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AMERICAN MORNING

Olympic Athletes to Watch; White House Insists on Al Qaeda-Iraq Connection; Hostage's Family Prays for Safe Return; Three Police Gunned Down in Birmingham

Aired June 18, 2004 - 07:00   ET

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


CAROL COSTELLO, HOST: They're finally getting out from the shadow of Lance Armstrong.
CHRIS COTTER, CNN SPORTS CONTRIBUTOR: Right. He's been such a beautiful soldier in helping Lance through all these races. But he needs some reward at the end, towards the end of his career. So it's the changing world of the Olympic athlete.

COSTELLO: Give us another name.

COTTER: How about Michael Phelps? Eighteen-year-old swimmer. Four years ago in Sydney he became the youngest male Olympian in 60 years at the age of 15, if you can imagine that.

COSTELLO: Fifteen.

COTTER: He's going to try and best, or at least tie Mark Spitz' number of seven Olympic medals. That was set in 1972.

He is already a millionaire. He's got ATT Wireless, Visa, PowerBar, Speedo. The list goes on and on. And he stands to get another million if he gets the seven gold medals.

Here's a name that, you know, swimming means everything. In fact, like the cyclist, another date on the calendar. The Olympics is everything to him. So if he can make good, he's going to make a lot of money.

COSTELLO: He's going to be a trillionaire.

COTTER: Yes.

COSTELLO: Another name?

COTTER: Well, there's always (AUDIO GAP), you know? But you never know who they are until the Olympics comes around.

COSTELLO: I guess there are about six Olympic stars.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You're looking around.

COTTER: You're also looking around.

COSTELLO: Where are they? COTTER: But that's to me the best part about the Olympics. Even though we have the professionalism and you have -- you don't have the Cold War rivalries that we used to have, making the Olympics not quite what it used to be.

To me, the best thing about it is that you'll have a Courtney Kupets for example, in the women's gymnastics that will come out of nowhere. And she'll be on Wheaties boxes in a couple of months.

And to me, those are the names that still make the Olympics what they are, and fun to watch.

COSTELLO: So those are all five names that we should look out for?

COTTER: Look out for those names, for sure. Look out for stories and the people that we don't talk about today. In a couple of months, those are going to be the big stories.

COSTELLO: OK. Let's talk about some of the rules for the Olympic torch after Atlanta.

You know you should not wear hair spray when you carry the torch?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Really?

COSTELLO: Because it might ignite.

COTTER: Sure. Hair like mine, it would just be like...

COSTELLO: That would be bad. Another thing, you cannot iron or wash your uniform, because they're afraid that you're going to ruin it before you run and you will look funky.

COTTER: An iron mark on the letters. I got you a gift, by the way.

COSTELLO: You did?

COTTER: Yes. Just in case, there's a little Bic lighter. Just in case it blows out while you're running.

COSTELLO: Chris.

COTTER: You can just lean over and try and get that thing lit again before anybody notices. Because you don't want to send that thing all the way back to Mount Olympus to get it lit.

COSTELLO: Wouldn't that be embarrassing?

COTTER: I wanted to ask the torch guy whether it ever went out before or not. We'll all gather around to hide from the wind.

COSTELLO: Thank you for the Bic, Chris. We're going to be right back with much more. You stay right there.

This is DAYBREAK.

COTTER: That's why I had to bring this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: And welcome back to DAYBREAK. I'm Carol Costello, along with Chad Myers. We're out here in Centennial Park, talking about the Olympics this morning.

And it's funny how those images from Olympics past seem to stick in your mind.

MYERS: Yes.

COSTELLO: You can almost see them. So we wanted to take a look back at what happens with those athletes that became so familiar at one point in time.

Remember this? It was a silent protest that shocked the world. In 1968 at the medals ceremony, sprinter Tommy Smith and John Carlos bowed their heads and raised their arms as the "Star Spangled Banner" played in Mexico City. The two hoped the move would bring attention to racism and the American civil rights movement.

Many Americans were outraged by the gesture, and the two were suspended from the national team and banned from the Olympic village.

These days, Tommy Smith is on the faculty at Santa Monica College, and John Carlos coaches track and field in Palm Springs.

MYERS: And remember this one, back in 1988? The world gasped when -- you can see his head direct on the diving board there. Greg Louganis hit his head during preliminary dives in Seoul, South Korea. He actually went on to win gold on the springboard and platforms, first diver to ever do so in Olympic history.

After retiring, he wrote "Breaking the Surface," his memoir, where he disclosed that he is HIV positive and at the time -- even at the time of his accident. And he has just now finished his second book, "For the Life of Your Dog."

COSTELLO: He loves animals. I heard him interviewed about animals. It's very touching, actually.

And remember her smile? Of course you do. In 1984, Mary Lou Retton catapulted to the international -- catapulted to international fame by winning the all around gold medal in women's gymnastics.

Today, she is the mother of three and the host of "Mary Lou's Flip-Flop Shop," a kids' show that focuses on physical fitness, health and nutrition.

MYERS: And she's going to be here.

COSTELLO: Yes. She's going to be running the torch. She doesn't hand it off to me, though. She's probably, like, in a really prominent position. I'm, like, you know, somewhere off.

MYERS: Right here.

COSTELLO: Yes. I'm like third from the end, which is actually quite good. I feel very fortunate.

MYERS: And this park, really, is one of the crown jewels of Atlanta. And it was made possible by the Olympics.

COSTELLO: Yes.

MYERS: So when you get the Olympics, you do get things that remain with the city.

COSTELLO: Yes, talk to Athens right now. Athens is going to be in debt after the Olympics.

MYERS: A billion dollars they're spending.

COSTELLO: Crazy.

This has been DAYBREAK. It's been a lot of fun this morning, but now it's time to go to AMERICAN MORNING.

You have a great weekend.

MYERS: Happy weekend.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CO-HOST, AMERICAN MORNING: Firing back. Vice President Dick Cheney says lazy reporting is distorting the truth about al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think distorted what the commission actually reported, certainly according to Governor Thompson, who's the head of the commission.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: So what do commission members believe in a link? We'll have more with them this morning.

As the deadline looms for an American hostage in Saudi Arabia, his wife is making a desperate plea.

And former President Bill Clinton explaining his secret like a badge of honor and will call what he calls his greatest achievement.

The P.R. offensive, on this AMERICAN MORNING.

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

BILL HEMMER, CO-HOST: Welcome everybody. It's Friday morning and good to have you along with us today. Chilling words yesterday, hearing Mohamed Atta's voice on a tape from Washington. The hearings are over in a very dramatic, final public session. Understanding what that means is just beginning at this point.

Is the U.S. better prepared, should there be another attack? And what about all the finer points that are the center now of an enormous debate? We'll talk to one of the commissioners this morning. Tom Roemer is our guest in a moment.

O'BRIEN: Also this morning, a terrible loss in Birmingham, Alabama. The police there are in shock after three officers gunned down in one single incident. We're going to get a full report on what happened there.

HEMMER: Also, a much lighter note today. Friday means "90 Second Pop." Today we're finding out that reality TV can actually teach us some more profound lessons about men and women and relationships. And I don't buy it for a minute.

O'BRIEN: I'm not even going to touch it.

HEMMER: The land of bachelors and bachelorettes. Our panel of pundits is going to take a shot at that, and good luck.

O'BRIEN: Hi, Jack. Good morning.

JACK CAFFERTY, CO-HOST: What time exactly does that piece of griddle come on? I want to be sure...

O'BRIEN: First of all, I'm doing this segment, No. 1, 7:50 a.m.

CAFFERTY: Good. I'm going out for a doughnut or something.

O'BRIEN: Some history (ph).

CAFFERTY: The Palace of Franks (ph). Politicians are at it again. If there's another terrorist attack on America, and there's a lot of reason to believe there very well might be, will it be more likely to come, perhaps, to New York City, Washington, D.C., or Missoula, Montana, or Fogdale, North Dakota?

We'll take a look at the wisdom of our elected representatives.

HEMMER: The debate continues.

O'BRIEN: Yes.

CAFFERTY: Nine-fifty?

O'BRIEN: Nine-fifty. It will be long past then, so don't worry about that.

CAFFERTY: Seven-fifty.

O'BRIEN: Or 7:50, yes. You can participate (ph). CAFFERTY: Oh, gee. That's great.

O'BRIEN: And turning to our top story this morning, the White House continues to insist that there was a connection between Iraq and al Qaeda, despite the findings of the 9/11 commission.

It was one of the main reasons for going to war with report. And the panel's report could be political dynamite to President Bush's campaign.

Kathleen Koch is at the White House this morning.

Kathleen, good morning.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

The problem is that the perception is growing that what appears to be yet another case of one of the administration's main rationales for going to war not panning out. What President Bush had at one time described as a potential forward army for Iraq, that is al Qaeda. The administration is now describing with words like long standing ties and contacts. That -- those words to describe the relationship.

And the 9/11 commission did say that it found no evidence of a collaborative relationship between the two and found no evidence that the two cooperated in the planning and staging of the 9/11 attacks.

But in an interview after yesterday's hearings concluded, Vice President Dick Cheney said that commission wasn't tasked with examining the broader relationship between the two.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They didn't spend a lot of time on the question of Iraq and al Qaeda except for the 9/11 proposition. That's what they're charged to look at. They did not spend a lot of time on the relationship. There's one paragraph in the report that talks about that. For those you can say one paragraph in the 9/11 commission and say, "Oh, there it is. There's never been a connection between Iraq and al Qaeda."

It's just wrong, now, clearly. I'd love to weigh in on all of this stuff. But the fact of the matter is there clearly is a relationship there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOCH: Well, President Bush, on his part, after his cabinet meeting yesterday morning told reporters that he stood by his administration's characterization of the ties between al Qaeda and Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. This administration never said that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and al Qaeda.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOCH: And the 9/11 panel for its part -- for its part is (UNINTELLIGIBLE) vice chairman Lee Hamilton saying that the source of any conflict was, quote, "not that apparent to me" -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Kathleen Koch for us this morning at the White House. Kathleen, thanks.

Tim Roemer is a member of the 9/11 commission. He's a former Indiana Democratic congressman, in Washington this morning in our Washington bureau.

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

TIM ROEMER, 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER: Nice to be with you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Thank you very much.

We just heard from Kathleen, and the White House now is fighting back against some of the conclusions. And maybe a better word is the confusion out of the 9/11 commission with the report.

The report found no credible evidence that Iraq was involved in 9/11. But as you just heard from Dick Cheney, he said, "Clearly there was a relationship."

Yesterday, when we were talking to Commissioner Ben-Veniste, he said it's mystifying how this myth is continuously perpetrated."

Can you understand where this confusion is coming from? Do you agree with the White House that there was a relationship? Do you stand by the report that there was no relationship? What does it mean?

ROEMER: Well, it is a bit confusing here, Soledad. And let me try to clear it up in very simple terms.

Was there a meeting or a tie between al Qaeda and an Iraqi official in 1994 in Sudan? Yes, a meeting. But did it result in terrorist activities or collaboration or cooperation? No. We did not see the resulting link in activities between al Qaeda and Iraq.

So I think that the report is very clear on this.

However, Soledad, I figure the press and other people are going to try to find ways for the 9/11 commission and the White House to go at each other.

When we met with the president of the United States a few weeks ago, it was very clear that the 9/11 commission and the president have a lot in common with the Congress, and that is, let's try to work together on our recommendations, on a bipartisan basis to make this country safer and get the reforms we need to fight al Qaeda. We heard in chilling terms in the last few days al Qaeda is flexible, decentralized, and they want to come and get biological and chemical weapons and attack the country again.

This is an area we can work together on and not try to mince words on this '94 meeting or the meeting that allegedly happened in Prague that we don't believe took place.

O'BRIEN: I understand that that's the focus. That I know that you're saying is less a matter of going at each other. And yet, still I think that there is some clarification that is required, because it sounds like the commissioner's saying one thing and the White House is saying something completely contradictory.

Are you saying then that you're both right? That you don't see a role for Saddam Hussein and Iraq in the 9/11 attacks, and yet you would agree that there was a -- some sort of connection between al Qaeda and Iraq?

ROEMER: I'm saying very, very bluntly that I personally think our report was clear on this. We looked at the '94 meeting. It did not result in any kind of -- it might have been a tie or a meeting, as the vice president said, but it did not result in any collaboration, any cooperation, any activities on terrorist-related 9/11 events.

We're very clear on that.

There's the other event there that looks at a purported meeting in April of 2001 between an Iraqi intelligence official and Atta, one of the hijackers. We found that Atta was in the United States. He was probably on cell phones in Florida at that point and not in Prague in Czechoslovakia.

Again now, Soledad, we have a 400- to 500-page report. We're going to have a disagreement or two with the administration. We want to work with them. They've indicated they want to work with us.

We've got real challenges here on how to reorganize our Central Intelligence Agency so that we push up information out to the right people, disseminate it and analyze it and fight a decentralized force like al Qaeda.

How do we reorganize the FBI to get better domestic intelligence on cell activities here?

O'BRIEN: Clearly, all these questions...

ROEMER: But we have some very important questions that we have to concentrate on.

O'BRIEN: Sir, yesterday's testimony, we all thought, was just incredibly chilling. I want to play you just a quick sound bite of what -- the voice of what we believe is Mohamed Atta, who addresses the passengers on American Airlines Flight 11.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have some planes. Just stay quiet and you'll be OK. We are returning to the airport.

Nobody move. Everybody will be OK. If you try to make any moves, you'll endanger yourself and the airplane. Just stay quiet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: But it was not everything OK. As you wrap up these hearings, what do you think was the most shocking thing to you to discover in the investigation?

ROEMER: One of the most shocking things to me, Soledad, was that the day before yesterday when we heard this back and forth between Osama bin Laden talking about the targets he wanted to hit and he wanted to primarily go after the White House as a symbolic target.

And then the operators in the United States and their people like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed said, "We picked September 11 as the date, because we knew Congress would be in session. It will be full of people, and it was an easy target."

And they go back and forth, changing the date of September 11. It was originally earlier in the year. The targets, they're talking about various targets.

What we have, Soledad, is a very decentralized, quick acting, diffused and entrepreneurial organization coming after us. We have to set up reforms in this country about a bureaucracy that's still too oriented toward the 1947 National Security Act and the Cold War target and find ways to upgrade our response to this very, very dynamic organization that we know is trying to get chemical and biological weapons.

O'BRIEN: Nine eleven commission Tim Roemer, nice to see you, sir. Thanks for your time.

ROEMER: Always nice to be with you.

O'BRIEN: Thank you -- Bill.

HEMMER: It's about 10 minutes past the hour now.

The time limit that's set on Paul Johnson's life could be up any time now. Johnson was kidnapped Saturday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. There's been no word about the American since Wednesday, when he was last seen on videotape.

At that time, his captors made a threat at a web site they'd kill him within 72 hours. That day is today.

Johnson's wife, who is still in Saudi Arabia, went on Arab TV today to plead for his life.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) THANOM JOHNSON, PAUL JOHNSON'S WIFE: I would like to say when I saw his picture on the TV, I really wanted him so much. I don't know what I can do. I am in Saudi Arabia right now by myself in my house. I want him to come back because I don't have nobody else left.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HEMMER: Well, the members of Johnson's family, along with friends and neighbors, are holding a vigil for him near his home in New Jersey. Deborah Feyerick is again there this morning for that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the deadline nears, neighbors and friends in Johnson's hometown gather for a candlelight vigil at the local firehouse.

(MUSIC)

FEYERICK: The mood in Eagleswood, New Jersey, anxious. And tense.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a sad thing this had to happen with a person from our community who grew up here, on the other side of the world. And then we're all hopeful that things will work out and he'll be released then.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel very sad right now that he's (UNINTELLIGIBLE) over there. My brother was crying before. Everybody I know is crying right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, everybody is pretty down around the town. We're just going to do what we can to help the family. And I wish them all the luck in the world.

FEYERICK: In Saudi Arabia, where Johnson lives and works, a friend posts a letter on an Arabic TV web site.

He tells the kidnappers as a Muslim, he has bestowed his protection on Johnson. Quoting the Koran, he says, "Killing Johnson now would break Islamic law." He writes, "If you are true Muslims, you will let him go."

This as Saudi authorities scramble to find the American captive.

RICHARD BOUCHER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: There are a variety of options available to Saudi authorities who have the lead here to try to locate him, free him, and crack down on the network.

FEYERICK: American hostage rescuers sent to Riyadh to offer whatever help they can.

Deborah Feyerick, CNN, Eagleswood, New Jersey.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HEMMER: This is a story we'll be following throughout the morning. The State Department has reissued a dire warning for all Americans to leave Saudi Arabia. More throughout the morning -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Three Alabama police officers have been shot to death in what is being called the deadliest day in Birmingham Police history.

Gary Tuchman now, live for us in Birmingham with more.

Gary, good morning.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, good morning to you.

The city police department is quite literally in a state of shock after a deadly ambush on its own, an ambush that left three of the city's officers dead within seconds.

It happened yesterday in the western part of the city. A total of four police officers went to a home described as a drug house by neighbors. But they weren't there for a drug situation. They were there to serve a misdemeanor warrant of domestic violence charges.

Two of the officers were at the back door. They saw the man they wanted to give the warrant to in the house. He ran through the house. The two officers then ran through the house. They were shot by a number of bullets.

Then two more officers were at the front porch. One of those officers was fatally shot also. A fourth officer was also shot, but he was hit in his gun holster and he was not hurt.

But it was a sporadic scene. Dozens of police officers from the city of Birmingham and elsewhere staying here. They were wearing clothes, body armor. They were wearing -- they had rifles. They had guns.

They were looking for suspects, that ended up finding at least two suspects who are now in custody. One of them, the man they were going to give the warrant to, but he's not described as the gunman.

The other man whom they apprehended is described as the gunman. They found an assault rifle they believe was used in the shootings in the bushes. And it is, according to state officials, the deadliest police shooting in state history.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHIEF ANNETTA NUNN, BIRMINGHAM POLICE: All we know now (ph) is really limited to what's on the scene. Various (UNINTELLIGIBLE), something they've seen. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) put aside how you feel about it. We lost three officers in a moment (ph).

(END VIDEO CLIP) TUCHMAN: The three officers killed, 40-year-old Harley Chisolm III. His birth date was this Wednesday. He would have been 41 years old. Fifty-eight-year-old Carlos Owens, a 27-year veteran of the force. He was officer of the year in Birmingham in 2002. And 33- year-old Charles Bennett, been with the force three years, left behind a 4-year-old daughter.

The Birmingham police chief told us last night that we should keep all these officers in your prayers.

One of the questions we asked her was why were four officers called to the scene if this was a misdemeanor warrant? And they said, according to the police department, they try to err on the side of caution. But of course, the police know full well now they were not cautious enough -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Gary Tuchman for us. Wow, what a tragedy. Thanks for that report.

We should mention that the Birmingham police chief who you saw before, just moments ago, Annetta Nunn, will be joining us in our final hour of AMERICAN MORNING this morning, 9 a.m. Eastern Time.

It's about 16 minutes past the hour, and time to take a look at some of the other news here this morning with Heidi Collins.

Good morning.

HEIDI COLLINS, ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad, and good morning to you, everyone.

American soldiers coming under fire in Iraq again this morning. The military says that insurgents attacked a patrol near Baqubah. Two militants were killed but no U.S. casualties reported.

Meanwhile, an Iraqi official says martial law will soon be declared in the country if attacks against civilians persist. A car bombing outside an Iraqi army recruiting center in Baghdad yesterday left at least 35 people dead.

To California now and the Scott Peterson trial. Witnesses testified that his wife, Laci, had inherited some $100,000 worth of jewelry before her disappearance.

Prosecutors are trying to establish that Scott Peterson killed his wife for monetary gain. A pawnshop receipt dated one week after Laci's disappearance was shown during testimony yesterday.

The defense claims her jewelry may have attracted transients in the neighborhood.

A recovery operation on Mount Rainier in Washington state. A park ranger says the body of a climber was spotted yesterday, some 9,000 feet up its peak. A second climber was missing. Rangers plan to fly to the site once again today. Also in Washington state, President Bush meeting with troops at Fort Lewis this morning. It is the first presidential visit in more than 60 years to the base, which is home to the Army's so-called Stryker Brigade. One unit is in Iraq, the other to be deployed next spring (ph).

President Bush heads to Nevada later today. Arizona Senator John McCain is expected to join him on the campaign trail.

And in sports, play underway again this morning in Shinnecock Hills in New York for the U.S. Open after rain kept nearly 60 players from finishing the first round.

Tiger Woods, the world's No. 1, was two over par, 72, six shots behind the leader yesterday, blaming some of his struggles on bad bounces.

Good also for Jay Haas, a 50-year-old, opened with four under, 66, sharing the lead with Shigeki Maruyama. Right into the pocket for his fifth major crowd (ph).

At 66, not as close to be (ph).

HEMMER: I've had a lot of bad bounces myself. You know, that's the reason. That's the reason why.

COLLINS: I almost forgot. He's into golfing. I'm sorry about that.

HEMMER: That's all right. Some people are saying the course wasn't as tough as it should have been for a major tournament yesterday.

COLLINS: I wouldn't say that.

HEMMER: Three more rounds to go. We'll see the way what the weather does.

COLLINS: Yes.

HEMMER: Thank you, Heidi.

We check in with Jack now and the "Question of the Day."

JACK CAFFERTY, CO-HOST: Shinnecock's tough when the wind blows.

HEMMER: Yes.

CAFFERTY: The wind didn't blow yesterday.

HEMMER: And it was moist, too. A lot of rain out there, helping the balls stick on that green. And there you have it.

O'BRIEN: OK, Tiger.

Jack, good morning. CAFFERTY: As the September 11 commission reports on the lack of preparation prior to the terror attacks in 2001, the threat of another attack is very real. It's going to happen. Probably just a question of when.

Early this morning, the House of Representatives voted down an amendment to send more security money to the nation's cities.

The measure, proposed by New York Republican John Sweeney, would have taken homeland security funds away from rural areas and redirect the money to the cities, which are considered most at risk for terrorist attacks. The measure was voted down.

The question is, "Where should the government spend the most money for homeland security?"

The second question is, "Why should this even be a topic for discussion?" What is it that they don't understand in the nation's capital about the fact that the threat to the herds of buffalo in Montana are not equal to the threats to the millions of people that live in the nation's cities?

This is all about the Benjamins. It has nothing to do with protecting the homeland. It has much more to do with these opportunistic politicians making sure that they don't offend any of their constituents by taking five cents out of the pot of their home district.

It never should have been allocated this way to begin with. It was wrong. Now that the mistake has been made, it should be fixed. But no, we're going to leave it the way it is so that people in Wyoming -- and I like the people -- get the same amount of money as the people in New York. It is ludicrous.

Anyway, we're interested in what you think about this. AM@CNN.com.

HEMMER: That's a good set-up. Thank you, Jack.

For a check of the weather, Chad Myers is back inside.

Good morning, Chad. How goes it?

(WEATHER REPORT)

HEMMER: Chad, thanks for that.

Twenty-one past the hour.

A developing story now out of Moscow. Did Vladimir Putin give the U.S. administration warnings from Saddam Hussein that he may attack the U.S.?

Jill Dougherty, our Moscow bureau chief, breaking the story now.

Jill, what do you have? JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bill, these comments are coming out just in the last few minutes from President Vladimir Putin, who is in Kazakhstan right now.

And what Mr. Putin said is that Russian special intelligence services several times, repeatedly, warned the United States, giving it intelligence information that Russia had collected that the regime of Saddam Hussein was preparing to carry out terrorist attacks against the United States, both in the United States and outside of the United States.

Now, the time frame of this is very important. He said, "We were talking about the period after 9/11 and before the beginning of the war in Iraq."

Mr. Putin said that this information, that Saddam Hussein's people were planning these terrorist attacks, was received several times. And it was passed on, as he put it, "to our American colleagues" in the intelligence services.

And it even said that President Bush personally thanked the head of one of those Russian intelligence services for passing on this information, which he said was very important.

Mr. Putin also said that they have no intelligence information that -- that Mr. -- that Saddam Hussein's people were actually involved in any terrorist acts -- Bill.

HEMMER: Jill, a good story, an intriguing one at that. Thanks, Jill Dougherty in Moscow. More on that when we get it again from overseas.

O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, it is a big fat rejection for one major airline that tried to cross its way back into black. We're "Minding Your Business," just ahead.

HEMMER: Also in a moment, Bill Clinton says he knows his greatest accomplishment as president, and he's ready to tell. We'll get to that in a moment here.

O'BRIEN: Plus, Mel Gibson knocks Jennifer Anniston down a few notches. One magazine says he has God to thank for it. We'll explain as AMERICAN MORNING continues, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEMMER: Welcome back, everybody.

United Airlines dealt a big blow by the government. Andy has details now, "Minding Your Business."

What's up there?

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Good morning.

More trouble for a big airline, you guys. The federal government rejecting a plea from United Airlines for a $1.6 billion loan guarantee.

The is the second time the Air Transportation Stabilization Board has said no to United in 18 months. The world's second largest airline, that's after American, went into bankruptcy in December of '02. It is expected to emerge soon. This throws that into jeopardy.

No implications for passengers, if you're flying on United immediately. But there are real questions now about the long-term viability for this carrier.

I want to talk about he markets also a little bit here. A down day for Wall Street yesterday. Not so bad, though. You can see here. We can sort of deal with that, as long as it doesn't happen every day.

Futures down this morning, though. Oil prices higher this morning. A strike on Norwegian oil workers sending oil prices -- just what we need.

HEMMER: It's always something.

SERWER: Just what we need. So we'll be watching that this morning.

O'BRIEN: OK. Andy, thanks.

SERWER: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Coming up this morning, what better way to kick off the weekend than with "90 Second Pop"?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN (voice-over): And now for something completely different: the Material Girl makes a life changing decision. Maybe we should all call her the Artist Formerly Known as Madonna?

Also, if you're a "Bachelorette," first comes love, then comes marriage. But if you're one of the "Bachelors," say hello to Splitsville.

"90 Second Pop" just ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: And good morning. Welcome back, everybody. It's about half past the hour on this AMERICAN MORNING.

A convoy is attacked in Baghdad, U.S. soldiers battling insurgents north of the city for a second day in a row today. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) have been fighting at times. We'll bring you an update on that in just a few moments.

HEMMER: Also, in the next few weeks, you're going to see a whole lot of the former President Bill Clinton. He's on a huge P.R. tour, starts next Monday, promoting that new book. And already some of his remarks about impeachment are sparking a bit of controversy. He will be the everywhere man, starting on Monday of next week.

O'BRIEN: Also this morning, "90 Second Pop" is coming up in just a little bit. And you've heard the saying that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. Do you know what it means?

Well, apparently, reality TV can tell us how men and women are oh so different. We're talking about "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" and the differences in their choices.

HEMMER: I've heard of that.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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