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Kofi Annan Implicated; Discussion With Congressman Curt Weldon; 'Paging Dr. Gupta'

Aired June 15, 2005 - 08:30   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everybody. 8:30 here in New York. Good to have you along with us today.
Coming up here in a moment, a terror warning from a U.S. congressman he says no one is taking seriously.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: And, in fact, we're going to talk to Congressman Curt Weldon about what he's been told about Osama bin Laden and Iran. That's just ahead this morning.

HEMMER: First back to the headlines and back to Carol Costello with those. Hey, Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Good morning, everyone.

"Now in the News," a developing story to tell you about. An amber alert has been issued for a missing 2-year-old girl. Trinity Nicole Casey was taken from an area near Columbia, South Carolina. Authorities are said to be looking for a white man in his late '50s or early '60s. It's not known if that man is related to this girl.

Police in Aruba say they haven't found any clues in the latest search for that missing Alabama teenager. Investigators spent several hours Tuesday combing a mangrove area about ten blocks from where Natalee Holloway was staying. She's been missing now since May 30th. A security guard briefly detained in the case as one of three suspects seen with Holloway lied to police about where they dropped her off. We'll hear from him in the next hour.

A major quake triggers a tsunami warning in California. The 7.0 quake struck about 90 miles off the coast of northern California. Officials issued a tsunami warning for coastal areas, but canceled it about an hour later. There were some minor aftershocks, but no reports of damage or injuries.

Spanish police announce the arrest of 16 suspected Islamic terrorists this morning. The interior ministry says 11 suspects are linked to Abu Musab al Zarqawi, al Qaeda's main operative in Iraq. The other five are linked to the Madrid train bombings, which killed about 191 people last year. About 500 Spanish police took part in arrests across Spain.

Michael Jackson's accuser is apparently having a difficult time with the not guilty verdict. The pop star was acquitted Monday on all counts in the molestation trial. Earlier on "AMERICAN MORNING," Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon said he tried to encourage the boy.


TOM SNEDDON, SANTA BARBARA COUNTY D.A.: He was very down. He was -- he just didn't understand why people didn't believe him. A little cynical about the system. And I just encouraged him and told him what a hero he was and how courageous he was to come forward and that he did the right thing and that it was time for him to move on with his life and never look back.


COSTELLO: In the meantime, still no sign of Jackson. His attorney says he needs to spend some time resting and healing at home.

And the rocket man is now the chocolate man. Check this out. A life-sized figure of Sir Elton John, made entirely of chocolate, 227 pounds of chocolate, to be exact. The famed wax museum, Madame Tussaud's, teamed up with Cadbury to create the sweet statue. They chose the pop star because he was voted as England's favorite personality. This will be on display, Bill, until fall. So you better hurry.

HEMMER: All right, we'll get a bite.

COSTELLO: Only a couple of months.

HEMMER: Thank you, Carol.

Back to the story at the U.N., the oil-for-food investigation, now. Investigators associated with that are urgently reviewing new information that contradicts what Secretary-General Kofi Annan has told them in the past.

Senior U.N. correspondent Richard Roth here with me with me now. What's the memo say, Richard?


Well, you know how you write e-mails when you're at work? Now the question is are the words really accurate? And they're written, this time, by a family friend of the U.N. secretary-general. It's all the latest chapter in this mess that's called oil-for-food.


RICHARD ROTH, CNN SR. UNITED NATIONS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The scandal will plague Kofi Annan until the end of his term as secretary-general.

KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: For some, the oil-for-food will never die down.

ROTH: The problem for Annan is that things keep popping up. The latest, a new portion of an e-mail which, at the very least, raises questions again regarding a link between Annan and the awarding of a contract to Cotecna, the Swiss-based company paid $10 million a year to inspect humanitarian goods entering Iraq, the same company that once employed Annan's son Kojo.

Earlier this year, the U.N. authorized oil-for-food investigator, Paul Volcker, concluded he didn't have enough evidence to allege any corruption by Annan. Now, Cotecna has discovered an e-mail from a vice president, Michael Wilson, to company leaders in 1998. Wilson, part of the Cotecna team whose mission was to win the contract, wrote, "We had brief discussions with the secretary-general and his entourage, and we could count on their support."

The Volcker panel says it is now urgently reviewing the newly- turned-over documents and travel records handed over by the U.N. A spokesman said Annan was in Paris in 1998 where the memo alleges a meeting occurred, but that Annan was not involved in any Cotecna meeting and never even knew of the Cotecna interest in the contract.

FRED ECKHARD, U.N. SPOKESMAN: We spoke to the secretary-general, who's in Paris today, and he has no recollection of any such exchange. And the views attributed to him in this e-mail by Michael Wilson...

ROTH: A week after Wilson's e-mail, Cotecna won the oil-for-food contract. Its bid was the lowest.


ROTH: Now, Wilson is no longer working for Cotecna. In fact, company spokesmen say he exaggerated his own importance and hinted that he made things up. Wilson, though, called Kofi Annan uncle over the years, due to close family relationship back in Ghana, where they're both from. And Bill, Wilson is also a childhood friend of Kojo Annan, the secretary-general's son who's been implicated in oil- for-food and who has not been cooperating with the Paul Volcker panel.

HEMMER: In the meantime over there on the East River, you're going to get what is described as a bipartisan report. That will be released sometime very soon. That will be critical of the U.N. How significant, do we know at this point, about that report as it pertains to oil-for-food?

ROTH: Well, the U.N. is being investigated, I think, more than Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie these days. Whether it's oil-for-food or other things. This is a panel by Newt Gingrich, who used to be a U.N. critic and George Mitchell, bipartisan panel. The recommendations, to be released today, will say there's bad management, low morale.

But it also criticizes the member states of the U.N., saying when the U.N. fails to act, when there's genocide, don't say the U.N. failed to act, say the member states of the United Nations failed to live up to what the U.N.'s goals are.

I don't think it's going to be that significant. I think the Congress will look at it for reference. Later this week, the House of Representatives tries to pass a bill to cut U.N. spending by 50 percent for the U.S. contribution to the U.N., unless there are reforms and changes. HEMMER: Right, but you're over at that building almost every day of your life. Do you hear the constant drip, drip, drip about this oil-for-food? Does it end any time soon?

ROTH: You hear it privately. That's why there's low morale. I mean, some people think the U.N. has not fought back hard enough against people who would hate the U.N. no matter what the oil-for-food reports say. It is a drip, drip, drip. It started with the bombing in Baghdad, when the U.N. lost leaders of the U.N. and 20 of their best people.

And there's been episodes right down the line. They are upset that the U.S. and the members of the United Nations are not rallying to the U.N.'s support, letting it be a scapegoat. But there is bad morale. It's still a dumping ground for jobs, as this report will say.

And it needs revitalization. Kofi Annan want to do that, but he may not be there to see the conclusion of that. His term has about a year and a half left.

HEMMER: Thank you, Richard. Good to see you. Richard Roth -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: It brings us to today's Security Watch. The question is this: Is the CIA ignoring warning signs of a major terror attack?

Congressman Curt Weldon says the U.S. intelligence community wouldn't listen to him, so he decided to write a book. The book's called "Countdown to Terror: The Top Secret Information that Could Prevent the Next Terrorist Attack on America... and How the CIA has Ignored it."

Congressman Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania in Washington, D.C., this morning.

Nice to see you, sir. Thanks very much for talking with us.


O'BRIEN: Let's begin with Iraq.

You've been very critical of Iraqi troops. You've returned recently. What did you see that makes you so critical?

WELDON: Well, I took six members of the House -- bipartisan delegation, and Senator Joe Biden joined my delegation. We visited Baghdad, Fallujah, and Balad. I've been to Iraq and Afghanistan several times.

And what really struck me was, in all of our conversations with Iraqi officials -- we asked them about what's causing the insurgency that we're seeing, what's causing these suicide bombings. And without talking about my book, what I heard was -- and all of us heard -- was that the problem is Syria in terms of sending in troublemakers. But quality-wise, overwhelmingly it's Iran. And yet when we had the briefing from our top general who's in charge of intelligence, we talked about Iran -- he said it was a black hole. We just didn't have good intelligence about Iran's operations.

And that really underscores what I'm saying. For the past two years, I've attended every classified briefing as both the vice chairman of the House Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees. I've asked repeatedly, what about Iran's involvement -- not the Iranian people because they're not the enemy, and not even the Iranian government. It's the Ayatollah Khomeni (ph), who over the past two years has established a separate council of nine that has a specific purpose and intent of undermining our long-term success in Iraq of linking together with terrorist groups and ultimately planning attacks against the U.S.

O'BRIEN: Before we get more information on Iran, and that's really the focus of the book, I want to talk a little bit more about Iraq though, specifically.

You lay out some big problems that you have in the competence essentially of these Iraqi troops. What specifically did you see where you would say, "They're just not ready?"

WELDON: And not the competence, but the success in our training efforts.

Our troops are doing a fantastic job, first of all let me say that. And I have total and complete confidence in our military leaders over there and the troops themselves.

They're training but training a brand new army and a brand new paramilitary force is not easy. And we can't overestimate our success.

We were led to believe that there are some 160,000 troops and law enforcement personnel trained. And there are various levels of training that have taken place.

But when you look at the levels of those training, we only have three battalions that are trained to the level of being able to operate on their own independently. And that's a distinction we have to make.

It's going to take a while to train the rest of those forces to achieve that level of capability. And we have to level with the American people and just be honest with that. I think they understand.

O'BRIEN: When you talk about leveling with the American people being honest, you actually said that the administration, you think, is being misleading. I want to play for you a little bit of what the vice president, Dick Cheney, had to say:


DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll leave as soon as the task is over with. We haven't set a deadline or a date. It depends upon conditions. We have to achieve our objectives -- complete the mission.

And the two main requirements are of the Iraqis in a position to be able to govern themselves, and they're well on their way to doing that. And the other is be able to defend themselves, and they're well on their way to doing that.


O'BRIEN: How do you think the administration is being misleading?

WELDON: No, I don't think Dick Cheney is misleading at all. What's happening is in some of the press conferences over at the Pentagon, some of our military leadership in the civilian sector have said that we have a higher level of training of troops than we actually do.

The three battalions that are trained at the highest level are, in fact, doing a good job. But we're nowhere near having the level of training skills that is necessary for Iraq to take over its own security.

And by the way, I support Dick Cheney and the president 100 percent in saying we cannot put in an artificial date to remove the troops. That would be the worst thing that Congress could do.

So therefore, I think it's going to take, as our military leaders in Iraq told us, anywhere from 10 months to two years to achieve the level of training necessary. But we should not impose artificial dates on removing our troops from that theater.

O'BRIEN: Before we run out of time, I want to talk about the book. In the book, you say you have a source inside of Iran, which is really your focus, named Ali. And that source tells you that, in fact, Osama bin Laden's in Iran, not where the administration, the CIA has sort of thought that he might be.

Why would you believe a source named Ali as opposed to the CIA on this?

WELDON: Well, Soledad, I was on "Live on CNN" on September the 11th right after the attacks, and I said, "Today our system failed the American people."

And back then -- for two years I had been pushing, and the CIA had resisted establishing a national collaborative center. That capability exists today.

The CIA has not always been right. They didn't predict the fall of Communism. They didn't get it right when North Korea launched a three-stage missile. And they didn't predict 9/11, even though we told them what they should have been doing.

I was approached by a Democratic member of Congress two years ago about information about the location of bin Laden, and not from one source, but from several sources. I went to the CIA a week later, gave it to George Tenet. He assigned one of their top operations people to work with me.

One of the sources I gave them -- the first meeting he had wasn't with the U.S. intelligence officer. It was with a French intelligence officer in Paris. And when my source called me, he said, "Congressman, I had a meeting, but it was French intelligence, and they told me not to talk to an American member of Congress."

Now, that's not the way our intelligence community should operate. If they didn't think this guy had any credibility, they'd come back and tell me. But don't send someone from French intelligence to tell this guy not to talk to an American member of Congress when over the past two years we've seen that Iran, Ayatollah Khomeni (ph), has been causing major problems for us in theater, in the region and around the world.

O'BRIEN: There's much more on this in your book. It is called "Countdown to Terror: The top secret information that could prevent the next terrorist attack on America and how the CIA has ignored it."

Congressman Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania joining us this morning.

Thanks a lot.


O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, our special series "Just for Dad" continues. We'll look at men and sympathy weight gain. You know, the women, of course, pack on the pounds because they're pregnant. But what's behind the love handles for the guys?

We're Paging Dr. Gupta just ahead.

But first, we have this question for you: On average, in which trimester does an expectant mother gain the most weight? I can answer this one. Is it, a, the first trimester? Is it, b, the second trimester? Or is it, c, the third trimester? We've got the answer right after the break?


O'BRIEN: Before the break, we asked you this. On average, which trimester does an expectant mother gain the most weight? the answer is, b, moms-to-be gain an average of 12 to 14 pounds during the second trimester.

But an expectant mother's weight gain isn't the only weight gain that you see during a pregnancy. In our three-part special series "Just for Dad," we take a look at why some expectant fathers also pack on the pounds.

Here's Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even though it was his wife who gave birth to these twin boys, it was David Feldman's weight that went up and down like a swing.

DAVID FELDMAN, NEW DAD: Before my wife got pregnant, I weighed 190 pounds, then during the pregnancy, peaked about 235. Now I'm down to 209, you know, and I plan to get back down under 200, hopefully, in a month or so.

We ate everything, you know, lots of carbs, lots of pizza, lots of Chinese food, a lot of ice cream, bacon cheeseburgers. One of my biggest cravings was bacon cheeseburgers.

GUPTA: While she grew out in front, he grew a little on the sides. Yes, love handles. Diagnosis: sympathy weight gain.

FELDMAN: She was very queasy, so I kept encouraging her to eat. And while she was eating, while I was encouraging her to eat, I ate with her.

GUPTA: Another common reason for the extra baggage, stress, about providing financially, getting the house ready, and taking on a new daunting role.

PATTY ONDARKO, EDITOR, "BABYTALK" MAGAZINE: It's just something that people don't talk about too often. It's not given that much attention. You know, during pregnancy, all the attention goes to the woman, so no one really is focusing on the man or noticing whether or not he's gaining weight.

GUPTA: Putting on the pounds is part of a greater condition known as Couvade Syndrome. That's a French word for "hatching." Studies on Couvade Syndrome show about 90 percent of men experience at least one pregnancy-like symptom, anything from nausea to vomiting, food cravings, and most commonly, yes, weight gain.

There may be more than a psychological explanation behind the syndrome.

HEIDI MURKOFF, AUTHOR: Men actually experience a surge in female hormones during pregnancy and in the postpartum period, and it's not enough to grow breasts or anything, but it's enough so they actually experience many of the same symptoms that women are experiencing.

GUPTA: David's wife, Sloan, actually welcomed the weight gain.

FELDMAN: One of the running jokes we had throughout the pregnancy is that, even with twins, she did not want to weigh more than I did. And throughout the pregnancy, she never did. So she was ecstatic.

GUPTA: David's post-pregnancy diet helped him lose more than half the weight that he gained. Most fathers are better off trying to avoid the added pounds in the first place, by being conscious of their eating habits, encouraging exercise for both mom and dad, and talking openly to their partners about their own anxieties of becoming a father. FELDMAN: You like that.

GUPTA: No longer worried about the ups and downs of becoming a dad, David can now concentrate on the ups and downs of being a dad.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.


O'BRIEN: Tomorrow Sanjay continues our series "Just for Dad." The controversy over cameras in the delivery room. We'll look at that tomorrow right here on AMERICAN MORNING -- Bill.

HEMMER: All right, in a moment, Soledad, we're "Minding Your Business." Gerri has five tips on buying your dream home, and doing it in a seller's market, not easy. Back in a moment, after this.


HEMMER: Welcome back.

Let's talk real estate. Are you afraid you missed your chance to buy that dream home? Some tips now on how to buy in an overpriced market. It's a seller's market just about everywhere.

Gerri Willis working for Andy Serwer, "Minding Your Business." Good morning.

And you're here to tell us what we need to know.


Oh, I'm telling you, it's a tough market is you're looking to buy. Prices went up this spring the fastest they've gone up in some 25 years. So if you're looking to buy, tip number one, shop around. You've got to look at a number of neighborhoods, not maybe just the one you picked out.

Check out these numbers. In Bradenton, Florida, for example, prices were up year over year 45 percent. Check that out. If you had gone to Tampa, though, which isn't too far away, prices up 16 percent. It's not nothing, but here you can see there's big diversity in prices. You really need to shop around. Think location, location, location, too. A lot of people, they get so obsessed with the house itself, that they don't think about the street, or the neighborhood or the town that the house is in. You definitely want to think about that.

HEMMER: You also say -- well, going into a transaction like this, don't reveal all your information. Hold a little bit back too.

WILLIS: Right, exactly. One of the problems that new buyers have, people that are out there for the first time, they'll call a number at the top of a yard sign or they'll go to an open house and talk to the agent there. Remember, that's the seller's agent. They're going to take any information you give, like how much you might be able to spend, right to the seller. So get your own advocate in the process, a buyer's agent.

HEMMER: You also say pay a smart premium. How do you know it's smart?

WILLIS: Well, check out comps. You need to look at the price per square foot for houses in the same neighborhood that are selling right now. That will help you understand exactly how much you can spend.

O'BRIEN: And remember, it's an investment. Put the money back in and keep it strong.

WILLIS: That's right. You bet.

HEMMER: Thank you, Gerri.

WILLIS: You're welcome.

HEMMER: Here's Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Well, as part of CNN's 25th anniversary series "Then and Now," we're taking a look at significant news events. Today the shooting of a lawyer outside a California courthouse back in 2003. All of it caught on tape. Here's Anderson Cooper.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a shocking sideshow, captured by TV crews gathered at the L.A. County courthouse to cover the Robert Blake hearing in 2003.

Attorney Gerald Curry was at the courthouse for an unrelated case when William Strier approached him, asked his name and opened fire. Strier then calmly walked away. He was apparently angry that Curry was representing Strier's sister in a dispute over a trust fund. Curry was shot in the neck, both arms and shoulder and taken from the scene by paramedics. Curry survived, recovered completely and still lives and practices law in Southern California.

GERALD CURRY, ATTORNEY: When I leave the office, when I go to court, when I go to the parking structure, I tend to keep my eyes open, look around.

COOPER: Curry's shooter, William Strier, was ruled mentally unfit to stand trial and remains in a state hospital, but Curry says he doesn't harbor any bad feelings for Strier.

CURRY: The odds of this happening were probably one in a million. And so therefore, I try to not to let it affect my life or not have any bitterness and try to maintain a positive and optimistic outlook.




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