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AMERICAN MORNING

Interview With Former Ambassador Robert Jordan; Prisoner Abuse Scandal; Kobe Bryant Hearing

Aired June 21, 2004 - 9:00   ET

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


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Monday morning here, and good to have you with us along today. Some of the headlines again this hour...
Officials in Saudi Arabia finding themselves in familiar territory again today, defending their action against terrorism in that country. We'll look at these claims from al Qaeda, as well as the circumstances surrounding the recent killing of a number of terrorists when we talk to the former U.S. ambassador to the kingdom about the possibility of exaggeration and other things there revolving around that story. We'll get to it in a moment.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Also this morning, the military moving ahead today with proceedings against several soldiers accused in the prisoner abuse scandal. Some surprises, though, along the way as well. We'll get perspective on this from the attorney for Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, the former commander at Abu Ghraib prison.

HEMMER: Also this hour, returning to the darkest hours of the civil rights movement in the state of Mississippi. We'll look at a movement to reopen the investigation in a 40-year-old murder. Stay tuned for that as well.

O'BRIEN: And Jack Cafferty's got the "Question of the Day."

Hello.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning.

President Clinton's memoir, "My Life," out I guess officially at midnight tonight. We're reading e-mails about how much more you want to know about the man's personal life. A large portion of the book is devoted to that. It's also a very good book to take to the beach on a windy day, because at 957 pages, it will hold everything down, the blanket...

(LAUGHTER)

HEMMER: And now you know. Thank you, Jack.

A Saudi al Qaeda group claims that Saudi police helped them in the abduction of the American, Paul Johnson. This information, like many of the details in this story, does not come from official sources. This information comes off the Internet.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HEMMER (voice-over): An Islamist Web site claims security forces sympathetic to al Qaeda provided police uniforms and vehicles to the group that kidnapped Paul Johnson at a checkpoint and later executed him. Saudi authorities, meanwhile, continue to search for Johnson's body and the militants involved in his death.

On Sunday, police stormed several buildings in the same area of Riyadh where al Qaeda cell leader Abdel Aziz al-Muqrin was killed in a shootout on Friday. Al-Muqrin is believed responsible for Johnson's beheading. His death came just hours after pictures of Paul Johnson's head and body were posted on the Web site.

The Saudis say al-Muqrin's death dealt a serious blow to al Qaeda operations in Saudi Arabia. But it appears he's already been replaced as the group's leader by another of Saudi Arabia's most wanted terrorists.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HEMMER: Also, earlier here on AMERICAN MORNING, Saudi foreign policy adviser Abdel al-Jubeir denied that police aided al Qaeda.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ABDEL AL-JUBEIR, SAUDI FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: It's very easy to obtain military uniforms in Saudi Arabia, just like it is here. You can walk into any Army surplus store in Washington and pick up a military uniform. It's also easy to take cars and paint them to look like police cars.

People seem to be giving credence to what the terrorists are saying on Web sites. That reminds me of Saddam Hussein's information minister. What if people had believed what he said when he was saying it, when it was total nonsense?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HEMMER: Former ambassador to the kingdom, Robert Jordan, now with this us live from Dallas, Texas.

Good morning, Mr. Ambassador. Thank you for your time here.

ROBERT JORDAN, FMR. U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SAUDI ARABIA: Good morning.

HEMMER: This is what Abdel al-Jubeir was responding to on the screen. According to the Web site, the kidnapped Paul Johnson, "A number of the cooperators who are sincere to the religion in the security apparatus donated those clothes and the police cars." What do you make sense of what we're hearing out of Saudi Arabia on this?

JORDAN: Well, the short answer is, we really don't know. I think we've got to give this some time to unfold and to be investigated. I think Mr. al-Jubeir is correct that you can get uniforms pretty easily. You can also paint a police car pretty easily. And we've actually seen in past encounters the terrorists have painted up some cars to look like military vehicles.

So I think we're going to have to keep an eye on this. It does remind us that no security service in the world is completely immune from being penetrated. And there is a risk of at least some degree of penetration in the Saudi security services, just as we've seen, frankly, in our own FBI from time to time. We've got to continue to be vigilant and monitor the backgrounds and identities of those who are in all security services.

HEMMER: Help us to understand this, then, Mr. Ambassador. If this al Qaeda group is trying to deceive the Saudi people, and the American people, for that matter, what's the message they send if they're saying that we had help on the inside?

JORDAN: Well, they would have a motive, I think, to try to divide, again, the American people from the Saudis, to throw one more stick in the eye of our collective will, our collective determination to fight this battle together. So they would have some interest in doing so. To the contrary, it seems to me that they would also, if there really were massive penetration, and -- and this sort of thing had occurred, it seems to me that it's fairly unlikely they would want to divulge it if they thought they might be able to take advantage of some of these same individuals helping them again.

So again, I think we've got to keep our -- our wits about us. We've got to have a healthy dose of skepticism. We've also got to be vigilant and run this to ground and be sure that -- that there isn't something there to be concerned about.

HEMMER: Since Friday night, this is what the security forces in Saudi Arabia claimed. They say four al Qaeda leaders killed, including the leader of this al Qaeda group in Saudi Arabia. Twelve of the suspects -- suspects, rather, arrested. A huge cache of weapons and cash confiscated, and a car linked to a June 6 killing of a BBC employee also seized.

Put all this together. Is it possible for you to say what the state of al Qaeda is in Saudi Arabia today?

JORDAN: Again, I think no one really knows. This is good news. It's certainly progress. But we've seen time and time again that the size and presence of al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia has been underestimated.

And so I think we've got to assume right now that there is still great cause for concern, great cause to work as absolutely hard as we can, and as the Saudis can to penetrate further, and to keep these terrorists on the run. This is good news, but I don't think we should be declaring victory today.

HEMMER: Robert Jordan. Thank you, Mr. Ambassador, live in Dallas, Texas.

JORDAN: Thank you.

HEMMER: Soledad? O'BRIEN: Pretrial hearings were held today in Baghdad for two of the American soldiers accused in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal. The hearing for Staff Sergeant Ivan Chip Frederick II was postponed, and hearings were heard -- held, rather, for Sergeant Javal Davis and Specialist Charles Graner.

The attorney for Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, the former military police commander at Abu Ghraib prison, is Lieutenant Colonel Neal Puckett. And earlier, I asked him just how likely it is that all of these cases could be dismissed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LT. COL. NEAL PUCKETT (RET.), MILITARY JUDGE: I think it's impossible. I think they want to raise the motion to preserve it for a possible appeal because this -- these circumstances are unprecedented. But I don't -- having been a military judge, I can tell you that there's no military judge that I've ever known who would dismiss these charges.

O'BRIEN: Javal Davis' lawyer says he wants to see President Bush on the stand. So many people say that is just never going to happen. But a judge has said it is OK for General Sanchez and Abizaid to be questioned. How big a deal do you think that is?

PUCKETT: Well, that would be a really big deal. But again, the attorneys would have to show the relevance and necessity of their testimony. And that might be quite an uphill battle. Just because they're in the chain of command doesn't mean they could be compelled to testify.

O'BRIEN: If they were compelled to testify -- and I get that that's a big "if" -- how do you think it would impact the cases?

PUCKETT: I think it would impact the cases in a neutral way, because I don't think that those senior level generals would admit to relaxing standards or giving any permission or any kind of authority for the kinds of abuses that we've seen in the pictures.

O'BRIEN: At the same time, the defense of many of these people is that the higher-ups told them to do it. That's the crux. And I've interviewed a bunch of them, and they've all said, "The higher-ups told me to do it." So wouldn't that potentially play a role? And how often does that defense work do you think?

PUCKETT: I believe that they may believe that they were acting under authority. And I think it's also possible that some of the more immediate seniors gave them permission to do what they do, or -- or in a limited way permission to do what they do. But as far as a high- level permission, I don't think you're going to see any -- any proof or -- evidence or proof of that. You're going to see people claiming that, that they had high-level approval, but I don't think it will go above the battalion commander level.

O'BRIEN: Some are predicting that those charged now face serious, serious time. How much time do you think they are facing? PUCKETT: The current batch of courts-martial?

O'BRIEN: Yes.

PUCKETT: Well, I've heard that one of the soldiers is facing up to 24 years. And, of course, a military court-martial, again, a judge sentences the maximum or anything below that, all the way down to no punishment.

O'BRIEN: How does that compare to a civilian court? I mean, is there a higher level of proof that's required, a lower level of proof that's required?

PUCKETT: No, as far as a conviction or acquittal is concerned, it's the exact same process as far as the standard of proof. It requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt for someone to be convicted.

O'BRIEN: You represent General Janis Karpinski. Give me a sense of the status of her case. The last time we talked it was actually kind of unclear.

PUCKETT: It was unclear the last time, but currently she has been suspended from command, which is sort of an intermediate status between being in command and being relieved of command by the Army Reserve commander. And she's sort of in a limbo status, awaiting further notification.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Lieutenant Colonel Neal Puckett talking with us. Retired, by the way. A preliminary hearing is scheduled tomorrow at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for Private Lynndie England to determine whether to recommend a court-martial or other punishment for her -- Bill.

HEMMER: About nine minutes past the hour. There may be some revelations today in the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case. At the center of it all, text messages sent by Bryant's accuser by way of cell phone to her ex-boyfriend right after the hotel encounter with the NBA star.

Adrian Baschuk live this morning again in Eagle, Colorado. Good morning there.

ADRIAN BASCHUK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Bill.

You know, the case against Kobe Bryant has presented a Colorado court system with a number of legal firsts in groundbreaking motions. Many part of the defense's elaborate and well-funded strategy to get an innocent verdict.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASCHUK (voice-over): Kobe Bryant and his defense team head back to court, armed with the alleged victim's AT&T text messaging records. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know that they contain information passed between the alleged victim and her ex-boyfriend within an hour or so of the alleged attack by Kobe Bryant.

BASCHUK: The records remain sealed. And so far, Judge Terry Ruckriegle has not disclosed whether he will allow details of the accuser's sexual past into trial evidence. That decision, though, is poised to come by this hearing's end.

The judge, Ruckriegle, did rule against a defense motion, arguing Colorado's rape shield law was unconstitutional. That law prevents disclosure of an alleged victim's sexual past unless the defense can show its relevance. Victim advocates have attacked the defense's tactics.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a fishing expedition, sort of trying to discredit this woman in the court of public opinion.

BASCHUK: But lawyers understand the defense tactics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Kobe can put on evidence that this young lady had sex with another man after Kobe Bryant, but before she went to the cops, the prosecution probably cannot prevail.

BASCHUK: Also unclear is how last week's Colorado Supreme Court's ruling permitting jurors to ask questions of witnesses during trial will affect Bryant's case.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we're after the truth, I think it's an appropriate way to go.

BASCHUK: However, with the trial date not yet set, the truth is still a long way off. Now, the judge is going to be considering another ground-breaking motion in this case. The defense wants to tell jurors that they must acquit Kobe Bryant if they determine that the alleged victim consented to submit to him. That would completely redraft the very definition of sexual assault in this state -- Bill.

HEMMER: Adrian, thanks. Adrian Baschuk in Eagle -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: The memoirs of former President Bill Clinton hit bookstores tomorrow. You can even get a copy in some places at 12:01 a.m., just after midnight. But even before the book's release, it's stirring a good deal of interest. And inevitably, some controversy as well. The story now from CNN's national correspondent, Kelly Wallace.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLY WALLACE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is his latest campaign. Bill Clinton revealing a lot, but not everything in interviews before the much anticipated we lease of his autobiography. Asked the worst day of his presidency...

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I was alone with Ms. Lewinsky. WALLACE: He tells "60 Minutes" August, 1998, when he woke wife, Hillary, in the middle of the night to tell her about his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky just before testifying about it to a grand jury. On his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky, he tells TIME Magazine, "I was involved in two great struggles at the same time. A great public struggle over the future of America with the Republican Congress and a private struggle with my old demons. I won the public one and lost the private one. I don't think it's much more complicated than that."

His 957-page book also appears to be a chance to settle old scores; namely, with independent prosecutor Kenneth Starr, who led a series of investigations of the Clintons.

KENNETH STARR, FMR. INDEPENDENT PROSECUTOR: Well, I'm not going to comment about specifics.

WALLACE: He tells "60 Minutes," "There was nothing left but my personal failure. That's what people got for over $70 million. They did it because it was nothing but a big political operation designed to bring down the presidency."

His greatest regrets of his presidency? Not getting Osama bin Laden and failing to convince Israelis and Palestinians to make a peace deal at Camp David. But will his book satisfy his readers?

(on camera): This is about selling books, after all. But for Bill Clinton, it's also about polishing a legacy.

Kelly Wallace, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Michael Duffy, Washington bureau chief for "TIME" magazine has reviewed the book, interviewed the former president as well. And earlier this morning I asked him about their most surprising discussion.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL DUFFY, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, he was very forthcoming, I thought. I was -- you know, I was prepared to have a long conversation about domestic policy and foreign policy. But, you know, most of what we talked about was what happened in his personal life and how he copied with that politically and personally and emotionally.

And he was extremely forthcoming about it, quite voluble. And where I get to points in the interview where I thought, OK, I think I've pretty much run this string out, he, of course, would say, "Well, I've got a few more things to say about this." So I found him quite forthcoming and open about that, and that was surprising to me.

O'BRIEN: He talks a lot -- what I thought sounded like psychoanalytical terms, unresolved anger, things stemming back to his youth, and how that played into some of his bad decisions about Monica Lewinsky. What did he say about that?

DUFFY: I think if there is a kind of -- you know, when he pulls himself up on the couch, he talks about when he was growing up, you know, he had an abusive stepfather, and learned from an early age to put the bad stuff in his life in a -- in a compartment and keep it there. He talks about it from the very early part of the book, being a good secret keeper. And, of course, he's setting the stage in the book for much later, when he has to keep the really big secret of his presidency, which was his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

He says that he was perfectly prepared for those pathways, because he had learned them as a child. And he also goes on to say -- and this is really the thing that's going to upset the most people about the book, I think, is that he says Ken Starr was so anxious to take him down and to ruin his presidency and to deprive the Democrats of the White House that he made Clinton very angry. And he says at one point in the book, Soledad, that "The anger I was holding inside me was eventually going to be self-destructive."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Eventually he points out that he thinks that to some degree Ken Starr was responsible for the whole Monica Lewinsky episode...

CAFFERTY: Please.

O'BRIEN: ... because the anger that Ken Starr caused made him sort of look for other channels. It's the "Question of the Day," this topic.

HEMMER: That it is.

O'BRIEN: Good morning.

CAFFERTY: The "Question of the Day" is, how much more do we want to know about President Clinton's personal life? And here's some of what you have written.

Paul in Tennessee says, "He lied to a national TV audience about Jennifer Flowers, and then about Monica. How could you trust anything else he says in his book?"

Randy, in San Antonio: "The truth is, I would just like to see Bill Clinton fade away. I, for one, have had enough of slick Willy."

Kathy, though, from New Castle, Pennsylvania, writes this: "Yes, let's hear more about the years Mr. Clinton spent in the White House. Not the sex stuff. That's old and irrelevant. I want to know how he succeeded, despite all the bad press, in making his eight years so successful."

O'BRIEN: How have you found it?

CAFFERTY: Hmm?

O'BRIEN: How have you found the letters? Like split 50-50, people care, people...

CAFFERTY: Yes, about like, you know, you would find the population when it comes to Clinton. He's a lightning rod for a lot of emotions. And so the ones that like him are going to read the book, and the ones that don't, won't. And...

O'BRIEN: Are you going to read it?

CAFFERTY: Nope.

O'BRIEN: That's what I would have guessed. Thank you, Jack. What?

HEMMER: Just waiting to see if you had anything else.

A check of the rest of the day's news, here's Daryn Kagan at the CNN Center.

How are you, Daryn? Good morning to you.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm doing great, Billy. Great to be with you guys this week.

HEMMER: You as well.

KAGAN: Let's go ahead and start in Iraq. That is where CNN is now confirming that four American Marines have been killed in. In that news, a coalition official says the bodies of four troops were found Monday in the city of Ramadi, west of Baghdad. The officials said they were killed in action while carrying out security and stability operations.

South Korea is dispatching a delegation to Jordan to help the hostage situation in Iraq. A South Korean is being held -- is heard on tape pleading for his life. The videotape aired on Arab television over the weekend. The man's captors warn that he will be beheaded unless South -- South Korea withdraws troops from Iraq. South Korean officials say, despite the threat, they're going ahead with plans to deploy more troops there.

A new report claims that detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are not as high valued as once believed. According to sources cited by "The New York Times," none of the nearly 600 detainees ranks as leaders or senior operatives of al Qaeda. The newspaper also says the detainees have not provided intelligence that has enabled officials to foil imminent attacks.

Here in the U.S., Shinneock Hills, New York, golfer Retief Goosen winning his second U.S. Open. The Goose won by two strokes, shooting one over 71 for his final round. The -- for Phil Mickelson, though, it all came down to the 17th tee. And things were looking so good.

But Mickelson three-putted from five feet for a double bogey, dropping behind Goosen and walking away with the number two spot. The third time he's done that at the U.S. Open. And in England, thousands of people showed up at Stonehenge to celebrate the summer solstice. The crowd watched as the sun broke through cloudy skies. It is the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. And for those of you who are sweltering, the winter solstice will be on December 22. Something to look forward to.

O'BRIEN: Oh, too early for that.

KAGAN: Yes.

O'BRIEN: All right, Daryn. Thanks.

Weather now. Chad Myers at the CNN Center with the latest forecast for us.

Hey, Chad. Good morning.

(WEATHER REPORT)

O'BRIEN: All right, Chad. Thanks.

HEMMER: In a moment here, another merger in the news. A mega one, too. It may not be good for your wallet, we're told. Andy's "Minding Your Business." We'll get that story in a moment here.

O'BRIEN: Also ahead this morning, 40 years after one of the worst attacks on the civil rights movement, the people in a small town in Mississippi still demanding justice.

HEMMER: Also, in much lighter news, are we looking at the future of space travel? In fact, are we doing it today? Some history in the making 11 minutes away when we continue on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: It was a major tragedy in the battle for civil rights. Forty years ago, a black church was set ablaze, its members beaten by the Ku Klux Klan, and three civil rights workers viciously killed. The incidents led to the fictional movie "Mississippi Burning." But in reality, some of the men charged with the crimes were convicted, but none of murder. As CNN's Eric Philips reports, some residents are still demanding justice.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing? Good afternoon.

ERIC PHILIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ben Cheney has a sense of purpose.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're traveling around, registering people to vote.

PHILIPS: He's leading a group of young people on a crusade called Freedom Tour 2004 to register African-American voters. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My brother died registering people to vote, educating people about their voting rights. And that's what we're doing today.

PHILIPS: His brother, 21-year-old, James Cheney, was one of three civil rights workers killed on June 21, 1964, in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Cheney, along with Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, had gone to investigate the torching of Mount Zion United Methodist Church and the beating of some of its members by the Ku Klux Klan. Jewel McDonald's mother and brother were beaten.

JEWEL MCDONALD, VICTIM'S DAUGHTER: I think that's what upsets me so, that they would beat a woman.

PHILIPS: Residents like McDonald had been pushing for a state murder trial. Mississippi's attorney general is working on that.

JIM HOOD, MISSISSIPPI ATTORNEY GENERAL: I'm personally interviewing witnesses. I learned the value as a DA for eight years, and I tried a hundred jury trials. I know the value of personally interviewing those witnesses and not just reading the cold statements.

PHILIPS (on camera): Two years after it burned to the ground, Mount Zion Church was rebuilt and rededicated. And even though things have changed so much, locals say what's still being rebuilt now, even 40 years later, is the reputation of this community.

MAYOR RAYBURN WADDELL, PHILADELPHIA, MISSISSIPPI: When you go out of town, and you tell them you're from Philadelphia, Mississippi, and they'll bring up the 1964 murder of the three civil rights people.

PHILIPS (voice-over): That's why public support for a state trial is strong. Though a handful don't want it.

HUGH THOMASON, RESIDENT: The people here are tired of it. We want you all to go home. We want Mississippi to be forgotten.

PHILIPS: But most want Philadelphia, Mississippi, to be remembered for the city of brotherly love they say it's now become.

Eric Philips, CNN, Philadelphia, Mississippi.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: About 1,500 people gathered yesterday in Mississippi. They want a resolution passed seeking the reopening of the 1964 murder cases -- Bill.

HEMMER: Soledad, just in to us here at AMERICAN MORNING, The Associated Press, AP, reporting Connecticut Governor John Rowland will announce his resignation later today. He has long been the subject of alleged corruption and facing the possibility of impeachment.

He fought back these charges several months ago. But again, the word we have from the AP, later tonight, 6:00 Eastern Time in Hartford, Connecticut, the governor, John Rowland, will announce his resignation. More when we get it here on AMERICAN MORNING -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right, Bill. Thanks.

Still to come this morning, some fun to kick start your busy Monday morning. It's "90-Second Pop."

She has an injured knee and a canceled summer tour, but Britney's love life seems to be blossoming. Do we hear wedding bells?

Plus, who's strong enough to be the man of steel? Hollywood looks for the next superman. "90-Second Pop" coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEMMER: On a Monday morning, a few short seconds away from the opening of trading on the New York Stock Exchange, the Dow 30 starting at 10,016. It finished up strongly on Friday, actually, up about 39 points at the close, which have investors now looking at -- at the news of the day.

Andy Serwer talking earlier about the -- another merger, a bank merger involving Wachovia, gobbling up another one down in the South. So that company grows larger by the month. We've seen great growth in that bank company lately.

Again, 10,016 is your opening mark today on a Monday morning, as stocks begin now. Nasdaq market site uptown, 1,986 is where we begin. Up slightly on Friday. Up about three points at the close. So stocks open for business here now in New York City.

And good morning.

O'BRIEN: It is exactly half past the hour on this AMERICAN MORNING. And, in fact, we are just minutes away from a new milestone in space exploration.

An innovative new rocket plane is set to take off. It's a unique design. The group behind the project is pretty unique as well. We're going to take you there for the big moment in just a few moments ahead.

HEMMER: I think it's a great story, too. Really turning the leaf in terms of technology.

Sanjay's back, looking at a condition in hospitals as chemo brain, basically referring to the dulling effect of chemotherapy on the mind. But could some new research bring about a solution for all that? Good news to know in a moment. We'll get to it.

O'BRIEN: All right.

But first, a space mission about to be launched that has nothing to do with NASA, or, in fact, any other government space agency. SpaceShipOne, the first privately built manned spaceship, will be tested this morning. A $10 million prize has been offered to whoever develops a commercially viable spacecraft for tourism.

Miles O'Brien is live in Mojave, California, for us this morning.

Hey, Miles. Good morning to you.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN SPACE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. Would you like to come to space with me?

S. O'BRIEN: You know what? Honestly, I -- that would scare me to death. So no thank you. But you go ahead and tell me how it works out.

What I want to know is, why the delay this morning? They were supposed to start right on the dime at 9:30, and now it looks like it's pushed back 10 minutes, right?

M. O'BRIEN: Boy, you are impatient. You know, progress sometimes takes time, Soledad.

I'm told they're going to be (UNINTELLIGIBLE) here in about five minutes' time. And the truth is, the pilot, Mike Melvill, when we talked to him after the last test, which was last month, where they almost went to space, did everything but get to the threshold of space, which is 100 kilometers, or 62.5 miles, he said it was kind of scary. So if he says so, maybe we -- maybe we should wait a little bit.

Let's first of all show you some live pictures of the scene here. We are in the middle of nowhere. This is Mojave, California. It's a gas stop on the way through the middle of California. And it's got an airport. And it's kind of an interesting airport because a lot of innovations have come outer here.

And now, today, with literally thousands of VIPs, members of the public, members of the media, 200 organizations from all over the world here, they hope to see a little piece of space history. Forty- three years after Yuri Gargarin and Alan Shepherd first flew into space, Mike Melvill is set to become the first civilian on a privately-funded rocket for the tune of $20 million to try to go to space.

Now, we'll show you some pictures of this craft. It's a rather odd looking thing. If you know the designer, Burt Rutan, it doesn't look too odd to you. He thinks out of the box, if you will.

It's basically a two-ship configuration. The big airplane that carries the small spaceship is called White Knight. White -- the SpaceShipOne is beneath it. It's about 25 feet long.

Now, what happens is -- and you're see there the actual -- the 14th test, where they went to about 200,000 feet -- that airplane carries the spacecraft up to about 50,000 feet, drops it. The rocket fires for a minute and 20 seconds. And it's a screaming fast ride, approaching mach three, straight up.

And as the rocket motor shuts down, you get about three or four minutes of weightlessness. You see the limb of the Earth. You see the darkness of space.

And the idea is, Soledad, for maybe $100,000, maybe over time, as little as $10,000, people will pay to do just that. We'll see about that, though. One step at a time. And already, Soledad, as you pointed out, they're a little late.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, but you know what, Miles? Progress takes time. Come on, be patient. Right?

M. O'BRIEN: I heard that. A wise man once told me that.

S. O'BRIEN: A wise man once told me that. I'm willing to be patient for a few more minutes. Miles O'Brien, we're going to check back in with you as soon as it does take off.

M. O'BRIEN: All right.

S. O'BRIEN: Thanks -- Bill.

HEMMER: Thanks, Soledad. Thirty-three minutes now past the hour. Doctors and cancer patients now paying more attention to a lesser-known side effect of chemotherapy. It's called chemo brain. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, our own residential neurosurgeon here, talks more about it.

Good morning.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Bill.

Yes, chemo brain is a term that anybody who has had cancer or knows somebody who has had cancer knows about if they've got chemotherapy, forgetfulness, difficulty keeping your place, difficult to read, all those sorts of things, for a long time being associated with the chemotherapy itself. Not a lot of studies done on this prior to now, Bill, because a lot of people just assumed it was something that you had to tolerate.

Now new studies coming out, figuring out that it may not always be the chemo that in fact causes the problem with cognition. In fact, they did a study, an interesting study, looking at 84 women with non- invasive breast cancer, and they tested them before they got chemo to try to figure out if there were any cognitive impairments already present.

And here's what they found. In 35 percent of the cases, cognitive impairments were found in these women, specifically with verbal learning, memory recall and processing speed. Now, what does this mean? What this basically means is that it might not be the chemotherapy as much in some population of people as it is the trauma of the disease itself or just the emotional trauma of being diagnosed with cancer that might cause those symptoms.

An important point here. Again, a lot of those symptoms previously being blamed on chemotherapy in some cases maybe not true -- Bill. HEMMER: You may have just answered this question, but I'm not certain, because I'm trying to follow along here. What toes it mean for most cancer patients then, Sanjay?

GUPTA: Well, I think it -- for a couple of things. For doctors and patients alike, I think it gives them a second look at chemotherapy. Again, it was sort of just -- everyone just sort of blamed chemotherapy for these problems with cognition. But, in fact, if they exist beforehand, they may -- it may -- doctors may treat earlier for cognition problems, with memory problems, things like that. And just the patients knowing that this is more of a problem related to the trauma of the disease and the trauma of the diagnosis may help them tolerate chemotherapy a little bit better.

There is good news in that, in that there are reasonable treatments out there as well for that sort of thing. So -- so it could -- it could prove advantageous for them in the long run -- Bill.

HEMMER: All right. Sanjay, good stuff there. Thanks. Sanjay Gupta at the CNN Center.

S. O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, how big is too big? Andy Serwer pops in to talk about the latest big bank merger. He's going to tell us what's good for the banks isn't necessarily good for the consumers.

HEMMER: Also in a moment, "90-Second Pop" on a Monday. The search for a new man of steel. Some ideas on who might want to get fitted for the cape. Oh, yeah!

S. O'BRIEN: And we're still waiting...

HEMMER: Yes, we are.

S. O'BRIEN: ... on SpaceShipOne. That takes off in the Mojave Desert. Stay with us, everybody. We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEMMER: We want to get you back live to the Mojave Desert and Miles O'Brien. We anticipate any moment now for that spacecraft to take off.

Miles, good morning to you yet again. And as we await there, Miles, I know a number of development flights have taken place. Have they encountered any problems onboard those test flights?

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, there have been a few that have come up over time. They had to redesign part of the control surfaces, Bill.

They had a problem -- aviation people understand what a stall is. They had a high-speed stall problem which they had to tweak. Then they had a problem where it landed, and they had a landing gear issue. But really, when you consider the 14 flights that they've done, and what they have accomplished, they've actually had a fairly problem- free period. Having said that, as you look at -- that's one of the chase planes going by. That's a Beech starship that will be -- that was, of course, a Rutan design. And they will be up there trying to get pictures.

In any case, throughout this, Burt Rutan said it was much harder than he anticipated. Having said that, over the 14 flights we've witnessed, they've had -- they haven't had any huge problems -- Bill.

HEMMER: Also, Miles, as you stand by in the Mojave Desert, how much of this event are you going to be able to see before it literally leaves the eyesight that you have?

M. O'BRIEN: Well, here's what's going to happen. You're going to see it take off. It's going to take one hour for the White Knight, which is the airplane which carries SpaceShipOne to get to 50,000 feet, which is the drop point. And then at that point, at 50,000 feet, it drops off. They light the rocket, and off they go.

And we'll be able to see that way up in the sky here. And as long as that rocket is firing, we'll be able to see it. But then once the rocket goes off and it's in space, we won't be able to see it. Then about 30 or 40 minutes later, it will glide down here for a landing.

So we're going to be relying on reports a little bit from mission control and listening to the radios to see what's going on. We'll be able to see that streak across the sky, though.

HEMMER: And just -- just so our viewers understand, as you were explaining several hours ago, there's a feeling of weightlessness that lasts for about a three-minute period. Again, this is 11 miles up in the air.

And then it slowly returns. Well, I guess I shouldn't say slowly. It's almost like a shuttlecock it badminton, the way as it flutters back to the Earth at quite a great speed. Fair explanation?

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, that's exactly the way it looks. It has a swiveling wing. I don't know if we can bring up our animation here, if that's possible. Let me know if that's possible.

But basically, the wing kind of swivels. And when it's released, it allows it to fall at a very strange angle of attack, and the pilot really doesn't have to do anything, which is part of the safety factor in all of this. You don't want to have to fly that precise reentry that we're so familiar with when we talk about the space shuttle and so forth. This just kind of drops down.

The pilot will pick up a lot of Gs, about six Gs, six times the force of gravity as he goes down. And then, as the speed kind of bleeds off and it gets a little slower, that wind will lock back in, and then it becomes just like a glider, like you see the shuttle land.

HEMMER: They are quick to boast that this does not fly by way of computer, like the shuttle does. But it's almost like a primitive form of aviation, is it not?

M. O'BRIEN: Well, literally, this is no exaggeration, the controls in this, Bill, are the same controls that Charles Lindbergh used in the Spirit of St. Louis, push rods and cables. And the last time a supersonic craft flew with just push rods and cables, it was the X-1 flown by Chuck Yeager, the first person to break the sound barrier.

Ever since then, they've had hydraulics and computers and flyby wire systems, all kinds of technical capabilities. The idea here is to keep it simple. That lowers the cost and actually adds a measure of safety.

HEMMER: And you can believe $20 million is a bargain these days for space technology, huh?

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, exactly.

Hey, Miles, quick question for you. I know they've been talking about if they're successful, if they accomplish what they set out to accomplish. What exactly do they have to do to win the $10 million prize?

M. O'BRIEN: To what now? What's the last part?

S. O'BRIEN: To win the $10 million?

M. O'BRIEN: Oh, the $10 million. I'm glad you asked about that.

We're talking about the X Prize. It's a private purse that started back in '96. And the idea was to encourage civilian teams like this to do just that.

The first team to fly in a craft capable of carrying three people -- you don't have to have three people in. You can have a pilot and two dummies, if you will. The first team to do that twice in two weeks, go to space -- that's 62.5 miles or above, twice in two weeks -- gets $10 million.

Now, Burt Rutan says he started this project before he even heard of the X Prize, and that the X Prize would be some nice gravy for him. His goal is to open up space to civilians.

S. O'BRIEN: The weather looks absolutely amazing behind you. Is it as good as it looks? And if it's not the weather that's the obstacle or an obstacle, what are the biggest problems here today that they face?

M. O'BRIEN: We were told yesterday the only thing to watch were the winds. And right now, it's practically pristine here.

This is -- one of the reasons that the X-15 flew here, that Edwards Air Force Base is here, is most days are like this. It's a beautiful sunny day here. The wind has died down as the sun has come up, as it usually does here. So it's -- there are no constraints to launch. We're told it is go for launch. We're about to see one of the chase planes take off. This particular aircraft will be up at high altitude taking some of the pictures.

This is a Beech starship, one of Burt Rutan's old designs. You can see it's kind of a radical design. Burt is, as you know, somebody who doesn't design in a conventional way. Just looking at that SpaceShipOne and that White Knight, there's nothing conventional about it, is there?

S. O'BRIEN: Mm hmm. I would agree with that.

A question for you about the pilot, Michael Melvill, who you've spoken to now at great length. They were really keeping his identity top secret. Why exactly? I mean, why would it really matter?

M. O'BRIEN: You know, this is -- this is one of the worst kept secrets in Mojave. When I asked people around here when Mike Melvill was selected, what they said was he was selected 25 years ago when he came out here.

Mike Melvill was pretty much preordained to fly this. He has been associated with Burt and Dick Rutan for years and years. I've had the privilege of flying with him. He is a gifted pilot, and he's got the mind of an engineer.

He's a craftsman. He's built -- the reason he got to know Burt Rutan is he was one of the first people to build one of Burt Rutan's home-built kits. He had a home-built aircraft that he had years and years ago, got to know Burt that way, and Burt said, gosh, this guy is so interesting, intriguing, such a good pilot, I want to hire him.

And so he came here, lived here. He's been flying with them for years. Nobody here was surprised when they said Mike Melvill was going to be pilot.

HEMMER: But Miles, what -- if this is successful today, and maybe they turn around in two weeks, maybe it's a month, where does this take space exploration do you believe?

M. O'BRIEN: Well, I think it really opens up all kinds of doors, because -- all right, here -- let's watch the takeoff here as the White Knight rolls down the runway here. And we'll talk a little bit about that.

Now, you see beneath there, that pod-looking thing is the SpaceShipOne. What it go.

Now, they will head off to 50,000 feet. You can almost set your watch for about an hour now before we'll see the actual launch of SpaceShipOne. It's kind of exciting to see it go up.

A little bit of history here. You know, it's not unlike the way the X-15 was launched in the '60s. Of course, that was a much heavier craft, needed a B-52 to do it. Burt Rutan is said to design that spaceship -- excuse me, the White Knight. And off they go. Now, on the issue of civilians in space, what it does is, I think -- I think it's like a pair of bicycle manufacturers building the first airplane. What it shows people is that the little guy can do this. And I think it engages people in that respect.

Sure, it's a technology demonstrator, and a lot of this technology will be licensed out. Other people will build craft like it. But, more important, I think it tells people that it can be done for pennies on the dollar.

This is a $20 million mission from the ground up. It costs $500 million just to launch one space shuttle. So that puts it in some perspective.

HEMMER: And the White Knight and the SpaceShipOne now flying deep into that morning blue sunlight there in southern California.

S. O'BRIEN: That's great.

HEMMER: Thank you, Miles. We're watching from here. Enjoy your day. Well done. Let's get a break. Back in a moment on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Time to check the action on Wall Street. There could be a big bank merger today. But it may not be so great for consumers. Andy Serwer explains because he's "Minding Your Business."

Good morning.

ANDY SERWER, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, FORTUNE MAGAZINE: Good morning to you again.

Let's check out the markets, first of all. Mixed session starting off today. Dow is down about nine.

Nasdaq still up. Tech stocks doing all right. Intel CEO Craig Barrett says business is strong over there.

Taser -- how many times have we talked about this stock -- says its business is going to grow 150 percent this year. The stock is up over $4 to $30. But, of course, it was $60. Remember that? But who's counting. Stock is all over the place.

The big news on Wall Street this morning -- wow, that was interesting -- the big news on Wall Street this morning is the big bank merger you were talking about, Soledad, down South. Wachovia buying SouthTrust for $14.3 billion. Wachovia stock is down. SouthTrust up $4 this morning. That so often happens.

Now, I want to talk a little bit about these mergers. We've seen so many of them. This bank will now be the fourth biggest in the country, with over $460 billion in assets. Number two in branches. Look here, this is what the two banks look like. A real juggernaut here -- 3,262 branches, making them the number two after Bank of America.

And you know what's interesting to me is that a lot of times they talk about these mergers not being any good for consumers. It's not because of competition, because there's still dozens and dozens of banking companies out there, which means that they're not -- they're very competitive still on rates.

What I don't like is, what they'll do is they're going to close down South Trust, stick the Wachovia name on the door, and they say the people will be the same, the service is the same. And it is the same for about 18 months, right?

And then the people leave. They give you an 800 number. You can never call the branch directly, right? You can never actually call your branch anymore. That's what drives me so crazy.

(CROSSTALK)

SERWER: It's an 800 number, yes.

S. O'BRIEN: Guess you're not loving it.

SERWER: That's my feeling.

S. O'BRIEN: All right.

SERWER: Just my opinion.

HEMMER: Thank you, Andy.

S. O'BRIEN: Thanks, Andy.

SERWER: You're welcome.

HEMMER: Let's get a break here. Bill Clinton's book is out tomorrow officially. Would you buy it? What do you want to read inside of it? Back with Jack on that after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: It's time to check in with Jack for a final time this morning with the "Question of the Day."

CAFFERTY: The question is this: how much more do you want to hear about President Clinton's personal life? If you're interested, the book's out, I guess, at midnight tonight.

Robert in New Mexico writes: "I've heard enough on the Clintons to do me a lifetime. The only thing I want to hear now is that Hillary is resigning from the Senate and they're moving to an island never to be heard again."

Betty in Oakhurst, California, "Not a zip, but I am very interested in hearing any and all of his personal takes on historical, political and social factors that affected his time in the White House."

And Jay in Roanoke, Virginia, writes: "Send me a copy of Bill's book for the beach. I'll throw it in the Atlantic, where it belongs. Ronald Reagan had more integrity in his little finger than Bill Clinton could even define, much less emulate."

HEMMER: You're going to hear about it more later this week, primetime Thursday night. When you're off in the mountains of Colorado.

CAFFERTY: I'm going out to Beaver Creek. And say hello to the beavers.

HEMMER: Yes. Bill Clinton joins Larry King Thursday night, primetime live here on CNN, 9:00 Eastern Time, it comes your way, 6:00 on the West.

O'BRIEN: He'll take phone calls and everything.

HEMMER: Oh, yes.

CAFFERTY: Maybe I'll call in.

S. O'BRIEN: Now, that would be interesting.

Still to come this morning on CNN, we're going to take you back to the Mojave Desert for a live look at what could be the future of space travel. Back with our space correspondent, Miles O'Brien, and what he's going to talk about with Daryn Kagan on "CNN LIVE TODAY."

AMERICAN MORNING is back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEMMER: Thanks for being with us today. Hope to see you again tomorrow, on Tuesday morning. We've got to run, huh?

S. O'BRIEN: Mm hmm.

HEMMER: Daryn Kagan at the CNN Center yet again with more.

Good morning, Daryn.

KAGAN: Good morning. I will see you guys first thing tomorrow morning. You guys have a great day in New York City.

S. O'BRIEN: Thanks, Daryn.

KAGAN: We wills get started from the CNN headquarters here in Atlanta. Good morning. I'm Daryn Kagan.


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