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AMERICAN MORNING

U.S. Air Marshals' First Use of Deadly Force Post-9/11; Governor to Hear Clemency Plea for Tookie Williams; Grammy Nominations Announced

Aired December 8, 2005 - 08:30   ET

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


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: You know, does Christopher Columbus ever get to come in from the cold? .
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: No. He's stuck out there.

O'BRIEN: He's stuck in marble all winter long. There he is.

COSTELLO: Oh, it's so cold out.

O'BRIEN: He looks cold to me. Little blue.

COSTELLO: He does look a little blue. And for good reason, because, temperatures, what, are down in the low 30s, high 20s today in New York City and it's going get colder as that really cold weather moves towards us from the Midwest.

(WEATHER REPORT)

(NEWSBREAK)

O'BRIEN: Back to that shooting at the Miami Airport. And the question we've been asking, did the air marshals act properly? It's their first use of deadly force in the post-9/11 era.

Homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve has insights into the marshals' training. She has, after all, witnessed it firsthand. Hello, Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Miles, what are the responsibilities of air marshals, How do they train and what do they do? I followed an air marshal to find out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Police officer! Drop the gun!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good, good, good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll help! I'll help!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sit down!

MESERVE (voice-over): On a mock aircraft, Tom practices for the day he hopes will never come, the day when he, a federal air marshal, has to deal with a terrorist. TOM, FEDERAL AIR MARSHAL: Let me say this. Nobody wants to use a fireman on board an aircraft. It's not going to be a good day for anybody. There's a lot of downside to it. But if that's what's needed, that's what you do.

MESERVE: Because he works undercover, we cannot show you his face or tell you his full name.

TOM: I'm a federal air marshal. I need you to turn around and put your hands behind your back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not going to do anything like that.

TOM: Put your hands behind your back.

MESERVE: He once worked for the Secret Service, but his life, like so many others, was changed on 9/11.

TOM: The question runs through your head, you know, what could I have done had I been one of the aircraft?

MESERVE: Though he may look like any other traveler, Tom carries a loaded .357 magnum. At Washington's Dulles Airport, he boards his JetBlue flight to Fort Lauderdale before other passengers to search for weapons and explosives and to meet and brief the flight crew.

TOM: There are no specific threats against this airline or any others at this time.

MESERVE: Though air marshals never fly without at least one partner, as passengers board, Tom scans for potential allies.

TOM: I just size people up. And I -- I guess, in a nutshell, I'm looking for help, worst-case scenario, who I think I can count on. You look for a face, and what you see in that, in the eyes. And I'm looking for, perhaps, military uniform. I'm looking for things of that nature, somebody with a military haircut, possibly, maybe somebody with an NYPD T-shirt on.

MESERVE: He is also on the lookout for terrorists.

TOM: We're looking for any suspicious behavior, anybody who is acting irregular, abnormal.

MESERVE: Tom notices, a restroom right next to the cockpit has been occupied an unusually long time. At Tom's suggestion, a flight attendant knocks. A man comes out. Tom goes in to see if weapons, or explosives have been hidden. He finds nothing.

Tom has never arrested a suspected terrorist, but wonders if he has seen them rehearsing.

TOM: Certainly, yes, there's been times where I have -- I have been uncomfortable, had a not-so-comfortable feeling, and wondered if it was perhaps a test run. And that's rare, very rare. There's a tremendous amount of monotony in this. And it's much like "Groundhog Day."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE: Though their exact number is classified, there are not enough air marshals for the 27,000 flights made every day by U.S. carriers, so they pick their flights based on intelligence, how many people are on the flight and where it's going. Whether it's because of the air marshals, because of other layers of security or other factors, there has not been a hijacking since 9/11 -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Well, Jeanne, it reminds me of what a pilot told me about his job. Long hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror. And it seems like that job is similar.

MESERVE: That's right. And they're very limited in what they can do on that aircraft. They can read, but they can't listen to music, they can't watch movies. And they're very limited in the kinds of conversations they can have with other passengers because they don't want to blow their cover. So it can be extraordinarily monotonous for them.

The air marshals, in fact, have said that they're having a bit of problem with morale because there isn't enough variety in the job. They're hoping to expand air marshals responsibilities somewhat to introduce that, keep them a little happier about what they're doing on a daily basis.

O'BRIEN: Yes, I think the question they dread the most is the passenger next door saying what do you do for a living? That's a tough one, right?

MESERVE: Well, you know, Tom, the air marshal we talked to, said he doesn't tell them the truth. He tells them -- he said he tries to think of the most boring profession he can think of and tell them that's what he is. But he says, you know, you say you're an accountant and oh, my gosh, that person might be an accountant and might strike up a conversation.

O'BRIEN: Then you're in trouble. Then you're in deep trouble when you're talking about balance sheets before you know it.

All right, Jeanne Meserve, thank you very much -- Carol?

COSTELLO: Well, it could be a last chance today at life for condemned gang founder Stanley "Tookie" Williams. His lawyers meeting with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to ask for clemency. Prosecutors object and so do family members of Williams' victims.

Joining me now, the stepmother of one of Williams' victims, Lora Owens. Thanks for coming in, Lora.

LORA OWENS, STEPMOTHER OF VICTIM: Thanks for having me.

COSTELLO: OK, so this conversation is going to be ongoing with Governor Schwarzenegger, and he could make his decision at two minutes until midnight. That's got to be agonizing for you. OWENS: It is. The wait is hard. The wait is hard. But you know, it's not an easy decision for him, and I want him to take his time, look at the facts. I believe with all my heart that if he looks at the facts and not all the political and Hollywood hype, he's going to make the right decision.

COSTELLO: Of course, you think Mr. Williams should die for his crime against your stepson. Tell us a little bit about what happened to your stepson and how brutal this was.

OWENS: Albert was working the night shift, because, you know, he took that job because he needed the money, and Williams and his group come in. Albert had been taught if there's a robbery, let them have the money. No one gets hurt. But Williams took him into the back room, literally just had him lie down on his stomach, and then shot him in the back at close range with a 12-gauge shotgun twice.

COSTELLO: And your stepson was begging for his life.

OWENS: Sure he was.

COSTELLO: And I understand that afterwards, Mr. Williams joked about the murder and how your stepson died.

OWENS: See how cold blooded that makes.

COSTELLO: So all of these stars have gotten together to stand up for Tookie Williams, because they say that he has reformed. He has convinced many children out there not to join gangs. He brokered a peace deal between two violent gangs in California. I want our audience, our viewers, to listen to a bit of what actor Jamie Foxx said about Tookie Williams and Governor Schwarzenegger.

Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMIE FOXX, ACTOR: Governor Schwarzenegger, we're not trying to push you into a corner. We realize that you have a tough job to do and you're very busy. But in being very busy, you may not get a chance to hear everything with the case. So we don't want you to make a decision without knowing everything. And I'm sure that once you learn everything about this unique case, you won't kill him on my birthday.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: "Won't kill him on my birthday," on Jamie Foxx's birthday. I don't know, that kind of struck me as self serving. How did it strike you, though, that he would say that? He portrayed Tookie Williams in a movie. Has Jamie Foxx ever reached out to you, and said tell me from your perspective what happened that day?

OWENS: No, he hasn't reached out. I think Jamie Foxx plays a very good part. Unfortunately, that's what I consider all these Hollywood celebrities that are behind Williams. They're playing a part. They have a role. They get into the character. It's my particular cause, because it was my stepson. We're talking life and death. We're not talking about a role that you can learn a script and then lay it down and go home. You know, he had to look at a form to read. I can tell you from my heart, I can tell you from everything, when you look at the facts, everything they've got out there is so false. When you put the light to all of those lives, then you see the truth and that's what I want out there is the truth.

COSTELLO: If Governor Schwarzenegger decides to grant clemency to Tookie Williams, how will you feel? What will you do?

OWENS: Good question. I don't even think that far. You see, when you think defeat, you can get to defeat. I don't think defeat. I think he's going to do a good decision.

COSTELLO: Well, we'll see sometime today. Lora Owens, thank you so much for coming in. We appreciate it.

OWENS: Thanks for having me.

COSTELLO: We're going to take a short break. We'll be back with much

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: All right, the soda wars. You know, the coca-cola doesn't have enough to jack me up, Andy. So what are we going to do about that?

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: We're going to have a new coffee flavor.

SERWER: Coffee flavor. Coffee-flavored Coke to give you a double jolt. Actually lots going on at the Coca-Cola Company, this venerable Atlanta institution. First of all, the company has not been doing so well lately. So to cure that, they've come up with a new slogan, and the new slogan is "the Coke side of life." How does that grab you? The Coke side of life. That's what they came out with.

These commercials and slogans are really a part of --

O'BRIEN: There it is.

SERWER: I'd like to teach the world to sing. There's Mean Joe Green.

COSTELLO: They've tried to bring that back.

SERWER: Yes, and then remember these things go better with Coke. It's the real thing. Coke adds life. Coke is it. Always Coca-Cola. I don't know if this is going to make it into the hall of fame slogans or commercials here, but we shall see.

Anyway, the new drink they're rolling out is a new cola coffee called coca-Cola Blak, spelled B-L-A-K.

COSTELLO: I thought you were kidding.

SERWER: That's racy.

O'BRIEN: That was for real?

SERWER: No, for real. I think that could taste yucky. There you go. Maybe needs some rocks, probably tastes better on the rocks.

M. O'BRIEN: My 11-year-old daughter last night said why do they always misspell on products? It bothers her.

SERWER: Yes, it's bad for elementary...

M. O'BRIEN: She was looking at Wite-Out -- W-I-T-E. You know, why is it Black, B-L-A-K.

SERWER: That wouldn't taste good either, Miles. If you put a little vodka in there it might improve things.

Now another interesting thing going on with Coca-Cola, is that, you know, it's archrival, Pepsico, actually may be surpassing this company in terms of stock-market value. Coke has always been much, much bigger, but now because Pepsi stock has done so much better over the past decade, you can see we're really catching up. They're both worth almost $100 billion.

And here's the dirty secret about Coke: The stock was about $40 ten years ago. And today, it's about $40. So yes, it really -- it went to $85 or so in between then, but you know, it's just -- the problem is, that sodas are not a growth business. Kids not drinking as much. They're drinking water and sports drinks, and those are the hot-growth categories. Of course Coke is in those businesses, but it's difficult to find traction there, as they say.

O'BRIEN: All right, Andy Serwer, thank you very much. I've just been getting some word on Mariah Carey, eight nominations, 14 year drought at the Grammys. Talk about a comeback. Mariah Carey with eight nominations. We're watching the Grammys. We've got Brooke Anderson tracking all that for us.

SERWER: And what's she wearing?

O'BRIEN: Most importantly, what's she wearing? Do we have video of Mariah Carey? Where's that?

COSTELLO: Well, Mariah Carey is supposed to be live on our air, and we're all curious just to see what she's wearing. We're just waiting for her right now to come out and say, good for me.

O'BRIEN: I would say the breath is bated here as we wait for Mariah Carey. So we hope you'll join us as we wait.

There's never a shortage of controversy in Washington, meanwhile. But over a Christmas card, or is it a holiday card? Some folks are mighty upset about the holiday greetings, and we used the 'h' word there from the White House. And that is a relevant point, if you get my drift.

Stay with us for more AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Want to tell take a look at CNN.com now because we're always interested in what you're clicking on to when -- a lot of top stories including a story about dogs and their DNA. It seems that scientists have decoded the DNA of dogs and they're hoping against hope that it will teach them about the DNA of humans and that will lead to cures of diseases like cancer and diabetes. So that's on the new track. I was actually surprised that was in the top ten. But there. Man's best friend helping us out.

Another top story on CNN.com comes out of the White House. Apparently Barbara Bush, she was wearing a ring on her left hand, you know, on the ring finger. And a lot people thought she was engaged. We don't know why she was wearing that ring, but the White House has said no, Barbara Bush is not engaged. She is not ready to get married. And they wouldn't say anything more. So there you go.

Of course, the other top story on -- there you see the ring. Don't know why she was wearing it. Who it came from. The White House says she's not getting married, she's not engaged, so simmer down.

The other top story on our Web site, of course, is the air marshal story out of Miami and this horrible thing that happened. As a man ran from the plane out into the jetway, air marshals on board, armed air marshals, said that the man was shouting to them that he had a bomb in his bag, he reached into the bag, and that's when they shot him to death. There are a lot of questions, because we actually questioned some passengers on board the plane this morning.

And apparently, the air marshals were keeping an eye on this couple, this man and his wife sitting in the back of the plane. In fact, Mary Gardner (ph), one of the passengers said and I quote: "He was very nervous, she was very shaky, a lot of anxiety. You could tell there was something going on that just wasn't quite right and the pilot, he told me, look, there's an air marshal on board right there, they know what's going on and we're covered." And then everything went down.

O'BRIEN: Yes, well, here's what's interesting to me about that. Everybody on that plane, according to that passenger, was nervous about this couple. They watched them get on, they were like, ooh, this is bad, lots of, you know, discussion. She hears from the pilot, oh, don't worry, two air marshals on board. And there's a period of time -- then he makes his way forward.

The question I have, which I didn't get a good answer from the air marshal's representative a little while ago, was why did they wait so long to, you know, just perhaps...

COSTELLO: Calm down the situation.

O'BRIEN: Well, at least ask a few questions of these people. What's going on, why are you nervous? He said the concern was they didn't want to blow their cover. Well, that doesn't seem to make a lot of sense to me. What's the point of having them on the plane if they're not going to intervene when something appears to be brewing that is amiss. So these are among the questions we're going to be answering as time goes on here and as they debrief this thing.

And, you know, it might very well come out of this that they'll be less reluctant -- maybe they've been drilled with the whole notion of staying under cover that they're reluctant to do it until it's a very critical type of situation.

COSTELLO: Well, I don't see how blowing your cover could make it more dangerous on the plane. We're going to ask Mike Brooks about that. He's an expert in these things. And we're going to do that in the next hour of AMERICAN MORNING.

Let's talk about another controversy going on. The White House Christmas card.

O'BRIEN: Well, but it's not a Christmas card. That's the problem.

COSTELLO: Oh, yes, it's a holiday card.

O'BRIEN: Holiday card. See, it doesn't mention Christmas. And so there's this whole thing, it has -- it's interesting. There it is. There's Barney and what's the other one? The two Scottish terriers. I forget their names. Beasley and whatever. Beasley and Barney. Beasley and Barney. OK.

Outside the White House, very pretty thing, you open up the card and there is a passage from the Old Testament, the pre-Christmas testament, and then a happy holiday season greeting. And this is in keeping with what the Bush White House has done thus far during its tenure and what the Clinton White House did. And apparently six out of eight Reagan holiday cards were, you know, non-religious. People this year, because of all this discussion about Christmas...

COSTELLO: It's become quite the issue.

O'BRIEN: ... are upset about this.

COSTELLO: It's quite the explosive issue. We're going to talk to someone from the Catholic league about this because he's really angry.

But we have to go out to Brooke Anderson because she's got word on the Grammys and hopefully Mariah Carey is nearby, Brooke.

BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: She actually is nearby. She's doing a live interview right now with "The Today Show," so we have been waiting patiently, but she's not here just yet. She is one of the big Grammy nominees. The nominations were announced about, oh, 15 minutes ago. She's got eight nominations, along with John Legend and Kanye West. Those are the three big nominees that we have. And I do want to talk about Mariah Carey for just a minute. You may remember, about four years ago, after an $80 million contract she signed with Virgin Records, she sort of had a meltdown. Had a number of failed projects, including the movie "Glitter." Well, she got out of that contract. Now she's with Island Def Jam and this is really the comeback story of the year. Her new album "The Emancipation of Mimi," which she released earlier this year, has sold more than four million copies, quadruple platinum.

We actually caught up with Mariah last night. The recording academy paid tribute to her at an event here at Gotham Hall. And she said she just feels so blessed, so fortunate to be where she is right now and to have had the success that she has had. And one of her nominations that she's up for, the biggest award for the Grammys, album of the year.

Now she will be competing with Mr. Kanye West for that. He's up for his album "Late Registration." This is his sophomore disc. This comes just a year after his debut album earned him ten Grammy nominations and three wins. He says he'll only take a loss to System of a Down. They weren't nominated in that category. So we'll see if Kanye, who's very opinionated, very controversial, gets his way this.

Grammys will be handed out February 8th in the Los Angeles. Back to you guys.

COSTELLO: OK. So we'll wait for Mariah Carey and we'll get back to you when Mariah Carey is there in person.

ANDERSON: Sounds good. Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Thanks, Brooke. Appreciate it. Coming up, more on those bitter cold temperatures all across the U.S. Is the brutal weather about to blow into your neighborhood? Stay with us for more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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