The Web    CNN.com      Powered by
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
SERVICES
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
SEARCH
Web CNN.com
powered by Yahoo!
TRANSCRIPTS


 

Return to Transcripts main page

CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Coaltion Provisional Authority Briefing

Aired May 17, 2004 - 10:00   ET

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


DARYN KAGAN, HOST: We are at CNN headquarters and I'm Daryn Kagan. And let's get started with the check of the headlines.
Black plumes of smoke mark what's being called a deliberate, political assassination. Suicide bomber's blast, it killed Iraqi Governing Council President Izzedine Salim today in Baghdad. A group calling itself the Arab Resistance Movement is claiming responsibility. At least four other Iraqis were killed in the attack. Six Iraqis and two U.S. soldiers are injured. We'll have a live report just ahead.

Secretary of State Colin Powell is saying that he regrets arguments that he presented as proof that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. On NBC's "Meet The Press" yesterday, Powell said the sourcing for those arguments were, quote, "inaccurate and wrong and, in some cases, deliberately misleading." Powell said at the time of his February 2003 presentation to the U.N., he believed the information was accurate.

Long lines outside of Boston's City Hall as thousands of gay and lesbian couples wait for the chance to be married legally. Today Massachusetts became the first state today to legalize same sex marriage. Earlier, the Cambridge City Council -- City Hall handed out licenses to couples.

And these walls reflect a major chapter of the Civil Rights Movement. Today is the 50-anniversary of a Supreme Court's Brown vs. Board of Education ruling. The landmark decision struck down racial segregations in public schools.

The first hour of CNN LIVE TODAY begins right now.

We're going to keep our eyes on this live picture from your from Baghdad. Top coalition leaders appear before the world's media to address this morning's apparent assassination of an Iraqi leader. The suicide bombing at a U.S. checkpoint killed the highest-ranking member of the Iraq's Governing Council. And as soon as we see Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt and Dan Senor enter the room, we will go back live to Baghdad.

Meanwhile in Iraq, a suicide bombing killed the president of the Iraqi Governing Council. Coalition officials though, say that insurgents failed in their larger mission of further destabilizing the country. And U.S. officials say that next month's transfer of power remains on track.

Our Ben Wedeman joins us. He is live in Baghdad. Ben, let's see how much information we can get in before the news conference begins close to you. Go ahead.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Daryn. Well, this blast occurred at about 10:00 in the morning just outside the Green Zone, where the Coalition Provisional Authorities is headquartered. Now, Izzedine Salim apparently was in a convoy about to enter the Green Zone when, we are told, a Volkswagen it appears -- a red Volkswagen slammed into the vehicle, Salim was inside.

Now, the blast was huge. It created a large crater in the ground and flung cars around the area. In fact, I was in a car in the Green Zone coming back from a day at Abu Ghraib and saw two of those cars that were completely destroyed, completely burnt out on the back of a truck that was taken it away. Now, all in all, four Iraqis were killed in this blast. Eight people were also wounded. That includes six Iraqis and two U.S. soldiers.

Now, what we're hearing from the coalition, from Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, the senior spokesman there, is that they believe that the back of that vehicle was crammed with artillery shells. Which, of course, led to this huge explosion, and we have seen this sort of car bomb in Baghdad before. Kimmitt also said that the blast bears all the hallmarks of Abu Musaab Zarqawi, that Jordanian national who's been tied to a series of bombings here. And of course, the latest thing he's been tied to was that video beheading of American citizen Nicholas Berg.

Now, obviously this has sent shock waves throughout Iraq. People were looking forward to the June 30 handover from the coalition to some sort of Iraqi entity. And although coalition officials say they don't believe this is going to derail that process, it certainly does complicate it even further -- Daryn.

KAGAN: What can you tell us about the man that is taking over the Governing Council now in the lead position?

WEDEMAN: Well, that's Ghazi Ajil; he's a resident of Mosul from the northern part of the country. He's a Sunni; he's also an engineer. Now, he originally was supposed to take over the post, the rotating presidency of the Governing Council on June 1. But of course, now he's been put into that place and he will hold that position tour until June 30. But obviously, all of the people on the Governing Council are, to a certain extent, well disposed toward the coalition, although he does come from a town where is there a certain amount of palpable hostility toward the coalition -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Ben Wedeman in Baghdad, we will be back to you, as well as back to Baghdad.

While we wait for that news conference to begin out of Baghdad, let's check in on the prison abuse scandal in Iraq. New reverberations rumbling all the way to the White House, this week's issue of "New Yorker" magazine reports that the mistreatment maybe rooted inside a decision issued last year by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The article says that Rumsfeld approved aggressive interrogations to expand -- be expanded to include Iraqi prisoners. Author Seymour Hersh appeared earlier today on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEYMOUR HERSH, JOURNALIST, "THE NEW YORKER" MAGAZINE: They wanted to get more information from the prison system out of Iraq, and so they brought elements of this special unit into Baghdad with two basic requirements. Get some -- get people that are -- go and grab some of the Sunni males, use coercion. And also use sexual intimidation if you have to. One of the things that always works in the Arab world, they're so --- it's such a taboo to photograph a man naked and to pass it around, a potential black male. The idea was to go and jack it up. I'm not saying that Rumsfeld, or the president, or anybody else had any idea of how this sort of transmogrified into what we saw in the last few weeks in the photographs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAGAN: The Pentagon is saying denouncing "The New Yorker" claim as outlandish. And we'll hear more on that from our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr, who is now monitoring the coalition's briefing from Baghdad. We'll get that in just a moment.

"New York Times" says it has obtained the sworn statements of Private Lynndie England, and that would be the female soldier photographed in some of the abuses. According to "The Times," England told investigators that she and other soldiers were simply following orders. She is also quoted as saying that she never believed the humiliation of the detainees went too far.

According to one public quote she said of the treatment, "We thought it looked funny so pictures were taken." That drew an angry response from one of her attorneys on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIORGIO RASHADD, ATTORNEY FOR PFC. ENGLAND: I became her counsel May 3. I'm told that the report that you're speaking about that was quoted, indicates that she gave a statement on May 5. Well, I'll tell you this. If the Army acted to take a statement from my client on May 5, knowing that she had Roy Hardy as counsel in October and me as counsel on May 3, then we will go absolutely ballistic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAGAN: England is a 21-year-old Reservist. She is from West Virginia. She faces court-martial on numerous charges and she could face up to 15 years in prison.

Once again, we are standing by waiting for that news conference to begin out of Baghdad. While we do that, lets get some news in now from here in the U.S. In New England, history is being rewritten two names at a time. Just about 10 hours ago at the stroke of midnight, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same sex marriage.

Our Eric Philips is in Boston this morning with more on that.

Eric, good morning.

ERIC PHILIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Daryn, good morning to you. and at 9:00 this morning here in Boston, same sex couples were allowed to begin applying for those long awaited marriage licenses. Behind me you're taking a look at the line that has been forming since early this morning. Every now and then, you can catch cheering and clapping as another couple emerges from the doors of the Boston City Hall, waving a marriage license signifying their victory in getting that license. And they'll be heading over to court, hopefully to get a three-day waiting period waived.

But this process has been going on here since about 9:00 this morning and Cambridge, Massachusetts, however, it started in the wee hours of the morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(CHEERING)

PHILIPS (voice-over): The party started at 10:30 last night in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Then just after the stroke of midnight, same sex couples began filing for marriage licenses. It's a day Maureen Brodoff and Ellen Wade weren't sure they'd ever see. They've been together for 24 years. Now, they'll be legally married.

MAUREEN BRODOFF, MARRIAGE LICENSE APPLICANT: No, I'm usually a pretty, unsentimental character. But I'm really kind of -- it's very exciting.

PHILIPS: Excitement that's had months to build. It was last November when the Judicial Supreme Court of Massachusetts decided that gay couples would be allowed to marry in May unless the state legislature stopped it with a new law.

ELLEN WADE, MARRIAGE LICENSE APPLICANT: I felt like it was something we were entitled to. And something I really wanted to do. And it seemed -- when we filed the lawsuit, it did seem like at least a possibility.

KIM CRAWFORD HARVEY, UNITARIAN MINISTER: I'm thrilled. I am just so thrilled.

PHILIPS: Unitarian Minister Kim Crawford Harvey will perform some of the ceremonies. The reverend herself will marry her female partner on Thursday.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAGAN: We're going to have much more on same sex marriage just ahead. Right now, the news briefing beginning out of Baghdad. Let's listen in.

DANIEL SENOR, SR. ADVISER, COALITION PROVISIONAL AUTHORITY: Good afternoon. Earlier today, Ambassador Bremer issued a statement on the death of Iraqi Governing Council President Ezzedine Salim. That was e- mailed out; it is available at the press center if you would like a copy of it.

I'll just run through Ambassador Bremer's schedule over the last 24 hours.

He returned early this morning from a trip up north, where he met with several of the Kurdish Iraqi leaders as the governing council and the CPA and the U.N. representatives here continue to work on their wide consultations in pursuit of formation of the interim government.

Later this morning, Ambassador Bremer attended a meeting of the governing council that came together following news of the death of Mr. Ezzedine Salim.

Later in the morning, Ambassador Bremer and General Sanchez held their regular meeting with the Iraqi ministerial committee on national security.

Earlier this afternoon, Ambassador Bremer was at a short meeting here with the new acting president of the Iraqi Governing Council, Sheik Ghazi.

And then later on in the day, Ambassador Bremer visited with family members of Mr. Ezzedine Salim to pay his respects.

That's all I have.

General Kimmitt?

BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT, DEP. DIR. OF OPERATIONS, COMBINED JOINT TASK FORCE 7: Good afternoon.

The coalition continues offensive operations to ensure a stable Iraq in order to repair infrastructure, stimulate the economy and transfer sovereignty.

To that end, in the past 24 hours the coalition conducted 2,000 patrols, 26 offensive operations, 46 Air Force and Navy sorties, and captured 57 anti-coalition suspects.

In the northern area of operations, 47 police officers from Najaf began a week-long advancement skills training program at the Irbil Police Academy. This training will enhance their capabilities and provide officers from both regions the opportunity to build better relationships and share effective tactics, techniques and procedures.

KIMMITT: In Baghdad at 0955 this morning, a suicide car bomb exploded near a coalition checkpoint in central Baghdad killing seven civilians to include the current governing council president, Mr. Ezzedine Salim.

Five civilians and two soldiers were wounded in this attack. A quick reaction force and medical personnel were on the scene within minutes of the attack, along with Iraqi emergency responders and Iraqi Civil Defense Corps members.

Coalition military forces joined in denouncing this horrible crime and ask asked Iraqi citizens to contact telephone number 778- 4076 with information leading to the arrest of any attackers.

The Iraqi Survey Group confirmed today that a 155 millimeter artillery round containing sarin nerve agent had been found. The round had been rigged as an IED which was discovered by a U.S. force convoy. A detonation occurred before the IED could be rendered inoperable. This produced a very small dispersal of agent.

The round was an old binary type requiring the mixing of two chemical components in separate sections of the cell before the deadly agent is produced. The cell is designed to work after being fired from an artillery piece. Mixing and dispersal of the agent from such projectile as an IED is very limited. The former regime had declared all such rounds destroyed before the 1991 Gulf War.

Two explosive ordnance team members were treated for minor exposure to nerve agent as a result of the partial detonation of the round.

In the western zone of operations, the situation in Al Anbar remains stable. The reduction of hostilities in Fallujah has seemingly had a calming effect across the area.

Yesterday, coalition forces hosted 43 government, religious, medical and ICDC leaders at the Camp Ramadi detention facility and 17 leaders at the Habbaniyah facility. The visit was well received with positive feedback from the local leaders. There was also one prisoner released to a sheik as a goodwill gesture.

Coalition forces met with the Fallujah Brigade leadership today and continued to plan with the brigade for future joint patrols in Fallujah. There were no violations of the cease-fire agreement but neither were there any weapons turned in during this period.

KIMMITT: In the central south zone of operations, coalition forces defending the buildings near the Mukayeem (ph) mosque in Karbala continued to be attacked with sniper, RPG and mortar fire. There were numerous engagements last night, originated from the Iranian quarter in the downtown area of Karbala near the two holy shrines.

Polish Multinational Division reports Muqtada militia elements are staying close to the Shrine of Ali Imam Al-Hussein, as they're aware of concerns that the shrines not be damaged.

Sounds of fighting in the downtown area could be heard for much of the night and the Polish forces estimate 17 Muqtada militia killed in the vicinity of the shrine's area, 13 killed in other areas.

This morning, coalition forces near the Mukayeem (ph) mosque were attacked with two rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire. Multinational Division Central South reports that the Muqtada militia has occupied the second floor of the Ali Imam Al-Hussein Shrine in downtown Karbala, and is directing sniper fire from the western wall of the shrine onto coalition forces at the Al-Mukayeem (ph) mosque.

Muqtada's militia is also firing on them from the streets and buildings of the Iranian corridor across from the al-Mukayeem (ph).

Phone calls from private citizens to the CPA elements in Karbala are also overwhelmingly supportive of continuing to fight Muqtada militia. People from the Iranian quarter neighborhood are phoning to complain that coalition forces are not attacking Muqtada militia who have moved into their neighborhood. They say there are no religious sites in their neighborhood, and they want Muqtada's militias out of their home.

In An Najaf, there have been three attacks this morning on Iraqi police stations. The enemy used a combination of mortars, rocket- propelled grenades and small arms fire during each of these attacks. Coalition forces assess these attacks as harassment and hit-and-run, as the enemy has immediately broken contact, and efforts to regain contact have not been successful.

A coalition quick-reaction force was dispatched to assist in defending the police stations. One enemy was killed from these attacks and coalition forces continue to assist in the defense of these police stations in An Najaf.

In the southeastern zone of operations, enemy forces continue to engage coalition forces in Nasiriyah. From 2100 until 0100 last night the CPA building was attacked on three separate occasions. Camp Libekio (ph), the coalition and Iraqi police liaison building in the center of town, was attacked on four occasions, and these attacks led to a withdrawal from the building to a more protected site.

KIMMITT: One coalition soldier was killed and seven were wounded from these attacks.

A coalition fixed-wing aircraft engaged five targets this morning. The targets were five vehicles that had been observed loading and unloaded ordinance, and we estimate 20 enemy forces were killed during these strikes.

Within Nasiriyah, coalition forces are continuing to patrol the city.

SENOR: And with that, we'll be happy to take your questions.

QUESTION: I have a few questions for General Kimmitt. First, we've heard reports that there were other IGC members in that convoy with Mr. Salim further back. So could you confirm that or tell us...

KIMMITT: I have no reports that there were other IGC members in that convoy.

QUESTION: Moving on, have the FBI been called in to do forensics at this point?

KIMMITT: We had some personnel on site doing forensics. The Iraqi police service has the lead. As and when they need additional assistance outside of their own capabilities, they will make those specific requests through us.

QUESTION: The last question is some IGC members have expressed that they are blaming the coalition for not providing enough protection for them and obviously for Mr. Salim, and that was the result of why he was targeted today or a successful target. What could you guys respond to that?

SENOR: Well, first of all, I'd say it's a very difficult time for everybody and we understand that there are a lot of high emotions.

As for security that we provide, since the governing council has been formed, the coalition provides financial assistance for security. We provide body armor, weapons for personal security details, vehicles, in some cases, armored vehicles.

We offer close protection service training, six-week courses back-to-back. In fact, approximately, 200 individual personnel security members of various G.C. members have gone through the courses. We offer a refresher course for these PSDs. Approximately 40 personal security service members from various G.C.s -- various governing council personal security details have gone through the program.

Mr. Salim's security detail consists primarily of family members, which is the case with a number of the G.C. security details. He has chosen to rely on cousins and nephews, which was his choice. And unfortunately, our records show that none of his personal security detail members ever participated in any of our training programs. Again, his choice: We make the resources available, we make the training available, but it's up to the individual G.C. members and the security details if they want to participate in it.

SENOR: Clearly their security is a very high priority for us. And that's why we provide the funding, that's why we provide the body armor, that's why we provide the vehicles, that's why we provide the weapons and that's why we provide this training.

QUESTION: Question for General Kimmitt, sir. The Army right now is facing a continued insurgency in much of southern Iraq. Obviously a lot of activity in the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala and also this attempt at a takeover of the city of Nasiriyah. Now we're hearing reports that soldiers who are stationed in South Korea might be called into Iraq.

Is the Army stretched thin? Are there enough resources here to deal with the continuing insurgency as we lead up to June 30th? Could you comment on that issue?

KIMMITT: Let me take the second point, then the third point, then the first point.

Number one, these fights that we are having against Muqtada militia are not stretching us thin at all. They are pretty much street thugs with weapons. They don't present much of a military threat. They're a nuisance. They're harassment. And sadly, as you can imagine, with street thugs with weapons, sometimes they kill and wound our soldiers.

But in an engagement after engagement, they have not been able to stand and fight. They're incapable of acting and responding as a disciplined force.

And it's sad that they have taken to hiding within the holy sites for the Shia religion as their only capability to defend themselves because they know that we have one of two choices, which is to either attack them and risk provoking an outcome which would have strategic implications or we can be a little more precise, reposition as necessary. And, of course, we've taken the latter.

I don't know that we are repositioning any forces from South Korea to Iraq. I've seen those reports. I haven't heard it from DOD.

Certainly we are looking at all of our force stationing throughout the world but I think that the decisions being made with regards to Korea are not being made because of the tactical situation on the ground here in Iraq.

That was a long-standing discussion that we've had with the Republic of South Korea.

KIMMITT: That country is more than capable of providing for its own defense. And Secretary Rumsfeld has said numerous times that we've got to look at a relevant force posture and relevant force positioning throughout the world.

But to suggest that the decisions driving our withdrawal from Korea is a more pressing need in Iraq is a stretch that I'm not willing to make and I don't think anybody else in DOD will make as well.

To answer your final question, "Is the Army stretched thin?" go back and ask DOD. I think, again, Secretary Rumsfeld as recently as his visit out here the other day talked about trying to find more capacity within the existing force, but these are the types of decisions that are being made in Washington, D.C.

I don't think that those decisions are being driven by Iraq, but I think it's a recognition of the entire global war on terrorism and the capability for the military to be able to respond to that. Thus far we've been able to respond to it quite well.

Will it have a long-term effect on the Army if we continue this type of OPTEMPO for a period of years? Personally, I can tell you it probably will, but I'm not an expert on force structure.

The Army is certainly back there now taking significant strides to revamp the force structure from 33 to 45 brigades, but we're too busy fighting a war down here to be worried about those kind of things.

We remain absolutely confident that the Army is back there in the States thinking about the best way to man, train and equip the force that we're going to need to be able to continue a long-term operation not only here in Iraq, but whatever threat that comes up.

QUESTION: I have two questions. One, regarding Nasiriyah. As I understand it, the Italians evacuated one of its camps last night in central Nasiriyah after it came under attack. What does this say, General, for the success -- resistance being achieved by the Muqtada militia?

And secondly, regarding today's events, as I understand it, and I may be mistaken, the IGC members, when they come into the Green Zone, have to wait with their vehicles in the line, as happened today, while they get checked, whereas the Humvees and the military vehicles can roll straight in. Isn't that a problem that should be addressed?

KIMMITT: Well, let's talk about the first one down in Nasiriyah. They did not abandon the camp. What they did, they just moved to a more secure camp. It was not necessarily an issue of -- Camp Libekio (ph) was just simply a building that had been used for the IGC, so on and so forth.

The commander on the ground made the proper force protection determination, realized that, "Look, this place isn't that important, let's just move our people over to the other base, we can have more people there, more force protection."

QUESTION: If I could follow up, it must have been somewhat important if it was in the central of Nasiriyah. And as I understand it, the Italian troops are now on the outside of Nasiriyah.

KIMMITT: The commander on the ground has taken a long-term view toward this in figuring out the best way not only for the immediate force protection, but as we've seen in many towns; for example, in Al Kut, where we withdrew from one building for a period of time, and then, when the time came, we went back and took it.

Your characterization that somehow we are abandoning Nasiriyah just patently is not correct. That was a simple, prudent measure taken by a commander on the ground for a period of time. And as and when the situation merits, he'll go back into those buildings.

Now, on the second issue, we have not yet firmly determined whether the IGC president was coming or going. I know that there were suggestions that he was in the entry lane into the Green Zone, and that's exactly where the explosion went off. But I went to that site at about 10:55 this morning and the people that I talked to, to include some of the people that were wounded, were not certain that that vehicle that had the rotating president in it -- the current president in it, was in the inbound lane. It could well have been in the outbound lane. Unclear at this point and we're going to wait for the investigation to determine that.

QUESTION: Could you address the actual issue of IGC members who have told me themselves having to queue up to get into the Green Zone, whereas military vehicles rolling straight in?

KIMMITT: We all have to queue up to get inside the Green Zone. Now, it is true that we take different entrances with some of the military vehicles, but, again, all of us take responsible force protection throughout this city.

One could make the argument that the military vehicles are at more risk and as a result you need to get them inside the Green Zone quicker. And there have been numerous complaints on the part of the Iraqi citizens that the constant presence of military vehicles presents somewhat of a distraction and an obstacle inside the town.

So I think all of us would agree that the quicker we get the military vehicles not blocking the roads, not blocking the entrances, the quicker we can get back to normal traffic around here.

SENOR: I would just add a broader point here, which I think you're nipping at.

The security considerations that we provide, that we give to the Iraqi Governing Council members, are second to none. Their security is highly important to us. That is why we repeatedly offer them financial assistance, body armor, as I said, vehicles, weapons, repeated training programs. We are constantly evaluating their security, looking at ways to improve it, as we are with our own force protection.

In fact, we are in the process of establishing a professional protective service for the Iraqi government, which will be modeled, at least in concept, after the United States Secret Service. Similar force protection services for governmental bodies and officials throughout the world.

So this is something we consider a high priority. We've dedicated the resources to treat it as such. And we continue to look at ways to improve upon it. But it is something that we always take very seriously and have since the governing council was formed.

QUESTION: Do you have any idea at this point on who might have done this?

KIMMITT: It would have been our first impression that this was classic Zarqawi network. I understand about 10 minutes before I came in here that another group has popped up and is now on the Internet taking responsibility for this.

We don't know if that's a cover for Zarqawi network or if it's an actual organization, but the fact remains this is the classic hallmarks of what we've seen on Zarqawi attacks: suicidal bomb, spectacular effect, try to go after a large number of civilians and also try to go after a symbol. In this case, two symbols: obviously, clearly a high government official, as well as near a coalition checkpoint.

So all of those indicators -- suicidal, spectacular, symbolic -- line up here, but we have this new group that's come in and we don't know who this group is. We'll have to do some analysis on it. KAGAN: We're going to have more from Bagdhad in just a moment from the Coaltion Provisional Authority and its briefing and all the developments in Iraq.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

DARYN KAGAN, HOST: We are at CNN headquarters and I'm Daryn Kagan. And let's get started with the check of the headlines.

Black plumes of smoke mark what's being called a deliberate, political assassination. Suicide bomber's blast, it killed Iraqi Governing Council President Izzedine Salim today in Baghdad. A group calling itself the Arab Resistance Movement is claiming responsibility. At least four other Iraqis were killed in the attack. Six Iraqis and two U.S. soldiers are injured. We'll have a live report just ahead.

Secretary of State Colin Powell is saying that he regrets arguments that he presented as proof that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. On NBC's "Meet The Press" yesterday, Powell said the sourcing for those arguments were, quote, "inaccurate and wrong and, in some cases, deliberately misleading." Powell said at the time of his February 2003 presentation to the U.N., he believed the information was accurate.

Long lines outside of Boston's City Hall as thousands of gay and lesbian couples wait for the chance to be married legally. Today Massachusetts became the first state today to legalize same sex marriage. Earlier, the Cambridge City Council -- City Hall handed out licenses to couples. And these walls reflect a major chapter of the Civil Rights Movement. Today is the 50-anniversary of a Supreme Court's Brown vs. Board of Education ruling. The landmark decision struck down racial segregations in public schools.

The first hour of CNN LIVE TODAY begins right now.

We're going to keep our eyes on this live picture from your from Baghdad. Top coalition leaders appear before the world's media to address this morning's apparent assassination of an Iraqi leader. The suicide bombing at a U.S. checkpoint killed the highest-ranking member of the Iraq's Governing Council. And as soon as we see Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt and Dan Senor enter the room, we will go back live to Baghdad.

Meanwhile in Iraq, a suicide bombing killed the president of the Iraqi Governing Council. Coalition officials though, say that insurgents failed in their larger mission of further destabilizing the country. And U.S. officials say that next month's transfer of power remains on track.

Our Ben Wedeman joins us. He is live in Baghdad.

Ben, let's see how much information we can get in before the news conference begins close to you. Go ahead.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Daryn. Well, this blast occurred at about 10:00 in the morning just outside the Green Zone, where the Coalition Provisional Authorities is headquartered. Now, Izzedine Salim apparently was in a convoy about to enter the Green Zone when, we are told, a Volkswagen it appears -- a red Volkswagen slammed into the vehicle, Salim was inside.

Now, the blast was huge. It created a large crater in the ground and flung cars around the area. In fact, I was in a car in the Green Zone coming back from a day at Abu Ghraib and saw two of those cars that were completely destroyed, completely burnt out on the back of a truck that was taken it away. Now, all in all, four Iraqis were killed in this blast. Eight people were also wounded. That includes six Iraqis and two U.S. soldiers.

Now, what we're hearing from the coalition, from Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, the senior spokesman there, is that they believe that the back of that vehicle was crammed with artillery shells. Which, of course, led to this huge explosion, and we have seen this sort of car bomb in Baghdad before. Kimmitt also said that the blast bears all the hallmarks of Abu Musaab Zarqawi, that Jordanian national who's been tied to a series of bombings here. And of course, the latest thing he's been tied to was that video beheading of American citizen Nicholas Berg.

Now, obviously this has sent shock waves throughout Iraq. People were looking forward to the June 30 handover from the coalition to some sort of Iraqi entity. And although coalition officials say they don't believe this is going to derail that process, it certainly does complicate it even further -- Daryn. KAGAN: What can you tell us about the man that is taking over the Governing Council now in the lead position?

WEDEMAN: Well, that's Ghazi Ajil; he's a resident of Mosul from the northern part of the country. He's a Sunni; he's also an engineer. Now, he originally was supposed to take over the post, the rotating presidency of the Governing Council on June 1. But of course, now he's been put into that place and he will hold that position tour until June 30. But obviously, all of the people on the Governing Council are, to a certain extent, well disposed toward the coalition, although he does come from a town where is there a certain amount of palpable hostility toward the coalition -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Ben Wedeman in Baghdad, we will be back to you, as well as back to Baghdad.

While we wait for that news conference to begin out of Baghdad, let's check in on the prison abuse scandal in Iraq. New reverberations rumbling all the way to the White House, this week's issue of "New Yorker" magazine reports that the mistreatment maybe rooted inside a decision issued last year by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The article says that Rumsfeld approved aggressive interrogations to expand -- be expanded to include Iraqi prisoners. Author Seymour Hersh appeared earlier today on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEYMOUR HERSH, JOURNALIST, "THE NEW YORKER" MAGAZINE: They wanted to get more information from the prison system out of Iraq, and so they brought elements of this special unit into Baghdad with two basic requirements. Get some -- get people that are -- go and grab some of the Sunni males, use coercion. And also use sexual intimidation if you have to. One of the things that always works in the Arab world, they're so --- it's such a taboo to photograph a man naked and to pass it around, a potential black male. The idea was to go and jack it up. I'm not saying that Rumsfeld, or the president, or anybody else had any idea of how this sort of transmogrified into what we saw in the last few weeks in the photographs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAGAN: The Pentagon is saying denouncing "The New Yorker" claim as outlandish. And we'll hear more on that from our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr, who is now monitoring the coalition's briefing from Baghdad. We'll get that in just a moment.

"New York Times" says it has obtained the sworn statements of Private Lynndie England, and that would be the female soldier photographed in some of the abuses. According to "The Times," England told investigators that she and other soldiers were simply following orders. She is also quoted as saying that she never believed the humiliation of the detainees went too far.

According to one public quote she said of the treatment, "We thought it looked funny so pictures were taken." That drew an angry response from one of her attorneys on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIORGIO RASHADD, ATTORNEY FOR PFC. ENGLAND: I became her counsel May 3. I'm told that the report that you're speaking about that was quoted, indicates that she gave a statement on May 5. Well, I'll tell you this. If the Army acted to take a statement from my client on May 5, knowing that she had Roy Hardy as counsel in October and me as counsel on May 3, then we will go absolutely ballistic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAGAN: England is a 21-year-old Reservist. She is from West Virginia. She faces court-martial on numerous charges and she could face up to 15 years in prison.

Once again, we are standing by waiting for that news conference to begin out of Baghdad. While we do that, lets get some news in now from here in the U.S. In New England, history is being rewritten two names at a time. Just about 10 hours ago at the stroke of midnight, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same sex marriage.

Our Eric Philips is in Boston this morning with more on that.

Eric, good morning.

ERIC PHILIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Daryn, good morning to you. and at 9:00 this morning here in Boston, same sex couples were allowed to begin applying for those long awaited marriage licenses. Behind me you're taking a look at the line that has been forming since early this morning. Every now and then, you can catch cheering and clapping as another couple emerges from the doors of the Boston City Hall, waving a marriage license signifying their victory in getting that license. And they'll be heading over to court, hopefully to get a three-day waiting period waived.

But this process has been going on here since about 9:00 this morning and Cambridge, Massachusetts, however, it started in the wee hours of the morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(CHEERING)

PHILIPS (voice-over): The party started at 10:30 last night in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Then just after the stroke of midnight, same sex couples began filing for marriage licenses. It's a day Maureen Brodoff and Ellen Wade weren't sure they'd ever see. They've been together for 24 years. Now, they'll be legally married.

MAUREEN BRODOFF, MARRIAGE LICENSE APPLICANT: No, I'm usually a pretty, unsentimental character. But I'm really kind of -- it's very exciting.

PHILIPS: Excitement that's had months to build. It was last November when the Judicial Supreme Court of Massachusetts decided that gay couples would be allowed to marry in May unless the state legislature stopped it with a new law.

ELLEN WADE, MARRIAGE LICENSE APPLICANT: I felt like it was something we were entitled to. And something I really wanted to do. And it seemed -- when we filed the lawsuit, it did seem like at least a possibility.

KIM CRAWFORD HARVEY, UNITARIAN MINISTER: I'm thrilled. I am just so thrilled.

PHILIPS: Unitarian Minister Kim Crawford Harvey will perform some of the ceremonies. The reverend herself will marry her female partner on Thursday.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAGAN: We're going to have much more on same sex marriage just ahead. Right now, the news briefing beginning out of Baghdad. Let's listen in.

DANIEL SENOR, SR. ADVISER, COALITION PROVISIONAL AUTHORITY: Good afternoon.

Earlier today, Ambassador Bremer issued a statement on the death of Iraqi Governing Council President Ezzedine Salim. That was e- mailed out; it is available at the press center if you would like a copy of it.

I'll just run through Ambassador Bremer's schedule over the last 24 hours.

He returned early this morning from a trip up north, where he met with several of the Kurdish Iraqi leaders as the governing council and the CPA and the U.N. representatives here continue to work on their wide consultations in pursuit of formation of the interim government.

Later this morning, Ambassador Bremer attended a meeting of the governing council that came together following news of the death of Mr. Ezzedine Salim.

Later in the morning, Ambassador Bremer and General Sanchez held their regular meeting with the Iraqi ministerial committee on national security.

Earlier this afternoon, Ambassador Bremer was at a short meeting here with the new acting president of the Iraqi Governing Council, Sheik Ghazi.

And then later on in the day, Ambassador Bremer visited with family members of Mr. Ezzedine Salim to pay his respects.

That's all I have.

General Kimmitt?

BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT, DEP. DIR. OF OPERATIONS, COMBINED JOINT TASK FORCE 7: Good afternoon. The coalition continues offensive operations to ensure a stable Iraq in order to repair infrastructure, stimulate the economy and transfer sovereignty.

To that end, in the past 24 hours the coalition conducted 2,000 patrols, 26 offensive operations, 46 Air Force and Navy sorties, and captured 57 anti-coalition suspects.

In the northern area of operations, 47 police officers from Najaf began a week-long advancement skills training program at the Irbil Police Academy. This training will enhance their capabilities and provide officers from both regions the opportunity to build better relationships and share effective tactics, techniques and procedures.

KIMMITT: In Baghdad at 0955 this morning, a suicide car bomb exploded near a coalition checkpoint in central Baghdad killing seven civilians to include the current governing council president, Mr. Ezzedine Salim.

Five civilians and two soldiers were wounded in this attack. A quick reaction force and medical personnel were on the scene within minutes of the attack, along with Iraqi emergency responders and Iraqi Civil Defense Corps members.

Coalition military forces joined in denouncing this horrible crime and ask asked Iraqi citizens to contact telephone number 778- 4076 with information leading to the arrest of any attackers.

The Iraqi Survey Group confirmed today that a 155 millimeter artillery round containing sarin nerve agent had been found. The round had been rigged as an IED which was discovered by a U.S. force convoy. A detonation occurred before the IED could be rendered inoperable. This produced a very small dispersal of agent.

The round was an old binary type requiring the mixing of two chemical components in separate sections of the cell before the deadly agent is produced. The cell is designed to work after being fired from an artillery piece. Mixing and dispersal of the agent from such projectile as an IED is very limited. The former regime had declared all such rounds destroyed before the 1991 Gulf War.

Two explosive ordnance team members were treated for minor exposure to nerve agent as a result of the partial detonation of the round.

In the western zone of operations, the situation in Al Anbar remains stable. The reduction of hostilities in Fallujah has seemingly had a calming effect across the area.

Yesterday, coalition forces hosted 43 government, religious, medical and ICDC leaders at the Camp Ramadi detention facility and 17 leaders at the Habbaniyah facility. The visit was well received with positive feedback from the local leaders. There was also one prisoner released to a sheik as a goodwill gesture.

Coalition forces met with the Fallujah Brigade leadership today and continued to plan with the brigade for future joint patrols in Fallujah. There were no violations of the cease-fire agreement but neither were there any weapons turned in during this period.

KIMMITT: In the central south zone of operations, coalition forces defending the buildings near the Mukayeem (ph) mosque in Karbala continued to be attacked with sniper, RPG and mortar fire. There were numerous engagements last night, originated from the Iranian quarter in the downtown area of Karbala near the two holy shrines.

Polish Multinational Division reports Muqtada militia elements are staying close to the Shrine of Ali Imam Al-Hussein, as they're aware of concerns that the shrines not be damaged.

Sounds of fighting in the downtown area could be heard for much of the night and the Polish forces estimate 17 Muqtada militia killed in the vicinity of the shrine's area, 13 killed in other areas.

This morning, coalition forces near the Mukayeem (ph) mosque were attacked with two rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire. Multinational Division Central South reports that the Muqtada militia has occupied the second floor of the Ali Imam Al-Hussein Shrine in downtown Karbala, and is directing sniper fire from the western wall of the shrine onto coalition forces at the Al-Mukayeem (ph) mosque.

Muqtada's militia is also firing on them from the streets and buildings of the Iranian corridor across from the al-Mukayeem (ph).

Phone calls from private citizens to the CPA elements in Karbala are also overwhelmingly supportive of continuing to fight Muqtada militia. People from the Iranian quarter neighborhood are phoning to complain that coalition forces are not attacking Muqtada militia who have moved into their neighborhood. They say there are no religious sites in their neighborhood, and they want Muqtada's militias out of their home.

In An Najaf, there have been three attacks this morning on Iraqi police stations. The enemy used a combination of mortars, rocket- propelled grenades and small arms fire during each of these attacks. Coalition forces assess these attacks as harassment and hit-and-run, as the enemy has immediately broken contact, and efforts to regain contact have not been successful.

A coalition quick-reaction force was dispatched to assist in defending the police stations. One enemy was killed from these attacks and coalition forces continue to assist in the defense of these police stations in An Najaf.

In the southeastern zone of operations, enemy forces continue to engage coalition forces in Nasiriyah. From 2100 until 0100 last night the CPA building was attacked on three separate occasions. Camp Libekio (ph), the coalition and Iraqi police liaison building in the center of town, was attacked on four occasions, and these attacks led to a withdrawal from the building to a more protected site.

KIMMITT: One coalition soldier was killed and seven were wounded from these attacks.

A coalition fixed-wing aircraft engaged five targets this morning. The targets were five vehicles that had been observed loading and unloaded ordinance, and we estimate 20 enemy forces were killed during these strikes.

Within Nasiriyah, coalition forces are continuing to patrol the city.

SENOR: And with that, we'll be happy to take your questions.

QUESTION: I have a few questions for General Kimmitt. First, we've heard reports that there were other IGC members in that convoy with Mr. Salim further back. So could you confirm that or tell us...

KIMMITT: I have no reports that there were other IGC members in that convoy.

QUESTION: Moving on, have the FBI been called in to do forensics at this point?

KIMMITT: We had some personnel on site doing forensics. The Iraqi police service has the lead. As and when they need additional assistance outside of their own capabilities, they will make those specific requests through us.

QUESTION: The last question is some IGC members have expressed that they are blaming the coalition for not providing enough protection for them and obviously for Mr. Salim, and that was the result of why he was targeted today or a successful target. What could you guys respond to that?

SENOR: Well, first of all, I'd say it's a very difficult time for everybody and we understand that there are a lot of high emotions.

As for security that we provide, since the governing council has been formed, the coalition provides financial assistance for security. We provide body armor, weapons for personal security details, vehicles, in some cases, armored vehicles.

We offer close protection service training, six-week courses back-to-back. In fact, approximately, 200 individual personnel security members of various G.C. members have gone through the courses. We offer a refresher course for these PSDs. Approximately 40 personal security service members from various G.C.s -- various governing council personal security details have gone through the program.

Mr. Salim's security detail consists primarily of family members, which is the case with a number of the G.C. security details. He has chosen to rely on cousins and nephews, which was his choice. And unfortunately, our records show that none of his personal security detail members ever participated in any of our training programs. Again, his choice: We make the resources available, we make the training available, but it's up to the individual G.C. members and the security details if they want to participate in it. SENOR: Clearly their security is a very high priority for us. And that's why we provide the funding, that's why we provide the body armor, that's why we provide the vehicles, that's why we provide the weapons and that's why we provide this training.

QUESTION: Question for General Kimmitt, sir. The Army right now is facing a continued insurgency in much of southern Iraq. Obviously a lot of activity in the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala and also this attempt at a takeover of the city of Nasiriyah. Now we're hearing reports that soldiers who are stationed in South Korea might be called into Iraq.

Is the Army stretched thin? Are there enough resources here to deal with the continuing insurgency as we lead up to June 30th? Could you comment on that issue?

KIMMITT: Let me take the second point, then the third point, then the first point.

Number one, these fights that we are having against Muqtada militia are not stretching us thin at all. They are pretty much street thugs with weapons. They don't present much of a military threat. They're a nuisance. They're harassment. And sadly, as you can imagine, with street thugs with weapons, sometimes they kill and wound our soldiers.

But in an engagement after engagement, they have not been able to stand and fight. They're incapable of acting and responding as a disciplined force.

And it's sad that they have taken to hiding within the holy sites for the Shia religion as their only capability to defend themselves because they know that we have one of two choices, which is to either attack them and risk provoking an outcome which would have strategic implications or we can be a little more precise, reposition as necessary. And, of course, we've taken the latter.

I don't know that we are repositioning any forces from South Korea to Iraq. I've seen those reports. I haven't heard it from DOD.

Certainly we are looking at all of our force stationing throughout the world but I think that the decisions being made with regards to Korea are not being made because of the tactical situation on the ground here in Iraq.

That was a long-standing discussion that we've had with the Republic of South Korea.

KIMMITT: That country is more than capable of providing for its own defense. And Secretary Rumsfeld has said numerous times that we've got to look at a relevant force posture and relevant force positioning throughout the world.

But to suggest that the decisions driving our withdrawal from Korea is a more pressing need in Iraq is a stretch that I'm not willing to make and I don't think anybody else in DOD will make as well.

To answer your final question, "Is the Army stretched thin?" go back and ask DOD. I think, again, Secretary Rumsfeld as recently as his visit out here the other day talked about trying to find more capacity within the existing force, but these are the types of decisions that are being made in Washington, D.C.

I don't think that those decisions are being driven by Iraq, but I think it's a recognition of the entire global war on terrorism and the capability for the military to be able to respond to that. Thus far we've been able to respond to it quite well.

Will it have a long-term effect on the Army if we continue this type of OPTEMPO for a period of years? Personally, I can tell you it probably will, but I'm not an expert on force structure.

The Army is certainly back there now taking significant strides to revamp the force structure from 33 to 45 brigades, but we're too busy fighting a war down here to be worried about those kind of things.

We remain absolutely confident that the Army is back there in the States thinking about the best way to man, train and equip the force that we're going to need to be able to continue a long-term operation not only here in Iraq, but whatever threat that comes up.

QUESTION: I have two questions. One, regarding Nasiriyah. As I understand it, the Italians evacuated one of its camps last night in central Nasiriyah after it came under attack. What does this say, General, for the success -- resistance being achieved by the Muqtada militia?

And secondly, regarding today's events, as I understand it, and I may be mistaken, the IGC members, when they come into the Green Zone, have to wait with their vehicles in the line, as happened today, while they get checked, whereas the Humvees and the military vehicles can roll straight in. Isn't that a problem that should be addressed?

KIMMITT: Well, let's talk about the first one down in Nasiriyah. They did not abandon the camp. What they did, they just moved to a more secure camp. It was not necessarily an issue of -- Camp Libekio (ph) was just simply a building that had been used for the IGC, so on and so forth.

The commander on the ground made the proper force protection determination, realized that, "Look, this place isn't that important, let's just move our people over to the other base, we can have more people there, more force protection."

QUESTION: If I could follow up, it must have been somewhat important if it was in the central of Nasiriyah. And as I understand it, the Italian troops are now on the outside of Nasiriyah.

KIMMITT: The commander on the ground has taken a long-term view toward this in figuring out the best way not only for the immediate force protection, but as we've seen in many towns; for example, in Al Kut, where we withdrew from one building for a period of time, and then, when the time came, we went back and took it.

Your characterization that somehow we are abandoning Nasiriyah just patently is not correct. That was a simple, prudent measure taken by a commander on the ground for a period of time. And as and when the situation merits, he'll go back into those buildings.

Now, on the second issue, we have not yet firmly determined whether the IGC president was coming or going. I know that there were suggestions that he was in the entry lane into the Green Zone, and that's exactly where the explosion went off. But I went to that site at about 10:55 this morning and the people that I talked to, to include some of the people that were wounded, were not certain that that vehicle that had the rotating president in it -- the current president in it, was in the inbound lane. It could well have been in the outbound lane. Unclear at this point and we're going to wait for the investigation to determine that.

QUESTION: Could you address the actual issue of IGC members who have told me themselves having to queue up to get into the Green Zone, whereas military vehicles rolling straight in?

KIMMITT: We all have to queue up to get inside the Green Zone.

Now, it is true that we take different entrances with some of the military vehicles, but, again, all of us take responsible force protection throughout this city.

One could make the argument that the military vehicles are at more risk and as a result you need to get them inside the Green Zone quicker. And there have been numerous complaints on the part of the Iraqi citizens that the constant presence of military vehicles presents somewhat of a distraction and an obstacle inside the town.

So I think all of us would agree that the quicker we get the military vehicles not blocking the roads, not blocking the entrances, the quicker we can get back to normal traffic around here.

SENOR: I would just add a broader point here, which I think you're nipping at.

The security considerations that we provide, that we give to the Iraqi Governing Council members, are second to none. Their security is highly important to us. That is why we repeatedly offer them financial assistance, body armor, as I said, vehicles, weapons, repeated training programs. We are constantly evaluating their security, looking at ways to improve it, as we are with our own force protection.

In fact, we are in the process of establishing a professional protective service for the Iraqi government, which will be modeled, at least in concept, after the United States Secret Service. Similar force protection services for governmental bodies and officials throughout the world.

So this is something we consider a high priority. We've dedicated the resources to treat it as such. And we continue to look at ways to improve upon it. But it is something that we always take very seriously and have since the governing council was formed.

QUESTION: Do you have any idea at this point on who might have done this?

KIMMITT: It would have been our first impression that this was classic Zarqawi network. I understand about 10 minutes before I came in here that another group has popped up and is now on the Internet taking responsibility for this.

We don't know if that's a cover for Zarqawi network or if it's an actual organization, but the fact remains this is the classic hallmarks of what we've seen on Zarqawi attacks: suicidal bomb, spectacular effect, try to go after a large number of civilians and also try to go after a symbol. In this case, two symbols: obviously, clearly a high government official, as well as near a coalition checkpoint.

So all of those indicators -- suicidal, spectacular, symbolic -- line up here, but we have this new group that's come in and we don't know who this group is. We'll have to do some analysis on it.

KAGAN: We're going to have more from Bagdhad in just a moment from the Coaltion Provisional Authority and its briefing and all the developments in Iraq.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


International Edition
CNN TV CNN International Headline News Transcripts Advertise With Us About Us
SEARCH
   The Web    CNN.com     
Powered by
© 2005 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.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser.
CNN.com does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.
Add RSS headlines.