Return to Transcripts main page

American Morning

Shuttle Re-Entry Risks; Presidential Battle; Unfair Trial?

Aired August 05, 2005 - 07:30   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning -- Carol.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Good morning to all of you.

"Now in the News."

The U.S. military launches Operation Quick Strike in Iraq. Nearly 1,000 Iraqi soldiers and U.S. Marines are carrying out the operation in Iraq's Anbar province, west of Baghdad. The military says the mission is aimed at disrupting insurgent activity in the region. At least 21 U.S. Marines were killed in that area this week. The operation, though, was planned before that happened.

In northern Ireland, rioters in Belfast injure at least 40 police officers. Look at these pictures from the scene, where crowds threw gasoline bombs and burned cars. Authorities say Protestant militants were behind the five-hour riot. They were apparently upset by the arrests of six people linked to Protestant militant groups. Officials say in the past week three people have died from feuds between rival Protestant groups. The unrest follows an historic pledge by the Irish Republican Army to lay down its arms and pursue peace.

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist is back home this morning after being taken to the hospital. Rehnquist developed a fever and was examined on Thursday at a Virginia hospital. He was not admitted, however. The 80-year-old has been battling thyroid cancer since October. In July, Rehnquist spent two nights at the same hospital after complaining of a fever. And he then released a statement saying he had absolutely no plans to retire because of his health.

And the head of Major League Baseball repeating his stance that it's time for a tougher steroid policy. In the wake of Rafael Palmeiro's suspension, commissioner Bud Selig called for stricter testing and harsher steroid penalties in a statement on Thursday. Selig proposes that first-time offenders be suspended for 50 games, while a second offense would result in 100-game suspension. A third violation would carry a lifetime ban from baseball. The current policy holds a 10, 30 and 60-game suspension for steroid offenses. And, of course, the baseball players union is quite powerful. And they will have to agree to all of that. And, somehow, I don't think it's going to be easy for Bud Selig -- Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: No, that's kind of harsh. But you know what? They need to get it under control, because we don't even know how many guys they've tested. We just know how many guys that have tested positive. We don't even know how many guys have tested negative.


M. O'BRIEN: Discovery astronauts are packing up, getting ready to head back to Earth. NASA decided yesterday a fourth spacewalk not needed to fix a damaged thermal blanket near one of the cockpit windows. This puts Discovery on schedule for an early morning landing on Monday.

M. O'BRIEN: Norm Thagard is a former NASA astronaut. He joins us now from CNN center.

Norm, good to have you back with us.

DR. NORM THAGARD, FORMER ASTRONAUT: Thanks, Miles. Good to be back.

M. O'BRIEN: Let's listen to Wayne Hale. Yesterday at the Mission Management Team briefing, he said this.


WAYNE HALE, DEPUTY SHUTTLE PROGRAM MANAGER: I'm not here to tell you we are 100 percent confident there is no risk during entry. And I would be untrue and foolish.


M. O'BRIEN: Nothing is 100 percent in life, Dr. Thagard. Death and taxes are the exception to that. When he says that, though, should we be worried?

THAGARD: I think not. You know the mode NASA is in right now. They're really not going to take any significant chances at all. So he's right. You can't say anything is certain, but you can believe he's 99.9 percent certain nothing bad is going to happen.

M. O'BRIEN: Let's talk about the most recent decision in this mission. Lots of decisions that they had to face here, and that was this blanket, this so-called poofed-out blanket. They decided not to fix it. Do you think that was a good call?

THAGARD: I think it was a good call. First of all, as you know, you're not well-equipped to do EVAs typically outside that payload bay door, the payload bay. It's only the fact that they're docked to a space station and they've got access via other arms that they can even do these tasks. You have to be very careful when you're outside the confines of the payload bay that you don't inadvertently do more damage than that you set out to fix.

M. O'BRIEN: And as a medical doctor you know, first do no harm, is a good motto right?

THAGARD: That's a great motto.

M. O'BRIEN: What -- there were really no options, though, for repairing it anyway. I mean, they sort of admitted we really don't know how to fix it, the way it is right now.

THAGARD: Well, certainly, that would be a good reason. And this is one of those things that the crew probably wouldn't have practiced, although you always have folks on the ground that run through them and tell everyone on board how they would do it. So the fact that they haven't specifically trained for this is another reason to be a little bit cautious in proceeding.

M. O'BRIEN: Never in the history of the space shuttle program have we had an orbiter so heavily scrutinized in space. We know an awful lot about it. What can we say with certainty about its prospects for re-entry?

THAGARD: I think at this point the shuttle that's up there is in good shape. In fact, we don't even know, as a matter of fact, whether you needed to do the filler material withdrawal, as they did. The problem is we've not had a lot of this data before. And once you see it and you do some analyses that show it can be a problem, in today's climate, you have no choice but to do something about it.

M. O'BRIEN: It's worth reminding people what re-entry is all about and what the orbiter and the crew inside endures as it returns to Earth. Give us a sense of the kind -- sort of walk us through a re-entry, if you could.

THAGARD: First of all, you turn the vehicle around, and you fire the rockets to slow yourself. And the whole idea is you'll use the atmosphere to get rid of the energy you have. You certainly don't have enough fuel just to do it on that basis.

Then you turn it back around, and you put it in the right altitude to enter the sensible atmosphere. And you then just use the atmosphere as a break. You're doing 17,500 miles an hour between that and 18,000 miles an hour. Obviously, when you're going through air at that speed, it heats up to very high temperatures, which is why all of that thermal protection material.

You do turns because you usually have a little excess energy, so you don't head straight for the field. You do these steep banks. And when you do, I know that as a flight engineer a couple of times, I felt a bit uncomfortable when the shuttle does these steep bank turns.

But at the last, it proceeds flawlessly. Most of it's under computer control until the very last. And then the commander takes over and lands it. Almost always, it goes without even the slightest hitch.

M. O'BRIEN: Let's hope for happy landings. Dr. Norm Thagard, thanks for your time.

THAGARD: My pleasure, Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, as President Bill Clinton was famous for, among many things, a love of Big Macs, not to mention his battle of the bulge, but since undergoing heart surgery last fall, he's dropped some weight. And now the former first weight watcher is putting the last of his sort of big physique behind a battle to save children from obesity and diabetes.

He sat down with CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta.


SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): More than four years after leaving the White House, Bill Clinton has been traveling the world, looking trim and fit.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm doing great. I think I've made a complete recovery.

GUPTA: He says this campaign by the Clinton Foundation is driven by personal experience.

CLINTON: You know, I was probably in the last generation of Americans where people widely thought a fat baby was a healthy baby. And I lived with my grandparents until I was 4. They just stuffed me. And so I was -- I always battled my weight. When I was 13, I was 5 foot 8 and weighed 185 pounds.

GUPTA: He lost the weight by college, but a lifetime of bad eating took its toll when he landed on the operating table last September for quadruple bypass heart surgery.

CLINTON: The brush with death I had maybe had the biggest impact of all going through the health problems I did. I realized that one more time I've been given another chance, and I just wanted to make the most of it.

GUPTA: Making health issues a top priority. AIDS in Africa, obesity at home, and big changes in his personal life. Fewer French fries, more fresh fruits and vegetables, at least an hour of walking every day, and more rest at night.

CLINTON: Emory University has done a study saying that obesity alone accounted for 25 percent of the increased health costs of the last 15 years. So I thought it was a chance where I could save the most lives, do the most good, and also do something that I understood from my own experience. But the bottom line is that we've got too many kids too overweight, and they're walking time bombs.

GUPTA (on camera): Is this individual responsibility, or is this something that the legal system government should get involved with?

CLINTON: First of all, the legislators and the governors should get involved, because they provide most of the money for the schools. So the first thing I'd ask them to do is to look at the schools, set some standards for the school meals. And they certainly do something about the vending machines. They either ought to get them out of the grade schools or get the bad stuff out of the vending machines.

GUPTA (voice over): Another Clinton target? The fast food giants.

(on camera): You talk about food industry, the fast food industry. Could you go to McDonald's today and say, listen, this is killing us -- I mean, this is literally killing us, some of this food?

CLINTON: We've reached out to McDonald's, to the other fast food places and to a lot of the food producers. We cannot sustain it from a healthcare point of view. It's devastating to the country for people to be ingesting as much fat and sugar as they are eating the way they do.

GUPTA (voice over): Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.


S. O'BRIEN: Coming up this weekend on CNN's "HOUSE CALL" with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Sanjay launches his own initiative to fight childhood obesity. He's going to kick things off with more of his interview with the former president, Bill Clinton. A look at that on Saturday and Sunday starting at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time.

M. O'BRIEN: Still to come, we're "Minding Your Business." Andy tells us why one American businessman could end up doing hard time in Indonesia.

S. O'BRIEN: And are the trials at Guantanamo rigged? Why some attorneys say their clients are being set up to lose. That's later on AMERICAN MORNING. Stay with us.


S. O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.

The Bush administration is now saying that they will send most of the inmates who were captured in Afghanistan back to their home countries. Also, the U.S. is apparently negotiating some similar deals with Saudi Arabia and Yemen as well. These developments, of course, coming amid recent allegations that those military trials at the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay are rigged.

Let's get into our interview this morning with Major Michael Mori. He, of course, is a Marine Corps military defense counsel. He'll follow this story on his client.


S. O'BRIEN: Australian David Hicks, who turns 30 this weekend, has been detained by the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since January, 2002, just after he was captured fighting alongside Taliban forces in Afghanistan. The more than 500 Gitmo detainees are accused of conspiracy to commit acts of terror. But the charges against Hicks are among the most serious. They include attempted murder of coalition forces and aiding the enemy.

It's been nearly a year since Hicks professed his innocence before a U.S. military commission. He'll be tried before a military tribunal, a justice system that hasn't been used since World War II.

Earlier this week, we learned that three military lawyers quit the prosecution team, because they believe the legal deck was stacked against the terror suspects. The Bush administration insists the prisoners will receive a fair trial.

David Hicks' father has been outspoken about his son's treatment by U.S. troops since last year. He's trying to get his son's case moved to his native Australia.


Just how serious are these new concerns that the trials at Guantanamo are unfair? Let's get to Major Michael Mori. He, again, is the defense attorney who is representing David Hicks. He's in our Washington bureau this morning.

It's nice to see you, major. Thank you for talking with us. Let's walk through the charges your client faces, if we may. He's charged with conspiracy to commit war crimes.


S. O'BRIEN: He's charged with attempted murder and aiding the enemy. He is -- it's alleged that he trained at al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, that he engaged in combat against U.S. forces. Spell out for me what your defense is for David Hicks.

MORI: Well, I can't get into the exact facts of the case, because I'm restricted by the Department of Defense on talking about it. But if you look at basically the conspiracy and the charges, they're basically saying anybody who went to a military training camp in Afghanistan is guilty of conspiracy. Anybody who might have been in Afghanistan near Taliban forces is guilty of this attempted murder. Remember, David Hicks has not injured any U.S. citizen or U.S. soldier at all.

S. O'BRIEN: So clarify for me then -- and again, I understand you can't talk about some of the specifics of the case. But are you saying that he didn't train at an al Qaeda camp? Are you saying that he wasn't on the battlefield when U.S. forces were fighting Taliban forces?

MORI: Well, again, I can't get into the facts. You're asking me to tell you what the facts are in his specific case, and I can't do that. What I can say is, if you look at somebody -- look at the Taliban, anybody fighting during the conflict between the U.S. and the Afghan government, there really was no difference between the Taliban forces and the Northern Alliance forces. The U.S. administration keeps trying to say, well, they weren't wearing uniforms. Well, neither were the Northern Alliance. They were wearing uniforms that were consistent with that geographical region. And so there was no crime in just fighting for the Taliban.

S. O'BRIEN: Is David Hicks going to get a fair trial, do you think? MORI: Well, that's really the most important thing. Even before you get to the facts of his case, is the system set up to try David Hicks fair? And it is not.

S. O'BRIEN: Give me a sense how you think it's not fair.

MORI: It basically has removed all of the fundamental protections that you would find either in a court martial or federal criminal court. There's no independent judge. There are no rules of evidence, no rules of procedure. There's no appeal to an independent appeals court. The problem is that they've removed all of the basic protections that you would find. And they need to design a system to convict.

S. O'BRIEN: So none of the prisoners at Guantanamo, you think, should be tried under this process of the military tribunals?

MORI: Absolutely not. The military commission was not necessary. We have the court martial process. It has the jurisdiction to try war crimes. It's specifically designed for battlefield cases. It's specifically designed rules to protect national security information and classified information. The military commission system is broke. In the three-and-a-half years, it's been able to charge only four people.

S. O'BRIEN: Here is what the Pentagon had to say: "The investigation showed no legal or ethical violations, rather the allegations." And these are allegations by prosecutors who said they think the system is sort of stacked against the people who are being detained at Gitmo. "The allegations appeared to be the result of miscommunication, misunderstandings, personality conflicts. Guilt or innocence of each accused will be independently determined by a military commission and based solely upon the evidence presented to it."

In other words, they say it is utterly and completely fair, and you're wrong.

MORI: Well, Soledad, if maybe one prosecutor had spoken out and left, maybe it was a personality conflict. When you have three, there's got to be something more to it.

I've asked for the investigations. I have not been provided them. I'm not sure what they're hiding.

And the real point here is look at the structure of the system they set up. It's set up to convict people, not to provide a fair sense of justice that we know in America. You know, our values in America are to provide justice and fairness, no matter who they are. And when we start sacrificing those values, we just start undermining ourselves.

S. O'BRIEN: How often do you get to meet with your client?

MORI: I get very good access to Guantanamo to meet with David. I try to get down there to see him once a month. But that's one of the big challenges in the case. You've got to go down to Gitmo. There's no calling to talk to him.

M. O'BRIEN: Major Michael Mori joining us. Thanks for your time, major. Appreciate it.

MORI: Thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Still to come, we're "Minding Your Business." Andy explains why a U.S. businessman could get 10 years in an Indonesian prison. That's next on AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: Indonesian courts recently drew international rage for convicting an Australian woman on drug charges. You remember that story. Now an American corporate executive goes on trial there. Can he get some justice? Andy Serwer, "Minding Your Business."

Andy, good morning.


This is a very different situation from that Australian woman. Richard Ness, a 55-year-old American, heads up Newmont Mining's operations in Indonesia. The Denver-based company is world's largest gold producer. And this company ran a goldmine in Seluwesi (ph), which is an island 1,300 miles off of Jakarta. They mined there for several years in the late '90s and the early part of this decade, dumping tons of mine tailings into a nearby bay. Villagers complained they got sick, that there was arsenic and mercury in the water.

And now the Indonesian government is putting Ness on trial starting today. He faces a fine, and even more significantly, faces 10 years in prison personally.

Interesting, Miles, that Ness is married to an Indonesian woman, and years ago converted to Islam, which is the predominant religion in the nation. And the broad implications here, of course, are, can you get justice in Indonesia? Can a foreigner? And what does this mean for foreign companies that do business there? Will they put out? Obviously, all sorts of companies are watching this very, very carefully.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, to prove criminal intent, is the bar set pretty high there?

SERWER: I think it's set pretty high. The question here is, you know, what sort of evidence? There have been all sorts of studies. The World Health Organization says the villagers did not get sick. Ness and Newmont maintain their innocence. They say that, yes, they did dump this into the bay, but the villagers did not get sick from it, and on and on and back and forth. But it's really a fascinating case where an individual is held responsible and could face a decade in prison in Indonesia.

M. O'BRIEN: Interesting. All right. What else is going on? You've got a little program coming up this weekend.

SERWER: I think we do.

M. O'BRIEN: A tidy one.

SERWER: We've got "IN THE MONEY," a tidy, little business program. The transfer of power in Saudi Arabia went smoothly, but many experts believe the kingdom is a powder keg of instability as the royal family appears to be enjoying all of the oil profits while the rest of the population suffers. Jack Cafferty and I will talk about that and what that means for oil prices and America's future, tomorrow at 1:00 and Sunday at 3:00, on "IN THE MONEY" on CNN.

M. O'BRIEN: The only business program you need to see.

SERWER: That really matters.

M. O'BRIEN: It just does it all. Thank you very much.

SERWER: You're welcome.

M. O'BRIEN: In a moment, new developments out of Iraq. A live report on the new operation to take out Iraqi insurgents. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: Still to come, NASA clears the crew of Discovery for landing, but has not cleared the shuttles for another launch. What does this mean to the tightly-knit space family in and around the Johnson Space Center in Houston? That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: A developing story in Iraq. U.S. Marines fighting alongside Iraqi troops in the western frontier, fighting insurgents in the same area where 20 Marines were killed this week. We're live from Iraq with the latest.