Return to Transcripts main page

The Situation Room

Wolf Blitzer Interview with Condoleezza Rice on Domestic Wiretap Controversy; New Orleans Police Involved in Deadly Force Incident; Nasty Flu Hitting California, Spreading Eastward

Aired December 26, 2005 - 19:00   ET


TOM FOREMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Kitty. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Standing by, CNN reporters across the U.S. and around the world to bring you the day's top stories.
Happening right now, it's 3:00 in the morning in St. Petersburg, Russia, where a poison gas attack has sickened dozens of people in a chain store. How vulnerable are American stores and shoppers?

In Los Angeles, it's 4:00 p.m., and people are ling up in emergency rooms and laid low by the flu. Can this year's vaccine keep that nasty bug at bay?

And it's 7:00 p.m. right here in Washington, where the Bush administration is going to bat for former playmate Anna Nicole Smith in her Supreme Court case. We will tell you why. I'm Tom Foreman, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Wolf is off this evening, and we begin in Iraq, where this month's voting brought a brief measure of quiet but now it appears to be over. The country is racked by a bloody new flare-up of violence. CNN's Aneesh Raman is in the Iraq capital.

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tom, good evening. A period of relative calm after the country's December 15th elections has ended. The country marred by violence today that left at least 20 people killed, 50 others wounded, in the capital alone. This morning, in just the course of two hours, four car bombs detonating, one of them the U.S. military says, a suicide car bomber.

Also, later in the day, a motorcycle bomb detonating in the capital just as a Shia funeral procession was passing by. Now, north of the capital in the restive province of Diyala near the city of Baqubah, five Iraqi police officers coming under attack, all of them killed. They were members of a quick reaction force.

In that same province, a provincial governor escaping an assassination bid. One of his guards was killed, though. And a provincial council member as well, gunned down, killed, after her convoy under attack. Now, this period has also been deadly for U.S. forces. In the past few days, three U.S. soldiers have been killed in and around the capital. All of this as political attentions brew ahead of the final election results set to be released as early as next week -- Tom? FOREMAN: President Bush, mindful of all of that, is closing out the year at his ranch. But the domestic spying controversy has trailed him all the way to Texas. CNN White House correspondent Dana Bash is live right now from Crawford, Texas, with the president -- Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Tom. Well, the president surely wants to end this tumultuous year in a quiet way here at his ranch. Certainly, the White House is looking forward to what they hope will be a 2006 political rebound for Mr. Bush.

But as you mentioned, there is new controversy, but new information about the 2002 secret surveillance program that Mr. Bush put into effect. The NSA, it turns out, is not just eavesdropping on conversations between some in the U.S. and some abroad, but also gathering information, a large amount of information, with the help of internet and phone companies, in order to do some pattern analysis, as experts call it, trying to figure out where these plots perhaps could be coming from.

Now, that comes -- is confirmed by a source familiar with the program. And it was first reported by the "New York times." And Tom, the former secretary of state Colin Powell is weighing in on this whole controversy. He says it's justified and it should continue.


COLIN POWELL, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Of course it should continue. Now, what -- I think, however, the president, he'll have to determine what he wishes to say to the Congress about it or what they wish to do with respect to the court that's established for this purpose. And I'll let them work that out.

But you have to do this in order to protect ourselves. Everybody understands that. I don't think you'll find any member of Congress that says, "Don't do this anymore."


BASH: But, Tom, there was a big "but" in Secretary Powell's statement, and that was that perhaps the president should have gone through the courts, gotten an official OK, a warrant, in order to do this kind of surveillance.

That is exactly what some of the president's critics are saying that he should have done, that he perhaps stretched, even broke the law. That is the debate that is already ongoing, and will certainly continue into the new year when those hearings are going to happen probably in January about this issue.

FOREMAN: Thanks so much, Dana. A week away from the White House, but not away from work

As the president's former national security advisor, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also has some explaining to do about the NSA spying controversy. She made her case to Wolf Blitzer, and we'll have that interview just ahead.

A poison gas attack on a store, dozens of people made sick. This one took place in Russia. But could it happen here? CNN's Brian Todd has been looking into this story for us today -- Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tom, security experts have a sobering take on where the vulnerabilities really are. And in Russia, officials had surprising news about where this investigation is taking them.


TODD: A member of the Russian Federal Security Service tells CNN this home supply store in St. Petersburg had received threats that sales would be disrupted around the traditionally heavy New Year's shopping period. But officials don't believe the gas attack that left nearly 70 people hospitalized was the work of terrorists.

VYACHESLAV STEPCHENKO, ST. PETERSBURG INTERIOR MINISTRY: The likely explanation for what happened is that it was malicious competition.

TODD: Officials quoted as saying boxes with glass containers attached to timers were found in other stores in the same chain, and that the gas used appears to be a noxious mixture called methyl mercaptan.

JONATHAN TUCKER, MONTEREY INSTITUTE: Methyl mercaptan is not an extremely toxic material, but in high enough concentrations, it can be lethal.

TODD: On the security front, experts like Jonathan Tucker, a chemical weapons specialist who once worked with the U.S. government, tells CNN malls in the U.S. and elsewhere are as open and vulnerable as they've ever been. Tucker says securing them from chemical attack would be near impossible without taking the costly measure of hiring undercover security to roam around. But he says malls aren't even the issue.

TUCKER: The way to deal with it is not necessarily by beefing up security at each mall, but rather by trying to contain the problem at the source by enhancing the security of toxic chemicals at the places where they are produced and used.


TODD: But Tucker and other experts say too many of those sources, chemical plants industrial storage areas, are not secure in the U.S. He says terrorists and those wanting to commit industrial sabotage can easily steal chemicals like chlorine, phosgene, and some ammonias, chemicals that aren't as dangerous as mustard gas or sarin, but can inflict damage like we saw today in Russia. But a group representing the U.S. chemical industry says it is supporting legislation that would beef up security at chemical plants -- Tom?

FOREMAN: Thanks so much, Brian Todd. A good deal going on on this day after Christmas.

Zain Verjee is off this week, but Kimberly Osias joins us now with a closer look at all the other stories making news -- Kimberly?

KIMBERLY OSIAS, CNN ANCHOR: And there was quite a bit of news to report. Hello, Tom. There has been a shooting in the heart of downtown Toronto this evening. It happened less than two hours ago. Five people were shot near the Eaton Centre, a major shopping mall on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

Of course many people returning their merchandise from Christmas. There are reports that one person is dead. It's not known if the victims were targeted or were hit by random gunfire.

On a foggy Christmas night, two Jersey City police officers placed flares to warn motorists that safety systems on a drawbridge were not working. Minutes later, as they drove back, the officers themselves plunged off the bridge. One body has been found, the other officer is presumed dead. The two men didn't know that the bridge operator had raised it to let a tugboat through.

Character actor Vincent Schiavelli has died. You may not recognize the name, but his face is sure familiar. Schiavelli appeared in at least 150 film and television productions. His films include "Amadeus," "Batman Returns," and "The People Versus Larry Flynt." He also wrote a book combining recipes with anecdotes about the town in Sicily where his grandparents were born. He died there at the age of 57. The town's mayor said Schiavelli had lung cancer.

And global warming may be taking the perma out of permafrost. Permafrost is of course ground that never thaws. By using computer models, a new study estimates by the year 2100, global warming could melt the top 11 feet of perma frost across the northern hemisphere.

The thaw in turn could make global warming itself worse. But other scientists disagree, and the study says this, of course, is the worst-case scenario, 2100. Mark your calendars. Of course, Tom, very important and it reminds us that we can all do little things to help reduce global warming.

FOREMAN: It will be interesting to see what happens as time goes on.

It's been a wet holiday weekend in northern California with heavy rain and snow there. The weather resulted in at least one death when it triggered a small mudslide off California's Highway 99. A driver who got out to investigate was struck and killed by another vehicle. And the rain has only just begun for that region. Meteorologist and severe weather expert Chad Myers is live in the CNN Weather Center with a look at what is in store -- Chad?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Tom, that will be our first of many mudslides, I'm afraid. We have a storm now moving through at this point. Another one coming through tonight. One on Wednesday, one Friday midday. Another on Monday, and another on Wednesday. We've almost like turned on a fire hose here to the West, and all of this tropical-like moisture is just plowing onshore from the north bay right on into Lake Tahoe, where it's been snowing all day.

Kirkwood picked up 30 inches of new snow in the past 48 hours. And look, the line almost goes all the way out to Hawaii. The rain's going to continue. It is going to be a flooding situation. Already talking about the Russian River at bank full.

Here's San Francisco. The rain has stopped for now. Here are the mountains, and that's where the snow is going to get caught. But from San Francisco up to Sacramento, we could see eight inches of rain there. And then a foot all the way up to Eureka. And if you multiply those numbers by ten to one, which is how you get from snow to rain, that could be 90 inches of snow before this thing stops. Some spots, more than that -- Tom?

FOREMAN: Unbelievable time out there in the West. Thank you very much, Chad Myers.

Coming up, a CNN exclusive. Stopping suicide bombers in their tracks. We'll take you behind the scenes as top cops learn to stop attackers before they can strike.

Plus, Condoleezza Rice in defense of the president. Hear what she says about spying on Americans and protecting the nation from terrorists.

Also, the playmate and the Justice Department. Find out why the Bush administration is backing Anna Nicole Smith all the way to the Supreme Court. Stay with us.


FOREMAN: U.S. law enforcement officials say even in this holiday week, they're very concerned about possible suicide bombings in this country. Security experts say soft targets such as shopping malls, where so many of us are spending time, are especially vulnerable.

Believing U.S. first responders can learn a lot about suicide attacks from their Israeli counterparts, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs hosts week-long training sessions in Israel. CNN justice correspondent Kelli Arena was allowed exclusive access.


KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Armed with intelligence about a would-be suicide bomber, undercover Israeli border police successfully take him into custody and deal with the violent aftermath. This is just a demonstration for U.S. law enforcement partners. But it's a reality Israeli police confront all the time.

SHERIFF JEFF WILEY, ASCENSION PARISH, LOUISIANA: Just seems like everything is -- every waking moment is contemplating what is the next worst-case scenario and how can we prepare for it?

ARENA: Jeff Wiley is a sheriff in southeast Louisiana in Israel with others like him to learn firsthand from Israelis who respond to suicide bombing attacks. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not saying that it's easy to come and to see (inaudible) dead, but when it's young people, young girls, it's something that stays with you for a long, long time.

ARENA: In 2001, a suicide bomber attacked patrons at this nightclub in Tel Aviv and killed 21 people. The group learns the bomb was filled with nails and ball bearings to make it as deadly as possible. They also get some practical advice on how to stop an attacker.

MAJOR GENERAL DAVID TSUR, TEL AVIV DISTRICT POLICE CHIEF: Isolating him from the public and to try to prevent him from taking an action to blow up himself. If you see any suspicious move or something, there's nothing to do besides shooting and neutralizing him.

ARENA: The general says if you're close enough, grab the bomber's arms to prevent detonation. And don't push him down on his stomach where the detonator is likely to be placed. Solid information Wiley can share back home.

WILEY: They readily admit that they learn from their mistakes, and therefore we can learn without having to make those same mistakes.

ARENA: Since 2000, officials say more than 1,000 Israelis have been killed by suicide bombers. But in the last two years, the violence has dropped dramatically. Tourists and young people in particular are once again crowding cafes and nightclubs.

Israeli officials credit many things, first among them, the fence along Israel's border. The barrier separating Israelis from Palestinians remains extremely controversial. But Israeli security officials say the numbers speak for themselves. The amount of suicide bombings and sniper attacks, they say, has fallen more than 90 percent since this wall was erected.

The Israelis talk about security in circles. The fence is the outermost ring. Cameras along it help Israelis gather intelligence, though officials won't get into details.


ARENA: Once inside the country, another ring of security, armed guards at any nightclub or restaurant you go to. And there are other proactive measures. These police officers are randomly checking hotel records for suspicious individuals or activity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Check it with the computer, and I can tell that only last week we got a name that there was an order to arrest him.

ARENA: The end result is a safer Israel, but officials admit the tactics are not foolproof. Just this month, a suicide bomber killed five people outside a mall in Netanya.

Kelli Arena, CNN, Jerusalem.


FOREMAN: Still to come in THE SITUATION ROOM, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talks to Wolf about the secret spying scandal that has some civil libertarians crying foul.

Plus, bird flu remains a possible threat, but a new flu strain is actually making people sick in California. Will it spread to the rest of the country? We'll have a live update from Los Angeles, and that's just ahead.


FOREMAN: Today marks a terrible anniversary, one year since the tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people across South Asia. Not only was it one of the deadliest disasters of modern times, it was also one of the most widely seen thanks to countless cameras that recorded the killer waves as they washed ashore.

Just amazing pictures. More than half of those killed in the disaster were in Indonesia's Aceh province. CNN's Atika Schubert is live for us in the city of Banda Aceh, which was virtually wiped off of the map -- Atika?

ATIKA SCHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Tom. In fact, I remember just almost exactly a year ago walking into the square here where Aceh's great mosque is and seeing it standing a sea of debris and destruction.

As you can see, a year later, all of that has been cleared. The mosque is being repaired and the city around is rebuilt. So rebuilding is going ahead, but unfortunately, it's just not going fast enough for many people, especially for the more than 60,000 people here that are still living in tents more than a year after the disaster.

Remember that more than half a million people were made homeless by this, and the agency for reconstruction here is working overtime to get them homes. But so far, less than 20 percent of the people displaced have been able to get into new permanent homes. So clearly, a need for the reconstruction process here to move ahead more quickly more than a year after the disaster, Tom.

FOREMAN: Atika, what is the status of the tens of thousands of people who just never showed up anywhere, who are still missing?

SCHUBERT: That's right. Aceh actually confirms that 130,000 people here died. But in addition to that, there were 30,000 people still missing. And yesterday being the one year since the tsunami, the agency for reconstruction and the Indonesia government here proclaimed that all those missing in the tsunami have now been proclaimed dead.

And that's why it was an especially sad day for many of the families all across the region of Aceh, here. You could hear outpourings of emotions in the prayers throughout the mosques. It was really a day for mourning those that had been lost, Tom.

FOREMAN: Atika Schubert, our thanks for your report.

Just ahead, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on the defensive about domestic spying. Is she at all concerned about civil liberties being violated? Wolf goes one-on-one with Ms. Rice next.

And later, reality show TV fans have seen Anna Nicole Smith do a lot of strange things. But the former "Playboy" playmate's story is getting even more curious now that she's getting a helping hand from the Bush White House. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


FOREMAN: Former Secretary of State Colin Powell is once again showing some daylight between himself and the Bush administration. Weighing in on the domestic spying flap, Powell says he supports government eavesdropping to prevent terrorism. But, he says, a major controversy over presidential powers could have been avoided by obtaining court warrants for wiretaps.


POWELL: My own judgment is that it didn't seem to me, anyway, that it would have been that hard to go get the warrants. And even in the case of an emergency, you go and do it. The law provides for that. And then three days later, you let the court know what you have done and deal with it that way.


FOREMAN: As you might expect, Powell's successor offers a much stronger defense of the secret spying and of her boss, President Bush. Wolf Blitzer recently sat down with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Madam Secretary, thanks very much for joining us.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: A pleasure to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: You were the national security advisor right after 9/11 when the president authorized this extraordinary decision to go ahead with surveillance eavesdropping on Americans and others, making international phone calls or faxes or e-mails, without getting court orders. How did that decision come about?

RICE: The president has -- first of all, let's talk about what he authorized. He authorized the National Security Agency to collect information on a limited number of people with ties to Al Qaeda in order to be able to close the gap, the seam, between the domestic territory of the United States and foreign territory.

One of the clear findings of the 9/11 Commission was that our intelligence agencies were looking outward. Our law enforcement agencies were looking inward. And a gap had developed. We didn't know the connection between what people with terrorist ties inside the United States were doing, to what people who were terrorists or might be planning terrorist operations outside the country were doing.

So the president made that decision. He did it on the basis of his constitutional authority under Article II and other statutory authorities. I think the attorney general spoke to those legal issues earlier. And he did it to protect the country. Because these days, after September 11th, we recognized and he recognized, as the one with real responsibility for protecting the country, that if you let people commit the crime, then thousands of people die. So you have to detect it before it happens.

BLITZER: But there was a mechanism, still is a mechanism that's been in place since 1978 -- the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the FISA Court to go ahead and get this authority with the court warrant. Why not use that?

RICE: First of all, the FISA Act, 1978, very different circumstances imagined at the time. FISA has been principally for a longer-term monitoring and it has been capable of helping us when we're principally concerned with the activities of people acting on behalf of a foreign government. You can imagine those are often longer-term matters.

But the kind of agility that is needed to detect rather than to monitor, as the president talked about today, it -- the president needed to draw on these other authorities, and he has.

BLITZER: But even within the FISA Act, there are extraordinary circumstances that would allow the wiretap, the surveillance to begin. Then within 72 hours you can still go and get the warrant.

RICE: Let's just say these people, these networks, these shadowy networks, which are not associated with countries -- they're stateless -- are not stable targets, are pretty agile themselves. And so, in order to give our intelligence agencies the agility they need -- in order to detect, Wolf -- and I want to say once again, the president has a constitutional responsibility to protect the country.

That means physically. It also means to protect the civil liberties of Americans under the Constitution. And he of course has both responsibilities and takes both very seriously.

That's why this was done with thorough levels of review. It has to be reauthorized every 45 days. It was briefed to Congress numerous times, or to relevant congressional officials numerous times. And so the president and his advisers thought this the best way to give him the ability as -- under his responsibilities as commander in chief to defend the country.

BLITZER: Because you know the history. You're a student of history. You know the history of the abuses of this kind of domestic spying going back to the '60s and '70s. And when the Supreme Court made a decision, it was 9-0, 1972, United States versus U.S. District Court, Louis Powell, the justice wrote this:

Security surveillances are especially sensitive because of the inherent vagueness of the domestic security concept, the necessarily broad and continuing nature of intelligence gathering, and the temptation to utilize such surveillances to oversee political dissent."

You remember the spying of Dr. Martin Luther King.

RICE: I do.

BLITZER: And other Americans opposed to the war in Vietnam. And national security considerations were then justified for that kind of surveillance. And then Powell went on to say that, the Fourth Amendment protects Americans -- let me read specifically what he wrote, 9-0 decision, "from unreasonable search and seizures and free then he said "that freedom cannot be properly guaranteed if domestic security surveillances are conducted solely at the discretion of the executive branch."

RICE: Well, first of all, the president is more than aware of the civil liberties concerns. And that is why this has been structured in such a very limited and controlled way. With multiple layers of oversight, with lawyers of Justice and of the National Security Agency overseeing it, briefings to Congress.

It's also why, as the attorney general spoke to earlier, the president is drawing on existing authorities under the Constitution, under statute. We also have to note, Wolf, that it is limited in scope. Limited to people who are associated with ties to Al Qaeda.

BLITZER: How do you know these people are associated with Al Qaeda?

RICE: Well, I'm not going to get into the program. But let's just remember that in 2001, we experienced what it meant to not know what conversations were going on inside the country that were connecting to terrorists plotting outside the country. We learned what that produced.

And it produced the kind of devastation that we had on September the 11th. And so the president has an obligation to try and close that seam. And that is what he's done with this program.

BLITZER: When you were the national security advisor, did you ever say, "Well, maybe we should go seek new legislation, get some new authority, go to the courts and make sure this is done so that there would be no question whatsoever that this was done properly"?

RICE: Wolf, this was a carefully and very deliberately considered issue for the president of how best to fulfill his responsibilities to protect the country and how best to do it legally, within his constitutional and legal authorities.

BLITZER: This is an extremely sensitive national security issue.

RICE: Of course.

BLITZER: Doesn't get much more sensitive than this. As a result I'm confused why the president decided to publicly acknowledge it.

RICE: I think the president felt that after this very damaging leak -- and, frankly, there -- it's a very sad day when the United States reveals to the people that we are trying to follow, trying to track, trying to disrupt, how we're doing it. And anything about how we're doing it.

You know, Wolf, as the president cited earlier, we had a bead on Osama bin Laden's phone at one point, too. And when an article appeared saying that, he stopped using it from all that we can tell. So it is a danger to the country when there are leaks of this sort.

But the president felt that given this, he needed to explain it to the American people without exposing the details of the program. And there have to be limitations in order not to expose the details of the program. But that he need to explain that he was using his constitutional authority to protect the country, in order to detect these plots, but, also, to protect their civil liberties.

BLITZER: Madam Secretary, thanks very much.

RICE: Thank you.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: The secretary of state likes to brush off suggestions that she might make a run for the presidency in 2008. But there is at least one group online convinced otherwise. They call themselves And the woman we call the Jackster, our internet reporter Jacki Schechner has more.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN Internet REPORTER: I'm going to use that if I run for president.

So, it's AmericansforDr.Rice. And it's a Miami physician and a North Dakota businesswoman who got together on Condoleezza Rice's birthday in 2004 and started the website. They became a 527 in January of this year.

They are undeterred by reports that she is not going to run. And they say that they are organizing online. They are coordinating online. They've also put up a page that has her song. It's by a group called Tan Sleeve. If we click over to the group's website itself, we can hear a little sample of that catchy tune.

MALE SINGING: Condoleezza will lead us, brother.

SCHECHNER: It's got a nice beat, Tom. And I guess you can kind of dance to it.

FOREMAN: That's like the official Tan Sleeve fan dance you were doing there. That's really good.

still to come, a nasty flu that's gripping the West Coast, slowly spreading east. Find out where it is and why this tough virus is already jamming some emergency rooms.

Supreme Court battle. Find out why Anna Nicole Smith is getting some backing from the Bush administration. We will have that story, too. Stick with us in the SITUATION ROOM.


FOREMAN: On the streets of New Orleans, a day-after-Christmas shooting. Police officers opened fire and killed a man. Details are still coming in this hour. Sean Callebs of CNN is in New Orleans right now.

Sean, what's the story here?

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a scene that played out over a short period of time here in the South Garden District. Behind me you can see still one police car still in this area. Actually happened right here on the corner of St. Charles Avenue and Felicity.

It began when the victim got involved in an altercation with the manager inside this Walgreen's. The suspect came out. He was confronted by an off-duty officer. At that time, the suspect said he had just slugged an individual inside Walgreen's.

The police continued to follow him down about a block and a half down St. Charles. Now, once they got down there, a number of officers were around this individual. He was 38 years old. He -- at that time police were trying to get him to surrender and get on the ground.

We did obtain some amateur video that shows half a dozen police officers following the individual at one point as they continue to move down St. Charles. At one point they hit him with pepper spray. That did very little. He simply pulled out a handkerchief and wiped it off. And then pulled out what is said to be a very small knife.

He was very aggressive, flailing his arms. Police tried on a number of occasions to get him to get down on the ground. When they got down on the corner here, that's when a number of officers had him surrounded. At that point he apparently lunged at one of the officers with a knife and a number of police opened fire.

We saw markings of at least ten casings on the ground. The question, was this too much force? Here's what the New Orleans police had to say about that.


DAVID ADAMS, NEW ORLEANS POLICE SPOKESMAN: You have several officers out here. You have an officer whose life is in imminent danger. How many cases is too many? You have several officers out here.

Police officers right in front of him. Life is in imminent danger. He has to back out of the way to keep from being stabbed in his chest. I don't think it's too much force.


CALLEBS: And this played out right in the heart of the South Garden District, in the middle of a very quiet, tranquil afternoon. The weather was simply beautiful out here today. Certainly upsetting a number of the residents who said they knew this individual. He appeared to be mentally unbalanced. They said they saw him in a number of fast food restaurants often mumbling to himself, but they said he had never appeared violent before today.

And it's also a very difficult time for the New Orleans police officers. There's a very well-publicized video of the beating on Bourbon Street, allegations of looting as well as stealing cars during the height of the storm. This is just another investigation now the police will have to undertake -- Tom.

FOREMAN: Our Sean Callebs, along the historic St. Charles Street car line, there, in New Orleans.

California is known for setting trends but a nasty one is heading our way. A flu bug, named after the state, has sent throngs of people to emergency rooms. And the bug appears to be spreading. CNN's Kareen Wynter is at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills, California.

Kareen, what is coming?

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Tom. Well, it's called the A-California strain. I can tell you many doctors here, local doctors in Southern California say they're in the middle of an epidemic where they're seeing a spike in the number of influenza cases.

It's happening at hospitals like this one behind me where emergency room visits are up 23 percent this month compared to last December. Now, it's what's triggering all of this? Physicians say it's just simply a stronger strain this year compared to previous years, a stronger influenza virus.

People who typically battle this seasonal bug, they notice after a couple of days maybe the fever goes down, their symptoms improve, it's not happening this season. In fact, temperatures usually go up and that persistent cough lingers. So, instead of treating it with over the counter meds and riding out the flu virus, patients are coming in, bombarding emergency rooms, wanting to be seen.

This is really tying up the situation for patients with more serious or life threatening conditions.


DR. THOMAS WASKIEWICZ, PROVIDENCE HOLY CROSS HOSP.: Or the very young and then our hospital has to close because we have no more beds. Ambulance traffic then has to be diverted to other facilities potentially farther away. And all the other emergency patients end up waiting longer.

We're so overwhelmed -- I mean, we're seeing patients wherever we can see them. In hallways, anywhere we can get a little space.


WYNTER: Medical experts say by all means, especially when it comes to the children or the elderly, if you're battling this virus, if you see that your conditions just aren't improving -- in fact, maybe you've developed a respiratory infection, go to the emergency room, seek urgent care. But individuals who are typically healthy and battling this nasty bug should try to see the primary physician before bombarding the ER -- Tom.

FOREMAN: Thanks, Kareen. Not the bird flu, but a worry nonetheless.

Up next, the end of an era. "Monday Night Football" is no longer free. We'll have the bottom line.

And Anna Nicole Smith is backed by the Bush administration. Find out why they're weighing in on her multi-million dollar case.


FOREMAN: "Monday night football" is about to leave its longtime home. And game night will never be the same for many fans. Now weighing in from New York at 6'4", 220 pounds, a graduate of Queen's University, four years in the CNN league, Ali Velshi has the bottom line.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm happy you put the 6'4" with the 220 pounds.

That is the kind of thing that people are not going to see a lot of on broadcast TV after tonight. Big game at Giant Stadium in New Jersey just across the river tonight. It's the Jets and the Pats. And there's a lot more going on than just the game tonight.


ANNOUNCER: Are you ready for some football?

VELSHI (voice over): It's not about winning or losing tonight. It's about where you'll see the game. Millions of Americans are expected to watch "Monday Night Football" on ABC tonight for the last time.

Starting next season "Monday Night Football" will move from ABC, where it can be seen in 110 million homes, to the ESPN Cable network. Cut off from the 17 million U.S. homes without cable or satellite TV.

On the air for 36 years, "Monday Night Football" was the home of sportscaster Howard Cosell, whose no nonsense delivery became his trademark.

HOWARD COSELL, "MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL": What you've seen tonight, ladies and gentlemen, is a truly great football player.

VELSHI: With Dandy Don Meredith, and Frank Gifford, Cosell made the show required viewing for sports fans.

BROOKS BOLLINGER, NEW YORK JETS QUARTERBACK: I think it's something we all grew up watching, and it's a big part of football in this country.

VELSHI: The move to ESPN is part of a trend away from broadcast, or over the air television to cable, which caters to narrower audiences who want a specific menu of shows. Disney, the parent company of both ABC and ESPN wanted o to move "Monday Night Football" to the all-sports network and devote ABC's prime time to entertainment programming.

To run "Monday Night Football", ESPN agreed to pay the National Football League $8.8 billion over the next eight years. The cable network brings in money from commercials and gets $2.50 per subscriber from the cable and satellite carriers that offer ESPN. So for those Americans without cable or satellite, those who get their TV signal for free, if they still want football on Mondays, they're going to pay for it.


VELSHI: And one last point -- thanks for putting that screen back up, by the way -- I like the 6'4", 220.

Tom, for those people who are going to be at the game at Giant Stadium at the Meadowlands in New Jersey tonight, for the first time in four years, no beer will be flowing because the last time the Patriots had a big game, there was some tomfoolery and authorities don't want any trouble.

FOREMAN: Many thank, Ali.

When you think of Anna Nicole Smith, if you think of her at all, you probably think of her as a former "Playboy" playmate, or as an over-the-top reality TV star.

Now add this to her credits, an unlikely ally in the Bush White House. The administration has filed arguments in Smith's behalf in the upcoming Supreme Court fight over her late husband's fortune. CNN's Adaora Udoji briefs us on the case and the Bush connection.


ADAORA UDOJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Anna Nicole Smith, the model, the former "Playboy" playmate, who is now looking to the U.S. Supreme Court for help. Smith, who has been making headlines for a decade, finds herself and her fight for tens of millions of dollars on the court's doorstep. A case Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer acknowledged on CNN's "Larry King Live." JUSTICE STEPHEN BREYER, U.S. SUPREME COURT: I will not comment on a case, but I will say one thing about the case. It's a bankruptcy case. Bankruptcy law is federal law.

UDOJI: It's a bankruptcy case because when this vicious legal battle started nearly a decade ago, Smith said she was made bankrupt by not collecting what she said her late husband wanted her to have, a huge chunk of his massive estate.

J. Howard Marshall was the 89-year-old Texas mogul Smith married in 1994, when she was 26. She told Larry King how they met.

ANNA NICOLE SMITH: I met my husband in a gentlemen's bar. He had asked me to go to lunch with him the following day. And I did.

UDOJI: They were an unlikely pair. And Marshall died a year later. Since then, Marshall's youngest son has fought to keep Smith from getting any money. And he won in state court. But a federal court awarded Anna Nicole Smith an $89 million judgment, a judgment she alluded to on her reality television show.

SMITH: I'm not rich. I'm going to be rich.

UDOJI: It might take a while. The case has gone all the way to the Supreme Court on appeal. America's highest judges face a technical legal question about whether the case should have been heard in federal court at all.

The Bush administration has backed Smith, another unlikely pairing. But the Department of Justice has no interest in whether she gets the money or not. Their lawyers believe federal courts should have jurisdiction over probate and bankruptcy cases like hers.

Smith's lawyer says the entertainer will, quote, "definitely be at the Supreme Court when her case is called in a fight she intends to win." Adaora Udoji, CNN, New York.


Still ahead, shark attack. Hear from a surfer who got away from the big fish that bit.


FOREMAN: An Oregon man survived a Christmas eve encounter with a Great White Shark. Kimberly Osias has the story.

KIMBERLY OSIAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tom, this is an amazing story. The fact that Brian Anderson even lived to tell his story is remarkable. And so is the story itself.


BRIAN ANDERSON, SURVIVED SHARK ATTACK: I was just praying that I would live through this day. That's all. That's what I was thinking. OSIAS: Thinking is what saved Brian Anderson's life. He was surfing with friends off the northern Oregon coast on Christmas Eve, when he came face to face with a Great White Shark.

ANDERSON: I was waiting for a set wave and George was on the inside of me and the shark just grabbed my leg. I felt a sharp pain on my foot. It just happened in some split seconds.

Right after that, then I saw the shark just right up in my face. And I just gave it a good punch to get it to let go. And it did. And it let go after I hit it.

OSIAS: It's not clear if Anderson hit the shark in the nose or the eye. For the record, the eyes or gills are the best targets. It's where sharks are most sensitive. The stunned surfer started making his way to the shore.

ANDERSON: I stayed on my board. My foot was totally numb, so I couldn't tell how bad the damage was to my foot. And it was just real amazing because the waves just kind of let me in real gently onto the beach.

OSIAS: That's where a surfing buddy came to Anderson's aid.

GEORGE DESOTO, SURFER: I saw a little pool of blood underneath his body. He was actually pretty quick witted and he started taking off his leash and he was instructing me to tie it around his leg to cut off the blood.

OSIAS: An ambulance rushed Anderson to the hospital, where it took more than 70 stitches to close the wound on his foot. It was the first shark attack in the area in decades. But Anderson says he's not too surprised by his encounter with the Great White.

ANDERSON: I hear the fishermen see them all the time out in the fishing boats. Yeah, they're out there. They're just -- it's a risk we take.


OSIAS: Anderson is expected to fully recover. And he says as soon as he does, believe it or not, Tom, he'll be out there surfing again.

FOREMAN: Thanks so much, Kimberly.

For more on that shark attack Internet reporter Jacki Schechner.

SCHECHNER: Tom, doing Google Earth for you is like training with a Jedi master. There is Tellimuk (ph) Head, right there off the coast of Oregon. You might not think it is a likely surfing spot, but according to Great Whites are a concern. Also, hypothermia and locals who don't like the tourists traffic.

You can also take a look, Oregon, according to the Florida Program for Research, 17 shark attacks, only since 1670, Tom.

FOREMAN: I'm Tom Foreman in for Wolf Blitzer, thanks for joining us. Up next, "Paula Zahn Now".