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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Congress Demands Action on Mistreatment of Iraqi Prisoners; Interview With Tami Silicio

Aired May 4, 2004 - 20:00   ET

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


PAULA ZAHN, HOST: Good evening. Thanks so much for joining us tonight. I'm Paula Zahn. On a day the Pentagon denounces forces in Iraq the headlines continue to wrap around only a few U.S. troops.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): The alleged mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners is back in the news tonight.

DONALD RUMSFELD, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The actions of a few in those photographs are totally unacceptable and un-American.

ZAHN: Congress demands action and explanation.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: This does not appear to be an isolated incident.

ZAHN: And what about the commander in chief? Should President Bush apologize?

Why does this woman think taking this picture was worth losing her job and her reputation?

TAMI SILICIO, PHOTOGRAPHED COFFINS OF FALLEN TROOPS: I would do it again. I would take that picture again.

ZAHN: Tami Silicio in her first prime-time interview tells us why and shares photos you've never seen before.

If you ever wondered how al Qaeda gets its money, you may want to take a look at the ring on your finger. I'll talk with an author who discovered that diamonds are among terrorism's best friends.

Also ahead tonight: is one of the highest profile members of the Bush administration ready to move on?

Plus, you won't believe where Carlos Watson went to take the pulse of the presidential race.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Well, you might believe it, but first, the headlines you need to know right now.

Preflight security has been beefed up for certain airline flights in the United States. The so-called flights of interest are not being identified. Two federal law enforcement officials tell CNN the concerns arose from the processing of threat information received late last year, not from a new threat.

The Pentagon will keep U.S troop strength in Iraq at about 138,000 through the end of the year 2005. Original plans called for the troop level to drop to 115,000. The military is in the process of identifying which fresh forces will be ordered to Iraq.

Wildfires in Southern California have now burned at least 15,000 acres, the two biggest fires are burning in Riverside County at this hour. Thousands of homeowners have been forced to flee.

In focus tonight, the all out effort to contain the damage caused by the alleged abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. troops. White House officials say that President Bush is planning to do interviews about the story with Arab TV outlets. Top members of his administration spoke out today. We begin tonight with senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre. Good evening, Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good evening, Paula. Call it the law of unintended consequences. The Army today attempting to reassure reporters that what happened at the Abu Ghraib prison was not widespread. And they are revealing that there are 35 separate investigations into assaults or deaths of prisoners in U.S. custody and of those investigations, 25 of them involve the deaths of prisoners in custody. 12 have already been ruled to be natural causes. But three are suspected homicides, including one case in which a U.S. soldier is said to have used excessive force and another case, in which a soldier may have shot, justifiably, a prisoner who was escaping.

Both of those in Iraq as well. Today, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stood in this room and said as the senior person responsible for the Pentagon, he would take quote "all necessary actions to find out what went wrong and to fix it."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUMSFELD: The images that we've seen that include U.S. forces are deeply disturbing. Both because of the fundamental unacceptability of what they depicted, and because the actions by U.S. military personnel in those photos do not in any way represent the values of our country or the armed forces.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCINTYRE: Now, with some in Congress calling for hearings into what happened, the Pentagon dispatched its number two general to reassure members of Congress that the Army could investigate itself and was dedicated to getting to the bottom of the situation. Rumsfeld today himself said that, as I said, he would take all necessary actions. He was asked if he would possibly apologize for that. He stopped short of that, although he did concede that these revelations have undercut the U.S. ability to wage an effectively war of ideas in the Middle East. Paula. ZAHN: Jamie McIntyre. Thanks so much for the update in the Pentagon tonight.

Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, as Jamie was just talking about, lawmakers from both political parties are promising to conduct their own investigation of the prisoner abuse scandal. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina brings a unique perspective to the table tonight. Not only is he on the Senate Armed Services Committee, but he had been in the Air Force for 20 years as a military lawyer, prosecutor and judge. He also happens to be the only member of the Senate current in the reserves. Welcome, Senator, good to see you.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: So, the White House confirmed today that the President found out about the alleged abuse in news reports. Does it disturb you that the Pentagon had not informed the President of this, abuse that allegedly happened many months ago?

GRAHAM: Beyond belief, actually. January 14 was the date the person reported what they thought to be abusive treatment. From January, February, March, the report was reviewed by appropriate authorities, but for the President to find out based on media reports, for members of Congress to find out based on media reports, for us to see the photos for the first time on international television is unacceptable. We need to get to the bottom of it.

ZAHN: Do you have possible explanation for why the President would find out this way? Was there a cover-up here?

GRAHAM: Well, I've been involved with the military for over 20 years in different capacities. And big organization like the Department of Defense, the first reaction is damage control. The obligation is to investigate people criminally. So you don't share that with the world. But the idea of not briefing the Commander in Chief we have a major incident on our hands, because, not to put two and two together, the abuse stories that come out of this prison do affect our ability to win hearts and minds. And for the people in charge not to put two and two together is kind of mind-boggling.

ZAHN: People looked at Senator Rumsfeld's remarks as a milestone today when he actually conceded that these revelations do undercut the U.S. mission to win over the hearts and minds. Senator Biden took it further today saying if Congress doesn't get the answers it deserves, they might actually call for resignations including Secretary Rumsfeld's. Would that be appropriate?

GRAHAM: Here's what I think's appropriate. I have been connected with the military legal system for over 20 years. I have a lot of faith at the end of the day the people charged are going to be tried in a form that will be fair to them and fair to the government, too. The government is the victim of this. Our United States policy is the victim of this. There's two avenues to look at. I don't want just a handful of low level people to be charged with abuse. I want to find out how the environment was created for these people to think this was okay. There's two levels here, there's criminal charges that could be levied, there's another level, command responsibility. And I want both levels to be fully investigated and people at the highest level need to be held accountable that had a reasonable chance to know what was going on.

ZAHN: All right. You say held accountable. If we find Secretary Rumsfeld was well aware of this going on and didn't brief the President on it, are you saying then, the resignation route would be an appropriate way to go?

GRAHAM: I believe firmly that Secretary Rumsfeld and General Myers are as shocked as anybody else and they will get to the bottom of it. I don't believe and there's no reason to believe that the Pentagon had disinformation and trying to cover it up at this point. I do have confidence the military justice system can deal with individuals. But I think Congress has an important role to play here. Why did it take so long? I know President Bush is furious. We'll get to the bottom of this. It's important for the world to know how we deal with this. This is a test of our character as a nation. We say we're the good guys, Paula I believe we're the good guys. But this behavior is far short of being the good guys. And we need to let the world know we're going to deal with this decisively.

ZAHN: Senator Warner, chairman of the Armed Services Committee that you sit on, said today that he will call for Secretary Rumsfeld to testify. If he ends up doing so, what is the key question you would ask of Secretary Rumsfeld?

GRAHAM: What did you know it and when did you know it? And what did you do about it? And why weren't key committee members informed like Chairman Warner? Why wasn't the President informed there may be information coming out about the prisons that may hurt us internationally?

Let me say this about Secretary Rumsfeld and General Myers. I know them both. I trust them. I think they're both men of great character. We'll find out if this was a report stopped at the lowest levels of mid-levels or find out sooner or later whether it was a report that was not shared appropriately at the top levels. People will go to jail over this Paula. People will be fired over this. This is a test of our character as a nation. What do you do when things go bad? When things go bad on your watch a character test is "Will you stand up and take responsibility?" I will publicly say that I am sorry that our system got so out of control. This is unacceptable behavior for the American military. It is not reflective who we are as a nation or the men and women in service in general. That's why we have a military legal system to deal with this type of abuse.

ZAHN: Senator Lindsey Graham. Thanks for your thoughts this evening. I appreciate it.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

ZAHN: We'll turn our attention now to another photograph controversy. We have obtained some exclusive images of flag draped coffins of troops who lost their lives in Iraq. They are part of batch taken by cargo worker Tami Silicio when she was in Kuwait. Silicio angered the Pentagon when she gave a Seattle newspaper permission to publish one of her photos. The paper received the image from one of her friends. The photo, of course, sparking a fierce national debate. Well, the controversy ended up costing Silicio and her husband, David Landry their jobs. And earlier, I talked with both of them about this experience.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: So Tami, if you would go back and do this all over again, would you have taken the picture and sent it to your friend?

SILICIO: Let me say this. I got a letter from a mother, who told me how comforted she was knowing that her son was so well cared for. And that made me feel really good. And in light of that, I'd say, yeah, I'd do it again.

ZAHN: Except it cost you your job and it cost your husband his job.

SILICIO: Yes, I didn't mean for that to happen. I am very sorry about that. But we both realize the sacrifice that this picture has cost us.

ZAHN: Take us back to the night you took the picture.

SILICIO: OK.

ZAHN: What were you struck by?

SILICIO: How incredibly caring and respectful the military was taking of our fallen heroes on the plane. They always do a wonderful job with them. But it's just overwhelming the way they handle them and the way they give them such careful attention.

ZAHN: And you felt the need that night to take a picture--you thought for yourself or did you plan all along...

SILICIO: No.

ZAHN: The potential of it being published.

SILICIO: No. I was just going to share with it my family and friends. (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Once in a while, I'll e-mail home a picture of Kuwait or something and tell them what I did that day. It was kind of like a little journal. That picture was just for a memory.

ZAHN: Let's talk a little bit more to what ultimately led to the publication of these photos. I want to put up on the screen a statement from Maytag, your employer, who ended up firing you over this whole controversy and I'm going to read a couple chunks of it at a time.

The first accusation is that, "The two employees that were terminated had asked for permission to take and publish photographs of the caskets and the Military Command emphatically denied those requests."

So you knew, when you went into the plane, that you were breaking a rule?

SILICIO: No. I did not know the Pentagon policy.

ZAHN: You say you weren't aware of the Pentagon policy. Were you aware of any policy Maytag had about taking photographs?

SILICIO: I was aware of Maytag's policy and...

ZAHN: What was their policy?

SILICIO: No pictures. Or divulging information about anything. But the thing was I had walked by two Air Force guys taking a picture of the ceremony. Picture-taking had become a little lax. We were all just taking pictures for our memories. That's basically what it was for and no further than that.

ZAHN: So you maintain, you weren't purposely breaking any rule you were aware of except a Maytag rule you thought was loosely enforced?

SILICIO: Correct. Thank you. Yes.

ZAHN: Let me go onto the second part of their accusation. "Ms. Silicio was not acting in her official capacity when she entered the cargo aircraft and photographed the caskets. She was directly instructed by aircraft personnel not to take photographs and she did anyway." Is that true?

SILICIO: No. That's not true. I work on the flight line. I'm out there by the planes and everything. And I did go up to the airplane, yes, to take a photo for my own personal use. After I took the photo, I exited the plane. And one of the guys had mentioned, hey, no cameras on the plane. And I said, okay. And so we left the plane.

ZAHN: Third part of the accusation. "Mr. Landry's requests to publish the photographs were twice denied. They knew the rules. They asked to break the rules. They were told 'no' and they went and broke the rules anyway. And that's why they were terminated."

DAVID LANDRY, SILICIO'S HUSBAND: The photo was already shot prior to...

ZAHN: Prior to your seeking permission to publish them?

LANDRY: Correct. Correct.

ZAHN: But you did not admit that the photo had been taken at that point?

LANDRY: That's correct.

Because there were other people involved. There were many people involved taking photos. Many. And if I would have said a photo was taken, they would have requested as far as who seen you taking a photo and it would have incriminated a lot of other people. It would have been worse than it is now.

ZAHN: What made you give the okay, knowing that David had talked to officials, and they said absolutely not, they told him twice he shouldn't do it.

SILICIO: I had given him the OK prior to him talking to them.

ZAHN: You had given the "Seattle Times" your approval?

SILICIO: Yeah. And then he had hurried up and e-mailed that next day, but I had already given it. The Internet went down. I couldn't retract it. And then the Internet was up, and there it was. It was on the front page of the "Seattle Times".

ZAHN: Once the photo ended up being published by the "Seattle Times", did the two of you realize how much trouble you were going to be in?

SILICIO: I personally thought, okay, local newspaper, it will run for one day, and then I was being really naive, run for one day and it will be all over with.

ZAHN: David, there was a point, during all these negotiations going on, you made it very clear to Tami, she should not allow for the picture to be published?

LANDRY: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

ZAHN: Did she hear you?

LANDRY: That was after it was already turned in. And there was nothing that could be done.

ZAHN: So you don't have any lingering feelings of bad will towards Tami?

LANDRY: No. As a matter of fact, I'm very proud of her.

ZAHN: In spite of the fact that you two have ended up in the middle of this controversy and both of you have lost your jobs, you really don't have any regrets?

SILICIO: Well, I regret for the wrong I did. I try not to do anything wrong. I try to do everything with truth and right. We have had thousands of responses over this across the nation, that have written and thanked us so much for that photo and what it has done to them. I think that if we could grieve with the parents by honoring their children and loved ones, by being with them on the way home, I think that is wonderful. I think that is incredible.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Once again, Tami Silicio and David Landry also maintaining at no point in this process was anything politically motivated. Landry says he may end up filing a lawsuit against his former employer Maytag Aircraft Corporation but at this point no papers have been filed.

Could your favorite diamond jewelry be financing an al Qaeda plot? An investigative journalist reveals what he has discovered about the link between diamonds and terrorism.

And some top lawmakers are calling for hearings. But should the President apologize for the alleged abuse of Iraqi prisoners. We'll have a debate.

Also, when scandal adds to star power. The new rules for celebrity and why fame is no longer just about talent.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Diamonds just might be a terrorist's best friend. Al Qaeda reportedly used elicit diamond sales to reap millions of dollars before 9/11 and may be still be practicing the trade today. Journalist Douglas Farah wrote about the alleged dealings for the "Washington Post." He takes a closer look at the money trail in his new book "Blood from Stones, the Secret Financial Network of Terror."

Douglas Farah joins us now. Welcome.

DOUGLAS FARAH, AUTHOR, "BLOOD FROM STONES": Thank you for having me.

ZAHN: So explain to us how they al Qaeda actually used diamonds for their financing?

FARAH: The used them for two purposes. One was the diamond trade for money. They took uncut stones and sold them for profit. The second was to take money out of financial institutions into a commodity that couldn't be traced. Because the knew their funds could be traced after the 9/11 bombing would happen. So they began siphoning their money into commodities. And diamonds are perfect. Because they have a very high value and very small volume. And you can transport them anywhere. They don't set off metal detectors. Dogs can't sniff them. And also you can sell them very easily almost anywhere in the world back into cash.

ZAHN: So where do they buy them and ultimately where do they sell them?

FARAH: What I traced was in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Under former Liberian president Charles Taylor they operated with impunity.

ZAHN: Did he know what was going on?

FARAH: He knew people were buying them. I don't know if he knew they were al Qaeda. Because while they were there he was also selling to Russian organized crime, Ukrainian organized crime, Israeli mercenaries. Everybody. It was free-for-all in his functioning criminal enterprise in Liberia. And they sold them in Antwerp and then took a large amount to Lebanon and elsewhere.

ZAHN: How much of al Qaeda's operating budget does the funds from the selling of these diamonds represent?

FARAH: Well, it's hard to say because we don't really know what al Qaeda's operating budget is. It's clear they took a significant amount of the cash reserves and put them into diamonds. How much they're making now is probably a lot less than they took out in the eight months prior to 9/11 out of bank accounts and banking systems to buy diamonds with.

ZAHN: Was the CIA aware of any of this?

FARAH: No, they were not.

ZAHN: Now, you have become a target of some members of the CIA because they suggest you made some of this stuff up.

FARAH: Yes, they have attacked this story. In the book I explained reasons why, because they missed key opportunities to understand what was happening. And I believe that they're embarrassed now as accounts have come out and been verified.

ZAHN: And is it your suggestion these dealings went on well in advance of 9/11?

FARAH: I think the bulk, the heavy-duty dealings went on in the eight months prior to 9/11 and continued after 9/11.

ZAHN: So, is it your suggestion those funds were used to finance 9/11 or can you make that leap?

FARAH: I don't think you can make that leap directly but they did take the money they had and put them into diamonds, mostly, I think, as I said, to get them out of the banking system into ways they could spread around the world later on.

ZAHN: If this diamond trade had been shut down, could you have stopped 9/11?

FARAH: I don't think so. But I think if we had been aware of the diamond trade and diamonds for weapons trade we would have been much better positioned to go after al Qaeda after 9/11 instead of spending months and months flailing around and trying to understand the financial structure.

ZAHN: And I'm sure a lot of people in our audience are wondering if they have a diamond on their finger that may have come through this illicit trade. Is that a possibility?

FARAH: It's a possibility. It's very difficult to trace the source of diamonds. The diamond industry has been very lax in enforcing the few mechanisms they have to verify where diamonds come from. So I would say it's a possibility. Probably a slime one, but certainly a possibility.

ZAHN: Well, your book is absolutely fascinating. Douglas Farah, thanks for dropping by tonight.

We have one additional not for you. We contacted the CIA and asked for a comment on the connection between the al Qaeda and illicit diamond trade. It declined, saying it never comments on books and rarely speaks publicly about investigations into al Qaeda.

ZAHN: He has waged war on the battlefield, but is he losing ground at the White House. What a new report says about Secretary of State Colin Powell's future in the administration.

And how women could play in the race for the White House. Voters in a showdown state show us how candidate's faith could influence their choice at the polls in November.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Just how happy is Secretary of State Colin Powell four years into the Bush administration? A new report suggests he apparently wants out of his job. An article in the June edition of "GQ Magazine" takes a look at Powell's position in the White House. The author, GQ writer-at-large, Will Hylton had a one-on-one with the Secretary of State. And Will Hylton joins us from Austin, Texas. Good to see you, Will. Welcome.

WILL HYLTON, WRITER-AT-LARGE "GQ MAGAZINE": Thanks.

ZAHN: In addition to having access to the Secretary of State, you also spoke with friends of his and his chief of staff. And his chief of staff indicated to you quote "That the secretary was mentally and physically tired and may not stay through a second term." What did the Secretary of State himself tell you? Because when I've asked him that question, he never answers it.

HYLTON: Yes. And I don't think he plans to. It was interesting. What was most fascinating about my conversation with Secretary Powell was what he didn't say. In other words, all of his close friends and advisers who have been sent to me by his staff explicitly, on the record, for these conversations, they had all given me this sort of unanimous picture, in very clear terms, of Powell being unhappy with the administration, uncomfortable with the President's vision and fatigued with the battles with the Pentagon. Eager to leave next term. And as you said, Larry Wilkerson, his chief of staff, who's his top personal aide, told me info uncertain terms he doesn't think-he's sure that Powell's not going to stay on for another term if the President's re-elected.

Then I sat down with Powell after having done all these interviews, Powell was the most charming genial host and regaled me with wonderful, colorful behind-the-scenes stories about his career as Secretary of State, basically left me to ask no room about these issues and ushered me out the door by saying at the end of almost an hour, saying, you didn't get as much substance as you might have liked. He had a little smile when he said that.

ZAHN: Yes, he fully disarmed you. When I asked him that question, he basically said, I serve at the pleasure of the President. You say to him, how do you and the President get along? He says, just fine.

Let's move on to the issue of something else you were told by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. And that was the appearance the secretary made before shortly before the war with Iraq. He described that appearance as a source of great distress. Give us some of the details there.

HYLTON: Well, it was interesting because all of these sources close to Powell, Powell's office had sent me to them. And all of them were unanimous in this description of Powell spending four days and three nights at the CIA headquarters in the days leading up to his February 5 speech at the United Nations where he made the case that Iraq not only had weapons of mass destruction, they had stockpiles and that the evidence -- the evidence he was presenting were not assertions but solid evidence. Those are his words.

And apparently, according to these people close to Powell, in the days leading up to that presentation, he had been at the CIA, throwing out droves of false intelligence and claims that he did not feel were substantial to back up the claim of stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. And the impression that I got from, again, these sources close to Powell was that it was an extremely frustrating time for him. And making matters even worse is the fact that now it appears that some of the things he allowed to stay in the presentation were still not true, and there apparently are not stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. And it is a big scar on his credibility factor.

ZAHN: But once again, when I've asked him specific questions by that, he says that he basically stands by what he was given. What did he tell you?

HYLTON: Nothing.

ZAHN: Or you never got that opportunity to ask the follow-up question because he had so...

HYLTON: He is such a great diplomat.

ZAHN: ... effectively disarmed you?

HYLTON: Yes, he certainly did. He didn't even really leave me chances to ask my questions. In fact, he launched into this wonderful soliloquy, I mean, telling these stories about his friendships with other, you know, foreign ministers from other countries, and all -- chicken exports to Russia, hardly pausing at all. And it was really a spectacular show of diplomacy. It's nice to know that American diplomats are this confident at managing a conversation on hostile ground. But I did walk away from the interview having asked only a few questions. I asked him if he was planning to retire, and he said rather quickly, I won't speculate on that. And then he launched something of some long spiel about his friendship with...

ZAHN: Oh! He got you, Will... HYLTON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ZAHN: Will Hylton.

HYLTON: Yes.

ZAHN: Nevertheless, the article was very interesting. Thanks for joining us tonight.

HYLTON: Sure. Thank you.

ZAHN: And our audience is going to get a chance to hear from Secretary Powell himself tonight. He'll be talking with Larry King at 9:00 PM Eastern right here on CNN.

Coming up on Thursday, we're going to get more insights into Powell's thinking, when we talk with his good friend and deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage.

But still ahead tonight: The president has condemned the alleged abuse of Iraqi prisoners. Is that enough? We're going to debate whether he should publicly apologize.

And their famous faces are everywhere, but did you ever think about why they're so well-known? A look at the new roles for celebrities later on.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: And we're back with some of the headlines you need to know right now.

The Bush administration is assuring congress, the public and the world that the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners will not be tolerated. Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the alleged behavior of some U.S. troops at an Iraqi prison was, quote, "totally unacceptable and un-American."

An important thumbs down today for Israeli plans to withdraw from some but not all Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. Officials of the Middle East "quartet" -- that is, the U.S., the U.N., Russia and the Europe Union -- today called on Israelis and Palestinians to work together to completely end the occupation.

Former vice president Al Gore and Democratic fund-raiser Joel Hyatt (ph) are buying the News World International TV Network. Their goal is to produce programming that will attract people in their 20s.

President Bush today made no public comments about the allegations that U.S. troops abused Iraqi prisoners, but as we reported earlier, he's planning to do interviews on Arabic TV networks sometime soon. Now, one idea being bounced around is that the president himself should make some kind of apology. The guests (ph) to discuss what people are saying I'm joined now from Washington by Victoria Jones. She co-hosts "Good Day USA" on the Talk Radio News Service and thinks the president does need to apologize. And in Pittsburgh tonight, KDKA radio talk show host Fred Honsberger. He thinks no presidential apology is in order. Let the debate begin!

Victoria, why do you think the president should apologize?

VICTORIA JONES, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Because it's the right thing to do, because for once, we can show ourselves being what he said during the campaign in 2000 we were going to be, which was humble. There's nothing wrong with saying "Sorry." There's nothing wrong with apologizing, without qualifying it, without then going on about how great we're doing. Just come out, say it, say we're sorry, say we screwed up, say we're dealing with it, and then deal with it and then move on. This is what...

ZAHN: But hasn't the president already...

JONES: ... we have to do...

ZAHN: ... condemned it? He made that quite clear...

JONES: He's condemned it...

ZAHN: ... at a news conference.

JONES: He's condemned it. But that wasn't an apology. That wasn't speaking to the Arab world. That wasn't speaking to the people of Iraq. Politically, in theory, he doesn't need to do this. In reality, what has happened with this abuse is that it's set back our relationship with the Arab world by years. And he can move that forward.

ZAHN: Fred, do you think he can move it forward with an apology?

FRED HONSBERGER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: No. An apology will do no such thing, as a matter of fact. It'll make Victoria feel better. I don't know what the fixation the news media has with apologies. The last presidential news conference, how many questions were asked, Are you going to apologize? Are you sorry? What mistakes did you make? If it makes the reporters feel better, I guess that's great. If it makes Victoria feel better, I guess that's great. It's not going to put us...

ZAHN: But Fred, I don't know if...

HONSBERGER: ... in any better...

ZAHN: ... that's about...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: We just had Senator Lindsey Graham on the air, a Republican, who has been highly supportive of the president, who just said 15 minutes ago on this show, I will publicly say I am sorry our system got so out of control. This is unacceptable behavior for the American troops.

HONSBERGER: The president has said...

ZAHN: Do you think he's talking to himself?

HONSBERGER: ... he's not going to tolerate this -- the president said he's not going to tolerate this. It should not be tolerated. And those who are responsible can, will and are being punished, and that's it. We're at war! We can't apologize for every mistake or every misstep that the world might perceive...

(CROSSTALK)

HONSBERGER: We're at war. I mean, how many times...

JONES: This isn't a mistake or a misstep.

HONSBERGER: It is a -- how many times...

JONES: No, it isn't.

HONSBERGER: Yes, it is. How many...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: One at a time here.

HONSBERGER: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. If it makes you feel better, Victoria, then go ahead and apologize, but...

JONES: Frankly, I'm...

HONSBERGER: ... it's not going to change things and...

(CROSSTALK)

HONSBERGER: It certainly isn't going to change the Arab world's view of the United States of America. They thought the same of us beforehand. Right now...

JONES: Not true!

HONSBERGER: ... it just helps their rationale.

JONES: Not true at all. And I'm very gratified that you're very concerned about my feeling better. I appreciate that, and it's kind of you...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: But come back -- come back to the narrow issue of...

JONES: ... but the reality...

ZAHN: Hang on, Victoria. I want you to answer this question...

JONES: OK.

ZAHN: ... because it's an interesting one -- whether you think an -- if they don't accept the condemnation by the president and by Secretary Rumsfeld, why will an apology have any resonance with these Arabs that we're talking about...

JONES: Because you...

ZAHN: ... that we're trying to change...

JONES: Because you're speaking...

ZAHN: ... the hearts and minds of?

JONES: Because you're speaking to them directly, rather than just in a news conference. What was said in the news conferences was absolutely right, and I fully agree with it and support it. But when you speak to people directly and say, This is what happened, and we're sorry that this happened and we apologize for this, that cannot hurt.

About it making people feel better -- it would be nice if we could make some in the Arab world feel better, instead of what is happening now, which is making them feel worse. And no, we were not hated. And unfortunately, we're becoming hated, and that was not our aim in going into Iraq. We went there...

HONSBERGER: Victoria, we can't make...

JONES: ... to liberate these people.

HONSBERGER: We can't make things any worse.

ZAHN: OK...

JONES: We are not at war with Iraq.

HONSBERGER: Victoria, we can't make them feel any better.

ZAHN: All right, Fred, here's what I want to ask you. What are...

HONSBERGER: All right.

ZAHN: ... your listeners saying today about this?

HONSBERGER: The listeners -- most of the listeners think that -- many want to blame the news media for releasing these pictures. I don't agree with them, as a matter of fact. Many want to know why the news media is fixated on these pictures when they won't show the pictures of the atrocities that are done to American soldiers and American civilians who were shot, burned, hung from the treetops, hung from the bridge tops. We don't see those because the American media doesn't think it's appropriate for us to see them. Yet we keep seeing...

JONES: I've seen them.

HONSBERGER: ... these pictures over and over...

JONES: You've seen them.

HONSBERGER: ... again. Not as much as we've seen these pictures!

JONES: No, but wouldn't it be...

HONSBERGER: They're not showing them every two seconds!

JONES: It'd be nice to see -- it would be nice to see some other things, like coffins coming home, which we're also not allowed to see by...

HONSBERGER: Yes, you know, what? You know what?

JONES: ... our own government.

ZAHN: All right...

(CROSSTALK)

HONSBERGER: You guys in the news media couldn't -- you couldn't get...

JONES: What media...

(CROSSTALK)

HONSBERGER: You were showing the wrong coffins, for goodness sakes!

ZAHN: Time out! Time out! Time out!

HONSBERGER: You were showing the wrong coffins!

ZAHN: A final thought now from Victoria about what your listeners are saying. You got to be brief here.

JONES: The listeners are in two camps. One camp is certainly blaming the news media, also saying that they were basically love taps. The other side is saying that they are frankly horrified, that a tiny minority of people did this, but it must be condemned and it must be dealt with fast.

ZAHN: All right, you two, we're going to leave it here. Fred Honsberger, Victoria Jones, thank you for both of your perspectives.

JONES: Thank you.

HONSBERGER: Thank you.

ZAHN: We'll all be listening to the two of you.

Coming up: What are voters really saying about the presidential race? Carlos Watson goes to an unlikely place to find out. And what does it take to be famous these days? How about a little scandal and some outrageous behavior? Hey, that'll do it! The changing definition of celebrity later on.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Time to talk politics now. Carlos Watson has been traveling around the country, looking for the kind of voters who usually don't get a chance to speak into a political analyst's microphone. He is back from taking "The American Pulse" in a state that could prove crucial this November.

Now, there are a bunch of those. Which one did you travel to this time?

CARLOS WATSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This time, we were in Minnesota. We were in the Midwest, with their 10 electoral votes. And guess where we went, Paula? We went to an evangelical Christian church, maybe one of the biggest in Minneapolis, to talk to a group that everyone says is important but you hardly ever hear from. And coming up next, you'll see the voters that we actually talked to.

ZAHN: Great.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WATSON (voice-over): Deborah Gorman is a 52-year-old independent. She's a management consultant who voted for Al Gore four years ago, but this time around is supporting John Kerry. Dave Blankers is a 41-year-old registered Republican. He works as a computer consultant. He voted for the president in 2000 and is likely to vote for him again this year. Benita Edwards is a 38-year-old Democrat. She works at the church as the minister of music. She voted for the president in the last election, but this time around is likely to vote for John Kerry. Georgia Simmering is a 39-year-old unaffiliated voter, but she calls herself a conservative. She works at the church as an administrative assistant. Last time around, she voted for the president, and this time around, she expects to vote for him once again. Jerry Walker is a 45-year-old Republican. He works at a financial services company. A strong Bush supporter last time, he once again expects to back the president.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: So what is it that these folks were most concerned about?

WATSON: You know what? You would have thought that abortion or gay marriage or some of the social conservative issues would have stood out. For one of the five voters, it did, but for the others, you heard lots of other different things. You heard war. You heard the economy. And coming up, you'll hear what they had to say about John Kerry's medals and that whole controversy, as well as their thoughts on how much faith and politics should intersect. I frankly was surprised by what they had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WATSON: The president has been more outspoken than many politicians in talking about his faith. Does that make you feel even greater trust and greater confidence in him as your leader?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we go back to the biblical standpoint, we're not to put our confidence in the flesh. I can't put all my confidence in him. He's a human being. He's going to make mistakes. I feel more confident in him when he shares the faith that I do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the president also believes in prayer (ph) and is practicing (ph), whether as a man, he's right or wrong. With God on your side, I think you got a chance versus somebody that's going, You know what? I don't even care.

WATSON: I want to switch the subject on you just a little bit and talk about John Kerry's Roman Catholicism, his faith. I mean, we're here in a Methodist church. Would that make you hesitate, in terms of voting for him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not for me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm happy to hear he's got a faith.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a politician. I'm thrilled he's got a faith.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.

WATSON: What if that faith was Islam?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd be a little more hesitant.

WATSON: Jewish?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not really.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

WATSON: What about the rest of you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's interesting how people separate Protestant from being Catholic. It's not separate from the Protestant faith or the Christian faith. It's just another denomination.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My heart is just aching right now with the state of America. It doesn't matter if Kerry or Bush, I'll cast my vote and pray that I will make the right decision, I just want someone that will have a heart for the people and the welfare of this country.

WATSON: An issue that's been in the news a good bit, which is a controversy over John Kerry's medals and his ribbons and the service in Vietnam and the president's service in Vietnam. Has anyone been following this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's the big issue about what he did 20 years ago as a protester, in terms of how he felt about the war? I don't care if he threw the medals back. I don't care if he threw the ribbons back. He went to war. He served his country, and he has the wounds to show it, inside and out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really respected that he got wounded. He's bearing scars that I don't have to bear. But at the same time, when you're coming back home saying, This is wrong, This is wrong, This is wrong, what kind of a message are you sending to the people who are out in the field?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The question comes back to this integrity question and honesty and trust. And so a big -- a big part of my decision on who to vote for is who I feel like I can trust.

WATSON: Do you feel like you can trust Kerry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The way I understand it is, you have to have been injured in combat. And it turns out that, if after you had three Purple Hearts in Nam, you were able to leave. He got three Purple Hearts in pretty quick succession. Is that just coincidental or was that kind of using the system? I don't know.

WATSON: Does the fact that the president didn't go over to Vietnam and fight -- does that make any difference to you, as you think about trusting the president versus trusting John Kerry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would make a difference to me if he had lied about what he was up to. You know, he came clean. He said, you know, That was one option. I went to National Guard because I didn't want to go to Vietnam. That's sort of -- is something I can then trust.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: So what kind of conclusions can we draw from what these voters are saying?

WATSON: Two things stood out to me. One is that the president's base among evangelical Christians seems to be holding. And according to surveys last time, somewhere between a quarter and 40 percent of his vote were made up by this group. So that's good news for him. But two, that there are concerns, and the biggest concerns I read were on the war. So even while this medals controversy isn't as hot as it might have been, they certainly have questions about whether or not we're managing Iraq well. And frankly, this was even before the latest questions about abuse of prisoners.

ZAHN: So what plane are you getting on next week? Where are you going?

(LAUGHTER)

WATSON: Pennsylvania. I'm going to that fantastic state. And once again, I think you'll be surprised about the group that I talk to there.

ZAHN: Another roller-coaster ride there, right?

WATSON: It's going to be interesting. Another state decided by five points or less in the last election.

ZAHN: Boy, it's going to be a squeaker, isn't it!

WATSON: Oh, I think there's going to be lots of excitement, and I think you'll see the polls start to move this month.

ZAHN: Carlos Watson, thanks so much. Look forward to "American Pulse" next week.

WATSON: Good to see you.

ZAHN: And the new breed of celebrity. Why they're more likely to be infamous and not just famous.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Well, it's a nightmare for many people, the thought of anyone anywhere being able to see you naked. But in the celebrity world, being caught naked or even in a sex act can make dreams come true. Just ask Paris Hilton. She and others are part of a new breed of celebrity where talent isn't always a necessity. "Vanity Fair" special correspondent Maureen Orth examines the celebrity world in her new book "The Importance of Being Famous." She joins us now.

Good to see

MAUREEN ORTH, AUTHOR, "THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING FAMOUS": Thank you.

ZAHN: So how much of a joke is it today to become famous?

ORTH: Well, you surely don't have to be famous to be famous, that's for sure. And it seems that whoever the camera chooses, if they have a certain look, it doesn't really matter whether they have talent or not. I mean, you mentioned Paris Hilton. We've got Scott and Laci Peterson all over everywhere, Monica Lewinsky before, Omarosa, all these reality TV stars. And yet -- Anna Nicole Smith -- people just hang on their every vision.

ZAHN: So what does it say about us as a culture?

ORTH: Well, I think it says a lot of things about journalism right now. I think that entertainment is really taking over a lot of the news space. I think it's a lot easier to just sort of feast on this cotton candy and be kind of voyeurs, as opposed to really having to think about real issues.

ZAHN: That may be true, Maureen, but it drives ratings, and you know that. It...

ORTH: Yes, but... ZAHN: This kind of stuff would not air if there wasn't an appetite for it.

ORTH: No, I know. Well...

ZAHN: And you have to make all kinds of choices in a news cycle about what you're going to cover.

ORTH: Exactly. Well, I mean, the subtitle of my book is called "Behind the Scenes of the Celebrity-Industrial Complex," and what I mean by that is, really, you do have this very intense media conglomerates right now competing with one another, and then you have this huge army of handlers with all these kinds of celebrities. And so...

ZAHN: How well oiled is that machine? Just give people a sense, someone like Paris Hilton, what it took to put her on the map.

ORTH: Well, I guess it took a sex tape, but it also...

ZAHN: Right.

ORTH: ... took a lot of money and a rich daddy and a blond, skinny -- and then just somebody loved her name, also. I mean, I think if here name were Susie Jones, it wouldn't be the same, even if she did have the same amount of money. So I think the idea of "Paris" and "Hilton" and -- I think all of that plays. But what happens is, I think, is that there's so much competition now with cable, 24/7, you've got to fill the time, also with the wired -- you know, the wired world...

ZAHN: Sure.

ORTH: ... we're living in, so that things just go whizzing by a lot faster.

ZAHN: How vicious do these battles get behind the scenes, as all these publicists and these handlers are trying to create...

ORTH: Oh, they get pretty...

ZAHN: ... space for their clients?

ORTH: Oh, sure. And also...

ZAHN: And isn't all publicity good publicity?

ORTH: Well, Michael Jackson used to think so. But now maybe it's not. For example -- or Janet Jackson maybe thought that way, too, but I don't think it necessarily is the case. What happens now is, is that there is a name that is so recognizable to the whole world, they have a lot more power negotiating where they're going to be, who they're going to talk to, et cetera. And if they're accused of wrongdoing, there's a tremendous amount of money at stake. So somebody like a Kobe Bryant or somebody like a Michael Jackson, the whole idea is to destroy the accuser, so the economic viability of the star is maintained.

ZAHN: You give some really egregious examples of what people have done over time to get attention for themselves. And the most interesting person you mention I think is Vladimir Putin...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: What is he up to?

ORTH: Well, you know, in my...

ZAHN: What does he have to do with Paris Hilton?

ORTH: Well, in "The Importance of Being Famous," my book, I'm chronicling 15 different people that I have covered in "Vanity Fair," who are all involved in various stages of fame. And I was absolutely fascinated when I went to Russia to cover Putin, when he first got elected, I found out that he was Boris Yeltsin's hand-picked successor, and yet they had to pose him as a reformer, so they modeled him after an old KGB movie star figure in Russia, and that's how they ran the campaign.

ZAHN: And it worked for him, didn't it!

ORTH: And it worked for him.

ZAHN: Congratulations on your book, "The Importance of Being Famous." Warring books at Maureen Orth's house. Tim Russert is her husband. He has a book coming out next week.

ORTH: Yes, but I have one week on him, so far.

ZAHN: Yes, I know.

ORTH: Oh, and I also have Maureenorth.com, and it's a great Mother's Day present.

ZAHN: Yes. You're beginning to sound like Ross Perot!

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: Thanks for joining us.

ORTH: Bye!

ZAHN: We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: And that wraps it up for all of us here. Thanks so much for being with us tonight. Coming up Thursday, deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage. His boss on next with "LARRY KING LIVE." Thanks for joining us tonight. Good night.

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