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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Four Soldiers Face Justice in Iraqi Prison Scandal; Political Ads Nastier Than Ever?

Aired August 23, 2004 - 20:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Tonight, the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, four American soldiers facing justice. And the lawyer for the man the military calls the ringleader points the finger.

GUY WOMACK, ATTORNEY FOR SPECIALIST CHARLES GRANER: Specialist Graner and the other M.P.s were given orders that they thought were questionable and consistently were told that they were to follow those orders.

ZAHN: And an explosion of negative ads nastier than ever. The new hatchet men of politics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Kerry is no war hero.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George Bush used his father.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He dishonored his country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now he's allowing false advertising.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Nobody admits liking them.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Stop these ads.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think they're bad for the system.

ZAHN: But can anyone stop them? Tonight, 527s, will they ever go away?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Good evening. Welcome. Glad to have you join us as we start off a new week here.

The pictures no one can forget. The smiling American faces, the humiliated Iraqi prisoners became the focus today in a military court held inside a packed barracks at a U.S. Army base in Mannheim, Germany. It was the first pretrial hearing for four of the U.S. soldiers accused of abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib and included defeat for one defendant.

And today, there was a hint that more soldiers may be caught up in the scandal.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): These are the photos that shocked the world, sparked international outrage and forced the U.S. military to launch a half dozen investigations. To date, seven soldiers have been charged in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal.

Army Specialist Charles Graner, the man who prosecutors claim was the ringleader at Abu Ghraib, was dealt a legal blow today when his attorney tried unsuccessfully to suppress the photos. He argued that two search warrants used to obtain the information were invalid. One was executed in the middle of the night and Graner refused to sign the other. The military judge disagreed and that means the pictures could be used in the court martial. Graner faces seven charges, including assault and mistreatment of prisoners.

He could be sentenced to more than 24 years in prison if he's convicted. Today's pretrial hearing for Specialist Megan Ambuhl, charged with committing indecent acts with detainees, was postponed by the judge because of a legal technicality. Staff Sergeant Ivan Chip Frederick is one of two soldiers facing pretrial hearings tomorrow. The charges against him include conspiracy to maltreat detainees and committing indecent acts.

Military sources say he'll enter a guilty plea to one or two charges yet to be specified. Three more soldiers, including Lynndie England, who says she's pregnant with Graner's child, also faces multiple charges, including conspiracy, dereliction of duty, and maltreatment of prisoners.

The fate of only one of the accused, Specialist Jeremy Sivits, has already been decided. In May, he was sentenced to a year in prison after pleading guilty to charges that included conspiracy to mistreat detainees. Graner's attorney insists that responsibility for the abuse at Abu Ghraib lies higher up the chain of command.

In the next couple of days, two new reports are due. The Schlesinger report comes out tomorrow, and then on Wednesday, the Fay report, which could implicate as many as 27 more people in the prison scandal. According to a senior Pentagon official, the list could include two military medics for allegedly failing to provide treatment to prisoners despite being aware of at least some of the abuse.

And Pentagon sources also tell CNN that the report will criticize Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, who was commander of U.S. forces in Iraq when the abuse took place.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Welcome, Mr. Womack.

I want to start off tonight by asking you about what our sources are telling us from Germany tonight, that Staff Sergeant Ivan Chip Frederick will plead guilty tomorrow. He is also a member of the 372nd Military Police Company. Your client risks the harshest sentence of the four appearing before the court. How does this guilty plea affect your defense of your client?

WOMACK: It will help us greatly. Staff sergeant Frederick is a veritable fountain of information that we want.

He has quite a string of e-mail traffic and other communications between his family and him, other persons, as well as military intelligence, sources that we'd like to have. And if he is not a government witness, I would have to try to get immunity for him. On the other hand, if he pleads guilty and becomes a government witness, he is handed to me as a witness. And he'd be a fountain of information that we really need.

ZAHN: So are you saying that he's going to help the government when they talk to him, and yet, when you cross-examine him, you're going to come up with a completely different story?

WOMACK: He's going to help us. He will be of very little use or no use to the government.

ZAHN: Why is that, sir?

WOMACK: Because he is aware of everything that was done at Abu Ghraib. Keep in mind that he is the senior, by far, of all of the seven defendants in this case. He is a staff sergeant, two ranks higher than Corporal, now Specialist Graner. Staff Sergeant Frederick is aware of everything that went on. He was present when virtually all of the photographs were made. Certainly, the ones that are the most outrageous, he was a part of and knows that those M.P.s were ordered to be there and to participate.

ZAHN: There is a new report coming out that some call the Fay report, which is supposed to be the definitive look at what went wrong at Abu Ghraib prison. What is your understanding of what's going to be in that report?

WOMACK: This is a report done by Major General Fay and Lieutenant General Jones. It was basically interviews of military intelligence personnel, all the way up, I believe, to the C-2, Major General Fast, the intel adviser to Lieutenant General Sanchez.

They also interviewed General Sanchez and others. We're very hopeful that a number of these statements that we'll receive from those people interviewed will show that military intelligence was orchestrating what was done at Abu Ghraib and that they did order the M.P.s to do what they did.

ZAHN: Does Charles Graner feel badly about what happened at this prison?

WOMACK: No. He's very proud of his service in the Army. He's very proud of his service in the war on terrorism and what he was doing, his small part of it, at Abu Ghraib.

He is disheartened that he and the other six M.P.s have been made a scapegoat, as the United States government has tried to portray this as an isolated event by seven rogue M.P.s. That is false. The media have helped greatly in shedding light on that. And now we expect that quite a few people will be charged much higher than these M.P.s.

ZAHN: So he had no problem with the treatment of these prisoners?

WOMACK: Oh, absolutely he did.

And he complained to his senior enlisted and commissioned officers within his chain of command, and they told him that this was what he was required to do, that it was part of the war on terrorism, and that they were seeking intelligence from high-value detainees being held at Abu Ghraib.

ZAHN: But you just said he was proud of what he did at Abu Ghraib prison.

WOMACK: Soldiers who have had to kill people are proud of their service. It's a shame to have to kill other people. It's a shame to drop a bomb on a city.

But we have to do that sometimes. And Specialist Graner was doing what he was ordered to do at Abu Ghraib. And it was a very important part of the war effort.

ZAHN: Finally tonight, sir, most Americans have seen the pictures of your client standing behind a pile of imprisoned Iraqi soldiers. What is it that we're supposed to read into the expression on his face?

WOMACK: Well, he is smiling in the photograph. It looks like gallows humor. Many journalist who cover grizzly scenes will make what would appear to be inappropriate remarks about what they see. Firemen, paramedics, police officers, soldiers and Marines, lawyers, we all do that. It's called gallows humor. It's an inappropriate- looking expression of humor to deal with stress.

ZAHN: So we are not supposed to think he's take great pleasure in the kind of treatment he's subjecting these prisoners to?

WOMACK: You can take that, but that's not what happened. ZAHN: But you've got to understand, when most of us look at those pictures, they're disgusting. And the look on your client's face is admittedly really inappropriate.

WOMACK: Certainly. And it looks that way and it looks disgusting because we don't have to live in Abu Ghraib prison. We don't have to deal with high-value detainees. We don't have to strip- search them. We don't have to hood them to keep them from escaping and from fighting with our troops. And we don't have to pile them in a pyramid to keep them from fighting and running down the hallways. You have to put it into context.

ZAHN: Mr. Womack, we've got to leave it there this everything. Thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it.

WOMACK: You're welcome.

ZAHN: And coming up next, disturbing new allegations about Abu Ghraib, U.S. military doctors and their role in the abuse scandal -- when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: (AUDIO GAP) moved beyond a presidential campaign still splitting hairs over service in a war fought 30 years ago, you would be wrong. Like it or not, think it's relevant or not, swift boats again dominated the presidential race today.

In Texas, President Bush went a bit farther in his criticism of the swift boat spots, but not far enough to suit the Kerry camp.

With the president, here's Jill Dougherty.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Bush, at his ranch with top officials, discussed national security. But fielding questions from reporters, the subject turned once again to those TV attack ads, specifically, one funded by the group Swift Boat Veterans For Truth.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That means that ad, every other ad.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: Absolutely. I don't think we ought to have 527s. I can't be more plain about it. I wish -- I hope my opponent joins me in saying -- condemning these activities of the 527s. I think they're bad for the system.

DOUGHERTY: The Kerry campaign has challenged the president to condemn the swift boat ads. He didn't do it by name, but this was the first time Mr. Bush used the words that ad. The White House downplayed the remark, claiming no change in the president's opposition to all soft money attack ads. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Joining me now, regular contributor "TIME" magazine columnist Joe Klein.

Always good to see you. Welcome.

JOE KLEIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Good to be back, Paula.

ZAHN: All right, you've got both campaigns complaining about these 527 groups. But they are here to stay, aren't they?

KLEIN: This is all about the futility of campaign finance law reform in this country, Paula.

The problem is that money is always going to out in a free market society, and free speech is always going to out in a free speech society, in a First Amendment society. And every time we try to reform this, it seems to get worse.

ZAHN: Do either campaigns really want these off the air?

KLEIN: No.

ZAHN: The president, for example, today basically said these shouldn't be aired, correct?

KLEIN: Yes.

But I don't know whether the president actually means it at this point. I mean, the genie is out of the bottle. The interesting thing here is that the Democrats were the ones who took advantage of it first. They put 70 or so million dollars worth of negative ads against George Bush on the air this year.

ZAHN: Not directly to the Kerry campaign, but once again through these 527 groups associated with Democratic groups.

(CROSSTALK)

KLEIN: Right.

And the interesting thing is that it was that the Democrats saw this loophole. The Republicans thought that this loophole was going to be closed. And so they didn't take advantage of this. They thought that the Federal Elections Commission was going to rule against this, which it hasn't done. And so they've been out of this game until very, very recently.

ZAHN: And the Republicans, in contrast, have spent a fraction of what the Democrats have spent on these 527 ads.

KLEIN: One million dollars on this. And it's a huge splash for one very basic reason. The nature of the attack on John Kerry is so unusual. I mean, how many other times have you seen a campaign where a war hero's record in combat was questioned? ZAHN: Didn't we see that in the last campaign, Joe?

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: I don't think we have to think that long ago.

KLEIN: There's only one candidate who has ever done it, to my knowledge. I may be wrong. But George W. Bush did it to John McCain in 2000 and he's doing it to John Kerry in 2004, or at least people who are acting in his behalf.

And I think that that raises, you know, the reason why the media's so interested in this, because it's so raw. It's so brazen. Of course, the media's going to cover it. And that gives that $1 million an awful lot of bang for the buck.

ZAHN: Let me ask you this. Does it also raise the potential that the issue of the president's National Guard service will become an issue front and center again in this campaign?

KLEIN: Well, I think that's what's happened now is because Kerry delayed in attacking Bush and in attacking these ads, I think that all bets are off. I think that this campaign is about to get very, very dirty. The president's service in the National Guard is obviously going to be the subject of ads. It already was. One of the Democratic 527s, MoveOn.org, had an ad. Kerry asked them to take it off the air, but they refused.

They're going to be airing that. And I think we're looking at a very, very scurrilous fall campaign on both sides.

ZAHN: But that ad didn't seem to have the traction that this swift boat ad is having. Why? Why are the Republicans get -- a bigger bang for their buck?

KLEIN: Well, once again, I think it's because of the fact that a man who fought in combat, who bled, who won medals, who received medals, is being attacked for the medals that he received?

And there's a huge controversy now, because a lot of the people who are attacking John Kerry because of those actions during the war had told different stories at different points. Several of them had defended John Kerry in 1996, the last time this came up. This is very curious. And it's the kind of thing that the media just can't stay away from when you have something this dramatic.

ZAHN: So what is the truth of that story, Joe? I know "The Washington Post" tried to lay that out yesterday in a very detailed story.

KLEIN: The truth of the story seems to be, from the guy who were on the boat with John Kerry, that he behaved honorably, that he behaved in a heroic fashion. All of the documentation says the same thing.

Of course, you can always call into question a guy who puts in for a Purple Heart because he got a scratch. But there were an awful lot of guys in Vietnam who were doing that. And there were an awful lot of guys who got out of Vietnam because they'd been wounded three times. I think putting yourself in the line of fire to be wounded even once should probably take this sort of issue out of the realm of political consideration. He went. He fought. Enough.

ZAHN: One final question for you about the president. You're saying it wasn't entirely clear what he meant today when he said these ads should be stopped from airing.

KLEIN: Well, this was a very, very grudging admission by the president. He said, that ad, meaning the swift boat ad, but also all these 527 ads, which has been his position throughout.

He has been very careful, both in 2000, when this came up with McCain, and this time, really not to disassociate himself from these veterans groups who have been attacking their fellow veterans. And that is part of a political strategy. The president is at arm's length. It's not part of his campaign, but it's pretty darn close to his campaign.

ZAHN: Joe Klein, thank you for dropping by.

KLEIN: My pleasure.

ZAHN: And now it's time for us to take a short break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: We turn again now to the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

The abuse not only raises questions about the behavior of the U.S. troops, but also about the behavior of doctors. An article in the current issue "The Lancet," a British medical journal, says government documents show -- quote -- "The U.S. military medical system failed to protect detainees' human rights, sometimes even collaborated with interrogators or abusive guards, and failed to properly report injuries or deaths caused by beatings."

Now, the Pentagon has issued a statement taking strong exception to those allegations, which we'll share with you in a moment. The "Lancet" article was written by Dr. Steven Miles of the University of Minnesota Center For Bioethics. He joins me tonight from Minneapolis.

Welcome, sir. Glad to have you with us tonight.

DR. STEVEN MILES, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: Thank you.

ZAHN: These are some very strong accusations you're making. What evidence do you have to back up these claims?

MILES: Essentially, these claims are based on a review of about 3,000 pages of the government investigations that have been obtained so far and put into the public domain. Not all of those investigations have been published. ZAHN: You no doubt know what the U.S. Department of Defense is saying about your allegations. Quote -- They take "strong exception" to your agencies and that there is -- quote -- "no evidence" to back up your accusations, which they go on to call a "wholesale indictment of U.S. military medical personnel in Iraq."

How do you respond to the Defense Department charges here?

MILES: Well, first off, their own inspector general found that there was simply not a system for monthly medical exams, for tuberculosis screening. The International Red Cross found no medical interment cards, as they're required to provide. And the inspector general's report found that to be true in all of 22 camps that they surveyed.

ZAHN: So why would this statement contradict with what the I.G. has said?

MILES: I don't know. In fact, in another statement, the Pentagon basically said that my statements were true. And, in fact, they were based on government documents and, therefore, they showed that the government investigative process was working.

ZAHN: So what would be the motivation for this kind of statement?

MILES: Well, I think there are a couple things. First off, the government does not want to have accountability for all of the secret, as well as the open detention camps. Secondly, they're trying to narrow the definition of human rights abuses to simply encompass the types of acts that were photographed at Abu Ghraib, whereas, in fact, similar acts occurred at Bagram, at Qaim, at Rifles, and at other detention centers in Afghanistan as well.

Furthermore, human rights organizations, such also the Red Cross, Physicians For Human Rights and other groups, have documented similar events, including falsification of death certificates and falsification of medical records to conceal the traumatic causes of injuries and deaths, have documented such abuses across Iraq and Afghanistan.

ZAHN: Doctor, I guess, as I'm hearing you talk, I'm still having trouble understanding, with the paper trail you say being as thick as it is, why the Defense Department would come out and shoot down all of your allegations.

MILES: I think the Defense Department is still in a deep state of denial about the level of failure of their medical policies in Iraq and Afghanistan, in Guantanamo as well.

The commanding general at Guantanamo said, on the record, that medical records were routinely provided to interrogators to use in developing interrogation plans for detainees. That's a clean violation of the engagement of medical professionals in interrogation processes. It's a Geneva violation. ZAHN: You say it's a Geneva violation. But you no doubt know there are a lot of people out there who say, in this post-September 11 environment, that you have to treat these prisoners differently, and maybe there's a way the line is blurred where you don't violate the convention, but you're able to successfully interrogate them to make the country safer.

MILES: Well, 70 to 90 percent of the people at Abu Ghraib were not guilty of anything. And they were all collectively abused. They were not segregated into separate areas, as is always caused by the Geneva Convention.

Some people in the Pentagon have said that these abuses are the battle that lost the war. And so I don't think that our national interest has been advanced either in Iraq or around the world by this catalog of abuses.

ZAHN: Where did these doctors cross the line?

MILES: I think where they crossed the line was that they saw themselves as soldiers rather than as medical professionals who are serving in the military. And I'd point out that the degree of complicity and the types of acts varied a great deal.

I've mentioned the issue of the failure to establish an adequate health care system in Iraq and Afghanistan. A much smaller number of physicians participated in designing and monitoring interrogation plans, which they should not have done. A small group of people participated in falsifying death certificates. In very, very sporadic cases, medics directly abused detainees.

ZAHN: Doctor, finally tonight, we've all tried to gain a better understanding of what it is these prison guards were up against. We've heard about tremendous sleep deprivation. In some cases, these guards, American personnel, were extremely hungry. And we're told that even doctors suffered some of these same challenges.

Does that make it any easier to understand why some of them may have crossed the line if that is what it turns out the government ends up admitting to?

MILES: Well, first off, this occurred in diverse theaters, including Guantanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan. There was a policy that was signed by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld authorizing medical participation in designing and monitoring interrogation.

And the purpose of the medical system is to function as the last defense for prisoners against human rights abuses, because very few prisoners will be visited by the Red Cross. And the entire fabric of international law is weakened when they do not live up to that duty.

ZAHN: Dr. Steven Miles, we have got to leave it there this evening.

CNN is not aware, at least of this hour, of any attempt on the U.S. government to investigate your claims further. But we appreciate your dropping by.

Coming up, the push to reform the CIA, and the CIA shoves back -- right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Reaction is coming fast and furiously to a plan to remake the U.S. intelligence landscape, a plan that includes dismantling the CIA.

The proposal, first broached by the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, goes far beyond anything suggested by the 9/11 Commission. As national security correspondent David Ensor reports, the intelligence community is wasting no time giving its response.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is going to be very moralizing. We're going to lose people. We're going to not have some of the best and brightest apply to us. And it's like taking the Marine Corps and say, "Now we're going to call you something else."

It is not a trivial event, and I caution those that do this to think long and hard about the implications of it.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former director of central intelligence George Tenet was even tougher on the proposal, calling it, quote, "yet another episode in the mad rush to rearrange wiring diagrams in an attempt to be seen as doing something."

"It is time" Tenet said, "for someone to say stop."

But Roberts says he wanted to lay down a marker, a plan to enact the proposals of the 9/11 Commission. The plan would also fold the other big intelligence agencies under a national intelligence director, taking the huge National Security Agency and others out from under the Pentagon's wing in terms of budget and personnel.

Much depends on the view of President Bush. Standing next to a less than enthusiastic Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, he was noncommittal.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Senator Roberts is a good, thoughtful guy. He came up with an idea and we'll look at it. We'll take a look at it and determine, you know, whether or not it works or not.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And David Ensor joins us now from Washington.

Good evening, David. So is there any new information to report tonight?

ENSOR: Well, there's a couple of developments. One is a statement is just out from the acting director of central intelligence, John McLaughlin. You know, the morale is something of an issue when all these debates are going on now about maybe breaking up the CIA.

And he says in the statement, which is really, I think, addressed to his employees, he said, "I would just stress to everyone that we're nowhere near the end of this debate. Ideas will come and go." He said, "I would certainly speak against any such move," a move to break up the CIA.

He said, "I honestly do not think this will lead to a breakup of the agency," which he said he's very -- personally very proud of the work of.

So there you have it. There's obviously nervousness in Langley tonight.

ZAHN: Was Senator Roberts expecting this kind of response? He's getting creamed by just about everybody here.

ENSOR: I think he expected criticism. He knows that there are turfs that are protected strongly in this town. But in his office today, with other reporters, my impression was that he was a little surprised by the volume of it, the intensity of it from the CIA which, you know, as one professional put it, it's a little bit like changing the name of the Marines. The CIA's proud of its name and doesn't want to give it up.

ZAHN: David Ensor, thanks so much.

Joining us now from Harwood, Maryland, to talk about this idea of a shakeup in U.S. intelligence gathering, let's turn to former CIA chief James Woolsey. He led the agency from 1993 to 1995.

Always good to see you, sir, welcome.

JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Good to see you.

ZAHN: Is there any part of this plan by Senator Roberts that you like or you think is a good idea?

WOOLSEY: No.

ZAHN: Absolutely not one morsel of an idea? Why?

WOOLSEY: Well, the idea of establishing a national intelligence director of some sort, I think, has some merit to it.

But Congresswoman Jane Harman had a reasonable approach toward that with some shared responsibilities by the secretary of defense and the new national intelligence director over these defense agencies, such as the National Security Agency, and shared financial responsibility.

But this is not that. This is -- really is an intelligence czar. And after all, the czars weren't such a success story. I mean, 500 years of stupidity and rigidity leading to the triumph of bolshevism is really not a very good model for the management of American intelligence.

And I think splitting up the CIA is just an extraordinarily bad idea. The three parts of the CIA -- the science and technology people, the intelligence analysts, and the clandestine service, the operations officers -- have increasingly come to work together over the years. So the analysts and the ops officers work together on language...

ZAHN: Right.

WOOLSEY: ... and on the cultures of the places they're learning about.

The science and technology people and the ops officers work together on technical methods of collection.

The operations officers are learning that it's -- if you're trying to penetrate a drug ring, it's better to recruit as a spy the systems administrator for the bank where the drug ring banks rather than someone's personal assistant.

ZAHN: OK.

WOOLSEY: To do that you need to understand what systems administrators do.

This breaks all of that up. It really is, I think, a very, very bad idea.

ZAHN: Well, let me ask you about this, because we have spoken about this in the past together. You acknowledge that the CIA did not work as effectively as it could have on 9/11. We all agree that some changes have been made.

What else would you do to make the CIA more proactive in fighting terrorism?

WOOLSEY: Well, I think the former CIA officer Raoul Marc Gerecht has had some very good ideas about moving much more toward using non- official cover officers.

That is, instead of pretending to be a State Department official and going to embassy receptions, the way a lot of case officers did during the Cold War to recruit as case officers people who can pass as something other than being Americans and other than being -- working for the government.

It's hard, but it's important, I think, to move in that direction, and that's a substantive reform. It's not an organizational reform.

Part of the problem with these organizational changes is they -- they give the idea that by moving boxes around on a wiring diagram you're going to make these substantive changes that are important.

And, you know, just because Congress can reorganize the executive branch doesn't mean that that's the most important thing to do. It's a little bit like the drunk looking for the -- his keys under the streetlight, because that's the only place there's any light.

I think this -- I think the members of the committee that have come out with this have done something that could create serious damage for the intelligence community if it's adopted.

ZAHN: What else don't you think is working at the CIA as well as it should be?

WOOLSEY: Well, it's not so much the CIA. The coordination between the domestic and foreign sides of intelligence needed a lot of improvement.

And that was the reason I supported the original Harman Bill, because the national intelligence director would have some policy management over both the domestic collection by the FBI and state and local officials under our laws. And foreign intelligence collection putting the two together.

But that's where the gaps occurred, largely. One reads the 9/11 Commission's report. The problem wasn't that these defense agencies weren't cooperating with the CIA. That's not where the difficulty lay.

So turning on the Defense Department and stripping it of its responsibility for overseeing the use of technical intelligence, like satellite reconnaissance or code breaking on the battlefield, taking it out of that business, essentially, is quite -- potentially quite damaging, I think, to our military forces' ability to fight successfully.

ZAHN: Finally...

WOOLSEY: There are changes that are necessary in the CIA, but this step is, I think, potentially quite damaging.

ZAHN: Finally tonight, just a brief answer on whether you think the political will exists to put in effect some of these reforms you're talking about.

WOOLSEY: I don't know. The politics of this are sort of chaotic. You have Senator Rockefeller, the ranking member on the intelligence committee, very critical. I agree with him. And you have Senator Kerry's spokesman, Mr. Beard, saying he think it's a great idea.

On the Republican side, the White House seems caught between the people on the Armed Services Committee, the Republicans on the Armed Services Committee and those on the intelligence committee. Everybody's sort of firing at everybody from all directions.

I have no idea what's going to come of the politics of this.

ZAHN: And I know you hate talking politics, but what do you make of the timing of this, coming up on the Republican convention? Is this a way to sort of force the president's hand to maybe look more seriously at some of the findings of the 9/11 Commission about the CIA?

WOOLSEY: I have no idea, but the commission had some good ideas, some that I think were not good, such as transferring all authority over paramilitary covert action to the Pentagon. And their recommendations, like anybody else's, one should look at them carefully and accept the good ones and ignore the ones that are not good.

I don't think the timing of conventions or anything should have an effect on this. I don't know whether it does or not. But these issues ought to be dealt with on the merits, not -- not by some perception about what is hot or not hot.

ZAHN: You could get a lot of votes for saying that, sir. A lot of Americans are sick and tired of this political process. James Woolsey, thank you for joining us tonight.

WOOLSEY: Good to be with you.

ZAHN: Coming up, remembering a legendary flight to freedom. A national monument to those who slipped through chains and those who tried to help them.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Nearly four million blacks were slaves in the United States when the civil war broke out in 1861. And throughout the 1800s, only a fraction managed to escape.

About 100,000 tried by way of the Underground Railroad. And for many who made it, the last stop was Cincinnati. And tonight, that city is dedicating a museum to the Underground Railroad.

But as some people see it, Cincinnati may be the wrong city at the wrong time. Here's Gary Tuchman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Statues of people in agonizing poses, people who were slaves. They, and the people who tried and sometimes succeeded in transporting them to freedom, are being honored here in Cincinnati.

SPENCER CREW, UNDERGROUND RAILROAD FREEDOM CENTER: The most important thing that people should take from here about the Underground Railroad is that people of conscience, people of principle working together can, in fact, make a difference and can, in fact, change the society in which they live.

TUCHMAN: The Underground Railroad Freedom Center brings to life the secret network of people and safe houses that carried runaway slaves to freedom.

This is an actual slave pen from the 1830s: a jail for slaves, destined for other southern locations. It was found on a Kentucky farm a few years ago. The owner's name is still on a wall inside the pen.

And documents were found with names like William, Matt, Joshua, Mahala, Maria, Matilda, Phoebe. A few of the men, women and children who were trapped in this particular weigh station of slavery.

Carl Westmoreland's ancestors were slaves. He is one of the Freedom Center's senior advisers for historic preservation.

CARL WESTMORELAND, UNDERGROUND RAILROAD FREEDOM CENTER: There was a center chain running all the way through the building and then they were, as Abraham Lincoln said, hung like catfish on either side of the center chain.

And this is just the way people were chained up in the bottom of slave ships. The women were free to walk around on the first floor, and cook for the men at the fireplace who were imprisoned on top.

TUCHMAN: Throughout the building, signs of those times. An advertisement for an auction of slaves. This sign, alerting prospective buyers to a new cargo of human beings.

But this museum is not only about slavery in America.

CHEW: What we want to do as an institution is to remind us that there are issues of freedom being contested across the world.

TUCHMAN (on camera): As a location for the institution, Cincinnati is symbolically very relevant. Ohio was a free state during the slave era. But cross the Ohio River from Cincinnati, and you end up in the state of Kentucky, which was a slave state.

A slave who crossed this river heading in a northerly direction was free.

(voice-over) But the symbolism doesn't mean much to some civil rights activists. Disturbances after a fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by Cincinnati police in 2001 led to an economic boycott. A $110 million museum in a city with continuing racial problems rubs some the wrong way.

ERIC ELLIS, DIVERSITY ADVOCATE: I think it is protesters and boycotters that remind us to not sort of cut the ribbons and make the celebration and act as though we're at the end of the road. We're really at the beginning.

TUCHMAN: It's anticipated a quarter million people will visit the freedom center in its first year.

(on camera) Should good people leave here angry?

CHEW: No, good people should leave here inspired. Good people should leave here willing to find a way to help make things better.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ZAHN: And we are going to take a short break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: If you looked at your calendar lately, you know it's one week and counting until the start of the Republican National Convention right here in New York City. But for some people, the headaches have already started.

City officials are facing a problem that's similar to one Boston leaders confronted days before the Democratic convention. That story now from Jason Carroll.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For the past several weeks, they showed up wherever New York's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, did, threatening to strike, shouting slogans outside his home. All to pressure Bloomberg back to the bargaining table with what the city's police and fire unions call a fair contract.

They hoped it would happen before the Republican convention takes place here next week. But nothing so far. Their next tactic: take their cause to the top.

PATRICK LYNCH, NEW YORK PATROLMAN'S BENEVOLENT ASSOCIATION: So we respectfully ask the president of the United States, if he did not know what's going on in this city, we want him to know when he comes to town.

CARROLL: In a bold move, the city's police and fire unions wrote directly to President Bush, saying, "We, the front line domestic troops in the global war on terrorism, have been disrespected by Mayor Bloomberg's collective bargaining policies."

STEPHEN CASSIDY, PRESIDENT, NEW YORK FIRE UNION: It seems clear to us that people around the country aren't aware that the heroes of September 11 have not been treated with respect by this man.

CARROLL: Mayor Bloomberg says the city is financially tapped and cannot pay beyond the five percent of the three-year offer already made.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY: The city just does not have any money. And the federal government is not going to give us any money for those kinds of expenses.

CARROLL: But rank and file firefighters and police officers like Joe Johnson don't buy that.

JOE JOHNSON, NEW YORK POLICE OFFICER: We literally put our lives on the line, and the mayor is telling us we -- he doesn't care, he doesn't want to pay us. That kind of hurts.

CARROLL: So for now, an impasse. The timing could not be worse. Threats of a blue flu loom over the convention. The unions say security will not be compromised.

WALTER LIDDY, NYC POLICE UNION REPRESENTATIVE: We will be out there for the citizens of New York, like we always have been.

CARROLL (on camera): Police and fire unions are seeking arbitration, which the city opposes. No word yet on the White House's response to the union's letter.

Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And a program note for you. Live coverage of the Republican National Convention begins a week from tonight, August 30, right here on CNN.

Coming up next, there is no resting on our laurels.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can never look good doing this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Transplanting an ancient honor on modern heads after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: You have probably noticed that Olympic athletes aren't just competing for medals this year. The winners in Athens also get to wear a wreath on their heads. Before we hit the finish line tonight, Jeanne Moos goes for the green.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Top athletes, topped by topiary? Sort of makes you want to run out and trim your hedges.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The wreath is not for everybody.

MOOS: Maybe this mistletoe on steroids explains all the kissing of medals beneath it. The wreath has become an Olympic halo.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a little weird, but I like it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does it look dorky? Not to their parents.

MOOS: But to a fashion insider...

ROBERT VERDI, FASHION ANALYST: That actually looks like a bird was building a nest on her head. Bad. Bad. It's comparable to Donald Trump's real hair.

MOOS: Style commentator Robert Verdi isn't letting Olympians rest on their laurels. Technically, they're not laurels. They're olive wreaths, the leaves freshly plucked and assembled.

VERDI: This one's too small. He needs the next size up.

MOOS: Actually, they're one size fits all, though the Hamm twins seem to have unequal leaf distribution.

(on camera) His is much more bushy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He must have been the first born.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks weird. I wouldn't wear no...

MOOS: Well, you wear this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's different. This is fabric. That's plants. I don't think I would wear no plants on my head.

MOOS (voice-over): But you can't get the plant off this member of the U.S. rowing team.

PETE CIPOLLONE, U.S. GOLD MEDALIST: This is the traditional award for victors, as opposed to the modern one. And I plan to wear both until, you know, I'm thrown in jail.

MOOS: There is one big difference between wearing the wreath now and when it was first worn at the ancient games.

(on camera) When they really introduced these, everyone was nude.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ah!

MOOS (voice-over): We bought the pathetic wreath I'm wearing for eight bucks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Probably won't fit me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See, sexy, that's what I'm saying.

VERDI: You can never look good doing this.

MOOS (on camera): Try it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, thanks.

MOOS (voice-over): You wouldn't wear a wreath either if it covered up the eyes in the back of your head.

Some athletes can pull it off. Some would be better off taking it off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That looks like John Belushi and his two friends or something.

MOOS: The olive wreath is reminiscent of Miss America's crown. Tricky to keep on, but somehow...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Makes it authentic.

MOOS: But a fashionista can't help noticing details.

VERDI: The nail polish is awful.

MOOS: It's just a Dutch athlete wearing her national color.

This is awful, U.S. Track star Gayle Devers who, through no fault of her manicure, nailed a hurdle. No wreath for her.

Though even tourists are wearing it.

VERDI: Does this wreath make me look fat?

MOOS (on camera): Just your head.

VERDI: Just my head.

MOOS (voice-over): At least no Olympic athlete tried this with their olive leaves.

Who needs a gold medal when you've got dog tags?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: I'm sorry, Jeanne, but I think all the winners look appropriate with the little wreaths on their head.

Thank you so much for joining us tonight. Tomorrow, the incredible success of Iraq's Olympic soccer team in Athens. And in the hearts of a people yearning for a reason to finally celebrate. That's tomorrow night.

Coming up next, "LARRY KING LIVE" with the latest on the cross- examination of Scott Peterson's former mistress, Amber Frey.

That's it for all of us this evening. Thanks so much for joining us. We hope you all have a good night.

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


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