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Bill Clinton's Presidential Library Opening Today; Is Al Qaeda Focused on Bringing Nuclear Terrorism to the U.S.?

Aired November 18, 2004 - 08:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Bill Clinton's presidential library opening today in Little Rock, Arkansas, called The Bridge To the 21st Century. Does it paint an accurate picture of the president?
Is al Qaeda focused on bringing nuclear terrorism to the U.S.? We're on terror's trail as it leads across the Mexican border.

And the wall of water now sweeping over Texas. The rescuers who say this woman will tell us their story on this AMERICAN MORNING.

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

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everybody.

8:00 here in New York as we continue now.

Welcome to American.

Good to have you with us today.

We may get an indication today as to whether or not the much trouble for the drug company Merck is on the way over the way it handled the Vioxx scandal. The Senate Finance Committee holding hearings that will include testimony from Merck's CEO. We'll get a report on that. We talked with Senator Grassley last hour about that. He was quite hot about what's happening with this drug and the FDA, so a big topic today on Capitol Hill.

O'BRIEN: Also this morning, the president's nominee for secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, going on for surgery. It's considered minor surgery. It has a pretty big name, though, uterine fibroid embolization. Dr. Sanjay Gupta will join us in just a few minutes to explain exactly what that is and what her prognosis will be.

HEMMER: All right, Jack Cafferty is off today. We'll get him back tomorrow. Actually, he's on assignment today.

Toure' is doing the dirty work for Jack today.

And Carol Costello in studio in the flesh to our right.

O'BRIEN: Woooh-hooh!

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: You know, I miss Jack, because I was going to give him a DAYBREAK coffee mug.

HEMMER: Oh. How about tomorrow?

COSTELLO: I think I should do it.


COSTELLO: Just to irritate him.

O'BRIEN: Exactly.

COSTELLO: He hates the DAYBREAK coffee mug, in case you're not in on the inside joke. He hates it. But I will bring him over one tomorrow.

O'BRIEN: Bring him two.

COSTELLO: Bring him two? I'll bring him a dozen.

Good morning, everyone.

Now in the news, at least two are dead following today's car bomb attacks in western Baghdad. Emergency crews rushed to the scene outside of a police station just hours ago. At least six people are being treated for injuries, including one woman.

A warning from Secretary of State Colin Powell about Iran's nuclear program. Secretary Powell says he has seen intelligence suggesting Iran may be trying to create missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. The comment comes as an Iranian opposition group claims Iran is hiding a secret nuclear research facility from U.N. inspectors.

The national debt could be getting bigger. Yesterday, the Senate approved an $800 billion boost to how much the government can borrow. It means the move raises the total to more than $8 trillion. That's eight times the federal debt in 1981. The House is set to vote on the measure today.

And it's just one day before you can get your hands on the sexiest man alive. "People" magazine giving that honor to actor Jude Law. The 31-year-old Brit currently starring in the remake of the Film "Alfie," will grace the cover of "People" magazine. And the issue hits the newsstands tomorrow.

You know, though, I have to disagree. I think he's beautiful, but I don't know about sexy.

O'BRIEN: What?

HEMMER: What do you...

O'BRIEN: She's lying.

HEMMER: What was the story we did yesterday? Everybody said his face looked like a dog or something. O'BRIEN: Oh, please. Men doth protest too much. He's good looking and he knows it and he's trying to be, you know...

COSTELLO: Oh, he said he had the face that looks like a dog?


COSTELLO: Oh, I missed that. Yes, exactly.

O'BRIEN: Oh, what, what, what, what, what?

HEMMER: And then Cafferty kept trying to (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

O'BRIEN: Sure you do, Jude. We feel really sorry for you, blah, blah, blah.

COSTELLO: Poor, poor Jude.

O'BRIEN: Poor Jude.

COSTELLO: OK, well, then I'm sorry I said that, since he has such a low self-esteem.

O'BRIEN: Apparently so.

All right, Carol, thanks.

Well, presidents and world leaders past and present, as well as supporters, family and friends, will gather today in Little Rock, Arkansas for the dedication of the Bill Clinton Presidential Library and Museum.

National correspondent Kelly Wallace is there now.

She's got more for us this morning.

Hey, Kelly -- good morning.


Well, the first big question, will the rain hold off for this day, which will definitely be a celebration of the Clinton presidential years? But with the audience expected to include a who's who of the Democratic Party, there will also, no doubt, be talk about what candidate Bill Clinton did as Democrats look ahead to 2008.


WALLACE (voice-over): A media frenzy for Bill Clinton's latest production because, yes, even as a former president, he remains a rock star.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If he was running again, I'd vote for him again. I love him.

WALLACE: Inside, the $165 million Bridge To the 21st Century highlighting the good, including a strong economy...

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, if we balance the budget for next year...

WALLACE: And framing the bad, namely impeachment, as part of an eight year effort by his Republican opponents to try and bring him down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ken Starr had a constituency who were consistently supporting his every efforts.

WALLACE: Historians will ultimately judge the impeachment battle and how he stands next to the great presidents of modern history. But after back to back defeats by Democrats, he suddenly stands even taller as a member of the party who got it right not once, but twice.

JOHN PODESTA, PRESIDENT CLINTON'S CHIEF OF STAFF: He's really optimistic about the country and he had -- he sort of pointed a direction for people and people were willing to follow him because they heard him and they believed that he would follow through on those promises.

WALLACE: And now another Clinton in the presidential spotlight. Hillary bumper stickers selling fast in Little Rock.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're ready for a new world order.

WALLACE: But are Democrats ready for another northeastern senator from a blue state after the red states spoke loudest two weeks ago? That's for the future. Today, a moment to look back at a young woman growing up in the White House, the first first lady becoming a U.S. senator, and a former president joining presidents before him, trying to shape his triumphs and tribulations and build a legacy.


WALLACE: And Mr. Clinton may get some advice today. Former Presidents Bush and Carter will be here. So will the current occupant of the White House, President Bush, who is following in Bill Clinton's footsteps as a president gearing up for his second term -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Kelly Wallace for us this morning.

Kelly, thanks.

CNN is going to have live coverage of the library's dedication ceremony. That begins at 12:00 Eastern time right here.

HEMMER: It's about six minutes past the hour.

Days of rain have caused flash flooding across Texas -- central Texas especially hard hit -- leading to several dangerous rescues as cars were washed from roadways.

Watch this videotape. This ordeal took place Tuesday night west of Austin. In the video, a young woman trapped on her car while fighting the rushing waters. She was finally pulled to safety with the help of rescuers from the Austin Fire Department. They saved her life.

And from Austin today, Lieutenant Darrell Conner is with us.

And so, too, is Captain Keith Johnson.

Bought of us with us here on AMERICAN MORNING.

Gentlemen, good morning to you.



HEMMER: We want to start with the captain first.

How did this woman find herself in the middle of a rushing wall of water there late Tuesday night?

JOHNSON: She had actually come down a residential street and encountered a flooded roadway that actually floated her down to the highway, where she intersected with the main creek and actually got pinned up against the guardrail on a bridge.

HEMMER: Captain, how did you rescue her? What was your strategy? What methods did you use? Because this was middle of the night action here. It was dark outside.

JOHNSON: A lot of water rescues we spend a lot more time planning and making sure we have a real safe operation. In this one, we tried to make it as safe as possible, but we also knew that it was a very time critical incident. She, only her head was visible and the water was still rising. It rose almost two feet in just the 10 minutes that we took on the -- to rescue her. So what we did was we stationed a couple of guys downstream with rope bags in case she got swept away, that they'd be able to effect a rescue. And then for the main, primary plan, we had the aerial ladder extended out to her and then sent two rescuers out the ladder to bring her from the vehicle onto the ladder.

HEMMER: Lieutenant, how did this woman respond? What was she saying?

CONNER: Well, she didn't say a lot. She just wanted to get up on the ladder. So we helped her get up on the ladder. I think I heard a "thank you" and I asked her if there was anybody else with her, because the initial call said there were two people. And she said she was by herself. So I reported that and we brought her back down the ladder.

HEMMER: I think one of the fascinating things about this story and this rescue is that it did not take long for the incident to unfold and then for you men to help save her. The period of time was about 10 minutes, is what I understand. Is that right?


JOHNSON: That's about right.

HEMMER: Yes. And how common is it for flash floods like these to effect the people in your area?

JOHNSON: These actually are real common, especially in this part of Austin, with the hill country and the watersheds we have here. We've made quite a few water rescues in the past years.

HEMMER: Well, we know there was a big, slow storm moving over your area and more rains could come your way, as well.

As far as the woman is concerned, Captain, how is she doing?

JOHNSON: As far as we know, she's doing fine. She was transported to the hospital just for an assessment evaluation. But she seemed to be fine, other than just being a little cold, a little hypothermic.

HEMMER: Job well done.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

HEMMER: We want to thank their photographer, Mickey McGinnis (ph), too, for providing that videotape with us today.

And from Austin today, Captain Keith Johnson and Lieutenant Darrell Conner.

Thank you, gentlemen.

Appreciate it.

CONNER: Thank you.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

HEMMER: Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Let's, in fact, continue to talk about the weather.

Chad Myers is at the CNN Center for us with the latest look at what's happening.

Hey -- Chad, good morning.



O'BRIEN: A little piece of television history goes into the Smithsonian today. "Seinfeld's" puffy shirt. In this 1995 episode, Seinfeld is duped into wearing this puffy shirt for a "Today Show" interview. Now, the Smithsonian's going to display the shirt and other icons of popular culture, including the Kermit the Frog puppet and the ruby slippers from the "Wizard of Oz."

HEMMER: And just in time for the holiday season. You can get seasons one, two and three on DVD now. "Seinfeld" has been out pushing that, hasn't he?

O'BRIEN: Um-hmm. Yes, they have.

HEMMER: He just keeps on giving.

In a moment here, just in time for holiday shopping, one group releasing its list of the most dangerous toys. And we'll tell you what's on the list this season in a moment here.

O'BRIEN: Also this morning, some law makers in Congress change a rule to help out one of their own. Critics say it's hypocrisy. We'll explain.

HEMMER: Also today, how Osama bin Laden may be planning to attack the U.S. again. Reports on nuclear material and the Mexican border. We're on terror's trial in a moment here as we continue, right after this.


O'BRIEN: Has Osama bin Laden figured out a way to get nuclear material into the United States? This week we follow terror's trail to the U.S.-Mexico border after a "Time" magazine report that bin Laden wants to explode a nuclear bomb on American soil. The information came from a captured al Qaeda operative, who exposed the plan this summer.

Peter Brookes of the Heritage Foundation, joins us to talk about it.

Good morning, Peter.

Nice to see you.


O'BRIEN: Thanks for being with us.

If you look at the statistics about how many illegal immigrants come into the United States every year, the number is around three million, thousands and thousands from Mexico.

Is it that number, that massive influx from Mexico, that makes a plan from that route appealing, or is there something else?

BROOKES: Absolutely. I think that's absolutely the case, Soledad, is that the fact that our southern border is porous, people are able to get across it. And if terrorists wanted to come in that way or carry materials, it might be easier than coming in from Canada or from the sea.

O'BRIEN: Is there any evidence, though, that bin Laden is actually exploring bringing a nuclear weapon in through that route?

BROOKES: Soledad, for quite some time, the intelligence community has believed that over two dozen terrorist groups are pursuing weapons of mass destruction. Now, once again, weapons of mass destruction not only includes nuclear weapons, it also includes chemical and biological weapons. And then there's also another subcategory called radiological weapons, or dirty bombs, which are not nuclear weapons, but something that uses fissile material to irradiate people or to contaminate them with nuclear material.

So, yes, I mean for a long time it's been believed. In fact, there was recently an al Qaeda operative that was arrested in August in Pakistan by the name of al-Masri -- he's an Egyptian -- who said that Osama bin Laden intended, if possible, to use nuclear weapons against the United States.

Now, once again, the threat comes from not only the capability to do so, which is probably the more difficult, but also the intent. So the threat comes from intent and capability. It appears they have the intent. The challenge for them now is to develop or acquire the capability to do so.

O'BRIEN: How possible do you think it will be to acquire the capability to, in fact, bring that material, whether it's for the dirty bomb or a nuclear weapon, through Mexico?

BROOKES: Well, it's really a challenge, I mean, and there are two different things, Soledad. A dirty weapon is basically a conventional weapon that has nuclear material in it. And what it has -- it does -- you don't see a mushroom cloud from a nuclear weapon. So where in a nuclear weapon you have a chain reaction, which creates tremendous over pressures, tremendous temperatures, what we saw in World War 2.

So the challenge is not only getting the material, but also manufacturing the weapon itself. So getting it across the border could be a real challenge because it would not necessarily be small.

But there are ways of doing it. They could, like the drug smugglers do, they could fly a small plane at very low altitude across the border into the United States. But right now they would have to get it to Mexico, move it across the border and then get it to its point of detonation. So there are some real challenges involved here and I think that's the reason we have not seen it happen yet.

O'BRIEN: There are reports that Osama bin Laden has obtained a fatwa, permission, essentially, to explode a nuclear weapon in the United States.

How important is that element, getting the fatwa, to all of this?

BROOKES: I don't think it's very important for Osama bin Laden because Osama bin Laden, even though he's not, considers himself to be a cleric, and he has even declared fatwas himself. So perhaps having additional support outside of his own religious beliefs is important to him, or perhaps to his followers. But Osama bin Laden, which, even, like I said, even though he's not a cleric, has declared fatwas in the past against the United States. In fact, a couple of them are two -- very significant, which talks about that it's OK for Muslims to kill Americans.

So this is not unusual to me and I don't think he really needs the support of another -- of a cleric, of a Muslim cleric, to go ahead and do this. I don't think he necessarily felt he needed to do that to attack us on 9/11.

O'BRIEN: Peter Brookes of the Heritage Foundation on terror's trail this morning.

Nice to see you, Peter.


BROOKES: Thank you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Bill.

HEMMER: In a moment here, Condoleezza Rice will have surgery tomorrow. She has the most common form of tumors in women. But many women don't know they have them. We'll page the good doctor to learn more about what the symptoms are and what you need to know, when we continue in a moment here.


O'BRIEN: The Clinton Presidential Library opening, of course. The big story this day. And the event got Conan O'Brien joking last night.


CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST: This is big. Tomorrow is the opening of the Bill Clinton Presidential Library. Isn't that nice? We're going to have a presidential library opening. This is big. Yes. Yes, the opening ceremonies will feature speeches by former presidents, a 100 piece orchestra and a wet T-shirt contest.


O'BRIEN: You knew that was coming, right?


Jack's on assignment.

Toure' is in today, The Question of the Day and a whole lot more.

TOURE', CNN POP CULTURE CORRESPONDENT, "ROLLING STONE" MAGAZINE: Yes, we're talking about who should be "Time" magazine's Person of the Year. And in my mind, there's no way they could pick anybody but Karl Rove. He read the country perfectly. He was the architect of the election, which was the biggest news story of the year. The past three years have featured Rudy Giuliani in 2000 after 9/11; the female whistleblowers in 2002; and the American soldier last year. "Time" will announce its choice on December 19 with a 30-minute special right here on CNN. But go ahead and short-circuit the whole process and tell us who's going to win or who should win "Time's" Person of the Year.

The Question of the Day, who should be "Time" magazine's Person of the Year?

Some really good answers, actually.

Chuck from Philadelphia has an excellent answer: "A football player who gave up the game, a multi-million dollar contract and ultimately his own life to go into the Army and serve our country, Pat Tillman should be the easy winner for the cover of the magazine. After all, he won a spot in all of our hearts."

And that's a fantastic answer.

Carla from Lynn Haven, Florida screams with three exclamation points: "Tony Blair! If he'd not had the fortitude to stand by the United States, we would be alone in the world."

Katie from Williston, Florida says: "I think Angelina Jolie should be a Person of the Year. She brought the living conditions and the problems in the Darfur region to light, besides giving hours of her time to the people in refugee camps."


O'BRIEN: And she's not hard to look at. She's got a nice...

TOURE': Well, that's true, too.

O'BRIEN: Karl Rove, Angelina Jolie...


HEMMER: She'd do a lot for the tattoo industry, too.

TOURE': And Grace from Hamilton, Ontario has a great one. She just says: "The lord, the lord, the lord, shining down, the fingers of the lord, amen."

O'BRIEN: I've got to tell you, I'm with Grace on this.

TOURE': You can't vote against god.

HEMMER: Hey, I'm telling you.

O'BRIEN: You can't vote against god.

HEMMER: Don't even try.

TOURE': Don't even think about it.

O'BRIEN: So it's that or maybe the Christian right?

TOURE': Yes, maybe.

O'BRIEN: You know? I disagree completely it's going to be Karl Rove.

TOURE': Really?

O'BRIEN: I'm going to put money on that hope.

TOURE': Really?


TOURE': How much...

O'BRIEN: A dollar.

TOURE': How much are you going...

O'BRIEN: I'm cheap, though. I've got four kids to put through college. I can't afford to bet any more than that. A dollar, yes.

TOURE': Well, I'm getting married. I'm pitching pennies. I'll put up more than a dollar.

O'BRIEN: It's a moral victory.

HEMMER: Oh, god.

All right.

O'BRIEN: All right.

Well, good to see (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

TOURE': So is that a dollar?


TOURE': All right. Good.

O'BRIEN: Not Karl Rove is my vote.

Thank you, Toure'.

HEMMER: By the way, she never pays.

O'BRIEN: I know. I don't pay. I never do.

TOURE': I love how she gets the entire world and I get one person.

O'BRIEN: It's a tough life, isn't it?

A recent discovery may cause a continental shift in scientific thinking.

Daniel Sieberg reports on evidence that could change our thoughts on where and when people first came to this continent.


DANIEL SIEBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These archaeologists combing the banks of the Savannah River may have unearthed the very beginning of human existence in the Western Hemisphere and, if they're right, humans inhabited North America at least 50,000 years ago, well before the last Ice Age and more than 30,000 years earlier than most archaeologists ever believed.

ALBERT GOODYEAR, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA ARCHAEOLOGIST: This discovery would challenge the time honored notion in basically the Western Hemisphere, but particularly North America, that our species got over here relatively late.

SIEBERG: Goodyear has been studying an area known as Topper along the Savannah River. Over nearly 20 years of analysis, the site has proven to be a rich source of flint-like material, perfect for fashioning primitive tools.

GOODYEAR: So this is the big draw is this relatively rare raw material source that does occur on the hillside at Topper.

SIEBERG: Then in May, the team decided to dig just a little deeper. Well below an area that he had already dated at 16,000 to 20,000 years old, they found burned plant samples, oak, buckeye and plum, with tiny tools mixed in. To date it, scientists measured the microscopic carbon levels in that ancient plant material. The results were astounding. The charred material measures 50,000 years old and Dr. Goodyear believes it's smoking gun evidence that humans were living there far earlier than previously thought.

GOODYEAR: People who probably knew about perhaps boats and could navigate the coastline, knew something about fishing and gathering.

SIEBERG (on camera): It may not be time to rewrite history, but Dr. Goodyear says this discovery has added another chapter to the books. And he hopes it will encourage other archaeologists to dig deeper, both physically and intellectually.

(voice-over): Goodyear plans to have his work published in 2005. Digging at the Topper site will continue, in search of more clues about when the very first people set foot in the Americas.

Daniel Sieberg, CNN, Columbia, South Carolina.


O'BRIEN: The archeologist who led that team is going to join us to talk in the next hour.

HEMMER: In a moment here, one group's list of the most dangerous toys on the market just out for the holiday season. Also, who is to blame for the controversy surrounding Vioxx? Why the government may have to share the responsibility.

We'll get to that as we continue, right after this on AMERICAN MORNING.


HEMMER: 8:30 in New York.

Good morning.

Welcome back here to AMERICAN MORNING.

There's this change of rules by House Republicans to try and protect Majority Leader Tom DeLay. There is criticism, heavy criticism, from Democrats. In a moment here, we'll try and find out what's really at stake for both sides, and the congressman, as well. We'll talk to a pair of insiders, Lisa Caputo and Joe Watkins, in our "Political Jab" segment coming up in a moment here.

O'BRIEN: Also this morning, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice announcing she's having surgery.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta will join us in just a few minutes and explain her condition, exactly what uterine fibroids are and what doctors are able to do about them.


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