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CNN LIVE TODAY

Search and Rescue Mission Continues; President Bush Makes Second Trip to Hurricane Zone; Pentagon Briefing

Aired September 5, 2005 - 10:59   ET

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


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Returning to see what is left behind after Katrina. Residents of a Louisiana parish get to go home for the first time since the storm hit. A steady stream of cars carried people back into Jefferson Parish this morning. Officials are urging them to survey the damage, salvage what they can, and then get out once again.
The other major story we're following, the future of the U.S. Supreme Court. President Bush moves quickly to fill the vacancy left behind by the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist. This morning he nominated Judge John Roberts to succeed Rehnquist.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Judge Roberts has earned the nation's confidence, and I'm pleased to announce that I will nominate him to serve as the 17th chief justice of the Supreme Court.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAGAN: I'm Daryn Kagan at CNN Center in Atlanta. We're going to begin with a very busy hour, with an update on critical issues in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The general in charge of the military mission says providing food and water remains a primary focus. The Department of Homeland Security says 4.8 million ready-to-eat meals, MREs, and 11 million liters of water have been provided.

Volunteer doctors and medical personnel are fanning out across the region, but red tape is hindering the efforts of some. A mobile medical unit with 100 doctors and paramedics is marooned right now in hs Mississippi.

Arizona is among the latest states to open its doors to storm evacuees. Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix is prepared to house about a thousand people. Tucson says it is ready for another 800.

And Engineers continue to make repairs on two of New Orleans' damaged levees. An official with the Sewer and Water Department says they plan to try to restart two large pumps later today.

The search and rescue effort expands to the outlying parishes around New Orleans today. In the city itself, recovery teams face the grim task of going house to house as they are searching for bodies. Nic Robertson is in New Orleans now with the latest.

Nic, good morning, once again.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Daryn.

The focus here very much on the rescue's that still are going on. You can still see the helicopters about a mile, a mile and a half away, going over the neighborhoods where people are still trapped in their houses. We've seen the boats going out this morning to rescue them, but also the recovery of the dead bodies today.

The morticians teams going in. There are three separate morticians teams, we understand. What they will do is go to the locations where bodies are known to be, pick up those bodies, bring them back to dry land, put them in refrigerated trucks, take them to essential mortuary where they can be identified.

This is the beginning of a long process. We're told the mayor said he thinks there could be several thousands of dead people out there. He just doesn't know. And it appears at this stage other officials really don't have a handle on just how many bodies there are or where even these bodies might be located. It's really a matter of going house to house until all of the houses are searched for the recovery effort to be able to see that they have reached all the bodies.

We also understand today that in nearby Jefferson Parish, people can return to their homes between 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. if they have photographic identification and proof that they reside in that neighborhood. If they don't have identification, they can come on Thursday, police say. But police are warning these families that come back to bring cash, bring food, bring water, they say, because they won't find those things in the neighborhood around their homes. They're allowed to come just to see what the situation is of their property -- Daryn.

KAGAN: So Nic, they're not allowed to stay in those homes in Jefferson Parish?

ROBERTSON: That appears to be -- that appears to be the situation. There is a curfew at 6:00 p.m.

Now, there's a curfew in operation in this in area and people on Bourbon Street are still staying. There are people -- we're seeing perhaps today a few people -- I've seen them on streets here -- appear to be coming back, people we haven't seen before coming back into the old French Quarter here.

So it appears that providing people observe the 6:00 p.m. curfew and don't come out and don't rove around the streets, it appears that they're able to stay in their homes. But again, these rules are only just coming into force. It's not clear exactly how they're going to be interpreted -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Nic Robertson, live from New Orleans. Thank you.

President Bush is also in the region today. He arrived in Louisiana a few minutes ago. This is his second trip to the state since the disaster.

Our correspondent Deborah Feyerick joins me this morning. She is in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This has been the staging area for government officials dealing with the crisis in New Orleans.

Deb, good morning, once again.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Daryn.

And we do understand that the president is expected to arrive here 11:00 local time. There has been a little bit of question as to whether he snubbed the governor or the governor snubbed him. But today we do know that she was at the airport waiting to greet him when he got off the plane. She did not know he was coming into Baton Rouge until 6:00 this morning, when her office actually called the White House and asked, outright, is he going to be on the ground today?

We believe he's expected to be here. There's been some up and down as to whether he's going speak or not speak. But again, the governor met him at the airport, we are told by one person, and she is accompanying him and is with him now. But again, all of this very fluid.

They did have to ground some flights in and around the area. Rescue workers not too happy about that because they were supposed to be flying planes into New Orleans to try to rescue some firefighters who had been in the city for about six days without sleep, without water, and they wanted to get them out. So we don't know whether there's been a delay in that because of the president's arrival here -- Daryn.

KAGAN: We can tell you, in terms of the governor, Kathleen Blanco, she was indeed there to meet the president. Cameras were set up kind of at a strange angle, but we're being told that as the president came down the steps, the governor was actually the first person that was there to greet him as he arrived, once again, in Louisiana.

Deborah, thank you.

You know, we've been taking some aerials here. J.T. Alpaugh, a photographer from Los Angeles who's been shooting these aerials since the storm even moved into the Gulf Coast, he's also been offering some narration as he flies over. Today, back over New Orleans.

Let's listen in.

J.T. ALPAUGH, HELINET: If you pop in our headsets, you may be hearing that (INAUDIBLE) painting this area for targets and trying to do the work. In fact, there's the ship right now.

As we continue to pan left, we're taking a few -- a few microwave hits which may be coming from this ship -- this ship sweeping us with the radar. So we're going to push in and show you this U.S. naval ship and its radar dish.

And you'll hear -- and you'll hear that every time that it sweeps us, you hear that pop and that squeak. So we're going to pull back out, because we don't want to show anything we're not supposed to show here. But again, a U.S. naval ship in the -- in the Mississippi River working to help secure these areas.

And as we pull out and slowly pan right, we're going to show you, as we come into the downtown New Orleans area, I believe they call this area the Patterson area. Now, this is on the banks, just across from the downtown New Orleans area.

The Patterson area appears to be very dry. It looks -- it looks -- I'm going to pan down, have Dave pan down on left real quick to show you the Patterson area down off our left.

That's the -- that's the Patterson area. That's right across the bridge from -- from downtown New Orleans. It looks good. It looks -- there obviously is windswept damage from the hurricane that came through, but no flooding. And again, that flooding is the major issue.

We're going to come back across the Mississippi River, straight across, and show you one of the Coast guard cutters that has been sitting in this position almost for the past four days or so. At least the past four days. And we're going to push in and show him. He's going to be coming into frame in the center of your screen.

OK. And that's the U.S. Coast Guard cutter that's been here. It's got its helipad on the back, and we've seen a lot of staging going there.

So we had a -- we're going to pull back out and come back to the downtown area.

KAGAN: We've been making great use of J.T. Alpaugh and his pilot as they have flown over New Orleans and the Gulf Coast for the last week. It's basically a two-man crew. One flies, one takes the pictures, and talks over them as well. And we'll be dipping in and out of the coverage.

Let's get back to what President Bush has to deal with today. Not only is he along the Gulf Coast, but before he left on that trip, he nominated Judge John Roberts to be the next chief justice of the United States.

We have two reports on that now. First, from our national correspondent, Bob Franken, at the White House, and then to our congressional correspondent, Joe Johns, who is on Capitol Hill.

Bob, we're going to start with you.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, and the president got rid of a huge matter that had just appeared due to the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist by elevating the nomination of John Roberts from being an associate justice nominee to being the nominee to be the next chief justice. He did that before he left for Baton Rouge, where he's going to be stopping first at an evacuee center.

Nevertheless, he had huge problems, but he still has to appoint somebody to replace Sandra Day O'Connor. We're told that, on the way down there on Air Force One, the president called Sandra Day O'Connor. She had not heard the news about Roberts. She had promised in her resignation that she would stay on until her replacement is announced.

Well, now that won't be quite so quickly. The full report that we got said there was no word on what O'Connor's response was to the news.

The president had many advantages in the minds of those who analyzed these things in naming Roberts, not the least of which is because he's been public for several months now. He is already a known quantity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Judge Roberts has earned the nation's confidence, and I'm pleased to announce that I will nominate him to serve as the 17th chief justice of the Supreme Court.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKEN: The next step will be the confirmation process for Roberts. And the next step after that will be a new nomination from the president to fill that seat of associate justice. The president only promises, as he always does, that he'll do it in a timely manner -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Thank you. Bob Franken in front of the White House.

Well, let's focus on the confirmation process and bring in our Joe Johns.

Joe, even before the death of the chief justice, William Rehnquist, there were calls by Democrats to delay the confirmation hearing for John Roberts. So those cries even louder this morning.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There certainly continued to be calls to delay, even for a short period, perhaps until Thursday, perhaps until next Monday. Some Democrats, of course, suggesting that there will be a higher standard applied now to Judge Roberts in his quest to become the 17th chief justice of the United States.

Part of the issue, of course, is how does this change the dynamic? Some people on both sides suggesting it will now at least increase the intensity, refocus the nation on the issue of the Supreme Court.

A lot of people had suggested, as Bob I think mentioned, many people thought Roberts was pretty much going to walk through and end up on the Supreme Court quite easily after confirmation hearing. Some people now suggesting it might be a little tougher for him.

And then there's the second question of, who will, in fact, be named to replace Sandra Day O'Connor? Of course, there is a short list, and there was a short list even before Judge Roberts was named to replace her in the first instance.

Among those names,, of course, Alberto Gonzalez, the attorney general of the United States, a number of sitting judges, Edith Clement, Edith Jones, Harvey Wilkinson, and some others, all, people say, highly qualified, but might get a much closer scrutiny. There's also an issue that some liberal interest groups are raising now as to whether certain Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee might ask or expect for the second nominee to be named before they move forward with Roberts so everyone knows the package they're getting that the White House wants to send to the Supreme Court this fall.

Daryn, back to you.

KAGAN: Well, they can ask for that, but there's no rule that says that that's how the White House has to operate.

JOHNS: There's absolutely no rule. In fact, the big discussion right now is just whether and when they're going to kick off the Roberts hearing.

And a lot of speculation, there has been, for quite a while. One of the questions that people haven't talked about too much is simply whether it would be unseemly to go forward with the Roberts confirmation hearing at least until after the funeral of Chief Justice Rehnquist. Of course, that is scheduled for Wednesday. He's expected to be interred at Arlington Cemetery -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Joe Johns on Capitol Hill.

Joe, thank you for that.

And let's go back now to J.T. Alpaugh, the photographer who is flying over New Orleans. They are looking down now -- this is the helicopter that crashed over the weekend. Only the pilot was on board, the pilot and crew. They did get out safely.

Also very close to the, I believe, the 17th Street Canal where the levee broke and was breached. Let's go ahead and listen in.

ALPAUGH: We were here, with their luggage, and pulling out. So we heard the original mayday come out and heard the helicopter requesting help. And help came immediately. The resources were here almost on top of it right away.

And look at an R-44 (ph), 9:00 high, turning south. We have the site.

The bottom of your screen here, we're going to tilt down a little bit and pan left here. We're going to show you, as we widen out, the American Can Company (ph) is this large building off to our left, just for reference purposes.

And panning -- you can see kind of a back-door accident here. Super (INAUDIBLE) helicopter crash.

We've had so much helicopter activity in the area, and everybody is just very concerned with -- with these guys. And we understand they're OK, and we're very happy to hear that.

OK. We're going to be moving on to -- we're going to be moving on to the racetrack area. And we're going to pull out, and tilt up here, and show you as we pan right. We're going to show you the -- OK, we're going to have to actually pull out of the area because there is a helicopter -- we're going to go up for a second here.

KAGAN: As I said, we're going to continue. We're going to dip in and out of the coverage and the pictures and the comments that J.T. Alpaugh, the photographer that's flying over New Orleans through Helinet, continues to provide us.

A very interesting perspective, not just from the view that he has, but he's been flying over the scene since even before Katrina hit. So he's been giving us some very interesting coverage there. We'll continue to go back to that.

Also, we're going to take a look at what kind of progress the military relief and that effort is making. We're going to hear from the man in charge, Lieutenant General Russel Honore just ahead on CNN LIVE TODAY.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAGAN: We're going to go ahead and listen into a Pentagon briefing. This is Admiral Timothy J. Keating. He is commander of U.S. Northern Command. He is at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, but keep in mind that U.S. Northern Command is responsible for providing military support for homeland issues. And this is who Lieutenant General Russel Honore reports to. So let's listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

ADM. TIMOTHY J. KEATING, COMMANDER, U.S. NORTHERN COMMAND: Let me tell you, the spirit of these folks, the Massachusetts doctor, the Arkansas nurse, the young lady from Keesler Air Force Base, and everybody I saw, it's an unmistakable spirit. They're wearing T- shirts over there in Keesler, "We're going to kick Katrina's ass."

So they've got a pretty good attitude. And there are chaplains in and amongst all of these folks from the Guard, from the active duty, and from the private world, if you will, the civilians, who are helping out immensely.

We've got almost 13,000 active duty forces in theater right now. In theater, that's the Alabama -- the Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi area, called our joint operations area. Thirteen thousand active duty, another couple thousand coming. Thirty-eight thousand National Guardsmen and women, international guardsmen and women. We have over 300 DOD helicopters performing search and rescue missions and providing humanitarian assistance.

From the land forces perspective, as you all know, the president order that 82nd Airborne move out from Ft. Bragg, the 1st Cavalry coming from the west from Fort Hood, Texas, and Marine Corps expeditionary units from both Camp Lejeune east and Pendleton west, coming about this time tomorrow, a little bit later, tomorrow afternoon. That force will number between 7,200 and 7,500 soldiers and Marines who will be on the ground assisting the National Guard with search and rescue and humanitarian assistance.

Naval forces, we have 21 ships in the area, the United States Ship Harry S. Truman, an aircraft carrier, is in the waters just south of Mississippi. We've got an amphibious ship pier side in New Orleans. Another one, a big deck amphib, the USS Iwo Jima, should be pier side downtown New Orleans by about noon today.

We're flying -- and the United States Air Force, through the transportation command, is flowing all of the equipment and humanitarian assistance. We have delivered by air and land 6.5 million meals to Louisiana so far, over two million to Mississippi. There are another 3.5 million meals in the pipeline flowing forward.

Fifteen million gallons of water are coming. And we've got 116 million pounds of ice.

So those are big numbers. I don't give them to you necessarily to impress you how much we can move stuff. I want you to understand how hard the Department of Defense is working to assist the National Guard, FEMA, and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff in providing the assistance to those folks who have been hit so hard in Louisiana and in Mississippi.

So I come back from our visit yesterday very much encouraged by the spirit of the folks who are still there. But, of course, there's our sympathy to those families who have lost loved ones or don't know where their loved ones are yet. There are still a significant number of people still missing. And we'll keep all of those families in our hearts and our prayers.

I'd be happy to take any questions, Brian.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Thank you for that overview, Admiral. And we'll get started right here.

If you'd identify yourself since the admiral can't see you. And I think he knows some of you.

Let's start with Bob.

ROBERT BURNS, MILITARY WRITER, AP: Admiral, this is Bob Burns from AP.

KEATING: Good morning, Bob.

BURNS: Good morning. I wanted to ask you to go back a little bit on the ground forces. The 82nd Airborne, the 1st Cavalry. Have those numbers changed in terms of, for example, the 82nd Airborne, the folks from the 82nd who are already in New Orleans, have said today that they're going to have 4,700 from Ft. Bragg by the -- by the end of tomorrow. And I'm wondering -- and they said there would be 1,700 from the 1st Cavalry in the New Orleans area, too.

Are all of them going to New Orleans, or Louisiana, actually? And what are the numbers by division there?

KEATING: I'll get you the numbers by division, Bob. I'm going on the information I have here that most of those -- writ large, the Army's going to Louisiana and the Marine Corps is going to Mississippi.

We have a Marine Corps special MAG TAF (ph) command and control element that is already in place with a two-star, Major General Odell (ph), there for the Marines. And the president, when we officially reported to him that we'd be able to get about 7,200 to 7,500, as the troops have arrived and the command leaders are in place at -- they are going back to their home guard units. And if they need certain additional support, logistics, communications, those forces are flowing as well. So I am -- I am not surprised that the numbers are swelling just a little bit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jamie?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Admiral, Jamie McIntyre from CNN.

KEATING: Good morning, Jamie.

MCINTYRE: Good morning.

No doubt you're well aware of the criticism, the debate about the speed and the scale of the initial deployment of relief. I'm just curious, from your perspective, where you sit -- and I know everyone's working very hard, but I'm wondering if you believe that this was the best response that could be mounted considering the magnitude of what you were up against, or do you believe that a better job could or should have been done?

KEATING: It's a good question, Jamie. And from where I sit, of course we can do better.

There will be lessons learned. We have teams in place, both in Alabama -- in Alabama and Louisiana, Mississippi, to record those lessons so it's not just lessons observed, but we convert them into lessons learned. On the other hand, the notion that we were a little late to need, I'll offer you some -- the following observations.

As Katrina was coming northwest out of the Caribbean, we started to make plans here in this headquarters in conjunction with FEMA to support the Department of Homeland Security about five days before Katrina made landfall. Once she eventually did, she came across, as you'll recall, the southern tip of Florida on I think it was Thursday, the 25th of August. And Friday the 26th, that got back into the Gulf, and then we learned that she was going to strengthen.

So at that time, on the Saturday, Sunday time frame, when we learned, 27th, 28th August, that Katrina was building and was going to go through a Category 2 to a 3, we had disaster control officers, DCOs, who are active duty Army colonels. We moved them forward to Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana.

Now, you'll of course appreciate we don't want to put troops in front of a massive storm like this. When I was dropping bombs in Desert Storm, we were -- that was not an issue with which we were worried. We weren't going to be dropping bombs on our own forces. So we did not want to put our forces in front of this massive hurricane.

As soon as the hurricane cleared -- and, by the way, we were preparing deployment orders as we saw Katrina strengthen on the late Saturday, Sunday, June 28, August time frame as she began to approach Louisiana, Mississippi. We alerted various forces to be prepared to move as soon as the situation on the ground stabilized and as soon as the Department of Homeland Security, through FEMA, determined what particular assets we would need.

But, for example, we began putting transportation command assets aside, heavy-lift airplanes, because we knew we would need food and water and ice as quickly as we could. We also used ground transportation capabilities that we have.

We brought the USS Baton, a large amphibious ship which was in the Gulf of Mexico anyway, she went well south to avoid the hurricane. As soon as we knew that the hurricane was moving north and had landfall, we brought Baton up behind her. So she was providing helicopter search and rescue capability on Tuesday, just as the hurricane was moving up through northern Mississippi and on into Tennessee and Kentucky.

So that's kind of a long answer to a short question, Jamie. We will of course work very carefully with the Department of Homeland Security to analyze the reaction to this particular disaster. But the fact that the Department of Defense wasn't ready or wasn't well- prepared I think is not correct.

MCINTYRE: One just quick follow-up. Among the debate this week was whether or not the response should have been federalized, I understand is the term of art, can you just tell us about what advantage or disadvantage federalizing the operation would have meant?

KEATING: From our perspective, it would not have provided an advantage over our current situation. I think that this is a topic of -- I know it's a topic of discussion between the president and the attorney general and the secretary of defense and the secretary -- Secretary Chertoff. But through this headquarters, through General Honore, Brian -- or Jamie, I'm sorry -- we're satisfied with the current command and control arrangement where the governors of Mississippi and Louisiana exercised their constitutional prerogative of control of the National Guard and Russel Honore, as joint task force Katrina's commander, has command of the active duty forces.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go over here to Nick (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Admiral, Nick Simeon (ph), FOX News.

If there wasn't a problem in getting assets and stuff into the region, how do you explain the fact that it took a long time to get aid initially to the people in need? What accounts for that?

KEATING: It's an interesting questioning, Nick (ph). From our perspective, aid was moving before the storm hit. From the perspective of those folks who are without food and water for a couple of hours, maybe overnight, into the next day, in Louisiana, Mississippi, that's a long time.

So this was one of those lessons learned that we will work very carefully with Secretary Chertoff and his folks as the lead federal agency to ensure that we shrink those timelines if another disaster of this magnitude occurs. We will work closely with FEMA and DHS to minimize the timelines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, at this point, can you point to anything in the process that accounts for that delay?

KEATING: Well, again, that's -- that's assuming -- you know, "delay" is a relative term. And I sure don't mean to be confrontational about it, Nick (ph), but we had stuff moving before the storm hit. So there's a time distance heading challenge.

There is also the fact that most of the roads that I saw yesterday still have trees covering them. Interstate 10 is open north of the worst part -- hard-hit area.

So we had helicopters moving stuff. The volume they can carry is of course less than you can put in the back of a big old flatbed truck.

So moving around the area in and of itself is a challenge. That is one of, again, those lessons learned. If there are better ways getting through hurricane-damaged areas, we will of course explore those.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Admiral, this is Scott Foster (ph) with NBC News.

KEATING: Hi, Scott.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you?

KEATING: Fine, thanks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At this point, do you expect any more troops to go? Or, I mean, from where you sit, how would you rate where we are in terms of the recovery?

KEATING: I think we're about, for troops on the ground, absent some other disaster -- and we are watching very carefully weather patterns. And again, one of our jobs at Northern Command is to defeat any and all attacks on the United States and support federal agencies that the secretary and president tell us to, which we're doing in this case for the Department of Homeland Security. We're watching the terrorist situation here in our headquarters very, very carefully. But I think that the number of troops on the ground is probably about right from the active duty side.

We're continuing to flow some transcom Air Force assets in and out. So that number varies a little bit.

I think the Marines are at about the right number. There are some more Navy ships coming, as you probably know. The Comfort, the hospital ship, is in Mayport, Florida, today, putting some more medical supplies on. She'll come around and be in place, I think, Thursday.

So the numbers are will rise a little bit. But I believe we're at about -- the status quo today is about where we'll be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I have one quick follow-up on the Comfort?

KEATING: Sure.

MCINTYRE: Some politicians have said -- have criticized the deployment of the comfort, saying that by the time it gets there, that most everyone will be gone from New Orleans. But can you tell us what role it will be able to serve and how it will be able to provide humanitarian relief and medical support?

KEATING: It will have -- I don't know how many of you have been on, but there's a floating, a hospital, as you know, with hundreds of beds for patients and 10 or 12 major operating rooms. However, we may not need so much medical support at that time. But Comfort also provides comfort for workers or troops or sailors who -- anybody, civilians, residents who might need a place to live or rest or recuperate.

Some of these folks I was talking to yesterday, active duty and guard, have been hard at it for four, five days. They're tired. There are not a whole lot of Ramadas still down there where they can take a two-, or three-day vacation. We might be able to provide some comfort for them onboard the Comfort.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I think, Admiral, later in the week we'll actually get some experts to talk about the role of the Comfort back here, too.

KEATING: Sure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go over here to Times News Service.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Admiral, this Vince Crawley (ph), with the "Army Times" papers.

KEATING: Hi, Vince.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've done -- military officials have really gone to great pains to say they're supporting federal civilian leadership, which is part of the loss from the posse comitatus (ph) laws 1870s. Would the response have been any different if the military could have been in charge from the very beginning of the disaster?

KEATING: I don't think so, Vince. That's a good question. I keep going back to these lessons learned. We will get to that once we have the situation on the ground as stable as it can be in the eyes of the Department of Homeland Security.

We'll look at pros and cons of shifting control of National Guard forces to the secretary of Defense and the president should they need them. But the Department of Homeland Security did not ask for that, nor did the president give it us in the early days of the disaster, as you know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jim?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: General, Jim Manion (ph), Agence France- Presse.

KEATING: Hi, Jim.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you give us a sense of how long this force is likely to be in that area? By my count it would be over, including National Guard, it would be over 50,000 troops. So how long can they be realistically sustained there doing this kind of work? Do you already project some sort of scaling down at some point or is it too early to tell?

KEATING: Good yes, Jim. It's too early to tell. We will remain there as long as Secretary Chertoff and Secretary Rumsfeld tell the president they need to be there.

It's important to emphasize, as you said, that we're in support of the Department of Homeland Security. So it's Secretary Chertoff's recommendation to the president. We are already working very hard on, quote, "What will be the end state."

The damage that I saw firsthand yesterday recommends to me that we will be there for a while. The flooding, the floodwaters are receding, I believe, ever so slowly in New Orleans. So that problem that, you know, that the challenges will shift a little bit. As waters go down, folks want to get back into their homes and get power restored.

A lot of homes in Louisiana are made of wood and so as the wood dries, we have another challenge -- all of us, in disaster response for ensuring that we don't have fires of any magnitude. We're work on that.

In Mississippi, just, you know, restoring infrastructure. We're providing military satellite bandwith to cell phone companies, so they can get back to servers and enable cell phone transmission amongst the civilian population in Mississippi.

We're going to be there a while. I think we'll be there a relatively long time. I would see it in months and not weeks.

By the way, just one more word. You raised a great point. Here we're bringing 7,500 soldiers and Marines in, there's a significant logistics tail there, too. That would lead to the increase -- I forget who it was, Bob or Jamie, or Dick, one of the earlier questions -- how come numbers are changing? As we get boots on the ground and the commanders assess the situation, they will have to provide for their own logistics and own berthing and bedding and food and supplies for the machines, the tanks and -- we're not moving tanks, sorry, no tanks. But wheeled vehicles and helicopters. So providing our own logistics will cause for some increase and fluctuation in numbers of troops.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's take just a couple more and let the admiral get back to work. You haven't had a chance. Mike?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Admiral, it's Mike Blount (ph) with CNN. I don't know if it's too early but do you have an estimated price tag for Northern Command for your role in these recovery efforts?

KEATING: Too early, Mike. As you know, Congress has given the president, I think it's $10 billion supplemental. We're counting it up yet. We will, but it's too early to tell.

I have been told, whatever it takes. We're not going wild eyed but we're sending forces and supplies as need.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bob, let's finish up with you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bob Burns again.

KEATING: Bob?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I wanted to ask you about the temporary housing question. Where are you on establishing tent cities or using military bases in the region?

KAGAN: We've been listening in to Admiral Timothy J. Keating, commander of U.S. Northern Command, talking about the effort along the Gulf Coast.

While we've been listening in to the admiral and getting information, like he expects it will be months, not weeks, as long as his people need to be there to help with the cleanup effort. We've also been looking at a lot of pictures live from New Orleans. That helicopter crashed over the weekend, the pilot and crew were able to get out. Obviously, a lot of helicopters have been in work over the last week.

Also, looking at a lot of pictures from the 17th Street Canal and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, having their effort there; bulldozers, sandbags, trying to shore up the levee that broke and helped contribute to all of that -- there is a sandbag, right there -- to all of the flooding of New Orleans.

It is a day of big news in the region on this Labor Day. President Bush is back in the area, the second time in three days. Also, President Bush naming Judge John Roberts, not to be a Supreme Court justice, but to be the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Those confirmation hearings still ahead on that. Now who would be the replacement for Sandra Day O'Connor?

A lot of news to get to and we will do that after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAGAN: Want to show you these pictures we're just getting in to us at CNN. A story of a water direction that tells an encouraging site. You might not be able to tell, but this is 17th Street Bridge Canal in New Orleans. The water, for the first time in almost a week, is flowing out of the city instead of in.

You can see that makeshift damn there of sandbags, put together by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as they first try to shore up the levee, then they will drain the city and then the long and painstaking process of trying to rebuild New Orleans.

It is a story that many will not forget for a long time. That includes Leandre Foster, a sophomore at Xavier University in New Orleans. He's is joining me this morning from his hometown. He has made it to Chicago, along with the Reverend Jesse Jackson who is in Houston.

We'll get to the Reverend Jackson in a moment to talk about how you play into this rescue operation. But first to our young man, our young guest, Mr. Foster.

This is that you did not go off to college expecting to get, how to evacuate from a hurricane?

LEANDRE FOSTER, XAVIER UNIV. STUDENT: No, ma'am.

KAGAN: You were holed up in the dorms of Xavier for a few days?

FOSTER: Yes, ma'am. They -- they moved everyone to the Living and Learning Center, the highest dorm -- point on the campus.

KAGAN: And then, when it was finally time to get out, how many days was this after the storm actually hit if you can remember or is it all a blur?

FOSTER: Yeah, I believe the storm hit late Sunday, early Monday.

KAGAN: Right.

FOSTER: And we ended up evacuating Thursday morning.

KAGAN: When you finally got out, the big problem was all of the water surrounding the dorm and the campus? FOSTER: Yes. It was flooded very heavily. It was -- it wasn't too heavy around the immediate dorm. The more you went away from it, it went up to knee level, neck level, even over heads.

KAGAN: I bet it's really good to be home in Chicago. Leandre, you stay with us a minute. Let's bring in Reverend Jesse Jackson who, as I mentioned, is in Houston today. Yes, in Houston.

Reverend Jackson, how do you play in to helping these Xavier students get out?

REV. JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW-PUSH COALITION: You know, the lion's share of credit should go to Senator Cleo Fields. He asked three busses, that never stopped rolling, and he organized 10 buses and we finally got to the students around midnight Thursday night.

The good news was, they had been fed by the nuns and they had fortified each other's faith and really bonded. The painful part was, when we got there with the buses, people had been on the highway for three or four days without food or water. They thought we were coming for them.

And we could not fit them on the buses. They formed a human chain around the buses and would not let us go, because they did not want to be left another day. So we all cried together. And we prayed together. And we promised them we would get buses back for them. But it was the most touching part to me, frankly, was a human chain formed around buses, didn't want to be left another day. And that we saw Babies dying in mother's arms and seniors who were sick and just couldn't make it any further.

KAGAN: Let's bring Leandre, back in here. How was that to have one, a sense of relief you were on your way back home, but as the Reverend Jackson was describing, to still see so many suffering around you?

FOSTER: Oh, yeah, it was very relieving to know that I was going to get to a safer destination. And it was -- I did feel bad for the people that we left behind. But we were told that they were going to come back to rescue those, the non-college students. We were trying to make sure that we got home safely.

KAGAN: Any status on school for you? What Xavier telling you, that the semester's canceled, or you're on a standby situation?

FOSTER: Yeah, they're basically telling us that the school is basically down for the semester and if anyone who is going back to school, it won't resume until January 4th. Then they have to do like a double semester, all in one, which basically means shorten the breaks and eliminate some holidays in order to get two semesters.

KAGAN: I bet you are glad to be home. I bet your family was really glad to get you back safely.

Let's go back to Houston now to Reverend Jackson. This is, of course the site where thousands of people from New Orleans have been bussed into the Astrodome and surrounding facilities and also all around Texas. Many, many displaced people that were -- the story still goes on, they don't get to go home to their families at this point, Reverend Jackson?

JACKSON: Number one, please, please don't call these persons refugees. Refugees flee from another country, fleeing persecution and they will, if you will, seeking refuge. These are American citizens who did not have in place, in light of the warning of a storm, a mass rescue mission, mass relief, mass relocation, family re-unification, or a plan for reconstruction.

Even today, sending people as far away as Utah and Minnesota when we could use, unused military bases like the England Air Force Base in Alexandria, Baylor Case (ph) in New Orleans, use Louisiana Park Services, and set up modular homes and tent cities close to home. Because as they begin to clean up the city, the people from New Orleans should have the first option on contracts and jobs to clean up their own homes. So right now we are still searching for a plan with some order to it.

KAGAN: There still is a lot of work and choices to be made ahead. Reverend Jackson thank you for your continued presence. Good to see you there in Houston.

JACKSON: Thank you. God bless those students. They were so kind. They were teary, excited, they were prayerful, but they stuck together and we thank God for them.

KAGAN: We have enjoyed bringing the happy ending to certain stories. And as you say, there are still a number of stories to go.

Reverend Jackson, Thank you.

Let's move on to our daily dose of health news. The medical challenges in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina are immense. It is a week after the storm hit the Gulf Coast. In addition to treating the sick and injured health officials are also worried about the spread of disease.

The head of the CDC says she is most concerned about the tetanus and childhood illnesses. Dr. Julie Gerberdine (ph), says diseases like measles and whooping cough could spread quickly through these crowded shelters.

For the latest on the medical state of emergency in the aftermath of Katrina, log onto our web site. Go to cnn.com/health for more on efforts to threat -- and the threat of victims of the storm. More news is coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAGAN: This breaking news concerns the confirmation hearings for John Roberts to be chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. A change that status of today as far as a change of the hearing date, let's go to our Joe Johns -- Joe?

JOHNS: Daryn, what we're hearing right now is that a hearing for John Roberts, which was scheduled to begin tomorrow afternoon, here at the Capitol, in fact, in the building I'm standing now, is being rescheduled as we speak. We're told, there will be no hearing kickoff tomorrow.

We do know that on Wednesday we're expecting the funeral of Chief Justice William Rehnquist. We're told the earliest the hearings for John Roberts, who has now been nominated as the chief justice to replace Rehnquist will happen on Thursday. The latest it will happen, we're told, is on Monday. So a bit of the juggling of the schedule.

Still, uncertain as to when it will begin, whether it will be Thursday or whether it will be Monday. But we're told no hearing tomorrow and we're told presumably no hearing on Wednesday, certainly because that is the day of the funeral of Chief Justice Rehnquist -- Daryn?

KAGAN: Right. As the delay, as you're mentioning the funeral of Chief Justice Rehnquist, but also this change in status, that we're just learning about this morning.

JOHNS: Absolutely.

KAGAN: Now President Bush wants John Roberts to be chief justice and replace William Rehnquist instead of Sandra Day O'Connor?

JOHNS: Right. It certainly affects the calculus. Democrats have suggested they would like to see some more time. They think a higher standard will be applied to Roberts now that he has been nominated to replace Chief Justice Rehnquist.

Some Democrats, of course, quietly behind the scene, particularly off the Hill, suggesting they'd like to know who the other nominee is going to be; that second seat that is now vacant. Of course, no clear word. Is it up to the president to decide when he wants to nominate that second person, Daryn?

KAGAN: All right. Joe Johns from Washington, D.C., thank you on that.

Just ahead a chance to talk with a local Louisiana politician, he's a state senator. But he also built his own business in the port of New Orleans. Very interesting take from him. Just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

J.T. ALPAUGH, HELICOPTER REPORTER: Right there, you can see some people get their belongings. We'll slide left a little bit here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAGAN: We are getting the first pictures of some of the folks getting to go back into Jefferson Parish. They are allowed to be there from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. And their first look at their homes that they haven't seen in over a week.

Right now I want to welcome the State Senator Walter Boasso, District 1 in Louisiana. His area one of the hardest hit by Katrina. He joins me now from Baton Rouge.

Mr. Boasso, thank you for being here with us.

STATE SEN. WALTER BOASSO, LOUISIANA: Good morning, Daryn.

KAGAN: Have you been able to make it back to your home and see what you face?

BOASSO: Yeah, my home's 12 feet under water.

KAGAN: Is that the case with most of your neighborhood?

BOASSO: Yeah. In the area that we've been working is, we call Saint Bernard Parish and it is east of New Orleans, that attaches there. We have about 40,000 homes that went completely under water.

KAGAN: We only have a minute here. I did want to call on your expertise, because I know your business is build up along the river in containers, and you're involve business-wise in the port of New Orleans.

BOASSO: Yes, ma'am.

KAGAN: How concerned and what are your hopes of the future of that being rebuilt and becoming economic center that it is of America?

BOASSO: You know, it's going to be a long time. You know, probably three, four months before we get it operational again. We have been doing is of course the greatest asset we have in Louisiana is the Mississippi River. So what we've been doing is shuttling evacuees out of -- using ferries on the Mississippi River as well as bringing goods in there. Because basically we're an island and you can't get in there by vehicle.

KAGAN: There's so much we could talk to you about in terms of your role in state politics and the role in the Mississippi River and your neighborhood. Our time is short in this hour.

I'm going to wish you well on all of those fronts and rebuilding your home of your own personal home and your city and your business as well.

BOASSO: Thank you, Daryn.

KAGAN: Thank you, State Senator Walter Boasso, District 1, one of the hardest hit areas. As you heard his own home under 12 feet of water today.

Our coverage continues. I'm Daryn Kagan.

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