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Threat of Terrorism, Possible Ties to Iran Also Raising Questions at White House; Former National Security Adviser Samuel Berger Facing Some Tough Questions, a Criminal Investigation

Aired July 20, 2004 - 10:00   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning from CNN headquarters in Atlanta. I am Daryn Kagan. And let's take a look at what is in the news right now.
Angelo de la Cruz is a free man this morning. The Filipino truck driver was taken hostage in Iraq earlier this month. He was just released hours ago. That, after the Philippine government gave in to a key demand from his captors and pulled their troops from Iraq earlier than planned. We'll have a live report in just a few minutes.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, a power struggle continues between Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and his prime minister. Arafat says he will not accept Ahmed Qorei's resignation, though the prime minister insists it will stand.

Meanwhile, a Gaza refugee camp earlier today -- these pictures from there, as Israeli helicopter launched a missile strike on the home of a suspected militant leader. Sources say two people are hurt.

Back here in the U.S. This afternoon, the United Nations could vote to demand that Israel dismantle the fence in the West Bank. The barrier separates Israeli and Palestinian communities in the West Bank. The likely U.N. vote comes after the International Court of Justice declared the fence to be illegal.

And in California, huge fires still burn this morning. Many of the evacuated residents of Santa Clarita have been given the OK to go home. Firefighters say the 6,000-acre blaze is about 45 percent contained. No structures have been lost but fires still burn in several locations.

We begin this hour by looking at former National Security Adviser Samuel Berger. He is facing some tough questions today and a criminal investigation. FBI agents armed with warrants swept through his home and office, in search of highly classified terrorism documents. Berger served under President Clinton he says it was all a mistake.

Our national correspondent Bob Franken is in Washington with the latest.

Bob, good morning.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Daryn. First of all we're talking about documents characterized, by one government source, being of the "highest government classification." A term that is higher than Q. It's called Code Word.

In any case, Berger acknowledges that he inadvertently, by his description, took some of the documents from the National Archives. The former national security adviser to President Clinton and an adviser to the Kerry campaign, had at the behest of former President Clinton in July, September and October gone to the Archives to study these documents in preparation for testimony and appearances before the 9/11 Commission.

Now Berger's lawyers said that he took some notes and inadvertently took some of the documents. The Archives officials, in late October, after his visit contacted him and then the law enforcement officials in February searched his home. As I said, Berger claims that this was inadvertent.

He said, "I inadvertently took a few documents from the Archives. I also took my notes on the documents reviewed. When I was informed by the Archives there were documents missing, I immediately returned everything I had, except for a few documents that apparently I had accidentally discarded."

He goes on to say, "I deeply regret the sloppiness involved but had no intention of with holding documents from the commission. And to the contrary, to my knowledge every document requested from the Clinton administration was produced."

A colleague in the administration appeared on "AMERICAN MORNING" this morning to say that this is really much ado about very little.


LANNY DAVIS, FMR. WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL COUNSEL: What we're told, and the only thing I know is what I've read, is that these were widely circulated memos in the government. He took copies of those memos inadvertently and his own notes. And there's absolutely no basis for suggesting that there were any national security issues here, or harm done here.


FRANKEN: However, two law enforcement officials have told CNN chief Justice Department correspondent Kelli Arena that Berger was spotted stuffing some of the documents into his socks. Again, according to a government source, these are highly sensitive documents. And one who is skeptical of Berger's claims that it was inadvertent says that, "He is no rookie."

It goes on to say the White House was not informed of this investigation, although the 9/11 Commission is. The spokesman from the administration says that any claim that this was timed to be leaked right before the 9/11 Commission comes out are, quote, "simply not true" -- Daryn.

KAGAN: OK. I have about two pages of notes of questions for you. But a of couple things. First of all, Sandy Berger says that he apologizes for a case of sloppiness. Sloppiness? This man was the national security adviser. You go beyond sloppy with that. He certainly knows what to do and what you're not supposed to do.

FRANKEN: Well, it's an interesting thing. Mishandling classified documents is very serious. Former Defense Secretary John Deutch found that out. He was almost prosecuted for that; got a pardon from President Clinton. This is something that is being taken seriously enough that it is still under investigation with possible legal implications.

KAGAN: All right. So he, back in the day when the reason he was even questioned, he was national security adviser. Right now, he is an informal adviser to the Kerry campaign. Could this have political fall-out for John Kerry?

FRANKEN: Well, let's put it this way. The fact that you just pointed out, which I also did just a moment ago, was called to our attention by not one, not two, by three members of the Bush campaign.

KAGAN: All right. So the talk is going on in Washington, D.C.

Bob Franken, thank you so much.

Much more on this in the next hour.

The intelligence community goes under the microscope itself later today on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers meet behind closed door to discuss the creation of a single position overseeing the nation's intelligence.

Meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a report that supports part of President Bush's case for war. It mirrors the conclusion of a British report that evidence does, indeed, indicate that Iraq was seeking nuclear materials from Africa, just as Mr. Bush suggested in his State of the Union Address.

Earlier on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING" we heard from Joe Wilson. He, of course, the former ambassador who blasted the president's contention.


JOE WILSON, FRM. U.S. DEPUTY AMBASSADOR, IRAQ: My report and the other reports. Mine was but one of three that were submitted from the field, did not bolster the case. And the two quotes I cited to you suggest that the reporting was so weak that the director of Central Intelligence did not want the president to be a witness of fact on this case.

And we're not talking about whether or not we should have remained vigilant about Iraq and its intentions. I always believed we should have. We're talking about whether this particular transaction, based upon documents that later turned out to be forgeries, could have or did take place.


KAGAN: Wilson had visited Niger at the request of the CIA and publicly criticized the administration's case for war.

The threat of terrorism and possible ties to Iran are also raising questions at the White House. Specifically, whether the Bush administration focused on Iraq too early and too intently in the days after 9/11. The issue gains heat with new evidence linking some 9/11 hijackers to Iran.

Our Kathleen Koch is at the White House with more on that.

Kathleen, good morning.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Daryn. That concern is already being raised by some Democrats; whether or not the fact now that will be revealed in the 9/11 Commission's report this week. That eight of the 19 9/11 hijackers passed safely through Iran, means that the Bush administration either were prematurely, or in a misdirected manner, focused on Iraq. President Bush though, is insisting the United States is still digging, looking for any possible connections between Iran and the terrorist strike on the United States.

Still, the president spokesman yesterday afternoon though, reiterated the acting CIA director's insistence this weekend, for now there is no proof of any ties.


SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: There's no evidence to suggest there was any official involvement between Iran and the September 11 attacks. Of course, we want to see what the September 11 Commission has to say on this issue. They will be coming out with their report. Apparently it's an issue that has revolved over time. So we want to take a look at that. Again, there's no evidence to suggest anything there.


KOCH: And while the president has clearly characterized Iran as part of the axis of evil, and accused it of both harboring terrorist efforting to develop nuclear weapons. McClellan insisted it does still represent a different threat from Iraq. McClellan calls Iraq, quote, "A unique situation," because it had invaded its neighbor. It had in the past used weapons of nuke -- weapons of mass destruction. And McClellan insisted therefore, it still did represent an ongoing and serious threat to the world and the region.

Back to you, Daryn.

KAGAN: Kathleen Koch at the White House. Kathleen, thank you.

Let's look at the Democrats now. It is a countdown to the Democratic convention. The candidates are laying low today. Senator John Kerry will be in Nantucket, Massachusetts. No public event scheduled for him. His running mate, Senator John Edwards, will also take a break from the campaign trail. He is in Washington D.C. today. Meanwhile, the mystery deepens over the case of Corporal Wassef Ali Hassoun. He is the U.S. Marine who says he was held hostage by insurgents. Hassoun appeared briefly outside Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia, where he is being debriefed and sheltered from the media. The military meanwhile, is investigating whether his kidnapping claims are a hoax. Hassoun did not answer any questions but he insists he is not a deserter.


CPL. WASSEF ALI HASSOUN, U.S. MARINE CORPS: I was captured and held against my will by anti-coalition forces for 19 days. This was a very difficult and challenging time for me. Since my release, I have been fully participating in the repatriation process.


KAGAN: U.S. Naval investigators are not expected to question Hassoun until the repatriation process is complete.

The Army National Guard could be showing signs of battle fatigue. That's according to "USA Today." It's having a tough time recruiting new soldiers. The newspaper reports the Guard is more than 6,000 shy of its target strength of 350,000 soldiers. At the end of May it was more than 5,400 recruits short. And it had to activate more than 5,600 of its individual Ready Reserve in order to fill the gap.

Recruiters were expecting to -- many Reservists to extend their service with the Guard this year. But they are worried that repeated call-ups could change that.

The shortage of new enlistees means that some older veterans are being called back from retirement. We talked to one such officer last hour on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING." Dr. Charles Ham is 67 years old, retired and a psychiatrist.


DR. RICHARD HAM (RET.), U.S. ARMY COLONEL: I'm a psychiatrist and the person that called me said they had a critical shortage of orthopedic surgeons, general surgeons and psychiatrists. And we needed to go in and help support the troops. And I really asked them if they could find somebody younger; it might be better. But they called me back and said they needed me. And so, I'm ready to do my part. If we're at war, I'm ready to do my...


KAGAN: All right. Well, Dr. Ham says that he was recently given a physical and waiting to hear whether he will return to active service.

To Iraq now. To the hostage ordeal. It is over but concerns certainly still loom there. Kidnappers did release a Filipino hostage earlier this morning, after his country pulled out the last of its troops from Iraq, as the hostage takers did demand. The concession stokes the fears of countries still in Iraq.

We get the latest now from Baghdad and CNN's Matthew Chance.

Matthew, hello.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Daryn, thanks. And he had the threat of a brutal execution hanging over his head for nearly two weeks. But it has now been confirmed, of course, that the Filipino hostage Angelo de la Cruz has been released into the custody of Filipino diplomats here in Baghdad.

He'll be recovering briefly here, then taken on to the United Arab Emirates, where he'll be given some medical treatments, some medical tests to see if he's in good health before he goes home to his family. His family, of course, has been celebrating the news of this release, something they have been really hoping for, for the two weeks since he's been in captivity by this previously unknown Iraqi Islamic group.

That group had threatened to behead Mr. de la Cruz, if the Filipino government didn't withdraw their forces from Iraq, part of the U.S.-led coalition. Few expected them to do that but such was the political power of this issue in the Philippines itself. That the Manila government on Monday, yesterday, actually pulled the last of their small 51-strong humanitarian contingent out of Iraq, much to the dismay, I might add, of the United States and of the interim Iraqi government. Both of whom expressing concerns this may encourage the kidnappers in the future -- Daryn.

KAGAN: And besides standing by and increasing security, there really is very little that those that are still in Iraq can do to fight against that, I would imagine?

CHANCE: Well, people here, expatriates; foreigners who are working here are taking whatever security measures that they reasonably can to avoid kidnapping. But I mean if these kinds of successes, if you will, by the insurgent groups who are carrying out these kidnappings, and there seems to be more and more of these sort of splinter groups using kidnappings as a tactic. If these successes continued, then what Iraqi officials are concerned about, U.S. officials are concerned about as well, is that this tactic will increase here in Iraq.

KAGAN: Matthew Chance in Baghdad. Matthew, thank you.

News here in the U.S., a lot of the evacuees in California get to go home, even though the Santa Clarita Fire is still raging there.

And it's been -- can you believe this? Thirty-five years since man too one small step that equal a giant leap. We are live from the Air and Space Museum for the anniversary of Man on the Moon.

Later, a high speed chase in Wisconsin that turns into a suicide attempt. A dramatic rescue you have to see to believe. We will talk to the state trooper that saved this woman's life.


KAGAN: Let's check out California. A huge fire in Santa Clarita continues to forge a path of destruction in a dangerous scene of orange and gray and green. The foothill fire still rages on. Over 300 residents have been told to stay away. Many of the evacuees actually were allowed to go home yesterday. Firefighters say the 6,000-acre blaze is about 45 percent contained. No structures have been lost. Other fires still burn from eastern San Diego County all the way up to Yosemite National Park. Big state, a lot of fires.

Well it was one of the greatest achievements in history. Came 35 years ago when American astronauts walked on the moon. A look back at that moment.

Later Martha Stewart world could change dramatically when she heads to prison. Will she decide not to appeal her prison sentence?



NEIL ARMSTRONG, ASTRONAUT, APOLLO 11: Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.


KAGAN: One small step for man. One giant leap for mankind. There were footprints in the sand 35 years ago today, as Neil Armstrong planted an American flag on the surface of the moon. Incredible.

Joining us now with a look at that historic moment, our space correspondent Miles O'Brien. He is at the Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

And really where else would you be on a day like today, Miles?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN SPACE CORRESPONDENT: Where else would I be, Daryn? Exactly. You know, 35 years later, it still is incredible if you really think about it. I mean we sort of take it for granted. We use it almost as a litmus test for technology; if we can send a man to the moon, fill in the blank. Nevertheless 35 years later, it is an accomplishment, which will be remembered throughout the ages, throughout history.

The voyage began actually though on July 16, 1969, about 9:30 in the morning Eastern Time from Florida's Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral at the time. Apollo 11 carrying three astronauts: Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins on the way to the moon. The quarter of a million mile journey took them four days and then after that journey they orbited the moon. Uncoupled the gangly spacecraft, known as the LEM. One of which is behind me right now. And made their way safely to the surface of the moon.

It was kind of a perilous landing. The computers onboard were heading that LEM to a boulder field and crater; Neil Armstrong took control of it manually at the last minute. Got away from those boulders, landed in a safe spot. With a little less than 30 seconds of fuel left in the tank.

Now, of course, we all know his famous words as he set foot on the surface of the moon, "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." You may not remember what the second man on the moon had to say, Buzz Aldrin. His words, it was very simple, "magnificent desolation."

Now, earlier this morning, on "AMERICAN MORNING" Heidi Collins asked Buzz Aldrin what he meant by that?


BUZZ ALDRIN, ASTRONAUT, APOLLO 11: The magnificence of that achievement was contrasted with the utter desolation of what the very flat surface of the moon, where we landed was presenting to us. It was magnificent but it was very desolate. And it's not a very hospitable place to be.


O'BRIEN: Now, tonight here at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, Buzz Aldrin, along with 37 others and representatives of those first couple of classes of astronauts, will be named Ambassadors of Exploration and be given tiny pieces of moon rock -- commemorative moon rock, which will be put on display at museums all throughout the country in their name.

One person on that list who is not an astronaut, Walter Cronkite the CBS anchor, who on that night 35 years ago, was on the air for 27 of the 30 hours that the lunar module was on the surface of the moon.

Joining me now to talk about all these events is Roger Launius, who heads the Space History Office here at the Smithsonian. And knows just everything you need to know about all this.


O'BRIEN: First of all, if you talk about moon rocks. If you see moon rocks on eBay, what should you do?

ROGER LAUNIUS, SPACE HISTORIAN, SMITHSONIAN MUSEUM: Call the police. There's a law prohibiting individual ownership of lunar samples that came back from the Apollo program.

O'BRIEN: All right. So this kind of a special thing; these are actually sort of on loan to these people. And probably a fitting tribute to them 35 years later.

You know, it occurs to me this is the first significant anniversary of Apollo where there's actually some serious talk about going back to the moon. Does that sort of reinvigorate the look back?

LAUNIUS: Well, there's a lot of people -- yes, very excited about this. When the president made his announcement in January. A lot of the folks in the space community were saying we're finally getting out of earth orbit. We're finally going back to the moon, a place that we went more than 30 years ago. And it's high time we went back, explored, settled, colonized, lots of those sorts of activities are possible in the future.

O'BRIEN: Now, this place we visit is your workplace. When you look at this improbable craft, I think Michael Collins called it the strangest looking flying machine he'd ever seen, or paraphrasing his term. It's hard to believe they pulled it off, isn't it?

LAUNIUS: Well, it really is. The technology at the time was, of course, a world apart from where we are today. Much simpler. Computer technology didn't really exist in any serious form in those days. But we were able to go to the moon successfully on vehicles such as this; which is a remarkable achievement. I would suggest a remarkable achievement today as well as then.

O'BRIEN: Roger Launius here at the Smithsonian is in charge of Space History. And we appreciate you joining us. Thank you very much.

LAUNIUS: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Daryn, as they descended down to the moon, he mentioned those computers, that teeny, little computer there, which is probably a fraction of what your palm pilot does. It was saturated with information and was bombarding the crew with all these error messages. And fortunately, they had done a simulation prior to the landing where the same problem cropped up. And if they hadn't done that they might very well have aborted that landing attempt.


O'BRIEN: There's a little footnote of history for you.

KAGAN: I appreciate that. And I appreciate the trip back in time. Fascinating stuff. Miles, thank you.

O'BRIEN: All right.

KAGAN: Well who is invited? How much are they spending? And is it bad manners to ask? Well, not if it's political convention time.

Also, Martha Stewart says she is misunderstood. She is not mean. She says she's a softie. Hear what else she told our Larry King.


KAGAN: Let's take a look at some stories now in the news. The release of the Filipino truck driver secured when his government met the demand of hostage takers who may have been involved terrorists, as coalition forces feared. Hostage takers freed Angelo de la Cruz after the last of the Filipino troops were pulled from Iraq.

Then a short time ago, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, an Islamic militant with suspected ties to al Qaeda, warned Japan to withdraw its troops as the Philippines did or it would become a target.


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