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Tenet Resignation: Changes at the CIA; Interview With Senator Chuck Hagel; Prisoner Abuse Scandal: Defending Private England

Aired June 4, 2004 - 9:00   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. The president today in Vatican City, presenting Pope John Paul, II with the nation's highest civilian honor.
Fallout from the CIA. Will the resignation of George Tenet brings sweeping changes to the way America gathers intelligence?

And the drama at the national spelling bee. A nerve-rattling end to the National Spelling Bee. We have a winner, though. Both the champ and the runner-up here with us today on this 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: Good morning. Welcome, everybody.

Some of the headlines making news this morning, President Bush continuing his trip to Rome now after meeting with the pope earlier this morning. High security in Italy as he sticks to his very busy schedule. We'll get you all caught up on that.

HEMMER: Also, what is next for the CIA? George Tenet says he's leaving. We'll talk this hour with Senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and talk about the suggestions in Washington for major reform within the intel community. That topic forthcoming.

O'BRIEN: Also this morning, our interview with Edie Falco. She's got a cute new look she's got going on. It's not that look. It's a short hairdo. She's going to talk to us about the season finale of "The Sopranos." It was amazing how much she reveals.


O'BRIEN: She tells all. You're going to have to see it now. You'll have to see it because...

HEMMER: That she does, yes. You don't have to watch Sunday night. You're exactly right.

O'BRIEN: Exactly. Minute by minute.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: I like her. She's a straightshooter.

O'BRIEN: She's great, yes.

CAFFERTY: Ask her a question and she'll give you an answer.

O'BRIEN: And hugely talented.

CAFFERTY: Yes. It's a good story.

O'BRIEN: That's ahead.

Hi Jack.

CAFFERTY: In the state of Arkansas, something called weight report cards are now mandated by state law. If your child is fat, the school is required to send you a note saying your child is fat. Is that a good idea or not? if you have thoughts. We'll read some e-mails.

O'BRIEN: Thank you, Jack.

Let's get you caught up on what President Bush has been doing already today. For the third time during his presidency, Mr. Bush met with the Pope John Paul, II. Iraq was the top issue on the agenda. The pope called for the speedy return of sovereignty to the Iraqi people and called this week's appointment of a new Iraqi interim government an encouraging step. He also made reference to the prisoner abuse scandal, saying the world has been troubled by what he called deplorable events.

Mr. Bush presented the pope with America's highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The president spoke of the pope's faith and moral conviction in hoping to overcome injustice and oppression.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We appreciate the strong symbol of freedom that you have stood for. And we recognize the power of freedom to change societies and to change the world.


O'BRIEN: After he left the Vatican, Mr. Bush met with one of his strongest supporters on the war, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. He helped lay a wreath at the site of a World War II atrocity in which the Nazis killed 335 men and boys, some of them Jews. Sixty years ago today, during World War II, allied troops liberated Rome.

HEMMER: What a big weekend it's going to be there in Europe.

On another story, after serving as the head of the CIA under two presidents, seven years in total, CIA Director George Tenet says he will resign from that position in mid July. The embattled CIA chief yesterday said he's leaving for personal reasons. David Ensor covers this story for us in Washington and knows this topic better than anyone.

David, good morning.


Well, you know, Washington loves to speculate when there is a resignation, did he jump or was he pushed. But George Tenet and George Bush are both insisting it was the former. And as you mentioned, Tenet will have held one of the toughest jobs in the country for seven series when he leaves on July 11th.

He leaves bloodied, but unbowed. He's been criticized over the failure to stop 9/11 and over too much confidence that weapons of mass destruction would be found in Iraq. But he is proud there has been no major attack on the United States since 9/11, two-thirds of al Qaeda leaders are either dead or captured, and the U.S. intelligence community is being rebuilt and retooled to face the new challenges.


GEORGE TENET, CIA DIRECTOR: Our record is not without flaws. The world of intelligence is uniquely a human endeavor, and as in all human endeavors, we all understand the need to always do better. We're not perfect. But one of our best kept secrets is that we are very, very, very good.


ENSOR: And he's not the only senior CIA man leaving. This morning, Jim Pavitt, the director of operations, the man in charge of the nation's human spies, is telling his staff he'll be leaving this summer as well. They leave longtime Deputy Director of Central Intelligence John McLaughlin holding the fort probably until after the November election determines whether Mr. Bush or Mr. Kerry will pick his replacement -- Bill.

HEMMER: David, on our Web site you give some great insight into what's happening there in D.C. The title of the segments on our Web site, though, is whether or not Tenet is no longer useful for the president. Explain that. Is he useful or not at this point?

ENSOR: Well, he has been a lightning rod for criticism over the last months, especially since the Iraq war and since no weapons have been discovered there to speak of. It may be that there will be quite a lot more criticism this summer, though, with all of the reports that are planned on Capitol Hill and the 9/11 Commission report.

We're told that the Senate Intelligence Committee report on Iraq WMD is very critical of the intelligence community and specifically of George Tenet. He may have felt it was time to go. We understand that the president wanted him to stay through the election, but it was interesting to note that, while last year Mr. Tenet said he'd like to leave and the president said please don't, this time Mr. Tenet said he would like to leave and the president said, I regret it, but let's go ahead and announce that tomorrow morning.

HEMMER: David Ensor, thanks for that in Washington today. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, a member of the Senate Committee on Intelligence, earlier today I asked him whether or not now is the time to restructure the intelligence community.


SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, the reconstruction of the intelligence community didn't begin with George Tenet, nor does it begin with his resignation. We are going to have to completely restructure our community of intelligence networks, our focus, bring it into the 21st century so that, in fact, it's relevant to the threats of the 21st century. We are now dealing with a 20th century institution, and that's part of the problem that we've had over the last few years with our intelligence community.

HEMMER: There are at least two reports due out soon, one from the committee that you sit on in the Senate, critical of the intelligence community, critical of the claims of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Is that the reason why George Tenet gets out now?

HAGEL: I don't think so, Bill. There has been no secret made by George Tenet and others that he wanted out last year. He has said informally that he did not intend to be around next year.

I think he made a decision. And based on personal reasons, as he noted yesterday, that this was the right time to go. This is the second longest-serving CIA director in the history of the CIA. He has presided over the CIA during probably the most tumultuous, difficult times that we have seen in this country in a long time. So I don't think there is anything more to it than what Director Tenet said yesterday.

HEMMER: You said something there. You said it's the right time to go. What do you mean by that?

HAGEL: Well, it's the right time for him. He said, again, yesterday that it was for personal reasons, family reasons. He's been in this job for almost eight years, second longest-serving CIA director ever. And I think he, in his own mind, with his family and friends, decided that if there was a time to go, this was the right time to go.

HEMMER: Help us understand this. IN Bob Woodward's book, George Tenet is quoted as telling the president this is a slam-dunk case against Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Do those words come back to bite him and possibly force him out of this position?

HAGEL: Well, the words do come back to bite him. I'm sure George Tenet wishes he could take those words back. I don't know any of us in this business that are involved in public statements every day. Any of us who wouldn't like to take some of our words back.

Yes, I think he made a mistake. I think he's acknowledged those mistakes. But I don't think that was the reason for his resignation or any combination of forcing him out. (END VIDEOTAPE)

HEMMER: Senator Hagel also says the president should take his time in picking a successor to George Tenet. Some lawmakers have expressed doubt that the president will nominate a new CIA director in the middle of an election campaign.

Stay tuned for more -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Well, as you may recall, Private First Class Lynndie England is the female U.S. soldier seen in some of those photographs that were taken at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. England is charged with several counts, including assaulting Iraqi detainees and conspiring with other soldiers to mistreat prisoners. Joining us is this morning for an update on his client's case is the new lead attorney for Private England, Richard Hernandez.

Nice to see you, sir. Thanks for being with us.

RICHARD HERNANDEZ, ATTORNEY: Good morning. Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Good morning. You joined Ms. England's legal team this week. It was announced last night, I believe, that there is a plan to call in the vice president, Dick Cheney, and also the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, and have them be part of this trial? Is that right? Do you expect them actually to show up? And what exactly do you want to hear from them?

HERNANDEZ: Well, it's not actually a plan. As the military courts-martial and Article 32 hearings go, we can make a request of the government on which witnesses we would like the government to call. And they have been included in a witness list that's been forwarded to the military opposing counsel. Whether they will actually appear or not will be up to the government at the Article 32 hearing. What will happen at subsequent hearings is still up in the air.

O'BRIEN: What do you want to hear from them?

HERNANDEZ: There are memos that were generated that -- and all this information is in the media. It can be found on the Internet, and it's all public information. There were memos that were generated about the tactics that were being used and they were training the soldiers to use that could lead to prisoner abuse.

These memos go back as far as 1992 and maybe earlier. And these were in Mr. Cheney's previous position, not as his position as vice president. And they were warning how these abuses could come to light by orders from higher-ups. And when they do come to light, now it appears that PFC Lynndie England is going to be taking the fall for having followed those very orders that are interrogation techniques from the military manuals.

O'BRIEN: Well, let's talk a little bit about taking the fall, your words there. Lynndie England said, when asked, who told you to stand in these pictures and point to naked Iraqi prisoners and have a leash around the neck of one of the prisoners, things like that, she said that people higher up the chain of command told her to do that. Who specifically gave her that order?

HERNANDEZ: To this point, she has not answered that question, and she will not answer that question. She is not doing any interviews until the Article 32 hearing. As you know, anything she says can and will be used against her.

She has done interviews previously. I don't have all of the information to this point as I'm coming on to replace previous council. But that is not clear. But the pieces of the puzzle are nowhere near complete. All we're asking the public to do is to grant Lynndie the presumption of innocence that any person would have accused of a crime.

O'BRIEN: Here's another quote from your client. She said, "Everything we did was justified." Does Lynndie England think she did anything wrong whatsoever?

HERNANDEZ: Lynndie is willing to take responsibility for some of the actions that were morally incomprehensible to the general public. But as far as following what she was asked to do by her superiors, she is a private first class. There's pretty much nothing lower than a private first class in the Army. So everything came from superior enlisted -- or officers.

O'BRIEN: I'm sorry. I don't understand that answer. She's taken responsibility for some of the things that were morally incomprehensible to people? So are you saying that she knew what she was doing was wrong, but because she was the lowest ranking person there, she felt she had to do it anyway, even though morally she was opposed to it, ethically she knew she was doing the wrong thing?

HERNANDEZ: No. I believe in the interview she said she felt kind of weird doing these things. She didn't really understand why she was asked to do these things. So in the general public, when asked to do these things and asked to pose with naked men and -- in these photographs, the normal person would say that doesn't seem normal to me. But in the situation that she was in Iraq, in a prison where there are very serious prisoners, when she's asked by someone higher up to pose in these pictures to gain intelligence that may save lives, she is going to follow that order.

O'BRIEN: Historically, as you well know, the defense of "I was just following orders" does not work often. Is that your strategy here?

HERNANDEZ: That's correct. The distinction needs to be whether it was a lawful order or an unlawful order. If this was a lawful order, then it would be a defense. If this was an unlawful order, she would have to know. But as a private first class, it's very difficult for her to understand which orders are lawful and which ones are not.

So at this point, we've not pieced together the puzzle, which is why we are asking for additional documents from the government to put the puzzle together to find out whether this was, in fact, a lawful order and whether she should have followed the order. If she didn't follow the order, she would have been court-martialed as well. It was a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation.

O'BRIEN: Richard Hernandez is the attorney for Lynndie England joining us this morning. Mr. Hernandez, thanks for your time. Appreciate it.

HERNANDEZ: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: And it is now a quarter past the hour. Let's take a look at some of the other stories making headlines today. Heidi Collins has that.

Good morning, again.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you guys.

I want to get straight to Iraq this morning. The governor of Najaf now saying American troops and forces loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr have reached an agreement to withdraw from the holy cities of Najaf and Kufa. The U.S. military says it has agreed to move its forces to the outskirts of these sensitive areas, allowing Iraqi security forces to move in it.

But the violence continues in Baghdad, where an explosion hit a U.S. Army Humvee. There are reports of fatalities. Details still not yet clear on that.

Police in China apparently trying to keep things quiet in Tiananmen Square on the 15th anniversary of a military assault there. There are reports more than a dozen people have been detained. Not clear, though, whether the incident had anything to do with the anniversary.

In 1989, the Chinese military used tanks and automatic weapons to end a lengthy pro-democracy protest. Hundreds and possibly thousands of people were killed.

The trial of Scott Peterson in recess now till Monday. Laci Peterson's stepsister, Amy Rocha, testified yesterday about the evening before Laci was reported missing. Laci was there when Amy cut Scott's hair, and it was the last time Amy would see her big sister alive. The defense will continue with its cross-examination of Amy when testimony resumes on Monday.

Also, in California, near Stockton, concerns about drinking water after a levee breaks. It happened yesterday. Three hundred people were evacuated. Authorities are rushing to safeguard the water supply now, which could be affected. Cities as far away as San Jose and Los Angeles get their drinking water from the Delta.

And can he make it for one more win? Smarty Jones taking a practice gallop yesterday on the track in Belmont Park. There he is. He's already won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, as you well know by now. A victory tomorrow could make him the first Triple Crown winner in 26 years. They're calling it a Smarty party. And I'll be there! I'm going. I'm very excited.

O'BRIEN: Well, that's nice.

COLLINS: Of course they say, though, that there will be a whole bunch of betting going on. Like this is common because people try to buy a souvenir ticket for $2 but then they get paid $2.80 because of the odds, two to five.

HEMMER: If it pans out.

COLLINS: Yes, if it pans out.

O'BRIEN: And if it's raining.


HEMMER: Thank you.

Question of the Day -- to Jack.

O'BRIEN: Hi, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Thank you, Bill.

Arkansas, mandated by law down there that the schools have to tell parents if their kids are fat. Like the parents just couldn't look at the kid and figure it out on their own. There is actually a law there requiring the schools to measure the kid's height and weight, then calculate something called the body mass index.

The results are a little scary. Forty percent of Arkansas students are fatter than they should be. The school sends recommendations home to the parents, suggesting a healthier diet, exercise or whatever. The question this morning is, are weight report cards a good idea?

Bob writes this from Piscataway, New Jersey: "Jack, when old bats like us were in high school" -- hey, Bob -- "we worked to achieve the presidential fitness medal during the Kennedy administration, this was. Then political correctness and a bunch of overweight judges decided that mandatory PE was a bad things. Students could not achieve might have a damaged ego. And political correctness demands that every American has a right to never be offended or have his or her self-esteem damaged."

Steve in Ohio, "They are not a good idea. They are detrimental to our children's self-esteem. If we teach them that there is a certain image they must look like, we restrict the future of their minds and destroy their character."

Lee in Gainesville, Florida, "The state and federal bureaucrats who are telling us the obvious are the ones who have cut all the PE classes from our schools' programs. In the few schools that still have such programs, they are electives, not part of the required curriculum. Typical government, create a problem and then tell us it's our problem and demand that we fix it."

And finally, from a doctor in Richmond -- Adam, rather, writes this: "I'm a pediatrician. The number of overweight kids I see is overwhelming. I think any method that gets the point across to cut down on fast food and endless hours in front of TV, except CNN, of course, is a great idea."

Thanks for the inclusion, doc. We appreciate it. We'll do one more batch of these later.

HEMMER: What's going on this weekend, Jack?

CAFFERTY: In my life? Oh, "IN THE MONEY." I don't think I have any plans.

"IN THE MONEY," which we air on Saturday at 1:00 and Sunday at 3:00, the allegation the media has an incurable liberal bias is old news. But here's a different twist.

A recent graduate claims most American college campuses are dominated by liberal faculty members -- duh -- who brainwash young impressionable minds. Join us this weekend when we talk to Ben Shapiro bout his new book. It's called "Brainwashed."

It's "IN THE MONEY." Thank you, Bill, for the heads up. Saturday at 1:00 and Sunday at 3:00.

HEMMER: I'm here for you.

CAFFERTY: Hope you'll join us.

O'BRIEN: Yes, we're here to help.

HEMMER: Thank you, Jack.



O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, the very inspiring story of Kimberly Davis. You will not believe the tough road that she took to eventually get to college. We've got her story. We chat with her just ahead.

HEMMER: Also in a moment, how do you spell success? This guy knows. We'll talk to the new National Spelling Bee champ, and also the runner-up, too. They've got a great story, the two of them. And you'll hear it in a moment.

O'BRIEN: Also, the last "Sopranos" of the season is on Sunday. We will talk with Carmela Soprano herself. Well, actually, Edie Falco, who plays Carmela. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. Stay with us. We're right back after this short break.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is going on with him? Every time I go by the room, he's flopped down on the bed.

EDIE FALCO, ACTRESS, "THE SOPRANOS": I am so sick of nagging him. And if he thinks he's going to get into East Stousberg State (ph), he is sadly mistaken.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at this kid out there, the gardener's son. Can't ask this one to take out the trash.

FALCO: Poverty is a great motivator.


O'BRIEN: She is the woman behind the head of television's most powerful crime family. But truth be told, season five of "The Sopranos," which concludes on Sunday night, has been an exercise in independence for Carmela Soprano. Earlier this morning, we were thrilled to be joined by the award-winning actress, Edie Falco. And I asked her point blank to just go ahead and tell us what happens, how does the season end.

EDIE FALCO, ACTRESS, "THE SOPRANOS": Well, it starts out...

O'BRIEN: Reveal all!

FALCO: I can't remember, to be honest with you. We shot it a long time ago.

O'BRIEN: Does it feel weird to have the season over? I mean, you have a long time now before you have to go back to work.

FALCO: Yeah, it does feel weird. It's too much time and it's not enough time, you know?

O'BRIEN: Good weird?

FALCO: Yes, definitely good weird. For an actor to have time off and know you have a job coming up, yes, it's great.

O'BRIEN: So what you do you do in between? You just hang out at home, eat Bon-Bons, sit in bed?

FALCO: Theoretically, yes.


O'BRIEN: What do you do? What do you do?

FALCO: I'm one of them, but so far, I've actually done that. I vacationed and had taken some time off and had a great time. But I think I'm going to do a play in the fall which I miss when too much time goes by. O'BRIEN: Which do you like better? Because, of course, you've done other plays. And very successfully, I might add.

FALCO: Thank you. I love them both. They're completely different. They're completely different. If I do one for too long, I definitely miss the other one.

O'BRIEN: So this thing with Carmela, you know, it's interesting, because you see Carmela Soprano kicks out Tony. Everyone said steps towards independence. Now apparently back in. So what is the moral?

FALCO: Well, the moral is whatever script you get as an actor you have to act out in front of cameras.

O'BRIEN: No? You don't have a say at all?

FALCO: I'm sure I could if I felt that was my place. But, you know, David Chase and the writers have an idea, an overall idea about this show that I am not -- not that I'm not privy to but, you know, they have a bigger plan.

O'BRIEN: You're in the character's head. So what does it mean? You know, what do we take from that, that Carmela...

FALCO: I've had to justify for six years living with a guy who kills people for a living. So, believe me, this makes as much sense as anything else she's had to deal with. So I can make it work.

O'BRIEN: Next season is the last season, isn't it?

FALCO: Yeah, it is.

O'BRIEN: How does that feel?

FALCO: It makes me very sad because it's been a tremendous ride. And I also feel like it's the perfect time for it to end. Hopefully, people will still be enthusiastic about it. I have a lot of respect for someone who wants to walk away from something while it's still in its heyday, I suppose.

And if he said we're going to do another 10 years, I'd be thrilled about that. I'm easy going when it comes to...


O'BRIEN: So give me a sense. What can you tell me about the finale? What can you reveal? What happens to some characters?

Come on. Just a little. We won't tell anybody right here on AMERICAN MORNING.

FALCO: Not a thing.

O'BRIEN: Really?

FALCO: I actually was trying to come up with something even as a joke.

O'BRIEN: Really?

FALCO: I am so well trained by this organization.

O'BRIEN: I read that you don't even tell your mom.

FALCO: Not even my mom.

O'BRIEN: Was your mom -- your family members hit you up for information?

FALCO: Constantly. You would think after all these years they would know. But...

O'BRIEN: Mothers never quit.

FALCO: No. It's adorable, too. She does what you did. So what is going to happen on this?


O'BRIEN: Edie Falco talking to us. Again, "The Sopranos" season finale is this Sunday night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern right on HBO.


HEMMER: And millions are going to tune in for that.

In a moment, Soledad, remembering D-Day. An amazing look back through the eyes of some of the men who lived it.

Also, taking a spill on stage. We we'll a talk to the boy who added a bit of drama to the National Spelling Bee. And we'll also talk to the champ.

Back in a moment after this.


HEMMER: Welcome back, everybody -- 9:30 here in New York. In a moment, on AMERICAN MORNING, D-Day commemorations take place all weekend in France. The president will be there on Sunday, of course.

Also, the invasion is being remembered in this country. In a few moments, memories from one of the Americans who patrolled the sky at that pivotal moment in history, telling the story of the thunderbolt. Stay tuned for that.

O'BRIEN: Also this morning, two kids, both of them have minds like a steel trap. They are fresh off the National Spelling Bee, winning first and second place. And this year's event was a real nail biter. Lots of drama. We're going to hear from both of them in just a few moments.

HEMMER: So, so smart, too. In the meantime, though, President Bush will be in Normandy, France, on Sunday to help commemorate the 60th anniversary of D-Day. Today, about 500 veterans were honored at a medal ceremony near where they stormed the Nazi-defended beaches about six decades ago. A majority of the honorees were British, but there were about 30 Americans being recognized there today.

Meanwhile, here in this country, in the U.S., a massive new addition to the Museum of Flight in Seattle opens on Sunday. The Personal Courage Wing will feature some of the planes that helped the D-Day invasion succeed. In Seattle this morning, here is Kimberly Osias.


KIMBERLY OSIAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a time like no other. From 1939 to 1945, the world endured a war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no good war. And I'll be the first to admit that. But it was the right thing to do.

OSIAS: It was a time of unity, a time of national pride.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the murderous sands of Normandy...

OSIAS: Retired Colonel Ralph Jenkins (ph) was there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In order to reach Normandy, we had to fly due south to the Omaha and Utah beaches.

OSIAS: With his P-47...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's my baby.

OSIAS: ... a tough war bird, capable of dropping two 500-pound bombs from each wing. And firepower, too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three thousand two hundred rounds of 50- caliber ammunition that fed the eight machineguns.

OSIAS: The Thunderbolt is arguably one of the greatest fighters of World War II.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was vital. Absolutely vital.

OSIAS: Their control of the skies cut off German supply lines, giving confidence to the front lines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bottom line, we were doing our best to help the boys on the ground, the dough boys.

OSIAS: The airmen were tight with each other.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love those men.

OSIAS: And their machines. (on camera): You give a lot of credit to actually coming home to the P-47.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I certainly do.

OSIAS (voice-over): Four hundred five thousand never came home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had really severe losses in aircraft and people.

OSIAS: Which made the men of the 510 F Squadron that Jenkins (ph) commanded even more bonded.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were a great team of brothers.

OSIAS: Brothers not by birth but by a shared experience.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I keep calling them up and telling them that I'm thinking about them. There's not many left, but we stay in touch.

OSIAS: A bond for life between soldiers, their planes, and the history they forever changed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll never forget D-Day, 6th of June, 1944.

OSIAS: Kimberly Osias, CNN, Seattle, Washington.


HEMMER: Kimberly, thanks for that. More expansions over the next 10 years will make the Museum of Flight the largest independent air and space museum here in this country.


O'BRIEN: Well, some high drama at the National Spelling Bee -- 265 kids were feeling the pressure this week as they competed. And so much pressure, in fact, that one contestant actually passed out. In the end, though, the winner, Indiana teenager David Tidmarsh, had the last word: autochthonous

Not even close, am I, David?



TIDMARSH: A-u-t-o-c-h-t-h-o-n-o-u-s, autochthonous.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are the champion.


(END VIDEO CLIP) O'BRIEN: Kind of close, David. That word, autochthonous, incase you're wondering, means indigenous or native. And, in fact, David won some $12,000, I believe, in this contest. Really $20,000 if you add up all of the other prizes as well.

Thanks for joining us this morning.

Also joining us is Akshay Buddiga. When we talked about one contestant who passed out, that was you because the pressure was so intense.

So let's start, guys, by talking a little bit about the pressure. Every time I see that videotape, I'm anxious. A-u -- what is the pressure like?

TIDMARSH: It's really -- you can't even describe it. You know, you're competing for more than $10,000, $12,000 in cash and other prizes. And if you win, it's going to be something that's going to affect you for the rest of your life. And it -- you -- you just -- your palms start sweating, your heart -- your heartbeat increases, and you just have to kind of blank it out and try to forget about it.

O'BRIEN: The whole thing is focus. Actually, what exactly happened? The word that you were spelling, what was it, the one that you passed out on?


O'BRIEN: Alopecoid, which means...

BUDDIGA: Like a fox.

O'BRIEN: A fox?


O'BRIEN: You know what, they should just say fox, then. Because alopecoid is way too long. What happened? Do you remember?

BUDDIGA: Yes. It was because of the lights and the cameras and the photographers. And I wasn't sure how to spell the word. I had a good guess, but I wasn't sure. And I hadn't had a good lunch or anything.

O'BRIEN: So you started feeling queasy and just...


O'BRIEN: But then, seconds later, we see in this videotape you get right back up there and you spell the word. I mean, that's pretty incredible.

BUDDIGA: Yeah. I couldn't see before I passed out. But once I hit the ground, I regained my eyesight. So then I got up and I told myself I have to finish spelling the word. I didn't really care if I got it right or not. Just get it over with. O'BRIEN: Wow. So the passing out sort of helped you in a little bit of a way.

Give me a sense of how you study for something like this. I mean, do you know what these words mean? Or is it a matter of just figuring -- everyone always says give me the root of origin. How do you basically study for these things?

TIDMARSH: You know, the definitions sometimes do help because sometimes you can figure out part of a word's spelling by its definition because there are certain, you know, maybe patterns of root words that you can find out.

O'BRIEN: Do your mom and dad go through the dictionary and say, OK, here is a long one. Spell this one for me. I mean, is that how it works? You just run through words?

BUDDIGA: Yeah. And there's some lists you can study too that the spelling bee people give you. So you try to memorize those words.

O'BRIEN: What does it feel like to be the champ and the runner- up? Tons of money, as you say.


O'BRIEN: How do you feel today?

TIDMARSH: I feel pretty excited. I still can't believe that I won.

O'BRIEN: And how about you?

BUDDIGA: I'm very happy because I got second, and that's really cool.

O'BRIEN: That's great. This is your first year competing.


O'BRIEN: Only your second year competing. As you mentioned, we're talking about thousands of dollars now that you get to take home. What are you going to do with the money?

TIDMARSH: I'll probably put most of it to college or probably somewhere down the line.

O'BRIEN: You've got to buy one thing. What are you going to buy?

TIDMARSH: I'd like to buy a new computer. Our old one is falling apart.

O'BRIEN: Good for you.

And how about you, Akshay?

BUDDIGA: Same here. I'm going to buy a computer. But the rest I'm going to save for college.

O'BRIEN: Good you for. Well, congratulations, guys, David and Akshay. Nice to see you. Thanks for coming in to talk to us about your big victory.

We can't pronounce any of these words. And not only that, we can't even come close to spelling them. So we are all duly impressed. Nice to have you.


HEMMER: Congratulations. Well done.

In a moment here, a young woman who just would not give up. From a broken home to homeless, she's about to start college. You'll meet her in a moment and hear her story as well.

Also, the president comes face to face with the pope earlier today. We'll talk about that meeting in a moment when we continue after this.


HEMMER: Fourteen minutes before the hour. Check of the news yet again with Heidi Collins, talking about the president. That tour in Italy continues today.

Good morning.

COLLINS: Yes, it certainly does. Thanks, Bill.

President Bush in Italy. The first stop of that European trip we've been talking about. The president laying a wreath at a World War II site with Italy's prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi. The two also discussed Iraq.

Earlier, Mr. Bush was at the Vatican, where he held private talks with Pope John Paul, II. The president also presented the pontiff with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. President Bush will be in Paris tomorrow.

White House officials are defending the record of outgoing CIA Chief George Tenet. Tenet announced his resignation yesterday, citing personal reasons. His decision comes just days before the expected release of reports criticizing intelligence failures by the CIA and other agencies. No permanent replacement has yet been named to the position.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon working to win approval for his new Gaza withdrawal plan. Prime Minister Sharon today handing out walking papers to two right wing ministers from his cabinet. Mr. Sharon had threatened last week to remove any members who would not support his withdrawal plan.

The new plan calls for Israelis to pull out of Gaza and parts of the West Bank in four stages. The original version was voted down last month.

And we just had to show you these pictures. Some call it as art, some call it weird. Others pretty much just see it as lunch.

An artist in New York City covered a four-poster bed with 312 pounds of sliced ham. The artist is apparently best known for his work with cheese. It took three-and-a-half hours to put the work of art together. Luckily, the room at the gallery is air-conditioned. Because otherwise I'm sure the smell in there would be art of its own form.

HEMMER: Care for a sandwich?

COLLINS: Yuck. Is that art?

O'BRIEN: That makes me so hungry looking at that picture. How weird is that?

HEMMER: I know!


O'BRIEN: Oh, I'm so starving. A ham sandwich sounds so good right now.

HEMMER: OK, Heidi. Have a great weekend.

O'BRIEN: Thanks, Heidi.

COLLINS: Thank you.

HEMMER: You're the only one pregnant, that's obvious. Looking at that picture didn't make me hungry.

Question of the day, are weight report cards a good idea? In Arkansas, they have a law where the schools weigh the kids and if they're fat, they send a note home with the parents saying the kids fat and then you're supposed to, you know, make the necessary adjustments to get the kids weight under control. But it's a loq, they have to do it.

The first letter comes from Van Buren, Arkansas: "Jack, you hit the nail on the head concerning the amount of junk food allowed in the schools. Not only are the schools in our area full of junk foods in vending machines, but there's also a lunch cart brought out that serves deep fried chicken strips, pizza, et cetera."

Kyle writes, "Weight report cards probably not a good idea, but they're a necessary evil. I'm a personal trainer in New York City, and I do home care with many of my clients. Most of them have children whose primary form of entertainment is surfing the net or playing video games. They usually end up snacking on all sorts of sugary or fatty items."

And Jim in Cambridge, New York, writes, "There's a cure for overweight kids, diet and exercise. What we really need are report cards with a cure for fatheaded legislators."

Right on, Jamie. In a moment here, think you had it tough? You ought to hear young Kimberly Davis' story. She is about to start college, and she is no ordinary student, not by a long shot. We'll meet her after this.



O'BRIEN: Our "Extra Effort" series is a weekly tribute to those who go the extra mile to help others. And this morning, a young woman who overcame tremendous odds to graduate from high school and is now headed to college. Along the way, Kimberly Davis received love and support along the way from one of her mentors, Marilyn Ballard, who earned the nickname "godmother." I spoke to both of them and I asked Kim how she felt when she finally got her diploma.



O'BRIEN: You're the first in your family, right, to graduate from high school, is that right?


O'BRIEN: I know that you have said a lot of that is due to the woman who is sitting next to you, Marilyn Ballard, who is joining us for a little support this morning as well. She's your godmother. You call her your godmother. Why, Kim?

DAVIS: Because she's someone who inspired me, someone who helped me when I needed it, and told me what I did wrong and helped me fix it.

O'BRIEN: Kind of keep you a little bit in line. I know that you're really not technically, Ms. Ballard, her godmother. You're the school nurse, who met Kim back when she was just in sixth grade. Tell me a little bit about how your relationship developed.

MARILYN BALLARD, KIM'S MENTOR: She was a shy, young sweet little thing, and she just needed a lot of help and a lot of guidance. And just a lot of assistance and teaching with her asthma and learning how to use her meds. And we just came to be very good friends and to love one another.

O'BRIEN: Kim, Ms. Ballard's own daughter calls you her adopted sister, to some degree. Tell me a little bit about what Ms. Ballard did for you.

DAVIS: She basically took care of me when I needed it, got me my meds when I needed it.

O'BRIEN: Got you to field trips, paid for a lot of that stuff, and kind of picked up a lot of the slack. I know you've had a tough family life. You were homeless at 14, carried around a lot of your stuff in a bag because you really weren't sure where you were going to be spending the night. How do you think you were able to make it when so many other young women are not?

DAVIS: The reason why I made it? Because we're totally different people from other people. And I have motivation and self- esteem, and I think motivation is the key to success.

O'BRIEN: You always knew you were going to make it no matter what?


O'BRIEN: What do you think, Ms. Ballard? What do you think is the key to Kim's success?

BALLARD: She just never would quit. She kept going and let nothing stop her.

O'BRIEN: If I were going to chat with you in another 10 years, what are you doing?

DAVIS: I will be in school. After two years, I will go to a university. I don't know which one. Work on my career in nursing and then plan for my future.

O'BRIEN: Wonderful. Congratulations to you, Kimberly Davis, and Marilyn Ballard. Thanks for being with us, ladies. I sure appreciate it.

Kim, a big congratulations to you. We're all rooting for you. Good for you.

BALLARD: Thank you very much.

O'BRIEN: My pleasure.

BALLARD: We appreciate it.

O'BRIEN: Take care. Bye.

BALLARD: Bye-bye.



O'BRIEN: So cute. I loved her.

HEMMER: She has a great smile, too.

O'BRIEN: She does. A million-watt smile.

HEMMER: Yes. In a moment here, next hour on CNN, more on the president's meeting with the pope earlier today and the latest on what Italy plans to do to make sure any protests do not get out of hand. Daryn Kagan has that next hour on "CNN LIVE TODAY." We're back in a moment on a Friday morning.


HEMMER: On Monday, live from "The View."

O'BRIEN: It kind of feels like "The View" with all the...

CAFFERTY: She looks like Star Jones.



O'BRIEN: Star's looking very good. She's been losing some weight.

COLLINS: She has.

O'BRIEN: That girl looks good. You go, Star. Jack! I'm getting bigger every minute. Star is looking good.

CAFFERTY: We know.

HEMMER: We've got to one. Here is Daryn Kagan at the CNN Center.

Hey, Daryn. Save us.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: You know, know one loves Jack Cafferty more than I do, but I have to defend my girlfriend, Soledad, here.

O'BRIEN: Thank you, Daryn.

KAGAN: The woman is at the end of pregnancy with twins. And, America, does she look beautiful and great? She does.

O'BRIEN: Thank you, Daryn. It's all about chick power today.

CAFFERTY: Thanks for your help, Daryn.

KAGAN: Yes. You know I love you, too, Jack, but come on.

O'BRIEN: She started by saying she loved you. What do you want?

KAGAN: I did. I know.

O'BRIEN: Thanks, Daryn.

KAGAN: Well, you can only do so much. Hey, you guys have a great day there in New York City.

HEMMER: You do the same.

KAGAN: We'll get started here. We're at CNN headquarters in Atlanta. I'm Daryn Kagan. We begin with the headlines.

President Bush is beginning his three-day European trip in Italy. That's where he'll meet with a strong ally, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, in a few hours. Earlier, Mr. Bush presented Pope...

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