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Lou Dobbs Tonight

Michael Jackson's Death; Investigating the CIA

Aired August 24, 2009 - 19:00   ET


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're following breaking news tonight on the death of Michael Jackson. The Associated Press is reporting tonight that Michael's death was ruled a homicide. We'll have all the latest dramatic details.

Also tonight, the Justice Department declassifies an internal CIA report on interrogation tactics used on terrorism suspects under the Bush administration. Attorney General Eric Holder tonight is appointing a prosecutor who will decide if any legal action will be taken against those involved.

And a major shift in national security policy as President Obama gives the go-ahead for a special interrogation unit that will operate out of the FBI and report directly to the White House. And fewer than half of President Obama's top appointees are in place, so who's helping the president run the country? We'll have a special report tonight.

But first new details tonight on Michael Jackson's death -- The Associated Press is reporting that the L.A. County coroner has ruled Michael Jackson's death a homicide. The news could mean criminal charges for Jackson's personal doctor, Dr. Conrad Murray. Murray was in the house with Jackson when he died. There are also more details contained in a search warrant, and court documents unsealed today. We have complete coverage tonight with Randi Kaye in Los Angeles, and senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin here in New York., but first to Randi Kaye in Los Angeles with the very latest. Randi, what can you tell us?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well I know you mentioned the report by The Associated Press saying that the death has been ruled a homicide. And I do want to point out that when it comes to the coroner's ruling of a homicide, it could have a very different meaning. It has a much larger meaning. It could be first degree murder.

It could mean reckless manslaughter. It could mean negligent homicide. There are all kinds of things there, so The Associated Press is quoting a single source there. We have called the LAPD. They said that that information was not coming from them. We also called the coroner's office here in L.A. County and they gave us a "no comment."

We did check with the district attorney's office as well, and they said they haven't received the case yet to consider charges, so this is all very important in relation to the idea of whether or not this has been ruled a homicide. We can tell you though that according to the affidavit and the search warrant that was filed today that we have, it does say that police have found evidence of manslaughter at Dr. Conrad Murray's clinic in the Houston area.

Dr. Conrad Murray, as you know, has been the target of this investigation. He is Michael Jackson's personal physician. So they say, according to this affidavit, that police have determined and the county coroner has determined that toxicology analyses show that Michael Jackson had lethal levels of Propofol, this very powerful sedative in his blood at the time of his death. This is really key because we know from a source close to this investigation that Dr. Conrad Murray had given Michael Jackson Propofol within 24 hours of his death.

Now we see it in writing here from authorities and according to some of the quotes from Dr. Murray to police in this document, apparently Dr. Murray feared that Michael Jackson had been -- had become addicted to Propofol. He was trying to wean him off it, and in place of that, he tried giving him Valium the day that he died to help him sleep because he was having trouble sleeping for about six weeks.

He tried Lorazepam. He tried Midazolam, then again Lorazepam two milligrams, then again Midazolam two milligrams, and then at 10:40 in the morning, just a few hours before Michael Jackson suffered cardiac arrest, he did go ahead and give him this 25 milligrams of Propofol, so that's just within a few hours of his death, and as you know, it's a very powerful sedative, really reserved for a hospital setting.

And apparently it's not the first time -- I just want to leave you with this -- not the first time that Michael Jackson has used Propofol, according to Dr. Murray telling authorities that he was very familiar with the drug. This drug has a milky -- it looks like a milky substance, has a milky appearance. He told authorities that Michael Jackson referred to Propofol as his milk. So there you have it, a history of Michael Jackson with Propofol and now the first time, according to this preliminary report from the coroner's office, that he had lethal levels of this very powerful sedative in his blood.

SYLVESTER: Randi, I want to go back to something that you said, that it wasn't just Propofol the day or hours -- within hours before he died that there were several other drugs and there is a timetable, isn't there? I mean really within hours, it sounds like a cocktail really of drugs.

KAYE: Exactly. It certainly seems to be. I can give the exact times. On the morning that Michael Jackson died, June 25th, apparently Dr. Murray told authorities that he tried to induce sleep because he had been giving Michael Jackson 50 milligrams of Propofol and he wanted to reduce it, he wanted to get him off of it, actually. So he tried giving him Valium at 1:30 in the morning.

When that didn't work, he said he injected the Lorazepam intravenously -- that was at 2:00 a.m. And then at 3:00 a.m., he was still awake, so he administered what he called Midazolam and then over the next few hours he continued with more of this Lorazepam and more Midazolam and then finally at 10:40 in the morning, Michael Jackson still awake, according to Dr. Murray, repeatedly demanding the Propofol and at 10:40 in the morning, just a few hours before he collapsed, that is when Michael Jackson was given the 25 milligrams of the Propofol -- actually, we know that Dr. Murray called 911 just after -- around noon or so. So not long before that was he given this drug.

SYLVESTER: OK, Randi, thanks for that great reporting and I know you will continue to keep us up to date -- thank you very much Randi from L.A.

Well joining me now with more on the legal ramifications of the preliminary report is CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. We're going to go back to something that Randi said, which is it's a homicide charge, but under that we could be talking what, first-degree murder, manslaughter, what's most likely here?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: There is a wide variety of charges that are included within the broader category of homicide. First-degree murder -- you can get the death penalty for that. You can get -- be charged with manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, which is a much lesser crime. Certainly there does not appear to be any evidence in this case that suggests any sort of intentional murder. So any sort of charges look like they will be at the manslaughter end of the spectrum, but you can still go to jail for a considerable amount of time if you're convicted of that.

SYLVESTER: What do you have to -- I guess what's the threshold of evidence? I mean is it enough to say he gave him the medication or is there a level of -- I mean he's a medical doctor, so should he have known that this might have -- and realizing that this is very, very early on. He has -- his lawyer has denied any wrongdoing, says he has not admitted any kind of wrongdoing of any sort and we should first mention that. But what is the threshold of evidence that they would have to prove?

TOOBIN: Well in layman's terms, for manslaughter you would have to prove some sort of recklessness. Doctors try to cure patients all the time, and they sometimes die. That obviously is not any sort of crime. Here the investigation has obviously been pointed at proving that Murray behaved in such a way that he caused Jackson's death in a reckless and irresponsible way. That's really what manslaughter is. It's not intentionally killing someone, but it's behaving in such a way that you cause their death and you behave recklessly in doing it.

SYLVESTER: Here there were other doctors. Dr. Conrad Murray is not the only doctor, apparently, here, I mean from everything that we know. So do you think that others will be brought into this investigation, or do you think that it will just focus on Dr. Murray because he was the last doctor with Michael Jackson when he died?

TOOBIN: I don't know at this point. The investigation of Dr. Murray has been very public. There's been a search warrant of his house, of his office, a pharmacy he used. But investigators have also said they're investigating other people, and it is in the prosecutors' and police's interest to look at everyone who had dealings with Jackson because you know that Murray's defense, if he's charged, is going to be why are you blaming me? Look at all the other people who were treating him. Look at all the drugs he had access to. Look at what he did to hasten his own death. So a comprehensive broad-ranging investigation is very much in the government's interest even if they only wind up charging Murray with a crime.

SYLVESTER: And really briefly here, but Conrad Murray, he went online, on the Internet, on YouTube, and basically said you know I've done all I can. I've told the truth, and I have faith that the truth will prevail. Will these types of public statements online, does it help him, does it hurt him?

TOOBIN: I don't think it makes much difference. If there's a charge, he won't go to trial probably for a year. No one is going to remember what he said in his online statement and it's not evidence in the case. I don't think it will matter. What's really going to matter is the evidence. Also you talk about his statements -- what statements he made to the police immediately after, whether those statements are proved to be false in any respect that could be evidence of consciousness of guilt if he's found not to have told the truth. But we don't know if he did or not.

SYLVESTER: OK, Jeffrey Toobin, always a pleasure. Thanks for joining us.

And we'll have more on the Jackson investigation coming up later in the broadcast. You won't want to miss it, so stay with us.

In other major news developments tonight, Attorney General Eric Holder is appointing a federal prosecutor to determine if interrogation techniques used by the CIA were illegal. Holder's decision comes after the Justice Department released an internal CIA memo detailing alleged torture of terror suspects. The report says the CIA used harsh interrogation tactics including threatening to kill the children of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- Elaine Quijano reports now from Washington.


ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Interrogators threatened to kill the children of accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The 2004 CIA inspector general's report though still partially redacted says quote "according to this interrogator, the blank interrogator said to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed that if anything else happened in the United States, we're going to kill your children."

The report also reveals the technique not previously disclosed, that an interrogator, quote, "reportedly used a pressure point technique with both his hands on the detainee's neck, blank manipulated his figures to restrict the detainee's carotid artery." Blank who was facing the shackled detainee reportedly watched his eyes to the point that the detainee would nod and start to pass out. The blank shook the detainee to wake him. This process was repeated for a total of three applications on the detainee."

And new information about a gun and a power drill used to scare Abd Al-Nashiri, suspected of plotting the deadly bombing on the USS Cole. Quote, "the debriefer entered the cell where Al Nashiri sat shackled and racked the handgun once or twice close to Al Nashiri's head." And later "the briefer entered the detainee's cell and revved the drill while the detainee stood naked and hooded. The de-briefer did not touch Al Nashiri with the power drill. The report's release comes after a law suit by the American Civil Liberties Union, which called the details outrageous.

JAMEEL JAFFER, ACLU: If threatening a prisoner with an electric drill isn't torture, I'm not sure what is.

QUIJANO: In a letter to CIA employees obtained by CNN, CIA Director Leon Panetta noted the agency referred allegations of abuse to the Justice Department for potential prosecution.


QUIJANO: Now, late today the government released these newly declassified documents requested by former Vice President Dick Cheney. While the documents do claim successes in obtaining actionable intelligence from detainees, as you can see here from this heavily redacted page, what's not clear is whether the information was obtained through controversial techniques like waterboarding -- Lisa?

SYLVESTER: OK, Elaine Quijano, thank you very much for reporting from Washington.

On that same day that CIA report was made public, the Obama administration announced a dramatic shift in U.S. national security policy. It's putting together a new unit that will handle the detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects. The new unit will operate out of FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., not the CIA, and it will answer directly to the White House. The move is one of the Obama administration's most significant breaks from the Bush era anti- terrorism tactics. Dan Lothian is traveling with the president and reports from Martha's Vineyard.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The White House is getting more involved in how valuable information is squeezed from suspected terrorists. The new high value detainee interrogation group will be based at FBI headquarters and overseen by the National Security Council. White House deputy spokesman Bill Burton confirming what was first reported by "The Washington Post".

BILL BURTON, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It will bring together all the different elements of the intelligence community to get the best intelligence possible based on scientifically proven methods and consistent with the Army field manual.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: This will be more efficient? You'll get better information?

BURTON: The president's view is that we can always work harder to protect the American people. LOTHIAN: The president authorized the new group after a recommendation from his top-level task force, which was looking into new ways of gathering information without resorting to torture. The unit is a departure from the Bush years when the CIA, not the FBI, almost exclusively handled the interrogations of al Qaeda suspects and used the controversial and now banned practice of waterboarding. But the White House is brushing aside suggestions that the CIA is being sidelined.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh no, absolutely not. The CIA is obviously -- obviously has a very important role to play as it relates to interrogations.

LOTHIAN: Even so, harsh criticisms coming from a top lawmaker on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Senator Kit Bond calling the move a quote, "odd lack of faith in their own intelligence community and a bizarre vote of no confidence in the director of the CIA." But CNN national security contributor Fran Townsend says this approach will only enhance intelligence gathering.

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: From what I've read the folks I've spoken to, it doesn't -- it looks to me as though it's being more inclusive. That is you're bringing more people into this discussion, and I don't think that's a bad thing.


LOTHIAN: Now Senator Bond says that he's concerned that any involvement by the White House will only politicize the process, and he believes in the long run that could hurt national security. The White House saying that's simply not the case -- in fact a senior administration official saying that the White House will not engage in any operational activities involving this unit -- Lisa?

SYLVESTER: Well Dan, all of this comes amid this ongoing debate with health care. I mean the Obama administration certainly has a lot on its plate, now you've got this new CIA report. Is this a big distraction for the White House?

LOTHIAN: Well right now on vacation they wouldn't say that it's a big distraction. I mean the president whenever he is asked whether or not he's handling too much or whether one issue will distract from another, he'll always say that listen these are issues that I didn't ask for. They're important issues that need to be addressed now and that's why he's addressing it.

That's the way that the White House believes this -- in this case as well. This is an issue. In terms of the timing, we don't know why it happened while they were on vacation (INAUDIBLE) perhaps it is just reinforcing that notion that the White House wants to have sort of hands off and let the attorney general do his work.

SYLVESTER: Yes, curious it does happen when he's on vacation...

LOTHIAN: That's right.

SYLVESTER: All right, Dan, thank you very much...

LOTHIAN: That's right.

SYLVESTER: ... for that report from Martha's Vineyard.

Well as part of the Obama administration's new rules for detainees at Guantanamo Bay, a terror suspect held there for almost seven years is free tonight. Mohammed Jawad, one of the youngest detainees at Gitmo, was accused of throwing a hand grenade at U.S. troops in Kabul. That attack wounded two soldiers, but the Justice Department said that his confession was coerced and because of that he had to be released.

Well just ahead, our continued investigation into public health care in other countries as the debate rages in this country.

Also ahead, "DOBBS AND JOBS NOW!". Unemployment is rising. Private sector jobs are hard to find in the nation's most populous states. But if you want a government job, well that's a whole different story. We'll have the latest details from those court documents unsealed today in the Michael Jackson death case, details that could mean criminal charges.


SYLVESTER: The "cash for clunkers" program is about to become history. The program ends in this hour. The Obama administration said between 700,000 and 800,000 cars were sold under the plan. The program gives rebates of up to $4,500 for owners to trade in gas guzzlers for new fuel-efficient models. But many dealers remain concerned about being reimbursed by the federal government.


GEOFF POHANKA, PRES., POHANKA AUTOMOTIVE GROUP: This is wildly successful for selling cars, but the success is going to hurt dealers tremendously. You know our whole industry has been on its knees with sales down about 35 to 40 percent. You know dealers are struggling financially and to put out hundreds of thousands of dollars, in our case millions of dollars on this program with the hope of being paid promptly, we were promised to be paid within 10 days under this program, and so far most of our claims have not even been looked at.


SYLVESTER: Dealers have until noon tomorrow to file their paperwork, but no new deals can be written after 8:00 p.m. tonight. With the program, then, many dealers fear consumer interest in buying cars will end, too. The car Web site says dealers could see a 40 percent drop in sales.

Well if you didn't get rid of your old car in time, well don't worry, your old refrigerator could bring you some cash. A $300 million program to boost sales of energy efficient appliances begins this fall. The program authorizes rebates of up to $200 for new appliances, but unlike "cash for clunkers", you won't have to haul your old appliances to qualify for the rebate.

Tonight we continue our series of special reports "DOBBS AND JOBS NOW!" Hundreds of thousands of jobs in California have been lost in the past year unless, that is, you work for the government. California, which just last month was paying its bills with IOUs has actually hired more state workers. Casey Wian reports.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): California has one of the nation's highest unemployment rates, 11.9 percent last month. Since July 2008, California has lost more than three-quarters of a million jobs. Hardest hit, construction, manufacturing and trade. Yet as those private sector jobs disappear, the number of people working for the California State Government has actually risen by 1,600 in the past year.

CHRISTOPHER THORNBERG, BEACON ECONOMICS: The private sector is always worried about the threat of failure. I mean in -- in the private sector, if you don't pay your bills, you go bankrupt, you lose your job, your company gets closed down, it ends up in the hands of the creditors. Governments don't have those kinds of pressures.

WIAN: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has ordered many state workers to take unpaid furloughs to help close California's massive budget deficit. State lawmakers also have approved budget cuts that are expected to reduce some government jobs. Still, the perception persists that California's state government is a bloated, inefficient impediment to private sector job growth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just taking a little break from the state Senate here in Sacramento.

WIAN: This month, neighboring Nevada, despite an even higher unemployment rate than California's, launched an aggressive advertising campaign designed to lure businesses away. Now one golden state lawmaker is retaliating with an ad paid for by his own campaign fund.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If anything Nevada businesses should be moving to California, let's face it, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, but what happens in California makes the world go round.

WIAN: We asked Assemblyman Jose Solorio what besides the ad campaign are lawmakers doing to spur private sector job growth in California.

JOSE SOLORIO (D), CALIFORNIA STATE ASSEMBLY: We actually enacted $8.7 billion in tax cuts for targeted small businesses, whether they're in the movie, TV production area, whether dealing with trying to get more small businesses to hire new workers to a very successful new home buyer tax credit that helps the home buyer but that has also helped create new jobs in the construction industry.

WIAN: Even so, California lost nearly 36,000 more jobs last month alone. (END VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN: There are a few bright spots in California's employment picture. Jobs in health care and education services as well as jobs in agriculture have all grown slightly over the past year. And despite the continuing growth in taxpayer funded jobs California actually has one of the lowest per capita ratio of government jobs of any state -- Lisa?

SYLVESTER: Casey Wian reporting from Los Angeles -- thanks for your report. Coming up, our special coverage of health care around the world tonight. What makes Italy so special?

Also the Justice Department to investigate if the CIA broke the law when interrogating terror suspects. Will the move destroy the CIA? That's the topic of tonight's "Face Off" debate. And reports that the L.A. coroner rules Michael Jackson's death a homicide. We'll have that story and the Jackson family's response coming up next.


SYLVESTER: We've been reporting here on the health care systems of other countries and how they compare to health care here. The quality of care in Italy ranks 17th in a survey of European countries. Life expectancy in Italy is high, just over 81 years. It's a universal care system based on Britain's National Health Service. But like many universal systems it is under-funded and long waits to see some doctors has led many to seek private care.


SYLVESTER: In Italy, the citizens receive health care through the government-run national health plan. Citizens do not pay for inpatient services, and they do not pay to see a primary care doctor. But while the visit to the doctor is free, the choice of doctor is limited.

MICHAEL TANNER, CATO INSTITUTE: In terms of the primary care physician, you must select from a list that's provided to you within your geographic area. You're not allowed to go outside that area to see a primary care physician, and you can only see a specialist with the permission of your primary care physician.

SYLVESTER: In order to access the doctor or specialist of their choice, 35 percent of Italians purchase supplemental private insurance. This insurance provides access to private clinics, and patients can avoid the delays commonly associated with government-run facilities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the government-run system, there are significant delays. It takes more than two months, for example, to get in to have a mammogram.

SYLVESTER: The Italian health care system produces impressive results. Life expectancy is 81.2 years versus 78 years in the U.S. and the doctor patient ratio one to 270 versus one to 416 in the United States. Health care costs consume 8.7 percent of GDP versus 16 percent in the U.S. The Italians spend $2,686 per person versus $7,290 in the U.S. The public system is primarily funded through a payroll tax that treats citizens at different income levels very differently.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As your income goes up, you pay less and actually at one point you pay nothing if your income goes above a certain level of income.

SYLVESTER: That's because income tax revenues are also used to support the public health system. The system is also funded by co- payments. Patients can pay as much as 30 percent for diagnostic tests and prescription drugs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the health care system in Italy is struggling with the problem that besets sort of all national health care systems in other countries, and that is the fact that in an attempt to hold down costs, they have, in effect, created shortages. They have led to waiting lists and the rationing of care.


SYLVESTER: And as Michael Tanner from the Cato Institute explains, you can't limit costs and not expect there to be problems with getting access to care. Well we'll continue with our series of reports on health care systems around the world. Tomorrow health care in Norway -- later in the week, Portugal, New Zealand, and Turkey.

And coming up, dramatic developments in the Michael Jackson death investigation.

Also, the president's own party more divided than ever over health care. Our political panel joins us.

And a federal prosecutor will investigate whether some CIA interrogations of terror suspects were illegal. That's the topic of our "Face Off" debate next.


SYLVESTER: Fewer than half of President Obama's top appointees are in place. The vacancies span just about every major agency. One of the reasons for the empty seats, tough background checks and senate confirmation process. But the president has found a way to hire at least some of the help he needs and at the same time bypass the senate vetting process. Louise Schiavone reports from Washington.


LOUISE SCHIAVONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Help wanted. The director for agency for international development, customs and border protection, drug enforcement administration, the bureau of alcohol, tobacco, firearms and explosives. The latest head count from a team of academics shows that less than 50% of policy making positions requiring senate confirmation have been filled. BILL BURTON, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: It means a lot of the agencies of government that are driving public policies that have consequences for the lives of millions of Americans don't have leadership at this point.

SCHIAVONE: The white house transition project calculates that 210 days into the Obama administration with 385 confirmation-required policy-making executive branch jobs on the line, President Obama has nominated 243 candidates and the senate has confirmed 193, about half of the total. The white house concedes --

BURTON: Do we have some more hiring to do? Sure. But are we able to make a lot of progress with the team that's in place right now? Absolutely. So I think that moving forward, the president feels good about his team and he's going to continue to put together a strong team.

SCHIAVONE: In the senate, major leader Harry Reid spokesman Jim Manley says, quote, there is every reason to be concerned the president deserves to have his full compliment of staff in the different agencies, end quote. One factor slowing the process nominees with background problems, like former senator Tom Daschle, his cabinet appointment was derailed by tax troubles. In the meantime, notes the conservative Heritage Foundation, the president has appointed numerous policy czars.

BRIAN DARLING, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: They have car czar and numerous other czars who are making critical decisions in the government but they don't have to go through senate confirmations.

SCHIAVONE: And the prospect of the policies are overriding them says one analyst may well discourage good candidates for these executive cabinet positions.


SCHIAVONE: Still, the record shows the Obama white house is no farther behind on appointments in recent administrations, and historians say it reflects the massive scope of the federal government. Lisa?

SYLVESTER: At one point they were talking about a czar of czars. I don't know what ever happened to that. Thanks Louise Schiavone for that report.

A newly released CIA inspector general report suggests interrogation used by the CIA on terror suspects. The release comes as attorney general Eric Holder is considering launching a full investigation into CIA interrogation tactics that could lead to prosecutions for CIA agents. Joining me now for more in our face-off debate tonight, former CIA operative Robert Baer. He says there definitely should be an investigation into CIA tactics, and former senior CIA officer Gary Berntsen says he is very concerned about the possibility of prosecutions and the impact it will have on the CIA. Thank you both gentlemen for being with us and thank you for service to your country with all your years in the CIA. Robert, I want to first start off with you. You say there should definitely be an investigation. Tell me why.

ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: We're getting this drip-drip of accusations against the CIA that's coming out every single day in the last three or four years, and it's better to get to the bottom of this and have a lawyer look at this, explain why he's going to prosecute or isn't. In any case, the CIA has always operated under American law and it always should. And if somebody has gone farther than they should have, they should be prosecuted. The CIA is not above the law and the American people don't want them above the law. If nobody committed a crime, nobody gets prosecuted.


GRAY BERNTSEN, FORMER CIA FIELD COMMANDER: The CIA officers operated under instructions that they were given by the department of justice. Then CIA's general counsel provided them guidance. Then the attorneys at the counter terrorism center provided them with advice. There was significant legal oversight during the Bush administration on this, and it sounds more like a battle between the justice department of the Bush administration you know with the Obama administration than it does the CIA. It's unfortunate it's being so politicized. Case officers are going to now need their own attorneys. This is going to cause significant damage to operations. Case officers aren't going to want to step out and take any risks at all. I can tell you from my experience in 2001, it was hard to find people to fill out the teams in 2001 because a lot of people didn't believe they would be protected.

SYLVESTER: Robert, do you hear what Gary is saying that, this is essentially going to create somewhat of a chilling effect. That you're going to have CIA agents that are going to say I'm not going to stick my neck out if my government's going to come after me. How do you respond to that?

BAER: We're talking about people who went behind the guidance. The CIA can't hide behind a veil of secrecy, nor can it sub-contract these operations to Blackwater or other companies and I think the president has made it very clear if the CIA is operating within the guidelines, they're not going to be looked at, they're not going to be prosecuted. The fact that Eric Holder is appointed a special prosecutor and not an independent prosecutor tells me and tells a lot of people that this administration doesn't intend to go after the CIA that thinks it was authorized. That obviously could change, but right now there has been a very limited reaction. You look at the report that comes out today and there is nothing particularly damning in it. Once you release that report, you're obligated to look again at what went on in the past, and there's been no prosecution so far except for one or two.

SYLVESTER: The white house did release a statement, ask we want to share that with our viewers. "The president has said repeatedly that he wants to look forward, not back, and the president agrees with the attorney general that those how acted in good faith and within the scope of legal guidance should not be prosecuted." Gary, does that give you some sense of comfort there? BERNTSEN: Well, I want to just go back to what Bob said. If someone is acting outside the law and outside the guidance and acted in a way that was not consistent with those guidance, I wouldn't have a problem with that. If there is no indication that that's happened, why would you want to open up this can of worm worms and go through all of this? I can tell you for a fact when something like this is done, there would have been people on hand, many, many layers of people and levels of people witnessing and watching this. They were being very, very careful to stay within the letter of what they were told to do.

SYLVESTER: Elaine Quijano had a report earlier, and some of the details, threatening to kill family members and such, rape someone's mother to having a gun go out in the cell to make it seem like they were executing a prisoner --

BERNTSEN: That was from the Gitmo detainees. We've released a number of people that are terrorists. The man who assassinated Bhutto who was in our custody, he convinced everybody that he wasn't a terrorist. These people deserved to be captured. The fact that both the Bush administration released and the Obama administration their view of this, I don't think it's consistent with sound security measures. There are a lot of people that are terrorists that constitute a real danger to our country, and we're going to release people from that institution that will lead major terrorist organizations against the country someday. I'm convinced of it.

SYLVESTER: Robert, there is an argument that essentially says when it's necessary to get information, this notion of the ticking time bomb, that when time is of the essence you have to get that information right away and that American lives can be at stake that perhaps maybe these are justified. What's your opinion on that on whether we should go ahead and prosecute federal agents?

BAER: The president today has assigned interrogations to the FBI, high-value detainees, which is a good idea. The FBI for a living interrogates people, suspects that are hostile, that have committed violent crimes. They're very good at it. They're very good at making sure they don't cross the boundary lines. The CIA traditionally has gone out and recruited sources, not through coercion. And you know, it does very well when it does that. I think this was all giving interrogations is hugely distracting. So we're seeing a package the president has offered today and not just going after the CIA. We'll have to wait and see whether this will become a witch hunt or not, and it's too early to tell.

BERNTSEN: I agree with Bob on that, this was a distraction. Originally when we captured prisoners in the beginning, I was there when we captured prisoners in Afghanistan, I turned them over to the military immediately. I didn't think we should be in the business of doing that. Later the FBI did end up in that business, unfortunately. This has been a problem.

BAER: Gary is right.

SYLVESTER: I want you both to answer the question. We're running out of time here. Where do you think this is going to go? Do you think there will be prosecutions here?

BERNTSEN: Hopefully not. Hopefully people did adhere to the law. But if they did violate the law, there will be significant problems.

SYLVESTER: And Robert Baer, you got the final word.

BAER: I think one thing that bothers me is the destruction of the CIA tapes. What was on those tapes, why they were destroyed I think is really going to be a telling point whether the witness is prosecuted or not. It disturbs me because I would like to see what that evidence is and so would a court one day.

SYLVESTER: Thank you very much, gentlemen, for your time.

Brooke Baldwin has an update on other stories we're following.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Out of Los Angeles, the Associated Press quoting a single law enforcement saying the L.A. coroner has ruled Michael Jackson's death a homicide. The associated press has not confirmed that report, but we do know he had lethal levels of the drug Propofol and his doctor has admitted to giving him a combination of drugs, including Propofol on the day Jackson died. The Jackson family did release a statement saying, "The Jackson family has full confidence in the legal process. They look forward to the day justice can be served."

The white house warning that the swine flu could kill as many as 90,000 people right here in the United States. The council on technology says half the population could be affected this flu season. The counsel suggests speeding up the vaccine and putting the home security adviser in charge of swine flu-related decisions.

The space shuttle discovery scheduled to launch early tomorrow morning. Crews fielded the shuttle this afternoon and they say it will be ready for its 1:00 a.m. shuttle launch time. The astronauts will be bringing more than seven tons of supplies to the space station. One of the items they'll be bringing, Lisa, a treadmill named after comedian Stephen Colbert. I have trouble getting on my treadmill on earth, so kudos to the astronauts.

SYLVESTER: I think he went on a campaign, didn't he, to get that.

BALDWIN: He did, and he won.

SYLVESTER: Thank you for that update.

Coming up, the president goes on vacation while the nation is engaged in the health care debate. Is this a good time to leave Washington? Stomp and the health care rhetoric heats up among Democrats. The president's party remains deeply divided. Our panel is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SYLVESTER: Joining me now, the president of Christie Strategies and former special assistants to George W. Bush, Ron Christie, Republican strategist, political director and senior contributor Ed Rollins, and democratic strategist and CNN contributor Hank Sheinkopf. Thank you very much for joining us.

First we'll get started to the decision to appoint a prosecutor to see if the CIA did anything illegally. Good idea, bad idea?

HANK SHEINKOPF, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Mixed idea. If the probe goes on a long time, it will not be good for the CIA, it won't be good for this country. If he reaches quick conclusions to say, look, maybe some things happened, maybe not, indicts some people, maybe the better off we'll be. But a long-term probe of the CIA would not be good for this president, this administration or this nation.

SYLVESTER: Ron, do you think our country needs a full-scale investigation into what happened during President Bush's years?

RON CHRISTIE, CHRISTIE STRATEGIES: I don't. I think if you look at the CIA interrogators, they were under an operative. The American men and women are the ones that will be brought to justice, not the higher-ups. I think this is a witch hunt about embarrassing the Bush administration rather than asking the country to keep us safer.

SYLVESTER: The white house appears to be doing a very delicate dance here, on the one hand saying, OK, Eric Holder, do what you need to do, and on the other hand saying, we're not involved. This is Eric Holder's thing.

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: This is a president that wants to be loved by all sides. I'm not surprised. The number one decision I found strange today is not taking interrogation decisions from the CIA and giving did to the FBI, they're now taking it to the national securities council. That's not the job of the national securities council and for them to be in charge of the interrogations brings it right to the doorstep. Lord hope we never have another 9/11, but most of this occurred right after 9/11, and who knows what we might have done to these people who killed thousands of Americans. I think to the most extent, we need to move on, and I think this shift of changing it from the CIA.

SYLVESTER: The white house by making this shift of changing of the CIA to the authority of interrogations of these sorts with the FBI, is the white house essentially saying the buck stops here?

SHEINKOPF: The white house is demoralizing the CIA, taking back some of its power. Re-empowering the FBI and taking back control, itself. It's a long route.

SYLVESTER: In terms of these revelations, what do you think this is going to do, Ron, in terms of the United States' image abroad? America's image abroad? Too many details coming out that might come back to hurt us?

CHRISTIE: I think it will. If you looked at director Panetta, he was at a conference. They said, why is the United States continually looking back? President Obama when he came into office said we need to move forward, leave some of these issues in the past behind us. Think it's going to hurt the morale of the CIA, as Hank said a few minutes ago. Do these steps take the United States a course safer for protecting us as opposed to making people say, you know what, maybe I better take a step back because I don't want a justice department lawyer breathing down my neck.

SYLVESTER: The white house has so much on its plate right now. This is supposed to the month for health care. Is this going two a political distraction?

ROLLINS: It has to be a distraction. Any time you appoint an independent prosecutor, he can go lots of different places and continue this thing for a long period of time. Several administrations including Reagan's administration and Clinton's administration suffered. No matter what they call it, this guy is going to go where he wants to go. We can't forget we're in the middle of the same two wars. We're still fighting the same bad guys who did 9/11. We need the CIA fully engaged and not worried about them cover their tail. I think it's a very, very bad time do this.

SYLVESTER: Hank, you have the final word on this subject. I mean, you are the Democrat represented here at the table.

SHEINKOPF: The Republicans would love to run away from this. There were probably abuses created. Go get them done. Get the investigation completed and moved on. Don't drag this out. The men and women fighting for our country don't need the heat.

SYLVESTER: We'll have much more with our panel. Stay with us.


SYLVESTER: We are back now with our panel. Ron Christie, Ed Rollins and hank shine cough. Thank you for joining us.

Hank, we'll start with you. So, President Obama he's on vacation, Martha's Vineyard. This is a make or break month for health care. Is it a good month for him to be on vacation?

SHEINKOPF: What says he's not working the phones when he's on vacation? It's a good time to slow the action down. The action has not been great. It has to come back more coordinated. Have a plan where he can get behind it and ignite as many facts as possible.

SYLVESTER: They're using this vacation to slam President Obama on health care. We have a piece of sound we want to play for our viewers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The beach is nice this time of year. While President Obama vacations, concerns about his health care plan. Why? Because his public option health plan could lead to government-run health care, higher taxes on everything from paychecks to soda and add $1 trillion to the deficit.

SYLVESTER: Okay, Ron, is that going to gain traction there?

CHRISTIE: I think they will. The think a lot of Americans right now are looking at the Obamas on vacation, saying, he's spending $50,000 a week to rent a home when a lot of American families don't make that kind of money. People are concerned. They're saying have the size and the scope of government gotten too big? With we have the stimulus bill, talking about taking over the health care industry. Is the government trying to do too much, too fast without serious time for cause for deliberation?

SYLVESTER: The point Ron's making, that Martha's Vineyard property, 28 acres, $50,000 a week. That's not going to really sit well with middle class voters out there.

ROLLINS: It doesn't relate if you're a populous president, which he wants to be. The critical thing, the president has to come back and be fully engaged in not in public selling this program. The public sale is over. He has to get on the hill with his team, get behind closed doors with Democrats. There's no Republican who is going to vote with this plan. They have to come out with something they can sell. The big battle is the conservative blue dogs versus the progressives. They're about as far apart as anybody can be. If they're going to do that, this president is going to get a big, black mark.

SYLVESTER: That this is basically a war with the Democrats right now. Thank you, gentlemen.

Coming up at the top of the hour, Campbell Brown.

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, there, Lisa. A whole lot more on the breaking news in the Michael Jackson investigation including an hour by hour look at what drugs Jackson was giving on the last night of his life. Long list, pretty shocks.

Also swine flu that could cause up to 90,000 deaths this year at home. We have the government warning just in tonight. We're going to tell you more about that. Those stories plus our "mashup" at the top of the show of the day's news at the top of the hour.

SYLVESTER: Campbell, looking forward to it. We will be right back.


SYLVESTER: A reminder to join Lou on the raid you Monday through Friday for "the Lou Dobbs show." Subscribe to Lou's free daily pod cast as well at for interviews, Lou's commentary and a whole lot more. And also follow Lou at Lou Dobbs news on

Thanks for being with us tonight. Please join us tomorrow.

For all of us here, thanks for watching. Good night from New York. Next, Campbell Brown.