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Fallout from Woodward Book; Interview with Frank DeAngelis, Principal of Columbine High School

Aired April 20, 2004 - 07:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Ambassador to America directly challenges Bob Woodward on how and when the White House decided to go to war.
President Bush opening up an even wider lead over Senator John Kerry. A new poll -- what it has to say about war and terrorism.

And defense attorneys in the Jayson Williams trial cross- examining gun experts with renewed intensity. Did a prosecution mistake open the door to reasonable doubt?

Those stories are all ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.

ANNOUNCER: From the CNN Broadcast Center in New York, this is AMERICAN MORNING with Bill Hemmer and Soledad O'Brien.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning everyone. 7:00 here in New York.

Other stories this hour. Five years since the massacre at Columbine High School. Today we'll talk to the school's principal, Frank DeAngelis -- there five years ago, there today as well. Has the community healed? And his thoughts today looking back. Stay tuned for that.

O'BRIEN: Also this morning we're going to talk to a photojournalist who literally has just returned from Iraq. David Swanson (ph) was embedded with the Marines at Ramadi where some of the heaviest U.S. casualties occurred this month.

In fact, he was actually hit in the fighting as well. We're going to hear his story and also take a look at some of the really amazing photographs that he took.

HEMMER: Brings it home, certainly. Also, Jack Cafferty, good morning to you on a Tuesday.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: How you doing? What to do with those detainees down there at Guantanamo. Supreme Court of the United States going to try and sort that issue out, and we'll ask you to lend your able assistance to the justices as they try to take that -- yes.

HEMMER: Thank you Jack.

Top stories now starting today shaky ceasefire still remains in Fallujah. There are reports of a brief skirmish today. According to wire reports, gunmen opened fire on a Marine patrol overnight. No American casualties reported there.

Military sources also say U.S. Marines have uncovered a very large weapons cache near Fallujah according to a statement, all munitions found there have been destroyed by the Marines.

U.S. policies in Iraq will be the focus today on Capitol Hill. Top Pentagon officials go before the Senate Armed Services Committee today. That group is focusing on military aspects of the war.

Meanwhile the Senate Foreign Relations Committee begins three days of hearings, also today, looking at how the U.S. plans to transfer the power to the Iraqis on June 30.

Jordan's King Abdullah will not meet with the president tomorrow at the White House as originally planned. Jordan's royal palace says the visit is being rescheduled for the first week in May. In a statement the palace says King Abdullah wants more time for talks with the Bush administration in order to clarify the U.S. position on the Middle East peace process.

Federal officials reviewing a plan that could ease security regulations at U.S. airports. If approved, people without tickets would once again be allowed at airport gates. Non-ticketed passengers were barred from secure areas after the attacks of 9/11. Pittsburgh International could soon be the first major airport to be exempt from that very rule.

Also federal appeals court ruling in putting the brakes on a lower court ruling that would have allowed under classmen to enter the NFL.

This means Maurice Clarette, the 20-year-old former running back at Ohio State, will not be eligible for the draft this weekend. Several other players also effected. Clarette's lawyer calls that ruling unreasonable and a restriction on his earning power.

Now there is a chance in the supplemental draft in a few months away -- Clarette might have another chance at that. A significant ruling from yesterday.

The NFL has always wanted to have people only after you've been out of high school for three years come to the NFL, so we'll watch that.

O'BRIEN: And see what happens.


O'BRIEN: The Bush administration is getting a generally positive reception to the just-released book "Plan of Attack" by "Washington Post" journalist Bob Woodward. However, some points raised in the work are being contested.

We're going to get to Secretary of State Colin Powell's reaction in just a few moments, but first we begin with that of the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S., Prince Bandar bin Sultan. Last night on CNN's LARRY KING LIVE, Woodward talked about a White House meeting took over plans with the Iraq war with Bandar.


BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, "PLAN OF ATTACK": January 11, a Saturday, Cheney and Rumsfeld, the defense secretary, called Bandar in with the chairman of the joint chiefs who, by the way, has said my account is correct publicly -- and presented the war plan -- and Don Rumsfeld is on the record -- if you look on the Pentagon website saying that he said this war plan, you can take it to the bank, its going to happen.

LARRY KING, CNN: Bandar was there.

WOODWARD: And Bandar was there, and Cheney then said when we start, not if but when we start Saddam is toast. The president confirmed all of this when I interviewed him four or five months ago.


O'BRIEN: Well, later on LARRY KING LIVE, Prince Bandar joined the discussion and he contested Woodward's account ever so slightly.


VOICE OF PRINCE BANDAR SAUDI AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: What he said is accurate. However, there is one sentence that was left out.

KING: And that is?

BANDAR: Both Vice-President Cheney and Secretary Rumsfeld told me before the briefing that the president had not made a decision yet, but here is the plan and then the rest is accurate.


O'BRIEN: Prince Bandar also termed accurate Woodward's claim that the Saudis hoped to keep oil prices low during the period before the election because of the impact it would have on the economy.

Turning now to the White House for more on the fallout and reaction to Bob Woodward's book, Elaine Quijano is there at the White House for us this morning.

Elaine, good morning.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN: Good morning, Soledad.

Although the White House does take issue with several points raised in the book as you said, they still view it as recommended reading, but even over the weekend administration officials began trying to knock down one assertion by Bob Woodward, namely that Secretary of State Colin Powell was somehow kept out of the loop when it came to the Iraq war plan.

Now specifically in his book, Bob Woodward says that the secretary of state was briefed only two days after a briefing that included Prince Bandar.

Also a meeting with Vice-President Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Richard Meyer.

On Sunday we heard National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice deny that Powell was unaware of the war plan, and then yesterday the secretary of state himself addressed the issue.


COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: The question that has arisen seems to be that Prince Bandar received a briefing on the plan. There's some suggesting that I hadn't.

Of course I had. I was intimately familiar with the plan and I was aware that Prince Bandar was being briefed on the plan.


QUIJANO: Now also yesterday Secretary Powell acknowledged that he in fact was one of the sources for this book, but he also says that he and others talked to Bob Woodward on instructions from the White House.

By the way, President Bush today traveling to Buffalo, New York to talk about the Patriot Act -- I think continues his push to portray himself as a leader on the war on terror -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Elaine Quijano at the White House for us this morning -- Elaine thanks.

HEMMER: Soledad, another of the central players in Bob Woodward's book is CIA chief George Tenet. He attended planning meetings before the war with Iraq and made a reported promise that is yet to be proven true. Yet Tenet seems in no danger of losing his job.

David Ensor today looks at some of the reasons for that.


SLADE GORTON, 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER: Mr. Tenet, we're here, of course, because of a massive intelligence failure.

DAVID ENSOR, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: First there were the 9/11 attacks. Then, the CIA's assurance to the president that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

Now, word in the Bob Woodward book that before the war, George Tenet called it a slam-dunk case which even Tenet now admits it has turned out not to be.

GEORGE TENET, CIA DIRECTOR: We may have over estimated the progress Saddam was making.

ENSOR: Lesser men might have been ousted for less, but the nation's second longest serving intelligence director still has the president's confidence. Mr. Bush has said so repeatedly and recently.

DANIEL BENJAMIN, FMR. NSC STAFF MEMBER: Look, he's a very charming, very intelligent and shrewd person and its no surprise that the president trusts him.

ENSOR: Tenet is respected by many, liked by most in U.S. intelligence, and he is extremely loyal to President Bush.

TENET: He has told me firmly and directly that he's wanted it straight and he's wanted it honest and he's never wanted the facts shaded, and that's what we do every day.

ENSOR: If any administration officials ever thought of making Tenet the fall guy for intelligence failures, former officials say they would not have considered it for long.

BENJAMIN: The last thing the administration wants right now is to have a disaffected former director of central intelligence out on the street.

I'm sure that he could, if he wanted to, cast the administrations deliberations over war and over the issues of WMD and terrorism in an unflattering light, if he so chose.

ENSOR: Aides and friends insist Tenet would never do that. When he does leave office, which they say he will do by January 20 of next year however the election goes, they say there will be no kiss and tell memoirs from George Tenet.

David Ensor, CNN, Washington.


HEMMER: In addition to all of this, Tenet widely credited in D.C. for revitalizing the CIA and providing a much-needed boost to morale at the agency.

O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, the principal of Columbine High School five years after 12 of his students and one teacher were killed. How deep is the pain still; how much has that changed since that very terrible day?

HEMMER: Also in an unusual move, the defense in the Jayson Williams trial reopening its case to talk with a third weapons expert -- what this all means in a moment.

O'BRIEN: Also, how high can one man fly in that little contraption? I guess we're going to find out just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


O'BRIEN: President Bush doesn't seem to have been hurt politically by the negative news coming out of Iraq or the 9/11 hearings. A survey of likely voters conducted last weekend found that the president has a five-point lead over Senator Kerry in the race for president.

That is up two points from the beginning of this month. People polled by CNN, USA Today and Gallup say George Bush would do a better job handling terrorism and Iraq.

Most thought that Senator Kerry would handle the economy better. But they also think that the economy is the most important factor in their decision on whom to send to the White House -- Bill.

HEMMER: Thirteen minutes past the hour now Soledad.

A public memorial and candlelight prayer vigil marks today's five-year anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings. April 20, 1999 two students, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris killing 12 of their classmates, a teacher and then themselves.

After the shootings, the principal of Columbine, Frank DeAngelis, pledged to the freshman class that he would see them through their graduation.

Well, today, DeAngelis is still the principal of Columbine and recently told me why he is still there.


FRANK DEANGELIS, PRINCIPAL, COLUMBINE HIGH SCHOOL: I think the strength that I gathered from the students are just outstanding. I'm in a community that values what teachers do and what our students do.

There's a lot of rich tradition at Columbine. This is my 25th year at Columbine -- I'm completing my 25th year, and they have really provided strength for me, and I'm not sure if I would have maybe be as strong as I am today if I didn't have the support of this community and would have went somewhere else.

HEMMER: Now there are some critics -- you know this better than anyone who criticizes you for allowing a certain atmosphere of bullying to take place at Columbine.

As we sit here in 2004, five years down the road, how has the school addressed that?

DEANGELIS: I think we have policies in place now that we had in place back in '99 we had zero tolerance, but I think the major difference that I see now is we have students and parents and community members that are reporting things that they never reported back then.

For example, I have an anonymous tip box, which I didn't have back then, but students are not afraid to put notes in there if they feel that students may be thinking about hurting themselves, so I think that's a big difference. Getting more phone calls from parents. I think as a result of the tragedy, people are looking at things differently. I think you have schoolteachers looking at things differently, teachers are -- administrators are looking things differently.

I think you have law enforcement agents looking at things differently and parents. So I think people now are more vigilant than what we were back prior to Columbine tragedy occurring.

HEMMER: If you look back to that event, Columbine, your school, has truly become the symbol in this country for violence among young people in America. Yet since that date the number of incidents have, in my estimation, declined dramatically. Can you explain as to why that's the case?

DEANGELIS: I think people are -- not that they did not take threats seriously prior -- but I think just recently there's been situations where people have reported that someone was planning to carry out a tragedy similar to what happened at Columbine High School -- so I think more people are reporting incidents as opposed to prior to Columbine.

That, I think in the back of their mind, they're not going to leave anything to -- for chance.

And so what they're looking at is if someone is talking, they're going to report it and let police authorities or school administrators decide that that threat is viable.

HEMMER: Is there something that is a legacy out of your school and a lesson out of your school that can reflect across America today?

DEANGELIS: I think the one thing that I have learned is -- and this may be a trite answer - is you know you can't take anything for granted.

If you would have asked me prior to April 20, 1999 if something like this happened at Columbine High School and I would have said no, and I don't know how many times I have had conversations with people from around the world, around the country that have stated you know Columbine High School is very similar to the community that I live in.

Very similar to the type of students that we have in our community, and so I think the one message that I would share with the world is that it could happen anywhere and so its not a problem for one entity.

You know, many times people will say what is the school going to do to prevent another tragedy from happening and I think what I would say is what are we going to do. It's a societal problem.

I think we need to come together as parents; we need to come together as educators; we need to come together as law enforcement agents.

Part of the judicial system, we need to come together and share information and until we do that as a team we're much better at doing that now -- we have a chance of possibly preventing another Columbine tragedy from occurring.


HEMMER: Frank DeAngelis looking back five years later from a few days ago here at AMERICAN MORNING.

Plans to build a permanent memorial in Columbine at the school currently on hold. Some say there was a lack of funding to build that memorial. For now construction has been halted -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, Saudi Prince Bandar reacts to reports that he promised President Bush a drop in gas prices just before election day.

But right now there is no sign of relief. The price to fill up your tank keeps going up. Andy's got the latest numbers up next in our business report. Stay with us -- you're watching AMERICAN MORNING.


HEMMER: Welcome back everybody. Is there any relief in sight? Gasoline prices soar yet again and Andy Serwer's "Minding Your Business."

Like a broken record, isn't it?

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Yes. And now it's become a big issue in Washington what with the Saudis and the president apparently having the agreement -- well, we don't know if that's true or not whether there was an agreement, but Bob Woodward's book talked about an agreement.

We're going to be talking about that throughout the morning. Anyway, gasoline prices soaring across the nation now at a record high, a buck 81 a gallon, that's up 29 cents from last year.

Look at that. Inflation adjusted, though. You've got to go back to March '81 where it was $2.99. Of course, in Europe they're paying $5 a gallon, so maybe we don't have anything to complain about, that doesn't go over well when you're paying that much at the tank.

Inflationary pressures though throughout the economy. Let's talk about sources of protein, Bill. How about that?

We're talking about beef, chicken, maybe even tofu. Spam, all these places we're seeing price increases. Well price of beef soaring, mad cow, consumers shrugging that off because they're interested in low carb diets. We're seeing grilling season coming along.

So prices could go even higher there. Chicken prices higher. We've seen that as well because of mad cow. People switched over to chicken. Low carb diets as well, the Asian flu situation that increased demand from chicken here. Soybean prices higher and Hormel saying they're going to raise prices on Spam, Dinty Moore stews and Hormel chili. Yes. So, no protein source is safe here.

HEMMER: It's not just Adkins. Listen, a lot of people listen for Alan Greenspan this week.


HEMMER: Really could be the news that drives the market.

SERWER: Well, and again he's going to be talking about inflation or at least the politicians are going to be asking about that. He will be testifying today and tomorrow. Let's take a quick look at what happened yesterday.

Another mixed session -- the Dow was down 14 points. You can see. And what that means is that stocks are looking for direction. We don't have any clear trend right now and as you said Greenspan could hold the key.

HEMMER: All right, thank you Andy.

SERWER: You're welcome.

HEMMER: All right -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Jack Cafferty has the "Question of the Day." Hello.

CAFFERTY: Hi, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear appeals today involving the detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

Six hundred men from 44 countries being held at the U.S. Navy prison camp in Cuba. They were picked up after September 11 during the fighting in Afghanistan.

The administration says they have the right to hold the detainees as long as necessary without formal charges or the right to a trial or a lawyer, but supporters say these men had nothing to do with September 11 and that they should have the chance to prove their innocence and secure their freedom so the question is this: should Guantanamo detainees have access to American courts?

O'BRIEN: Good question.

CAFFERTY: That would be the question.

SERWER: How would that work? I mean, would they actually bring a judge down there?

O'BRIEN: Good question.

CAFFERTY: The American taxpayers, the American taxpayer would pick up the tab is how that would work.

SERWER: Yes. CAFFERTY: I don't know exactly what the mechanics are but when it's time for the check to be paid to all the lawyers and the appeals and the courts and the...

SERWER: Millions and millions and millions of dollars.

CAFFERTY: You and me brother.

SERWER: Yes, OK, well and I can't afford it now that you -- no.

O'BRIEN: Well you guys seen these pictures? The -- this guy -- you've seen this guy? OK, take a look at this.

This guy is a professional stuntman, his name is Eric Scott. He strapped on a rocket pack, went up 152 feet in the air...

SERWER: I love those.

O'BRIEN: No you don't. Look at this; does not look safe.

SERWER: No, well.

O'BRIEN: Apparently the pack fires superheated hydrogen peroxide which sends the wearer into flight also allows him to land safely on his feet. Scott says the climb was really fast...

SERWER: Where's he going?

O'BRIEN: Don't be so technical, Scott. In fact, the pack took him from zero to 75 miles an hour in just two seconds. He unofficially broke the world record for the highest manned flight with a rocket pack which...

HEMMER: Right into the chimney Soledad, you see? He's Santa Claus also.

O'BRIEN: That's pretty cool.

HEMMER: I think it's very cool.

SERWER: Did he try to land in there, do you think?

HEMMER: Perhaps.

O'BRIEN: Now he says he did, yes.

HEMMER: True. Let's get a break here. In a moment here just over two months ago before the power transfer in Iraq. A Senate committee this week in fact starting today wants to know what the White House has in mind for a plan of transition. Back in a moment with more on that after this.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back everybody; it is almost half past the half hour on this AMERICAN MORNING. In just a few minutes we're going to talk to a photojournalist who is just back from Iraq.

He was in Ramadi where 12 Marines died earlier this month in a single day of fighting while he was there he took some very gripping photos. He was also shot. He's going to share with us his story and also some of those photos this morning.

HEMMER: And also this half hour the manslaughter trial back underway yet again. The jury had not been in the courtroom for three weeks. This is the Jayson Williams manslaughter trial. Yesterday the first day back since the first of April. How the defense is trying to capitalize on a prosecution blunder. A former attorney for Williams joins us to talk about that case in a few minutes here on AMERICAN MORNING.


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