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CNN WOLF BLITZER REPORTS

Judith Miller, Matt Cooper Face Jail Time; U.S. Delivers Strong Warning to Damascus

Aired February 15, 2005 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now. Journalists to prison? Judith Miller from the "New York Times" and Matt Cooper from "TIME" magazine face an impossible decision: reveal a source who may have outed a CIA operative or be in contempt of court. A court has just weighed in. Now it's their choice. Which way will they go? I'll ask them in a live interview this hour. Stand by for hard news on WOLF BLITZER REPORTS.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): Shock waves. Was the Beirut bombing the last straw?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are, indeed, concerned about many aspects of Syrian behavior.

BLITZER: The U.S. delivers a strong warning to Damascus.

Bounty on bin Laden.

AD ANNOUNCER: Who are these terrorists and who can stop them? Only you.

BLITZER: The U.S. steps up the hunt with TV commercials.

Missile misfires. After another expensive failure, will the defense shield ever go up?

He killed his grandparents. His lawyer said Zoloft clouded his mind, but the jury is of one mind.

Michael Jackson ailing. On the way to his trial, the pop star ends up in the hospital.

ANNOUNCER: This is WOLF BLITZER REPORTS for Tuesday, February 15, 2005.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: The Bush administration is burning with what it calls profound outrage after yesterday's bombing in Beirut, which killed 17 people, including the former prime minister, Rafik Hariri. The United States is not casting blame, but it is holding Syria at least partially responsible and it's holding Syria's feet to the fire. We begin our coverage with our senior White House correspondent John King -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And Wolf, in the wake of that assassination yesterday, the Bush administration tried to turn a sharp, harsh spotlight on Syria and What this administration says is its long-standing support of terrorism in the Middle East, but as the administration tries to take a tougher approach it is also finding yet again support is hard to come by.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): The White House decision to recall the U.S. ambassador for urgent consultation is part of an aggressive new administration effort to isolate Syria.

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Syria's continued presence in Lebanon is a destabilizing force in the region and a destabilizing force in Lebanon and a serious, continued support for terrorism is a problem.

KING: Syria denies any role in Monday's assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri but the Bush administration quickly seized on the murder to challenge Syria's longstanding claim that its troops are needed in Lebanon to provide security.

RICHARD BOUCHER, STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: The excuse, the reason, the rationale that's given for the security for the Syrian presence really doesn't work.

KING: Before leaving Damascus, Ambassador Margaret Scobey delivered a blunt note not only calling on Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon but also it supports Hezbollah and other terror attacks on Israel and allowed a supply line to insurgents in Iraq. President Bush last year imposed economic sanctions on Syria and U.S. officials say more are likely soon, perhaps including a ban on Syrian exports to the United States.

BOUCHER: The longer we go on without seeing some significant progress in these areas, the more likely it becomes that we will look to the various tools that we have.

KING: But finding allies in this tougher approach may not be easy. The European Union's chief diplomat says Syria's military presence in Lebanon is not reason enough to change relations.

JAVIER SOLANA, EU FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF: At the moment, we have not the reason why it should. But if at the end of the day if -- it depends on how the responsibilities on the assassination of Mr. Hariri resolves.

KING: The United States also objected to Russian plans to sell missiles to Syria, but Israel's prime minister says the sale is going forward.

ARIEL SHARON, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: ...setting a very dangerous thing if that would be in the hands of a terrorist organization. KING: And at the United Nations, the security council would not go as far as the White House wanted and putting new pressure on Syria.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(on camera): A new resolution urges all parties to respect previous resolutions that stress Lebanon's sovereignty and territorial integrity. The United States and France, though, want a direct language, a direct mention of Syria and its troops. That language though, Wolf, watered down to get unanimous council support.

BLITZER: John King at the White House. John, thanks very much. Syria has about 15,000 troops inside Lebanon and clearly has a lot to say about what goes on inside Lebanon, but Syria says that it had, quote, "nothing to do with what happened in Beirut yesterday."

Joining us now from his residence here in Washington, Syria's ambassador to the United States Imad Moustapha. Mr. Ambassador, welcome back to our program.

What's your reaction to the Bush administration's decision to recall its ambassador, the U.S. ambassador from Damascus in protest to Syria's policies in Lebanon?

IMAD MOUSTAPHA, SYRIAN AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: Well, let me first emphasize that governments recalling ambassadors is an absolutely normal procedure. I was recalled to Damascus nine times by my government in the past year only. However, the State Department was clear in saying this does not represent withdrawal of the ambassador or a downgrading of the diplomatic representation.

So, let's not take things out of context. This is on one hand. On the other hand, it should be very clear to everyone that if anybody is insinuating about a Syrian role in the criminal atrocity that happened in Beirut today, then I think they are lacking logic, because actually what happened in Beirut yesterday exceeds the mere fact that they killed a national leader and a good friend and ally of Syria, the ex-president Rafik Hariri. Actually from what we're seeing today, we think that this goes beyond killing Rafik Hariri. It reaches the instigation against Syria.

Syria has nothing to benefit from what has happened. Actually, it's the other way around. Syria is being -- certain factions are trying to damage Syria because of what has happened and this indicates a sinister plot that does not only stop at the murderous act of assassinating Rafik Hariri, but also trying to point fingers at Syria. This is absolutely refusable.

BLITZER: Mr. Ambassador, the administration did not say Syria had any direct involvement in the killing of Rafik Hariri, but did suggest that a Syrian presence, a military presence inside Lebanon and support for what the State Department calls terrorist groups like Hezbollah creates a climate for instability inside Lebanon. Basically, they want you to stop supporting terrorists and to get out of Lebanon. MOUSTAPHA: Syria does not support terrorism. We have said this time and again. But let me say this. This is so important. Yesterday, a tragic event happened of catastrophic dimensions and people are trying to score politically to their advantage on what has happened, the sorrows of the others. So please let's not mix things together. Yesterday what has happened in Lebanon goes far beyond a mere assassination of a national leader.

Now what I'm trying to say is the following. Syria has always been a constructive party in the Middle East. We have been repeatedly asking Israel to reengage in the peace process. It was Israel who refused to reengage in the peace process. The United States administration knows this very well. They know that it is Syria who is advocating peace in the region and it's Israel who is not ready and not willing to give the prize peace needs.

BLITZER: Will you be staying in Washington while the U.S. ambassador in Damascus is recalled?

MOUSTAPHA: As I said before, this is a procedure that happens frequently between a government and its ambassador. I don't know if my government will call me for consultations. If they do this, I will go to Damascus. I have done this as I said previously, nine times in one year. However, I don't see any reason for my government right now -- this is on my personal interpretation -- to call me, because Syria is not involved, let me say this as clearly as possible, in whatever is happening in Lebanon. Actually, what's happening in Lebanon is harming Syria and is contrary to Syria's national interests.

BLITZER: Imad Moustapha, the Syrian ambassador to the United States, thanks for spending a few moments with us on this program.

MOUSTAPHA: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: While the United States is sending signals to Syria that devastating bombing in Beirut is sending shock waves across Lebanon. Our senior international correspondent Brent Sadler reports from Beirut.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRENT SADLER, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The last pictures of Rafik Hariri entering Lebanon's parliament moments before he was killed. Relaxed at that time, say close political allies like Marwan Hamade.

MARWAN HAMADE, LEBANESE PARLIAMENT MEMBER: He had no fear at all. He was in a very good mood, very optimistic. Smiling.

SADLER: Hamade, a former minister under Hariri is himself a survivor of a deadly roadside bomb attack in Beirut just four months ago symptomatic of Lebanon's once notorious weapons of choice to eliminate political foes.

HAMADE: The scars are there. I escaped, they say, by miracle from this bobby-trapped car. SADLER: This massive blast that claimed the life of Lebanon's former prime minister Rafik Hariri really does deepens the fault line that divides two political camps here, those who support the continuing presence of Syria's role in this country and those who are diametrically opposed to it.

(voice-over): Like Hamade, his party leader, Lebanese Druze chief Walid Jumblatt survived assassination and Jumblatt's own father was slain in the early stages of Lebanon's civil war some 27 years ago; one in a catalog of brutal killings, staining Lebanon's recent brutal history, a killing this family now openly blames on Syria with no proof.

WALID JUMBLATT, DRUZE LEADER: There is a connection somewhere, the one who opposes Syrian behavior, Syrian presence, Syrian -- my father opposed Syrians entrance to Lebanon. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) somewhere targets of elimination, assassination.

SANDLER: Hariri's allies now claim the assassinated Sunni Muslim leader was close to declaring open defiance of the Syrian-backed status quo in Lebanon.

JUMBLATT: Two weeks ago, he said, well, if they want to disrupt the order, weaken the opposition, it's going to be either you or me. They started by him.

SANDLER: Syria has strongly denounced Hariri's assassination and rejects what it calls unfounded accusations aimed at stirring up trouble designed to break Lebanese unity and damage Syria. The opposition, made up of Christian and Muslim leaders, concedes it may be weaker, but unmoved.

MARWAN HAMADE, LEBANESE PARLIAMENT MEMBER: The emotion is high, but the motivation is bigger to continue the fight for the independence and democracy in Lebanon.

SANDLER: Rebuilding Lebanon after 15 years of civil war was Rafik Hariri's enduring ambition, one his grieving still influential family says it will continue to support.

Brent Sadler, CNN, Beirut.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: It has been more than three years since the 9/11 attacks, and the man responsible, Osama bin Laden, remains at large. Now there's a new twist in the manhunt for bin Laden, television ads. Here with the details, our national security correspondent, David Ensor -- David.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, these ads were prepared by the U.S. embassy in Islamabad. And they started running just in the last couple of days on some Pakistani television channels.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ENSOR (voice-over): The 30-second ads airing in Pakistan are an appeal for tips on terrorists from Osama bin Laden on down.

UNIDENTIFIED VOICE ACTOR (through translator): Who are these terrorists and who can stop them? Only you. Bring to justice any perpetrator of any act against global terrorism against U.S. citizens or assets, please call 0-800-23234. You could be entitled to a reward of up to $25 million for providing useful information in this regard.

ENSOR: Similar ads featuring the 14 most wanted terrorists have been appearing in Pakistani newspapers since January 7. Congressman Mark Kirk, who helped to push the money through Congress for the ad campaign and has just returned from Pakistan, says the TV and radio campaign now starting just might help find bin Laden.

REP. MARK KIRK (R), ILLINOIS: Right now, the area where we think he is hiding is rural. And the communities are largely illiterate. So news about the award program and how to come in and how safely your family will be protected hasn't really penetrated these communities.

ENSOR: U.S. intelligence officials say they believe bin Laden is in the tribal belt along the Pakistani-Afghan border. But analyst Peter Bergen is skeptical.

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: The conventional wisdom that bin Laden is in the remote tribal territories between Afghanistan and Pakistan seems to me to be wrong. Every major al Qaeda figure has been caught in Pakistani cities.

ENSOR: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, for example, was caught in Rawalpindi. Ramzi bin al-Shibh in Karachi.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ENSOR: There may not be many in Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden had a 65 percent approval rating in one poll, who don't know by now that he has a price on his head, but it can't hurt to remind them, say U.S. officials. It's worth a try -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We'll see if that develops into anything, David, thank you very much.

Two prominent American journalists facing more than a year in prison if they don't reveal their confidential sources. I'll speak live with New York Times reporter Judith Miller and TIME magazine reporter Matt Cooper. That's coming up.

And there's a new twist in the Michael Jackson child molestation trial as the pop star is suddenly rushed to the hospital.

Plus this...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is not a man. He was tried as a man. He got his day in court for now. But I believe it is very unjust to try our children as adults.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: A verdict is announced for the boy accused of killing his grandparents while taking the antidepressant Zoloft.

Also ahead...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey! Hey!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: A reporter investigating a story becomes the story. How his interview turned violent. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The verdict is in a closely watched and highly controversial murder trial. A South Carolina teenager who at age 12 killed his grandparents and blamed the antidepressant drug Zoloft. Our medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is joining us now live from Charleston, South Carolina, where the trial wrapped up -- Elizabeth.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that's right, the verdict was guilty. And Judge Pieper gave him what would be the minimum sentence for murder in South Carolina, which would be 30 years, not two separate 30-year sentences, one for each of the murders, because we're talking about both of his grandparents, but to be run concurrently. So that means that Christopher Pittman will be in jail until he is 42 years old.

We talked to a juror today who said that they thought that Zoloft might have some effect on the brain. But they said, look, millions of people take Zoloft, and they don't kill their grandparents. Let's hear from that juror and then after that we will hear from Chris Pittman's maternal grandmother.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVEN PLATT, JUROR: It seemed like the defense was grasping at straws, trying to use the drug and the side effects as a smoke screen.

Would it actually push him to the point where he would commit murder? No. We came to the decision that it did not.

Just because you take prescription medication doesn't mean you can't be held accountable for your actions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DELNORA DUPREY, GRANDMOTHER: He is still a little boy enough that he climbed into bed last night with his grandma and grandpa and fell asleep holding our hand. He is not a man. He was tried as a man. He got his day in court for now. But I believe it is very unjust to try our children as adults.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COHEN: Chris Pittman's family says that they will try every avenue they can to appeal this decision -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Elizabeth Cohen in Charleston, thanks, Elizabeth, very much. Also in our justice report, defrocked Roman Catholic priest Paul Shanley will be serving a 12- to 15-year sentence for raping a young boy tow decades ago. Shanley was sentenced this morning in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Prosecutors have been pushing for a life sentence. Shanley is one of the central figures in the sexual abuse scandal that rocked the Boston Arch Diocese. His accuser is now a firefighter, who's repressed memories played a key role in the trail. In the statement read in court, the victim says he hopes Shanley dies a slow and painful death in prison.

There was a dramatic turn of events in Michael Jackson's child molestation trial. The pop star has been rushed to the hospital, putting the case on hold, at least for now for now.

CNN's Ted Rowlands joining us now live in Santa Maria. He has details -- Ted.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Michael Jackson is still hospitalized with what is being described as severe flu-like symptoms. He's being treated at a Santa Maria hospital about a mile away from the courthouse. This morning, instead of coming to court, he was taken to the hospital. He was treated there, while a full courtroom waited for Michael Jackson to show up. The judge eventually came on the bench, told potential jurors who were gathered here, 100 plus, that they should go home and should not come back until next Tuesday to give Mr. Jackson a time -- some time to recover from the flu. This hospital did release a short statement at a news conference, where doctors describe Jackson's symptoms. Here is that news conference.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. CHUCK MERRILL, MARIAN MEDICAL CENTER: Mr. Jackson has been evaluated in our emergency department today for a flu-like illness with some vomiting. He's under going testing and is being treated with intravenous fluids right now. He's in stable condition. We expect a full recovery. His release from the hospital will be when he is stable and well enough to go home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROWLANDS: That's all the information they're releasing at this point on Jackson's situation. His brother, Randy, just left the hospital a few moments ago, and told reporters that Michael is in, quote, "Good spirits." Bottom line, jury selection in the Jackson case has been postponed until next Tuesday morning -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ted Rowlands reporting for us. Thanks, Ted, very much. An investigative reporter attacked while on the job.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey! hey!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: How this journalist's story put him in danger. We'll have details.

A second setback, the system being pursued as a shield against enemy missiles fails again.

And later, why actor Keifer Sutherland, the star the hit television show, "24," has recorded a disclaimer addressing a specific group of Americans. Our Brian Todd has the story.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A Kentucky businessman faces charges following a violent confrontation with a television reporter who was trying to interview him. The incident occurred while the camera was rolling.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (voice-over): Louisville TV reporter, Eric Flack was outside the hall outside the offices of a company called Louisville Pro, trying to set up an interview with company president, Eli Ohiyan (ph).

ERIC FLACK, WAVE REPORTER: We were doing a follow-up investigation on a local company that we had previously found evidence was running what appeared to us to be a pyramid scam. There were some new allegations that had come to light that we were going to confront them about.

BLITZER: Flack says two of Ohiyan's employees tried to shove photographer Scott Utterback (ph). Utterback, kept his camera rolling to record what happened next. Even though there were attempts to block the camera, pictures show Ohiyan grabbing Flack's neck. These pictures are in slow motion. Flack says Ohiyan punched in the chin twice and that wasn't the end of it.

FLACK: As I tried to duck and get away, he kneed me to the head, knocking my head into our camera. I was able to get away at that point, attempted to call 911. He then came at me a second time, ripping the phone out of my hand, putting me in a head lock until those two coworkers that were with him actually pried him off me.

BLITZER: Flack says he did not attempt to fight back. When it finally ended, Flack made his way to another office in the building to summon help.

FLACK: We need some help. Quick come in here and call the police. BLITZER: Flack says Ohiyan was gone by the time the police arrived.

FLACK: I believe the county is going to press the charges that they deemed appropriate. They told me at the time, I told them what happened and they told me that that constituted fourth degree assault charge, as well as a third degree criminal mischief charge for the damage he did to both company property and my personal property.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: CNN has confirmed Eli Ohiyan faces charges of fourth degree assault, and third degree criminal mischief, both class B misdemeanors. The confrontation you just saw occurred late yesterday, and CNN has conducted no independent investigation into the allegations against Louisville Pro. We made repeated calls to Louisville Pro to get its side of the story, but we were unable to get a statement from the company.

Mission failure, the latest test of the national missile defense program failed. Will the U.S. ever be capable of defending against a long-range missile attack?

And later, 1st amendment ruling. Two journalists are facing more than a year in prison if they don't reveal their sources. "New York Times" reporter Judith Miller and "Time" magazine's Matt Cooper join me live this hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: From our studios in Washington, once again, Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: Welcome back.

Two prominent journalists facing a tough choice, reveal their sources or go to prison. Reporters Judith Miller and Matt Cooper join me live. That's coming up.

First, though, a quick check of some other stories now in the news.

Michael Chertoff will be the nation's new homeland security secretary. The Senate only moments ago confirmed his nomination. The vote was unanimous, 98-0. Chertoff, a federal judge, has promised to protect the country while preserving civil liberties. He will replace Tom Ridge, who stepped down two weeks ago.

Also on Capitol Hill, a U.S. Senate panel says it has found disturbing evidence involving an employee with a company that helped monitor the United Nations' oil-for-food program in Iraq. The panel says the man, who worked for a Dutch firm, took a bribe. And that enabled former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to smuggle $9 million worth of oil. Multiple investigations into the now defunct scandal-plagued program are under way. In our "Security Watch," the Pentagon's missile defense program suffers another failure, raising new questions about the future of a planned defensive shield over the United States.

For details, let's go live to our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, for the U.S. to successfully shoot a missile out of space requires thousands of things to go right. For it to fail only takes one thing to go wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: (voice-over): For the second time in two months, the target missile designed to simulate an incoming attack launched flawlessly from Alaska, while the new experimental interceptor designed to shoot it down never got off the ground from Kwajalein Island the Pacific. Both recent failures are being blamed on glitches in the standard ground control system.

The head of the Missile Defense Agency insists, while it's disappointing, the failure is typical of any developmental weapon system.

LT. GEN. TREY OBERING, DIRECTOR, MISSILE DEFENSE AGENCY: We have some rust that we have got to get out of the system, so to speak. We also understand we have some quality control issues on the ground side that we have to address. But, again, I would call these on the margins. These have nothing to do with the basic design, the basic performance of the system.

MCINTYRE: It's also the second $85 million test that effectively produced no data on whether the complex technology required to destroy a warhead in space is working any better. After sinking more than $50 billion into missile defense over the last five years, the program is batting .500, with five hits and five misses.

But critics charge, the early test were too easy and argue the latest failures show the system may never work reliably.

JOHN ISAACS, COUNCIL FOR A LIVABLE WORLD: We've been trying for 40 to 50 years to perfect the system. We have new technology advances. We have new missiles. We have new sensor data and we still can't get the system to work.

MCINTYRE: The Pentagon argues it's much better than nothing, especially with North Korea claiming to have nuclear weapons and developing missiles that could reach parts of the United States.

OBERING: We view ourselves as kind of an arms control system. Otherwise, when everything else fails, we're going to be the only thing between an incoming warhead and what could be mass destruction on the ground.

MCINTYRE: The U.S. now has six interceptor missiles at Fort Greely, Alaska, and two more in California that could be used in a pinch. And if an interceptor failed to launch during a real attack, officials say, other missiles would automatically take over.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: Wolf, the recent failures have not been in the area of new technology, but in basically standard rocket science, proven technology. But the Pentagon insists, it may be difficult, but is certainly doable -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon -- thanks, Jamie.

And please stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.

Let's take a quick look at some other news making headlines around the world.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (voice-over): More than 200 miners were killed when a gas explosion tore through a coal mine in northeastern China. And rescuers are still searching for others who may have been trapped. The explosion comes three years after the Chinese government promised to overhaul the country's workplace safety system.

Dozens of people were killed and dozens more are missing after floodwaters devastated parts of Venezuela in Colombia. Most of the dead drowned in shantytowns built near rivers swollen with mountain runoff after nonstop rain.

In Europe, tense moments on the high sea. A storm with gale- force winds and waves up to 45 feet battered a cruise ship while it was en route from Tunisia to Spain. The ship with almost 500 passengers on board made it through the storm and docked in Sardinia. Minor injuries were reported.

North Koreans call him their dear leader. And Kim Jong Il is the center of national celebrations as he marks his 63rd birthday.

And that's our look around the world.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Two high-profile journalists forced to make a tough decision, name their confidential sources or face 18 months in prison. The journalists, Judith Miller of "The New York Times" and Matt Cooper of "TIME" magazine, join me live. That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. Two reporters who refuse to reveal their sources could face prison now that a three-judge panel has refused to hear their appeal. The reporters said they had a constitutional right to withhold information on a high-stakes investigation that involves the White House and the CIA. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (voice-over): The case grew out of a 2003 report by Robert Novak, the syndicated columnist for "The Chicago Sun-Times," as well as co-host of CNN's "CROSSFIRE." The column concerned former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson and it revealed that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA operative.

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": In July, I was interviewing a senior administration official on Ambassador Wilson's report when he told me the trip was inspired by his wife, a CIA employee working on weapons of mass destruction. Another senior official told me the same thing.

BLITZER: Wilson claims administration official deliberately leaked his wife's name as retaliation for his criticism of the administration's Iraq policy.

JOSEPH WILSON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR: I believe that it came out of the White House. I have sources who have told me that.

BLITZER: It's a crime to leak the identity of an undercover intelligence officer. And U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald was named to investigate. His team has interviewed high-ranking administrative officials, up to and including President Bush.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If there's a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated law, that person will be taken care of.

BLITZER: Prosecutors subpoenaed journalists to testify before a grand jury. Two reporters appealed a court order that they identify their sources. The reporters are Judith Miller of "The New York Times" and Matthew Cooper of "TIME" magazine, which, like CNN, is a Time Warner company.

The reporters claim they have a First Amendment right to keep their sources confidential. But now, in a unanimous ruling, a three- judge U.S. appeals court panel has agreed. The judges flatly stated that, in a grand jury proceeding -- quote -- "There is no First Amendment privilege protecting the information sought."

Attorney Floyd Abrams, representing the two reporters, said the panel's decision -- quote -- "strikes a heavy blow against the public's right to be informed about its government." Abrams says he will appeal the ruling to the full court. Special counsel Fitzgerald applauded the judge's decision, saying -- quote -- "We look forward to resuming our progress on this investigation and bringing it to a quick conclusion."

Miller and Cooper face 18-month prison sentences, unless the court's order is overturned.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And we're joined now by Judith Miller of "The New York Times." She is joining us in New York." And here in Washington, Matthew Cooper of "TIME" magazine, and Bruce Fein. He's a constitutional attorney here in Washington.

Judy, I will start with you. What are you going to do?

JUDITH MILLER, SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, we're going to appeal, Wolf.

BLITZER: You're going to...

MILLER: And, obviously, you know, we're disappointed by the ruling, but we're going to continue our struggle through the courts.

BLITZER: What if the higher court, the Supreme Court -- you go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. What if they decide they are not going to even hear this? Are you willing to go to prison?

MILLER: I have to be willing to go to prison. I think the principles at stake in this case are so important to the functioning of a free press and to the confidentiality of sources that I just have to be willing to do that.

BLITZER: But, Judy Miller, a lot of our viewers don't even realize, you never even wrote a story about this. You were just doing some reporting about it, but nothing ever emerged in print. Is that right?

MILLER: Well, that's one of the Orwellian aspects of this entire affair, Wolf. I never wrote a story either about Joe Wilson or about his wife.

And now today we find, in something that is even more astonishing to some of us, that the reasons that one of the justices gave for deciding against us are redacted. That is, they're censored from the ruling. So, we don't even know a lot about the thinking of one of the three judges. And I just find this an astonishing turn of events.

BLITZER: Redacted, presumably for security classified purposes.

MILLER: Exactly.

BLITZER: Let's bring in Matt Cooper.

Matt, what are you going to do?

MATTHEW COOPER, "TIME": Well, like Judy, because our cases are joined, we're going to press ahead in the courts and see where this legal -- legal journey takes us.

You know, Wolf, we're not asking for an exotic, far-out privilege; 31 states provide some kind of privilege for journalists. It's very common around the world. And it's basically -- it's the same kind of privilege that's afforded to psychiatrists or social workers or clergymen. Basically, it's the right to protect confidentiality, because, without that, we really can't do our jobs as reporters. BLITZER: So, how do you explain this three-judge panel today? You had a couple conservatives, plus a liberal, Judge Tatel, who was appointed by Bill Clinton, all agreeing that you should reveal the identity of that source.

COOPER: Yes, well, it's -- the judges do their job. And they are all thoughtful and wrote thoughtful opinions, with which we disagree, but are thoughtful nonetheless.

Look, this is not a left-right issue. In the Congress, one of the most conservative House members, Mike Pence, has put up a bill that would create a federal privilege and end all this ambiguity. Senator Richard Lugar, a staunch Republican, has done the same. So, it's not a left-right issue.

The question is, are reporters going to have this kind of ability to continue doing their jobs?

BLITZER: I know your wife. I know your family. Talk a little bit how they feel about the prospect of you going to prison maybe for a year, a year and a half.

COOPER: Well, I -- thanks for the tip to the family, Wolf.

You know, I have got a 6-year-old son who I have not discussed this with. And I hate to break it to you. He does not watch CNN. So, he won't know after this either. Look, it's obviously unsettling to face that kind of prospect down the road.

But, at the same time, it's an important principle. And they're standing behind me, as are the people at "TIME" magazine, Time Incorporated.

BLITZER: You argue -- and you've argued, Bruce -- and you're an eminent constitutional scholar when it comes to this -- that they should reveal their identity. Wouldn't that have such a chilling effect, though, on the free press in the United States?

BRUCE FEIN, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW EXPERT: No, Wolf.

The decision of the Supreme Court in Branzburg and Hayes -- that's 33 years old -- set forth this principle that newsmen's privileges to keep a source confidential must yield when a grand jury is investigating crime. For those 32 years, as you well know, leaks have come forth. The press has been very aggressive, Iran-Contra, Clinton-gate, Whitewater, etcetera, without any inhibitions or chilling effect, for 33 years. That's a pretty long time period. So, there's nothing novel about this.

BLITZER: But what about this notion of going after Judy Miller, who didn't even write anything about this?

FEIN: No, but the critical element here is, the press is turning the purpose of freedom of the press on its head, as Floyd Abrams himself acknowledged.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: And he's the attorney representing the...

FEIN: The purpose of the press here is to keep a watchdog on government, to expose government wrongdoing. And here, the privilege is being invoked to conceal government wrongdoing. That government wretch who placed in danger all the persons who may have confided in Valerie Plame or other CIA agents who could be disclosed in the future, those people need to be exposed to the public.

The freedom of the press, again, works at odds with that objective when a privilege is invoked to conceal government crimes. And that's the oddity of this case. And with regard to the general view that the press isn't asking for anything unusual, even the president of the United States, the U.S. Supreme Court has held, must, in certain situations, give information over to criminal prosecutors.

BLITZER: All right.

FEIN: Richard Nixon found that he had to leave office for that reason.

BLITZER: Judith Miller, I don't know if you want to respond to that. But, if you do, I will give you a chance.

MILLER: Well, I think Branzburg was 32 years ago. And a lot has happened since then. We have seen the role of the press proven over and over again in exposing secrets, Watergate, Iran-Contra, the tobacco scandals.

And I think that 49 states, as my colleague Matt Cooper said, have decided that the freedom of the press is so important that reporters ought to have some protection from testifying before a grand jury. So, we're just trying to balance the scales here. And I think that, since 49 states have said they require protection, now it's incumbent upon the federal government to listen to the voice of the states and to adopt a law that's consistent with their feeling about this.

BLITZER: All right.

If this legislation that Senator Lugar, Congressman Pence get through the Senate and the House and sign into law, then they will have a privilege, the journalists. Is that right, Bruce?

FEIN: At present, the privilege in civil cases is qualified.

What Judith was speaking to is qualified privileges. In this case, the press has repeatedly said the privilege is absolute. And even the legislation in Congress wouldn't go that far.

BLITZER: One final question to you, Matt. Do you understand why this is so confusing? There are other journalists who apparently got some leaks, like Tim Russert, who did cooperate. They got authorization from their sources to go in and cooperate. Why can't you and Judith Miller do the same thing? COOPER: Well, it's a very complicated case, Wolf. I'm in the middle of it for a better part of a year and have trouble keeping track of it.

You know, I, in fact, did go in and give testimony to the prosecutor after he was interested in one source of mine, the vice president's chief of staff, Lewis Libby. That source, Lewis Libby, gave me a nonambiguous waiver, telling me to feel free to go ahead and testify. I did. Then the prosecutor came at back at me with a much broader subpoena. And that is proving very difficult me to comply with as a journalist, because it really makes it hard for me to do my job.

BLITZER: All right, full disclosure: Matt Cooper is an old friend of mine and Judy Miller is an old friend of mine. Thanks to both of you for joining us. Bruce Fein, a good friend as well.

Obviously, this story continuing. I misspoke earlier when I said that the three-judge panel refused to hear the case. They certainly did hear it. They issued a ruling denying the confidentiality privilege of these two journalists.

When we come back, not everyone is excited about this season of the hit series "24." Find out why the actor Kiefer Sutherland had to do a public service announcement for the program.

That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Ever since its debut three years ago, the Fox television show "24" has been a big hit. This year is no exception. But not everybody is happy with the new season because of those who are portrayed as terrorists.

CNN's Brian Todd joining us now with the latest on the fallout -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, "24" has depicted terrorists from several different ethnic groups, but one of those group has growing political muscle in this country. And it appears they just flexed it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): The intrepid Jack Bauer, counterterror agent, central character of "24," Fox's monster hit where one harrowing day unfolds over the course of a whole season, one thrilling hour each week. This season, some viewers less thrilled than others.

RABIAH AHMED, CAIR: The main concern about "24" is its portrayal of American Muslims as terrorists. What's uniquely disturbing about this season is the family as a sleeper terror cell.

TODD: Including a father willing to kill his wife and son for compromising the mission. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "24")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I give you my word, my wife and son will be dead by the end of this day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: The Council on American-Islamic Relations took one look at this plot and pressed Fox executives and show producers for a meeting. Then last week, out came this public service announcement during the regular airing of "24" featuring star Kiefer Sutherland.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIEFER SUTHERLAND, ACTOR: It's important to recognize that the American-Muslim community stands firmly beside their fellow Americans in denouncing and resisting all forms of terrorism.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: The PSA aired once and only once. Neither Fox, nor the producers of "24" would comment for this story. "24," now in its fourth season, has portrayed Eastern Europeans, as well as black and white Americans, as terrorists.

AHMED: Those portrayals in the past seasons have been very generic and murky. American Muslims are in a unique situation. They are the community that is facing a backlash post-9/11.

TODD: CAIR insists it was not trying to curb Fox's creative license and denies that it even applied pressure to the network to change the storyline. CAIR said that Fox did not show them the script, but promised that the portrayal of Muslims would balance out. Observers say it speaks to the growing concern of the Muslim constituency in America.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: If you don't speak up, nobody will pay any attention to you. Muslims discovered that rule very quickly and they're speaking up and people are paying attention.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Officials from CAIR and outside observers say we can expect more of the same whenever Muslims are stereotyped on TV. As one CAIR official said, they can't wait for a "Cosby Show" about a Muslim family -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brian Todd, thanks very much for that report.

Just ahead, he nicknamed his brain tumor Frank. Find out if Frank is gone for good.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Earlier in this newscast, we reported on a confrontation between a television reporter and the Louisville businessman.

The company has just released a statement on its Web site. Let me read some of it to you. It says -- and I'm quoting -- "We wish to issue this statement to express our complete intolerance of violent acts by any means. As always, we expect all of our distributors to conduct themselves with restraint and to comply with federal, state and local laws at all times, as with the PC Pro policies and procedures. We urge those who are harassed by the media to contact the PC Pro corporate office. And we shall take any necessary action to alert the proper authorities."

It goes on to say: "We would like to assure our customers and distributors that we shall continue normal business operations. We are aware of the unjustified and sensationalist attempts to disparage our name and are prepared to take any and all legal action necessary to protect our common interest" -- that statement just out.

There's a wonderful development in the story we told you about last week, David Dingman-Grover, the 9-year-old boy who nicknamed his brain tumor Frank, which is short for Frankenstein. The tumor has been removed this month and a biopsy performed. David, who will turn 10 on March 1, received an early birthday cake today and told reporters, "Frank is now dead and gone and never to return."

"LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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