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AMERICAN MORNING

Two Deadly Car Bomb Blasts Rocked Algeria; Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Says He Will Debate President Bush; Head of the CIA Will Be Called to Capitol Hill; A Lone Gunman Was Responsible for the Two Shootings in Colorado

Aired December 11, 2007 - 08:00   ET

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


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Roberts. Good morning to you.
Breaking news this morning. Terror overseas. The United Nations a target two deadly car bomb blast rocked Algeria this morning. It's now being called a terror attack by authorities. At least 47 people are reported dead in the capital city of Algiers. The U.N. High Commission for Refugees building was one of the intended targets. The associated press is reporting a ten U.N. staff members are among the dead. The blast hurled chunks of rubble across the roads and torn the walls of at least one building.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Following the extreme weather. We've been talking about the ice storm hitting the Midwest. At least, 18 people have been killed and most of these fatalities taking place on slippery, treacherous roadways. Ice and winter storm warnings are up now Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois. And more than a half a million people, most of them at Oklahoma are without power. Trees and power lines snap under the weight of the ice.

Our Rob Marciano is tracking this storm system for us here in New York this morning with more. Are they going to get a break at some point today?

(WEATHER REPORT)

ROBERTS: Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says he will debate President Bush. CNN's Aneesh Raman asked Ahmadinejad this morning, if Iran would talk to the United States with no preconditions. Ahmadinejad said there were more issues between the two countries than just the nuclear dispute. But he cheered the newest intelligence estimate that said his country is not actively developing a nuclear weapon.

The head of the CIA will be called to Capitol Hill today to explain why video tapes of interrogations were destroyed. Michael Hayden is scheduled to testify in a closed session with the Senate Intelligence Committee. The tapes were created in 2002, destroyed in 2005. Several investigations are under way right now looking into who knew and who approved the decision, despite the objections of the White House, the Justice Department and several members of congress.

The tape showed the interrogation of two top al Qaeda members. A former CIA officer who was involved in the capture of one of them, Abu Zubaydah, and familiar with his interrogation says, waterboarding was used against him. And he says the technique broke Zubaydah in less than 35 seconds. Waterboarding makes the suspect believe that he is drowning. The agent says he didn't actually participate in the waterboarding but he believes it provided intelligence that probably saved lives.

In retrospect, he now thinks waterboarding is a form of torture. And stick around because we're going to be talking with that former agent, John Kiriakou in the next few minutes here on AMERICAN MORNING.

Taking a look now at the battle for the White House. Republican candidates across the country have put Mike Huckabee in a virtual tie for first place. But a new CNN Opinion Research Poll released just hours ago suggested it might be a tough win for the Huckster. If voters went to the polls today, Huckabee would lose by a substantial margin to the top three Democratic candidates. A poll of 912 resident voters found he would lose by 10 points to Hillary Clinton, 15 to Barrack Obama, and 25 to John Edwards.

CNN polling director, Keating Holland says the wide margin may be due to Huckabee's current lack of name recognition but, of course, that will all change as he becomes more popular.

CHETRY: That's right. All right, well, new this morning. Police say that a lone gunman was responsible for the two shootings in Colorado this weekend at a missionary school and a church. They say they believe the gunman was 24-year-old Matthew Murray who was thrown out of the missionary training school a few years ago for strange behavior. Police are also calling volunteer security guard Jeanne Assam a hero. She shot the gunman. Investigators believe that shot wounded him and Murray, then killed himself.

Assam, though, does not consider herself a hero.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEANNE ASSAM, SHOT CHURCH GUNMAN: I give the credit to God, and I mean that. I say that very humbly. God was with me, and the whole time I was behind cover, this has got to be God because He's -- because of the fire power that he had versus what I had was God, and I did not run away, and I didn't think for a minute to run away. I just knew that I was given the assignment to end this before it got too much worse and I just prayed for the Holy Spirit to guide me. I just said, Holy Spirit, be with me. My hands weren't even shaking.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Well, the pastor of the New Life Church spoke on "Larry King Live" along with Assam last night. He described why he says armed security guards are needed at his church services.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRADY BOYD, PASTOR, NEW LIFE CHURCH: In churches across the country, increasingly, religious churches, Christian churches are targets of people who are aggravated or upset. The people who are armed in our worship services are licensed to carry weapons. We don't let just anyone show up on our campus with a gun attached to their belt obviously, it's not the Wild West.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Pastor Boyd also says that Assam saved many lives and that countless of others, other people who were in that building could have been killed if she hadn't made that call to stop that gunman. He calls her the bravest woman he had ever met -- John?

ROBERTS: Six minutes after the hour. Time now to check in with our AMERICAN MORNING team of correspondents for other stories new that were following this morning.

And all eyes on today's Fed meeting where another cut in interest rates widely expected. Ali Velshi at the business update desk with that. Good morning, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John.

We're expecting something right after 2:00 eastern from the Federal Reserve. The third time this year. They expected to cut interest rates. So, it will happen maybe 25 minutes. A quarter of a percentage point or half a percentage point. Most people are betting a quarter. Well, what happens then? Well, the first thing that happens is of concern to most people, is that the prime rate will drop.

All of the major banks throughout the course of the afternoon will announce that they are dropping their prime rate. That means adjustable loans will cost less. It also means the U.S. dollar will likely weaken some more. That's what happens when the fed cuts rates. Now, what are you looking at when you talk about interest rates? The fed rate right now is 4.5 percent. The prime rate is always three percentage points higher than that. So it's at 7.5 percent.

So, if we get a quarter of a percentage point cut today, the prime rate will go to 7.25 percent and that means that loans that are tight, home equity lines of credit, credit cards, other types of revolving credit, maybe you car lone, all of those will get a little bit cheaper. So, this is a story that's going to affect everybody in America that has debt. And we will be covering it live, John.

ROBERTS: All right. I know you have the answer for us a little later on today. Ali, thanks very much.

The airline industry upping the ante in its fight to block. A flyers bill of rights. The industry's main trade group heads to federal court next week. This while the transportation department could make plans. To limit the number of flights landing and taking off at Kennedy Airport to ease the congestion in the New York City area.

Alina Cho with the national update desk with more on this. Good morning, Alina. ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. Good morning to you. There are two components to this story. The bottom line for passengers, all of these new regulations, if they take effect, could mean higher air fares. Now "The New York Times" is reporting today that the transportation department will announce next week that it plans to limit the number of takeoffs and landings at JFK Airport in New York.

Many people know that delays in New York are the worst in the country and, of course, that has a ripple effect on air travel everywhere. Now, industry experts have said if there are fewer flights it's pretty simple. The airlines will have to charge more money for each seat. Now, we've just gotten off the phone with a Transportation Department spokesman who says, no decisions have been made whether to limit flights to JFK or any other airport and that "The New York Times" report is premature and speculative.

The federal government will be making an announcement about this next week, though. Separately, on January 1st, a passenger bill of rights is set to take effect in New York State.

Now, it would require airlines to provide things like food, water, power and clean bathrooms when a flight from a New York Airport is delayed by more than three hours. And if the airlines don't comply, they could be fined up to a thousand dollars per passenger. Pretty steep. The Air Transport Association obviously upset about this, trying to stop the law from taking effect by going to court in Albany.

The ATA says states should not be in the position to regulate the airline industry while proponents of this law say it simply a matter of public service. But, John, the bottom line is flight delays only seem to be getting worse. Passengers obviously are outraged and there is no consensus on what to do about it.

ROBERTS: Yes. It seems that it may not actually be the case, but it seems like it could never get from here to there on time these days. Alina, thanks very much -- Kiran?

CHETRY: Well, some are promising outlook on jobs for the New Year, tops your "Quick Hits." It's a survey of 1400 companies by the global staffing firm manpower found that 22 percent of employers expect to add jobs in the first quarter of next year. 12 percent plan to reduce their payrolls and 60 percent expect no change.

Also, history in the making in the Korea this morning. For the first time in more than 50 years, a train crossed from South Korea to North Korea. It was a 12-car cargo train. It crossed a demilitarized zone today. Headed for a joint industrial area. The rail lines between the Korea's were severed shortly after the Korean War broke out back in 1950.

Well, whether or not a call can cure your financial woes. Thousands are literally banking on the president's new subprime mortgage hotline but many may be in the same position after they hang up. We're going to take a closer look ahead. Also, behind closed doors. The things had been destroyed. But we're going to hear from a former CIA agent who knows what went on during the interrogation of a top al Qaeda operative. That's next on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Thirteen minutes after the hour. A retired CIA officer is speaking out about the handling of high value al Qaeda targets. John Kiriakou says waterboarding helped get information that may have prevented future attacks but now he says, in retrospect, waterboarding should not be used.

Retired CIA John Kiriakou joins me now. Thanks very much for being with us.

JOHN KIRIAKOU, RETIRED CIA OFFICER: Thanks for having me.

ROBERTS: Let me just set to stage you. You were involved in the capture of Abu Zubaydah. A high value al Qaeda target. You were also there for his initial questioning. You were not there for the so- called enhanced interrogation techniques though you are familiar with what happened.

Let me start by asking you, how tough a guy was this? How willing was he in the initial stages to give up information?

KIRIAKOU: He was unwilling, completely unwilling to give up information early on. He was perfectly willing to engage you in a conversation. Once, he was through the medical danger he was in initially but the conversations were about philosophy, about Islam versus Christianity. They weren't substantive.

ROBERTS: So, when and how was the decision made to take him through these, what you (INAUDIBLE) called enhanced interrogation techniques?

KIRIAKOU: Sorry.

ROBERTS: No problem.

KIRIAKOU: The decision was made because he was so wholly uncooperative. It went for weeks and weeks where he just wouldn't answer any questions, wouldn't cooperate at all. And we were certain that he had important information that we could use to foil future al Qaeda attacks.

ROBERTS: All right. So, describe for us what waterboarding actually is.

KIRIAKOU: With waterboarding, you have a person lying on a table, on a gurney with his feet slightly higher than his head. There is material, sort of a cellophane-like material around the face. And there is a bladder where a water source above the head with water pouring down on the mouth, so no water is going into your mouth but it induces a gag reflex and makes you feel like you're choking. ROBERTS: Is the person actually drowning or just feels like you're drowning?

KIRIAKOU: No. It just feels like you're drowning.

ROBERTS: And this is being monitored by who?

KIRIAKOU: Well, there are several people there. The interrogator are there or an interrogator is there. There is usually a medical person, a medic or a doctor there to observe. Once in a while there might be a security officer.

ROBERTS: Now, you've actually had this procedure performed on you as part of a training exercise?

KIRIAKOU: In training, we tried it on each other just to see what it was like.

ROBERTS: And?

KIRIAKOU: I only lasted five seconds. It's entirely unpleasant.

ROBERTS: What happens to the body when you're undergoing this process?

KIRIAKOU: You're almost seizes up. You are so full of tension that you just tense up. Your muscles tighten up. And it's very uncomfortable.

ROBERTS: So, this was performed on Abu Zubaydah to the best of your knowledge?

KIRIAKOU: Yes.

ROBERTS: How long did he last?

KIRIAKOU: It's my understanding he lasted 30 to 35 seconds, which was quite remarkable.

ROBERTS: So, he had been resisting all of this time, then within 30 to 35 seconds, he suddenly folded up and said I'll give you anything you want?

KIRIAKOU: The next day he told his interrogator that Allah had visited him in his cell during the night and told him to cooperate because it would make it easier on the other brothers who had been captured.

ROBERTS: Now, of course, the big argument with torture is that the suspect will tell you anything that you want just to stop the torture. Was that true in this case?

KIRIAKOU: No. We were concerned about that. That the information that he provided was vetted and he was corroborated, so we were able to point to specific cases where we were able to disrupt terrorist attacks based solely on the information that he provided. ROBERTS: So, how valuable was the information that the CIA gleaned from waterboarding?

KIRIAKOU: I have no doubt that the information gleaned from Abu Zubaydah in his early days stopped terrorist attacks and saved lives.

ROBERTS: Did it also lead you to other suspects?

KIRIAKOU: It did. It did, indeed. He talked a lot about al Qaeda's leadership structure and mentioned people who we really didn't have any familiarization with, told us, you know, who we should be thinking about, who we should be looking at, who was important within the organization. So, we were able to focus our investigations.

ROBERTS: And did this lead you to Khalid Shaikh Muhammad?

KIRIAKOU: Not really.

ROBERTS: Not directly?

KIRIAKOU: No, not directly to Khalid Shaikh Muhammad but Abu Zubaydah is the one who told us that Khalid Shaikh Muhammad was so important in the al Qaeda structure. And we didn't realize at that time just how important he was.

ROBERTS: So, we find out just recently that this whole process of enhanced interrogation on Abu Zubaydah and apparently on Khalid Shaikh Muhammad was videotaped. Were you aware of that at the time?

KIRIAKOU: No, none of us were.

ROBERTS: Even the people who are engaged in the interrogation?

KIRIAKOU: Correct.

ROBERTS: You said in previous interviews, thought, that there were cameras?

KIRIAKOU: There were cameras.

ROBERTS: Is it not naive? This is the CIA. They tape everything.

KIRIAKOU: You know, you want to trust your co-worker. You want to trust the people that you're working for. We had these cameras and we were told that they were closed circuit television cameras where we could leave the room and watch each other doing interviews which we did. And of course, the security officers had cameras as well and monitors in their own little offices but we never knew, we never realized that we were being taped or they were being taped.

ROBERTS: You never realized it, but should those tapes have been destroyed?

KIRIAKOU: No, I don't believe they should have been.

ROBERTS: Why?

KIRIAKOU: I don't see the reason to destroy them. There is a possibility that they could be used in a criminal investigation and, frankly, for the historical record I think it's important to have things like that maintained.

ROBERTS: And you now believe too, that even though you got high quality information, high value information from this waterboarding process, it should not be used, it is a form of torture?

KIRIAKOU: I do believe that. I think that in that very brief period where we used it with Abu Zubaydah and we were able to get action of intelligence, it was important. It was unpleasant but important. And now, after all these years, time has passed, we're more on our feet in this fight against al Qaeda and I think it's unnecessary.

ROBERTS: It's a fascinating story and you are the man of the hour. I'm surprised your phone only rang once during that five minutes.

KIRIAKOU: Sorry about that.

ROBERTS: John Kiriakou, good to talk to you. Thanks for joining us this morning.

KIRIAKOU: Thank you very much. The pleasure is mine.

ROBERTS: Kiran?

CHETRY: Well, your "Quick Hits" now. And more teens are abusing precipitation painkillers that's according to a new national study. The office of the National Drug Control Agency says drugs like Oxycontin and Vicodin are so popular among the nearly 50,000 teens surveyed. The report cites a 30 percent increase in just five years. Painkiller abuse was second only to marijuana use. The study did found that overall drug use was down slightly. President Bush will speak about that report tomorrow.

Also, a 17-year-old from Texas accused of trying to smuggle 30 pounds of pot into the U.S. from Mexico hidden in holiday candles. Take a look, here they are. Custom officials say they found the marijuana after being tipped off by a drug-sniffing dog. The teen told the officers the candles were a gift from his grandmother to his mom.

ROBERTS: Coming up on AMERICAN MORNING, mortgage meltdown help.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even if it's saving, you know, one person's home, you know, it means the world to them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Inside President Bush's hotline for struggling homeowners. What can the government do for you? Find out if help is on the way ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: 22 minutes after the hour. Trees snapping like twigs. Your hot shot of the morning now. This was sent in by I-reporter Erica Walls (ph) of Norman, Oklahoma. She said it sounded like a war zone. Branches frozen solid snapping all around her house and trees coming down in a distance, take a look at this, slumped over in her backyard with as much as three inches of ice coating everything.

All right, thanks to her for sending that in. And if you've got a hot shot send it to us. The address is amhotshots@cnn.com. Be sure to include your name, where you're from, a little bit about the picture and the video and one more thing, please make sure the image is yours and not someone else's -- Kiran?

CHETRY: Wow, so we saw the ice all over the trees like that. The problem is they were all over the power lines as well. Dealing with a lot of power outages around the Midwest today.

Meanwhile, President Bush appealed to homeowners facing foreclosure, saying call the national hotline for help and call they did. CNN's personal finance editor Gerri Willis visited one of these counseling centers that was taking calls. And boy, they were ringing off the hook, right?

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: They were ringing off the hook, and Kiran, we went out to (INAUDIBLE) New Jersey because we had heard that they can't handle what is going on there. Take a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE>

MICHELLE TAMARA (ph), COUNSELOR, NOVADEBT: Thanks for calling 9115 hope. My name is Michelle, how can I help you?

WILLIS: Michelle Tamara's phone has been ringing constantly. She is a housing counselor with Novadebt, one of six, non-profit agencies that handle calls to a national foreclosure hot line 888-995- hope. The hotline has been flooded with calls since President Bush mentioned it Thursday as part of a larger plan to help borrowers facing foreclosure.

DARLA KEEGAN, HOUSING SUPERVISOR, NOVADEBT: It has been overwhelming but we're doing it one day at a time. Our counselors had been fantastic. They are working overtime.

HOSTIN: The Homeownership Preservation Foundation which runs the hotline says it received 15,000 calls Thursday, ten times its usual numbers.

TAMARA: Are you current on the mortgage right now?

WILLIS: Many callers have already missed mortgage payments making them ineligible for President Bush's plan. Others are worried that they won't be able to make the payment when their loan interest resets in the next few months. The foundation offers advice and helps homeowners work with their lenders to keep their homes. Darla Keegan, a supervisor Novadebt, says the Bush plan won't necessarily be the new solution callers are looking for.

KEEGAN: I don't know if the Bush plan is actually opening up anything new. This is something that we've just been doing for many years now.

WILLIS: While the government tries to work out a big fix for the problems, counselors like Tamara keep working the phones trying to help mortgage holders deal with the situation they're in right.

TAMARA: Even if it's saving, you know, one person's home, you know, it means the world to them, so it definitely makes a difference. And see how we can assist you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIS: Well, it definitely makes a difference to the people who are getting the advice. Apparently, out in New Jersey they were telling me that there were some folks who were falling in the cracks. They weren't able to get their phone calls. Keep calling that's what the folks there told us, because you will get help eventually. But, Kiran, I think, the interesting number here.

Right now, these hotline has 180 counselors available to help people. By the end of the year, 250. We got to understand this, there is 2.3 million folks whose arms are resetting this coming year in the next 12 months. The big question is can these folks handle all of the demand?

CHETRY: Should as a backup, should people just call their bank or call whoever gave them a loan instead of this hotline?

WILLIS: Well, you can call your lender. My advice is keep calling the folks over and over until you get through. Because, they often have relationships already with the lenders so that they can help you move more quickly than you can do on your own.

CHETRY: And the number?

WILLIS: It is 888-995-hope. If you feel like you're in trouble right now, call that number.

CHETRY: Gerri Willis, thank you. Good advice.

WILLIS: My pleasure.

CHETRY: John?

ROBERTS: Are one of those people who treat an airplane like it's your own private space or sat next to someone who does? Delta has a new animated guide for flyers who apparently have no social conscience. Check it out.

The airline produced 25 of these little vignettes animated and posted them online to show passengers how to deal with some delicate social situations in close companies. You may have met some of the chief offenders like the middle man here who wants all of the space in the middle seat and more. Which brings us to this morning's "Quick Vote" question. Using Delta's characterizations, who do you think is the most annoying flyer? Cast your vote at cnn.com/am.

Right now our results showed 19 percent say it's the middleman, otherwise, known as the middle seat bully. 67 percent say it's the catastrophe. That's the person with unruly children. 10 percent say it's the lav dancer. That's the person who bumps into everyone to and from the lavatory. And 4 percent say it's the shady lady, who is the person who opens and close the shade without asking anyone if he or she can do it. We'll tally the votes all morning for you. We'll have a final report for you by half an hour's time.

CHETRY: In defense of the middleman, where are you going to put your hands? Are you supposed to sit like this the whole entire time. I mean, that's not easy to sit like this.

ROBERTS: This sit is awful. I hate middle seats. That's the worse. Well, we had another poll. People said the middle seat was the worst flying nightmare.

CHETRY: That's right. All thought, the kids, I think in our poll for kiddies, the kids catastrophe is still winning.

Well, JetBlue is doing something that's never been done by another U.S. carrier. Veronica De La Cruz is going to have details on that.

Coming up on AMERICAN MORNING, a woman fights for her pet monkey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He has already started learning his colors and we watch TV together in the morning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: She wages an emotional battle against the government to get the monkey she loves back. We're going to meet Armani and his owner ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Breaking news out of Algeria this morning. It's Tuesday, the 11th of December. Thanks for joining us on this AMERICAN MORNING. I'm John Roberts.

CHETRY: I'm Kiran Chetry. We are following the latest on these two explosions, these car bombings that took place in Algeria. Ten U.N. staff members are reportedly among the dead after these two blasts went off. 47 victims now reported dead. The U.N. refugee agency building was one of the intended targets. Joining us now from Geneva is Ron Redmond. He is the chief spokesman for the U.N. High Commission for Refugees. Thanks for being with us this morning, Ron, under quite difficult circumstances. I'm sorry to hear about your loss. And this is just devastating as you guys are trying to find out more information about who exactly was hurt or injured in these blasts. What do you know today about the attacks on the office in Algeria?

RON REDMOND, UNCHR CHIEF SPOKESMAN (on phone): Well, about 9:30 this morning, this apparent car bomb exploded in the street, on each side of that street, there are U.N. buildings, the main U.N. headquarters and then the office of our agency, the U.N. refugee agency and blew the front of the building off on our side and also caused extensive damage to the main U.N. headquarters across the street.

We can confirm that one UNHCR staff member was killed and another is missing. There are apparently some additional staff missing in the main U.N. building across the street. I do not have confirmation that ten are confirmed dead, but it's caused extensive damage. It was a huge explosion. And our people are in deep shock.

CHETRY: Understandably. Have there been any claims of responsibility?

REDMOND: There have been not. In fact, we can't even say for certain that the U.N. was being targeted but one could certainly, I think, start to draw that conclusion since this explosion took place in a very narrow street right between two U.N. buildings.

CHETRY: Algeria has been battling the Islamic insurgent since the 1990s. Do you prepare and train your staff members to work in this type of environment?

REDMOND: We do, indeed. We take security very seriously. The U.N. Refugee Agency works in a lot of remote and dangerous places around the world but we also have offices in the capitals. In Algeria, our office usually has a dozen people in it but we got another 30 or so working in refugee camps out in the countryside.

We try to have as much security as possible around all of our facilities but we need to be open to refugees and asylum seekers. I mean, we're there to serve victims of violence, persecution, war and conflict. So it's a pretty sad story if we, the humanitarians, were also to be targeted.

CHETRY: No doubt. It certainly is. Have there been any threats? Have there been any some controversial issues? Anything going on that would maybe shed some light on why the buildings were targeted?

REDMOND: Not that I'm aware of. It's a fairly quiet residential neighborhood. There are a lot of embassies and other diplomatic buildings in the area. We've never had any problems there that I know of.

CHETRY: Well, just a really sad situation there this morning as the investigation continues into these two car bombings that exploded nearly 50 people killed and as you confirmed, one from the High Commission on Refugees killed and one missing and possibly some additional U.N. staffers in the building across the street. A difficult day, no doubt, as you guys try to sort out what is going on. Ron Redmond, thanks so much for being with us.

ROBERTS: 34 minutes after the hour now. Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is holding a news conference this morning and calling the new intelligence estimate that says Iran is not actively building a nuclear bomb "a step forward."

CNN's Aneesh Raman is at the news conference. A few minutes ago, he asked a question to the Iranian president. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sir, you might know that there is a discussion in the U.S. about whether to engage directly with Iran. If there were no preconditions, would you be willing to sit down with the U.S. president or perhaps at the foreign ministry level to discuss everything?

PRES. MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRAN (through translator): If you remember last year in my trip to New York, I said that we are ready at the level of the United Nations or in front of the media to debate the President of the United States. My proposal is still very much on the table.

RAMAN: Are you open to direct talks?

AHMADINEJAD: We have talked and debated with American officials. There is a possibility for the talks to be repeated. And if we are to talk, the appropriate grounds have to be set, the conditions have to be there, in other words.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: So, President Ahmadinejad looking for conditions before meeting with the United States on talks. We should add the White House has plenty of preconditions of its own for any dialogue with Iran. Ahmadinejad says more steps like the new intelligence estimate could create an, "entirely different situation."

A retired CIA officer speaking out about the handling of high value Al Qaeda targets. John Kirkiakou said waterboarding helped get information that may have prevented future attacks during the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah. Just a few moments ago, I asked him if the CIA should have destroyed tapes of those interrogations?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KIRIAKOU, RETIRED CIA AGENT: No, I don't believe they should have been.

ROBERTS: Why?

KIRIAKOU: I don't see the reason to destroy them. There's a possibility that they could be used in a criminal investigation and, frankly, for the historical record, I think it's important to have things like that maintained.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Former agent Kiriakou says he no longer thinks that waterboarding should be used. Kiran.

CHETRY: New this morning. Police say one gunman carried out the shootings at both the missionary school and church in Colorado this weekend. They say it was 24-year-old Matthew Murray who was thrown out of a missionary training school a few years ago. Police are also handling church security guard Jeanne Assam as a hero. Assam shot the gunman and police say they think her shooting him, stopped him, wounded him but he actually ended up killing himself. Assam, though, does not consider herself a hero.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEANNE ASSAM, SHOT CHURCH GUNMAN: I give the credit to god. I mean, I say that very humbly. God was with me and the whole time I was behind cover, this has got to be god because of the firepower that he had and versus what I had was god. And I did not run away and I didn't think for a minute to run away. I just knew that I was given the assignment to end this before it got too, too much worse and I just prayed for the holy spirit to guide me. I just said that holy spirit with me. My hands weren't even shaking.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Well, the pastor of the New Life Church said Assam saved many more lives if she didn't take the gunman out, he would have continued the shooting spree and there were dozens and dozens of other people in the building at the time.

ROBERTS: New research out today in the impact of high blood pressure is not just bad for your body and your heart but also apparently for your mind. CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen in Atlanta joins us now with more. Elizabeth, this explains a lot for me because I've suffered from high blood pressure for a number of years.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, I think your brain is doing just fine.

ROBERTS: I'm not sure.

COHEN: But it's definitely is worth keeping that blood pressure in check as you get older, John. Because what doctors found is that elderly people, over 65, with high blood pressure that they had a whopping 70 percent impairment in their cognitive thinking. Now, what kind of cognitive problems are we talking about? Very specific things.

For example, the folks with high blood pressure had a tendency to forget words and they were sometimes unable to dress themselves. They had difficult with finances and they had trouble with very simple tasks like for example, folding a piece of paper in a certain way. So researchers say the bottom line of this research is watch your blood pressure even when you're in your 30s and 40s and 50s, because it could cause you problems later in life -- John.

ROBERTS: So, Elizabeth, what is the mechanism through which high blood pressure affects your cognitive ability?

COHEN: You know, simply put, high blood pressure decreases blood flow to the brain because the vessels just aren't carrying blood the way they would if someone had normal blood pressure. So, that works for all parts of the body, including the brain.

ROBERTS: So, very important to make sure that your blood pressure is well controlled.

COHEN: Right.

ROBERTS: Elizabeth Cohen for us in Atlanta this morning. Elizabeth, thanks -- Kiran.

COHEN: Thanks.

CHETRY: There's a new privacy switch topping your "Quick Hits" now. Ask.com is letting users erase their research data. Using the ask eraser, you can choose your searches not be stored in the company's servers. The new online tool comes amidst growing concerns that search groups like Google and social networking sites like Facebook can target consumers with ads based on personal data as well as their online activities.

Well, who needs a land line anymore when you have a cell phone. A study showing that 14 percent of American households only have a cell phone. This should be unheard of. Well, those numbers are even higher among young people. The study also show that 24 percent of homes do not have cell phones.

JetBlue is doing something never done before by another U.S. domestic carrier. Our Veronica de la Cruz fills us in on the details when we come right back.

Coming up on AMERICAN MORNING, a woman fights for her pet monkey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He has is already started to learn his colors and we watch TV together in the morning.

This is just wrong!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: She wages an emotional battle against the government to get the monkey she loves back. We're going to meet Armani and his owner ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: A dangerous ice storm slam the Midwest right now. Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Illinois all facing ice and winter storm warnings. CNN 's Jacqui Jeras is live in Kansas City for us this morning. What are you seeing on the ground there, Jacqui?

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It's just a miserable morning here in Kansas City, John. The rain continues to come down and it's freezing on contact. We're hovering right at that 32-degree mark which basically means the streets here in town are doing OK. You can see the traffic moving along but streets are wet but look behind me here. This is at least a half of an inch of ice coating this entire sidewalk and you can kind of see the little puddles in there on top of it, so it's wet, with the ice and makes it very difficult.

So, while you might be able to get around a little bit in town in your cars, the problem is you can't really get to or from the car to get to the building. It's extremely slick so we're going to use a lot of caution as we walk along the area here.

The ice has been accumulating, really picked up around 7:00 or so last night. And you can see the big coating along the railways and you can see it dripping off and it's even getting stuck in here. A little bit of melting has been taking place in the last couple of hours. Now, the problem is along with all of these elevated surfaces, check out what is going on with this pine tree right here. It's actually resting on top of this ledge here.

There are a lot of power outages in town. Kiran, tens of thousands of people in Kansas City do not have power as they are waking up this morning. Just up the road, in St. Joe, Missouri, we have widespread power outages reported there, also numerous trees down and trees on fire because the power lines have come down on top of that.

A state of emergency has been declared in many counties in Missouri. The national guard has been called out to Barton county which is in southwest parts of the state and there are also troops stationed in Columbia, Missouri, east of here, ready to be deployed in parts of northern Missouri where it's needed because the ice is accumulating as much as an inch plus thick. Things are just expected to get worse here in Kansas City this morning. If you're trying to get in and out of the airports as well, more than 100 flights have been canceled. John.

ROBERTS: All right. Jacqui, thanks very much. And tread lightly on that ice there for us this morning. Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, e-mail and Wi-Fi in the air? How about it? JetBlue's first inaugural flight test just took off from JFK and our Veronica de la Cruz joins us now with the details. You've been getting grilled by John Roberts. Can you surf the web, no. Can you do this? Yes. Can you use your (INAUDIBLE).

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDENT: You know, John had been waiting for this day. Unfortunately it's just one carrier right now, it's Jet Blue. And they became first U.S. domestic carrier to offer free in-flight e-mail and instant messaging service today. They airline had partnered with Yahoo!! and RIM, the maker of Blackberry to create this service, which they are still testing. Their new plane is called beta blue. And it took off in JFK here in New York, a short while ago.

Once the plane reaches 10,000 feet, passengers on board will be able to use Wi-Fi enable laptops or check their Blackberries. They will only be able to log on to Yahoo!! mail or use instant messenger and not browse the web. So, it's still very limited. You probably want to take your Blackberry on that flight because you can use your BlackBerry.

CHETRY: Yes but some people are wondering, OK, if they can go this far or if you're able to actually instant message back and forth, why can't you have the whole enchilada?

DE LA CRUZ: Yes, why doesn't it work? And are they going to expand this plan? John is going, please tell me they're going to expand this. Well, JetBlue plans to pull these passengers on beta blue which will mostly make transcontinental flights. If they get a positive reaction they will retrofit their fleet to provide the service. Eventually, they will expand it so passengers can use more than Yahoo!! mail -- John.

CHETRY: And you want to know why you can't use cell phones. Why can't you use cell phones if you can use that? Right?

ROBERTS: Right. You should be able to use everything. Right. The technology is at the point now.

DE LA CRUZ: Well, here's the thing, we put a call into the folks at JetBlue and said that cell phones and Wi-Fi work on two different frequencies. The S.E.C. conducted tests and they approved the Wi-Fi but they still fear that cell phones could cause harmful interference to wireless networks on the ground. While you can use your Blackberry for e-mails on these flights, you can't just make a call with it.

CHETRY: Plus, do you really want to be on a cross-country flight and have someone yapping on their cell phone?

DE LA CRUZ: Absolutely not. I think Delta posted a video on that.

CHETRY: Yes. About all the annoying cell phones...

DE LA CRUZ: No, just annoying passengers.

CHETRY: Right.

DE LA CRUZ: Not people using their cell phones. There are people who try to make the cell phone calls all the way up until the plane is in the air.

CHETRY: Exactly.

DE LA CRUZ: I've seen it happen.

ROBERTS: Well, the CNN NEWSROOM is minutes away here on CNN. Heidi Collins on the NEWSROOM now with a look at what lies ahead. Good morning, Heidi. HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you, John. Tuesday in the NEWSROOM. An ice storm, on the move across the planes today. More than half a million customers already lost electricity. Air travel also a mess. We'll talk about that.

Meanwhile, outrage at this judge. Her remark about a 10-year-old gang rape victim and the sentence she gave nine teenagers who pleaded guilty. No jail time.

Also, falling down drunk. Young women and the humiliating images they post on Facebook. Why do they do it? Plus, serving new information about the Colorado church shooter. NEWSROOM get started at the top of the hour, right here on CNN. John.

ROBERTS: Looking forward to it, Heidi. Thanks very much.

After a seven month custody battle, Armani, the monkey, is back home with his owner in Rockville, Maryland. There he is along with his owner. She is coming up, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Well, you may remember this. Last May, we told you the story of Elyse Gasewitz and her pet monkey that she feels is like her child. This is Armani. It's her pet (INAUDIBLE) monkey. There is a picture. This monkey was confiscated by Maryland authorities in the county that she lived in at the time, did not allow people to own monkeys as pets unless they were grandfathered in.

Meanwhile, she has gone through this whole court battle. She actually faced criminal charges for possessing the monkey. When Elyse talked to us in May, she was not sure if she would ever get her Armani back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELYSE GASEWITZ, PET MONKEY WAS CONFISCATED: I just want him to come home because I'm very worried. I don't want them to dig him and euthanize him. I'm trying so hard to keep him and this is just wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: How about it? Call it a holiday miracle. Because now Elyse and Armani are reunited and a judge ruling Armani should be returned to her. The state dropped the charges. Elyse and Armani join us now from their home in Maryland.

Elyse, you're in the exact same spot we last left you but you're a lot happier today. How did you finally get Armani back?

GASEWITZ: I went to court yesterday and won the case and I'm very, very excited to have him home.

CHETRY: Yes. I remember last time you were sobbing when the judge said you were going to get Armani back. GASEWITZ: Yes. Actually, when I heard the judge say that Armani is to be returned to custody of Elyse Gasewitz, I think that's the last thing I heard and I pretty much dropped to my knees. Then the whole courtroom, I heard crying and clapping and when I turned around, it was a full courtroom and everybody was standing and crying.

CHETRY: Doesn't Armani want us to see his good side, by the way? Can he turn around a little bit there? What was it like when you guys were finally reunited? Because a long time seven months of you being able to sporadically visit him at the zoo but not live with him every single day and have him be around you? So, what was his reaction?

GASEWITZ: Every time I went to see him at the zoo, he remembered me. He would just cry and want to see me and, you know, just get on my shoulder, to do this. Every time he heard my voice, you know, they brought him to me in a carrier and he would just jump out of the carrier and immediately jump on my shoulder and kiss me and it was really hard because when I went -- when I would leave, he would hold his arms up and want to go with me and then when say, I'm sorry, honey, mommy can't take you, he would put his head down.

CHETRY: So, you think of him as a son and you were the only caregiver that he ever knew. Now, the zoo has been ordered to pay or you had to pay actually $1,400 a month for the preserve to take care of Armani. Now the judge says the police department is going to need to reimburse you that money?

GASEWITZ: I'm not sure actually who has to reimburse. I'm not sure if it's the county or not. I'm really not sure but I have to be reimbursed the monthly and also they were charging me recently visitation just to go see him. So on top of the monthly money they were charging me just to go visit him at the zoo.

CHETRY: You never gave up. That's the point. And you ended up after seven months you guys are reunited. Any advice for other pet owners that you'd like to pass along if they're going through this type of situation?

GASEWITZ: Well, you know, what I was getting mostly all over the world and all over the country and I thank everybody so much, is, you know, people were looking at their pets and thinking what would happen if it happened to me and all I can say is for pet lovers out there, if you love your animal and your companion, fight for them. Because you can do something, you know? You can win and speak for them because they can't speak for themselves. I love him and I love my animals. And when you make a promise and you make a commitment to your animal, you should fight for them and give everything you can.

CHETRY: Well, he's adorable. He certainly loves you, too. By the way, he is all cuddled up against you. Looks no further (INAUDIBLE). Thank goodness you got him back, Elyse. Thanks so much for joining us and thanks to Armani as well.

GASEWITZ: Say thank you. Wave. Thank you, everybody.

CHETRY: Good luck. Stay out of trouble. ROBERTS: Story with a happy ending there.

Here is a quick look now at what CNN NEWSROOM is working on for the top of the hour.

COLLINS: See these stories in the CNN NEWSROOM.

An ice storm cuts power across Oklahoma and Missouri. More than 500,000 homes and businesses go dark.

The CIA director in front of Congress today. Senators want answers about destroyed interrogation videotapes.

Car bombs kill dozens of people in Algeria.

Disturbing details emerge about the Colorado church shooter.

It's the season, thieves help themselves to a nativity seen. NEWSROOM, top of the hour, on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Final check of this morning's quick vote question. We asked you using Delta's characterizations, who do you think is the most annoying flyer? 19 percent of you say "middleman," otherwise known as middle seat bully.

CHETRY: 67 percent say it's the "kidtastrophe." It's the people who through no fault of their own are forced to board with unruly children.

ROBERTS: 10 percent say it's the "lav dancer." That's the person who bumps into everyone on their to and from the lavatory.

CHETRY: And 3 percent say it's the "shady lady." The person who opens and closes the shade without asking everyone. It's pretty overwhelming. The kids flying with kids. Not ideal if you have to be with them or in the seat next to them.

ROBERTS: I renamed the 4:30 afternoon shuttle from Washington to New York the "screaming baby shuttle."

CHETRY: All right. Well, that's it for us. Thank you so much for being with us.

Actually, one more story, quickly. Space, the final frontier. We're getting all that, the shape of the solar system. NASA saying the edge of our system is asymmetrical due to magnetic forces from the other star. Think of it like squeezing a balloon. The evidence comes from the "Voyager 2" probe as does the music. It was launch back in 1977 and is now more than 8 billion miles away.

ROBERTS: For all those of you with Ph.D. in astrophysics.

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