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9/11 Commission To Recommend New Security Chief?; Unpredictable California Wildfire; Court Decides On Cameras At Kobe Bryant Trial

Aired July 19, 2004 - 08:59   ET


ANNOUNCER: From the CNN Broadcast Center in New York, this is AMERICAN MORNING with Bill Hemmer and Soledad O'Brien.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Nine o'clock here in New York on a Monday, starting a whole new week here. Soledad resting in the last weeks of her pregnancy. Heidi Collins setting her alarm ever so early.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: I am. How early is that again?

HEMMER: That's early.

COLLINS: I keep trying to forget.

HEMMER: Some of the other news making headlines again this morning. In a few moments, the 9/11 Commission set to release its final report later this week. In a few moments, though, we're getting more information on an expected proposal we'll talk about, where the chain of command should lead in the nation's spy agency. Former CIA chief, James Woolsey, is our guest in a moment here.

COLLINS: Also, we'll get a report on the wildfires in California. Trying to find out if the weather will help out today.

HEMMER: And the unexpected so much a part of war. We'll meet a couple today who wanted to know more about how their son died in Afghanistan, and they learned more about him in his final days than they could ever have imagined. We'll get to all that this hour.

COLLINS: In a little bit. For now, we're going to get to Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: After all of this investigating by the 9/11 Commission, they are going to recommend, what, that we create some more government in this country? Is that the selected...

HEMMER: One position, cabinet level. That's what they're saying.

CAFFERTY: What do we have, like, 14 intelligence agencies now? We've got to create another government job? There you go.

Governor Schwarzenegger out in California referred to Democratic members of the legislature as a bunch of "girlie-men" over the weekend, and now everybody is all in a snit about that. We'll read your e-mails about whether or not that walking barbell out there ought to apologize or not. HEMMER: Thank you, Jack.


HEMMER: The 9/11 Commission expected to recommend a new cabinet- level security chief in its final report out Thursday. Suzanne Malveaux reports this morning Washington battle lines have already been drawn over that very suggestion.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Abraham Scott lost his beloved wife, Janice (ph), at the Pentagon September 11th. The one thing he wants to hear from the commission investigating the attacks is...

ABRAHAM SCOTT, LOST WIFE ON 9/11: What's being done and what needs to be done in order to prevent this from happening again.

MALVEAUX: Thursday, the commission will release its final report. And sources familiar with it say it will call for a new national director of intelligence, a cabinet-level official to report directly to the president and oversee all 15 intelligence agencies.

The goal, better prepare for a terrorist attack by consolidating information. But the proposal is already drawing fire from the Pentagon and CIA, who stand to lose authority over the estimated $40 billion in the annual intelligence budget. The CIA's acting director argues it's his job to overhaul the agency.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, ACTING CIA DIRECTOR: I see the director of Central Intelligence as someone who is able to do that and empowered to do so under the National Security Act of 1947.

MALVEAUX: Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee are divided.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: I am open to suggestions for reform for one basic reason. Intelligence is our first line of defense in any war on terrorism. Our intelligence failed us before the invasion of Iraq.

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R), GEORGIA: Now, if you just add another level of bureaucracy -- and that's exactly what Dick's talking about here that we need to look at ---- if you just add that, we're not going to do anything.

MALVEAUX: Abraham Scott, who lost so much on September 11, wants more.

SCOTT: We need to bring in new blood that will get the job done.

MALVEAUX (on camera): Privately, sources familiar with the interagency talks on creating an intelligence czar say there is such fierce opposition that the Bush administration is nowhere near reaching a consensus on intelligence reform. Suzanne Malveaux, CNN, the White House.


HEMMER: James Woolsey was the director of the CIA at the beginning of the Clinton administration. He's with us live in McLean, Virginia.

Good morning to you. Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING.


HEMMER: I understand you think this is a nice idea. Why?

WOOLSEY: Well, I think that in 1947, over half a century ago, when the CIA job was invented, there was no intelligence community to speak of. A few reports from the brand new national security agency maybe; no community other than the CIA.

So, being the head of the community and being the head of the CIA were effectively the same thing. But that was before satellites; that was even before U-2s. And we now have several rather large agencies -- National Reconnaissance Office, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, et cetera -- and I think some increased coordination, splitting the CIA job, so that there's one person who is still the head of the CIA, but someone else who is in charge of overall intelligence coordination, is probably a good idea. There could be pitfalls through it, but I think it's a better way.

HEMMER: If you -- I apologize for the interruption. If you put that all together, would that have stopped 9/11?

WOOLSEY: I personally doubt it, because I think most of the failures were outside the foreign intelligence community. The CIA made one big mistake. They did not put Al-Midhar and Al-Hamzi on the watch list, the two 9/11 suicide pilots who were at the meeting in -- in Malaysia in January of 2000. And so the FBI and the State Department couldn't track them and keep them out of the country.

But most of the other failings were either inside the FBI, or they were failings by the FAA, and having everybody -- permitting flimsy cockpit doors, or they were failures by the Air Force in not having fighter interceptors near Washington or New York. We -- everybody made mistakes, including the Congress.

So I don't really think most of the failings were foreign intelligence. After all, much of the plotting was done in Germany and in the United States, which are two places the CIA doesn't spy. But I do think that the coordination of all of these agencies would probably be improved by, as Congresswoman Jane Harman has also already suggested, splitting the job and having someone be the overall head of the community.

HEMMER: So, then critics say it's just more bureaucracy. Do they have a point? WOOLSEY: Well, it could end -- it could end up that way. I think a lot will depend on the individual that they select, on whether they let a large staff build up. It wouldn't seem to me this would be necessary to do that.

But -- and I also think it's important that this be a collaborative effort with the secretary of defense, because much of the intelligence that we have now from satellites and the rest is used by military forces directly. So, this shouldn't be something that takes over everything from the Defense Department. It needs to be a cooperative job.

And I hate the word "czar" when applied to this. I don't think 500 years of stupidity and rigidity leading to the -- leading to the victory of Bolshevism is a good model for the American intelligence.

HEMMER: I want to get to two more points quickly, if I could here. Also, this report is going to conclude that a number of the hijackers went through Iran prior to coming here to the U.S. and carrying out the attacks. Your reaction to that is what?

WOOLSEY: I don't think anybody should be surprised that the Iranian mullahs would provide safe harbor or passage for people who they knew in one way or another were hostile to the United States terrorists anymore than people should be surprised at the Iraqi government having trained al Qaeda in -- as the Senate report pointed out last week, in poisons and gases and chemical and bacteriological warfare techniques.

This is a world in which the enemy of my enemy is my temporary friend. And both Iran and Iraq, I think, were probably doing some things to help al Qaeda, even if they weren't, you know, directly and intimately planning operations with them.

HEMMER: I would like to get your response to this report out there that suggests that you acted as a go-between to make the case for war against Iraq, that you put forth an Iraqi defector who talked about biological warfare labs disguised as yogurt and milk trucks to help buffer the argument that you brought to the White House. Is there any truth to that?

WOOLSEY: It's vastly exaggerated, but like some things like this, there is a kernel of truth.

What happened is that one of my former pro bono clients -- I represented eight Iraqis and got them out of prison back in the late 90s, when I was practicing law -- came to me and had a contact with a defector who had some information that could be immediately relevant to helping save American lives, who was a sea-based threat. I called someone in the Defense Department and referred this person to them. I would do the same today.

HEMMER: Did you act as a go-between? Did you put forward information that could not be verified?

WOOLSEY: I called -- I didn't put any information out. I simply called someone in the Defense Department and said there's someone, one of my former clients has sent to me that -- who may have some information that's relevant, you guys may want to interview him. I'd do the same thing today, and I think most any former government official would.

HEMMER: James Woolsey -- thanks for your time -- in McLean, Virginia. We'll talk again.

WOOLSEY: Good to be with you.

HEMMER: Heidi?

COLLINS: Thousands of people have left their homes to escape an unpredictable wildfire northwest of Los Angeles. Miguel Marquez is live where the fire is being fought now in Santa Clarita, California.

Miguel, how is it looking this morning?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, so far this morning, it's looking pretty good. Typical of these fires, they pretty much calm down at night. We are about 25 miles north of Los Angeles, near Santa Clarita. It's called a foothills fire, and it is in the foothills. We can show you what's happening there right now.

Because it's morning time, because it's early and the humidity has gone up, and the temperatures have gone down, the fire is doing what they call laying down a little bit.

And you can see how that smoke is filling in the valleys. The concern at this point is that the winds will kick up, as they have been, and the temperatures will heat up, and it will start moving that fire north, northeast, toward several communities in this area.

Firefighters tried to get in here overnight last night to lay some fire line down to get around this area, and they were unable to do that because the fire was just too unpredictable. The fire has burned through about 4,300 acres at this point, and 1,600 homes have been evacuated.


JOSEPH GOMEZ, EVACUEE: I think we've been anticipating it from the obvious, fires that -- smoke and things that are going or, and the vehicular traffic, CHP in L.A. County and all. And we kind of anticipated it.

PATTY KELLY, EVACUEE: We love our house here, and the area is just so scary, because you just don't know.


MARQUEZ: It's an area that is dotted with a lot of horse farms and fairly small communities, but there are increasing concerns that it will move to the forest area here. It's tons and tons of oak through that area. This is one of about a dozen fires in southern California at this point. They call it 37 percent contained. They hope to have a pretty good day at it today, and the cause of it is still under investigation -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes, I was just going to ask you about that, Miguel. Any more word on the cause and who authorities might be looking for?

MARQUEZ: On this fire, they don't know. They're not calling it arson yet. They're only saying it's under investigation -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. Very good. Miguel Marquez, thanks so much for that.

We want to check on the weather now. Chad Myers standing by at the CNN Center with the very latest on all of this.

Hi, Chad.


HEMMER: Chad, thanks for that.

Kobe Bryant expected back in a Colorado courtroom later today. Among the issues to be talked about, anyway, whether or not to allow cameras in the courtroom. Adrian Baschuk live in Eagle, Colorado.

Adrian, good morning there.

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

Cameras have routinely made their way into murder trials here in Colorado. In fact, Judge Terry Ruckriegle presided over one such case himself. However, never have cameras been allowed to cover a sexual assault case inside of a Colorado courtroom.


BASCHUK (voice-over): Cameras have twice been allowed to record the appearances of basketball star Kobe Bryant in the courtroom where he will be tried on the charge of sexual assault. Today, the judge will hear arguments on whether to ban cameras from the trial itself.

LARRY POZNER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Traditionally, Colorado judges have allowed cameras in the courtroom for trial. So the history is in favor of cameras. But this is an instance where both sides say don't do it.

BASCHUK: The prosecution argues that a camera's presents violates the alleged victim's privacy. Today, her attorneys will ask the judge to ban the filing of court documents online, amid claims the defense is using this practice to smear Bryant's accuser.

CYNTHIA STONE, COLORADO COALITION AGAINST SEXUAL ASSAULT: Many times they put out motions that were filled with rumor, innuendo and speculation about this young woman, none of which had been proven yet to be true.

BASCHUK: Last week, Judge Terry Ruckriegle ruled that prosecutors may admit as trial evidence Kobe Bryant's t-shirt, which they allege is stained with the blood of his accuser. Also, the jury will hear statements Bryant made to police before his arrest that were being tape recorded without his knowledge.

CRAIG SILVERMAN, FMR. DENVER DEPUTY D.A.: Nobody knows for sure what Kobe Bryant said on that tape. We do know he said things that he now regrets. That's why you move to suppress it. Is it incriminating or just embarrassing?

BASCHUK: A question that won't be answered until the trial gets underway August 27th.


BASCHUK: Although no formal hearings will be taking place in the courtroom behind me tomorrow, it is still a big day for this case, even if it's just a formality, per se. Tomorrow is the deadline for any plea negotiations to be taking place. We understand both sides are moving full steam ahead in the trial. No word on whether any negotiations will be going on -- Bill.

HEMMER: All right, Adrian. Thanks. Adrian Baschuk in Colorado -- Heidi.

COLLINS: It's just about 15 minutes past the hour now. Time for a look at some of today's other news with Daryn Kagan.

Hi, Daryn.


We begin in the Middle East, where the Palestinian prime minister says that he is stepping down because of security reasons. Ahmed Qorei is upset by what he says is a lack of security, and what he is calling a state of chaos. He's waiting to hear from Palestinian president, Yasser Arafat.

Palestinians got violent over the weekend after Arafat appointed his nephew as a security chief for Gaza and the West Bank. The man that Arafat's nephew replaced now claims that he is back in that security post.

To Iraq now. Insurgents had killed a top official in the country's defense ministry. Officials say the official and his bodyguard were gunned down by a drive-by shooting. Earlier, at least nine people were killed when a suicide car bomb exploded in Baghdad. The attack left a crater about 10 feet deep outside a police station in the city's southern district.

U.S. military commanders reportedly authorized the use of dogs during interrogation at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. That is according to classified documents obtained by "USA Today." The order reportedly came months after Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld barred the practice at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

There's a new Amnesty International report painting a stark picture in the African nation of Sudan. The report claims that Arabic militias backed by the Sudanese government are reportedly using rape to control black African women in the Darfur region. Talks aimed at ending violence in Sudan broke down over the weekend. More talks are expected today.

And finally, let's end this one on a positive note. Once again, track star Gail Devers is going to the Olympics. She won the women's 110-meter hurdles in 110-degree heat. She claimed the place on her fifth, yes, her fifth U.S. Olympic team.

She's just the third track athlete to make her fifth Olympics, and she says she's going to treat the whole thing like it's her first. If you watch her, she says it's all in the lean, all about the lean -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes. You lean over and you touch that knee (ph), leg with your hand.


COLLINS: Three steps in between helps, too.

KAGAN: There you go.

COLLINS: Daryn, thanks so much.

All right. Checking in with Jack now and the "Question of the Day."

CAFFERTY: Some Democrats in the California legislature were referred to as "girlie-men" by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. He's blaming these Democrats for holding up the passage of the budget.

Critics say that the remarks were sexist and homophobic. The governor's spokesman says he will not apologize and says the comments were a forceful way of showing that legislators are wimps when they allow themselves to be pushed around by the special interests.

So, should he apologize or not? And this in Manassas, Virginia: "I think Schwarzenegger should apologize to the women of the state of California for comparing them with a bunch of Democrats. Other than that, he's calling them as he sees them. Wouldn't he be so lucky to have other politicians to do the same?"

Barbara in Asheville, North Carolina: "'Girlie-men,' this from a man who for years shaved his entire body, slathered on baby out and then twirled around to show every inch of his skin. He was not exactly a poster boy for masculinity."

Jim in Richmond, Virginia: "California Democrats should use the governor's name-calling to their advantage and establish yet another class of protected citizens." And John in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: "I like you, Jack, but I'm gay and personally offended by the governator's use of the term 'girlie-men' and by your warm embrace of his words. But I will go on tuning you in, Jack, since my affection for you was never linked to your marginal intelligence level."


CAFFERTY: I don't know whether to say "thank you" or something else to old John there in Pittsburgh.

HEMMER: Welcome back from vacation.

CAFFERTY: You guys having been saving up while I was gone, weren't you? Yes.

HEMMER: Thank you, Jack.


HEMMER: One of NASCAR's biggest stars manages to walk away from an unbelievable crash in California. This morning, Dale Earnhardt Jr. recovering from second-degree burns after this accident yesterday during a practice run.

Fuels sprayed onto his Corvette as it spun out, slammed into a barrier. Then into flames within seconds, in fact. The 29-year-old suffered second-degree burns on his face and both legs. Earnhardt actually crawled out of the burning wreckage after a few short moments.


BORIS SAID, CAR CO-DRIVER: I mean it was frightening to see because he's a close friend and when you see something like that on TV you feel helpless. But you know, I was there in the Infineon Care Center when they brought him in. And you know, he was awake and alert.

He just was really disappointed that, you know, the car got wrecked and we couldn't race, so -- and I just kept telling him, don't worry about that. But -- I mean, he's a tough guy and he'll be back strong.


HEMMER: Earnhardt's doctors think he will be out of the hospital maybe within a few days in California. A burn suit he was wearing did help protect him. A scary moment yesterday, especially when you consider with his father a few years back.

COLLINS: Exactly. Cold tires on a slick track, they said, too. Not a good combo.

Still to come this morning, an important development that could give patients a little more time in the fight against Alzheimer's. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is going to stop by with that.

HEMMER: Also, from Iraq, the Philippines finishing up its withdrawal from Iraq today. Unfortunately for the U.S., the pullout may be a sign of things to come. We will check in on that in a moment.

COLLINS: And we'll get an insider's view of the Democratic convention from John Kerry's daughter, Vanessa. She'll talk about her father's campaign and tell us what to expect next week in Boston ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


COLLINS: Army Sergeant Kyle Seitsinger died in Afghanistan last January. Just moments before the accident that killed him and his comrades, the aspiring journalist recorded the scene on tape.


SGT. KYLE SEITSINGER, ARMY: This is Kyle Seitsinger. It is January 29th, 2004. I'm accompanied by the 10th Mountain Division, and we have found a weapons cache here today. What we have right here is a basic element of rocket-propelled grenade rounds.


COLLINS: The tape surfaced after Kyle's family launched a furious letter-writing campaign to learn the trout about the accident. Kyle's parents, Jo and Dan Seitsinger, are with us now this morning.

Thanks to the both of you for being here and sharing your story with us. We do appreciate it so much.

Jo, I want to begin with you. I understand that the military came to you last week and presented you with the information that they have about what happened in Afghanistan on January 29. Can you explain to us a little bit about what they told you? I know that the presentation included this videotape.

JO SEITSINGER, SON KILLED IN AFGHANISTAN: Yes, it did. And really, in respect to the other parents that they haven't talked with, we've been asked not to elaborate on -- on much.


J. SEITSINGER: But we were not aware of this tape.

COLLINS: I was just going to ask, you were not aware?


COLLINS: And this was the first you had seen it at all?

J. SEITSINGER: This is the first time we saw it, yes. And as we speak, we have not seen him with the children.

COLLINS: OK. What were your feelings when you saw some of this -- some of these images.

J. SEITSINGER: Well, he looked like Tom Selleck.

COLLINS: He sure does. That's for sure.

J. SEITSINGER: And it was just -- it's good to know, it was good to know what happened. And...

COLLINS: Tell me -- tell me, Dan, a little bit about the letter- writing campaign. Obviously, as parents you were just absolutely desperate for some answers here.

DAN SEITSINGER, SON KILLED IN AFGHANISTAN: When we first got the report that there had been casualties, we were told at the time it was routine training exercise, use of live ammunition and mortar. And I knew that wasn't the truth.

COLLINS: Why were you suspect of that, that it wasn't...

D. SEITSINGER: Because Kyle had just called two nights before and told us what he was doing, and this was his first night in patrol. And he was -- he was more optimistic than he had been because he was doing some things that he thought he would be safe and interesting. So he was not -- it was not routine training, we knew that.

COLLINS: OK. And so where did you go from there?

D. SEITSINGER: Well, I -- well, the next day we got the same report. Another soldier came in and he gave us the same information. And I questioned that, but there was no correction made.

And so I sat and waited. And I thought his reserve unit would probably communicate with us and let us know that there's an investigation and somebody will be in contact with you.

And when I did call the reserve unit, I was told that there probably wouldn't be an investigation because there weren't any survivors. That was not acceptable to me, so I began writing. I contacted my United States senator and just continued to write letters until...

COLLINS: What did your letters say?

D. SEITSINGER: Well, it was lengthy. And a lot of things that I -- that I -- that I wrote in the letter, but namely that he shouldn't have been in Iraq and Afghanistan in the first place, and that I was entitled to know what happened, because I knew that that was not a factual report of what actually happened. I just want to know what was responsible and who was responsible.

COLLINS: To this day, are you satisfied with the answers that you got?

D. SEITSINGER: To that issue, yes, I'm very satisfied, because it was a complete and factual and documented report that we got on July 8. Until then, though, I had no information, and I had no reason to believe that -- that he hadn't been placed in a position through somebody's carelessness or negligence. But I have found out what actually happened, and I am satisfied with the report that we got.

COLLINS: But I understand there are two issues here.


COLLINS: One of them, of course, is -- is what you just explained, and you feel resolved about that and how it happened. What's the second issue?

D. SEITSINGER: The second issue is, he served 10 years, served his country in the military, and he signed up in 1993 for eight years. And his eight-year commitment was up in 2001, December of 2001.

And he thought he was -- should have gotten his discharge. And for two years he asked for his discharge and was denied. And so he didn't mind serving his country. He thought it was everybody's responsibility.

But he also felt like that after 10 years -- and he had one semester to go in college, and he wanted to finish his college and get on with his life out of the military.

COLLINS: And he says his commitment was up. Any response to that from the military?

D. SEITSINGER: That is an issue that's been addressed when the soldiers, the colonel and the major came out on July 8. That is a question that we had, and they said they would get back to us with the answer.

COLLINS: Right. You are waiting on that information.

D. SEITSINGER: We do have a letter from the Department of Defense that we didn't discover until about two weeks ago that gave his discharge date as February 4th of 2004, and that was given -- that letter was given also to the officers who came out on July 8. So we're waiting for an answer on that.

COLLINS: All right. Well, to the both of you, we certainly appreciate your time so very much. Jo and Dan Seitsinger, thank you again.

D. SEITSINGER: Thank you very much.

COLLINS: And we do -- we're sorry for your losses.

D. SEITSINGER: Well, thank you very much.

COLLINS: All right.

Bill, back over to you.

HEMMER: Heidi, thanks for that. About 27 minutes now past the hour. In a moment here, an ultimate campaign insider for the Democrats, John Kerry's own daughter, Vanessa. What we can expect to hear from her father at the convention next week. Also, we'll talk about the flap over the role of women in Boston.

Back in a moment here after this.



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