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AMERICAN MORNING

Iraqi Insurgency; Controversy at CIA; Vioxx Lawsuits

Aired November 15, 2004 - 9:02   ET

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


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Securing the city: U.S. forces launch strikes against the final pockets of resistance inside Falluja.
The outlook for Mideast peace as volatile as ever after gunmen open fire near the new Palestinian leader.

Now that Scott Peterson is guilty of murder, a look at the defense strategy to spare his life.

And the Titanic in danger of swatters again. What tourists are doing to this legendary shipwreck on this AMERICAN MORNING.

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

COLLINS: Good morning, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins, in for Soledad this morning.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Rick Sanchez, sitting in for Bill.

Some of the other stories that we're following on this day, big changes under way at the CIA. We're going to look at what the new head of the nation's spy agency is doing. Also talk about two recent high-level resignations. Do they signal a purge or just a clash of management styles?

COLLINS: Also, how will Merck fight a wave of lawsuits over its recall drug, Vioxx? We're going to look at the big claims out of there against that company. And how much damage could this do to the drug market -- the drugmaker, that is, in general?

SANCHEZ: Let's bring in Jack now and see what he's got on tap.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: One week from today, Rick, the jury will consider the penalty phase in the Scott Peterson case. Life without the possibility of parole, or execution. AM@CNN.com if you have thoughts. We'll read some of your mail in about 20 minutes.

SANCHEZ: Not a lot of it good for him, huh?

CAFFERTY: Not a lot of sympathy out there for old Scottso (ph) this morning, no.

SANCHEZ: No surprise there. Thanks, Jack.

Well, let's check in on what's new in the news. And Daryn Kagan is following things for us over at the CNN Center.

Hi, Daryn.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning once again, Rick.

"Now in the News," U.S. warplanes backed by troops searching house to house, pounding insurgent targets in Falluja. Today, strikes come a day after a U.S. Marine commander says that U.S. and Iraqi forces had liberated the city. But officials say it could take several more days of fighting before the city is secured. More on that situation in just a moment.

Here in the U.S., though, the Miami-Dade County Police Department is reviewing its Taser gun policy. This comes after a 6-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl were shocked by police officers in two separate incidents. The Miami-Dade County Police Department is holding a news conference today to discuss those incidents.

To California now. Jury selection begins today in the trial of actor Robert Blake. The former "Baretta" star is accused of murder in the shooting death of his wife outside of a restaurant some three-and- a-half years ago. The trial is expected to last several months. Jury selection begins in about three hours.

NASA is testing a new aircraft that's expected to go a record- setting 7,000 miles per hour. That's 10 times the speed of sound, in case you're wondering. They call it the Scram Jet.

The aircraft is mounted on a rocket. Starting around 4:00 p.m. Eastern today, that rocket will blast off. It's going to head more than 100,000 feet up and then release the aircraft.

The historic flight is expected to only last about 10 seconds. But then again, when you're going 7,000 miles an hour, you can kind of get a long way in 10 seconds, you know?

SANCHEZ: Yes. And, you know, I was wondering about that. So I'm glad you answered that.

KAGAN: Yes. I'm here for you.

SANCHEZ: Thanks, Daryn.

Citizens of Falluja are beginning to come out of hiding today, searching for food and for water as U.S. forces sweep for the last pockets of the Iraqi insurgency in that city that we've been telling you about.

Nic Robertson is live. He's just on the outskirts of Falluja to set the scene for us.

Hi, Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Rick.

Well, commanders here say that they control the city of Falluja, they control the main intersections. They've swept through the whole city, they have it under their control. What remains are pockets of insurgents, hidden in buildings, choosing when they will try and attack the troops. One Marine commander said if they do want to fight to the death, then they can do just that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. GEN. JOHN SATTLER, U.S. ARMY: We will not stop until we have gone back and cleared each and every building within the town to make sure that any die-hard insurgents or intimidators or terrorists that are -- that want to dig in and fight to the death, that they have been accommodated, and that we have cleared all the ammunition and the weapons, the explosive bomb-making materials for both individual explosives and rigging cars for explosives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON: And artillery fire is still being used to support the troops on the ground. Aircraft flying air cover again in support of those troops going house to house.

But in an indication that in some parts of the city the battle's beginning to die down a little in the northwest area of the city, one Iraqi brigade commander said that some civilians were coming out of their houses, back onto the streets, very wary of the Iraqi and U.S. forces there. They're looking for help, looking for food, looking for shelter. And indeed, Marines giving them shelter in mosques, providing food, providing medical supplies as needed.

The Iraqi brigade commander did say that he was aware some Iraqi civilians had died, caught up in firefights or perhaps, in one case, he said, one Iraqi civilian is shot by an insurgent as that civilian went to a mosque to get some aid -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: Nic Robertson following that story from just the outskirts of Falluja. Thanks so much, Nic.

Heidi, over to you.

COLLINS: Controversy this morning at the CIA. At least two high-ranking officials have already resigned. Some say it's because the way CIA Director Porter Goss is running things.

My next guest is the author of "Matter of Character: Inside the White House of George W. Bush." And also, "The CIA At War: Inside the Secret Campaign Against Terror." Ron Kessler is his name. He's joining me now live from Washington.

Mr. Kessler, nice seeing you once again on AMERICAN MORNING.

RON KESSLER, AUTHOR, " MATTER OF CHARACTER": Thanks for having me, Heidi.

COLLINS: You bet. You know, we spoke earlier with James Woolsey, a former CIA director, of course. He suggested the pushback that Porter Goss is getting is because he is bringing new people into the agency. That's kind of frowned upon there. Your thoughts on that?

KESSLER: Well, it's just the opposite. George Tenet brought in Buzzy Krongard as executive director. He was the head of Alex Brown, an investment banking firm. Totally an outsider but they totally respected him. He did a wonderful job.

Woolsey unfortunately wasn't a very good CIA director, so I wouldn't go with his expertise. The fact is that we have not been attacked in three years, and it's largely because of the work of the CIA and the FBI, most of it secret: rounding up terrorists, stopping plots before they happen.

And so what you have is Porter Goss coming in and saying basically this place is a wreck, treating people in a nasty way, putting inexperienced people in charge, making improper requests. That is ruining the CIA. And these very talented people are leaving. They can go four or five times more money in the private sector.

COLLINS: But pardon the interruption. If these very talented people are leaving, are they not part of what we have seen over the last couple of years?

We've had failure of intelligence. We hear from the 9/11 Commission on that. How, then, do you go about fixing this organization?

KESSLER: Well, the failures of intelligence were because of the risk of bureaucratic atmosphere imposed by John Doraich (ph) and to some extent James Woolsey, which led to the problems of 9/11. Since then there have been tremendous improvements which were ignored by the 9/11 Commission. And George Bush -- and I interviewed all of his top people -- above all values good management.

A week after 9/11 he went to the CIA and he said, "I trust you and I need you." And that inspires people to take the kind of risks that they need to take to steal secrets to stop the next plot. That's what we need at the CIA, someone who is supportive.

I think that George Bush needs to fire Porter Goss, because we're talking about a time of war, we're talking about really, in my opinion, ruining the CIA. And I think that Bush understands that what you need is good management, such as we see at the FBI with Bob Mueller.

COLLINS: But if you're saying that the CIA needs to take more risks, that is exactly what James Woolsey said earlier today, along with a couple of other things. He pointed to policy change possibly being the reason for some of the resistance, but he did, too, mention taking more risks.

KESSLER: Well, you know, when you have someone in charge, I don't care if it's a GE or the CIA or the FBI, who treats people in a nasty way, who acts as if they're juvenile delinquents when these people are risking their lives to keep us safe...

COLLINS: But he's not there to make friends. KESSLER: That's fine if he knows what he's doing. But we're talking about bringing in these inexperienced people. They've never managed an agency.

They have the view that the CIA is totally dysfunctional. And it's just the opposite, because the results are there. As I mentioned, in the past three years we have not been attacked. There have been thousands of terrorists rolled out because of the CIA's work.

Most of this is secret. So you have these misimpressions. And you simply can't get people to work for you if you treat them like dirt.

COLLINS: Before we let you go, obviously you think Porter Goss not the man for this position. Who is?

KESSLER: Well, interesting. I would bring back John McLaughlin on an acting basis.

The reason Bush brought in Goss was that he was someone who could be easily confirmed because he came from Congress. But I think Bush is very good at selecting good managers, as we saw with Bob Mueller. And if he had his way, he would bring in someone now who would inspire confidence, would -- would have the confidence of the employees. That's the only way you can manage an agency.

COLLINS: Ron Kessler, we appreciate your thoughts here this morning. Thank you.

KESSLER: Thank you, Heidi.

SANCHEZ: Pharmaceutical giant Merck pulled Vioxx from the market in September because of links to heart attacks and strokes, as you heard here first. Now thousands of former Vioxx users and their families are considering lawsuits. Chris Huntington has one Vioxx user's story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get them back the ball! Come on! Whoah, saved by Tallas!

CHRIS HUNTINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Robbie Tallas could have been a poster boy for a classic Canadian dream come true. He was a professional hockey player before he was 20, played six years in the NHL. Now Tallas has a better shot of being a poster boy for Vioxx lawsuits. His career came to a frightening halt after a game last December.

ROBBIE TALLAS, FMR. VIOXX USER: I just collapsed and started breathing really loud. And at that point my left arm went numb. My left arm went numb, and then my right arm went numb. So I turned to my wife, and I said, "I think I'm having a heart attack here."

HUNTINGTON: Tallas and his doctors could not figure out why a 30-year-old pro athlete in peak condition, who he'd never smoked, never taken steroids, with no family history of heart disease, would have a heart attack. Tallas believes the answer came to him while he and his wife watched a news report about the Vioxx recall.

TALLAS: And all of a sudden, kind of putting the pieces together that there's a connection here.

HUNTINGTON: Merck's own study linked Vioxx to heart attacks in patients who'd taken the drug for more than 18 months. Tallas had taken vioxx for two-and-a-half years. Sometimes twice a day, for the aches and pains that come from catching hockey pucks for a living.

TALLAS: It worked well on my shoulder. The trainer would come -- start at the back of the bus and make his way to the front, handing out little sample packets of Vioxx to each player.

HUNTINGTON: Tallas and his lawyers now plan to sue Merck, believing that Vioxx led to his heart attack.

STEVE JAFFE, ATTORNEY FOR TALLAS: The only intervening cause that we've come up with in our investigation is two-and-a-half years of consistent daily use of Vioxx.

HUNTINGTON: A recent FDA study found that Vioxx caused nearly 28,000 severe heart attacks, many of them fatal. Merck insists it always disclosed what it knew about the dangers of Vioxx, such as in April 2002, when at the FDA's request, Merck warned doctors that Vioxx's side effects included "serious cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks and strokes."

KEN FRAZIER, MERCK GENERAL COUNSEL: What we did at the time was appropriate given what was actually known about the drug. And I think our communications were fair and balanced based on the available clinical evidence.

HUNTINGTON: But since the warning in 2002, Merck continued to dismiss studies based primarily on methodology that found Vioxx raised the risk of heart disease. That is until Merck scientists came to the same conclusion this fall. And that's when Merck pulled Vioxx off the market.

FRAZIER: We felt that we did the right thing, and as a result we intend to defend ourselves vigorously.

HUNTINGTON (on camera): So far, fewer than 400 Vioxx-related lawsuits have been filed on behalf of 1,000 plaintiffs. But the number of plaintiffs could easily run into the tens of thousands when you consider that, according to Merck, more than 20 million people took Vioxx at some point in the past five years. One of them is a former professional hockey goalie who just wants to get back in the game.

Chris Huntington, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SANCHEZ: Here's an important programming note. Tomorrow, right here on AMERICAN MORNING, we're going to be speaking with Merck's chairman, president and CEO, Raymond Gilmartin. We'll have that for you right here.

COLLINS: Still to come now, almost 20 years after he discovered it, explorer Robert Ballard goes back to Titanic. Find out what researchers were really looking for when they found the ship. It's Titanic revealed.

SANCHEZ: Also, sentencing is the next step in the Scott Peterson trial. Find out the big reason avoiding the death penalty will be an uphill battle.

COLLINS: And before Israel and the Palestinians can make peace, one side may have to clean up its own house. A look at that ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Welcome back. I'm Rick Sanchez.

The Bush administration is saying that it sees the death of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat as an opportunity. An opportunity to move forward for the plan for peace in the Middle East.

What needs to be done right now? And what are the odds that we're even going to be able to make this work?

Matt Rees is the author of "Cain's Field: Faith, Fratricide and Fear in the Middle East."

Great book. I've been thumbing through it all last night and this morning.

He's also, as you may know, "TIME" Magazine's Jerusalem bureau chief.

Just as we thought there was a little bit of an opening, Matt, we have this situation yesterday which seemed like either an assassination attempt on the life of Mahmoud Abbas, or I guess a fake assassination attempt to scare him? Either way it's not good.

MATT REES, AUTHOR, "CAIN'S FIELD": I think it wasn't actually an assassination. I think it was an attempt to tell him, we don't want you by this group of gangsters, essentially, who run each of the individual Palestinian towns. That's how Arafat allowed it to develop.

SANCHEZ: Who are these people?

REES: They're called the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

SANCHEZ: But those are Arafat's people.

REES: They are, exactly. And they're the people who don't want to be ruled by any new kind of Palestinian leader.

SANCHEZ: Well, somebody has to rule them. Arafat's dead.

REES: Somebody has to rule them. But they want someone who is going to behave the same way as Arafat, who's going to let them, you know, just give them money. As long as they kill a few Israelis now and then, it's going to be OK.

SANCHEZ: Here's what they shouted. Let me read this to you. They said, "Abbas is an agent for Americans," just before they fired their weapons into the air. What does that tell you?

REES: Well, it goes back to last year when he was prime minister. Mahmoud Abbas was made prime minister and he was essentially forced on Arafat.

SANCHEZ: Yes.

REES: Arafat used groups like the Martyrs Brigades then to undermine Abbas, and Abbas quit.

SANCHEZ: Does that mean that if we put our arm around this guy, the U.S., we're creating a problem for him?

REES: For sure. And, in fact, the Israeli cabinet was told by the Israeli prime minister, don't say, you know, this is our guy, this is the guy we want to take over. Leave it alone. Don't talk about it. Because that's the kiss of death.

SANCHEZ: It's almost like we have to make him the enemy just to be able to deal with him. That way the other groups will -- will support whatever we're doing, right?

REES: Well, it's true. It has to be something that's done behind the scenes. That may be why President Bush last week didn't say this is the guy and we're going to support him.

SANCHEZ: Well, here's the bottom line. Can Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, can Hamas, can fatah, can any of those people ever be made to cooperate? Or is this really just a tough road to haul?

REES: Well, the problem is that these new leaders don't have the same legitimacy that Arafat had. Not legitimacy in the eyes of the world, but his own people. These new leaders have never really had any support on the streets. They've just been money men, administrators, and that's their problem now.

SANCHEZ: So what does Israel have to do? I know yesterday you read the story in "The New York Times" -- I'm sure you're familiar with it -- where they started saying making some overtures, saying, look, we're going to free up some money that we didn't give you before just to show that we're willing to come to the table. Enough?

REES: Not really. Because on the other hand, they've also said, we, like Bush, are going to wait until they have the elections. Until there's a real democratic government, there will always be the possibility that whoever leads the Palestinians is going to do what Arafat did and use terrorism from time to time to pressure Israel.

SANCHEZ: Great book, by the way. You know, it's kind of Hemingwayish quality to it, the way you describe people and the character. It kind of draws you in.

REES: Well, that was actually the focus. What I wanted to do was focus on individuals and their stories. Not on the institutions.

SANCHEZ: Yes.

REES: Because you read about that all the time in the papers and so on. Really individuals and how they were affected by these internal matters.

SANCHEZ: You personalize it. You pulled it off.

REES: Thanks.

SANCHEZ: Nice talking to you. Thanks for being with us.

REES: Thanks, Rick.

SANCHEZ: And Heidi, back over to you.

COLLINS: Still to come this morning, a mother and son have an amazing new bond after a remarkable transplant. It's a rare procedure that could offer hope to accident victims everywhere. Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Want to check in with Jack one more time. The "Question of the Day" about the Peterson case.

CAFFERTY: Yes, ma'am. Thank you.

Convicted murderer Scott Peterson could face the death penalty for killing his wife and unborn son. The jury reconvenes next monday to decide his fate.

Legal experts divided over what the jury may do, life without parole or the death penalty. So we figured we'd give them a hand and ask you folks what you think ought to happen. Should he get the death penalty or not?

Sheryl in New York, "An appropriate punishment for Scott Peterson might be solitary confinement for life with his cell wired so that a sound track of Laci's voice and baby sounds could be piped in randomly 24/7."

Jody in Okinawa -- Okinawa? Wow. AMERICAN MORNING is everywhere. I think it's probably Thursday in Okinawa, isn't it?

COLLINS: It's prime-time, though, either way.

CAFFERTY: "Without physical evidence or an eyewitness account, I'd be very hesitant of the death penalty. In the Peterson case the vast majority of the evidence presented was circumstantial. Life without parole gets him off the streets."

Meaghen in Halifax, Nova Scotia, "Queen of the Sunday night prom? Did I just hear right? In what world is it acceptable to make a joke of rape? I doubt the countless American inmates who are raped each day in your prisons find such humor amusing."

And Robert writes from Box Elder, Montana, "Penalty? Lock Scott up with Jack for 72 hours. He'll be begging for the death penalty before the three days are up."

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: Cute.

COLLINS: Robert in Montana.

CAFFERTY: Box Elder, Montana.

COLLINS: All right. Jack, thank you.

SANCHEZ: Thanks, Jack.

COLLINS: Still to come, a Monday morning dose of "90-Second Pop."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS (voice-over): After months of talking about it, Star Jones finally got hitched. But what did she do to earn the nickname "Bridezilla?"

Plus, Justin and Cameron mixed it up with the paparazzi last week. Now the paparazzi strikes back.

That's ahead this AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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