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Interview With One of Doctors Seeing Thomas Hamill in Landstuhl; Interview With Brigadier General Janis Karpinski

Aired May 4, 2004 - 07:00   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: The first look at escaped hostage Thomas Hamill expected at any moment. He tells his medical team he feels lucky to be alive.
Authorities seize Michael Jackson memorabilia including photos, a letter, and a pair of underwear.

And the inferno raging in the backyard -- many southern Californians do not need their imaginations to do that today.

All ahead this hour on AMERICAN MORNING.

ANNOUNCER: From the CNN Broadcast Center in New York, this is AMERICAN MORNING with Bill Hemmer and Soledad O'Brien.

HEMMER: All right, good morning, it's Tuesday. Soledad is away today. Heidi Collins back with us here in New York City. Good morning.


HEMMER: And welcome back. Great to have you here.

COLLINS: Thank you so much. We'll let you know about the other stories that we are following this morning.

That military report about the abuse of prisoners by American soldiers says egregious acts were committed at Abu Ghraib Prison and we will talk with the brigadier general who was in charge of that prison about what she knew, what she did about it, and who is ultimately responsible.

HEMMER: Also, a lot on Thomas Hamill, they -- apparently he has made a statement in Germany. We'll get to that a bit later this hour.

And two big criminal cases to look at again today. Jeff Toobin in a moment talking about the new tactic prosecutors will use in the Michael Jackson case; and Scott Peterson's attorneys may have a compelling case for another change of venue, but he'll have to get the judge to see it his way.

Jeff Toobin checks in on that in a moment here.

COLLINS: Jack Cafferty joining us now -- good morning.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Be a ripe old age before it ever gets to trial -- I don't know how long that's going to take.

Total spending on issues -- presidential campaign -- we'll get to $1 billion for the first time. Money well spent? Not really. We'll take a look.

HEMMER: And it's only May, and the first week at that.

COLLINS: All right, want to get to the news now though this morning.

The first wildfires of the season are raging in southern California. Firefighters are battling blazes scattered from Los Angeles to San Diego counties...

Want to get now to Thomas Hamill with the statement that we told you about a little bit earlier -- better take you there right now. Let's listen in.

Unfortunately, we are having a little bit of a technical problem with that. We see him there on your screen; we are going to get to that immediately as soon as that problem is fixed.

So once again -- going to try it right now as a matter of fact, let's try this one more time. Let's go to Thomas Hamill.


THOMAS HAMILL: I feel well, am having a few problems with my injuries. I'd like everyone to know that I was (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and I am looking forward to reuniting with my wife in the morning, and thank you so very much, and God bless.


COLLINS: Thomas Hamill as you heard him this morning coming from Landstuhl, Germany there -- gone there, I imagine, for a serious debrief and things that happened to him while he was in custody.

HEMMER: Just about an hour ago, I interviewed one of the doctors seeing him in Landstuhl. A major from there.

In fact we'll hear that interview a short time later. You saw that right bandage on his arm when he waved to the crowd there at the end of that statement.

The major tells us, apparently, he was getting some sort of medical treatment while in captivity in Iraq, which gives us an indication that even though the conditions were sparse and very Spartan, at least he was getting some sort of attention to attend to his wounds there.

COLLINS: Yes, it was infected pretty badly though, so obviously they had to do some fixing as far as that's concerned.


COLLINS: He looks pretty good, though.

HEMMER: Yes, I talked with the major earlier today.

Let's go ahead and play part of that interview with Major Jepsen describing to us what kind of service he's been getting, what kind of care he's been getting, and how he's feeling emotionally and mentally.


MAJ. KERRY JEPSEN, ORTHOPEDIC SURGEON: He's doing very well; he's in very good spirits. Happy to be here with us at Landstuhl. And overall very well.

HEMMER: How much did he talk about his ordeal in captivity?

JEPSEN: He discussed his injury and being taken hostage. He underwent some surgical care for which he received anesthesia and there's a time there where he doesn't remember exactly what happened over that short period of time.

Otherwise he's able to relate a very good timeline of his three weeks.

HEMMER: What did he superficially say about that timeline?

JEPSEN: He said he was moved frequently, under guard at fairly secure places. Sometimes as frequently as every day. Sometimes no more than four -- every four days. So no more or longer than every four days in any one place.

HEMMER: Did he get treatment while he was in captivity? Is that the suggestion you said earlier?

JEPSEN: He did. He received surgical debridement of his wound, by his timeline, at about eight days after the injury, received surgery which -- in which they removed some of the dead skin and muscle tissue around his injury.

HEMMER: Major, how long will he stay there before he returns back to the States?

JEPSEN: It's anticipating he'll stay here for another couple of days with us, and should be moving on to the States near the end of the week.

HEMMER: Back to the issue of captivity, if I could for a second here Major, does he appear to be affected other than the arm itself; do you notice any sort of mental strain or emotional wear on Mr. Hamill?

JEPSEN: Like I said before, he's in very good spirits in talking to him, very happy, and easily relates elements of his captivity.

We have a special team of specially trained men and women who are here going through the repatriation process with him, going through debriefings and counseling sessions, and helping him to understand and deal with his situation.

HEMMER: Yes, and how long would you say that process will last for Thomas Hamill?

JEPSEN: Well, that would be ongoing, and I think he's a very resilient guy, and he's going to be able to deal with this as best he can, but that may take, you know, several days to weeks to months.


HEMMER: Maj. Jepsen from Germany, about an hour ago on videotape.

Apparently, his parents last night -- his family, rather -- with Larry King said he lost a considerable amount of weight -- how much weight we're not quite sure just yet.

But, again, Thomas Hamill insists with his doctors in Germany that he expects to make a full recovery.

Showed you part of his statement in Germany. Now in a full here's Thomas Hamill minutes ago.


HAMILL: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) thoughts and prayers and notes for (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I am feeling well and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) my injuries I want you to know I (UNINTELLIGIBLE) excellent care and I am looking forward to uniting with my wife in the morning. And I thank you all very much and God bless.


HEMMER: Best story of the day. Thomas Hamill greeting reporters there just outside Landstuhl Base there where he's getting treatment.

And again you heard his quote there -- feeling well at this point, and what a story he has to tell his wife.

Expected possibly later today to meet up with him and then he'll make the trip back here to the U.S. perhaps later on this week, or at least in the coming days.

A great story to talk about today. Here's Heidi now with more.

COLLINS: More details are now emerging on the alleged abuse of Iraqi prisoners. The "Washington Post" is reporting the Army has sent a team of experienced military police to Iraq two months ago after learning of the alleged mistreatment. The classified report on the alleged abuse is obtained by CNN says, quote, "egregious acts and grave breaches of international law occurred at the Abu Ghraib prison."

Six U.S. military officers so far have been reprimanded and a seventh has received lesser punishment. And underscoring the concern about how this is being perceived in the Arab world, President Bush is calling on Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to make sure appropriate action is taken.

Maj. Gen. Jeffrey D. Miller (ph) is now in charge of prisons in Iraq. He said today he is already changing things in the prisons and that errors were made. We have corrected them.

Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the former military police commander at the Abu Ghraib Prison is among those suspended while the investigation is underway.

Yesterday, Gen. Karpinski, who has since rotated out of Iraq, spoke with Soledad O'Brien, along with Karpinski's attorney Neal Puckett.

Soledad asked her about her reaction to the report about the alleged abuses.


BRIG. GEN. JANIS KARPINSKI, ARMY RESERVE: The accusations were without foundation that this was not a military police leadership issue, specifically.

This was a much broader responsibility, and that particular cellblock was under the control of the military intelligence command at the time and in fact from November on Abu Ghraib Prison was under the control of the military intelligence command.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: You had no control over this facility after a certain point?

KARPINSKI: I can't say no control at a certain point, but it was certainly far less control. And the reason I retained any control is because I had MPs that were still working out there and they remained under -- under the 800th MP Brigade.

O'BRIEN: Were you aware that some of your soldiers were involved in this or were taking pictures of some of the things that were going on?

KARPINSKI: Absolutely not, absolutely had no knowledge, not even a hint or a suggestion of any such activities.

O'BRIEN: And one of the most disturbing things I think about these pictures is the service men and women who are standing there smiling with thumbs up while people are...


O'BRIEN: While people are in these incredibly -- who are these soldiers? Are they your soldiers?

KARPINSKI: Yes, and those particular pictures that have been released, they are my MP soldiers, yes. The ones that you can see. O'BRIEN: Explain that to me. I mean I guess I just am -- that kind of behavior just seems so out of left field to me.

KARPINSKI: And I agree.

O'BRIEN: Is it just a few bad eggs or apples as we heard Gen. Myers sort of refer to over the weekend, or is it a much bigger problem than that?

Because they don't look embarrassed that they're standing -- they weren't caught sort of somehow in a picture. They're posing for a picture like it's the one they're going to send back home to their friends.

KARPINSKI: Setting them up. I mean and enjoying it. And that was one of the most despicable aspects of those pictures, those faces on those soldiers, those soldiers who belong to one of my MP companies. Absolutely.

I don't know how they do this, I don't know how they allow these activities to get so out of control, but I do know with almost absolute confidence that they didn't wake up one day and decide to do this.

O'BRIEN: So you think what happened?

KARPINSKI: I think it is likely that the military intelligence people used the military police personnel in a support way -- in other words leave the lights on in the cell, turn the lights off in this cell, make sure that they get their meal late, take them out more often, don't let them get any sleep because they were conducting the detention operations. They could control the light switches, they could control the food processing, whatever goes with detention operations.

O'BRIEN: None of your soldiers said this is not a gray area, I'm not supposed to do this?

KARPINSKI: They may have said it, but they didn't say it to me and they didn't say it to a battalion commander who would have said it to me and they didn't say it to a company commander who would have said it to a battalion commander who would have said it to me. They did not.

If they said it to anybody, if they mentioned it or had any concerns, then I believe that they would have mentioned it to the MI people who were instructing them or encouraging them. I don't know if that's too strong of a word to follow these particular procedures.

O'BRIEN: You deserve some of the blame in this that's going around?

KARPINSKI: I certainly take the responsibility for some of this, yes. Because those soldiers were assigned to a company under my command. Blame? I don't think that the blame rests with me or with the 800th MP Brigade. In fact it's unfair because we had 3400 soldiers and 16 facilities and this was the only facility where interrogation operations were taking place and this is the only facility where there were infractions.

O'BRIEN: Let's bring your attorney in. What's her status right now -- what happens?



PUCKETT: The results of the investigation recommended that she be relieved of command and reprimanded. However, the direction given to the investigating officer was go out and find out what's wrong with the 800th MP Brigade.

The direction was not something terrible has happened, go find out what went wrong and come back and tell us what went wrong and then we'll deal with it.

O'BRIEN: Are you saying that it's done because they're trying to move the attention away from the military interrogation team?

PUCKETT: Well, we don't know. Because the MPs are all reservists and the military intelligence people are all active duty people and what's clear in all of this and what's apparently yet to be investigated is that the military intelligence personnel were the folks that had complete exclusive control over what went on in the interrogation rooms.


COLLINS: Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski and her attorney Neal Puckett speaking yesterday with Soledad O'Brien.

HEMMER: Such a juxtaposition of stories. Thomas Hamill on one hand and the story that lingers on about these prisoners in Iraq.


HEMMER: In a moment, could Michael Jackson memorabilia become evidence to be used against him? Legal analysis from Jeff Toobin this morning on that.

COLLINS: Also, a career diplomat whose wife's role at the CIA was revealed -- now he's naming a few names himself.

HEMMER: Also an honor student and star athlete now released from prison, his conviction tossed out by Georgia's highest court.

We'll talk to his family in a moment on AMERICAN MORNING.


COLLINS: ... venue here interesting topic to talk about this morning, but let's begin with Michael Jackson talking about these briefs that were apparently found, and also a note allegedly written by Jackson that refers to children who stayed at Neverland as rubbers.

What is all this mean?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: This is such a peculiar side story here.

Apparently there is a memorabilia dealer who had a default judgment against him, and as a result of this judgment against him some of this memorabilia was seized.

This memorabilia has now been seized by prosecutors and turned over to the prosecutors in Santa Barbara in Santa Barbara County.

Again, as always with Michael Jackson, this stuff that was seized is very peculiar. It's not necessarily proof that he did anything wrong -- and -- referring to kids as rubbers.

COLLINS: Yes, how do we know that that even happened?

TOOBIN: Well, we don't know that any of this is actually authentic.

It will be difficult to tie this to establish a chain of custody, since this appears to have gone through many hands.

But even if it could be tied to Michael Jackson, the fact that, you know, he made these peculiar references to children does not establish that he molested anyone, it simply establishes that he's weird and we certainly know that from long ago.

COLLINS: We have seen that before.

Now, listen, we've touched on the conspiracy case against Jackson yesterday morning. Still very unclear about which of the staffers of Jackson's will be or could be indicted in this.

Where are prosecutors going, though, with the conspiracy charge?

TOOBIN: Well, the indictment was not -- was released in redacted form so we don't know who the co-conspirators are if they're even named in the indictment but the idea is very much the same.

Look, Martha Stewart, Jayson Williams, yesterday Frank Quattrone, the investment banker. These are all high profile defendants who have been convicted of covering up activity that itself was not proved to be illegal.

That's the idea here is that even if Michael Jackson they can't prove that he committed these offenses of molesting the children, they can prove, they assert, that he tried to cover it up. Perhaps with the assistance of a couple of the people around him. That's what they're trying to do here.

COLLINS: OK, well, more to come on that one for sure. Want to get to the Scott Peterson trial, though. Yesterday Mark Geragos filing that motion trying to change the upcoming trial to Los Angeles County because he says we can't find a fair jury but now this will be a second go at this. How...

TOOBIN: I've never heard of a trial that's had the change of venue twice. He's asserted in his legal papers that 45 percent of the potential jurors in jury selection say they've made up their mind that he's guilty.

And what the prosecutors are going to say is 45 percent is an overstatement and even if it is 45 percent that leaves 55 percent that you could get a reasonable jury from.

So I think this is a real uphill climb for Mark Geragos; I think he's trying to lay -- lay the groundwork for an appeal but I think he's -- it's San Mateo County is where it's going to be, looks like. Looks that way to me.

COLLINS: All right, well we'll stand by for more on that one as well. Thanks so much, CNN's senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin -- Bill.

HEMMER: Heidi, in a moment here, our first look at former hostage Thomas Hamill. Says he's a very lucky man and for so many reasons. More on his story in a moment.

Also, President Bush and Senator John Kerry duking it out over the economy and their own war records. It is only the 4th of May and they are already on the road.

Back in a moment after this.


COLLINS: Time now for the Cafferty Files and the "Question of the Day" from Jack.

CAFFERTY: Thank you.

The race for the White House according to "The L.A. Times" could be the most expensive ever. Total expenditures could exceed a billion dollars.

HEMMER: Come on.

CAFFERTY: We're getting a taste of how the candidates are using some of that money, too. Senator John Kerry launched a $25 million TV ad campaign yesterday.

The spots don't offer solutions for the deficit or health care or Iraq -- no -- rather, they tell us his life story from his birth to Vietnam to the Senate. Wow.

President Bush meantime on a two-day bus tour through Michigan and Ohio where he's attempting to connect with voters in two states where more than 500,000 people have lost their jobs. Here's David Letterman's take on this campaign stunt.


DAVID LETTERMAN, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": How about this? President Bush, you know what he's doing? He's out campaigning, he's taking a two-day bus ride through Michigan this week and I was thinking, well, in Michigan -- I bet he'll get a pretty good turnout since nobody in Michigan has a job to go to.


CAFFERTY: So here' s the question boys and girls, how well do the candidates campaign tactics work? You can e-mail us at

HEMMER: A billion dollars?

CAFFERTY: That's all the PACs, all the little support groups, the whole enchilada, $1 billion and we get bus tours and here's a picture of me when I was a little boy. What is that?

HEMMER: Listen, no wonder you don't see any of this stuff till after the conventions but already the Kerry campaign is saying that they would have to -- what -- show their guy introduce him to America because they do not fully recognize who he is and his history and the White House, I mean, obviously their concerns pretty evident, going to Michigan and Ohio...

CAFFERTY: Let me ask you a question -- if you don't have a job, you don't have health care, do you really care where the guy was born, where he grew up?

Tell me how I'm going to get a job. Tell me how I'm going to get health care. I don't care what war you served in. I don't care about any of that stuff.

HEMMER: It's all part of the process in some of these cases.

CAFFERTY: How am I going to get a job, where am I going to get health care, what are you going to do about Iraq? I mean, I don't care about -- these are home movies. Who -- nobody cares.

HEMMER: Twenty-five million dollars at that, by the way.

CAFFERTY: Yes, $25 million.

HEMMER: Thank you, Jack.

In a moment here, a career diplomat who says someone in the White House did him and his wife wrong. Ambassador Joe Wilson has a new book out. We'll talk to him about it in a moment when we continue after this.



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