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Crash Investigation; Iran Hostage-Taker?; Reporters' Secrets

Aired June 30, 2005 - 9:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Searching for clues in the rugged Afghan mountains. Rescue and recovery crews reach a downed U.S. military helicopter. A live report on the fate of those onboard is just ahead.
Shocking allegations. Was Iran's president-elect among the terrorists who stormed the American embassy in Tehran more than two decades ago? We'll hear from those former hostages who say yes.

And no body, no case. Disturbing comments out of Aruba from a former suspect in the Natalee Holloway case.


ANNOUNCER: From the CNN Broadcast Center in New York, this is AMERICAN MORNING with Soledad O'Brien and Miles O'Brien.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you.

Also ahead, we've got a developing story right now about that court order against two reporters. We told you about it earlier this week. They were supposed to turn over confidential information about their sources to federal investigators. Big developments this morning.

S. O'BRIEN: That's right. In the case of the "TIME" magazine reporter, Matt Cooper, Time Inc. is now saying that it will comply with a court order to provide that information, to turn over those subpoenaed records. We're going to talk to the editor-in-chief of Time Inc. about that decision and what it means for journalists everywhere.

M. O'BRIEN: You know, the statement from the corporation says it will have a chilling effect, but they are bound to comply with the rulings of the law. And the Supreme Court took a pass on it. So we'll hear more about this story as it moves forward.

Carol Costello here with headlines.

Hi, Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: I am, indeed. Good morning. Good morning, everyone.

"Now in the News," Israel is boosting security in Gaza ahead of an upcoming planned withdrawal. Troops raided a hotel just about two hours ago, hauling out screaming protesters opposing Israel's plans to pull out of the region. The Israeli army has declared all settlements there a closed military zone and is limiting who can move in and out of the area.

A New York man is set to be arraigned today in connection what's being described as a brutal attack. Police say the suspect, along with two others, attacked three black men with a baseball bat. One of the victims apparently suffered a fractured skull. The incident took place in Howard Beach, the site of the infamous 1986 beating of three black men whose car had broken down. The suspects are white.

The Aruban judge detained and later released in the Natalee Holloway investigation apparently gave his son some advice. Paul Van Der Sloot told his son and his two friends that there would be no case if no body was found.

CNN learned about the conversation in an interview with Aruba's chief prosecutor. It apparently took place some days after Holloway was last scene. When questioned about it, Van Der Sloot said he was only speaking about the case generally.

The three young boys are still in custody in Holloway's disappearance. No formal charges have been filed.

The first same-sex couples could soon get married in Spain. The Spanish parliament has given final approval to the controversial legislation.

The Catholic Church fiercely opposed the measure, calling it a consequence of Spain's socialist politics. The Netherlands and Belgium have already legalized gay marriage. Canada is expected to do the same.

And have you seen this yet? Texas Rangers pitcher Kenny Rogers, oh, he lost his temper. There he is goes.

He is likely to face suspension after this incident with a couple of television photographers. Rogers shoved two photographers before the Rangers game on Wednesday. He threw one camera to the ground and then he threatened to break more cameras. One photographer was taken to the hospital for minerjuries.

Rogers is apparently angry about a report that he threatened to retire if he was not given an extension. And he's also likely angry about -- you know, he hurt his little pinky because he punched a water cooler back in June.

S. O'BRIEN: He's just angry.

COSTELLO: He's angry.

M. O'BRIEN: Generally angry.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, you know, it's interesting. That angle that they showed was of the cameraman who was shooting it himself getting hit. So you just see the camera kind of fly out of the way. But when you see it from the side shot, the camera is thrown over this man's shoulder. I mean, you could see why he had to go to the hospital.

M. O'BRIEN: He got hurt, yes.

S. O'BRIEN: His back and arm is clearly, like, kind of being wrenched out of his body.

COSTELLO: Oh, yes, he had injuries to his shoulder, his arm and his leg.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes. Poor guy.

COSTELLO: But he's doing OK.

M. O'BRIEN: Of course he understands he's OK as long as he pitches well. So...

S. O'BRIEN: That was bizarre, too. All right, Carol. Thanks.


S. O'BRIEN: Let's get right to Afghanistan this morning. Coalition forces have secured the sight of a military helicopter crash. The cause of Tuesday's crash, though, is still under investigation, as is the fate of the 17 U.S. military personnel who were on board. Officials on Wednesday said the chopper came under enemy fire before it crashed.

Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon for us this morning.

Barbara, good morning to you. You've really just recently been to Afghanistan. Give me a sense of the threat the troops face there each and every day.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Soledad, this latest incident, of course, does underscore that there is still a significant insurgent threat in Afghanistan. We have been there, we've seen it. First, we want to take you on a ride through the very mountains where this helicopter went down.


STARR (voice-over): This is the war that is not Iraq, Afghanistan's Hindu Kush, mountain peaks rising more than 10,000 feet along the border with Pakistan, some of the world's roughest terrain. CNN took these exclusive pictures in 2003 while traveling with U.S. troops in Chinook helicopters similar to the one that crashed on Tuesday.


STARR: For weeks, all along this border, U.S. and Afghan troops have been fighting insurgents. Nobody thinks Osama bin Laden is here. This is a military offensive against suspected Taliban and al Qaeda fighters that are here.

Just days ago, CNN visited the border again. The senior U.S. commander was predicting more attacks in advance of the September parliamentary elections.

LT. GEN. KARL EIKENBERRY, COMMANDER, U.S. FORCES, AFGHANISTAN: The kind of tactics that the enemy will use we're already starting to see them. Continuation of IEDs, a continuation of attacks against soft targets, blowing up the mosque. These are a group of terrorists and criminals that will use any tactic they can to try to stop this democratic process.

STARR: There are disturbing signs of increased organization and funding.

CAPT. BRANDON TEAGUE, 82ND AIRBORNE DIVISION: The past four, five months, they've -- they've been well-equipped. They all -- they have standardized equipment, AK-47s, grenades, communication equipment, signaling equipment.

STARR: Colonel Patrick Donahue's says his troops remain on the offensive.

COL. PATRICK DONAHUE, 82ND AIRBORNE DIVISION: The type of enemy we're facing is more of the insurgent cell operating in the interior. These are the ones that are bombing the -- burning the schools and dropping the hand grenades in the girl schools, intimidating voters. These are -- this is a new threat that has just emerged in the last month.

STARR: No one can say who fired small arms and rocket-propelled grenades against the helicopter that was brought down, but along this border, in this other war, U.S. troops in combat is very much a reality.


STARR: And Soledad, now 17 military families across the country have been notified their loved ones were onboard that helicopter. Still, no formal announcement from the Pentagon about their status -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: All right. We'll wait for that. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon this morning. Barbara, thank you -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Five former hostages in Iran say the newly-elected president was one of their captors. Twenty-six years ago, militant revolutionaries took over the U.S. embassy in Iran, as you know. They held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.

On Saturday, the conservative mayor of Tehran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was elected Iran's new president. When some of the former hostages saw him on TV, they were sure he was the man who was there.

Earlier, I asked two of the five who they recognized Iran's -- how they recognized Iran's president-elect, and when they first made the connection.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) WILLIAM DAUGHERTY, FMR. IRAN HOSTAGE: I saw his picture in "The Washington Post" on Saturday morning, recognized it immediately, and then sent an e-mail out to some of my former colleagues just asking them to, you know -- and telling them what I thought and seeing what kind of responses they might -- they might have to it.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. We have picture of him here in 2005, and I believe we have a picture which dates back to that era right around 1979.

Mr. Sharer, when you got that e-mail, first of all, the one on the left is the one that's most relevant. That's how you would remember that face. Was there any doubt in your mind?

DON SHARER, FMR. IRAN HOSTAGE: I saw his picture in "The Indianapolis Star." I haven't seen the 1979 picture. But as soon as I saw the face, it rang a lot of bells to me.

And it was a recent picture, but he still looked like a man, take 20 years off of him, he was there. He was there in the background, more like an adviser. And one other incident, he just called Colonel Scott and myself "pigs" and "dogs," and we deserved to be locked up forever. So when you're placed in a life-threatening situation of that nature, you just remember those things.

M. O'BRIEN: Mr. Dougherty...

SHARER: I'm 99...

M. O'BRIEN: Oh, go ahead. Finish.

SHARER: I'm 99 percent sure.

M. O'BRIEN: Ninety-nine percent sure.

Mr. Daugherty, what do you remember about him?

DAUGHERTY: I remember seeing him acting in a supervisory or leadership capacity during the first I would say two-and-a half weeks. On the 19th day, I was moved into solitary confinement and had very limited contact with even my Iranian guards after that.

But in those first 19 days or so, it was -- he was around the groups. He would come in, question the guards, more or less checking on things when sort of dignitaries would come through. There would be a group of the Iranian leadership, the student leadership, that would escort them as we were put on display as it were, and he would be part of that.

DAUGHERTY: Let's look at his resume just a little bit, give people a sense of who he is. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected mayor of Tehran in 2003. He holds a Ph.D. in traffic and transport. Former Revolutionary Guard. Born in 1956. He would have been about 23 years old at the time of the hostage taking.

M. O'BRIEN: Now, Mr. Sharer, there are some hostages, one of them in particular, Colonel Thomas Schaeffer (ph), who says no, this is a mistake, this is not the same person.

SHARER: We all have our personal recollections of that time. It was 25 years ago. Fog of time sets in sometimes.

I know what I think. And god bless Tom Schaeffer. He knows what he thinks. So it's individual memory, I guess.

And would you go along with that? Mr. Daugherty, go ahead.

DAUGHERTY: Well, The quotation that I saw from Tom Schaeffer said that he simply didn't remember, and I'm not sure that's the same thing as that individual not being there. It's simply Tom not remembering, which is certainly understandable.

As Don pointed out, we were all in different circumstances. We were exposed to some of the Iranians more than others. So, you know, if Tom was actually quoted correctly in saying he didn't remember, again, that's not the same thing as the guy not being there.


M. O'BRIEN: The Bush administration has already criticized the process that elected Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Are these new charges gaining any traction in Washington?

Andrea Koppel live at the State Department.

Andrea, what do we know about the Iranian president-elect? And do we know what he was doing in 1979?

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPT. CORRESPONDENT: Well, I should say, Miles, that there has been no reaction either from State Department, where I am right now, or over at the White House to these new allegations by some of those former hostages. But what we know about him -- and I should also say that if a lot of Americans say, "I've never heard of this guy," they're not alone, because a lot of people in Iran had hardly heard of him before he was elected over the weekend.

In point of fact, he was born in 1956. He's widely viewed as a representative of Iran's ultra-conservatives. He's a second- generation revolutionary and a follower of Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei.

Until now, the president-elect was not encouraging reestablishing formal ties with Washington. And, in fact, they've been severed since 1979.

In the last job, as you mentioned during your interview, he served as the mayor of Tehran, Iran's capital. But he started his political career back in the 1970s. In the 1980s, like many Iranians, he joined up with the armed forces during the Iran-Iraq war and then went on to serve in other various political positions throughout Iran.

He, in fact, served as governor in Iran's northwest province, where he reportedly developed a reputation for efficiency and incorruptibility. After that, he was appointed as chief of the special sources of the hard-lined Revolutionary Guards.

Now, one report actually claims, Miles, that he likes to take homemade meals to the office and lives in an average apartment. That was something that clearly resonated with the Iranian people, who are so frustrated after decades of what they feel has been economic decline, and one of the main reasons that analysts believe he actually won the election -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Andrea Koppel at the State Department. Thank you very much -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, coming up next, more on the developing story this morning involving one of the reporters who could now go to jail for protector sources. Matt Cooper's bosses now say they're going to comply with a court order to hand over information. We're going to get their reaction this morning.

M. O'BRIEN: Also, thrill ride dangers. One lawmaker wants federal standards for amusement park safety. We'll tell you why the industry is fighting it.

S. O'BRIEN: And outrage in Florida. Police say this man admitted to killing 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford, but a technicality might keep a jury from hearing the confession.

That story's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. And we're back in a moment.


S. O'BRIEN: New developments to talk about in that court order against two reporters. Time Inc. says it will turn over information on confidential sources to federal investigators. It's doing so on behalf of "TIME" magazine reporter Matt Cooper, who along with "New York Times" reporter Judith Miller, are facing jail time if they do not comply. Both "TIME" and CNN, we should mention, are owned by Time Warner.

Norm Pearlstine is the editor-in-chief of Time Inc.

It's nice to see you. Thanks for talking with us this morning.


S. O'BRIEN: Why did you make this decision? I know it's something that the company was grappling with.

PEARLSTINE: Well, on Monday, the Supreme Court told us it was not going to hear our appeal. And I thought once that decision was made, we found ourselves in a position where we had to make a choice to turn over the documents.

I think it's a terrible case. I wish the court had taken our appeal. But given that they did not, we're not above the law. And the law was clear that I think we had no choice but to turn over the information. S. O'BRIEN: Matt Cooper has said in the past days publicly that he did not support that decision. Have you talked to him since?

PEARLSTINE: Yes, I have talked to Matt. And I think Matt as an individual reporter has to make a decision on his own about what he will do with regard to his confidential sources as a representative of Time Inc. who was a defendant in the case, as well as Matt.

It was very much my feeling that once the Supreme Court had spoken, once the Supreme Court had affirmed a decision that goes back 33 years that says that we are not above the law when it comes to testifying before a grand jury, we had no choice but to comply.

S. O'BRIEN: You list in this press release that you've sent out a bunch of concerns. For example, you say you're concerned about living the press freedom in a way that's going to have a chilling effect on our work, meaning the work of journalists.


S. O'BRIEN: That it might damage the free flow of information that's critical in a democracy, that it might encourage excesses by overzealous prosecutors. And so what do you think the risks were to the company if you said, with all these big, giant risks, now, we won't turn it over?

PEARLSTINE: Well, there's a risk to the company. I presume that a judge could put (ph) out some fines that would affect us. I don't think that it would be material to a corporation with revenues the size of Time Warner. That wasn't a factor in my decision. This was really more one about editorial independence and a question of whether editors are above the law that applies to the rest of us. And I don't think we are.

S. O'BRIEN: What happens to Matt? I mean, does this mean Matt's not going to get jail time, or is it a matter of him turning over and testifying, still?

PEARLSTINE: That's up to Matt and up to Judge Hogan (ph). I don't decide whether Matt gets jail time or not.

If Matt chooses to withhold the confidentiality of his sources, then a decision will have to be made by the judge. My own view is that by turning over this information we obviate the need for Matt to even testify, let alone be incarcerated, but I can't speak for Judge Hogan (ph).

S. O'BRIEN: What do you think is going to happen with Judith Miller, the other plaintiff in this case?

PEARLSTINE: Well, Judith has said that she's not going to turn over her sources. And she's prepared to face prison if that's what the judge wants to do. And I take her at her word.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes. At this time, Judy, we should mention, says she's not going to comment on this case. You know, as journalists, a lot of what you give when you get people to sit down and talk to you, especially in the kind of sensitive stories that "TIME" magazine does, obviously, you give people confidentiality, that they can come to you and you're not going to reveal their names.

What do you think at the end of the day is the impact for all of us when, because of a court order, people who were promised confidentiality are not going to get it?

PEARLSTINE: I think it will definitely have a chilling effect on our ability to do our job. And I think that's exactly what the courts want. That's when -- what the courts have concluded when they said that they think that a citizen's duty to testify before a grand jury takes precedence over the First Amendment.

I don't agree with that, but I don't make the laws. I just have to follow them, like every other citizen.

S. O'BRIEN: You said you didn't think there would be some big financial issue, especially with a company, you know, as large as Time Warner. So why not just say no?

PEARLSTINE: Because I believe that there's no argument for saying no once the Supreme Court has ruled on a decision. I think that we are a country of laws, not of individuals, and that as journalists who regularly point a finger at people who think they're above the law, I'm not comfortable being one of them myself.

S. O'BRIEN: You've said in this press release that you're going to continue to -- you, being the company, of course -- continue to support the protection of confidential sources. What do you mean by that? Specifically, in what way?

PEARLSTINE: Well, we have -- well, first of all, there are lots of people who one can give confidentiality to where it doesn't lead to a special counsel being named in a case involving national security and the calling of a grand jury.

Secondly, we do have shield laws in 49 states and the District of Columbia which afford some protection for journalists and allow for protecting confidential sources.

Thirdly, we have legislation pending in the Congress for a shield law, a national shield law. And I think that all of that gives us plenty of opportunity to be able to be vigorous in our protection of our confidential sources.

What we're talking about in this case, which is quite different from many other cases, is issues of national security, issues of a grand jury, and issues of a special counsel who has chosen, unlike many attorney generals, many U.S. attorneys throughout the country, to seek information about confidential sources from journalists.

S. O'BRIEN: Norm Pearlstine, thanks for talking with us this morning. We certainly appreciate your time. PEARLSTINE: Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here.

S. O'BRIEN: Thank you -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Still to come in the program, wrangling over safety standards at U.S. amusement parks. One lawmaker wants federal guidelines. Why is the industry fighting back? That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: A Massachusetts grand jury has charged the supervisor of a carnival ride with manslaughter after the death of a rider last year. Such tragedies have prompted calls for federal oversight of amusement ride safety. As CNN's Dan Lothian reports, many states have little or no regulation.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Andrew Fohlin was 37 years old when the accident happened last September.

SYLVIA FOHLIN, VICTIM'S SISTER: Just a whole range of emotions, yes. And anger was part of it.

LOTHIAN: Fohlin was on a carnival ride, the Sizzler, in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. Authorities say one side of the seat gave way, tossing him to his death.

FOHLIN: Nobody expects to lose their life or a limb doing that. There's a presumption, I think, on most people's part that this is a safe activity.

LOTHIAN: On this mission space ride at Walt Disney World in Orlando, a 4-year-old boy passed out and died this earlier month. An investigation is under way, but has shown no signs of trauma.

(on camera): From large theme parks to local church carnivals, some 300 million people buckle up for a thrill each year. But who is making sure the ride is safe? The answer depends on the park's location, size and mobility.

REP. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The reality is that there may be no state regulation, and there definitely is no federal regulation at all.

LOTHIAN: The rules seem as complex as a twisted gravity-defying ride. For example, nine states don't regulate rides at all. Two more rely on private inspections. The rest have varying degrees of regulations.

And while the Federal Consumer Products Safety Commission does oversee mobile carnival rides and small amusement park rides, it has no authority over large theme parks like Disney World, where the 4- year-old died. Congressman Ed Markey says they are exempted by a 1982 loophole approved by U.S. lawmakers. MARKEY: Which prohibits the federal government from regulating amusement parks.

LOTHIAN: The industry says there's a good reason for that.

BETH ROBERTSON, AMUSEMENT PARKS ATTRACTIONS ASSOCIATION: The exceptionally safe record of the industry clearly demonstrates that federal oversight is not necessary.

LOTHIAN: Amusement park officials say there are strong independent industry standards, and that based on the hundreds of millions of people who go on rides each year, there is virtually no safer form of recreation.

ROBERTSON: We feel that the state and local level is the most appropriate place to have regulation.

LOTHIAN: Andrew Fohlin died in a state that has regulations; regulations that are now tighter, thanks in part to the efforts of his sister and her lawyer. They also endorse Congressman Markey's recent bill, giving the federal government oversight of all amusement parks.

LEO BOYLE, LAWYER: With the right regulations in place, the sanction for not being safe is you go out of business.

LOTHIAN: Working to strengthen the safety net, even as the industry remains convinced its current system is on the right track.

Dan Lothian, CNN, Boston.


M. O'BRIEN: CNN has been unable to reach the company that owned the ride on which Andrew Fohlin died, but earlier this month a grand jury decided it should not be indicted in connection with Mr. Fohlin's death -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, a new development in the Natalee Holloway case. The father of one of the suspects reportedly offering some disturbing advice to his son. We'll take you live to Aruba ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.



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