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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Inquiries Made into Pre-War Buildup as U.S. Deaths Continue in Iraq

Aired July 16, 2003 - 19:08   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Moving on to our other developing stories right now, the questions continue, so does the controversy about how information from a forged document made its way into President Bush's State of the Union address.
Today, the questions were asked both by the FBI agents and by members of the U.S. Senate.

Now, at the center of the uproar as you probably know, that forged document claiming Iraq tried to buy uranium for its nuclear weapons program.

We are all over the story tonight. We have Kelli Arena in Washington, Jonathan Karl on Capitol Hill, and Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon.

We're going to start off with justice correspondent Kelli Arena.

Kelli, what's the latest?

KELLI ARENA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the FBI is conducting a preliminary inquiry into the forged documents that alleged that Iraq was looking to buy uranium from Niger.

FBI officials say that their primary objective is to find out who forged the documents and why and whether anyone tried to unduly influence U.S. foreign policy.

The bureau is not looking into, though, the possible wrongdoing by the Bush administration.

Now, sources tell CNN that FBI agents from the counter- intelligence unit are interviewing officials from both the CIA and the State Department and that there are plans to dispatch agents overseas.

The FBI is also retracing the document trail.

Now, CNN has confirmed that the forged papers were first given to Italian intelligence in late 2001. CNN obtained its own copy today from the Italian publication, "La Republica."

The U.S. did not gain actual possession of those documents until October of 2002, when a journalist turned them over to the U.S. embassy in Rome. Now sources say that the embassy passed them on to the CIA station chief in Rome and the State Department. Sources at State say that at the time the documents were offered to all the relevant U.S. agencies, but the documents did not get to CIA headquarters until four months later, in February of 2003. That is after the president's State of the Union address.

But by the time the documents got to the CIA, sources say the information in them had been discredited, Anderson.

COOPER: Interesting. All right. Kelli Arena, covering the FBI angle for us, thanks very much.

Now while the FBI tried to figure out who forged the document, members of a Senate committee today were trying to determine how information from that document got into a presidential address.

Now, they questioned CIA director George Tenet behind closed doors. Congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl is standing by.

Jonathan, I imagine a lot of tough questions for George Tenet today.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Anderson.

He clearly was in the hot seat, as we've been saying, but there were also Republicans that came out and said George Tenet has done a very good job; he did the right thing by taking responsibility.

Right now I think we can see you have the chairman of the committee, Pat Roberts, the hearing has just ended. He is at the microphone with his Democratic counterpart Jay Rockefeller. I think we have those pictures coming out at the conclusion of this hearing.

This hearing started at 2:30 this morning. Let's listen to what the chairman of that committee, Pat Roberts, has to say.

SEN. JOHN ROCKEFELLER (D), WEST VIRGINIA: It was actually closer to five hours. It was vigorous, very vigorous. We, obviously, continue to look at the whole question of weapons of mass destruction, whether our intelligence was reliable or not.

We also are looking -- it was interesting the way this sort of grows in general, that decisions from intelligence moved to policymakers. And how do decisions on intelligence affect policy policymakers.

Director Tenet took the blame, was terrific about it. In my mind there remains the question of whether, in fact, that's where it should stop. I tend to think not. And I think we have to face up to that.

I think there are others in the administration who knew something about this. I've said that publicly before and I'll say it again.

On the Niger issue, I think my comment at this point would be that we these to know whether this was isolated or whether it was part of a pattern of in a sense not -- misleading public opinion in other areas, including that one. I think we have a very large project on our hands and I think the chairman and I are discussing how we're going to confront this sort of new and large process out there, challenge out there, and we have to do that in a way which is adequate, and I think that's going...

KARL: There you have Jay Rockefeller. He is the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee. At the conclusion of this five-hour hearing.

As I mentioned before, some have come out and been very supportive of the CIA director, George Tenet. One of those just a short while ago to express full confidence in director Tenet was Mike Dewine, Republican on the committee from Ohio.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MIKE DEWINE (R), OHIO: This was a minor part of the speech, and I think we need to keep that in mind. The CIA director has said it should not have been in the speech, and I think we all understand that and he's taking responsibility for that.

But my point today is simply that I've worked with this man for a long time, and, you know, he was out front long before most people and warning about the problem of terrorism.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: Politics, of course enters into this. The one Democratic presidential candidate on the committee, John Edwards, came out a short while ago and said that nothing he heard in that five-hour plus hearing changes his mind that he believes that the responsibility for this lies with the president, not with the CIA director -- Anderson.

COOPER: Interesting. And as we just heard from Jay Rockefeller this thing is not going away any time soon. They're already talking about enlarging the process. So we're going to see where it goes. We'll keep following it.

Jonathan, thank you.

The debate in Washington might be about prewar intelligence, but grim reminders that the war in Iraq itself is not over, not nearly. The top U.S. commander in Iraq described the fighting as a guerrilla war, which is significant because that breaks with earlier assertions by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Also, another U.S. soldier was killed, as was a pro-American Iraqi mayor. Senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre has the latest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Another convoy attack in Baghdad, and U.S. soldiers cover the body of a dead comrade by the side of the road. The latest victim in what the Pentagon no longer denies is a deadly guerrilla war. GEN. JOHN ABIZAID, U.S. CENTRAL COMMANDER: What I would describe as a classical guerrilla-type campaign against us.

MCINTYRE: It's a war that has now claimed at least 148 American lives in combat, surpassing the number of hostile deaths in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. And new threats abound.

Plans to reopen the Baghdad International Airport have been delayed after a C-130 crew reported a shoulder-fired missile fired at its plane as it was landing.

So the U.S. is digging in for the long haul. Working out a rotation plan to maintain the force of about 160,000 U.S. and coalition troops. And considering one-year tours of duty for American forces.

As for the war weary 3rd Infantry Division, it has a new promise, that it will be on its way home by September, a year after it deployed. Even as the top commander expressed his displeasure with some of the griping, especially a TV report in which a soldier said if Donald Rumsfeld was there, he would ask for his resignation.

ABIZAID: None of us that wear this uniform are free to say anything disparaging about the secretary of defense or the president of the United States. We're not free to do that. It's our professional code.

MCINTYRE: Complaining soldiers could be reprimanded but not much will happen to them. They are doing dirty, dangerous work and the Pentagon admits it owes all U.S. troops in Iraq a better idea of when they're coming home.

ABIZAID: We will insist upon assuring every soldier, seaman, airmen and Marine know when their end dates are.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And Jamie McIntyre joins us now live from the Pentagon.

Jamie, these continuing attacks on American forces and pro- American Iraqis, this mayor who was killed, how coordinated do officials think they are?

MCINTYRE: Well, they say they're coordinated on a regional basis, that there are groups of eight -- six to eight people using fairly sophisticated tactics, remote controlled devices, rocket- propelled grenades and today we saw a surface-to-air missile apparently filed at a C-130.

General Abizaid said that he believes that the primary opposition he's facing are those mid-level Ba'athist supporters of Saddam Hussein, but he also said there were Islamic terrorists, possibly from Iran and also he said some people connected to al Qaeda, although he stopped short of saying whether he had any evidence that Osama bin Laden was ordering the strikes against U.S. troops.

But again, the main significant enemy, he believes, are the Ba'athist supporters of Saddam Hussein.

COOPER: All right. And obviously the hunt for Saddam Hussein continues.

Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon, thanks very much.

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