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Hussein Questioned; Gitmo Treatment; Jackson Deliberations

Aired June 13, 2005 - 13:59   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Intense stares and hard questions. A new tape released of Saddam Hussein being grilled about mass killings. Is he answering the questions?
Also, the missing student mystery. A new tape of one of the suspects in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway. We have the latest on that case for you.

Should Gitmo be shut down? A published report about interrogation techniques at the prison camp raising the issue yet again.

And does Earth have a twin, or at least a cousin in another galaxy? A new discovery announced this hour. Well bring you up to date, of course.

From the CNN Center in Atlanta, I'm Miles O'Brien. Kyra Phillips off this hour. LIVE FROM begins right now.

They're familiar images of Saddam Hussein: confident, defiant, stroking his beard. But the video is new to us, taken as the Iraqi Special Tribunal prepares to try the former Iraqi dictator. Conflicting accounts of exactly when it was shot, however. The subject is grim; an alleged massacre more than 20 years ago.

CNN's Jennifer Eccleston reports from Baghdad.


JENNIFER ECCLESTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: An Iraqi judge has questioned former President Saddam Hussein about the killings of dozens of men from a Shiite village where he survived an assassination attempt in 1982. Now, Iraq's special war crimes tribunal released the film of Saddam Hussein, but also other members of his administration being questioned by an investigative judge of that tribunal. And in a statement that was released a short while ago, they said that this questioning is an ongoing process, and they also said Saddam Hussein's chief lawyer was involved.

And there is a little history behind this, because just a few weeks back, the government announced that it's seeking to expedite Saddam Hussein's prosecution. They said they will put the former dictator on trial in connection with 12 of the best documented crimes, among the more than 500 allegedly committed by the former president.

And a spokesman for Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said there's no time to waste in preparing for the trial. He also said that the government was confident that court proceedings would begin within two months.

And this immediately started a chain reaction from Iraq's Special Tribunal, who announced that there is, in fact, no time frame for the beginning of the trial. Really, they're stressing its independence from the government, who could possibly try to take advantage of having an early trial in advance of the December elections that will be held.

Now, a little bit of perspective about whittling down those charges to 12. The spokesman said it would help ensure that the former president would receive the death sentence, which is currently available under Iraq's criminal code, and, in fact, drafted under the rule of President Saddam Hussein.

And you can remember last July, he was arraigned in Baghdad on several broad counts. These included the assassination of political opponents, the 1988 gassing in Halabja, and the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, and also the suppression of the Kurdish and Shiite uprisings in 1991 following the Gulf War.

Jennifer Eccleston, CNN, Baghdad.


O'BRIEN: We must tell you that both the U.S. military press office and the Iraqi Special Tribunal are telling CNN the video of Saddam Hussein was shot yesterday, but the attorney for the former Iraqi dictator told CNN it was shot last year.

Live pictures now. This is the House of Representatives gallery in Washington at the Capitol. This is Representative Duncan Hunter, Republican of California, chairman of the House Armed Serviced Committee, discussing specifically allegations of abuse at Guantanamo Bay.

Let's listen. He has a few props here.

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: This is the oven-fried chicken entree. It has broccoli, it has peas and mushrooms, it has rice, it has pita bread, and it has two types of fruit. This is what Osama bin Laden's bodyguards will eat several times a cycle, several times a week. This is lemon chicken, rice, broccoli, carrots, bread and two types of fruit.

Now, if you look through the menu that we -- that we serve -- and this is, in fact, the complete menu that we're contracted for -- you will see that this isn't simply a high point in the menu. This is representative of what these killers are given every day courtesy of the American taxpayer.

Now, the other thing they're given is the wherewithal to conduct their religious services. We give them a prayer rug, we give them beads, we give them oil, and we've given them 1,600 copies of the Quran. And in the library, which is available to the inmates, there are over 260 copies of the Quran available to be checked out. It's written in 13 different languages for the inmates. Now, to further help them with their religious services, we call over our loud speaker system at Guantanamo five times a day prayer call. And we have hundreds of directional signs which are taped on the ground and on the buildings at Guantanamo to indicate to the inmates where Mecca is, so they can position themselves appropriately on the rugs that had been purchased for them, the prayer rugs that had been purchased for them by the American taxpayer, and so they can participate in the prayer call.

And the prayer call is broadcast over our loud speaker system, again, gratis of the American taxpayers. And, in fact, if American soldiers were given a prayer call over a loud speaker system, it would probably be the subject of a law suit by the ACLU for violation of the so-called separation between church and state.

So that's what we do for them. And there have been only a couple of instances of touching, illegal touching of these terrorists over the last several years. The most egregious of which was in July, and that was a soldier who, when a terrorist took a swing at him, or an inmate took a swing at him, swung back, hit the inmate, and that soldier was busted a grade down from sergeant to spec 4.

So we have in Guantanamo a situation in which people are treated very well and in which -- in which they are -- they are questioned, but they are not touched in any inappropriate manner. And when the Quran is touched by a guard, the guard must, before he touches a Quran, put on clean gloves on both hands in front of the inmate before he touches the Quran.

So the point is that the inmates in Guantanamo have never eaten better, they've never been treated better, and they've never been more comfortable in their lives than in this situation. And the idea that sometime -- that somehow we are torturing people in Guantanamo is absolutely not true, unless you consider having to eat chicken three times a week real torture.

And so -- and so I wanted to see if there's any of my great press corps here. Maybe Otto Kreisher from my home town, who would like to participate with me.

And Otto, you can either have the lemon fish, or you can have the oven-fried chicken with all of the -- with double vegetables and two types of fruit. And maybe you would like to have -- remember that lunch I always promised you, Otto? Well, now is the time.

And before we proceed with that lunch, I would be happy to take any questions. And I hope every -- does everybody have a packet that includes the total menu here? Everybody should have that packet. OK.

O'BRIEN: Duncan Hunter of California, a Republican who is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, talking about the allegations of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, defending the way the U.S. military handles so-called enemy combatants, suspected terrorists held at Gitmo.

He says they have never eaten better, never been treated better, and they are treated well unless you call eating chicken three times a week bad treatment. Paraphrasing there.

"TIME" magazine has traced the interrogation methods used on just one detainee at Gitmo from a secret log book authenticated by the Pentagon. It details the techniques used on Mohammed al-Kahtani, the man officials believe planned to be the 20th hijacker on 9/11, techniques once approved by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

They include standing for prolonged periods, isolation for as long as 30 days, removal of clothing, shaving of facial hair, and playing on individual phobias, such as a fear of dogs. Now, while those techniques were revoked about six weeks after they went into effect, the question remains, did the interrogators go too far?

Let's bring in our military analyst, retired Air Force Major General Don Shepperd.

General Shepperd, good to have you with us.


O'BRIEN: At the outset of the establishment of Guantanamo, it seemed as if there wasn't very clear policy from the U.S. on how it should be run. Really important, crucial mistake, wasn't it?

SHEPPERD: I think so, Miles. We're seeing political theater. We just saw Duncan Hunter with the -- with the meal story.

After Abu Ghraib, especially, Abu Ghraib became a symbol. And now again, Guantanamo has become a symbol. And I think what we're seeing is a failure of policy and an explanation of that policy to the American people and to the world.

We're giving the impression that prisoners are being detained at Guantanamo incommunicado, without charges forever, and that they're being tortured. That is simply not true. But the policy still remains unclear to me, and to the American public, and, of course, to the world.

O'BRIEN: And that is the key there, because the U.S. espouses the rule of law. That is, we really -- to use a colloquial term, shouldn't we be practicing what we preach?

SHEPPERD: Yes, we should, but this is a special situation. It's not a situation we've been in before.

We've got 540, thereabouts, prisoners out there. These are really bad guys. A lot of prisoners have been released from Guantanamo, a lot of prisoners have been sent back to their own country for justice there. But the prisoners that remain are either under interrogation or really bad guys, and sending them back to their home countries or putting them somewhere else just doesn't seem to be practical.

But again, it's not clear to the American public or the world what we're doing. And this needs to be explained clearly, and then say, this is what we're going to do, and we're going to live by it.

O'BRIEN: All right. Is shutting down Guantanamo apt to solve the public relations problem?

SHEPPERD: No. We're terrible at public relations, this United States, explaining what we're doing and why to the rest of the world. We have an image problem because of the war on terrorism and because of Guantanamo and because of Abu Ghraib. We just simply don't know how to fight it.

But if you close Gitmo, you have to -- you have to house these people. You have to interrogate them somewhere. And I don't know any better place to do it other than a good, specially-constructed facility that's offshore of the United States.

You can move them to another federal prison, or you could do it in another foreign country. But that's a whole set of problems.

It still comes back to the same thing: what are you doing and why? How are you complying with the law? What are you going to do with these prisoners needs to be explained.

O'BRIEN: Let's get real about these prisoners, though. How much really useful information do they have at this point? Many of them have been there for an awful long time.

SHEPPERD: Yes, I don't think they've got a lot of useful technical information. What you really want to know from all these guys is, OK, guys, where is bin Laden, where is he now? If any of them knew, it would be perishable data that would be gone very quickly.

So what you're after is methods, people, contacts. And by having them explain over a long period of time, you pick up little bits and pieces of information that you can check against other pieces of information. So there is useful information to be detained, but the tactical, immediate, useful information is gone very quickly, certainly within a couple of months.

O'BRIEN: All right. The problem is, as well, when you couple what's going on at Guantanamo, the allegations, may or may not be, whatever the case may be there, with the images seen at Abu Ghraib and the stories which have come out of Afghanistan there, there's a very clear pattern here. And I guess, you know, you, as someone who wore a uniform, do you feel as if the U.S. has gone too far out of reprisal in the war on terror? And to what extent does that put our own troops potentially in jeopardy down the road?

SHEPPERD: Yes. No, I don't think we're gone too far. And our troops are going to be treated in much more harsher terms if they're ever captured by anyone else than what we are doing.

I don't think that we're going too far. But here's what I think should be done.

I think that they should appoint -- the administration should appoint a high-ranking, respected former justice official to look at everything that we're doing in this war all the way from the initial capture of people on the battlefield, to the justice system, and explain it to the American people. I think that has actually been lacking. That, to me, is the biggest lacking in what's going on here, Miles.

O'BRIEN: And explain it to the world as well. All right. Major General Don Shepperd, our military analyst. Thanks for your insights. We appreciate it.

SHEPPERD: Pleasure.

O'BRIEN: The vice president of the United States was at the National Press Club a little while ago. He weighed in on this subject. Let's listen.


RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And if you were to release those 520 that are currently held at Guantanamo, that have been deemed to be enemy combatants, we're putting a lot of bad guys back on the street to do exactly what they started to in the first place. And from the standpoint of safety and security of Americans and American troops in combat, it seems to me we have an obligation to treat these individuals as we have been treating them, and that is as enemy combatants.

They're well cared for at Guantanamo. They're properly housed and properly fed. They've got the medical care and treatment they need. Their religious needs are -- are met with. And, in fact, I think, say, if we didn't have that facility at Guantanamo to undertake this activity, we would have to have it someplace else.

Now, does this hurt us from the standpoint of international opinion? I frankly don't think so.

My own personal view of it is that those who are most urgently advocating that we shut down Guantanamo probably don't agree with our policies anyway. And that from the perspective of how we proceed there, I think that these people have been treated far better than they could expected to have been treated by virtually any other government on the face of the Earth.


O'BRIEN: We'll debate the pros and cons of closing Guantanamo prison a little later this hour on LIVE FROM.

Stay tuned to CNN day and night for the latest most reliable information about your security.

A reputed Ku Klux Klansman goes on trial today. Details on the civil rights killings that shook the nation more than 40 years ago now.

What happened to Natalee Holloway? Her family awaits word in Aruba. We have the latest developments on the missing girl from Alabama. That's coming up.

Also ahead, the heartbreak of never knowing. One mother's 30- year search for answers after her daughter disappeared.


O'BRIEN: All right. It's Jacko time. The legal fate of Michael Jackson still undecided. Jurors in his child molestation trial back at their deliberations today.

And our Rusty Dornin is back at it in Santa Maria, California, with the latest.

Hello, Rusty.

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Miles, they're in their 30th hour of deliberations. We understand from sources close to the case that they're continuing to ask for a readback of the accuser's testimony. That began on Friday, apparently did continued into this morning.

Now, remember, I say sources close to the case and not the judge or the court that's telling us this. That's made a lot of legal analysts angry. And, in fact, a memorandum was filed this morning by one of the media attorneys saying that it's intolerable that at this stage of the proceedings it's cloaked in secrecy like this.

Meantime, outside the courtroom, the natives have been restless. You're looking at some live pictures of the fans outside the Santa Maria courthouse. They are calm now, but earlier, there had been quite a few altercations between some of the evangelist groups, some of the religious groups, and the fans of Michael Jackson.

There were so many of them that the police had to break up a few of them. But as I said, they seemed to have calmed down a bit.

Also, outside Neverland, there are also fans that continue to be outside there, staging a vigil. It is presumed that Michael Jackson is there. Of course, when he hears that there is a verdict, he has an hour to get here. And Neverland is about a 40-mile drive from there.

Now, as far as if anything else happens with Michael Jackson going to the hospital or anything like that, it's going to be interesting to see how we find out some of this information, because Raymone Bain, his main representative, has been terminated by the superstar. She is yet to make any kind of statement about this, and sources tell us it's politics.

It's not clear. She's refusing to say anything about the case. But certainly, this all came down after last week.

Raymone Bain, as well as Reverend Jesse Jackson, giving a number of press conferences outside the courthouse. That prompted a statement from the defense attorney, Thomas Mesereau, saying no one is authorized to speak on behalf of Michael Jackson in any kind of press conference. And it turns out that Raymone Bain's termination was very quick after that.

So we'll have to see who's going to be speaking for him if something comes up, if he goes to the hospital or anything like that -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Well, yes, and it sounds like Tom Mesereau has really put a lid on things. So you may not get much from the Jackson camp for a while.

DORNIN: We may not, and I think that's the way he wants it. I mean, he figures the jury's deliberating, he doesn't want a lot of hoopla, he doesn't want a lot of speculation about what's going on. He wants a very tight lid on things, and this is apparently the only way that they can do it.

O'BRIEN: All right, Rusty Dornin. Keep us posted out there. We appreciate it.

Coming to terms with some grisly murders in Mississippi. Jury selection is under way today in the notorious killings of three civil rights workers in 1964. Preacher and reputed Ku Klux Klan's leader Edgar Ray Killen stands accused in their deaths.

Our Ed Lavandera is covering the trial, which is reopening some old wounds in rural Mississippi.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Under intense scrutiny and the international media spotlight, Edgar Ray Killen arrived here at the courthouse in Philadelphia, Mississippi, to stand trial for the June 1964 murders of three civil rights workers. It's the first time in 41 years that the state of Mississippi has brought someone to trial on murder for the deaths of these three civil rights workers.

Of the mob of 20 people believed to have been involved in the murders of these civil rights workers, there are only eight that are still living. Edgar Ray Killen was the only person so far that has been brought to trial for these murders.

He was indicted back in January. The other seven that are still alive were not indicted.

And part of the testimony that we'll hear as jury selection starts today, part of the testimony that we will hear will actually come from court transcripts. Many of the witnesses in these cases have since died over the years. So the only way to get their testimony into evidence is by reading transcripts of what they said years ago. Prosecutors acknowledge that that will be a tough part of this case.

MARK DUNCAN, PHILADELPHIA DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I understand, you know, the historical significance of it. You can't miss that. But I've tried real hard to look at it just like any other case and tried to put together the evidence. LAVANDERA: Killen is now 80iers old. Friends and supporters say he's too old to stand trial for something that happened 40 years ago. But he says he's innocent, and his attorney also wonders why the state of Mississippi is bringing this case forward now.

JAMES MCINTYRE, KILLEN'S ATTORNEY: The Constitution says you're entitled to a jury of your peers. His peers have passed. It's been three generations. There's a different peer now.

LAVANDERA: Jury selection is expected to take two to four days, and the murder trial is expected to last at least two weeks.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Philadelphia, Mississippi.


O'BRIEN: So, what is the best way to get a prisoner to talk, fear or friendship?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will be amazed at what a kind word and a cup of hot coa on a 15-degree night will get you.


O'BRIEN: We'll take you inside military training to try to break down detainees.

A distant discovery. A planet about 15 light years away remind scientists somewhat of home. Some newly-released information enters our orbit ahead on LIVE FROM.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Susan Lisovicz at the New York Stock Exchange. Coca-Cola is taking something old and putting a new spin on it. I'll tell you what it is next on LIVE FROM. So stay tuned.


O'BRIEN: Too many drivers feeling the need for speed top our look at news "Across America."

State transportation officials are worried about highway fatalities. A new study shows, wherever speeds have increased, so have speed-related deaths. I guess you don't have to be a rocket scientist on that one. The Governors Highway Safety Association meeting in Washington this week, looking for ways to get drivers to slow down.

A rare move by the Senate. It is set to formally apologize today to the descendents of Anthony Crawford and others for delays in outlawing lynching. Crawford, a black farmer, was among the 4,700 people died by lynching between the years of 1882 and 1968. He was killed by a white mob in South Carolina in 1916. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger pushing for a special election in the state. Among other things, Schwarzenegger wants to clamp down on spending and redraw district lines. He also wants to make it harder for teachers to win tenure.

Well, for soft drink maker Coca-Cola, everything old is new again.



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