Skip to main content
U.S. Edition


Return to Transcripts main page


Judge in Saddam Hussein Trial Closes Trial to News Media

Aired March 15, 2006 - 08:00   ET


I'm Soledad O'Brien.


The media got booted, but a defiant Saddam Hussein is still on the stand. He was shouting, "I am head of state!" Nic Robertson is there.

Big testimony in Houston, as well, today. The woman who blew the whistle on Enron takes the stand. Her bosses wouldn't listen before, but now a jury will.

S. O'BRIEN: They're preparing for the worst in Texas, where wildfires are expected to spread even further. Hundreds of thousands of acres are already scorched. Firefighters are stretched to exhaustion.

And in Hawaii, a dam breaks after days of heavy rain. One person is dead, many others are missing. We're watching this story, as well.

M. O'BRIEN: And the private Web searches you make on Google could end up in government hands. The latest developments on this controversial case on this AMERICAN MORNING.

S. O'BRIEN: Let's get right to a story that is breaking while we're talking.

The judge in the Saddam Hussein trial has closed that trial now to the news media. It just happened a few minutes ago, actually, as Saddam Hussein called on Iraqis to resist the invaders.

The media ordered out because, of course, the speech was getting very political. Finally, they cut off the audio.

Let's get right to CNN senior international correspondent Nic Robertson.

He joins us by phone.

He has been in and out of this courtroom following this case -- Nic, describe for us what happened.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Soledad, the judge became more and more exacerbated with Saddam Hussein. He called him into the courtroom, asked him his name, asked him his age. Everything seemed to be going well.

He told Saddam Hussein this was his chance to give his testimony in the courtroom. He said he would be given plenty of time to do it. And Saddam Hussein began speaking. Then it became clear it was a political message, a message calling on the Iraqi people not to fight among themselves, but to unite and fight against the occupiers.

Saddam Hussein called himself the president of Iraq and, indeed, the commander of the militant forces, an indication that he may consider himself some sort of leader of the insurgency. I think that requires further translation.

But the judge became so incensed at the direction that Saddam Hussein was going in with his speech, he cut off his microphone at least nine different times. At points it was very, very difficult to understand what Saddam Hussein was actually saying. We would hear very short clips in the courtroom, one clip talking about the country running with a river of blood. And then the judge would cut his microphone again. But the judge taking the, perhaps the only step that he felt he could in that stage to bring the courtroom back under control, to close the proceedings to the media, to close the microphones so Saddam Hussein would be aware that whatever he was saying was being no longer broadcast and therefore no point in giving political statements -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Let me ask you a question, Nic, about his demeanor, because we heard early on that thing seemed to be starting off actually quite well, that his demeanor was not as theatrical as it had been in the past. He sort of entered the courtroom shoulders and head bent down. He didn't really acknowledge the defense team, you know, sort of set for a day of tough questioning.

Did the tone and the demeanor -- and I know he was reading off a written statement -- did the tone and the demeanor sort of change? Did things -- I mean how would you describe it? Did it sort of spiral out of control? Was he yelling and shouting and off the written statement?

ROBERTSON: Well, he did come in looking like a man who knew that he was going to have a very tough day, looking for a seat to sit down on as soon as he came in, not acknowledging, the way we've seen him do sometimes, his defense lawyers, standing up and giving his testimony in a level voice.

But I think within -- he must have been fully aware that what he was going to say was very contentious, particularly as he progressed with his statement.

And as the judge tried to interrupt him the exchanges became more and more heated. Indeed, at one point, one of the prosecution lawyers, the lead prosecution lawyer stood up and challenged Saddam Hussein and the rhetoric became very, very heated in the courtroom. The judge shouting down at Saddam Hussein.

So, the initial indications were that he was expecting a tough day. His body language spoke to that. When he read from the statement, it was quite calmly at first, but when he was -- began to be challenged, he began shaking his finger and pointing at the judge and becoming very irate -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Nic Robertson, again, covering this trial for us this morning.

As we mentioned, the judge has now closed the court to journalists after things have essentially disintegrated as Saddam Hussein is on the stand -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Another big name on the stand in that epic Enron trial in Houston. Today, we'll hear from someone who has told her story many times before. Sherron Watkins is her name. She's the woman who blew the whistle on Enron. And she will now face the man accused of letting the company collapse.

Chris Huntington live now from Houston with the latest -- good morning, Chris.


Indeed, Sherron Watkins probably the best known witness that the government is putting on the stand against Jeff Skilling and Ken Lay. Publicly outspoken for years since the collapse of Enron. Now it's her turn to tell her story to the jury.


HUNTINGTON (voice-over): Sherron Watkins is known famously as the Enron whistleblower and for her equally famous memo to Ken Lay warning that Enron would implode in accounting scandals. Since Enron's collapse, Watkins has never been shy about publicly pointing the finger at the two men now on trial.

SHERRON WATKINS, FORMER ENRON EMPLOYEE: I certainly would like to see Jeff Skilling charged because I think he's the one that drove us over the cliff. Ken Lay, you know, idiot or criminal? Those are his two choices. Neither one is very positive.

HUNTINGTON: In mid-August, 2001, Watkins was a vice president working with Andrew Fastow on Enron's complex financial deals. Lay had just reassumed the role of CEO after Jeff Skilling's unexpected resignation.

Enron was starting to buckle under the weight of massive losses hidden in Fastow's transactions and Watkins knew it. She began her memo to Lay, asking: "Has Enron become a risky place to work?"

She noted Skilling's abrupt departure would "raise suspicions of accounting improprieties" and she concluded with the hauntingly accurate prediction: "I am incredibly nervous that we will implode in a wave of accounting scandals."

"Fortune" reporter and author Bethany McLean helped expose Enron and believes Watkins' testimony will be especially tough on Lay. BETHANY MCLEAN, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: She can do a lot more damage to Lay because she had this one-on-one meeting with him where she went to him and presented a laundry list of problems and she doesn't really have anything specific on Skilling, at least nothing that has come forward to date.

HUNTINGTON: But testifying to Congress in 2002, Watkins did not let Skilling off the hook about Enron's off the book deals.

WATKINS: It would be my opinion that Mr. Skilling would be very well briefed about these transactions.

HUNTINGTON: "Time" magazine names Watkins one of its persons of the year for 2002. She co-wrote a book on Enron's collapse and now consults on corporate ethics.

Unlike many of the government's witnesses in the case, Watkins has never been charged with a crime nor threatened with prosecution. And that cuts off the defense from suggesting she's testifying under pressure.

Still, Lay's lawyer says he's not worried about what she'll say.

MIKE RAMSEY, KEN LAY'S ATTORNEY: I don't think she'll give damaging testimony.


HUNTINGTON: Now one thing the defense is going to try to hone in on on Sherron Watkins is that she may have had self-interest at heart. You know, she's credited with being a whistleblower, but when she went to Ken Lay, she never went public with her concerns about Enron until well after the company's collapse. In fact, shortly after meeting with Lay, she sold stock.

So the defense may have some traction there with the jury to show that Sherron Watkins was self-interested, as many other people at Enron were -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Chris Huntington in Houston, thank you very much.

Let's get some headlines in.

Carol Costello in the newsroom -- good morning, Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Miles.

Good morning to all of you.

The Pentagon now beefing up U.S. security forces in Iraq. That's right, beefing up. CNN has learned that some 700 U.S. troops are now heading to Iraq from their base in Kuwait. Their mission? To keep the peace ahead of two major events. The new Iraqi parliament convenes later this week and the 40 day Ashura holiday wraps up for Shiite Muslims this weekend. A judge has decided the government can still seek the death penalty against Zacarias Moussaoui, but their case has been dubbed a major blow. Proceedings were suspended earlier this week after it was found out that this attorney apparently tried to coach witnesses. Those witnesses have now been barred from giving testimony. The trial is set to start up again on Monday.

Convicted killer Joseph Smith is facing a life or death decision today. A judge will decide whether to act on the jury's recommendation that he be executed. During a hearing last month, Smith made a tearful apology for killing Carlie Brucia. He blamed it on drugs. The 11-year-old's abduction was caught by a security camera two years ago. Her body was found four days after she disappeared.

Firefighters battling flames in Texas not catching any breaks today. Strong winds expected to fuel those fires once again. About 840,000 acres have burned the Panhandle.

And the U.S. Coast Guard boosting its search for a family of seven missing in Hawaii. They were apparently carried off by rushing water. Days of heavy rain caused a 100-year-old dam to burst. At least one person has been killed. Hawaii's governor expected to survey the damage this morning by helicopter.

That's a look at the headlines this morning.

Back to you -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Thank you very much, Carol. Still to come on the program, is Iraq on the verge of civil war? There isn't exactly a clear-cut answer, for that matter, a clear-cut definition of civil war. CNN's senior analyst, Jeff Greenfield, will try to clarify some things for us.

S. O'BRIEN: And then I hate to say this, but you've only got a month -- a month to get your taxes done.

M. O'BRIEN: Have you done yours?

S. O'BRIEN: I did mine for last year in October.

Anyway, we're going to tell you how you can avoid the most common mistakes that people make on their taxes.

M. O'BRIEN: I've been working on mine, believe it or not.

And later, a federal judge may let the government peek into Google's database. Google not happy about this. Should you be unhappy, as well?

We'll tell u.

Stay with us for more AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) M. O'BRIEN: The testimony in the Saddam Hussein trial continues with Saddam Hussein himself finally taking the witness seat, the witness stand. These are pictures that were captured before the media was summarily kicked out of the courtroom. And, as you can see, things were getting heated as those pictures were recorded, probably about the last few images, after the judge pushed the red button silencing the microphones and then ultimately kicking out the media.

In essence, Saddam Hussein has launched a political diatribe, not that that would come to a surprise to most of you in our audience, as he rails against the U.S. invasion and occupation and talks about how he is the god-given ruler of the people of Iraq.

Nothing to do, however, with the specific crimes with which he is charged, the 1982 Dujail massacre.

We are watching it closely. As soon as we get some inkling as to what's going on in the courtroom now, as soon as Nic Robertson gets back in, we will bring you an update.

In Iraq, the carnage continues. From Monday through midday today, close to 90 bodies have been found in Baghdad alone. Since the bombing of a holy Shiite shrine in late February, hundreds have been killed in sectarian violence.

So is Iraq on the brink of civil war?

And for that, we turn to our senior analyst, Jeff Greenfield.

And there's been an awful lot of talk about, well, it's a semantic debate more than anything, I think. And I think one of the key questions is how do you define civil war.

Would you like to try that, first of all?

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, when the administration and some of our top generals say that we're not in a civil war, I think they're probably right. But the question is is that the relevant question?

I mean you don't have, for instance, armed militia fighting each other across Iraq. You don't have the kind of civil war that we've seen in a Sierra Leone, in the Balkans in the 1990s, in Congo and the Sudan.

So in that sense -- in fact, there are people in Iraq on both sides, across the ethnic divides, who are saying we've got to try to pull this together, which often doesn't happen when a country is in a full fledged state of civil war. So, on the semantic point, probably not.

M. O'BRIEN: So let's put the semantic discussion aside, because it really is kind of a distraction.


M. O'BRIEN: What are the really -- the relevant questions, as you see them?

GREENFIELD: That's what I think is the key. It seems to me that there were very disturbing signs that the forces that are pulling Iraq apart are starting to get stronger than the forces keeping it together. I mean you had the bombing of the holy Shiite sites, as you mentioned, in Samarra a few weeks ago. Since then, that wave of sectarian killing. And, critically, there's reason to think that key elements of the Iraqi security forces are working less for this government and more for their Shiite sponsors. And that work includes the killing of Sunnis.

You've got people moving out of neighborhoods if they're not part of the dominant group. You've got people trying to change their names. And that's only the more obvious evidence. You've also got, I think, growing concern that this broad-based government that we've been working so hard to put together is further away than ever, despite elections, despite the referendum on the constitution.

You've got Kurds in the north who have been governing themselves since before Saddam fell who say you know what? We're going to make our own oil deals with other countries. You've got Shiites in the south saying that's a good idea. And Sunnis in the middle with no oil are saying you're going to have a -- you're going to let these different groups make all this money and not have any for us? What's that about?

Those are some of the forces that I think, you know, civil war or not, are really troublesome.

M. O'BRIEN: Now, the defense secretary would say, if he were hearing this conversation, that we are being nattering nabobs of negativism...


M. O'BRIEN: ... that we are -- the messenger is the problem here, not the situation.

GREENFIELD: Right. Right.

M. O'BRIEN: As a matter of fact, let's listen to what he had to say as he addressed this just the other day.


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: If you put up a score board and you said gee, how's it gone for the last year, they tried to stop the January election and they failed. They tried to stop the October referendum and they failed. They tried to stop the December election and the terrorists failed.


M. O'BRIEN: OK. So, you know, there are some positive things on the scorecard. GREENFIELD: Absolutely. But the problem is that every positive step -- you can go up to the toppling of Saddam, the capture of Saddam, the killing of his sons, the referendum, the elections, all that purple ink, which was very inspiring. But the big problem is every time you take that step forward, there's a step or two backward. And, again, it raises the question whether these centrifugal forces, the ancient enmity between and among these groups, are stronger than this notion about pulling the country together.

I think that's one reason, by the way -- and for the administration maybe one of the most disturbing domestic signs -- is how many conservatives, how many people who originally were for the invasion and how many liberal hawks who thought toppling Saddam was a really good idea are now saying, A, we went into this thing blind, without any sense of how difficult it was going to be, never mind the execution of what we did, which is pretty -- outside the administration, you're going to be hard-pressed to find anything who thinks what we did after Saddam fell really set the stage for a coalition government to deal with all these enmities.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, let's -- you talk about centrifugal forces here. It's worth -- there's a quick history lesson here we should remind people of. Iraq was really an artificial country...


M. O'BRIEN: ... drawing lines in the sand after World War I by the British.


M. O'BRIEN: And what you're talking about is trying to, in an artificial way, bring people together who would have no other desire to be together, right?

GREENFIELD: And we have, look, we have seen -- you know, analogies are very dangerous. You know, it's like -- I wouldn't argue that, you know, you can impose democracy here because it happened in Japan or that you can't. But it's absolutely true that if you look at what happened in the Balkans when Tito died after decades of rule, within a few years those ancient enmities, you know, Serbs, Croats, Muslims, blew the place apart.

It's very hard to put a country together when there's no natural basis for doing it. And if you ask about countries that came apart peacefully, some people now think the only real answer here is to peacefully get more and more autonomy.

And, again, the question there is OK, the Sunnis ran this place because the British told them you were in charge. They did that for decades. Now they're going to be left out and they're the one place in the -- in what is now Iraq with no oil. Do we think they're going to go gentle into that good night?

M. O'BRIEN: All the king's horses and all the king's men may be required. Thank you.


M. O'BRIEN: Jeff Greenfield, our senior analyst -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, guys, thanks.

Still to come this morning, breaking news out of the Saddam Hussein trial. In just a few minutes, we're going to talk to one of the court's legal advisers about all these outbursts from Saddam Hussein.

Ahead of that, though, tax day coming and coming up fast. Before you send in your tax return, we're going to fill you in on some of the most overly looked tax breaks. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

We're back in a moment.


S. O'BRIEN: Oh, I can't believe I'm saying it again, but only one month left to get your taxes done. If you haven't finished, or let's say you haven't even started, we can help make tax time a little bit easier for you.

Beverly Goodman of "Smart Money" magazine has some last minute tips to save you some money.

Nice to see you.

Thanks for talking with us.

We'll just get right to it.

I was surprised that you said that the most commonly overlooked tax break that people do not take advantage of is your mortgage deduction, your mortgage interest deduction. It's like isn't this why you buy the house?

BEVERLY GOODMAN, "SMART MONEY": It's amazing. You would think anyone that owns a home knows to take the deduction for mortgage interest but...

S. O'BRIEN: How often is it overlooked?

GOODMAN: A government study found that about a million people a year failed to take it. And that amounts to about half a billion dollars that the government gets that should be taxpayers' money.

S. O'BRIEN: Wow! That is just shocking to me, I've got to tell you.


S. O'BRIEN: I was also interested to read that for people who spend a lot of money, I guess, there are some options, but -- and there's a big asterisk here -- only in a handful of states. There are seven states where there's no earned income tax -- really nine -- but seven where the sales tax would really make a difference here.

What are your options there?

GOODMAN: This is the second and final year that you can deduct the sales tax instead of the state income tax on your federal taxes. And as you said, that's a great opportunity for the folks that live in states that don't even have an income tax. Now they have that extra deduction.

S. O'BRIEN: Not so great for the rest of us, though.

GOODMAN: Not as great in high tax states like New York, for instance. But a lot of the Midwestern states have fairly nominal income taxes and especially if you make a big purchase like a car or a boat, you know, there's definitely a chance that the sales tax is greater than the income tax, which means...

S. O'BRIEN: A good idea to crunch the numbers if it's going to be close.

GOODMAN: Definitely.

S. O'BRIEN: People with property loss can make big deductions. And unfortunately this is going to be a big year for that.

GOODMAN: Exactly.

S. O'BRIEN: Explain that deduction to me.

GOODMAN: Typically, the deduction is limited to just what exceeds 10 percent of your adjusted gross income. This year, Congress made a special exception for Katrina victims and they can deduct the entire loss, as long as it's Katrina-related.

But no matter who you are or what the damage is a result of, you should amend your 2004 tax return. You'll get your money a lot faster by sort of fixing last year's tax return.

S. O'BRIEN: So, but I've already sent in my 2004 -- I amend it, send it in again?

GOODMAN: Exactly.

S. O'BRIEN: Why do I get my money faster?

GOODMAN: It's just the way the IRS processes it.

S. O'BRIEN: That's very interesting.

GOODMAN: Yes, you'll get it a lot quicker.

S. O'BRIEN: List for me the most common mistakes that people make outside of the mortgage tax deduction. GOODMAN: Well, there are a lot of education credits. And it can be hard to sort of sort through which is the right one. Also, dependent care and adoption credits. There are a lot of things relating to kids that people sort of have a tough time navigating and don't necessarily realize that...

S. O'BRIEN: Those are the ones that are worth reading up on?

GOODMAN: Definitely.

S. O'BRIEN: So then who do you think should be going out and getting the services of an accountant or, you know, one of those tax services?

GOODMAN: Yes. Well, these days tax software is so sophisticated, pretty much anyone can handle their own taxes. But if you're overwhelmed by a one time event, if you exercise stock options...

S. O'BRIEN: Like me.

GOODMAN: Exactly. Maybe...

S. O'BRIEN: I'm just overwhelmed.

GOODMAN: Or just overwhelmed in general, it can often be worth just paying someone to take care of it. And they'll help you navigate so you can do it on your own next year.

S. O'BRIEN: How much is it -- I mean give me the range of what you can pay, because there comes a point -- I've had friends say, you know, I got $160 back, but my bill from the accountant was $150. It wasn't worth it.

GOODMAN: Yes, the accountants can charge anywhere from $50 for a very simple return to $500. But accountants tend to be a little more aggressive than individuals are. They just are a little more confident in what they can get away with. So very often your refund can be a little bit bigger if you get professional help.

S. O'BRIEN: You can make a little money.


S. O'BRIEN: Even if you pay a little more, too.

GOODMAN: Exactly.

S. O'BRIEN: Beverly Goodman, thank you very much.

You know, I think it's smart to talk about it now because we've got a month.

GOODMAN: Absolutely.

S. O'BRIEN: And during the month we will give -- continue to give people tips on how they can get the most out of their tax refund this year.

Thank you very much.

GOODMAN: Thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: Of course, you can always go to the Web site, too, --, I should say -- if you want some more information -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: I'm going for an on time arrival this year, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: The first year ever?

M. O'BRIEN: In many, many years. I just finished in October. I just thought I'd keep going, which is what I've been doing.

All right, we are following breaking news at the Saddam Hussein trial.

Ahead, we're going to talk to one of the court's legal advisers about Hussein's political diatribe.

Then there's this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I got so confused in the very beginning trying to figure out all this stuff, I thought how in the world is the retirement aged people going to understand this?


M. O'BRIEN: She is not alone. President Bush is trying to sell his rather complicated Medicare package. It is a tough crowd.

Stay with us for more AMERICAN MORNING.


ANNOUNCER: You're watching AMERICAN MORNING with Soledad O'Brien and Miles O'Brien.

M. O'BRIEN: Welcome back from New York City.

The on again, off again trial of Saddam Hussein is underway today, taking a dramatic turn.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, absolutely. It has, hasn't it? And we have courtroom observers, of course. Nic Robertson has been reporting for us live all morning about what has been happening. You're looking at new videotape into CNN. You're not going to necessarily see the outburst and the meltdown because the judge has kicked the journalists out of the proceedings right now. Nine times he hit that button that which cuts off the audio, Nic described as being impossible to be able to understand what Saddam Hussein was saying, the interpreter because he was being cut off so often. But it has really begun to spiral out of control again, I think it's fair to say.

M. O'BRIEN: So we don't know what's going on precisely at this moment but we did get a little bit of an inkling before the cameras were cut off and the journalists were kicked out. And we certainly have heard the gist of this before in some of Saddam Hussein's outbursts over this five-month trial. So let's bring in somebody who has some real insight into what is going on in this courtroom. Michael Newton is a professor of law at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. He is also a legal adviser to the Iraqi court, a frequent guest on our program.

Michael, welcome back to the program. Good to have you with us.


M. O'BRIEN: First of all, before we share with people an excerpt or two, any of this surprise you?

NEWTON: Well, it's important to remember that the whole aspect of calling all of the accused was a court initiative. And all of the accused have testified thus far have been focused on the evidence. This is the first of the eight accused really that go off the deep end. It's a little surprising that where Saddam specifically had the opportunity to attack the evidence that he continued in the same kind of political trend that he has continued.

M. O'BRIEN: Off the deep end, indeed. And we don't know exactly what has happened behind closed doors. But before the cameras were pulled, let's just share with you a little excerpt of what Saddam Hussein was saying.


SADDAM HUSSEIN, FMR. IRAQI PRESIDENT (through translator): ... stay committed to my responsibility, I'm responsible before God almighty. This is a honor and a duty to the people of Iraq, to the great people of Iraq, and to the beloved homeland, and our great nation.


M. O'BRIEN: Now, that wasn't the most dramatic outburst but I think what I find most interesting about that, Michael, is that is as close to a defense as he got and in essence saying, I am the duly- appointed, God-appointed, in this case, leader of Iraq and need to be treated as such.

NEWTON: Right. Well, there are a couple of important points that flow from that. One is that as the president of Iraq, he did have head of state immunity, but that immunity was revoked in the most legitimate way possible by the Iraqi people and the Iraqi parliament in Iraqi domestic legislation. So, in fact, he can be held criminally liable for those acts.

The second thing that is really important about this is that the most important testimony and evidence in this trial is in the form of official documents signed by Saddam in his capacity as the head of the Revolutionary Command Council. Those documents clearly document the fact that the crimes were committed by only 10 to 12 people and, yet, Saddam, in his presidential authority, ordered retribution against all of the citizens of that town.

Orchards were razed, houses were bombed days after, entire families were put in jail, many people died in interrogation even before he signed the death warrants. So the actions that he took were in his capacity as the leader of Iraq.

M. O'BRIEN: So I don't think anybody here listening has any doubt that there is a mountain of evidence there against Saddam Hussein in this specific case. The real question is, what happens to the way this court is proceeded (ph) and these proceedings in general are interpreted by the Iraqis, and for that matter, the rest of the world?

NEWTON: Well, I think you have to go back and really remember that the Iraqis made two very, very courageous decisions. One, they made a courageous decision to tackle these difficult cases themselves. They could have easily simply shifted responsibility into other forums and asked the United Nations or some other external agency to take it.

They made a very courageous decision to implement a whole new process themselves. And then the second courageous decision that they made was the decision to air it publicly. And they made that specifically to demonstrate the gulf between what they are doing, a process that's governed by law, that's open, that's full and fair, that allows a full right of defense. It's a huge contrast to the kinds of trials that took place under the Saddam regime.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. But you say aired publicly, there is an asterisk beside that because when the going gets rough, the cameras get turned off.

NEWTON: Well, that's true, except for the fact that the testimony still continues in the courtroom, that the defense attorneys are still full there. It's not the same as saying that it's a closed trial. It's an open trial in the sense everybody is there. There is full participation by the defense. There is a full right of cross- examination. Iraqi law, however, similar to other law, in other countries, permits the judge to keep defendants and witnesses focused on the relevant testimony.

So where there is extraneous evidence, particularly things that are designed to undercut and undermine the government, they have nothing to do with the trial. The judge is fully within his rights to shut off the public disclosure and just keep -- that's the essence of a fair trial, focused on the evidence in the courtroom.

M. O'BRIEN: OK. Thank you very much, law professor Michael Newton with Vanderbilt University, who is an adviser to that Iraqi court system. Let's go to Carol Costello in the news room.

Good morning, Carol. COSTELLO: Good morning, Miles. Good morning to all of you. We have been hearing about reduction of troops in Iraq. Well, right now, the Pentagon is sending more U.S. security forces there. CNN has learned that some 700 U.S. troops are now heading to Iraq from their base in Kuwait. Their mission is to keep the peace ahead of two major events. The new Iraqi parliament convenes later this week and the 40- day Ahsurah religious holiday wraps up for Shiite Muslims this weekend.

Some Democrats plan to push for more funding for port security. Lawmakers in the House have outlined a measure boosting money for cargo inspections and other security measures. They will try to attach it to the $91 billion spending bill. It pays for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and rebuilding the hurricane-damaged Gulf.

The Sago Mine in West Virginia is back up and running. It has been more than two months since an explosion there killed 12 workers. An internal investigation blames lightning. In the meantime the lone survivor, Randy McCloy, getting a home-cooked meal. He was able to leave a rehabilitation center for the first time for a very short visit home. He had (INAUDIBLE). He was surrounded by family members. He might be home for good in several weeks.

Andrea Yates' husband is getting remarried. You remember, he stood by her side after she drowned their five children back in 2001. Rusty is moving on. He says he is engaged to a woman he met at church. The two are set to wed this weekend just two days before Andrea Yates' retrial.

And in the town of town of Winnetka, Illinois, the police chief there is proposing a strict ban on distracted drivers. That could mean chatting on a cell phone, eating, picking up a drink, and even listening to the radio. City lawmakers are said to be considering the proposal, but they say it's only in the talking phase so I don't have any idea what the fine would be for listening to the radio in your car -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, that would be interesting to see. All right, Carol, thank you.

President Bush hitting the road on a sales trip of sorts today, he is pushing his Medicare prescription drug plan to older Americans at a retirement community in Maryland. AMERICAN MORNING's Bob Franken, live from Washington, D.C., this morning for us.

Hey, Bob, good morning.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Definitely two takes on this, 26 million people have signed up for the program, says the administration, while Democrats say they have had a real hard time doing it and the deadline should be extended. So the president has still another controversy.


FRANKEN (voice-over): Day one of the president's tour selling his controversial Medicare prescription program, Plan D, definitely stayed on message.


SUSAN WILBER, HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONAL: It's going well. There was a little bit of confusion at first. But...

BUSH: No, but, I mean, you don't want to recommend somebody to sign up and they say, what did you -- how did you get me to sign up for this? I mean...

WILBER: For the most part, it's worked very well. We've gotten some excellent feedback from our customers.

FRANKEN: The feedback from this assisted living facility near Washington that the president visits today was a sharp contrast to that.

ERICA RYBECK, AGE 77: And I think it's totally a farce, but I had a great deal of help in the beginning. I read over it. I truly didn't understand a lot of what I was reading.

WALTER RYBECK, AGE 81: I was just baffled by it. Really, that's the only word I can say. It was just so complex. And I just found it very difficult to follow how it worked.

DORA SPELLMANN, AGE 82: I got so confused from the very beginning trying to figure out all of this stuff. I thought, how in the world is the retirement age people going to understand this?

FRANKEN: But if the president's latest appearance on his Medicare plan is any indication, that will not be his take on Plan D.

BUSH: It's working. It makes lot of sense.

E. RYBECK: I don't think the majority of people understand it, and I guess my question to him would be, do you understand it, Mr. President?


FRANKEN: The president will be speaking at a facility today that has a variety of levels of care. It's a retirement community, as I said, with different levels of care. But there is a large feeling whatever the level, that the Plan D program, Soledad, is very hard to comprehend.

S. O'BRIEN: And so then how much of a political liability does this -- has this become for the president?

FRANKEN: Well, this is an off-year election. The Republicans are going to have to deal with the fact that they have a president who has some low approval ratings. The Democrats are going to see to it that the litany of complaints they have, this one is on there.

S. O'BRIEN: Bob Franken for us this morning, Bob, thank you -- Miles. M. O'BRIEN: Let's check the weather.


M. O'BRIEN: Anderson Cooper has a look at what is coming up on his program tonight -- Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Miles, tonight on "360," her story touched our hearts. Her kidnapping was caught on tape. Now Carlie Brucia's killer learns his fate. Life in prison or death. Reaction from Carlie's grandmother and memories of the girl she lost, that's on "360" tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Thank you, Anderson.

S. O'BRIEN: Andy is "Minding Your Business" ahead for us this morning. What have you got?

ANDY SERWER, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, FORTUNE: Soledad, possible security problems with those new RFID chips. Is there one in your cat?

Plus, the latest spring break trend. Hold the rum punch, we'll tell you all about that coming up next on AMERICAN MORNING.


S. O'BRIEN: Does your dog or your kitty cat have a little radio frequency ID tag, like Miles?

M. O'BRIEN: Peanut. Peanut is equipped just in case we lose that valuable mutt of ours.

SERWER: You put an RFID tag in your dog?

M. O'BRIEN: When you go to the pound, you get...


M. O'BRIEN: ... spayed and I guess when they're in there they put in the tag. And so she -- you know, that way if she gets lost we can positively identify her.

SERWER: I understood. Well, you know, these tags are mostly used to track goods like clothes and electronics, companies sending those around. It's easier to keep track of than the bar codes, they contain more information. But now European scientists are discovering that these RFID tags can be tampered with. There is one of those little -- you can see how small it is on that quarter.

A story in The New York Times today says a group...

M. O'BRIEN: It doesn't come with the quarter.

SERWER: No, it doesn't. A group of scientists are going to be presenting a paper today in Pisa, Italy. And this is the name of the paper: "Is Your Cat Infected with a Computer Virus?" Miles? Or your dog? And so they are going to be talking about this problem. But like good computer scientists they are also offering a solution to the problem, so we eagerly await the solution to the problem.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, Peanut may not have a virus but she does have worms.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, you know, ew.

SERWER: I'm not quite sure how that fits.

S. O'BRIEN: And by the way, I'm told state law, shelter animals have to be...

SERWER: And that's too much information probably.

S. O'BRIEN: Way too much. Moving on.

SERWER: OK. How about this story? Spring break, this is a piece in The San Francisco Chronicle, what is the latest trend? Is it going down to Cancun and drinking so much tequila that you see triple? No. That's so last year. So five years ago.

S. O'BRIEN: That's good to hear.

SERWER: Today's college students, according to this story, are more like "girls gone mild" is what they are describing it as, meaning they are going on...

M. O'BRIEN: Not seen there.

SERWER: Not like these guys.

M. O'BRIEN: Not seen there.

SERWER: The U.C. Berkeley students are going to Mexico to work for the Border Patrol, help with domestic violence, and organize unions. Another one is going to New Orleans to help with the cleanup. Another one is going to Central America to work on poverty. I don't think MTV is going to...

S. O'BRIEN: That's just U.C. Berkeley...

SERWER: That's just U.C. Berkeley students, which may not be a good example.

S. O'BRIEN: ... which is a very select group of students, I might add.

SERWER: That's true. Now I don't think MTV is going to be filming any of this. It just doesn't work a well.

S. O'BRIEN: I will say this, I have given a bunch of speeches...

M. O'BRIEN: CNN might. S. O'BRIEN: ... to colleges, and I would say there is a huge number of students -- a large number of students who have been going down to help in the cleanup and the hurricane recovery, spending their spring break doing something good a community.

SERWER: Yes, right. And I think what you could is you could have a little fun when you're in New Orleans while you're doing that too. So in other words, you can mix a little do-gooding with a little pleasure. And maybe that's what...

M. O'BRIEN: Well, I ran into these Americorps volunteers in Pass Christian, they were living in tents cleaning up. So, you know, God bless them. These kids are...

SERWER: That's good for the resume.

S. O'BRIEN: You know, and good for the heart.

SERWER: And good for the soul. You're right. You're right. Absolutely.

S. O'BRIEN: Thank you, Andy.

SERWER: You're welcome.

M. O'BRIEN: In the karma bank.

All right, tomorrow on AMERICAN MORNING, a car crash in California. Nothing unusual about that, you say? Not until you hear about the rare Ferrari destroyed in this smashup.


M. O'BRIEN: Tragedy! And its millionaire owner who cops say has skipped the country. The plot has thickened.

S. O'BRIEN: Considerably.

M. O'BRIEN: You want to tune in, don't you? You do. You can't help yourself. You'll be with us tomorrow, please.

Still to come on the program, some answers on what may have caused the New Orleans levee failures. We'll talk to the agency in charge of that investigation.

S. O'BRIEN: Also, if you use Google, you ought to stay tuned, the government is going to have its hands soon probably on some of Google's private database information. The latest ahead on this controversial case is just ahead AMERICAN MORNING.


S. O'BRIEN: Use Google to search the Web? The government might be looking over your shoulder. A judge says the feds should have access to some of Google's records. Not as much, though, as the Bush administration had asked for. Joining us this morning to explain it all is technology correspondent Daniel Sieberg. He's at the CNN Center in Atlanta this morning. From Washington, D.C., Mark Rasch, he's a privacy lawyer for Solutionary, which is a computer security company.

Gentleman, thank you very much. Nice to see you both. Daniel, let's start with you. Give us the nuts and the bolts of what the judge has said in this case now.

DANIEL SIEBERG, CNN TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: Sure. The judge has basically said that he is expecting to rule that Google should turn over at least some information, that's the indication we're getting from the judge. He has not ruled yet.

But the Department of Justice has scaled back the amount of data they are asking for this in case. Initially they had asked for about a million Web sites in Google's database, and a random selection of about a week's worth of search terms that are done on Google.

So that was a lot of information. Google pushed back and said it did not want to turn over all that information. And since then the government has scaled it back to about 50,000 Web sites and about 5,000 random search requests.

Here is what Google had to say yesterday when this was basically announced that they were going to scale back this request: "We are very encouraged by the judge's thoughtful questions and comments. They reflected our concerns about user privacy and the scope of the government's subpoena request."

S. O'BRIEN: Well, Daniel, let me interrupt you there. Because here's my question, I think it's a question that a lot of people have, how does this request fight Internet porn?

SIEBERG: Well, here is the thing, it goes back several years. All of this is because of the government says it wants to revive a law that dates back to 1998 aimed at shielding children from porn on the Internet. So their concerned that filtering software or the ability to stop children from seeing porn when they are sort of surfing the Web or putting in search terms, the government is saying that they need to know if that is effective enough.

Google (GOOG), Yahoo! (YHOO), MSN, and AOL, part of Time Warner (TWX), are also turning over some of this information. The idea being the government wants to know if they need to this law in place to protect children from stumbling across this stuff. And Google says, why do we have to be part of it?

S. O'BRIEN: Well, Daniel, you have set very nicely up our lawyer, Mark Rasch, again, he's a privacy expert.

Mark, do you think Google, first and foremost, is going to comply with this order?

MARK RASCH, COMPUTER PRIVACY LAWYER: I think the way it's scaled down I think they are going to comply with it. It's now very narrow, only 50,000 records. Before, what the government was pretty much asking, what does everybody search for for a whole month? What kind of things are they looking for?

And you point out something very important, which is, why is this relevant to the issue of whether or not children are protected online? And that is one of Google's other arguments as well.

S. O'BRIEN: So then why did the judge not buy that argument?

RASCH: Well, the problem is it's marginally relevant. It has a little bit of relevance. But really, what Google's primary concern was protecting its trade secrets and protecting the privacy of the people who search using Google. And I guess the judge felt that by narrowing it to only a small number of records, these interests were protected.

S. O'BRIEN: It sort of became a little bit more statistically irrelevant, I guess you could say. The judge though did say there were some concerns. Mark, give me some of the concerns.

RASCH: Well, there a number of them. The first one is one of perception. If people believe that everything that they're doing on a search engine is going to be recorded by the search engine and then turned over to the government, they are going to be less likely to be free and open and discuss things and look for things that they have a constitutionally protected right to do. So it's going to have a chilling effect. And the government -- and the judge understood that. I don't think the government understood that.

The second thing is that the way Google's search engine works, how it delivers up the results is a trade secret of Google, and that needed to be protected here as well. So these are legitimate concerns that are minimized by the smaller number of searches but not eliminated completely.

S. O'BRIEN: Daniel, let's get back to you. What do you think the impact, the effect is going to be? Or do you think for end-users really at the end of the day the case, not going to make a difference?

SIEBERG: I don't think it's going to make a lot of difference. I don't think Google is going to suffer really as a result of all this. They are the biggest kid on the block. Their trade secrets are very important, as Mark pointed out, and that has made them so successful, and I don't think people are going to stop using Google necessarily because of this case. They may at least be a little more wary and think about what they are doing online. And that there is always the possibility that this information could be turned over at some point.

I think that is the slippery slope argument that a lot of people are worried about. That they agree to this particular case, what happens down the line? And I think that worries privacy advocates, and just the average person, because we are talking about billions and billions of searches done through Google and these other companies.

S. O'BRIEN: Technology correspondent Daniel Sieberg, privacy expert Mark Rasch. You might recognize Mark, by the way, from our "New You Resolution." (CROSSTALK)

S. O'BRIEN: Why you look very thin and healthy to us, Mark, this morning. Thank you both for talking with us. Appreciate it, guys.

RASCH: Thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Daniel looks healthy, too.

S. O'BRIEN: Daniel also healthy. Not a "New You."


M. O'BRIEN: Anyway, the old Dan is just fine. In a moment, top stories including the latest breaking news on Saddam Hussein's testimony in court.

A judge will decide life or death for the man who killed 11-year- old Carlie Brucia.

The Pentagon plans to send about 700 more troops into Iraq.

And rumors that friends of the president are trying to persuade him to hire more staff.

And Texas, bringing in reinforcements to help fight the state's raging wildfires. Stay with us on this AMERICAN MORNING.


S. O'BRIEN: Good morning, I'm Soledad O'Brien.

M. O'BRIEN: And I'm Miles O'Brien.

S. O'BRIEN: Drama in the courtroom to tell you about. Saddam Hussein takes the stand, lashes out at the judge. The media is ordered out. We're live with all the details coming up.

M. O'BRIEN: On the fire lines in Texas, wildfires spreading fast, today's weather forecast, it looks like it will make matters worse. We're live on that story.

S. O'BRIEN: And take a look at this picture. What happened right before this hug? Two mothers on opposite sides of the 9/11 tragedy come face to face.


CNN TV E-mail Services CNN Mobile CNNAvantGo Ad Info About Us Preferences
© 2007 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines