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Two Russian Jetliners Crash Almost Simultaneously; Discussion with Brigadier General Janis Karpinski

Aired August 25, 2004 - 07:00   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Two Russian jetliners crash almost simultaneously. Have terrorists now penetrated that country's air security?
It is over for Amber Frey, at least for now, anyway. What points did Mark Geragos score in his cross-examination?

Kobe Bryant case, two days away from jury selection. The judge now making a ruling on what the public will see.

And at the mercy of the ocean, the fishermen who went through an agonizing ordeal lost at sea. They tell us their story on this AMERICAN MORNING.

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

HEMMER: And good morning, everyone. I'm Bill Hemmer here in New York.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Heidi Collins, in for Soledad this morning. We have much more coming up, of course, on the crashes of those two passenger planes. We have a live report coming up from Russia on the investigation into what caused the crashes. You see the video there.

The big question, was it terrorism? We're going to talk about that with the former terror investigator for the U.S.

HEMMER: Certainly a lot of questions this morning.


HEMMER: Also in a moment here, we'll talk to Brigadier General Janis Karpinski about two reports, one released yesterday, one coming out today. We'll get her reaction and conclusions, setting (ph) that commanders bear direct responsibility for the abuses there at the prison west of Baghdad.

COLLINS: Jack Cafferty joining us now. Good morning.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Heidi.

So we got this war in Iraq, and we've got the economy, and we've got 50 million Americans that don't have any health insurance, and we've got prescription drug prices, and we've got jobs, and we've got deficits. Why is this campaign mired in a tedious discussion about the Vietnam War? It's very sad, I think. We'll look at it in a minute.

HEMMER: All right, thanks, Jack, thanks for that.

First off, straightaway to Carol Costello at the CNN Center, watching the headlines this morning.

Carol, good morning there.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Bill. Thank you.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani, the influential Shia leader, is asking all Iraqis to march to Najaf in order to rescue the city. Al Sistani arrived in Iraq just hours ago, after undergoing medical treatment in London.

In the meantime, in Fallujah, the U.S. military launched airstrikes, supported by tank fire, against insurgents. It is the second day of bombing in that city.

A report expected to come out today suggests that blame for the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal goes all the way to the top commanders. The independent investigation show that while senior officers did not encourage abuses, they did not adequately supervise what was going on at the prison. In 10 minutes, reaction from Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, the former commander of Abu Ghraib.

Cameras will be allowed in the Kobe Bryant trial, but only on a very limited basis. The judge is allowing one camera for still photography during opening statements and closing arguments, and two video cameras will record closing arguments. Cameras will not be allowed during the trial itself. Jury selection is scheduled to begin on Friday.

And another gold for the U.S. team in Athens, this one at the beach. The team of Misty May and Kerri Walsh Defeated the 2000 silver medalist from Brazil in straight sets.

And a bronze for three-time Olympians Holly McPeak and Elaine Youngs over the Australian team. This is the first time Americans have won any medals in beach volleyball.

Back to you, Heidi.

COLLINS: All right, excellent news for them. Thanks so much for that, Carol.

I want to return now to our top story today, the crashes of two Russian passenger planes within just minutes of each other. It happened last night. Both planes took off from Moscow's domestic airport. The crash sites are about 450 miles apart. The first plane went down near Tula. That's about 100 miles south of Moscow. The second crashed in the Rostov region. Wreckage from the planes has been found now. Eighty-nine passengers and crew are onboard both aircraft. There are no reports of any survivors. We are told both planes disappeared from radar within three minutes of each other. Witnesses told the Russian news agency Interfax they saw the first plane explode before it crashed. Interfax quoted a Russian security source, who said the second plane transmitted a signal used to indicate a hijacking. Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an immediate investigation of the near- simultaneous incidents.

This morning now, both flight data recorders, the black boxes, have been found.

CNN's Ryan Chilcote is live now in Moscow with the very latest on all of this.

Ryan, good morning to you.

RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Heidi. Well, the Russian president asked the Russian Federal Security Service -- that's Russia's successor agency of the KGB -- to lead up that investigation to lead up that investigation of those two very coincidental crashes. And they have said, since they took over the leadership of this investigation, from the very beginning, that they're going to look at the entire spectrum of possible causes of these two crashes, including the possibility that terrorism was involved with either of the crashes.

Interestingly, in the last couple hours since people woke up here in Moscow, a deputy spokesman for the Russian Federal Security Service has begun talking about the fact that perhaps terrorism -- they haven't found substantive evidence yet of terrorism, saying that they just don't have any clear signs of terrorism yet, and that they are looking at another scenario. The other scenario is checking kind of fuel, the quality of the fuel that was put in these two planes, how these two planes were fueled, and that possibility that there was some kind of mechanical failure. This is brand new development up until now. Up until now, the Russian Federal Security Service hadn't said anything on the record.

Now, there was a search-and-rescue operation going on to rescue some of the people from these planes, but, as you said yourself, all 89 people are suspected to have died in these crashes. So it is a recovery operation. Russian officials moving quickly there. The two different sites, both of them very large, one about six miles in radius, the other about 25 miles in radius. They've recovered about half of the bodies, and they have also recovered quite a bit of evidence, including the black boxes that you mentioned. There are actually four of them, two for each plane. Those are on their way back to Moscow. Hopefully those black boxes will provide some clues in exactly what happened with those airplanes -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right, we certainly hope so, for that.

Ryan Chilcote, thanks so much, live from Moscow this morning.

And of course now, once again, the big question, were the plane crashes a result of terrorism? Rohan Gunaratna is a terrorism analyst, and author of the book "Inside Al Qaeda." He's joining us now from Wellington, New Zealand. Thanks so much for being with us, sir.

I want to quickly remind everyone of this information we just got from Ryan Chilcote out of Moscow, investigators there saying no substantial evidence yet that terrorism is involved, very early in this investigation. Also some questions about the quality of fuel on both of those planes.

What is your initial reaction here, sir, to what's happened?

ROHAN GUNARATNA, TERRORISM ANALYST: Because two planes were destroyed almost simultaneously, it is very important that the investigation is comprehensive and terrorism is considered as one of the possible causes.

We also know that there are three Chechen groups, three Chechen terrorist groups, that have a presence in Moscow, and that in the past, they have conducted a number of operations, which included bombing of apartment buildings, the hijacking of hostages in theater situation, and they have attempted to conduct several operations in Moscow, and so certainly terrorism is one issue that must be investigated.

COLLINS: And, of course, we are aware that a hijacking alert, otherwise known as the transponder code on these aircraft, was put intact, meaning that something was happening in that survey. Would you say, sir, from what you're saying about the Chechen rebel organizations that they would be capable, then, of something like this?

GUNARATNA: Yes, certainly the Chechen rebel organizations are quite capable of this type of terrorism, because they are very well trained, and at least one of the three Chechen organizations, the group that was led by Imam Omar Al Khattab has a number of Mujahideen serving in these organizations, people who are trained in Afghanistan.

COLLINS: Are you talking about Al Qaeda, sir?

GUNARATNA: Yes. In fact, we have seen a number of members who served in Al Qaeda, are serving in one of the Chechen organizations called the International Islamic Brigade. And it is very important to investigate this particular incident, keeping in mind that Chechen groups have tried to conduct mass-fatality attacks previously in Moscow.

COLLINS: Rohan Gunaratna, we certainly appreciate your expertise in all of this today. Thanks so much for your time -- Bill.

GUNARATNA: Thank you.

HEMMER: Now to another story this morning, and it will get a lot attention throughout the day today, more charges possible in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal once the Pentagon report comes out.

An independent report out yesterday says the abuse of prisoners was a result of failures up the chain of command to the Office of the Secretary of Defense. But it disputes the claim by some of the soldiers seen in photos of abuse who say they were acting under orders.


JAMES SCHLESINGER, INDEPENDENT PANEL CHAIRMAN: It was sadism on the night shift at Abu Ghraib, sadism that was certainly not authorized. It was kind of "Animal House" on the night shift. That is reflected in the fact that there was no such activities during the day shift when there were different non-coms in charge.


HEMMER: Schlesinger also says Pentagon brass were indirectly responsible for what happened, but commanders on the scene bear direct responsibility for the guards' conduct.

Brigadier General Janis Karpinski was in charge of the military police at the time of the abuse, and General Karpinski is my guest now live from the CNN Center.

Good morning to you.


HEMMER: Want to start with the Fay report due out later today. You were interviewed for this report. Will it be critical of your time spent at that prison?

KARPINSKI: I don't know. I can't speculate. I've heard some suggestions that they find fault with about two dozen or 27 military intelligence personnel.

I do know that the direction that the Fay investigation took was to look at the military intelligence aspects, since right from the start, the M.P.s were largely founded at fault. And our position was clear then, that there was a shared responsibility in all of this.

HEMMER: On the screen for our viewers, the Washington Post pulls a part of that Fay report. In it, it says, "The aberrant behavior on the night shift in Cell Block 1 at Abu Ghraib would have been avoided with proper training, leadership and oversight."

The training, the leadership and oversight -- is that pointing to you?

KARPINSKI: If Abu Ghraib was under my control at that time, certainly.

As I said, there's a shared responsibility in this and it would be impossible to place fault or blame on one individual. Soldiers were trained at their mobilization stations and deployed to do a specific mission. They were assigned a new and completely different mission in the theater. And in the middle of a combat zone, it brought new challenges to that table. HEMMER: The Schlesinger report that was talked about yesterday at the Pentagon talked about sadistic acts being committed on the night shift, at one time referred to as an "Animal House." It concludes there was no policy of abuse.

Do you agree with that?

KARPINSKI: A direct policy of abuse? I'm in complete agreement. I'm sure nobody at any level said, abuse these prisoners.

But then the determination has to be made if that was actually abuse that was seen in those photographs, or humiliation, and what the purpose of those photographs actually was.

HEMMER: So between the Fay and Schlesinger report, what responsibility do you take?

KARPINSKI: I have always taken the responsibility of those things and those soldiers that were under my control.

When you remove soldiers from a commander's control, then you likewise transfer responsibility. They were assigned to an M.P. company, assigned to one of my battalions, and I have always accepted responsibility as it is fairly my responsibility to accept.

HEMMER: Also, four panel members that conducted the Schlesinger report all were asked whether or not Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld should be implicated in this. All four members reject any calls for him to resign.

What do you believe, or how do you believe, whether or not Donald Rumsfeld should be affected by all this?

KARPINSKI: Well, I don't see what purpose it serves to take people with great experience out of positions and not take advantage of that experience.

I think we should focus on how did we get to this point, which I think the independent commission report does, and most importantly, how do we make sure it never happens again. And everybody can bring experience and recommendations to the table on those points.

HEMMER: There are 24 to 27 people talked about in total. Do you believe it stops there then?

KARPINSKI: No, I do not.

I think that this is an indication of some policies that, if they had continued, obviously it would have gotten far worse. So to a large extent it's a good thing that this was stopped very early on. No telling how long it would have been concealed and how difficult or how awful it would have become.

So I think that we're going to get to the bottom of this, or to the top of this, or wherever it lies, but there's still yet more to be uncovered. HEMMER: Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, our guest from the CNN Center. Thank you for your time.

KARPINSKI: Thank you.


COLLINS: Still to come, though, on AMERICAN MORNING, another "New You" checkup. Desserts and fried foods where 25-year-old Kimberly Edwards downfall -- probably a lot of other people's, too. She wanted to lose weight. But could she keep it off? Dr. Sanjay Gupta has a follow-up appointment.

HEMMER: She's not alone, is she?


HEMMER: Also ahead, Amber Frey's cross-examination at the Scott Peterson trial over, but she may not be done just yet. Lisa Bloom of Court TV stops by this hour on that.

COLLINS: Plus, Dennis Miller and shows like it are an important news source for some Americans, but when do comedians become journalists? Part three of our weeklong series "Pollywood," ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


HEMMER: Welcome back, everyone, to Jack and the Question of the Day.

CAFFERTY: Good morning, Bill.

Here we are fewer than 70 days from electing the next president, and the campaign is mired in a nasty debate about John Kerry's war record during Vietnam. This way, they don't have to actually address the issues, what they plan to do for us if their selected to run the country, and I think it stinks.

Now comes word that a Republican lawyer, a guy named Benjamin Ginsberg, admits that he advised the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth about their anti-Kerry TV ad. But even the Democrats admit it's legal to give advice to the 527 groups.

Both campaigns are afraid now that this thing is a hydra with 14 heads that can undermine both efforts. Democrats concerned about the attacks on Kerry's character and credibility. Republicans are worried that there could be a backlash against President Bush.

The whole thing's nasty, but ultimately, it appears that John Kerry has the most to lose.

So here's here's the question: Has the Swift Boat controversy changed your mind about John Kerry?

HEMMER: Ultimately, that's where it matters, too. CAFFERTY: I mean, what is this nonsense? What about health care, and the war, and the deficits, and the economy, and jobs? I mean, why are we doing this?

HEMMER: Fewer than 10 weeks to go, too.

CAFFERTY: Terrible, terrible.

COLLINS: Thanks, Jack.

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry joked about his Vietnam record when he joined Jon Stewart on Comedy Central's "Daily Show." Senator Kerry also laughed about the strange places folks strike up a conversation on the campaign trail.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You'd be amazed the number of people that want to introduce themselves to you in the men's room.



KERRY: It's the most bizarre part of this entire campaign.

STEWART: I'm going to make a suggestion, too. Secret Service -- right at the door, not getting in.



COLLINS: Always in the bathroom, something funky happening.

HEMMER: How about Jon Stewart, by the way, stepping it up on this campaign?

COLLINS: I know, he is.

Well, all this week, we have also been looking at politics and Hollywood. We like to call it "Pollywood." Today, we are going to be talking about the comedians. Many Americans often gets news on current events from comic acts. So how does the funny business affect the campaign business?


COLLINS (voice-over): Turn on late-night comedy TV and you might think you're watching "Meet the Press."


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The top 10 changes I'll make in the White House. Are you ready? DAVID LETTERMAN, "LATE SHOW" HOST: This is right up your alley.

BUSH: Yes.


ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: I'm going to run for governor of...


COLLINS: Politics has always been comic fodder.


LETTERMAN: John Kerry and...

CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST: Kerry and Edwards are so...

JAY LENO, "TONIGHT SHOW" HOST: President Bush told the crowd...


COLLINS: What's different today is that for a growing number of Americans, comedians are becoming an important source of information on current events.


DENNIS MILLER, COMEDIAN: McGreevey is now a leading candidate to head up the FBI.


MILLER: I would say the first people to begin to blur the line was the news side of things. I don't think entertainers did it first. I think news became more featured oriented, and feel-good and up close and personal.

COLLINS: A study by the Pew Center shows one in five young Americans rely on comedy programs for part of their campaign news.

MILLER: I'm not willing to grab that that's a bad thing for them to do. I don't know, I got an opinion like anybody else. They want to listen to it, fine. If they don't, fine. But I don't think they're stupid because they listen to me.

COLLINS: In fact, experts say satire may be a safety valve in the world of politics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the press is the fourth of state, the thing that keeps's other powers in balance, I think comedy and more and more serving as the fifth estate. It, to some extent, can keep the press in balance to some extent.

COLLINS: But what if the comedian tilts one way?

MILLER: I'm voting for Bush. I want him to be my president.

COLLINS: Liberal radio show host Janeane Garofalo won't vote for Bush. She's very vocal about it.

But does an audience who comes to be entertained have to hear how performers are going to vote?

(on camera): I'm paid my ticket to -- however much I have to pay for that. I go there, and right before the break, because we're going to take a break, the entertainer decides to do a spiel or a speech on their particular political beliefs. Think that's okay?

GAROFALO: Well, why can't they? I think it would be negligent not to comment. I think that it would be ridiculous to take the tact of, I don't want to rock the boat, I don't want to say anything. I think that there is a place for some entertainers if they choose to do.


COLLINS: Next in on our five-part "Pollywood" series, a look at musicians and politics. More than ever, music stars are playing the role of the pied piper, leading the young people to the polls. Is it working? And what will be the effect on the November election. that's coming up tomorrow, right here on AMERICAN MORNING.

HEMMER: Twenty-two minutes part the hour. In a moment, Andy's "Minding Your Business." Seems that GM wants to put the brakes on the massive Hummer H2. Find out why in a moment, when we continue after this on AMERICAN MORNING, on a Wednesday.


HEMMER: Once the hottest SUV on the market, the Hummer cooling off, we're told. That can only lead to one thing.

And Andy Serwer is back here "Minding Your Business."

And that one thing is, Andy?

Good morning.


Yes, Bill, good to see you.

Hummer's cutting back production. GM saying they're not selling enough. It looks like sales down about 26 percent through July. They make these babies in South Bend, Indiana. They've got two shifts. They're going to be cutting the second shift on October 25th.

The workers, though, listen to this. This is actually a good thing. Not going to lose their jobs. They're going to be going across the street and working at the facility that makes Humvees for the military. So you know, one end goes, the other one goes the other way. Now a tale of two cities here, two vehicles. The Prius, on the other hand, sales red hot. Three times what they were last year this time. And, therefore, Toyota is raising prices $580. Base price now $20,875, and that follows a price increase in April of $300. So you can really see what's on consumer's minds -- gas prices, gas prices, gas prices.

Quickly, I want to talk about the markets. Yesterday, a pretty good day for the blue chips. Oil prices fell for the third day in a row here, and Nasdaq beat up a little by chip stocks like Intel weren't doing so well. This morning, futures are positive, even as oil prices ratchet up a little bit, and we will talk about that later on.

COLLINS: All right.

SERWER: I promise.

COLLINS: All right.


COLLINS: We'll be staying tuned for that.

Andy, thanks so much.

SERWER: You're welcome.

COLLINS: Still to come this morning, get your morning started with some "90-Second Pop."

Yep! She's god. Ellen Degeneres takes on a powerful new role.

Plus, "The West Wing" hopes a man with some military experience can reignite the show's ratings.

Stay with us on AMERICAN MORNING.



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