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Donald Rumsfeld: Should He Stay or Should He Go?; Horrifying Amber Alert Issued in Missouri

Aired December 17, 2004 - 08:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Donald Rumsfeld -- should he stay or should he go? Another Republican weighs in. The White House digs in.
A horrifying Amber Alert issued in Missouri for a fetus cut from her mother's womb.

A Maryland development goes up in flames and now an arrest.


AARON SPEED, CHARGED WITH ARSON: OK. They've humiliated me. They humiliated my family. OK? Everything that I'm doing, I'm doing willingly.


S. O'BRIEN: Declaring his innocence to reporters, has the suspect changed his tune with police?

And the president about to make history, signing into law an overhaul of the U.S. intelligence system on this AMERICAN MORNING.

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

S. O'BRIEN: Good morning.

Welcome, everybody.

Bill Hemmer is off today.

Miles O'Brien, though, helping us out.

We appreciate it.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good to be here on a Friday.

I'm enjoying it.

S. O'BRIEN: And we are just about two hours away from this morning's signing ceremony of the 9/11 Commission reform bill. In just a few minutes, we're going to talk about what it took for the bill to get to the president with one of the members of the 9/11 Commission, former Indiana Congressman Tim Roemer. Is this the right bill right now is the question? M. O'BRIEN: Also, war crimes trials starting up soon in Iraq. What will happen when the time comes for Saddam Hussein? That's the big question. We will talk to one of the lawyers for the former dictator. How would you like to have that job? We'll ask him about his case and how he is going to plead that case. It should be interesting.

S. O'BRIEN: Good morning.



CAFFERTY: Coming up in the "Cafferty File" in a little less than an hour, we'll have an update for you on Pale Male and Lola, those red-tailed hawks evicted from their Fifth Avenue home of 12 years here in New York City. A man who makes a $14,000 bet on a kettle and Dutch twins discover they have much more in common than just their looks. This last story a little on the creepy side.

S. O'BRIEN: Really?


S. O'BRIEN: More than the other day when Joe Simpson was talking about his daughter?


S. O'BRIEN: Joe Simpson, Jessica Simpson's father?

CAFFERTY: Well, that was the creepiest.

S. O'BRIEN: That was up there with creepy.

CAFFERTY: He was commenting, for those of you who didn't see it...

M. O'BRIEN: I missed it.

CAFFERTY: What was it, Wednesday? Jessica Simpson's father, who is a former Baptist minister, was talking about the size of Jessica's dresses.


S. O'BRIEN: Yes, it was a little...

CAFFERTY: Very, very weird.

M. O'BRIEN: Bit time taboo.

S. O'BRIEN: High icky factor on that one.

CAFFERTY: Yes, yes. No, this is -- the twins thing isn't quite that icky. S. O'BRIEN: OK.

CAFFERTY: But it's icky.

S. O'BRIEN: OK, good.


S. O'BRIEN: All right, now I know.

M. O'BRIEN: Ooh, good. We'll stay tuned.

S. O'BRIEN: Headlines now with Kelly Wallace -- good morning.


And good morning again, everyone.

Now in the news, there's word of a deadly attack this morning in Iraq. The Associated Press reporting at least four people were killed after gunmen opened fire on a car in Mosul. Police say three foreigners and their Iraqi driver were among the dead.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in Europe today, continuing to face questions about investigations into the U.N.'s Oil For Food Program. Annan telling reporters he's cooperating fully with investigators looking into the scandal. The secretary general's son Kojo a major focus of the inquiry. Investigators on Capitol Hill are now poring over thousands of documents from a company that employed Kojo Annan. That company was contracted to authenticate food shipments to Iraq in exchange for oil.

Here in the United States, commuters in New Jersey facing some delays due to a fire. A tractor trailer crashed over a divider and burst into flames on the New Jersey Turnpike this morning. Crews arriving on the scene there in Ridgefield able to get things under control pretty quickly, putting out the flames. Authorities also working to divert traffic from the incident there.

And we could get a decision as early as today on whether health officials will ease restrictions on who can get flu shots. Officials at the Centers for Disease Control now saying they're worried thousands of flu shots could go to waste. They say that's because many people who might need the vaccine have not tried to get the shots, figuring they wouldn't be eligible. And health officials pretty concerned about this. They say a study last month, only about 35 percent of high risk adults, namely senior citizens, went and got flu shots.

M. O'BRIEN: They figured they weren't there.

WALLACE: They figured they weren't there or that, again, they might not be eligible. So a big of concern there.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, that's so confusing.

WALLACE: And they don't want these shots to go to waste, either.

S. O'BRIEN: Which would be ridiculous and ironic considering...


M. O'BRIEN: So go get your shot.

WALLACE: Go get your shots, yes.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. Right.

S. O'BRIEN: If you're a senior citizen.


S. O'BRIEN: All right, Kelly, thanks.


S. O'BRIEN: Well, after inching its way through Congress, the intelligence reform bill arrives on the president's desk this morning. The legislation is based on recommendations from the 9/11 Commission.

Former Indiana Congressman Tim Roemer served on that Commission.

He's in Washington, D.C. to talk with us this morning.

Nice to see you again.

Thanks for being with us.


Good to be with you.

Happy holidays, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: And same to you.

Thank you very much.

Central to this legislation is the national intelligence director.

Who's on your short list of who should be running this?

ROEMER: Well, first of all, you said it's inched slowly. It has. We faced a national crisis. We've passed the national test. We had a goal of trying to get a unanimous report. We did. We had a dream of passing these recommendations into law. That dream is alive today thanks to these 9/11 families.

Who would be a good person to direct the national intelligence system?

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, give me some names. ROEMER: Well, a couple of names. I think at the top of the list for me, Soledad, would be Congresswomen Jane Harman and Frances Townsend, who works in the Bush administration Office of Homeland Security. Both bring energy. Both bring vibrancy, management skills. Both could have the ear and confidence of the president. Both have homeland security, good experience on homeland security and good experience sorting through intelligence overseas.

I also think Republican John Lehman might be a good name in managing a new, upstart group of workers and motivating them.

S. O'BRIEN: As we've been talking about this morning, the bill is going to be signed in really just a couple of hours. It's been three years since -- more than three years since 9/11.

At what point after the passing and signing of this legislation do we become more safer because of this legislation?

ROEMER: Well, a lot depends, Soledad, on the implementation of this bill, who the president picks to start directing these very, very important decisions and making these federal workers coordinate and communicate and use new technology. But I think the process starts today. Listen, we are updating a 57-year-old intelligence system. That would be like IBM still selling huge computers that are as big as entire rooms in today's environment. We are going to have to be on the more entrepreneurial model going after this enemy. We can't have an elephant chasing a snake. We've got to have, you know, the agile system to go after these cells of terrorists.

So I think it'll start right away, Soledad. And I think there's still challenges ahead. We have to go after loose nukes. We have to make sure that Congress does their oversight better and we have to make sure that we spend money in the future based on a risk assessment and intelligence threats, not on pork barrel spending in Congress. Those will be three major concerns in the future for us to continue to work on.

S. O'BRIEN: What about concerns about civil liberties. As I know you are well aware, critics have said this could pave the way to a national I.D. It also certainly loosens the restrictions on secret surveillance now.

I mean what about those concerns?

ROEMER: A very important point. I'm glad you brought that up. The civil liberties board that we created in this legislation, ideally, I thought, should have subpoena power. It shouldn't be just simply an adviser to the president. It should look for abuses out there in the system and protect Americans. And I think that should be strengthened over time. It's a good start, but there's a ways to go to make it even better.

S. O'BRIEN: Tim Roemer joining us this morning.


ROEMER: Thanks.

S. O'BRIEN: A big day for you and the panel, and a big victory, as well.

Thanks for being with us.

ROEMER: And, thank you, Soledad.

Appreciate it.

S. O'BRIEN: CNN is going to have live coverage of this morning's signing ceremony. President Bush will sign the intelligence reform bill at about 9:55 a.m. Eastern time, obviously, 6:55 on the West Coast -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Another prominent Republican voicing doubts about Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Mississippi Senator Trent Lott, speaking in his home state, said the defense chief should be replaced some time in the next year. Lott's quote: "I don't think he listens enough to his uniformed officers. I'm not calling for his resignation, but I think we do need a change at some point."

Now, Secretary Rumsfeld angered critics last week with that "you go to war with the army you have" response to a soldier asking about the lack of armored vehicles. Two other Republicans, Senators John McCain of Arizona and Susan Collins of Maine, also have voiced a lack of confidence in Rumsfeld.

An amber alert has been issued in Missouri with a very disturbing twist. Authorities say a fetus was cut from the womb of a homicide victim yesterday in the town of Skidmore, Missouri. They say there's a chance the 8-month-old fetus may have survived. Police say the suspect in the crime may have blond hair and may be driving a red vehicle.

S. O'BRIEN: A horrible story.

Police in Maryland have arrested a man that they say is involved in fires that destroyed 10 homes and damaged dozens of others, at a cost of about $10 million. The suspect, a security guard responsible for watching over the homes that were under construction.

We've got more now from Kelli Arena.



AARON SPEED, ARSON SUSPECT: They've got the wrong man.

KELLI ARENA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): That was 21-year- old Aaron Speed, arrested in connection with the fires that swept through a high priced housing development in suburban Washington.

SPEED: They've humiliated me. They humiliated my family. OK? Everything that I'm doing, I'm doing willingly to prove to them I am innocent.

ARENA: Authorities searched the home of his parents, where Speed and his family were staying.

GEORGE COCHRAN, NEIGHBOR: Cars and vans here until midnight. And they were in and out of the house. They were back in the shed with flashlights. And said they -- something about fire on Sunday.

ARENA: Prosecutors charged Speed with arson in the fires that damaged 26 homes, 10 destroyed, causing an estimated $10 million in damage. Authorities would not go into a possible motive, but do say Speed is cooperating and they say others may have been involved.

Speed worked for Security Services of America. That's the company that was hired to guard the housing development. A company spokeswoman had no comment.

(on camera): Speed is scheduled to appear in federal court later today. The maximum penalty for arson is 20 years in prison.

Kelli Arena, CNN, Washington.


S. O'BRIEN: Authorities originally suspected eco-terrorism as a possible motive because the construction is near a nature preserve. But they have since ruled out any connection to terrorist groups -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Let's check the nation's weather -- Chad Myers, there's a Nor'easter potentially coming to the Nor'east.

Imagine that.


M. O'BRIEN: Imagine that, over the weekend.

MYERS: Better than going to the Southwest.

M. O'BRIEN: So batten the hatches, mateys, right?



S. O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, if Saddam Hussein can't get a fair trial in Iraq, where does his defense team think he can? His American lawyer is going to join us, up next.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, suppose you're on the space station and you're running out of food. What do you do? Call Dominoes, right? It's not going to work, right? Those guys are in trouble. As a matter of fact, if a Russian freighter doesn't successfully dock on Christmas Day, they're headed for the lifeboat. S. O'BRIEN: Also, is it a good idea to let people use cell phones on airplanes? We're going to look at what the government should think about before we let that happen.

That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: Saddam Hussein and many of the Baath leadership that ruled Iraq so brutally will soon face trials in Iraq. But will they face justice? Saddam met the leader of his defense team this week for the first time, a year after his capture.

Curtis Doebbler is also on the team charged with defending what seems indefensible.

He joins us now from Washington.

Mr. Doebbler, good to have you with us.


M. O'BRIEN: First of all, tell us about that meeting with the leader of your team and Saddam Hussein.

How did that go?

DOEBBLER: Well, we have not said the name of the lawyer who the former president of Iraq has met with, but there was a meeting with one of the lawyers involved and we think that is at least a good first step in trying to ensure that international human rights law, international law and even the basic values of American constitutional law are respected.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, why are you being to secret about who met with him?

DOEBBLER: Well, in part because the person who met with him is still in Iraq and, as you know, things in Iraq are not so secure right now. So we don't want to jeopardize anybody.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, can Saddam Hussein get a fair trial? And, for that member, the other members of the Baath leadership, in Iraq?

DOEBBLER: Well, what I will tell you is what has been said by the U.N. high commissioner for human rights and by the head, the chief prosecutor of the Hague tribunal. And they have said that a fair trial cannot take place in Iraq. The legal team, President Saddam Hussein's legal defense committee, is of the opinion that there must be a fair trial. The trial must be by a competent tribunal, an independent tribunal and by impartial judges. We are of the opinion that this cannot take place in Iraq.

M. O'BRIEN: The charges are long, too long to enumerate here. Some of them are, you know, it seems like it would be very difficult to defend them, for example, the invasion of Kuwait, the gassing of the Kurds.

How are you going to possibly mount a defense for Saddam Hussein?

DOEBBLER: Well, I should correct you. First of all, there have not been any charges. In fact, the event that took place in July, at the beginning of July, was not an indictment or not a proper hearing. It was merely an attempt, we believe, to humiliate our client by bringing him before a tribunal that did not even state one provision of law that he violated...

M. O'BRIEN: Mr. Doebbler, I did...

DOEBBLER: ... and did not allow him legal representation.

M. O'BRIEN: Could I just ask you, though -- I'm sorry to interrupt -- because our time is short. I'm just curious...


M. O'BRIEN: ... what is your line of defense going to be, that Saddam Hussein was at the top of the food chain and you have to prove some sort of chain of command linking to these alleged crimes?

DOEBBLER: Well, Miles, as I'm sure you're aware, the defense in any criminal trial does not have to prove that they were not involved in the crime. The prosecution has to prove that they committed the crime, that the defendant committed the crime.

In this case, it is the prosecution's responsibility to do that and the first aspect of that is that they have to tell us what they are going to charge him with. They have not done that yet. Those vague allegations were not charges. Not one provision of law was mentioned.

M. O'BRIEN: Curtis Doebbler, who has the difficult challenge of helping defend Saddam Hussein.

Appreciate your time this morning.

DOEBBLER: Thank you very much, Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Coming up this morning, what do astronauts eat anyway? Lately, not very much. We're going to find out about the astronauts diet and how the space agencies plan to get food up to that space station, coming up.


S. O'BRIEN: Good morning.

CAFFERTY: How are you doing?

S. O'BRIEN: Jack's got the Question of the Day. CAFFERTY: Paul Bremer, Tommy Franks and George Tenet all got the Presidential Medal of Freedom this week. Bremer was the guy who disbanded the Iraqi Army. Tommy Franks campaigned for Bush's reelection. And George Tenet was the guy who said it was a slam dunk that Saddam Hussein had those weapons of mass destruction. The medal is considered the highest civilian award in the United States and these particular choices caught a few people by surprise. Comparing previous recipients of the likes of Mother Teresa, the pope, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Rosa Parks got one.

So we thought, well, hey, so we're giving these things away, who else ought to get this Medal of Freedom? That's the Question of the Day.

Blair in Toronto writes: "Martha Stewart. Since the incident, her show has been taken off the air in Ottawa. This has freed my mother from the television and put a cease and desist on trying to integrate doilies into my life."

Len in Riverview, New Brunswick: "Those who paid the most for freedom, service members and their families. Oh, and mint a big one for the American people. They deserve it for picking up the torch that the U.N. and its staffers seem to keep dropping."

Larry in Crystal Beach, Texas: "The National Basketball Association for paying mega millions to allow its players to be free to do whatever they want, including whipping up on the fans."

And Edward in Ottawa writes: "We who respond to your questions should get the Medal of Freedom."

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, we knew this was coming.

CAFFERTY: "It would quiet the viewers union from requesting free junk. I implore you, Jack, do not cave and hand out cheap and petty coffee mugs, please."

Not to worry. Ain't going to happen.

S. O'BRIEN: Controversy within the union members.

CAFFERTY: Well, there's a little dissension, but they, you know, the AFL-CIO wasn't born without a little turmoil.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh so true.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

CAFFERTY: You know, if these guys unionize, then they'll want money, they'll want recognition. We can't pay any of that stuff. I'll be out of a job.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes.

CAFFERTY: This is a labor union movement that could have dire consequences for the old man here. S. O'BRIEN: Interesting that it's only four people in it. It's already become a big problem.

CAFFERTY: That's true.

M. O'BRIEN: Kind of a dismal picket line if the four showed up, right?


S. O'BRIEN: We have to bring them in and give them coffee. I mean, take pity on them.

CAFFERTY: Buy them breakfast.

M. O'BRIEN: We feel bad, but not give them the bucks. Just give them the coffee.

CAFFERTY: That's right.

S. O'BRIEN: Exactly.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, thank you, Jack.

We continue with our look at the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas." It's day two of our series.

CNN's Dan Lothian explains -- Jack loves this one -- he explains how...

CAFFERTY: Are we -- you're really doing this?

S. O'BRIEN: Are you having trouble getting...

M. O'BRIEN: I'm just reading it. I read for food, OK?

CAFFERTY: You read for food, yes.

M. O'BRIEN: A group in Pennsylvania was inspired by turtle doves...

CAFFERTY: This is just awful.

M. O'BRIEN: ... to sing a message of...

S. O'BRIEN: This is nice. Listen to the story.

M. O'BRIEN: Why don't you watch it and then decide, OK?

S. O'BRIEN: It's a nice story.

M. O'BRIEN: Watch the piece.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes.

M. O'BRIEN: Watch the piece. S. O'BRIEN: Gosh.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Through binoculars, this image is recognized by bird watchers as a turtle dove. But through the eyes of Quaker Todd Tyson, the same bird is seen in a much different way.

TODD TYSON: Turtle representing in some Native American lore the Earth and the dove representing, most obviously, a peace symbol, peace on Earth.

LOTHIAN: Even as the conflict in Iraq goes on and even as many Americans continue to support the president's effort there, in rural Pennsylvania, the Turtle Dove Folk Club, a non-profit organization, is, in a way, a musical protest of war. A series of folk music concerts and parties with a social activism theme -- peace through music.

KIM DROSMAN-MYERS, MEMBER, TURTLE DOVES: It's hope. It's hope for working for peace. Are we going to have peace in this world? Probably not.

I think if enough people actually worked for it, we might.

LOTHIAN: Board member Jill Benjamin wears her feelings on her collar and finds strength in this like-minded community.

JILL BENJAMIN, BOARD MEMBER, TURTLE DOVES: Maintaining a sense of equilibrium in troubled times.

LOTHIAN: After dinner and dancing, there are often deep discussions about politics and social activism.

(on camera): They have been on a mission for almost nine years, with members across the Northeast, an organization getting special attention this time of year because of its name and what it symbolizes.

Dan Lothian, CNN, Boston.


M. O'BRIEN: I'm just dying to see how the maids a milking there are doing, you know?


CAFFERTY: Should we put that on TV?

M. O'BRIEN: Well, apparently we're going to, because we're doing this whole...

CAFFERTY: What day is that?

M. O'BRIEN: That would be eight maids a milking, right? Isn't that eight? Isn't that right?

S. O'BRIEN: Young ladies who milk cows. I don't think (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

M. O'BRIEN: I had some issues with Mass. I'm not sure about that, but I think it's the eight maids. Is that right, guys?

CAFFERTY: The other thing television does every year, and it just makes my teeth ache, is we total up how much it costs for all this stuff.

S. O'BRIEN: We did that last (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

M. O'BRIEN: Nah, we already did that.


M. O'BRIEN: Been there, done that.

CAFFERTY: And it's just stupid and a waste of time, kind of like this moment right here.

M. O'BRIEN: It keeps the commercials from (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

S. O'BRIEN: You're leading, by the way.


M. O'BRIEN: By the way, the Turtle Dove Club plans to hold its folk festival and peace festival next year. We'll keep you posted on that for sure, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Thanks, Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.


S. O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning...

CAFFERTY: NASA's on the phone.

S. O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, the pressure is building on Donald Rumsfeld. The secretary of defense under attack. Should the president be thinking about cutting him loose? A look at that is ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.



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