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Samuel Berger Made An "Honest Mistake" About Top Secret Documents; Interview With Lanny Breuer; U.N. Passes Resolution About West Bank Barrier

Aired July 21, 2004 - 07:00   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. His explanation: Former National Security Advisor Samuel Berger making his first public statements since word broke that he took classified documents.
Hundreds of Saudi police swarm to the capital of Riyadh. Security forces wage open battle on suspected terrorists there.

And just as firefighters make progress in one area, new fires are up elsewhere in the state of California.

Those stories this morning, here on AMERICAN MORNING.

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

Welcome to Wednesday, everybody. And good morning from New York City. Soledad, resting today, getting ready for that delivery, ever so closer.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Special delivery.

HEMMER: We're watching the calendar quite closely. Heidi, good morning to you, as well.

COLLINS: Good morning.

HEMMER: Well, a lot to talk about surrounding the story of Samuel Berger and the classified documents. We mentioned him speaking publicly late yesterday. The former President Bill Clinton also talking. We'll get you all of that and hear from Berger's lawyers this morning. Lanny Breuer is our guest in a moment here.

COLLINS: Also, the 9/11 Commission just a day away from releasing its final report now. We're going to talk to a congressman who has been briefed on what that report will say.

HEMMER: Also, a massive search underway -- resuming in a few hours in Salt Lake City, Utah, for a pregnant woman who disappeared while jogging. Lori Hacking has been missing since Monday.

A bit later in the show, we'll hear from her family, talk to the detectives about what they are finding or not finding right now in the Salt Lake City area.

COLLINS: Scary story there. Jack Cafferty joining us now. Hi, Jack.


I have a question. It's a rhetorical question, but coming up a good part of the night. Is it possible to inadvertently put things in your socks? I mean, I just -- you know, it would seem to me if you put things in your socks, you would kind of be conscious about putting things in your socks.

HEMMER: And there were others who were saying that's not the case, and that was a blown exaggeration.

CAFFERTY: No, I just -- it was a rhetorical question. This has nothing to do with any of the news. It's just something that I was pondering in the middle of the night. I couldn't sleep.

There's a report in the "New York Times" that 400 U.S. Special Forces troops will accompany America's Olympic team to Athens -- controversial development if it's true. The Greek government is denying it. Is it a good idea? We'll take a look in a couple of minutes.

HEMMER: How'd you sleep, by the way -- all right?

CAFFERTY: Well, I just couldn't get that question out of my mind. It just troubled me most of the night.

HEMMER: Stand by.

CAFFERTY: Inadvertently.

HEMMER: Back in a moment.

CAFFERTY: I tried to inadvertently put some stuff in my socks this morning...

HEMMER: Thank you, Jack.

CAFFERTY: ... but I knew right away that I had put things in my socks. You know what I'm saying?

HEMMER: I'm with you, buddy.


HEMMER: In his first public comments since news broke that he is the subject of a criminal probe, Samuel Berger says he made a, quote, "honest mistake" when he removed top secret documents while reviewing materials for the 9/11 Commission.


SAMUEL BERGER, FMR. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Everything that I have done all along in this process has been for the purpose of aiding and supporting the work of the 9/11 Commission and any suggestion to the contrary is simply, absolutely wrong.


HEMMER: The former national security advisor has stepped down now as an unpaid foreign policy advisor to presidential candidate John Kerry. The political fallout begins our coverage this morning at the White House, and Kathleen Koch there. Good morning.


Well, the Berger investigation has clearly ignited a political firestorm. Officially here at the White House, they have had no comment.

A question was shouted to President Bush as he departed on a campaign swing yesterday, but it wasn't clear whether or not he heard reporters' questions.

Up on Capitol Hill, though, there was quite an uproar over the case. Lawmakers calling it -- Republican lawmakers calling it shocking, some demanding that the Kerry campaign reveal whether or not Berger provided it with any classified information.

In a statement, a spokesman for the Bush-Cheney campaign hammered home that point saying, quote, "There are still a lot questions about whether or not the Kerry campaign benefited from the information Berger took."

In response, the Kerry campaign called the insinuations, quote, "a partisan attempt to divert attention away from the 9/11 Commission report."

And indeed, Democrats are raising a lot of questions about the timing of this leak. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle calling it very curious that an investigation that has been underway for some nine months would come to light now.

Now John Kerry, the Democratic candidate -- likely Democratic candidate released a statement in support for Berger saying, quote, "Sandy Berger is my friend, and he has tirelessly served this nation with honor and distinction. I respect his decision to step aside as an advisor to the campaign until this matter is resolved objectively and fairly."

Now President Bush will be briefed this afternoon here at the White House on the contents of the 9/11 Commission report by the chairman and the vice chairman. Now you can bet that as this full report is released to the public tomorrow, that this Berger investigation will be mentioned.

However, the 9/11 Commission does say through a spokesman it has, quote, "no reason to believe that the Berger investigation will -- quote -- affect the substance or the integrity of the report" -- Bill?

HEMMER: Kathleen, thanks for that. Lanny Breuer is Sandy Berger's attorney. He served as a special prosecutor in the Clinton White House. I talked to him about it a few minutes ago.


It's been reported that some of these documents are still missing. Where are they today?


In technical terms, it's called a server. We're having problems with it. That interview, taped a few moments ago with Lanny Breuer in Washington. The complete interview to be rolled out in a moment here once we get our technical issues straightened out.

Bear with us. Be patient. We'll get to it in a moment. Now Heidi?

COLLINS: Bill, we're going to move on to the 9/11 Commission. And it goes public with its final report tomorrow. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice gets a briefing this afternoon on the findings.

Missouri Congressman Roy Blunt was part of the House Republican leadership that met yesterday with the commission chairman and vice chairman. He is on Capitol Hill this morning to tell us what he learned.

Good morning to you, Representative Blunt. Thanks for being here.

REP. ROY BLUNT (R), MISSOURI: Good morning, Heidi. How are you?

COLLINS: I want to begin with a "Washington Post" report. The final report by the 9/11 Commission cites as many as 10 missed opportunities by both the Bush administration and the Clinton administration as far as detecting or derailing the September 11th attacks.

Are they saying that those attacks should actually have been preventable?

BLUNT: You know, I think the commission report, when we see it, will indicate that those missed opportunities were very long shots. That's like saying that the people who were at the airport that morning would have decided at a random selection to pull all of those people off the planes, things wouldn't have happened that day.

Clearly, some things could have been done, but they were long shots. And I hope the commission report handles them that way. Certainly the leaders of the commission understand that that was the situation.

COLLINS: Were you surprised, though, there were that many -- 10?

BLUNT: No, I wasn't. I think when you look at just how long those shots were, it wouldn't have mattered if they were 10 or 100 things that could have happened if everything would have come together at exactly the right way.

The truth is, Heidi, that the country is much different after 9/11 than it was before in the way we view these things, the way we view the ability of this particular group of terrorists to devalue human life, both their lives and the lives of others. Clearly, we look at things differently now than we did then.

And really, the goal of this commission should be, and I hope will be, to move forward to learn what we can from what we did in the past, but mostly to understand that this commission is only of value -- this report is only of value -- if we use it in a positive, forward-looking way and not try to get into meaningless blaming, who could have done what when.

COLLINS: All right. Well, then let's talk then...

BLUNT: Now that it doesn't matter.

COLLINS: Let's talk, then, about some of the recommendations in particular -- two that I know of that you are opposed to, actually. One of them being this creation of the intelligence czar. Why don't you like that idea?

BLUNT: Well, I'm open on how we should do the czar. The one thing that I was most opposed to in terms of the discussion we had was the idea that our intelligence committees in the House and Senate should become permanent. I think they're not permanent for good reasons.

One is, if you -- that they were made temporary appointments. Eight years is the maximum you could serve now so that you, yourself, didn't become a target of spies of other countries. You, yourself, didn't become somebody who would become a focus of how you get information over a long period of time.

And also, you can really become part of the intelligence institutions rather than the oversight that's so important for the Congress. I do think that generally, though, in terms of that recommendation and others, we should be as open as we possibly can. We should look at these.

The speaker tried mightily to get the commission to repeat it, to complete its work on time so we could have dealt with these things in this Congress. I think now that the facts are, this is so important that most of the real work in responding to this commission will be done by the next Congress beginning early next year.

COLLINS: Representative Blunt, you have said that you really thought that this report should have come out in the spring. There were delays that were granted, which you were also opposed to.

Do you think now that because the report is coming out so late that there are going to be political implications here, coming so close to the presidential election?

BLUNT: Yes, I think the hardest job of the commission in the next 72 hours is to keep focused on what this report's all about, rather than people be looking for a line here and a line there to make this totally political.

Certainly we could react to this commission in a much more immediate way if the report would have been done on time. I think the extension was not helpful, but it's what happened.

We now have the report. I think because of that, we won't be able to really deal with the report in a meaningful way until we get into the next legislative year. If this would have come out in the spring, I would have hoped we could have had by Labor Day or so some actual changes to take to the House and Senate floor and put on the president's desk.

That's clearly not going to happen now, Heidi, and that's because this commission stretched its work beyond its original -- original charter.

COLLINS: All right. Representative Roy Blunt this morning from Capitol Hill. Thanks so much for your time.

HEMMER: Ten minutes past the hour.

To the Middle East today -- the U.N. overwhelmingly passing a resolution calling on Israel to take down a barrier sealing off the West Bank. Israel staunchly defending that barrier, immediately condemning the vote.

Alessio Vinci watching the story in Jerusalem today for us. Good afternoon there, Alessio.


Well, Israeli officials this morning here in Jerusalem making it very clear that the non-binding U.N. resolution will have no affect whatsoever on their intention to continue constructing that barrier. Already about 100 miles of a total 400 miles have been built.

Israeli officials here say this is the best way for them to protect themselves against would-be terrorists. They're saying that in those areas of the West Bank and Israel where the barrier has been built, already the number of suicide bombers, or would-be suicide bombers, has dramatically decreased -- and in some cases down to zero. They're saying that already several would-be terrorists have already been stopped and prevented from reaching Israeli targets.

At the same time, Israeli officials are saying, telling us earlier this morning -- a top official within the Ariel Sharon government telling me, that there is no way that Israel can actually abide by U.N. resolutions.


DORE GOLD, ADVISOR TO ARIEL SHARON: We have to understand the effect of this resolution. What it essentially does is it removes the defensive shield of Israel to protect its citizens while doing nothing tangible to stop the sort of terrorism that's been drawn against us. And that can only destabilize the situation here in the Middle East if that defensive shield is removed.


VINCE: Meanwhile, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, the Palestinian officials are hailing the U.N. vote as an historic day for the Palestinian people. They do know, however, that the rule is not binding, at least -- or at least cannot be enforced. But they do hope that the vote of the U.N. will be another pressure on Israel to begin abiding by some U.N. resolutions.


SAEB ERAKAT, PALESTINIAN CABINET MINISTER: The wall cannot stand. And we hope that the international community will exert every possible effort to have the Israeli government comply with this resolution because at the end of the day, you are either with international law or you're against it. There is nothing in between.


VINCE: The Palestinian officials are making it very clear that they believe that this barrier has nothing to do with security. They believe that it is just another plot by Israel to grab some land, since some portions of this barrier actually have been built in so- called disputed territory -- or what the Palestinians are calling occupied territory -- by the Israeli forces.

Bill, back to you.

HEMMER: Alessio Vinci, thanks for that, in Jerusalem.

Back here in this country now and back to the interview with Lanny Breuer serving as Sandy Berger's attorney. I talked to him a few moments ago.


HEMMER: It's been reported that some of these documents are still missing. Where are they today?

LANNY BREUER, SANDY BERGER'S ATTORNEY: Well, Bill, from the very beginning, since October when the Archives notified us that a couple of the documents were missing, Sandy Berger looked for those documents. We found a couple of copies. We don't know if there were other copies, how many there were. And we know that they must have been accidentally discarded.

Sandy Berger immediately searched for them. We immediately searched for them. Months later, the government decided to search for them as well. And it's clear that when Sandy Berger inadvertently took the memorandum with him -- the copies of the memorandum with him, that a couple of copies were in his office. We found those. Those were immediately returned, and the others must have been accidentally thrown away.

HEMMER: It's been reported that he threw them away. Is that a fact?

BREUER: We have absolutely no idea. We take the Archives at their word that there were more copies of it. He inadvertently took them and has absolutely no memory, of course, of throwing them away. So, we can only surmise that that's what occurred.

HEMMER: Well, what did he tell you about accidentally throwing away these documents?

BREUER: Well, he has no idea about what happened. Bill, let's be clear here. Sandy was looking at thousands upon thousands of classified documents.

I doubt there is another person in the United States of Sandy Berger's stature who had looked at so many documents himself, to provide them to the 9/11 Commission and also to answer the 9/11 Commission's questions so comprehensively and so intelligently.

And in the course of three very long days, there's no question, we believe, that in his leather portfolio -- which he had on his desk and the Archives people and everyone knew he had -- that copies of the memorandum somehow got enmeshed and got mixed up with his regular papers.

Sandy didn't know he had them. We can't tell you whether or not one or more copies were accidentally thrown away. But we have to assume that's the case because he immediately, thoroughly searched everything when he was informed of this. We have searched everything. And indeed, Bill, the government did, as well.

HEMMER: Let's move to another question then, Mr. Breuer. With whom did he share this information?

BREUER: Absolutely no one, Bill. I have been representing Sandy in this matter for 10 months with the Department of Justice. And in those 10 months, we've had serious and, I thought, good-faith discussions. Not once has anyone ever suggested, even for a moment, that he shared this information.

HEMMER: Has anyone from the John Kerry campaign been privy to this information?

BREUER: The John Kerry campaign has absolutely nothing to do with this incident. And it's really sad, in my view, Bill, that a man of Sandy Berger's stature and a man who has so selflessly devoted his life to the betterment of the United States' security and safety is being accused of such things, for purely partisan purposes, days before the 9/11 Commission report is coming out.

There's no basis in it. He didn't share it. And the Kerry campaign has absolutely no connection whatsoever in this.

HEMMER: There was also a suggestion that the memo that's missing was actually written by Richard Clarke, the former terrorism czar at the White House. Did he talk with Richard Clarke about that matter?

BREUER: Bill, early on -- let's go back to the history of that document.

The millennium was a time when there were a lot of terrorism threats, and Berger was the national security advisor. And I think serious students of this will mostly tell you that our history back at the time of the millennium in thwarting terrorism is a proud one. And people gave the administration and the country a lot of credit.

It's a credit to Berger that after January 1, 2000, he wanted to take a retrospective view and see, did we do a good job or didn't we do a good job? And he said to Clarke, I want you to take the hardest view you can. And Clarke did that. He said what is good and what could have been done better, and he had recommendations.

This is a memo that's widely known, that people in the National Security Council knew. The 9/11 Commission has it. And that's the memo we're talking about. It's been written about widely. And it's to Berger's credit that he asked Clarke to do it; and it's to Berger's credit that has the confidence to have someone take a critical look at what the administration of the United States did back then.


HEMMER: Lanny Breuer, attorney for Sandy Berger. The story continues throughout the day. We'll be all over it.

The spokesman for the 9/11 Commission says the investigation now into Berger would not affect the "substance or integrity of its final report."

That final report goes public tomorrow, on Thursday -- Heidi?

COLLINS: At least two suspected al Qaeda militants were killed in a major police raid in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Saudi security forces conducted the sweep last night at what's believed to be a terrorist safe house. The raid reportedly killed the leader of al Qaeda operations based in Saudi Arabia, Saleh al-Oufi, number five on Saudi Arabia's most wanted terrorist list.

Also, found at the location, his wife -- she was arrested. And a cache of light weapons and explosives was seized.

Seventeen minutes past the hour now.

Time for a look at some of today's other news with Fredricka Whitfield. Good morning to you, Fred.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you, Heidi.

We begin in Iraq where some 903 American soldiers have now been killed since the war there began. Military sources say a roadside bomb destroyed a U.S. Bradley fighting vehicle in Baghdad earlier today. At least one U.S. soldier was killed, six other troops wounded. They're believed to be in stable condition. President Bush is taking steps to counter a possible bioterrorism attack. In about two-and-a-half hours, the president will sign a bill to develop and stockpile vaccines and other antidotes. The legislation would provide the drug industry with $5.6 billion over the next 10 years to research and develop counter measures.

Tonight in Washington, Mr. Bush will address a dinner sponsored by the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Senator John Kerry is spending some more time in his native Massachusetts today before heading to Michigan where he is expected to campaign tomorrow.

Kerry's running mate, John Edwards is campaigning in New York today. And tonight, here on CNN, Senator Edwards and his wife Elizabeth sit down with Larry King. That's at 9 p.m. Eastern time, 6 p.m. on the west coast.

And Congress is making it easier for people with allergies to read food labels. The new guidelines approved yesterday require food manufacturers to say in clear, simple language if their products contain any of the eight major food allergens, among them, milk and peanuts. If the president signs the bill, new labels would start appearing in January 2006.

Lance Armstrong goes into today's stage of the Tour de France in a familiar position: first. Armstrong out sprinted his closest rivals in the Alps yesterday. His win was enough for him to claim the overall lead in the race. There are five stages still remaining, including today's individual time trial, which organizers say could attract a crowd of one million spectators -- Bill?

HEMMER: He's coming up on number six, five stages to go.

WHITFIELD: That's what he wants.

HEMMER: It is unbelievable to think about where he is right now.

WHITFIELD: It is remarkable.

HEMMER: Thank you, Fredricka. We'll see happens in the Champs- Elysees later in the week. Back to Jack now here in New York.

Good morning, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Not to take anything away from Lance Armstrong, but it's not exactly exciting watching a guy ride a bicycle.

COLLINS: I don't know.

HEMMER: He's done a lot to do this, six times. No one has even been here before.

CAFFERTY: I mean, they're just riding a bicycle. You see people, they've got them all over the streets of New York riding bicycles... HEMMER: Yes, I guess your right.

CAFFERTY: ... riding their bicycles. They've got the little hats on.

HEMMER: That's right.

CAFFERTY: They go up and down the streets.

HEMMER: About 12,000 foot of mountains.

CAFFERTY: Not visually stimulating is my point.

American athletes headed to Athens for the Olympics may have company. The "New York Times" reports that Greece will allow 400 armed American soldiers to accompany the U.S. Olympic team under the auspices of NATO. One hundred more armed Americans will be used as bodyguards for our athletes, according to "The Times" story.

The agreements, though, won't be formally announced because they go against Greek law which prohibits foreigners from carrying weapons. Greek officials responded to "The Times" report today saying they will not let foreign guards carry weapons to protect athletes.

The question we're asking this morning is this: Should the U.S. send armed troops to the Olympics in Greece?

HEMMER: Says a little something about the world today, doesn't it?

CAFFERTY: Boy, oh, boy. That, you know, everybody's holding their breath, I think, over these Olympics over there.

COLLINS: True. All right. Jack, thank you.

Firefighters in Southern California are facing new challenges, even as they gain control over some of the more stubborn fires in the area. A new 5,000 acre fire broke out yesterday in desert brush near the town of Acton on the edge of Los Angeles County.

Driving winds of up to 25 miles an hour, also caused a bridge on the Aliso Canyon Road to be destroyed. Flames collapsed it before firefighters could get in front of the wildfire to hold it back.

We're going to check that forecast now. Chad Myers standing by with the very latest on all this. Hey, Chad, not looking good still?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: That was kind of ugly -- no. Actually they're getting contained, some of the other big fires that we were talking about earlier in the week, but now more just breaking out. And this is a month-and-a-half to two months -- way too early for this stuff to be starting.


MYERS: Back to you. COLLINS: All right. Chad, thanks so much.

MYERS: You're welcome.

COLLINS: Still to come this morning: One of the biggest companies in the world has decided to spread around some of its wealth. We're "Minding Your Business" on that this morning.

HEMMER: Also, out of Salt Lake City, the search is on there in Utah. A pregnant woman is missing. We'll hear from her mother, father-in-law and a lead detective ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


COLLINS: Microsoft decides to share the wealth.

Plus, Alan Greenspan spoke and the markets listened.

With all that, Christine Romans here for Andy Serwer "Minding Your Business." So hey, if you're a Microsoft shareholder, this is a very good day.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT: This is a big payday, and a lot of people have been waiting for this for a very long time. There are almost four-and-a-half, 4.6 million Microsoft shareholders out there. All of you are going to get a $3 per share bonus, a special dividend. And with these new dividend tax cuts, it's going to be a lot more in your pocket than it would have been even a couple of years ago.

And for the top dogs at Microsoft, they're taking home a huge payday. Bill Gates takes home almost $3.5 billion. Steve Ballmer, $1.2 billion. Bill Gates says he's going to give his to his foundation.

But also, the quarterly dividend was doubled. The company is going to buy back $30 billion of its own stock. Overall this is going to cost the company about $75 billion over the next few years.

But keep in mind, this is a company that throws off a billion dollars a month in cash. It has $60 billion in the bank. That's more than the GDP of like the Bahamas and a bunch of whole different countries.

So, this marks a transfer, a change, for Microsoft. It's now a dividend paying company. It's not the hyper-growth company of the 1980s and 1990s. And here you go. Microsoft shareholders have been asking for this for a long time. But finally, that money in the bank is going to be paid back out to the shareholders.

COLLINS: And people are smiling today.

ROMANS: They certainly are.

COLLINS: That's for sure.

What about the markets, though?

ROMANS: Pretty nice. A 55-point rally for the Dow. But you know, it was the best rally in a month, but the best rally in a month, only 55 points. It shows you how crazy it's been around the markets over the past few weeks.

So -- Alan Greenspan, as we told you, was speaking on Capitol Hill, yesterday to the Senate banking committee. And he said pretty much the economy is moving nicely. He's not concerned about the slow down in June, and he will continue to raise rates as necessary.

COLLINS: All right. Christine Romans, thanks so much for the good news today.


COLLINS: Appreciate that -- Bill -- in fact, oh actually, we've got your Wednesday edition of "90-Second Pop" coming up.

You can steal someone's wife on reality TV, but don't try to steal someone's idea for a reality TV show.

Plus: Little sisters always want to borrow everything, but your career?

"90-Second Pop" coming up.



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