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AMERICAN MORNING

New Information on CIA Leak at White House; Significance of This Week's Elections in Iraq

Aired December 12, 2005 - 08:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning.
I'm Soledad O'Brien.

New information this morning on the CIA leak at the White House. Is Karl Rove implicated? we're going to take you live to Washington ahead.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

I'm Miles O'Brien.

New elections just days away in Iraq, but security there may not be tough enough. We have a live report from Baghdad for you.

S. O'BRIEN: And airline safety -- will new rules about carry-on items get the final OK? We're going to talk with the former homeland security secretary -- Under Secretary Asa Hutchinson.

That's just ahead this morning on AMERICAN MORNING.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, and when we get Asa Hutchinson on, we're going to ask him about those scissors, because everybody wants to know about the scissor thing.

S. O'BRIEN: Right. I mean why certain scissors on, longer scissors not; why certain wrenches on, certain wrenches not.

M. O'BRIEN: There'll be a hearing on that today and we'll talk to him about that as well as some of the things that have been happening on the airplanes. Over the weekend in Hawaii, there was an odd event where a passenger may have made his way toward the cockpit door. And, you know, lots of concerns about flying.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes. I don't think any of those concerns have been resolved...

M. O'BRIEN: No.

S. O'BRIEN: ... certainly from 9/11.

First, though, a look at our top story.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, let's do that.

Is the prosecutor in the CIA leak case getting closer to presidential adviser Karl Rove? That's at the top of the agenda this morning.

Testimony from "Time" magazine reporter Viveca Novak that's perhaps getting us closer to answer on all of this.

AMERICAN MORNING'S Bob Franken has been following this one every step of the way.

He joins us from our Washington bureau -- any likelihood, Bob, there will be some decisions this week from the special prosecutor?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Entirely possible. The special prosecutor seems to have put in some of the pieces of the puzzle that had remained, in his mind, before he could solve the question of whether the top presidential adviser, Karl Rove, would be indicted. It's hard to remember anymore that this was an investigation into the disclosure of Valerie Plame, the wife of an administration critic, of whether the disclosures were illegal because she was classified -- was an undercover CIA operative until there was a report on it.

But now the figure here is Viveca Novak. She is a "Time" magazine reporter, a college of Matthew Cooper, who told the grand jury last summer that Karl Rove had told him about Valerie Plame.

But at an earlier meeting with Rove's lawyer, Bob Luskin, who is a friend, Novak said the following: "I remember Luskin looking at me and saying something to the effect of 'Karl doesn't have a Cooper problem. He was not a source for Matt.' I responded instinctively, thinking he was trying to spin me, and said something like, 'Are you sure about that? That's not what I hear around "Time."'"

Now, this was in a "Time" magazine article that Novak has written for this week's edition after she gave a sworn statement on Friday and after Bob Luskin had given a sworn statement. All of this because Luskin, at the last minute, went to the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, and said this might reinforce the case that Karl Rove had a faulty memory, was not intentionally lying about his contacts with Matthew Cooper.

It is a very tangled web. There is every expectation to believe that Fitzgerald may be close to go back to the grand jury, a new grand jury, and make his decision on whether he'll seek an indictment -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: OK. First of all, we probably should clarify for viewers that Ms. Novak is not related to Bob Novak, which is where this whole thing began...

FRANKEN: She has a new nickname now...

M. O'BRIEN: Strange coincidence there.

FRANKEN: ... no relation Novak.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes. Exactly.

And what about her right now? She's on leave from "Time" magazine.

What happens next?

FRANKEN: Well, because she had not told her superiors at "Time" magazine about these contacts and had not told about contacts subsequent to that with the special prosecutor, she now has a leave of absence. Her bosses say that they're not happy with her and that they're going to wait a while, "take a deep breath" before everybody decides what to do.

M. O'BRIEN: I guess the moral there is when in doubt, tell the boss in these situations.

FRANKEN: Yes, I guess so.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

All right, Bob, thank you very much.

Bob Franken -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: In Iraq today, voting in the all important parliamentary elections already underway. Patients and soldiers and prisoners can vote ahead of time. The rest of Iraqis will vote on Thursday.

Aneesh Raman live for us in Baghdad -- good morning to you, Aneesh.

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.

The rest of the Iraqis will going to the polls on Thursday for the last time this year. And compared to the two previous votes, this is easily the most consequential.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

RAMAN (voice-over): From the campaign ads...

(VIDEO CLIP FROM CAMPAIGN AD)

RAMAN: ... to the posters blanketing the streets, it is a political battle as vicious as it is slick, with an electorate aware of the stakes.

ISMAIL ZAYER, EDITOR, "AL SABAH" NEWSPAPER: This is not like before. They have to go to vote because those guys will stand on their neck for the next four years.

RAMAN: Twice before, Iraqis went to the polls this year. In January it was largely symbolic, holding up ink-stained fingers, defying insurgent threats. But the actual vote was for a transitional government that, from the start, was lame duck, in power for mere months.

In October, a referendum on an incomplete constitution, a document set to go forward in another vote next year. But this time, the very definition of the new Iraq will be decided. With 275 seats up for grabs in the first permanent national assembly and no one party set to get an outright win, the next prime minister will come down to who forms the largest coalition.

Will it be Ayad Allawi, keen to see a secular Iraq? To form a viable coalition and, in turn, get the top spot, he needs to win around 60 seats and gain Sunni and Kurdish support.

Or will it be the current Shia alliance, set to get the lion's share of seats? They would make Iraq more theocratic, make Iran more of a friend than simply a neighbor.

And then there is the Sunni minority, who make up the backbone of Iraq's insurgency but who are also entering the political fray for the first time.

ZAYER: If Sunnis come and approve -- they're coming proves that it works, it means there will be very little people who will continue shooting and killing.

RAMAN: There is a lot riding on this election -- the potential for reducing the number of foreign troops, the chance to solidify a stable democracy and the responsibility to make the everyday lives of Iraqis more livable.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

RAMAN: So all of that on the line as the some 15.3 million registered voters go to the polls on Thursday.

S. O'BRIEN: Let me ask you, Aneesh, about the time line. Give us a sort of 101 of how it's going to work.

RAMAN: Sure.

You've got the vote on Thursday. Iraq's electoral commission saying a minimum, essentially, of two weeks before those votes are certified, before we have the breakdown of the numbers in terms of how many seats each party got.

And then, Soledad, expect weeks of political wrangling, horse trading like we saw earlier this year -- perhaps even a few months -- before a coalition is formed. They need 184 seats in that coalition of the 275. Then we'll know who the country's prime minister could be.

So well into next year before we know who's going to be running this country, perhaps -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: A lot could happen between now and then.

Aneesh Raman with an update for us.

Aneesh, thanks.

Special coverage of this turning point in Iraq is going to come from "ANDERSON COOPER 360."

He's live all week, beginning tonight, 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

Coming up in about three hours from now, we're going to hear from President Bush. He's speaking about Iraq. It's his third in a series of speeches. And you can see that speech right here on CNN. It starts at 11:15 a.m. Eastern time.

M. O'BRIEN: And as they run up toward those elections, there's a story this morning you'll want to know about in Iraq -- Carol has that.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: I do.

Good morning, Miles.

And good morning to all of you.

Iraqi and U.S. military officials are reporting new signs of prisoner abuse. Details appear in the "Washington Post" and in the "New York Times." Sources cite electric shocks and broken bones. The Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights has confirmed overcrowding and medical problems, but does not directly address any reported abuse or torture.

In the meantime, a deadline has passed for four Christian peace workers taken captive last month. An American is among those held. An Islamic militant group said it would kill the Westerners on Saturday, but there's no new word for the hostage takers. That video you were seeing of that man in shackles, one of the hostages.

Syria is denying any involvement in a morning car bombing in Beirut. The blast killed at least four people, including an outspoken critic of Syria. The attack comes as U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has received a new report on the February killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. It's expected to point a finger at Syria.

Will California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger be a lifeline for a convicted killer, Stanley "Tookie" Williams? Williams, who co- founded the Crips street gang, is scheduled to be executed just after midnight. His supporters are hoping Governor Schwarzenegger will grant him clemency.

Williams was convicted of killing four people in 1979.

Since being on death row, Williams has written several anti-gang books for children.

And there are reports of more violence today in Sydney, Australia. Police have arrested at least 16 people after race riots left more than 30 hurt. They say drunken mobs of white men had been yelling racial slurs at men of Arab descent.

Let's talk about the movies now, because you probably went to the movies this past weekend. I know, one fantasy movie has replaced another. Disney's "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" debuted and took in more than $67 million. The top film for the previous two weekends has been the Harry Potter movie. It was third at the box office this weekend. The drama "Syriana" opened at second.

Let's head to the forecast center now and check in with Bonnie Schneider -- good morning.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, ATS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Carol.

(WEATHER REPORT)

M. O'BRIEN: Coming up on the program, we continue our series on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Today, you'll meet a soldier whose life spun out of control when he came home from Iraq.

What's being done to help him and others like him?

S. O'BRIEN: Also this morning, more on this week's elections in Iraq.

Could violence derail the vote?

We're going to take a closer look.

M. O'BRIEN: And later, after a couple of airport security scares, is it too risky to start letting scissors and other sharp objects on board again?

That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: Look at it there, right there, President Bush speaking this morning. Beginning at 11:15 a.m. Eastern time, we're going to hear from the president. It is the third in a series of speeches he is making about Iraq as we near the Iraqi elections.

And, in fact, the borders in Iraq closed. A nightly curfew is in place. Early voting is already underway for the crucial parliamentary elections. Officials are hoping that all these precautions will boost voter turnout.

Ken Pollack is from the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution.

He's in Washington this morning.

Nice to see you, as always, Ken.

KEN POLLACK, SABAN CENTER , BROOKINGS INSTITUTION, FORMER CIA ANALYST: Thanks, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Thanks for being with us.

Borders closed, severe security restrictions.

Under all of that, do you think Iraqi forces can really maintain control in a leadership way?

POLLACK: Well, look, Soledad, you can never know what's going on in the heads of the terrorists. You never know what kind of plans they've come up with. And you also don't know what they may have learned in the past. Obviously, they've seen these kind of lockdowns before. They may be planning against them.

That said, what we've seen in the past is that when U.S. and Iraqi forces make this kind of an all out effort to impose security for a day for voting, they actually tent to do very well. And beyond that, you've also got a number of very important Sunni leaders who have said let's not protest the election, let's go ahead and participate. It's very important for our future, as well.

All of that would seem to suggest that we're likely to see a reasonably low level of violence, which is pretty good for Iraq.

S. O'BRIEN: That being said, it could really bring a decent sized Sunni turnout to the elections. But many people are predicting that that could have a huge impact on the violence.

Do you think that's true?

POLLACK: Sure. Well, the fact that you've got Sunnis participating should have -- lessen the violence, at least on that day.

I think the beginner question is whether the big Sunni turnout and participation in the new government is going to have a lasting impact on violence. And there, I think, you know, it's a much more dicey proposition.

First, there are a lot of Sunni groups that are looking to this election to give them real power in Iraq. And if they don't get that power, if a new government gets formed up, as Aneesh Raman was saying, in the next few months and it doesn't include a large number of Sunnis in it, the Sunnis may calculate that, you know, in fact, it doesn't pay for them to participate in elections, because even when they participate, they don't wind up in power.

S. O'BRIEN: The vote is to pick a 275-member parliament and then eventually it's going to pick the leader of the government. It could be Ayad Allawi. It could be Chalabi at some point.

What's the U.S. stake in this?

POLLACK: Well, the U.S. obviously wants to see a good election with lots of participation that creates a stable Iraqi government that is -- and here's the big one -- that is able to do things. The biggest problem that the U.S. has had over the past two-and-a-half years, from America's perspective, from Washington's perspective, is that you've had Iraqi governments that were unable to actually come through with anything.

In particular, this current government, the transitional government under Ibrahim al-Jaafari, has been accused by any number of people of just not being able to follow through on anything that it proposes.

S. O'BRIEN: Let's talk a little bit about the Iraqi abuse allegations. You've heard about these new allegations. I read about them in the "New York Times" today and the "Washington Post," too.

What kind of an impact do these allegations have?

And I don't mean on the elections coming up in days, but I mean a big picture impact.

POLLACK: They're potentially huge, Soledad, because they're exactly the kind of violence against Sunnis that, frankly, many Sunnis have been fearing, and particularly the Sunni tribesmen who are the main supporters of the insurgency itself. They've -- their fear has been that once the Shia and the Kurds get into power, particularly the Shia, that they will abuse and oppress them exactly the way that Saddam's Sunni regime oppressed and abused the Shia for all of these years.

And so this looks like manifest proof that the Shia are planning to do it. It's, again, one of those reasons why this future government is very important to the future stability of Iraq. This is a moment when Sunnis are saying let's participate, let's see if we can accomplish our goals, prevent these Shia chauvinists from hurting us, as these groups, the various groups have so far. Let's see if we can do that through this electoral process because...

S. O'BRIEN: If they can't stop the Iraqi -- the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners by Iraqis, I've got to imagine that's going to have an impact, too, on American interests in participating.

POLLACK: Sure. It's going to be very hard for the United States to continue to participate and work hand in glove with an Iraqi government if it is seen as increasingly being responsible of gross human rights violations.

S. O'BRIEN: Ken Pollack from the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution.

Always nice to see you.

Thanks for talking with us, Ken.

POLLACK: Thank you, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Coming up next, time for some candy, our online gift guide. Today we've got some great gifts for folks who are lacking in a little culture. We're not talking about you, necessarily, but you might want to tune in nonetheless. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: I had a little too much Pete Fountain in my ear there. I had to turn it down just a little bit. And I'm told Dannielle can't hear the music, so I'm just...

DANNIELLE ROMANO, DAILYCANDY.COM: I mean it's like my soundtrack so I can -- as I'm walking through the streets I can always kind of hear it...

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, just imagine a licorice stick...

ROMANO: But, you know, I don't have that...

M. O'BRIEN: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

ROMANO: It was never too much.

M. O'BRIEN: Anyway, Dannielle Romano -- those of you, viewers, you know her by now -- Dailycandy.com. And after all of this time doing sites, it's time we got a little culture in here, if you know what I mean.

Right?

ROMANO: I thought we needed -- yes.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

ROMANO: We need to clean up our acts.

M. O'BRIEN: This...

ROMANO: We're halfway through, I think, Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Let's...

ROMANO: I hate to tell you it's all downhill from here.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

ROMANO: We have, what, 12 days left?

M. O'BRIEN: Well, so this is a good day. We're right at the summit...

ROMANO: This is the mid-point and...

M. O'BRIEN: We'll do the culture thing and then we'll start slipping downhill.

ROMANO: ... at the highest point, so we're going high brow.

M. O'BRIEN: That's great. ROMANO: So whether you have a crass uncle or a rough and tumble brother or cousin who needs a little sort of cleaning up...

M. O'BRIEN: Yes?

ROMANO: ... these are the gifts you need to think about. Or maybe you have a very cultured uncle, something, you know, just the opposite, you're afraid, you're intimidated. How can I get them something fabulous enough?

This is what you need to know.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes. OK.

ROMANO: And this is the gift that keeps on giving.

M. O'BRIEN: So resist the temptation to give him a 12-pack. Go here?

ROMANO: Right.

M. O'BRIEN: OK. Yes.

ROMANO: Which could be hilarious, but this is the gift that keeps on giving because your holiday dinner table conversation is going to be much better than like discussing "Us Weekly" covers. So let's...

M. O'BRIEN: Are you kidding? That's high brow. What are you talking about?

ROMANO: OK, well...

M. O'BRIEN: All right, mixed greens it is.

ROMANO: Mixedgreens.com is your answer to approachable, affordable art.

M. O'BRIEN: All right.

ROMANO: You can learn about young, up and coming and fabulous artists. They give you biographical information. It's really an educational site, but you can buy gift certificates. You can buy the work right online. And it's incredibly affordable for what it is.

So, a good foray...

M. O'BRIEN: Well, you know, let me ask you this...

ROMANO: ... into the modern art world.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, but would you really buy art like this...

ROMANO: Sure.

M. O'BRIEN: ... on the Web? ROMANO: Yes.

M. O'BRIEN: Would you do that? Really?

ROMANO: They make it really easy to see and understand.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

ROMANO: And some of these artists are gaining renown so you might have heard of them.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

ROMANO: You know, this uncle of yours actually is into culture, you would have -- he might have mentioned Laya Tanari (ph), who is a famous artist that they keep. So...

M. O'BRIEN: I couldn't bring up any of them. They didn't come up. So anyway...

ROMANO: It's OK.

M. O'BRIEN: ... the point is -- part of it is texture. You sort of have to see it to fully appreciate it.

ROMANO: This is true.

M. O'BRIEN: You don't get that on the Web. But...

ROMANO: Well, a gift certificate might be more appropriate.

M. O'BRIEN: There you go.

ROMANO: They have a gallery in New York, so someone could take a fabulous trip to see the stuff up close.

But I think it works pretty well on the Web.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, books. Books, instead of just, you know, knee jerk going to Amazon or whatever, this is something a little different.

ROMANO: You know...

M. O'BRIEN: Tell me about this.

ROMANO: Booksoup.com.

M. O'BRIEN: Booksoup.

ROMANO: So the big book retailers are great. You can find everything. But what about -- what about a little guidance?

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

ROMANO: Like what is something that they're going to take to their book club and really be the smart one who's like let's read "Island of the Day Before" by Umberto Eco.

M. O'BRIEN: Umberto, nice.

ROMANO: These are...

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

ROMANO: They also have this really cool Booksoup treasures section...

M. O'BRIEN: Right.

ROMANO: ... where you can get rare limited edition stuff. So...

M. O'BRIEN: "Frank Lloyd Wright's Selected Drawings."

ROMANO: ... for the bibliophile...

M. O'BRIEN: "Volume 3."

ROMANO: I didn't even know the word bibliophile before this.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes. I needed that. I needed that book, yes.

ROMANO: So, it is a good alternative for someone who wants to be a little more literate.

M. O'BRIEN: "The Splendor of Iran," another book. That would be a winner under the Christmas tree, "The Splendor of Iran."

ROMANO: An invaluable source of reference.

M. O'BRIEN: Undoubtedly.

All right, now...

ROMANO: Talk about a thrilling dinner table conversation.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes. All right, so now, you know, if you're into music, this is not a download place, though.

ROMANO: It's not a download. It's...

M. O'BRIEN: This is kind of old-fashioned. As a matter of fact, some of them, they have L.P.s. Remember those, kids?

ROMANO: Pretty cool, right?

M. O'BRIEN: L.P.s. I mentioned that to my kids. They had no idea what I was talking about.

ROMANO: They were like what the heck are you talking about?

M. O'BRIEN: What is that? Yes.

ROMANO: This is for the real music lover and it's, again, a great place to learn and discover. You might even pick something up. They have all sorts of the Indy rap the kids are into.

M. O'BRIEN: And you can sample it with real audio.

ROMANO: You can sample it and you can -- I think their descriptions are so vivid and witty that you can't help but think oh, I bet they'd really like that. They do a lot of comparisons like if they like this, they'll like this.

And, yes, people still like CDs, so...

M. O'BRIEN: It's too bad you can't download, though. That would be nice. It would be a nice thing.

ROMANO: Well, I think eventually that will be something. But they can burn the CD and put it on the...

M. O'BRIEN: There you go.

ROMANO: ... put it on the MP3 player. It's (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

M. O'BRIEN: It's kind of old-fashioned, but it works.

ROMANO: You like a little nostalgia once in a while.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, Nicheflix. That's my French version.

ROMANO: I call it that, too.

M. O'BRIEN: Nicheflix.

ROMANO: Nicheflix.com...

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

ROMANO: Or Nicheflix, as you might call it.

M. O'BRIEN: Oui, oui.

ROMANO: It's like Netflix, only cooler.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

ROMANO: So get them a subscription or a gift certificate to this site.

M. O'BRIEN: And I think they're doing that on purpose. Do you think they're playing off the Netflix a little bit?

ROMANO: I think...

M. O'BRIEN: A little bit?

ROMANO: I think.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

ROMANO: But they're not fooling us, Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Now, we've got them.

ROMANO: So, you know, but...

M. O'BRIEN: Why would you want the Korean version of "Wild At Heart"...

ROMANO: Why wouldn't you?

M. O'BRIEN: ... or the Japanese version of "Papillon?"

What's the point of that?

ROMANO: If you have to ask, do I have to tell you? For the real...

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

ROMANO: ... I mean these are really sort of cinematic treasures, so stuff you can't find elsewhere.

M. O'BRIEN: Different versions.

ROMANO: Not just different versions of films we know, but it can introduce us to stuff we've never seen. So, yes, it does have a Korean version of "Black Hawk Down," but also, some foreign language...

M. O'BRIEN: So to watch that in Korean, you are at a whole new level of film appreciation, right?

ROMANO: We need -- I told you this was going to be high brow. Whoa. It's incredible.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

ROMANO: Probably, you know, the Smithsonian is going to be calling us for curatorial ideas after this.

M. O'BRIEN: Undoubtedly.

ROMANO: But lots of stuff you probably have never heard of you can find here.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, well, we know now it's downhill from here.

Dannielle Romano, Dailycandy.com.

Always a pleasure having you drop by.

ROMANO: I'm glad we enjoyed it while it lasted.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

ROMANO: Before the slow decline.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

Thanks for classing up the joint.

ROMANO: Any time.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, coming up, new airport security rules supposed to go into effect next week. That's the, you know, the scissor rule we've been telling you about. But after some recent scares, are the changes a little too risky? We'll have a closer look for you ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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