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The Final Count; Latest on Attack on British Aircraft in Iraq

Aired February 1, 2005 - 08:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: The final count, vote by vote. Iraq tries to come closer to democracy. But could security concerns threaten the process?
A stunning setback for the Bush administration. The GITMO tribunal is ruled unconstitutional. How does it impact the war on terror?

And he is the most famous defendant in the world. How are potential jurors reacting to Michael Jackson 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: Welcome, everybody.

It's February.

Good morning.

8:00 here in New York City.

More developments again today regarding Sunday's deadly crash of a British transport plane in Iraq. Two claims of responsibility. Word that missiles may have brought down the plane. Live to the Pentagon. We'll talk about this videotape here and the significance that they're trying to find out right now with this investigation -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Well, also this morning, a bit of a spill yesterday for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. She fainted during a speech in Buffalo, New York. We're going to talk to one politician who was on hand and find out exactly what happened there. That's a little bit scary for her.

HEMMER: Maybe a bad lunch. It might have been just a stomach virus. So that's what they're saying at this point.

O'BRIEN: Right.

HEMMER: Good morning.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The news media kind of blew that story. I happened to be watching the various cable channels and they're all saying she collapsed and was rushed to the hospital and it turned out that...

HEMMER: She never left the room.

CAFFERTY: Well, that, too.

Coming up in the "Cafferty File," famous doodles found at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. And the experts were dead wrong about who they belonged to. A new study explains why our teenagers are four times more likely to crash the cars than adults are. And sending your kid to a school named Dumber. Well, maybe not.

HEMMER: All right, Jack.

CAFFERTY: The thing has been around for 240 years, too, this school.


O'BRIEN: Really?


O'BRIEN: Interesting.

CAFFERTY: Prestigious.

O'BRIEN: Really?


O'BRIEN: Where is it?

CAFFERTY: I'm not telling you.

O'BRIEN: You rope me in slowly but surely and then push me over the cliff.

Thank you, Jack.

The ballots from Sunday's historic election in Iraq may have -- or have, rather, been moved to Baghdad, where counting is underway right now.

CNN's Jane Arraf at a counting location near Ba'qubah.

She joins us by video phone -- Jane, good morning to you.


The ballots are still coming in here. They're coming in in these plastic boxes, where they're counted by these election workers. Now, some of these workers have been here for two days and it's going to take at least another couple of days to go through an estimated 300,000 ballots from Ba'qubah and surrounding areas.

Now, you can see here, Soledad, that they actually have the ballots rolled up in a plastic bag. They have gone through them, they've counted them, they've registered which party has got how many votes and they are putting them back under seal in these sealed boxes to go into containers. Eventually they will be transported to Baghdad, but for security reasons, they are doing it here, actually counting the ballots as they are coming in -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk a little bit about security, Jane.

What kind of measures are in place?

ARRAF: Well, very strong strict measures. Now we saw here in Diala Province, which is in the heart of the Sunni Triangle, 54 attacks on election day. Now, none of them managed to overrun polling stations. Only a couple of them were severe enough to deter voters. But there were attacks.

It's dropped off dramatically. It is a very quiet day, no attacks so far. But still the biggest concern, really, has been the safety of the workers and the safety of the ballot boxes. You'll recall that insurgents threatened to turn voting day into a bloodbath and every single election worker who has showed up here to count these ballots is at risk, because they have become part of the process.

Now, the ballot boxes themselves were to have been taken to Baghdad. Because of those concerns of security, they're doing it closer to home under very strict security on all sorts of levels -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Jane Arraf for us this morning.

Jane, thank you.

HEMMER: One of the extraordinary things about this election, they kept the polling stations secret. They kept the ballot distribution and location and now counting secret. There has yet to be a single incident about any of these boxes disappearing or being destroyed and that is a very, very good sign.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And doesn't that say something about the Iraqi security forces?

HEMMER: That's very true, and that's the point.

COSTELLO: And that's because they were the ones right close to the polling places.


COSTELLO: Yes, and the U.S. military, as well, who did a terrific job.

HEMMER: That's right.

Back to the headlines.

Carol, back to you, as well -- good morning.

COSTELLO: Good morning to you. Good morning to all of you.

Now in the news, some lawmakers say they won't nickel and dime military families who have lost loved ones in combat. About two hours from now, the Pentagon will unveil a plan to boost military death benefits by nearly eight times the current level, from around $12,000 to $100,000 tax-free. The proposal is retroactive to when military action began in Afghanistan.

Out in California, pop star Michael Jackson coming face-to-face with the people who could decide his fate. Jury selection expected to pick up again in a Santa Maria courtroom just five hours from now. The proceedings yesterday started more than an hour later than scheduled because it took extra time for potential panelists to clear security.

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge is moving on. It is his official last day. Ridge gave his farewell address yesterday. He's reportedly considering a position with a legal lobbying firm. Confirmation hearings for his designated successor, Michael Chertoff, are scheduled for tomorrow on Capitol Hill.

And a couple in Sri Lanka saying they want to bring their baby home. The baby, seen in this video, was the 81st admission into a hospital the day the deadly tsunami swept across Southeast Asia and is now being called Baby 81. On that day, the woman claiming to be the baby's mother says the little boy was ripped from her arms. She's now filed court papers to gain custody of the child. A decision could come as early as tomorrow.

And, I know, Soledad, you were there. You think that would be an easy thing, that a blood test, a DNA test.

O'BRIEN: I know. It's remarkable. There's actually other people, as well, who have come forward saying that this is their baby, too, a handful of women.

COSTELLO: Oh, it's just...

O'BRIEN: So you're right, I think maybe at the end it will come down to a blood test and just determining who is the mother of that child.

COSTELLO: Exactly.

O'BRIEN: Thanks, Carol.


HEMMER: British and U.S. investigators still searching for the cause of that crash on Sunday in Iraq of a British C-130 Hercules transport plane. There are two claims of responsibility now. One terror group says it used missiles to bring down that plane.

Barbara Starr is checking this at the Pentagon -- Barbara, good morning there. BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Bill.

Well, as you say, the investigation remains underway. No one can yet say what happened. But CNN has confirmed now that U.S. intelligence agencies and the U.S. military are going back through all of their radar tapes, all of their signals intelligence, all of the information that they gathered at the time, going back through that, looking to see if they can find any electronic or signals intelligence that indicates a missile launch or any type of weapons launch at that time, at that air field, against that aircraft that was landing.

Now, this insurgent video that has come out has pretty well been set aside at the moment. The military, the intelligence community says they are just starting to look at all of the indicators that they have.

Two scenarios on the table, we are told by our sources. If it was a shoulder fired missile, that's a heat seeker. Radars might have seen some very short blip on their radar screen as the radars passively bounced off that type of heat seeking missile. So they're looking for some indication of that.

But that's a bit of a problematic situation. They say there have been shoulder-fired launches in the past against aircraft in Iraq and most of them have survived. There have not -- there has not been this type of catastrophic loss. Those types, those aircraft have pretty much limped back to base. So, that's one scenario.

The much more strategically significant scenario, was it a radar controlled missile that might have been launched against this aircraft? That would be a very serious matter. There would have been indicators on the radar tape. Somebody should have seen it, we are told. And if it was a radar launched missile, that's an indication that the insurgents have some kind of organized, much more significant capability than was suspected.

The claim of an anti-tank missile also is being looked at, but sources we've spoken to this morning say that one seems, in their words, illogical, that it would have been very technically difficult for an anti-tank missile to bring down one of these aircraft at a significant altitude.

So they're continuing, Bill, to look at all of this to see if there is any clues in U.S. intelligence -- Bill.

HEMMER: One more topic, Barbara.

Another concern in the Persian Gulf region, what is that, it deals with Kuwait?

STARR: Absolutely, Bill.

Sources are telling CNN that they are watching very closely the last several days, since essentially the first of the year. Kuwaiti security forces engaged in a number of situations with insurgents, with suspected al Qaeda loyalists in that country. We see some video here right now of some of the recent shootouts, if you will, with insurgents in that country.

Again, U.S. intelligence, the U.S. military watching the situation in Kuwait very closely. They have concerns that Islamic fundamentalists are moving into the Kuwait area, are resurging inside the country, if you will, and they have been talking to Kuwaiti security forces about stepping up their activity against these insurgents.

U.S. officials tell us this morning they are very pleased to see that the Kuwaitis are acting against them, but they are watching very cautiously because, of course, there are a large number of U.S. military troops still inside Kuwait, constant concerns about their security -- Bill.

HEMMER: Barbara, thanks for that, from the Pentagon this morning.

Here's Soledad.

O'BRIEN: A federal judge has ruled the Guantanamo Bay military tribunals for terror suspects are unconstitutional. The judge heard appeals from more than 50 GITMO detainees and found they have a right to challenge their imprisonment in U.S. courts.

Joining us this morning, Jonathan Turley.

He's a law professor at George Washington University.

He's litigated national security cases in both federal and military courts.

Jonathan, nice to see you, as always.


O'BRIEN: Thanks for being with us.

The detainees have been denied basic rights, is what was found by Judge Green, that they can challenge their basic confinement in U.S. courts.

What's the takeaway from all this at the end of the day? What does this ruling really mean?

TURLEY: Well, this is a significant ruling for the administration. What the court is saying here is that the administration did not comply with the last Supreme Court decision in the area. The administration has essentially argued that while the Supreme Court said that these individuals have access to federal courts, they don't have substantive rights. I know that sounds odd, but they're saying that basically these guys can go to court, they just can't get anything from the court.

And what Judge Green said is that's simply not the case, that they have substantive rights. And she went further and said that she is deeply concerned and believes that the procedures used by the government are unconstitutional. And she gives some pretty shocking details in her opinion.

O'BRIEN: Give us a sense of some of those details in the opinions.

TURLEY: Well, first of all, she describes torture that was used to get some of the confessions against these individuals, which are quite shocking. She also gives one transcript of one of these proceedings in which a person is basically told look, someone said that you're a terrorist. Do you have anything to say to that person? We can't tell you who it is or what they said.

And at the end of this transcript, there are people actually laughing on the transcript and Judge Green says you know what, this isn't funny. I mean this is not a real legal proceeding. This person hasn't been given any real opportunity to be given the facts against them.

O'BRIEN: But this ruling completely contradicts another ruling that was found by a federal judge who dismissed the lawsuit under the theory that these people had no constitutional rights.

How can these two rulings say essentially completely opposite things?

TURLEY: That's right.

O'BRIEN: And which one is the one that you have to listen to?

TURLEY: Well, do have a coin, because we'll have to flip it? Because the fact is you've got two judges in the very same courthouse who have come to diametrically opposed conclusions. And really the fault of this is with the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, when they handed down their last ruling, was so deeply divided that they could only get five justices to agree on the most basic details. And when they said look, you have to give these detainees rights, they didn't say what those rights were. And so now you've got two different judges here saying, you know, one saying I don't think they have rights. The other one is saying that they do.

But what's also in this opinion is some admissions by the government that they believe this war on terror will go on for generations, where the president will assert this power. And they also say that they believe enemy combatant status, which is the status of these detainees, is so broad that the judge asked them well, if you've got an old lady in Switzerland who writes a check by mistake to a charity that she thinks is going to help orphans and it turns out to be a front for al Qaeda, could you put her in GITMO? And the government said yes.

O'BRIEN: So then what happens now? I know the case focuses on these 50 detainees who filed the lawsuit. But there are obviously many more than that.

What happens to all of them? TURLEY: Well, Judge Green was very clear that these -- this -- her order does not mean that anyone gets released. She asks the parties to come back and discuss how they're going to improve this process to give, you know, a minimum level of rights. So no one is going to be released. But what's going to happen now is a battle royale. Both of these opinions are going to go to the D.C. Court of Appeals and they will eventually go to the Supreme Court.

So in some ways, this is the other shoe dropping after the last year's opinions. This is heading straight for the Supreme Court.

O'BRIEN: Maybe it needs to be a little less vague this time around.

Jonathan Turley, professor at George Washington University.

Thanks for talking with us, Jonathan.

TURLEY: Thank you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Bill.

HEMMER: Thirteen minutes past the hour.

Back to Chad at the CNN Center.

How goes it?

Good morning to you.

Twenty-seven here in New York.


HEMMER: We kind of like this -- Chad.

MYERS: It feels like a heat wave.

HEMMER: That's right.

MYERS: It's all relative.


O'BRIEN: Still ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING, New York Senator Hillary Clinton faints at a speaking engagement, but then gets up and goes on with her day. We're going to tell you what happened to her.

HEMMER: Also, Condoleezza Rice now packing her bags for her first big diplomatic tour overseas, that is, in her new role. We'll get to that, as well.

O'BRIEN: And why residents in one small town may not care if their phones ring off the hook. We'll explain ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


O'BRIEN: Condoleezza Rice is getting ready for her first trip as the new secretary of state. Rice will leave on Thursday to begin a tour of Europe and the Middle East. She's going to visit Jerusalem and the West Bank early next week, where she's going to meet, possibly, with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Secretary Rice will also stop in Warsaw, Ankara, Tel Aviv, Rome, Brussels, Luxembourg and Paris, where she'll deliver a speech on American foreign policy next Tuesday.

A busy start.

HEMMER: Yes, that is, indeed.

New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is downplaying yesterday's fainting spell. It happened while she was giving a speech in upstate New York. An hour later, though, she was back on schedule.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: It wasn't as dramatic as it sounds. I've had a -- I came up with a 24 hour virus in the last 24 hours and I will, I'll be fine.


HEMMER: She looks like she's fine there.

Len Lenihan is chairman of the Erie County Democratic Committee.

He was there yesterday, as well.

Good morning, Len.

Thanks for your time today.


HEMMER: All right, tell us what you saw there yesterday inside that room.

LENIHAN: Basically I think Hillary said it well. I mean she came into the room and basically she didn't feel well. She said she had had a flu of some sort and she went directly to the -- into the luncheon where she was introduced about a few minutes later.

Right at the top of her speech, she said that she was feeling queasy and that she had a little bit of a flu. A couple of minutes later, she said she thought she would sit down giving her speech as opposed to standing. They gave her a mike and then a couple of minutes later, she just decided to leave the room for a while and get a breather and to relax for a minute.

And then when she came back, she went to the podium and that's when she, you know, clearly became faint. Her staff, though, was around her, because they were setting up the mike. And they were right there and they took great care of her. And there was a doctor in the house that reacted immediately.

HEMMER: Yes. Did she lose consciousness for a short time?

LENIHAN: I, you know, I don't know. I don't believe so. They just brought her down very gently and the doctor was there immediately. And they took great care of her. I thought the big story yesterday was that less than an hour later she was on her feet speaking to a tough audience at Canisius College.

HEMMER: Now, there were reports that she passed out for 30 seconds. You can't confirm that. Also reports she went to the hospital. That did not happen, right?

LENIHAN: That did not happen. She did not go to the hospital, no.

HEMMER: So do we have any reason to think this is any more than a stomach virus?

LENIHAN: No, not at all. She, you know, she was very clear that she felt, you know, she looked pale. But I think basically she described it well and it shows her resilience, the fact that she was up there speaking so soon afterwards.

HEMMER: You know, she explained to you and the audience that she was under the weather for some sort of reason.

Had she complained about any other medical condition, Len?

LENIHAN: Not at all, just that, you know, I greeted her when she came in and she just said, you know, she looked pale and she said that she felt, that she probably had a flu. She thought she was over it and then it went from there.

HEMMER: It probably gave the audience quite a scare, too.

Len, thanks.

Len Lenihan up there in Buffalo, New York spending time with us this morning.

LENIHAN: Thank you.

HEMMER: Thank you.

Nice to chat with you.

LENIHAN: Likewise.

HEMMER: Here's Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Well, it didn't take long for the telemarketers to call. Homes in Mink, Louisiana finally got regular phone service yesterday. The remote area is one of the last places in the country without land lines. One of the first calls that 83-year-old resident Alma Louise Bolton got was from Louisiana's governor, Kathleen Blanco.


ALMA LOUISE BOLTON: Oh, I'm just loving every minute of it.


O'BRIEN: She looks like she's tickled pink.

Residents have already started enjoying the benefits.

John Ray spoke to his granddaughter in Baghdad as soon as the line was installed, though Louise Bolton says she got called by a telemarketer 15 minutes after her new phone started working. They don't give you a break, do they?

HEMMER: Yes. No surprise there, right?

O'BRIEN: Nope.

HEMMER: You know, you rip that phone out of the wall now.

Back to Iraq in a moment. Thousands of Iraqis defied death to go to the polls over the weekend; in fact, millions did that. But the danger may not yet be over. Will the success of the election stump the insurgency? We'll put that question live to a reporter in Baghdad in a moment here as we continue live in New York City at 8:22 a.m. East Coast time here on a Tuesday.

Back after this.


HEMMER: Another reminder, tomorrow night in prime time, President Bush will deliver his State of the Union address. And our prime time coverage starts the Paula at 8:00 Eastern, 5:00 out on the West Coast. And Thursday morning, Soledad will be down in our nation's capital, as well. We'll get the follow-up then.

O'BRIEN: The next morning.

And it's time now, though, to check in with Jack and the Question of the Day -- good morning.

CAFFERTY: Thank you, ma'am.

Good morning .

The ballots in Iraq aren't even counted yet and the Democrats want to know when we're leaving the country. Democratic leaders are urging President Bush to present a detailed exit strategy in tomorrow's State of the Union address. Senator Edward Kennedy wants an immediate withdrawal timetable for U.S. troops. The White House says this would play into the hands of the terrorists and Iraqi officials say they need American forces in the country for at least a couple of years, until their security forces are up to speed. The question is should the United States set a timetable for troop withdrawal from Iraq?

The letters we're getting are as follows, some of them.

Brad writes: "Of course we should have a timetable. People work better when they know they have to get things done. Think of the tests you cram for in college. Iraqis need to know they have X amount of time to get their act together."

D.W. in Crescent City, Pennsylvania -- I think it's in California. "We can't leave a security vacuum. To get our people out of there quickly, which everybody wants, we must get international help in training the Iraqi security forces in the shortest possible time. Our election in this country is over now, so there's no reason why France, Germany and other countries should not help."

Mary in Irvine, Kentucky: "Jack, it'd be foolish to let the whole world, including the terrorists, know all the plans involving our departure from Iraq. The Massachusetts senator needs to cool his jets and realize that he's still not more than a senator for a reason."

O'BRIEN: Ouch.

CAFFERTY: And Arved in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia: "As a former Marine, I must say that detailed knowledge of troop withdrawals is as dangerous as broadcasting troop locations prior to an offensive. Let it become known when it happens."


HEMMER: In that one question we tried to get to the bottom of yesterday, I don't think we really got a fair answer out of our folks over in Baghdad, and that is because the elections have now been conducted, largely successful, do you now have a better chance of recruiting more Iraqis to the National Guard, to the police, to the military, to build those forces up faster than the schedule is right now?

CAFFERTY: Based on the footage of the people celebrating in the streets yesterday, it would seem that that election event triggered some sense of pride and celebration in the people. If that's true, then, yes, there have got to be people out there that want to participate and be more involved than that.

HEMMER: And the fact that the forces that were deployed kept things largely safe. They were the one who were front and center for guarding those polling stations throughout the country.

CAFFERTY: Yes. No, I think you're -- I think you make a point.

O'BRIEN: Yes, I think the answer is yes.

CAFFERTY: Recruiting may go up.

HEMMER: Keep your fingers crossed.

CAFFERTY: There you go.

O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, Deepak Chopra. Well, you know him. He's known for his ideas on healing the body and the mind. Well, now, though, he's tackling a much larger task -- world peace. We'll talk to him about his plan ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.



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