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CIA Leak Probe; School Bus Overturns in New York City; The Next Justice

Aired September 30, 2005 - 11:59   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Topping our headlines right now, the wildfire in northern Los Angeles County has tripled in size since this time yesterday. Officials now estimate the Chatsworth-Topanga fire has consumed more than 20,000 acres. Even worse, it poses a direct threat to more than 2,000 homes and businesses. A live report coming up in just a bit.
In New York City, we are monitoring this school bus accident. It happened just a short time ago in the Bronx. Live pictures from our affiliate WABC. Emergency crews are on the scene, and we're told there are some injuries to children. We'll keep you updated as more information becomes available.

Tomorrow's launch of a Russian Soyuz spacecraft will carry an extra passenger to the International Space Station. American Gregory Olsen is said to have ponied up $20 million for the privilege. The launch will carry an American astronaut and Russian cosmonaut to the International Space Station. NASA administrator Michael Griffin says the next crew to the space station might not include an American.

And in South Africa, an appeal is being considered in the life sentence that was handed down today to a white man convicted of murdering a black farm laborer and feeding his body to lions. Another man received a 12-year sentence in the case. A third defendant is still awaiting trial.

Hello. Welcome to CNN LIVE TODAY. Let's check the time around the world.

Just after 9:00 a.m. in Ventura County, California; just after noon here in Atlanta; and just after 8:00 p.m. in Baghdad.

From CNN Center in Atlanta, I'm Daryn Kagan.

Our top story this hour, a major development in the CIA leak probe. "New York Times" reporter Judith Miller is out of jail and talking to a federal grand jury. Miller spent 85 days behind bars because she refused to divulge a source to the federal grand jury investigating the leak.

This morning, Miller arrived at a federal courthouse in Washington to testify before that same grand jury. At issue in this case is the public disclosure of a secret agent, confidential conversations between a journalist and a senior White House official, and whether any laws were broken along the way.


KAGAN (voice over): We start in July, 2003. Valerie Plame was identified as a CIA operative by syndicated columnist Robert Novak. Novak wrote that unidentified administration sources named Plame. Novak is also a CNN contributor.

Her husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, charged that someone in the Bush White House leaked her name to get back at him, because earlier in July, Wilson, in a "New York Times" editorial, disputed administration claims that Saddam Hussein tried to buy uranium for weapons of mass destruction. That argument that Iraq had WMDs was a big part of the administration's justification for going to war in Iraq.

In September, 2003, the Justice Department began an investigation into how Plame's name was revealed. Because, you see, it's against federal law to deliberately reveal the identity of a CIA operative.

In February of this year, a federal appeals court said that two journalists subpoenaed by a grand jury must name their sources. One of those journalist, "TIME" magazine's Matt Cooper, wouldn't talk at first. But in July, Cooper admitted talking to presidential adviser Karl Rove after "TIME" said it would provide documents with information on a source.

That same month, "New York Times" reporter Judith Miller refused to talk and was jailed. This week, she finally agreed to talk after she says her source released her from a pledge of confidentiality.

The attorney for the vice president's chief of staff says his client, Lewis Scooter Libby, is Miller's source.


KAGAN: And so, as we mentioned, Miller arrived at the courthouse about 8:30 Eastern this morning to testify before that grand jury. But there's some question now whether her time in jail was even necessary.

Our national correspondent, Bob Franken, has been closely tracking this tale of political intrigue. He joins us now from Washington, D.C.

Good morning -- or afternoon, actually.


And she's been in there since this morning. She's went in about the time you went on the air, Daryn, about 10:00 Eastern. And she's been in there ever since, has been testifying.

Of course, this is testimony that has waited 86 days, counting the day after she was released. The last time she came in this building she left in handcuffs and went through her time at the Alexandria, Virginia, jail nearby, where she refused to testify. Now the question is, could she have gotten the waiver that she says she now has gotten many days before? We're going to have more about that in a minute.

Nevertheless, she is now talking, and she's talking about the investigation which, as you pointed out a moment ago, involves the leaking of the name of an undercover secret agent, and whether the investigation is going to find that this was a vindictive effort that crossed the line. The other name that has come up is Karl Rove, the deputy White House chief of staff.

Now, Matthew Cooper, as you also pointed out, left here that same day that Judith Miller went to jail. He left after saying that he had gotten an adequate waiver. Well, there's going to be quite a bit of discussion. There's been a lot of hand wringing over the month about whether this violates the reporter's need for confidentiality.

The prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, has argued successfully that the need to see if the law was broken trumps all that. There's going to be quite a bit of residue to deal with as far as those issues are concerned.

"The New York Times" is saying that this just reinforces the need for shield law which would protect federal journalists -- or, excuse me, would protect journalists from having to divulge sources. Many states have one. But they are saying that a federal shield law is needed.

"The New York Times," of course, Judith Miller's employer. When she leaves here, presumably she will leave a free person -- Daryn.

KAGAN: All right. Bob Franken. Thank you.

Of course this trail takes us to the White House. For the potential fallout to this unfolding story, let's check in with Elaine Quijano -- Elaine.


First of all, a lawyer for the vice president's chief of staff, Scooter Libby, says he has no indication, no reason to believe that his client is the target of this investigation. Also, he says that it was more than a year ago when Scooter Libby signed that confidentiality waiver that Bob was talking about which should have effectively kept Judith Miller out of jail.

Now, a few weeks ago, what we know is that Judith Miller's attorney contacted Libby's lawyer and said Miller had not accepted that waiver as valid because it came from lawyers. Now, that's the account given by Libby's lawyer, Joseph Tate.

Now, he also told CNN during that conversation, "I assured Bennett" -- that would be Judith Miller's attorney -- "that it" -- the waiver -- "was volunteer. And he asked, 'Would Scooter say that to Judy? And I said, 'Scooter doesn't want to see Judy in jail.' My reaction was, why didn't someone call us 80 days ago?"

And that appears to be the central question right now.

After that conversation with lawyers, Daryn, Libby actually did speak with Miller by phone. Both attorneys were listening in to that conversation. And, of course, then that eventually leading to Miller's release.

But another question still not answered is, why did it take 10 days from the time that conversation took place between Libby and Miller, to the time that she was actually released? All of these very much open questions.

Now, as for White House officials, they are not commenting. They say that this is an ongoing investigation. And they are not going to talk about it.

But the bottom line, Daryn, important to remember, is that only the special prosecutor's office really has access to all of the facts involved. We have been hearing little bits of information.

This, of course, a development, as you point out, a major development in this case. But it is only Patrick Fitzgerald, effectively, who knows what direction this investigation may be headed. Again, in terms of the White House, they are not commenting at all -- Daryn.

KAGAN: All right. Elaine Quijano, live at the White House. Thank you.

Let's get back to our breaking news story out of New York City, and that is a school bus accident involving a number of children. Getting a good look at the bus overturned there on the Deagan Expressway.

For more, let's bring in Kai Sikmonson, helicopter pilot with WNYW.

KAI SIMONSON, WNYW: This is Kai Simonson live in SkyFox for WNYW over the Bronx, the major Deagan Expressway, where there has been a bus accident, a bad bus accident. You can see it here to the center part of your screen, an overturned school bus.

We're going to show you some pictures here of some of the injuries that have happened there. Unfortunately happened, numerous injuries. About 42 students were on board the bus when this accident happened.

Now, again, this is on the southbound side of the Deagan Expressway near 233rd Street. For those of you not familiar with the New York area, it's about 10 miles north of Midtown Manhattan.

Forty-two students on board. They appear all to be of middle school age. And there have been numerous injuries out here. A combination of adults and students that have been injured. Many of them have already been removed from the scene. But still -- still, a few of them out here.

Now, fortunately, we are hearing at this point that many of these injuries are non-life-threatening. The major Deagan Expressway, which is a major thoroughfare through this section of the Bronx, is completely shut down in both directions as EMS and police try to deal with all this.

Again, an overturned school bus out here. Numerous injuries have been reported. Of course, we will continue to keep you up to date.

But for now, Kai Simonson, live, over the Bronx.

Back to you, Daryn.

KAGAN: Kai, thank you very much for that update. We'll continue to monitor the situation in the Bronx in New York City.

Back to Washington, D.C. Within the next few days, President Bush could announce his choice to replace retiring Supreme Court Judge Sandra Day O'Connor.

Our correspondent Joe Johns live in Washington with more on this development.



The chief justice is at work today, we're told, going through administrative duties, trying to get settled in. No word on whether the chief justice of the United States needs a picture I.D. or a parking pass. But I suppose there's that if he has to do it.

The real work, of course, begins on Monday. There will be a second swearing in for Chief Justice Roberts. After that, perhaps a photo-op out here on the stairs of the Supreme Court. Then he hears his first case as the 17th chief justice of the United States.

Meanwhile, the focus will remain on the White House. Of course, they still have another person to name to the Supreme Court. No word on the timetable for that.

And there is, of course, that overarching question of, which direction should the court go now? Well, the latest CNN-"USA Today"- Gallup poll gives us some suggestion of what the public's thinking.

It says 33 percent would like to see the court go more conservative. Thirty percent more liberal. Twenty-nine percent say no chance.

So, if you look at the sampling error, plus or minus three percentage points, that is just about a dead heat. That's what we've known for a long time, Daryn, that the country's polarized over the courts.

KAGAN: What are some of the first cases we expect this chief justice to preside over, Joe?

JOHNS: Well, there are two or three of them. But the one that probably sticks out in my mind is a case involving meat packers and a union question of how much time they get to suit up before they go to work. Frankly, not very glamorous at all -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Why does that one stick out to you?

JOHNS: I don't know. It's just interesting because it's a union case, it's a labor case. And out of all the things that this court will have to decide, you know, you think about abortion coming up this next term, you think about the possibility of a case on assisted suicide. It's sort of an unglamorous way to get kicked off with the Roberts' court.

KAGAN: With meat packers. All right, Joe. Thank you.

JOHNS: You bet.

KAGAN: And I want to remind you, Sunday night at 8:00, join CNN PRESENTS for a look inside the new Supreme Court. How will the influence of Chief Justice John Roberts be felt? And who's in line to follow Sandra Day O'Connor? What's at stake?

"The New Supreme Court," it appears Sunday at 8:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin putting out the welcome mat for one- third of the city's residents. But the mold and the bacteria that will greet some returning evacuees is raising health concerns. That story is still ahead.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Dan Simon, in Simi Valley, California. We'll have the very latest on the wildfires coming up right after this.


KAGAN: Let's bring you the latest now on that large wildfire that is racing across the hills in canyons north of Los Angeles. It is now 20 percent contained. It is burning towards the communities of Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley. But fire officials are hoping for help from Mother Nature.

Our Dan Simon joins us live now from Simi Valley.

Dan, hello.

SIMON: How you doing, Daryn?

What a difference a day makes. The weather is a positive factor today. I'm seeing no wind at all. And the temperatures are a lot cooler than they were yesterday.

As you mentioned, we are looking at 20 percent containment. Twenty thousand acres have been charred. Now, we're not totally out of the woods yet. Chatsworth, Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks could still have some flare-ups. So officials are keeping a close eye on those areas.

And, you know, if it's not the flame, it's smoke. There is so much smoke. And officials are warning that there could be some health problems.

I am in Simi Valley, and we're basically at a staging area where you can see these fire trucks. They are lined up. They're basically just waiting for their marching orders. And in front of me, out of frame, there's a bulldozer.

They're going to be creating some fire lines and trying to protect these homes further. There have been some air drops today, some fixed-wing aircraft droppings, some retardant. Again, that's in a rural area. No homes currently threatened.

But things looking a lot better today, Daryn. And Governor Schwarzenegger is going to take a tour of the region himself and have a press conference in a couple of hours.

Back to you.

KAGAN: You know, Dan, one of the success stories of this fire so far is how few homes have been lost. And I understand there are some very severe fire restrictions and fire codes about how people have to keep their homes and build them. And that's being credited with some of the success.

SIMON: They do. As a matter of fact, sometimes fire crews will go by various homes and check to see what the brush looks like. And if the brush is too close to your home, they will put a tag on your house, and you need to clear it.

And that's one of the big concerns throughout this area in California. There is so much brush. There is so much rain in the wintertime. It created all this fuel that you are seeing here today.

So -- and, you know, fire, it's a natural phenomenon. It's clearing away some of the brush. So hopefully next year at this time it won't be quite as bad.

KAGAN: All right. Dan Simon, live in southern California. Thank you.

Talking about the weather potentially helping out today, Bonnie Schneider is watching that -- Bonnie.


KAGAN: And we're going to be talking about the Santa Ana winds just ahead. Bill Nye, the science guy, an old friend of this program, will be stopping by to talk about hot air.

Great topic, Bill. We'll get to that just ahead.

Also ahead, a disturbing discovery is made inside of a former evacuation center in a hurricane area. More than a dozen dogs are found shot to death. And there may be a link to law enforcement. We'll have details straight ahead.

Plus, a large number of New Orleans residents get the go-ahead to return to their damaged homes. But the city is far from getting a clean bill of health. We'll look at some of the biggest concerns.


KAGAN: Turning now to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the long road to recovery. Eight zip codes in the city of New Orleans are now reopened to residents who fled the city one month ago.

Some business owners have already been back to check on their establishments. Many face huge challenges in trying to restart the city's economic engine.

Homeowners can expect lots of unpleasant discoveries. Look at this. Mold has thrived in the city's heat and humidity, invading walls, furniture and carpet. It's presumed that many residents will simply take advantage of this opportunity to inspect their properties, and then leave to decide what to do. State health officials warn that those who do stay will do so at their own risk.


DR. FRED CERISE, LOUISIANA DEPT. OF HEALTH & HOSPITALS: Issues that we are concerned about from a public health standpoint are the fact that in much of the city, there is -- the sewage system is still not up adequately. And the water is not cleared from contamination. And so, as people come back in, they need to be aware of these things, particularly with the -- with the water.

And they need to be using bottled water for drinking, for brushing teeth and thing like that. And not relying on the tap water.


KAGAN: And then there's this story. Rescue teams in New Orleans made a gruesome discovery inside of a middle school in St. Bernard Parish. Our Anderson Cooper reports workers were stunned by what they found.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You can't tell from the outside of this middle school, but inside, a slaughter took place.

KIM DAVIS, ANIMAL RESCUER: Three dogs, a large one and two smaller ones, all lying in a pool of blood. It looks like they may have all been gathered together and shot together. This is hard. COOPER: Kim Davis came from Oklahoma as an animal rescuer. She never imagined she'd find a scene like this in a middle school that was used as an evacuation center after Katrina hit.

DAVIS: When dogs are shot like this, too, they don't die instantly, as you can see from the large amount of blood. They bleed to death.

COOPER: In all, there are 14 dogs. Some shot once, others several times. Some were tied up. One looks like it tried to run.

All are badly decomposed. They've apparently been dead for weeks.

People came to this place to be evacuated. They had to leave their pets behind. You can even see where one woman tried to make sure she wouldn't lose her dogs, writing her name and phone number on the wall before she left. Others did the same thing.

KIT BAUER, EVACUEE: A lot of people, about 50 or 60 people, evacuated to that point and brought their animals with us, because they told us we could bring our animals.

COOPER: They were here for three days before evacuating. And then the rules changed.

BAUER: They up and told us then that we couldn't take any of the animals with us, which everybody really went ballistic on, because, you know, that was like leaving your kids behind.

COOPER: One floor is littered with dog biscuits. We don't know how long after they left that the dogs were shot, but law enforcement and security experts say these bullets are the type used by law enforcement.

The animal rescuers blame St. Bernard Parish sheriff's deputies.


COOPER: Sheriff Jack Stephens says he did not give the order to exterminate any dogs, but admits it's possible one or more of his own deputies might have done it. So he's handing the case over to the state's attorney.

STEPHENS: The cards will fall where they may in this thing.

COOPER: Stephens does say his men left as residents evacuated. So it's possible some other group or some individuals in the chaos of the disaster shot these dogs.

STEPHENS: I'm certainly not prepared to say without reservation that it wasn't one of our officers that did it. But what I do know is that it's a despicable act. And someone who did this just has some imperfection in their psyche. And if that someone is a law enforcement officer, they can't be in this business. They're in the wrong business.

COOPER: Another tragedy uncovered where the only thing certain right now is the innocence of the victims.

Anderson Cooper, CNN.


KAGAN: The Senate wants to give the Pentagon $4 billion in its budget. It's not to fight wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, but to prepare the nation for a battle against a possible worldwide health epidemic. Up next, why health officials are sounding the alarm about the Asian bird flu.

Plus, the passing of a guard in Washington. We'll show you how the armed forces paid tribute to retiring General Richard Myers.


KAGAN: Let's first update you on what's happening in New York City in the Bronx. Live pictures there of the school bus accident.

At the top of your screen, you see the overturned school bus. We've been following this for about an hour. We understand from reporters at the scene that about 42 students, middle-schoolers, were on board this bus.

This is the Deagan Expressway. It's about 10 miles north of Midtown Manhattan. Of course, Deagan Expressway, for those of you familiar with New York City, a major thoroughfare and a main -- the main road that will take you through the Bronx. Traffic has been backed up. We can't tell from this live picture, but it has because they're trying to respond to this accident.

A number of injuries, a number of kids that were treated at the scene. We're getting word a number of those injuries, though, were not terribly serious. More on that in just a bit.


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