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CNN Security Watch: Anthrax; McCain: No Confidence in Rumsfeld; Interview With Rusty Yates

Aired December 14, 2004 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone. Thanks for joining us here. The U.S. government is spending more than $5 billion to protect you from an anthrax attack. Tonight, is that money being wasted? Find out in our CNN security watch investigation. And John McCain says that he has no confidence in our secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld. So what might that mean for the secretary's future?
But we begin the night with one of the most heartbreaking trials in recent memory and some new questions about one of the key witnesses. Back in 2001, Andrea Yates drowned her five children who ranged in age from six months to seven years. The following year, a jury convicted of capital murder but spared her from the death penalty. She was sentenced to life in prison and is not eligible for parole until 2041 but today a Texas appeals court heard arguments that Andrea Yates should get a new trial.

Her attorneys say there were 19 errors in her first trial, including some testimony from an expert witness who the defense says told a whopper of a falsehood. Joining me now, Andrea Yates' husband, Russell Yates, who filed for divorce and was in the courtroom for today's arguments. Joining me now one of Andrea Yates' attorneys George Parnham. Good to have both of you with us. Welcome.

GEORGE PARNHAM, YATES ATTORNEY: Thank you, Paula. Good to be with you


ZAHN: So Rusty, try to explain to us how it is, you want your ex-wife to have a new trial when she in fact was convicted of killing all five of your children?

YATES: Well, my feelings are, on this is that the state in every respect is proceeding wrongly. Right from the beginning, they could have brought an expert in who would have assessed her as being psychotic. Insane and sent her directly to the mental hospital without trying her at all and really wasting a million of dollars of taxpayer money and really causing a lot more harm it a family that has already suffered so much. In all of that really gets back to the fact that she was psychotic on that day that, you know, she was in distorted reality, in acting within that -- in that distorted reality.

ZAHN: Rusty, when you hear the other side of your argument, people are saying, she was not insane, that this was a plan she rehearsed, and she didn't carry through with it after the rehearsal. She knew exactly what she was doing because she had planned if for months. What do you say to them?

YATES: Well, they don't know Andrea, it's that simple. They don't know Andrea. They don't understand psychosis. Both, you know?

ZAHN: And Mr. Parnham, people looking at the way the murders were carried out, would say they appeared to have been very organized. Killing one child, waiting, killing another child.

PARNHAM: Yeah, no question about, it Paula. But as Rusty alluded to, the fact that individuals who live in a psychotic state in a psychotic world, not everyone who is insane runs around the streets of your city pushing shopping carts filled with tin cans in the middle of the summer. We have obviously individuals who live in a real psychotic world who can make decisions for instance, based on all sorts of indicators that might have a basis in a mental illness and yet appear to the outsider appear to be rational. What happened in this particular case, particularly with the forensic expert Park Dietz is he is the only individual who presented information to this jury they gave this jury any indication that Andrea had a motive and a plan to get out of a trap marriage. And that's the harm that was caused by his testimony and presented very ably today by a constitutional lawyer today Troy McKinney.

ZAHN: Let's say for a moment your wife is granted a new trial and she's found guilty by reason of insanity. What do you want for her?

YATES: I'm sorry, you mean not guilty for reason of insanity?

ZAHN: Not guilty. Excuse me, yes. What do you want for her life? Well, what I'd like for her to have is an opportunity to heal, you know, and then hopefully, eventually, reenter society. I think her illness is treatable. It's not curable. It's treatable. You know, like say for the last three months, she's been relatively stable. Say if that continued for a few years, you know, she would continue to take her medication, she was stable. Maybe get some day time out. And then eventually maybe some weekends, and then, you know, maybe be free one day.

ZAHN: You have spent some time with her over the last several years, you're averaging now I guess a visitation about once a month. What do the two of you talk about?

YATES: We usually just, you know, we'll talk about practical things that are going on. A lot of times, we'll reminisce about the kids, and just see how things are going with each other.


ZAHN: When she talks about the kids does she ever show any remorse for what she did?

YATES: Oh, of course. She's so heartbroken. Feels of tremendous guilt of herself now. Just for her actions. And she loved them dearly and she misses them, misses them all. ZAHN: Has she been able to help you better understand what led to her killing these five children? Maybe some of the warning signs that might have been missed along the way?

YATES: I don't know if it's so much warning signs. What, you know, we're talking about earlier about psychosis, an important thing to understand in that, in the way I look at it is, is very much like bits of a dream. Overlaid on your realities. So, to say someone's functional, most of their reality could be the same. And then some things change within that reality. So, they may hear a voice, that really isn't there, otherwise the room's the same. Or they may see something that isn't really there, or they may believe something to be true that's not true. But most of the reality can remain in -- shared with us, in the same. It's just parts of their reality change and they act within the framework of their reality. Every bit of real to them is everything else in their reality. And so in her case, she was in a very delusional state. And irrational state at that, and did something she would never otherwise do.

ZAHN: How did she react to the news that you wanted a divorce?

YATES: I think she understands. She's sad but she understands and she supports it.

ZAHN: And what do you think she envisions down the road? Does she expect to get a new trial? Does she expect some day to be free.

YATES: She's hopeful of that, yes. She is hopeful of that.

ZAHN: Does she ever talk about what she wants to do if she is ever freed?

YATES: I think she said, eat a pizza and go swimming! That's what she said.

ZAHN: So what are the chances of that happening, Mr. Parnham?

PARNHAM: I think we've got some -- some very pertinent points that we've raised in our brief and argued effectively today on appeal. And I was pleasantly surprised and somewhat awed by the fact that the justices on this panel listened to and read and were so familiar with every aspect of our brief. We argued a sufficiency issue, that is, the evidence was absolutely overwhelming that this woman was mentally ill to the point that she was legally insane. We argued the issue of Park Dietz and the false testimony that was presented to this jury.

ZAHN: So did these reasons fly, then? Do you think this ultimately gets you what you want? Another trial? And ultimately maybe leads to freedom for her?

PARNHAM: What I want for Andrea, and it's not a question of eating pizza and going swimming, so far as I'm concerned, and i know that was said in just by Andrea to Rusty. It's a matter of how do we resolve this issue of mental illness, and how the law basically takes mental illness into account? How do we treat individuals like Andrea Yates who are in a psychotic moment, do something that would otherwise be a horrendous act, an illegal act? I hope that, once this case is overturned, at whatever level, that we'll be able to take Andrea, have attended mental health care for her, be creative in how we develop Andrea and how we care for her throughout the rest of her life.

ZAHN: Rusty, if ...

PARNHAM: And certainly if -- Go ahead.

ZAHN: Sorry about that, Rusty, if this doesn't happen and your wife is not granted a new trial. What is it that you are worried about the most?

YATES: Well, I mean, she's kind of accepted that, that there's a possibility that she could in prison the rest of her life. And that's not what she wants. That's not what's best for her. But if that happens, then, you know, then that's what happens. I'm not worried about it. It's just we're doing the best we can on our side to help her, and really in essence do what's best for society as George said.

ZAHN: Russell Yates, George Parnham thank you very much for joining us us tonight. We appreciate it.

PARNHAM: Thank you, Paula.

YATES: Thank you.

ZAHN: The Andrea Yates case is just one example of America's obsession with crime and the courts. Scott Peterson case is another. Coming up, we're going to look at our fascination with high-profile trials. But first, our question of the day. "Was there was too much coverage of the Scott Peterson trial?" Ii guess I know what you're going to say tonight. Not particularly this broadcast but all over cable TV. Tell us what you think. The results at the end of the hour.

Much more ahead tonight, including:

A CNN security watch investigation. American soldiers crippled. They blame an anthrax vaccine.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, you couldn't even touch my body. I couldn't hold my weapon's stock.


ZAHN: As the government spends $1 billion for a new drug to protect you, critics say, not so fast.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole program is so badly thought out. It really is a disgrace.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ZAHN: And a candidate poisoned permanently disfigured. But he was lucky he got away his life.

The long and deadly link between murder and politics. That and more as PAULA ZAHN NOW continues.


ZAHN: High-profile courtroom drama why does it fascinate us? Well, Scott Peterson, Martha Stewart, OJ Simpson, part soap opera, part sport. Good vs. Evil. Right vs. Wrong. Human drama marked by mystery and a touch of intrigue and the public gets to sit in in judgment.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People of the State of California v. Scott Peterson, we the jury in the above entitled cause fix the penalty at death.

ZAHN: In just ten seconds, the final chapter in a best-selling who done it played out in American living rooms.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, God, it's like my wish came true.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was like a touchdown was scored. You say, whoa!

ZAHN: For nearly two years, the Peterson story dominated cable news. It was the first major trial of the new century, and it generated a race for access, usually, say, for spectator sports. And it's the latest example of America's obsession with high-profile trials.

ROBI LUDWIG, PSYCHOTHERAPIST: These trials become, in essence, the people in our neighborhood. They become the people that we talk about. We feel like we know them. And as a result because more people are watching, it brings people together, becomes the gossip of the day. It raises the number in the ratings.

ZAHN: The monkey trial of 1925, when high schoolteacher John Scopes was tried for teaching the theory of evolution was the first trial to be carried live on the radio and courtroom play-by-play was born. In 1934, people in theaters couldn't get enough of news real coverage of the trial of Charles Lindbergh Jr.'s kidnapper and murder. The baby's father, Charles Lindbergh, then regarded as the world's greatest hero

In 1976, fascinated Americans watched TV to see wealthy heiress Patty Hearst on trial, convicted of bank robbery. Then in 1991, American justice found a full-time television home with the birth of Court TV. Trials became a new kind of drama and their characters stars in an ever-changing soap opera. Wealth, privilege, and fame stoked America's fixation on the rape trial William Kennedy Smith. There was a tale of two brothers convicted of murdering their parents.

JILL LANSING, MENENDEZ ATTORNEY: I think everyone had an image of him, which was created by the media.

ZAHN: But public's fascination with crime and justice reached new heights in the trial of former football star OJ Simpson, With courtroom scenes, right out of a best selling novel.

JOHNNY COCHRAN, ATTORNEY: If it doesn't fit, you must acquit.

ZAHN: most recently, when media megastar, domestic goddess and one woman-empire Martha Stewart was humbled before a 12-person jury, journalists rushed to report the verdict. Critics called the coverage overkill, but others say cable channels are just giving viewers what they want.


ZAHN: And joining me now it talk about our fascination with high-profile trials, Lisa Bloom, of Court TV. Michael Wolff of "Vanity Fair" magazine.


ZAHN: What's the deal? We watch countless hours of this stuff. People are driving hundreds of miles to be by the courtroom when the sentencing was announced yesterday. People holding candlelight vigils outside family's homes. What drives this?

MICHAEL WOLFF, "VANITY FAIR": It's the trials that we pick. In other words, there's a lot of other trials out there. There are -- there are Scott Peterson-like murders. There are -- actually I saw the figure there, there were 300 murders that you could describe as -- as gruesome as barbaric as this. Why do we pick this one? We pick this one because you, the audience, is going to like it. Because it has somebody you can identify with, over the reverse of identifying with. Someone you can hate. Someone you can -- but someone who fits into your life. When in fact most murderers -- actually, what we don't pick is a trial of where there's a murder who looks look a murder.

ZAHN: Right, you're talking about very attractive people? Living in some ...


ZAHN: ... in a perfect suburban life?

WOLFF: Somewhat you can say it's staged, we've staged it.

BLOOM: But it's also a clash of ideas and it's got a narrative arc. Trials have a beginning a middle and an end. And that resolution at the end is what keeps us hanging. Everyone was worried, would Scott Peterson get away with it. He had a high-priced attorney like O.J. Simpson. He had a lot of excuses attacking law enforcement, attacking the prosecution. He had this alibi. Was he actually going to walk away, when everybody knew that most likely he did kill Laci and Connor Peterson. I think that's what captivates everyone. The Peterson case, in addition, it was a story with legs as we say in journalism. First the beautiful missing wife and Scott Peterson with the suspicious alibi. Amber Frey pops up, the bodies washed ashore where he is fishing months later. He is fleeing for Mexico with the dyed hair. Mark Geragos gets hired. Every few months, from a journalism point of view, this is the story that delivered. People were hooked and wanted to know what would happen.

ZAHN: The perfect cable TV story and the perfect "Vanity Fair" story.

WOLFF: Well, I'll step back from the "Vanity Fair" story since I'm not doing it for "Vanity Fair." But it is obviously the perfect cable TV story. Cable TV from the beginning -- What made cable TV? Why we are sitting here? OJ. OJ determined essentially the business model. You could do this day after day after day, it held people, and most importantly, it was cheap.

BLOOM: But let me tell you ...

ZAHN: But it's a different dynamic.

BLOOM: Of course the viewers wanted Scott Peterson. We didn't get our cameras in the courtroom in Scott Peterson. Usually we cover trials where we get cameras in. But our viewers wanted us to cover Scott Peterson. So we stayed in and covered it day by day throughout this trial gavel to gavel, even though we didn't have cameras there. That shows us that people wanted it. Women especially ...

WOLFF: It's not that people don't want, we wouldn't be doing it cable TV if people didn't want it.

BLOOM: But women especially I think were drawn this story.

WOLFF: It does work, the business works this way. That's how cable TV has distinguished itself from network news -- network news.

ZAHN: What we're pack rats? Feast off the frenzy?

WOLFF: Economics are important. Cable TV came around, someone sat down and said, we can't spend the amount of money that it costs to report news, we can't afford. What can we afford? Ah, somebody said, a trial. And, it's true. That's what happens.

BLOOM: Well, you know, I have to disagree with that. I think stay great morality play ...

WOLFF: You have to disagree but there is nothing to disagree with. That's the way this business works.

BLOOM: From the Court TV's point of view, it would be less expensive to send a camera in the courtroom and let it roll sort of speak, rather than having a whole team out there as we did covering it in the way that we did was relatively expensive for Court TV but it's what our viewers wanted.

ZAHN: Coming back to the point that Michael is making earlier, that he thinks, that during this period of time, maybe 300 equally heinous crimes as this crime that Scott Peterson is accuse -- and not accused but found guilty of committing, does not get covered.

BLOOM: Well, first of all, 95 percent of criminal cases end in a plea bargain. That's not a story. Coral Eugene Watts was just convicted of killing a woman. He may have killed as many as 100 women. Maybe one of the most prolific serial killers in U.S. history. We devoted a few days for that trial, but then it was over. Scott Peterson is a case that kept on going. The story kept evolving.

WOLFF: It's not just Court TV. Court TV you can sort of say, that's what Court TV does.

BLOOM: It's its mission.

WOLFF: It's everybody else. It's across the cable dial. And what everyone is looking for is that perfect trial.

BLOOM: Yeah.

WOLFF: These trials are rejected all of the time.

BLOOM: Robert Blake starts tomorrow on Court TV. That's another husband killing the wife.

WOLFF: That's a minority. That's somebody who a bad lawyer. This is going to end. That is that. We are very specifically looking for something which will be, let's say it, entertaining.

ZAHN: And Robert Blake for Court TV starting tomorrow?

BLOOM: And also informative in issue of women's right and are we going to attack the victim? And will the wealthy guy get away with his slick lawyer?

WOLFF: Fiddlesticks.

ZAHN: Fiddlesticks. We've got to move on. Lisa Bloom, Michael Wolff, thank you. Aaron brown is working a different angle tonight. What are you doing on, it Aaron?

AARON BROWN, CNN HOST: Actually, on the question of how many there were, in the year that Ms. Peterson died, there were 804 domestic homicides. And the other thing that we learned today, it wasn't all that uncommon for pregnant woman to die of murder. It is in fact the leading cause of death of pregnant women of non-natural causes at least. We'll look at why of that coming up on NEWSNIGHT tonight.

ZAHN: Thanks Aaron. The Peterson trial was great fodder for the media but also for the light comics. We'll have that a little bit later on.

Coming up next, our CNN "Security Watch." The White House standing by its man in the pentagon. So why is Donald Rumsfeld getting a no-confidence vote from Republican John McCain? That's straight ahead.


ZAHN: Tonight, our "CNN Security Watch" focuses on the top man at the Pentagon and his critics. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will be one of the few cabinet holdovers in the second Bush administration. But job security doesn't mean freedom from pressure. In an interview this week, Republican Senator John McCain told the Associated Press, he has, quote, "no confidence in Mr. Rumsfeld." Senator McCain has long disagreed with Rumsfeld's policies. But in recent weeks, the senator's expressions of no confidence in Rumsfeld have become tougher and more frequent. Still, McCain's being careful to say he's not calling for Rumsfeld's resignation. Here's what he told Judy Woodruff last week.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think the president has got a team now that he knows and trusts. And again, elections have consequences, and certainly one of the first consequences is the president's selects his team. I support it.


ZAHN: The secretary is still catching flak for his answers last week to troops' concerns about extended tours of duty and the lack of armored vehicles in Iraq.


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: As you know, you go to the army with what you have or with what you wish to have.

ZAHN (voice-over): McCain's criticism of Rumsfeld is important and not just because of speculation. The senator might be a presidential candidate 2008. He's already a senior member of the Senate Arms Services Committee and he's on track to become its chairman after the 2006 election.

MCCAIN: We've got to expand the size of the army by some 80,000 people. We've got to expand the size of the marine corps by 20,000 to 30,000 so that we aren't putting such a strain on guard and reservist and active duty people.

ZAHN: McCain isn't alone of wanting more muscle for the military.

GEN BARRY MCCAFFREY, US ARMY (RET): We have put. U.s. Armed forces at war, the nation is not at war. We need more resources to sustain our current foreign policy.

ZAHN: Over at the pentagon, they're feeling a bit under siege these days.

LARRY DIRITA, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: Nobody is more impatient than the secretary of defense to fixing what's wrong with this department. We are organized, trained, and equipped for a different era. And he recognizes that. ZAHN: For now, Rumsfeld has the only vote of confidence he needs. The president's spokesman was asked today about McCain's no confidence remarks.

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: Secretary Rumsfeld is doing a great time during the time of war.

ZAHN: President Bush has asked them stay on and Rumsfeld agreed to keep work and to keep taking the heat.


ZAHN: And joining me now, someone who is familiar with the military and its critics. Retired General Wesley Clark was NATO supreme allied commander during the 1999 Kosovo bombing campaign. He knows a little bit about getting beaten up by critics. Do you have any confidence in Donald Rumsfeld?

GEN WESLEY CLARK, US ARMY, (RET): I think in Secretary Rumsfeld's defense, you have to say he's a strong leader. He's a man who's not afraid to accept responsibility. He's adroit at maneuvering and getting his way but question is, how good is his judgment? Because hen you're a top position like that you have to rely on other people's information, and then you have to make the right judgments, and what we've seen is our record of bad judgments in my view.

ZAHN: But a lot of people say that he's only as good as the military commanders underneath him who are giving the information from the field.

CLARK: Well, he is ...

ZAHN: You've been there. You know what that means.

CLARK: He actually rise on the military to execute the orders but he is, -- there's a dialogue that goes back and forth, and he shapes what the military commanders say. His reactions, his - maybe it's not supposed to be that way but it is and people always try to work to please the boss. And he's a very demanding boss. So...

ZAHN: What's wrong with that?

CLARK: That's why I say he's got some pluses, he's got some minuses. The real minus is the judgment. We went into Iraq without enough forces to do the job. And we have steadfastly refused to recognize reality there. And we're attempting to conceal it from the American people, and fix it marginally. Marginal improvements don't make it work in wartime.

ZAHN: But General, even the president has conceded, they made a miscalculation. There was no way to judge just how strong this insurgency movement was going to be, and they have said all along, if these commanders on the ground needed more troops, we'll send them. Do you see people crying for help over there right now? Maybe recently in the last couple of months we've seen, give us 15,000 more soldiers. CLARK: What I see is the weight of the administration trying to -- with multiple agendas on this. This administration came to office with the plan to cut the size of the ground forces, so it could invest in national missile defense. And then took that agenda and tried to constrain the use of the ground forces in Iraq initially. And then subsequently has retarded efforts to bring the ground forces up to strength and put the kind of capabilities in there we need. Frankly, I was astonished that their response of the armor plate manufacturers the other day, they hadn't been asked to work overtime and produced the armor plate, because anybody in a high position knows that the real strategic weakness for the American armed forces, when it's committed, is losses. We don't like to take casualties.

So if you're leading this force, the number one thing you're going to do is you're going to say, how do I avoid the casualties? Put that armor on there. Spare no expense. Work overtime.

ZAHN: SO when you hear that Pentagon spokespeople, spokesmen or women saying, they've got everything they need, what are they doing? They're lying?

CLARK: We've always known they didn't have everything they need.

From the beginning we've known. They didn't have the body armor, didn't have the armor on the humvees and now it's come down to the trucks also, have never had armor and they don't have it now. But what's surprising is that the administration didn't put greater emphasis on this, and really grip the problem early on.

ZAHN: So the bottom line is, you think the secretary's a strong leader, but not necessarily a good one?

CLARK: A wise leader and a good leader. I don't think he always brings out the best in the people that work for him. But I do think he is a man who does -- sees responsibility when he's given the opportunity to do so. And that in itself is one of the qualities that's required for the secretary of defense.

ZAHN: General, good to see you.

CLARK: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: The security watch continues with the CNN investigation into the billions being spent to protect you from an anthrax attack. And why some experts say, it's a waste of money.


ZAHN: Welcome back. Guarding against bioterrorism, another part of tonight's security watch, a new report from the Trust For America's Health finds most states are not prepared for a bioattack. Yet, three years ago, five Americans died after inhaling anthrax. It was found inside anonymous letters sent to some news organizations in New York and Florida as well as to some politicians in Washington. While those attacks remain unsolved, they have prompted the federal government to order a new anthrax vaccine. But there are now questions about it just as there are questions about the safety of the current anthrax vaccine, given to some U.S. troops. Tom Foreman has this CNN investigation.


EDDIE NORMAN, FMR. ARMY SGT.: I couldn't lift my pelvis. You went from one of the most fittest soldiers in the army, I mean, 300 PT, Goldstream awards to just nothing. I'm talking about in a matter of -- in a matter of a year, just nothing.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A veteran of both Gulf Wars, Eddie Norman believes that the army's anthrax vaccine physically destroyed him.

NORMAN: I was so swollen up at time that, I mean, I couldn't -- you couldn't even touch my body.

FOREMAN: Norman was given the complete series of eight shots of the vaccine before deploying to the Gulf in 2000. He says his immediate reactions to the shots were so severe, he was flown home for treatment.

NORMAN: I mean serious, serious pain. You know, they don't think, it is really hard for someone to imagine they haven't actually experienced this pain. You know, shaking, you know, in the night time. Uncontrollably shaking.

FOREMAN: The final diagnosis by his doctors, Eddie Norman had a muscular disorder called Fibromyalgia.

NORMAN: They say they suspect it to be the anthrax vaccine.

FOREMAN: Despite thousands of documented complaints like that of Eddie Norman, the government is developing a new vaccine. In July, a new law passed, Project Bioshield with a price tag of $5.6 billion. It will create a national stockpile of the new anthrax vaccine for the civilian population. Dr. David Ozonoff is an expert in infectious diseases and public health at Boston University.

DR. DAVID OZONOFF, BOSTON UNIVERSITY: The whole program is so badly thought out and unthought out.

FOREMAN: For more than a decade, troops deployed to the Persian Gulf were required to take Biothrax, the only existing anthrax vaccine but the Veterans Administration has documented more than a thousand cases of servicemen and women who blame Biothrax for a whole range of serious illnesses.

CHRISTINA KUTZ, FMR. SENIOR AIRMAN: 2003 was probably the worst year for me. I couldn't eat anything. I was throwing up constantly.

FOREMAN: Former senior airman Christina Kutz returned from Iraq in April 2003 knowing that she still had to complete the series of anthrax shots. There is no way I could say no because I didn't want to get court martialed and I couldn't see myself -- I like the military. I loved my job. I just couldn't do it. FOREMAN: But after her fourth injection in July, Kutz was told she had developed an intestinal ailment known as Crohn's Disease. She was given a waiver from further vaccinations.

David Ozonoff believes it is the vaccine's effectiveness that also makes it so harmful.

OZONOFF: Some of the antibodies that are manufactured against those organisms also work against parts of your own body.

FOREMAN: Colonel John Grabenstein heads up the army's vaccine agencies.

COL. JOHN GRABENSTEIN, ARMY VACCINE AGENCY: I think the debate's been settled. After we took 18 human safety studies to the National Academy of Sciences, the country's best scientists and they reached the conclusion after over a year and a half of considering the matter that the anthrax vaccine is as safe as other vaccines.

FOREMAN: But in November, a federal district court in Washington, D.C. ruled otherwise. Citing hundreds of complains like those of Eddie Norman and Christina Kutz, the court sent the vaccine to the FDA for reexamination and halted mandatory inoculations. Now, as part of Project Bioshield, the government has awarded a contract worth more than $1 billion to a small pharmaceutical company called VaxGen. It will manufacture 75 million doses of the new vaccine by 2007 for civilian use.

OZONOFF: There is no scenario that you can imagine that you would ever need that many. So, I don't know what's -- I don't know what the thinking was there. Or if there was any thinking.

FOREMAN: Dr. Lance Gordon is Vaxgen's CEO.

DR. LANCE GORDON, CEO, VAXGEN: The driving issue from the federal government was the need to get product into inventory in the quickest possible time with the highest probability of success.

FOREMAN (on camera): A clause impending bioshield legislation allows for fast tracking the anthrax vaccine. The new vaccine will be ready in 2007, but it will be untested and unlicensed by the Food and Drug Administration.

OZONOFF: But until there is that kind of public health emergency, I don't know why you would short-circuit the necessary safeguards.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Critics say the project amounts to an improper government subsidy, a windfall for Vaxgen, a company with some serious missteps in its recent past.

In 2003, Vaxgen withdraw its AIDS vaccines after faulty testy results were discovered. Last August, Vaxgen was delisted from the NASDAQ after its accounting practices were questioned by the SEC.

Despite that, the government gave Vaxgen the bioshield contract. GORDON: I believe that their judgment was that we were the most reliable company, having a product available to meet the urgent need. Something I'm very proud of.

FOREMAN: But under the pending bioshield legislation, Vaxgen and other manufacturers cannot be held liable for illnesses caused by the new vaccine. And whether or not the drug works, many experts question whether it is needed at all. It is very difficult to fashion a weapon of mass destruction out of anthrax.

OZONOFF: Only a handful of people know the secrets to weaponizing anthrax. It's very, very hard to do.

FOREMAN: And inhaled anthrax can be treated with antibiotics, all which amounts to a seriously flawed program, says Ozonoff.

OZONOFF: If you wanted to beef up public health in this country, you sure wouldn't want to do it this way. It is sort of like trying to, you know, make Tang by inventing the space program.

FOREMAN: Vaxgen vows that its new anthrax vaccine will be better than the old one, though its potential for serious side effects remains unknown.

GORDON: The safety is already largely established, but again, you know, we're not going to challenge humans with anthrax and potentially kill them to test the vaccine.

FOREMAN: In the meantime, two months short of retirement, Eddie Norman is struggling with the effects of the current vaccine.

EDDIE NORMAN, FORMER ARMY SGT.: I got pain through here now, but I've got to work, you know? You know, I have to. If I don't work, then my family is out on the streets.

FOREMAN: And Christina Kutz' hopes of going back to the Army are fading.

CHRISTINA KUTZ, FORMER SENIOR AIRMAN: I'll probably never be able to go back in, unless they misdiagnosed me or a miracle.


ZAHN: Our Tom Foreman reporting tonight.

The maker of Biothrax, the BioPort Corporation, canceled an interview with CNN and then didn't return our calls. But today, the company did give us this statement.

Quote, "BioPort Corporation takes adverse events very seriously and thoroughly investigates every report. We are confident of our vaccine's safety and efficacy, which has been repeatedly affirmed by several government agencies, including the FDA, CDC and DoD, as well as the prestigious Institute of Medicine. More than 1.3 million soldiers have been protected with licensed anthrax vaccine since 1998." So how great of danger is all of this for you? There may be no one who knows more about medicine and bioterrorism than Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health. I'll be talking with him next.


ZAHN: Welcome back.

We are continuing our discussion about anthrax. Perhaps nobody knows more about the dangers posed by bioterrorism and the reliability of vaccines to protect us than Dr. Anthony Fauci. He is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.

Always good to see you. Welcome, Dr. Fauci.


ZAHN: Dr. Fauci, we know with the old vaccine that in 10 percent of the inoculations, people got very, very sick. What proof do you have that you won't have the same numbers with the new vaccine?

FAUCI: The clinical trials of the safety will tell us that, Paula. And the way the vaccine is formulated, what it is, the purity of the material would be strongly suggestive that you're not going to see a substantial amount of adverse events.

ZAHN: When will we know for sure, Dr. Fauci?

FAUCI: Well, the safety studies are ongoing now. We've done some before. We've also got to do efficacy studies in animals.

And I would say that by the time we're ready to make that first milestone in 2006, we'll be rather sure in a substantial way that we're dealing with something that's safe.

ZAHN: We're going to quickly take a look at a graphic, which basically reinforces something that a report on bioterror preparation by the Trust for America's Heath did.

Only six states in this country are adequately prepared to distribute and administer vaccines and antidotes in case of an emergency. So would this vaccine even get to the people who need it?

FAUCI: Well, I think it will. Obviously, there is work that needs to be done at the state and local health arena to get the responsiveness capability better than it is now.

It was much worse than it is now. When we started, we, the government and the Department of Health and Human Services, under Secretary Thompson, started putting money into the state and local health infrastructure to build it up. It improved it markedly but there's still a ways to go. We've shown that we can respond at the local and state level with challenges like we've seen, for example, with SARS, which luckily didn't hit us hard. But I don't disagree that there is work to be done of getting preparedness at the state and local public health level.

ZAHN: How troubling is it to you that most states don't even have one these preparedness plans?

FAUCI: Well, that is troublesome, and the CDC is working very closely with the states to try and work with them, to bring along their plan. They've put out a formula about a timetable of getting a plan, of making sure that the plan is a viable plan.

The CDC has been very hard at work, working locally with the state and local health departments.

ZAHN: We hope no one ever has to execute that plan. Dr. Fauci...

FAUCI: I hope not.

ZAHN: ... thank you so much for joining us tonight.

FAUCI: You're quite worth it.

ZAHN: I appreciate it.

And remember to stay with CNN day and night for reliable news about your security.

Coming up next, politics and murder, and why the poisoned Ukrainian presidential candidate can call himself a lucky man. That's next.


ZAHN: You only have to look at the before and after photos -- Boy, check this out -- of Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko to see that someone wanted him gone or, at a minimum, at least incapacitated.

Doctors now confirm that, in fact, he was poisoned.

Marking politicians for assassination is certainly not new in some corners of the world, and the methods of carrying it out have often been pretty creative.

Here's national security correspondent David Ensor.


DAVID ENSOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As Hollywood and Shakespeare remind us, political assassination has been around as long as politics.


ENSOR: Back in those days, it was harder to kill a leader and not have his blood on your hands.

But under Soviet communism, the KGB turned political killing into an art form. Some suspect spy chief Lavrenti Beria poisoned his boss, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Many put the KGB successors high on the list of suspects who had reasons for poisoning Viktor Yushchenko, the Ukrainian presidential candidate who survived dioxin poisoning, though it did disfigure him.

TONY MENDEZ, FORMER CIA OFFICER: Who else did you have in mind? That would be the way to answer it.

ENSOR (on camera): It does appeared to have been botched and to have backfired.

MENDEZ: Oh, yes. Heavy-handed. But that's, you know, that's again standard fare for some of those boys.

ENSOR (voice-over): In a display case at the International Spy Museum in Washington, there's an umbrella on display, like the one used to fire a lethal poisoned pellet into the thigh of a Bulgarian dissident in London in 1978.

H. KEITH MELTON, HISTORIAN: So as Georgy Markoff (ph) was standing on Waterloo Bridge waiting for a taxi, someone came up behind him and literally poked him with an umbrella and walked away.

ENSOR: That umbrella was first purchased in Washington by then KGB officer Oleg Kalugin to be converted into a weapon. Now an American citizen, Kalugin says Russian intelligence never stopped using drugs and poisons.

OLEG KALUGIN, FORMER KGB OFFICER: In fact, we had a number of incidents in Russia lately where people were either assassinated or poisoned or administered some drugs which incapacitated them.

ENSOR: Spy museum director Peter Earnest, a former spy himself, says a congressional investigation in the '70s found that the CIA also plotted to assassinate leaders.

PETER EARNEST, DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL SPY MUSEUM: What they found, interestingly, was that there had been plans to assassinate several people, including Fidel Castro, Patrice Lumumba, and others and they also found that the CIA never successfully assassinated anybody.

ENSOR: Some say all is fair in time of war. The CIA has lately killed its share of al Qaeda leaders. Israeli assassinations are almost commonplace. Assassination, it's the dark side of politics.


ZAHN: David Ensor, reporting.

Results now from our question of the day, right after this. We'll be right back.


ZAHN: Now, on to the results of our question of the day. We asked if there was too much coverage of the Scott Peterson trial, overall. Eighty-six percent of you said yes; 14 percent said no.

Not a scientific poll. Just the flavor of what visitors to our web site are thinking.

"AMERICAN MORNING" is on the road this week from Japan. Here's Bill Hemmer with a preview of what's ahead tomorrow.


BILL HEMMER, CO-HOST, "AMERICAN MORNING": Paula, hello again from Tokyo. Join me tomorrow for my exclusive interview with the prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi. We'll talk about U.S.-Japanese relations now and certainly as they relate to the current war on terror.

Also, we are not out in the country. We're in downtown Tokyo. We'll take you high above the busy streets of Tokyo tomorrow for a look at the rooftop gardens so important to the Japanese people here.

Hope to see you at 7 a.m. Eastern Time on "AMERICAN MORNING" -- Paula.


ZAHN: Thanks, Bill. Nice vista, there.

That's "AMERICAN MORNING," as he just said. First thing tomorrow morning.

Thanks again for joining us tonight. That wraps it up for all of us here. Tomorrow, some of Saddam Hussein's top officers go on trial next week. But will he testify, and what's in store for them? We'll be talking with the man who's been training the Iraqi judges.

"LARRY KING LIVE" is next. He will take you inside the Scott Peterson, regardless of what that poll just showed. Again, thanks for joining us tonight.


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