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American Morning

No Prison For Libby; U.K. Terror Probe; Extreme Weather; Mitt- TV; SUV Crash Tests

Aired July 03, 2007 - 06:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Political fireworks. President Bush gives Scooter Libby a "get out of jail free" card and Democrats pounce.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And what we saw today was elevating cronyism over the rule of law.


CHETRY: Plus, doctors orders? Another physician held overnight in the U.K. terror plot. And a new look at car bombs. Why they're easy to build but hard to explode, on this AMERICAN MORNING.

And good morning. It is Tuesday, July 3rd. I'm Kiran Chetry, along with John Roberts.

You're back from your trip to London yesterday, covering the latest on the terror attacks. How you feeling?

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: I think some of me may be still half way around the Atlantic. I'm not sure which. Probably this part.

Also coming up "On Our Radar" this morning, record heat in the western part of this country. Close to 120 degrees in some places. You might say that's a dry heat, but 120 is 120. Health officials concerned about the children and the elderly. Worries, also, about Fourth of July fireworks. Could they spark wildfires because it's so dry in some areas.

CHETRY: Certainly is.

And also Isaiah Washington speaks out for the first time. He was booted, as you remember, from the hit TV show "Grey's Anatomy" after controversy stemming from an anti-gay slur. Let's listen.


ISAIAH WASHINGTON: I felt sorry for myself. I'm not going to lie. I felt sorry for myself many times. You fall into that little space and go, why me? Why me?


CHETRY: All right. Well, he spoke to Larry King last night and we are going to play a few more clips from the interview. Larry was pretty tough on Isaiah Washington.

ROBERTS: Yes. Was he there seeking redemption or just to explain himself? We'll see.

Scooter Libby still faces a hefty fine and probation, but he's not going to serve jail time. Reports this morning that President Bush made the decision to commute Libby's sentence, but not pardon him, on his own, defying public opinion and without consulting the Justice Department. CNN's Kathleen Koch is live in Washington with more on the president's decision.

And, Kathleen, the president said that he believed that the decision to sentence Libby to 30 months in prison was, "excessive," leaving intact the conviction but vacating the sentence. Sounds like he's trying to really kind of split the baby here.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It certainly does, John. And when you read the two-page statement that the president put out explaining his decision, you really do get a sense of a man who is trying to walk right down the middle on this.

In his statement, the president praises Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. He lays out, really, both sides of the debate over the issue, whether or not a special prosecutor should have been named at all, points out the fact that the initial crime that was committed with outing the name of CIA Officer Valerie Plame, that no one was actually ever charged with it. But then at the same time he points out the truth, telling the truth in a court of law before a grand jury is very essential. Really one of the basis of the U.S. justice system.

So the president believes, again, as you read on through, that he is still leaving in place a very severe punishment for Scooter Libby, $250,000 fine, his two years of probation and certainly also points out that Scooter Libby will not be able to practice law, John, unless he does overturn his sentence on appeal.

ROBERTS: And I mentioned that a lot of people are wondering if before President Bush leaves office he may just do that if Libby loses the appeal.

Fitzgerald, as you said, was praised by President Bush. He didn't seem to appreciative of the compliment, though, because here's what he said. "In this case, am experienced federal judge considered extensive argument from the parties and then imposed a sentence consistent with the applicable laws."

Is there kind of a sense here that the White House may be vulnerable to charges that it feels like it's above the law?

KOCH: Well, John, those charges came fast and furious right out of the gate from Democrats. People like Democratic senator of New York, Senator Charles Schumer, saying "the commutation tramples on the principle of equal justice under the law." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying, "it was a betrayal of trust of the American people." She said that the president "failed to uphold the rule of law and failed to hold his administration accountable."

But again, at the same time, many conservatives believed this was the only way to go and the president certainly was trying to take care of his base here.


ROBERTS: Definitely a split along party lines when it comes to opinions about Scooter Libby.


ROBERTS: Kathleen Koch outside the White House.

Kathleen, thanks very much.

KOCH: You bet.

CHETRY: And we will have all the reaction today, editorials from the morning papers. Also, from the campaign trail. First, though, we're going to hear from former Ambassador Joe Wilson. His wife, Valerie Plame, had her identity as a CIA operative revealed after Wilson criticize's the administrations case for war. It's what lead us all the way down to the road that we're at today and talking about Scooter Libby's sentence being commuted.

Now Wilson talked with Anderson Cooper by phone last night. Let's listen.


JOE WILSON, VALERIE WILSON'S HUSBAND: Frankly, there's very little that surprises me from this administration anymore. I think it's corrupt from top to bottom.

But let me just say one thing, and that is, I don't give really a darn whether Scooter Libby goes to jail or not. What I care about is that the rule of law and the system of justice that's undergirded our democracy for 220 years is upheld. And that is what has been subverted by the president's actions today.


CHETRY: Ambassador Wilson will be our guest at 8:15 Eastern Time this morning.

ROBERTS: Mixed reaction on the campaign trail today. Republican candidate for president Rudy Giuliani e-mailed reporters that he believes the president's decision was correct. Hillary Clinton, though, spoke out from Iowa.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What we saw today was elevating, cronyism over the rule of law. And what we saw today was further evidence that this administration has no regard whatsoever for what needs to be held sacred.


ROBERTS: So that's what the candidates think. We'd like to know what you think about all of this. Head to our homepage at and register your quick vote. It's non- scientific, but interesting none the less. We'll bring you the results so far in just a few minutes.

CHETRY: And now to the U.K. and the expanding terror plot investigation, with a stunning revelation that a group of medical doctors may have been the ones who hatched a plot to kill. Police in Australia detaining one doctor overnight. They're questioning another. It makes eight people held and at least three of them doctors. CNN International security correspondent Paula Newton is live in London at Scotland Yard with the latest on the investigation.

And, Paula, what do we know about this latest detainee, a doctor from India?


Well, what we know is that he was detained in Brisbane, Australia, as he was apparently trying to leave the country. His connection is that about 10 months ago he had been living in Liverpool, England, and we believe at least studying or working in the health facilities here. He is very closely connected to another man, another doctor, arrested in Liverpool, I supposed about three days ago now. Police continue to question that suspect here in London.

Kiran, what is going on here is that from the start of this investigation, we learned that the theory of Scotland Yard was that this was a network of medical professionals. That it was no accident. That most of the people involved in masterminding this plot, Scotland Yard now believes are doctors. And for that reason, they are trying to detain and question anyone that they feel has significant links to the people already under arrest.


CHETRY: Yes, now there are three doctors in custody that we know of. Are authorities beginning to look at this as an activated al Qaeda cell, Paula?

NEWTON: That is the question I think that concerns them the most. They are looking at this and seeing if perhaps these medical professionals, with a lot of advance, and we're talking three to four years advance, were planted here, to try and really carry out a much larger operation that what we saw in terms of the car bombs. Perhaps as they were having trouble trying to execute that, they decided to do something else.

Again, that's absolutely the theory that investigators are working on. They don't know if they can confirm that. If that is true though, Kiran, that adds already to the catalog of threats that Scotland Yard already has to deal with. And that means homegrown terrorism, already a proven threat in this country, is now added to that threat coming from outside the country.


CHETRY: Paula Newton live for us outside of Scotland Yard today. Thank you.

ROBERTS: New this morning, the U.S. military is saying this morning that it stopped a large scale suicide attack in Iraq. Twenty- three insurgents were killed this weekend near Ramadi. That's west of Baghdad, up in Anbar Province. The military says insurgents had gathered to prepare for suicide attacks.

Security is beefed up in Yemen this morning after a terrorist attack killed nine people at an archaeological site. Police suspect the suicide bomber was with al Qaeda. Seven of the victims were visiting Yemen from Spain.

CHETRY: Pro wrestler Chris Benoit's personal doctor spent the night in jail last night, charged with illegally prescribing pain killers and anti-depressants. The feds say that Dr. Phil Astin was giving prescription drugs to patients like "candy." Astin's lawyer says the case has nothing to do with Benoit, but he says that Astin prescribed Benoit a 10-month supply of anabolic steroids every three to four weeks from May 2006 through May 2007.

Well, there is another snack food recall to tell you about after fears of salmonella contamination. Super Veggie Ting's crunchy corn sticks. It's a snack food that has been sold all across the United States and Canada. They're the latest to be pulled from the shelves. Made by the same company that makes Veggie Booty (ph), which was recalled last week. They use the same seasoning. Veggie Booty was linked to salmonella cases in seventeen states.

ROBERTS: A passing of note overnight. The diva next door, opera star Beverly Sills has died. She was diagnosed with lung cancer weeks ago, but she was never a smoker. Sills was hugely popular outside the traditional opera world. She also sang at the "Tonight Show" and often appeared on "The Muppet Show." Beverly Sills was 78-years-old.

CHETRY: Actor Isaiah Washington telling his side of the verbal confrontation that eventually cost him his role on "Grey's Anatomy." Washington was accused of calling a cast mate an anti-gay slur. He then repeated the slur at the Golden Globes. Washington apologized. He met with gay and lesbian activists. He went into rehab. But then in some of the interviews he gave magazines, he seemed to turn it around and blame it on the cast mate in question. In his first television interview, though, since being fired, Washington told CNN's Larry King that it was all a big misunderstanding stemming from a screaming fight that he had with a different co-star, Patrick Dempsey. Let's listen.


ISAIAH WASHINGTON: He got -- became unhinged. Face-to-face, spittle-to-spittle, in my face first. I did not start it. And I'm asking him, why is he screaming at me? Why are we doing this? Get out of my face several times, several times. And he just becomes irate. I said, there's no way you're going to treat me like a "b" word or a "p" word or the "f" word. You can't treat me this way in front of our crew.

LARRY KING, "LARRY KING LIVE": So you weren't referring to him being an "f" person . . .

WASHINGTON: Never. Never.

KING: Or anybody else?

WASHINGTON: Never, Larry. Never, never, never, never.


CHETRY: Well, you can see "Larry King Live," of course, week nights at 9:00 Eastern right here on CNN. And tonight, Larry's guest is Robin Williams. So you know that's going to be a blast.

ROBERTS: Robin Williams is always terrific live.

Ten minutes after the hour. Time now to check in on some of the other big stories with our AMERICAN MORNING team of correspondent.

Record flooding in the Midwest. CNN's Keith Oppenheim is live in Coffeyville, Kansas, for us this morning.

Good morning, Keith.


And that's right, continued flood warnings here in Kansas and also in Oklahoma. And the danger is not only that. This water has been rising all week. But also what is in the water itself? I'm in Coffeyville, Kansas, and this morning we'll be talking about a huge environmental impact.

Back to you.

ROBERTS: All right. Keith, thanks very much. We'll check back in with you soon.

CHETRY: Also, the floods and the heat for the Fourth of July. Chad Myers will be watching it all from the CNN Weather Center.

In parts of the southeast, they're going to be looking at temperatures well above 100 and that is sparking some concerns, Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: In the southwest, really, rain all the way from Oklahoma down into Texas. Heavy rainfall today. That's going to be flooding again. The focus is off of Kansas, but the rain is now back into Texas and that's where the heavy rain is going to be. We could see rainfall here from Columbus back through Houston. Also into Sweeney (ph). And then the successive heat watch from Vegas to Phoenix. There's not going to be a day this week that Phoenix doesn't get above 110. And some days could be 115 and that's dangerously hot.


CHETRY: Chad, thanks. We'll check back in with you in a couple of minutes.

ROBERTS: Jacki Schechner is watching the web for us this morning. Mitt Romney's ad blitz.

What have you got, Jacki?

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're talking about TV ads, John and Kiran. We're talking about Mitt Romney running the most so far at more than 4,500 television ads. That's more than all of the 2008 presidential candidates combined. As for who is ruling the web, that would be Barack Obama, who hasn't run a single online ad yet. But he certainly has the support online, more than 6,000 visits to his website so far. That's 150,000 more than his second behind him, which would be Senator Clinton. So certainly Mitt Romney trying to get the word out on TV. Barack Obama not putting in much effort on the ad front, but still getting the buzz online.


ROBERTS: I tell you, though, Barack's got all that cash. He can buy a lot of ads.

Thanks, Jacki. We'll check back in with you a little bit later on.

CHETRY: Also, they did some new crash tests. The results are in. SUVs, trucks and minivans. AMERICAN MORNING's Greg Hunter is live with the results for us.

Hey, Greg.


I'm at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. And I'll tell you what this little setup means to your neck in a wreck if you drive an SUV, minivan or pickup truck. That's coming up.

CHETRY: And people do, so I'm sure they're eagerly awaiting the results.

Greg, thanks so much.

Also, fallout over a delayed execution. It tops your "Quick Hits" now. The mother of a man executed in Ohio is suing the head of the state prison. The execution of Joseph Clark took 90 minutes. That's compared to the normal time of about 20 minutes. The suit claims that this amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

Arizona might now have the toughest laws in the country against hiring illegal immigrants. The state's governor, Democrat Janet Napolitano, signed a bill yesterday that can permanently revoke a business's license if it knowingly hires illegals. Napolitano says that U.S. lawmakers have "failed miserably" when it comes to immigration.

Scooter Libby is a free man. He's also now a rallying cry for the Democrats. Coming up, we'll take a closer look at how the president's decision to free Libby might impact the race for president in 2008.


CHETRY: What impact will President Bush's decision to allow Lewis Scooter Libby to skip prison have on the 2008 candidates? Joining me now is Ana Marie Cox of "Time" magazine.

Ana Marie, good to see you this morning.


CHETRY: You know, there's a lot of outrage on the side of the Democrats. Many of them speaking out yesterday. We saw on Obama's website. We also heard from Hillary Clinton. Is this just politics as usual?

COX: I doubt if it's politics as usual, but it's definitely a calculation on the Bush side that there's not much he can do now that will help him with Democrats or Republicans. He's sort of at a very low, low place. And with the Republican candidates already kind of running as fast as they can away from him, he really had nothing to lose with commuting Scooter Libby's sentence.

And I think that as far as like giving Democrats a talking point or something to fund raise off of, Democrats are mad enough at the president right now that I'm not sure this is really going to help them. I think it really solidifies the outrage they already feel. And in some ways, by doing this right now rather than waiting til closer to the election, he's probably minimizing the damage that action he was probably going to take anyway.

CHETRY: Well, as we talk about the implications to '08 and at least our quick poll on that asked the question, I think it was 90 percent felt that Scooter Libby should have served jail time, 10 percent felt the sentence was to harsh.

But how will this affect voters?

COX: Well, you know, I think that people probably already made up their mind one way or another about how they feel about Bush and how they feel about Scooter Libby. I don't think this is a big swing voter issue. I think that it sort of gets you at a gut level. It's true. I think there are people that are not paying attention to the presidential campaign right now. This might be something that makes them raise their eyebrows. But, you know, the majority of people already have a really negative feeling about Bush. So I'm not sure if this is really going to do something that will put them over the edge, as it were. CHETRY: Ana Marie, I remember, and I'm sure you do, the outrage when President Clinton left off and some of the pardons that were given there. It was interesting to hear Hillary Clinton weighing in on this yesterday. Let's listen quickly and I'd like to get your reaction.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What we saw today was elevating cronyism over the rule of law. And what we saw today was further evidence that this administration has no regard whatsoever for what needs to be held sacred.


CHETRY: Didn't we hear the same exact thing but opposite over Marc Rich and his pardon?

COX: Yes, we did. Although I think that this is something that -- this was a case that had to do with national security. This is a case that had to do with the alleged, you know, outing of a CIA agent. And I think that that, for some people, that's going to strike much, much closer to home than . . .

CHETRY: Right. So did the Sandy Berger situation with the National Archives situation, when you talk about national security (INAUDIBLE).

COX: Quite true, but Sandy Berger wasn't actually found guilty by a court of law. And I think that also, you know, Sandy Berger, it was such a -- Sandy Burger, it's almost like -- you're right, it's a very serious thing that happened with him, as well. But you didn't quite go through the whole process like Scooter Libby did. I mean whether or not you actually feel Sandy Berger did something wrong, he was never -- he was not found guilty by a jury of his peers. Scooter Libby was.

And Scooter Libby was found also -- he was punished by a Republican appointed judge who gave a little speech from the bench about how important it was for the Americans to have faith that all people be treated equally in the courts. And I think that that's really the part that sort of for me, at least, kind of like -- it strikes a very bad note, a very false note to see this happen. Although I do think you're right, that Marc Rich is going to come up again and again. I hadn't thought about Marc Rich in years, but I'm sure we're going to be going through that case all over again now.

CHETRY: Yes. Ana Marie Cox, always great to have you on. I'm supposed to tell you hi from John.

COX: Hi, John.

CHETRY: Have a great day.

COX: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Good morning to you, Ana Marie.

COX: Good morning.

ROBERTS: "Quick Hits" takes us to Japan now where the country's defense minister resigned today after controversial comments he made about the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He said that the bombings were inevitable, appearing to go against the Japanese stance that the use of nuclear weapons is never justified.

It's official, Mike Nifong is no longer district attorney of Durham, North Carolina. He submitted a new resignation letter. He's going to leave office immediately. He wanted to stay on until the 13th of July, but moved up the date to avoid a removal hearing.

Hey, somehow in case you missed it, tomorrow's the Fourth of July. A lot of people going to be going either on vacation, driving down to the beach. Are you safer if you're in an SUV or a minivan? You're going to want to listen to what Greg Hunter's got to say. He's on the case in Ruckersville, Virginia, this morning.

Good morning, Greg.

GREG HUNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John, good morning.

So how well is your neck protected in a rear end collision if you drive a pickup truck, SUV or minivan? My friend here has all the answers and he's going tell us when we come back.


ROBERTS: It's coming up now to 24 minutes after the hour. Welcome back to the most news in the morning here on AMERICAN MORNING.

We've got news for anyone who drives an SUV, a truck or a minivan or follows behind them. You're going to want to hear about this. New crash tests find that many larger vehicles fall short in preventing neck injuries. Greg Hunter is live for us at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's crash test facility in Ruckersville, Virginia.

What have you been finding out, Greg?

GREG HUNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. If you drive a pickup truck, an SUV or a minivan, than this test will tell you how well your neck is protected in a wreck. And when they make this test, what they're really checking for is not just the headrest, but how the headrest works with the seat. Now whiplash injuries aren't the most serious injury, but they certainly are the most common in a car wreck and that's why the institute has been testing these dummies.


HUNTER, (voice over): It's a wreck you often don't see coming. In a rear end collision, if neck injuries are to be minimized, the seat and head restraint need to take the blow. Take the high rated 2007 Mercedes M Class, where the headrest pops out to meet the back of the head. To test head protection, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has been simulating rear end crashes with just a seat and a dummy.

DAVID ZUBY, SR. VP. VEHICLE RESEARCH, IIHS: Without something behind and near the back of your head, your head is going to flop around as the rest of the body moves forward in a rear impact crash.

HUNTER: These tests were on SUVs, pickups and minivans, which account for more than half of new vehicle sales.

ZUBY: Over 60 percent of the vehicles had a marginal or poor rating. But we're seeing a lot more goods, a lot more acceptables than we did when we started this testing two years ago.

HUNTER: According to the institute, seats offer different levels of protection, even seats from the same company. The Honda Element on top was given the highest mark. The body stays inline with the neck, as opposed to the Honda Odyssey, where the head can whip back, rated marginal. Among the lowest rated, the Hummer H3. GM, which makes Hummer said, it "designs its head restraints to meet a variety of driver sizes, rather than focusing on a single set of metrics."

Nissan's Quest minivan was also rated poor. Nissan told CNN, it designs its "product to provide a high level of occupant safety in a wide range of real-world crashes, including rear-impact collisions."

The institute says some manufacturers, like Ford, are improving the designs of poorly rated models, like the F150. Ford told CNN, "we have always designed seats and head restraints for the safest possible scenario in the real world."

Among the highest rated, the Hyundai Santa Fe, Toyota Tundra and the Ford Edge.

ZUBY: You are more likely to need the protection of a good head restraint and seat than you are the protection of a front air bag. Not that we wouldn't recommend having cars with good air bags, but you're more likely to be in a rear end collision where whiplash is a risk than you are a serious front crash where the air bag will deploy.


HUNTER: So most vehicles in the test, according to their seats and headrests, didn't get that great of marks. And I know what you're thinking, what do I do? Well, you can improve your situation and here's what you do.

If you have a headrest and seat, a lot of people have the headrest all the way down like this. If you take a look at the Insurance Institute, the experts here, they mark where they want this dummy's head to hit. And it's right in the middle. So if you -- even if you have a marginal seat or a poor-performing seat, you get the most out of it by bringing the headrest up to where it is in the center of the head. Even if you have a good performing headrest, the headrest should be in the center of the head. And that's how you get the most out of it.

As far as our dummy here, well, this is a $60,000 dummy. It has 24 vertebrae in the neck and it has very precise measurements. And it's what helps the Insurance Institute get these precise readings that show which headrest and seats work well and which don't work so well.

Back to you guys in New York.

ROBERTS: Something to think about. Greg Hunter for us at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's cash test facility there in Ruckersville.

Thanks, Greg. We'll see you soon.

CHETRY: Three doctors are in police custody in the U.K. terror plot. Another being quested this morning. So what makes a highly educated professional turn terrorist? We'll talk to CNN's Christiane Amanpour about a new kind of Jihadist, next on AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS: Coming up to 31 minutes after the hour. And a beautiful shot this morning, courtesy of our friends at WMC of Memphis. You're not going to need to barbecue the ribs today, because it will be 94 degrees there.

CHETRY: Right. You can just leave them out and they'll roast.

ROBERTS: A hot summer, lazy day in Memphis.

CHETRY: A beautiful shot.

ROBERTS: Yes, very nice.

Welcome back. It's Tuesday, the 3rd of July.

I'm John Roberts, along with Kiran Chetry, on this AMERICAN MORNING.

Thanks for joining us.

CHETRY: Good to see you today.


ROBERTS: An eighth person is now in custody in connection with the British bomb plot. Halfway around the world, in Australia, police stopped a doctor at Brisbane airport just as he was about to fly out of the country, and they're questioning another doctor.

Our chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, joins us now from outside of Scotland Yard in London.

Christiane, yesterday while I was there you were talking about this idea of maybe a new type of cell that involved doctors overseas. Now there's a total of six doctors who are somehow either being detained or in connection with this, perhaps being questioned. That would seem to give even more credence to this theory. CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, absolutely. We were reporting all day yesterday that Scotland Yard here behind me, who has total control now of the investigation, the Metropolitan Police, despite the fact that it's up and down the country, they are looking.

One of the working theories that they have which is becoming increasingly likely is that this is a network of medical professionals, that it's not necessarily just restricted to here in England, but they're obviously looking elsewhere. As we saw, the eighth person arrested was in Brisbane, Australia, and this was after a tip-off, of course, from British intelligence and police officials. So this also was a doctor, apparently had connections with one of those who was arrested and one of those searches here in England, in Liverpool.

So now you have these two doctors in England, you have this one in Brisbane, and you have others who are being looked at and who are being investigated to see whether this is a much bigger network. And according to officials and sources, you're likely to see more of this surge towards this group of medical professionals who they're now on the lookout for.

ROBERTS: Christiane, some reports out of the U.K. this morning suggest these men were sent by al Qaeda to infiltrate the national hospital service there. Is it cover for their operations?

AMANPOUR: Well, again, some of them were operating with the local -- the local medical council and the medical -- obviously, by permission with the local medical and the national medical authorities here. Some of them had come from Jordan, particularly Mohammed Asha, as we reported yesterday.

Now, already at the very early stages on Friday, after the two car bombs were found and defused, already officials were saying this has the look, the imprint, the feel of an al Qaeda kind of attack. And that's what they've been sort of working on.

But the idea of professionals is, as you've been saying, very interesting. The idea of medical professionals is somewhat new, although I was looking back and asking sources and people who are familiar with what happened during the northern Ireland times. The IRA also used to recruit very intelligent people from the university there in Belfast from all, you know, educational departments, whether it be engineering, pharmaceutical, medical, and other such things.

They're looking for smart people.

ROBERTS: And the threat level does remain at critical at this point, but is there any reason to believe that there may be more attacks coming from this particular group?

AMANPOUR: Well, this is what they're looking at, and this is what Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, was saying yesterday, that they've got this investigation now and this increased police presence up and down the length and breadth of the country, and obviously with tentacles overseas. And as we've seen, this arrest in Brisbane.

Critical means they expect an imminent attack, but they have no specific warning or word that a specific one is planned. But because of the nature of what's happened, they want to be on guard, and that's why they've raised the level to the highest. And police visibility very, very high, and also on public transport, and it has had some effect in, you know, stoppages and slowdowns on some of the tube.

A controlled explosion at one of the tube stations in West London today. So there's a lot going on.

ROBERTS: All right.

Christiane Amanpour for us at Scotland Yard.

Christiane, thanks.

CHETRY: Well, the family of the one of the suspects in the U.K. terror incident is saying that this must all be a mistake.

Cal Perry is in Amman, Jordan. It's the hometown of Dr. Mohammed Asha. Now, he is the one who at least investigators are saying they believe to be the mastermind of this attempted terror attack in the U.K.

CAL PERRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And Kiran, mastermind is the last thing that this family would ever believe. We sat down with his older brother, Ahmed, and he would lay out all of these wonderful academic achievements for his younger brother, he would paint a picture of his younger brother traveling to the U.K., falling in love, getting married and having a young baby, a 2-year-old son.

He even said that his brother would send home letters and pictures from the U.K. telling how much he enjoyed living there. They'd talk on a weekly basis, and his brother even said he was planning to travel back to Jordan on July the 12th. For his brother, an absolute flat denial it is absolutely impossible -- Kiran.

CHETRY: And so what are they saying about how he was possibly caught up in this? Because he was arrested along the M6 with his wife. As you described as well, is their young son. And now authorities are saying it looks like he was the one who hatched this plot.

PERRY: And for the family, it was an absolute shock. They tell us that they literally found out by watching it on television.

When we arrived at the house where he grew up, his father was too distraught to speak to us. He had just reached out to the king of Jordan, asking for any help.

The brothers said they're trying to reach the Jordanian Embassy in London to no avail. They're trying to reach British authorities here. They're having no success whatsoever.

They really are in the dark. And with the British legal system the way it is, they're not expecting any real information to come forward, any cooperation of any kind. So this is really a family that's sitting and waiting for any help, any information at all.

But again, the picture they paint of this young man is of a neurosurgeon who spent most of his time here studying. He had such academic achievements. His brother mentioned to me he was invited by Queen Noor to a breakfast to celebrate his academic achievements. He was an absolute A student.

So, for the family, their claim to us, there is no way that this man could have carried out these attacks.

CHETRY: Well, hopefully we'll find out more details about this. Apparently they did take some computers from the hospital where he worked, as well.

Cal Perry, thanks so much.




CHETRY: Well, President Bush's decision to commute Scooter Libby's prison sentence is all over the morning papers. It's also over the blogs, as well.

And Jacki Schechner has been following the reaction of America's bloggers.

And we'll start with, not surprisingly, a lot of outrage from the left this morning, Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: The outrage came fast and furious, Kiran, as you might imagine. And people are really saying this is a matter of hypocrisy. President Bush said that they were going to get to the bottom of this. Obviously, they found out the one person who had any sort of guilt in this matter turned out to be commuted, his sentence was commuted.

So people are saying it's hypocritical. They're calling on the White House -- people to call the White House and let them know what they think. They want people to bombard the phones. There's a tremendous amount of anger.

CHETRY: It's interesting, because there's also apparently some anger from the conservative blogs, but not for the same reason.


CHETRY: They think he should have gotten a full pardon, which he didn't get.

SCHECHNER: Right. They're saying that President Bush didn't go far enough. In some regards, this was like splitting the baby, that either he had to pardon him completely or he had to do nothing. But commuting his sentence doesn't go far enough.

There's also other conservatives who have been very anti-Bush lately, especially on the issue of immigration, who seem to be coming back around a little bit. But I don't know that this is going to give him much of a bounce in the conservative blogosphere, because a lot of them have really turned against Bush on the whole.

CHETRY: Scooter Libby still has to pay the $250,000 fine and he has probation.

SCHECHNER: Right. Right.

CHETRY: And he's also considered a felon at this point, but he doesn't have to serve the jail time.

SCHECHNER: You know what's interesting about this whole case, for bloggers especially? Is they were credentialed for this case.

So, not only have they been following this from the very beginning, when it broke in the newspapers, they were in the courtroom during this trial. We got every little nugget of detail from the blogs. So now that this has happened, they are completely outraged, especially the liberal blogs. And conservatives, we'll wait and see if this does anything for Bush's reputation, but some say he should have gone a little bit farther -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Yes, it's interesting. As you talked about, the first time that bloggers were journalists, just like everyone else in the courtroom.

Let's take a look, by the way at our quick poll. This was our "Quick Vote" on CNN's AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: You can go to and weigh in if you like, but here are the results right now. It's not scientific.

Eighty percent of those voting did not agree with the president's decision to commute the jail time. Twenty percent did, and 40,000 votes were cast.

So, thank you for your input this morning. And you can go ahead and keep weighing in if you like.

Jacki, thanks.

SCHECHNER: Of course.




ROBERTS: Well, it appears that the car bombs in London were triggered. Luckily, they didn't go off. Had they, Britain's prime minister says hundreds of people could have been killed.

Just how easy is it to build a car bomb and set it off?

CNN's David Mattingly went to find out.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Under the blazing New Mexico sun, a deadly weapon of terror takes shape...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a car bomb. This is an improvised car bomb.

MATTINGLY: ... using the same volatile ingredients investigators say terrorists attempted to use in the failed attacks on London and Glasgow. We commissioned explosives experts at New Mexico Tech to build us a similar car bomb and then blow it up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What will happen is this entire car will turn into shrapnel.

MATTINGLY: This is not a how-to in building car bombs. This bomb starts with about $100 of simple materials: two tanks of liquid propane, the kind you'd atop to your backyard grill. Then tanks of gasoline, about 20 gallons in all.

But where the London bombs reportedly contained nails, for practical purposes, our test uses metal nuts. They're less likely to cause flat tires at the site later.

VAN ROMERO, V.P., NEW MEXICO TECH: For a suicide bomber, a suicide bomber will have plastic or C4 explosives, and they'll put that either on top of the explosives. And then when it detonates, these will shoot out into the surrounding area.

MATTINGLY (on camera): You can see that these are items that are easy to find. Anyone can buy them. Anyone can put them together.

The real expertise behind a car bomb is in knowing how to blow it up. And for security reasons, detonating a car bomb is the one thing experts here do not discuss publicly.

(voice-over): But it's clear to our experts the failed detonations in London and the apparent attempt by terrorists to manually detonate the jeep at the Glasgow airport, that these terrorists lack the skill to carry out their murderous plans.

ROMERO: One, they didn't have a lot of knowledge of how to do it. Or, two, they didn't have access to other types of explosives.

MATTINGLY (on camera): Security procedures demand that we get far, far away from that explosion. We're up here on a hilltop, and you can see the blast site way down there. That's about a half mile away.

I'm told it's possible that that explosion could possibly throw shrapnel all the way up here, and for that reason, when the moment of truth comes, we'll all be hunkered down inside this reinforced bunker.

(voice-over): And after only 30 minutes of assembly, the car is parked in front of a hastily constructed building, and the bomb is ready to go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five, four, three, two, one.

MATTINGLY: From a half mile away, the sound takes about a second to catch up to the churning orange fireball. Watch in slow motion as the car blows to pieces. From this angle we can see fiery debris jetting out of the back. But it's not until we get on the ground that we get a clear idea of the damage this car bomb could have done on a busy London street.

ROMERO: Casualties would probably be fire victims.

MATTINGLY: The building next to the car was incinerated by the blast. If this had been a nightclub full of people, fire could have claimed many lives.

And all those metal nuts representing nails strapped to the propane tanks could have wounded pedestrians within a half block or more.

No doubt, a deadly weapon. But a weapon intended to create mass panic. More so than mass destruction.

David Mattingly, CNN, New Mexico.




CHETRY: And it's three minutes before the top of the hour. Ali Velshi is off, and we're pleased to have with us today Shelly Branch from "The Wall Street Journal" "Minding Your Business".

Good to see you this morning.

SHELLY BRANCH, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Great to be here. Thank you.

CHETRY: We're all hungry.

BRANCH: You're all hungry, and the price of your hunger is going up, unfortunately, especially at the breakfast table, where we're finding that prices for the things we like to eat in the morning, like Corn Flakes, orange juice, are on the rise.

CHETRY: And we just did a story saying that beer is also going up. Is it the same -- can we blame it on the same thing, the ethanol situation?

BRANCH: Not exactly. The beer price increase has more to the with malt -- malt prices going up. Of course you are absolutely right with ethanol.

Ethanol is, of course, a corn-based fuel alternative, and stepped-up demand for ethanol has caused corn prices to rise. Therefore, your Corn Flakes price to rise. And also, another domino effect, livestock, of course, is fed corn. And so livestock producers are having to find even alternative feed for the pigs that end up as the bacon on our table.

ROBERTS: It's just affecting everything.


CHETRY: See that?

ROBERTS: Do chicken eat corn? I mean are the price of eggs going to go up, too?

BRANCH: You'd be surprised what pigs will eat, in fact. In a drill (ph) we wrote a story recently about livestock feeders -- livestock producers feeding pigs trail mix, M&Ms, all kinds of stuff because corn is so very expensive.

CHETRY: Well, who knew that M&Ms would actually be cheaper than corn feed some day?

BRANCH: But some of the prices are even approaching double digits and more in terms of percentage gains, such as orange juice. Orange juice, cereal made with corn, obviously --over a year ago those prices were 20 percent more.

CHETRY: Wow. We're seeing big jumps in the eggs and the orange juice for sure.

BRANCH: Absolutely, yes.

CHETRY: Shelly Branch, thank you so much.

BRANCH: My pleasure.

ROBERTS: We'll see you again next hour.

The next hour of AMERICAN MORNING begins right now.