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AMERICAN MORNING

How Did a Suicide Bomber Get Past Security at U.S. Base in Mosul?; A Change in Procedures for Airport Patdowns

Aired December 23, 2004 - 08:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: How did a suicide bomber get past security at the U.S. base in Mosul? A full investigation of an enemy within.
What to touch and what not to touch -- a change in procedures for airport pat downs.

A cold, slippery mess in much of the country and more bad weather is coming today.

And the weather story in Florida that never goes away. The hurricane homeless getting ready for the holidays 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.

Good to have you along with us today.

How are you doing today, all right?

O'BRIEN: Never better.

HEMMER: Just waking up?

O'BRIEN: No. I've been awake since early this morning. There's no right answer to that question.

HEMMER: Help me out then, will you?

We're going to get back to this story, and serious questions, too, regarding this issue in Iraq for commanders facing there now, trying to figure out how to keep the troops safe on U.S. bases. Have the insurgents infiltrated at all levels and how will they be found out if they have? Talking about that with our military analyst. Ken Robinson stops by in a moment on that.

O'BRIEN: Also this morning, we've heard a lot of uproar about religious expressions during the holiday. People saying happy holidays instead of Merry Christmas or some choosing to say Merry Christmas instead of happy holidays. Is somebody being insensitive? Is somebody else being over sensitive? Well, we're going to join in the debate with a minister and a member of a retail group.

HEMMER: Yes, that debate has been going on all week.

Merry Christmas to you, by the way.

O'BRIEN: And happy holidays.

HEMMER: Thank you.

Oh, come on now. That's...

O'BRIEN: Really, it, you know what? It doesn't matter to me. I'm happy to take any positive greeting. Right, Jack?

HEMMER: Good morning -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi.

HEMMER: Hi.

CAFFERTY: Coming up in the "Cafferty File," the best-seller was called "In the Belly of the Beast." Martha Stewart's version from prison is titled "From the Bowels of Alderson." It has a certain medical ring to it. Pale Male, Lola and the loving public serve up a diet of crow to a wealthy Fifth Avenue co-op board. The birds win. And when it comes to finding a parking place at the mall, are you a stalker or a search and destroyer?

HEMMER: You can breathe now.

O'BRIEN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

CAFFERTY: I had to run up the stairs (UNINTELLIGIBLE). They forgot to tell me that I was supposed to be up here for this, so I come racing up and I'm panting because I'm old and in pretty bad shape, actually.

HEMMER: A three hour show.

O'BRIEN: Oh.

CAFFERTY: Yes. Is that all it is? Gee.

HEMMER: Some days.

Thanks, Jack.

O'BRIEN: Thank you, Jack.

"The File" is just ahead.

First, though, headlines.

Carol Costello -- good morning.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: I don't even know what to say after that.

Good morning to you.

Good morning, everyone.

The man who pulled out of the running for homeland security secretary is out of work this morning. Bernard Kerik announced yesterday he is resigning from consulting firms headed by former New York Mayor Rudi Giuliani. Kerik says recent scrutiny into his public and private lives have become an unnecessary distraction to the firm. Giuliani says he did not ask Kerik for his resignation.

Starting today, airport pat downs are getting less personal. Screeners are being instructed not to touch women passengers between their breasts anymore during routine security checks for explosives. The TSA says the change is aimed at reducing anxiety but will not weaken security efforts.

A Virginia man is facing up to 10 years in prison for trying to board an airplane with a concealed weapon. Authorities say a screener at Honolulu International Airport found a four inch razor blade inside the man's shoe after it went through an x-ray machine. The man's lawyer says his client did not know about the blade.

And a new study suggests being fit and fat do not go together after all. Researchers say regular exercise is not enough to ward off health problems if you're overweight. The study recommends trimming extra pounds and getting off the couch. Details appear in today's issue of the "New England Journal of Medicine."

O'BRIEN: That's an interesting study.

COSTELLO: Well, you know, they were saying that if you're overweight and you exercise, it doesn't necessarily mean you're unfit but...

O'BRIEN: You could be healthy and not necessarily fit into sort of a planned out schedule of how much you should weigh.

COSTELLO: Exactly. But everyone should know it's just not that easy. You have to get up and get moving and do it the hard way, unfortunately.

HEMMER: See this right here, Carol?

COSTELLO: Yes.

HEMMER: That's called coffee.

COSTELLO: That's how you get up and get moving.

HEMMER: That's what we use.

COSTELLO: That's right.

HEMMER: Thank you much. Doctors at a U.S. military hospital in Germany have been working through the night again, attending to wounded soldiers after Tuesday's blast at that base in Mosul. The Pentagon now saying a suicide bomber may be to blame for that attack. One unidentified, non-American among the dead. But Joint Chiefs Chairman General Richard Myers says it is still too early to tell if that is the body of the bomber.

Also, at the Pentagon, looking into background checks and the procedures for Iraqis working on U.S. military bases throughout that country.

From Germany now, Matthew Chance is at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center with more on the wounded arriving there -- Matthew, hello.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bill, thanks very much.

And it's been a relatively busy time here at the Landstuhl regional medical facility in southern Germany. They've had 45 battle injuries coming from Iraq in the course of the past 36 hours or so. Of them, 35, they're now saying, were actually injured in that devastating assault on the dining mess tent in the camp in Mosul. Seven of them are said to be civilians, the rest U.S. Army personnel.

Half of that figure, and I'm sorry to get into these statistics, but it's interesting because half of that figure are still in intensive care suffering very grave injuries, indeed, as a result of the explosion.

The thing is, according to doctors here, they, of course, weren't wearing their helmets. They weren't wearing their body armor, as they normally would be in a battle situation. They were sitting down to eat. And so many of them received extremely severe abdominal injuries.

Well, the head of the Landstuhl regional medical facility, Dr. -- or Colonel Rhonda Cornum, saying that her condolences, of course, go out to those who lost their lives and the families of those who lost their loved ones. But she was also assuring those families, the families of the survivors, that everything was being done here to make sure the survivors made a fully recovery.

Here's what she had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COL. RHONDA CORNUM, COMMANDER, LANDSTUHL MILITARY HOSPITAL: We are no doubt fully staffed and prepared. We haven't called anybody that was on a trip. We have people that are -- that were supposed to be off and in the local area. We do have them on a two hour recall in case we had more than we could handle with the staff that was scheduled.

But when we saw the Mosul thing unfolding on the news, we knew what was happening next. And so we were prepared for them when they got here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHANCE: Well, this is certainly one of the biggest single influxes of casualties since the Iraq war began into this regional medical facility. It was also an unexpected influx, as well, because there wasn't a battle under way. Nevertheless, the authorities here saying they were prepared and are giving them the best treatment they can -- Bill.

HEMMER: All right, Matthew Chance in Landstuhl, Germany -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: The big question this morning, how was a suicide bomber able to pull off the attack?

Joining us from Washington, CNN military intelligence analyst Ken Robinson -- Ken, good morning.

KEN ROBINSON, CNN MILITARY INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Good morning.

O'BRIEN: Do you think this was the work of one person or does it sound to you like a job done with more help from the inside?

ROBINSON: Well, we firmly believe it's a network. It's a Sunni network. It's a group of former regime loyalists mixed with jihadists. These Sunnis want to disrupt more than a mess hall. They're trying to send a message to the United States that the country is ungovernable. And they're trying to set the conditions for illegitimate elections.

O'BRIEN: I was surprised that the base itself had been attacked some 30 times and yet inside this tent, which apparently people had complained about or raised their concerns about how it was essentially this big canvas white thing that stuck out and was actually visible outside of the base, no one was wearing their body armor.

Why would that be the case?

ROBINSON: Well, in my own career, one of the things that I learned early on was the greatest killer on the battlefield is what we call complacency, you know, the thinking that bad things is what happen to other people. These bases fall into a routine. There are large numbers of people being cranked through, working on projects and there's a sense of -- an unfounded sense of security when you're surrounded by your friends and you're breaking bread and eating.

One of the things that they need to be doing is distributing these individuals so that they don't cluster in one location.

Complacency with security is what's led to the high casualties.

O'BRIEN: When you say distributing thee individuals, meaning the soldiers themselves should not be in one location? Are you also saying that local workers should not be dining in the mess tent also?

ROBINSON: Well, quite frankly, I would assert that there should be segregation. The problem with it is, is that by segregating, you also lose the very thing that the military is trying to obtain, and that is a way to establish rapport and work with the new Iraqi government, work with the Iraqi soldiers and professionalize them. And by segregating, you lose that one on one contact in these environments, but at the same time you gain security.

It's the vulnerable point, and that's the point that the terrorists chose to exploit.

O'BRIEN: Senator Olympia Snowe sort of pointed out the same issue, where she said, you know, the soldiers are between a rock and a hard place. You have to, to some degree, have these workers but at the same time, as you say, they point to this vulnerability.

So then, with both of those sides in mind, where do you come in on this? Do you think workers should not be allowed on the U.S. bases? Or should they -- or do they have to be?

ROBINSON: Well, I know I think that the workers, there has to be a vetting process that's better than the current one. It's very difficult in that country to try to establish a vetting process when there's really been no rule of law and the intelligence services were dismantled by our invasion of Iraq.

So segregation has to occur. Another thing that has to occur is the supervision of the individuals when they come on that post. As the military spokesmen there have said, many individuals have been allowed to come on the base, and then once they go through the main gate, they're no longer escorted or supervised. So there's a whole series of things on all of the forward operating bases that need to be reviewed, which will probably come out in the investigation, which is ongoing.

O'BRIEN: In the end, do you think the goal of an attack like this is really to throw the elections?

ROBINSON: I really do, Soledad. The larger issue here is the issue between the Sunni minority and the Shia majority and to try to create conditions of fear that allow them to be able to make the elections illegitimate, which can set the conditions for one day when the United States will eventually leave. This problem is very deep and it's gone on for a long time. The Sunnis fear disenfranchisement from the Shia majority, which will win if there's an election.

O'BRIEN: All right, Ken Robinson, CNN military analyst, intelligence analyst, joining us.

Nice to talk to you, Ken.

Thanks a lot.

ROBINSON: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: CNN is going to have an exclusive interview with the Mosul base commander, General Carter Hamm. That's ahead at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time -- Bill.

HEMMER: In the meantime, Soledad, back in this country, 10 minutes past the hour.

The first big storms of winter blamed for at least six traffic deaths to date. The ice and snow causing holiday travel headaches, as you can imagine, really from the Canadian border down through central Texas. Tow trucks out in force in the state of Ohio dragging cars out of abandoned ditches and on the roadside. Icy roads, also, down south. Central Texas accounting now for a bunch of fender benders. Folks from the Panhandle and the Oklahoma border waking up today now to four inches of snow. That's down there.

Up in Indiana, places like Ohio, you're looking at, what, 13, 14 inches in spots?

Back to Chad on that.

Is that about right -- Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Twenty-nine, Bill.

HEMMER: Twenty-nine!!!

MYERS: But you were close.

HEMMER: Where is that?

MYERS: Scottsburg, Indiana.

HEMMER: Whooo!

MYERS: Yes. I'll show you the whole map here in a second.

HEMMER: All right.

(WEATHER REPORT)

HEMMER: It's already 56 here outside our studios.

MYERS: Isn't that great?

HEMMER: Two days ago it was minus four with the wind chill.

O'BRIEN: We were freezing on Monday and Tuesday and now it's actually nice.

HEMMER: It's nice.

O'BRIEN: I mean crummy, but nice.

HEMMER: Thank you, Chad.

O'BRIEN: Thanks, Chad.

MYERS: You're welcome.

HEMMER: All right.

O'BRIEN: Ahead, a minister gets fed up with what he calls a P.C. Christmas. So he's hitting somebody where it hurts -- in the wallet.

HEMMER: Also, if you're home for the holidays, a little different for some folks in Florida this time around. Uncle Sam playing Santa Claus. This in the year of the hurricane.

O'BRIEN: And is stress taking hold of your holiday? Well, it's much worse for military families. That's where Operation Comfort comes into play. We'll explain ahead as we continue here on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEMMER: All this week here on AMERICAN MORNING, we are hearing stories of special service from people devoting their time and effort to support the U.S. military.

Today we want to introduce you to two psychologists out in California so moved by a mother's grief they started a free counseling service for the families of deployed soldiers and Marines.

In L.A., say good morning to the co-founders of Operation Comfort, David Cohen and Steven Sherman.

Gentlemen, welcome.

JOSE DAVID COHEN, COFOUNDER, OPERATION COMFORT: Good morning.

Thank you.

STEVEN SHERMAN, COFOUNDER, OPERATION COMFORT: Good morning.

HEMMER: It is great to have you here and wonderful to hear your story, as well.

David, you start.

Where did you see the need for this program?

COHEN: Well, basically when I saw the interview that they did for the second fallen Marines, the mother, Mrs. Geraby (ph), she was so grief stricken that her son had fallen that I -- the next morning I was moved to create Operation Comfort with Dr. Steven Sherman.

HEMMER: Yes, let me ask Steven about that.

How has it grown and how have people responded to what you're offering them?

SHERMAN: The response has been really tremendous in regards to when we've reached out for -- all the therapists who've found out about Operation Comfort have been really wonderful in terms of providing support, providing their services pro bono, opening up their offices, providing groups and individual counseling.

HEMMER: Yes, but what do they need, Steven. When they come to you, what can you offer them? SHERMAN: Well, there's a large percentage of soldiers who are returning, 15 to 20 percent of soldiers who are returning with significant mental health issues such as depression, substance abuse, suicidality. Quite a few people are returning to broken homes, broken relationships. And people really need the support badly.

Unfortunately, the research shows that over 60 percent of soldiers are not reaching -- are not getting the help that they need because of the stigma attached.

HEMMER: The stigma attached is what?

SHERMAN: The stigma attached for soldiers somehow acknowledging that they're vulnerable and that they need help. It's really pronounced, for example, in the forward deployed soldiers. These people are not asking for help because it's not what a soldier does. A soldier doesn't say that he's vulnerable or weak or needs counseling.

HEMMER: David, what...

SHERMAN: But at the same...

HEMMER: I'm sorry for the interruption here.

But, David, what can you and Steven do that the military cannot do already?

COHEN: Well, basically what we've done, we've expanded what we call the family services. We have parents coming in. We have grandparents coming in, cousins, aunts, uncles, anybody who is suffering the fear of maybe not seeing their loved one again is coming to see us and basically that's what we've done with Operation Comfort.

HEMMER: If they come to you and if you can, give us an example of what you say in terms of the advice and comfort you offer.

COHEN: Well, additionally, I'd like to say this, that the people also who -- what Operation Comfort is doing, and it makes sense, is that it's giving therapy in the same area that they live. In the community where they come from, they can find a therapist that's doing their pro bono work and be able to see them rather than traveling all the way to the bases, as well.

HEMMER: As you point out, it's all free.

COHEN: Yes.

HEMMER: And we mark it today in our series called Special Service.

Thank you, gentlemen, for sharing with us today.

COHEN: Thank you very much.

SHERMAN: Thanks for having us. HEMMER: And the best of luck to you.

Keep up the good work there.

COHEN: Thank you.

HEMMER: David Cohen and Steven Sherman from our bureau in Los Angeles today.

To join Operation Comfort therapy, visit the Web site at operationcomfort.com. It's online for you right now, in fact.

Thank you, gentlemen.

Have a good holiday.

Here's Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Here's a question for you. Is Christmas becoming too secular? A North Carolina minister hopes money talks in his war on political correctness. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEMMER: Merry holidays. That phrase is being used as a substitute for Merry Christmas around the country. But there's a pastor in Raleigh, North Carolina now lobbying to bring Christmas back.

The Reverend Patrick Wooden is with me, along with John Odom from the Greater Raleigh Merchants Association, to talk about this issue in their town.

And gentlemen, good morning to you.

Should I say Merry Christmas or happy holidays?

REV. PATRICK L. WOODEN, CHURCH OF GOD: Merry Christmas.

HEMMER: All right, Reverend, well, you do the talking.

You spent $7,000 of church money to take out an ad...

WOODEN: Yes, sir.

HEMMER: ... in a local newspaper.

What was the point of that ad, Reverend?

WOODEN: The point of the ad is simply to -- the ad was written to Christians, since 96 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas, and America, 80 percent of Americans claim to be Christian, we wanted to say to the Christian buying public to take their hard earned dollars and support or patronize those businesses that include Merry Christmas in their promotions, because, you know, Christmas is a part of our national heritage. In 1870, Ulysses S. Grant signed and made it a federal holiday. It is the only federal holiday in December that the federal government recognizes and our position is, you know, when you go into the malls and you look around, you don't see Merry Christmas anymore.

And since it is Christmastime, we're just simply saying that the greeting Merry Christmas should be included. We're not trying to tell any business what to do with their money. But I think that it is Christmastime and at Christmastime, we would just like to see Merry Christmas included in the promotions.

HEMMER: It is an interesting prospect here that you're pursuing.

Mr. Odom, what's been the reaction from the business community as a result of this advertising campaign?

JOHN ODOM, RALEIGH MERCHANTS ASSOCIATION: Well, actually, little. We tried to cater to everyone to come to the retail shops and shop. They are, the majority down here in North Carolina, in the bible belt, mostly say Merry Christmas to begin with. Those are regional shops.

However, the national chains sometimes do have a criteria and they have changed it to happy holidays.

But I think that you'll find that most stores leave it up to their managers and their customers. We try to relate to our customers directly.

HEMMER: You say little reaction. Does that mean little public reaction or can you gauge whether or not the businesses have been affected?

ODOM: At this point, I don't think the businesses in this area have been affected. As I say, we cater to our customers that come through our doors. Some we'd say happy holidays to. Some of them we'd say Merry Christmas to.

HEMMER: Sure.

ODOM: So I think it's a non-issue from the retail perspective. We want everyone to shop in our stores.

HEMMER: Let me get back to the reverend on this.

I understand the newspaper that ran that advertisement has received dozens of angry letters...

WOODEN: Yes.

HEMMER: ... saying that this is discrimination.

How do you respond to that, Reverend?

WOODEN: I don't understand how they would call it discrimination. We did say merchants that include Merry Christmas. But there is discrimination going on. If you go to the businesses, you do not see Merry Christmas displayed in windows or in the stores. There is a secularization of Christmas taking place and I don't believe that the Christian buying public should finance this secularization of Christmas.

My position is if the merchants want the gold and the myrtle of Christmas, they should at least acknowledge the birth of the baby.

HEMMER: That interview from Raleigh, North Carolina.

That's what they're talking about down there in the Tar Hill State this time of year -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Jack's got "The File."

CAFFERTY: The headline is "Birds Win." Pale Male and Lola, those red-tailed hawks that were evicted from a swanky New York co-op, have made national headlines and today they get their old nest back. Well, not exactly the old nest. The original nest, which they lived in for 12 years, was ordered destroyed by the unfeeling co-op board at 927 Fifth Avenue here in New York City. They failed, though, to anticipate the angry reaction from people who love those birds. Eventually, the co-op board caved.

And today, workers will install a new nest, complete with twigs from the original nest interwoven among the metal bars. The Audubon Society, along with Pale Male supporters and the news media, all on hand today for the installation. 11:30 this morning at 927 Fifth Avenue. That would be Fifth Avenue and 74th Street.

Martha Stewart writes a Christmas message from in the belly of the beast. Hers is called in the bowels of Alderson. It sounds like a medical test of some sort. Alderson is the federal prison where Stewart is doing time. Her message was posted on the Web site yesterday. In it, she whines about prison food, says that it's bad. While doing five months for lying to federal prosecutors about a stock trade, she also notes that she's had time to think, time to write, time to exercise, time to walk, time to contemplate the future.

Martha has taken up a new cause while in stir. She says she thinks that sentencing guidelines need to be revisited, particularly for non-violent first time women offenders. Martha's scheduled to be sprung from the joint in March, to be followed by five months of home confinement.

Christmas two days away. Shopping mall parking lots jammed to overflowing. Response Insurance Company did some research and found the least stressful method for finding a parking spot if you're going to join the hordes at the mall. It identifies what it says are the four main species of mall parkers, beginning with search and destroyers, who roam the aisles cruising endlessly for the perfect spot. Then come lay and waiters, parkers who position themselves at the end of the aisle and wait for a space to open up in their territory. Stalkers are the most predatory. They actually follow the shoppers leaving the store all the way to their car and then grab the spot. And then the see it and take it types. This is the most favored, least stressful method in which drivers don't care how far they have to walk to get to the mall. However, in some of those towns out in Ohio that have a foot of snow, you ain't going to find a lot of those kind around.

HEMMER: Good stuff.

I like it, Jack.

O'BRIEN: Thank you, Jack.

Bernard Kerik gives up another job, but did his old boss lose an even bigger gig in the process? "Political Jab" is just ahead.

Plus, dreaming of a white Christmas? Find out whether your wish will be granted.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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