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PAULA ZAHN NOW
Rudy Giuliani Defends New York City; U.S. Soldier Sentenced in Iraqi Prisoner Abuse Scandal
Aired May 19, 2004 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Tonight, a focus on honor.
RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: The city of New York had the best response to this horrific attack of any city in America.
ZAHN: Rudy Giuliani defending his city's honor.
GIULIANI: No one ever has encountered an attack like this.
ZAHN: And a soldier is court-martialed for actions that dishonor America, while his superiors are grilled for letting abuse happen.
GEN. JOHN ABIZAID, CMDR., U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: No doubt we have made mistakes in Abu Ghraib.
ZAHN: Good evening. Welcome. Thanks so much for joining us tonight.
This was the second day of the 9/11 Commission's hearings on how emergency teams handled the attacks, the star witness, Rudy Giuliani. And from the beginning, the former mayor of New York City took charge, captivating the commissioners.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: We are all hurt. We are all damaged. We are all very, very angry. And we are all feeling the loss of heroes that we love.
ZAHN (voice-over): From the beginning, Mayor Giuliani's vivid words took everybody back as if the attacks were only yesterday.
GIULIANI: Denny and I looked up in the sky. And what we saw was a beautiful clear day, about as clear as we had had in a long time.
As we were coming down, we passed St. Vincent's Hospital. And I looked outside and I saw outside many, many doctors and nurses and stretchers. And it registered in my mind that we were looking at a war zone. A little below St. Vincent's hospital, we could see the fire in the tower. But we saw a big explosion. And we didn't know what it was. We probably concluded that it was just an aftereffect of the original attack. But within seconds of seeing it, we received a phone call from the police and we were notified that a second plane had hit and realized at that point that obviously it was a terrorist attack.
As we got very, very close to the World Trade Center, one of my police officers said to me, and all of us, Keep looking up, keep looking up. Because things were falling down around us. And I imagined that was for our own safety. But when I looked up at that point, I realized that I saw a man -- it wasn't debris -- that I saw a man hurling himself out of the 102nd, 103rd, 104th floor. And I stopped, probably for two seconds, but it seems like a minute or two. And I was in shock.
I said -- I said to the police commissioner, we are in unchartered territory. We have never gone through anything like this before. And we are just going to have to do the best we can to keep everybody together and keep them focused.
ZAHN: A challenge when Giuliani and his team were trying to settle into a command center.
GIULIANI: The desk started to shake. click. The desk started to shake. And I heard next Chief Esposito, who was the uniformed head of the police department. I'm sure it was his voice. I heard him say, The tower is down. The tower has come down.
And my first thought was that one of the radio towers from the top of the World Trade Center had come down. I did not conceive of the entire tower coming down. But as he was saying that, I could see the desk shaking. And I could see people in the outer office going under desks. And then all of sudden, I could see outside a tremendous amount of debris, and it looked -- first felt like an earthquake, and then it looked like a nuclear cloud.
And when we walked outside, we were in the lobby of 100 Church Street and then we wondered if we had not gone from bad to worse. And we began making telephone calls as we were marching up, asking people to remain calm and asking people to go north. And as I was doing that, I would stop and look at how people were reacting. Here I was asking them to remain calm, I was asking them to go north. I wanted to see how were they evacuating the building.
And what I saw was very, very inspiring. I saw people running. I saw people fleeing, which is exactly what we wanted them to do. I wanted to get them out of the area. But I didn't see people knocking each other over. I didn't see people in chaos. I didn't see people in panic.
ZAHN: All of this led up to the message Giuliani wanted the commission and audience to focus on.
GIULIANI: When you evaluate the performance of the firefighters and the police officers, in addition to the bravery and the heroics that they demonstrated at the time of initial attack by standing their ground and rather than giving us a story of men, uniformed men fleeing while civilians were left behind, they gave us an example of very, very brave men and women in uniform who stand their ground to protect civilians.
ZAHN: Giuliani was jeered by some in the audience, family members critical of his leadership and others who felt the committee did not ask him tough questions. But still others applauded him for the role he played that day.
RICHARD BEN-VENISTE, 9/11 COMMISSION: Your leadership on that day and the days following gave the rest of the nation and indeed the world an unvarnished view of the spirit and the humanity of this great city. And for that I salute you.
ZAHN: Rudy Giuliani's account of September 11 was just one part of the hearing. Commissioners had some tough questions for other witnesses and heard family of victims make their feelings known.
Homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve has been covering the 9/11 Commission hearings and she joins us here in New York tonight.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Paula.
The commission, as you know, is dissecting the 9/11 attacks, analyzing them piece by piece. But today's hearing was a reminder that for many people the attacks are not a learning opportunity. They are a raw and sensitive subject.
MESERVE: More than two years after the attacks, fury and frustration still seethe and erupt. Audience members, including family of 9/11 victims, accused the commission of lobbing softballs at former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and other witnesses.
ROSALEEN TALLON, LOST BROTHER ON SEPTEMBER 11: It is just unbelievable to me that we are not getting at the issues. This is our last opportunity to have people swear under oath what happened.
MESERVE: The commission chair said many key questions had been asked, just not in public.
THOMAS KEAN, CHAIRMAN, 9/11 COMMISSION: Every one of these witnesses has testified at length in private. So, if we didn't ask questions here, we probably have asked them already in private.
MESERVE: Giuliani said he understood the demonstrators emotions, but felt they should be channeled elsewhere. GIULIANI: Our anger should clearly be directed and the blame should clearly be directed at one source and one source alone, the terrorists who killed our loved ones.
MESERVE: The former mayor testified that, in the years before 9/11, the city had been warned of a terrorist threat and had drilled and prepared for many scenarios, but not an aerial attack. Would he have taken different steps if he had been aware of the president's daily brief of August 6, 2001, which mentioned hijacking and New York City?
GIULIANI: If that information had been given to us or more warnings had been given in the summer of 2001, I can't honestly tell you we would have done anything differently.
MESERVE: In hopes of applying the lessons of 9/11, the commission has underscored several failures in New York City's response, the lack of a unified command, shortcomings in communications equipment, poor exchange of information among emergency responders, and 911 operators who did not get information to pass on to desperate callers inside the World Trade Center.
Addressing some of those issues takes money, and the current mayor said the city is not getting enough. Michael Bloomberg said an irrational and tragically misguided funding system left New York 49th among the 50 states in per capita homeland security funding security, behind Nebraska, Wyoming, and American Samoa.
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (R), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: This is pork barrel politics at its worst. It is the kind of short-sighted me-first nonsense that gives Washington a bad name.
MESERVE: Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge acknowledged the allocations are out of whack.
TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: If we are able to direct more resources to areas where the potential loss of life is greatest or the greatest percentage of critical infrastructure exists, and, frankly, where we know the threat exists.
ZAHN: So, bottom line, Jeanne, what did the commission take away from this today?
MESERVE: Well, the commission staff issued a report today which drew a rather sobering assessment. It was that if there were another crisis of the magnitude of 9/11, many of the mistakes that were made then would be made again.
ZAHN: Which I'm sure further enraged the families of victims, many of whom you saw react in a pretty painful way.
MESERVE: That's right. They want to see something change and they want explanations for what happened.
ZAHN: Jeanne Meserve, thanks.
Today, Rudy Giuliani said a 9/11 Commissioner should apologize for criticizing the city's response to the attack. Does he have a point and will that commissioner apologize? I'll ask him next.
Confusion after a daily attack by U.S. forces. Was the target the enemy or an Iraqi wedding party?
Plus, British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been a staunch friend of the U.S., but an unpopular war may be his downfall. How will that affect American policy?
JOHN LEHMAN, 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER: I think that the command- and-control and communications of this city's public service is a scandal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is taking time away from the hearing, so, please, do not.
LEHMAN: It's not worthy of the Boy Scouts, let alone this great city.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Words like those from 9/11 Commission member John Lehman yesterday set the stage for today's riveting testimony from Rudy Giuliani, as he defended New York's response to the attacks.
I talked with Lehman today after Giuliani testified.
ZAHN: Commissioner Lehman, great to have you aboard tonight. Thank so much for your time.
LEHMAN: Pleasure to be here.
ZAHN: So, yesterday, you sparked a firestorm by referring to the city's command control and communications systems as a scandal, not worthy of the Boy Scouts. You no doubt probably saw the headline in one of New York's papers this morning describing that as an absolute insult. Do you regret having said that yesterday?
LEHMAN: No, I don't regret it. I regret that "The Post" would be so outrageously distorting in what I said. They obviously did not read the transcript. I was not criticizing the police or the firemen. I was not criticizing the witnesses who were there. I was criticizing the system that has pertained to New York over many, many decades, even generations, where the police and the firemen have no real robust cross-communications available for crisis of the magnitude like 9/11 was.
So, it's pretty hard to regret criticizing that kind of a system.
ZAHN: Even Mayor Giuliani, when asked today if you should apologize for having said those things yesterday about the system, said he thought you should apologize, but that was up to you. Do you think you owe anybody an apology here?
LEHMAN: How do you apologize to a system?
ZAHN: Good question.
LEHMAN: Good question.
I think Mayor Giuliani was probably reacting to the distortions in "The Post" piece. I certainly -- none of us on the commission have anything but the highest praise for those witnesses and what they did. What I was trying to get -- I was trying to be on their side, that, with all the heroism that they carried out, they were working in a system that had inadequate communications and inadequate cross command-and-control. And that is -- that's what I was criticizing, not them. And anybody who was in the room knew that.
So I'm certainly not going to apologize to a system.
ZAHN: Even former Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik told us last night that he didn't think that maybe you had an understanding of the way the system was set up, that they didn't have that military style operation that you refer to, which he thought actually could be a good idea to employ here in New York City, ultimately.
LEHMAN: Yes, that's right.
I -- perhaps it's my military background, but I judge them by the standard that the military has learned the hard way by many mistakes over the decades and through wars that you can't just muddle through the way the -- the way the system that existed at 9/11 was premised. Somebody has got to be in charge. There has got to be unity of command and there's got to be robust communications that allow communicating even when -- when something goes wrong, as it inevitably will. When some radios don't work, there have to be others.
ZAHN: Mayor Bloomberg came out swinging today against the politicians, saying that what we really don't need here in the city is a lot more criticism. What we need is more money.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLOOMBERG: During fiscal year 2004, New York state received $5.47 per capita in homeland security grants. Nebraska, which you are familiar with, Senator, Nebraska got $14.33 per capita, North Dakota, 430.42 cents, Wyoming, $38.31, and American Samoa, $101.43.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Does that formula make any sense to you at all? LEHMAN: No, it is crazy. And it is even worse than the mayor laid it out. He was being gentle.
In fact, what has happened to this $13 billion that has been appropriated since 9/11 is, Congress has turned it into one big pork barrel trough for all of the relevant committees. And Secretary Ridge testified after the mayor and said he certainly did not support that and was going to work hard in Congress to prevent -- the president's request, which does give a much greater priority, really the top priority to New York City, than what Congress has done with the money in the past.
It's a congressional problem. And it's a real one. And the mayor was right to highlight it. New York needs more money to deal with it, because New York is the No. 1 target. It is definitely in al Qaeda's crosshairs.
ZAHN: Thank you very much for your perspective tonight.
ZAHN: Commissioner Lehman.
Coming up next, a mystery still waiting for an answer in Iraq. The Pentagon claims traces of deadly sarin gas were found in an Iraqi artillery shell. We are going to ask an authority on chemical warfare what that could mean.
And grilling the top war commanders in public. Now Republicans are feuding with each other over hearings in Congress. Should troubles in Iraq be kept behind closed doors?
ZAHN: Just as the 9/11 hearings have reminded us of the horror of a terrorist strike, a couple of recent discoveries show the threat of terror is still very real. And a future attack could involve chemical or biological weapons.
Military tests show that an explosive found five days ago in Iraq contained the deadly nerve agent sarin. Sarin has been used in a terror strike before, most notably on the Tokyo subway in 1995, in which 12 people were killed and 5,000 became sick. And just late last month, authorities in Jordan announced they had broken up an alleged al Qaeda plot involving chemical weapons.
Earlier, I discussed all this with "New York Times" correspondent Judith Miller. She is the author of "Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War."
ZAHN: Let's start off tonight by talking in greater detail about what King Abdullah of Jordan has said about the seizure of some of these agents -- quote -- "Jordan just seized a shipment of chemical weapons that al Qaeda was trying to smuggle into your country. It was 20 tons of chemical weapons that were a mixture of nerve and blister agents. The idea was to create five separate explosions creating a dirty cloud of blister and nerve agents."
How troubled should Americans be by this news?
JUDITH MILLER, SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I think that American intelligence is still doing its own assessment, Paula, of what was smuggled into Jordan.
At present, all we know for sure is that there were some what they call garden-variety chemicals present in the shipment that was intercepted, fortunately, by the Jordanians. The effect of those materials would have been to augment the explosion, that is, to make it more deadly. But it is not certain that it would have spread a cloud, a chemical cloud over the American Embassy or the other purported targets.
I think we have to be very careful when we talk about chemical weapons. There are chemicals that can be used to make explosions worse, and then there are chemical weapons which are specifically covered by a treaty and which specifically do enormous damage. And that's the kind of thing which may have been found in Iraq.
ZAHN: Then, on Monday, another troubling announcement from one of the top intelligence officials in homeland security saying that al Qaeda intends to strike again and the weapon of choice may be a chemical weapon or a biological weapon.
MILLER: We have seen a lot of this coming from U.S. intelligence circles lately because the threat is clearly rising in advance of the Democratic and Republican conventions and the U.S. election.
We know from past practices that al Qaeda goes in for spectacular events.
ZAHN: So the bombing in Spain.
MILLER: The bombing in Spain.
MILLER: And from that, they learned, perhaps incorrectly, because the Spanish election may have hinged on a lot of different factors, but we did learn or they learned that you can change an administration. You can change a government if you time a terrorist event to coincide with a national election.
So clearly people here, law enforcement, U.S. intelligence, is on edge. And they should be.
ZAHN: Is the U.S. prepared for those kinds of attacks?
MILLER: Well, can a democracy, an open society, a place where literally thousands of planes come in and out every day and millions of people ever really be invulnerable? The answer is no.
Are we better prepared than we were before 9/11? I should certainly think so. My reporting would suggest that we certainly are. In my area, which is biological weapons, an enormous amount has been done. We have spent nearly $10 billion a year or between 6 and 10, depending on how you count, and anyway, a lot of money making us all safer against this particular form of threat.
MILLER: But, you know, I think we just have to live with the fact that America is never going to go back to a pre-9/11 period of -- of real sense of security. I think we are always going to have to be a little bit worried. And, you know, that might not be a bad thing, because alert citizens are really some of the best first-responders you can have.
Let's go back to the sarin story for a moment. If it is ultimately proven by all the other tests that are being run that this was sarin that was discovered in Iraq, what are the implications of that?
MILLER: I think the implications are very serious if these tests are borne out,on one hand in that it definitely shows that there was at least one weapon which shouldn't have been present in Iraq.
Under the 17 different resolutions that the Iraqis were a party to that concerned Iraq, they were supposed to destroy weapons like this. Now, what we could have here -- and we still don't know -- it's very important to stress that -- but what we could have is just a stray weapon. That's what David Kay, the former international and then American inspector...
ZAHN: Well, what does that mean?
MILLER: Well, what it means is, the Iraqis destroyed tons of this material, Paula. They destroyed thousands of chemical rockets and warheads. In the case of sarin, for example, they acknowledge having made over 750 tons of the stuff that they put in warheads and different kinds of bombs. So that's a lot of destruction.
ZAHN: So one that just happened to be left over from that process.
MILLER: Left over or things that perhaps were hidden.
ZAHN: So what is your sense? Are there a bunch more of these stray sarin
ZAHN: ... out there? MILLER: That is the really crucial question. Here are the possibilities. It could be a stray weapon, as David Kay suggests. It could one of a stockpile of old weapons that were hidden away, perhaps for future use.
Or it could be a new batch of sarin, though the ISP people that I have talked to in Iraq, that is, the weapons hunters, do not believe that that's likely to be the case. So, we are probably looking at either part of the hidden stockpile or just one that should have been destroyed and wasn't. When we know the answer to those questions, we will know how big a problem we have on our hands.
ZAHN: Well, we always appreciate your insights. I do not know how you sleep at night studying what you have to study on a daily basis.
Thank you for your time.
MILLER: Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: Judith Miller, appreciate you joining us.
ZAHN: And today, the first soldier was sentenced in the Iraqi prison scandal. Jeremy Sivits got the maximum punishment, but will that ease tensions with the Arab world? And could his cooperation implicate others and push the scandal even higher?
Plus, anti-war feelings run strong in Britain. If Prime Minister Blair is sacked in the next election, what will that mean for President Bush's war strategy?
And tomorrow, is Colin Powell heading for the door? The secretary of state has played the good soldier so far. I'll ask senior analyst Jeff Greenfield why Powell may soon be the odd man out. That's tomorrow.
ZAHN: There was violence across the Middle East today and violent disagreement about the reasons and the results. Palestinians blame Israel for an explosion that broke up a demonstration in Gaza. Hospital sources say 18 people died. The Palestinians were marching to protest ongoing Israeli military operations in Gaza. Israeli officials say they are trying to head off a major escalation in violence by demolishing houses and tunnels used to smuggle weapons. At the United Nations the afternoon, a U.S. abstention allowed the Security Council to pass a resolution calling on Israel to stop the demolitions.
There is also disagreement tonight about a deadly attack near the Iraqi-Syrian border. The U.S. says it hit a safe house used by insurgents. Iraqis say the U.S. actually attacked a wedding party, killing at least 40 civilians, including children. Senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre is trying to sort out the conflicting claims. Good evening, Jamie. So set the record straight for us this evening because I'm trying to make sense of all this. On one hand, the Pentagon saying that these were anti-coalition forces, witnesses on the ground say it was this wedding party. Whose account is more accurate?
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, if the past is a guide, we may never know the exact answer to that question because there are these two conflicting accounts. The Pentagon says this occurred in an area of western Iraq where they've been conducting some intense surveillance. This is where they believe foreign fighters have been slipping across into Iraq. And they say they have actionable intelligence indicating that this was, quote, a "safe house." They also point out that after they completed the operation, they recovered weapons and money and foreign passports and satellite communications commitment. So they say they're on solid ground. But the people there telling people that this was a wedding celebration, that they were firing weapons in the air in celebration. And it's not clear at this point whether the Pentagon will have a formal investigation or not.
ZAHN: How likely is it that the military could confuse anti- aircraft fire with the kind of guns that would be fired at a wedding in the air?
MCINTYRE: Well, according to the Pentagon, they say they were actually taking fire on the ground because they had forces on the ground that approached this complex where they believe that there was a safe house. Could they have mistaken celebratory fire? It's happened before. It certainly could have. At this point, the Pentagon is insisting, though, they think they have more evidence than just the gunfire to show that these were anti-coalition forces, not just celebrants.
ZAHN: So it seems to me tonight about the only part of this report that is not in dispute is that there were a number of civilian casualties, including children. How concerned is the Pentagon about that?
MCINTYRE: Well, they're very concerned about the message that this sends. I mean, they're already reeling from the prison abuse scandal. Now they have an incident which is widely reported on Arab television as essentially the slaughter of innocents. That's why you saw the chief military spokesman, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, get on Al Jazeera tonight and deny that this was an attack against a wedding party. But the Pentagon, frankly, doesn't have a lot of credibility, and they've got an uphill battle convincing people in Iraq that this was a legitimate military target.
ZAHN: Lots to try to make sense of this evening. Jamie McIntyre, thanks for helping us out tonight from the Pentagon. Appreciate it.
And tonight: Two new photos have surfaced in the Iraq prison abuse scandal. They appear to show American soldiers gloating over a body. In one, Specialist Charles Graner of the 372nd Military Police is seen smiling, giving the thumbs-up. In the other, Specialist Sabrina Harmond (ph), a member of the same unit, in a similar pose. The identity of the body in the pictures is not yet known. And while the pictures have not yet been authenticated, the soldiers who appear in them are among those who already face charges in the scandal.
Now, these pictures came out following the first court-martial in connection with the abuse. In Baghdad today, 24-year-old Specialist Jeremy Sivits made a plea with prosecutors and pled guilty to three criminal charges: conspiracy, dereliction of duty and maltreatment of detainees. He was sentenced to the maximum penalty, a year in prison, as well as being discharged for bad conduct and demoted to private. He will also testify against other accused soldiers.
Joining me now from Washington is Commander Mary Hall, a former Navy JAG attorney and military judge. Good of you to join us tonight. Welcome.
CMDR. MARY HALL, U.S. NAVY (RET.), FORMER MILITARY JUDGE: Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: So let's talk a little bit about Jeremy Sivits. For starters, he apologized, he asked to be allowed to stay in the military on appeal. What are the chances of that happening?
HALL: Well, before his case even goes on appeal, Paula, he'll have the opportunity to ask the convening authority -- that is, the general who directed the court-martial -- to grant him clemency. So he can ask the general, the convening authority, to either suspend his bad discharge or to disapprove it altogether. Then when the case goes up on appeal, if the BCD, or bad conduct discharge, is still part of that punishment package, he can ask the appeals court to set aside the bad conduct discharge as being too harsh a sentence.
ZAHN: What are the chances of that happening?
HALL: That's going to be difficult, in light of the factual situation we've been dealing with in this case. He did receive the maximum sentence that the special court-martial could give. And when you see a special court-martial where the maximum is given, you have to ask yourself, if this case had gone to the next higher forum, a general court-martial, what are the odds he could have gotten even more? Was this a signal from the judge that perhaps the judge thought this case was at too low a forum.
ZAHN: That's a very good point. Now, Mr. Sivits gave some pretty explicit descriptions of what he saw fellow soldiers doing to some of the detainees. How damaging will his testimony be in the long term to some of these other detainees (ph) facing court-martial?
HALL: Well, I think it's going to be terrifically damaging before the defense gets to put on its case. In other words, when the prosecution presents its case as to what specific acts occurred, they will undoubtedly call Specialist Sivits to come in and testify. Then when the time comes for the defense to start its case, that's when the defense is going to put on its evidence, I anticipate, which identifies who gave the specific orders for them to engage in the activities that they did.
ZAHN: Do we have any answers to that last question?
HALL: Not at this point, we won't. And you know what? We won't any time soon. The next hearings for the next three soldiers are not going to be until June 21. And while today's proceedings were certainly quick, and your idea or someone's idea of speedy justice, the next ones are going to go excruciatingly slow, as the defense counsel take their time putting together their case, going through the pre-trial process, the discovery process, and filing pre-trial motions.
ZAHN: We couldn't, as we listened to some reporting afterwards, determine whether any direct reference was made on Mr. Sivits's part to taking a director order from a higher-up. What is your interpretation of what we can glean about what transpired today?
HALL: Well, first and foremost, if he felt that he had had a legitimate defense of following orders, he would not have been pleading guilty because you cannot plead guilty in the military and have your guilty plea accepted by a military judge if there is a viable defense to your actions. So first and foremost, the fact that the military judge accepted Specialist Sivits's guilty plea is an indication that even Sivits himself did not believe that he was acting pursuant to orders.
ZAHN: So when you talk about what might happen in June, and particularly, the three soldiers who are scheduled to appear at that hearing next week -- I mean, next month -- all of them women, Lynndie England, Specialist Megan Ambell (ph) and Specialist Sabrina Harmond -- what do you think's going to happen to them?
HALL: Well, actually, the June 21 hearings I was referring to had to do with the other three male military policemen because the three females have not yet formally been referred to a court-martial. But when the three male soldiers who are been referred -- or have been referred to a court-martial go, I expect there to be very vigorous motions by the trial defense teams. We've already heard protestations about access to detainees that one of the defense counsel want to interview. So I think we can expect some pretty interesting and contested motion sessions before evidence is ever presented on the merits of these cases.
ZAHN: What kind of deals do you think are going to be cut?
HALL: There may not be any deals cut. If all six of these soldiers decide they're going to contest the case, that's entirely their option and their election to do under the Constitution. They have the absolute right to plead not guilty and, just as in civilian court, force the government to prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
ZAHN: Jeremy Sivits, as we mentioned at the top of this, apologizing to the Iraqi people for his actions and the actions of some of his colleagues. Do you think that's going to help him at all on appeal? HALL: Not particularly because, certainly, in this case, a strong showing of remorse was very important for the defense strategy to try and have him retained in the military. He specifically asked the military judge to remain on active duty, not to receive the stigma of a bad conduct discharge. But that's the only type of discharge that can be awarded by a special court-martial. It can't give a good discharge. So if this military judge felt that he did not belong or should not have remained on active duty longer, then that was the only type of discharge that this military judge was empowered to give, assuming, of course, that he did feel the behavior was appropriate for a bad discharge.
ZAHN: Well, you taught us all a lot today. Commander Mary Hall, thank you for joining us.
HALL: Thank you.
ZAHN: Questions about the prison abuse scandal made some big waves in Washington today. A general warns pictures like these could be a major distraction, while senators want to know if the scandal goes beyond Abu Ghraib. And will Tony Blair be the next leader to be toppled because of the war in Iraq? A long-time observer explains the Bush-Blair connection.
ZAHN: Iraqi prison abuse inquiries resumed today in the Senate, despite some squabbling within the Republican Party. Yesterday, House Armed Services Committee chairman Duncan Hunter criticized the Senate hearings, saying they were, quote, "disserving our military operation by asking so many commanders to appear on Capitol Hill." Well, his counterpart, Republican senator John Warner, has defended his committee's investigation and indicated that he's actually trying to accommodate the needs of war. Yet, as the top Army officers in Iraq, General John Abizaid and Ricardo Sanchez testified today, one Republican lawmaker questioned whether the hearing was necessary at all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R-OK), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: We have to air this out and get it out in the public, but we already had the secretary of defense, the undersecretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And quite frankly, I'm sorry that you guys are here. I'd rather be handling this in some way where we can get your statement, get it in the record and have that done with because you have an awesome responsibility.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Well, for some insight into all of this, we turn to congressional correspondent Joe Johns on Capitol Hill. So Joe, what is the deal here? Why are Republicans so divided over this?
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, they say there's too much publicity. They say all these investigations are counterproductive. In other words, you have six investigations going on. You also have six courts-martial. They say, How can the Pentagon really do its job, and then how can the Congress review the work of the Pentagon if the Pentagon hasn't finished? On the other side of the coin, there are people say you really have to get all of this out in public to show the world that the United States believes in accountability and the rule of law. So that's the rub, Paula.
ZAHN: There was a very sharp exchange between two Republicans we want to share with the audience now. And this happened when you had House Speaker Dennis Hastert reacting to a comment that John McCain had made about cutting taxes during a time of war. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His observation was, never before when we've been at war have we been worrying about cutting taxes. And his question was, Where's the sacrifice? So we have the war in Iraq, and we all...
REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), HOUSE SPEAKER: If you want to see the sacrifice, John McCain ought to visit our young men and women at Walter Reed and Bethesda. There's the sacrifice in this country. We're trying to make sure that they have the ability to fight this war.
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ZAHN: Well, in exchange, this is what Mr. McCain had to say later. "The Speaker is correct in that nothing we are called upon to do comes close to matching the heroism of our troops. All we are called upon to do is not spend our nation into bankruptcy while our soldiers risk their lives. I fondly remember a time when real Republicans stood for fiscal responsibility. Apparently, those days apparently are long gone for some in our party."
All right, Joe, John McCain has long been considered a maverick in the party. There's even talk of John Kerry considering him as a running mate. How under the craw (ph) is he tonight with fellow Republicans?
JOHNS: Well, from what we can tell from talking with staff, this was really about the budget deal. The House is trying to get a budget deal through, and the Senate is balking. It's balking because this budget deal has tax cuts in it, and some Senate moderates like John McCain say they don't want tax cuts during a time of war. It's a very difficult time right now for Republicans. They really want to get that budget deal through, and it looks like right now, John McCain is not budging, Paula.
ZAHN: All right, Joe, but the Republicans certainly don't want to air all this dirty laundry, do they, so close to an election time?
JOHNS: Well, it's very tough for them. A lot of Republicans know that they control the House of Representatives, the Senate and White House. So there's a great deal of pressure on them to deliver. And they're very scared that their agenda is getting marred here, it's getting covered up by all this talk about the war and all this talk, as well, about the in-fighting. At the end of the day, they are going to hope to come together, of course, by the time we get to the elections.
ZAHN: So where do you see it going? Do you see unity at end of the trail here, Joe?
JOHNS: Well, it's obviously very hard to say. As I said, they're under a lot of pressure. And I'd really not like to predict that, at least right now, you know what I'm saying?
ZAHN: I do understand what you're saying. I wouldn't hazard that prediction, either, from here. Joe Johns, thank you for the update.
When we come back: The pundits say the British prime minister may soon pay the price for supporting President Bush and the war in Iraq. We're going to look at what that means for both men coming up next.
ZAHN: Welcome back. President Bush's popularity may be sinking because of the Iraq war, but British prime minister Tony Blair appears to be facing tougher crowds. During a parliamentary session today, demonstrators in the gallery threw purple corn flour at the prime minister. It was not the first time Blair was harassed in Parliament. Sometimes the jeers have come from fellow lawmakers.
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TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: And when he attempts to extract the maximum political mischief...
BLAIR: Absolutely! Let nobody be any doubt at all...
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ZAHN: Well, the cries against Blair have gotten so loud, there have been rumors of a possible resignation or even an ouster by members of Blair's own party. BBC correspondent Stephen Evans has been following this story closely. He joins us now. Good to have you with us.
STEPHEN EVANS, BBC CORRESPONDENT: Good to be here.
ZAHN: How bad's this going to get for the prime minister?
EVANS: It's going to get a lot worse if this war gets a lot worse. All this stems, basically, from the war in Iraq going not the way people thought it was going to go. There's been a bit of a domestic problem for him, but now his own party's turning against him. And for the first time, I think, in his leadership, people are now talking about life after Blair. The polls are going against him. His own people are rumbling. They're saying, Why are we in Iraq? Whatever happened to those weapons of mass destruction? A lot of people on the left of his party are saying, Why are you so close to Mr. Bush? He's not our kind of person. What's the way out of this? So for the first time, there are serious rumblings against Mr. Blair.
ZAHN: All right. But how does he dig himself out of this, if his fortunes are so tied to the outcome of what happens in Iraq?
EVANS: I don't think he can. I mean, his fortunes are tied to what happens in Iraq. If we get the happy outcome that people in the Pentagon and the White House predict and hope for, if things ease off, if we get some sign of democracy, well, then, maybe Mr. Blair can say, Look, I knew it was going to be tough. I told you it was going to be tough. I was firm. I stuck with it. Now we're coming out of it. Now we see the light at the end of that tunnel. But if, on the other hand, it gets worse -- let's imagine, God forbid, that we see serious British casualties there, well, then those rumblings are going to get a lot louder. We have the Labour Party conference in October, and that's a classic time when people plot and talk against the leadership. And that's when we could see trouble.
ZAHN: What do your sources tell you privately about what Tony Blair is thinking right now? Does he feel this vulnerability that his aides are feeling?
EVANS: We don't quite know. He's a tough man. We know that. He's a man with a strong -- like your own president, he's a man with a strong moral vision. He believes that what he did was right. And he is now asserting that he goes on. But that little naggling -- this niggling doubt still remains. Might it come to the situation where he says, I don't need people throwing flour at me in Parliament. I don't need the stabs in the back. Maybe it's now time to hand over to Gordon Brown, our finance minister, who has been with him now for 20 years -- and there are rumors of a deal between the two -- that Mr. Blair goes on and then hands the baton over.
My inclination is, assuming things don't go even worse in Iraq, that he soldiers on, he fights the election and probably wins it. And sometime, perhaps in about two years' time, then that baton does get handed on.
ZAHN: Let's talk about how critical the British public has been of his relationship with President Bush. All right, much was made of this close relationship he enjoyed with President Clinton. Even -- you read these devastating columns about privately what Prime Minister Blair thought of Bush in the early stages of his presidency. But by all accounts, they have a pretty good friendship now, don't they.
EVANS: Well, they certainly seem to, on the face of it. And they are, in British terms, quite strange politicians, in that they are both practicing, avowed Christians. In British terms, that's quite rare. People keep religion out of politics. But Mr. Blair goes to church and prays. They both have this moral vision, so they may actually get on.
But he's basically a right-wing leader of a left-wing party, and an awful lot of people in the Labour Party, which was founded by trade unions, by labor unions, say, What on earth are you doing with a very right-wing president over there?
Now, on top of that, there is, I think, a natural or a bit of anti-Americanism in Britain, anyway, which goes up or down depending on how things are going. But at the moment...
ZAHN: Based on war or beyond that?
EVANS: Absolutely. It's the most...
ZAHN: Cultural issues, too.
EVANS: There are some cultural issues...
ZAHN: You think we're pretty stupid, don't you.
EVANS: No, that's absolutely not -- Paula, how could I...
ZAHN: No, you read some of the polls...
ZAHN: ... and the British public is critical of the kind of movies we produce.
EVANS: Yes. Yes. You're talking...
ZAHN: That's true, right?
EVANS: You're talking to the wrong guy on this. There is a European British snobbery which looks at Mr. Bush and says, you know, The man's a cowboy. And at the moment, that is playing very, very strong indeed. Now, I think in normal times, when wars aren't being fought and going wrong, actually, we kind of have a love/hate relationship. We like to look at the people who are now our children, if you like, who are now much bigger than us, and be a bit snobbish about it and say, Oh, look at them. You know, Look at the films they watch, or -- you know, They're not sophisticated, don't you know. But we don't really mean it.
ZAHN: No, because we know what you watch over there.
ZAHN: I've seen a couple of those programs. Stephen Evans, thank you.
EVANS: You're welcome.
ZAHN: For your perspective tonight. Appreciate your dropping by. We'll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ZAHN: And that wraps it up for all of us here. We appreciate your joining us tonight. Tomorrow night: Secretary of State Colin Powell's future in the Cabinet. Does he even want to stay, if given the chance? He has been a loyal soldier so far, but has the war in Iraq changed his position in the White House? We'll investigate that tomorrow. In the meantime, "LARRY KING LIVE" is next. Again, thanks for joining us tonight. Have a good night.
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