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CNN NEWSNIGHT AARON BROWN
Terror Plot in Ohio Thwarted; State Department Cites Wrong Terrorism Figures
Aired June 14, 2004 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again.
The day has a back to reality quality about it. After last week's pause for the state funeral of President Reagan today was a nasty wake up that the problems we left behind haven't gone anywhere.
The insurgents in Iraq continue to wage their war against the occupation and the interim government. Their car bombs continue to kill. The attacks on the new government continue to be deadly.
At, at home, the fallout from the war continues to bedevil the administration. In the week just passed it became clear how much about the prisoner abuse scandal remains to be known about who knew what and when.
Last week was in an odd sort of way a welcomed respite, a trip back. The present returned today. It returned with news of an indictment, a suspect and an alleged plot against middle America.
CNN's Kelli Arena reports for us, Kelli start the whip with a headline.
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, charges today against a Somali man who was living and working in Ohio. The government says he planned to blow up a shopping mall.
BROWN: Kelli, to you at the top tonight.
On to an about face and red faces at the State Department and elsewhere about the measure of terrorism that apparently measured wrong, CNN's David Ensor covering, David the headline.
DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, in late April the State Department announced with some pride that terrorism worldwide was going down. It turns out the statistics they were using were wrong in several ways. It's actually going up.
The mistake gave the administration's critics an inviting target and led to a what went wrong meeting today between the secretary of state and those responsible for the report and that couldn't have been fun, that meeting -- Aaron.
BROWN: David, thank you.
Finally to Baghdad after another difficult day for the troops, the contractors and the Iraqis themselves, CNN's Jane Arraf with the watch, Jane a headline.
JANE ARRAF, CNN BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF: Aaron, a suicide car bomb at morning rush hour makes it painfully apparent that Iraqis could indeed be in for several weeks of intense attacks before the handover to power.
BROWN: Jane, thank you. We'll get back to you and the rest in a moment.
Also coming up on the program tonight we celebrate a magazine legend's birthday. Margaret Bourke-White would have been 100 years old today. Well, she's longer with us. Her photos are and that in itself is something to celebrate.
Plus, former President Clinton returns to the White House and this time he's not leading.
And you know him, you love him, the rooster stops by later with your morning papers if we get the printer to work downstairs, we shall see, all that and more in the hour ahead.
We begin tonight in a familiar place with the attorney general of the United States standing in front of the cameras naming names, leveling charges and telling of a disaster averted, this time a plot to blow up a shopping mall in central Ohio. We've been here before knowing just enough to pass on one side of a terrifying story.
Here's CNN's Kelli Arena.
ARENA (voice-over): U.S. officials say they may have thwarted a devastating attack on an Ohio shopping mall.
JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: The American heartland was targeted for death and destruction by an al Qaeda cell, which allegedly including a Somali immigrant who will now face justice.
ARENA: Nuradin Abdi, a 32-year-old Somali, is charged with providing material support to al Qaeda for allegedly conspiring to set off a bomb at an unidentified mall.
KEVIN BROCK, FBI: There can be a presumption perhaps that because the conspirators were in our area that they were looking at malls in our area but we don't have that specificity.
ARENA: As the charges were read in court, Abdi did not enter a plea. His brothers insist he is innocent.
MOHAMED ABDIKARAMI, BROTHER: I think of it as all lies and stuff because it's not something that Nuradin would be capable of doing. Usually he would be the guy that would hate terrorism.
ARENA: One of Abdi's co-conspirators, according to the government, was convicted al Qaeda operative Iyman Faris, who is already serving 20 years in prison. Law enforcement officials say Abdi was under surveillance before being taken into immigration custody in November. He's also charged with fraud and misuse of documents.
The FBI says the shopping mall plot was just one of the threats associated with Abdi but it's the only one listed in the indictment. Terror experts say malls are wide open to attack.
KEN PIERNICK, FORMER FBI COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: The bomb, if it's a suicide bomb, can be constructed just about any place and then freely transported. We don't have internal security checkpoints to stop people to look for the contents of their vehicles.
ARENA: The FBI and Homeland Security officials insist there was no imminent danger and sources say the plot was in the very early stages. Still, officials say, the investigation into Abdi and anyone he associated with continues -- Aaron.
BROWN: What, if anything, do we know about the evidence in the case?
ARENA: Well, I'll tell you, Aaron, there was no information about any purchase of explosives or any explosives found. What the government has in black and white is that he allegedly went to a military style training camp in Ethiopia, got some training in weapons and explosives, also had allegedly received some explosives training from a co-conspirator, that he had lied for immigration documents, provided false information but not much in terms of this plot to allegedly blow up a mall.
And repeatedly our sources said this was very, very early, very, very early. And so the question then is well then why take him in when he was under surveillance at that point? Another question we could not get answered we were told there were lots of factors at play, that this investigation is ongoing, that it may become clearer as the government is allowed to say more -- Aaron.
BROWN: We will be watching, Kelli, thank you, Kelli Arena in Washington tonight.
All this comes at a somewhat difficult time for the administration. Lost in the reporting of President Reagan's passing was the admission that a report used by the White House to show progress on the war on terror in fact showed just the opposite.
Whether the administration engaged in that bipartisan tradition of dumping bad news when the media's attention is elsewhere is something for the cynics to fight over. Clearly, attention has now returned. Secretary of State Powell got a grilling on the Sunday talk shows about what went wrong and today apparently did some grilling himself.
Again, here's CNN's David Ensor.
ENSOR (voice-over): For John Brennan, head of the Terrorist Threat Integration Center at the CIA, the meeting with an exasperated Secretary of State Colin Powell to discuss why the numbers TTIC provided for the State Department terrorism report was so wrong cannot have been pleasant. Powell has said he's not a happy camper and called the situation very embarrassing.
COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: It's a very big mistake and we are not happy about this big mistake.
REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: I think this is more than the second time this administration has been caught issuing a report that they've had to retract.
ENSOR: And it is at least the second time for Powell, who was sent to the U.N. to present evidence Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, weapons that have yet to be found.
Critics immediately questioned whether the numbers in the terrorism report, which lowball attacks in 2003, could have been tampered with to allow the administration to crow about winning the war on terrorism.
RICHARD ARMITAGE, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: Indeed you will find in these pages clear evidence that we are prevailing in the fight.
ENSOR: The report said there were 190 acts of international terrorism in 2003, a slight drop from 198 acts in 2002 and the lowest number in 35 years but the report left out the two November bombings in Turkey that killed 61 and left out 13 attacks in Russia attributed to Chechens that killed 244 people. Just add those and you have 205 attacks in 2003 an increase and there were many other smaller attacks left out as well.
WAXMAN: Now, Secretary Powell called me and said it was not politically motivated and I'm going to accept his word on it. He's trying to get this report redone but I told him he could see how we would jump to a different conclusion when his own people were taking a flawed report and using it for their own political purposes.
POWELL: It's a numbers error. It's not a political judgment that said let's see if we can cook the books. You can't get away with that now. Nobody was out to cook the books. Errors crept in.
ENSOR: At the CIA, a spokesman said the same. He said it was human error. One can only imagine what a secretary of state already unhappy with the intelligence he was given on Iraqi WMD may have said behind closed doors today, definitely a trip to the woodshed for some CIA and State Department officials -- Aaron.
BROWN: Look, as you know better than any of us, these reports are theoretically at least vetted and then vetted again at every stage of the game, so how does the -- if we know the answer to this do we know where the first errors were made and how they got through the vetting process at all?
ENSOR: Well, we know that the numbers were originally put together at TTIC. This is the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, which was only set up last year and that may partly explain why the mistake was made this year.
But you're right. These numbers are supposed to be vetted and you can imagine that all the vetters were probably in the room today too and there must have been some red faces, as you mentioned because everybody missed it.
BROWN: For a while they did, David thank you, David Ensor in Washington tonight.
On now to Iraq where once again the last few days have been bloody and once again they seem to fit a pattern. The insurgents are targeting those who are trying to rebuild the country or simply hold it together and, in that regard, they are largely succeeding and, even when they don't, ordinary Iraqis suffer.
Here's CNN's Jane Arraf.
ARRAF (voice-over): Morning rush hour turned into a desperate rush to rescue survivors. Most of the victims of this latest car bomb were working class Iraqis but the target appeared to be the coalition.
As a convoy of western contractors drove through this densely packed street a suspected suicide car bomb packed with more than half a ton of explosives detonated. Three General Electric employees and two of their security personnel were killed. The dead included two Britons, an American and a French national.
Some of the dozens of wounded were carried into nearby hospitals. Iraq's new political leaders warned that Iraqis could see the worst violence in the coming weeks since the end of major combat.
IYAD ALLAWI, IRAQI INTERIM PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I would like to say that the situation will be escalating in the coming days and we know the objectives behind these attacks. But I would like to say that we will achieve victory and we will protect our people from all of these criminal and vicious crimes against the Iraqi people.
ARRAF: In the meantime, the car bombs, almost one a day this month and political assassinations continue. On the weekend Deputy Foreign Minister Bassam Salih Kubba was shot dead. A senior Education Ministry official gunned down a day later.
In the streets near the blast Monday, some Iraqis took out their anger on reporters, on American soldiers and on what was left of the vehicles blaming the U.S. for not preventing attacks like this.
ARRAF: Attacks that won't stop until Iraqis can prevent them themselves, officials say, and that won't happen until the new Iraqi Police and security forces are strong enough to secure this country themselves -- Aaron.
BROWN: Did anyone take responsibility for these car bombs for these attacks, for the attacks on the government officials, any of them?
ARRAF: That's the interesting thing, Aaron, very rarely do we hear claims of responsibility. Once in a while a shadowy group will say that it did such and such an attack but not very often and that's maybe part of the whole terror campaign that you don't know where it's coming from.
Now the finger on this one has been immediately pointed at Mussab Abu Zarqawi, the Jordanian fugitive but there's no real proof and Iraqis themselves, like the ones we saw in that video on the street, they're convinced that it's nothing so simple as that, that it isn't Iraqis responsible but it could be practically anyone -- Aaron.
BROWN: Do they think the Americans are responsible for these attacks or are they simply angry at the Americans for not preventing these attacks?
ARRAF: Most of them believe that it was the Americans' responsibility to make sure that they were safe.
ARRAF: If they were going to be liberated from Saddam, part of the bargain had to be that it wouldn't be even more dangerous afterwards but there are some who do believe that, yes, the Americans are responsible for these attacks and they always have and they probably always will -- Aaron.
BROWN: Jane, thank you, Jane Arraf back in Baghdad tonight.
Some back and forth today over thousands of detainees being held by the American forces in Iraq and one in particular, Saddam Hussein. Tonight, Pentagon officials tell us all the detainees will stay in American custody after the transfer of power if necessary until the United States is satisfied with Iraqi arrangements for securing them. The answer came in response to an interview with Iraq's interim prime minister which aired on Al-Jazeera earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALLAWI (through translator): All the current detainees will be transferred to the Iraqi authorities and this transporting operation will be done within the next two weeks. Saddam and the others will be delivered to the Iraqis, to the Iraqi government.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BROWN: When asked again about Saddam Hussein, Mr. Allawi again said yes he will be turned over and yes American officials had told him that. We'll see, still a lot to talk about.
Joining us now in Baghdad is "Newsweek's" Bureau Chief Rod Nordland. We're always pleased to see him, Rod, good morning to you. I hope you can hear me OK. Can you hear me all right?
ROD NORDLAND, "NEWSWEEK" BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF: Good morning.
BROWN: There you go.
NORDLAND: Everything is fine now, thanks.
BROWN: How have things changed in a sense in a week? Is there this continued good feeling towards the interim government, at least to give them a chance?
NORDLAND: Yes, I think there is but in the last week there's been a real increase in incidents, not just this car bombing but a kind of steady stream of car bombings, attacks on government officials and the tempo is really quite astonishing.
We've had 17 suicide car bombings mostly in Baghdad just in this week and that's really fraying people's nerves. Nonetheless, I think they do still have a fair amount of goodwill toward their own government and they're looking forward to seeing. They kind of have this naive hope that they'll be able to take over and do something about it.
And I think that it will take some of the pressure off the Americans. We get blamed for everything now, even car bombings that are pretty clearly not the operation of anybody that's friendly with the Americans.
And once there's a new government and if they do look toward that as a sovereign government it will be somebody that will perhaps take some of the share of the blame for things.
BROWN: We're going to talk a bit on the program tonight about the insurgency and the insurgents and you've done some writing about this as well. The notion that Mr. Brahimi put forward that basically somehow the Americans or the new Iraqi government needs to include the insurgents in the establishment, in the government itself.
NORDLAND: Yes. I don't think he would suggest or anybody would really accept the idea of bringing into the government people that set off suicide car bombs but there are a lot of different levels of insurgency or levels of opposition.
And there's certainly a strong feeling that this insurgency couldn't go forward without a lot of support from large sectors of Iraqi society and it's those sectors that needed to be brought into the government if they're going to be able to really prevent this insurgency. There's, you know, at the end of that process hopefully we'll be left with a terrorism problem like lots of countries have terrorism problems but not the widespread support that we see now for the insurgency.
BROWN: Do you think within anything you've heard that within the interim government itself this notion has legs?
NORDLAND: I think it has legs especially with Sunnis. I think a lot of the Shia members of the government are much more skeptical. The insurgency, after all, is largely a Shia insurgency with the exception of Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mehdi Army and they've been brought into the fold now. They've kind of agreed to cooperate with the process and that's a very, very big step forward. But, as far as some of the underground opposition groups and the Sunni support for them, I think it's going to be harder to bring them into the process.
BROWN: Rod, good to see you, Rod Nordland, the Bureau Chief for "Newsweek" magazine in Baghdad.
NORDLAND: A pleasure.
BROWN: Ahead on the program tonight, an American man held hostage in Saudi Arabia, an al Qaeda extremist possibly to blame and the desperate hunt on for both.
Plus, the quiet insurgency in Iraq how mothers, brothers, uncles, children are taking up the cause. Photojournalist Molly Bingham joins us to talk about that. We take a break first.
From New York this is NEWSNIGHT.
BROWN: This time the oak trees wrapped with yellow ribbons are in a yard in Florida where today the son said he would gladly trade places with his father, an American engineer apparently kidnapped this weekend by Islamic militants in Saudi Arabia, the abduction just the latest attack targeting westerners there.
Today the U.S. ambassador to the kingdom said the Saudi government is doing all it can to find the employee of Lockheed Martin, reporting the story for us tonight, CNN's Nic Robertson.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These pictures may be U.S. contractor Paul Johnson's best hope of release right now but it's not much. His driver's license and passport posted on an Islamic extremist or jihadi Web site slender clues for the Saudi authorities hunting his kidnappers.
PAUL JOHNSON, SON OF KIDNAP VICTIM: He's worked for the Saudi government really for the last ten years of his life and I think that ought to be worth something to them and I hope -- I hope and I pray to God that they are trying to do something. ROBERTSON: In Saudi Arabia the killings of three westerners in the last week has prompted some companies employing westerners to use telephone text messages about news events to calm employees' families and, although there is no panic yet, one large expatriate employer, who prefers anonymity, talked of rapidly rising concern.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The main concern is the tactics have been changing. Before it was really put car bombs full of explosives and now it's something and individual targets and that is of concern because you don't know what's going to happen next.
ROBERTSON: Sources close to Saudi intelligence suspect this man, Abdel Aziz Al Muqrin, is behind the recent state of attacks on westerners and say his capture could significantly unravel what Saudi officials have described as the country's last significant al Qaeda cell. His speedy capture though, according to one Saudi security consultant, is by no means guaranteed nor is the safety of the western workers.
NAWAF OBEID, SAUDI SECURITY: You cannot protect every single expatriate that lives in Saudi Arabia when he's in his car going to his office and so forth. There is over 80,000 expatriates that are in Saudi Arabia. So, it comes back to the question how can they be protected and the question is they cannot.
ROBERTSON: Should these attacks continue analysts suspect Saudi Arabia's massive oil industry would likely bear the brunt of the departure of the western workers. Few though think it would have an immediate effect on oil output.
DOMINIC SIMPSON: Some Saudis are saying that maybe it's no -- it will be no bad thing if it happened because there are a lot of young Saudis coming onto the market who need employment and training.
ROBERTSON (on camera): Indeed it seems many Saudis believe most western workers will eventually leave the Gulf kingdom. Just how bloody the terror attacks will get before that exodus happens is still open to speculation.
Nic Robertson, CNN, London.
BROWN: Back now to Iraq. We've often said that penetrating the fog of war can be tricky business, so many factors contributing to the haze, not the least of which language.
Take the word insurgent, for instance. With each new attack we hear about suspected insurgents, a label that makes for easy shorthand but which says little about the attackers or their motivations.
"Vanity Fair's" Molly Bingham has been in Iraq since before the beginning of the war, a harrowing experience that was too. In the magazine's July issue, she looks beneath the label at the people behind the insurgency and we're very pleased to have her with us tonight. It's nice to see you. MOLLY BINGHAM, "VANITY FAIR" WRITER: Honored.
BROWN: Well, is there -- there are lots of insurgencies aren't there?
BROWN: It's really not one thing and the administration often I think over simplifies what it is.
BINGHAM: It's definitely not monolithic and when you try to make generalities about them you definitely get into trouble. There are Sunni. There are Shia. There are people who are nationalists. There are people who are Islamically motivated. There are bakers. There are wives. There are teachers. It's a very broad insurgency or resistance as you could call it and it's broadly supported.
BROWN: To what extent are they interconnected?
BINGHAM: The different groups you mean?
BINGHAM: Some are very highly coordinated and others are not. There are some that are as small as sort of a neighborhood watch, maybe 40, 50 guys who get together and do small operations when they can or when they want to and then there are very highly coordinated elements like Mohammed's Army or Mohammed's Army II, which have cells all over the country and coordinate their operations in different parts, different regions, so some of them are very highly coordinated and communicate between each other.
BROWN: Why would they talk to you?
BINGHAM: I think they talked to me because they wanted to. They were being called terrorists repeatedly on television and they -- the first thing almost all of them said to me is we're not terrorists. We're defending our homeland.
BROWN: What did you do go into Baghdad and dial 1-800-Insurgency and whoever answers you say, hi, I'm Molly Bingham?
BINGHAM: I went back to a gentleman I met last spring, who in a completely passing comment said, by the way, I'm a member of the resistance and that was in May and I went back in August and I happened to be able to find him and I started to talk to him.
And then after that basically what I did is sit in tea shops in this one neighborhood of Baghdad called Adamia and people were curious about who I was and people were curious about what I was doing there and eventually people would come around and start talking to me and they would start talking about the situation and the occupation and what they didn't like about what was going on.
And eventually, people sort of appeared and, as it became clear that someone was more active, rather than just saying I don't like it, I'd sort of pull them aside and say, well, you know, are you interested in telling me more about who you are as a person and why you're doing this, and a lot of them agreed.
BROWN: Do they believe that they can drive the Americans out?
BINGHAM: That is certainly their goal.
BROWN: Do they believe that though?
BINGHAM: They will fight until they do or they die. That is certainly their conviction. That's the one thing all these different groups and people share is American troops off the soil.
BROWN: So, take out of the equation the Islamic fundamentalists for a minute and even the Saddam dead-headers or whatever the administration...
BROWN: Yes, dead-enders, whatever they are, and just talk about people in neighborhoods who are tired of the occupation, tired of the -- they will fight to the death. Will they give this new government a chance?
BINGHAM: I don't think so and that's a guess. That's conjecture. I asked them often would you accept a U.N., you know, U.N. support for a government? Would you accept a new government that was elected?
And basically they all said if it has any fingerprints, any feeling of American influence, no we won't accept it. We want to determine our own future. We want to choose our own government, you know, style of government that works for us and the first step to that is removing American military or foreign military forces from our soil.
BROWN: Real quick, you done in Iraq now? You spent a lot of time there.
BINGHAM: Yes, I'm going to take a break from doing this kind of work for just a little bit.
BROWN: Nice to see you.
BINGHAM: Thank you.
BROWN: The piece in "Vanity Fair" this month. It's a perfect piece of work. It's nice to meet you.
BINGHAM: Thanks, Aaron.
BROWN: Hope you'll come back after your fellowship and tell me about that too. Thank you.
Coming up on NEWSNIGHT, wrongly convicted and freed by DNA evidence, now Michael Green is helping the government find others like him.
Plus, President Clinton's life arriving soon at a bookstore near you every bookstore near you.
Around the world this is NEWSNIGHT.
BROWN: From age 22 to 35, it's fair to say a lot of living happens. For many young adults, there's marriage and babies, the first steps in a career, which brings us to the question, what would that time be worth if it was taken away by a mistake? Michael Green lost those 13 years when he was wrongly convicted of a crime. This week, he's accepted a settlement from the city that did him wrong.
Here's CNN's Keith Oppenheim.
MICHAEL GREEN, WRONGLY CONVICTED: I was convicted of a rape and aggravated robbery.
KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Michael Green was the wrong man. At the age of 22, he was sentenced to a 20-to-50- year sentence. While in prison, he contacted the Innocence Project, a group that says it has used DNA testing to overturn 145 wrongful convictions to date. With the help of DNA testing, Green was exonerated 13 years after first entering prison. It was a "Cleveland Plain Dealer" story about the case that led the real rapist, Rodney Rhines, to turn himself in.
GREEN: To come to find out that this guy actually committed this crime, it was amazing.
OPPENHEIM: In Green's case, the city of Cleveland acknowledged one of its crime lab technicians used unscientific methods, such as comparing head hair to pubic hair and failing to find all body fluids on a rag used after the rape. It was his testimony, now discredited, that led to Green's wrongful conviction.
JANE CAMPBELL, MAYOR OF CLEVELAND: The presentation that was made in the court was just simply not correct.
OPPENHEIM: Still, city lawyers wouldn't agree to a demanded $10 million settlement. The problem wasn't fairness, they said. Cleveland was too strapped for cash.
(on camera): Instead, the city offered something unusual, a $1.6 million settlement and an independent investigation into cases in which the lab technician testified or performed analysis, cases that led to convictions or guilty pleas dating back to 1987. Michael Green took the offer.
SUBODH CHANDRA, CLEVELAND LAW DIRECTOR: Mr. Green seemed to understand that what we really wanted to do here was insure that there are no other Michael Greens out there. OPPENHEIM (voice-over): Connie Schultz, the "Plain Dealer" columnist whose story sent the real rapist to prison, applauded the city for trying to fix the crime lab.
CONNIE SCHULTZ, "CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER": I agree with his lawyers. I hope it becomes the national model for other cities, because there are plenty of cities who have this problem.
GREEN: It happens all the time, every day.
OPPENHEIM: Michael Green is not bitter. He hopes to make others aware that innocent people languish in prison because of mistakes made years ago.
GREEN: We just have to get society and our public officials to wake up and accept the challenge of trying to make things right.
OPPENHEIM: Keith Oppenheim, CNN, Cleveland.
BROWN: A few other stories making news today around the country.
In a widely watched case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that a California atheist could not sue to ban the Pledge of Allegiance from his daughter's school and others because he did not have legal authority to speak for her. There's a custody dispute between the man and his ex-wife over the child. The justices side-stepping the broader question of separation of church and state, a punt, in other words, on Flag Day, no less.
Today, the U.S. Army unveiled its first major redesign of its combat uniform in 23 years. Its new digital camouflage pattern will allow soldiers to blend into urban, desert and forest surroundings, making it an all-purpose uniform, also roomy enough to fit over the interceptor body armor, Army planning to phase it in beginning next year.
And the ogre blows away the fish and the cat. By week's end, "Shrek 2" had sold $354 million worth of tickets, making it the highest grossing animated film of all time in the U.S. and Canada. Previous hits "Finding Nemo" and "The Lion King" were left in the dust.
Still to come on NEWSNIGHT, 43 and 42. Former President Clinton took a trip to Washington and President Bush had nothing but nice things to say. Stranger things have happened.
And, later, the first lady of photojournalism, her work on NEWSNIGHT from New York.
BROWN: For more than a week now, American politics has been on its best behavior. The death of President Reagan made it a bit unseemly to engage in the blood sport American politics has become. And this good feeling is hanging on for at least another day. You could see it at the White House today, where 42 and 43 held a little get-together. The occasion was the unveiling of two portraits of the former president and first lady. And what a picture it made.
Here's CNN's Candy Crowley.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Guess who came to lunch?
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're glad you're here, 42.
CROWLEY: Two presidents of different parties saying nice things, really nice things. And you got to thinking, was Bill Clinton trying to help when he said, in his darkest times, like when he worried whether the war in Bosnia would come out all right, he found comfort in the portrait of Teddy Roosevelt?
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You look at that picture and you see, here is a human being who is scared to death and not sure it's going to come out all right, and he does the right thing anyway.
CROWLEY: They shared a good laugh, a lot of good laughs; 42 about fading into history:
CLINTON: I was in Cleveland in a grade school looking at a reading program. And this 6-year-old kid came up to me and said, are you really president? And I said, yes, I am. He said, but you're not dead yet.
CROWLEY: Forty-three on 42's still powerful place in the moment.
BUSH: He's also the first man in his party since Franklin Roosevelt to win a second term in the White House. I could tell you more of the story, but it's coming out in fine bookstores all over America.
CROWLEY: Two of the most polarizing figures in modern politics. It got you thinking.
CLINTON: And I hope that I'll live long enough to see American politics return to vigorous debates, where we argue who is right and wrong, not who is good and bad. My experience is, most of the people I've known in this work are good people who love their country desperately.
CROWLEY: Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.
(END VIDEOTAPE) BROWN: The book coming out in fine bookstores all across America, as President Bush put it, would be Bill Clinton's memoir, "My Life." It's already a best-seller based on the advance orders.
Love him or hate him, Mr. Clinton is impossible to ignore. And this summer, that will be especially so.
Here's CNN's Chris Huntington.
CHRIS HUNTINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bill Clinton is a book seller's dream.
CLINTON: A lot of presidential memoirs, they say, are dull and self-serving. I hope mine is interesting and self-serving.
HUNTINGTON: But, certainly tales of power, politics, international intrigue and possibly, just possibly, a dash of sex are all ingredients for a best-seller. But when the man who has been called the best natural politician of his generation starts stumping for his book next week, industry predict, he'll set a new standard for hawking hard-covers.
STEVE ZEITCHIK, "PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY": This is one of the biggest releases the publishing industry has ever seen. You're going to see a book tour here that rivals that of any major celebrity coming to town, any reunion tour of a band that hasn't been around for, you know, decades.
HUNTINGTON: Clinton received a record $10 million advance to write "My Life." That's about $7 million more than his wife got for her memoirs. But even before the book is available to the public, publisher Alfred A. Knopf has already paid off the advance by selling out the first printing of 1.5 million copies to bookstores.
Random House will release an abridged version of "My Life" on C.D. and cassette read by Clinton himself.
CLINTON: I don't spare myself in this book. I take on a lot of water for not just the personal, but also the political errors I think I made.
HUNTINGTON: But the big buzz is over his book and media tour starting Friday, June 18, with Mr. Clinton reading passages from "My Life" on American Online and on the radio stations of Infinity Broadcasting, June 20, a full hour of "60 Minutes" with Dan Rather. The book goes on sale at 12:01 Tuesday morning, June 22.
And Clinton begins a two-week whirlwind of book signings with two stops in Manhattan. That afternoon, a taped interview with Oprah Winfrey and, two days later, his first live interview about the book with Larry King. (on camera): Former President Clinton's first book signing will be at a Barnes & Noble in midtown Manhattan. It's one of the chain's busiest stores. But his second stop will be up here in Harlem at the Hue-Man bookstore. It's just couple of blocks from Clinton's current office. And it's a move that speaks volumes about his loyalty to a core constituency.
Chris Huntington, CNN, New York.
BROWN: Ahead on NEWSNIGHT, she was there at the beginning. And her photos are with us still. And later, our favorite, hopefully yours, morning papers.
A break first. This is NEWSNIGHT.
BROWN: In celebrating the power of still photographs to tell a story, we sometimes miss the power they possess in and of themselves -- not tonight.
Tonight features images that, in the spaces they portray and the objects and people they enclose, simply ripple with strength. They are the work of Margaret Bourke-White, would have been 100 years old today and featured in a recent collection bearing her name, text and narration by Shawn Callahan, arranged for us by NEWSNIGHT producer Amanda Townsend.
SEAN CALLAHAN, EDITOR, "THE PHOTOGRAPHS OF MARGARET BOURKE- WHITE": In many ways, Margaret Bourke-White is the founding mother of magazine photojournalism in the United States.
She moved from being an industrial photographer, and she would be an important contributor to "Fortune" magazine right up until she helps start "LIFE" magazine in 1936. She had the first cover. And there was out in Montana a WPA project to build what would become the world's largest earth-filled dam. She comes back from Montana with these iconic pictures of the dam going up.
But what she brought back besides that was something else. She saw here in the high plains a boom town that had come out of nowhere. And she saw an analogy between that and the Wild West of some 75 years ago. And so she shifted gears and put together this package of a Wild West boom town. Half the United States read that copy of "LIFE" magazine, at that time, 75 million people. So, literally half the country was seeing historic events through the eyes of photographers like Margaret Bourke-White.
In 1940, '41, she goes to Russia. She is in Moscow in June of '41 when Hitler turns on Stalin and bombs Moscow. She's the only Western photographer there. One of the things that she was assigned to do after Moscow was to cover the Army Air Force. She was the first accredited journalist to go up in a B-17, photograph bombing runs.
MARGARET BOURKE-WHITE, PHOTOGRAPHER: When the war started and America got into it, I was accredited to the Air Force. At 26,000 feet, twin plumes of black and white smoke were rising below us. I thought, I don't know what that is, but I better photograph it. And then I realized, those are our bombs. And I noticed black spreading mushrooms in the sky near us and thought again, I don't know what it is, but I've got to take it. And I suddenly realized, that's (UNINTELLIGIBLE) They're shooting at us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Margaret Bourke-White, of all the people you have photographed, what person in close-up surprised you most?
BOURKE-WHITE: The person who really surprised me, Tex (ph), was Stalin.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stalin?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why?
BOURKE-WHITE: Because I had traveled around the country a bit and I had seen these enormous statues of Stalin, broad shoulders and towering in height. And you expect to see a Superman. And when finally I got this brief appointment to take his portrait, I hardly recognized him. He was someone shorter than I. His face was gray, and his chest was flat. He was a bit potbellied. And I decided this was about the most insignificant looking man I'd ever seen.
CALLAHAN: She was with Patton when he led the 3rd Army across the line. And they were among the first to see some of the concentration camps. The civilians of the town near Buchenwald were marched in to see what had happened. Patton had asked his M.P.s to bring 1,000 civilians. And they were so incensed, they brought 2,000.
BOURKE-WHITE: When we arrived, there was a pile of 800 dead bodies. It was a terrible, terrible sight. And I thought to myself, this is too terrible even to be printed, but this must be taken for the record. The only thing you can do is to draw a veil over your mind. And I just couldn't let myself think about the subject matter.
CALLAHAN: She had no real recollection of what she was doing until she saw the contact sheets weeks later, and then she wept.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pick the place that would represent beauty to you and then the person in it.
BOURKE-WHITE: All right, I will, the bottom of the deepest gold mine in the world.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bottom of it?
BOURKE-WHITE: Yes, which is two miles straight down under Johannesburg.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
BOURKE-WHITE: And the people who fit perfectly into that setting were two miners with beautiful faces and perspiration rolling down their chests. Each one wore a whistle, which he would use in case there was a cave-in. And here were these faces full of sadness. And to me, that typified this work underground. These men, who loved to dance and loved to sing, seldom saw the light.
CALLAHAN: She was there at the beginning. And she did it boldly, courageously, innovatively. She was born 100 years ago on Flag Day. She was an American original.
BROWN: Morning papers after the break.
BROWN: OK, time to check morning papers from around the country, around the world.
It's always interesting on a day when there's no kind of slam- bang story going on to see how papers lead.
"International Herald Tribune" has lots of stuff on the front page," but what catches your eye, this was really the money shot today, I thought, at the White House, the two presidents, 42 and 43, and Chelsea Clinton all grown up in the picture as well. That shows up in a number of different newspapers.
But it didn't show up on "The Guardian" which has a story -- it's a British paper. "British Soldiers Face Abuse Court-Martial" is their lead. "Indecent Among the Charges. 'Guardian' Told of New Ill Treatment Allegations." So we'll keep an eye on that.
"Christian Science Monitor" leads politics. "Key Tests Loom For Bush and Kerry. President Faces June 30 Iraq Transition. Concern About Jobs, as Rival Needs to Find a Running Mate and to Define Himself." Neither seems to be an easy task these days. "Court Keeps 'Under God' In Pledge." It actually just sort of skirted the issue.
That's the lead in "The Washington Times." "'Under God' Remains in Pledge. Court Reverses Ruling on Technicality." Also, Iraq leads. Now, remember that really nice picture I showed you of the two presidents? Here's the one "The Washington Times" put on, kind of a goofy picture of Mrs. Clinton, Senator Clinton. Hey, they could have been a little nicer.
"Detroit News." "Time to Punch Out." They lead basketball. The Pistons could wrap up the series against the Los Angeles Lakers. And I hope for me they do. Don't have to for you.
"The Chicago Sun-Times" I have somewhere in this mess of papers. Here it is. The weather tomorrow in -- oh, look quickly here. Wow, look at what a grownup Chelsea is. They put that on the front page. And the weather tomorrow is, "Oh, yes," in Chicago, 84 degrees. Sounds nice to me.
We'll wrap it up for the day in a moment.
BROWN: Quick programming note before we leave you.
We heard from Iraqi's new interim prime minister a bit earlier in the program on the Iraqi detainees, especially Saddam and when they would be turned over and if they would be turned over. He said two weeks. The president says, not likely.
Tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING," Bill Hemmer and Soledad O'Brien will get a chance to ask him about that and much more. He will be their guest in the 7:00 hour of the program. That's 7:00 Eastern time on "AMERICAN MORNING." That's a pretty good booking, isn't it, for those guys, Bill and Soledad? Good for them.
We'll be back at 10:00. Who knows what we'll come up with, but it will be pretty cool, too.
Until then, good night for all of us at NEWSNIGHT.
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