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White House Reaction to 9/11 Investigation; Life on Mars?

Aired March 24, 2004 - 07:30   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, 7:30 here in New York. It's warming up -- 37 degrees. We will take that.
The White House is getting ready for what could be a long day. One of the harshest critics, Richard Clarke, goes before that 9/11 Commission later today.

John King a few moments ago talked with the White House chief of staff, Andy Card. We'll hear what Card has to say about the claims against the White House in a moment here.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Also this morning, there has never been a better time to talk about the possibility of life on Mars. In just a few moments, we're going to do just that with NASA's lead scientist for exploration of that planet. Just how important is the discovery that a large body of water once existed on Mars? And what comes next? We're going to ask those questions.

And they're thinking in 2009 they're going to bring something from up there.

O'BRIEN: Yes. Interesting.

HEMMER: And get some solid answers. So, we'll get to that.

Top stories again here at the half-hour.

In the Middle East, newly-chosen Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi appears to be ruling out the prospect of any case-fire with Israel, but says the U.S. is definitely not a target for that group. Rantisi was named as Sheikh Yassin's successor this week.

Also in the Middle East, two Palestinians killed in Gaza. Israeli troops say the Palestinians were trying to infiltrate a Jewish settlement there.

Also, the U.S. military says two Marines have been wounded in an ambush in the Iraqi town of Fallujah. Meanwhile, a rocket hit the Sheraton Hotel in central Baghdad overnight. No casualties reported. A U.S. source says another rocket was fired into a compound housing the U.S.-led coalition. The Sheraton houses international journalists there in Baghdad.

The first defense witness taking the stand today in the Jayson Williams trial; this, in the state of New Jersey. A judge yesterday denied a request by the defense to have the jury visit the mansion where Williams is accusing of shooting his limo driver. Williams' attorneys say the shooting was accidental from two years ago.

A New York man is worked up over a workout that he claimed put him in the hospital. He claims an over-the-top trainer at Crunch Gym worked him out so hard he suffered kidney damage. Now, New York papers report that the man is suing for more than a million bucks. So much for the crunch.

O'BRIEN: Wow! That's really working out really hard.

HEMMER: I would say he's going to get a legal workout at this point. That's very (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

O'BRIEN: Oh, yes, exactly. Get an attorney. Interesting.


O'BRIEN: An hour from now, the 9/11 Commission will be up and running once again. Yesterday's hearings produced criticism that the White House was not aggressive enough in going after Osama bin Laden.

John King is at the White House for us this morning with the very latest administrative reaction to that charge.

Good morning to you -- John.


And the political stakes to get even higher today. Richard Clarke among the witnesses before the 9/11 Commission today.

Just a short time ago, I spoke to White House chief of staff, Andy Card, and I asked him how this administration would answer the testimony expected today from Richard Clarke when he tells the commission that the Bush administration is guilty of not having done enough to break al Qaeda in the weeks leading up to the September 11 attacks.


ANDREW CARD, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: That would be an indictment on Dick Clarke, since he was part of the administration. He was here to help advise the president on security matters. His primary focus near the end of his tenure was cyber security. And the briefing that he had with the president and that he pushed so hard to get, related to cyber security, not the terrorist concerns.

But Dick Clarke -- look, he's a very smart man. He's a little bit of a character. He served nobly in the government. But his recollections of the White House and the president's action and leadership don't ring up with the understanding that I have how the president has conducted himself. So, I think his view is not the reality.

KING: This has to be a concern. This is a re-election year. The president's tag line in his ads talk about steady leadership and changing times. This is a man -- and there are some who accept at least part of his view -- who says essentially that the president was asleep at the switch early on in this administration and did not accept the urgency of the al Qaeda threat.

CARD: Dick Clarke is just flat-out wrong. The president, when he first took office, understood the terrorist concerns. He made directions to Condi Rice very early in the administration to take a look at the terrorist counter-efforts that were in the books and left over from the Clinton administration. He felt that they were not robust enough. He asked her to make them more robust. He did not want to have a strategy of just swatting flies. He wanted to be able to have a robust response.

He actually recognized that the Taliban regime was a safe haven for the al Qaeda network, and he wanted to eliminate the Taliban regime and deny the al Qaeda network safe haven in Afghanistan. So, I think he had a proper understanding.

We did not anticipate the kind of attack that happened on September 11. I don't think anyone could have. But if Dick Clarke had a way to understand that that attack was going to come and didn't say anything about it, he was irresponsible and he did not live up to his oath of office.


KING: CIA Director George Tenet among those making the administration's case in those hearings today. Soledad, Andy Card in that interview insisting despite even more pressure from the commission yesterday, still no plans for the president or National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to testify publicly. Andy Card says they will both cooperate in private. Condoleezza Rice already has spent more than four hours with the commission, but he says even though the president call 9/11 the day that changed everything, the administration does not plan to change the precedent, if you will, and have the president or Condi Rice publicly appear before that commission.

O'BRIEN: John King is at the White House for us this morning. John, thanks very much.

AMERICAN MORNING is going to cover today's hearings live beginning with the testimony of CIA Director George Tenet which starts approximately around 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time -- Bill.

HEMMER: There's a dramatic discovery on the surface of Mars. NASA's little rover, Opportunity, finding evidence of a shallow salt water sea way, way, back in the day.

Jim Garvin, NASA's chief Mars scientist, back with us here on AMERICAN MORNING.

Jim, good morning. Nice to see you again.


HEMMER: What does this mean? How significant?

GARVIN: Bill, this is big. We have now finally found rocks made in water. This is the kind of thing we were daring to dream to hope to find. Well, we've got it now, and our whole program is going to unfold with this finding.

HEMMER: Let me stop you there. You say it's big. Every time we talk about this, every scientist from NASA says it's big. It's big. Is this any bigger than anything prior to the missions for the rovers?

GARVIN: Well, absolutely, Bill. We had all the signs from orbit that Mars is a water planet in different ways -- ice caps made of water, water ice clouds. But now, we have rocks actually made, laid down in water, like those that make up many of the sedimentary rocks here on Earth. And those are the best places to look for the preserved records of the magical stuff, if it's there, called life.

HEMMER: So, in a very basic sense, how does this advance the argument for science on Mars?

GARVIN: Well, Bill, what it does is it gives us direction. We now know there is one place, one really good, little place here in Meridani (ph) on Mars, where we can go make the next steps. Ask what's chemically inside the rocks. Could they contain microfossils from Mars? And ultimately bring them back to Earth labs to ask the bigger questions: Was Mars ever alive?

HEMMER: While we talk, Jim, we're showing our viewers some of these photos. The ripples are said to be significant. Tell us why.

GARVIN: Well, Bill, one of the fingerprints of the way rocks are laid down is these characteristic geometric forms. Those ripples tell us the rocks were laid down in water with a current moving, and that's the way we tell about rocks in the distant past of the Earth.

HEMMER: Yes, there is a suggestion on another network, in another report, that Mars could have looked like Earth many, many years ago. Can you say that for certain at this point?

GARVIN: Well, what we can say, Bill, is Mars had salty shallow seas, which, of course, we've had throughout our history as far back as the rock record goes. Now, whether that's the kind of Earth that you imagine in your mind's eye, I don't know. I like that kind of place. But that's the way we see Mars.

HEMMER: Now, in the future here regarding Mars, you say you need to send more powerful sensors to that planet. What would that do for you?

GARVIN: Well, Bill, right now we're acting like field geologists with rock hammers and hand lenses figuring out Mars. And that's what all of us scientists do. The next step is to take really sophisticated laboratories up close to these rocks and bring the samples inside those labs on Mars. And that's our plan for 2009, to do that with a mobile laboratory. And then, early in the next decade, to collect the samples with robots on Mars and bring them home safely to Earth so thousands of laboratories across this great world can explore these rocks.

HEMMER: Let me just be a little more precise here. 2009 is five years away. Simple math takes us there. At what point -- at what point could you be able to bring physically rocks home from Mars based on the current forecast for NASA?

GARVIN: Based on our current forecast and the president's agenda for our exploration, we hope to launch the mission to bring the rocks home in 2013. That's about nine years from now. That's as long as it's going to take for us to develop all the tools. To basically do a mission as complicated as those we sent the men to the moon in the '60s and '70s, we're going to be doing that with robots to Mars in about nine years.

HEMMER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) quote now one scientist, we think Opportunity is now parked on what was once the shoreline of a salty sea on the Red Planet. Jim, thanks. Jim Garvin from NASA. We'll follow it. Appreciate it again.

O'BRIEN: And still to come this morning, day two of the 9/11 Commission hearings. In the hot seat today is CIA boss George Tenet on what the U.S. intelligence was before the attack.

HEMMER: Consumers beware of those expensive hidden fees. More and more companies are trying to sneak them on through. Ahead, avoiding the tips and the excess fees in a moment.


O'BRIEN: This morning in our "90-Second Tip" series, buyer beware of the hidden fees that companies are passing on to consumers.

Our personal finance contributor, David Bach, joins us with some advice on how to avoid getting nickeled and dimed to death.

Nice to see you, David, as always.


O'BRIEN: You know, when you talk about nickels and dimes, maybe it's not nickels and dime, but it really is $1 here, $2 here. Do these fees add up to real money?

BACH: They really do. We're being dollared to death now. What we have is hidden inflation. You know, the government tells us we don't have inflation. It's really not true. What's happening is we're getting tacked on all these little extra fees that add up to thousands of dollars over the year for the average American family.

O'BRIEN: Do you think that's because consumers just aren't paying attention? Or is it because the companies are being devious and deceptive and ripping us off? Is it a combination of two of those things?

BACH: I think it's both, to be totally honest with you. We're so busy that these little fees, we don't even catch them. And the other thing is that corporate America is trying to figure out how to raise profits without -- quote/unquote -- "raising prices." But they are raising the prices, because they're nailing us with all of these hidden fees.

O'BRIEN: So, as long as they do it in ways that you can't compare.

BACH: Exactly.

O'BRIEN: You can't say, oh, look, the fees are -- everything is exactly the same. As long as they hide it, then it's not an issue for them, with consumers.

BACH: You got it.

O'BRIEN: All right. So, let's go through some of them. The most egregious, I think, is the ATM surcharge, because you get charged when you go to somebody else's ATM two bucks for using the ATM.

BACH: Right.

O'BRIEN: And you get charged by your own ATM.

BACH: Let me tell you something. The SEC is focusing on mutual funds and load fees right now -- all of these commissions in mutual funds. Somebody should be focusing in on the commission on our cash. If you go to the bank and you take $100 out at the local ATM machine, at the deli for instance, they hit you with $2.95, and your bank charges another $1.95. You just paid $5 to get $100 in cash. That's a 5 percent load on your money.

What's happening is people are going to the bank every single day and getting hit with $2, $3, $4 or $5 a day in some cases, again adding up to over $100 a month, over $1,200 during the year. The secret is you need to go to your bank. Or go to your grocery store, ask for cash back, because in most cases the grocery stores don't hit you with an extra fee.

O'BRIEN: So, use the grocery store. Basically, don't use any of these ATMs that are going to charge you a fee. Even if your bank is nowhere near to be found, go to a grocery.

BACH: And let me just say this. You've got to ask your grocery store to make sure they're not charging on an extra fee, because some of the grocery stores have changed that policy.

O'BRIEN: You said that if you actually do direct deposit that could help you.

BACH: This is interesting. If you have your employer automatically deposit your check, which, by the way, saves you hours every month in time not going to the bank, many...

O'BRIEN: Not hours, but maybe an hour.

BACH: Well, it depends on how -- it depends on how long it takes you go to the bank and stand in line and park the car, you know.

O'BRIEN: All right, I buy that. I buy that.

BACH: If you do this, many banks will actually waive fees for you. And the reason is they like to get your money automatically, and they like to have your cash. And so, in many cases they will waive minimum fees, checking fees, et cetera.

O'BRIEN: All right, let's talk a little bit about credit cards. Obviously the main thing is avoid late fees, because they are ridiculously expensive. But I guess the fine print can sort of make the late fee...

BACH: Soledad, you're not going to...

O'BRIEN: I mean, it's...

BACH: You just won't...

O'BRIEN: It's hard to know what's late, let's put it that way.

BACH: You won't believe the numbers. They're talking about an industry now, where 35 percent of the revenue comes from late fees, $50 billion worth of revenue is coming from late fees. How are the credit card companies doing it? They have shrunk the time between which they hand you your bill in the mail and your due date to less than 14 days. They have now taken the late fees from what used to be $10 a month to as much as $39 a month with the average late fees being $29.95. The important thing to know as a consumer you more clout than you realize.

O'BRIEN: Well, what do you do? Call the credit card company and say I don't want to pay my late fee?

BACH: Yes, that's exactly what you do.

O'BRIEN: Really? And that works?

BACH: That's exactly what you do. Let me tell you something. The consumer who pays -- who, first of all, carries credit card debt and pays their cards late has the most clout. If you're somebody who pays your card off every month, they don't actually want you as a customer. So, this is an interesting thing to know. If you're actually somebody's who got a lot of credit card debt, you have more clout than the person who pays their bills on time and pays everything off.

O'BRIEN: So, you just call up and say, listen, I got a $30 late fee, I sent my check in, you got it a day late, I'm not paying it?

BACH: Not only can you do that and they crunch you back, but you can, in many case, go up to a year's worth of statements and go back and say, hey, I noticed eight months ago that you hit me with a late fee. I want you to waive that. And they'll come back and credit you.

O'BRIEN: Interesting. Let's finally talk about the airline industry. I mean, please. The number of things that you pay for. You look at bill at the end, and you're like what are all these things?

BACH: The airline industry is amazing. First of all, this just happened to me recently. I was talking to a travel agent, and she said you want the hard ticket, you want the paper ticket. I travel all the time. For some reason, I said yes. I got a $50 fee for the paper ticket.

O'BRIEN: Really?

BACH: Fifty dollars! So, don't...

O'BRIEN: Next time say no.

BACH: Don't take the paper tickets anymore.

Another thing -- another thing that just happened to me. I was going on a trip. The woman says, that bag is going to cost you an extra $25, because it was over 50 pounds. I said, 'How much over 50 pounds is it?' She said, "It's 52 pounds." I said, 'Wait a minute.' I unzipped the bag, pulled out two pounds, stuck it in my briefcase, and said, 'There you go.' Twenty-five dollars now on bags over 50 pounds.

O'BRIEN: They will get you coming and going, won't they?

BACH: Yes.

O'BRIEN: I've lost a lot of faith in all industries here.

BACH: Now, again, they're not raising their fees. So, what they're doing is they're tacking on these extra fees to raise the costs.

O'BRIEN: They're making the money somewhere else.

BACH: You got it.

O'BRIEN: David Bach, great advice. Thanks a lot, as always.

BACH: Thank you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: And David Bach, of course, is America Online's money coach. You can get more information at David, of course, is here every Wednesday with tips on how to improve your financial life -- Bill.

HEMMER: Soledad, in a moment, an electrician who married the heiress of a slain millionaire is now charged with that killing. What did he tell CNN's Paula Zahn before the indictment? That's next after this on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HEMMER: A man who married the widow of a multimillionaire has now been charged in the businessman's death. Electrician Daniel Pelosi is in jail on New York's Long Island facing the charge of second-degree murder. Ted Ammon was bludgeoned to death -- seen here with his family -- in his East Hampton mansion back in October of 2001.

In an interview with CNN's Paula Zahn before the indictment, Pelosi was asked why he believed so many people think he is guilty.


DANIEL PELOSI, SUSPECT IN DEATH OF TED AMMON: It's a perfect movie. You know, Colombo has a scene on this. Look -- from the outside look in. I mean, I look in. At first, yes.

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

PELOSI: It looks bad. He's the regular guy on Long Island, hooks up with a rich woman who's getting a divorce, huh? 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 women where their husbands don't die.


HEMMER: That was Pelosi with Paula yesterday. Pleading not guilty later in the day. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life behind bars. A big story here in the Northeast, in the New York area.

O'BRIEN: No question about that.

Plus, Mr. Cafferty is here.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: New York is such a wonderful place, isn't it?

O'BRIEN: Yes, it is.

CAFFERTY: Such a...



CAFFERTY: Such a wide variety of human experience here.

Today during a closed hearing out in Colorado, Kobe Bryant's accuser will testify about her sexual history. It will be the first time the two of them will be in the same room since the alleged rape happened.

Colorado's rape shield law usually protects accusers in rape cases from having to reveal such details, but the defense says the accuser's sexual past is relevant because it could prove that her injuries were caused by someone other than Bryant.

The question is: Should Kobe Bryant's accuser be forced to talk about her sexual history in court? We're getting a lot of responses.

Andy writes: "Come on, Jack! How many women falsely accuse men of sexual something or other. If he had sex with someone else that night, it is most certainly important. Something doesn't sound right about this accusation."

John in Ontario, California: "She's accused the man of rape, cost him millions of dollars and done irreparable damage to his reputation. God forbid she should have to talk about something as graphic as her sex life in a rape trial. We wouldn't want to embarrass her or taint her reputation in order to get to the truth."

Arthur in Hudson, New York: "The question is: Did non- consensual sex occur? Her consensual sexual activity previous to or even shortly after the alleged rape, while raising character issues, should have no bearing on the facts of what happened in the hotel room."

John in Oologah, Oklahoma: "Absolutely, anyone can say she was raped. In this case, there is growing evidence that the so-called victim may actually be the criminal -- someone who took a consensual tryst and tried to turn it into a gravy train because her partner was Kobe Bryant."

And we heard from Harold at the local auto body repair shop. He says, "Jack, you will need a phalanx of lawyers when I get through with you."

HEMMER: Although Linda Fairstein (ph) was really interesting last hour here on AMERICAN MORNING, saying the prosecutors jumped the gun. A former prosecutor here alleging that. Pretty strong words and comments from a woman who knows.

O'BRIEN: Well, these cases are notoriously difficult to prove.


O'BRIEN: And I think certainly with the information that's been coming out over the last couple of months, it certainly makes a complicated case even more complicated. But isn't the argument -- you know, again, I'm not a lawyer. As you said, you're not a lawyer. But because she suffered injuries and that's her claim and that's how she's sort of trying to prove that she was raped by Kobe Bryant that that makes the other sexual partners relevant? I mean, isn't that the gist of the whole reason that they want to bring her sexual history in?

CAFFERTY: I would think.

O'BRIEN: Am I right about that?

CAFFERTY: That, plus the fact that they found DNA from other men besides Bryant in her undergarments when she went to a hospital to be examined for this rape, so...

HEMMER: A closed-door hearing, only a handful of people there. You've got lawyers from both sides.

CAFFERTY: Yes, but...

O'BRIEN: And all of the...

HEMMER: You've got the accuser and Kobe Bryant and the judge.


O'BRIEN: And all of the...

CAFFERTY: And I was going to say, I'll bet you by tomorrow at noon we know everything that was said.

O'BRIEN: Before.

CAFFERTY: Want to bet?

O'BRIEN: Before 9:00 a.m.

CAFFERTY: I'll bet you a sandwich.

HEMMER: I'll bet you a green apple across the street.

O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, the head of central intelligence can expect some tough questions today from the panel investigating the 9/11 attacks. We've got live coverage of George Tenet's testimony. That's scheduled to begin in about an hour from now. Stay with us. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING.


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