October 2nd, 2009
09:45 PM ET

Live Blog from the Anchor Desk 10/02/09

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Tonight, an arrest in the David Letterman extortion scandal. The plot centers around the fact the comedian had sex with female staffers. We'll talk with Dr. Drew Pinsky about workplace romance and when an office fling crosses the line. Plus, did Texas execute an innocent man and is the Governor trying to cover it up? We're keeping them honest. And, on a lighter note, we promise to bring some laughter to your Friday. Don't miss tonight's Shot.

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Filed under: Live Blog • T1
October 2nd, 2009
05:38 PM ET

Two arguments for what to do in Afghanistan

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/09/22/afghanistan.troops/art.soldierafghan1.gi.jpg caption="The United States has about 68,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan."]

Peter Bergen and Leslie H. Gelb

In August, President Obama laid out the rationale for stepping up the fight in Afghanistan: If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al-Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans. So this is not only a war worth fighting. This is fundamental to the defense of our people. Obamas Af-Pak plan is, in essence, a countersanctuary strategy that denies safe havens to the Taliban and al-Qaeda, with the overriding goal of making America and its allies safer. Under Obama, the Pentagon has already sent a surge of 21,000 troops to Afghanistan, and the Administration is even weighing the possibility of deploying as many as 40,000 more.

This is a sound policy. If U.S. forces were not in Afghanistan, the Taliban, with its al-Qaeda allies in tow, would seize control of the country's south and east and might even take it over entirely. A senior Afghan politician told me that the Taliban would be in Kabul within 24 hours without the presence of international forces. This is not because the Taliban is so strong; generous estimates suggest it numbers no more than 20,000 fighters. It is because the Afghan government and the 90,000-man Afghan army are still so weak.

The objections to an increased U.S. military commitment in South Asia rest on a number of flawed assumptions. The first is that Afghans always treat foreign forces as antibodies. In fact, poll after poll since the fall of the Taliban has found that a majority of Afghans have a favorable view of the international forces in their country. A BBC/ABC News poll conducted this year, for instance, showed that 63% of Afghans have a favorable view of the U.S. military. To those who say you cant trust polls taken in Afghanistan, its worth noting that the same type of poll consistently finds neighboring Pakistan to be one of the most anti-American countries in the world.


Filed under: Afghanistan • al Qaeda • Barack Obama • Taliban
October 2nd, 2009
05:38 PM ET

Video: McCain manager predicts Palin could prove 'catastrophic'

Alexander Mooney
CNN PoliticalTicker

The man who ran John McCain's presidential campaign warned Friday that Sarah Palin could lead to a 'catastrophic' election result for the GOP in 2012 if the former Alaska governor captures the party's presidential nomination.

"I think that she has talents," Steve Schmidt, the former campaign manager of McCain's failed presidential bid, told CNN's John King. "But my honest view is that she would not be a winning candidate for the Republican Party in 2012, and in fact, were she the nominee, we could have a catastrophic election result."

Keep Reading...

Filed under: John McCain • Republicans • Sarah Palin
October 2nd, 2009
05:35 PM ET

If politicians behaved like Letterman. . .

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/SHOWBIZ/TV/10/02/letterman.extortion/art.david.letterman.cbs.jpg caption="David Letterman on Thursday revealed an extortion attempt based on his sexual relations with staff members."]

Cynthia Tucker

Last night, David Letterman shocked his studio audience when he revealed that he was the victim of an extortion plot. He had had extramarital affairs with female staffers, he said, and a man threatened to publicize the affairs if Letterman didn’t fork over $2 million. Instead, Letterman took the blackmail demand to the Manhattan district attorney, and a suspect was arrested.

There is a lesson here for all the politicians who indulge in affairs and then get enmeshed in crooked schemes trying to cover them up. Two who come to mind are John Edwards, former Democratic candidate for president, and John Ensign, Republican senator from Nevada. Both have engaged in cover-ups that are quite possibly illegal; as usual, the cover-up may bring at least as much damage as the original sin.

Edwards is the subject of a grand jury investigation and a tell-all book.

A federal grand jury in Raleigh, N.C. is looking into whether Edwards’ alleged attempts to cover up his affair with campaign worker Rielle Hunter resulted in a campaign finance violation. Meanwhile, a new book proposal by a former aide alleges the once squeaky clean candidate tried to falsify a paternity test and pushed wealthy donors to help silence his mistress.


Filed under: Crime & Punishment
October 2nd, 2009
05:33 PM ET

Sketch of newborn's alleged kidnapper


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Gabriel Falcon
AC360° Writer

The Task Force investigating Tuesday’s abduction of a newborn baby in Nashville has released a composite sketch of the kidnapper. “The description was provided by the mother to a sketch artist from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation,” Kristin Helm, the bureau’s spokesperson, told CNN.

Yair Anthony Carillo was taken from his family’s home Tuesday afternoon, authorities said. Maria Gurrolla told detectives a woman posing as an immigration officer abducted her 4-day-old son. Gurrolla was also stabbed several times by the suspect.

The Metropolitan Nashville Police Department is also seeking information on a late model Kia Spectra that followed Gurrolla’s car out of a Wal-Mart parking lot shortly before the kidnapping.


Filed under: Crime & Punishment • Gabe Falcon
October 2nd, 2009
05:32 PM ET

Shake-up in Texas execution probe draws criticism, questions

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/CRIME/10/01/texas.execution.probe/art.willingham.family.jpg caption="A family photo shows Cameron Todd Willingham with his wife, Stacy, and daughters Kameron, Amber and Karmon."]
Program Note: Tune in tonight for Randi Kaye’s report on the case. AC360° 10 p.m. ET.

Matt Smith

An investigation into claims that faulty evidence led Texas to execute an innocent man in 2004 was at a "crucial point" when the state's governor replaced three of its members this week, one of the three said Thursday.

Gov. Rick Perry's shake-up of the Texas Forensic Science Commission came two days before it was to hear from the author of a scathing report in the case of Cameron Todd Willingham. That Friday session has been postponed indefinitely in the wake of Perry's new appointments, and critics of the governor accused him of trying to quash the Willingham probe.

"I think people are making a lot of this issue," Perry told reporters Thursday in Austin, Texas. He said the replacement of commission Chairman Sam Bassett and commissioners Alan Levy and Aliece Watts, whose terms had expired, was "pretty normal protocol."

"If you've got a whole new investigation going forward, it makes a lot more sense to put the new people in now and let them start the full process, rather than bring people in there for a short period of time and then replace them," he said. "I think it makes a whole lot more sense to make a change now than to make a change later."

Keep reading...

Filed under: Crime & Punishment
October 2nd, 2009
05:30 PM ET

Putting the ‘I’ in Aid

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/09/23/afghanistan.troops/art.afghanistan.afp.gi.jpg caption="American soldiers on duty in Afghanistan"]

Peter Bergen and Sameer Lalwani
For The New York Times

The top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, is right to warn that efforts to rebuild that country depend on winning the “struggle to gain the support of the people.” And few issues do more to stoke the resentment of ordinary Afghans than the tens of billions of dollars of foreign aid from which they have seen little or no benefit. They see legions of Westerners sitting in the backs of S.U.V.’s clogging the streets of Kabul and ask themselves what exactly those foreigners have done to improve their daily lives.

Eight years after the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the world. And by some estimates 40 percent of international aid leaves the Afghan economy as quickly as it comes in — going to pay Western security contractors, maintain back offices in the West and pay Western-style salaries, benefits and vacations — while as little as 20 percent of that aid reaches its intended recipients. Compounding this problem, the salaries of imported civilian workers are orders of magnitude higher than those of their Afghan peers. Some employees of the United States Agency for International Development, for instance, earn more than 300 times the monthly pay of an Afghan teacher.

Yes, when it comes to large-scale projects like building roads and hospitals, Western contractors have to take the lead because Afghan companies are years away from having enough experience. But there is a way for the Afghan government to recoup some of the billions of dollars of aid flowing to those contractors and being recycled back to the West: tax it.


Filed under: Afghanistan
October 2nd, 2009
05:08 PM ET

The Innocence Project

Program Note: Tune in tonight for more on the Willingham case from Randi Kaye. Tonight AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.

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The Innocence Project

Texas Gov. Rick Perry today removed three of the eight members of the Texas Forensic Science Commission (TFSC), which was set to hold a hearing on Friday to review an arson expert’s report on the controversial 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham. The public meeting set for Friday has been cancelled.

Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck called the move “troubling."

The Innocence Project ("IP") was established in 1992 at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law by civil rights attorneys Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld and is dedicated to exonerating the innocent through post-conviction DNA testing. Since its inception, more than 215 people in the United States have been exonerated, including 16 who were at one time sentenced to death. In many of these DNA exonerations, the Innocence Project either was the attorney of record or consulted with the defendant's attorneys.

Read more about the Innocence Project and its work here.

Filed under: Keeping Them Honest
October 2nd, 2009
05:08 PM ET

CBS producer pleads not guilty to trying to blackmail Letterman

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/SHOWBIZ/TV/10/02/letterman.extortion/art.halderman.arraignment.jpg caption="Robert Joel Halderman pleads not guilty Friday to first-degree attempted grand larceny."]


A CBS producer accused of trying to extort $2 million from "Late Show" host David Letterman pleaded not guilty Friday in a Manhattan courtroom.

CBS producer Robert Joel Halderman is charged with trying to extort $2 million from David Letterman.

Halderman is charged with first-degree attempted grand larceny. He has been suspended from his CBS job.

Halderman told Letterman in a proposed script that his "world was about to collapse around him" unless he received $2 million, District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said.

Keep Reading...

Filed under: 360° Radar
October 2nd, 2009
05:06 PM ET

'Humility' needed in Afghanistan, commander says

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/10/02/afghanistan.strategy/art.obama.mcchrystal.wi.jpg caption="President Obama meets with Gen. Stanley McChrystal aboard Air Force One on Friday."]

Kristi Keck

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said Thursday the coalition in the war-torn country is going to have to do things "dramatically differently, even uncomfortably differently" in order to succeed.

"We must operate and think in a fundamentally new way," Gen. Stanley McChrystal said in a speech at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a British think thank. He stressed the importance of connecting with the Afghan people, who he said are "frustrated" that more has not been accomplished in the nearly 8-year-old war.

McChrystal said he discounts immediately those who simplify the problem or offer a solution "because they absolutely have no clue about the complexity of what we are dealing with."

McChrystal arrived in Afghanistan in 2002. In June, he replaced Gen. David McKiernan as the top commander in the region. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said at the time that a "new leadership and fresh eyes" were needed.

McChrystal recently submitted to the Pentagon his assessment of the Afghanistan situation. In it, he warned that more troops are needed there within the next year or the war "will likely result in failure," according to a copy of a 66-page document obtained by The Washington Post

Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in the Middle East and Central Asia, said Thursday that victory in Afghanistan "is going to be ultimately similar to what we have achieved in Iraq.

Keep Reading...

Filed under: Afghanistan • Barack Obama
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