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CNN Newsnight Aaron Brown

Tropical Storm Wilma Causing Concern; Interview With Attorney For 'New York Times' Reporter Judith Miller

Aired October 17, 2005 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.
It is -- is one of the biggest White House mysteries since Watergate about to be involved solved?

NEWSNIGHT starts now.


ANNOUNCER: Make no mistake. It's illegal to identify names of covert CIA agents. And that is why the White House is so nervous. Two top presidential aides may have outed an agent to a "New York Times" reporter.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not going to prejudge the outcome of the investigation.

ANNOUNCER: Karl Rove, Lewis Scooter Libby and reporter Judith Miller all feeling the heat.

Katrina left them homeless and FEMA checked them into hotels. Wait until you hear what it's costing. The hotel homeless, running up a massive tab every day. And guess who's paying? You.

And meet Wilma, blowing its way toward the Gulf and into the record books at the 21st named storm of the year. When and where will it hit and how big and bag will it be?


ANNOUNCER: Live from the CNN Broadcast Center in New York, this is NEWSNIGHT WITH AARON BROWN AND ANDERSON COOPER.

COOPER: And good evening again.

A lot to cover tonight, but, first, here's what's happening at this moment.

Pressing the Harriet Miers nomination, today, President Bush began a new effort to quell the backlash over the Supreme Court nominee with six former Texas justices who voiced their approval for her. The White House called today a -- a pivot day in the strategy to drum up more support.

In Massachusetts, a dam may give way at any moment. Two thousand people living near the Whittenton Dam in Taunton are being evacuated. A state of emergency has been declared. Heavy flooding over the last week-and-a-half has led to reports that the structure could fail.

In Beijing, a hero's welcome for Chinese astronauts. The two space travelers landed safely today, ending a five-day mission. It is China's second manned space flight. The country vows to accomplish a space walk by 2007.

And who cares that the odds are one in 140 million? Wednesday's Powerball drawing is creating a frenzy all across the country. It makes sense. The jackpot now stands at $340 million. To those of you who are taking a chance, good luck. And remember your old pal Anderson.



COOPER: That's the look at this moment, what's happening.

We are also keep a very close eye on Tropical Storm Wilma. By tomorrow, Wilma could be a dangerous hurricane. Right now, it is swirling in the Caribbean sea, about 265 miles off Grand Cayman Island -- top winds, 50 miles per hour right now. We will have a live report just ahead.

And, at 11:00, the National Hurricane Center is going to have an update. We will also bring you that. First, though, high drama at the White House and America's leading newspaper and beyond -- Aaron.

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, there are all sorts of storms, and not all involve the weather. There's the political storm that circles around CIA operative Valerie Plame and Karl Rove and Scooter Libby of the White House -- of the vice president's staff.

And, of course, there's "New York Times" reporter Judy Miller and a special prosecutor who has taking a case involving all of them and run with it. Patrick Fitzgerald's grand jury ends its term in less than two weeks. Who will be indicted, if anyone will, is something we do not yet know. What we do know is, something that started simply enough will not end that way.


BROWN (voice-over): The purpose of the probe was simple enough, at least at the start. Did the disclosure of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity violate federal law? But the story began before, with these now famous words in the president's 2003 State of the Union speech.

BUSH: The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

BROWN: Sixteen words publicly disputed by former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who had traveled to Niger to investigate that report.

In a "New York Times" op-ed piece in July of '03, he wrote that the president's statement was "not borne out by facts, as I understood them."

Eight days later, conservative columnist and CNN contributor Robert Novak named Wilson's wife as a CIA operative -- quote -- "an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction." By the end of the September '03, a Justice Department inquiry was started to determine just who leaked the name of a covert agent to the press. At the time, President Bush, faced with the first reports that his top political adviser, Karl Rove, could be the source of the leak, was clear and direct.

BUSH: If there's a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated law, that person will be taken care of.

BROWN: In August, "New York Times" reporter Judith Miller, who had spent months reporting on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in a way many critics called favorable to the administration, was subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury.

Her name had appeared in a White House phone log. Investigators wanted to know what she knew, how she knew it, even though she never wrote an article mentioning Joe Wilson's wife. Miller and "The Times" fought hard not to testify. She refused to name her source and, ultimately, spent 85 days in jail, charged with contempt. That changed last month when Miller named her source, Lewis Scooter Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff.

In one of her reporters' notebooks, there appears two words, one of them clearly misspelled, "Valerie Flame," misspelled only, she says. She doesn't remember whether Libby mentioned Plame's name. And she wrote in yesterday's edition of "The New York Times": "I said I believed the information came from another source, whom I could not recall."

Miller says she went to jail because she believed Libby didn't want her to testify. Her original attorney, Floyd Abrams, seemed to disagree with that yesterday, saying -- quote -- "That's Judy's interpretation."

And he cast doubt on her contention that she couldn't remember if Libby was on the source on Valerie Plame, calling him the central and essentially only figure who had information.

Judy Miller wrote yesterday that, while in jail, she received a letter from Libby encouraging her to testify. But she said he also seemed to be telling her how to testify when he wrote, "The public report of every other reporter's testimony makes clear they did not discuss Ms. Plame's name or identity with me." And that, says Miller's current attorney, Bob Bennett, could present a problem for Scooter Libby, who has already talked to the grand jury.

ROBERT BENNETT, ATTORNEY FOR JUDITH MILLER: He discussed with Judy Mr. Wilson and Mr. Wilson's wife. If he told the grand jury that he didn't do that, then -- then I think there's an issue there.

BROWN: Karl Rove has testified as well, of course -- four times, to be exact. We don't know what he has said. We don't know what Mr. Libby said either. What we should know, in 11 days or less, is whether either of these White House power players will be indicted by a federal grand jury.


BROWN: Judy Miller has the not-so-enviable starring role in two, maybe even three, dramas, political and legal and media. Neither her jail time, nor her grand jury testimony, has managed to diminish any of them.

And, for some, her account of that testimony answers few questions and raises many more, some of which we put them to Bob Bennett, who you heard briefly from a moment ago and whom we spoke with earlier tonight.


BROWN: I thought I read where you said you did not know if he -- if he, Mr. Libby, shared classified information with Judy Miller. And -- and I read her comments to be that, as she looks at her notes, it suggests that, he, in fact, did.

Can you square that?

BENNETT: Well, you know, I have read Judy's description carefully and was, of course, with her when she was debriefed and prepared.

And, I don't know what in there is clearly classified. Mr. Libby certainly did not disclose to Judy the name of Mr. Wilson's wife, nor did he tell her that she was a covert agent of the CIA. So, that would have been obviously classified. I do not know what, in the general des -- description of Mr. Wilson's activities, would be classified or not, nor did -- nor did Judy.

BROWN: Did he tell her that Ambassador Wilson's wife worked at the CIA?

BENNETT: He told her that Ambassador Wilson's wife, he understood, worked at an entity at the CIA known as WINPAC.

And, then, in an earlier conversation, he mentioned, according to Judy's notes, that his wife worked at the bureau. And then there was that question mark by bureau, but which Judy took to mean the Central Intelligence Agency.


BENNETT: But not in a necessarily covert capacity.

BROWN: The -- the question of whether he tells her -- whether he says to her Valerie Plame is an interesting one. There is that part in her note that says "Valerie Flame." And she says she doesn't remember who told her that. And I think, to some people, it's a bit of a stretch to think that a -- a reporter as resourceful and capable and experienced as Ms. Miller would not remember who told her that.

BENNETT: Well, but I -- you have to understand the context, which has been lost in some of the reporting.

In the same book where Judy had conversations with Mr. Libby, she had many other conversations in unrelated -- on unrelated subjects. And, in one of those back pages, there was a just -- with no context to it, there was that name, "Valerie Flame."

And, so, I'm absolutely convinced that she -- she didn't remember.

BROWN: There's this exchange of letters between Mr. Tate, Mr. Libby's lawyer, and Mr. Abrams, I gather, through -- to Ms. Miller. And the question arises, does -- does it appear that Mr. Tate or Mr. Libby is coaching Judy Miller on what to say or what he would like her to say to the grand jury? That's been described, I think, by your client as troubling. What's your take on that?

BENNETT: I don't think either Judy or I concluded that either Mr. Libby or Mr. Tate was trying to coach Judy.

But, having said that, Judy was troubled by it. And I was concerned about it, because I knew that, if Judy ever -- ever did testify, and this letter became public, as I knew it would, that people like you would be asking that question. So, this wasn't about protecting harm coming to a source. This was about a journalistic principle.

And, once Judy was comfortable that she had a personal waiver from him, she was going to just tell the facts as they were, without regard to whether it helped or hurt him.


BROWN: Bob Bennett earlier today.

Two more voices now -- our senior analyst, Jeff Greenfield, and Alex Jones, a former "Times" man, currently director of the Joan Shorenstein Center For Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard.

BROWN: A mouthful, that.


BROWN: But it seems to fit the story.


BROWN: It's good to see you both.

And we heard Mr. Bennett say that Ms. Miller's credibility hasn't been tarnished. I wonder, Alex, if you agree with that.


And I think, unfortunately, "The New York Times"'s credibility is right in play with her. And I think it's not because "The Times" was wrong in defending Judy, when she decided not to identify her source. It is really not about that so much. It's about all the things that have now come out because of this controversy.

On Sunday, "The New York Times" actually had three stories. It had a story that was written by reporters of "The New York Times" that went into the history of Judy Miller and "The New York Times" and her relationship with the Bush administration. It had her first-person account. It also had an op-ed column by Frank Rich, who is one "The New York Times"' columnists.

The thrust of all of this was to raise all kinds of questions about Judy and her relationship with the Bush administration, going well beyond the Scooter Libby affair. And it is very important, within "The New York Times" and to the sort of credibility of "The New York Times" as an institution with clear standards about reporting, that they get to the bottom of this.

BROWN: Let me -- I want to get back to "The Times," Jeff -- just one more thing on Judy here, who I think a lot of us have known for a while.

At -- at some -- in some pieces she's written, she doesn't just describe an unnamed source, when she is referring to Mr. Libby. She really hides his identity. She describes him, I think, as a former congressional staffer.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: Well, she had agreed to -- she never wrote about this, remember, which is one of the curious things.

But she had agreed to protect him by describing him as a former Hill staffer.

BROWN: But that's misleading.

GREENFIELD: Yes, it is. Had -- and that has raised as many eyebrows as anything else, which is, at that point, you begin to say, well, this is not about the people's right to know, a whistle-blower whose identity is protected.

It sounds to some people, particularly those who have been very critical about Judy Miller's reporting on the weapons of mass destruction, that she is somehow trying to actively protect a source, because either of a preexisting arrangement, because of her alliance with them on that WMD issue, because he was out to discredit Wilson as part of a broader plan, it now seems, the war between the Cheney office and the CIA about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction.

The more I hear about this story, let me just say, the curiouser and curiouser...


GREENFIELD: ... the whole thing gets.

BROWN: Ah, yes. I mean, even if there are no indictments -- I don't know if there will be -- you would love to get the final report from the prosecutor...


BROWN: ... which you are not going to get.

GREENFIELD: Which he doesn't have to do...

BROWN: Right.

GREENFIELD: ... by the way.

BROWN: I'm not even sure he can do, by law.

Back to "The Times" for a second.

When you read the piece on Sunday, the reporting piece in "The Times," you get the feeling, they have a -- by the way, they take a few shots at Ms. Miller.

GREENFIELD: Oh, mercy.

BROWN: That they have a star reporter that their editors are afraid to control.

GREENFIELD: Well, it -- you -- you know, you don't have to read between the lines. You just read the lines.

The new executive editor, Bill Keller, comes in after Howell Raines is forced out in the Jayson Blair affair. And he says to his reporters, the first thing -- one of the first things they did was to tell Judy Miller, you can't report on Iraq. You can't report on weapons of mass destruction. And, somehow, the boss says, she had a way of getting back to that story.

Alex Jones worked there for nine years.

If I make take your prerogative...

BROWN: Please.

GREENFIELD: Alex, do -- can you tell us what up with that?

JONES: I think that it's stinks.

I can only tell you that the idea that a reporter at "The New York Times" would not be held more accountable than Judy was -- and I worked with Judy. I know her and I admire her. But I think "The New York Times" has got to get it -- you know, it's got to come clean on this. I think you're quite right, Jeff. She has portrayed herself as a reporter run amuck.

BROWN: Alex...

JONES: She said she was making a joke.

BROWN: ... what has come...

JONES: But I think it is really important that "The New York Times" address this and get all the way to the bottom of it, because one of the most disturbing things in that article, as far as I was concerned, was that Judy, essentially, would not allow the reporters to question her, would not allow them to see her notebook...

BROWN: Her notes.

JONES: ... that, apparently, has these words in it.

I think that the -- you know, you can't run...


JONES: ... a news organization if you have got reporters who will not respond to the editors when they say, Judy, what is going on here?

BROWN: Jeff, at this point, for "The Times," is the damage done? What does even come clean at this point mean to "The Times" anymore?

GREENFIELD: Well, it mean -- it may mean to take another swing at this, because -- because there are so many weird things.

Let me just put one on the table. The whole deal that Bennett struck with Fitzgerald was, you can only talk about Libby because she is the only source -- he is the only source that gave her meaningful stuff.

BROWN: Right.

GREENFIELD: But she says, no. I got this name, which was fairly key, from somebody else that I can't quite remember.

Talk about raised eyebrows. There are raised hairpieces about that one. I think that, if you add -- if you add this to the Jayson Blair thing, this has been a one-two punch for the paper of record that's -- that's -- I mean, I don't think they have ever gone through anything like this back to back in their existence.

BROWN: Gentlemen, thank you both.

And that's -- underscores why this is all important. If it was, you know, "The Brownsville Daily" or something, no one would care. It is "The New York Times." And people care a lot.

Up next, people in the Gulf -- nothing against Brownsville, honestly.


BROWN: It's my name.

GREENFIELD: Here come the letters.

BROWN: And, well, it was like my name. That's all I was doing there.

People in the Gulf could be waking up to yet another hurricane threat by morning -- Tropical Storm Wilma building strength.

And, later, the victim of a beating and an attempted baby- snatching in the woods of Pennsylvania may not have been the attacker's only target.

We will take a break on a Monday night. This is NEWSNIGHT on CNN.


COOPER: Tonight, a developing story. Tropical Storm Wilma, it is gaining speed and power in the Caribbean. There it is, Wilma. And it has all of us thinking the unthinkable once again.

Tracking Wilma for us in Atlanta, CNN meteorologist Jacqui Jeras -- Jacqui.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Anderson, we are concerned about this storm. It's been growing in strength all day long.

And now it's starting to grow in size, also. It was kind of unbalanced earlier in the day. Now it's becoming more symmetrical. So, that's sign that it's organizing itself and will likely gain intensity. It could very well become a hurricane by midday tomorrow at a Category 1 and possibly as strong as a major hurricane status. That's is a Category 3 or better.

Forecast track has it -- it's been stationary all day -- should start to drifting off to the west, we think, even later on tonight.

There, you can see, 2:00 tomorrow, up to 75-mile-per-hour winds. So, that has it up to a hurricane, then starting to curve northward and heading near the Yucatan Peninsula. If it stays through the Yucatan Channel, that will keep the intensity up even more. Then it's expected to take a sharp right-hand turn and head towards the Eastern Gulf Coast, still some uncertainty as to whether or not it will be hitting Florida.

Right now, high pressure is blocking the storm from moving very much. And that's why it's been basically stalled out for today. But we're expecting the winds to be changing Friday and through the weekend. And that would change the steering currents and bring Wilma closer towards Florida. It could miss it still altogether.

We will let you know, as things continue to develop. But we're looking at maybe next weekend at the earliest for a landfall -- Anderson.

COOPER: This is probably a stupid question, Jacqui, but that -- that dramatic turn toward Florida, that would only be if those winds continue to blow eastward? Is that correct?

JERAS: If they begin to push in from the west, right, that would blow them -- blow the storm systems towards the Florida area. And it depends what time this will move in. But there's one good note here, also. These stronger upper-level winds will start to do what we call shear the storm and start to weaken it a little bit -- so, hopefully, not a major hurricane at landfall.

We will have another update, by the way, coming in from the National Hurricane Center around the top of the hour. We will bring that to you then.

COOPER: Yes. What -- and what do you expect from that? I mean, how -- how -- how much information can you find out?

JERAS: Well, I haven't seen big changes in the models as they have been coming in through the evening, so, I'm not anticipating any big changes. But we will let you know if we see any kind of shift.

COOPER: All right. We will be on the air.


COOPER: Jacqui, thanks.

Our only hope is that Wilma will do no damage, no harm. We also hope it will be the last storm of a very long and deadly season, a season that ties a dubious record, of sorts, set more than 70 years ago.

CNN's John Zarrella looks back.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There it is. See that blob in the Caribbean?

GOV. JEB BUSH, (R) FLORIDA: Wa-wa, that's W.

ZARRELLA: That's right, Governor, W. for Wilma, yet another pain-in-the-neck storm Florida's Jeb Bush has to worry about.

BUSH: This storm is a volatile storm. We really don't know where it's going to go.

ZARRELLA: Not only volatile, historic, number 21. Since 1851, when record-keeping began, there has been only one other year, 1933, that saw 21 tropical storms and hurricanes form.

This is the name-that-storm board at the National Hurricane Center. The spaghetti lines represent the paths of the 21 storms so far this year, beginning with Tropical Storm Arlene in early June. Dennis hit Florida's Panhandle in July.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can feel it right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here we go. Watch out for that aluminum.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) Get back! Get back! Get back! It's coming apart.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at that. (INAUDIBLE) Look over there. Look over there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's coming apart.

ZARRELLA: Dennis left five people dead.

Katrina made landfall in August. So far, the death toll stands at 1,271. Rita hit four weeks later, in September, killing 9. Now, here's the spaghetti bowl for 1933. But, no one really knows how many storms formed that year. There were no hurricane hunter planes, no satellites. Some storms might easily have gone completely undetected or...

RICHARD PASCH, HURRICANE FORECASTER: Or I do recall there was one case of a storm that perhaps may have been counted twice.

ZARRELLA: The eighth storm that year -- they weren't named back then, just numbered -- made landfall near Nags Head, North Carolina, moved inland and flooded Washington, D.C.

With six weeks left in the hurricane season, there's still plenty of time to break the record with a number 22.

(on camera): So what's the next name? Well, the Hurricane Center doesn't use U or Q or X, Y or Z. They'll start over with the Greek alphabet and Alpha. And that's never happened before. Imagine. We started the hurricane season with Arlene. We could end it with Alpha.

John Zarrella, CNN, Miami.


BROWN: Quick check now of some of the other stories that made news today.

Christi Paul is in Atlanta.

Good evening, Ms. Paul.


We start off with the president's job approval ratings. According to the latest CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll, they're continuing to fall. It shows, only 39 percent of Americans approve of how the president's handling his job. That's down from 45 percent on September 26; 58 percent say they disapprove of President Bush's job performance. That's up from 50 percent three weeks ago. Now, the survey has a sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

In Texas, investigators have recommended 23 counts of criminal negligent homicide charges against the man who was driving a bus packed with Hurricane Rita evacuees. That bus erupted in flames last month near Dallas, you will remember. Twenty-three of the passengers, most of them nursing home residents, were killed.

And it is a big week for Iraq. On Wednesday, four days after a historic vote on the proposed constitution, the much anticipated trial of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein will begin. The toppled dictator will first face charges of crimes against humanity for a 1982 case where civilians were allegedly rounded up, tortured and killed in a small town north of Baghdad. That's also where an attempt had been made to kill Hussein.

Finally, on a lighter note, Rocky Balboa is putting his boxing gloves back on. Yes, Sylvester Stallone is back for "Rocky 6," which he actually wrote and will direct himself. Shooting is scheduled to begin in December.

Aaron, it will be interesting to see if he still has what it takes 30 years after the first one.

BROWN: Hey, if George Foreman can do it...


BROWN: ... so can Sylvester Stallone.

PAUL: Why not.

BROWN: Thank you very much.

COOPER: He has got no teeth, no brain cells, but he's getting...


COOPER: ... back in the ring.


COOPER: We will see.

Still to come, with the president pitching hard for Harriet Miers, a new curveball late tonight. We will have a live report from Washington on that.

Plus, living in a tent, eating hotdogs, washing dishes in a makeshift sink -- it is not camping trip. It is daily life for a family still picking up the pieces from Hurricane Katrina.

That story when NEWSNIGHT continues. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Some breaking news now comes on a day when the White House tried to reintroduce the president's nominee to the Supreme Court. Safe to say this isn't what they had to mind.

It centers on what Harriet Miers said, or didn't say, depending on whom you believe, to a top Republican in the Senate about a case involving birth control and the right to privacy.

CNN's Ed Henry is following this late-breaking story, joins us now from Washington.

Ed, what's the latest?

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the White House tonight is denying this claim by Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter that Harriet Miers told him in a private meeting this afternoon that the 1965 ruling in Griswold vs. Connecticut was -- quote -- "rightly decided."

That's significant, because the Griswold case was the underpinning for legalized abortion in America, with the subsequent Roe v. Wade decision. So, Miers suggesting it was the correct decision could further erode her support with conservatives.

Now, Specter, who supports abortion rights, was unequivocal in telling me and several other reporters -- quote -- "She said she believes there's a right to privacy in the constitution and she believes Griswold was rightly decided."

A White House official tonight told me this was not true. Miers did not discuss the Griswold case with Specter, and the senator would, quote, "correct the comments. But Specter put out an official statement that did not exactly correct his comments. He revealed that Miers called him tonight to declare that the senator had, quote, "misunderstood what she said."

That explanation is raising some eyebrows among conservatives I spoke to tonight, like Jan Larou (ph) of Concerned Women for America. She's puzzled that Specter, known for being meticulous about Constitutional law, would have a miscommunication about such a seminal case.

More interesting, this controversy comes the same day Miers told another senator, Chuck Schumer, that nobody knows how she'll vote on abortion. That question sparked by this column in today's "Wall Street Journal," alleging that during a conference call with conservatives, two Texas judges declared Miers would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Now, conservatives on that call, like James Dobson, later announced their support for Miers. I spoke tonight as well to David Frum, a former Bush speechwriter, who has come out against Miers. And he told me the Specter matter suggests Miers is trying to play this abortion issue both ways. From what he -- Frum basically said, quote, "It's remarkable and disturbing that James Dobson would be left with the impression Harriet Miers completely agrees with his position against Roe, and that Arlen Specter was left with the impression she agrees with his position on Roe."

The bottom line, this is just yet another cloud in a confirmation battle already stormy, Anderson.

COOPER: Well, a couple questions. Why would Harriet Miers have conversation with Arlen Specter? Because all along, they have been saying, I think what the White House is saying, is that she's not discussing specifics on any case, or says she hasn't made up her mind about particular cases. Is that correct?

HENRY: You're absolutely right. She's having this meeting because she's been doing meet-and-greets with lawmakers in both parties. Specter, as chairman, is obviously a key lawmaker on this.

It was stunning that she would talk about a specific case, as you suggest. Now, of course, the White House is insisting she did not talk about a specific case. But I can tell you, I was standing there with Arlen Specter. He -- this is his ninth or 10th Supreme Court battle. Unequivocally, twice, he said that she believes that Griswold was rightly decided. He said it twice.

So you have to -- you know, who do you believe? A Republican chairman, or the White House? This is going to be a very interesting dispute, and it's very delicate for the White House, because they don't want to antagonize Specter, who's going to be overseeing these big hearings.

COOPER: And I know you said it once, but just repeat it, the White House had said that he was going to come out with a new statement correcting himself, but his new statement doesn't really correct himself, does it?

HENRY: It doesn't really correct it. When you read it very closely, he basically says, OK, I'll take Harriet Miers at her word that I, Arlen Specter, misunderstood what she said.

The White House is saying, She said no such thing. Arlen Specter is saying, I misunderstood what she said, again, indicating that she said Griswold was rightly decided.

So clearly, to me, not a correction, maybe a clarification. But this is not the last you've heard of this story, Anderson.

COOPER: A lot more tomorrow. Ed, thanks. Ed Henry.

Up next, from a faked pregnancy, to a second potential victim. More disturbing details emerge from an attempted womb-snatching in Ford City, Pennsylvania. Hard to imagine.

And later, most shelters have long been emptied, but FEMA estimates up to 600,000 people now living in hotels. And guess what? You're footing the bill, about $11 million a day. Is it the best solution to housing Katrina's homeless? We'll investigate. This is NEWSNIGHT.


COOPER: Well, a big sign of recovery in New Orleans. We'll tell you about that in just a moment.

But first, here's a look at what's happening at this moment.

Tropical storm Wilma's gaining strength in the Caribbean. Could be another danger for folks living all along the Gulf Coast. The latest projections have it heading toward Florida. Wilma is the 21st named storm in the Atlantic this season. Hard to believe, tying the record for named storms set in 1933.

Top civilian employee of the U.S. Coast Guard may have been the source of leaked information concerning a threat to the New York transit system. CNN has learned that the employee has been reassigned and his security clearance revoked, and a second person is also under investigation. The e-mail warned of a potential attack earlier this month. The information is now believed to have been part of a hoax.

In Greece, a case of the bird flu. European Union officials there say that a strain of the disease has been found on one of the Greek isles. Tests are being done to determine if it is the deadly form. Health officials fear it will turn into a pandemic. The E.U. is preparing to ban the movement of live poultry and poultry products from the infected area in Greece.

And the National Zoo's giant panda cub has a name, Meet Tai Shan, a name picked through the votes of the zoo's Web site. It means peaceful mountain, apparently. The name was announced at a ceremony marking 100 days since the cub was born.

BROWN: On to other matters.

We are learning more tonight about Peggy Jo Conner, the Pennsylvania woman accused of beating her pregnant neighbor with a baseball bat, then slashing her womb open with a knife, allegedly trying to steal her baby. Ms. Conner is being held without bail, charged with attempted homicide and two counts of aggravated assault.

But might there have been another, at least potential victim, another woman allegedly targeted?

Reporting for us tonight, CNN's Randi Kaye.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This woman is afraid for her safety and the safety of her children. She asked not to be identified but is coming forward and says she plans to go to authorities, because she believes Peggy Jo Conner is dangerous, and may have been planning to steal her baby.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She would just sit there, like, stand there and stare at my stomach. And it was -- it was scary.

KAYE: Police believe Conner cut open her pregnant neighbor in an attempt to steal her unborn baby. The prosecutor tells NEWSNIGHT Conner has made statements incriminating herself, but has not entered a plea.

Also, victim Valerie Oskin told police it was Conner who attacked her in both Oskin's trailer home and in the woods.

The public defender's office tells CNN they have no comment.

Seventeen-year-old Adam Silvis, riding an all-terrain vehicle, spotted the women in these remote woods.

ADAM SILVIS, WITNESS: When I first saw it, I knew it was, you know, foul play, because it just -- it was very suspicious happening. The lady acted really weird. I mean, she came around the front of car and she was, like, Everything's fine here.

KAYE: Silvis, now credited with likely saving Oskin's life, called police after he saw her bleeding.

SILVIS: She didn't mumble as if she was cold, and she wanted a warm shower. So I went back and I got blankets and stuff and brought it back there. And this entire time, the lady that is charged with it just sat on the hood of the car and just hollows, just acted like nothing was going on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just don't know what happened to her.

KAYE: Like Oskin, this mother of two also lived next door to Conner in Ford City, Pennsylvania. They were friends until, as she tells it, Conner started making up stories about being pregnant.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She told me she was pregnant. She was due at the end of July. And it turned out that she wasn't pregnant, because she wasn't showing. She wasn't -- she wasn't nothing.

KAYE: This woman says, each time she got pregnant, Conner would claim to be pregnant too, their due dates coincidentally just weeks apart. She says Conner's babies never came, and that Conner became aggressive, calling around repeatedly, trying to find her phone number and new address, since she had moved away. The woman says she never returned Conner's calls, but saw her in town just days before investigators say Conner attacked Oskin.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She didn't say really even not a whole lot, but she was staring at my son, and then she said, Well, I got to go.

KAYE: Conner had announced she was pregnant eight months ago, but the prosecutor says medical tests show Conner is not pregnant, nor was she. There's no evidence of a miscarriage.

But Thomas Wilks remembers Conner showing him a sonogram picture he thought was their baby. THOMAS WILKS, CONNER'S HUSBAND: I put my hands on the stomach, and it would move. And then the baby would kick. I'd lay my head on her stomach, and my head would move where the baby would kick.

KAYE (on camera): So there's no doubt in your mind that she was carrying a baby.


KAYE: So how do you explain authorities now saying that she wasn't pregnant?

WILKS: I don't know. I guess she was lying to me.

KAYE (voice-over): Wilks says until Conner tells him she did it, he won't believe it.

WILKS: I can't sleep. I can't eat. I'm sick to my stomach. Nervous. I want my wife to come home.

KAYE: Wilks says she never harmed or intended to harm anyone.


KAYE: Tonight, the victim, Valerie Oskin, is breathing on her own and improving. Her little boy is doing great, the prosecutor tells me. This evening, investigators were planning to meet with Oskin to try and get more information from her about the attack. She's already told them Peggy Jo Conner is the assailant, but they will need more details.

Conner is set to be arraigned this Friday. The judge will weigh some the evidence at that time.

I spoke with the prosecutor earlier, Aaron. He tells me they are confident they have the right person behind bars, that Peggy Jo Conner confirmed for police what they thought happened. Right now, Conner is not allowed to talk with visitors, so it's impossible to get her side of the story. Not even her lawyer is talking.

BROWN: Has she been evaluated psychiatrically?

KAYE: Not as of yet. Right now, just this morning, as a matter of fact, her public defender was assigned. She had to apply for this person to help her. And certainly, in the coming days ahead, they do expect to evaluate her. And she is expected to appear in court on Friday.

BROWN: Randi, thank you. Randi Kaye in Atlanta tonight.

Still to come, it wasn't supposed to be like this. But then, many of life's carefully laid plans are washed away, many of them by Katrina. One family tries to make sense of life in a tent nearly two months after the storm.

Take a break. This is NEWSNIGHT on CNN. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, for the first time since Katrina, a school in the French Quarter of New Orleans reopened today, just another sign of recovery in the city. Some students arriving there getting their first hugs or settling down in class.

The same cannot be said about one Mississippi town. More than six weeks after the hurricane, the people of Pearlington (ph) are still waiting for help and waiting for a place to call home again.

CNN's Gary Tuchman has more.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Life is supposed to be as sweet as this music when you're 4 years old. But Alissa LeMoine's (ph) life has taken a detour because of Hurricane Katrina, as her mother, Mandy, well knows.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I never thought that, almost two months later, we would still be in a tent.

TUCHMAN: The LeMoines' house was destroyed by Katrina, so they've been living in this tent ever since. Their small town of Pearlington, Mississippi, was at the epicenter of the hurricane. Most of the 4,000 people who lived here are now homeless, many living in tents.

FEMA's providing campers to some homeless families. But the LeMoines are among those still waiting.

(on camera): What do you think about living in a tent?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's pretty strange.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really want them to have a warm bath and a bed of their own that they can lay in instead of having to sleep in the heat outside in a tent.

TUCHMAN: While her husband is working, Mandy makes dinner in what has become the kitchen. Alissa and her 7-year-old sister, Glenda, wash up in a makeshift sink.

County employees are helping FEMA get the campers here quicker, but that's not been easy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have problems with water wells, sewage, clearing a place for the trailer to actually set.

ROCKY PULLMAN, HANCOCK COUNTY BOARD: We're having problems with water wells, sewage, clearing a place for the trailer to actually set.

TUCHMAN: In the seven weeks since Katrina struck, Mandy hasn't seen her destroyed house. Because her car was totaled, we offered to give her and her daughters a ride the see their home. But there is another house blocking the road.

(on camera): This is your grandparents' home?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, that was on this road over here.

TUCHMAN: So it was on this road, and it blew into the middle of the street.


TUCHMAN (voice-over): So we end up walking through a field.

(on camera): Be careful, Alissa.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I told you to let me carry you.

TUCHMAN: Let me help you up.

(voice-over): We arrive. And while the house is moved off the foundation, from the outside, it doesn't look so bad. But we haven't been inside yet.

The door is jammed. So Mandy's father asks me to help him kick it in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, two, three.

TUCHMAN: Right away, the full scope of the disaster is apparent. The inside is destroyed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The fish tank is in the living room that was in our room. Thank God we weren't here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mommy, where is my bunny?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Baby, your bunny is not salvageable. Look at what the house looks like.

TUCHMAN: Indeed, most of this family's belongings are not salvageable. But some things are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look what I found, you guys. Whose is this? Is this yours, Alissa?


TUCHMAN: There have been few good times since Katrina struck. It's been easy to fall into despair.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't want my children to think that I'm falling apart, you know, for -- because of this. Some nights when my girls aren't here, I just sit and cry.

TUCHMAN: And now they wait and hope their camper comes soon, so they can say good-bye to life in a tent.


TUCHMAN: Tonight, members of the LeMoine family are sleeping under the stars again. Mandy LeMoine tells me she did have a conversation with a FEMA official, who told her that FEMA camper would arrive within four days. But not very encouragingly, that conversation was five days ago, Anderson.

COOPER: And any call back from FEMA, or any explanation why it hasn't arrived?

TUCHMAN: They haven't heard back from FEMA just yet, but they're hoping tomorrow, on the sixth day, that maybe it comes.

COOPER: Yes. Great story. Gary, thank you very much. Let's hope they get at least a trailer soon.

When we return, the people of Pearlington aren't the only ones still waiting for a permanent place to call home. Why is it taking so long to find housing? Where is FEMA, and who's picking up the tab? Answers ahead on NEWSNIGHT.


BROWN: It's been seven weeks since Hurricane Katrina, and almost a quarter of a million evacuees are now out of shelters. But getting them out has been complicated and expensive, as you might imagine. Many have been placed in motels at a cost to taxpayers -- that would be you -- at $11 million, not a week, or a month, but a day.

Here's CNN's Rick Sanchez.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When the hurricanes forced an ocean of people out of their homes, the images were startling, one highway after another with people walking on them, driving on them, stuck on them.

So where are those people now? They fanned out to cities across the Southeast and Southwest. And according to FEMA, you are paying for them to live in hotels, and the tab is running, big-time, a staggering $11 million a day. And if you don't like it, you should know the hotel homeless say they don't like it either.

FRANCES LANDRY, KATRINA VICTIM: Because I work, I pay my taxes, I send my kids to school, I teach them, you know, I teach them things. And my fiance is in Kuwait. So don't tell me that America doesn't love me, and don't tell me that I'm a freeloader.

SANCHEZ: Frances Landry lost her home in New Orleans, wrecked, uninhabitable, but she's still paying her mortgage. Lesley Hayley is in the same boat. But she has the added burden of new medical bills for her son, who suddenly developed seizures.

(on camera): What caused the seizures?

LESLEY HAYLEY, KATRINA VICTIM: Being displaced, living in a hotel.

SANCHEZ: Frances and Lesley are just two of what FEMA estimates to be 600,000 Katrina evacuees living in hotels. It is not ideal. In fact, one official calls the hotel situation a bridge to nowhere.

VICE ADM. THAD ALLEN, FEMA: It is difficult. There's been a large dispersion of evacuees that transcends any event that this country has witnessed in recent history.

SANCHEZ (on camera): Sure enough, say city and state officials, like those here in Georgia, where an estimated 60,000 evacuees are now residing. But they also ask one question, Why hotels? Why not apartments, which are far less expensive, and, here, plentiful?

MAYOR SHIRLEY FRANKLIN, ATLANTA: We've been talking to FEMA since the storm, offering to assist. And they -- I mean, it's like talking to a brick wall. We identified over 1,000 affordable units in our city.

SANCHEZ: So how did FEMA get into the $300 million-a-month mess? In large part, a source inside FEMA tells us it's because they were in a hurry to empty the shelters that were becoming a powerful reminder of chaos for the Bush administration.

But many ended up in hotels where you, the taxpayer, are picking up the tab, an average of $59 a night times the number of rooms to accommodate the 600,000 people. It's a mission even the U.S. military is having a tough time tackling.

ALLEN: Our goal is to find these people, make sure we understand what their status is, what community they came from, and best match their near-term housing needs as we transition them back to a permanent home.

SANCHEZ: The transition was supposed to include 30,000 housing trailers, but so far they've only been able to come up with about a third of those. They're also hoping to set up a voucher system so displaced residents can pay for apartments. The government used such a system after the earthquake in Northridge, California.

As for Frances Landry, she, like many others from New Orleans, is asking, What next?

LANDRY: I mean, I still have to pay a mortgage. I still have bills. And I have no job.

SANCHEZ: And she's struggling to get a job, because her work record was washed away in the floods. So all she has is a hotel room paid for by FEMA in an extraordinarily expensive government program that was only intended to last a couple of weeks. But yet, somehow, they're still running the tab.

Rick Sanchez, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BROWN: Much more ahead on the program tonight. We're following a story out of Massachusetts where a dam is straining under the load. Evacuations there.

Also, in the wake of Katrina, e-mails obtained by CNN detailing confusion and chaos inside the federal government. No!

And later, the drug problem you might want to ask your parents about, or perhaps your grandparents.

We'll take a break first. Around the world, this is NEWSNIGHT.