Return to Transcripts main page
Ongoing Controversy Over 9/11 Investigation; Jayson Williams Manslaughter Trial Resumes Today
Aired April 12, 2004 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning.
A small town in Mississippi worrying and rallying to their neighbor's side. One American hostage in Iraq, one of a dozen prisoners whose lives now are on the line.
The Jayson Williams trial hangs in the balance today after a prosecution mistake. A key ruling from the judge could come as early as this morning.
And red or black -- one man, his entire life savings and a single spin of the roulette wheel. Where the ball landed, ahead this morning on AMERICAN MORNING.
ANNOUNCER: From the CNN broadcast center in New York, this is AMERICAN MORNING with Bill Hemmer and Soledad O'Brien.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning.
And welcome back, everybody.
Other stories we're following this morning, going back to Fallujah again with "Los Angeles Times" reporter Tony Perry. Tony has been embedded with the Marines there since the fighting began and he is going to tell us exactly what is going on there. We're going to find out how this very tentative cease-fire is holding up.
HEMMER: He was an excellent source of information all week last week here on AMERICAN MORNING.
Also this hour, we'll look at that PDB, the presidential daily briefing from August 6, 2001, declassified over the weekend.
Former CIA Director James Woolsey talks about what he's looking for in that briefing and talks also about whether or not there was "actionable intelligence, " as the president mentioned Sunday in Texas.
We'll get to that in a moment here.
O'BRIEN: Mr. Cafferty -- good morning.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.
Coming up in the Cafferty File a little later, we'll tell you how a 41 pound house cat is fighting back. Doctors put him on a diet. He ain't going for it.
And extreme measures that some parents will take to get their kids into college. That's because they want to get them out of the house.
O'BRIEN: Any college, just go.
All right, Jack, thanks.
The top stories now.
In Mississippi, friends and neighbors of a man taken hostage in Iraq are desperately hoping for his safe return. Thomas Hamil, who's 43 years old, was snatched on Friday by gunmen from a fuel convoy where he was working as a truck driver. Friends and neighbors gathered for a vigil outside the county courthouse of Hamil's hometown. His fate remains unknown and the deadline imposed by his captors has since passed.
A Wisconsin family whose daughter died serving in Iraq want to keep her two sisters from being sent back to Iraq. Twenty-year-old Michelle Witmer was killed when her Humvee was ambushed last week. Her twin sister Charity and her other sister Rachel are now home for her funeral. Now their parents want to make sure that both can stay home. The family has asked the National Guard to take their appeal to the Pentagon.
Republican Senator John McCain says no to Senator Kerry and says he's going to vote yes for President Bush. Amid ongoing speculation that the Arizona senator may join Democratic Senator John Kerry's ticket, McCain said no, he will not be vice president under any circumstances. He went on to say yesterday that he believes President Bush deserves reelection.
Meanwhile, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry returns to New Hampshire this morning to rally college kids for support. He's kicking off a college tour called The Change Starts With You. He's also hit schools in Rhode Island, in Pennsylvania and in New York later this week.
HEMMER: Almost 8:02 here in New York.
HEMMER: President Bush a lot on the agenda this week -- the increased violence in Iraq front and center and the questions about an August 2001 presidential briefing declassified on Saturday.
Suzanne Malveaux following the president, live in Crawford, Texas for more on all these topics -- good morning, there.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Bill.
Well, yesterday, President Bush acknowledged the difficulties inside of Iraq, but he said that our troops are taking care of business. When asked whether or not it's right to add troops, he says it's hard to tell, but if the military command asks for it, they'll get it.
MALVEAUX: Now this week the president will continue to shore up international support on the issues of Iraq, as well as the Middle East. Today, President Bush is hosting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak here at the Crawford ranch. They'll talk about the Middle East peace initiative. Wednesday, he is hosting Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the White House and then Friday he'll be hosting British Prime Minister Tony Blair -- Bill.
HEMMER: Suzanne, two points to get to.
Has there been political fallout from that declassified memo on Saturday?
MALVEAUX: Well, certainly you've heard from commissioners who have said look, we think that this memo actually shows that there's enough information here that the White House, the administration, could have certainly done more, at least to alert the public that an attack was possible, that while National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said it was largely historical in nature, there are some examples that seem rather contemporary.
The White House insists that this simply shows that there aren't any specifics about the 9/11 plot. But that, of course, is going to be debated in the 9/11 Commission -- Bill.
HEMMER: And one other point on this. Apparently one of the commissioners on the 9/11 Commission, well, the chairman, I should say, wants to have a PDB released from the Clinton years, as well.
Can you confirm that and if so, what's the significance if that happens?
MALVEAUX: Well, there certainly has been an ongoing move to have the presidential daily briefs declassified from both administrations. And it really is extraordinary because this is very rare. These are top secret memos that the presidents receive and usually no one else's eyes are on them, except for a small group of people.
But it really goes to the heart of the matter, trying to figure out what was it that President Clinton, as well as President Bush, knew before the 9/11 attacks?
HEMMER: Suzanne, thanks, updating us from Crawford, Texas there -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Three U.S. Marines have been killed west of Baghdad, bringing to 23 the number of U.S. troops killed since Friday. Meanwhile, a fragile cease-fire between U.S. forces and insurgents seems to be holding in Falluja. "Los Angeles Times" reporter Tony Perry has provided us with some gripping accounts of what he has seen while he's been embedded with the Marines in Falluja.
And I spoke with him earlier this morning and I asked him what the situation there is like right now.
TONY PERRY, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Fighting is still going on, but inside the city at a much, much reduced level. Last night was the first night we really didn't have a lot of air power, a lot of pounding. There were some rockets, insurgent rockets at us. There was some mortaring, but not nearly what we have had before.
The question is what happens now? I mean there are three battalions of combat Marines, 3, 750 Marines ready, poised. They have control of two sections, non-contiguous, of the city. And the question is does the word go out for them to move towards the city, to essentially move towards the Euphrates and kill or capture all of the insurgents?
The escape routes have been cut off. The insurgents aren't getting out through any of the normal routes. The bridges across the river are blocked. They have only two options, it seems to me, if it comes militarily, and that is fight, in which case they will die, or give up.
Now, the political, the diplomatic, they're talking, but who's talking to whom and who can control whom in this rather chaotic environment is unknown. Who speaks for the insurgents and will they all agree? Is it one group, five groups? Who knows?
I will say this, though, in the last 24 hours, the insurgents seem to have gotten the message and while they've done some mortaring and some ambushing and some rocketing, not nearly what they had been. So someone over there must also be abiding in some fashion by this lull, this temporary cessation of offensive operations.
O'BRIEN: You talk a little bit about the position of the Marines and you say if they sort of -- the two options, they could stay where they are while there's a political solution being worked out or the other option, of course, is to push forward into the city and sort of really run through the city and kill and capture the insurgents.
If they don't do the latter, if, in fact, there's a political solution and they don't sort of have a victory militarily, I know some Marines have sort of indicated that that's going to be a problem for them.
There is -- there's a risk there that they don't then win decisively, right?
PERRY: Oh, I think there's a great risk. If they do not win decisively, then the insurgents will allege that they have, you know, backed down the U.S. Marines and win some sort of propaganda victory. And that's very troubling.
What, then, becomes of Fallujah? Does it become then the hot spot for all the Middle East for radicals who want to come in and do Jihad against the West? What do you do? Do you cordon off Fallujah and make it sort of pariahville while you try to rebuild the rest of Iraq? That probably has some attraction, but it also has a down side. Suddenly you've got this place that is sort of festering and whatever festers there could spread.
The easy solution to all this doesn't come readily to mind. The military option is bloody and horrific to think of in terms of the civilian casualties. The political solution, one wonders how that's going to work. This is not a nation that has yet matured to the point of political compromise and finally honed agreements being agreed to by all sides.
What the good option here is, I don't know. I think, to a certain degree, everybody has a tiger by the tail where we truly can't let go but we can't hold on, either.
O'BRIEN: That's "Los Angeles Times" reporter Tony Perry, embedded with the U.S. Marines in Fallujah, Iraq.
HEMMER: Still to come this hour, a judge can make a key ruling this morning in the Jayson Williams trial. Jeff Toobin looking at what's at stake in a moment. Jeff joins us after this.
O'BRIEN: Also, did a declassified presidential briefing offer enough information to take action against terrorists? We're going to ask former CIA Director James Woolsey, just ahead.
HEMMER: Also, he put down all the money he had in the world and let it ride.
Back in a moment on AMERICAN MORNING.
HEMMER: The Jayson Williams manslaughter trial resumes this morning. A one week delay where the judge could rule today on a defense motion to throw out the entire case because, the defense says, the prosecution is guilty of misconduct. Williams' lawyers claim the prosecution intentionally withheld evidence.
The question we have today, though, how strong is that argument for the defense?
Let's talk about it with our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, here on AMERICAN MORNING -- good morning to you.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Hello, Bill.
HEMMER: How serious is it? TOOBIN: Well, it's a serious mistake. This was a big mess-up, shall we say, by the government. The, you know, they had agreed to let the defense watch testing of this, the murder, the weapon that caused Gus Christofi's death. They agreed to turn over all photographs. They agreed to let the defense watch these tests. And they didn't.
They -- there were -- there was evidence that was not turned over. There was information that was not turned over. This was clearly a mistake that the government made.
HEMMER: But the defense wants this whole case thrown out.
HEMMER: They would like Jayson Williams to walk free.
TOOBIN: Walk free...
HEMMER: Without chance for a retrial.
TOOBIN: ... without chance for a retrial. That's an extreme step. I think it's extremely unlikely. But it is a possible remedy open to the judge when this kind of thing happens.
HEMMER: What could the judge do today with this, really?
TOOBIN: There are really three options. The first option is he could do what the defense wants -- throw it out with prejudice. In other words, throw it out so that Jayson Williams can't be tried again. He could call a mistrial and say we have to start the trial over from the start. Or he could simply say let's proceed with the trial. I think the last option is by far the most likely option.
HEMMER: So then what -- the question, the fundamental question, what is in the investigators' notes -- the investigator who showed up at Jayson Williams' home the night of the murder -- what's in those notes that may lend credence, perhaps evidence, towards Jayson Williams getting either an easier sentence or walking free?
TOOBIN: We don't know for sure until this is all aired in public, which should happen starting today. But I think what is likely is that the information that was not disclosed by the government is not terribly earthshaking. It's probably not that big a deal. The judge seems to be leaning in the direction of letting the defense reopen their case, cross-examine or call any witnesses they want, put this evidence in front of the jury, let the jury decide how significant this evidence is. And I think that's probably the right solution, rather than throwing the case out.
HEMMER: So then it just depends what's the information, what's in the notes and that will dictate how serious or significant it is?
TOOBIN: That's right. That's right.
HEMMER: About a week ago, you walked into the studio during the (COMMERCIAL BREAK) break. I said, "Jeff, what's the big deal here?" And you said, "What's the big deal? It's a huge deal for the prosecution." But we see these high profile cases all the time. Attorneys will get up, stand in front of the judge and the jury and accuse the other side of withholding evidence.
TOOBIN: That's true. But this really was a mistake by the defense. And also remember, this is about testing of the weapon, whether it could go off without the trigger being pulled. That's a crucial issue in the case. It's not the only issue. Remember, we had the whole obstruction of justice here. We have Jayson Williams jumping in the pool to try to -- and changing his clothes. There's a lot more there. But it was a big mistake, but probably not enough to get the case thrown out. But we shall know today.
HEMMER: That's what we will do.
TOOBIN: All right.
HEMMER: Talk to you again tomorrow, I'm certain.
TOOBIN: Very good.
HEMMER: Thanks, Jeff -- here's Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Well, talk about some high stakes gambling, a London man was a spin away from losing it all. Ashley Revell had sold his possessions last month, including his clothes, for a little bit more than $135, 000. And yesterday in Las Vegas, while he was wearing a rented tuxedo, Revell placed all his money on a roulette table and here's what happened. He looks happy, because he won more than $270, 000 on that one spin. He was asked what he plans to do with all those winnings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ASHLEY REVELL, BET EVERYTHING ON ROULETTE WHEEL: I'm just going to buy clothes. I mean I've had the same items of clothing for the last week until this bet's gone on. So -- and I'm going to buy a watch and a car, my mountain bike and just, I'm just going to buy stuff that I've been -- that I've done without for the last two weeks because I've, you know, because everything's been sold.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Revell's dad says he's, "a naughty boy" for betting it all.
CNN's Anderson Cooper is going to interview Revell during his show tonight at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time.
HEMMER: Toobin and I think he should double down.
HEMMER: Doesn't it make sense to you? I mean, you're hot, man.
TOOBIN: I think this guy is way too cautious.
O'BRIEN: Come on. What kind of a message does that send?
TOOBIN: It's really, it's terrible.
HEMMER: Much too conservative.
O'BRIEN: That's terrible.
TOOBIN: Yes, exactly.
O'BRIEN: He's going to go buy clothes now.
HEMMER: Oh, let's get a break here, Soledad.
TOOBIN: Clothes. Who needs clothes?
HEMMER: Yes, so true.
TOOBIN: Or money?
HEMMER: Much more serious matters in a moment. The cease-fire in Fallujah, how can it hold and will it? We'll get back to that.
Also, why was the former CEO of Enron picked up by police on the streets of New York City? We'll explain.
Back with Jack and Andy, right after this.
O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.
One CEO picked up for erratic behavior. Another goes out sick for weeks with no explanation.
With that and a preview of the market, Andy Serwer, minding your business.
It's the story of the strange CEOs.
Who do you want to start with?
ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: What are these CEOs doing?
Let's start with Jeff Skilling, because this is really, really good. The former CEO of Enron picked up at four in the morning Friday morning and taken to the hospital in Manhattan, 73rd and Park. Acting erratically, according to EMS people. They were saying that he was accusing people of being FBI agents, pawing at their clothes, looking for wires and bugs. His wife apparently was thrown down, got knocked out, then she was taken to the hospital. There's a lot we don't know about this story. His lawyers are saying this is all a big mistake and people were harassing him. Apparently he was at two bars on the Upper East Side, one called the Voodoo Lounge. And, get this, another one called American Trash. It doesn't get any better than this.
And now -- there's the Voodoo. The American Trash, well, yes.
HEMMER: That's a tough night out, Andy.
SERWER: We're not really sure what happened here. There's American Trash. And it's very possible, Soledad, that people were harassing the guy. However, people are suggesting, police sources are saying that he was uncooperative and making quite a mess of it. So...
O'BRIEN: That's just strange.
SERWER: You've got to be a little careful when you've been charged --
O'BRIEN: I'm sure more details will come out.
SERWER: Right. When you've been charged with 35 counts of bringing a big company down like that, you want to be a little more careful than that.
O'BRIEN: Yes. A little more subtle maybe.
O'BRIEN: How about the second CEO?
SERWER: This is really, really interesting. It speaks to a bigger issue. The CEO of Kraft, Roger Deromedi, was taken to the hospital and stayed there for two weeks on March 30th. He just got out. But the strange thing is the company isn't saying what happened to him, what was the matter. A lot of speculation. I know people talking on Wall Street, was he -- did he have food poisoning? Did he have a break down?
And it speaks to the question of how much should investors know, how much should employees know because, you know, investors get a little bit nervous if a situation like Roberto Godzweda (ph) at Coca- Cola, who was 60; Veross (ph) at Time Warner.
So, you know, how much should investors be told? Right now we still don't know.
O'BRIEN: Hmm, interesting.
O'BRIEN: A preview of the market?
SERWER: Yesterday, well, actually, Thursday, of course, we weren't open for business on Friday. It was a mixed session here. You can see the Dow down and the NASDAQ up. The S&P down, etc.
This morning futures were looking pretty good up.
All right, Andy, thank you very much.
We'll check in with you again.
SERWER: You're welcome.
O'BRIEN: Mr. Hemmer.
HEMMER: All right, to Jack, The Question of the Day.
What's on your mind?
CAFFERTY: A little later today, Senator John Kerry set to release something called a misery index, focusing on negative economic trends of the last four years, which would include statistics like median family income, college tuition, health care costs, etc. The Massachusetts senator, though, may want to be careful with his pessimistic reading about the country. Remember in 1980, Ronald Reagan used former President Jimmy Carter's famous malaise speech to help him win the election.
So the question is, is John Kerry making a mistake focusing on a misery index?
Jeff in Elk River, Minnesota says: "I totally agree with John Kerry's index. Anyone who does not has not had their eyes open for the last four years. Employers treating employees as garbage, OPEC raking our wallets, inflation running away." There is no inflation. There is no inflation. "And jobs going overseas." That's happening. "I don't know how this misery index could backfire in Kerry when it's Bush who's putting middle class America in the poorhouse."
There is no inflation.
Bob writes: "The presidential campaign should be focused on the future, how to get there and specifically how it would make things better, not continuing to talk about August 6, 2001 for the next 10 years. Continuing to beat dead horses might be joyful diversions for some folks, but it does nothing to take care of the live horses. We need something to chew on that is not focused on misery."
Amanda in New Brunswick, New Jersey: "Though the misery index is entirely true, Kerry should not be the one putting it out. He needs to let other people attack President Bush, turn himself into a poster boy for positive campaigning until the convention."
Albert in Hixson, Tennessee: "If you don't think we are miserable, you should be, A, looking for a job; B, buying gas; C, counting your retirement; D, looking for health care; E, taking a short trip to Iraq."
And Christopher addressed a letter to the "wrinkly old newsman." Thank you, Christopher. "I'm really disappointed. Forty-eight minutes into AMERICAN MORNING, no follow-up on the whipping of the Easter bunny. I'm beginning to question the Cafferty File's commitment to investigative journalism."
HEMMER: That was a big story.
O'BRIEN: Hemmer -- he missed, Hemmer, Bill missed the story on Friday.
HEMMER: Yes? Want to fill me in?
O'BRIEN: But there was a youth minister...
CAFFERTY: In Pennsylvania someplace, right?
O'BRIEN: Right. Who basically had the -- his people, his group, reenact "The Passion of the Christ" but with a bunny.
SERWER: It was the passion of the bunny.
O'BRIEN: With the Easter bunny, actually. And so they whipped the Easter bunny.
CAFFERTY: The passion...
HEMMER: The question is does this deserve a follow-up?
O'BRIEN: And then they -- yes, absolutely. I've been asked about this story tons.
O'BRIEN: Yes. It was bizarre.
HEMMER: Well, we're on it. There's still an hour and a half left.
I know you're a big golfer. Mickelson won it yesterday, the green jacket, his first major in 42 tries. He was 0 for 42 until yesterday.
Josie Burke talked with the newest owner of that coveted green jacket in Augusta, Georgia.
JOSIE BURKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So when you were walking up to the 18th green, you were about to take the biggest shot of your life, you had this grin on your face. Why?
'MAJOR' MICKELSON, 2004 MASTERS CHAMPION: I just, I had a lot of fun this week. I just had a feeling that I was going to knock the putt in and I hit a good shot in there. I hit a good T-shot, a good second shot in there. And I've seen so many guys in the past make that putt. It's a putt that doesn't break too much. And I just had a good feeling that I was going to make it.
BURKE: Can you admit now that you knew this was going to happen? You knew even before you teed off on Thursday that you'd be wearing the green jacket now?
MICKELSON: Well, you never know for sure. You never know for sure. But I had a good feeling this week that I knew I was playing well. I knew I was driving it well. I was putting well. I had a lot of confidence this week.
I also had something interesting happen to me in -- over the holidays. My grandfather passed away. He was 97 in January. And he had been waiting for so long now to put up a major championship flag on his wall. And before he passed away, he said, "This is your year, I can feel it coming. I know it's going to happen."
And when he passed away, I just had a feeling that this was going to be the tournament.
BURKE: What's this the start of?
MICKELSON: Well, it's been a -- this is the year, 2004, that I really want to make something special. I want to do some things that I haven't done before and obviously winning a major is one of them. It's a great start.
But I want to make this year really special. And although winning this tournament makes it already special, I want to finish it off right. I want to continue the year right. Last year was a tough year, not a very good year for me. And I want to make '04, continue it to be as special as it is today.
BURKE: Are you going to sleep in the green jacket? How does it feel?
MICKELSON: It's going to be hard to get two things off -- this and this.
O'BRIEN: Well, that's nice.
HEMMER: Great day yesterday for Phil Mickelson.
O'BRIEN: And he didn't even mention the million plus that he won.
HEMMER: Yes. You know, last night a couple of reporters in Augusta were saying a couple of years ago when Mickelson came to the Masters, he was very snarky with reporters. And this time when he showed up, he was very self-deprecating, a lot of humor. And if you watched him through that round yesterday, he was kind of looking at the audience, looking at the gallery, smiling, almost as if he knew that today was going to be his day. O'BRIEN: In the zone.
SERWER: Yes. Even with that pressure.
O'BRIEN: Good for him.
HEMMER: That's right.
Finally for (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
CAFFERTY: Well, his granddad hung around for 97 years waiting for this kid to win the big tournament.
O'BRIEN: I knew you were going to say that.
CAFFERTY: I mean, you know, if he'd had any class, he'd have won it before the guy died.
HEMMER: That's a great point.
SERWER: Well, he's watching somewhere, right?
CAFFERTY: Yes. Well...
SERWER: You've got to say that.
CAFFERTY: Well, probably.
O'BRIEN: OK, thank you, Andy.
That's very right.
Still to come this morning, the presidential memo that said a lot -- or did it? We're going to ask a former CIA director whether a now declassified memo had enough information to take action before 9/11. A look at that is just ahead as AMERICAN MORNING continues.
HEMMER: 30, 8:30 in New York.
Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING.
U.S. policy in Iraq put to the test today in Japan. More anti- war protests taking place there that coincide with a visit today by the vice president, Dick Cheney. Dana Bash is in Tokyo looking at whether or not Japan's support for the war is holding. We'll get to that in a moment.
O'BRIEN: Also this morning, our conversation with former CIA Director James Woolsey coming up in just a few moments. Going deeper into this PDB, presidential daily briefing, that some say proves the White House is blameless in the run up to 9/11. Some people, though, say it actually shows the White House did not do enough. HEMMER: A lot of news from Iraq today. Let's start this off again here at the half hour. Let's begin back in Iraq. An uneasy cease-fire said to be in place now in Fallujah. Talks between city officials and Iraqi politicians who back the U.S. resume again today. Additional U.S. forces, meanwhile, have been moving into place there.
The Middle East now, Israeli troops exchanged gunfire with Palestinian gunmen in Gaza. Israel says its forces shot and killed three Palestinians they say were trying to infiltrate an Israeli settlement. Meanwhile, the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, is leaving for the U.S. Prime Minister Sharon set to meet with the president, Bush, that is, Wednesday in D.C. Sharon is seeking U.S. input on a plan to evacuate Israel's 20 settlements in the Gaza Strip.
A new FAA regulation now requires all large (COMMERCIAL BREAK) airliners to carry defibrillators. According to "USA Today," the FAA wants all large jets to carry the medical devices. The automated external defibrillator can deliver a life saving shock to people in cardiac arrest. Commuter aircraft are exempt from that new rule.
Women that carry a certain gene may need more frequent breast exams to head off cancer. The study applies to a small percentage of women that carry the BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 genes. According to researchers at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, more frequent mammograms and more frequent ultrasound screening may be needed for early detection.
At the movies over the weekend, and Easter weekend, too, "The Passion of the Christ" was number one. Early estimates say it took in about $17 million over the weekend, going back into first place. It knocked off last weekend's champ, "Hellboy," which slipped to number two.
8:33 now in New York on the Monday morning.
O'BRIEN: "The Passion" beats "Hellboy."
HEMMER: That's right.
O'BRIEN: There's something there.
HEMMER: Satan takes second again.
O'BRIEN: Very good. Touche.
O'BRIEN: The increasingly challenging situation in Iraq is spilling into diplomacy elsewhere in the world. Vice President Dick Cheney is in Japan today for a meeting that had to change tone because of the hostage crisis in Iraq.
Dana Bash has a look at that story.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The vice president's trip to Japan was planned as a low key thank you to an early and staunch supporter in the Iraq war. Instead, Mr. Cheney was greeted by a prime minister in crisis over three Japanese hostages held in Iraq. The visit turned into a thank you for not giving in.
After Monday's discussions, the vice president told reporters he wholeheartedly supports Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's refusal to withdraw Japan's 550 non-combat troops from Iraq as the hostage takers are demanding. He vowed America is doing everything possible to help return the Japanese civilians home safely. U.S. officials say they are assisting through various channels.
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Japan obviously is the best place for me to begin my first official visit to Asia.
BASH: Greeting Americans at the U.S. Embassy, the vice president lauded the close bilateral relationship. In Tokyo's streets, another day of angry protests ignited by the hostage situation. Japanese demonstrators complaining their leaders are betraying what had become a tradition of pacifism, demanding the troops come home.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I do not want Cheney to pull Japan into the U.S. war of invasion. I want the U.S. to stop killing many ordinary Iraqis. I want Cheney to go home and the Japanese government to withdraw the self-defense forces from Iraq.
BASH: Prime Minister Koizumi is the latest Bush administration ally under political fire for supporting a war without widespread public support. He is one the White House cannot afford to lose, as it tries to hold its coalition together in the face of a spike of attacks in Iraq.
(on camera): A senior administration official said the vice president told Koizumi there will be "maximum pressure" brought to bear on countries like Japan between now and June 30th, when Iraqis are scheduled to take over sovereignty of their country, and it's important not to be thrown off stride.
Dana Bash, CNN, Tokyo.
O'BRIEN: Tomorrow, the vice president heads to China. Seven Chinese hostages have been taken in Iraq -- Bill.
HEMMER: About 23 before the hour now.
That 9/11 Commission back to its public work this week. The presidential briefing released on Saturday likely to draw questions for the intelligence agencies. As for the president, he says that briefing was not specific enough for him to take action on it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I asked for the Central Intelligence Agency to give me an update on any terrorist threats. And the PDB was no indication of a terrorist threat. There was not a time and place of an attack. And it was, you know, it said Osama bin Laden had designed on America. Well, I knew that. What I wanted to know was is there anything specifically going to take place in America that we needed to react to?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HEMMER: That was the president from Sunday.
In her testimony last week before that Commission, Condoleezza Rice agreed there was nothing new in the report.
Earlier today, I talked with the former CIA director, James Woolsey.
His assessment now of the information in that briefing.
JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR, VICE PRESIDENT, BOOZ ALLEN: Everything in it is from '97, '98, '99; that is, a couple of years old, except two things. There's one reference to apparently some people from the Middle East, I believe Yemen, taking pictures of buildings in New York. And it turned out later, I guess, that they were tourists. And then there was -- federal buildings. And then there's this reference to a telephone intercept in the United Arab Emirates about possibly al Qaeda use of explosives in the States. And that was relatively recent.
Those are the only two relatively recent things, and neither of those is what happened.
So I think Condoleezza Rice's general characterization is accurate.
HEMMER: Do you think this is a good idea, to release information like this? Does it allow the enemy, does it allow al Qaeda to get a leg up?
WOOLSEY: As a general proposition, the president's daily brief is highly classified because it goes into -- for many reasons. But one of the big ones is it goes into the sources and the methods. You can learn more about intelligence if you know how it was collected and who you got it from. So, normally I would not think PDBs were good things to release.
This particular segment, I think any problem with that is obviated by their eliminating the names of the three countries whose liaison services provided us with the information. So with this segment, I think under that circumstances it's quite reasonable to release it.
HEMMER: Do you think more will be released or even should be released?
WOOLSEY: I don't know. It -- the chairman, Kean, has called for release of a similar warning back during the Clinton administration, in a certain sense, a parallelism. They suggest to release that one. But I think we shouldn't get into the business of people expecting wholesale releases of presidential daily briefs. These are very highly classified.
HEMMER: One other point here. Richard Ben-Veniste, who sits on the 9/11 Commission, a big time critic of Condoleezza Rice's testimony last week. He said there was substantial information in that PDB, that briefing.
Do you agree with that?
WOOLSEY: Well, yes, substantial, but substantial and relatively old. And the two new pieces we've talked about. They didn't point toward what actually happened. So the president was right to ask the question. The CIA did the best it could in answering the questions. Some of the material that might have been very helpful was in the hands of FBI agents in Arizona and Minnesota who were not able to communicate the urgency of what they were doing to FBI headquarters. And I'm sure that will come up in the hearings this week.
HEMMER: Former CIA Director James Woolsey earlier today.
Next hour here on AMERICAN MORNING, we'll look at how the voters may view this briefing, the briefing, rather, the release on Saturday in the upcoming election. We'll get to that -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: A pilot in south Florida walked away from a plane crash after he landed in a grove of trees yesterday. During the emergency landing, he somehow disengaged a parachute to try to help with the impact. Several witnesses say they saw the plane and its bright orange parachute. They called 911. The four seat plane incurred only minor damage, believe it or not.
HEMMER: A good ending there.
In a moment here, "Loud and Clear," we'll talk with the author Anna Quindlen about her new book and other things on her mind today in the news.
HEMMER: Also, starting today, the herbal supplement ephedra banned here in the U.S. Why was the process so difficult? Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes a look at that as AMERICAN MORNING continues.
Stay with us.
O'BRIEN: The hammer is finally falling on the controversial herbal supplement ephedra. A much anticipated government ban takes effect today. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is at the CNN Center with more for us -- hello, Sanjay.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.
Yes, this is a, you know, unless a federal judge actually steps in today and stops this ban from occurring, the herb ephedra will be gone off all markets as of today.
Now, this is a pretty big deal. We've talked about ephedra a lot, you and I. Twelve million people do take this. A lot of people, obviously, for weight loss; athletes, as well. But momentum building against ephedra for some time.
A hundred and sixty-four deaths in some way have been associated with ephedra; 16,000 complications, including dizziness, chest discomfort, things like that. There have been some documented associations now between ephedra and some of these complications, such as heart attacks, strokes, seizures, psychiatric problems, as well, and deaths.
Again, the momentum building. The NFL, the NCAA and the IOC, the International Olympic Committee, already banning ephedra. And now the ban may take place for the rest of the country. Again, later on today -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Does that mean that nobody can get ephedra anywhere in the U.S. as of today?
GUPTA: Well, you know, it's really interesting what happened after they announced that they would probably be banning it in April, is the sales actually went up for some time. People were really stocking up on ephedra for some time, possibly to try and sell it on the black market after this ban takes place.
So I can't say it's not going to be available today. It's just probably not going to be available legally in any stores -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: What are people taking to replace ephedra? And are the things that they are taking as the other choices, are those safe?
GUPTA: Well, you know, this is the interesting thing about the herbal supplement industry. If you have a prescription drug, you have to prove that it's "safe" before it goes to market. With the herbal supplement industry, it's a much different standard. They have to prove that it's unsafe to take it off the market, which is why this is such a big deal with the ephedra.
There are other products out there. We can list a few of the products for you. It's hard to know, though. They are bitter orange, guarana, kola, matte. These are products that are similar, ephedra like properties, although they are not ephedra. How safe are they? That's difficult to know. The studies are not required, actually, before you take these non-prescription herbal supplements to market.
So we'll have to wait and see on those a little bit -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: All right, Dr. Sanjay Gupta for us this morning.
GUPTA: Thank you.
O'BRIEN: In her books and her "Newsweek" columns, Anna Quindlen's views are heard loud and clear. And, in fact, that is the title of her latest book. It's a collection of essay that she has written for the magazine. She hasn't shied away from any subjects, talking everything from Iraq and 9/11 to parenting and same-sex marriage.
Anna Quindlen joining us this morning to talk to us about some of the stories that are making headlines.
Nice to see you, as always.
ANNA QUINDLEN, "NEWSWEEK" COLUMNIST, AUTHOR, "LOUD AND CLEAR": Good to see you, Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Every so often we get to sit down and chat about your books, which I love.
So thanks for coming in to talk about it.
Do you decide to write what's in the headlines or what sort of makes you say ooh, this is going to be it?
QUINDLEN: Well, sometimes it, of course, is something that's in the news. The back of this book has five or six columns that followed 9/11 at a time when you remember there was really only one story that any of us were thinking about or talking about.
Other times it's really things that cross my radar screen about what's going on in the lives of women or with the homeless or with raising kids, pulling it together with some thoughts that I may have about current events, but not so much on the news.
O'BRIEN: In the range, then, what do you find are the columns that most move people or maybe move them to e-mail you I loved your column or I hated your column?
QUINDLEN: Well, a lot of the political ones are the ones that make people go up in flames, as it were. But what I'm struck by is how the personal ones still always strike a chord. I mean the column in this collection that got the most reader response was a column on grief. It was at a time when I was writing about gay rights, when I was writing about abortion and still that notion of grief as the last unspoken taboo struck this incredible chord in people's minds.
O'BRIEN: That's sort of an issue that covers all of humanity, no matter where you stand on any issues, really.
O'BRIEN: How did you decide what was going to make it into the book? You've got a number of essays in here, but I've got to imagine there are many more that did not make it.
QUINDLEN: Oh, I think reader response determined it to some extent, things that I'd always really liked. Tossup kind of stuff. I mean what you don't want to do as a columnist is have readers pick up the magazine and go oh, yes, I know what she always writes about. You don't want to ride your own hobby horses unrelentingly.
So, you know, a little funny stuff; a little serious stuff; some stuff about politics; some stuff about social politics, that sort of thing. You really want to give the reader a range.
O'BRIEN: You've written a lot about the situation in Iraq and I know that it sort of -- maybe bothers is not enough of a strong word -- when people talk about whether the war is going to be a P.R. nightmare for the president, because it sounds like a -- I mean it does completely trivialize the issue for anybody who has died in the conflict and their families.
QUINDLEN: I do have to say that makes me a little nuts when they say well, today's death toll could affect the president's poll numbers. And I think hell, there's a mother and father somewhere who are proceeding to bury their son or daughter. Don't tell me about the poll numbers. I mean we do know that there's a huge political component to this. But I think in war it's always important to stay focused on who's coming home in a casket.
O'BRIEN: It's all about the people. In fact, that's, I think, a big focus of you as a journalist. I mean you talk a lot, I think -- and your column for "Newsweek" this week is about sort of the importance for journalists to do right by not only their readers, but also their subjects, too. And we certainly have a history of a couple of journalists in the recent past who have not done yet, who have sort of cheated and lied their way through, basically.
QUINDLEN: Right. But I think we have to rise to the occasion. I mean the truth is most of the people I've worked with in this business are smart, work really hard and really care about what they turn out. And one of the things they really care about is serving the people that they write and do stories about.
O'BRIEN: It's all about the people at the end of the day.
O'BRIEN: Anna Quindlen.
The book is called "Loud and Clear."
Nice to see you, as always.
Thanks so much.
We appreciate it.
QUINDLEN: Thanks, Soledad.
HEMMER: Still to come this morning, a popular Web site giving John Kerry a whole lot of attention. It may not be the attention the presidential candidate wants. Jack is back with that, after this.
HEMMER: To the File now on a Monday, and back with Jack.
CAFFERTY: Thank you, Bill.
There's a bit of a political prank brewing online. Some jokester is trying to make John Kerry's Web site the first answer to a Google search for "waffles." "USA Today" reports that so far Kerry's site is the second result on Yahoo! and MSN searches.
This isn't the first of its kind. Last year, anti-Bush practical jokers made his official biography the first result of a Google search for "miserable failure." The president's supporters countered by making his biography the first result in a Google search for "great president."
So childish, which is why we like it.
Parents of high school seniors know that it's that time of year again, trying to get the little darlings farmed out to some college somewhere and get them to hell out of the house. According to the "Chicago Tribune," admissions officers getting ready to be bombarded by angry parents of rejected students. The parents choosing a variety of potential strike back weapons, including calling, writing, storming admission offices and withdrawing donations to the school. Some disgruntled parents have gone so far as to drive hundreds of miles to put up a personal fight at the college on behalf of their precious little gems that live at home.
An update now on one of the stories from last week. We told you about a 41 pound German house cat. Look at that bucket butt. He was taken away from his owners and put on a diet because they figured he weighed more than he was supposed to. Well, now the cat, named Mikesch, has gone on a hunger strike at the Berlin Animal Shelter. Not to worry, though. At his weight, he could live 150 years.
CAFFERTY: Officials say that the cat is feeling lost without his owner and has stopped eating altogether. The cat's owner had been feeding him four pounds of food a day.
CAFFERTY: And I don't know, what's the average cat weigh, maybe eight or nine pounds?
O'BRIEN: I had a cat that was way overweight and he was 25 pounds.
CAFFERTY: That's big.
O'BRIEN: And I had to put him on a diet. He was seven, I mean, you know, he just -- he found comfort in food and he was big boned.
HEMMER: And there's an animal lover over here, too, by the way.
CAFFERTY: I am an animal lover, but I don't...
O'BRIEN: Well, 41 pounds...
O'BRIEN: That's -- my kid doesn't even weigh 41 pounds, my three and a half year old does not weigh 41 pounds. That's huge.
CAFFERTY: Yes, it is huge for a -- I don't know. I can't imagine the cat's going to live long.
O'BRIEN: Maybe big boned. It's a large boned cat.
CAFFERTY: Yes. A big frame.
Still to come this morning, who are the insurgents in Iraq? We're going to talk with terrorism expert Kelly McCann about the enemy that U.S. troops face and the many difficulties of that battle.
Stay with us.
You're watching AMERICAN MORNING.
HEMMER: The latest news every morning in your e-mail. Sign up for AMERICAN MORNING quick news, cnn.com/am.
In a moment here, the defense in the Jayson Williams trial wins a battle, but the judge may decide, this morning, in fact, who wins the war. Back in a moment, top of the hour here on AMERICAN MORNING.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com