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Thousands Killed in Indonesian Earthquake; Controversy Surrounds FBI Raid of Congressman's Office

Aired May 29, 2006 - 07:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: U.S. military headquarters under a lockdown right now in Kabul, Afghanistan. Riots are raging after a military convoy was involved in a fatal traffic accident.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Relief workers and supplies streaming into Indonesia now. The death toll rises. The survivors scared to sleep inside and all eyes on a rumbling volcano.


Senator Frist has had a change of heart about that controversial raid of a congressman's office. Some Republicans charge it's because Frist wants to live right here at the White House after 2008. That story, coming up.


While the Iraq War continues to be fought with all its controversy, many here at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial are still fighting the wounds of that war. That's coming up.

M. O'BRIEN: Good morning to you.

I'm Miles O'Brien.

S. O'BRIEN: And I'm Soledad O'Brien.

We start this morning with that major earthquake in Indonesia. The American military sending a contingent of doctors and nurses to help thousands of people who are injured. Relief workers and supplies from all over the world are now streaming to the area. Right now, the death toll stands at 5,136. Hospitals are overflowing with the injured, more than 800,000 at last count. And it's estimated that as many as 100,0000 people have been left homeless.

The quake was centered in the southern part of the island of Java, near Mount Merapi, the active volcano we've been watching.

CNN's Dan Rivers reports from the Bantul region of Indonesia.

DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The death toll in this earthquake is climbing ever higher, passing the 5,000 figure now.

I've been up to the hospital, the main hospital here in Yogyakarta, and have seen some truly awful scenes. There are literally hundreds of people lining every single inch of space in the hospital. There is a makeshift ward that's been erected out in the parking lot. We were told that there were 500 people awaiting urgent operations, that there are 1,700 people there for treatment in a hospital that only has a capacity for 750 patients.

They have critical shortages of basic medical supplies. They haven't got any painkillers there, from what we saw. They say they haven't got enough bandages, that they haven't got any antibiotics.

We spoke to one young man who had a really nasty leg fracture and he'd been waiting out in the parking lot for two days to be seen by a doctor and he still hadn't received any painkillers for the pain of his broken leg.

We saw another woman having a minor operation outside. We saw people who had broken pelvises, head injuries. So a really grizzly scene up at the local hospital. And this is just one of four hospitals in Yogyakarta, all of them utterly overwhelmed as the thousands of survivors who have been injured in this earthquake flood in.

Dan Rivers, CNN, Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

S. O'BRIEN: You can help in the relief effort. Donations can be made to the Red Cross at 1-800-RED-CROSS or, or, 1-800-4- UNICEF or on the Web at

M. O'BRIEN: coming up later on AMERICAN MORNING, we'll talk to a relief worker who is on the ground there in Indonesia.

S. O'BRIEN: let's turn now to Washington, D.C.

The Bush administration about to get a little backing on the Hill.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is expected to stand behind the FBI's decision to raid Congressman William Jefferson's Capitol Hill office as part of a bribery investigation.

CNN White House correspondent Ed Henry joins us this morning -- hey, Ed, good morning to you.

HENRY: Good morning, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: First of all, let's talk -- raid or search?

HENRY: Well, you know, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow corrected me last week and said it was not a raid. So I rephrased the question as a "visit."

I mean, the bottom line is that officials here say, in fact, it was a raid. They had a search warrant. They spent some 18 hours in Congressman Jefferson's office.

And right now, as you noted, one key Senate leader has changed his tune, giving the White House some support at a time when the controversy over this raid just keeps growing.


HENRY (voice-over): Senate Majority Bill Frist broke with senior House Republicans, declaring the raid of Democratic Congressman William Jefferson's office was OK.

SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: There is no individual in the House or Senate that can be or should stand above the law. It's a matter of how the law enforcement is carried out and I think it is appropriate, as I see it today.

HENRY: Different from what Frist said at the beginning of the confrontation.

FRIST: The Constitution has a speech and debate clause in it, and the whole idea of separation of powers does need to be addressed. So I remain concerned.

HENRY: While the Frist camp denies it, a senior Republican strategist charged the change of heart is "all about Bill Frist running for president afraid of a public backlash from standing up for a congressman under a cloud."

House Republicans insist they are not excusing the conduct of Congressman Jefferson, accused of keeping $90,000 in bribes in his home freezer.

REP. JAMES SENSENBRENNER (R-WI) JUDICIARY CHAIRMAN: I don't think that it would be right for a House committee to issue a subpoena to the president's office and send the Capitol police rummaging through files, taking everything and then deciding what wasn't relevant by themselves and returning it to the president. And that's what the Capitol -- what the FBI did in Congressman Jefferson's office two weeks ago. Separation of powers and checks and balances is very important.

HENRY: CNN has confirmed three top Bush officials -- Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, FBI Director Robert Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty -- threatened to resign if the president forced them to give the documents back to Congress. The president defused the tension somewhat by ordering a 45-day freeze on the documents while the legal issues are sorted out.


HENRY: The heat is still on the White House, with Congressman Sensenbrenner planning a Tuesday hearing entitled "Reckless Justice: Did The Saturday Night Raid of Congress Trample the Constitution?" Based on that title, it doesn't seem like the House Republicans are backing down anytime soon -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Wow!

I was going to say, it starts with reckless justice and then we're going to discuss the issue. Huh, yes. I think they've already made up their minds, at least those House Republicans.

Ed Henry for us this morning.

Ed, thanks.

HENRY: Thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: we're going to get some perspective on all of this in the next hour when we talk to the former U.S. attorney general, Richard Thornburg, and also George Washington Law School's Jonathan Turley -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: A developing story out of Afghanistan this morning. Dozens of Taliban militants are believed dead in a coalition air strike in southern Afghanistan. The strike took place just a couple of hours ago. That just shortly after a U.S. military in Kabul was locked down in the midst of widespread rioting and gunfire in Kabul.

CNN's Barbara Starr is there -- Barbara, first of all, let's talk about that rioting.

What prompted the rioting and gunfire in Kabul?

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Miles, it was early this morning, about 8:00 local time on the ground here.

A U.S. military convoy was involved in a traffic accident in Kabul involving many vehicles. And apparently one Afghan civilian was killed, at least one, and several people were injured.

The military personnel tried to render medical assistance and get help to people, but it all erupted into basically rioting and gunfire for the last many hours across the city, people becoming very upset. They have been a lot of reports, a lot of rumors today. The U.S. military saying a short time ago that, indeed, there were indications that at least one U.S. soldier fired his .50 caliber machine gun-into the air. All of that now under investigation.

but as a result of this car accident and as a result of people being very upset and this rioting breaking out -- rocks were thrown at U.S. military personnel. Afghan national police arrived on the scene. There was basic disorder in many parts of the city today, reports of protesters reaching a television station completed. That TV station going off the air.

What has happened is here at Camp Eggers, where we are, the headquarters for the military coalition, about five hours ago, the camp went into lockdown -- nobody leaving the camp. All military personnel on base. No one is traveling through the city. They are -- they are accounting for everyone. Everyone is here. We are perfectly fine. Everything is very stable, of course, here on the base.

But even from our rooftop location here on the military compound, we can continue to hear sporadic gunfire across the city.

A couple of hours ago, there was smoke rising in the air and there continue to be these reports, as you say, of riots breaking out across Kabul -- Miles, all of this very, very unusual in the City of Kabul. There has been violence in the south of the country, out in the east. There have certainly been some IEDs, some suicide bombers. But nothing like what is happening today in Kabul, nothing like this sporadic gunfire across wide areas of the city -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Barbara, if there's a lockdown there and they're telling everybody to stay inside the camp, are there any U.S. troops on the streets of Kabul trying to quell all of this? Or is that being left to the Afghan authorities?

STARR: No, let's be very clear. You raise an excellent point, Miles.

Because of the lockdown situation, U.S. military personnel who might be traveling around the city on a variety of activities -- convoys going to various places, going to meet with Afghan government officials -- none of that is taking place for the last many hours. All U.S. military personnel are in lockdown.

But for the actual security of the City of Kabul, that is, number one, in the hands of the Afghan security forces, the Afghan national police. No one expects them to be able to handle it totally on their own. So NATO, of course, has forces here. The International Security Assistance Force, NATO ISAF, led by a British commander here on the ground. And they are in charge of the basic security around the City of Kabul. And there is certainly assistance ongoing at this hour between NATO forces and Afghan forces. I think it would be safe to say that everyone who leaves at this point is probably better protected (ph) to have Afghan forces in the major visible position on the streets of Kabul.

People are very upset in the city and I think it would be safe to conclude they probably want to see their own security forces at this point -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Barbara Starr in Kabul.

Thank you very much.

To Iraq now.

U.S. troops under fire in Baghdad. On this Memorial Day. An American Humvee hit a roadside bomb during an ambush earlier this morning. No word on casualties there. The attack just one of several bombings and shootings in the city today. At least 34 have been killed.

Around the country today, the U.S. that is, Americans honoring troops killed in the line of duty. This morning, the president and Mrs. Bush will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, Arlington National Cemetery. But Americans have been paying tribute to the troops all weekend, of course.

AMERICAN MORNING'S Bob Franken is at the place they call simply "The Wall," the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial in Washington. And Allan Chernoff is here in New York. Here on the deck of the aircraft carrier the USS Intrepid for what they call Fleet Week here.

We begin with Bob and "Rolling Thunder."

He'll explain what motorcycles have to do with all of this -- hello, Bob.


The "Rolling Thunder" motorcyclists have become part of the tradition of this Memorial Day. They are people from the Vietnam generation, largely, who roll in on their motorcycles to pay tribute to the casualties of the U.S. wars.

Not only that, this particular memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, has taken on a particularly poignancy because this is a war that many people are now comparing the Iraq War to because of the fact that there is a fear that there is going to be a loss, a loss of support among the American people for the war in Iraq, as was one of the contributing factors of the lack of success in Vietnam.

Of course, there are some tremendous differences. The first name on this wall came in 1959. His death in Vietnam came in 1959; the last in 1975.

There are 58,249 names on this wall with the additions today. The war in Iraq has claimed 2,464 -- 2,464 American lives.

But this has been a week to remember, particularly for those who have the sad memories here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've got men on that wall that lost their lives for my freedom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That wall isn't just a memorial -- a tourist attraction. It's a memorial.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a monument to my brothers that died and are mission in action.

TOM TITUS, VIETNAM VETERAN: I have 176 names on one panel. And my best friend is on panel three west. He died in my arms. One of the guys on my team who right now faces the fallen down here and my son's portrait is there. He wanted to carry on in the family tradition, as he put it, or we read the last letter at his funeral, his simple statement was before I could take advantage of the freedoms that have been given to me, that have been fought for, I have to earn them myself.

UNIDENTIFIED MILITARY OFFICIAL: Thank you so much for giving of your life and giving of your time so that we today can sit and stand in this amphitheater free. Free. Free. May we never forget. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You probably want to forget about Vietnam and we'd like to forget about Vietnam, but it's something I'll never, ever be able to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I come up here every -- at least once a year and sometimes more than that just to let them know that I still know they're alive. We were doing what we thought was right. History will say we did or history will say we didn't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whether the war was right or wrong is immaterial. It's not up for debate anymore. We were there, we did a job and my brothers died and we need to honor them.


FRANKEN: And an update with the four names added to this wall. The figure is now 58,253, the Vietnam War in this era of the war in Iraq. The Vietnam War, which officially ended 31 years ago, is still a raw wound -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Bob Franken for us this morning.

Bob, thanks.

M. O'BRIEN: Let's go to New York City now.

CNN's Allan Chernoff is there for what they call Fleet Week -- hello, Allan.

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Miles.

And this such an inspiring place to be for Memorial Day. There is so much history here on the Intrepid. Of course, the Intrepid commissioned during World War II. And behind me you see just a few of the so many exhibits here.

Not only did the Intrepid serve very valiantly during World War II, but also through the cold war. And it also served as a recovery aircraft for the -- for NASA space flights.

But behind me, just a few examples. These are cold war-era reconnaissance planes and you see that the wings are folded, which is so interesting to a lot of folks who haven't served in the military. But, of course, that because this is an aircraft carrier and you can store more planes that way.

One of these is an E1B tracer, an airborne radar platform. And the other a reconnaissance plane for tracking enemy subs. They both served off of the Intrepid in the late '50s and into the early '70s.

Later today, we will have the ceremony here honoring the fallen. We'll have a wreath ceremony, four wreaths, actually. We'll also have the playing of "Taps," a 21-gun-salute and flying overhead we'll also have aircraft in the missing man formation.

So certain to have a very inspiring ceremony here aboard the Intrepid. Also, this happens, of course, as you mentioned, Miles, to be during Fleet Week here in New York.

M. O'BRIEN: Allan Chernoff there on the Intrepid.

Thank you very much -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: I love Fleet Week. Fleet Week is so much fun.

M. O'BRIEN: It is really exciting.

S. O'BRIEN: It is.

M. O'BRIEN: Watching those ships go down the Hudson in the day.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, it's beautiful.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: and then, of course, you see all the sailors to come on board and hang out in the city.

M. O'BRIEN: The Blue Angels the other day.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, that's great fun.

M. O'BRIEN: It's fun.

S. O'BRIEN: And the weather has been absolutely perfect for it -- Rob Marciano, good work.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Oh, yes, I take full credit.

We take full credit for it.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes. Sure.

MARCIANO: We'll see you later on today when -- when it may be raining, actually, in New York City.

Just a small chance of that.

Here's what's happening, Soledad, on the radar scope.


M. O'BRIEN: Still to come this Memorial Day, Joint Chiefs Chairman General Peter Pace will join us for a Memorial Day interview. While we pause to remember with him, we will also ask him if the military tried to cover-up an alleged atrocity in Iraq.

S. O'BRIEN: Also, an unconventional war protest in the streets of Manhattan. A group of grandmas making their voices heard. We'll tell you what they're doing.

M. O'BRIEN: And later, all in a day's work for an extraordinary surgeon. Meet a doctor willing to open up a vein to save a little boy's life. Stay with us.


S. O'BRIEN: Here in New York, a group of grandmothers are taking their anti-war stances to the streets. They're handing out pamphlets, advice, too; even going to jail for their beliefs.

CNN's senior United Nations correspondent, Richard Roth, spoke with some of these anti-war grannies.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Bring the troops home now -- alive!

RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You don't normally hear anti-war chants along New York's toney Fifth Avenue, let alone from a bunch of grandmothers.


ROTH: They started with four people two-and-a-half years ago. Now, Grandmothers Against the War are in full roar. They demonstrate at least once a week.

JENNY HEINZ, GRANDMOTHERS AGAINST THE WAR: We went to war on an illegal -- on a lie, really.

ROTH: There are similar granny brigades elsewhere, in the U.S. and around the world. Joan Wile started the New York group, now grown to about 20 regulars.

JOAN WILE, GRANDMOTHERS AGAINST THE WAR: There's something magical about the word grandmother. We're -- we have authority. We have wisdom. We're kind. And people maybe are more likely to think our message is authentic rather than a bunch of kooky kids.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's the way. That's the way.

ROTH: Sometimes passersby offer displays of support. But this is a city where even visitors are warned to avoid eye contact. War veterans don't see eye to eye.

Bill O'Connor served in Vietnam.

BILL O'CONNOR, LONG ISLAND RESIDENT: My son was in Iraq and I believe in what we're doing there. I think we've got to fight the terrorists over there or they'll be over here. And everything else is just baloney.

ROTH: Nobody in this demonstration has relatives serving in Iraq. But the protesters call themselves universal grandmothers with a worldwide message.

WILE: It represents, to me, letting other people around the world know that there is a resistance to the war.

ROTH: Eighteen grannies were recently arrested at a Times Square rally.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: Since you have refused to leave this area, I am ordering your arrest on the charge of disorderly conduct.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Hands off the grannies!

ROTH: Thirty years ago, many of these women were in the streets against the Vietnam War.

(on camera): Where were you demonstrating against the Vietnam, then? Where was that?

UNIDENTIFIED GRANDMOTHER: Well, I wasn't a grandmother then.

ROTH: Were you smoking marijuana at that time? What -- what were you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED GRANDMOTHER: Was I? No. I'm smoking it now.

ROTH (voice-over): In the shadows of St. Patrick's Cathedral and across from Saks Fifth Avenue, the grandmothers have become a hip tourist attraction.

UNIDENTIFIED TOURIST: Well, I think this is a good idea because everyone was against the war.

ROTH: And they've got New Yorkers talking.

UNIDENTIFIED NEW YORKER: I think grandmothers are good.

ROTH (on camera): Before you're one?

UNIDENTIFIED NEW YORKER: Yes. Go grandmothers!

UNIDENTIFIED NEW YORKER: No, I think the war was definitely the right thing to do.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I think this is sort of a good idea because Bush is kind of a...

UNIDENTIFIED NEW YORKER: This is New York City. Everyone from all over the world comes to New York City. We all have a right to be on Fifth Avenue, darling. And if it's not on your shoulder, then it's in your heart.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Bring the troops home now -- alive!

ROTH (voice-over): Richard Roth, CNN, New York.


M. O'BRIEN: Still to come on the program, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, will be our guest. We'll ask him if the U.S. military is losing control in Afghanistan and whether there was a cover-up after Marines took retaliation on civilians in Iraq last year, on this Memorial Day.

But first, Andy minding your business. How much is it going to cost you to take that summer vacation this year?

We'll tell you, ahead.


S. O'BRIEN: If you're traveling on this Memorial Day weekend, great news. You're on vacation. Bad news -- you're going to pay a lot more.

Andy Serwer is minding your business this morning -- good morning.

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Good morning, Soledad.

And the big news here also is, is that Americans are not deterred by higher gas prices. In fact, travel is up slightly over this holiday weekend. Almost 38 million Americans are going to be hitting the road. You can see that there. And it's up slightly. Even with gas prices up $0.75, to about $2.93 a gallon, people are still out there. And 84 percent of you all are traveling by car.

Now, gasoline prices are up 34 percent and rental car prices up, too. Of course, that's the gas prices factored in there. Air fare, again, gas prices. Hotels? I guess they're just able to do that because...

S. O'BRIEN: They just glom on.

SERWER: ... they just do it because people are traveling.

On average, the Americans are going to be spending about $30 to $50 more on gasoline per trip this summer. And, you know, if you're taking a bunch of trips, that will really, really add up.

S. O'BRIEN: I wonder at what point that number becomes the number that makes people not go on vacation.

SERWER: It's so important, though...

S. O'BRIEN: It's clearly not $50.

SERWER: ... I mean psychically, to just get away.

S. O'BRIEN: Preaching to the choir.

SERWER: You know?

S. O'BRIEN: I hear you.

SERWER: I mean I'd pay $100 more and I think a lot of other people would, too.

Now, one little side note here to tell you about.

If you're traveling by air and going to the airports, be advised parking is very, very difficult. And that's because air traffic is at a very, very high level right now.

For instance, Dallas/Fort Worth has the most parking spaces of any airport, 42,000 spots. And they say they get filled up. Denver, 38,000 spots. Minneapolis/St. Paul, for instance, makes $70 million a year, the airport, on parking. So...

S. O'BRIEN: It doesn't surprise me at all.

SERWER: ... it's a lot of money.

And listen to this. This is a great one.

Which airport has the highest per day fees?

S. O'BRIEN: New York City's LaGuardia.





SERWER: Thirty-eight dollars a day to park in Philadelphia.

S. O'BRIEN: Wow!



SERWER: You can just drive somewhere.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, absolutely.

SERWER: I mean forget it.

S. O'BRIEN: Park in Manhattan and take the train and you'll be fine.

SERWER: Yes, right.

Yes, that's it.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, Andy, thanks.

SERWER: Thanks, Soledad.

M. O'BRIEN: While gas prices could cause some planned summer vacations to be downsized a little bit, there are still plenty of great family vacation values.

Pauline Frommer of Frommer's Travel Guide will join us in our next hour to sort out the deals for u.

Coming up, big wildfires lead to evacuations in the West. We'll tell you where the worst of it is.

And later, a surgeon who gave a little boy the gift of life, giving his own blood right in the middle of performing surgery on that little boy.

Stay with us.



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