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Al Qaeda Attacks Averted?; Michael Jackson Fires Attorneys

Aired April 26, 2004 - 20:00   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. I'm Heidi Collins, in for Paula Zahn.
Tonight, chilling revelations about al Qaeda's determination to launch a major strike against a key U.S. ally in the Middle East.


COLLINS (voice-over): It could have been deadlier against 9/11.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): A war against the crusaders and infidels. Azmi told me that this would be the first chemical suicide attack that al Qaeda would execute.

COLLINS: An alleged plot to use tons of explosives and kill thousands of people is busted. An al Qaeda member admits he was the ringleader.

Michael Jackson says, beat it. His lead attorneys are out. Another celebrity lawyer steps in. We'll look at what happened and how it could affect his defense.

And the accuser in the Kobe Bryant case, why was she moved out of her hometown?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think she shouldn't be afraid to come back. I think more she should be ashamed.

COLLINS: Residents of Eagle, Colorado, take up sides.


COLLINS: All that ahead tonight.

But, first, here are some of the headlines you need to now right now. Two American soldiers killed in Baghdad today when an explosion rocked the building they were searching for illegal weapons. A third U.S. soldier was killed in Fallujah during a three-hour exchange with insurgents. U.S. commanders say they were fired on first, several Iraqi militants also died in the firefight.

Meanwhile, inadequate armor on Humvees may be a big reason why so many American troops are not enemy attacks -- that according to an internal memo written by the head of Army forces command. He says field commanders have complained about the Humvee and want the Army to speed production of so-called Stryker vehicles, which contain more armor, but have also been vulnerable to powerful roadside bombs. Back to the U.S. now, where Michael Jackson is shaking up his defense team. Mark Geragos and Benjamin Brafman are out as lead attorneys in the pop star's child molestation case. Jackson issued a statement saying he needs someone who can devote their -- quote -- "full attention" to his case. A Jackson spokesman will join us later in the hour with more details on today's surprise announcement.

"In Focus" tonight, intelligence authorities in Jordan say they broke up an alleged plot to carry out what could have been one of the deadliest terror attacks ever. Officials there have taken into custody members of a suspected al Qaeda cell. They say it was just days away from a devastating strike. The suspects described the alleged plot in taped confessions made available to CNN by the Jordanian government.

CNN's John Vause is in Amman, Jordan, tonight with more -- John, hello.


Jordanian special forces launched a series of raids over the past few weeks, the last here in Amman ending in a deadly shoot-out. Four men were killed, three others arrested, among them Azmi al-Jayousi. Jordanian intelligence say Jayousi was the local ringleader responsible for planning and recruiting.

But they say he was taking his orders from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the same man whom the U.S. says is behind many of the attacks on coalition forces in Iraq, the same man who reportedly claimed responsibility for the weekend boat blast in Basra. A few hours ago here, here on state-run television, Jayousi and the other accused terrorists made extraordinary prime-time confessions.


AZMI AL-JAYOUSI, ACCUSED PLOTTER (through translator): I took advanced explosives course, poisons, high level, then I pledged allegiance to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, to obey him without any questioning, and to be on his side. After this, Afghanistan fell. I met Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq.


VAUSE: Jayousi, according to Jordanian intelligence, met with Zarqawi in Iraq in January. There, the two men apparently planned to hit targets here in Amman, the Jordanian intelligence headquarters, the prime minister's office, as well as the U.S. embassy.

Now, according to those intelligence and those raids by Jordanian forces, the Jordanians seized 20 tons of chemicals and explosives, as well as trucks specially modified with plows, apparently designed to crash through security barricades.

Now, in those television confessions, Jayousi said that Zarqawi financed this operation, $170,000 coming from Syria via messengers. Now, the officials here in Amman, the U.S. officials have confirmed that the embassy was a target. They're still assessing yet the evidence, but they say the threat was a serious and grave one and one which the Jordanian government says was just days away from execution -- Heidi.

COLLINS: John, quickly, it is pretty amazing to see these al Qaeda operatives telling all like that in these confessions. What do the Jordanians have to gain by airing those confessions?

VAUSE: Well, Heidi, there are really two audiences here, the local audience, the Jordanians, those who may have sympathy for the al Qaeda or for Zarqawi and their anti-American stance, a reminder that that sympathy comes with a high price, also the international audience, particularly Washington, a reminder that Jordan is still very much a target in this war on terrorism and also the fact that Jordan is pulling its weight in this war on terrorism -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right, John Vause, thanks so much, live from Amman tonight. And you can see John Vause's complete report a little bit later tonight. He'll have more details about the alleged al Qaeda plot on NEWSNIGHT coming your way 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

The news out of Jordan raises troubling questions about the activities of al Qaeda cells in the Middle East, especially in a nation next door to Iraq.

Let's get an expert's opinion now on this. Louise Richardson is a terrorism expert and dean of Harvard University's Institute For Advanced Studies. She's joining us from Boston this evening.

Thanks so much for being with us.


COLLINS: This news coming out of Jordan, is it surprising to you to hear about chemicals being used? Is this -- is al Qaeda really known for using chemical weapons?

RICHARDSON: Al Qaeda has not previously used chemical weapons at all, although we're quite aware of the fact that they're trying very hard to acquire them.

They're interested in any sort of escalation to make -- have a more -- to increase the psychological impact of any of their attacks. So they would very much like to acquire chemical weapons, but they haven't done so as yet. But I would say that the jury is still out on quite precisely what was being planned here. Most of the chemicals appear to have been sulphuric acid, which really is designed primarily to make conventional explosives more dangerous. So it is unclear what level of sophistication they really have in acquiring chemical weapons. It doesn't look like this was really a serious chemical plot, per se.

COLLINS: Why are they going after Jordan, a government in the Middle East? It is very clear, at least at this point, that only one of the three targets was an American installation, the U.S. Embassy. What does it say that they would target an Arab government? RICHARDSON: Well, I think it is very important to bear in mind that the first enemy of all these groups have actually been the local secular rulers, the Jordanian government, the Egyptian government, and even the Iraqi government some time ago.

And we gain their enmity primarily because we're seen as being responsible for propping up these corrupt regimes or what they perceive to be corrupt regimes that they could like to see displaced. So it is not any surprise that they would have two Jordanian targets and one American one. And I think we have to bear in mind that in fact we have only become their enemy secondary to the prior desire to bring down these local secular governments.

COLLINS: Let me ask you this. Turning to other al Qaeda cells, if you will, there was the Madrid train bombing, as we have heard about, the arrests in the U.K. Are we actually seeing more terror cell activity now?

RICHARDSON: Oh, I think it is undoubtedly the case that we're seeing more terror cells activity. But these different cells operate at different levels. And they have different degrees of connection to al Qaeda. So I don't think we should see them all the same.

This Jordanian group clearly had some very close links with some senior al Qaeda members. That does not appear to be the case in the groups we're seeing popping up around Europe, what are being called the baby al Qaedas, like the one that was reported on in "The New York Times" today in London. These groups are not even indeed cells, but rather groups of people who are inspired by the same ideas that inspired al Qaeda. And they're forming together amongst the Diaspora, the Muslim populations in different European countries. But it is too much to call them a cell at this point, although cells could certainly emerge from these groups.

COLLINS: Louise Richardson, we appreciate your expertise tonight. Thanks so much.

RICHARDSON: My pleasure.

COLLINS: John Kerry starts the week in Iowa, fending off a flurry of attacks from the Bush campaign, along with a controversy over his Vietnam War medals and his anti-war record.

Kobe Bryant's accuser says she can't live in her own hometown. We'll find out if she has good reason to be afraid.

And it is out with the old lawyers, in with the new for Michael Jackson. What happened and what does it mean for his defense? It wouldn't be the first time for a celebrity defendant, as you can see.


COLLINS: Senator John Kerry finds himself peppered with more questions about an anti-Vietnam War protest that put him in the spotlight 33 years ago. The issue, whether medals and ribbons he threw away in protest were his or belonged to others and whether or not American voters feel that speaks to his character.

First, here is what he said in a 1971 television interview.


JOHN KERRY, VIETNAM VETERAN: That was the medals themselves. And so they decided to give them back to their country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many did you give back, John?

KERRY: I gave back -- I can't remember -- six, seven, eight, nine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, you were awarded the Bronze Star, a Silver Star, and three Purple Hearts.

KERRY: Well, and above that, I gave back my others.


COLLINS: More recently, Kerry has said he had thrown away another soldier's medals. This morning, he was asked if he was trying to hide that.


KERRY: I didn't have to do it. If I was trying to hide something, I would have never stood there in front of everybody and thrown them over the fence. Look, I threw my ribbons over. I threw the medals of two veterans who asked me to throw them over after the ceremony, completely separate. And I'm the one -- if I have something to hide -- I'm the one who made it known exactly what happened. To me, it is one and the same and I'm proud of it.


COLLINS: Now, let's get some insight into this from two veteran "Boston Globe" reporters. Tonight, we are speaking with the co- authors of a new book called "John Kerry: The Complete Biography." Michael Kranish and Brian Mooney join us now.

Gentlemen, thanks for being here tonight.


COLLINS: I want to go back to that sound that we just heard.

Michael, when you hear him and those two statements, what do you think he really was feeling inside?

MICHAEL KRANISH, CO-AUTHOR, "JOHN KERRY": Well, he threw over his own ribbons. There's no question about that. So that's uncontested. This was a day or a day so after he testified before the Senate committee and testified against the war.

The veterans agreed that they would throw their medals over a fence into a trash bin marked trash in front of the U.S. Capitol. He did throw his ribbons. The reporter from "The Boston Globe" at that time at the scene wrote about Kerry throwing medals. Kerry has said that he threw the medals of two other veterans, as you heard him say, this morning. So I think the impact today is that the very least a lot of people now know, if they didn't know before, that at the very least he did throw his ribbons away in front of the U.S. Capitol.

COLLINS: Brian, I want to ask you something about what was written in "The Washington Post" back in 1985. It says: "It's such a personal thing. They're my medals. People say, 'You didn't throw your medals away.' Who said I had to? And why should I? It's my business. I did not want to throw my medals away."

Then, 11 years, later, here is what he told "The Boston Globe," as you well know: "I didn't bring my own medals to throw because I didn't want to go home and get them."

Help us understand these two statements. Contradictory.

BRIAN MOONEY, CO-AUTHOR, "JOHN KERRY": This has been an issue that has dogged Kerry since he got into politics in the early 1970s. He literally left the service to run for office. And it has been a story that's been recurring all these years. And here we are. He's running for president and he still hasn't put it to rest.

And the voters will make of it what they will. He did protest against the war. He has since made his service in Vietnam sort of the centerpiece of his candidacy and his character. And, you know he's sort of caught a little bit in the middle, I think.

COLLINS: Critics claim that, even as far back as 1971, when he went out in public with this opposition to Vietnam, he was taking a stand not out of deeply held principles, but maybe more so to serve his political ambitions. Your take on that, Brian?

MOONEY: Well, he was politically ambitious. There's no question.

But I think his opposition to the war, it actually began before he went to Vietnam in the class oration he delivered at Yale in 1966. There may be a clash there, but I don't think you can come down firmly on one side or the other.

KRANISH: I think this is part of his layered personality. You look at John Kerry, you'll see, as Brian mentioned, he delivered a class oration in which he questioned the Vietnam War and yet at the same time he was volunteering to go to serve in that war. So here is someone questioning, going to serve. While he's there, his questions grow even deeper.

And yet at the same time he has these questions, he is a very aggressive skipper. He's beaching his boat, the standard Navy procedure. So even though he has these questions, he's becoming very, very aggressive in his actions. So those who serve with him were particularly surprised that he came back and testified about atrocities and so forth because he had been extremely aggressive. MOONEY: One of the things about Kerry that voters are going to find if they're not familiar with him, he's a very complicated character in almost every aspect of his personality and career.

COLLINS: Do you think, though, this very issue, in talking about these medals and whether or not they were his and whether he really wanted to throw them and what he was feeling in his heart, do you think it will translate to the American people character-wise when they go to the polls in November?

MOONEY: I think the Bush campaign will attempt to make it a character issue in conjunction with all his -- quote -- "flip-flops" on positions. It will be something people take into account.

COLLINS: All right. To the both of you, we appreciate your time tonight so much, Michael Kranish and Brian Mooney.


DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Senator Kerry recently said -- quote -- "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it" -- end quote. The senator is obviously free to vote as he wishes, but he should be held to his own standard. It is irresponsible to vote against vital support for the United States military.

TERRY MCAULIFFE, DNC CHAIRMAN: Why should we believe a word that Dick Cheney says about John Kerry, especially when it comes to defending our country? For four years, Dick Cheney hasn't been straight with the American people. Why should we start believing him now?


COLLINS: Just the latest in the war of words this week between the presidential campaigns. The Democrats have launched what will be a weeklong assault on the vice president who fired back today during a speech in Missouri.

So let's step right into the middle of the growing dispute over Vietnam, Iraq and much more. In Washington, Terry Holt is national spokesman for Bush-Cheney '04.

Hello to you.


COLLINS: And Tad Devine is a senior adviser to Senator Kerry. Hello to you as well. Thanks to both of you for being here tonight.

Tad, I want to start with you. Clear this medals issue up for us, if you would. What is the truth as far as the campaign is concerned? And why is the senator giving so many different answers as far as this is concerned, the medals issue?

TAD DEVINE, SENIOR JOHN KERRY CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Well, I think the truth is that, in April 1971, at a point in time in our history when 44,000 Americans had lost their life in Vietnam, John Kerry participated, indeed helped to lead a protest against that war.

He was one of the leaders of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. And as part of that protest, he and others who had served honorably, many of whom like him had volunteered for service in Vietnam, presented offerings. Now, in his case, it was his combat ribbons. Now, at the time, he didn't distinguish between the medals and the ribbons.

And now we have this -- all this talk about medals and ribbons. He didn't distinguish it. In fact the day he appeared before the Senate, that very week, Senator Fulbright, who talked to him, didn't distinguish between the two either. So I think this is really a lot of smoke by the Republicans. They're trying to besmirch John Kerry's record. We're very proud of his record and service in Vietnam and proud of his leadership thereafter.

COLLINS: Terry, does it really matter whether it was ribbons or medals? Is this much ado about nothing?

HOLT: No, it really doesn't.

And in fact -- forget the Republicans or the media on this one. It is John Kerry's own words that are the problem in this controversy. John Kerry is fundamentally at war at with himself, the contradictions in his record with the rhetoric that he now has running for president, the complicated life in that period between coming home from the war and becoming a war protester. It is not so much his honorable service in Vietnam or what he did afterwards. It is the shifting sands of truth around John Kerry's candidacy and the fact that he seems to be always on the defense and always shifting his words to match the political situation.

You know, if you can't take the political heat, it is tough to be a successful candidate for president.

COLLINS: All right, Tad, back to you now, other controversies swirling in the political world. Tonight, ABC aired a comment that Senator Kerry made after this interview that we have been seeing a little bit today, all over the media, I should say, from "Good Morning America."

Let's go ahead and listen to that and then I'm going to get your response.


KERRY: They're doing the work of the Republican National Committee.


COLLINS: Did the senator think that he was off mike again, Tad?

DEVINE: I don't know. But I get a kick out of it. I remember a few weeks ago, we had a little controversy about something he said and it turned out to be the largest day of Internet fund-raising in the campaign. So, you know, listen, John Kerry is a person who is a straight shooter, OK? He has got a remarkable record of achievement. It is very different than George Bush and Dick Cheney.

Kerry volunteered for service in Vietnam. Now the Republicans last week raised questions about whether or not he earned the first Purple Heart when he was over in Vietnam. We released the medical records. They had to release the president's medical records just to show that he showed up in Alabama. And I'll tell you, if they want to fight this, that's fine, because you don't get Purple Hearts for going to the dentist in Alabama, OK? So, if they want to fight, as John Kerry would say, hey, bring it on, OK?

COLLINS: All right, let's talk a little bit today, if we could -- Terry, this one now for you -- the vice president spoke at Westminster College in Missouri today, as we know. The president, though, of that school wrote an e-mail saying that he was -- quote -- "disappointed" in what Mr. Cheney spoke about. In fact, he even said that Kerry bashing -- he resorted to Kerry bashing, that is, for a large portion of the speech. How do you respond?

HOLT: Well, I would say that the vice president talked about John Kerry's record and talked about what is at stake in this election. This was a national security speech at a historic place. Westminster College is the site of many important speeches.

And they invite Vice President Cheney there to talk about national security and not mention the big choice that the American people have between a strong national defense and one that may not be quite so strong under John Kerry -- that's a fundamental choice the American people have. And I think that it is well within the vice president's responsibility to discuss those issues at this very important speech.

And, obviously, the vice president talked about something much broader than John Kerry's record. He kept it very much on the issues, very much on the record, the fact that, during the Cold War, John Kerry voted against all of the major weapons systems that helped us win that war, that today the winning weapons in the war on terror, he voted against most of those. These are sharp distinctions. And the American people have the right to hear it. The vice president has an obligation to give that speech.

COLLINS: All right, to the both of you tonight, unfortunately, we're out of time. We're going to have to leave it there. Tad Devine and Terry Holt, thank you, again, to the both of you.

HOLT: Thanks, Heidi.

DEVINE: Thank you.

COLLINS: A joyous welcome home for a former hostage held in Iraq. He'll tell us about his terrifying experience in captivity. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Gary Tuchman in Eagle, Colorado. Kobe Bryant's accuser no longer lives here because she says she doesn't feel safe. And many residents here feel she's made a prudent decision. We'll tell you why.



COLLINS: And Michael Jackson dismisses one set of celebrity attorneys and hires another. We'll get the legal lowdown and ask a Jackson family spokesman what is happening.

But, first, here is a glimpse at a famous legal couple of the past.


COLLINS: Kobe Bryant was back in court today. He appeared at a hearing on whether his accuser's sex life can be used against her at trial. But in the town where this is all unfolding, some residents have already taken sides against Bryant's accuser.

CNN's Gary Tuchman explains.


TUCHMAN (voice-over): Many people move to Eagle, Colorado, because it is a safe place to live, hence, the irony of the story.

ROXIE DEANE, FORMER MAYOR OF EAGLE, COLORADO: I feel bad that anyone would feel that they weren't safe in this community or didn't feel like they could be here when it is their home.

TUCHMAN: The woman who has accused Kobe Bryant of rape is no longer living in her hometown because she feels unsafe there. Her attorney filed legal papers declaring: "She has been forced to quit school. She cannot live at home. She cannot talk to her friends. And she has received literally hundreds of phone calls and e-mails, threatening either death or mutilation."

In this family-oriented city of 3,800 people, the accuser has many sympathizers.

LANEY COFFEY, RESIDENT OF EAGLE: I would feel badly for anybody who has gone through this. It is a gut-wrenching experience.

TUCHMAN: But more so than when this case began, there are those who are not shy about publicly criticizing the 19-year-old woman. At this bakery, the owner does not mince words.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's not raped. You know, if, like, I am a woman OK? If I see a guy and I should don't go to the room. And she went to the guy. So that is a big mistake she did it. TUCHMAN: Aris Duncan went to high school with the alleged victim.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think she shouldn't be afraid to come back. I think more she should be ashamed.

TUCHMAN: Three men, all from outside Eagle, have been charged with threatening the accuser. But the woman's family says her security is threatened in Eagle because the location of the family home is well known. That, plus the increased public cynicism in town, make many here understand the decision to stay away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't blame her parents for trying to go somewhere else until this whole thing is over.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The alleged victim and Kobe Bryant share something in common when it comes to this town. They would both at least for the time being prefer not to be here.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Eagle, Colorado.


COLLINS: Michael Jackson picks a new attorney to defend him. That could put an end to performances like this. We'll tell you why and get reaction from the Jackson family.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Susan Candiotti in Florida. The first Coast Guardsman killed in action in Iraq is flown home today, the first time the Coast Guard has lost someone in combat since Vietnam. I'll have that story coming up.



COLLINS: Here are some of the headlines you need to know right now. In Summerville, New Jersey, the Jayson Williams manslaughter trial could go to the jury tomorrow jury tomorrow. Today the defense insisted the shooting death of a limousine driver at the retired NBA star mansion was an accident. The prosecution responded by saying when you play with deadly weapons, accident is no defense.

Publisher Alfred A. Noff (ph) says Bill Clinton's memoir will come out in June. It is called "My Life." The former president has reportedly pocketed a $10 million advance. That's more than went to his wife Hillary Rodham Clinton or any other author on record.

Patriotic touches of red, white, and blue run through the green in the new $50 bill unveiled today. Like the 20 note, the 50 boasts subtle new coloring to make it harder to counterfeit. But while Ulysses Grant's face is sporting new pigments, a famous lady's new colors are mysteriously fading. In Paris, Leonardo de Vinci's masterwork is rapidly deteriorating. Cure raters at louver (ph) are trying to figure out why.

And battled (ph) pop star Michael Jackson says he personally decided to fire his lead attorneys. He has replaced high profile lawyers Benjamin Brafman and Mark Geragos with Thomas Mesereau who has also defended actor Robert Blake in his murder case. Jackson is fighting accusations of child molestation. And last week a grand jury returned a sealed indictment against him.

Firpo Carr does not speak for Michael Jackson, but he is a spokesman for the Jackson family. He joins us now Los Angeles this evening. Mr. Carr (ph) thanks for being with us.

Thank you.

COLLINS: I want to ask you about this statement that Michael Jackson released today saying he terminated Mark Geragos and Benjamin Brafman. But Brafman told CNN that he and Geragos stepped down themselves. Does the Jackson family say one way or another what really happened here?

FIRPO CARR, JACKSON FAMILY SPOKESMAN: Well, the Jackson family as a whole, particularly Jermaine, was kind of surprised by this to a certain extent. But then on the other hand, although it seems contradictory, was not surprised. I suppose I can put it in more clear terms or clearer terms.

And that is to say they were surprised that Brafman probably was relieved of duty for lack of a better expression but not so surprised that Mark Geragos was. Now, I happen to know Mark. We have spoken several times. And I'm not saying we're close friends or anything, but I've spoken over the months on several occasions with him.

And he's a good guy, he's a nice guy. But apparently the separation has taken place because the -- I should say what is it the schedule, or the case load of both Mark Geragos as well as Benjamin Brafman.

COLLINS: Are you talking about Scott Paterson with Mark Geragos?

CARR: Yes, precisely. And it is my understanding that, one needs to actually have as much time as possible on this case. After all, Michael's neck is on the line, and as you've stated, I don't speak for him or represent him but the family --

COLLINS: If I may, Mr. Carr, Michael Jackson knew this before hiring Mark Geragos.

CARR: Yes, but...

COLLINS: Knew of the other case.

CARR: While I cannot speak for him once again, the thought is among family members is that, OK yes, I know you're busy. I know you have a very heavy caseload. But at the same time, I didn't know it was this heavy. I didn't know you weren't able to spent as much time as this case requires in my opinion.

That happens -- there can be a miscalculation or some other things, some other variables that were unanticipated might come into play and apparently that was the case here.

COLLINS: And maybe something else that was unanticipated. Jermaine Jackson told another network today that he actually wishes Geragos and Brafman would stay on. How much influence does Michael Jackson's family have over his decisions? Does he listen to them?

CARR: Well that just came from the Middle East. Jermaine and I were there on a goodwill trip to the Muslim nations. And in this case Bahrain. And we had a great time there. Now, Jermaine loves his family. He supports Michael 1,000 percent as he states.

And as far as the influence of the family is concerned, it is no secret that Michael calls his own shots. He makes the final decision when it comes to him. In fact his neck as it were, his brutal (ph) neck is on the line here. So it is one thing to say that, OK hey listen, I as Jermaine Jackson feel this way, or feel that certain strategies should be put in place, but it is quite another thing to have Michael make the final decision.

Jermaine can't do that. So Jermaine loves Michael immensely. He loves his family. The family is behind Michael 1,000 percent as he states. And they are looking forward to his exoneration.

COLLINS: All right, understood. Firpo Carr, thank you for joining us tonight. Appreciate your time. To find out more about the shake-up in Michael Jackson's legal team and how it will affect his defense, we're joined tonight by CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin. Jeffrey thanks for being here. And in Los Angeles, "Associated Press" Special Correspondent Linda Deutsch. Linda, thank you.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: That's the great Linda Deutsch. The legendary Linda Deutsch.

COLLINS: Pardon me. Let me make that adjustment. Linda, let me begin with you if I could. You spoke to a friend of Jackson's, and the family's attorney, in fact, Brian Oxman is who we're talking about. What did he say was the reason that Michael Jackson terminated his relationship with these two high profile lawyers?

LINDA DEUTSCH, AP SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: The only the only one that has really been talking about the reason is Michael himself in his statement, and he said -- he said my life is at stake. Which is a pretty strong statement in a case like this. And that he wants whoever is representing him to devote their full time to him.

I think that is probably the reason. He also made it clear that he had wanted to have Tom Mesereau represent him from the very beginning of this case. And I knew that. I had heard that Tom Mesereau had spoken with Michael Jackson. And that they could not come to an agreement because Mesereau then was tied up representing Robert Blake.

We have so many celebrities on trial in California, that it is hard to find enough lawyers. But that was the reason Mesereau did not get involved then. Then Mesereau and Robert bloke had a falling out, and Mesereau left that case and was available. And that's apparently was the backdrop in how this happened.

COLLINS: OK, so now he has exactly what he wants, apparently. Jeffrey, let me ask you, we were just talking with Firpo Carr, of course who is a spokesman for the family, and that would include Jermaine Jackson. What do you make of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) according to Firpo that Jermaine said, hey, I was surprised that these two lead attorneys are gone?

TOOBIN: I think we're deep in Jackson family wackiness. I don't know who speaks for whom. You have so many layers of handlers and family members and people who talk -- Michael Jackson issues a statement, but he doesn't really say it, it's some handler that releases the statement.

My information is that the Jackson family, specifically Randy and Jermaine, were upset that the current team of lawyers, Geragos and Brafman were not aggressively fighting for Michael on cable TV programs. They're obsessed by responding on cable TV programs.

These lawyers said A. we don't think these programs matter, B; we're protected by the gag order. We are not allowed to do this. Let us do the job in the courtroom. No, the Jackson family said we want you on cable TV programs. The conflicts grew over the past few weeks and, yes, Geragos and Brafman were fired, but in fact they were on the verge of quitting anyway.

COLLINS: You and I have talked before, especially that fateful day when he got up on top of the car, probably not going to see that the next proceeding.

TOOBIN: You are not going see that under any circumstances. I was standing 20 feet way from Michael Jackson when that happened. The two most surprised people in Santa Barbara County were Mark Geragos and Ben Brafman. They didn't know he was going to do that. And we were not happy he did it.

COLLINS: It begs the question, who is in charge? Who can control him? And here is the incident we're talking about now.

TOOBIN: I'm sorry, Linda, I think, wanted to say something.

COLLINS: Who is in charge?

DEUTSCH: I said I was pretty surprised too. I've covered trials for over 30 years. I have never, ever, seen a scene like that which occurred outside Santa Maria Courthouse. It was extraordinary.

TOOBIN: But that was not going to be repeated no matter who the lawyers are. And by the way -- Tom Mesereau is an excellent lawyer. It is not like he's traded down in quality much. It is just peculiar to change lawyers in this dramatic peculiar way. COLLINS: Linda, to you now, Thomas Mesereau is practically famous for keeping his clients out of the media. Is he going to be able to control Michael Jackson?

DEUTSCH: One thing you can be sure of is he is not going to be making the rounds of cable TV shows. He's made that clear already. He said he's not going say a word until he gets into court because he doesn't want to offend the judge. And in the Blake case, actually, he was not that outspoken. He would say a few words after each session, that was about it.

I don't know if there say question about Michael being controlled. Michael is a smart guy. And he must know that things are serious right now. And he's obviously trying to take control himself.

COLLINS: Real quick, Jeffrey, before we go, is this going to help or hurt Jackson's defense?

TOOBIN: I don't think it probably matters that much. I happen to think that Ben Brafman is the best lawyer I've ever seen. So I think losing Ben Brafman is a loss. But Mesereau is very good, and he's got many months to prepare. It is very unlikely this case will go to trial even before the end of the year. So Mesereau has plenty of time too.

COLLINS: All right. And we have plenty of time to keep covering it.

TOOBIN: And I think there will be plenty more to cover.

COLLINS: I think you are right. Thank you once again. CNN's Senior Analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and "AP" Special Correspondent, Linda Deutsch.

The welcome home was happy, but that's after ten days of terror in Iraq. A former hostage tells about his ordeal at the hands of Iraqi militants.

The men with guns aren't soldiers, they are civilians hired to protect top American officials in Iraq. Aside from dollars, what makes these men risk their lives?


COLLINS: Earlier we told you about the discovery of an alleged al Qaeda plot to carry out a massive chemical bomb attack in Jordan. Militants linked to al Qaeda are also claiming they sent boats loaded with explosives to destroy Iraqi oil terminals this weekend.

Three U.S. sailors died when one of the boats exploded. One was a 24-year-old U.S. coastguardsman. Susan Candiotti reports.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): For his first of two tours of duty in Iraq, Nathan Bruckenthal (ph) earned a combat ribbon. His widow Patricia, three months pregnant with his first child, received it this day from the Coast Guard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: : I was told he received it right before he left. So he actually the had it on him, which kind of makes me feel better. Because he really wanted this really bad.

CANDIOTTI: Petty Officer Bruckenthal (ph) offered to go back to Iraq a second time. His wife says he didn't want to tell her that, but she found out and understood. Bruckenthal was a first coasty lost in action since Vietnam.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He fought for what he felt was right, and he was a very brave, brave man.

CANDIOTTI: Over the weekend and two Navy sailors were killed when they approached a small suspicious boat getting close to an oil terminal. The boat exploded when the team got close.

BRUCKENTHAL: He called me like every day. He called me like three times Friday, the day before I found out that he was dead, and he wouldn't get off the phone with me. He kept calling me, and I'm like, why are you harassing me?

CANDIOTTI: Bruckenthal (ph) told his wife he would be home in early June.

BRUCKENTHAL: Now you can start counting, because it was only a few weeks and a few days and I'll be home. And then you don't ever have to let me go. I promise you that.

CANDIOTTI: Not the homecoming she expected or wanted. But she'll take comfort in his words.

BRUCKENTHAL: He told me that I was the air he breathed, and he told me that he was always in my soul.

CANDIOTTI: Petty Officer Nathan Bruckenthal will be buried in Arlington. Susan Candiotti, CNN, Dania (ph) Beach, Florida.


COLLINS: He's now safe and sound after a harrowing ten days in the hands of Iraqi rebels. We'll hear this former captive's story.

And tomorrow, it is not only physical danger in Iraq, members of an army reserve combat stress unit help thousands of soldiers cope with infidelity, uncertainty and the stress of deadly decisions gone wrong. That's tomorrow.


COLLINS: Rebels in Iraq are believed to be holding several hostages. Among them, a U.S. army reservist and civilian working for an American contractor. But for one humanitarian aid worker, the ordeal of captivity is over. Fadi Fadel is back home in Canada after being held hostage for ten days. He's joining us now from Montreal. Thanks so much for being with us. We appreciate it. We're sure that you're glad to be back home tonight.

Let me ask you, though, I know that you were doing humanitarian aid work in Najaf. Take us back to that night when you were abducted. What happened?

FADI FADEL, FMR. HOSTAGE IN IRAQ: A bunch of guys stormed into the house, they started ransacking things. And they were looking for me, and then they found me in the bedroom. They got me, and they asked for my passport. I gave it to them.

I told them a Canadian aid worker. I'm here to work with the children. Didn't work with them. They started just shoving me around. They took some stuff from the house. They put me in a car, blindfolded me, handcuffed me and then off we drove.

COLLINS: My heart is racing just hearing you recount those details. What did that feel like? Did you have any idea that this was a possibility when you went there in the first place?

FADEL: No, I it never crossed my mind that -- a kidnapping never crossed my mind at all. Even as it was happening, I was just in a state of disbelief. I was shocked what was going on. I didn't believe what was going on.

COLLINS: In fact, your abductors wanted you to admit you were an Israeli spy. At one point they even held a loaded gun to your head. Did you think there was a possibility that you could be killed?

FADEL: Definitely. This happened after -- they got me to a place and they -- there was some maltreatment. They burned me with cigarettes and accused me of being an Israeli spy. I kept on refusing, saying, no, I'm an aid worker, I'm a Canadian aid worker, I'm from Arabic origin. You have the wrong guy with you.

No, they kept telling me for about 48 hours, and then they put me in front of the camera and they told me to say my name, my nationality, and the organization I work with. As well as that I am a collaborator of the state of Israel. I kept on refusing, saying what they wanted.

They kept on harassing me a bit more, and then brought in two guards who stand behind the video camera with AK-47s and they sort of released the bullet in, and then they said if you don't say it we'll kill you. At that time, I thought, if better say what they want otherwise I'm dead.

COLLINS: After a week, your captors began telling you that you would be released. In fact, they took you to a cemetery in Najaf and told you, hey, you're free. Did you believe them? How long did it take for you to understand that?

FADEL: Actually on Friday the 16th when it happened and they said that I'm going to be freed, I didn't really believe them. But once we drove into the cemetery, I was quite scared because I heard before that this is where they kill people, they bury them alive. I was quite scared.

Then I didn't know what to do. I was sort of like submitted to my destiny. But, we drove into the cemetery and there was some other car there, a clergyman with a -- had a blackhead dress on, came out, and he negotiated with those who kidnapped me and then collected me, got me in the car.

And I still didn't believe I was free. And he then gave me his cell (ph) phone and said call your mother and tell her you're free. When I spoke to my mother is when I realized I was actually liberated.

COLLINS: Your first phone call was to measure mother.


COLLINS: I can't imagine what those words were like and how happy she was. I have to ask you, Fadi, I know that you were willing to go back, even after this terrifying experience. You say you would go back. Why?

FADEL: After seeing the situation of children with my own eyes, I just can't live with myself if I do not go back and participate in the reconstruction. There is really a fertile ground for democracy. People are hungry for rights. They want to build their own country. These few people are, carrying out violence acts, are destroying everything and stopping their reconstruction efforts.

COLLINS: Something you clearly feel very deeply in your heart.


COLLINS: Fadi Fadel thanks so much for sharing your story. We appreciate it.

FADEL: You are welcome. Thank you for having me.

When four American security contractors were killed and their bodies mutilated in Fallujah last month, the public suddenly learned how widely the U.S. is using civilian contractors in Iraq. And about the dangers they face. But as David Mattingly reports, there are still plenty of people willing to take a chance for a job in Iraq.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Wanted, highly trained applicants for a high risk, hostile work environment, must be willing to relocate. To hundreds, it is the dream job. A top dollar security contractor under the gun in Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is the adventure, it is the opportunity, I think to continue to contribute, and they really look more at what they are doing and the contribution that they can continue to make.

MATTINGLY: Security contractor applicant Marc Masoner exited the Army Rangers 11 years go, trained as a sniper and to work under fire, he wants to give up his safe civilian life to put those skills back to work. MARC MASONER, CONTRACTOR JOB SEEKER: It is like sitting on the sidelines for the Super Bowl.

MATTINGLY: To old at 34 to start over as a soldier, becoming a contractor is a way for Masoner to fulfill his sense of duty. It is a common theme found among Internet resume postings. One would be contractor writes -- "Ready to do my part to protect democracy and freedom." Another writes, "Ready to make a difference. Will not back down." MATTINGLY (on camera): You will seldom see a reference to pay. Though security contractors can earn a rate of well over $100,000 a year. Contracting recruiters say anyone motivated by money is not likely to get the job.

MATTINGLY (voice over): A veteran of combat in Panama, former army Ranger Rob Erickson believes he could now return to the hot zone as a contractor with more maturity.

ROBERT ERICSON, JOB SEEKER: Versus when I was 22 when I would just jump up and run into anything that was there, I kind of step back and look at a situation differently now.

MATTINGLY: It is a quality employers look for as well as professionalism and confidence. Type A personalities according to recruiters are quick to find their way to the A list. That's what firefighter and S.W.A.T. Paramedic Willie Meyers is counting on. He hopes his police training will compare well to the military records of others.

WILLIE MEYERS, JOB SEEKER: It is not that it is a thrill challenge type of thing. It's not like I have to see if I can do this. I'm comfortable with it. I know that I'm capable of doing this type of job.

MATTINGLY: Capable and willing to give up good paying civilian job and life at home with a wife and 2-year-old. Mark masonry is a father of three, his youngest with Down's Syndrome. While his income could double as a contractor, his wife says that is not a consideration.

MELANIE MASONER, JOB SEEKER'S WIFE: We have talked about the benefits, but we also talked about the downfalls.

MATTINGLY: And despite recent casualties of contractors in Iraq, competition for jobs remain strong according to contracting companies, just as it has since 9/11. David Mattingly, CNN, Atlanta.

COLLINS: We'll be back in just a moment.


COLLINS: Thanks so much for being with us tonight, everybody. Tomorrow, a special army reserve unit that helps troops in Iraq torn by the stress of battle. LARRY KING LIVE is next. Good night everybody.


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