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Does 9/11 Commission Rise Above Politics?; Shamed Into Sobriety?

Aired March 23, 2004 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. Thanks so much for joining us tonight. I'm Paula Zahn.
It is Tuesday, March 23, 2004.


ZAHN (voice-over): Maybe the most riveting televised hearings since Watergate.


BOB KERREY, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: He didn't rally. He didn't do that with bin Laden.

ZAHN: The 9/11 Commission digs in. But does it rise above politics? We'll ask 9/11 family members.

And Ohio has a gift for drunk drivers, their very own license plate. Even a first offense brands you as a boozer behind the wheel. But can people be shamed into being sober?

And the mysterious death of a Hamptons millionaire. Now the man who married his widow is indicted on murder charges.


ZAHN: All that head tonight, but, first, here are some of the headlines you need to know right now.

Israeli forces are moving in on Gaza. Palestinian security sources say 25 armored personnel carriers and several tanks entered a refugee camp tonight. They say the vehicles tore up nearby crop fields.

The Palestinian militant group Hamas has a new leader. Chief Hamas spokesman Abdel-Aziz Rantissi will be the group's acting head until a leader is chosen in September elections. Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin was killed in an Israeli airstrike yesterday. Rantissi has rejected even a temporary truce with Israel.

Five more prospective jurors have been named in the Scott Peterson murder trial. They and the one person chosen yesterday are part of a potential juror pool that will eventually grow to some 80 people. Some of the biggest names in the Bush and Clinton administrations are defending their actions prior to the September 11 attacks. Former and current defense secretaries and secretaries of state testified today before an independent commission investigating the attacks. Tonight, I'll talk with two members of that panel, former Senators Bob Kerrey and Slade Gorton. I will also discuss the commission's findings with Carie Lemack and Chris Burke. They both lost family members on 9/11 and are leaders in nonprofit groups devoted to friends and families of the victims.

But first, "In Focus," today's testimony on Capitol Hill.

For that, we turn to CNN national security correspondent David Ensor. He joins us now from Washington.

Good evening, David.


There were some -- as you say, some pretty tough questions and some rather interesting answers today. And there was at least one revelation. The staff director, Philip Zelikow, told the 9/11 Commission that their research has shown the CIA believes it had Osama bin Laden in its sights at least three times during the Clinton administration, one time in particular, in February of '99, when he spent about a week at a hunting lodge area in Afghanistan.

And the problem was that he was in the same area as some senior officials from the United Arab Emirates who were meeting with him and doing some hunting, and that caused questions about whether the target was the right one to hit or not.


PHILIP ZELIKOW, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, 9/11 COMMISSION: The lead CIA official in the field felt the intelligence reporting in this case was very reliable. The UBL unit chief at the time agrees. The field official believes today that this was a lost opportunity to kill bin Laden before 9/11.


ENSOR: As I say, tough questions on a lot of the issues, most of them coming down to, why didn't the Clinton administration and the Bush administration do more against al Qaeda, which had already attacked the United States multiple times, in the period before 9/11?

The Clinton administration people said, in some cases, they didn't have what they really needed, which was actionable intelligence. And that was something also that Bush administration officials spoke about, not knowing enough, not actionable intelligence. They'll get a chance to -- the commission will get a chance to question the man in charge of all that Wednesday at the hearing. The lead-off witness will be George Tenet, director of central intelligence -- Paula. ZAHN: David Ensor, thanks so much for the update.

So what did the commission learn from today's hearings? Let's ask two of its members, who join us tonight from Capitol Hill. Slade Gorton is a former Republican senator from Washington state, now counsel to the law firm of Preston, Gates, & Ellis. And Bob Kerrey is a former Democratic senator for Nebraska, now president of the New School University in New York.

Welcome, gentlemen.

KERREY: Nice to be with you.

ZAHN: So, Senator Kerrey, what is the most surprising piece of testimony you heard today?

KERREY: Well, I don't think there was anything generally all that surprising. We hear from some very outstanding individuals that are very competent that -- and believe they had done the best they possibly can to keep America safe.

ZAHN: Senator Gorton, did you hear any answers that would perhaps address what Mr. Kerrey just talked about?

SLADE GORTON, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: In one respect, there wasn't any surprise for us. All of these people have been interviewed at great length in private by the commission. This was an opportunity to let the people of the United States and you who are commenting on them evaluate their testimony, evaluate what they're like, and evaluate what they did.


ZAHN: Senator Kerrey, we're going to listen now to a particularly heated exchange that you had earlier today, first with Secretary Cohen and then with Secretary Rumsfeld.


KERREY: We had a round in our chamber and we didn't use it. That's how I see it. And I don't know if it had prevented 9/11. But I absolutely do not believe that just because a commander in chief sits there and said, Gee, this thing is unpopular therefore I can't do it, I don't think that's a good argument.

It seems to me that a declaration of war, either by President Clinton or by President Bush, prior to 9/11 would immobilize the government in a way that at least would have reduced substantially the possibility that 9/11 would have happened.


ZAHN: So, Senator, should the American public be angry?

KERREY: Well, I don't know angry or not. But I don't think we should ever again be in a position where we fail to declare war on them.

And all the degrees of difficulty and all the problems that were cited as to why we didn't do this and why we didn't do that, there was only one military response against al Qaeda after they declared a war on us. And that was a very limited bombing campaign on the 20th of August, 1998. Other than that, we did nothing in response until we were attacked on the 11th of September 2001 and 3,000 Americans died.

ZAHN: Do you see this, though, Senator Gorton, as hindsight? I think you pointed out, or the commission did, that both the Clinton and the Bush administration failed with their diplomacy, that military action might have been the only effective way to go. Is this hindsight?

GORTON: Well, of course it's hindsight. And hindsight is one of our duties. We need to write an objective history of the facts that led up to 2001.

I think both of us hope that, in dealing with those facts, we can come out with a unanimous report. But I think, basically, with both administrations, I think each of them felt that it had a luxury of time, and it turned out that that luxury was not available to us.

ZAHN: And representatives of both those administrations on the defensive today, Senator Kerrey with Secretaries Albright and Powell. Let's listen to some of their testimony.


MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I think we dealt very appropriately with the issue. And I think our record stands well.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: The president, by word and deed, made clear his interest and his intense desire to protect the nation from terrorism.


ZAHN: So, Senator Kerrey, were both of those secretaries wrong?

KERREY: Oh, I don't think they're wrong entirely.

But I do think that the United States was wrong not to declare war on someone who turned out to be a serial murderer of Americans. He demonstrated that he had the capacity to kill us and he demonstrated a willingness to do it, and he kept doing it until he finally killed 3,000 Americans on 11 September. And then and only then did we declare war and say we're going to use extreme measures to make sure it doesn't happen again.

ZAHN: But, at that point, who would you have declared war on?

KERREY: Well, the difficulty here is you're not dealing with a nation state. You declare war on Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda the moment he declared war on us. He called to arms an Islamic army and he had substantial military capability and substantial resources as well. We didn't freeze Saudi assets. We didn't put an alert out to our Federal Aviation Administration and tell them to change their policies. We did none of the things that you would do if you were on a war footing, and we should have been there, in my view, after February 1998, and we weren't. And we didn't go on to a war footing until September 11.

ZAHN: So, Senator Gorton, do you believe that both administrations simply were asleep?

GORTON: No, no, no. I don't think anyone could say that both administrations were asleep.

I think it is clear that we did not take that attack, that declaration of war seriously enough. But, again, it's awfully easy to say that in hindsight. Almost no one in either party, other than occasionally Senator Kerrey, I must say, said it ahead of time.

ZAHN: In fact, Senator Kerrey, you were given a great deal of credit today all the way around for actually talking about this pre- 9/11.

Former Senators Bob Kerrey, Slate Gorton, you have a lot of work ahead. We wish you well.

KERREY: Thanks, Paula.

GORTON: Thank you.

ZAHN: Thank you, gentlemen.

The families of 9/11 victims, they fought for the 9/11 Commission. Are they getting what they expected?

And Danny Pelosi admits he spied on a multimillionaire. Today, he was indicted, charged with bludgeoning him to death.


ZAHN: When you say you're easy, what do you mean?

DANIEL PELOSI, DEFENDANT: I'm easy. I'm easy. I'm Dan. When I was a kid, I was wild. I got a dirty record. Come on. But I never frickin' -- I never hurt -- I never murdered anybody. I never hurt anybody.


ZAHN: Health clubs get hauled into court. Personal trainers get blamed for exercise injuries. But just how well are they trained?


ZAHN: No one is more focused on the commission's work than the families of 9/11. It was those who lost parents, sons and daughters who pressured the administration to order an official inquiry. How satisfied are they with the commission's work so far?

Well, Chris Burke lost his brother and a number of friends who worked in the World Trade Center. He started an organization called Tuesday's Children to help kids who lost parents on that day. And Carie Lemack lost her mother aboard American Airlines Flight 11. She helped start Families of September 11, which lobbied for the commission.

Welcome to both of you.



ZAHN: So, Carie, what were your emotions as you witnessed the testimony today in Washington?

LEMACK: First, I think a little bit of frustration.

I think, in the past few days, we've seen the September 11 Commission be turned into a partisan game. And I think that the most important thing for people to understand is that safety is not a partisan issue. Both Republicans and Democrats died equally on September 11. And for both Republicans and Democrats their safety is important to all of us.

So I think the fact that we've seen some people arguing whether it was Clinton's fault, whether it was Bush administration's fault, for the families, that's not important. What is important is that we look at what did happen, what lessons we can learn from that, and we make sure that it does not happen again.

ZAHN: Do you see any real progress being made in trying to find out why September 11 happened, Chris?

BURKE: Well, as you watch the hearings, you can't help but see a little bit of business as usual. However...

ZAHN: Are you offended by the partisanship?

BURKE: Am I offended by it? I expect it. I am offended -- it's too important for me to be offended.

What's important here, as Carie points out, is to get at the facts and to let the chips fall where they may. Quite frankly, the Clinton administration will take a hit. So will the Bush administration. So will the CIA and the FBI and the Department of Defense. I don't believe that the families of September 11 or the people of this country want to sling barbs. They want to get at the truth so we truly can be a safer nation.


ZAHN: Are you confident that this commission will be able to dig up these answers to make all of us feel safer?

BURKE: No, I'm not.

ZAHN: Why?

BURKE: Business as usual. We saw it today. I'm sure we'll see more of it tomorrow.

We saw with the infusion of Mr. Clarke on "60 Minutes" on Sunday and his testimony tomorrow, he has some interesting things to say. And I believe it's hard to paint Mr. Clarke as a left wing or a Democrat or a radical. This is a gentleman who was appointed by President Reagan, served under both administrations of the Bush family, as well as President Clinton. The things that he has to say are very interesting indeed.

ZAHN: And what about the accountability issue, Carie?

LEMACK: Well, I think it's a very big issue and I hope that all Americans realize that we have to hold our elected officials and appointees accountable.

I think what we saw today was some finger-pointing. And instead of people taking ownership for what their jobs were, we said, oh, we didn't have enough intelligence, or, we weren't sure about that. Well, to me, that says they should have figured out a way to be sure. If they don't have the right kind of intelligence, what were they doing to change that? What were they doing to make sure our intelligence agencies were able to acquire that right information?

And, unfortunately, that wasn't really addressed today. Hopefully maybe tomorrow, with the CIA director, Tenet, he'll be able to answer some of those questions. I think the commission really needs to be able to ask the hard questions, and Americans have to make sure they employ that their leaders are speaking -- you know, Dr. Rice won't even testify publicly. I don't understand why she's so unwilling to do that.

And I think, if she cares about the safety of Americans, which I'm sure that she does, she should be willing to come forward and say what she knew, what she was doing, and how she can do it better, so that it doesn't happen again.

ZAHN: Chris, do you believe Condoleezza Rice is hiding something?

BURKE: Yes, I do. And I have no idea why she will not publicly testify.

Dr. Rice says this is unprecedented. It was also unprecedented for 3,000 people to go to work on September 11 and get blown out of the sky. I think the rule book and the playbook as they play it needs to be thrown out of the window because we're through the looking glass here, Paula.

ZAHN: Finally, you met with the president two weeks ago. What did you tell him? How did he react? BURKE: I told him that I thought he was a man of character, but that character dictates that one walks it like one talks it. I urged him to be truthful and to be honest with this commission.

I told him, if he did so, that the families of September 11 and this country would stand behind him. His response, he told me he was doing the right thing.

ZAHN: Chris Burke, Carie Lemack, I know you've had a very long day. Thank you for joining us tonight.

BURKE: Thank you for having me.

LEMACK: Thank you, Paula.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: George Tenet briefed me on a regular basis about the terrorist threats to the United States of America. And had my administration had any information that terrorists were going to attack New York City on September 11, we would have acted.


ZAHN: While much of the attention today focused on the 9/11 hearing, President Bush took a few minutes to go before the cameras and defend his actions before the attacks.

How much political damage could the 9/11 investigation do to his campaign?

Joining us now from Washington, "CROSSFIRE" co-hosts Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.

Welcome. Good to see both of you.


ZAHN: So, Tucker, first day of hearings. No bombshell announcements, but I guess pretty predictable partisan infighting. Do you see this as an extension of the presidential campaign?

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": It absolutely is an extension of the presidential campaign. And it's a shame.

I would like -- it would be a fascinating story to trace how these hearings happened 7 1/2 months before a presidential election. It's a terrible idea. I'd love to know how the White House allowed this to happen. This isn't -- it looks like a congressional hearing, but, of course, it's not. It's something much more significant.

This isn't a hearing about exploding tires. This is about protecting the United States. It really matters. And it's inevitable that it will devolve -- and it has to some extent devolved -- into just partisan attacks from both sides. And I think it's a terrible shame.

ZAHN: Paul, you don't see it that way?


There's nothing more important for our government to be doing than getting to the bottom of this. The reason it's dragged on into the campaign season, of course, is because the president and the White House have dragged their feet at every turn. Even the Republican chairman of the commission, Tom Kean, has complained over time about a lack of cooperation from the White House.

And we saw today even that even as Secretary Rumsfeld and Secretary Powell and other luminaries were testifying, Dr. Condoleezza Rice wasn't because the Bush White House won't let her. Now, she comes on every television show and talks about 9/11, but apparently she doesn't want to be under oath in public, and I think that's really troubling.

ZAHN: Are you troubled by that, Tucker? And what about the fact she could write a piece in "The Washington Post" that counters every criticism of Richard Clarke, goes on every morning show, that's in a public venue, but she can't testify in public?

CARLSON: I honestly don't understand the advantage of her testifying in public or any of these figures testifying in public except to score partisan points on both sides. The point is, what do they know?

And that's what we're interested in, because, of course, the point of these hearings is not simply to find out what happened, but to prevent it from happening again.

ZAHN: Let's move on to the substance of what was said in these hearings. This is the second time this week the Bush administration has really been reamed for not taking proactive steps leading up to September 11 to protect this country. How much does this hurt the president politically?

BEGALA: Well, the potential is enormous. The president has two great claims on America's affections, I believe, first, that he's strong in the war against terrorism, second, that he's a truth-teller, a Texas straight shooter.

Both of them are under assault now. Those are the two pillars of his strength. First, his own counterterrorism expert, Richard Clarke, has written a book and come forward and said the president didn't do a very good job on terrorism at all, in fact, ignored the threat, according to his own terrorism expert, and, second, suggests that the president misled us into a war with Iraq. This is the second Bush administration official who's come forward and said that.

So I think if the American people start to think that maybe Bush didn't do a very good job on terrorism and maybe he did mislead us, then the two great strengths that he has could become weaknesses.

ZAHN: OK, Tucker, real quick answer. Do you concede that this does damage the president's credibility?

CARLSON: It absolutely might.

And that's -- you know, you can see it even now being leveraged into a campaign issue, and that's disgusting. And so is the rhetoric, the increasing rhetoric, I think mostly coming from the left. Madeleine Albright, former secretary of state, presumably a serious person, in an interview with "Roll Call" suggested that the president was holding Osama bin Laden until right before the election, completely outrageous, over the top, irresponsible, and in the end, not helpful to American national security. The whole thing's a shame, in my view.

ZAHN: And for balance here, Paul, the Clinton administration didn't get off lightly here either today.

BEGALA: No, and nobody should.

Where I disagree with Tucker is, I don't think this is such a terrible spectacle. I think it's the most important thing we can do right now. Congress spends its time mostly raising its pay and cutting taxes for the rich. Take a little bit of time, have a congressional sponsored commission, independent, chaired by a Republican, to get to the bottom of this and let the chips fall where they may.

I will say that President Clinton's national security adviser, Sandy Berger, will testify in public tomorrow. And, again, Dr. Rice has been in public all the time. She just, when she wants to be under oath, she wants to be under cover. And that tells me something.

ZAHN: All right, Tucker Carlson, Paul Begala, we got to leave it there tonight. Thanks so much.

BEGALA: Thanks, Paula.


ZAHN: Well, it was the final paycheck for the fired head of the New York Stock Exchange, but it was a whopping $140 million. Are CEOs really worth what they're getting?

And my interview with Danny Pelosi, now facing charges of brutally murdering a wealthy financier. How does he explain the $50 million mystery?


ZAHN: Some breaking news now out of Baghdad.

CNN reports three explosions in the central part of Iraq's capital, and eyewitnesses report hearing what may have been two missiles hitting the eighth floor of the Sheraton Hotel in Baghdad. CNN personnel describe one blast as sounding huge. It happened about 8:00 p.m. Eastern time. We'll have more from CNN's Walt Rodgers in Baghdad just ahead. On to the issue of executive compensation. Some Wall Street executives are still raking in the cash, despite a shaky economy and scandals that have rocked the business world. Today's "New York Times" points out two corporate executives who received their biggest paychecks ever last year. Sanford Weill of Citigroup got $44 million, while Merrill Lynch chief E. Stanley O'Neal was paid $28 million.

So are these fat paychecks reward for a job well done or an example of corporate greed? We're sending in the "Truth Squad" tonight.

"Wall Street Journal" senior special writer Charlie Gasparino joins us now.

Nice to see you. Welcome.


ZAHN: So what's with these big paychecks? Are they merited?

GASPARINO: To some extent. When you hear the word jobless recovery, what that really means is that, on Wall Street, they're cutting jobs. But that's increasing the earnings. That's increasing revenues, and that's flowing back to the company, which is allowing them to get these big rewards.

ZAHN: We mentioned Stanley O'Neal. And we're going to put a little graph up on the screen now showing that he got this bonus at a time when some 20,000 jobs were cut.


ZAHN: In exchange, he got the $28 million bonus. So is this really a clear-cut case of being rewarded for cutting a certain number of jobs?

GASPARINO: Oh, sure.

Stan O'Neal has not really grown the business at Merrill Lynch. He's essentially cut a lot.


ZAHN: And the profits have gone up accordingly.

GASPARINO: And the profits have gone up and the stock has gone up. So, in some respects, he deserves this money.

But there is an issue here. We have a recovery right now which is based primarily on cutting jobs. And that's a problem.

ZAHN: So does this really come at the expense of the rank and file?

GASPARINO: Absolutely. Where are the jobs being created? And that's the big problem here. Listen, you have to have a certain amount of cutting until the recovery takes over before you start hiring. But right now, the worker, the average American, is taking it on the chin.

ZAHN: Give us an example tonight of where you think these executives are really worth the money they're being paid.

GASPARINO: The one guy I can think of is Dick Grasso. He's gotten a lot of guff about his high pay package.

ZAHN: Did he deserve it?


ZAHN: Why?

GASPARINO: Because if you look at the stock exchange, they made -- the average seat of the stock exchange went through the roof during his tenure. It made a lot of money. The franchise value went up. That's a guy that based on the information that I know deserves it.

ZAHN: The numbers are correct?

GASPARINO: The numbers are correct.

ZAHN: Seventy million wouldn't have been enough? One hundred and forty was just fine.

GASPARINO: Well, who knows how much is enough? But when you look at how much he improved the place, you have to say that the money was warranted.

ZAHN: Just a final thought on what average stockholders should be thinking about this issue, particularly during this time, as you describe, of a jobless economic recovery.

GASPARINO: Well, what they should be thinking is, when the recovery comes back, when the companies start making money, they should be hiring and businesses should be expanding. And that's when you'll see more people at work.

ZAHN: Charlie Gasparino, thank you for your insights tonight. Appreciate it.


ZAHN: Coming up, the case against Daniel Pelosi. Now a jury gets to decide his fate. Did a working class guy kill a millionaire, then romance his wealthy widow?


ZAHN: You have to admit it looks pretty bad, doesn't it?

PELOSI: It looks bad. Here's the blue-collar, here's the regular guy out on Long Island, hooks up with a rich woman who's getting a divorce. The husband dies. I ain't the only guy out there that's ever hooked up with a rich woman. There's 10,000 guys out there in this world that have hooked up with rich woman where their husbands don't die, you know?


ZAHN: A customer says he went there to get fit and landed flat on his back in a hospital -- going to court when a workout doesn't quite work out.

And tomorrow, the battle to remove the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance moves to the Supreme Court. You're going to meet the man who says they have to go. And he will debate Kenneth Starr.


ZAHN: You are looking at live pictures of Baghdad, 4:30 AM local time there, as people are waking up to the news that there have been a series of explosions in the central part of Iraq's capital. Eyewitnesses tell CNN a hotel housing journalists was hit by a rocket.

Let's turn to Walt Rodgers, who's staying in a hotel across the street. He joins us now on the phone from Baghdad with the details. Walt, what have you learned?

WALTER RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Paula. We are across the street from the Sheraton Hotel, which we believe was hit by a rocket or an explosive device of some sort within the last 20 minutes. I was awake. It was a thunderously loud explosion. There is a hole, we're told, about five feet by five feet, in the side of the Sheraton Hotel. That hotel houses some journalists. It also houses some businessmen. We have no immediate word on casualties, but it is -- it was 10 minutes past 4:00 in the morning when this perhaps rocket hit the hotel, so whoever was in there would have been in their beds, asleep.

We're given to believe that it hit the building at about mid- level, which is to say not the upper floors. The original report was that it hit the eighth or ninth floor. The ninth floor has been sealed off. We believe, however, it's somewhere between, oh, the fifth floor and the eighth floor. Again, a loud explosion at the Sheraton Hotel. It sounded very much to me like a rocket slammed into the east side of that hotel a few minutes ago. It is the middle of the night here in Baghdad, and that being the case, whoever was in that hotel, journalists or businessmen, would have been in their beds and would have been asleep -- Paula.

ZAHN: Walt, we're looking at pictures I don't think you have the benefit of seeing, and it's difficult to see this five-foot-by-five- foot gap that you're talking about. I know you're confirming -- obviously, it's so early on in the investigation, it's hard to get a sense of the number of casualties. But as we were monitoring the shot, we heard a lot of sirens screaming. Have you seen ambulances leave the scene?

RODGERS: Not yet. What we saw was -- what we saw was a lot of U.S. soldiers, who are in the hotel across the street, where I am, the Palestine. They went scrambling to their tanks. That being the case, again, everyone went to secure positions. Beyond that, I can't tell you much more. There are reports now that it hit the sixth floor -- Paula.

ZAHN: This, of course, is not the first time a hotel has been hit housing journalists. Give us a perspective on the sense of vulnerability all of you feel as you go about the not so routine business of doing your jobs there.

RODGERS: Well, that particular hotel has indeed been hit by a rocket before -- I think it was November of last year -- because I'm across the street in the Palestine, and I was here when three rockets slammed into the Palestine. I believe it was in November.

I'll tell you what happens when it hits your floor, when you're sound asleep in bed. It literally blows you out of bed. I happened to be awake, for some reason, at that moment, 10 minutes past 4:00, heard the explosion. These are hard targets. The only way they can be hit is with artillery, like a rocket, fired at a fairly long range. The reason I say it's a hard target is because you can't come within a quarter of a mile of these hotels in a vehicle. There are huge concrete slab fences to prevent anyone from driving a car bomb up to these hotels. That's why stand-off weapons had to be used in this particular case -- Paula.

ZAHN: Walt Rodgers, thanks for this live report. Not the sounds anybody wants to be awakened too to. Once again, the Sheraton Hotel in Baghdad apparently hit by missile fire just about 35 minutes or so ago. Walt Rodgers confirming they believe it hit somewhere in the vicinity of the eighth or ninth floor, this hotel housing journalists covering what is going on in Iraq.

Right now, we change our focus quite a bit to a story with a lot of intrigue here back in the United States. Tonight, Daniel Pelosi is in a jail on New York's Long Island facing a charge of second-degree murder. Pelosi is the electrician who married an heiress after her millionaire husband was beaten to death in their East Hampton mansion back in October of 2001. Well, Pelosi was indicted tonight and pleaded not guilty. The case has drawn nationwide attention, and before Pelosi was charged, I talked with him about whether he was involved in the murder of Ted Ammon.


DANIEL PELOSI, SUSPECT IN MURDER OF TED AMMON: For the record, I did not murder Ted Ammon, nor did I have any involvement in what happened to Ted Ammon.

ZAHN: Did your ex-wife, Generosa, have anything to do with the murder of Ted Ammon?

PELOSI: Not that I know of.

ZAHN (voice-over): Despite Danny Pelosi's claims of innocence, a series of events surrounding the murder raised suspicions that he and his then lover, Generosa Ammon, were involved. First, Generosa inherited double what she would have had her estranged husband, Ted, lived and divorced her, an estimated $80 million. Then Ammon's death paved the way for Generosa to quickly marry Danny Pelosi. And then just months after the murder, the newlyweds went to London. Many believe they were running from the investigation.

PELOSI: Came back. I never moved to England. I was never running anywhere.

ZAHN (voice-over): And then there was the matter of Pelosi's criminal record -- arrested but released seven times and in prison twice on drunk driving charges.

PELOSI: When I was a kid, I was wild. I got a little dirty record. I never murdered anybody. I never hurt anybody!

ZAHN (voice-over): Perhaps the most damning allegation of them all, and the one that has really stuck, that Pelosi, an electrician, installed the security surveillance system at the Ammon estate and knew how to turn it on and off. It was reportedly off that night, potentially allowing the killer to make an unforced entry.

(on camera): True or false, you were involved in setting up the surveillance and security system?

PELOSI: False.

ZAHN: What did do you?

PELOSI: I hired a contractor to go out to the beach house and install a surveillance system under the direction of my boss.

ZAHN: Did you have access to the surveillance system, once it was set up?

PELOSI: Once the system was set up, it was on a laptop, yes. Did I have access to it? Anybody in the world who had the program to that had access to that program.

ZAHN: Did you understand the system enough that you could have turned off the security system off a laptop by remote, from another location?

PELOSI: I could turn off the system by unplugging it. It was the only way I knew to shut the system off.

ZAHN: True or false, that the system was set up in a way that you could spy on Ted Ammon in the house?

PELOSI: The purpose of the system being installed, from Generosa's standpoint, was -- it was a typical divorce. I want this. I want that. I want this. I want that. Generosa was upset that Ted was taking certain little things, I mean, down to a freakin' book of matches. She wanted to show the judge that Ted was not obeying the court order and removing items from the house. That's why the system was installed. ZAHN: True or false, that the two of you watched Ted Ammon in the house having sex with girlfriends?

PELOSI: Did I see images of Ted having sex at the beach house? Yes, all right? Yes. In the kitchen. Did Generosa see them? Yes.

ZAHN: Why did you two want to watch that?

PELOSI: We didn't. It was all about what he was taking. It wasn't about who he was having sex with. Come on! She was sleeping with me.

ZAHN (voice-over): Pelosi says he spent millions on his legal defense and his own private investigation. His attorneys say these pictures of the crime scene taken by Pelosi's team will be used to clear him, if charged. How? Take the picture of a dog door. It shows how an intruder could have made an unforced entry. Pelosi also says his investigation shows there were unidentified hairs in Ammon's master bedroom and bathroom garbage pail. And what about Generosa Ammon? She was reportedly offered immunity to testify before the grand jury. Yet in a tragic twist, she died from cancer before that could happen.

(on camera): On the day after your ex-wife, Generosa, was cremated, you went to the funeral home, and against what was said in the will, you took her remains, took them to the Stanhope Hotel, and you were seen toasting her ashes with your favorite drink and the drink she used to drink when you were courting her. What were you thinking?

PELOSI: I never stole my wife's ashes. They were given to me. I'm the husband. That was her wish. I fulfilled her wish. No one said that it was a normal wish, but it was something that we discussed.

ZAHN: Do you miss Generosa?

PELOSI: Yes. Yes.

ZAHN: What do you miss?

PELOSI: I miss this spunky little woman. I miss the woman who would be ripping the attorneys apart right now for what's going on.

ZAHN (voice-over): Pelosi claims his ex-wife's attorney is going against her wishes. He's contesting her will, which reportedly cut him out of the majority of her fortune.

(on camera): Is it true the numbers that were going to be given to you were reduced because Generosa was upset with some of the spending you were doing towards the end of the marriage...

PELOSI: No, no.

ZAHN: ... and while she was dying...

PELOSI: My wife...

ZAHN: ... you were off in Las Vegas gambling?

PELOSI: My wife sent me to Las Vegas with 12 of my friends and paid for the trip.

ZAHN: Was that a difficult decision for you to make to go, when you knew she was suffering so badly?

PELOSI: She wanted me to have a good time. That's all she wanted. She wanted me to be happy.

ZAHN: If you had the opportunity to turn the clock back and do it all over again, would you ever have let Generosa into your life?

PELOSI: No. I would have went and got a job at McDonald's if I could have seen this. If I would have seen this, I wouldn't be here. I don't want to be here.


ZAHN: Once again, we did that interview before this indictment came down. If convicted, Pelosi could be sentenced to a maximum 25 years to life in prison under New York state law. His next court appearance is April 20.

As we just reported, explosions jolt a Baghdad hotel in the early hours of the morning. We're going to have more on that breaking news. Also, you don't want to get these special plates. Ohio pins them on drunk drivers after they've paid for their crime. Reasonable penalty or scarlet letter? And you live to eat or eat to live? We're going to look at why eating less could mean more meals in the long run.


ZAHN: Welcome back. According to the latest federal numbers, about 40 percent of the fatal car crashes in the U.S. involve alcohol. And this year in Ohio, people convicted of DUI are being issued special yellow-and-red license plates so other drivers will know what they've done. Fair punishment or scarlet letter?

Tonight we're pitting an anti-drunk driving group against a drivers' rights organization. Joining us now from Washington, John Moulden of the National Commission Against Drunk Driving. And in Madison, Wisconsin, tonight, Eric Skrum of the National Motorists Association. Good to see both of you.



So Eric, isn't shame an effective deterrent for all those potential drunk drivers out there?

SKRUM: It would be if it was only going to be focused at those particular drivers, but they're not the only ones that are going to be affected by this. We're also talking about the people that are relatives, maybe friends, anyone who has to use the car besides the person who's actually committed the offense. We're punishing by...

ZAHN: And what's the harm in that?

SKRUM: Well, we're punishing by guilt by association. People who are innocent are now going to be punished for something they've not even done. Our country just shouldn't work like that.

ZAHN: John, is that fair?

MOULDEN: Well, I think it's more than fair. You know, Paula, the numbers don't lie. We have a crisis on our highways when it comes to drunk driving. Drunk driving deaths are up for three years in a row, over 17,000 Americans dying each year. I think it's time we need to get serious, and this is just one of a whole host of things that can be done.

ZAHN: Gentlemen, I think everybody tonight is shocked by the statistics. It's disturbing. But can you tell me tonight that you will actually see a decrease in the number of DUIs because someone's parading around with yellow-and-red license plates?

MOULDEN: Well, it's -- really the bigger question is how they help to deter drunk driving and driving while suspended. You know, one of the big problems we have is that most drunk drivers that are convicted simply don't pay attention to the sanctions the court metes out. That means that 50 to 75 percent of them drive anyway, even though they've been suspended or revoked. So what we have to do is find a way to get these people off the roads and protect the public.

And so with this law in Ohio, it's really only applied to people who want a provisional license. They've already been convicted of drunk driving. They've had a license sanction, and they want to be able to drive before their full probation period has ended.

ZAHN: And why shouldn't...

MOULDEN: So I think it's very...

ZAHN: ... a driver have the right to know that the person driving next to them has been convicted of the kind of offense that John was just talking about?

SKRUM: Well, actually, they don't have that right. Simply put, if the driver next to you isn't doing anything dangerous, is not behaving in an erratic manner, it doesn't affect you. However, if that person is driving impaired or weaving or dangerously, you can definitely see that without a special little plate. You don't need that to tell you that a person is dangerous.

ZAHN: John, doesn't Eric have a point there?

MOULDEN: Well, no, I don't think so. Again, the key thing is that these plates are a provision that allows police to detect people who shouldn't be on the roads. And they are able, because of that plate, to stop that car and see if there's a validly licensed driver. There was a program that was done out in Oregon. They used a zebra sticker. That was very effective. They cut repeat arrests in half. It's simply a way to help detect people who really shouldn't be on the road.

ZAHN: All right. But Eric, what you're telling me tonight is you don't believe that any form or use of these license plates will reduce the number of those killed in drunk driving accidents.

SKRUM: There has been no study that specifically looks at this as being an effective measure at keeping people who are impaired off the roads. There simply hasn't been a single one.

ZAHN: Well, we appreciate both of your opinions tonight. Eric Skrum, John Moulden, thanks.

MOULDEN: Thank you.

SKRUM: Thank you.

ZAHN: Back to our breaking news out of Iraq tonight. An explosion rocks journalists out of their beds at a Baghdad hotel during the early morning hours there. We are following that for you tonight. And if you eat like a bird, you may live longer. That's what a new study shows. We'll ask Dr. Drew Pinsky how many calories you'd have to get down to.


ZAHN: The secret to a long life may be in eating less. Researchers in California found that mice on a low-calorie diet lived 42 percent longer than those on a standard diet. And older mice placed on the low-cal plan still reap the benefits of a longer life. The study appears in this week's "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."

So what do these findings mean for us? We are giving that the "High Five" treatment tonight -- five quick questions, five direct answers, straight and to the point. Joining us now from Los Angeles is our frequent contributor, Dr. Drew Pinsky. Good to see you.


ZAHN: Question No. 1. Could this work for humans, as well?

PINSKY: That's the thinking. There are a lot of people now applying these same principles to monkeys, and there are even humans out there trying this. So the expectation is that the things we're seeing in rodents may well translate to humans.

ZAHN: All right, but how low do we need to go, calorie-wise?

PINSKY: Well, the current suggestion is somewhere around 30 to 40 percent reduction in diet. So for a human, that would be around 1,800 to 2,000 calories a day. And there are humans around the world using themselves as guinea pigs, applying this basic principle. The reason it hasn't been applied in the past is people didn't expect that humans could actually tolerate this on a long-term basis. And those people that are doing it say they get it done by eating loads and loads of vegetables.

ZAHN: Hey, I don't plan to go that route. So question No. 3. Do we need to start now?

PINSKY: Well, yes, the earlier, the better. However, this research showed that, in fact, if you start later in life, you still reap some benefits. This has now been shown quite conclusively in this study in rodents. Whether this truly translates to humans remains to be seen, but the expectation is that it well might. So why not?

ZAHN: All right, which leads me to question No. 4. Besides living longer, could a restricted diet protect against diseases?

PINSKY: Well, that's a little more complicated question. In rodents, who typically die of tumors, it looks like restricting the diet does change the way genes are expressed, particularly those genes that are responsible for tumors. So the expectation is that it might. And even more excitingly, if we can figure out which genes are modulated or adjusted by a restricted diet, maybe we can then start measuring the proteins that are created by those genes, so we can literally measure whether or not your diet is working, whether or not your diet is being -- is causing prolongation, based upon something we measure in your blood. That's for the future.

ZAHN: All right, I'm having trouble understanding how malnutrition could be healthy. Question No. 5. What about the possible health risk?

PINSKY: Well, certainly, you have to maintain a very carefully balanced diet. There are health risks whenever you restrict your diet in an uncontrolled way, whether you sort of restrict your diet to very narrow food spectrums. We are a general diet consumer. We have generalized dentition, a generalized gut. We need a broad spectrum of food intake. So if you were to do this, I would not do it without being monitored rather carefully.

ZAHN: So what are you, kind of a 2,000, 2,500-calorie-a-day guy or what?

PINSKY: It depends on the phase of life I'm in. Sometimes I'm around 4,000 or 5,000 calories. Lately, I've been trying to do 2,200 to 2,400 calories myself, in fact.

ZAHN: All right.

PELOSI: And I've found the same thing. It's just loads of vegetables that really get you through it.

ZAHN: Oh, they're so delicious. Dr. Drew Pinsky, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

PELOSI: Thank you. Appreciate it. My pleasure.

ZAHN: And just ahead, we will update you on tonight's attack in Baghdad. A rocket appears to have hit the Sheraton Hotel, where journalists and businesspeople often stay. More right out of the break.


ZAHN: Before we leave you tonight, we wanted to bring you the latest on that breaking news out of Iraq. These are pictures from central Baghdad, where an explosion woke the city up early on Wednesday morning, about 5:00 AM local time there. Eyewitnesses say a Sheraton Hotel housing journalists was hit by what appears to be a missile. CNN's Walt Rodgers reports that the ninth floor of the Sheraton is sealed off, though it is not clear exactly what floor was hit. It is not yet known if there are any casualties at all, but reports of a number of ambulances leaving the scene. CNN will bring you updates on the story as it unfolds.

That's it for all of us here tonight. Thanks so much for being with us. We'll be back same time, same place tomorrow night.


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