CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER
Interview With Ricardo Sanchez; Interview With Abdullah Gul; Interview With John Dean
Aired July 27, 2003 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 5:00 p.m. in London and 8:00 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for LATE EDITION.
In just a few moments, we'll go to Baghdad for my exclusive interview with the commander of the U.S.-led coalition ground forces in Iraq, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez.
But first, let's check in with some CNN reporters covering the hour's top stories around the world.
And for that, let's go straight to Iraq, where U.S. military sources are saying Saddam Hussein may have been in Tikrit, the ancestral hometown of the former Iraqi leader, within only the last few hours. CNN's Harris Whitbeck is following the story. He is joining us now live from Tikrit -- Harris.
HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Wolf. We are at one of the palaces that used to belong to Saddam Hussein's family here close to Tikrit, very close to the town of Al-Oujah (ph), which is Saddam's homeland.
And it is where several raids have been staged from. Just a few hours ago, the early Sunday morning hours here, a raid was staged. Soldiers were looking for Saddam Hussein's new security chief.
Now, they say that they missed him by just 24 hours. But they do say that they were acting on intelligence that this gentleman who became, they believe, Saddam Hussein's new security chief after his former security chief was captured. He was number four on the most- wanted list, and that occurred last June. They acted on a tip that he and some of his companions were in one of three farms in the Tikrit area, just a few kilometers from where we are.
Again, they say they missed him by just 24 hours, but they say that they are convinced that, the, quote, "the noose is tightening around Saddam Hussein's neck." They say that they feel they have control of this area.
And senior U.S. military officials tell CNN that they believe that Saddam Hussein changes locations every two to four hours. And they believe it is only a matter of time before they catch him.
Again, raids are being staged out of this location quite often against. Several have already been staged in the last several hours, and we expect more raids to be staged over the next several hours. Wolf?
BLITZER: Dramatic developments, indeed, in and around Tikrit. Stay with CNN for all these late-breaking developments. Harris Whitbeck, on the scene for us.
Thanks, Harris, very much.
This past week, coalition forces killed two of their top targets in Iraq, Saddam Hussein's two sons, Uday and Qusay. They were numbers two and three on the U.S. government's list of most-wanted Iraqis.
But will their deaths help lead coalition troops to number one? And can anything stop the climbing U.S. casualty count?
Just a short while ago I spoke to Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of the U.S.-led coalition ground troops, in Iraq.
BLITZER: General Sanchez, thanks so much for joining us. Welcome to LATE EDITION.
Let's get right to a key issue that's of utmost concern, as you well know, to the American public. There seems to be a daily death toll involving U.S. forces in Iraq. How much longer do you believe this is going to continue?
LT. GEN. RICARDO SANCHEZ, COMMANDER OF COALITION GROUND TROOPS, U.S. ARMY: Well, Wolf, as you're well aware, America is involved in a major effort to eliminate terrorism here in Iraq, and we've accomplished that as far as major combat operations are concerned, but we still have a long ways to go in being able to eliminate all of the resistance that exists here.
SANCHEZ: I think we've got to be able...
BLITZER: I was going to interrupt and say, you say a long way to go.
I'll put some numbers up on the screen. Since the start of the war way back, it seems like a long time ago, in March, 244 U.S. troops killed, 125 of them since the fall of Baghdad; 138 were killed before May 1st, 106 May 1st and afterwards. That's both what they call hostile and non-hostile combat -- non-combat action.
You were going to say it's going to go on for some time.
SANCHEZ: Well, Wolf, I think we have to understand that we have a multiple-faceted conflict going on here in Iraq. We've got terrorist activity, we've got former regime leadership, we have criminals, and we have some hired assassins that are attacking our soldiers on a daily basis.
The key that we must not lose sight of is that we must win this battle here in Iraq. Otherwise America will find itself taking on these terrorists at home.
BLITZER: How organized are these attacks against U.S. and coalition forces?
SANCHEZ: Well, the level of organization is something that we've been working on now for some time. We believe that there's local organization. There are some indicators that there may be regional coordination ongoing. The level of sophistication of their attacks have increased over the last 30 days or so.
But I believe that the elimination of the Hussein brothers will go a long ways in beginning to tampen (ph) down the resistance and bringing back some security and stability to Iraq.
BLITZER: Is there any evidence of foreign organization, foreign involvement, non-Iraqi elements involved in these attacks?
SANCHEZ: Well, we have seen during the major operations, we did see some foreign involvement, we have seen some terrorist activity and religious extremists that have been coming into the country. So I do believe that there is some foreign fighter engagement that is ongoing here against our forces.
BLITZER: Where are these foreigners coming from?
SANCHEZ: Well, they're coming from various places. This is what I would call a terrorist magnet, where America, being present here in Iraq, creates a target of opportunity, if you will. But this is exactly where we want to fight them. We want to fight them here. We prepared for them, and this will prevent the American people from having to go through their attacks back in the United States.
BLITZER: I guess the more fundamental question is state sponsorship. Is there any evidence that you've seen that countries like Iran, for example, or Syria, for that matter, neighbors of Iraq, are directly sponsoring these kinds of terror attacks against U.S. forces?
SANCHEZ: No, Wolf, I wouldn't be able to give you any indication of that. I'm not seeing that. I think it's organizations that are focused on just attacking the American forces here in the country.
BLITZER: al Qaeda, would you include that as one of these elements?
SANCHEZ: Well, those are always possibilities. I think, when you throw that net out there of terrorists and fundamentalists, I think you'd have to include all of those, yes.
BLITZER: There's a story in The Washington Post today, it quotes a young private first class from the 4th Infantry Division as saying this on guard duty, underscoring how difficult the guard duty is. He says, "The American public doesn't realize it's still a war here. But now the people who used to fight us upfront are now fighting us from behind closed doors. We don't know who the enemy is anymore."
How concerned are you about that?
SANCHEZ: Well, I'm not concerned about that aspect of it. I think we've always accepted the fact that we are in a conflict. We know, the American people knows, that we are continuing to fight here in Iraq.
The face of the enemy has changed a little bit as time has gone on. We're in a low-intensity conflict, and, as I mentioned earlier, it's multi-faceted fighters that are out there, attacking our soldiers on a daily basis.
We're prepared for it. Our soldiers are well-trained. We are a learning organization. Our soldiers are motivated, and we will not fail here.
BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about the rotation plan that the Pentagon announced this past week, getting ready to help ease some of the pressures, some of the burdens; 156,000 or so U.S. troops over there.
Six-month tours of duty are likely to increase now to a year-long assignment for those troops. And the rotation would presumably really dramatically strain the U.S. Army, three to one rotation, with double the size of the -- would force the Army to maintain -- that kind of presence there would really strain the already-strapped U.S. Army.
Is this going to be required, as far as you can see, for a long time to come?
SANCHEZ: Well, Wolf, one of the things that I have to do is be able to take into consideration the requirements that we see here in the country as we take into account the enemy activities that are ongoing.
At this point in time, the force levels that are present in Iraq are what we will hold on to for at least the next 60 to 90 days.
At that point in time, we will reassess the conditions that exist here and see if it is possible for us to draw down the forces.
Now, the other aspect that plays into force levels for the U.S. are coalition contributions. We currently have 18 countries that are contributing forces here in Iraq, and we have commitments from others. As those forces come into the country, that will be likely means of us reducing the U.S. force levels.
But it's kind of hard at this point in time to predict a long- term force level.
BLITZER: Several countries are resisting in advance of a yet another U.N. Security Council resolution. They might be willing to participate if there were such a resolution. I know that is an issue out of your hands. You got enough on your hands right now.
Let's talk about the deaths of Uday and Qusay Hussein this past week. You suggest that that could reverse the attacks, at least slow down the attacks, long term, against U.S. and coalition forces. Although, since then, they seemed to have stepped up.
SANCHEZ: Well, actually, what has happened over the course of the last three days, we've had some very effective attacks. The actual numbers have not stepped up. In the long term, in the near mid-term, I believe that we are going to have a decrease.
And the real impact of this is that the Iraqi people will begin to gain confidence that these tyrants are not going to return. That is important, to give them confidence in the fact that Saddam Hussein will not be coming back to brutalize them in the future. That is really where I believe the impact will come, as they come forward and help us out in trying to rout out some of these noncompliant forces.
As an example, we had human intelligence where we went in and conducted a raid on a home. We caught a father and one of his sons who was a fighter. We released the father, and he promised to bring his son in the next day, and sure enough, the next day, at 9:00 in the morning, he brought his son in who was also a Fedayeen fighter. That's the kind of confidence and the kind of hope that we hope will be instilled in the people of Iraq, to begin to turn in some of these fighters.
BLITZER: Do you sense, though, that in the short term there will be some so-called revenge killings against U.S. forces as a result of Uday and Qusay being killed?
SANCHEZ: Well, in this culture, that's always a possibility. I think what we're going to see is some continued effort for some period of time, as they reorganize and continue to try to bring there the regime that has brutalized these people for 35 years.
That's not going to happen. We're prepared for it, and we acknowledge the possibility of that happening in the coming days.
BLITZER: One Iraqi is quoted in the paper today as saying this, and I'll read it to you, General: "I don't think this is revenge for Uday and Qusay. Because we are an occupied Islamic country, we have to defend our country. And the Americans have also not kept their promises. It's been four months now, and they have done nothing for us. So I think these attacks will continue."
That's a pretty strong statement from this Iraqi.
SANCHEZ: Well, Wolf, I think you're going to find all kinds of people out there that will make those kinds of statements.
But I'll tell you, in terms of how fast we're improving this country, what we're trying to undo here is 35 years of tyranny, of brutality, of neglected infrastructure, of just sheer neglect across all of the spectrums of this country, and it's not going to be done in two or three months. It's going to take us a while to be able to stand this country back up.
And the progress that we have made across all functional areas of this country is just remarkable. And you know, I could give you some examples. In the area of schools, all the schools are back up and running and they salvaged a year. We've got governing councils all the way from the national level down to individual neighborhoods. Over 90 percent of the governing councils of the major cities are stood up. This is remarkable progress. Public services are back at almost pre- war levels.
My goodness, how we can say that there is no progress is just beyond me. And we've got to be optimistic, and America must clearly understand that the coalition forces and their sons and daughters are making a tremendous contribution to this country.
BLITZER: General, let me just get back to the one point about these attacks against coalition forces. Do you get the impression they're becoming more sophisticated with each day?
SANCHEZ: Well, there has been an increase in the sophistication, especially in the improvised explosive devices that they are using. And we're working to learn from that and to be able to counter them.
In terms of the complexity of the attacks that they're conducting against us, they are very rudimentary attacks, with every once in a while us seeing an increased complexity in the attacks.
Overall, there is no real complex attacks being conducted, and they are clearly attacks that we can handle easily with the training of our soldiers and the equipment and the motivation of the American soldier and the coalition forces that are here.
BLITZER: Did you feel comfortable, totally comfortable, General -- I suspect the answer is no, but I will ask it anyhow -- with the release of the pictures of the two bodies?
SANCHEZ: Well, that decision was a tough decision that had to be made in order to be able to convince the Iraqi people that, in fact, these two tyrants were not going to come back. And also, the possibility that we might, in fact, reduce the number of casualties, both Iraqis and Americans, in the long term, was also a factor in this decision.
As far as being uncomfortable, no, I don't believe I was uncomfortable with that decision. I believe it was something that America had to do to be able to prove to the Iraqis that Saddam Hussein will not return.
BLITZER: One Islamic extremist is quoted by the Associated Press as saying this: "The bodies of Uday and Qusay should have been washed, shrouded and buried immediately, but the Americans have no respect for our traditions and doctrine, and they acted in a very unethical manner."
What are you going to do with these two bodies?
SANCHEZ: Well, the actual disposition of the remains is something that is being considered right now. There are multiple options that are being considered. And we continue to work with the Iraqi people here in Iraq, to determine the appropriate disposition of the bodies as quickly as possible.
BLITZER: So, you think within the next few days we'll know what you're going to do with them?
SANCHEZ: Well, in due time, we'll be able to provide the ultimate disposition of those bodies.
BLITZER: This weekend, Newsweek came out with a new poll, asked: Is the killing of Saddam Hussein's sons likely to reduce attacks on the U.S. military in Iraq? Thirty-three percent, likely to reduce; 59 percent, probably much not effect; 8 percent, don't know.
How would you have voted in that kind of a poll?
SANCHEZ: Obviously, as a military commander, I'm not into polls to figure out what the threat is going to do against me.
Like I said before, I'm prepared to counter whatever these fighters decide to do. We will defeat them. And yes, I believe that having taken them out, that will reduce the threat to Iraq in the long term.
BLITZER: The Newsweek poll also asks this question: Do you think Saddam Hussein is probably alive or probably dead? Eighty-two percent said probably alive; 9 percent, probably dead; 9 percent, don't know.
I assume you believe he is alive. There were reports this weekend that you may have gotten within 24 hours of finding him at some location in or around Tikrit. Tell our viewers in the United States and, indeed, around the world, how close are you to capturing, finding Saddam Hussein?
SANCHEZ: Wolf, the 24-hour story, that's speculation. I'll tell you that we are focused on Saddam Hussein. We've got to make the assumption that he is alive in order for us to prove to the Iraqi people that he is going to be taken care of.
He remains a critical target for us. It is important that we find him, one way or another. And our mission is to kill or capture him, and that's what we're focused on, and we'll accomplish that mission.
BLITZER: When I was in Kuwait, General, on the eve of the war, back in March, U.S. forces went into Iraq, they were ready for weapons of mass destruction. They had the gas masks, the chemical protective equipment, the gear, everything ready.
Since then, General, have you found any hard evidence that Iraqis had weapons of mass destruction ready to be deployed on the eve of the war?
SANCHEZ: Wolf, that is an issue that is being worked in other agencies that are deployed here in Iraq, and, obviously, that is not a question that I could answer on this interview.
BLITZER: Bottom line, though, have you found any weapons of mass destruction or evidence of weapons-of-mass-destruction programs over these past several months?
SANCHEZ: Wolf, the bottom line is that I can't answer this question on your program. It is not my area of responsibility, and that is another agency that's involved in that matter.
BLITZER: All right, that's fair enough, General. We'll ask another agency. I assume you're referring to the Central Intelligence Agency, other elements of the U.S. government, is that right?
SANCHEZ: Well, it's other agencies here in Iraq that are responsible for it.
BLITZER: General, I know you got to go, you got a lot of work to do. I'll let you wrap it up.
Give us your sense, General, where this war -- and I call it a war because your commander, General Abizaid, calls it a war -- right now, where it's going in the short term?
SANCHEZ: Well, in the short term, we're going to continue to see attacks against our American forces and our coalition forces across the country.
It's also important for us to understand that there are different conditions that exist across Iraq. Up in the north and in the far south, we're probably into stability and support operations, and in the center of the country is where we're facing most of the resistance.
We will continue to face that until we're able to defeat the mid- level Baath Party members, the former regime loyalists, and be able to prove to the Iraqi people that they will not come back into power.
I think as long as we're present here in Iraq, we will always have the threat of Islamic fundamentalists and terrorists coming to try to kill American and coalition soldiers, and that is something that we will have to contend with.
So we'll be here for a while. We must be prepared to take casualties in the coming days, because we are fighting a low-intensity conflict. But I'll tell the American people that their sons and daughters and all of our coalition partners are prepared for this conflict, they are highly motivated, and they are doing a tremendous job in bringing security and stability to this country.
BLITZER: General Sanchez, on that note, I'll thank you very much. Good luck to you. Good luck to all the men and women under your command. Appreciate you joining us here on LATE EDITION. SANCHEZ: OK, thank you very much, Wolf. God bless you.
BLITZER: Up next, the congressional report sheds new light on the 9/11 intelligence and law enforcement breakdown. Could the U.S. government have prevented that terror attack? We'll get answers from two members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. And it's now your chance to weigh in on our LATE EDITION Web question of the week. Do you think Saddam Hussein is still alive? You can cast your vote at cnn.com/lateedition.
We'll be right back. LATE EDITION will continue.
BLITZER: Commemorations marking the 50th anniversary of the armistice that ended the Korean War still going on today, Sunday, here in Washington, D.C.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
Could the 9/11 terror attacks have been prevented? A joint House-Senate panel this past week released its long-awaited report on the intelligence and law enforcement failures that missed key events leading up to the 9/11 attacks.
Joining us now to discuss the report and other issues are two members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence: in Chicago, the Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois; and here in Washington, the Republican, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia.
Senators, welcome back to LATE EDITION.
I'll ask you first. Do you believe, based on what you know right now, Senator Durbin, that it could have been prevented?
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: It would have taken some luck, but there were clues, there was indications, a lot of information was there. It wasn't picked up on, it certainly wasn't shared by the federal agencies.
But if all of that information had come together, someone would have needed the foresight to put it all into a pattern and say, "I suspect something like the World Trade Center might happen." We could have done a better job, but it would have taken quite a bit of luck to avert it.
BLITZER: And one of the final requests, Senator Chambliss, and I'll put this up on the screen. I'll read it to you: "The important point is that the intelligence community, for a variety of reasons, did not bring together and fully appreciate a range of information that could have greatly increased enhanced its chance of uncovering and preventing Osama bin Laden's plan to attack the United States on September 11, 2001."
That's a pretty damning indictment.
SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R), GEORGIA: Well, the fact of the matter is that the intelligence was gathered; the intelligence was not shared. I do think our folks had a wealth of information that, had they shared it with other intelligence agencies around the world, and even around the United States, and even vertically within those agencies themselves, there certainly is the potential, as Dick says, it would have taken an awful lot of luck.
And I don't think anybody has concluded at this point, any group has concluded at this point, that there's any way we could have picked up on the fact that this was the day they planned the incident, this is the way they were going to carry it out. It would have just been very, very difficult to do.
BLITZER: Senator Durbin, though, there was an informant who actually lived with two of the hijackers in the San Diego area, an FBI informant.
In the conclusions of the report, they write this: "What is clear, however, is that the informant's contact with the hijackers, had they been capitalized on, would have given the San Diego FBI field office, perhaps, the intelligence community's best chance to unravel the September 11th plot."
A lot of people looking back, even with hindsight, to say, what was going on here? Two of the hijackers, one informant working with them, and they didn't know about it?
DURBIN: So many missed opportunities. The San Diego incident you mentioned; the Phoenix memo that came out to Washington and was just pushed through the bureaucracy and virtually ignored; the Moussaoui arrest that could have led us to some sound and solid evidence early on.
Putting this all together -- some of the communications that were not translated for several days when the timely translation might have made a difference. You put it all together, and you say there were a lot of things there, a lot of information. We just didn't coordinate the agencies; we didn't move in a timely fashion.
I guess my only concern is, though we made measurable progress since September 11th, we have a long way to go. This latest incident with the uranium from Niger -- we still have the intelligence agencies not really coordinating their information so that we have one reliable source to base our national security.
BLITZER: Well, let me press you on that point, Senator Durbin. Nearly two years after 9/11, what needs to be done right now to get, let's say, one part of the U.S. government talking to another part of the U.S. government, get law enforcement and intelligence, if you will, on the same page to make sure this could never happen again?
DURBIN: Well, let me give you the good news first. At the FBI, they had computer technology that was ancient. Director Bob Mueller came in after September 11th. They've made dramatic strides forward. They've really improved the information technology at the FBI.
But what we're still finding is that there is this resistance between agencies to share information. And that will take leadership from the top, forcing down a discipline on these agencies, so the Department of Homeland Security and the CIA and the FBI and all the other law enforcement intelligence agencies start talking to one another.
It's still -- we're a long way from where we should be, and this report reminds us of what can happen if you don't do it right.
BLITZER: Senator Chambliss, do you agree, the Homeland Security Department, the intelligence community, law enforcement, the FBI, still a long way from where they should be right now?
CHAMBLISS: Well, there's no question about it. We held a hearing in my subcommittee in the Judiciary Committee. I chair the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.
Two weeks ago, we had the State Department, as well as two folks from the Homeland Security Department, testifying about what we're doing in the area of issuing visas.
All of these folks who came in came in legally, but most of them were still here illegally, because the State Department, frankly, was not doing the job that they're assigned to do, which is to monitor those people.
When we asked the question, where are you today, could this happen again, I'll have to be honest with you, I was very, very disappointed in the response that we got, both from the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security.
And I fired off a letter both to Secretary Powell and to Secretary Ridge, and told them that here we are, 22 months after the fact -- and we are doing a better job, there's no question about it. We've not had another incident in the United States. But it could happen today or it could happen tomorrow, in part because these agencies still are not sharing information.
These agencies are not coordinated to the point to where they're getting the necessary intelligence on people seeking to come to the United States and sharing that information among themselves. And we've got to do a better job of doing that, and we've got to do it in a hurry.
BLITZER: One other part of the report, Senator Durbin, involves Saudi Arabia. As you well know, 15 of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. It says this: "A number of U.S. government officials complained to the joint inquiry about a lack of Saudi cooperation in terrorism investigations, both before and after the September 11th attacks."
Are you satisfied with the level of cooperation from Saudi Arabia?
DURBIN: No, I'm not.
And I think we treat Saudi Arabia with kid gloves. They're so well-connected on Capitol Hill. The biggest names in the political history of Congress and administrations are all working for Saudi Arabia. And we have a kind of a hands-off policy, and that has to end.
We need their oil, we need their cooperation, but we've got to be honest with the American people. When the Saudis are not helping us fight the war on terrorism, when they're directly or indirectly financing that war on terrorism, we have to hold them accountable.
There isn't enough accountability, when it comes to Saudi Arabia. And Congress, I'm afraid, really has to be held responsible for that.
BLITZER: Senator Shelby -- and I want to ask this to Senator Chambliss -- Senator Shelby was very critical of the decision to classify, redact, if you will, certain pages from the final report, in effect to protect what some are saying Saudi Arabia, the U.S.-Saudi relationship.
I want you to listen to what Senator Shelby said earlier today on Meet the Press.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: You see the blank pages, they're classified. I think they're classified for the wrong reason. I went back and read every one of those pages thoroughly, two or three days ago. My judgment is, 95 percent of that information could be declassified, become uncensored, so the American people would know.
SHELBY: This might be embarrassing to some international relations.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
BLITZER: Do you agree with your fellow Republican senator?
CHAMBLISS: Well, I think part of that is true, but what you have to remember is that, in the intelligence community, which is a very complex community, we have sources and methods that must be protected. We have people who are out in communities, people who are named in this particular report, who, if we divulged their names, we put their life at risk.
We have methods of gathering information that is used worldwide, and if we disclose the methods that we use of gathering this information, that's going to severely inhibit us, and maybe even not allow us to gather information in the future.
So, while Dick may be right, there's some parts of it that may be in the gray area, on the borderline of maybe could have been declassified, overall, I think it was right that we not reveal any sources and methods, so that we can continue to do a good job of protecting Americans. BLITZER: Are you confident, Senator Durbin, that the president did not mislead the American public on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities, going into the war?
DURBIN: There is absolutely no evidence that the president knowingly misled the American people. I've never made that charge, nor have I heard it made from any credible source. But it is clear that those around him misled him, and misled the American people indirectly, by making certain that there were claims made that couldn't be backed up with evidence.
Now, that's a serious charge. I'm glad the Senate Intelligence Committee is not going to stop. We're going to call in the White House staffers. Senator Roberts, the chairman of the committee, has said he wants to get to the bottom of this. I support him completely. That's exactly what we should do.
BLITZER: Well, I asked the question because your Democratic colleague, Senator Bob Graham of Florida, was on TV this morning defending his statement of only a few days earlier, that perhaps this was enough for the Congress to go ahead and impeach the president, the intelligence misstatements going into the war.
DURBIN: Well, I respect Bob Graham a lot, but I don't share that sentiment. I believe that what we need to do is to follow the evidence, bring in the White House staff, and find out how this process worked. And let's take it to its logical conclusion, whatever that happens to be.
But I'm not prepared to take Bob Graham's position at this point. The evidence doesn't support it.
BLITZER: And I'll give you the last word, Senator Chambliss. The whole nature of the weapons of mass destruction, is there any credible evidence right now that there were stockpiles that were ready to be deployed on the eve of the war?
CHAMBLISS: Well, certainly we gave him every opportunity to destroy, hide, give away those weapons of mass destruction. Even Bill Clinton has come out this week and said, when he left office, he was absolutely certain that Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.
So I think the important point is that we're going to continue to look for them, we'll ultimately find them, but we removed a guy who we know had weapons of mass destruction and had the capability and probably the determination to use them to kill and harm Americans, and he no longer has that ability.
David Kay will be in town this week. Dick and I, obviously, are both on the Senate Intelligence Committee. David Kay is the gentleman that the president has tasked to lead the charge to find the weapons of mass destruction. He'll be testifying before our committee on Thursday. We look forward to hearing from him and getting an update. I hope we'll be able to come back next Sunday and tell you we're getting very, very close. BLITZER: All right. We'll soon find out. Senator Chambliss, thanks very much.
Senator Durbin, thanks to you as well.
CHAMBLISS: My pleasure.
DURBIN: Thank you.
BLITZER: When we come back, the U.S.-led war with Iraq seriously strained U.S. relations with several key allies. Can those relations be repaired? We'll get answers in an exclusive interview with Turkey's foreign minister, Abdullah Gul.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
Turkey's foreign minister, Abdullah Gul, came to Washington to try to repair the rift between the United States and Turkey. Relations between the two NATO allies are rocky since the Turkish government refused to let its territory be used by U.S.-led coalition forces to open a northern front in Iraq.
Earlier I sat down with the foreign minister.
BLITZER: Foreign Minister, thanks so much for joining us. Welcome to Washington. Let's get right to the important questions of the moment.
There have been some who have suggested U.S.-Turkish relations hit a 50-year low as a result of your parliament's refusal to let U.S. troops invade Iraq from the north. How badly damaged has the relationship been?
ABDULLAH GUL, TURKEY'S FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, Turkish-American relations are so deep and historical. From time to time sometimes between the friends, between the families we have difficulties, but trust each other to overcome all this. I'm sure we will overcome all this and we will put everything on its track.
BLITZER: Remind our viewers in the United States, indeed around the world, why did you -- why did the public opinion in Turkey, why was it so adamantly opposed to letting the U.S. military move in toward Iraq from the north?
GUL: Well, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) leaving Turkey easy to understand that is -- in fact, in 1991, first Gulf War, Turkey suffered a lot, economically first, then also terrorist activities in the north. That made a very bad effect on the people, so that was the reason in fact.
BLITZER: Was there no concern that Saddam Hussein represented a clear and present danger to Turkey?
GUL: Well, yes, in fact, we know him very well. And Turkish people and Iraqi people suffered a lot because of that regime. We didn't have any sympathy with that regime, and now we are very pleased that he is not there anymore.
BLITZER: Did you believe that Saddam Hussein's government had weapons of mass destruction?
GUL: Well, I mean, we were not sure about that. But it was a very bad regime that was now fighting.
BLITZER: Let me read to you a quote from Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary of the United States. As you know, he had come to Turkey earlier. He thought he had won your approval to let U.S. troops stage and position themselves to move into Iraq. That didn't happen, as all of us know.
He said this in May: "Let's have a Turkey that steps up and says, quote, `We made a mistake. We should have known how bad things were in Iraq, but we know now. Let's figure out how we can be as helpful as possible to the Americans.'"
Is Turkey ready to acknowledge what Mr. Wolfowitz says?
GUL: Well, we should see one thing, Turkey is getting more democratic, more transparent, and politicians are going to be more accountable to the people.
That time we debated this issue in a transparent way. And as government, at that time I was the prime minister, I brought it to the parliament. But at the end, parliament debated and refuse it. So...
BLITZER: Three votes shy.
GUL: Yes. So we have to respect this decision, that's all I think.
BLITZER: You know, that Turkish -- the image of Turkey, as you well know, here in the United States suffered early during the war, because on the radio, talk show hosts, editorial writers, they were making the point that Kuwait allowed the U.S. to move in from Kuwai, other countries over there were cooperating. Turkey's refusal made the military mission for the United States more difficult and may have wound up costing U.S. and maybe Iraqi lives because of your government's refusal to let the U.S. use Turkey as a base.
GUL: I think Turkish contributions should not be underestimated also, because before the war, 10 years, Northern Watch was operating from Turkey. We protected the northern area. And Turkey was the only gate to Iraq at the time. Many (ph) Special Forces, they were operating there, and we were very much contributing.
GUL: Then we opened our airspace, and more than, I think, 4,000 sorties were made over Turkey. BLITZER: I think that's one of the reasons why there was such disappointment here in Washington and in the Bush administration and Congress, because Turkey is a NATO ally, had been so instrumental for a decade-plus in helping the United States maintain the Northern Watch, the no-fly zones in the north, trying to create some sort of stability. I think that's one of the reasons why there was such disappointment that you refused to cooperate when the war was about to begin.
GUL: Well, it's true, but, as I said, it was debated in a very open way, and it was brought to the parliament, and there was a difficulty.
In fact, difficulty was not only in Turkey, in many countries, in many NATO countries. In England, opposition at Mr. Blair there.
So I think it's over now. We should concentrate on future, and we should cooperate and coordinate everything.
BLITZER: And I want to move on and talk about the future, but let's clarify that one incident that occurred earlier in July. Eleven Turkish soldiers picked up, arrested, handcuffed, blindfolded by U.S. military personnel in and around Kirkuk, in the northern part of Iraq, accused of wanting to assassinate the mayor of Kirkuk.
It was all very unclear what happened. But it was a very tense moment in U.S.-Turkish relations, highly unusual between two NATO allies.
GUL: That was an unfortunate. And the accusation, allegations cannot be acceptable, because we want to contribute to stabilization of Iraq, normalization of Iraq. We don't have any interest to disturb there, and why should we assassinate the governor over there? I mean, there is no logic behind that. And it was very bad.
BLITZER: What were they doing, those Turkish soldiers? What were they doing there? They supposedly had explosives with them.
BLITZER: What was going on?
GUL: But nothing was secret. I mean, all information about them -- their number, their location, what kind of weapon they were carrying -- they were giving the American authorities over there. So nothing was secret.
BLITZER: It doesn't sound like, from the joint statement that was eventually released after the Turkish soldiers were returned to Turkey, freed, it doesn't sound like either side was willing to apologize.
GUL: Well, I think it was clear that that was a mistake. It was a local, but that was a mistake.
BLITZER: A mistake by whom? GUL: Well, it was a mistake by the American authorities over there.
BLITZER: So the U.S. military should not have...
GUL: Yes, because these were not member of NGOs or civilians. These were the Special Forces, so in many places Americans and Turkish soldiers fought shoulder-to-shoulder, in Afghanistan, in Kosovo, in Bosnia, in the past in Korea (ph). So these act is not the acts -- it's not acceptable.
BLITZER: What's been the reaction in your government, among the Turkish people, to the photographs of Uday and Qusay Hussein that have now been so widely distributed around the world?
GUL: Well, they were dictator, so the deaths of the dictators are always the same. They cannot go anywhere.
BLITZER: Was this a good idea for the U.S. government to release those pictures?
GUL: Well, it's up to United States administration, of course, but it's good that now the regime, the Baath (ph) regime, is not there anymore.
BLITZER: The Saddam Hussein regime?
BLITZER: Turkey is an Islamic country, a member of NATO, good relations, historically, important strategic relationship with the United States. But a source of some concern has been the differences involving the Kurds in the northern part of Iraq, the Kurds in Turkey, and the Kurds who live in Iran, in Syria.
Why shouldn't the Kurds, an ethnic group, why shouldn't they have their own independent state?
GUL: Well, it's not feasible, OK? I mean, the Kurds are not only in Iraq, in other countries also. And if Iraqis is going to be separated, why not other countries in the region?
So the region doesn't tolerate to have another state. We want to see Kurds to be happy on their land, in their country in Iraq. Iraq is their land. So we want to see them happy in welfare over there.
In fact, they are our relatives, and they are not our enemy, OK? We have also a population, so we have been protecting them for many years, and we will continue.
BLITZER: Let me wind up, because I know your time is limited, and ask you about the war on terror, al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden.
Is the U.S. and its coalition who are fighting this war, and Turkey as a member of this coalition, do you believe they can find Osama bin Laden and once and for all eliminate any threat from al Qaeda?
GUL: Well, I mean, everybody is working for that, and we are cooperating to fight terror.
BLITZER: What is the Turkish government doing?
GUL: Well, Turkish government is very active. We know terror before you. We suffered a lot. You realize what is terror after 9/11.
BLITZER: Turkey has relations with Israel, has good relations with the Palestinians.
BLITZER: You can play a very important role in facilitating this peace process. Are you?
GUL: Yes, we have a unique position, in fact, in the region, and we have a good relation with both sides; therefore, we want to contribute to the peace process. Now, I think there's a good opportunity now. This time this opportunity should not be missed.
BLITZER: Let me wind up this interview with where I began the interview: Turkey's role in Iraq. The U.S. would like Turkey now to play a role, to contribute some forces to help out in this post-war stability. Is Turkey ready to do it, and what would it require for you to go forward and contribute police officers, soldiers to stabilize Iraq?
GUL: Well, we were informed about this just recently. We will take it to the government, and we will debate, and then we will decide as soon as possible.
BLITZER: Is Turkey asking for another United Nations resolution, a Security Council resolution, before you would contribute troops?
GUL: I mean, we have to take this to the parliament. If there's that kind of resolution, definitely that would be helpful.
BLITZER: It would be helpful. But not necessarily essential? It would be helpful, though.
BLITZER: So, you would like to see a Security Council resolution?
GUL: It would be helpful for all of us.
BLITZER: And if you get that resolution, is there a number of how many troops you might be willing to contribute?
GUL: If there is a U.N. resolution, it will be obligation...
BLITZER: So, then, you would send... GUL: ... so it depends on the negotiation or talks.
BLITZER: Foreign Minister, welcome once again to Washington. Thank you very much.
GUL: Thank you.
BLITZER: Coming up, the latest on the search for Saddam Hussein. He's on the run. U.S. intelligence had evidence he was in a farm house in the Tikrit area. We'll have a live report. That's coming up.
Also, you can continue to vote on our LATE EDITION Web question of the week: Do you think Saddam Hussein is still alive? Go to our website, cnn.com/lateedition.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back. Let's go straight to Baghdad where a U.S. military source says Saddam Hussein may have been in his ancestral hometown of Tikrit only within the past several hours.
Our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, is following this breaking story for us from Baghdad.
Nic, give us the details.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, in the early hours of the morning, U.S. officials say they raided three farms around Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's ancestral home.
Now CNN's senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre has been in Tikrit today. U.S. officials there have told him that they were acting on intelligence that Saddam Hussein was in these farmhouses, that's why the farmhouses were raided.
They say that at this time, they believe they have Saddam Hussein, quote, "on the run." They say he is moving house -- moving home very three to four hours.
Sources are also telling us that they believe Saddam Hussein's security chief could have been in these farms as well. The raids netted neither of those people, Saddam Hussein nor his security chief.
A number of people were arrested. We understand that some of those have been detained.
But according to security -- according to sources in Tikrit speaking to CNN's senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, they were acting on intelligence Saddam Hussein was there, and that they believe they now have him on the run -- Wolf. BLITZER: Nic, what does it do -- what does it say to the rest of the effort, the U.S. military effort, the coalition effort, in Baghdad if in fact there is a widespread assumption that it could be closer rather than sooner away the actual capture or killing of the former Iraqi leader?
ROBERTSON: Wolf, it appears since Qusay and Uday Saddam Hussein were killed earlier in the week that there has been a real push on, a real momentum building up in the chase for Saddam Hussein. There were rumors and reports that perhaps he'd been Mosul as well. We've seen additional raids in Mosul. We've seen raids on Thursday, as well, in the town of Tikrit. There appears to be a momentum building.
Certainly talking to the troops who were involved in that raid in Mosul, it certainly boosted their spirits, boosted their morale. And we understand as well, Task Force 20, involved in that operation very likely would be involved as well, the elite task force be involved in this latest mission to capture Saddam Hussein -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Nic Robertson, on the scene for us as usual.
Nic, thanks very much for that report.
And of course, stay with CNN for all the late-breaking developments on the hunt for Saddam Hussein.
Let's shift gears now to a story that's been around for a long time. Indeed, it's been a mystery for three decades. Who ordered the June 17th, 1972, break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex here in Washington, D.C.?
That break-in eventually forced Richard Nixon to resign from office, the only United States president ever forced to do that.
Now, in a PBS documentary that will air in the United States later this week, the then-deputy Nixon re-election campaign manager, Jeb Magruder, says Nixon himself personally ordered the break-in.
Until now, the widespread assumption was that Nixon was forced to resign because of his subsequent role of the cover-up of the break-in, but that he didn't actually order it to begin with.
Joining us now to discuss this bombshell, John Dean. He served as the White House counsel under President Nixon. He's joining us live from our studios in Los Angeles.
John, thanks very much for joining us.
What do you make of this bombshell?
JOHN DEAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Well, it's certainly a surprise to me. It's something I had never heard before Magruder made it, and I can't say that I have any evidence that is he right. I can't say I have any evidence that he is wrong.
But, Wolf, what I did last night was did a little browsing amongst some of the tapes to see if there's any sort of echo even in any of the conversations, and I did find something.
I found that in March of 1973, that Bob Haldeman, the White House chief of staff, was told by one of the lawyers over at the reelection committee that Jeb was saying to them that the plan to break in the Watergate had been approved by the president. And it's very interesting, Nixon has no reaction on the tape that I saw.
So there is a little shred of evidence out there.
BLITZER: That would suggest that even almost contemporaneously, he was saying then what he's saying right now. In addition to the PBS documentary, he spoke with the Associated Press, he said this.
Magruder said he could hear Nixon tell Mitchell, John Mitchell, who was then the attorney general, "John, we need to get the information on Larry O'Brien," he was the Democratic Party chairman, "and the only way we can do that is through Liddy's plan," G. Gordon Liddy, "and you need to do that."
That according to Jeb Magruder, saying that the president, Richard Nixon, then told John Mitchell, "Go ahead with the break-in."
Give us a little bit of your sense of the credibility of Jeb Magruder coming out three decades later and making this kind of statement.
DEAN: Well, I can't imagine why Jeb would have any motive to lie at this point. I understand why he delayed. He said he was never asked the question by the Senate Watergate Committee, never asked the question by the Watergate prosecutors. And he said after Watergate, when he became a Presbyterian minister, it was something he decided not to volunteer in prior documentaries, and what have you, because it would only reflect back on his congregation and raise the whole Watergate issue again. So he refrained from talking about it.
But he said now seemed to be the time, that he wanted to get it on the historical record and has done so.
As I say, I'm surprised by it. I wish he had done it 30 years ago when it wasn't just a bit of historical minutiae, but rather as central today as the question of what Mr. Bush knew about whether there would be something before 9/11, whether he had any intelligence about that. It's a similar important issue that now is just, as I say, a historical detail.
BLITZER: Well, you know, of course, Richard Nixon is dead, John Mitchell is dead. Jeb Magruder says that he never came forward and volunteered this information earlier because, A, he was hoping he would get pardoned by the then-President Nixon if, in fact, it came down to it, and over the years, he says, nobody ever asked him.
Did you ever suspect, in all your days at the White House, that Richard Nixon personally authorized the break-in?
DEAN: Well, I must say, I did suspect it, and for this reason: In fact, there are very clear tapes where Nixon is indeed calling for break-ins. He does call for a break-in at the Brookings Institute, no less than, I think, three occasions on different tapes, which is really quite extraordinary. So it's not something that strikes me as something Nixon would never do.
In fact, the issue of whether or not he had ordered the break-in into Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office out here in California, when Ellsberg had leaked the so-called Pentagon Papers, came up, and there's a tape where the president is asking Bob Haldeman if he authorized it. He doesn't remember whether he did or not.
So I think you have a mentality there who certainly could have approved this, and now I think we have to scour the tapes a little bit more closely to see if, indeed, we can find more of what Magruder's saying.
BLITZER: So you've come up with one tid-bit that might back up what Magruder is saying, but other historians are suggesting they have heard nothing on any of the audio tapes, the tapes of all the conversations that Nixon had in those weeks, months, indeed years, that would suggest, that would back up this allegation that he authorized the break-in.
DEAN: Wolf, the context of the tape I saw in March is a little different. It's saying that Magruder had spoken with a Haldeman aide and said that the president had authorized it. It's not quite the same context as if the -- sitting there with Mitchell and overhearing the conversation where the president tells John Mitchell, the attorney general and -- the former attorney general and campaign manager -- that he wants this plan approved. So it is a different context than the tape I did find.
But the tapes are very difficult to hear. The tapes of the conversations made in the Executive Office Building office, where he had a hideaway office, are almost impossible in some instances, and they take a lot of time and effort to scour and find out if something's there. That's, of course, where the 18-1/2 minute gap occurred, and it well may be that's the sort of thing that would explain a gap of that dimension.
BLITZER: A huge potential out there. It's a bombshell, there's no doubt about it.
DEAN: It is.
BLITZER: A lot of checking, a lot of historians are going to be revisiting this entire question.
John Dean, thanks very much for joining us.
DEAN: Thank you.
BLITZER: When we come back: military hot spots in Iraq and, indeed, elsewhere around the world. Are U.S. troops spread out too thin right now? We'll ask three military experts.
And later, we'll get legal analysis on the case that's riveting America and, indeed, much of the world. Did the basketball superstar Kobe Bryant sexually assault a 19-year-old woman in Colorado?
Also, there's still time to vote on today's online poll. Our Web question: Do you think Saddam Hussein is still alive? Go to cnn.com/lateedition. You can vote. We'll have the results.
All of that, coming up.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
Joining me now to discuss the latest news from Iraq are three top military strategists: at the CNN Center in Atlanta, the retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Dan Benton; in Tucson, Arizona, the retired U.S. Air Force Major General Don Shepperd; and with me here in Washington, the retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Dan Christman, he was head of strategy, plans and policy during the first Gulf War.
General Christman, I'll begin with you. The latest news coming out from our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, the U.S. had intelligence Saddam Hussein himself may have been in the Tikrit area only within the past 24 hours. He's on the run, and they're searching for him.
LT. GEN. DAN CHRISTMAN (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Well, we need to be careful, of course, about conclusions. Many of these intelligence items have been wrong in the past.
But I think it's very important, in light of what happened to the two sons, to just put this in context. CENTCOM, for the last several weeks, has been extremely aggressive in their tactical operations. They have, in my judgment, seized the momentum there in country.
As a result of that, much of this intelligence that we use to base our low-intensity and mid-intensity operations is now crescendoing, and that's what, it seems to me, those two sons' deaths represents. We do have a lot of intelligence that's beginning to mount up, and, in my judgment, we'll be able to do wonders here with Saddam here in the coming weeks.
BLITZER: General Benton, is it only a matter of time, days, weeks maybe, until the U.S. captures or kills Saddam Hussein?
LT. GEN. DAN BENTON (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Well, Wolf, I'm certain it is. You know, every intelligence asset in theater is focused on finding that guy right now. And I think it's very, very important, to springboard on what General Christman just said, once we find Saddam, that's going to allow U.S. forces to focus on the other task, of nation-building, of providing security for the many agencies there that have got to get their agencies up and operating and getting things running again in Iraq.
But the second thing is, I think it will put an end to the discussion of whether or not there's really a guerrilla campaign, a planned campaign going on, as opposed to just lawlessness across the country, which I personally think that's more what it is. BLITZER: I want to get to all that in a minute, but, General Shepperd, your thoughts on the hunt for Saddam Hussein, how close is the U.S. to finding him?
MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD (RET.), U.S. AIR FORCE: From everybody I've talked to, Wolf, we're getting close, but, just as the other generals said, there's some caution there. He's got a couple of problems. He is definitely on the run, and he has to stay in an area where people are loyal to him. That means we know more and more about where to look, we know more and more about his relatives, we know where not to look.
He also has one other problem. To stay secure, he has to stay small and invisible. To stay protected, he has to have a larger entourage around him, making him easier to track.
So he's a target, and it sounds like we're closing in on him. I'm very hopeful, Wolf.
BLITZER: When we looked at those pictures, General Shepperd, of the two sons, as they were killed, both had grown full beards. Do you suspect that Saddam Hussein may have done the same thing, trying to alter his appearance?
SHEPPERD: Well, I assume that he will either be in some type of disguise or has done something of that sort to alter his appearance.
Most important, we had his original security chief, General Abid Mahmud Tikriti (ph), we have him in custody, and probably getting a lot of information about him. We know who his new security chief is, so we know who we're looking for.
And we have to assume that they're all going to be in disguise and have altered appearance, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let me bring back General Chistman on the casualty count. It's continuing. Almost every day, more U.S. troops are killed in action, in what they call hostile or non-hostile action.
BLITZER: We'll put some of the numbers on the screen, as we talk. This is both hostile and non-hostile since the start of the war.
It's a very debilitating process, certainly for the people back here in the United States, but also, I assume, for the troops on the ground.
CHRISTMAN: It is, but I think there are two developments here that are important.
First of all, the Pentagon announced this last week, a rotation pattern, a one-year rotation pattern. Very, very important, we talked about this before, in terms of the predictability of the one year. That's much more important than the brevity of three months. For soldiers over there who are subjected to this, to be able to know that they can come back at a time certain, that's hugely important.
But second, Wolf, back to this point about the OPTEMPO.
BLITZER: Operations tempo.
CHRISTMAN: Absolutely. General Abizaid is very, very intensively now managing this campaign to act upon intelligence. And we're going to see, sadly, casualties as a by-product to that increased intensity -- not the retribution for the death of the sons but because of a by-product of what is a very, aggressive action by CENTCOM at this moment.
BLITZER: Well, at that same point, General Benton, we heard General Sanchez tell me earlier in this program that the attacks against the U.S. and coalition forces seem to be getting better organized and more sophisticated.
BENTON: Well, that's right. But I think, over time, we're going to see that now that the two sons are dead and gone, we're getting closer to getting Saddam Hussein, he is not going to have anybody else around to start having any sort of a planned guerrilla war campaign, if you will.
So I think over time, now that we've got these senior elements gone and out of the picture, I would certainly hope that these attacks are going to dissipate, and I don't think they're going to end, but hopefully decrease.
BLITZER: All right. Let's take a caller from Pennsylvania.
Go ahead with your question.
CALLER: I had a question about how the commanders of the United States forces in Iraq keep the troops' morale up in that 110-, 120- degree heat, wearing all that equipment, not knowing who's fighting them. You know, day to day, how do the leaders over there keep the troops ready to fight and ready to win this war?
BLITZER: All right. General Shepperd, you want to handle that?
SHEPPERD: Yes, it's real easy. It's called leadership, Wolf.
We have great leaders in our military, not only in the officer ranks but in the non-commissioned officer ranks. They explain to the troops what they're doing, they basically take care of those troops. And the Army -- all of our services are used to living in lousy conditions spread all over the world, doing lots of time away from home.
So, as long as they know they're involved in something important, and they see progress -- not just as sitting ducks going out on patrols -- but they see progress and plans, they'll hang in there. That's a well-motivated force, Wolf. BLITZER: How concerned with you, General Christman, that the killing, the deaths of Uday and Qusay Hussein, could park even more attacks, revenge killings, if you will, against U.S. forces?
CHRISTMAN: I'm not that concerned, frankly. I think we'll see a little bit of that, probably have already.
But most importantly, it's what it represents in terms of winning the mind. The most important thing, the hearts and minds paradigm here, the most important thing is to convince the Iraqis that this particular regime is not about to return.
BLITZER: Wouldn't the U.S. have been better off capturing these two sons alive?
CHRISTMAN: That's a second-guess that I would never want to do for the commander on the scene. I think we had a wonderful explanation of that by General Keene (ph) this last week. He would have been the first to have been criticized if they had held off, waited for six hours, and then found the two of them had escaped under a tunnel. I really support what they have done.
BLITZER: General Benton, would you be happy if there was a greater effort to internationalize the post-war military presence in Iraq right now, get others to be part of this effort, not just the U.S. and Britain and a few other countries?
BENTON: Oh, Wolf, without a doubt. I think it's extremely important to have more of a coalition effort into what's going on in post-war Iraq.
Particularly since, you know, American forces, just seem to be a lightning rod for any sort of person who's got a grenade or wants to shoot somebody. You know, we have other coalition forces in theater right now, but I think there have only been a very few number of incidents about them or directed against them.
So, I think having other forces over there is going to take some of the pressure against American forces as being the targets against some of these people that are trying to create incidents.
BLITZER: Very briefly, I want all your thoughts on Liberia, the possibility of deploying U.S. forces in an incredibly volatile, dangerous area like Liberia right now.
General Shepperd, they're deploying a couple thousand Marines off the coast of West Africa right now. Is this a good idea?
SHEPPERD: I must tell you, I have a soft spot in my heart for Liberia because my parents lived there, Wolf. I think it is a good idea. I think it is important. I think we can reduce the killing, but we have to go in at the right time with a defined mission.
It appears that we'll go in with a small number of troops after the West African nations have gone in initially to separate the two parties, and both parties welcome us, and then President Taylor goes. I think it's important, and I think we'll do it, Wolf.
BLITZER: General Christman, how dangerous is this for those couple thousand or whatever number of U.S. forces who may eventually have to go into Monrovia?
CHRISTMAN: Well, mission clarity is so important on this, Wolf. I think we can do it. The question, though, is whether we should.
In my judgment, what's giving pause to Pentagon planners is the dog that hasn't barked, and that's Korea. What the Pentagon is very uneasy about is this looming crisis on the peninsula, to ensure that we have enough strategic reserve to be able to handle that. And any involvement in a place like Liberia gives them pause that we can handle that effectively.
BLITZER: General Benton, I'll give you the last word. Is the U.S. Army already stretched too thin?
BENTON: Well, we are stretched thin right now. I looked at the number of units deployed or affected by the deployments, and every Army division in the United States, every armored cavalry regiment is affected by these deployments, either currently or coming up in the rotation plan.
So the 160,000 forces we have in Iraq, the over 15,000 in Afghanistan, the almost 5,000 in the Balkans is creating a strain on the Army.
BLITZER: General Benton, thanks very much. General Shepperd, General Christman, always good to have all of you on LATE EDITION. Thanks very much.
Still to come, we'll talk with Roy Black and Wendy Murphy about the Kobe Bryant case. Will the latest revelations about the alleged victim help or hurt the basketball superstar's case?
And remember, this is your last chance to vote right now. Our LATE EDITION Web question of the week: Do you think Saddam Hussein is still alive? Go to cnn.com/lateedition. You can vote.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: There's much more still to come here on LATE EDITION, including the results of this week's LATE EDITION Web question of the week.
Don't go away. We also have a major discussion coming up on the Kobe Bryant investigation.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
The basketball superstar Kobe Bryant is facing one charge of sexual assault in Colorado. His accuser, a 19-year-old college student, has not been publicly named, but that hasn't stopped details about her life becoming public knowledge.
In just a moment, we'll get some legal analysis on the case from two top attorneys. First, though, CNN's Josie Burke is in Eagle County, Colorado. She's joining us now live with all the latest developments in this important case.
Josie, tell us what's going on.
JOSIE BURKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this week a lot of the developments had nothing to do with the facts of what may or may not have happened the night of the alleged assault.
Instead, they were all about all of the media coverage and the publicity and how that might affect the case. The latest development, what we have learned in the last 36 hours, is a rather chilling one.
The district attorney in this case, Mark Hurlbert, has been receiving death threats for weeks now, but it has escalated to the point where his spokeswoman has confirmed that the FBI and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation are both looking into those threats.
His spokeswoman also confirmed that it got so serious on Friday, that his office in Eagle had to be put on lock-down. They locked all of the doors, and anyone who wanted to enter had to first identify himself or herself. She also said they're looking into ways they might increase security at his office in Eagle.
We also heard a number of times this week from the judge who will preside over Kobe Bryant's August 6th hearing, that's the next time he's expected to be in the Vail Valley.
The judge issued a two orders. One was essentially a gag order. He called it an order regarding pre-trial publicity, and essentially he warned everyone who could be involved in this case, from lawyers to potential witnesses, not to say anything that could in any way inhibit the defendant from having a fair trial.
We also heard his orders regarding media coverage on the actual day of that hearing, and whether or not cameras will be allowed in the courtroom. His answer was yes, there will be a live audio feed, and a pool still photographer, and a pool video photographer will be allowed in the courtroom on August 6 -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Josie Burke with the latest from Colorado.
Josie, thanks very much.
Conflict continues, of course, in the courtroom and off in this very high-profile case. Joining us now to assess all the legal issues, from Miami, the defense attorney, Roy Black, and in Boston, the former prosecutor, Wendy Murphy.
Thanks to both of you for joining us.
Let's go through both of these issues that Josie just talked about. Wendy, I'll begin with you. On the issue of death threats to the district attorney, Mark Hurlbert, have you ever heard of this kind of thing going on in a case like this?
WENDY MURPHY, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Oh, you know, Wolf, I'm embarrassed as a member of the bar and someone who has worked in the criminal justice system for 15 years, I'm embarrassed to tell you this, but yes, I've heard of it. It's not uncommon. I call it victory by threats or intimidation.
It is particularly effective when the person takes a bully-style approach, trashing the victim as we're seeing here, using his friends and connections to try to intimidate the witnesses.
And remember, you know, if the witness doesn't testify in this case, there is no case. And that's not like what could happen in a robbery case. If you threaten some witnesses in some types of cases, and they refuse to testify, the state can usually still go forward if they have other kinds of evidence.
BLITZER: Well, Wendy, let me interrupt there. Are you suggesting that Kobe Bryant or his attorneys or others involved with him directly are making these kinds of threats?
MURPHY: Oh, I have absolutely no evidence of that. All I'm saying, Wolf, is that it's not uncommon, and it's particularly not uncommon in rape cases.
I myself have received death threats after appearing on this program, and you can bet that I'm cooperating with law enforcement officials, letting them know about that.
And, you know, you can't live, in a free society we can't live with a criminal justice system where cases go away either by pay-offs, which would be unacceptable, or by threatening people to shut up. I mean, this case deserves to be resolved in a court of law, and this is just outrageous behavior.
BLITZER: All right. Roy, go ahead, and let me hear your thoughts.
ROY BLACK, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, sure. Of course, Wendy, once again, takes it solely one-sided. In a high-profile case that garners a lot of public attention, you have crazy people come out of the woodwork and make all kinds of threats.
Usually, more often than the prosecutors, it's the defense that's being threatened, because usually the publicity is very bad about the defendant.
But it happens, you know, in this country because everybody wants to be heard, or whatever. If it's high enough profile, you're going to get a lot of nuts making threats.
MURPHY: Well, the only important point, I think, and Roy and I will probably agree about this, is that whoever is making the threats, they deserve to be located and prosecuted because that's obstruction of justice. It might even amount to criminal threats. And they should be uncovered, and they should be outed and prosecuted.
BLACK: Of course.
BLITZER: What did you mean by...
BLACK: But this doesn't come from any of the participants. This doesn't come from Kobe Bryant or his friends.
MURPHY: You don't know that, Roy. Neither of us knows that.
BLACK: Of course I do.
MURPHY: You do not.
BLACK: Only you, Wendy, with your suspicious mind would make that suggestion.
MURPHY: Stop, you don't know.
BLITZER: Wendy, obviously none of us knows who is making these threats. And law enforcement, presumably, is trying to find out. We'll see what they come up with, if anything.
But you raise another issue, an important issue of payoff. What exactly are you talking about when you say that there shouldn't be any payoff to end this issue?
MURPHY: Well, the most important case and the one we all know about is the Michael Jackson criminal investigation. A very serious allegation of child rape that during the investigative period we all kind of knew about and wondered what would happen. Lo and behold, some multimillion dollar settlement, so to speak, transpired and all of a sudden, the victim was unwilling to testify.
I'll tell you, if I was the prosecutor and money exchanged hands like in that case, or in this case, I wouldn't accept that as a responsible way to resolve a criminal case.
This is a crime against society, it is not the victim's personal lawsuit. So anyone who takes money in exchange for not testifying, I would prosecute them and the one who paid the money for obstruction of justice. If she lied under oath about it, I would prosecute her for perjury. If she refused to testify, I'd put her in jail for contempt.
You cannot promote a two-tiered justice system where wealthy people get to pay to walk away from serious felonies and poor people get prosecuted.
BLITZER: All right, let me let Roy respond to that.
BLITZER: Go ahead, yes.
BLACK: Wolf, I spent 10 years investigating cases like this. These are not payoffs. It's really called extortion. You have people who make threats against celebrities, people who are wealthy, Hollywood types who can't stand the publicity. You make any kind of a threat and then you make a demand for money. It's called extortion. These are not payoffs. These are not bribes.
What happens is men like Kobe Bryant become the victims of extortion. And it's happening all too often in America today, and I think it's time it should be stopped. And we ought to prosecute the people who are the extorters. And the victims of it are people like Kobe Bryant.
BLITZER: But we have no evidence, Roy...
MURPHY: No, you know, no...
BLITZER: Hold on one second.
BLITZER: We have no evidence to suggest that she's asking for any money, seeking any kind of financial reward from Kobe Bryant.
MURPHY: That's right.
BLACK: Oh, you're right. But Wendy was using that as an example. I'm just using that as an example of what happens. I've represented several men...
MURPHY: I didn't say that.
BLACK: ... who are in the NBA who have been extorted like that. In order to try to keep their names out of the newspapers, the magazines, the radio shows, the television shows, it is easier to pay it off than to go through and have your name dragged through the mud like he's having it done.
MURPHY: Look, here's where Roy and I might actually agree, if there is a moment. It's wrong for money to exchange hands in exchange for letting a criminal case be dismissed, period. And it shouldn't be a payoff, nor should it be extortion. Both of those things are wrong. This case deserves to be tried in front of a jury.
BLITZER: All right. Let's take a quick caller from Georgia. Go ahead with your question, Georgia.
CALLER: Yes, thank you, Wolf. Great show, as always.
I'd like to ask your fine panel there, is there any way possible that Kobe can get a fair trial anywhere in the United States with all this publicity?
BLITZER: All right, let me let Roy respond first.
Roy, go ahead.
BLACK: Well, I think it would be. I don't think he can get a fair trial in that small town where everybody knows the woman or are friends with her family or know friends who are friends with them. I think it should be moved to the nearest urban area where there's not, you know, feelings for one side or another. And I think he can receive a fair trial, particularly in about nine months from now.
BLITZER: That presumably would be Denver.
What would be wrong, in your opinion, Wendy, if anything, moving the trial to Denver?
MURPHY: Well, I'm not saying there'd be anything wrong, per se, with Denver. But the crime happened in Eagle, that's where the community suffered this injustice. They are entitled to have the case resolved there.
You know, I don't like to sweep with broad brushes about types of people and make presumptions about whether somebody, because of their gender, skin color or the fact that they are from a rural community, is more inclined or less inclined to believe one kind of witness or another.
I think the way you do that is, you know, you bring the jurors in, you ask appropriate questions. You ask if they are capable, notwithstanding what they've heard about this case, of judging both Kobe and the victim fairly, without race bias, without gender bias, without any other prejudice, including celebrity bias. And if they can swear under oath that they can judge the case fairly, then they deserve to have the first bite at judging this case.
BLACK: The problem with that is you bring people into the courtroom, you ask them can the be fair and they lie about it. It happens all the time in these high-profile cases.
MURPHY: Oh, please, don't be so cynical, Roy Black.
BLACK: Not only that, but we don't have cross-section of the community here.
BLITZER: All right, let's -- here's an important issue that's been coming up over the past couple of weeks. We've been learning a lot about the accuser, as well as Kobe Bryant, stuff that we didn't know about. This so-called gag order that the judge just imposed presumably designed to deal with it.
Should their past, both of their pasts, Roy, be admissible evidence in this upcoming trial?
BLACK: Absolutely, and I'll tell you why.
BLACK: I hear time and time again, on every TV show in America, they say, why would a woman, a rational woman, make an accusation like this? Well, when you look into this woman's past, where she had an overdose, supposedly trying to commit suicide, where she's had all kinds of mental distress, where she supposedly was going to hurt herself, that goes to the question as to whether or not she was rational and she's making a rational choice here with this accusation.
I think all this should be heard by the jury.
BLITZER: All right.
MURPHY: No, I mean, it's ridiculous to think that the way you figure out the truth in a case like this is by bringing in background information from the past, about either side.
You know, I'm sure that Roy would say, if another woman came forward and said Kobe sexually assaulted her, as Roy did in the William Kennedy Smith case, where there were such prior allegations, Roy would say, it's not fair to judge Kobe's credibility based on the fact that in the past he may have raped other women.
And all I care about, in terms of the justice system, is that we remember the value of judging people based only on the facts of the case.
You know, Princess Diana, Tipper Gore, very, very credible, wonderful people, have suffered depression, have been suicidal. I think it's absurd, and it's certainly unscientific, to say that you can connect the dots and assume anything, that the fact a person was depressed means they can't tell the truth when they get sexually assaulted or describe truthfully what happens to them in any other context.
You know, if we keep the facts focused very narrowly on the night in question, there are very important things that we haven't talked about that Kobe Bryant did. He left town unexpectedly. I call it flight and consciousness of guilt.
MURPHY: Nobody wants to talk about Kobe's behavior on the night in question. We only want to talk about the victim's behavior months and months before. Let's keep the eye on the ball.
BLACK: She undergoes mental problems as much to take an overdose over a boyfriend breaking up with her, she tends to show she has problems with men, and it's a highly emotional situation. This clearly is an emotional situation. I think it matches.
MURPHY: Roy, excellent mental gymnastics on your part, but there's no such thing in your head as relevancy when you talk about victims' past. Relevancy means something in the past tends to show us something that has to bear on the facts in this case. The fact that somebody took drugs, was depressed, even took an overdose, even tried to commit suicide, that doesn't tell us anything about what happened on the night in question. And if it did, if we lived by a system of laws that allowed us to conclude that people who have been depressed or have taken drug overdoses therefore must not come to the table presumed credible, like the rest of the world, that's like declaring open season on all people who've suffered depression.
BLITZER: Roy, unfortunately we are all out of time. I know this is going to continue for some time to come. We'll have you both back, because this subject obviously is not going away, unfortunately. Thanks to both of you for joining us.
BLACK: Thank you, Wolf.
MURPHY: Thank you.
BLITZER: Coming up, the results are in. We'll tell you whether our viewers believe Saddam Hussein is dead or alive.
Also, Bruce Morton's essay: What's happened to civility in the U.S. Congress?
LATE EDITION will continue right after this.
BLITZER: Take a look at the response to our LATE EDITION Web question of the week: Do you think Saddam Hussein is alive or dead?
Look at this: 94 percent of you believe he's alive. Only 6 percent of you believe he is dead.
Remember, this is not, repeat not, a scientific poll.
Welcome back. Time now for Bruce Morton's LATE EDITION essay.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The House of Representatives' leadership gave distinguished service awards to some former House members earlier this month. And it was sad and fascinating to hear one of them, Republican Bob Michel of Illinois, remember the House he'd served in, a group of civilized grownups.
BOB MICHEL, FORMER CONGRESSMAN: After all the arguments back and forth, you know, you could still be good personal friends.
MORTON: But that kind of House died some years ago. The House that replaced it is bitter, unfriendly and driven by partisanship. Winning isn't the main thing; it's the only thing.
REP. SCOTT MCINNIS (R), COLORADO: We were within moments, frankly, myself and another member on your side of the aisle, were within moments of a, I would guess, a physical engagement.
MORTON: There they were 10 days ago, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas brings up a 90-page measure he had released about midnight. The Democrats said they needed more time to read it. Thomas said no. The Democrats started reading it in the library. Thomas sends Capitol Police to throw them out.
Then he asks unanimous consent to stop reading and bangs down his gavel. The lone Democrat left in the hearing says he objected. Thomas says, too late.
Representative Scott McInnis tells the lone Democrat, Pete Stark of California, to shut up. Stark calls McInnis a little wimp, "Come on over here and make me, and I dare you, you little fruitcake."
No cameras present, but there was abuse on the House floor, too.
MCINNIS: I considered that threat serious. I fully intended to defend myself.
REP. JERRY KLECZKA (D), WISCONSIN: I was in the room when the police came. Two officers came to clear us out because we were causing the disturbance...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Time of the gentleman has expired.
KLECZKA: ... so don't malign what happened. It's an embarrassment enough...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman will suspend.
KLECZKA: ... and this could be resolved by...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gentleman will -- the gentleman will suspend.
MORTON: These men and women are supposed to be grownups. My kids had better manners than that when they were 5 years old.
This past Wednesday, though, Thomas apologized for sicking the police on the Democrats.
REP. BILL THOMAS (R-CA), CHAIRMAN, WAYS & MEANS COMMITTEE: When you're charged and entrusted with responsibilities by you, my colleagues, as I have been, you deserve better. Moderation is required.
MORTON (on camera): Republican Nancy Johnson of Connecticut, who's been in the House more than 20 years, long enough to remember civility, remember friendships across party lines, said of this small war, "This is simple, serious and sad."
She's got that right. Perhaps they need a House chamber with 435 corners where they can each put on a dunce cap and stand in one. They have now, thank heaven, gone home for their summer recess. Maybe they'll use some of their time off to ask themselves, is this kind of take-no-prisoners, win-at-any-cost method the way a legislature in a democracy ought to work?
I'm Bruce Morton.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Bruce.
We're getting new information about the hunt for Saddam Hussein. We'll take a quick break. When we come back, we'll have a quick check of that and the other top headlines.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Andrea.
That's unfortunately all the time we have for this LATE EDITION, July 27.
For our international viewers, please stay tuned to CNN International for World News.
Coming up next on CNN, "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS."
Please be sure to join us next Sunday and every Sunday. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
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