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The Truth About Abu Ghraib; Private Memorial Held for Nick Berg; U.S. Hunts for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi; Preview of Summer 2004 Entertainment

Aired May 14, 2004 - 19:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm Anderson Cooper.
Did a small group of soldiers run amuck inside a prison in Iraq? 360 starts right now.


COOPER (voice-over): Who's telling the truth about Abu Ghraib? A graphic report by one soldier points the finger of blame at another.

Nick Berg is laid to rest as new questions are raised about what he was doing in Iraq and what the government knew about him.

The man authorities believe behind the mask, how the U.S. is hunting Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the killer some call the most dangerous terrorist in the world.

And, earth takes an ecological beating. The webbed one strikes again and more fun from a jolly green giant, a preview of this summer's blockbusters.


COOPER: Our top story tonight, a firsthand account of what one soldier says happened inside the Abu Ghraib Prison speaks of a pattern of violent abuse of inmates that the commanders of the prison knew nothing about.

Now that account comes from the first soldier scheduled for court martial next week and he is implicating a fellow soldier who himself was ordered today by the Army to go on trial, all this on a day when hundreds of prisoners are released from Abu Ghraib Prison and violent fighting breaks out between U.S. troops and the militia of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, a lot to cover.

At the Pentagon, CNN's Jamie McIntyre; in Baghdad, CNN's Ben Wedeman, we begin in Washington at the Pentagon, Jamie, new details about what might have happened inside Abu Ghraib.


As the trial of one soldier moves closer to court martial today the top commander in Iraq tightened up the rules for interrogation. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE (voice-over): The attorney for one of the accused ringleaders of the abuse, Specialist Charles Graner, says this photo shows not just Graner and two other military police but also four enlisted men from military intelligence, along with a civilian translator. Graner insists higher ups were well aware of the cooperation between the prison guards and interrogators and the methods they used to soften prisoners up.

But another accused soldier, Specialist Jeremy Sivits, who has agreed to plead guilty and testify against the other six, says senior enlisted and officers were unaware of the mistreatment.

"Our command would have slammed us," Sivits told investigators in a sworn statement. "They believe in doing the right thing. If they saw what was going on there would be hell to pay."

Sivits says it was Graner who ordered Iraqis to strip in Arabic and forced them into the pyramid of naked bodies. Sivits' statement also details abuse that went beyond humiliation. In one case he says Graner punched the detainee with a closed fist so hard in the temple that the detainee was knocked unconscious.

In another case, Sivits says Sergeant Javall Davis (ph), another accused soldier, "stomped on either the fingers or toes of the detainees causing them to scream loudly."


MCINTYRE: In the wake of the controversy, the top commander in Iraq, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, has banned some of the aggressive interrogation options that he said he never approved in Iraq, things like sensory deprivation, sleep adaptation and stress positions, but the one technique that is still permitted but only with high level approval is isolating prisoners for more than 30 days -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Jamie McIntyre thanks very much.

Abu Ghraib Prison where the alleged abuse took place is less crowded tonight after hundreds of joyous prisoners were freed today.

A much different scene about 100 miles south of Baghdad in the holy city of Najaf where gunfire broke out in the so-called Valley of Peace, the massive cemetery became a battlefield today.

Let's go live to Baghdad and CNN's Ben Wedeman. Ben, what's the latest on the fighting in Najaf?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Yes, Anderson. Well, it was just a few days ago that there was talk that somehow negotiations would be able to end the standoff between U.S. forces and Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army.

But Friday it was only fighting down there, the fighting in fact approaching some very sensitive red lines, in particular of course that cemetery you mentioned which is considered holy ground by Shiites.

There was gunfire between insurgents inside the cemetery and U.S. forces on the outside. Also Arabic satellite news networks ran footage of a Sadr aide showing damage to the Imam Ali Mosque, the U.S. responding that it has not fired in the direction of that mosque and that it has been very careful to avoid shooting in that direction.

Kimmitt saying the-- Kimmitt, Mark Kimmitt the chief spokesman here in Baghdad saying if anything the damage to the mosque was caused by Mehdi Army militiamen themselves.

Now there are conflicting reports on the death toll in Najaf. The coalition says they killed 17 insurgents but hospital sources tell CNN that two members of the militia were killed along with five civilians.

Now, meanwhile here in Baghdad, around 300 prisoners were released from Abu Ghraib and already many of them are making allegations that they were tortured, abused and humiliated inside the prison.

Now these claims can't be verified but given that many people have seen these pictures of abuse in Abu Ghraib it's likely most Iraqis will believe them -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Ben Wedeman thanks very much.

Well, almost 300 prisoners were released today from Abu Ghraib. Let's put some numbers in perspective. About 3,500 prisoners remain at the prison. Overall, around 10,000 people are being detained by U.S. authorities in Iraq including those at that prison.

In West Chester, Pennsylvania a private funeral today for Nicholas Berg, the American kidnapped and beheaded in Iraq. Afterwards, family and friends gathered at a synagogue for a memorial service as questions still linger about Berg's life and his death.

Here's CNN's Maria Hinojosa.


MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For a family devastated by sorrow, private emotions became public, a memorial at Kesher (ph) Israel Temple, a chance for Nick Berg's closest friends to bid farewell. They came by the dozens to mourn and remember the spirit of a young man. Several who knew him said if he seemed naive it was only because he thought the best of humanity.

LARRY HODGE, FORMER EMPLOYER OF NICK BERG: Nick was the kind of fellow that looked at everything with rose-colored glasses. I don't believe he really understood how evil people could be. He looked for the best in people. He was a very positive person.

HINOJOSA: The Berg family was silent, returning from a small family funeral, walking solemnly to their home. Their son's very public death drawing international attention from the media and several Web sites set up in memory of Nick Berg.

But the circumstances of his detention in Iraq and custody still a point of contention. As the memorial was getting underway, Attorney General John Ashcroft spoke about Berg's case for the first time reiterating the government's position that Berg was never in American custody in Iraq, a position that the Berg family has disputed in federal court.

JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: After a thorough review of records, the FBI relayed to the U.S. military and the Coalition Provisional Authority that no derogatory information was developed about Mr. Berg that would warrant further detention by the Iraqi police of Mr. Berg.

HINOJOSA: On this day of attempted closure for the Berg family, they could only turn to each other for quiet support. For friends who knew him, solemn memories and a place for Nick Berg in history.

BOB CONCORDIA, FAMILY FRIEND: I left there with a feeling that he was somewhat of a martyr for the world at this time and I think probably a lot of good will come from it.


HINOJOSA: Those close to the Berg's say the family is far from ending its public criticism and scrutiny of the U.S. government and its handling of the case of the murder of Nicholas Berg -- Anderson.

COOPER: Maria Hinojosa thanks very much.

It has clearly been a challenging week for the White House, President Bush still doing some damage control and today new poll numbers give us a snapshot of what at least some voters are thinking.

CNN White House Correspondent Suzanne Malveaux has that.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At a commencement speech, the president again expressed his disgust at the Iraqi prison abuse scandal and his support for the troops.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In Iraq the cruelty of a few has brought discredit to their uniform and embarrassment to our country.

MALVEAUX: The White House may have weathered this week's storm. Just one week ago this dire warning from Secretary Rumsfeld.

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: There are other photos, many other photos, that depict incidents of physical violence towards prisoners, acts that can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhuman and I'm advised there also are videos of these actions. MALVEAUX: The week began with at least four Democratic Senators calling for Rumsfeld's resignation and President Bush at the Pentagon in a show of unflinching support for his embattled secretary.

BUSH: You're doing a superb job.

MALVEAUX: The next day more testimony of prison abuse, while damaging, suggested the scandal didn't go far up the chain of command.

MAJ. GEN. ANTONIO TAGUBA, U.S. ARMY: We did not find any evidence of a policy or a direct order given to these soldiers to conduct what they -- what they did.

MALVEAUX: On Wednesday, as members of Congress privately examined new photos of American soldiers abusing prisoners, a terrorist Web site broadcast American civilian Nicholas Berg being beheaded.

The execution, an alleged act of revenge, quieted calls for the release of additional abuse photos. And, Thursday, Rumsfeld made a surprise visit to Baghdad to rally U.S. troops and show critics he's here to stay.

RUMSFELD: It's a fact I'm a survivor.

MALVEAUX: A new CNN-Time poll bears that out with 57 percent of Americans thinking Rumsfeld should not resign but those same polls show recent events taking a toll on Mr. Bush's standing. Forty-nine percent disapprove of how he's handling his job, 46 percent approve and 51 percent say they'll now likely vote for Kerry, 46 percent say for Bush.


MALVEAUX: But political strategists say the more important poll numbers are those from swing states in determining who will win the election but White House aides acknowledge they can't afford to have another week like this one -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Suzanne Malveaux at the White House thanks Suzanne.

An update now on the search for Osama bin Laden. That story tops our look at news "Cross Country."

Lieutenant General David Farnow (ph), the commanding U.S. general in Afghanistan, has in the past predicted bin Laden would be caught by the end of this year. Today, he'll only say we'll see. Farnow says military patrols will continue on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border where bin Laden and his fighters are thought to be on the run.

In Washington also, child porn bust, Attorney General John Ashcroft announces a nationwide investigation of 1,000 cases of child porn on the Internet resulting in at least 65 arrests. The investigation is looking into the growing use of computer networks that let users connect computers directly with each other rather than using Internet servers that are easier to track.

Tooele, Utah now, high speed chase, police chase a 15-year-old runaway girl in her parents' car at speeds up to 105 miles an hour. Well, you see the result there. The girl lost control of the car. It flipped into a water-filled median. She and two other passengers suffered only minor injuries.

That's a look at stories "Cross Country" right now tonight.

The alleged killer of Nicholas Berg is the focus of intense interest right now. U.S. troops on the hunt for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. We'll look into what tactics are being used to find him.

Also ahead, we'll talk to the lawyer for accused GI Charles Graner. Some soldiers claim he was a central figure in the prison abuse scandal.

And Catholics called to confess, we'll talk to a Colorado bishop who says followers should recant and repent if they vote for politicians who don't back church teachings on abortion, gay marriage and other controversial issues, all that ahead.

First right now your picks, the most popular stories on right now.


COOPER: It is being called the strongest pronouncement yet from a U.S. bishop in the debate over politics and religion. The Roman Catholic bishop of Colorado Springs says that Catholics who vote for politicians who support practices he consider intrinsically evil shouldn't receive communion until they go to confession and repent. Those practices include abortion rights, stem cell research and gay marriage.

CNN's Chris Lawrence reports.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Before Catholics take communion they're supposed to ask God to forgive their sins and, in Colorado Springs, ask themselves who they voted for.

Some church leaders have been withholding communion from Catholic politicians who vote against church teachings, such as New Jersey Governor James McGreevey, who says he's pro choice and no longer takes communion during public mass but Bishop Michael Sheridan is going one step further.

BISHOP MICHAEL SHERIDAN, DIOCESE OF COLORADO SPRINGS: And how does the Catholic legislator get there, because people vote for him or her.

LAWRENCE: Bishop Sheridan has issued a pastoral letter to his parish saying Catholics should not receive communion if they voted for candidates who support issues like abortion rights and same-sex marriage.

SHERIDAN: And I want Catholic voters to know they cannot exclude themselves from that -- from that whole process that their vote has moral public consequences to it.

LAWRENCE: Since voting is private he says it's up to the individual to decide whether it should keep them from communion.

LINDA LUONELLO, CATHOLIC VOTER: It's between me and God. It has nothing to do with anybody. Like I said, it has nothing to do with politics in my opinion.

LAWRENCE: Father James Halstead is head of religious studies at DePaul University. He says he agrees with many of the bishop's beliefs but not banning people from communion for the way they vote.

FATHER JAMES HALSTEAD, DEPAUL UNIVERSITY: It's precisely the people that are sick or in error that need to be going to communion. It's not a reward. It's a help on the journey.

LAWRENCE: And there's no one national opinion. Democrat John Kerry is a Catholic and supporter of a woman's right to choose but his bishop has no problem serving him communion.

Chris Lawrence, CNN reporting.


COOPER: Earlier I spoke with Bishop Michael Sheridan about his controversial policy.


COOPER: Bishop, why did you think it was necessary now to take this step?

SHERIDAN: Well, this is an election year and the issues that I speak about in the letter are right out there in the debate that's going on in preparation for these elections.

COOPER: I talked to a lot of Catholics today who are frankly kind of stunned by what you're doing and they said that what you seem to be doing is turning the sacraments into a weapon. Is that what they were meant?

SHERIDAN: Well, if you'll read the letter carefully you'll see that nowhere in there do I talk about denying communion, so using the sacrament as a weapon doesn't seem an appropriate characterization.

I'm appealing to Catholic consciences, calling on them to be as well informed as they can and if a Catholic knowingly promotes or encourages through voting what is known to be evil behavior then I believe, I truly believe that we as voters are complicit in that behavior and we must refrain ourselves from approaching the sacrament until we have been reconciled. COOPER: You picked though certain topics, I mean gay marriage, euthanasia, stem cell research, the pope speaks against the war in Iraq, why these subjects?

SHERIDAN: Well, the issues that I've chosen to speak about in this letter are what we understand to be intrinsically evil in and of themselves. The issues that you think of, while important in having moral consequences and moral dimensions to them, are not and have never been declared by the church to be evil in and of themselves. So, for example, the church has never taught and does not now teach that the imposition of the death penalty is in all circumstance evil.

COOPER: The district attorney in Denver was quoted, a Catholic was quoted as saying "I just think this is a tragic direction for the bishop to take and my great fear is that it will drive Catholics away from the church." Do you have that fear at all? I mean if you look at figures from 1972, 49 percent of Catholics reported attending church weekly. In 2000, only 26 percent do. Can the church afford this?

SHERIDAN: I certainly don't want to drive any Catholic from the church. That's not my intention but the fact that is that the truth, and I believe I am speaking the truth of the church, the truth of God, the truth is sometimes divisive and it sometimes does leave people behind.

It's an unfortunate consequence, not one intended, but the alternative is to say nothing and, if I do that, then I jeopardize my own salvation I believe because as a bishop I have the mandate to speak the truth.

COOPER: So, this is certainly a divisive decision. I guess we'll leave it there. Bishop Michael Sheridan, thank you for being on the program.

SHERIDAN: You're welcome.


COOPER: Catholics are indeed divided on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. Here's a 360 "Fast Fact" for you. According to some national polls, in 2003, 27 percent of Catholics support the right to an abortion in all cases, while 17 percent do not. And when it comes to same-sex marriage, 47 percent of Catholics say they'd support a constitutional ban against gay marriage, 48 percent would oppose such a ban.

Well, the claim that al Qaeda and Islamist groups in Iraq are working together that story tops our look at global news in the "Up Link."

The self-proclaimed leader of al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia says his group is coordinating with Islamist groups attacking U.S. troops in Iraq. He also says al Qaeda was responsible for the attack that killed five western oil workers in Saudi Arabia earlier this month. The claims were posted to Islamist websites today. Worldwide oil prices at a 21-year high. OPEC blames the war in Iraq and instability in the Middle East. OPEC members meet next week to discuss a Saudi proposal to boost production.

Hawaii now, the competition was hot, the world of fire knife championships, yikes. Fire knife championships draws competitors from all over the world, I'm told. Previous winners have gone on to perform in Cirque du Soleil. That guy's got nothing on Sanjay Gupta.

Well, a woman accused of a shocking murder did she actually use antifreeze to poison her own husband? A jury is about to decide. We're going to look at the case ahead in "Justice Served."

Also coming up next, find out what's being done to track down the masked terrorist the CIA believes killed Nicholas Berg.


COOPER: Well the hunt is intensifying, as we said, for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the man whose terrorist resume got longer this week. CIA officers say he is likely the one who killed Nicholas Berg in that disgusting video of the beheading. He's got a $10 million price tag on his head but Zarqawi has eluded the U.S. in the past.

I want to talk about the hunt with Ken Robinson, CNN's Military Intelligence Analyst, plus Henry Schuster, Senior Producer in CNN's Investigative Unit, both in Atlanta tonight, guys, thanks for being on the program.

Ken, let me start off with you. How are U.S. forces going about trying to find this guy? They've been searching for a while.

KEN ROBINSON, CNN MILITARY INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: They've got a two-pronged approach, Anderson. They're focusing on the tactical level of war with their intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and they're not focusing on him as an individual. They're focusing on the jihadist organization as a whole.

They learned from Somalia and other interactions about the "finding Waldo" and they don't want to fall into that trap. They want to dismantle the organization systematically using friends, relatives and acquaintances of people that are rolled up in these cordon and search operations and tactical interrogations and the strategic...

COOPER: So, in a way, they're sort of triangulating like they did with Saddam Hussein?

ROBINSON: Yes and at the strategic level of war they're trying to go after these nations who are enabling and trying to change their behavior.

COOPER: Well, Henry, who is supporting Zarqawi? I mean where does he get his money from? Where does he get his funding and how bad a guy is he?

HENRY SCHUSTER, CNN INVESTIGATIVE UNIT: Well, he's a pretty bad guy. There's no doubt about that. Initially, he got a bankroll when he left Afghanistan in 2001 from al Qaeda according to the sources that I'm talking to and it's a fairly substantial one

But he has a network across Europe. He has a network in the Middle East and he's getting money from that. He's also getting money, according to the intelligence people I've spoken to, from some former Ba'ath Party members as well.

And he's also, in a third way of getting money is -- third way of getting revenue is apparently he and his network are selling used cars. They're bringing them into Iraq and they're selling them for money.

COOPER: He's a used car salesman on top of everything else. Ken, has the U.S. ever been really close to capturing Zarqawi?

ROBINSON: Sources that CNN spoke to said that on the January 22nd capture of Hasan Ghul who was the carrier who had the infamous CD-ROM that enabled them to look at Zarqawi's plans that they felt they were very close during that time period as well and that they lost all opportunity once Goul was rolled up by a friendly foreign government.

COOPER: And, Henry, what do we know about the relationship between Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden? Apparently they've met. Are they friends, competitors?

SCHUSTER: Well, at this stage you could say that Zarqawi really is leading and bin Laden is following. They knew each other in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda financially supported Zarqawi. They shared a training camp initially before Zarqawi set up his own training camp in Afghanistan.

It's clear that Zarqawi helped train people even in al Qaeda with chemical weapons but right now Zarqawi is operational. He's in Iraq. He's using that as his base. He's committing acts and bin Laden's up in the mountains without much to do.

COOPER: All right. Henry Schuster, Ken Robinson thanks very much.


COOPER (voice-over): Was Charles Graner rally just following orders? I'll talk to the lawyer for the soldier who allegedly punched a prisoner unconscious.

And, earth takes an ecological beating. The webbed one strikes again and more fun from a jolly green giant, a preview of this summer's blockbusters, 360 continues.


COOPER: Let's get you caught up in our top stories in tonight's reset. Pointing the finger, the first soldier facing court-martial in the Iraqi abuse scandal is implicating another servicemen. Specialist Jeremy Sivits says Spc. Charles Graner punched a prisoner and was laughing as though he enjoyed it. Graner's lawyers say Sivits is just trying to deflect the blame. We'll talk to him in just a moment.

West Chester, Pennsylvania. Remembering Nicholas Berg. The private memorial was held today for the 26-year-old civilian beheaded by Iraqi terrorists in Iraq. Meanwhile, Berg's family continues to insist he was detained by American forces. But U.S. officials just as insistently argue Berg was never in their custody.

In Washington, support for the president slipping. In a new CNN/"TIME" magazine poll shows President Bush's job approval rating tumbled from 49 to 46 percent among likely voters. John Kerry holds a 51 percent to 46 percent lead over the president right now.

Baltimore. Smarty Jones rides again. The Kentucky Derby champ is a 8-5 favorite to win tomorrow's Preakness, something he has a chance to going on to become the first triple crown champion since Affirmed did in 1978.

Tonight with another soldier speaking out, Specialist Charles Graner finds himself at the center of the prison abuse scandal at least for now. The U.S. military announced today that Graner will face a court-martial arraignment Thursday on seven charges, including adultery, dereliction of duty, conspiracy to maltreat detainees, cruelty and maltreatment of detainees. Just who is the man behind the uniform? We'll talk to his attorney in a moment. But first here is CNN's Alina Cho with some details.


ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Charles Graner already has had his share of legal problems. He was involved in a bitter divorce, and his ex-wife has accused him of violent abuse. In an incident in 2001, Graner's ex-wife said, "he grabbed me by the hair, pushed me down, dragged me, and started banging the left side of my head against the floor." In all, there were three complaints. Each time a judge issued a restraining order against Graner who is barred from going anywhere near his ex-wife.

In the Pittsburgh suburb Graner calls home a flag hangs in the window. A Bible verse painted on stone is just outside. He worked as a prison guard in a nearby maximum security lockup. It is here that Graner allegedly abused inmates. According to court records, in June 1998, one inmate accused Graner and another guard of putting a razor blade in his food. Later the inmate said, without warning or provocation, Graner began beating his arm with a baton. The allegations against Graner were never substantiated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Specialist Graner was not involved in any way in that incident.

CHO: A judge later dismissed the suit after the inmate failed to pursue the case and other prison officials dismissed the allegations as nonsense. Longtime friends call Graner a good father and a hard worker.

TOM ZAVADA, GRANER'S FRIEND: Good luck. Hang in there. Keep things together.

CHO: Graner will be arraigned in Baghdad next week. He is facing several charges of abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Alina Cho, CNN, New York.


COOPER: A short while ago, I spoke with Graner's lawyer, Guy Womack about the case.


COOPER: Guy, your client is facing seven charges in relation to this prisoner abuse scandal. In the past you have said that he was just following orders. Is that going to be your defense?


COOPER: How confident are you that that's going to work? I mean, just following orders didn't work in the Nuremburg trials, wasn't allowed to be entered into as a defense. And there is an order in the U.S. military that if an order is illegal, you cannot follow through on it.

WOMACK: That's correct. A serviceman in the U.S. armed forces, man or woman, is obliged to follow all orders, unless he's certain or reasonably certain that they're unlawful. If you think an order might be unlawful, you have an obligation to request clarification, and to question the order. But if it's repeated, then ultimately in your own heart you have to decide whether or not to comply with the order or to refuse. In this case, based on the environment there at Abu Ghraib, the manner of things that were being done to the prisoners, Specialist Graner reasonably thought that these were lawful orders, and he obeyed them as he had to.

COOPER: Did he question the orders to anyone?

WOMACK: Yes, he did. Keep in mind that all of the MPs as far as I can tell so far from my investigation, did question the fact that they were receiving orders not from military police but from military intelligence officers with the 205th military intelligence brigade, a completely separate branch of the army.

COOPER: There has been testimony from Specialist Jeremy Sivits who faces a separate court-martial next week, he's made a couple of statements to investigators back in January. I want to read to you some of the things he has said about your client. He said, quote, "Graner punched the detainee with a close

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