occurred in January after the October vote. So it wasn't specifically designed to get senators and congressmen to support the resolution.

RITTER: Will, actually, Wolf, you're wrong on that one. That piece of information, that intelligence was peddled by the CIA, in behind the door briefings, two senators and congressmen in late September, 2002, and it was that information amongst others, including the now what we know to be fraudulent claim that aluminum tubes were going to be used in a centrifuge program, that got many senators, including Dianne Feinstein, who sits on the Intelligence Services Committee or sat on the committee to change their vote. So it was just part and parcel of a larger problem.

BLITZER: Yes, but I was suggesting that the State of the Union address came after the congressional votes in the House and the Senate.

RITTER: Well, the State of the Union address is when the president made his case to the American people, and he perpetrated the fraud to the American people at that time. But this fraud was perpetrated to Congress back in September using the same information. So, you know, this is -- this is a very broad-based issue that needs to be delved into.

BLITZER: Let's get right to the issue at hand, though. Do you have any doubt that Saddam Hussein would have loved to reconstitute his nuclear weapons program?

RITTER: Well, you know, now, you're getting into speculation. What I have said is we have no evidence that Saddam Hussein was reconstituting the nuclear weapons program. And I tend to believe that (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BLITZER: Wait a minute, wait a minute. What about the equipment that was just discovered the other day buried in the backyard of a former Iraqi nuclear scientist that had been buried there since before the first war? They were supposed to give all that stuff up, as you well know, as a result of the cease-fire? RITTER: You're right on one point. As I well know. I led the investigation into Mahdi Obeidi. I interviewed him for many hours, looking for just this material. In fact, had the United States not pulled the plug on the inspections I was trying to carry out in August 1998, we had plans to go to Obeidi's house with ground-penetrating radar, to look for this material.

But I believe you'll find that when you dig deeper into the Obeidi case, he's not telling the whole truth. Obeidi kept that material on his own volition. Qusay and the security services, you know, didn't hand it out. And the bottom line is, it's components of a nonexistent program. Nobody is trying to make the case that what Obeidi had is representative of anything that represents a viable nuclear weapons program worthy of war.

BLITZER: But that was a violation of what the U.N. -- the U.N. cease-fires had called for, hiding that equipment underground.

RITTER: First of all, it's not equipment. It's components. It doesn't constitute a viable centrifuge or centrifuge array (ph), and it's not part of a larger program. Obeidi was in violation for maintaining this. Does the fact that he maintained it represent a larger effort by the Iraqi government? We won't know until the investigation is carried out.

But what I'm telling you is based upon my investigation, which went on for many months and involved dozens of hours. Obeidi did this on his own. This wasn't something that ...

BLITZER: But Scott, you know the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. You lived there, you talked to these people. Did anything happen like that of a nature like that, Obeidi doing this on his own without getting approval or someone asking him keep this quiet? That was such a brutal regime. The guy wouldn't have had the guts to do that on his own?

RITTER: Actually, again, Wolf, you're wrong. We have several cases of Iraqi scientists who were very proud of the work they did. Remember, Obeidi was competing with Dr. Diah Jaffar Al-Jaffar (ph) over, you know, who was going to be the first to enrich uranium. He was proud of this program, and when he was ordered to turn it over, I think he maintained these components and these blueprints of his own volition, in a very similar manner that Iraqi scientists responsible for designing guidance and control equipment did the exact same thing.

BLITZER: One final question before I let you go, Scott. The two trailers, the semitrailers, the trucks they found that a lot of U.S. intelligence officials believe could only have been used to develop biological weapons, biological warfare, I don't know if you've had a chance to even examine those reports, but what do you make of that evidence?

RITTER: Again, it's not evidence of anything, Wolf. British experts who are very familiar with the Marconi hydrogen generation equipment sold to Iraq in the 1980s have reviewed these laboratories and says it is an exact replication of that. There's only one thing those labs could do, that is to produce hydrogen for weather balloons. Biological experts, who know about manufacturing biological agents say, you can not produce biological agent there.

So the president again has misled the American public and indeed the world. When, a month ago, he was in Poland and said, the fact that we had these two labs is proof that we have weapons of mass destruction. It's proof of nothing more than the president has mislead, has fabricated, we don't have a weapons of mass destruction program in Iraq to justify this war. What we have is a quagmire with Americans dying on almost a daily basis and no end in site.

BLITZER: Scott Ritter has got a new book coming out, I believe, next week "Frontier Justice: WMD and the Bushwhacking of America". We'll talk when the book comes out again. Thanks, Scott, very much.

RITTER: Thank you.

BLITZER: Of course, we would love to hear directly from you, our viewers. The Web question of the day is this, whom do you blame for the mistake in the presidents State of the Union Address? President Bush, British intelligence, or the CIA. You can still vote, go to cnn.com/wolf.

Is it truth or fiction? A novelist is accused of killing his wife? We'll take a much closer look at this mysterious case.

And could this talk show host be trading in his show for a Senate seat? That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A North Carolina novelist is at the center of a family drama that reads like a murder mystery. He's on trial right now in the death of his wife, and that case is raising new questions about a similar death almost two decades ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (voice-over): Michael Peterson, 59 years old, successful novelist, former newspaper columnist, two-time political candidate, decorated Vietnam War veteran. With his high powered 48-year-old wife, Kathleen, a prominent couple in the Raleigh, Durham area. Now Michael Peterson is making headlines he doesn't want, on trial for the murder of his wife.

MICHAEL PETERSON, NOVELIST ACCUSED OF MURDERING WIFE: I would never have done anything to hurt her. I am innocent of these charges and we will prove it in court.

BLITZER: The turns in this case read more like a mystery novel than one of Peterson's signature tales of military heroism. December 9, 2001 Kathleen Peterson's body found at the bottom of a stairwell inside the couples home in Durham. Prosecutors say Michael struck her with a narrow object but they have never been able to produce a weapon. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The primary mechanism is something like this, It's hollow, it's light, it's easily used, and we will contend to you this or something like this is the article that was used to inflict these wounds.

BLITZER: The district attorney is also not been able to produce any witnesses to Kathleen's death. Peterson's defense team contends his wife died from an accidental fall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In my mind, you know, if Mike finds Kathleen at the bottom of the stairs, it's a reasonable assumption on his part, that she fell down the stairs.

BLITZER: But the autopsy says Kathleen Peterson's death was caused by blows at to the head. Motive, another part of this case, bitterly disputed. Prosecutors say Peterson killed Kathleen to cash in on her $1.4 million insurance policy during tough financial times for the couple.

The defense contends they had millions of dollars in assets and Kathleen had a high-paying job at Nortel Networks.

This week, prosecutors try to cast doubt on now genuine Michael Peterson's emotions were during a frantic 911 call the morning of Kathleen's death. Testimony that brought one of his daughters to tears. But this expanded family is divided in this case.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My mother and Mike had an absolutely loving relationship.

BLITZER: Kathleen Peterson's daughter from a previous marriage once supported her stepfather. Now she's suing Michael Peterson for wrongful death.

But the story doesn't end there. Two other daughters come from an episode in Peterson's past. Their mother, Elizabeth Ratliff, a friend of Peterson and his first wife. Ratliff died in Germany in 1985. She was found dead at the bottom of a stairway after being seen with Peterson the night before. German authorities initially ruled it a brain hemorrhage. But prosecutors in the current case had Ratliff's body exhumed and autopsied in North Carolina. Their finding, homicidal assault.

Michael Peterson has always maintained his innocence in her death and actually adopted Ratliff's two daughters. They still support him. The judge has not yet ruled whether prosecutors will be able to include evidence from Elizabeth's Ratliff's death in the current murder trial.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: For the record, Michael Peterson's two sons from his first marriage also support him in this case. If convicted, Peterson could be sentenced to life in prison. For more on the case I'm joined now Demorris Lee covering the trial for "The Raleigh News and Observer". Thanks for joining us. What happened today? DEMORRIS LEE, JOURNALIST "THE RALEIGH NEWS AND OBSERVER": Well what happened today, we had police on the stand, testifying to what they saw when they first got to the scene and they testified that the large amount of blood that they found Kathleen Peterson's body in had began to dry. And that's one of the issued that the prosecution has been zeroing in on, is that all of this blood had began to dry. So that means that some way that Kathleen had been dead long before Michael Peterson called 911.

BLITZER: Will the prosecution, Demorris, be allowed to bring the autopsy report in from Elizabeth Ratliff, the woman that died years earlier?

LEE: Well I interviewed the judge this week, Judge Orlando Hudson and asked him that question, but he said he can't make a decision on that until the prosecution actually asks him to make a decision. So right now there are several rules, or several ways that the prosecution can get that in. One of those ways is prior bad acts called 404-B where you can get similar acts that will make a pattern. That's what they're going to try and use and get that particular information in before a jury.

BLITZER: Dr. Henry Lee, the forensic criminologist of O.J. Simpson famed, he's been taken in by the defense to help out. Has he made an appearance? Has he done anything?

LEE: Well he hasn't made an appearance in court but he has been to the house and seen lots of footage in the house and in David Rudolph's opening he said that Henry Lee actually found blood and partials and material on a door frame, something that the Durham police didn't actually see. So the important thing about Henry Lee is, we don't often get experts on the defense side that can actually counteract or combat what the state medical examiner contends actually happened in a particular case.

So that gives David Rudolph and Michael Peterson some kind of room or some kind of edge when you're talking about prosecuting or defending a case.

BLITZER; You know there have been some questions raised about the 27-year-old son of Peterson, Todd. What, if anything, can you tell us about that?

LEE: Well not much right now. Even from the beginning, even at the bond hearing where Todd Peterson -- excuse me, Michael Peterson gave Todd Peterson power of attorney over all of his affairs early in the beginning of this trial, in the beginning of this process. And so Todd has been a key person in this for the prosecution.

The prosecution believes that maybe Todd helped his dad get rid of the weapon. And they haven't said that yet but that's what they've been focusing in on.

BLITZER: Demorris, we'll check back with you as this trial continues to unfold. Thanks very much for joining us.

LEE: Thank you.

BLITZER: He's made for TV but is Jerry Springer made for the United States Senate? That's coming up.

And secrets from the private life of Katharine Hepburn. Find out what fellow actress she wasn't crazy about.

First, our news quiz. Who has won the most Oscars? Katharine Hepburn, Meryl Streep, Walt Disney, Steven Spielberg? The answer coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Earlier we asked, who has won the most Oscars? The answer, Walt Disney. He brought home 26 and holds the record for the most nominations.

Katharine Hepburn wasn't known for beating around the bush, but the things she supposedly told biographer Scott Berg are straight to the point even by her standards. In his new book, titled "Kate Remembered," Berg says Hepburn had zero tolerance for most Woody Allen films, admired Sally Field but did not like Meryl Streep, whose 12 Oscar nominations surpassed the mark Hepburn set years before. As for other secrets, Berg says Hepburn once posed for nude photographs at a wealthy friend's farmhouse when she was in college.

A man known best for his shock TV show is making his political ambitions more and more obvious. Today, Jerry Springer filed the necessary paperwork to run for the United States Senate from Ohio. But a spokesman for the 59-year-old says the former Cincinnati mayor will wait until later this month before making any formal announcement. As for what's motivating him, Springer says he wants to make noise in Washington for those who aren't being heard.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JERRY SPRINGER, TALK SHOW HOST: This government is so afraid of everyone coming out to vote, because, let me tell you, if everyone came out and voted, do you think for one second we would still have 41 million people without health insurance? If everybody came out and voted, do you still think we would have underfunded schools? No. The truth of the matter is, the power establishment doesn't want those people to vote. It doesn't want middle America to vote, because as long as most people don't vote, then the people in power will continue to stay in power. Their interests will continue to be represented.

Someone has to speak for just regular ordinary Americans who don't perhaps speak the king's English, who aren't rich, who aren't powerful. Let's let have somebody fight for them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Recent polls indicates Springer has wide name recognition, of course, but so far little support.

Former first lady Nancy Reagan paid a surprise visit to the new aircraft carrier that bears her husband's name. She was driven around a four and a half acre flight deck in a golf cart, and shook hands with some of the sailors. Mrs. Reagan will take part in ceremonies tomorrow when the ship is christened. Stay with CNN for live coverage of that.

Our hot Web question of the day is this -- whom do you blame for the mistake in the president's State of the Union address in Iraq? You can vote now at cnn.com/wolf. We'll have the results immediately when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's how you're weighing in on our Web question of the day. Remember, we have been asking you this -- whom do you blame for the mistake in the president's State of the Union address in Iraq? Ninety-five percent, ninety-five percent of you say President Bush, 1 percent of you said British intelligence, 3 percent of you blame the CIA. As always, we remind you, this is not a scientific poll. More than 11,000 voters so far.

Time to hear directly from you. Let's get to some of your e- mail. Jason writes this -- "While no one can doubt Saddam Hussein's desire to build a chemical and nuclear arsenal, the two most dangerous components of the WMD threat were the nuclear component and the links to terror groups. Without either of these, Iraq posed virtually no threat to the U.S. Is it a coincidence that these are the two areas where the administration has consistently overstated the case?"

But Judd writes very differently -- "This whole mess is just a manipulation by the liberals, Democrats and the anti-war element. The president made his speech almost six months ago. Whey are these people only inciting this furor now? It's politics at its worst."

That's all the time we have. "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now.

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