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U.S. Forces Taking Heavy Casualties in Iraq; 9/11 Hearings Continue Tomorrow
Aired April 12, 2004 - 22:00 ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good to see you, everyone.As Larry mentioned, Aaron is on assignment interviewing Egypt's president, look for that conversation which airs tomorrow night, to touch on the Israeli-Palestinian situation but also the crisis in Iraq. Certainly there is a lot to discuss about that.In less than two weeks, American forces have taken more casualties than during any period since the invasion a year ago and things look almost as bad for thousands of contractors, American and otherwise, now the target of shadowy kidnappers, in all the makings of a dangerous and uncertain month and it is barely half begun.So, as it has so many times before, the program and the whip begin in Baghdad. CNN's Jim Clancy has the watch this morning. We'll join him shortly.We also are at the Pentagon where the concern is for thousands of American troops not coming home, as well as the shortcomings of their Iraqi counterparts. Jamie McIntyre has that angle on the story, Jamie the headline.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, with the failure of one Iraqi Army battalion to report for battle and the poor performance of other units, the Pentagon is moving to stiffen their resolve and, at the same time, bolster its own troop levels in Iraq too -- Anderson.COOPER: Jamie, back to you shortly. More fireworks expected in the 9/11 hearings. CNN's David Ensor with a preview for us tonight and a headline -- David.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the witnesses tomorrow will be the leadership, law enforcement leadership of the Bush administration and of the previous Clinton administration and they'll be some very tough questions about how the FBI failed to connect the dots before 9/11. The commission is also now trying to get another presidential daily brief made public. This one was a briefing to President Clinton back in 1998 -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, David, check back with you shortly, back with all of you.Also ahead on the program tonight the story of Thomas Hamill, an American contractor who went to Iraq to make ends meet back home and who is now a hostage of forces unknown.Also, it hasn't been a question since the -- since the first JFK, John Kerry's relationship with his faith, only this time around there's a twist.And later, U.S. troops in Afghanistan and some unlikely tactics, or so you'd think, in the hunt for bin Laden, all that to come in the hour ahead.We begin with something a former CIA analyst said earlier tonight on CNN. He was talking about the Shiite uprising led by the cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The rebellion, he said, has failed. If it were a success, he explained, you'd have seen hundreds of American casualties over the weekend not dozens. Cold comfort to be sure.But in Fallujah, a shaky cease-fire appears to be holding and in the Shiite south there are limited signs of progress. That said, the situation in Iraq remains highly fluid, terribly dangerous, so we go to Baghdad and Jim Clancy for the latest.


CLANCY (voice-over): This is the face of Iraq's new insurgency, as fuel tankers burn ferociously behind him, a masked gunman vows to fight the Americans. Later, he will tell CNN he seized hostages from the convoy to help in that fight. The Friday ambush west of Baghdad is where insurgents are believed to have kidnapped nine people, including two U.S. soldiers.

BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT, U.S. ARMY: It is not business as usual. We must acknowledge that. There are people out there who are taking hostages. There are people out there who are kidnapping people.

CLANCY: A deadline has come and gone with no word on the fate of American truck driver Thomas Hamill. Two Japanese aid workers and an 18-year-old journalist are still in captivity. In one of the first confirmed released by the hostage takers, seven Chinese were handed over to a Muslim cleric's group. The seven were kidnapped driving in from Jordan to Baghdad in search of work. In all, some 30 people are believed now held hostage. Foreigners jammed a Baghdad travel office trying to book air transport out of Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Unintelligible) in our group is going to leave tomorrow.

CLANCY: His South Korean passport stacked along with others, this man said he was held for three days by Shia Muslim militiamen near Nasiriyah. Whatever officials are saying about the situation improving, he and a lot of others are leaving Iraq.Iraqis themselves continue to stream out of Fallujah. Efforts to broker a full cease-fire are reported making slow progress while Monday night firefights broke out after five Marines were wounded. Insurgents attacked more military supply convoys Monday south of the Iraqi capital burning a shipment of armored personnel carriers. In west Baghdad on a troubled airport road another of the lightly guarded convoys was hit. Looters quickly moved in to raid cargo from a crippled truck.


COOPER: That was Jim Clancy reporting from Baghdad.Again today, President Bush promised to stay the course in Iraq and commit as many troops to the job as commanders need. For thousands of soldiers looking forward to a homecoming this month, his promise now means a homecoming deferred. Back to CNN's Jamie McIntyre covering that and other developments tonight at the Pentagon -- Jamie.

MCINTYRE: Well, Anderson, the top U.S. commander for Iraq, General John Abizaid, said today that he needs two additional mobile combat brigades, roughly 10,000 troops. He wouldn't say where those troops are coming from but tonight Pentagon sources confirm that most of them will come from soldiers from the 1st Armored Division that had planned to be packing for home right about this time. One reason the Pentagon has to reinforce its troop levels in Iraq is the poor performance of Iraqi soldiers.


MCINTYRE (voice-over): When the new Iraqi Army's 2nd Battalion finished its training in January, it was hailed by U.S. commanders as having proud and dedicated soldiers but last week that same Iraqi unit, having just taken casualties after an attack from fellow Iraqis, balked at being sent to join Marines fighting in Fallujah. Frustrated U.S. commanders blame it on a failure of Iraqi command.

LT. GEN. RICARDO SANCHEZ, U.S. GROUND FORCES COMMANDER: Clearly what we faced here in the last week to ten days is a challenge that we've got to confront directly.

MCINTYRE: The breakdown follows another failure of Iraqi police to resist when militia loyal to the anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr seized control of police stations in the Sadr City section of Baghdad.

GEN. JOHN ABIZAID, U.S. CENTRAL COMMANDER: A number of units, both in the police force and also in the ICDC, did not stand up to the intimidators of the forces of Sadr's militia and that was a great disappointment to us.

MCINTYRE: Military officials say the reluctance of some Iraqi soldiers to fight fellow Iraqis is partly based on plain old fear. The U.S. intends to stiffen their determination by adding more American Special Forces to their ranks and replacing weak Iraqi commanders. But the wavering resolve could also be a reflection of what appears to be growing sympathy for the insurgents by ordinary Iraqis, which the U.S. military blames on Arab TV coverage by Al-Jazeera and Al Aribiya, which it argues overemphasizes civilian suffering.

DAN SENOR, COALITION AUTHORITY SPOKESMAN: We encourage all Iraqis, all Iraqi journalists to take some of the reporting that is conveyed on those channels with a grain of salt, with a skeptical eye because it really is, I wouldn't even call it one side of the story. Many of the reports you're seeing are no side of the story.


MCINTYRE: The Pentagon insists some Iraqi military units are serving with distinction, including some helping in the offensive operations in Fallujah but it's also clear that when the transfer of sovereignty takes place on June 30, it will be the 100,000-plus U.S. troops that will be providing the front line for security -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, and that's certainly a change in the plan there. Jamie, you talked about -- a couple of things to talk about tonight but you talked about U.S. commanders looking to replace ineffective Iraqi military officers. Where are they going to get more effective ones? Are they going to be dipping into the pool of former Saddam military leaders who they sort of shunned in the past?

MCINTYRE: Well, they're saying that now that that may be the case, more effective, more experienced military leaders. They've had a longer time now to vet some of those former Iraqi military commanders and they do believe that there are some who may be more effective. The key they believe to getting Iraqi troops to take care of their own security is effective leadership, someone who can inspire the troops and help explain, communicate a little bit better to them what it is they're doing.

COOPER: You also talked about Abizaid talking about bringing in 10,000 troops or delaying the departure of 10,000 U.S. forces. Why not bring in new fresh troops from the United States?

MCINTYRE: Well, they may do that eventually. In fact, there was a meeting today of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to talk about the overall rotation plan but they believe the best short term answer is to use the troops that are there now, the most experienced troops and that's why last week the members of the 1st Armored Division got a letter from their commander saying remember that promise we'd get you home in a year? We're sorry. We're going to have to break it. We need you to stay three more months.

COOPER: So they're saying it's a matter of experience. They want the most experienced people on the ground rather than bringing in new people to try to retrain them?

MCINTYRE: Exactly. They're the ones who built the relationships, have a good idea what's going on. They need to handle some of these situations and they found that when they moved the 1st Armored Division down to retake al-Kut that they were very effective militarily.

COOPER: All right, Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon, thanks.On to the 9/11 investigation now. Starting tomorrow some of the biggest names in U.S. law enforcement, including U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, will take their turn in front of the 9/11 Commission. The questioning is expected to be tough. Whether the FBI and CIA could have done more to prevent the 9/11 attacks has been a focus of the investigation all along.That focus has intensified following the testimony of Condoleezza Rice last week and the declassification over the weekend of a CIA memo. The memo was prepared a month before the 9/11 attacks and it set off a new round of questions.Here's CNN National Security Correspondent David Ensor.


ENSOR (voice-over): 9/11 Commissioners want to know more about the 70 FBI al Qaeda related investigations in the summer of 2001 referred to last week by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and contained in the now famous August 6 presidential daily brief from the CIA.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You see it meant the FBI was doing its job. The FBI was running down any lead.ENSOR: Another question from the commissioners why didn't law enforcement connect the dots between Zacarias Moussaoui and the flight training mentioned in the FBI's Phoenix memo? Why didn't the CIA share its information about two al Qaeda suspects in the United States? According to commission sources, Attorney General John Ashcroft will face criticism from then acting FBI Director Thomas Pickard. He has said Ashcroft had little interest in counterterrorism before 9/11, a charge the attorney general's aides reject.The Bush and Clinton law enforcement teams may also be asked whether the U.S. should set up a British style MI5 domestic spy agency and take that job away from the FBI.

JOHN LEHMAN (R), 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER: Their whole internal systems and culture was not to share anything.ENSOR: With the commission staff having seen thousands of classified pages, officials say new revelations can be expected.

TIMOTHY ROEMER, 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER: There will be some new twists and turns.ENSOR: Those revelations, sources say, could include more on assistance given to the 9/11 hijackers by foreigners, possibly Saudis. Information on that in the earlier congressional joint committee report was kept classified.

ELEANOR HILL, FORMER STAFF DIRECTOR, CONGRESSIONAL 9/11 COMMITTEE: The words in the report, which were cleared as unclassified, the issue pertains to foreign support for the hijackers, so that's really all I'm allowed to say under the classification rules.


ENSOR: Commission sources say they're asking the White House to declassify another CIA briefing, a presidential daily brief given to President Clinton back in December of 1998, which included a discussion of the threat of aircraft hijacking by al Qaeda. One commissioner told CNN today that everyone shares some blame for failing to stop 9/11 and he believes that the final report when they put it out in July should name names.

COOPER: Interesting, David Ensor. One of those, I was reading Louie Freeh's op-ed piece in "The Wall Street Journal" today. It was interesting to me that he would put that forth prior to his testimony. I guess trying to sort of set the groundwork for whatever it is he will testify. Is it clear what some of these people are going to say when they sit down?

ENSOR: Well, it's clear what Louie Freeh is going to say. He's going to blame politicians for not having declared war on al Qaeda at an earlier time and not having given him the resources he and others, the resources to go after them sooner.I've talked to commission members who say they don't think any specific -- they don't think it's right to blame the politicians or the bureaucrats running the agencies but they do think that there are faults. There are specific mistakes that were made and that names should be named when those are determined and they expect that their report will do so.

COOPER: It will definitely be an interesting day of testimony. David Ensor thanks.David Ensor, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: The new questions about 9/11 come on a week heavy with foreign policy concerns for the White House. In addition to the escalating crisis in Iraq, there's the stalled road map to peace in another corner of the Middle East. Israel is putting a new plan on the table. Today, President Bush met with Egypt's leader to discuss ways to address it. Here's CNN's Suzanne Malveaux.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Bush's meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at his Crawford ranch was the start of a big push to move the peace process forward.

BUSH: I appreciate his frank views on many challenges that face our two nations and that face the greater Middle East.

MALVEAUX: With violence erupting in Iraq and the road map to Israeli-Palestinian peace at a dead end, both were eager to pledge cooperation for change.BUSH: Our objective in the Middle East must be true peace not just a pause between wars.

HOSNI MUBARAK, EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT: I affirmed to President Bush Egypt's steadfast commitment to do whatever it takes to revive the hope for a comprehensive settlement.

MALVEAUX: Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is poised to present Mr. Bush with a new plan during his White House visit on Wednesday. Sharon's disengagement plan commits Israel to unilaterally pulling out of Gaza and a small portion of the West Bank. Mr. Bush hopes the plan will restart negotiations on final status issue.

BUSH: If he were to decide to withdraw from the Gaza, it would be a positive development.

MALVEAUX: But its success requires help from Mubarak in policing the Palestinian-Egyptian border.

MUBARAK: We could help a lot in Gaza by training their police, by giving them advice.

MALVEAUX: And over the next several weeks, Mr. Bush will reach out to his closest allies, including British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Jordan's King Abdullah. But the president's agenda for peace is being overshadowed by questions over his handling of pre-9/11 intelligence.BUSH: There was nothing in there that said, you know, there's an imminent attack.

MALVEAUX (on camera): In an effort to answer those questions about September 11, President Bush announced he'd hold a prime-time news conference Tuesday at the White House.Suzanne Malveaux CNN, Crawford, Texas.


COOPER: A quick programming note for you. As we mentioned at the top of the program, President Bush -- excuse me, President Mubarak sits down tomorrow with Aaron Brown for a discussion on the visit with President Bush, as well as his take on the challenges facing the United States and Egypt at a very tricky moment in time.Coming up ahead on the program more on the tactics of kidnapping civilians in Iraq, first a break. This is NEWSNIGHT


COOPER: Well, back to Iraq now. In the last few days, coalition forces have shifted tactics, implementing unilateral cease-fires and giving negotiators a chance to quell the insurgency that's threatening the mission in Iraq.There are signs tonight that the situation is improving some. A cease-fire in Fallujah appears to be holding and, as we heard earlier, the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has pulled his militia out of parts of three Iraqi cities. There are many questions tonight, including whether the cease-fire will hold and whether negotiating can bring a permanent end to the crisis. Joining us now is Major General Donald Shepperd, military adviser for CNN, good to see you, general. What do you make of what appears to be a military shift on the ground?

MAJ. GEN. DONALD SHEPPERD, MILITARY ANALYST: It makes sense, Anderson. Basically, you've got to react to Fallujah and the events that took place there the killing of the Americans the burning of their bodies and what have you. You must react to that.We reacted with military force and now it makes sense to take a pause and see if you can negotiate because clearly every time you kill someone you create an enemy, in fact several enemies for the future, the person's family.And so trying to step back and see can we negotiate our way through this so we can bring Fallujah to peace and create a stake for the Sunnis in the new Iraq that's what this pause is about. Hopefully it will pay off -- Anderson.

COOPER: Do you think it's therefore an acknowledgement by the U.S. that really only a political solution ultimately can solve the crisis in Iraq?

SHEPPERD: I think everybody in Iraq on the American side and the coalition side understands that very clearly. Clearly there has to be an Iraqi government that takes over. Clearly U.S. and coalition forces cannot provide security for Iraq. The Iraqis must do it. We must train them to be able to do it and take over and the government itself, some type of government must be prepared to take over by the 30th of June and this is a tall order -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, I mean the training of these Iraqi security forces, police, military, you know, I mean if what happened this weekend, apparently one unit of battalion size in Fallujah refused to fight or did not even go in, obviously some police have gone over to Muqtada al-Sadr's militia, from your perspective I mean this training is it going well?

SHEPPERD: Well, it's exceedingly difficult to create a military. We disbanded the old military and we're trying to create a new one and it really takes time because it involves a values based military that understands the concept of values, understands the concept of discipline and loyalty.That's built up over time. You have to have confidence in a government. You have to have confidence in a commander-in-chief and a commander of the armed forces and confidence in your commanders at the unit level and working together and this takes place over time. It's not something that takes place within one year and building that from scratch, again, is a very, very difficult thing.There may be one slight bright side to this. I find it encouraging that someone in the Iraqi military refused to kill other Iraqis when under Saddam they had no trouble killing other Iraqis, so maybe there's a little bright spot in this whole scenario somewhat.

COOPER: Although the U.S. now is considering, according to Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon, considering going back sort of dipping into that pool of former Saddam military leaders to try to sort of shape up the force that they have now.

SHEPPERD: Indeed. They had some very good leaders in the old Iraqi Army but, as Jamie said, they've had time now to vet them and know who these people are and perhaps they can select some better leadership but it's going to take time. It's not going to come easy and just putting uniforms on people and throwing them into the field and tell them to follow orders is not going to do it. It takes discipline. It takes time. It takes loyalty. All of that is produced over a period of time. We're going to be in Iraq a long time -- Anderson.

COOPER: Are you concerned about mission creep?

SHEPPERD: Absolutely. That's -- there are two things I'm really concerned about. One of them is mission creep. We've been there before in the Vietnam era. Nobody wants to compare this to Vietnam because it's not like Vietnam but the idea we need more and more troops to stay longer and longer is very troubling when what everybody knows is the solution is to train the Iraqis and get them to take over, worried about that.Also worried about the new Iraqi government, when it will take over, what it will look like and how they will have someone that the people across the board in all the factions can look forward to and say these are the leaders that we can have trust and confidence in. Again, lots to be done before the 30th of June and even after that.

COOPER: And, as you watched events play out over the last several days with the taking of these hostages, American and other nations, has that been effective?

SHEPPERD: Well, hostage taking is definitely a tactic that works in some sense. We see surprise attacks. We see ambushes. We see hostage taking. Hostage taking is not something new. We've had it over the years in many locations. It's, again, it's state of the art in Mexico and in South America among the drug lords. It's something that we're cautioned about all the time. It works for a short period of time. What you have to do is you must make sure you don't give into hostage takers. You must negotiate with them and deal with them and talk to them but you cannot give in to them. It won't work over the long haul -- Anderson.

COOPER: So, you're saying actually negotiate with them really by which you mean just talk to them.

SHEPPERD: I mean talk to them. You got to -- every time you talk to them you're keeping the hostages alive. You try to find out what they want, what they will accept, what they back down to. You gain intelligence as you're doing this. So, again, we know over time that hostage taking doesn't work. It does work in the short run but we've got to make sure we don't create a situation in which they can drive all of the coalition nations out except the United States. That's the danger of hostage taking.

COOPER: Major General Don Shepperd always good to talk to you, thanks.

SHEPPERD: A pleasure, Anderson.

COOPER: A few quick items now from around the country to tell you about starting with former counterterrorism Chief Richard Clarke. A Hollywood movie studio has purchased the option for his tell-all book. No word on how much Columbia Pictures paid and no guarantee you'll be seeing it in theaters anytime soon or even at all. Studios often bid on hot properties just to keep them away from the competition. Such is Hollywood.A nationwide ban on the weight loss supplement Ephedra took effect today, this after a federal judge turned down a drug makers last minute appeal. Studies have linked Ephedra to fatal heart attacks and strokes.And a glitch at Los Angeles International Airport left air traffic controllers briefly in the dark and unable to communicate with aircraft. The power was quickly restored. No foul play suspected but dozens of inbound flights were delayed.Coming up tonight, a farmer from Mississippi now held hostage in Iraq, his long journey and how he got there.For NEWSNIGHT, I'm Anderson Cooper. We'll be right back.


COOPER: That's pretty young.As we reported earlier, at least 30 people are believed to be held hostage tonight in Iraq. They came to Iraq for many different reasons. Some were doing humanitarian work. Others were journalists and still others simply needed a job. We mentioned Thomas Hamill earlier. He came to Iraq all the way from Mississippi. More on his story from CNN's Gary Tuchman.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a city with only 2,400 people this was a large gathering.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will hear and answer our prayers.

TUCHMAN: One of Macon, Mississippi's own is in peril. Thomas Hamill took a job driving trucks in Iraq. This video was taken by an Australian news crew after he was kidnapped by Iraqi insurgents.


THOMAS HAMILL: They attacked our convoy. That's all I'm going to say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.TUCHMAN: Hamill's attackers threatened to kill him this past weekend. His wife and two children in seclusion in this home do not know if he is still alive. Macon Mayor Dorothy Hines is close friends with Hamill's wife Kelly (ph)

.MAYOR DOROTHY HINES, MACON, MISSISSIPPI: He's just a good old country boy and he just, you know, just wanted to try to get a job and do something that would help his family because they've had a lot of problems with their -- Kelly had open heart surgery, you know, two months ago, you know, health wise and I'm sure something like that can be devastating.

TUCHMAN: In this poverty-stricken part of Mississippi, the 43- year-old Hamill had sold this dairy farm but still found himself in financial trouble. He took the job in Iraq with a division of Halliburton because it paid good money.

SCOTT BOYD, REPORTER, "THE MACON BEACON": It was a chance to go and earn wages much higher than probably what he could have made staying and working here even though there were a lot of sacrifices that came along with the job.

TUCHMAN: And now a community puts up yellow ribbons and American flags and a loving family sits and waits praying that Thomas Hamill hasn't paid the ultimate sacrifice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you want to give us your name?

HAMILL: Hamill, Thomas.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Thomas Hamill's family members have asked the people of Macon to limit their public comments about the situation, their fear that publicity could make things worse for him.Gary Tuchman CNN, Macon, Mississippi. 


COOPER: Continuing to cover the events in Iraq, it's the cover story in all the major weeklies including "Time" magazine, which titles its reporting "State of Siege."Joining us now "Time's" Baghdad Bureau Chief Brian Bennett, always pleased to have him, Brian thanks for being on the program. 


 COOPER: I don't know. Have you heard -- there was I think recently crossed the wires about Iraq's most powerful Shiite cleric say coalition must pay for starting crisis about this meeting that they held with Sadr. Have you heard about it? What do you know about it? 

BRIAN BENNETT, BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF, "TIME": Muqtada al-Sadr, the reports are saying, has withdrawn his Mahdi Army from the police stations in Najaf. There has been agreements among the Merga that he should withdraw his forces and allow the police and the government and the civil authorities to return to the city. There has been some back-door dealing going on. And it allowed the civil authorities to return to the city and return control to other cities in the south. 

COOPER: What do you make of that? You've been in Iraq a long time. Is that significant? 

BENNETT: It does show the capability of the Governing Council and the other clerics, the other religious clerics working around Muqtada al-Sadr to rein him in a bit. I think it is a success in the short term. But the fact is that Muqtada al-Sadr still maintains the ability to create the civil unrest that he created in the last two weeks. And that capability, at this point, has not been reduced. COOPER: And yet -- does it mean that he has sensed that he overreached a bit and he is sort of looking to pull back and sort of regroup? 

BENNETT: Yes, it certainly shows that he believes that the timing wasn't quite right for his uprising, that he had extended himself out too far, that he didn't have the support of the other religious Shiite clergy in the country and he needed to pull back and wait for another time. 

COOPER: The last several days have seen a number of hostages being taken, American and other nation's hostages. How is it affected your work? How has it affected your ability to travel, your ability to move about? 

BENNETT: It has affected my work and the work of most journalists I'm with here in Baghdad tremendously. On Saturday and Sunday, many of us just stayed inside our hotels or various residents in the city of Baghdad. Those who ventured out went to just a few places around the city. Fortunately, yesterday, the streets were -- many of the streets were open again. A lot of Iraqis were getting back to daily life and a lot of journalists were going back out. But it has affected the places where we can travel to. It is incredibly dangerous to travel certainly west of Baghdad towards the area of Fallujah and Ramadi and many other cities to the north and south as well. 

COOPER: On the ground, it is one thing to sort of see images coming here and one interprets those images because you get them from all different parts of the country. On the ground in Baghdad, does it feel like things are better over the last -- than they have been over the last several days or just as bad or worse? 

BENNETT: Things seem to be a lot better inside Baghdad just in the last 24 hours. The streets were busy, instead of being empty, as they were over the weekend. And, as I said, a lot of people were going back to their daily routine of shopping, opening up their stores, and getting back to something of a more normal life. On the other hand, the tone of the city has changed from just a few weeks ago. And, certainly, in a lot of areas of Baghdad, there is still a lot of tension. 

COOPER: All right, Brian Bennett of "TIME" magazine, thank you very much. Still to come tonight, what the FBI knew in the months before 9/11. We're going to speak with a former top FBI administrator as the bureau prepares to go before the 9/11 Commission. First, a break. This is NEWSNIGHT on CNN.


COOPER: Connecting the dots has become the shorthand for what the FBI allegedly failed to do before the 9/11 attacks. Those alleged failures will be the focus of the 9/11 hearings that begin tomorrow. So too will be the much discussed bureaucratic obstacles that prevented the FBI and CIA from working better together. The daily affairs of both agencies are mysterious to most of us, but not to Harry "Skip" Brandon. He was formerly a deputy assistant director of the FBI with the responsibility for the national security and counterterrorism program. He served 23 years in the agency. He's a combat veteran as well. He joins us from Washington. Skip, good to see you on the program. 


COOPER: First, let's talk about this negotiation that has gain some moment in many Washington over the last several days, of creating an MI5 style offshoot of the FBI which would handle domestic intelligence. You don't think it is a good idea. 

BRANDON: No, I don't. We could talk for hours about that, if anybody would listen. But, in a nutshell, it strikes me that that is just a bureaucratic solution to what is viewed as a problem. Let's just create another agency. And the FBI can do the job. They have to make changes. They have already started making it. They can do the job. It doesn't make any sense to me to just create another agency and start all over again. 

COOPER: And you actually believe, from what I've read, that you think it is actually an advantage to have agents, field agents for the FBI, who are trained in criminal procedures working on domestic intelligence operations. 

BRANDON: Yes, absolutely. The investigative training that every agent has and the investigative experience that every agent has stands the intelligence collector in very good stead. On top of that, many of these cases, even though they're intelligence cases, may well lead to a point in which prosecution is considered and it is already built. It doesn't make any sense to me to have one agency do a part of it and then have to turn it over to another one and start all over again when you reach that point. 

COOPER: OK, let's talk about this other negotiation which has gained a lot of prominence, the failure or alleged failure by the FBI to connect the dots. How much -- if that that's true, how much of that was a function of the fact that information could not be shared between branches, between arms of the FBI due to U.S. law? How much of it was more sort of procedural FBI culture problems, so to speak? 

BRANDON: Well, the FBI has already looked pretty hard at themselves. And we're all looking very hard at the FBI right now. I think it is important to note the FBI does not operate out of a vacuum. And it is a whole intelligence law enforcement continuum. But there were internal impediments, legal impediments, which precluded sharing information within the FBI and the FBI sharing information with other intelligence agencies. That's been removed. And that's important to note. 

COOPER: But was there something else? Was it just these sort of legal impediments or -- in every movie you see, police agencies have difficult -- it is a stereotype of police agencies. They have it difficult communicating with each other. And, obviously, a lot of people say the FBI and the CIA have that problem, may even still have that problem. 

BRANDON: Yes, there is no question about it. Historically, there have been differences between the FBI and the CIA and a difficulty between two very different cultures in communicating and the differences in the way things were approached. I will tell you that a lot of those differences were being settled prior to 9/11. Apparently, we hadn't gone far enough. We have to hope that all the impediments have been removed now. 

COOPER: When you listen to the testimony tomorrow, what should we listen for? What should the viewer at home be trying to see and hear? 

BRANDON: Well, maybe to wave the flag a little bit. It strikes me that the thing that is most important thing that we need to listen for is, have improvements been made? Are we better off than we were before? If not, we have a lot of changes to make. I have a little trouble with trying to point the finger at one person or two people or something like that to say, we want to blame somebody. Any time something like this happens, there is a failure. To me, the real thrust, the thing to listen for and listen carefully for is, have the changes been made that make us more secure?

COOPER: Interesting to hear your perspective. Harry "Skip" Brandon, thanks very much. 

BRANDON: Surely. 

COOPER: A few business items before we go to break, starting with the Donald. Donald Trump says he'll be doubling his take on the second season of "The Apprentice,' this according to "The L.A. Times," which is reporting he made $50,000 per episode last season. The paper reports he also takes a cut of show-related merchandising and he gets paid a producing fee as well. And sticking to the Big Apple, 45 million subway tokens are melting, not there in the picture, but they've been no good on the system for the last year or so. A scrap metal dealer bought the load for about half a million dollars at a face value of $90 million. The markets today got off to a strong start for the week, investors counting on strong profits to carry the day.Ahead on NEWSNIGHT, presidential candidate John Kerry, a Democrat and a Catholic, some questions about whether he can be both at the same time, but not the ones you might expect.And a new twist in the search for Osama bin Laden, a real song- and-dance routine.From New York, this is NEWSNIGHT. 


COOPER: Well, religion and politics often cross paths in election years, and this is no exception. The Democratic presidential candidate, John Kerry, took communion yesterday at Easter mass, a private action, potentially with political consequences.Here is CNN's Candy Crowley.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He is the first Roman Catholic to top a major national ticket since this Roman Catholic. 

JOHN F. KENNEDY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party's candidate for president, who happens also to be a Catholic. 

CROWLEY: For John Kennedy, the question was, would his religion have too much influence on policy? For John Kerry, the question is -- why doesn't your religion have more influence? 

KERRY: I fully intend to continue to practice my religion separately from what I do with respect to my public life. 

CROWLEY: Kerry, a former altar boy, who calls himself a believing, practicing Catholic, supports stem-cell research, favors abortion rights and recently voted no to making the death of a fetus a separate count in federal criminal cases, all positions contrary to church theology. As Kerry's national prominence brings the issue to the forefront, there is some protest.

 REV. JOHN MCCLOSKEY, FAITH AND REASON INSTITUTE: You simply cannot do that, because you're living a contradiction. You're giving great scandal to other Catholic citizens, and you're also putting your own soul in peril. 

CROWLEY: Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, pro-abortion rights and lifelong Catholic, has split this difference before. 

MARIO CUOMO (D), FMR. NEW YORK GOVERNOR: Now, our church teaches life begins at conception. That's a religious principle. It's not a scientific principle. 

CROWLEY: Spiritually, Kerry may merely reflect the struggle of many American Catholics to mesh religion and politics. Politically, the issue may feed his critics, some of who sit in the Catholic pews. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that he has flip-flopped a lot on -- has a lot of inconsistent positions on just about everything, and apparently religion is no exception for him. 

CROWLEY: A decision on how church officials should deal with the issue of Catholic politicians may emerge from a meeting of bishops scheduled in November, just after the election. Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington. 


COOPER: Still ahead on the program tonight, a kinder and gentler approach in the search for al Qaeda's top leader. This is NEWSNIGHT. 


COOPER: Let's check some other stories making news around the world tonight. The promise of free clothing touched off a stampede in Northern India. It began when supporters of a local politician began giving out saris to celebrate his birthday. At least 21 women were killed. And police in Spain arrested three more people in connection with the bombings last month in Madrid. All three are Moroccan. They join 10 other countrymen, two Indians, a Syrian and a Spaniard already in custody. In the fight against al Qaeda in Afghanistan, American forces have at their disposal all the latest from Predator drones to satellite phones to laser-guided just about everything. After all, this is not a tea party. Ah, but it is. The story from CNN's Nic Robertson.


 NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Perhaps not what you would expect in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, U.S. troops playing Afghan music while villages dance; 15 miles from the Pakistan-Afghan border, American soldiers are honing new tactics in their search, breaking down cultural barriers, not doors. 

CPT. CHUCK BROOKS, 1ST BATTALION 501ST PARACHUTE INFANTRY REGIMENT: I think overall the population is really coming around. They were a little apprehensive at first. But we've presented enough of a presence where they feel comfortable with us around and they feel like we're really here to help. 

ROBERTSON: On this drive to drum up critical information on the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden and anti-coalition forces, villages encouraged to bring out their sick; 4-year-old Basmina's (ph) skin complaint is common. Through a U.S. interpreter, a father explains. "Our feelings about the coalition haven't changed," he says. "We like them, not just because they help us, but because they bring us security." "If we have any information about Osama, of course we'll contact the coalition," another villager adds, hard for these troops to judge if that's more than an empty promise. 

SGT. JUAN DIAZ, 1ST BATTALION 501ST PARACHUTE INFANTRY REGIMENT: We come here. They offer us tea, they offer us to sit down and eat with them for helping them out. 

ROBERTSON (on camera): Do you think they're going to offer up Osama? 

DIAZ: I couldn't tell you. ROBERTSON (voice-over): With so many places to look and only so many troops to do it, local intelligence is critical. 

CPT. KEN COSGRIEF, SQUAD COMMANDER: Working with the community definitely gives us an advantage. They have a feel for what is going on day to day and we obviously can't be in every village. ROBERTSON (on camera): Small steps maybe, but success here for the coalition could mean a lead on Osama bin Laden. Success for the Afghans is stability, security and the possibility of economic improvement. Nic Robertson, CNN, Nuikalai (ph), Afghanistan.


COOPER: Well, still ahead on NEWSNIGHT, the latest out of Iraq and a look at what's ahead tomorrow.


COOPER: And before we go, a quick update of our top story. A shaky cease-fire appears to be holding in Fallujah and in the south. The Shiite uprising has receded, at least a little. However, attacks on American forces continue across the country and so has the kidnapping of foreigners, at least 30 now being held, including 11 Russians. President Bush again today vowed to stay the course, as thousands of American forces are learning they'll be staying in Iraq, not coming home as planned. Tomorrow on the program, Iraq and more as seen through the eyes of Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak. Aaron Brown's exclusive interview, that is tomorrow night on NEWSNIGHT. Thanks very much for joining us. You can join me every weekday night on "360," 7:00 p.m. Eastern. I'll see you there. Have a good night.

So, bin Laden wasn't the 'one man' to focus on because "W" didn't have a clue where he was and it made him look bad. But, it was perfectly fine to focus on Saddam Hussein as the one man that was a global threat.

Politics to make a Bush look good is all that matters. Do we actually have to go through all this again to prove how corrupt they are?'

The American people don't remember how they were lied to and how they were manipulated and how war was crafted for the American palate. Or maybe they simply were to scared to live their lives outside the bubble the propagandists created for them. 

The corruption in the Bush White House was knee deep. But, what does that matter when people don't know which way to turn when they are looking for terrorists in their neighborhoods and emptying the shelves of duct tape.

We don't need another one hunting a ghost for the hell of it. 

I'll be more than happy to revisit the entire facade for the rest of the year. Water off a duck's back. I'm hoping Americans finally come to their senses and impeach "W." It is never too late.

May 12, 2003
By Seymore Hersh

They call themselves, self-mockingly, the Cabal (click here) —a small cluster of policy advisers and analysts now based in the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans. In the past year, according to former and present Bush Administration officials, their operation, which was conceived by Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, has brought about a crucial change of direction in the American intelligence community. These advisers and analysts, who began their work in the days after September 11, 2001, have produced a skein of intelligence reviews that have helped to shape public opinion and American policy toward Iraq. They relied on data gathered by other intelligence agencies and also on information provided by the Iraqi National Congress, or I.N.C., the exile group headed by Ahmad Chalabi. By last fall, the operation rivalled both the C.I.A. and the Pentagon’s own Defense Intelligence Agency, the D.I.A., as President Bush’s main source of intelligence regarding Iraq’s possible possession of weapons of mass destruction and connection with Al Qaeda. As of last week, no such weapons had been found. And although many people, within the Administration and outside it, profess confidence that something will turn up, the integrity of much of that intelligence is now in question....

President Clinton didn't kill Osama bin Laden? Excuse me?

Bin Laden was in Abbottabad, Pakistan with his three wives and all his associates while "W" brushed off that fact. Osama bin Laden was never pursued at Tora Bora by the USA military as he should have been. The USA would have ended the war with the death of Osama bin Laden and we would not have gone into Iraq at all.

February is Black History Month

This is the most (click here) starkly real exhibit I have ever seen. It portrays the lives of Slaves in the USA.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio warns New Yorkers to be careful in the cold weather during a news conference, Friday, Feb. 12, 2016, in New York. The National Weather Service predicts temperatures well below freezing on Saturday for New York. But wind chills could drop even lower, and wind gusts could reach around 44 mph (70.8 kph). 

February 15, 2016

New York — A grab bag of weather conditions (click here) — including snow and sleet — will descend on communities from the mid-Atlantic to the Northeast, but with many people off for Presidents Day, it might be just another day to hunker down.
After much of the Northeast experienced record cold on Valentine’s Day, the National Weather Service said Monday that it would be snowy in many areas before sleet or freezing rain started and rain finally arrived.
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser said she deployed the D.C. snow team Sunday ahead of the storm, which is expected to deliver a sloppy mix of snow, sleet and rain. One to 3 inches is forecast for Monday....

Ice begins to form along the Hudson River in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, on Feb. 14.

February 16, 2016
By Jennifer Kay and Jeff Amy

Suspected tornados (click here) touched down in a rural town on Florida's Panhandle and in Mississippi on Monday, destroying up to 10 homes, damaging a school, and sending fire crews out to investigate reports of residents trapped under rubble.
The tornadoes were part of a large winter storm system that was clobbering the eastern U.S. with snow, sleet, strong winds and rain, and which came on the heels of record-breaking low temperatures.
Officials in Florida and Mississippi were investigating reports of at least three possible tornadoes. One of the apparent twisters swept through the rural town of Century, in the northwest corner of Florida's Panhandle, late Monday afternoon, destroying or significantly damaging about 10 homes, said Escambia County spokeswoman Joy Tsubooka.
Tsubooka said fire crews were investigating reports that some residents may have been trapped in the rubble of destroyed homes, but she said several of the reports had already proved to be unfounded. She said some people had reported minor cuts from flying debris but that she had not received any reports of serious injuries.
Century is located on the Florida-Alabama border about 45 miles north of Pensacola, Florida. Pensacola news station WEAR-TV showed a large, black funnel cloud touching down on a highway near the town, and images submitted by viewers to the news station's Facebook page showed downed trees and damage to the exteriors of at least two homes. Gulf Power reported on its website that about 800 people in Century were without electricity....

February 15, 2016
After the coldest weekend (click here) in most of our lifetimes, a rapid temperature rise is on the way. As matter of fact, the difference between the subzero wind chill temperatures of Sunday morning and the high temperature tomorrow yields a nearly 90-degree swing! (Actual temperatures will show an over 60-degree turnaround in such a short period of time.)
Ahead of the mild air, a period of snow, sleet and freezing rain will create travel difficulties this evening, but should be mainly over by the morning commute Tuesday. Showers could be heavy at times on Tuesday and there is even the chance of a thunderstorm late in the day. From record cold to thunderstorms: what’s going on?

It can be tempting to start pointing fingers as to the cause of individual wild weather swings, but the atmosphere is very complex. There are, however, model simulations which do predict more arctic air spilling south into the mid-latitudes, such as here in New England, as the climate warms....

There are many problems with travel and school closings. (click here) Check the radio regularly and be happy in a warm home for the day.

Congratulations, Mr. Moore. Even after six years the luster never wears off.

The line in Berkeley, CA this weekend for

No more poisoned water, right, Mr. Moore?

February 14, 2016
By Paula McClintock
Michael Moore's (click here) Where to Invade Next wasn't greeted by a victory march at the box office, where its per-theater average ranked below those of the filmmaker's previous offerings.
Where to Invade — Moore's first film in six years — opened to an estimated $897,034 from 308 theaters for the three-day holiday weekend, according to final figures released on Monday. That puts the per-location average at $2,912, the worst of the filmmaker's documentary career behind the $4,452 theater average of The Big One, which opened to $146,909 from 33 theaters in 1998. And it's also behind the $3,810 average of his one feature, Canadian Bacon, which debuted to $53,345 from 14 theaters in 1995. $933,240 from 308 theaters for the three-day holiday weekend. 

For the four-day holiday, Where to Invade looks to earn $1 million for a location average of $3,256.

Donald Trump always gives an excellent news conference. He engages every question put to him without apologizing for his answer.

At some point in time people have to admit, Donald Trump is something. He is a successful person. He has always been involved in opinions about politics. This is a simple next step for him. I think everyone needs to get over it. He is an American businessman with enough worldly prowess to bring people to his point of view. "The Art of the Deal." He is a communicator.

Donald Trump is absolutely correct in stating "They are politicians. They can't get the job done."

The Republican Political Model is based in half-truths and proud of leading the public around by the ring in their nose. They don't care about the average, they only want to manipulate the electorate. People are working three to four to five jobs in a household to raise a family. That is NOT quality of life. The Republicans don't care about the person, they care about Wall Street and assign Americans to work for Wall Street, hence, the working poor and corporate welfare. 

Donald Trump is breaking the mold and people want relief from their poverty and financial oppression. They literally want America to be great again. The RNC doesn't know it's base, except, for the Evangelicals they lie to in making the USA bend their knee to their religion. The Republicans are the only party that will live for their votes.

Steve King never uses the word liar. Really? Maybe that is because he is one. He not only lied, he broke the law. He interfered with an election of a union.

The union let the dust settle and proved there was no additional assembly line planned at the plant and eventually the UAW was accepted into the assembly plant.

February 28, 2014
By Erik Schelzig

Nashville, Tenn. (AP) — Friday marks the end (click here) of the two-week period within which U.S. Sen. Bob Corker promised Volkswagen would announce another line at its factory in Tennessee if workers there rejected representation by the United Auto Workers union.
So far, there's little sign of any pending announcement.
Workers at the Chattanooga plant ended up voting 712-626 against the UAW, in an election the union claims was tainted by threats and intimidation from Republicans like Corker, Gov. Bill Haslam and state lawmakers.
The UAW last week filed a challenge with the National Labor Relations Board, seeking to have results voided and a new election to be held.
The appeal cited warnings from GOP lawmakers that a pro-union vote would endanger key state incentives to secure the new line at the plant, and Corker's statements that a vote against the union would be followed in short order an expansion announcement....

Volkswagen wanted the UAE to represent the workers. It is their company wide model regardless of the country they find their enterprise.

By Erik Schlezig and Tom Krisher

Nashville, TN (AP) - A majority of workers (click here)  at Volkswagen's assembly plant in Tennessee have signed cards favoring the union's representation in creating a German-style works council at the plant, a top United Auto Workers official said.

Gary Casteel, a Tennessee-based regional director for the UAW, told The Associated Press that the cards include a statement about wanting to join VW's Global Works Council and supporting cooperative and collaborative relations with the company. The cards are as legally binding as an election by the workers at the plant in Chattanooga, he said.

Union representation at Volkswagen would signal a sea change in labor relations among foreign automakers who have resisted unions at their plants in the South.

Foreign-based automakers have resisted the union because of what they consider added costs, burdensome work rules and added layers of bureaucracy. The UAW has tried to get away from that, portraying itself as an ally of the automakers as they try to boost productivity.

"With input from the employees they can increase their through-put, quality, efficiency, health and safety," Casteel said....

Flint wants new pipes, not lined pipes. They never caused any of this. They should be made whole with new pipes.

February 15, 2016
By Dinis Gusmao

The governor's office (click here) said Friday that Snyder called the committee's chairman, U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, on Thursday and offered to testify before the panel to address mistakes made by water quality experts that led to the current crisis of high levels of lead found in Flint residents' tap water.
"The reality is that he is finally bowing to mounting public pressure to answer questions before Congress about the central and critical role his administration played in this man-made disaster", Cummings said. The hearing will be held in March.

Nice words but many of those exposed to lead by a negligent Governor won't heal. They will suffer with brain damage the rest of their lives.

"By making the information easily accessible, everyone can review it and take what they need, and then we can all focus and work together on solutions, healing, and moving Flint forward", Snyder said in the statement. But the water from that river was corrosive and caused lead to seep into old pipes, which has left many Flint residents with long-term health effects associated with lead exposure and might have caused deadly cases of Legionnaires' disease. "This would be the first time the state took steps to deal with what is an aesthetic issue on a system where the water is meeting state drinking water standards". Some children's blood has tested positive for lead, a potent neurotoxin linked to learning disabilities, lower IQ and behavioral problems. Snyder and McCarthy each supply essential views "as we search to guarantee a disaster of this magnitude by no means happens in one other American metropolis", Chaffetz stated....

Valerie Plame is invaluable for her knowledge regarding any nuclear issues. Where is she?

"Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US" was written WITHOUT a Patriot Act.

The intelligence agencies are too cyber. They are missing the information the CIA didn't miss in 2001. April 10, 2001 to be exact.

Now. What seems to be the problem?

Put the best the intelligence agencies have in efforts to end terrorism in the USA and NOT your recruits.

Put Richard Clarke (click here) back in consultant to an elite group of intelligence agents. Do that now! Include Valerie Plame and her spouse Ambassador Joseph Wilson within the group to act as consultants, too.

I don't see why that type of Executive Branch organization doesn't happen when there are obviously issues before the world. When the country and international community needs the best, then they need the best. There are other retired agents as well such as Mr. Johnson who can provide a return to REAL intelligence and not simply hacking into websites and emails.
February 15, 2016
By Bradford Richardson

CIA Director John Brennan (click here) on Sunday said in an interview broadcast late Sunday that it is “inevitable” that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) will try to carry out attacks in the United States.
“I’m expecting them to try to put in place – the operatives, the material or whatever else that they need to do or to incite people to carry out these attacks, clearly,” Brennan said on CBS’s “60 Minutes.”
“So, I believe that their attempts are inevitable,” he added. “I don’t think their successes necessarily are.”
Brennan said the intelligence agency knew in the days leading up to the November attack in Paris that the terrorist group was planning to strike somewhere.
“We knew just in the days before that ISISL was trying to carry out something,” he said, using an alternate acronym for the group.
“But the individuals involved have been able to take advantage of the newly available means of communication that are – that are walled off from law enforcement officials,” he added, referring to encryption technology....

Oh, he gave us a security apparatus all right.

It was a security apparatus that turned a Muslim scholar into a radical that went on to preach death to soldiers at Fort Hood.

December 1, 2014
By Rebecca Kaplan
In the wake of the police response(click here)  to protests in Ferguson, Missouri last August, President Obama is using an executive order to standardize the way the federal government distributes military-style equipment to state and local law enforcement agencies, the White House announced Monday.
The administration is also proposing a $75 million investment to purchase 50,000 body cameras for police officers. That would be part of a three-year, $263 million package to expand training for law enforcement agencies, add more resources to reform police departments, and increase the number of cities where the Justice Department (DOJ) works to improve relations between the community and law enforcement agencies.
Mr. Obama's executive order aims to address deficiencies found in a review of those programs which he ordered in August in the wake of Michael Brown's death in Ferguson. Police wore combat gear and used armored vehicles and military-style equipment to respond to the protesters....

Getting serious about Mosquitoes?

I always keep one container in my pack with pre-treated clothing.

Sawyer Premium Insect Repellent Clothing (click here)

It stays with the clothing for about three washings. The US Government should offer this product to any employees working where mosquitoes are plentiful.

I use insect repellent along with this product. I had no rashes or issues at or later.

And, yes, it is recommended by outfitters serious about their clients.