[an error occurred while processing this directive]

 

Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

California Suffers from Extreme Heat; Midwest Flooding Continues; Girl's Surgery Successful; Human Feet Washing Ashore in Vancouver

Aired June 20, 2008 - 09:00   ET

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


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins.

You'll see events come into the NEWSROOM live on this Friday morning, June 20th.

Here's what's on the rundown.

Flooding map on the Mississippi. A second 100-year flood in 15 years. This hour, live reports from towns trying to hold off high water.

HARRIS: More extreme weather to the west. Southern California swelters in triple digit heat.

COLLINS: And progress remarkable. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta has a new look at a formerly eight-limbed girl, in the NEWSROOM.

Just want to let you know off the top here we expect to hear from President Bush any time now about some major legislation before Congress.

The president expected to talk about the domestic surveillance bill. A bipartisan version is scheduled for a House vote today. It makes it unlikely that telecommunications companies could be sued for cooperating with warrantless wiretaps.

We also expect to hear from the president about war funding.

We, of course, are going to bring you his remarks coming up live right here in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Now to the Midwest floods. The power of the Mississippi. The powerlessness of those who live near it. Flood waters have burst through at least four levees in Lincoln County, Missouri. Officials there are bracing for even more to fail. That expected to happen later today.

In all, about 30 levees are now considered at risk. That's in addition to the 20 levees that have already been swamped. And that offers a macabre twist, the floodwaters spilling past all those levees is actually lowering river levels to the south. Now there are predictions that flooding downstream will not be as bad as initially feared.

Let's take a look at the numbers.

The flooding has killed at least 24 people and injured 148. Tens of thousands of people in six different states have fled their homes. Millions of acres of farmland have been swamped.

What a story.

Winfield, Missouri -- this time yesterday we showed you the collapse of one levee. More than -- more have since failed nearby. And now even more are at risk.

CNN's Reynolds Wolf joins us now from Winfield with the very latest.

And, you know, Reynolds, there was the initial breach yesterday that -- wow, the sandbags. Let me stop and let me have you explain that scene in front of you and behind you.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, this is the effort of men and women across parts of the Midwest here and certainly local people but also people from near and far that have come here, putting together these sandbags -- these sandbags to help stem the rising waters of the Mississippi River.

Now, you can see, again, these are all up on these palettes. And what's going to happen is as they load up these pallets pull of these sandbags, we have National Guard that's coming in and they're picking up the pallets.

And what they're going to do is take them out to places where they need them along the berms and along a lot of the levees right near the river to try to stem back that water.

Now over here you've got a bunch of people. They've been here since early this morning. They'll be here as long as it takes to keep filling those bags and keep stemming off those -- the rising waters.

You see the pallets here. You see the guys filling up these bags. And this is going to be a never-ending process into the afternoon hours.

You know, last night they had people -- nearly 1,000 people here. They're expected the turnout to be just as good today. Great thing is they've got a wonderful attitude out here. They know that the situation is desperate but they're staying very positive. As the waters continue to rise their spirits remain very high. And certainly a great thing to see. True testament to the Midwestern spirit.

Coming up, we're going to let you know how long they're going to be out here. Let you know -- let you see some of the efforts that have been -- that they've been taking with these sandbags moving them down to the levee. HARRIS: Yes.

WOLF: We've got some great aerial footage we're going to show with you. It's a great story to see, the hard work they've been doing here and showing you just how their efforts...

HARRIS: Yes.

WOLF: ... have been fruitful.

Let's send it back to you in the studio.

HARRIS: OK, Reynolds, and when we talk again, give us a detailed sort of assessment of that second levee, because we know that that is the area of real concern for the towns people of Winfield is that second levee.

So we'll talk to you in just a couple of minutes.

WOLF: Gotcha.

COLLINS: The floodwaters that have pushed past levees have, in effect, created new rivers and, of course, new dangers.

Frantic residents are now shoring up levees that had appeared safe just a few days ago -- in fact, just one day ago.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Clarksville, Missouri now with more on this.

It is an ever changing situation, Ed.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is here especially, Heidi, because this is kind of an interesting town. It's a historic town along the Mississippi River but it's also a town that doesn't have a levee.

So let's take a look quick first -- quickly out into the Mississippi River here. You see there is no levee there. So essentially what is happening here is that residents, National Guard soldiers, even inmates have been helping out in the effort to save this city.

So they've been bagging thousands and thousands of bags of sand. This is essentially the last line of defense.

We spoke with a gentleman who lives in this apartment right here on the corner. His name is David Wright. He's been waiting out the storm. He's actually been working behind there pumping water out back into the flood area. And he says at this point he's seen the water levels go down and he's feeling pretty good about the situation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID WRIGHT, CLARKSVILLE RESIDENT: It's -- we could have had a lot worse. It could have been a lot worse. We actually battled the elements so far and we've beat. But until it gets down inside of its banks we've still got a problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAVANDERA: And, you know, we've been talking a lot about how levee breaches in other areas, the upstream and downstream from where we are, where Reynolds Wolf was, that is a situation that has kind of alleviated and eased the burden here.

But several people we talked to say they expect, maybe, water levels to go back up again. And that's what they're on alert for here throughout the rest of the day -- Heidi?

COLLINS: Boy, everybody just seems on edge about all of this. It makes perfect sense when you look behind you and what you're standing in there.

All right, Ed Lavandera, appreciate the report.

In fact, time now for us to head over to the Severe Weather Center. Bonnie Schneider standing by with the latest on all of this.

Unbelievable flooding, Bonnie.

(WEATHER REPORT)

COLLINS: Nasty, Bonnie. Really awful.

HARRIS: Yes, that's for sure.

COLLINS: All right. Thanks, Bonnie.

HARRIS: Just a couple of things we want to put on your radar, certainly on our radar, this morning. In just a couple of minutes we're expecting to hear from President Bush who is going to make a comment on the work going on in the House right now.

The House finally planning to vote, we believe sometime today, on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. At the center of the debate was the issue of retroactive immunity for phone companies, a provision that most Democrats were opposed to, while Republicans and the White House insisted upon that the compromise gets around that issue by leaving the decision to the federal courts.

We are expecting to hear from the president on that.

And we're also watching -- the House Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing this morning. The featured speaker will be former White House press secretary Scott McClellan. He will be talking about his book and some of the claims in the book. The committee is likely to focus on the vice president's role in the CIA leak case.

So we want to just keep you abreast of both of those events going on this morning. The president in just a couple of minutes. You're back in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COLLINS: We want to let you know that we expect to hear from President Bush any time now. Apparently he's at the podium. Let's go and listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... provide vital resources to our men and women on the frontlines in the war on terror.

This legislation gives our troops the funds they need to prevail without tying the hands of our commanders in the field or imposing artificial timetables for withdrawal.

The bill also supports our military families by passing an expansion of the G.I. bill that makes it easier for our troops to transfer unused education benefits to their spouses and their children.

I want to thank the members of Congress for their action on this legislation and I urge the Senate to pass it as soon as possible.

Members of the House and Senate also reached a bipartisan agreement yesterday on legislation to allow our intelligence professionals to quickly and effectively monitor the plans of terrorists abroad while protecting the liberties of Americans here at home.

My director of national intelligence and the attorney general tells me that this is a good bill. It will help our intelligence professionals learn our enemies' plans for new attacks. It ensures that those companies whose assistance is necessary to protect the country will themselves be protected from liability for past or future cooperation with the government.

The enemy who attacked us on September 11th is determined to strike this country again. It's vital that our intelligence community has the ability to learn who the terrorists are talking to, what they're saying, and what they're planning.

I encourage the House of Representatives to pass this bill today and I ask the Senate to take it up quickly so our intelligence professionals can better protect Americans from harm.

I'm pleased with the bipartisan cooperation on both these bills and I thank the members for their efforts.

Thank you.

COLLINS: All right. There you have President Bush talking about FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

And it was a quick statement, was it not?

Ed Henry is standing by to talk a little more about this. Bigger picture for us, Ed. That was quick and dirty. What exactly does all of this mean? We know that it's sort of exonerates telecommunications companies, does it not?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting. Quick statement, you're right. Also I would point out no questions from the media.

COLLINS: Right.

HENRY: The president didn't do that, in part, I would suspect, because in about 15 minutes, as Tony just noted, you'll be hearing from Scott McClellan, the former White House spokesman testifying on Capitol Hill about his claims that the administration manipulated intelligence broadly, and more specifically talking about the CIA leak case and some of the things in his controversial book.

You're going to see Republicans pushing back on those claims for sure.

But if the president had taken a question very likely he would have gotten one on Scott McClellan since that's happening in 15 minutes. So that's an important thing to point out.

Secondly, I think what you're seeing big picture is the president trying to claim victory on two important things he's been pushing for. Number one on the war funding bill, but it's important to note while he got the money on Iraq and Afghanistan that he wanted, he didn't get everything in terms of -- the Democrats were pushing to get unemployment benefits and other things added.

Democrats got some victories there. So both sides had to compromise.

Also, as you mentioned, on domestic surveillance, he got what he wanted in terms of domestic surveillance powers. And now it's going to be left to the courts in terms of the immunity for the telephone companies.

Democrats claiming they got something in terms of getting some civil protection for people to make sure the government is not spying on them.

So again, I think the big picture here is that on both pieces of the legislation you've got the president and the Democrats claiming some victory because let's face it, there are not going to be a lot of victories for both of them in an election year.

The Democrats on the Hill and this Republican president not coming together on very many compromises. This is a rare victory for the president to say he got a couple of things through Congress, and that's why he's saying this -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. Well, I know we're going to be talking to you a little bit more about Scott McClellan, as you mentioned.

Ed, appreciate that.

HENRY: Thank you.

COLLINS: We'll talk with you in just a few more minutes.

HARRIS: And you know something, ever since Senator Clinton suspended her campaign for the Democratic nomination to be president, just a few weeks ago, we have all wondered when the two -- Barack Obama, the now presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, and Senator Clinton -- would make that first joint appearance together.

And now we know.

Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton announcing today that they will campaign together on Friday, June 27th. So that's a week from today. Friday, June 27th. Then the note says further details to be announced soon.

So that first joint appearance, which we will be paying so much attention to, will take place next Friday, June 27th.

COLLINS: Villagers thought she was a goddess. The girl with eight limbs. Dr. Sanjay Gupta updates her remarkable transformation.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Indian villagers believed a baby born with eight limbs was a goddess. But last fall, the little girl underwent a first of its kind surgery to remove those extra arms and legs.

CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is here now with an update.

It actually was -- I remember because we talked so much about this -- a parasitic twin.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And it is so rare that there's actually no reliable data on how often this occurs. So it's pretty remarkable.

We had a chance to actually talk to the surgeon...

COLLINS: Wow.

GUPTA: ... who did this operation several times. His goal is to really transform her from a goddess, which a lot of people believe she was because of these extra limbs, into a little girl.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA (voice over): Like the goddess she was named for, Lakshmi Tatma had eight limbs when she was born in India's Bihar region back in 2005.

In fact, villagers there believed she was the goddess reincarnated. Word spread to India's renowned surgeon Dr. Sharan Patil.

DR. SHARAN PATIL, ORTHOPEDIC SURGEON: In spite of all those beliefs, as the medical man, I certainly thought she needs help.

GUPTA: Dr. Patil examined Lakshmi and recommended surgery to remove her extra limbs, even though it was a high-risk operation.

PATIL: Amazing. The first time I've seen anything like this.

GUPTA: Tests revealed the heart, liver and lungs, just one working kidney. Another would be transplanted from the parasite.

PATIL: One is located here. Other functioning kidney is located here.

GUPTA: The twins were also fused at the spine. They'd need to rebuild her pelvis.

An agonizing moment as Lakshmi goes into surgery.

A team of 30 doctors had prepped for a month. At 16 hours in, a critical milestone.

PATIL: The parasite is off.

GUPTA: After 27 hours, Lakshmi, with two arms and two legs, is transformed.

DR. THIMAPPA HEGDE, SENIOR NEUROSURGEON: The hero in this whole story is Lakshmi.

GUPTA: Today Lakshmi recuperates at a facility at Rajasthan and still needs work on her spinal cord and clubbed feet but doctors say her progress is remarkable.

PATIL: I see her growing up as a normal girl.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: It's great to see those images.

COLLINS: Such a great story.

GUPTA: All of those organs that you just saw in those images including the kidney that was transplanted all seem to be working properly, so she has a very good chance of having a good recovery.

COLLINS: It is great. I mean I know this is trivial but she's so darn cute on top of it all.

GUPTA: She is a cutie pie. Yes.

COLLINS: Yes, you just want to grab her up.

What about reproductive organs? We didn't see in any of those animations what the situation is there. GUPTA: Right. And you saw a lot of operation is being done around the pelvis. They were able to save both ovaries and the uterus.

COLLINS: Wow.

GUPTA: And we asked specifically Dr. Patil about that. He said there's no reason in her life why she -- in the future she might not be able to have children of her own.

COLLINS: It's so great. Good for her. Love that story.

GUPTA: Yes.

COLLINS: Thank you, Sanjay.

GUPTA: Like to bring you some good stories every now and then, as well.

COLLINS: Yes, darn it. We like you to take them.

We also want to let you know that we are thrilled and very thankful to CNN's team of journalists who covered this story alongside "National Geographic." Just amazing video, "The Girl with Eight Limbs" premieres this Sunday, June 22nd, 9:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific Time on the National Geographic Channel.

HARRIS: One is a hoax but five are not, found on a Canadian beach. Mystery feet.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: A pregnancy pact could be behind a sudden spike in moms- to-be at a Massachusetts high school. School officials took notice when one girl after another walked into the health clinic requesting pregnancy tests. 17 turned up pregnant. The principal tells "TIME" magazine some girls actually high-fived each other when tests came back positive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ASHLEIGH BENNETT, GLOUCESTER RESIDENT: They can't even buy their own cigarettes yet and they're having babies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: So the principal discovered the pact during an investigation. The pregnancies are sparking fierce debate about whether students should be provided birth control. Some blame Hollywood for glamorizing single motherhood. The school's superintendent says some girls have babies because they are seeking a purpose in their lives.

COLLINS: A new twist in the disappearance of a convicted swindler. Authorities say he faked his suicide to avoid going to prison and now they've charged hedge fund manager Sam Israel's girlfriend.

They say Debra Ryan admitted helping Israel pack an RV with his belongings before he vanished.

Israel was convicted of defrauding investors out of hundreds of millions of dollars. His SUV was found on a bridge over the Hudson River in upstate New York on the day he was supposed to report to prison.

The word "suicide is painless" were written in dust on the hood.

Police were searching for a body but now consider Israel a fugitive.

HARRIS: That sixth foot found in a sneaker north of Vancouver, British Columbia an apparent hoax but the other five found washed up onshore since last summer has police baffled.

Here's CNN's Randi Kaye.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Take a good look at this sneaker. Investigators say it's still has a foot inside it, one of five feet found on Canadian shores in less than a year.

TERRY SMITH, BRITISH COLUMBIA REGIONAL CORONER: I can certainly tell you that I've never run across something like this.

KAYE: Police say two people spotted the foot Monday in the waters between Vancouver Island and British Columbia's mainland. Like the others, it was still wearing a sneaker. Of the five feet, the first four are right feet. This is the only left one.

It's a mystery that has baffled investigators since the first foot washed ashore in August 2007. Now it's getting international attention.

Are they linked? How many more feet might be out there? And how did the victims die?

There is no shortage of theories. Some have suggested the feet belong to stow-aways on commercial ships. Others think it's the work of a serial killer.

ANNIE LINTEAU, ROYAL CANADIAN MOUNTED POLICE: We are reviewing all missing persons file. We are exploring the possibility that it could be people who may have drowned. It could be missing fishermen. It could be the remains of people who may have been in a plane crash.

KAYE: Three years ago, a float plane carrying five men crashed into the sea not far from Vancouver. Only one body was recovered, this woman's brother, the pilot, was never found.

SALLY FEAST, BROTHER DIED IN PLANE CRASH: 50 yards away is where the boys took off from and here we are just on the other side of this finding a foot.

KAYE: Relatives' DNA is being compared to DNA from the feet.

Forensic scientist Larry Kobilinsky says, even after all these years in the water, investigators can still get a good DNA sample from bones.

(On camera): Do socks and sneakers slow down the decomposition process at all?

LAWRENCE KOBILINSKY, FORENSIC SCIENTIST: Without a doubt, having the severed part of the body, the foot, encased in a sneaker is going to protect it from decomposition.

KAYE: The sneakers may explain why feet are the only body part that's turned up. We checked with oceanographers and we're told sneakers are so buoyant they can travel thousands of miles in the water, averaging about 10 miles a day.

(Voice over): Investigators are focusing on the shoes for clues, too.

LINTEAU: The make, where the shoe was produced, when and where it was sold to shed some light on the identity of these people.

KAYE: So far the feet do not appear to have been severed. No evidence of foul play. All the answers, though, will take time. And the investigation has already been hampered by a hoax.

On Wednesday, police were alerted to what was thought to be another foot in a black Adidas running shoe.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Scared, you know, to think of, you know, that happening to a person and their foot is actually, you know, sitting here on a beach.

KAYE: This woman says the sneaker was wrapped in seaweed with two bones sticking out of it. It turned out to be an animal paw. Investigators call the prank reprehensible.

So the search for clues continues as police try to pair up the feet and figure out just how many victims they have on their hands.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Water gushing over levees, flooding towns. Why are there so many breaches? Some say man is interfering too much with nature.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: And welcome back, everyone, to the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris.

COLLINS: Hi, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins.

Want to get you directly to the opening bell because it's Friday and maybe there will be a remarkable upturn to end the week -- probably not. Yesterday, everything ended. The trading day down -- excuse me, up 34 points right now.

Whoa! Not looking good on a Friday morning. 102 points down -- 100 points. There you see things are below 11,000 now, a mark that we always watch. So we're going to continue to follow the business stories as we do throughout the day and have an idea or indication hopefully of how things will end up for the week.

HARRIS: And happening now on Capitol Hill, Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan discusses his bombshell book about the Bush White house, this time under oath.

Live now to CNN White House correspondent Ed Henry.

And Ed, if you would, talk to us about what is likely to be the focus of the hearing this morning. Is it, as many suggest, what the vice president's role in the CIA leak case was or wasn't?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're going to find out. We have to see what Scott McClellan has to say. A lot of people are wondering. But I can tell you one bit of new information heading into the hearing is that White House officials are telling us that they have decided not to assert executive privilege over Scott McClellan's testimony at this point.

There had been some ambiguity about whether the White House would try to prevent him from talking about certain things. The White House saying, clearly, that they have not asserted executive privilege about McClellan. What he's going to say about his conversations with the president and others at this point.

So that could be significant in giving him a chance to speak. But White House officials are saying the reason why they have not asserted it so far is that they do not expect Scott McClellan to say anything new at all. They expect him to stick to what he said in the book. There were a lot of broad claims.

And frankly, a lot of people close to this White House do not think Scott McClellan can back it up. And so I think what to look for in terms of what he might say about Vice President Cheney and what he might say about President Bush. A key difference now, today, what to look for is that he's now speaking under oath. He has to tell Congress the truth.

When you write a book, it's a whole another thing -- whether you're Democrat, Republican or whatever. That's not under oath. And a lot of people have challenged claims in this book. So I think what to look for is not what Scott McClellan says in his opening statement. It's what happens during the question and the answer session.

Republican lawmakers now getting their first crack at Scott McClellan -- not just the Democrats. First of all, the Republicans get to press him on some of the claims in the book and let's see whether Scott McClellan backs it up. Does he have information? Does he have evidence? Does he go any further than he did in the book and does he stay consistent with what he said in the book, or does he start changing his story?

Second thing, what does he tell Democrats? Democrats, obviously, are going to try to grill him and say, why didn't you say this sooner, give us another taste, is there more? What else did the president tell you? What did the vice president tell you? And let's see whether Scott McClellan says anything.

Again, White House officials expect -- they're saying their expectation is there's nothing new here. But once Scott McClellan goes under oath and starts speaking, we ought to pay attention. Let's see what he has to say -- Tony?

HARRIS: So let's see here. Ed Henry changing our coverage plans this morning. So based on that bit of guidance right there, why don't we do this? Why don't we take the opening statement from Scott McClellan and then pay very close attention, as you suggest, to the Q&A session that goes on.

HENRY: That's right. Both this, Tony, at 9:30 you're going to hear from the Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, then you'll hear 15 minutes from him, 15 minutes from -- after that from the Republican ranking member Lamar Smith of Texas.

As you know, for most members of Congress, it takes 15 minutes to clear their throat.

HARRIS: That's right.

HENRY: So a lot of times when we tee up this coverage and say -- boy, they're ready to go at 9:30 and then people start talking. We're not expecting Scott McClellan until 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time. He'll have an opening statement. We've got a look at that -- and it's very broad. It talks about how he thinks Washington is too partisan. We heard that in the book as well. He doesn't get into a lot of specifics. The Q&A is what will be important, Tony.

HARRIS: So based on your guidance, we're going to try to get some more news in.

Appreciate it, Ed. Thank you.

HENRY: Thanks, Tony.

COLLINS: Major Israeli military exercises seen as a message to Iran. Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: A U.S. military official confirms to CNN that back on June 2nd, Israel did conduct a major aerial war-fighting exercise in the eastern Mediterranean. It involved dozens of Israeli fighters, F-15s, F-16s and aerial refueling tankers.

The U.S. calculates that Israel flew several hundreds miles into the eastern Mediterranean and that, oddly enough, that would have been the same distance in the other direction if they were flying into Iran to attack the Natanz' nuclear enrichment plant that Israel is so concern about inside of Iran.

It is believe this was a major message sending exercise to the United States, to Iran, and throughout the Middle East that Israel does have the capability to strike deep inside Iran if and when it ever chose to do so.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: The Midwest floods. In some areas the bad gets even worse. This time, yesterday, we showed you the collapse of a levee in Lincoln County, Missouri. That has set off a domino effect to rising floodwaters that have caused several more levees to fail. Lincoln County officials believe even more will likely be swamped before the day is over.

Yet, that offers new hope downstream. The floodwaters spilling past all those levees is actually lowering river levels to the south. Now it appears that flooding downstream will not be as bad as initially feared.

COLLINS: Water breaching levees over and over again from Iowa to Missouri. What's the problem?

Well, Drew Griffin of our CNN Special Investigations Unit looked into it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The problem may not be that the levees are failing but too many levees are holding. Up and down this massive river basin for hundreds of years, farmers in cities and land developers have been trying to hold back one of Mother Nature's largest drainage pipes -- the Mississippi.

PROF. TIM KUSKY, ST. LOUIS UNIVERSITY: Since the 1700s, we built more than 2,200 miles of levees along the whole river system. And all together, that has had a major, major effect.

GRIFFIN: St. Louis University Natural Sciences Professor Tim Kusky says the effect can be seen quite clearly from the air. Once huge natural floodplains are developed into towns and shopping centers, entire cities, levees are made even stronger so that people living behind that feel safer.

KUSKY: But what happen is that we built levees along the river so we restrict the flow in a very, very narrow channel and the same amount of water has to go through this narrow channels and it rises higher and higher and higher.

And then people think the levees are strong and they're going to protect them. Then we find out that they are weak and they can potentially fail. So we have the situation where the river has risen 15, 20 feet higher than it would have without the levees. And when it fails, it does so catastrophically.

GRIFFIN: Winfield, Missouri, today, says Kusky is a classic example. That levee is breached in so many places, it's hard to tell it's even there. Unfortunately, he says, history has shown the reaction will be to rebuild the levee even higher and stronger.

(on camera): Back in 1993, this whole area was under 10 feet of water. A smaller levee had failed and turned this into an entire floodplain. What did they do? Well, instead of allowing Mother Nature to take its course, they built an even bigger levee there to protect it from the Missouri River just beyond those trees.

(voice-over): And right in that floodplain is one of the largest strip mall developments in the United States.

ADOLPHUS BUSCH, GREAT RIVERS HABITAT ALLIANCE: After the '93 flood, we were told of course that there would be no more levees, no more projects, no more development in the floodplains because everyone have learned their lesson. And that went on for a few years but of course people soon forgot again and the development started.

GRIFFIN: Adolphus Busch, yes, one of the beer family, Buschs, now heads a group called the Great Rivers Habitat Alliance. There's no mistake he wants to stop levees from being built and stop development in the floodplains. Let the Mississippi flow naturally.

BUSCH: That's exactly what's happening now from Iowa all the way down to St. Louis. All of these levees are breaking as the water comes through. Of course that relieves a pressure for all of us downstream.

GRIFFIN: Mark Twain who lived along this river once said 10,000 river commissions with the minds of the world at their back cannot tame that lawless stream. Why, say critics of our current efforts, do we think our levees can do any better?

Drew Griffin, CNN, St. Louis, Missouri.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: Let's get you to Bonnie Schneider now in the severe weather center.

And Bonnie, I know you're going to talk about the flooding in just a moment. But if we could, let's talk about some of that extreme heat our friends in the west are waking up to today.

(WEATHER REPORT)

COLLINS: We want to get this information out to you, just in at the CNN NEWSROOM here coming to us from the Coast Guard. I'm just going to read some of this release.

That apparently there is a ship that's burning off the Alaska Coast. As you see there on the screen, about 700 miles, I believe, south of Dutch Harbor. If you may know that area because of the show about crabbing that we love so much. Anyway, 781-foot container ship. 32 people on board.

So obviously, a definite concern in the area off the Alaska Coast there. I imagine that the coast guard is clearly trying to respond. Apparently, a C-130 from a nearby air station has gone in and a Coast Guard cutter as well are enroute. So we're going to keep our eye on this, this morning, and let you know any more information just as soon as we get it.

HARRIS: Ice on Mars? Miles O'Brien tells us about a mysterious disappearing white stuff on the red planet.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Ice on Mars? Well, NASA scientists think the Phoenix Lander has found it. Oh, really?

Space correspondent Miles O'Brien pretty excited about all of this.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CHIEF TECHNOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT CORRESPONDENT: It's big stuff.

HARRIS: Wait a minute, hold on a second here, Miles.

O'BRIEN: Yes.

HARRIS: Wasn't ice really spotted years ago by one of those orbiting craft circling Mars?

O'BRIEN: Odyssey. You know, Tony, I love that you listen to me.

HARRIS: I do.

O'BRIEN: I really do. I really do that. I really appreciate that. You know, sometimes I wonder if everybody is listening to me when I'm talking about this.

HARRIS: Well, I'm with you, doctor.

O'BRIEN: Good. I'm glad you're with me. Yes. A couple of years ago they found the telltale signs of ice in the arctic region of Mars, the North Pole area. And that's precisely why Phoenix came down on that spot because they wanted to get their shovel up there, dig on in, put the ice crystals in this little doghouse shaped thing that's an oven. And I've been calling the glorified easy bake.

HARRIS: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Scientists don't like it when I do that. But because once you cook it, you get a sense of what's inside it. And that's a big deal because wherever there is water here on this planet, wherever you look, there is life.

HARRIS: There you go.

O'BRIEN: So could the frozen crystals here perhaps contain some marker or perhaps some evidence of life past or present on Mars? Let's go to the images, shall we?

HARRIS: Terrific.

O'BRIEN: Look at that landscape. That's as bleak as it gets, rights? Looks like a parking lot in Arizona.

HARRIS: Pretty desolate, yes.

O'BRIEN: And they don't call it Phoenix for nothing. But that's pay dirt for a scientist. Look what's in the shovel there, a little bit of dirt. Probably some ice crystals.

Now, let's look at some of the trenches they've been doing. They've got some weird names for them. Would you believe dough-dough and Goldilocks?

HARRIS: Oh, boy.

O'BRIEN: I'm going to find out why later.

HARRIS: Yes. Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Goldilocks may be because that one is just right. I don't know. I want to show you this next image just because I think it's cool. Look at it. Take a look at this one. This is cool.

What that does, it shows -- this is the deep proportions of the trench and scientists love that kind of stuff. Now, let's go for the pay dirt image. Take a look at this thing. What do you see happening over in this region?

HARRIS: Well, we've got little clumps of something that appear to be there and then they're gone. They're there, they're gone. Trick photography? What's going on with Phoenix here?

O'BRIEN: This is a -- it's a time lapse picture. This is a shot over the course of a few days on a loop. Those little pieces are about the size of a die, dice, whatever you want to say, singular or plural. OK, now, you have to ask yourself. What would do that? Would a rock do that? Would salt do that? What would disappear in that short period of time? There's really only one answer.

It would be ice that has sublimated. It doesn't melt there. It goes straight from solid to gas. So now the question is how do you get it into the oven? Take a look at this next image and I want to show you the problem they've run into.

I think they've come up with a solution, but look inside there. It's clumpy. It's clumpier than the very thin mesh which guards the entrance into these ovens. And so how do you get the stuff into the oven if the clumps are so big that they won't go through that one millimeter screen? Well, take a look at this. I've got a little model here. This is an actual size. That's the shovel in clear plastic form. Incidentally made here on 34th Street on the West Side of Manhattan. Go figure. Honey bee robotics, it's called.

It has a drill in the back. OK? And that's designed to get into a really hard surface if they needed to do that.

HARRIS: Right.

O'BRIEN: But when you turn on the drill, it vibrates the shovel ever so gently. So imagine, if you will -- go back to the image, we start vibrating that shovel ever so gently. What's going to happen? It's like sprinkling paprika onto the oven, right?

HARRIS: Nice, Miles.

O'BRIEN: That's the theory, anyhow.

HARRIS: Yes.

O'BRIEN: So hopefully, hopefully, if they do it fast enough because we have learned it only takes a few days for it to sublimate, to go straight to gas. They have to get that shovel scooped, they have to do their sprinkle, they have to get into the oven before it all goes away. And hopefully, hopefully, finding maybe some organic material. So stay tuned.

HARRIS: Wow, that is terrific. So now I'm going to go back and watch this all over again so that I can get a better understanding.

O'BRIEN: Did I lose you along the way?

HARRIS: All right, Miles appreciate it.

O'BRIEN: I'll send you an e-mail with a full lot of explanation.

HARRIS: Thank you. Thanks, Miles.

O'BRIEN: All right. We'll see you.

COLLINS: Quickly, we want to bring you the opening statement of Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan. He is under oath before the House Judiciary Committee talking about some of the claims in his book.

And the administration has decided not to invoke executive privilege on this testimony, so let's go ahead and listen in now. Once again, Scott McClellan in his opening statement.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The continuing cloud of suspicion over the White House is not something I can remove because I know only one part of the story. Only those who know the underlying truth can bring this to an end. Sadly, they remain silent.

The result has been an increase in suspicion and partisan warfare and a perpetuation of Washington's scandal culture, one of three core factors that have poisoned the atmosphere in Washington for the past two decades.

The central message in my book is the need to change the way Washington governs. We need to minimize the negative influence of the permanent campaign, end the scandal culture, and move beyond the philosophy of politics as war.

No one has a better opportunity to make that happen than the president. To do so, he must first fully embrace openness and candor and then constantly strive to build trust across the aisle and seek common ground to unite Americans from all walks of life and political persuasions.

I believed President Bush could be that kind of leader for the country when I first went to work for him in Texas. He was a popular, bipartisan leader who had a record of working with Democrats. Unfortunately, like many good people who come to Washington, he ended up playing the game by the existing rules rather than transforming it.

The larger message of my book is bigger than any person or party. It is about restoring civility and bipartisanship and candor to our national political discourse. It is about putting our Nation's interests above partisan goals. Indeed, all of us -- especially those in elected office--can do more to make this happen by promoting openness and engaging in civil discourse.

The permanent campaign leads to just the opposite. Substantive debates over policy give way to a contest over which side can most effectively manipulate the media narrative to its advantage. It is about power and electoral victory. Governing becomes an offshoot of campaigning rather than the other way around.

Vicious attacks, distortions, political manipulation and spin become accepted. Complex issues are reduced to black-and-white terms and oversimplified in the context of winners and losers and how they will affect the next election.

Too often, the media unwittingly ignores the impact of government on the daily lives of Americans, focusing foremost on the Beltway game and lionizing those who play it most skillfully.

There is no more recent example of this unsavory side of politics than the initial reaction from some in Washington to my book. I received plenty of criticism for daring to tell the story as I knew it. Yet few of my critics tried to refute the larger themes and perspectives in the book.

Instead of engaging in a reasoned, rational, and honest discussion of the issues raised, some sought to turn it into a game of "gotcha," misrepresenting what I wrote and seeking to discredit me through inaccurate personal attacks on me and my motives. The American people deserve better.

Governing inevitably has an adversarial element. People and groups will always differ about the proper use of limited government resources. But should government be a process of constant campaigning to manipulate public opinion, or should it be centered as much as possible on rational debate, deliberation, and compromise?

Writing this book was not easy for me to do. These are my words, my experiences, and my conclusions. I sought to take a clear-eyed look at events. To do so, I had to remove my partisan lens and step back from the White House bubble. Some of the conclusions I came to were different from those I would have embraced at the outset.

My book reflects the only idea of loyalty that I believe is appropriate in democratic government, and that is loyalty to the ideals of candor, transparency and integrity, and indeed to the constitutional system itself. Too often in Washington, people mistakenly think that loyalty to an individual officeholder should override loyalty to basic ideals. This false loyalty is not only mistaken, but can exercise a corrupt influence on government.

I am here because in my heart I am a public servant who, like many Americans, wants to improve the way Washington governs and does not want to see future administrations repeat the mistakes this White House made.

I do not know whether a crime was committed by any of the Administration officials who revealed Valerie Plame's identity to reporters. Nor do I know if there was an attempt by any person or persons to engage in a cover-up during the investigation.

I do know that it was wrong to reveal her identity, because it compromised the effectiveness of a covert official for political reasons. I regret that I played a role, however unintentionally, in relaying false information to the public about it. I'll do my best to answer any questions on this matter that members of the committee may wish to ask.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

REP. JOHN CONYERS JR. (D), MICHIGAN: Thank you so much. One of the most disturbing revelations in your book was that White House officials, including the president and vice president, directed you to falsely vouch for Scooter Libby not being involved in the Wilson leak.

Please explain what happened and whether you think Mr. Libby was involved in that.

MCCLELLAN: That was -- that happened on the Saturday after the investigation, I guess, was launched, which was on September 29th. That Saturday morning, I received a call from the White House chief of staff, Andy Card. And he said that the president and vice president had spoken that morning and they wanted me to provide the same assurances for Scooter Libby that I had for Karl Rove.

I was reluctant to do it, but I headed into the White House on that Saturday morning. I talked with Andy Card and I said I would provide the same assurances for Scooter Libby provided he gave me the same assurances that Karl Rove had.

And I got on the phone with Scooter Libby. And asked him point blank, "Were you involved in this in any way?" And he assured me in unequivocal terms that he was not, meaning the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity to any reporters. And then I contacted reporters to let them know about that information. But it was Andy Card that had directed me to do that at the request of the president and vice president.

CONYERS: You spoke very frequently with the president and the vice president. Do you think either or both of them knew about the leak and had any role in causing the leak to happen or knew that Mr. Libby was involved in the leak when they helped get you to falsely vouch for him?

MCCLELLAN: I do not think the president in any way had knowledge about it, based on my conversations with him back at that time when -- he said that Karl Rove had not been involved in it and told him -- something to that effect. In terms of the vice president, I do not know. There is a lot of suspicion there, as Patrick Fitzgerald said at the trial of Scooter Libby, that there is a cloud that remains over the vice president's office. But it's because Scooter Libby put it there by lying and obstructing justice.

CONYERS: In the light of your testimony and your statement that you do not think Mr. Libby's criminal sentence should have been commuted, do you think that it would be any more appropriate to give Mr. Libby a full pardon?

MCCLELLAN: No, Congressman, I do not. Mr. Chairman, I believe that it would signal a special treatment, the same thing that happened with the commutation. And the president has always held a certain standard for granting pardons even going back to when he was governor and I worked for him then.

And that is that the person must first repay his debt to society and second must express remorse for the crimes which he committed. And we have seen neither of that from Scooter Libby at this point.

CONYERS: Thank you. The chair recognizes Lamar Smith.

REP. LAMAR SMITH (R), TEXAS: Thank you, again, Mr. Chairman. Mr. McClellan, the title of the book, "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception," implies that the president, himself, engaged in some amount of deception. Yet, also, in the book you said he did not engage in outright deception. Who was it that suggested the title to your book?

MCCLELLAN: The title to my book? "What happened?"

SMITH: Who suggested --

MCCLELLAN: "Or Inside the White House" -- the subtitle? This was something I talked about with my publisher. SMITH: And so Mr. Osnos --

MCCLELLAN: We came to an agreement on it. But in terms --

SMITH: It sends a contradiction to what you wrote.

MCCLELLAN: "Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception" -- that was something we all discussed.

SMITH: And who is the "we"?

MCCLELLAN: With the publisher.

SMITH: As Mr. Osnos?

MCCLELLAN: Yes, it would include Mr. Osnos.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]