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American Morning

NSA Spying; Diet Pill Concerns; Mine Safety in West Virginia

Aired January 23, 2006 - 07:30   ET


DAN BARTLETT, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: Thanks, Miles. Good to be with you.

MILES O'BRIEN: Can you give us one example of why it has been worthwhile listening in on Americans without a warrant?

BARTLETT: Well, I wish I could. Unfortunately, the highly classified nature of this program prohibits me from doing so. But make no mistake about it, Miles, the number two ranking intelligence official in our government, General Hayden, has said that this has directly played a role in preventing attacks on our homeland. It's been critically important to understand that this terror surveillance program is one in which is aimed at international phone calls between those affiliated with al Qaeda and those here.

Now if you have -- if you're an American out there and you're planning your daily schedule and you're talking about carpool with your neighbor down the street, nobody is listening on your call, Miles. What this is, is people who are talking to known al Qaeda operatives or affiliates over in Pakistan, Afghanistan, wherever they may be, an international phone call. It's critically important we know what they're saying because that's exactly what we didn't do before 9/11. Now we're connecting the dots, we're doing it in a legal way, we briefed the Congress for more than four years and it's critical that it continues, Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN: Well, let me ask you this. How does this really speed up the process? Because, as it stood before, you could actually get a wiretap and then retroactively get the warrant, but the administration chose not to do that. Why?

BARTLETT: Well, it would require you to know very specific elements of the program but -- which I can't talk about on national TV, unfortunately, Miles. But the fact of the matter is, we are using FISA. It's not that we have some sort of aversion to FISA. It's being used to its fullest extent. But also . . .

MILES O'BRIEN: So why not get the warrant then? Why not just go through that process, get the warrant and then you don't have anything to explain?

BARTLETT: If this wasn't such an agile program that needed to move swiftly in ways that couldn't be contemplated by the FISA act. This is why we briefed the Congress on it from the very outset. We talked about these very issues, Miles. We also talked about changing the law in Congress, whether we should have three or four years ago. The consultation then said that we shouldn't. We should operate as we are because what we were doing was legal and it was a vital program in our security.

MILES O'BRIEN: Well, wait, if you thought it was legal, why did you feel you had to go to Congress to change the law? And, I'll tell you what . . .

BARTLETT: We didn't.

MILES O'BRIEN: Let's interject Senator McCain in on this.


MILES O'BRIEN: Because he had some points on that yesterday. Let's listen to what he had to say.



SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: I know of no member of Congress, frankly, who, if the administration came and said, here's why we need this capability, that they wouldn't get it. And so let's have the hearings.


MILES O'BRIEN: All right, belt and suspenders, why not go to Congress, just get them to bless it and then you have controversy, right?

BARTLETT: We went to Congress. We talked to the chairman and the ranking member of the intelligence committee. We talked to the leadership, both Republican and Democrat, House and Senate. These very discussions happened three to four years ago. The decision then, which was the right decision, is that having a public debate about this would only tell the enemy what exactly we are doing to surveillance them. The fact of the matter is, everybody came to the same conclusion, that what the president was doing was legal and was necessary.

I mean think about it, Miles, if the president of the United States was consciously breaking the law, why would he go inform the Congress that he was doing it? It's not common sense to come to that conclusion because the right conclusion is that he has the authority to do it. We're using other aspect of the laws, whether it be FISA or other aspects of our intelligence capabilities, to fight this war. This is a critical element as well and we're going to continue to use it.

MILES O'BRIEN: But, Dan, just people at home watching this morning. I think many of them just feel at its very basic level this - - it feels un-American.

BARTLETT: I don't believe the American people feel it's un- American for us, the government, to do everything we can to protect them. That if a foreign operative, a foreign al Qaeda terrorist, is calling somebody on a cell phone, much like they were doing to two members of the 9/11 plot in San Diego who ultimately boarded a plane and plowed that plane into the Pentagon, that maybe the government ought to be listening in and figuring out what exactly they're doing so we prevent another attack. There are multiple checks and balances, Miles, to make sure what we're doing is targeting just that, international phone calls of terrorists, not the conversations between two, you know, families coordinating a family vacation. We have very strict laws and very strict oversight. This is a targeted program. And I think most of the American people would be very angry if they thought we weren't doing just this.

MILES O'BRIEN: All right. In retrospect though, given the fact that the administration is a bit on the defensive, and you've got, obviously we just saw Senator McCain, people on both sides of the aisle, do you wish you had found some way to consult Congress without spilling the beans?

MILES O'BRIEN: Well, we did do that, Miles. I think that's what we're trying to talk and pass each other a little bit. We did consult the Congress, the highest levels of Congress, the leadership of both the Intelligence Committees, as well as the speaker, the leader, the minority ranking members in both the House and the Senate. Republicans and Democrats sat around the table saying, this is vital, this should continue.

The only time this came out is when "The New York Times" sensationally reported aspects of this program and I would say incorrectly and it's leaving the wrong impression. I think Senator McCain would be the first to tell you that he's not a lawyer, he hasn't been briefed into the program entirely, he does believe it's vital and he comes to the same assessment that the government ought to be doing everything we can to protect our country. We're doing it within the president's constitutional authority, as well as interpreting the statutes already on the book. So this element of the program is vital, it's going to continue, it is legal and will continue to consult the Congress and inform them of our activities.

MILES O'BRIEN: It's a difficult balancing act. Dan Bartlett, council to the president, thanks for being with us as always.

BARTLETT: No problem.

MILES O'BRIEN: CNN will cover the president's speech, of course, live at 12:30 Eastern Time from Kansas and we will send it over to Soledad now.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: And, in fact, let's send it right over to Carol for a look at some of the stories making news this morning.



And good morning to all of you.

A deadly attack in Baghdad today. A suicide car bomber blew up his explosives at an Iraqi police checkpoint, killing at least three people and injuring seven others. The blast happened near the Iranian embassy in the heavily fortified green zone.

And still no word on the fate of American journalist Jill Carroll. Her captors said they would kill her if the U.S. did not free all Iraqi female prisoners by a deadline that passed on Friday. Carroll's father is calling on his daughters abductors to release her, insisting "she is not your enemy."

A bleak outlook for Ford Motor Company and its workers. The U.S. automaker is expected to close several plants in North America, putting as many as 25,000 workers out of jobs. Ford is struggling thanks to its sagging sales of SUVs, higher healthcare costs and labor contracts.

As you may know, the tale of the London whale did not have a happy ending but scientists hope they can prevent more creatures from suffering the same fate. The 20-foot long whale, who veered into the river Thames, died as rescuers tried to steer it to deeper waters. Experts are now examining the whale to see what contributed to its death and caused it to make its unlikely journey.

And a much better outcome for some hikers stranded in the freezing cold on a Utah mountain, Mount Olympus. Four hikers have been air-lifted to safety after spending the night there. One hiker lost her footing, falling 90 feet and she dragged the others right along with her. There were some serious broken bones but everybody made it out alive. But they had to spend the night on a snowy legend and it was 5 degrees up there. It was nasty, Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: That's horrible. Thank goodness, though, they're been able to get out. What great news for them.

Carol, thank you for that update.

Let's update the weather too. Chad's got that.

Hey, Chad.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, if you file your taxes online free last year. Do you do it online?

MILES O'BRIEN: I do it electronically, yes. Yes.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Yes, well, I've got bad news for you. It was free last year. Not anymore. Sorry. Andy's going to tell us why just ahead.

MILES O'BRIEN: No free lunch is there.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Nope. MILES O'BRIEN: And that brings us to our next story. A little pill that will make all your pounds go away. But is there a free lunch on this?


MILES O'BRIEN: No. We're going to tell you about the gastrointestinal side effects which may make you think twice about Xenical or its over-the-counter derivative. Stay with us.


MILES O'BRIEN: What would you give for a pill, just one little pill, that would safely melt your excess baggage away, no cares, no worries, life would be better, right? Well, I bet you'd give a lot. And the federal government appears to be on the cusp of making just such a pill available over-the-counter. Does it all sound too good to be true? Well, it just may be. Dr. Pamela Peeke is a nutrition expert, the author of "Body for Life for Women." She joins us now. A frequent guest on the program, friend of the show, as we like to say.

Pamela, good to have you back with us.


MILES O'BRIEN: Let's talk about Xenical. And just give us the basics. How does it work?

PEEKE: What Xenical does is it blocks fat absorption. Now it doesn't block all fat absorption, about 30 percent. So if you think you're having that big hamburger and you're blocking it all, forget it, it's not happening. Thirty percent.

MILES O'BRIEN: So don't take the pill and then pig out? That's not a good idea?

PEEKE: That's a thought.

MILES O'BRIEN: All right. And this is not like a lot of other diet pills. It's not an amphetamine, so it doesn't have that addictive quality, right?

PEEKE: That's absolutely correct. It works in a completely different mechanism. And that is, it's working on where you actually absorb the fat and that's in the intestinal tract. And when it does this, it obviously then has a number of side effects that are also related to the gastrointestinal tract.

MILES O'BRIEN: All right. Must we -- I'll tell you what, let's put them on the screen and maybe people -- folks can just read them.


MILES O'BRIEN: All right. We'll just -- the term seepage has been used. I guess that's one way to describe it. But the bottom line is, you take this and you might regret it, right? PEEKE: Well look, you know, you take . . .

MILES O'BRIEN: Or certainly your wife would!

PEEKE: Well, listen, let's put it this way, (INAUDIBLE) husband or whatever . . .


PEEKE: Look, you take the pill, this is not a magic pill. What it does is it basically partially blocks fat absorption. That's all. The fat has to go somewhere and it goes out the other end. When it does this, however, it also decrees the absorption of fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K. So everyone taking this kind of pill obviously has to be taking a multivitamin as well. So it's really important to keep this in mind.

The other thing is, you're only dropping 5 percent of your total body weight. Five percent. So if you're 200 pounds, you know, that's only 10 pounds. And that's over the course of a year. This is supposed to be working adjunctively with diet and exercise. But the last time I looked, when you got up and you actually took a walk, you dropped something like 20 to 25 pounds a year by basically sweating and putting on the sneakers. So it's really up to you as to whether or not you want to do the side effects, pay the money, which is going to be about $100 a month or so, not covered by any insurance plan.

MILES O'BRIEN: Oh, $100 a month, wow.

PEEKE: Yes. And then at the same time, it's the 5 percent thing. Put it all together, your choice.

MILES O'BRIEN: Here's the thing though. Knowing Americans as we do, they'll stay on the couch, they'll get the pill, not be losing enough and they'll start double, triple dosing, who knows what, and it's over the counter, so a doctor is not in the loop on this and that could really lead to trouble, couldn't it?

PEEKE: Well, this is the whole issue. The FDA is going to be meeting today and discussing this. You know, can we trust Americans? Well, you know the old adage in America, Miles. You know, when in doubt, you know, eat a mountain of the stuff, you know, instead of just one or two pills. And, you know . . .

MILES O'BRIEN: Four pills and the quarter pounder later, right?

PEEKE: Absolutely.


PEEKE: And you're also trusting that only people 18 and over will. And in addition, people who are diabetic should not be taking this. And here's the other issue, what if you don't know you're diabetic? The grand majority of people don't and they're walking around with high blood sugars and other issues. That's a very interesting, you know, point. So the other point is, guess what, it does not block carbohydrate. So if you eat mountains of sugar, it goes right on and you wear it the next morning. So this is just fat alone and at that only 30 percent fat is basically not absorbed. So, again, you've got to lay all this out and say, is this worth it, is it not? Many obesity experts say it definitely is worth it because we need something in the armamentarium against this epidemic of obesity.

MILES O'BRIEN: Oh, I like that, armamentarium.

PEEKE: But you've got to look at that whole, you know, cost and benefit.

MILES O'BRIEN: Armamentarium, good word.

All right, just final thought here. It feels to me, every time I hear about these things I think of Fen-Phen, I think of Redox, all these misfires that ultimately led to real trouble for people.

PEEKE: Yes, well, you know something, one, it's not a magic pill, two, you do have a lot of side effects here and you've got to look at this, and three, you know, as the Fen-Phen thing hit, too, there is nothing, absolutely nothing that substitutes for a healthy life style. Do I sound like a broken record, Miles?

MILES O'BRIEN: No, it's good, though. I'm glad you're doing it. Pamela Peeke, always a pleasure.

PEEKE: Thank you.

MILES O'BRIEN: And you should be listening to her. Always listen to the doctor. Thanks for joining us.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Thanks, Miles.

West Virginia's governor is proposing legislation that would increase safety in the state's coal mines. It comes after back-to- back tragedies this month left 14 miners dead. The bodies of two miners were discovered on Saturday after a fire inside the Aracoma Mine. Twelve people, of course, perished in the Sago Mine disaster. Governor Joe Manchin joins us from Charleston, West Virginia, this morning.

Nice to see you, Governor. Thank you for talking with us.

GOV. JOE MANCHIN, (D) WEST VIRGINIA: Thank you, Soledad, for having me.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Why are the numbers so high in your state? I mean, if you look at the numbers of deaths across the nation last year, that number was 22. We're talking 14 miners dead. We're only on the 23rd of January and we're only talking about your state.

MANCHIN: Yes. Soledad, last year, we had the safest record of all times. And then to start off the year this way is unbelievable. I have set for over 90 hours in the churches and watched firsthand the rescue operations from the command centers and the excruciating pain is unbelievable that just -- we're waiting. If you're in the church with a family, you're waiting to hear some news, any news, good news, whatever it would be and hoping that there might have been a pocket of air. They might have not been in the blast.

We had two separate situations. Sago, we had a explosion. We had a mine fire at Aracoma. But both extruded carbon monoxide, which is deadly, as you know. And with that, the smoke and the conditions you can't see, all of these situations and we're working with an investigation with Sago immediately as we speak. I just said it, we've got to change. Why do we have to lose . . .

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: And you've got this new -- I mean, when you say, we've got to change, you immediately proposed this new legislation that I want to talk about, governor, if we can.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: You want, first, a hotline which would make people have to call this hotline 15 minutes after an accident. Have you found that, in fact, in some of these tragedies there's no call going out?

MANCHIN: Well, the call doesn't go out quick enough. You know, if you have, God forbid, if you have a heart attack and you need medical attention immediately, they're called, they're on their way in a minute and a half, two minutes. Immediately they should call us with an industrial accident, especially a mining accident or any other type. Sometimes that doesn't always come. Not intentionally. They're all trying to do things themself to try to save the people that might be harmed or trapped. We need to have that . . .

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: I'm sort of -- forgive me for jumping in there. But I was sort of surprised to read that no one has to call an emergency number to let -- for notification. That's baffling to me. Let me run through some other points, sir.

MANCHIN: Well, no, no, they have . . .

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Because I want to get to . . .

MANCHIN: They have to call, Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: They do have to call now?

MANCHIN: They do have to call immediately but there's no teeth to it.


MANCHIN: The legislation I'm proposing is, if you don't call within 15 minutes, it's $100,000 fine. $100,000 to any operator that doesn't call us. SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Let's talk about the breathing packs and the electronic monitors. Why are these things not already in place in the wake of the Sago Mine disasters? I'm sure you know, we were asking, not knowing very much about the mining industry, why don't the miners go in with more equipment so that if there is, God forbid, an accident, that, you know, they have a chance of saving their lives.

MANCHIN: Yes, Soledad, the last change was in 1968. In my little hometown of Farmington, we had an explosion. We lost 78 miners. My uncle was one of them and a lot of my friends. That was the first changes we've had in mine safety laws and we haven't done much in 40 years.

I'm not blaming anybody. I just think that everyone became lax. We've had pretty good safety records all along. But let me tell you, if you sit with a family, one accident, one loss is one too many. We're changing in West Virginia. We're taking the lead. We're not waiting for the federal government or any other state.

We're going to make it mandatory in every mine in West Virginia that you're going to have at least the three things that will be done, rapid response. If you don't call us it's $100,000 fine. The second is going to be electronic tracking. We need to know where they are immediately so we can focus all of our attentions to getting them out and keeping them safe. The third is the reserve emergency oxygen units. No one should ever suffocate in a mine.

I want the families and the miners who are working to have safety and I want to make sure that the families who really are going through the pain of worrying every minute their husband or their loved one is in that mine, that they're in the safest conditions they possibly can be. We owe it to them and those 14 miners. I've promised, Soledad, every family that their loved one, their father, brother, cousin, uncle, did not die in vain, will not have died in vein. We are making changes historically today.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Sad to have to have tragedy sort of be the impetus for the changes.

MANCHIN: It's a shame.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Governor Joe Manchin, thank you for talking with us this morning. Good luck with this legislation.

MANCHIN: Thank you, Soledad. Thank you for all the prayers all around the world. We have felt them each time the tragedy has struck West Virginia. We thank you. We appreciate it.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: And we appreciate that, sir. Thanks.


MILES O'BRIEN: Some breaking news just coming in to CNN. This coming from Nairobi, Kenya. A building collapse there in Central Nairobi. A building that had been under construction. If you look at this dramatic video of apparently construction workers trapped beneath the rubble of this building that collapsed. It was a five-story building and we're told they were working on adding additional floors above the existing five. Upwards of 200 people were inside.

As we say, they were construction workers in the midst of this process. Fifty people have been admitted to the Kenyatta General Hospital. You see the chaotic scene there as dozens of people turn out at this building collapse, doing what they can to dig into the rubble with their bare hands trying to get the injured out from underneath this collapse. No immediate indication on any fatalities as a result of all this. Witnesses, however, on the scene are telling Kenyan media that there are fears, as you might imagine, that there may be many fatalities.

As we say, 200 people inside this building. That shot is a tough one to see.


MILES O'BRIEN: Chilling is the word, Andy, as we tell you about this going on. We'll keep you posted on what's going on in Nairobi.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Oh, that hand coming out from under that cement slab.

SERWER: Yes, that will stick with you.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Gosh. I hope they can -- I mean it seems like he's got some energy. Hopefully they're going to be able to pull that up and pull him out. How awful.

MILES O'BRIEN: What's always interesting to me -- you know mostly after earthquakes we talk about this, all these pockets of air and, you know . . .

SERWER: Space.

MILES O'BRIEN: And the key is getting to them without, you know, damaging that protective area. So you have to be very careful.


MILES O'BRIEN: All right. Let's talk about business, shall we?

SERWER: We shall.

Want to change gears here and talk about the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS is getting rid of a freebie. And when you hear about this, all you can do is ask why? Stay tuned to AMERICAN MORNING.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Know what they say, a couple of things you can't avoid, death and taxes. And now, apparently, a fee on to your taxes online, if you're filing that way. Andy's got that.

Good morning.

SERWER: Good morning.

No free lunches from the IRS any more, Soledad, if you make over $50,000 a year. Here's the story. In 2003, the IRS set up a program called Free File which allowed taxpayers to pay their taxes online for free. You could also use this service through tax preparing companies like Turbo Tax or H&R Block. But now the IRS is getting rid of this free service for those who make over $50,000 a year. The IRS says that still means that 70 percent of all taxpayers will be able to use this. But for those who want to pay their taxes online who make more than 50k, they're going to charge you $25 to $35 to do so. Also, if you do this through H&R Block or Turbo Tax, they're going to charge you even more or make the requirements more stringent. So the end of a freebie for those people who make more than $50,000. You have to ask, why?


SERWER: Why? Why should you have to pay?

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: It's not like it costs them $25 for each person to keep that Web site up?

SERWER: Right. And it's a paper-free thing.


SERWER: I mean, it's electronic. It shouldn't cost anything. I guess the IRS just wants more money, right? What a surprise.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: That is probably a really good guess.

SERWER: Yes, a brilliant deduction as the used to say.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Brilliant deduction.

Thanks, Sherlock.

Ahead this morning, an AMERICAN MORNING exclusive. The father of kidnaped American journalist Jill Carroll talks to us. He's got an urgent message for his daughter's kidnappers. We're going to bring it to you ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. We're back after this short break.