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AMERICAN MORNING

Consulate Blast in New York City; Abu Ghraib Mistrial; Significant Al Qaeda Capture

Aired May 5, 2005 - 07:29   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: It's shaping up to be kind of a nice day today.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, we'll take it. Yes.

O'BRIEN: Good morning, everybody. Welcome back, everybody. It's just half past the hour.

HEMMER: Yes, we're watching this breaking news story, too, here from the city of New York, just a few streets away from our studio here and just a few hours ago, two small explosions overnight. They happened in front of the building that houses the British consulate here in New York.

Back to Jason Carroll, live there at the scene there.

Jason -- what are you hearing about what caused these blasts?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, just a little bit of a commotion is going on here right now, Bill, just because we're waiting for the police commissioner, Ray Kelly, to come down and give us a press conference. That should happen very shortly.

Let me just recap what happened out here. It was at about 3:50 a.m. this morning when an explosion was heard outside a building which houses the British consulate. Police came down here, and what they found was two improvised explosive devices. They're describing these devices as looking like toy grenades, one of them looking like a pineapple, the other looking like a lemon; this, according to how one investigator described these explosive devices.

Inside these devices, black powder and a fuse. That's how they were able to be detonated.

Where were they located? Inside a planter in front of the building. There are several planters in front of the building. These explosive devices were located in one of them.

The force of the explosion ripped a one-foot chunk of concrete out of one of those planters. The explosion was described as being very small. It did very little damage to the building. In fact, it blew out a windowpane on the first floor.

Right now, investigators are trying to determine if there was one explosion, or if there were two explosions. Witnesses who were out here, one described as hearing two loud bangs. But police believe at this point those explosions went off simultaneously.

The bomb squad is out here. They are at the scene, as well as FBI, the New York City Police Department, the fire department is out here as well.

But, once again, we are waiting for Police Commissioner Ray Kelly to give us an update in terms of whether or not anyone has claimed responsibility for what happened out here -- Bill.

HEMMER: Now, Jason, we mentioned the British consulate. They are holding elections today in London overseas. But in this building, we're also told the consulate is on the upper floors, number one. So, I'm wondering how big is the building, and what else is housed there?

CARROLL: Well, the building is about 20 stories. There are various other businesses there. Caterpillar, you know the company that makes farming equipment, we believe that they are located inside the building as well. On the first floor of the building, there are several retail shops. So, there are various other businesses in this building, in addition to the British consulate.

And, as you say, the British consulate is located on one of the upper floors. So, if this person or persons, if their intention was to do any sort of damage to the British consulate, they did not meet their ends simply because of the locations of the consulate versus the location where these explosive devices were located.

HEMMER: Jason, one more thing here. The report says that they're looking at a vehicle parked on the street nearby. Are there clues in that vehicle? Or is that inconsequential at this point?

CARROLL: Let's clarify that. They're actually looking at several vehicles located in front of the building here. There was one vehicle, an SUV type of vehicle, that was located closest to the planter, which contained these improvised explosive devices. So, naturally, investigators looked at that vehicle just to check and see if there was any possible connection. They went from that vehicle then to others that are located here as well. They're checking those vehicles. They're checking trash cans, any other -- they're checking the entire area, really, is what they're doing. So, that one vehicle that you saw is one of many.

HEMMER: One more thing here, Jason. Described as novelty-type grenades, have investigators or police told you here someone gets something like this?

CARROLL: Actually yes. This one investigators who came down said, it was the type, from what he saw, it was the type of toy grenade you could get at any toy shop, he said. In fact, he said -- he described it as looking like something that you might even see on someone's desk as a gag or as a joke. But he said it was very common, the type of thing you could buy at just about any toy store.

HEMMER: And we're still waiting to know whether or not any threats had been phoned in recently against the consulate there. Ray Kelly is the police commissioner. We will hear from him momentarily. We'll be watching. Jason Carroll on the streets of New York City here in Manhattan. Back to you shortly. Thanks, Jason.

Here's Soledad.

O'BRIEN: There are other stories making news this morning as well. Carol Costello has got the latest on the election in Britain.

Good morning -- Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: We do have the latest on the election. Thanks to you. Good morning, everyone.

We just told you voters in the U.K. are heading to the polls today. British Prime Minister Tony Blair casting his ballot about three hours ago. Despite criticism over the Iraq war, Blair is expected to win. If he does, he'll become the first Labor Party leader to win a third term as prime minister.

In the meantime, there is more violence in Iraq to tell you about this morning. Insurgents are targeting Iraqi security forces once again. At least 23 people have been killed in three separate attacks in Baghdad. One of the attacks was at an Iraqi army recruitment center.

Some changes are in store for New York's Freedom Tower. The New York City Police Department is weighing in, expressing some concerns about security. So, officials are now calling for the design to be reworked. The tower is expected to be 1,776 feet tall. That would be the world's tallest building. But the redesign is expected to delay its opening. Who knows when it was supposed to be open in 2009.

And cheerleading in Texas may never quite be the same. The state House giving final approval to the so-called booty bill. It now moves on to the Senate. The measure would ban sexually-suggestive performances at school-sponsored events. We'll hear from the lawmaker behind the legislation in our next hour. And is that the legislator that Jack refers to as "crazy Al?"

O'BRIEN: Yes. We'll call him state Representative Al when we're going to be interviewing him just ahead this morning.

HEMMER: That's true. Thank you, Carol.

COSTELLO: Sure.

HEMMER: We want to get back to the surprising twist in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse case. The judge has declared the case against Lynndie England a mistrial.

Here is Susan Candiotti live in Fort Hood, Texas.

What happened yesterday -- Susan?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what happened, Bill, was that the judge said he found something wrong with her guilty plea, Lynndie England's guilty plea. And so, the only way he said he could solve this critical problem, the legal conflict in the courtroom was to declare a mistrial. And it was a stunning development.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDIOTTI (voice over): In the beginning, Lynndie England told Army investigators what happened at Abu Ghraib was done just for fun. In the end, it was her court-martial that turned into a carnival.

England arrived in court with a secret deal already set, a shorter sentence promised for her guilty pleas. Her mother came, too, holding England's new baby boy in her arms.

Then, convicted guard Charles Graner, reported to be the father of her son and the man who made her the poster child of the prison scandal, got her in trouble again. Testifying to try to help England, Grander said she was following his orders when she posed with a prisoner on a leash. He called this a training picture.

The judge erupted. He reminded England she had admitted she knew what she did was wrong. He told her lawyers, you cannot have it both ways.

The judge threw out her guilty plea on that county, threw out her deal with the government, threw out the promise of a limit on her sentence and declared a mistrial.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think you made a mistake or the government made a mistake?

CANDIOTTI: Military law experts say it won't be long before England is back in court.

EUGENE FIDELL, MILITARY LAW EXPERT: The charges are serious charges. The country is not about to walk away. The United States government is not about to walk away from these charges.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is ridiculous! Get out of the way!

CANDIOTTI: England left. Her legal team bristling at reporters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you stop please?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get away!

CANDIOTTI: A woman once again very much in the eye of a storm.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

It appears there is no love lost between Lynndie England and her ex-boyfriend, Charles Graner. Inside the courtroom, Lynndie England looked at a sketch the courtroom artist was drawing of Graner, and told the artist, don't forget the horns and the pitchfork.

Bill -- back to you.

HEMMER: Thank you. This continues. Susan, thanks for that in Fort Hood, Texas. Also, Navy investigators have cleared a U.S. Marine who shot an unarmed Iraqi inside a Falluja mosque back in November. You might remember this story when the Pentagon was saying that the Marine acted within military law and will not be charged. An embedded reporter with NBC caught the incident on camera. Several dead or wounded Iraqis were found inside that mosque, and the Marines say the mosque had been the source of small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: It's time to check back in on the weather.

(WEATHER REPORT)

O'BRIEN: In just a moment, coming clean, Pat O'Brien's televised tell-all with Dr. Phil. We put our 90-second spin on that a little bit later this morning.

HEMMER: Also, it is Cinco de Mayo today. Some trivia. What does this holiday commemorate? Mexico's Independence Day, a military victory, the first president's birthday? Frozen with salt as we go to break. Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEMMER: All right, before the break, what does Cinco de Mayo commemorate huh? The answer is (b), the Mexican army defeated a French army at the battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. And now you know. It's not the day of independence. That is the day that hits on the 16th of September.

O'BRIEN: Well, Cinco de Mayo is also the day that the defense starts their case against Michael Jackson.

HEMMER: Yes.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, that's true. It may become known for that.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: No, please, but it happens to be the day.

CAFFERTY: The prosecution rested in the Michael Jackson thing yesterday. But they may well have come up short. Ten weeks of testimony. And a lot of people don't think Tom Sneddon and the boys came close to proving Jackson is a child molester.

Witness after witness fell apart on the stand. The 15-year-old alleged victim contradicted himself, and even at one point admitted that he lied. His mother wasn't much better. And Debbie Rowe, Jackson's ex-wife, spent most of her time on the stand crowing about what a great husband and father Jackson is.

The question this morning is: Did the prosecution in the Michael Jackson trial prove their case? Tony in Myrtle Beach writes: "I've listened to the unavoidable reports on the Jackson case. Now that the prosecution is resting its case, I have one question: What case?"

Mel in New York writes: "I doubt the prosecution had made the case beyond a reasonable doubt, but that could be a conclusion based on what I have learned from the media and not what's been declared admissible in court."

Mike in South Carolina: "Jack, the parade of liars and cheats that all failed in their attempts to sue him did not persuade me of his guilt. I already knew he was strange."

Robert in Washington writes: "M.J. sealed his fate this time around. He should have left little boys alone after he got away with it the first time."

And Ann in Pennsylvania: "Once again, the prosecution did such a great job they were so convincing that O.J. is waiting to drive Michael Jackson to Robert Blake's house, and they're all going to go out to eat at a nice Italian restaurant."

HEMMER: Dinner for four.

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: California.

HEMMER: You just never know what's going on inside that courtroom. And sometimes it's a much different case there. Thank you, Jack.

We hear about huge cases all the time now, every day about ID theft. Why then are companies saying no to more privacy laws? That's a cool music and graphic there.

SERWER: Yes.

HEMMER: Here's Andy Serwer.

SERWER: Well, you know, we've got so many cases that we have our own graphic for it. Executives from ChoicePoint and LexusNexus and Bank of America, three companies plagued by data theft recently, were back on Capitol Hill testifying at a congressional committee. And lawmakers expressed some frustration, saying that these company executives seem to be resisting legislation that would require them to notify consumers whose files may have been compromised.

In one somewhat absurd interchange between these executives and lawmakers, the executives complained that they didn't want to send out notification to consumers because it would amount to more junk mail. It would just be junk mail.

HEMMER: How about e-mail?

SERWER: So we shouldn't send it out. So, Barney Frank, a representative from Massachusetts, said that this the first time he ever heard of executives from financial services companies complaining about having to send out too much junk mail.

HEMMER: You're not buying this for a minute, are you?

SERWER: Yes, it's pretty amusing.

O'BRIEN: I mean, it's kind of junk mail that people might open for a change.

SERWER: Right, yes.

CAFFERTY: Has anybody hauled that Swiss cheese mountain outfit before the congressman down there, the guy that lost all our stuff?

SERWER: That was really quiet. You know, I heard about this.

(CROSSTALK)

CAFFERTY: Yes, the Swiss cheese mountain.

SERWER: Yes.

CAFFERTY: I mean, has anybody said how come you guys can't keep track of the stuff here?

SERWER: I'm surprised they haven't gotten a call to come down to Washington yet, but I think they will.

CAFFERTY: Well, I think they should.

SERWER: I think they should, too.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

HEMMER: Thank you, Andy.

SERWER: You're welcome.

HEMMER: "90-Second Pop" is coming up in a moment here. Paula Abdul gets flowers from the contestants last night, but ABC's expose was not as kind, not nearly, in fact. What dirt did they dish? Back in a moment here on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEMMER: Back to these explosions here in New York City. Here's the mayor, Michael Bloomberg.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK: ... what exactly happened is under investigation. But I think, clearly, this kind of thing is something that we are all concerned about. And my advice to the public is to go about your lives.

But it just reinforces the message that if you see anything suspicious, call 311. If it's an emergency, call 911. We do not at this point have any idea who did it, or a motive, but we have the best people working on investigating. And I think eventually we'll find out who did it, and we'll apprehend them.

At the moment, however, we plan to open all of these roads to traffic. The subways are back running normally. And with the exception of a block or so of pedestrian-limited access, everybody in this neighborhood will be able to go out and go to their offices and go the stores and to the restaurants.

Commissioner Kelly will brief you on the investigation as it's continuing.

COMMISSIONER RAY KELLY, NYC POLICE DEPARTMENT: Thank you, Mr. Mayor.

This morning at approximately 3:35 a.m., two improvised explosive devices were detonated in front of 845 3rd Avenue, causing glass panels at the building entrance to shatter. There were no injuries.

The live explosions were heard by police officers at the 17th precinct and the fire station right next door.

The devices were placed in the soil of one of 12 large concrete planters in front of the location. The blast caused a foot-long chunk of concrete from the planter to explode into the front of the building.

This building houses the British consulate. There are other foreign offices in the building as well. However, let me stress, we have no known motive for this action at this time.

Police bomb dogs were used to conduct a search for secondary devices. None were found. We've also made sweeps at various diplomatic locations as a precaution, with negative results. Third Avenue between 50th Street to 53rd Street remain closed as the investigation continues. We seek to open the traffic flow shortly.

Video from security cameras at the site are being reviewed to determine whether they captured images of the individual or individuals responsible for the explosions. The NYPD bomb squad, in conjunction with the FBI and arson explosion experts, believe that the devices were novelty grenades, filled with black powder, and then detonated, possibly by using a fuse that was ignited by hand. No timing device appears to have been employed. We believe that the two devices are similar but not identical.

Members of the bomb squad recovered fragments from both devices immediately in front of the building and as far north as the corner of 52nd Street and Third Avenue a half-a-block away.

Members of the department's counterterrorism bureau, the intelligence division, along with the Joint Terrorist Task Force and the FBI are continuing the investigation for possible motives for this act.

Now we're available to take any questions you might have.

QUESTION: The British national election is taking place. Obviously, the British consulate (INAUDIBLE).

BLOOMBERG: We at this point have absolutely no knowledge of what the motive was. We did not receive any phone calls. It is true the British consulate is in that building. But I don't think anybody should jump to conclusions. That's what the purpose of an investigation is. And when we learn something, we'll be happy to share it.

QUESTION: Do you know, have there been any threats made to the consulate at this point?

BLOOMBERG: There have been no threats, no phone calls before or after this event. There has been no other consulates that have been threatened. It's quiet in the city today.

QUESTION: Do you have somebody who you are questioning right now?

BLOOMBERG: We do not have anybody that we are questioning, no.

Are you in discussion, though, with the British consulate general?

BLOOMBERG: The British consulate general is here. He, of course, is worried about the security of where the British consulate is. We've assured him that we'll provide, and continue to provide, as we always do, plenty of protection. And the British consulate, I assume, will be open for normal business later on this morning.

QUESTION: On what floors?

BLOOMBERG: The 9th and 10th floors.

QUESTION: Had there been any security people on duty at the entrance of the building at that time? Did anybody see anything?

BLOOMBERG: Nobody has reported seeing anybody. People heard two explosions, and those are the only reports we've gotten so far. But we are questioning everybody, doormen and security people at all of the surrounding buildings, as you would expect us to do.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

BLOOMBERG: The police commissioner will look at whether that's necessary later on.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

BLOOMBERG: There is video surveillance, and we are looking at all of the recording devices for all of the neighboring buildings, as well as at that building. And that investigation is taking place as we speak.

QUESTION: Are you stepping up security around the city and other places?

BLOOMBERG: We take this very seriously, and the police commissioner is always adjusting his resources based on threats at the time. One of the things that we want to do is make sure that every day we do something different, so that nobody knows whether that person standing next to you is a police officer or not. And we'll continue to do that.

QUESTION: Can you say something more about how you think this device was detonated?

KELLY: Well, as I said, we don't believe it was a timing device. It's some sort of external device, possibly just lighting a fuse. There were two separate devices possibly lit by the same fuse.

QUESTION: Can you describe what these devices might have looked like?

I'm sorry?

QUESTION: Can you describe what the devices might have looked like?

KELLY: We believe these to be two novelty-type grenades.

QUESTION: What do you mean by that?

KELLY: World War II type. In other words, the type that people might have on their desk.

QUESTION: Were they real?

KELLY: No. They were, as I say, novelty. We believe they're fake grenades, not active-hand grenades. But we believe that they were packed with some powder, perhaps black powder put inside the body of these two novelty grenades.

QUESTION: What kind of black powder?

KELLY: Well, we're still determining that.

QUESTION: What was the sources of the blast?

QUESTION: Is there any skill involved in packing the gun powder in these grenades?

KELLY: Well, you know, it's too early to tell at this time. Obviously, we're taking the evidence to our laboratory to have it examined.

QUESTION: Would this have been a potentially life-threatening blast had people been nearby, sir?

KELLY: Well, if somebody were walking past, certainly. You know, it was a fairly powerful force that drove a foot-sized piece of concrete from the planter through the front plate of the building, the glass plate. So, obviously, if there was somebody in that vicinity, they could be seriously injured.

QUESTION: Did anybody see anybody?

BLOOMBERG: So far, nobody has reported seeing anybody at the scene. As you know, right around the corner we have a police precinct and a firehouse. When the blast occurred, both the police department and the fire department members there heard the explosion and came running out to see what happened. But nobody saw anybody running away or anything.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

BLOOMBERG: As I said before, we are looking at all of the videotapes, and it will take a while to do the investigation. Yes, sir.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

BLOOMBERG: No, we've arrested nobody in connection with this. The police precinct has people coming and going, sadly, in handcuffs all the time. Yes, miss.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

BLOOMBERG: We couldn't hear you.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

BLOOMBERG: I said before, we are looking at all of the videotapes and it will take a while to do the investigation.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: And this video is someone (INAUDIBLE)?

BLOOMBERG: No, no. We've arrested nobody in connection with this. The police precinct has people coming and going, sadly, in handcuffs all the time.

(CROSSTALK)

BLOOMBERG: Yes, Miss.?

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE)?

BLOOMBERG: We couldn't hear you.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE)?

BLOOMBERG: I said we are looking at all of those video surveillance tapes from this building and other buildings in the neighborhood.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE)?

BLOOMBERG: I don't know whether we'll release them. (CROSSTALK)

BLOOMBERG: There is no -- there is, at the moment, nobody claiming credit for this. There are no -- there were no calls saying why the explosion, who the target was. We do not know the motivation. We are investigating. But there is absolutely no reason to jump to the conclusion that any one floor of that building was a particular target at this time. The investigation will continue.

(CROSSTALK)

BLOOMBERG: There are a lot of other offices in the building. There are some foreign companies or offices and domestic companies. It's a normal building on Third Avenue and it has a diversity of clients, of tenants. And we think the building will be open soon.

Last question?

QUESTION: Yes, you mentioned that should just go about their lives (INAUDIBLE)? Could you speak to how just any jerk who has a motive (INAUDIBLE) disruption and it will appear on every news station in the whole world?

BLOOMBERG: Well, we have -- we live in a different world than we used to live in and this is why we have to adjust how we behave and the level of surveillance and the amount of resources that we have to dedicate to intelligence and counter-terrorism. We are building different kind of buildings. We put planters in front of buildings these days, which we did not do before. We have surveillance cameras. The police department, as you know, has devoted 1,000 men and women to intelligence and counter-terrorism. The fire department does training in HAZMAT operations that they have never done before. They keep ratcheting up their levels of expertise.

It is a different world and we just have to learn to live with that.

Having said that, this is a safe city. It is a safe country. Every once in a while you have a terrible tragedy, like we did on 9/11. But I think we have to make sure that each time something happens we learn something and that we do not let anybody deter us from going about and enjoying the freedoms that our young men and women around the world are fighting for right now as we speak here. They're in a lot more danger than any of us are, and let us not forget that so that's...

QUESTION: Mr. Mayor, should people who work down here come here or (INAUDIBLE)?

BLOOMBERG: Of course they should come here. Why would they not? This is the place to come. This is a city where we have 8.1 million people that get along and work together. And you are safer here than you are anyplace else and there's no reason that the event that took place at 3:30 this morning should change your mind about that.

Thank you very much. QUESTION: Mr. Kenny, did this device resemble any you've found before?

HEMMER: If you are just joining us this morning, there is breaking news to report here in New York City.

An investigation now underway as to what caused these two explosions from overnight. We are now learning no known threats at this time for this building that houses the British consulate. A large building, 20 stories. The consulate is housed on the 10th floor. All this as they are voting on a new government overseas in London.

Explosions, two of them, both small, went off around 3:50 this morning East Coast time. They're described as two makeshift grenades, possibly triggered by a fuse or some sort of timing device. This is midtown Manhattan, Third Avenue, 51st and 52nd Street the cross. The mayor is telling us do not jump to conclusions. There are no injuries to talk about, only slight damage. A chunk of concrete has been blown off the building and witnesses say it sounded like thunder.

Sweeps have now been done at various consulates throughout New York. Nothing appears to be reported there at this point, too, which is a good sign. And CNN is on the scene there on Third Avenue.

And we'll get much more about what's happening there as we continue out coverage here.

That is the breaking news this morning. We will not leave it for long. That's our first headline.

For the rest of the headlines, here's Carol Costello -- Carol.

COSTELLO: And my first headline has to do with that explosion in New York. Still no reaction from British Prime Minister Tony Blair's office on those explosions. But as we mentioned, the polls are open in Great Britain today. Voters deciding on Blair's political fate. He is expected to win a third term, but not by a landslide. The war in Iraq has hurt his public image and may cost him some seats in the House of Commons.

Another deadly wave of attacks in Iraq this morning. Insurgents target Iraqi security forces, killing nearly two dozen people in three separate attacks. One of the strikes was a suicide bombing outside of an army recruiting center.

In Fort Hood, Texas, it is back to square one for Army Private Lynndie England. A judge threw out England's guilty plea in the Abu Ghraib Prison abuse case, declaring a mistrial, a move prompted by testimony from England's former lover, which the judge said contradicted her own testimony. It now has to be decided what charges, if any, Lynndie England should face.

And in California, the defense is getting its turn in the Michael Jackson trial. The prosecution wrapped up Wednesday after two months of testimony. Sources say actor Macaulay Culkin and two other witnesses prosecutors claim were molested by Jackson will be among the first to take the stand for the defense. Proceedings expected to get underway less than four hours from now. But a judge will hear arrangements on an acquittal motion first. And then the cameras will be out in force, awaiting the arrival of Macauley Culkin.

HEMMER: You think?

COSTELLO: Yes. I think.

HEMMER: Thank you, Carol.

Well, the U.S. is hoping it is now one step closer to cornering Osama bin Laden. This after the arrest of al Qaeda's number three man.

We're on "Terror's Trail" now to Pakistan, where a fierce gun battle led to the capture of Abu Farraj al Libbi. He's the alleged operations man for al Qaeda and the U.S. says his arrest is the biggest blow to the terror group now in two years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Al Libbi was a top general for bin Laden. He was a major facilitator and a chief planner for the al Qaeda network. His arrest removes a dangerous enemy who is a direct threat to America and for those who love freedom.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HEMMER: CNN national security adviser John McLaughlin was the acting director of the CIA.

He's live in Tulsa, Oklahoma -- good morning out there.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN SECURITY ADVISER: Good morning, Bill.

HEMMER: You have said this guy is your number one target.

Why such a high priority?

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you know, catching terrorists is sometimes like trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle without seeing the picture on the box. This is a guy who knows the picture on the box. He knows what the big picture is. He understands the plumbing of the organization. He will know things about al Qaeda's plans and activities that few others will. In a sense, he was the chief operating officer for bin Laden.

HEMMER: Does this guy know where bin Laden is hiding?

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, if anyone would know, he would know. On the other hand, it's important to say, and inevitably, capturing someone like this will help us understand something more about bin Laden's patterns, what he's done, where he's been and so forth. But, at the same time, once you do a capture like this, the word filters out quickly into the extremist network and everyone runs to ground, which, of course, is a benefit, in a sense, because it disrupts terrorist activities. But it may make it also harder to stay on bin Laden's trail.

HEMMER: One could assume from all this...

MCLAUGHLIN: We'll know more about this as a result of -- we'll know more about bin Laden as a result of capturing the guy.

HEMMER: One could assume right now these interrogations in Pakistan could be pretty tough going.

What is he experiencing right now?

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, at this point, I would think -- I don't know exactly what he is experiencing, but I would think that the Pakistanis, of course, have him in custody and they're probably beginning to question him. And also the other thing that's important in a case like this is what you capture with the terrorist. Inevitably, there's something on the person, there's something in the way of documents, there's some kind of additional information that is sometimes more important to go through than actually talking to the individual.

HEMMER: If they can get him to talk -- go back to your first answer a moment. If they can get him to talk, how much would they learn about al Qaeda today?

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, they'd learn a lot because this is a fellow who probably knows a lot about al Qaeda's plans for targeting in the United States. If you remember last summer, in August, we captured casing reports of major financial institutions in New York and Washington, very detailed, very sophisticated. The people who did those casing reports were in a network that this person understands very well and the people in whose possession they were are folks who worked for al Libbi.

So, he should have some insight into targeting in the United States. He should also have some understanding of al Qaeda's worldwide plans. And he will know a lot about their relations with other terrorist groups that carry out deadly attacks in places like the Far East, for example. He will know something about their relationship with Jemaah Islamiyah there.

HEMMER: John McLaughlin, thanks for your time.

MCLAUGHLIN: You bet.

HEMMER: CNN national security adviser in Tulsa, Oklahoma this morning.

We'll follow it throughout the day -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Let's get to Chad Myers, because I have a bone to pick with him -- Chad?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes? Go ahead.

O'BRIEN: Good morning.

MYERS: Yes. Yes? Go ahead.

O'BRIEN: I was looking so forward to the weekend.

MYERS: I know.

O'BRIEN: I've got a cold. I thought a little warm weather would help me out. A whole lot of nothing from you this morning, huh?

MYERS: Can you look forward to tomorrow, instead?

O'BRIEN: OK.

(WEATHER REPORT)

HEMMER: In a moment here, our special series continues. It's called "Battle Fatigue." And today, counter-recruiting on college campuses. Meet a few students today who say the military is not telling recruits the truth about enlisting. That's coming up shortly.

O'BRIEN: Also, an update on that proposed ban on sexy cheerleading in Texas. It's one step closer to becoming law. The man behind the bill is going to join us.

HEMMER: Also, ABC airing that hyped up "American Idol" expose last night. What kind of dirt did it uncover? We'll get back to that.

"90 Second Pop" a bit later here on AMERICAN MORNING.

Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Now to our special series, "Battle Fatigue."

Opposition to the war in Iraq has led to a small but growing movement, people who call themselves counter-recruiters. Their mission is to persuade young Americans not to enlist in the Army and in the military overall.

Kelly Wallace has much more for us this morning -- hey, Kelly.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Soledad.

You know, I had never heard of counter-recruiters before doing this piece, but you'll find them anywhere military recruiters go, especially on college campuses competing for the hearts and minds of young people.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

WALLACE (voice-over): Shalena Broadmax, a 19-year-old sophomore at the City College of New York, says she was heavily recruited by the military in high school.

SHALENA BROADMAX, COUNTER-MILITARY RECRUITER: I was extremely interested in the Air Force for a while, and in the Navy, as well. But after a while, the persistence really sort of made me withdraw.

WALLACE (on camera): Give me an example of the persistence. I mean were you getting repeated phone calls? Were you just sort of -- what would you say?

BROADMAX: I was probably being called three times a week. And actually I'm still being called to this day.

WALLACE: You are?

BROADMAX: And sent mail.

WALLACE (voice-over): That persistence, she says, pushed her to join a handful of other students on campus who call themselves counter-recruiters, handing out fliers like this one, accusing military recruiters of lying, arguing the military may be the most dangerous job students can have.

BROADMAX: I'm a young African-American woman growing up in a very low income area. So just that alone was more of the drive that I had to do counter-military recruitment, that they were basically targeting my people and people that come from my community.

WALLACE: Not so, says the Army's recruiting battalion commander in New York.

LT. COL. JOHN GILLETTE, COMMANDER, NEW YORK CITY RECRUITING BATTALION: We treat all schools alike. Our recruiters call to places like Columbia and to New York University and do, in fact, go on the campuses.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Drop the charges now!

WALLACE: One way counter-recruiters try to make their voices heard, rallies like this one at City College in support of three students and a campus secretary who were arrested after protesting the presence of military recruiters at a job fair in March.

Lieutenant Colonel Gillette says the Army is not very concerned about counter-recruiters.

GILLETTE: Their right to counter-recruitment is the right to free speech.

WALLACE: A bigger concern for military recruiters, namely in the Army, the drop in African-Americans and women who are enlisting. In fiscal year 2000, 23.5 percent of Army recruits were African-American; 22.1 percent were female. So far this year, 13.9 percent are African- American, 18.1 percent are female.

And as the military tries to increase the number of its recruits... BROADMAX: They were calling me three times a week.

WALLACE: Shalena tries to spend as much time as possible talking to students.

BROADMAX: What I'm concerned with is just giving them the other side, what recruiters do not want to talk about.

WALLACE: Countering recruiters, she says, by making sure students hear all sides before signing on the dotted line.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

WALLACE: And a big thanks to Shalena for letting her -- letting her let us follow her around.

She says she'll spend as much time counter-recruiting as her studies will allow. And she thinks the most crucial time to be active is, again, when military recruiters are on her college campus.

O'BRIEN: The military recruiters don't sound like they're particularly worried about the counter-recruiters.

But are they adjusting their tactics in any way to deal with the counter-recruiters?

WALLACE: They say they are. They know that they're handing out fliers and so they are aware and they are ready to answer any questions they're getting. Some people will come up to them and say hey, I heard from the counter-recruiter that you're lying, that you're saying that I'm not going to go to Iraq, where I will go to Iraq. They say that they're armed with the information. And what they say, Soledad, is they have firsthand information, either from themselves or from people who served in the military. And they're going up against people with second or third hand information who they believe don't have the facts.

O'BRIEN: All right, Kelly Wallace, thanks, as always.

WALLACE: Sure.

O'BRIEN: In the final installment of our "Battle Fatigue" series tomorrow, married to the military. We're going to take a look at how the war in Iraq is putting pressure on Army marriages and why many couples are heading for counseling.

The U.S. military may soon be paying out some bigger bucks to men and women who are signing up for service. "USA Today" says a new Army plan raises signup bonuses above the current $20,000 limit. This would be the third time in the past year that the Army has had to raise incentives as new recruitment slows -- Bill.

HEMMER: Eighteen minutes past the hour, Soledad.

In a moment here, the latest on this developing story in New York. Two explosions outside the building that houses the British consulate. Back live to the scene, a CNN "Security Watch" this morning.

That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEMMER: All right, back to Jack, the Question of the Day now.

CAFFERTY: Thank you, Bill.

The prosecution rested in the Michael Jackson case. But maybe they came up short. A lot of people, after 10 weeks, don't think Tom Sneddon and his gang got the ball across the goal line; they did not prove Michael Jackson is a child molester. A lot of trouble with witnesses, including the alleged victim, who contradicted himself. He even admitted lying on the stand. His mother wasn't much better.

Jackson's ex-wife couldn't wait to get on the stand and talk about what a great father and husband Michael is. Not the stuff of which convictions tend to be made.

The question is did the prosecution in the Michael Jackson case prove their situation?

Grayce in Pennsylvania: "The only thing they proved is they're great at spending taxpayers' money. This was clearly a personal attack to make Jackson's life hell because they couldn't convict him before."

Jerry in Georgia: "Is there any doubt a celebrity on trial in California is automatically not guilty? Just look at Michael's face. His innocence just oozes out. Or is that something melting?"

S.W. in Nova Scotia: "I don't think they did, but some time down the road, it'll just be another jury regretting their decision. Does anybody care about these children?"

And Dave in Japan writes: "If this were any other case, I'd say yes. But we're talking about a California jury in a case involving Michael Jackson. Anybody looking for a logical verdict is, in the words of comedian Rowan Atkinson, "like a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat that isn't there."

HEMMER: Wow, well done, Dave.

So, what, the prosecution went two months, right?

CAFFERTY: Ten weeks.

HEMMER: Ten weeks?

How long has the defense got?

CAFFERTY: It just seemed like more.

O'BRIEN: I actually think that e-mail question about people caring about the children is a really good one because regardless of what you think about Michael Jackson's guilt or innocence, all these people who have come forward and said that they saw molestation...

HEMMER: Yes.

O'BRIEN: ... who said, mothers who said that they saw their kid's head being licked, all those people believe that something bad was happening, regardless of whether or not it was. Why aren't they being held culpable? Why don't they have some kind of responsibility to protect their children or these children in any way, shape or form? Darn it.

Oh my god, I sound like -- I sound like Jack Cafferty today.

HEMMER: Am@cnn.com.

CAFFERTY: You know, you're going to lose what's left of your voice if you get all worked up over this stuff.

O'BRIEN: I know.

CAFFERTY: You should rest.

O'BRIEN: Does it sound sexy or does it just sound sick?

CAFFERTY: I like it.

HEMMER: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Really? OK.

CAFFERTY: I'll give you my extension. You can call me on the phone. I'm only just kidding.

O'BRIEN: Hey, Jack, how are you doing?

Thank you, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Well, a former "American Idol" contestant is claiming that he and show judge Paula Abdul had an affair while he was competing for the top spot. Abdul has denied the reports. The late night comedians, though, had their take on the scandal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO," COURTESY NBC)

JAY LENO, HOST: This former "Idol" contestant, the guy named Corey Clark, he claims he had sexual -- a sexual relationship with Paula Abdul. But Paula said that Clark is an admitted liar and an opportunist. Well, finally Paula had something negative to say about one of the contestants. That's the very negative thing I've heard her say.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN, COURTESY CBS/WORLDWIDE PANTS)

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: I'm feeling pretty good about tonight's show. I think it's going to be a wonderful show because they've been getting special back stage coaching from Paula Abdul.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: That's pretty funny.

HEMMER: They're getting some mileage out of that show.

O'BRIEN: Yes. And they will continue to for a while.

HEMMER: Yes.

You know, Jack talked about this yesterday, on Wednesday. Now the State of Texas is one step closer to this ban on sexy cheerleading.

How do you enforce it? The law maker behind the bill joins us in a moment here. It got through the house, it's now headed for the senate and the statehouse down in Austin.

Back in a moment after this on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Get the latest news every morning in your e-mail. Sign up for AMERICAN MORNING Quick News at cnn.com/am.

Still to come this morning, we're live on the scene at those two explosions outside the building that houses the British consulate here in New York City. We're on "Security Watch," up next on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.

Just almost half past the hour on this AMERICAN MORNING.

We're going to bring you in just a few moments a live update on those explosions outside the building where the British consulate is located.

HEMMER: Also, following up on this Texas cheerleader law, too. A bill to stop cheerleading routines that some think are too sexy. It passed in the house last night. We'll talk to the state rep in Texas who is backing that bill.

But first, this developing story here in New York City. Two small explosions in the early morning hours, about 3:50 a.m. Eastern East Coast time. Police say two improvised devices exploded in front of a building in midtown Manhattan, along Third Avenue between 51st and 52nd Street. The blast shattered windows, but caused no significant damage and not a single injury. In our CNN "Security Watch" this morning, we'll get you back to the scene and Jason Carroll, who is monitoring that.

But first -- that's our first headline.

For the others, here's Carol Costello again -- Carol.

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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