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American Morning

Cheney's "Worst Day"; Abuse Pictures; Jailbreak; Missing Show Dog

Aired February 16, 2006 - 06:00   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you, I'm Miles O'Brien.
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Zain Verjee in for Soledad.

O'BRIEN: A bad day at the ranch, Vice President Dick Cheney finally has something to say about that hunting accident.

Also ahead, close down Gitmo, that is the call in the wake of a critical human rights report. We're live with more of the allegations of torture.

Plus, more intrigue outside the walls of the Cook County Jail. Police nab the alleged getaway drivers from the jailbreak there in Chicago. A live report just ahead.

VERJEE: America's next icy hope, can he take on his sport's top dog? We're live at the Olympics.

And speaking of dogs, one Whippet gone AWOL. Was it a Westminster disappointment that made fido flee?

O'BRIEN: But first this morning, he calls it one of the worst days of his life and takes full responsibility for what made it that. Vice President Dick Cheney is finally breaking his silence on the shooting of a hunting partner over the weekend.

White House correspondent Dana Bash with more.


DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Four days after he shot a man, the vice president walked across the White House driveway to talk for the first time about what happened in what aides say will be his only appearance, an interview with Fox News.

"The image of him falling is something I'll never be able to get out of my mind. I fired, and there's Harry falling. And it was, I'd have to say, one of the worst days of my life, at that moment. He was laying there on his back, obviously bleeding. You could see where the shot had struck him."

The uncharacteristically introspective description is exactly what frustrated associates, even senior Bush aides, say he should have done right away, portray a human drama, not a political cover-up. But Mr. Cheney had no regrets about the controversial way the incident was disclosed to the public, nearly 24 hours later and by a private citizen, not him.

"I thought that was the right call.... I still do.... I had no press person with me.... I was there on a private weekend with friends...."

The night of the shooting, a Cheney aide at the ranch reported back to the White House. And sources tell CNN, Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove suggested a White House statement. Cheney says his thoughts were elsewhere.

"My first reaction is: My friend, Harry, has been shot and we've got to take care of him," he said.

A Cheney adviser tells CNN a statement was in the works that night, then put on hold when the vice president said he would be meeting with the sheriff's department Sunday morning.

The vice president confirmed that the morning after the shooting, he and Katharine Armstrong decided she would tell the story to her local paper. She was his host and an eyewitness.

"I thought that made good sense because you can get as accurate a story as possible from somebody who knew and understood hunting," he said. "Accuracy was enormously important."

But the way Mrs. Armstrong explained it to CNN and others, the shooting was Mr. Whittington's fault, because he broke hunting protocol by not making his presence known when he rejoined the group.

The vice president now says it was his fault. "You can't blame anybody else, I'm the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend. And I say that is something I'll never forget."

After days of rampant rumors on the blog about alcohol being involved, Mr. Cheney did say, "I had a beer at lunch...." But said the shooting occurred later in the day when -- quote -- "nobody was drinking, nobody was under the influence."

Dana Bash, CNN, the White House.


O'BRIEN: The hospital in Corpus Christi will update Harry Whittington's condition this afternoon, 1:00 Eastern Time. We'll keep you posted on that. At last report, he was stable, able to sit up, eat, even thinking about doing some lawyer work. Doctors do not think the pellet that caused a mild heart attack is going to move anywhere.

The vice president also seems to be backing his former chief of staff in the CIA leak case. Mr. Cheney says he has the power to declassify secret documents. That may be what Scooter Libby was talking about -- excuse me -- when he testified that he was authorized to leak a CIA operative's name to the press -- Zain.

VERJEE: Miles, two controversial prisons are hurting the American image this morning. First, in Guantanamo in Cuba, a U.N. report just out says that the prison violates international law on human rights and torture. They say the U.S. should release all of the detainees or try them and shut down the prison.

The other comes from Abu Ghraib in Iraq. Iraqis are seeing new pictures of abused prisoners. The pictures are from back in 2003 when American guards were abusing Iraqis in Abu Ghraib. The Iraqi government has just issued a denouncement of the abuse shown in the pictures. These images weren't released at the time of the scandal. Many of them are extremely offensive. They were first shown by an Australian TV program.

Aneesh Raman is live in Baghdad and he joins us now.

Aneesh, what's been the Iraqi reaction to these new photographs?


Iraqis just starting to learn about the new photographs, the graphic, extremely graphic video. Some Arab networks have been airing clips. But the Iraqi papers, none of the government-backed or party- sponsored newspapers really touched this story at all this morning, only the independent papers did. Which led the Iraqis we spoke to this morning in Baghdad to call upon the government to vocally and publicly denounce the allegations that are being made by these tapes and pictures. And also for the American ambassador to speak, who just spoke recently against human rights abuses committed by Iraqi security forces at a bunker in the Jadria neighborhood of Baghdad.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The American forces, when there was this story about Jadria and three insurgents were hit, the American ambassador was calling the ministers of interior and defense about human rights. Why aren't human rights applied to the Americans?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It's not the first time or the second. These things are happening and no reaction. So we want the Iraqi government to hold them accountable.


RAMAN: Now, as you mentioned, Zain, Iraq's prime minister issuing a paper statement just within the past hour condemning these recent pictures and the allegations that they bring about. Also, the U.S. military on the ground through a spokesman for multination forces says the timing of these pictures being released is provocative and irresponsible and they do not represent what is happening at Abu Ghraib Prison today -- Zain.

VERJEE: But the timing still critical, because it comes on the heel of videotape showing apparently British soldiers beating up Iraqis, also in the cartoon controversy, as you pointed out. Give us a sense of the atmosphere among Iraqis and the attitude toward the West.

RAMAN: Well tension is already high, as you mentioned, both because of the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that were published in a Danish newspaper first, and also because of that video of British soldiers allegedly beating Iraqi youths back in 2004.

In the city of Basra, the southern city, there have been sustained protests. The Basra City Council has called upon the Danish and British troops to leave. And so it could be -- that could essentially be the reason why Iraq's government has been slow to really come out with a strong condemnation of these recent pictures. They are aware that it could spark huge protests and demonstrations. So far that hasn't happened yet -- Zain.

VERJEE: Aneesh Raman in Baghdad.

Thanks, Aneesh -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: More charges this morning in that Chicago-area jailbreak and a change of story. Prosecutors say a guard at the Cook County Jail admitted to helping the inmates escape, now he says he's innocent.

For more on this, we go to Anne Kavanagh of our affiliate WFLD in Cicero, Illinois this morning.

Good morning, Anne, where does this investigation stand now?

ANNE KAVANAGH, WFLD-TV REPORTER: Well, still a lot of questions, Miles. I'm in Cicero where three of the escaped inmates held a family hostage on Sunday. The prison guard, Darin Gater, originally signed a confession saying that he helped the inmates escape from the jail for political reasons. He wanted to discredit the sheriff.

Now, though, prosecutors say that he flunked a lie detector test. And he also allegedly made an admission that perhaps his motive was money, the promise of $50,000 for aiding this escape. He claims that his confession was coerced and he says he's innocent. Right now that prison guard is free. He was released late last night on a $500,000 bond.


DARIN GATER, PRISON GUARD: One thing I want to say is I'm innocent. I just want to get home to my family. I'm tired, I'm hungry and that's it. That's all I want to say right now.


KAVANAGH: Two other people have been charged as well, the brother and sister of one of the escaped inmates.

Miles, that's it for now. Back to you. O'BRIEN: And tell me about there are two more arrests, two relatives that have been arrested of one of the escapees. Tell us about that.

KAVANAGH: Right. Well the escapee is Francisco Romero, and his brother and sister, Jose and Anna, are charged with aiding the escape. Right now they are both in jail. They have not been able to post bond yet. And prosecutors indicate that more people could be charged as well. They say this investigation is really just in its preliminary stage.

O'BRIEN: All right, we'll keep you posted on that.

Anne Kavanagh with our affiliate WFLD, thank you very much -- Zain.

VERJEE: Miles, no peace, no visitors, that's what sheriff's officials in California are saying this morning. They have locked down all of the state's 18,000 inmates. The move came after fights at several prisons killed two and injured dozens of inmates. Now officials say that they won't allow visits or phone calls until total calm is restored.

Two people are dead after an Arizona dust storm led to a chain of accidents on Interstate 8 near Phoenix on Wednesday. Witnesses said high winds and blowing dust had reduced visibility on the highway to zero.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Never seen anything like it before.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were in the dust. You couldn't see. I could not see the windshield wipers even. All of a sudden, it was like a tornado of dust coming across.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From dusty to just total blackout.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You couldn't see your hand in front of you hardly.


VERJEE: Eight vehicles in all were involved in four collisions. And here's something to look forward to, no one matched all six numbers in the $300 million Power Ball lottery last night. So that basically means that the jackpot has grown to an estimated $365 million for the next drawing. That's on Saturday night, and that would be a record. So I think we need to buy tickets -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: I'm told there's 145 million in the Mega Millions deal, so that's a half billion out there.

VERJEE: Do you buy tickets?


VERJEE: Yes. Me neither. We should.

O'BRIEN: You've got to play to win.

VERJEE: Yes, we need to do that.

O'BRIEN: Pete (ph), are you in? Are you in on this deal, Mega Millions? Yes, of course he's in. Yes. A matter of fact, he just left to buy some more tickets. Half billion out there. That's a big handle, as they say.

Time to check the forecast, Bonnie Schneider at the Weather Center.

And, Bonnie, you've got to play to win, you know?

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: That's right, I'm going to buy a ticket.



O'BRIEN: Why not?

SCHNEIDER: All right.


And for New York City, Miles and Zain, that means a cold weekend, despite the warm weather today.

O'BRIEN: Getting out of town then. So are you. You're going back to Atlanta, what do you care?

VERJEE: Yes. No, I'm here enjoying the weekend.

O'BRIEN: OK. All right.

VERJEE: Shopping.

O'BRIEN: Shopping.


O'BRIEN: Enjoy it.

VERJEE: We'll be...

O'BRIEN: Should we talk about dogs?

VERJEE: Well, yes, let's do that, because the owners of a prize show dog desperately searching for their canine contender. This is actually really quite unfortunate.

O'BRIEN: After competing this week in the Westminster Kennel Dog Show, Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, she escaped, Vivy that is, escaped from a travel cage at New York's Kennedy Airport.

Reporter Giovanna Drpic from our affiliate WWOR picks up the tale.



GIOVANNA DRPIC, WWOR-TV REPORTER (voice-over): Where oh where can 3-year-old Vivy be?

JIL WALTON, DOG OWNER: We were going home. And I'm waiting to get the little tag when you get on an airplane that your dog is there. And they came and said that my dog has gotten loose.

DRPIC: Jil Walton, who is one of Vivy's owners, is now beside herself after her show dog escaped. It happened just as the Whippet was about to board her Delta Airlines flight to head home to California after getting an Award of Merit at the Westminster Dog Show.

WALTON: We had a helicopter up. She was just running scared. Somehow she got out of her crate. And it's driving me crazy.

DRPIC: A family friend says a cop spotted the Whippet show dog bolt down a runway at the airport, go through a fence and then dash toward marsh land.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now it's really like picking a needle out of a haystack.


DRPIC: A search party, including another one of Vivy's owners, her breeder, and a New York City Animal Control officer, are combing Rothaway (ph) Boulevard, desperately looking for the beloved dog.

HONI REISMAN, SEARCHING FOR DOG: She's very friendly. And she will come to you if you go down to her level and call her, and not to chase her.

DRPIC: As the search goes on, concern grows for how the white and brown dog will endure the elements.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The worst part is that she's out here and she's scared and cold. And we hope she's not hurt.

WALTON (?): I just want the dog back. It's just scary.


O'BRIEN: Now maybe Vivy wanted to get straight, go forward, move ahead, try to detect it. It's not too late to whip it. Whip it good.

VERJEE: That woke me up.

O'BRIEN: Are we not men. We are Devo.

If you have any information about the dog, if you're in the swamp land up there and you happen to find a Whippet, call the cops, all right, and 911, I guess, or something.

VERJEE: Coming up.

O'BRIEN: Go ahead. You go ahead.

VERJEE: I stole your line.

It looks like we've got an Olympic doping scandal on our hands. We're going to bring you a live report from Torino.

O'BRIEN: Also, a huge development for the lone survivor of the Sago Mine tragedy. After 50 days of silence, Randy McCloy speaks.

VERJEE: And the truth about calcium, it may not protect women's bones as much as everybody thought. What every woman needs to know next on AMERICAN MORNING.


VERJEE: I'm Zain Verjee. And you are?

O'BRIEN: I'm Miles O'Brien. That's correct (ph).

VERJEE: Let's get a quick check of the headlines with Carol Costello.

Carol, hi.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Good morning to all of you.

U.S. and Iraqi security forces under fire in Iraq. A scary morning in Baghdad and the surrounding areas, at least five bomb attacks and a drive-by shooting. We're hearing at least 1 person was killed, 29 others wounded, no word on any U.S. casualties.

Jury selection starts up again in the Zacarias Moussaoui trial. So far, 15 of the prospective 24 jurors have qualified, including two Muslims. Moussaoui was allowed back in the courtroom on Wednesday. No outbursts this time, but some people did hear him mutter, God curse America at break time.

There is word Janet Jones will not face criminal charges in connection with an illegal gambling ring. According to, Jones, Wayne Gretzky's wife, likely won't be charged, but she could be called in to testify against Phoenix Coyotes assistant coach Rick Tocchet. He's believed to have bankrolled the gambling ring.

After 50 days of silence, Randy McCloy is talking. Relatives say he is responding to family members and to therapists. He's still in the hospital some six weeks after the Sago Mine accident. CNN has also learned that McCloy is eating some of his favorite foods, like Taco Bell, but he still has to use a feeding tube.

Some discouraging news and confusing news about calcium and Vitamin D. Contrary to what your doctor might have told you, researchers now say taking calcium supplements has limited, if any, protection against broken bones. That's the bottom line of a seven- year study of postmenopausal women. We will talk to the lead author in the next hour.

And a possible new custody battle between Michael Jackson and ex- wife Debbie Rowe. Rowe gave up her parental rights back in 2001, but then she changed her mind. California appeals court is now siding with Rowe, saying there is a problem with the trial and she's still the mom. She had two children with Jackson, Prince Michael I and Paris. Of course we will be following this story.

Bonnie Schneider is following the weather. Chad has the day off.

Good morning -- Bonnie.

SCHNEIDER: Good morning, Carol.


VERJEE: Bonnie, thank you.

Well Michael Jordan goes to the hoop for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

CARRIE LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, and RadioShack's chief, a little spottiness on his resume. We'll start with that story, if that's all right with you?

We're talking about David Edmondson. He is RadioShack's Chief Executive. He's been at the top post since May. Well, the company -- he claimed he earned theology and psychology degrees from the Pacific Coast Baptist College in California. The college has now changed names. It's based in Oklahoma. Well, as it turns out, looks like he didn't actually earn those degrees after all. The college says he completed only two semesters and that they don't even offer a psychology degree.

The company originally supported him. But now, probably because it's becoming more public, they're hiring outside lawyers to investigate this. So we'll see how this all shakes out.

By the way, Edmondson is going to stand trial in April on charges of DWI, drunk driving. Since he's been...

O'BRIEN: I'm sorry, go ahead.

LEE: I was just going to say, since he's been chief executive of RadioShack in May,...


LEE: ... the stock has lost about 15 percent. So if you judge a company's success on the stock price, take a look at the chart there, well, hasn't been so great.

O'BRIEN: Yes. Now the question was about the school.

LEE: Right.

O'BRIEN: This is not Ivy League, right?

LEE: No. No.

O'BRIEN: This is a school I haven't heard of that moved, so...

LEE: Right, and it's just rather odd that he would claim he earned two degrees, one of which doesn't even exist. So I imagine heads are rolling right now in the HR Department of RadioShack. You know the question is how did he get to that point based on these fake credentials in the first place?

VERJEE: How did it get published (ph)?

LEE: We don't know exactly. We don't know exactly. Maybe they're just looking further into it. As I said, they originally supported him. And now, probably because more people are finding out about it, they're just...

O'BRIEN: Well this is the place where you go to buy batteries and they ask for your home address and telephone number. You'd think they'd do the same for the CEO when you get hired.

LEE: Shouldn't be so hard to figure out.

O'BRIEN: Yes. Yes. Anyway.

LEE: Exactly. Exactly.

O'BRIEN: All right.

LEE: Michael Jordan, by the way, this weekend...


LEE: ... All-Star weekend, NBA All-Star weekend. He's auctioning off 21 pairs of signed Air Jordans. This is from his personal collection, as well as other memorabilia. Proceeds are going to go to the Habitat for Humanity for Hurricane Katrina relief. Starting with a silent auction, then moving over to eBay. Don't know how much money they are going to make, probably quite a bit. Quite a nice thing for a serious Jordan collector.

O'BRIEN: Good job.

VERJEE: Good for him.

LEE: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Good for him.

LEE: Yes.

VERJEE: Thanks -- Carrie Lee.


O'BRIEN: Thank you.

And Carol Costello has "Morning Coffee" coming up. It's brewing as we speak, as a matter of fact.

COSTELLO: It certainly is. Coming up, "Holy Terror, Batman." The Dark Knight takes on a villain tougher than the Joker, Penguin and Riddler combined, Osama bin Laden. That's next in "Morning Coffee."


VERJEE: Fleetwood Mac, tell me lies, tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies.

COSTELLO: Yes, tell me I won the lottery.

VERJEE: You won the lottery.

COSTELLO: That would be...

O'BRIEN: Speaking of lies.


O'BRIEN: You won the lottery.

COSTELLO: That's the sweetest lie I've heard all morning.

O'BRIEN: And if I said that to you right now, what would happen, would you just get right off the set and walk off or what?

COSTELLO: Yes, I would. You bet you. But I'm here for "Morning Coffee" this morning.


COSTELLO: So good morning, everyone. VERJEE: What a letdown.

COSTELLO: Yes, I know, whatever. No, I'm happy to be here, but I mean you all know what I'm talking about. You would walk out, too, and you know it.

Anyway, the war on terror has a brand new soldier and it is the Dark Knight himself, Batman. An upcoming Batman graphic novel pits the Cape Crusader against Osama bin Laden himself. Yes, it's no longer just a comic book but a graphic novel. This one is called "Holy Terror, Batman." It's written by Frank Miller. He's the same guy who wrote the wildly popular "Sin City." Not to give away the ending, but Miller describes his new book this way, zap, pow, thwack, Batman kicks al Qaeda's butt.

O'BRIEN: Holy jihad, Batman. Wow!

COSTELLO: That's right.

VERJEE: When is the publication supposed to occur?

COSTELLO: Not for a while yet, but we're going to keep our eye on the case (ph), yes.

O'BRIEN: Well we will keep you posted on that.

COSTELLO: How quickly they forget. That's what Pittsburgh Steelers running back Duce Staley must be saying to himself this morning. Less than a week after winning the Super Bowl, Staley suffered a big loss of his bling. Seems he lost some prize jewelry in a scuffle with a security guard. A security guard at a strip club.

O'BRIEN: Boy, you knew that was coming.

COSTELLO: Staley -- well you know.

O'BRIEN: You knew that was coming.

COSTELLO: He wanted to celebrate.

O'BRIEN: Shades of the Gold Club here, right?

COSTELLO: Any who, Staley says he was stopped at the door and grabbed by the neck. It was then that somehow he lost a platinum bracelet and two earrings. The police report says the lost jewelry is worth about $100,000.

Now I'm still trying to figure out how he lost his earrings, because his ears are pierced. And during the scuffle somehow, with a security guard that is, somehow they managed to get his pierced earrings out, both of them (ph).

O'BRIEN: Can we put that picture back up of that place?


O'BRIEN: And then Staley -- what do you think Staley makes? Millions.

COSTELLO: Millions. Millions of dollars a year.

O'BRIEN: You know he can go to classier joint, just for the record.

COSTELLO: Actually he was...

O'BRIEN: This place is...

COSTELLO: He was trying...

O'BRIEN: It's a double wide for god sakes. It's a double wide.

COSTELLO: He was actually trying -- the saddest part is he was trying to get to the Gold Club in the back. And you can only imagine what that would look like back there.



COSTELLO: But anyway, let's all feel sorry for Duce Staley this morning.



O'BRIEN: Onward we go.

VERJEE: Carol, thank you.


VERJEE: This morning's top stories are straight ahead, including what could turn into a big doping scandal at the Winter Olympics. We're going to go live to Torino.

And Vice President Dick Cheney most folks say that he has taught everyone a lesson in how not to handle a crisis. Some damage control 101 ahead here on AMERICAN MORNING.