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Investigating Intelligence: Commission Members Named; Terrorists on Tape

Aired February 6, 2004 - 19:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST (voice-over): Startling new video of al Qaeda bombers preparing to kill.

The president names the panel to answer the question, what went wrong with U.S. intelligence?

Surgery to save the girl born with two heads. We'll find out how the operation is going.

Happy birthday, Mr. President. Ronald Reagan turns 93. We'll look back at an American legend.

And Harry Connick Jr. stops by to talk music, Mardi Gras and Ms. Jackson.


ANNOUNCER: Live from the CNN Broadcast Center in New York, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360.

COOPER: Good evening. Welcome to 360.

Tonight, heartache and hate. A Florida community morning the murder of 11-year-old Carlie Brucia, the little girl whose abduction was caught here on videotape. We have new details on what led investigators to her body. That in a moment.

But first, our top story tonight.

The names are out. A former Senator and governor and a retired judge will head a new commission to examine U.S. intelligence gathering. In particular, its prewar assessment of the Iraqi threat. Today, the president named seven of the panel's members.

Suzanne Malveaux has details.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Bush named his commission to investigate the intelligence the administration used to justify the Iraq war.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The commission I have appointed today will examine intelligence on weapons of mass destruction and related 21st century threats, and issue specific recommendations to ensure our capabilities are strong.

MALVEAUX: On the nine-member panel, the commission's co-chairs, Democrat Chuck Robb, a former senator and governor of Virginia, and the son-in-law of the late President Johnson; Republican Laurence Silverman, a retired federal judge considered a staunch conservative, appointed by Reagan, who also served under presidents Nixon and Ford. The other members, Democrat Lloyd Cutler, former White House counsel to presidents Carter and Clinton; Patricia Wald, a former chief judge for the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for Washington D.C.; Richard Levin, president of Yale University, Admiral William Studeman, former deputy director of the CIA; and Arizona's Republican senator, John McCain, who ran against Bush for the Republican campaign in 2000, considered a maverick and an occasional critic of the administration, an appointment targeted at countering criticism that the panel won't be objective.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We will be looking at the entire gamut, from the gathering of the information, to the way it was presented to the president, and the way it was interpreted.

MALVEAUX: But some lawmakers aren't satisfied with the president's selection. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said, "We have a commission wholly owned by the executive branch investigating the executive branch." President Bush said the commission will also examine intelligence regarding North Korea, Iran, Libya and Afghanistan.


MALVEAUX: Now, the deadline for the commission's report is March 31. That is two months after a new president is inaugurated. The big question here is whether or not there will be portions of that report that will be released to the public or leaked to the press, and how that will have an impact on how voters perceive the war -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Suzanne, thanks very much. Suzanne Malveaux at the White House.

At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is ordering an investigation into reports that female U.S. troops had been sexual assaulted by their male colleagues. The claims are being made by 37 servicewomen in Iraq, as well as in Kuwait. Questions have also been raised about whether some of the women were given appropriate medical care and whether they were left to serve alongside their alleged attackers.

Now to the war on terror and a disturbing new videotape. On it, apparently al Qaeda terrorists training for a deadly attack in Saudi Arabia.

CNN's justice correspondent, Kelli Arena, is tracking the terror tactic.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The latest alleged al Qaeda video making its way across the Internet this week lays out in stark detail how al Qaeda practiced for and carried out attacks in Riyadh last November.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This showed the actual preparations. The preparation of a car, the hand-to-hand training. And most dramatically of all, the actual drive to the target.

ARENA: It was an arsenal of shoulder-fired missiles on display, a warning to the Saudi kingdom once thought to be immune from al Qaeda attacks, "Stop befriending infidels."

ADEL AL-JUBEIR, SAUDI FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: We are very concerned about an attack in Saudi Arabia and have been for some time. We are always preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.

ARENA: The tape is evidence of Osama bin Laden continuing influence Saudi Arabia. He condemned the kingdom during the first Gulf War, protesting U.S. military presence on what he called holy land. But al Qaeda did not strike on Saudi soil until last year.

Law enforcement sources say the attacks did what diplomacy could not, it made the Saudis realize they had a stake in the war on terror and has greatly improved cooperation with the United States. Intelligence continues to suggest Saudi Arabia is vulnerable to more attacks. The latest tape offers concrete corroboration.

Kelli Arena, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Well, more terror today, this time in Moscow. A bomb ripped through a crowded subway train. Thirty-nine people are dead, and that number could climb with more than 100 hurt.

The latest now from CNN's Moscow bureau chief, Jill Dougherty.


JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): A packed Moscow metro car deep underground, morning commuters on their way to work. Suddenly, a blinding explosion. A bomb investigators believe carried in a suitcase detonates in the second car of a Moscow subway train, tearing apart the bodies of people closest to the device.

ALEXEI VLASOV, BOMBING SURVIVOR (through translator): I felt a heat wave, darkness and my face burning. I fell on the floor immediately. There was a lot of noise, only when they opened the doors could we walk away.

DOUGHERTY: As rescuers swarm into the metro, survivors climb or jump out of subway windows, pry open doors, then run or walk through the pitch-black underground tunnels to safety. In Moscow hospitals, some of the injured fight for their lives, but doctors say the death toll could rise. Russian prosecutors launch their investigation. The immediate suspicion, a terrorist act by Chechen rebels. A charge rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov denies. President Vladimir Putin condemns terrorism as the plague of the 21st century, and has tough talk for the people who carry it out.

PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translator): Russia does not conduct talks with terrorists. Russia destroys them.

DOUGHERTY: As security officials gather evidence, Mr. Putin gets a call from U.S. President George W. Bush, expressing his condolences and his solidarity.


COOPER: Jill Dougherty joins us now from Moscow.

Jill, is it known where the bomb was on the train? Was it on the tracks, in the cars, or was it an actual suicide bomber?

DOUGHERTY: Well, they believe that it was right inside the car. And the question is whether somebody actually left a package or some type of a suitcase, or whether a suicide bomber actually went in there with it, blew themselves up and then killed the other people. That's still being investigated -- Anderson.

COOPER: A is the people behind it. Jill Dougherty, thanks very much.

Again, as Jill pointed out, Chechen rebels deny ties to today's attack, though they've hit with deadly force in the past. Let's flash back now, October, 2002.

Chechen rebels armed with machine guns and explosives strapped to their bodies seized a Moscow theater. You're watching it happening right there. About 800 people were held hostage in that. There they are on the stage now.

The three-day standoff ended when Russian troops gassed the building, stormed in. The terrorist were killed, but so were 115 hostages who died as a result of their narcotic knockout gas used to save them.

In politics tonight, what could be the last stand of presidential hopeful Howard Dean. The man once picked to win it all has within won no contests so far, and now he's putting the future of his campaign into one state.

Joe Johns is on the campaign trail.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Milwaukee today, Howard Dean was stumping for votes on a make-or-break mission to win Wisconsin's February 17 primary.

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'd love to have your help. So I need your help on Tuesday. I need your help.

JOHNS: One day after sending out an e-mail to supporters asserting that anything less than winning would put him out of the race, the campaign said it raised about $900,000 for advertising in Wisconsin. Dean at first called the tactic "a brilliant ploy," then had to explain.

DEAN: I also think it depends on what your definition of the word "ploy" is. I think it's a brilliant step forward.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's your definition of ploy?

DEAN: My definition of a ploy is a strategy.

JOHNS: Meanwhile, Senator John Kerry in Michigan, though far ahead in the polls, was feeling the ups and downs of being the front- runner. He got a big endorsement from Dick Gephardt.

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need a leader who can defeat George Bush in November.

JOHNS: But Kerry's campaign also had to deny an Associated Press report claiming he recommended people for positions with federal home loan banks just before and after receiving political contributions from nominees.


JOHNS: In Virginia, Senator John Edwards got supporters going by taking on some sign-holding Bush-Cheney backers who showed up at one of his events.

EDWARDS: Hold those signs up if you don't mind in the back. That's who's leaving the White House come November.


JOHNS: And in Tennessee, Wes Clark was wooing votes with humor.

WESLEY CLARK (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not on outsider. Sorry, I'm not an insider. God. I am not an insider, but I know leadership. And I need your support...


JOHNS: So Howard Dean has scheduled appearances all next week. As well, Edwards and Clark are expected to appear here over the weekend.

Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Caucuses over the weekend. All right. Joe Johns, thanks very much for that.

Right now we are following a number of developing stories "Cross Country." Let's take a look.

Washington D.C.: good employment numbers out. The Labor Department says the unemployment rate dropped to 5.6 percent in January. That's the lowest rate in two years. There was also some job growth, but it's a little smaller than many economists were expecting.

San Francisco, California: lethal injection, it is constitutional. A federal judge rejected claims by a death row inmate that lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment. The inmate is scheduled to be executed next week.

Columbus, Ohio: highway shooting linked. Today, investigators confirmed the bullet that pierced the windshield of a van on Tuesday is linked to a serial sniper. That brings the total number of confirmed cases to 21, with one fatality.

Los Angeles, California: Jeremy Morse cleared. Prosecutors will not request a third trial for the Inglewood police officer accused of assaulting a teenager during a videotaped arrest. Two trials against Morse ended with deadlocked juries.

Waco, Texas: Baylor University speared. Today, a judge threw out most of a wrongful death lawsuit filed against the university by the father of Patrick Dennehy. He was the Baylor basketball player killed last summer. The judge says the university could not have foreseen the murder. Dennehy's former teammate, Carlton Dotson, he is charged with his death and is awaiting trial right now.

And that's a look at stories "Cross Country" for you tonight.

Well, coming up, a body found and a suspect charged. The kidnapping caught on tape takes a tragic turn. We have some new details on exactly what led police to Carlie Brucia.

Also tonight, St. John's basketball players cleared of rape charges. Find out how a cell phone recording got them off the hook with police.

And the marathon surgery to save a child born with two heads, it is going on right now. We're going to speak to a doctor live who has been in the operating room.

First, let's take a look "Inside the Box" at the top stories on tonight's network newscasts.


COOPER: Well, in Florida, a tragic end to just a terrible story. Carlie Brucia was just 11-year-old. She was missing five days. Her body found this morning not far from where she was originally abducted.

A 37-year-old man with a long criminal record has been charged with her kidnapping and murder. He's in custody right now.

Susan Candiotti has some new details on what led police to Carlie.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The body of the young girl whose friends say never wanted to be alone was dumped in a field behind a church only three miles from where she was last seen alive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our hopes and our prayers go out to Carlie's family.

CANDIOTTI: For now, police not revealing how the murder was committed. The break came Thursday, two days after suspect Joseph Smith had been arrested on an unrelated charge. According to a police affidavit, the suspect told a witness that he abducted and murdered Carlie Brucia.

The unidentified witness, the report says, led police to the body. The arrest form also says Smith lied to police about his whereabouts when Carlie disappeared. His station wagon allegedly used in the abduction was seen on a surveillance camera at a car wash a few minutes before he approached the girl. The family has been told Carl's DNA was found in that vehicle. Smith now charged with kidnapping and murder.

CAPT. JEFF BELL, SARASOTA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: We now stand ready to complete our obligation and assure you that he will pay the ultimate price for what he did to her.

CANDIOTTI: A grief-stricken mother consoled throughout the day by well-wishers. At the crime scene, while investigators were collecting evidence, Carlie's stepfather encircled by friends. And her father who lives in New York tried to make sevens the senseless.

JOSEPH BRUCIA, CARLIE'S FATHER: She's in a better place. She got there in a horrific manner, but now she's watching me all the time.

CANDIOTTI: At the car wash where Carlie was last seen alive classmates remembered.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was a loving and caring person. She never gave handshakes, she always gave hugs.

CANDIOTTI: Those were everywhere.


CANDIOTTI: Joseph Smith is scheduled for a first court appearance there. He doesn't to be there, and he went won't. Police say he's waived that appearance. As Carlie is mourned, the motive is as much a mystery as her death -- Anderson.

COOPER: It is just so sad. Susan Candiotti, thanks very much.

Several St. Johns University basketball players are in trouble with the school after a convoluted incident that included a strip club visit, a recorded sexual encounter, and allegations of rape. But now the woman who made the rape claims is the one actually facing charges.

CNN's Adaora Udoji has the story.


ADAORA UDOJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The sorted tale unfolding revolves around 38-year-old Sherry Urbanic Bock (ph). Thursday, she accused several St. John's University basketball players of rape. By Friday, she was under arrest, charged with filing a false report, attempted extortion and prostitution.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We believe that financial gain was the motive in this case.

UDOJI: Financial gain involving sex, following yet another St. John's loss Wednesday night in Pittsburgh. Police say afterwards, Bock (ph), a married woman, met the players at a strip club, went back to their hotel, and had sex with several of them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have evidence that suggests there was a demand for money. When that demand wasn't met, that's when we believe a report to the police was filed.

UDOJI: The players are not talking publicly, neither is Bock (ph). She's not even responded to the charges yet. But according to police, Bock (ph) agreed to have sex for $1,000. The players reneged, refused to pay, and in retaliation she accused them of rape.

Investigators say her story fell apart when they discovered video of the negotiations caught by a player's cell phone camera. As for St. John's, officials immediately expelled senior Grady Reynolds. Elijah Ingram and Abraham Keita were permanently kicked off the team, with expulsion possible. Lamont Hamilton and Mohammed Diakite were suspended. And lastly, freshman Tyler Jones faces disciplinary action.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was important for the university to take action that we deemed appropriate that was in accordance with the seriousness of the violations of the code of conduct.


COOPER: Adaora, there are a lot of startling things about this story. One of them is this cell phone. I guess they were actually recording the transaction. What did that tell police?

UDOJI: Exactly. You're exactly right, Anderson. That really was a big twist.

In fact, the Pittsburgh Police told us that it was images or videos from this cell phone camera that led them to accuse the accuser in this case. They won't say exactly what was on the videotape. We don't know what it showed, but it was enough in their eyes to change the focus of the investigation from a rape case to the accuser, and questions about attempted extortion, prostitution and filing false claims.

COOPER: All right. Just amazing. All right. Adaora Udoji, thanks.

Well, we are tracking a number of developing stories around the globe right now. Let's check the "UpLink."

Abuja, Nigeria: Halliburton scrutiny. The Nigerian government orders an investigation into allegations a Halliburton subsidiary paid $180 million in bribes to land a natural gas project in the West African nation. Now, at the time, Vice President Dick Cheney headed Halliburton. Similar investigations are under way in the U.S., as well as France.

Guantanamo Bay, Cuba: legal moves at Gitmo. The Pentagon is providing lawyers to two more terrorism suspects, a Yemenee (ph) and a Sudanese man held by the U.S. military. They are among six men President Bush has declared eligible for trials before U.S. military tribunals.

Barisal, Bangladesh: two ferries collide. Just look at the damage right there. Survivors say at least 30 people drowned in the accident in dense fog. So far, the official death toll stands at 13, with 35 others injured.

Michoacan, Mexico: deadly flutter. Eleven million monarch butterflies -- that's what you're looking at, monarch butterflies -- they made their annual migration from Canada's freezing tundra only to die in a bitter cold snap in the mountains of Central Mexico.

And that is a look at the stories tonight in the "UpLink".

The girl born with two heads. Right now, marathon surgery is going on to save this young girl's life. The operation is well under way. We're going to find out how it's going from our resident brain surgeon, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. We'll also talk with another doctor who has actually been in the operating room.

And in a little bit later on, President Bush goes on the offensive. A big interview this weekend. We'll check out what's behind the GOP strategy.

COOPER: Well, right now doctors in the Dominican Republic are more than halfway through a delicate marathon surgery that has never been done before. They're removing a baby girl's extra head.

Our medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, has been tracking their progress. We want to warn you, some of the following images may be disturbing.


SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Medical history is being made by a 7-week-old girl named Rebeca. She has curly black hair, a quick smile, and was born with a second head. A second head with partially formed eyes, ears, lips and even primitive brain.

Now, for the first time ever, neurosurgeons from all over the world have congregated to perform a first, a separation of the two heads, the condition known as cranial pegus parasiticus (ph), or parasite twin. The operation is expected to take 13 hours, and the biggest stumbling block will likely involve significant blood loss.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The most difficult thing is the blood vessels. I mean, we have to look carefully for each one of them. We have to clip each one of them. We have to work very slow.

GUPTA: The operation will also involve repairing part of Rebeca's skull, the part where the second head has been removed. The bone to repair the defect may come from the skull of the second head itself.

In some ways, this operation is easier than the recently publicized cases of conjoined twins because the surgeons will use their talent and resources to save only one life, Rebeca's. Still, as the operation is under way, surgeons are hesitant to make a definitive prognosis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At this moment, all of the surgeons are more optimistic than when they began the surgery because everything is coming out the way we're planning.

GUPTA: The second head will likely be sent to the pathologist for a full examination. Rebeca will recover for a couple of weeks in the Caribbean Nation of the Dominican Republic. If all goes well, she should develop normal as a little girl.


GUPTA: And in preparation, doctors actually had four gallons of Rebeca's type blood actually standing by in case of potential bleeding. We just talked to the doctors not that long ago. They say it's going along pretty well, she's in stable condition.

It's going to be about a 14-hour operation. A long day for those guys.

COOPER: Just amazing. Dr. Gupta, thanks very much for that.

Joining us now by phone to talk more about the surgery is Dr. Santiago Hazim. He's the director of the center where the operation is being performed.

Doctor, thanks for being with us. I know it has been a long day of surgery. How is it going right now?

DR. SANTIAGO HAZIM, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, C.U.R.E. INTERNATIONAL CENTER: Thank you very much. Today's been very long, but it's beautiful because everything is coming out the way it was supposed to. We planned it the way -- everybody is waiting to this case. And right now we are in a long day of surgery, but, I mean, it's been successful up to now. COOPER: Surgery began at 8:00 this morning. When do you expect it to end?

HAZIM: Well, we could tell you when we started, but you already know it, 8:00. But we don't know when we're going to end because we're doing everything very slow because we went Rebeca to be a normal child. We don't want Rebeca to become, you know, a partial normal. We just want her to be normal.

We don't have stress to finish this case. We are taking all of our time. We are doing everything that is possible for us to do it. And that's what we are hoping to be.

COOPER: If all goes as planned, if the surgery goes as planned, she recovers well, what comes next for her? I mean, how long a recovery process are we talking about?

HAZIM: OK. If Rebeca comes out the way we expect for her to come out, that the surgery becomes a perfect surgery, Rebeca is going to develop -- you know, a child having a regular surgery, and all we have to wait is for that to heal. And it's going to be a couple of weeks for her to be a normal baby in her house.

COOPER: And ideally, will there be -- I mean, when she's two or three years old, will you be able to tell that she had been through this experience at all?

HAZIM: Come back again?

COOPER: When she is two or three years old, when she grows up, will you be able to tell by looking at her or by talking to her that she has been through this experience at all?

HAZIM: Not really. Not really. She's going to become a normal baby. I mean, she's going to have hair, she's going to have her normal head, walking around like a normal baby or playing with dolls like normal babies do.

COOPER: Well, that is something I think a lot of us -- a lot of people around the world are wishing for.

Dr. Santiago Hazim, I appreciate you joining us. I know it's been a long day. We appreciate you spending some time with us. Thanks very much.

HAZIM: Thank you very much. And have a nice evening.


COOPER (voice-over): President Bush on the offensive. What's behind the GOP strategy?

The country's 40th president turns 93. We'll look back at his legacy.

And Harry Connick Jr. stops by to talk music, Mardi Gras, and Ms. Jackson.

360 continues.


COOPER: In the next half hour on 360 President Bush and the race for the White House. He's on the offensive and preparing for a tough interview this weekend. What's behind the new strategy, we'll take a closer look.

Also former president Ronald Reagan turns 93. A look back at the legacy of one of the America's most popular presidents.

And Harry Connick Jr. one on one. He talks music, Mardi Gras and you know what about Janet Jackson.

Right now, let's take a look at "The Reset." Washington release by accident. Treasury Secretary John Snow says his predecessor Paul O'Neill was mistakenly given classified documents for use in an inside book project. The book, which was not flattering to the Bush White House, said the administration had begun planning to invade Iraq prior to the 9/11 attacks.

Washington, what went wrong? That's what President Bush's new intelligence commission is supposed to find out. Under pressure, the president appointed a panel to investigate Iraq WMD pre-war claims by the intelligence community and his administration.

Boston gay marriage backlash? Massachusetts legislators will soon be asked to vote on whether they should amend the state's constitution to redefine marriage as a union only of a man and a woman. Some lawmakers want to circumvent the recent Massachusetts court ruling that struck down a ban on gay marriage as unconstitutional.

Also in Washington, final ban on Ephedra. The FDA says as of April 12 it can't be sold and you should not use it. Just too risky, they say. The stimulant was taken off the market after being linked to 155 deaths.

Let's look at politics. As the Democrats who want his job duke it out in caucuses and primaries, President Bush is going on the offensive. Attacked relentlessly by his rivals and down in the polls, his approval rating is now below 50 percent. The president is trying to break the slide. Among other things, he's to appear on "Meet the Press" this Sunday for an hour long interview.

A risky strategy, say some. A good use of the presidential pulpit say others. Joining us now from Washington, former Bush administration official Leslie Sanchez, she's the CEO and president of the Impacto Group and also with us, Democratic strategist Julian Epstein. Appreciate both of you joining us. Nice to see you both. Julian, the president's going on "Meet the Press" for a rare hour-long interview. It's going to be a tough interview. Is this a sign the White House is concerned? JULIAN EPSTEIN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: No question. The White House is looking at the president's poll numbers. They're seeing them drop below 50 percent. This seems to me a strategy that you only employ when you believe your guy is in trouble. I think Karl Rowe was starting to hit the panic button. A lot of people are starting to say the second President Bush is starting to look a lot like the first President Bush, had a big bounce on a foreign policy endeavor but didn't take care of business at home.

In fact, one of the worst economic performances, if not the worst of our lifetime, certainly in terms of job creation and a lot of people are saying the second President Bush did not take care of business the way the first President Bush did and the result may be just the same.

COOPER: Well, Leslie, let me bring you in here. I want to show you something that was in the "Washington Post" today. It's a quote that caught my attention. I'm going to put it up on the screen. "For reasons that are partly related, partly coincidence, President Bush is weaker than his strategists expected, spreading alarm in the White House and Republican circles." GOP sources said this, according to "Washington Post."

Should the White House be concerned or is it natural that Mr. Bush's poll numbers might drop given all of the ongoing publicity of the ongoing primary battles?

LESLIE SANCHEZ, FMR. BUSH ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Sure, the only things that the Democrats have been doing is running their mouth. This is not something that's unexpected. We can remember a time when Bob Dole has ahead of Bill Clinton or a time when Dukakis was ahead of former President Bush. This is expected in a presidential election.

COOPER: But it's not expected that he's going on "Meet the Press." That was a recent development. Why the change, why do it?

SANCHEZ: No, no, it's a great point and anybody who has seen Tim Russert knows it's one of the toughest interviews in Sunday talk. This is not an interview you do when you're weak but when you're strong. To do something one on one like that takes guts and that's what this president wants to do and more importantly, Anderson, he's not going to let the Democrats define his presidency or rewrite history and I think that's what the Democrats are doing for two months without any type of a counter offense from the president, and it's a really good opportunity for the president to talk about what's really happening in America.

EPSTEIN: Anderson, I just disagree with Leslie on this. When a politician does something like this, like Bill Clinton going on "60 Minutes" after the Super Bowl in '92. It's because he's in trouble. Nobody disagrees with that. Every presidential election is basically about one thing, whether you want a change in the guy in the White House or whether you want more of the same.

With a presidential opinion approval rating going beneath 50 percent, the public is saying, we are tempted by, if we are not asking for change. You have 2.3 million jobs lost under this administration, no weapons of mass destruction, record deficits as far as the eye can see on almost every single...

SANCHEZ: Take a breath.

COOPER: Go ahead, Leslie.

SANCHEZ: Let's talk about reality. If you want to talk about issues, this president has a strong and good record to run on and this is a great opportunity for the American people to see his compassion and leadership and that's why he's our commander-in-chief. This is a president who inherited a recession. We all had to deal with the effects of 9/11, we have two wars, and white-collar corporate scandal and despite that and all the naysayers, we managed to turn this economy around.

COOPER: We have to end on there. I think you're both going to be watching the interview. I think, no doubt about it. It sounds like it. Leslie Sanchez, thanks very much and Julian Epstein as well.

EPSTEIN: Thanks for having us.

COOPER: A quarter century ago, of course, it was Ronald Reagan who launched a successful bid for the White House. Today he's 93 and despite the disease that's kept him out of the public eye for a decade, he remains very much in the public consciousness. CNN's David Mattingly reports.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A brief birthday ceremony at his presidential library honored the Ronald Reagan Americans remember, the great communicator, a beaming optimist who brought a nation out of recession and ended the Cold War.

RONALD REAGAN, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.

MATTINGLY: Now, 93 years old, and the longest living president ever, the ravages of Alzheimer's according to his family have made Ronald Reagan's birthday more a day of commemoration than celebration.

MERV GRIFFIN, FRIEND OF REAGAN FAMILY: Well, they are coping. There's nothing anybody can do. That's the tragedy of it.

MATTINGLY: And though reportedly bedridden and no longer able to recognize or converse with loved ones, the former president remains a towering political figure.

ALAN LICHTMAN, PRESIDENTIAL SCHOLAR, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: He is the colossus that stands astride modern conservatism, one of the two great forces that shapes American history.

MATTINGLY: It was the day before his birthday, February 1997 that former president Ronald Reagan waved to the cameras one last time and quietly bowed out of public view. His enduring historic legacy now makes his each passing birthday all the more significant and his illness all the more tragic. David Mattingly, CNN.


COOPER: Today's buzz question, "who do you consider the most influential conservative in America?" Ronald Reagan, George Bush, or Dick Cheney. Vote now. Results at the end of the program.

Coming up, we are all sick of it, you're all sick of it but the fallout is still not over from Janet Jackson's revelation. She'll be a no-show at this weekend's Grammys but she's spurred some changes for the ceremony. We'll talk about that with radio talk show host Wendy Williams live.

Plus Harry Connick Jr. gives his take on Jackson's bare moment and much more. Don't miss my interview with the musician/actor. We'll have him a little bit later.

They're just your average kids on a mission. "Catch That Kid" and other movies you might want to watch in tonight's weekender.


COOPER: All right, time to check in on some pop news in tonight's "Current." NBC signed up for a second season of Donald Trump's reality show, "The Apprentice." Producers are still auditions for the part of Trump's hair. So there's still time to try.

Rapper Master-P plead guilty to failing to file a corporate income tax return seven years ago. His new criminal record is expected to dramatically boost Master-P's street cred among hardcore tax attorneys.

Adam Sandler's publicist is confirming that the actor's bulldog Meatball died last week. In a related story, analysts expect a sharp drop in the number of people applying to be publicists.

And JC Chasez, what is it, Chasez?


COOPER: Chasez, all right, excuse me -- has rejected the NFL's offer to sing the National Anthem at the Pro Bowl after they killed his halftime act as part of the nation's post Janet Jackson's security measures. Chasez says he won't still sing for the NFL, but he'll still sing the National Anthem anytime, Anywhere. Seriously, he's available. Call him.

Thank you. I got one laugh.

There's new fallout from Janet Jackson's Super Bowl falling out. She's been disinvited as a presenter at CBS's Grammy Awards show this weekend. But Justin Timberlake will be performing Sunday night. And just in case any other performers have skin on their minds, the network will be using what they call an enhanced tape delay, that means even if someone gets rowdy, it won't get on TV apparently. As long as it doesn't last more than five seconds.

Nationally syndicated radio talk show host, Wendy Williams, is here with me to talk about the latest. It's good to meet you, Wendy.


COOPER: Is this fair that Justin Timberlake gets to perform at the Grammy's, Janet Jackson doesn't?

WILLIAMS: Absolutely not. That's the basis on which I think a lot of people are very upset with the Grammys. He's invited, he's invited to perform. She will not even be in the building. She is not invited. Yes, it was her idea to go on the Super Bowl and expose her breast. He went along with it, guilt by association. Then, neither of them should be there.

COOPER: Do you think he's going to get booed. There's some talk people may boo him.

WILLIAMS: They'll boo him, but they will also put clap tracks over it so we'll never hear. You see what I'm saying? That's all a part of the delay.

COOPER: Are you going to watch the Grammies?


COOPER: Is it like a protest or are you just not interested?

WILLIAMS: well, award shows just aren't my thing, but I also won't be watching, making a conscious effort not to watch, because it's a black thing. Do you understand what I'm saying?

COOPER: You think in part it's racial.

WILLIAMS: I think this has turned into a black thing. At first I did not want to believe that. People are quick, African-Americans to make this into a black thing, but this is a black-white thing in my opinion. And this is also a Jackson thing most definitely.

COOPER: In your opinion?

WILLIAMS: The crazy family, the brother Michael. Let's get at them any way we can.

COOPER: It certainly has not been a good time for the Jackson's right now. Who else would be people to watch during this? I mean, who's going to do well, Outkast I imagine?

WILLIAMS: Outkast is going to do very well. Outkast is going to come out on top with this one. Andre 3,000 already has a movie deal. Oh gosh, I was just talking about this with somebody, I forget what it was -- Polaroid has signed him.

COOPER: Did his mom name him 3,000. Is 3,000 the family name?

WILLIAMS: Well, you know, Andre is a different character. I'm sure that is a name he made up himself. His daring boldness to be different from everybody else is going to pay off in this year's Grammy's

COOPER: And Beyonce? She's going to do great.

WILLIAMS: She was nominated 5 times. I think she'll walk away with at least 3.

COOPER: But you're not going to watch.

WILLIAMS: I'll be watching Joan Rivers doing the red carpet. That's my favorite part, Anderson.

COOPER: Really?


COOPER: The twin Rivers of scorn, Joan and Melissa? I don't know about that.

Well, we appreciate you joining us, Wendy Williams, thank you very much. Good talking to you.

Just in time for Valentine's Day, Harry Connick Jr. has a new album out. Do they call them albums anymore? CDs. All right, I'll get with it. That's what the kids say, the CDs. He talks about the music, "Will and Grace," and so much more in a one-on-one interview. That's coming up in just a moment.

Also tonight, if you said it would take a miracle to revive Kurt Russell's career, you just might be right as we'll see in tonight's addition of "The Weekender". That's ahead.


COOPER: Time for the "Weekender." If you were offended by the movie "Barber Shop," now is your chance to get all riled up again, or as you'll see in today's edition of "The Weekender" you can stop complaining and see one of the other new movies out this weekend.


CEDRIC THE ENTERTAINER, COMEDIAN: I don't expect for you to know what a man is, but I'm going to give you a hint, it's is one of the things you can't get.

COOPER (voice-over): Ice Cube brings Eve, Cedric the Entertainer and friends back to the Barber Shop for more cutting remarks, adding Queen Latifah to the mix and tossing off one-liners to distract from the badly receding plot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I play for the United States of America! COOPER: If you prefer inspiration to deprecation, "Miracle" might be for you. The story of the hockey team that surprised even itself, beating the Soviets on the way to Olympic gold.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Man, we are so grounded.

COOPER: "Catch That Kid" let's slightly younger kids have slightly more fun with slightly less plausible results.

In DVDs, Disney's new "Lion King 1 1/2: A Tribute to Rashomon," telling the "Lion King" story through the eyes of Timon and Pumba.

MEG RYAN, ACTRESS: What is this about?

COOPER: Maybe "In the Cut" should have been straight to video, but if you missed this step in Meg Ryan's reinvention crusade in the theaters, now is your chance.

GEORGE CLOONEY, ACTOR: I assume you're a carnivore.

CATHERINE ZETA-JONES, ACTRESS: Oh, Mr. Massey, you have no idea.

COOPER: Or there's the latest Coen brothers outing, pairing George Clooney with Catherine Zeta-Jones for some "Intolerable Cruelty."

In music, "Feels Like Home" is the sophomore effort from Norah Jones. And if you can't get enough of those "Queer Eye" guys, now there's a CD you can play in your immaculately redesigned living room.


COOPER: Another music choice, Harry Connick Jr.'s new CD "Only You" is out. This time around, his piano strokes are linked to the past, with a Connick touch on 12 romantic ballads of the '50s and '60s. He stopped by 360 for a chat. I started off by asking him how he chose the songs.


HARRY CONNICK JR., MUSICIAN: I just picked songs I liked. Some of them were suggestions that were made to me by friends of mine who grew up in that time.

COOPER: So what did you do, you pick the song and then you sort of play with it and figure out your own style?

CONNICK JR.: Pretty much. I kind of read -- I just get the sheet music, like you would do if you were learning it on the piano, and sing the melody. And if I respond to that, if I say, well, that seems like it will work for me, then I just try to come up with some arrangement that fits it.

COOPER: What -- in a concert, do you ever reveal your breast?

CONNICK JR.: I have. I've revealed a couple of other things, and it didn't go so well, so I could feel what Janet was feeling.

COOPER: Have you been surprised by sort of all the hoopla over that?

CONNICK JR.: It's all your fault.

COOPER: It's all the media's fault? Or my fault in particular?

CONNICK JR.: Come on, I think it's all your fault.

COOPER: Hey, I was down in Haiti, I didn't even see the thing. All right?

CONNICK JR.: The thing we're calling it now.

COOPER: You also do, I mean, you've been an actor, you're on "Will and Grace" now. How do you decide what project to go to next?

CONNICK JR.: I just take it day-to-day. You know? Like right now I'm working on promoting "Only You" and I go out on tour. And then, hopefully something will come along. Like "Will and Grace" came along. I had no intention of doing that show, and they said would you like to do it and meet with Deborah and see if you guys kind of click, and I said, oh, that sounds like great fun. And I was supposed to do four or five shows; I ended up doing 20, just because it was a good time.

COOPER: So I knew you were from New Orleans. You have a parade actually during Mardi Gras. Are you going to go down this year?

CONNICK JR.: I'm going to try to go down. I usually have to wait until the last minute depending on what my schedule permits me to do. But we have a parade called Orpheus, which is the first parade of Mardi Gras that has black people, white people, people of all different types of people, men, women that are allowed to ride in the parade, so it's the first parade of its kind.

COOPER: I'm a huge fan of New Orleans. My dad used to work there. I love the city. I don't quite love it during Mardi Gras. I don't quite get the whole Mardi Gras experience. It's like the smell of, you know, pee and puke, it's just too much.

CONNICK JR.: Well, you know, unfortunately, those are the smells of my youth. Some people have, like, pencil erasers and stuff that bring you back, you know?


CONNICK JR.: ... French Quarter and smelling all that stuff just brings me right home.

COOPER: Good times.

CONNICK JR.: Good times, good times.

COOPER: You also have a PBS special coming out? CONNICK JR.: I do, March 6. I was in Quebec City filming a special for "Great Performances," and I'm really excited about it. It was a beautiful theater, the Capital Theater in Quebec, and we had string players and my big band, and we were doing songs from "Only You."

COOPER: When you are planning an album like "Only You," how much of it is sort of the commercial thought of what's going to work this time?

CONNICK JR.: Oh, zero.

COOPER: Really?

CONNICK JR.: I've never -- if you look at the past 20 records I've done, none of them has been, you know, a hit record. I mean, they've sold well, some of them have sold very, very well, but as far as popularity, commercial popularity, it's not like, you know, you look at Madonna or Michael Jackson or Britney Spears. I mean, these are huge, huge record sellers. You know? I've never had a number one record. I've never had a record in the top 10. So I can't -- I don't obviously know what's going to work.

COOPER: It's all about revealing the breast.

CONNICK JR.: It's all about the boob. You know? It's all about the boob.

COOPER: All right. It's "Only You" and it's out in stores now. Thanks very much.

CONNICK JR.: Thanks a lot, Anderson.


COOPER: Words to live by.

You know how lenient the justice system is in Pakistan? Well, now they've pardoned an admitted seller of nuclear secrets. That doesn't mean we can't take them to "The Nth Degree." That's coming up.,

Plus Monday, our series on love and sex begins with a peek under the engine. What does that mean? Hard-wired for love. Oh, we're looking at the brain, how the brain drives the heart. It's an interesting look. That's going to be on Monday.

First, today's "Buzz" is this -- who do you consider the most influential conservative in America? Ronald Reagan, George Bush or Dick Cheney? Vote now, Results when we come back.


COOPER: Time now for "The Buzz." We asked you, on Ronald Reagan's 93rd birthday, who do you consider the most influential conservative in America? Ronald Reagan, George Bush or Dick Cheney? Here's what you said: 49 percent of you said Ronald Reagan; 12 percent of you said George W. Bush; 39 percent think it's Dick Cheney. Not a scientific poll, just your buzz.

Tonight, taking Pakistan to "The Nth Degree."

Shortly after September 11, President Bush informed the world that the time had come in essence to choose up sides, but right now, internally and externally, Pakistan is getting pulled from all sides and is starting to look like the geopolitical version of Stretch Armstrong. See?

In addition to blocking U.S. troops from conducting full searches for Osama bin Laden, Pakistan has now pardoned Abdul Qadeer Khan, who may have had the support of Pakistan's military when he committed the minor infraction of sharing nuclear secrets with Iran, North Korea and Libya, two-thirds of the axis of evil.

Now, I'm not very good at math, but two-thirds sounds like a lot to me.

While many of us were munching on freedom fries and complaining about the French, Pakistan was reportedly still sending nuclear love letters to Libya.

Yes, Pakistan did support the war in Afghanistan, and that support was crucial. But if the U.S. can't rely fully on allies like Pakistan, who can it rely on? I mean, aside from Saudi Arabia.

Thanks for watching. I'm Anderson Cooper. Coming up next, "PAULA ZAHN NOW."


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