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CNN IN THE MONEY

Chalabi on Tenet's Tenure: 'Not Helpful'; Day Spa Witnesses Take Stand for Prosecution in Scott Peterson Trial

Aired June 26, 2004 - 14:29   ET

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


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: CNN military intelligence analyst Ken Robinson with us. A number of folks actually we have with us to talk about this.
And, Ken, let's start with you. It sort of moved all of us. I mean you could find a lot of great leaders in the military and the Pentagon, in the White House. But this is someone that not only had such a great reputation as a leader, but what incredible heart. A lot of passion, a lot of tears. And a very warm applause.

KEN ROBINSON, CNN MILITARY INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Think of the enormous weight that he's been carrying for years. If you just look at terrorism issue alone, it's all consuming.

But also think about China and Taiwan. Think about Pakistan and India and the nuclear threat of that. Think about the transformation that he talked about, about the fact when he took over, there was a 25 percent decrease, decline of personnel in the intelligence community, and billions of dollars of decrease in capital investment.

And that's a responsibility shared by both parties because that budget is authorized and approved by the Congress. And so he has done a lot of work in trying to rebuild the intelligence community, its capabilities and prepare it for the 21st century and all the uncertainties, the threat that face us.

PHILLIPS: Ken, is this a man that was pressured out? You listened to that speech. It wasn't easy for him, obviously, to make it. It was very heartfelt. But was he pressured out, or is this someone that just said to himself, I've got to stand up for what has happened since 9/11 and it is time to move on?

ROBINSON: You know, I think people will try to make political hay out of this. And I don't think it is in the best interests for the country. My personal opinion? I don't think he was pressured out. However, I think the political climate of him as a lightning rod for issues on the Hill could change with now John McLaughlin, a professional CIA career man taking over and moving forward.

But the decision I clearly think was heartfelt. I've known professional officers who were facing enormous promotion and opportunity who made a similar choice at a similar time in their career in the military so that they could be good fathers after dedicating 25, 30 years to service.

PHILLIPS: Ken Robinson, thank you. I want to bring in national security correspondent David Ensor now.

David, of course, has spent a lot of time with the CIA chief, George Tenet. As you listened to this speech, I'm sure it doesn't surprise you with what he had to say, how he delivered it and how everybody responded.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: And I think it may have helped our viewers understand why this particular man lasted seven years in the job, through all of the trials and tribulations, through two different parties. This is a man who speaks very clearly, who has a heart and who shows it, who has managed to empathize with an audience, and, of course, that audience of one that's all important, the president of the United States, both with Bill Clinton and more especially perhaps with George Bush.

He just was able to establish that kind of rapport. You saw a little of that kind of feeling, I think, in the room there at the CIA today. People at the agency like him very, very much. He was not originally one of them. He didn't come up through the system as, of course, the acting director, John McLaughlin has. But he's someone who knew the intelligence community and has brought it together.

They went through a succession of different directors. It seemed like they were changing every 18 months or so for a while there. And finally they got George Tenet. He stayed in the job now. It will be seven years now on July 11 when he leaves. He's given them stability and he's given them growth and leadership and access to the president. It was that relationship with George Bush that was so all important.

PHILLIPS: We've talked a lot about who will replace George Tenet, who will take his place right now in the interim. But what about George Tenet? What happens to him now? He talked about spending time with his family, with his wife, with his son. But professionally is this someone that comes back to the CIA and consults? Is this someone that goes on and writes a book? What has he told you? What do you see next?

ENSOR: Well, he's told me there will be no kiss and tell book.

PHILLIPS: That's good. Well, maybe not.

ENSOR: He knows a little too much. He's been fairly coy about what he might want to do after this. And of course, there may be many opportunities for him. And some of them he may not even have heard about them at this point. He was very clear, in that speech, as we heard, he plans to spend more time with his son, with his wife, with his family.

At the same time, I think he is interested in working in private industry and making a bit more money. And I know he'll keep speaking up on issues of interest to the U.S. intelligence community. As he promised at the end, he'll be a spokesman for that community from now on. We've not heard the last of George Tenet. But I don't think you'll see him working at the CIA anymore. Although, you know, former directors keep their security clearance. And you see them coming and going from time to time, offering a bit of advice. PHILLIPS: You make a good point, this is a man that knows a whole heck of a lot about America and international relations. David Ensor, national security correspondent, thank you.

WHITFIELD: On Capitol Hill, mixed reaction on anything but a surprising resignation from George Tenet. Our Joe Johns is keeping tabs on things there. We heard from George Tenet. He said this was strictly a personal decision, but the rumblings on the Hill is there's still an underlying feeling that this perhaps was a political decision -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he also mentioned, as you know, Fredricka, that there might be some spin attached to his resignation. And there certainly is deep disagreement here on Capitol Hill. Now we've heard a lot of praise for George Tenet. And that kind of praise is customary, especially for someone who leaves government after having served so long.

On the other hand, there's a certain amount of criticism, the most pointed criticism now coming from the former chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, Richard Shelby of Alabama, who has been sharply critical for quite some time of Tenet. He released a statement a little while ago saying: "Director Tenet's resignation is long overdue. There were more failures of intelligence on his watch as director of CIA than any other DCI in our history. I've long felt that while an honorable man, he lacked the critical leadership necessary for our intelligence community to effectively operate, particularly in the post-9/11 world."

Now not everyone among the Republicans is blaming Tenet for the failures of September 11 and of Iraq pre-war intelligence. Among them, Porter Goss, who is the current chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, he talked to CNN a little while ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PORTER GOSS (R), FLORIDA: The best we have to give to our decision makers. The problem is the best we have to give from the intelligence community has been wanting in some cases because we underininvested in our intelligence. We let down our guard. We didn't do some of the things we needed to do while we were all worried about the peace dividend in the mid-'90s. That's nobody's fault. It's just where we were as a country. It is not a bad thing to say. And I'm not taking a shot at the Clinton administration. It's just how it was.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: So while there is speculation that there was something more than family reasons, there are a number of people here on Capitol Hill who suggest all of the things that were coming down the road, particularly the release of report by the Senate Intelligence Committee on pre-war intelligence, which is now being declassified for public release, at least factored into his decision.

That committee, the top two members of that committee released a statement today indicating that while he steps down during a period of controversy over the events leading up to September 11 and the quality of intelligence prior to the Iraq war, we should not lose sight of the simple truth that George Tenet served his country during difficult times.

Fredricka, back to you.

WHITFIELD: And you mentioned the upcoming report. Timing is everything. Is that why, in part, many of those representatives and senators on the Hill are saying it is surprising, this is a surprising announcement only in its timing?

JOHNS: Sure. And there is speculation, though, that you have that report, you also have the 9/11 report, that some senators suggest was not going to go lightly on Central Intelligence or the intelligence community at large. A number of suggestions that there was going to be grave criticism about George Tenet's tenure at the CIA as they think part of the reason why he decided to go -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Joe Johns on Capitol Hill. Thanks very much.

Well, CIA officials say that Tenet's resignation had nothing to do with the mounting criticism over intelligence issues. From the still unsubstantiated pre-9/11 warnings to of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, to Ahmad Chalabi, a former Iraqi exile, providing some of that intelligence.

Here is how Ahmad Chalabi is seeing Tenet's departure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AHMAD CHALABI, IRAQI NATIONAL CONGRESS: The effects of George Tenet's policies in Iraq over the past 10 years have been not helpful, to say the least. He continued attempting to make a coup d'etat against Saddam in the face of all possible evidence that this would be unsuccessful. This policy caused the death of hundreds of Iraqis, these futile efforts.

He provided erroneous information about weapons of mass destruction to President Bush, which caused his government massive embarrassment in the United Nations and in his own country.

And George Tenet was behind the charges against me that claimed that I gave intelligence information to Iran. I deny these charges and I deny them again. And I'm sorry that he will not have the chance to appear before Congress now to decide whether this information that he provided is correct or not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Until last month, Chalabi's organization was on the U.S. government payroll.

And we have more on Tenet's resignation and reaction to it on cnn.com. It's right at your fingertips right there.

And coming up, the latest on the Scott Peterson trial, more of that when we come right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: "Stone cold innocent," that's how attorney Mark Geragos describes his client, Scott Peterson. Peterson is charged with the double murder of his wife Laci and their unborn son. David Mattingly is following the proceedings in Redwood City, California -- David.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, we've been warned that this trial is going to take months. And this morning we are finally finding out, seeing why this is going to be happening. Everything going very slow today. The prosecution taking a very slow and detailed look at a lot of the small facts regarding where Laci Peterson went, what she was wearing, how she looked and what she said on December 23, the day before she was reported missing.

We've heard so far from two women at a day spa where Laci Peterson visited that day. They said that Laci said she was tired and uncomfortable from her pregnancy. This was in the early afternoon. And she was wearing black pants and a white shirt. We then heard from the owner of the hair salon where Laci's sister Amy worked. Scott and Laci, he testified, both went there that evening and got their hair cut by Amy Rocha, Laci's sister, and said that Laci was wearing a dark shirt and neutral pants.

If you remember, it was these neutral pants that Laci -- that was found on Laci's body when her body was recovered last spring. The prosecution could be building a case to dispute Scott Peterson's story that he last saw her on the twenty-fourth wearing dark pants and that she was well enough to walk the family dog that day. Again, this is all going very slow and very tedious for everyone in the courtroom. Quite a few yawns, even a few from members of the jury -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: David Mattingly, LIVE FROM... Redwood City, thanks -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Well, news across America now. Police in Syracuse, New York, say a convicted sex offender could be a serial killer. Nicholas Lee Wiley was arrested and charged with killing two women in his apartment building. Police are searching for other victims now. Wiley was released from prison in January after serving time for sexually abusing a teenage girl.

Parts of Texas and Oklahoma are still cleaning up from major storm damage. Severe weather left three dead earlier this week. Thousands of people are still without power.

In Florida, rain forecast for today is expected to help firefighters struggling to bring several wildfires under control. But officials say the overall wildfire situation in that state still looks grim. Thousands of acres across Florida have burned.

Investigators in western Washington have solved a mystery that fell from the sky early this morning. This surveillance tape caught the flashes of bright light reported by stunned witnesses. A loud noise was also heard. So what is it? Shannon Brinias with affiliate KIRO has the answer.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was like right past those trees out there.

SHANNON BRINIAS, KIRO REPORTER (voice-over): For many Puget Sound region residents like Nathan Alexander (ph), a night of peaceful sleep was interrupted by the brilliant light. For Nathan it traveled from north to south as he looked out his east-facing window.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then it was all orange, then it started fading out from that side back this way.

BRINIAS: NORAD officials say they are aware of the activity in the skies over Washington, but say it is not anything that poses a public defense threat. The National Weather Service has ruled out any weather event. But finding the proof that it is a meteor may be more difficult.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I spent many hours out watching for meteors. So for me to get a chance to see something like this was just a once in a lifetime deal. It was spectacular.

BRINIAS: Amateur astronomer John Christman (ph) spotted the subject as it sped through the sky and doesn't think any bit of it actually made it to the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It started out a little bit blue, but then the streak across the sky was white. And then it went to red at the very end as it was breaking into chunks. And if anything impacted, it would have probably impacted in I would say the Kent area.

BRINIAS: University of Washington's astronomers will be examining what happened, but say if it was a meteor that impacted, that would be extremely rare.

TOBY SMITH, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON: It is possible that something may have been at the end of this, a piece of rock, a meteorite. But it probably burned up in the atmosphere. And if that's the case, it's very much just sort of an atmospheric phenomenon. You just see it and it has gone away, and that's sort of the end of the story.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: That was Shannon Brinias of KIRO. So kind of creepy, huh?

PHILLIPS: So where is Miles O'Brien when you need him.

WHITFIELD: I know, we need him to explain this because those folks are still wondering, what was it?

PHILLIPS: It's a UFO. I'm telling you. I'm going to crack this case. WHITFIELD: Some would bank on that.

PHILLIPS: We're going to take a quick break, we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

WHITFIELD: Well, checking health headlines this Thursday. Obesity and heart disease are no longer just weighing down the older generation. A new study of very obese kids suggest that half may have conditions that increase their risk of developing diabetes and heart disease at a very early age. We'll have more on the study in "The New England Journal of Medicine" next hour of LIVE FROM..

And yet another reason to put down the pipe. A new study finds that pipe smokers are five times as likely to get lung cancer and four times as likely to get throat cancer as nonsmokers. Other harmful effects of pipe smoking include heart disease and a higher risk of colon cancer.

And a new study shows more Americans are surviving cancer, and overall cancer rates are steadily declining. The latest annual report credits screening and prevention.

PHILLIPS: Frankly, this next story has us howling. Charlie (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is known for hustling hot dogs in operatic style at Detroit Tigers home games.

(MAN SINGING)

PHILLIPS: It's not bad. But now they're trying to muzzle the man who many fans relish. Many say he's the most entertaining thing at home games. A quick check of the Tiger standings prove the fans need something to take their minds off the field. Anyway, workers who handle concessions at the stadium say they've gotten complaints about poor Charlie and his singing. And he's been officially muzzled. A barker who is no longer to bark, well, what is world (ph) without this world (ph)?

WHITFIELD: I think they're just jealous, those who are complaining.

PHILLIPS: I thing you're right, come on.

WHITFIELD: It's fun entertainment. In a ballpark? Of course.

PHILLIPS: Especially when the team is not doing very well, you have got to have something for entertainment.

WHITFIELD: Yes, you need a diversion.

PHILLIPS: All right. LIVE FROM... continues with more of our top stories this afternoon. Surprising resignation of CIA director George Tenet. We're going to have more reaction from Washington just ahead.

WHITFIELD: And get set to laugh, Cloris Leachman has been acting funny for years now. Well, she'll be stopping by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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