Return to Transcripts main page

American Morning

New Papers Show Hasan Had Poor Performance Reviews Before Being Sent to Fort Hood; President Obama Wraps Up Asia Trip; Judge Rules Army Corps of Engineers Liable For Some Damages Caused by Hurricane Katrina

Aired November 19, 2009 - 06:59   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. It is now -- (LAUGHING) it is -- sorry. Two minutes to the top of the hour on this Thursday, November 19th. I'm Kiran Chetry.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. I'm John Roberts. Thanks for being with us.

And here are the big stories we will be telling you about the next 15 minutes. New developments in the Fort Hood shooting investigation. The Secretary of Defense putting an ex-pentagon official in charge of a review, a massive review, as a new memo surfaces about the accused shooter, potentially damning one. Were warning signs ignored?

CHETRY: There also is some big news out of New Orleans today. A federal judge holds the Army corps of engineers liable for some of hurricane Katrina's worst flooding, so what is it mean for the people of New Orleans? We are going to be speaking to the president of St. Bernard Parish where floodwater damage or destroyed nearly every one of its 27,000 homes.

ROBERTS: President Obama says that door is open for North Korea. He is sending a high-level envoy to Pyongyang for one-on-one talks on dismantling its nuclear weapons program. We are taking a closer look at that this morning and just what the President accomplished during his busy trip to Asia.

CHETRY: First, there are new major developments this morning in the Fort Hood shooting investigation. Later today, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is expected to put a former pentagon official in charge of a sweeping review of that shooting. The military will also be taking a look at itself as part of this review. Another big development is that National Public Radio, NPR, obtained a document from 2007 that raises red flags about the alleged shooter, Major Nidal Hasan. The report claims that he pushed Islam on some of his highly vulnerable patients.

But first, we go to Barbara Starr. She has been following all of this from the Pentagon this morning. Good morning, Barbara.


Defense Secretary Robert Gates later today is expected to announce this wide ranging review of what could possibly be done to avoid another Fort Hood-type tragedy.

The final details we are told are still being worked out. We are not being told the name yet of the former defense official who will head this review.

And officials here are saying, look, this is going to be very tough because, of course, as everyone understands, if there is someone out there that wants to commit a terrible crime they usually will find a way to do it.

Nonetheless, some of the things that this review is going to attempt to look at, we are told that it will be in large part an examination that hard look by the army at itself and the military medical community.

Personnel policies -- what happens when there is adverse information about someone in the U.S. military but they haven't voiced a specific threat? How's that information shared? Who actually knows about it, and, of course, the availability of mental health services for troubled troops.

Ironically, of course, Major Hasan was part of a mental health community.

The expectation, Kiran, is that Gates will order a very quick review -- he wants some immediate answers -- and then a longer-term review.

But let's remember, President Obama has ordered an investigation due to him by the end of this month about the military and intelligence aspects of this. Who knew what and when did they know it about Major Hasan specifically, and should anybody be held accountable for not sharing that information? Kiran.

CHETRY: Barbara Starr for us. Thank you.

ROBERTS: And now to the memo. NPR obtained an army document that is raising serious concerns this morning about Hasan's behavior. A supervisor at Walter Reed Army Medical Center brought it to colleagues' attention back in 2007.

He said the faculty had serious concern about Hasan's professionalism and work ethic. He also talked about him being overweight and lazy, pointing out that Hasan saw 30 patients in 38 weeks and didn't even answer the telephone when he was supposed to be on call for emergencies.

The memo, the very first evaluation from Hasan's record to surface, was obtained by NPR correspondent Daniel Zwerdling. He joined me last night on "CNN TONIGHT."


DANIEL ZWERDLING, NPR CORRESPONDENT: Hasan's supervisors felt he was a terrible and reckless psychiatrist. Ever since Hasan showed up at Walter Reed for training, there was a series of incidents. And in this memo lists maybe eight or nine of them. I will just list a few.

He would be the guy on call. And so doctors would call him in an emergency, and he wouldn't answer the telephone. He must handle a homicidal patient in the emergency room and essentially allowed her to escape. So nobody knew where she was.

It turns out that Hasan actually was seeing fewer patients. He was doing less work than just about any psychiatrist in the army.

ROBERTS: Here's the question so many people have right now. And I heard you talking about this last week on NPR, Daniel, and that is with this record, with this evaluation, how did he end up at Fort Hood?

ZWERDLING: It turns out that some of his supervisors and associates sat around actually early this year saying what can we do about Nidal Hasan? I mean, one supervisor mused out loud to colleagues "Do we think he is the kind of guy that could actually leak secrets to Islamic radicals?" And another supervisor mused to some of his colleagues, "Do you think he could actually commit fratricide?" That's killing fellow American soldiers.

So they got together and thought what can we do with him? And the solution was, this was army solution, let's send him to a medical center that has a good mental health staff. Fort Hood actually has more mental health specialists than most army bases.

And the thinking was if he improves then Hasan will be helpful. And if he doesn't improve, at least we have a bunch of therapists there that can monitor him and make sure that he doesn't do too much damage.


ROBERTS: Also new this morning, about two-thirds of the country now thinks that the Fort Hood massacre could have been avoided -- 64 percent say that the military or law enforcement should have been able to prevent the shootings according to a new CNN Research Opinion Corporation poll.

But Americans are still split over whether this was an act of terrorism, 45 percent say yes, 47 percent say no.

CHETRY: Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai sworn into office for another five-year term this morning. Security was tight for the 800 guests who gathered in the presidential palace. Among them there you see on the left of your screen Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who called the inauguration a, quote, "window of opportunity for Karzai to improve the lives of Afghans and to end government corruption."

ROBERTS: The Senate version of health care reform is on the table. It carries an $849 billion price tag. Democrats claiming it will ensure 94 percent of Americans while cutting the deficit by $130 billion in the next ten years.

CNN's senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash first broke the news on "A.C. 360" last night.


DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: First of all, if you have a preexisting condition just like the House bill, under this you can no longer be discriminated against by insurance companies.

And there would be a mandate for most individuals to get health insurance and pay a penalty if you don't do that. And that so-called government-run health insurance option that is very controversial, it is in this bill, but states would be allowed to opt out.


ROBERTS: Senate Democrats claim the measure will strengthen Medicare while providing coverage to 31 million Americans who currently do not have health insurance.

CHETRY: Several former crew members of the Maersk Alabama are not suing the companies that own and operate the ship. They claim that they were sent to pirate-infested waters without adequate protection.

Somali pirates attacked the Maersk Alabama in the Indian Ocean for the second time in seven months just yesterday, but this time they were turned back by armed security guards attached to the crew. Pirates did, however, hijack the ship in April. They actually held Captain Richard Phillips hostage on a lifeboat for five days.

ROBERTS: A federal judge has ruled the Army Corps of Engineers is liable for some of hurricane Katrina's worst flooding. U.S. district Stanwood Duval says the army displayed gross negligence when it failed to maintain a critical navigation channel resulting in levee breaches that flooded much of New Orleans.

The ruling leaves the government open to billions of dollars in possible claims.

So, what does this ruling mean for residents of New Orleans? We are going to talk with the president of St. Bernard's parish, Craig Taffaro, where floodwater rendered nearly every single home uninhabitable.

CHETRY: Right now President Obama is flying home to Washington after his busy Asia trip. During his last trip in South Korea the president announced he is dispatching an envoy to North Korea next month for direct talks. This is an effort to get Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons programs and also to jumpstart six-party talks.

Our Dan Lothian is in Seoul with a look at how the president did during his weeklong trip.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, Kiran, the president didn't leave Asia with a lot of agreements, but senior adviser David Axelrod says that they never expected a ticker tape parade, that expectations were not set very high. But he believes that the president's visit was a success because they were able to move dialogue forward on a number of key issues.


LOTHIAN: Feeling good about his extended trip to Asia --


LOTHIAN: President Obama saluted about 1,500 of the U.S. troops based in South Korea.

OBAMA: We thank you for your service. We honor you for your sacrifices. And just as you have fulfilled your responsibilities to your nation, your nation will fulfill its responsibilities to you.

LOTHIAN: But his upbeat message doesn't change the tough reality of nagging global challenges like the nuclear ambitions of South Korea's neighbor to the north and Iran, which continues to resist international pressure.

OBAMA: They have been unable to get to yes. And so as a consequence, we have begun discussions with our international partners about the importance of having consequences.

LOTHIAN: The president gave no specifics on potential sanctions that he says will be developed over the next several weeks. And while he appeared frustrated by North Korea's cat and mouse game, there was a shade of optimism as Mr. Obama talked about ambassador Stephen Bosworth's visit next month to hold direct talks with the North.

OBAMA: The door is open to resolving these issues peacefully.

LOTHIAN: The Asia tour also took the president to Japan, Singapore, and China, a heavy schedule of bilateral meetings on climate change, the economy, trade. But there were also a few side trips to play tourist.

OBAMA: It's beautiful. What a magnificent place to visit.


LOTHIAN: As President Obama returns to business in Washington, a climate change agreement remains elusive and this new deeper friendship is still complicated.

For example, China is emerging as a key partner but still has ways to go on human rights. One good sign, say White House aides, President Hu has accepted an invitation to visit Washington sometime next year -- John, Kiran?

CHETRY: Dan Lothian, thank you.

Also coming up at 8:10 eastern, we're going to dig deeper on what President Obama accomplished during his Asia trip. We will be speaking with New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who has been on diplomatic missions to North Korea. ROBERTS: Khalid sheik Mohammed will be tried in New York City for the 9/11 attacks. Coming up we will talk to a man who has defended former Gitmo detainees facing terrorism charges. Is the civilian court the right place to charge and try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and what about his plea of guilty that he wanted to enter in a military tribunal?

We will talk about all of that coming up. It's 10 minutes now after the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News of the Morning.

The lower ninth ward and Sr. Bernard parish, two of the areas hit hardest by flooding in the wake of hurricane Katrina. The two districts in New Orleans literally drowned when a major navigation channel linking New Orleans, Louisiana to the Gulf of Mexico led to catastrophic flooding.

So nearly every one of the 27,000 homes in St. Bernard parish were either damaged or destroyed. On Wednesday, that's just yesterday, a federal judge found the Army Corps of Engineers were grossly negligent in maintaining that channel. And it now opens the door to billions of dollars in insurance claims.

So what's the ruling mean for residents in New Orleans? Joining us right now from New Orleans, St. Bernard parish president Craig Taffaro Jr. Thanks so much for being with us this morning.

CRAIG TAFFARO, PRESIDENT, ST. BERNARD PARISH: You bet, thanks for having us.

CHETRY: One of your lawyers, I know you have been fight this for awhile on behalf of your residents there, called this a major win for St. Bernard parish. Explain what you guys have been fighting for in this case.

TAFFARO: Keep in mind that over the last 40 some-odd years St. Bernard parish, which the MRGO travels 74 miles through our community, has basically destroyed our natural hurricane protection.

And what this says is that the people of St. Bernard parish as a community is vindicated in the sense that what we have feared all along and who is responsible all along has now become a reality.

CHETRY: And so in that situation the judge ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers displayed, as they called it, "Gross negligence in failing to maintain this navigation channel, and that they say that's actually what resulted in levee breaches this flooded large swaths of greater New Orleans.

What does that translate into for residents whose homes were damaged or destroyed? Are they going to get money here?

TAFFARO: Well, we want the public to understand that it is a victory for us in the legal system, but it is far from over. In discussing this with our legal counsel, Mr. John Andre, who is one of our local residents on the legal team with Pierce O'Donnell and Joseph Bruno, one of the things we want people to understand is this puts us at the table and keeps us having a presence in terms of whatever negotiations are going to follow with the federal government, specifically with the Corps of Engineers in terms of how we correct the problem.

This is not just a matter of throwing money at thousands of residents. It is a matter of restoring the protection that was lost due to the MRGO.

CHETRY: And to explain to other people, the long-held contention was that the flooding was an act of god, and, therefore, because it was considered an act of god, nobody could really be held liable.

In this ruling they're saying not the construction of the channel but the maintenance of the channel is -- is what caused the catastrophic flooding, specifically in your parish. Explain what -- just some suggestions what the corps of engineers could have done or should have done that perhaps could have prevented this catastrophe.

CRAIG TAFFARO, JR., ST. BERNARD PARISH PRESIDENT: Well, as you mentioned, the -- maintenance issue, keep in mind, that the channel, the construction of the channel when it started was only 500 feet wide.

Well, the improper maintenance has allowed that channel to grow to in many places 3,000 feet wide. And in those additional 2,500 feet of land loss is where our vulnerability really came to light. We lost wetlands, we lost estuaries. We had -- we considered to be malformed and malconstructed and maintained levee systems so that when the ground around those levees eroded, it put St. Bernard Parish in a vulnerable condition and Hurricane Katrina exposed that.

CHETRY: Right. And if I get this straight, you guys wanted originally what you were hoping for is that they would rule that the -- you know, liable for the construction of this channel in the first place. That this was not something that was smartly constructed to begin with and put you guys at risk and as you said, a hurricane, a Cat three like Katrina exposed that. But they're talking about the maintenance. So what could they have done in terms of maintaining it to prevent what happened?

TAFFARO: Well, all levees have subsidence to them and a degradation of the original construction. So, the maintenance would have been smartly done by making sure that the height of the levee and the original construction was maintained. What we'll never know is exactly what the condition was on the day the levee was turned over as a completed project.

But what we do know is over the last 40 years what has really happened is a degradation of that system as a whole. And that is what created the vulnerability and the danger for St. Bernard Parish.

CHETRY: Bottom line, do you think people are going to eventually get their money back and be able to rebuild?

TAFFARO: Well, you know, this is a twofold process. One is, obviously, compensating and many people have received some federal assistance. So that whole maze of how compensation would be handed down is yet to be determined.

But more importantly, is putting us at the table so that whatever restoration has to take place, whatever reconstruction has to take place in terms of the improper maintenance and the results of improper maintenance can be done so that St. Bernard Parish and the Lower Ninth Ward are protected.

CHETRY: All right. In the meantime, and legally speaking, it's still far from over. The government says that they're going to appeal and take it as high as the Supreme Court if they have to.


CHETRY: So it is a step for you guys, victory as your lawyers said but the fight goes on.

Craig Taffaro, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

TAFFARO: You bet. Thank you.

CHETRY: Seventeen and a half minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: Twenty minutes past the hour. Straight ahead on the Most News in the Morning.

The new guidelines over breast cancer screening causing confusion, anger and raising a lot of new questions. We're paging our Dr. Sanjay Gupta getting some answers for you and answering your questions specifically. That's a little bit later in the hour right here on AMERICAN MORNING.

ROBERTS: Checking our other stories new this morning. In two hours' time, a pair of NASA astronauts will head out for the first of three spacewalks during its Atlantis. It camped out overnight, so to speak, in an air lot to get nitrogen out of their blood, or at least reduce the amount which keeps them from getting sick in space. During their space stroll, they're going to hook up a spare antenna and cables to the International Space Station so they can get CNN on satellite.

CHETRY: There you go. Well, more Americans will be traveling this Thanksgiving holiday than last year. AAA saying nearly 39 million people will be on the move.

Last year the number was down a bit because of the bad economy. AAA also says that the number of people on the road will increase but that air travel is actually going to dip. The reason is simple. It's cheaper to drive than it is to fly. ROBERTS: Plus, a new three and a half hour time limit on tailgating by the NFL is causing an uproar this morning. The league told "USA Today" it's part of a crackdown on drunk and obnoxious fans. But plenty of fans are firing back calling it a money grab that forces them to buy food inside the stadium since three and a half hours of tailgating isn't enough to feed your fans (ph). I guess.

CHETRY: No. No way.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Look, if you're out drinking for three and a half hours, think how much stadium food you have to buy after that, right?

CHETRY: Right. It should be a money...

ROBERTS: Christine Romans here "Minding Your Business" and the Senate out with its health care plan. She's got the winners and losers today.

ROMANS: Unveiling the health care plan, Senator Harry Reid, Reid. Look, a couple of things here. For anybody with a pre-existing condition just like with the House plan, you are a clear first-off winner immediately if you have a pre-existing condition. Both of these bills will not allow your insurance company to deny you coverage.

Also, winners, poor families. People who get Medicaid. Medicaid has been expanded, will be expanded under this bill to cover families who earn up to $29,000. If you are a family of four and you earn up to $29,000, you will be covered under Medicaid. That means wealthy couples, though, who make more than $250,000 a year, they will see their taxes increase. The part of their taxes, the Medicaid taxes that are taken out of their paycheck will go up.

Here are the numbers. The CBO, a couple of sources confirming to us that the CBO has scored this thing and said it's going to cost $849 billion over 10 years. It will cut the deficit by $127 billion, and it would insure an additional 31 million people.

John and Kiran, Senate Democratic sources are saying that 94 percent of legal residents in this country, so American citizens and people legally in the country, 94 percent of them would be covered, would have some sort of health insurance.

Now we know. More process. This has all been about process, right? More process. It's not done yet, but this is at least the House bill. Now we have it in black and white.

ROBERTS: So the tax increase on Medicare payroll deduction, half a percentage point, right?

ROMANS: Yes. Yes.

ROBERTS: So it goes from 1.45 to 1.95.

ROMANS: That's right. That's exactly right. So you see a little bit of increase there.

There's also a tax in there, a five percent tax on cosmetic surgery. They're new fees for insurers and pharmaceutical companies, fines for not buying insurance that you can get through your company.

ROBERTS: Yes. I was going to get the nose job, too.

ROMANS: I know. It's going to cost you five percent more. But maybe, I don't know. You know.

CHETRY: And that's one place you don't want to search for a bargain.

ROMANS: I thought that was a pretty interesting one, though. They have to try to figure it out.

CHETRY: Yes. And they're trying to figure out taxing medical devices, taxing elective surgeries, that type of thing.


CHETRY: But you talked about losers. Any other, like big losers in this?

ROMANS: Well, any big losers. If you get a fine for not buying health insurance, yes. I guess if you are an illegal immigrant and you're, you know, banned from the whole system because this bill also keeps people out of the system, so that is a part of the population that still will be uncovered. These are people who will still go to the emergency room for health care. That has not been addressed in this for political reasons.

You know, there's a lot in there. It's a big bill. It's a very big bill.

ROBERTS: Got a "Romans' Numeral" this morning.

ROMANS: I do -- 2,074. It has to do with how big of a bill it is.

ROBERTS: It's the number of pages in the bill.

ROMANS: That's exactly right.

ROBERTS: It's not bigger than the House Bill.

ROMANS: Yes, it's big. It's a big one.

CHETRY: And you have to merge the two and then read all the fine print.

ROMANS: Then Reid will go and they're going to sit down...

ROBERTS: I bet it's going to get twice as big.

ROMANS: Piles of paper and then they're going to have to hash it out. But, you know, Harry Reid needs 60 votes to pass it after that. If it is passed, they'll have to hash it out with the Senate version and see what stays, what goes. So the process, boys and girls, continues.

CHETRY: All right. Christine Romans for us this morning.


CHETRY: Thanks so much.

ROBERTS: So, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is going to be tried in a civil courtroom in New York City. Is that the best way to try him or should he go before a military tribunal? We're going to be examining all sides of this issue.

Coming up, 25 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Twenty- seven minutes past the hour right now. A look at the top stories.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is suggesting that women ignore a federal panel's new guidelines for mammograms. On Monday, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force advised women to wait until the age of 50 to get their first breast cancer screening if they have no family history.

Well, Secretary Sebelius rejected the panel's advice and said that the government will not be changing federal medical policy which recommends routine mammograms for women starting at age 40. Sebelius called mammograms an important lifesaving tool.

ROBERTS: Another one of President Obama's appointees is dealing with tax trouble. A congressional report says Lael Brainard, the president's nominee for undersecretary of the treasury for international affairs, was late paying real estate taxes in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

Brainard was one of President Clinton's economic adviser. She is the fifth Obama nominee to have his or her tax problems revealed. That includes Brainard's potential boss, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

CHETRY: And a Philly area pool that was accused of racism over the summer has now gone bankrupt. A court clerk says that the Valley Swim Club filed for chapter 11 on Tuesday. It made headlines over the summer when it revoked the privileges or swim privileges of a group of 65 day campers. Most of them were minority kids. One told CNN that they heard a club member ask, what are all these black kids doing here? The club denied that race had anything to do with its decision.

ROBERTS: Attorney General Eric Holder says failure is not an option when federal prosecutors tries suspected 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a civilian court here in New York City. And while it may not be an option Republicans warn that failure is a real possibility.

Our Homeland Security correspondent Jeanne Meserve now with the heated debate on Capitol Hill.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The horror of 9/11 is now history. Eight years have passed. The attorney general says for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other alleged conspirators justice is overdue, and justice will be done in the civilian courts.

ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: Failure is not an option. This -- these are cases that have to be won. I don't expect that we will have a contrary result.

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: I don't know how you can make a statement that failure to convict is not an option. When you have juries in this country -- I think a lot of Americans thought O.J. Simpson ought to be convicted of murder rather than being in jail for what he's in jail for now.

MESERVE: One after another, Republicans on the Judiciary Committee raised questions about the wisdom of Holder's decision.

SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: How could you be more likely to get a conviction in federal court when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has already asked to plead guilty before military commission and be executed? How could you be more likely to get a conviction in an Article 3 court than that?

ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well -- Senator, that was then. I don't know what Khalid Sheikh Mohammed wants to do now and I'm not going to base that determination on where this case is going to be brought, on what a terrorist, what a murderer wants to do. He will not select that prosecution venue. I will select it and I have.

MESERVE: What are the implications down the road? Senator Lindsey Graham wanted to know.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If we captured Bin Laden tomorrow, would he be entitled to Miranda warnings at the moment of capture?

HOLDER: It all depends.

GRAHAM: Well, it does not depend. If you are going to prosecute anybody in civilian court, our law is clear that the moment custodial interrogation occurs, the defendant, the criminal defendant, is entitled to a lawyer and to be informed of their right to remain silent.

MESERVE: Although some 9/11 family members support Holder's decision, the group in the hearing room did not. The mother of Mark Bingham who died in the crash of Flight 93 told the attorney general personally. ALICE HOAGLAND, MOTHER OF 9/11 VICTIM: But I think that I can speak for many of 9/11 families when I say that we are heartsick and weary of the delays in the (INAUDIBLE) and I am afraid that the theatrics are going to take over at this point. And I very much regret that.

MESERVE (on camera): One question raised repeatedly by senators: if there is an acquittal or mistrial would self-proclaimed terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other defendants be freed within the United States? Holder insisted that they would not.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Washington.


ROBERTS: Well, clearly trying suspected terrorists in civilian U.S. courts is a dicey proposition. Our next guest knows all about that.

CHETRY: He's a retired Navy lieutenant commander. Charles Swift. He once represented Osama Bin Laden's former driver. And he's currently defending a U.S. educated Pakistani woman suspected of links to Al Qaeda. Charles Swift joins us now. Thanks for being with us this morning.


CHETRY: First of all, just outline for us your thoughts and some of the potential pitfalls of trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the four co-conspirators in federal civilian court.

SWIFT: My first thought is it is the right place. And here's why. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed wants to be a martyr. And to be a martyr he needs to have his death seen as illegitimate. Even though you use the military commissions, in the world's eyes, he will become a martyr. I harken back to Saddam Hussein when we had a fair trial and a lousy execution. And it undermined much of the good.

In Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's the method by which we get there matters. And it matters a great deal. And Mr. Holder understands that. Colin Powell understood that. Secretary Gates understands that. But we are in a long war and we don't want Khalid Sheik Mohammed being a martyr for the other side. We want him to be what he is, a common criminal. He committed an uncommon crime. But he's just a murderer.

ROBERTS: Now, yesterday in this hearing, Eric Holder, the attorney general, was peppered with questions. Some of them very pointed over this idea. Look, we had a slam dunk in the military court because Khalid Sheikh Mohammed said he wanted to plead guilty. He wanted to be executed. It prompted a really sharp exchange between Senator Jon Kyl and the attorney general. Let's listen to that and get your thoughts about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KYL: One of the factors has to be the fact that he has at least at some time asked to plead guilty. I mean, you had to have taken that into account.

HOLDER: That was then. I don't know what Khalid Sheikh Mohammed wants to do now. And I'm not going to base a determination on where these cases ought to be brought on what a terrorist, what a murderer, wants to do. He will not select the prosecution venue. I will select it and I have.


ROBERTS: Analysts looked at that and said what Eric Holder is saying there is this is what Khalid Sheikh Mohammed wants. I am going to deny him what he wants.

SWIFT: That's right. And he -- what Mr. Holder is very -- Khalid Sheikh Mohammed wants to die. He wants to be a martyr. He viewed the military commissions as an excellent opportunity. Something I said way back when. This was a victory for him. I get to be executed in a system that's widely seen throughout the world as illegitimate. Excellent. I am a martyr. I plan on dying. I doubt that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's going to change his plea.

CHETRY: But this is the part that's interesting. Is this just a show trials? Meaning, you have the attorney general already referring to him as a terrorist. He just said a terrorist, a murderer. I thought the whole point was to prove that in court and to give him the presumption of innocence. He's calling him a terrorist and a murderer.

SWIFT: Now...

CHETRY: Secondly, the prosecution is saying I don't want to bring this case or justice officials didn't want to bring the case unless they were assured that they could get a conviction. So what's the trial for?

SWIFT: Well, let's understand two things. When a prosecutor is talking and Mr. Holder is a prosecutor, first, a prosecutor is always sure that they are going to win. So Mr. Holder is using the vernacular of a prosecutor. Number two is the Justice Department when they bring cases are pretty sure that they are going to win. That they have sufficient evidence. Now they are not always right.

In Khalid Sheik Mohammed's case, I think that they thought about it an awful lot. And part of it is the statements that Khalid Sheik Mohammed made on Al Jazeera prior to his capture. Statements he's made in the commissions that will be admissible in a court in the United States.

Now, it does raise an interesting question though once we hit New York. There will be a couple of issues that are going to hit the table right off the bat. And while Mr. Holder has chosen to have the trial in New York, I don't know that the judge will necessarily choose to have the trial in New York. I harken back to Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, and the famous change of venue motion.

ROBERTS: That's one of the first things that a prosecutor will do, right?

SWIFT: Defense attorney would do.

ROBERTS: Defense attorney, I'm sorry, would do is say we can't get a fair trial here in New York City. It's just too charged an atmosphere. We need to move it to --

SWIFT: Wherever. Absolutely. The next part on the interesting part for the defense attorney is what's their role. And will there be a defense attorney? Because Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in the military commissions fired all of his defense attorneys and he had both military and civilian defense attorneys. They didn't fire them simply because they are military officers. He fired everybody.

ROBERTS: So the attorney general said yesterday failure is not an option when it comes to Khalid Sheik Mohammed. To which Senator Chuck Grassley said well, the O.J. Simpson trial looked like it was going to be slam dunk. I mean, are there enough variables in the criminal justice system that something could go dramatically off the rails with the prosecution's case?

SWIFT: The government has the burden to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. And so there's always a possibility that they couldn't get in evidence or some way they could not prove the case. Ultimately, the decision doesn't rest with Mr. Holder. It doesn't rest with the judge. It doesn't rest with anyone. Other than 12 citizens of the United States who have yet to be selected and have yet to be nailed. They will make the decisions in this case. And here's the part. The United States is great because of that.

CHETRY: Absolutely.

SWIFT: We are great because the 12 citizens make these decisions.

CHETRY: Let me ask you the question, as a defense attorney, are you going to try to make it a trial not about Khalid Sheik Mohammed, if you were defending him, but a trial about the CIA, harsh interrogation, was torture used, what -- you know, what was our government doing?

SWIFT: There's two places that you could do that. And the first one would be to argue that Khalid Sheik Mohammed is insane now. And to say that -- his -- what has happened to him the way that he was treated, et cetera, is causing him to want to die, suicide and there are some problems with that argument. I will admit it right off the front.

The second part is in the penalty phase. I don't think that the U.S. attorney is going to be so foolish as to try to use statements from the interrogation period. I think that the U.S. attorneys will use statements either before or that Khalid Sheik Mohammed made in the open court and the commissions and nothing else. And so they won't be relevant immediately there. But when we get to the penalty phase, then there's the real question of where we get to those -- the interrogations and all of that. That would be relevant in mitigation. Now here's the rub. Khalid Sheik Mohammed wants to die. He said it repeatedly. So as his defense attorney, is it your job to prevent your client from getting what he wants, Moussaoui's attorneys. Moussaoui wanted to die. His attorneys fought him on that.

The Unabomber, he wanted to die. His attorneys fought him on that. Or the Oklahoma City bomber where his attorneys did not fight him on that. And they actually helped him achieve his goal and pull off -- his execution was so quick because there were no -- Timothy McVeigh, because the appeals were cut short. And those who would intervene on his behalf were fought off by his attorneys.

That's a challenge. It is an incredible moral question that I'm glad I'm not going to have to answer this time anyway. But in, you know, it is -- the challenges lay out, I think the greatest challenges in this, however will not be for the attorneys. Not even for the jury.

The one job that I think is about to become the most difficult job in the legal system tomorrow morning or on the day that he arrives, the federal judge who receives this case has got his hands full.

ROBERTS: He certainly does. Charles Swift, it's great to see you this morning. Thanks for coming in.

SWIFT: Great.

ROBERTS: Really appreciate it.

CHETRY: Great to talk to you.

ROBERTS: Good to see you.

CHETRY: Charles, thanks

We will take a quick break. When we come back, we are talking about the controversy over the military's use of drones. Our Barbara Starr is live with that. 40 minutes past the hour.


ROBERTS: Just in to CNN, live picture of Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport where things aren't running as smoothly as they usually do. Apparently, there is a glitch in the computer system that pilots use to file their flight plans. And there are not a whole lot of airplanes taking off this morning. That's causing some flight delays. And of course, Atlanta being such a hub, that's going to be creating delays throughout the system.

Our Rob Marciano is looking into all of this. He will give us a full report coming your way in just a few minutes' time. CHETRY: All right. Moving on. A suspected U.S. drone attack killed four militants. This happened in Pakistan's tribal regions overnight. Well, hours later, a retaliation. This was in the city of Peshawar. A suicide bomber blew himself up in front of the courthouse, killing at least 19 people. Attacks like this have increased since the Pakistani Army began targeting Taliban hideouts in the north.

And some of them are saying that the drone strikes which are part of that offensive are fueling anti-American sentiments throughout the country. CNN's Barbara Starr has our "A.M. Original."


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pakistan, August 2009, an unmanned aircraft takes off from a secret base inside Pakistan. The Central Intelligence Agency has a tip where the Taliban leader Baitullah Massoud is hiding. The CIA drone flies in and piloted by personnel miles away in front of a computer screen. Its missiles fire. Massoud is killed.

It is called Push Button War. Targeted killing by remotely- controlled planes. The growing reliance by the Obama administration on these drones to kill inside Pakistan a U.S. ally is increasingly controversial. Philip Alston, the United Nations special investigation, questions whether this is legal warfare or targeted assassination.

PHILIP ALSTON, U.N. SPECIAL INVESTIGATOR: Under what program, under what authorization, under what set of laws is the CIA actually operating? This is the CIA. This is not the Department of Defense. Normally wars are fought by a Defense Department, not by an intelligence agency.

STARR: In 1976, President Gerald Ford banned political assassination. Since 9/11, the Bush White House and now President Obama have insisted the drone campaign in Pakistan is part of the war against the Taliban and al Qaeda, not the Pakistani people.

Since Obama took office, the number of attacks has jumped -- 45 this year so far, compared to 34 for all of 2008 according to a study by CNN contributor Peter Bergen. But hundreds of civilians may also have been killed.

PETER BERGEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Over the life of the program, we calculated that up to a thousand people have been killed, and we calculated that up to a third were civilians.

STARR: CIA Director Leon Panetta tersely defended the once secret program earlier this year.

LEON PANETTA, DIRECTOR, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: Very frankly, it's the only game in town in terms of confronting and trying to disrupt the al Qaeda leadership.

STARR: But Alston says if the US wants to claim the attacks are vital, there must be changes.

ALSTON: The fears of the international community that the US is operating perhaps a target of assassination program that's not constrained by the appropriate rules will simply be increased.


STARR: So if President Obama's decision about a way ahead in Afghanistan includes more drone strikes across the border in Pakistan experts say there will be pressure on the White House to be more publicly forthcoming about what it's really doing -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Yes, and that's the whole fascinating part about it as well as the discussions take place about whether or not to put more actual troops on the ground in Afghanistan. And, you know, and some of the administration saying that, you know, using counterterrorism measures like these drones are really the way to go. It's very interesting to see how it's being used right now in Pakistan.

STARR: Indeed, and the problem in Pakistan, of course, it is not a country the US is at war with. There's no appetite on any side for putting US ground troops into Pakistan. The drones appear to be the only option.

CHETRY: Barbara Starr for us this morning at the Pentagon. Thanks.

ROBERTS: Take you back live for a look at Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta where not much is moving this morning because of a computer glitch in the way that -- in the computer system that pilots use to file their flight plans. Our Rob Marciano has got details on all of that coming up.

A lot of folks are actually e-mailing me this morning, sitting on airplanes watching CNN, wondering what's going on. We'll tell you coming up in just a couple of minutes.

Forty-seven and a half minutes now after the hour.


ROBERTS: Well, it certainly is a beautiful shot, if not a beautiful day. That's Dallas. The skies over Dallas, where it's clear and 48 degrees right now. Later on today, partly cloudy and a high of 72.

Rob Marciano is tracking not only the Extreme Weather across the country but some problems with the computer system in Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport that's causing some big delays. Rob, what's going on?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, it's this computer system called NADIN which is the way that flight dispatchers and pilots file their flight plan so that everybody knows what they're going. FAA put out an advisory earlier this morning on their website saying that they were having problems with that computer and there would be delays, at least throughout the morning today, their spokesperson saying, you know, don't blame it on that computer, it's, you know, more things going on than that. But, I mean, I'm just going by what the -- they reported earlier this morning.

This is Flight Explorer. The data actually locked up shortly after 5:00 AM, so these were the planes that were in the air as of 5:00 AM. But to give you an idea, even the Flight Explorer program is kind of seeing some glitches because of -- of this thing. And this is the -- the live shot from La Guardia. There are planes moving.

Now, my brother's a pilot and he said, you know, you just have to file these things by hand, by fax, by phone. It's just more time consuming. They'll get the planes in the air, but it just takes more time and there's going to be delays.

So you'll see planes here at La Guardia, not a big visibility issue there, although here in -- in Atlanta, definitely no weather problems there, but obviously a bigger hub. The computer happens to be based in Atlanta. They've got another one in Salt Lake, so they are putting some of those flight plans through Salt Lake, but nonetheless, that's where we're seeing the issues.

Weather, not as much of an issue, really. Some rain in Chicago, certainly some rain across parts of Pittsburgh, in through New York, DC but we're not looking for major delays today because of weather. This seems to be more of a -- an air traffic control type of issue. And the last time this happened, it took a good five, six hours before that they got this thing straightened out. So if you are traveling, just be patient.

They're going old school today and doing things by hand until they get this computer up and running -- John and Kiran.

ROBERTS: Wow. I remember being in a drugstore once and I couldn't buy anything because the computer system was down. That kind of pales in comparison to this. Rob, thanks so much.

CHETRY: All right. Well, top stories are just minutes away including at 8:10 Eastern time, Governor Bill Richardson on President Obama's trip reaching out to North Korea. Can he break through where many leaders have tried and failed?

ROBERTS: And at 8:25 Eastern, is the US being too pre-9/11 with the 9/11 trial? Our Carol Costello taking a look at the decision to try the accused mastermind of the attacks at the scene of the crime and all of the controversy that it's causing.

CHETRY: Also, at 8:35 Eastern, one of the hikers talking about a decision that changed the course of his life. He stayed behind while three of his friends went on that hike and ended up being captured in Iran. It's his first TV interview.

Those stories and much more all starting at the top of the hour.


CHETRY: Fifty-five minutes past the hour right now. Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

The new guidelines on breast cancer screenings have left a lot of women confused and many more who are breast cancer survivors, especially, quite upset. But what do they mean for you?

Well, we're paging our Dr. Gupta this morning to answer your questions and, Sanjay, I know we had a lot of questions. We're going to get through three of them right now. These all came to us via Twitter.

First is from Kimberly. She's on the government panel that just pronounced, in her words, "Rationed mammograms and decried self-breast exams."

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and one has to investigate that. You know, this is a panel, this task panel that has been around for some time, probably since the mid-1980s, and it's worth pointing out, they -- they make recommendations on all sorts of different things in the world of health, so not just cancer screenings, but also things like should people with heart disease take aspirin, blood pressure screenings, all sorts of different things.

So there's 16 different health care professionals. There's not a single oncologist, not a single cancer specialist on this particular panel. They do set -- they do get these sort of evidence panels, outside panels, to present evidence to this -- this particular organization and then they make their recommendations that we saw based on that.

They come from all sorts of different worlds of medicine -- biomedical, informatics, you have folks who work in the nursing industry. They do have two people who have ties to the insurance industry, HealthPartners was one of the organization that someone works for. That's a Minnesota-based insurance company. And you have another not for profit insurance company that is cited on the -- the resume of one of the people that works on the task force. So you have -- you have a pretty diverse group of people here.

As far as the -- the rationing of mammograms question, you know, what's sort of interesting about that, a lot of people saying is this a harbinger of what's to come? You have these recommendations. Could that lead to rationing down the road?

As you know, Kiran, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius came out and said, you know, we're sticking to the guidelines. The people have known for some time, and she did not foresee a change overall in policy with regard to insurance coverage.

CHETRY: All right. Another question. David, "I'm suspicious and uncertain about the new breast cancer screenings. Are we focusing on health, cost, and from whose perspective?"

GUPTA: It's a great question, and one that I think I've been trying to answer, you know, for a couple of days now. I don't know there is an exact answer to that question, but let me put it to you like this, because it is -- there's a lot of numbers and it's a bit confusing, but when you think about this and try and distill it down, what -- what this -- what this really showed was that for women between the ages of 40 and 49, for every 1,900 mammograms that are performed, one life is saved. For women between the ages of 50 and 59, for every 1,300 mammograms that are performed, one life is saved.

So the effectiveness of mammograms does go up as women get older in age. But, again, one in 1,900 versus one in 1,300 -- that's really what's at play here. There is a cost to those mammograms, so is this a cost issue? Who really knows? But that's -- I think that's probably the -- the most accurate way of sort of thinking about this.

CHETRY: All right. But very interesting to hear from the Secretary of Health and Human Services who said keep doing what you're doing, but we're not changing our recommendations and the insurance companies aren't going to be changing what they pay for. So hopefully, that will be the case.

Sanjay, we're going to get some more questions answered in our next hour because I know people still have a lot of concerns.


CHETRY: Thank you.

ROBERTS: We're going to have the latest on the Fort Hood shootings and Governor Bill Richardson on President Obama's North Korea problem -- that and the top stories coming your way in 90 seconds.

Two minutes now to the top of the hour.