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American Morning

An Australian Television Network Broadcasting New Abu Ghraib Photographs; Cheney Hunting Accident

Aired February 15, 2006 - 09:30   ET


ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: We're following a story that's developing right now regarding the Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq. An Australian television network is now broadcasting new photographs, as well as some video that was taken back in 2003 that appeared to show American soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners. We want to go live now to our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr with more on this.
Barbara, What more do you know?


Let's start by reminding everybody that under U.S. military law and practice, the only photographs that can be taken are official photographs for documentation purposes about the status of prisoners when they are in military detention. That's it. Anything else is not acceptable. And of course, that is what the Abu Ghraib Prison scandal is all about. Australian TV now broadcasting a series of photos and video, additional material that has not been widely distributed to this point, although certainly the U.S. military has known for years now that there are hundreds of Abu Ghraib photos out there.

Now that Australian Television has put them out for world access, they are moving rapidly around the Internet, around the world.

The material we're about to show can be quite disturbing. But it is out there. Three of the photographs clearly do appear to show abuse. Let's look at some of the pictures that we have now. The reason we can say that these appear to show abuse, there is no apparent reason obviously for such photographs to be taken by U.S. military personnel of those they are holding in detention. So we're going to show you just three photographs at the moment that fall into this category of clearly apparent abuse. They are not documentation photographs. They clearly show people in circumstances in U.S. military detention that they should not be in, by all accounts.

Now what should also be added as we show these photographs, the U.S. military, again, has known for some time they are out there, and in fact has tried to keep many of these additional photographs from being published. They have gone to court to try and stop publication. The reason, they say, is if they appear in the Islamic world, they are concerned they will incite unrest in the Islamic world, and therefore put U.S. military troops at risk. But certainly now these photos appearing around the world -- Zain.

VERJEE: And they were swiftly put on Arab TV. As you say, they're out there.

Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thanks, Barbara.


O'BRIEN: Dick Cheney is the ultimate lame duck, if you will. His oft-stated claim is he not running for anything has made his politically bullet-proof, also, if you will. Now couple that with his natural bent for privacy and secrecy, and a healthy disdain for the media, and you have the makings of the shooting accident that blew up in the Bush administration's face.

Lloyd Grove currently hangs his hat here in New York with "The Daily News," but he's a seasoned beltway reporter, formerly with "The Washington Post," and is here to offer his insights on Cheney and the way he does business. Dick Cheney is a power center unto himself like no other vice president, right?

LLOYD GROVE, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": That's right. And he seems to operate until now in the White House, as though he is not answerable to anyone, including the president. And he had this accident. He kept it close to himself. His staff didn't release it. And it left it -- really dumped it on the president's staff to deal with. And now it's a big problem, because his image for Cheney -- it's a big problem for the White House; it's awful for Cheney. His image use to be one of competence, not charisma. As he once told me. Some people thought he had the sex appeal of a plate of cold french fries. But now, he's both perceived as trigger happy and incompetent. Not a good combination for politician.

O'BRIEN: No. And setting this all in the context of the issues that the Bush administration has been dealing with, the wiretapping issues, the CIA leak case, all of this I think raises some serious credibility issues among people.

The question I think people would have watching all of this is, well, what else are they not telling me?

GROVE: Exactly. And if he had somebody or himself were alert to how things looked, you know, he would have, say, gone to the hospital with the guy immediately, which apparently he didn't do, let photographers in, hold a press conference, tell in his own words what happened, at least engender some sympathy for himself. But instead, he's gone into the bunker.

O'BRIEN: Yes. And his defense is, well, I was most worried about my friend, Mr. Whittington. But the fact is, staff is there to remind somebody like this, who would certainly be shaken up and concerned about his friend -- that's understandable -- that there is a public image that needs to get out there. He's lost some key people, his chief of staff, of course, Scooter Libby not with him, and also his communications guy just moved over to the Schwarzenegger campaign. That has left him with some staff shortfalls maybe? Is that the issue?

GROVE: He's left himself advising himself. And he seems to have at this point a fool for a client, surprisingly. And, yes, I mean he needed somebody, a grownup there to say, Mr. Vice president, this ain't Halliburton. You're vice president of the United States. Nothing you do is private. It is a public issue. Let's get it out there.

O'BRIEN: Yes. And mean, I think that would be good advice in any case.

What's interesting to me, though, is how it's not even that subtle anymore, how there is a bit of a split between the presidents and vice president's staff. Play that one out. Where does that go from here?

GROVE: Well, I think it goes downhill. I think the tension gets increasingly bad, and I think Cheney perhaps loses some power. Because I think the president can't but lose a little confidence in his second-in-command over this issue.

But, I mean, it got to the point yesterday where Scott McClellan was joking about this incident, while Cheney's staff knew that Harry Whittington, the victim, was undergoing surgery after a heart attack. So I can't imagine that Scott McClellan was particularly happy with the vice president's staff.

O'BRIEN: Yes, Scott McClellan is now getting the full-fledged defcon-five punching bag treatment right now, and that's not a good place for a press secretary to be.

GROVE: Over something that he didn't even do. I mean, he's just dealing with the fallout of it.

O'BRIEN: Yes. Is this a different White House? Having two distinct centers of power has pros and cons, doesn't it?

GROVE: Well, sure. If, for instance, your President Bush and you feel like you can trust somebody delegate a lot of the work and decisionmaking, then I suppose that's a pro for you.

But I think now the con side has certainly come up in a big way, and I think that will probably change in due course.

O'BRIEN: If you were offering advice right now, would you say get before the cameras as soon as possible, Mr. Cheney, and make a statement?

GROVE: Get out there yesterday. Do an interview with -- if not someone from CNN, with Barbara Walters and cry.

O'BRIEN: I don't know if Dick Cheney is going to do that for us.

GROVE: I don't think so.

O'BRIEN: All right, Lloyd Grove, who works for "The Daily News" now and is an old Washington hand. Thanks for dropping by.




VERJEE: Andy is "Minding Your Business." What you have?

SERWER: I am, Zain.

Wal-Mart is being forced to stock medication in Massachusetts. Plus, a sweet deal for We'll tell you all about that next on AMERICAN MORNING. Stay tuned.


VERJEE: Ladies, go! What would you do for a diamond ring? Would you do this? Well, this was the scene on Tuesday in Salt Lake City. Nearly 100 people literally took the cake. They fought and they bashed, and then, look, it was a winner. She got it. She got a little bit of a hug there. You know, she got a diamond ring. It was buried in that cake. Oh, my God.

O'BRIEN: Look at the pool reporter. I love the reporter.

SERWER: Yes, where did you find it? In the cake. That's where I found it, in the cake.

VERJEE: That was the winner. The losers had to clean the cake, sweep up the floor with a fork. They ate some of it.

O'BRIEN: Is that true, really? Did you make that up?

VERJEE: No, no, it's true.

SERWER: What kind of icing -- no, no.

VERJEE: Andy, business news?

SERWER: Business news. We're going to talk about Wal-Mart.

First, let's go down to Wall Street and see how trade something going. Down six points, those Dow Jones Industrials are.

O'BRIEN: You hexed yourself, Andy Serwer. You've hexed yourself.

SERWER: Yes, well, we had a big gain yesterday, and we're retreating a little bit this morning. A trillion-dollar deal to tell you about, a trillion-dollar deal to tell you about. Merrill Lynch is merging its money-management business with a company called Black Rock. Together it will be running a trillion dollars almost.

O'BRIEN: Is that a first?

SERWER: No, don't think so, but it's almost as big as it gets right there. Stock is up eight percent. That would be Black Rock.

Ben Bernanke, new Fed chief will be testifying in about 15 minutes before Congress.

Now Wal-Mart, you remember this story, three women in Massachusetts sued the retailing giant because it declined to carry the so-called morning-after pill. The Massachusetts Board of Registration and Pharmacy has decided Wal-Mart must in fact carry said medication. Pro-choice activists say they plan to file suits in other states. Illinois being the only other state that has forced Wal-Mart to take -- to stock this medication. Wal-Mart says it doesn't stock the medication because there is low demand.

Now, the You know that Web site? Might be familiar to you, because Danielle Romano is from She's appeared on this show.

O'BRIEN: A friend of the program.

SERWER: Many times.

O'BRIEN: Yes, many times.

SERWER: Interesting story, though. It may be up for sale, according to Wall Street.

O'BRIEN: There she is. There's Danielle.

SERWER: She's looking good. She's got her earpiece in there. She's looking good. She could be filthy rich now after this.

There she is going to talk now.

Here is what's going on. Bob Pittman, the former COO of our parent company, Time-Warner, left this place a while ago.

O'BRIEN: A bit of a cloud.

SERWER: A bit of a cloud.

O'BRIEN: A bit of a cloud you might say.

SERWER: And he went out and did his own thing. He bought Daily Candy for $3.5 million in 2003.

O'BRIEN: That was pocket change, by the way.

SERWER: Now he's looking to sell it for $100 million. That would be more than, as Jon Luvitz (ph) used to say. And maybe Danielle, we hope Danielle gets a little of that -- ka-ching.

VERJEE: We hope she does. And we hope she continues coming on this show in spite of the ka-ching.

SERWER: Maybe she is going to get 50 percent of it. That's $50 million -- no. O'BRIEN: It's a sweet deal either way.

SERWER: It sure is.

O'BRIEN: All right, Andy Serwer, thank you.

SERWER: Thank you.

VERJEE: And one of the sweetest people in Atlanta, Daryn Kagan, working. What are you working on this morning, Daryn?

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Zain-y, you're too sweet. Thank you.

We do have a busy morning ahead. On hot seat, Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff. He's facing tough questions from lawmakers over the government's response to Hurricane Katrina. We will bring you his testimony live.

Also, they're supposed to be good for your dog's teeth. But can they cause serious problems? What you need to know about the country's most popular pet treat on "CNN LIVE TODAY."

Zain, I can tell you, my dog, Darla Louise, will be devastated.

VERJEE: Oh no. What about your dog, Miles' dogs?

O'BRIEN: Andy and Peanut are big Greenie fans.

KAGAN: Live for Greenies.

O'BRIEN: Yes, this is big. This is big.

SERWER: Darla Louise?

KAGAN: Yes, she's Southern. She needed two names.

VERJEE: Thanks, Daryn.

Coming up in "A.M. Pop," NBC spent billions of dollars to broadcast the Olympics. But when it comes to ratings, is the network getting its money's worth? We're going to look at that next here on AMERICAN MORNING.


VERJEE: A quick Olympic update now. Lindsey Kildow, bruised but back on the slopes today. Kildow took a scary fall just 48 hours ago. And without giving too much away, we hear that she finished in the top ten.

Ted Ligety stunned the racing world and himself by winning the gold in the combined. That's the hybrid event that links a downhill run with two slalom runs.

And Canada's Wayne Gretsky shrugged off gambling questions as his Canadian powerhouse routed Italy -- or routed Italy, I suppose I should say, seven-two.

In this morning's "A.M. Pop," NBC shelled out more than $600 million to broadcast the Torino Winter Olympics. So how is their investment paying off so far?

"Newsweek" senior writer Marc Peyser joins us now to tell us. How is it doing? Did it pay off?


VERJEE: Just so-so?

PEYSER: They've made their money back. They have about $800 million in advertising revenue, which is really the bottom line for them. But the ratings have not exactly been through roof, so I'm sure they're sweating a little bit over at NBC, even though they do have money in the bank.

VERJEE: People tend to watch the Summer Olympics more for some reason than the Winter Olympics. Why do you think that is?

PEYSER: Well, America is more an outdoor kind of place, a warm weather place. And we don't have the mountains all over, like they do in Switzerland. Obviously, we have plenty of Colorado mountains. But we have always gravitated more to the summer sports. So the Winter Olympics have always been a little bit of a stepchild.

VERJEE: What about competition, like other networks, you know, great programs on, not showing so many reruns, just great episodes, new ones. And people tend to veer towards that.

PEYSER: Yes. This is the really first time we've seen other networks trying to be competitive with the Olympics. The Olympics have always sort of been this marquee event. Everybody else got out of the way, they didn't want to be, you know, crushed by the competition. But everything is very competitive, as you know, in TV this year. Fox and CBS are battling for number one.

VERJEE: "Desperate Housewives."


VERJEE: "Grey's Anatomy."

PEYSER: They're not going to roll over. So they're throwing up their new shows and the Olympics are taking a hit.

VERJEE: I'm missing both those shows, by the way.

PEYSER: I'm sorry.

VERJEE: I have TiVo, though. Well, people, though, don't necessarily have to stay up and watch on NBC. They can just go online. There's broadband. To what degree is that affecting things?

PEYSER: Huge. I mean, domestic Olympics always do much better than foreign Olympics, in part because you get the results live. You have to tune in to watch what happens that night. Nowadays, when it's really almost impossible to stay away from results, you knew that Bode Miller was going to be disqualified yesterday before lunch. You going to watch when you know what happens? It's very hard for NBC to sustain sort of live viewer interest when the results are basically out there.

VERJEE: Just "American Idol," how did it do up against the Olympics?

PEYSER: I mean, the results -- I mean, we're still...

VERJEE: Are there preliminary ratings?

PEYSER: The results are still coming in. There's just a few markets in. But I think people think it will probably beat the Olympics last night. Some of the ABC shows -- "Grey's Anatomy" beat the Olympics on Sunday. That hasn't happened, a Sunday Olympic telecast not winning, for a couple of decades. So, seriously, the NBC Olympics are not doing great.

VERJEE: What about competitions like the women's figure skating, for example? I mean, you know, could that boost viewership, even if Michelle Kwan's pulled out?

PEYSER: Well, yes and no. The female -- the women's figure skating is obviously the top of the heap of the Olympic competition ever since -- well, forever, but certainly the Nancy Kerrigan/Tanya Harding days really brought people's attention to it. This year, the star of the American Olympics, Michelle Kwan is gone.

Clearly people will tune in to watch the women's figure skating because it's one thing that people watch. Women watch the Olympics more than men to begin with. But she's gone. NBC was to desperate to keep her presence there. They tried to hire her as a commentator when she pulled out of the competition, and she wouldn't do it. So it's really a serious hit.

VERJEE: Was it worth it for NBC, very quickly?

PEYSER: Sure. They're going to make money, absolutely. But it's not going to be the runaway blockbuster that it usually is.

VERJEE: OK. Thank you so much.

PEYSER: Mark Peyser of "Newsweek," thanks.

VERJEE: Miles?

O'BRIEN: Thank you, Zain. Anderson Cooper has a look at what's coming up on his program tonight -- Anderson.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Miles, on "360" tonight, your house is destroyed. The insurance company pays off, but you still can't get the money to rebuild. That's exactly what's happening to a lot of people in the Gulf. A red tape nightmare. We're keeping them honest.

Also, you don't want them in your house, but they might just help win the war on terror. How wasps are being used to fight weapons of mass destruction. That's tonight, "360," 10:00 p.m. Eastern -- Miles.


O'BRIEN: Thank you, Anderson. AMERICAN MORNING, back in a moment.


O'BRIEN: Michael Chertoff girding for a grilling as we speak. Probably having a little extra orange juice. Hearty breakfast. Be a good idea, anyhow.

VERJEE: It would be. The House report really faulting Chertoff specifically for not acting fast enough during the Katrina debacle to initiate an emergency response plan.

O'BRIEN: Pervasive lack of leadership. Really -- I mean, that report signals -- it doesn't single out anybody. It says everybody, from the president, down to the mayor, in many respects, not proactive, reactive. And this was something that really cried out for proactive leadership. As we leave you, story of the day for me was Rufus.

VERJEE: Miles was big on Rufus.


O'BRIEN: I've determined why I love Rufus. It's the power of advertising, folks. You know what? When was the last time you saw a Spuds McKenzie commercial? It's been what, 20 years now? Has it been 20 years? Spuds? Anyway, so I saw Rufus and I got thirsty. I couldn't figure out why I liked Rufus so much. It was like subliminal advertising. Separated at birth.