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THE SITUATION ROOM

Battle Over War Powers; CENTCOM Nominee Says Time Is Short for Iraq Success; Negroponte Warns Iran on Iraq Role; FAA Weighs New Pilot Age Cap

Aired January 30, 2007 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening right now. It's 5:00 PM here in Washington, where there's a battle over war powers. Who's the decider when it comes to sending American troops abroad? A key Republican arguing President Bush must share that responsibility. I'll speak live this hour with Senator Arlen Specter.
And it's 1:00 AM in Iraq, where millions brave bombs and bullets to gather in is streets. We're going to bring you a rare first-hand look at the shocking Shi'ite ritual dating back more than 1,300 years.

And from flooding to drought to disappearing species, scientists are pooling their knowledge about global warming, and they're worried. A grim new report tells us why.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

There were bloody bombings and ambushes aimed at Shi'ite pilgrims today. Dozens of people were killed across Iraq. And millions gathered for an ancient ritual marking the roots of their faith even as the religious divide threatens Iraq's future. We're going to have much more on this coming up.

On Capitol Hill meanwhile, lawmakers look for ways to try to end the war and wrestle with the president over who has the power to put U.S. troops in harm's way and to bring them home, one top Republican reminding the president that he isn't the only decider.

CNN's Ed Henry is standing by at the White House, but let's turn to our congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. She has more on the all the activity going on on the Hill today -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, GOP senator Arlen Specter told us today that he hopes the president recognizes it's not just the Democrats who are urging Mr. Bush to engage with Congress, to listen to Congress, it's also his fellow Republicans. He said that is -- that fellow Republicans, quote, "friendly voices," that the president is hearing. And today, Arlen Specter's friendly voice got a lot louder.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): A senior Republican senator says the president's tough talk about his power as commander-in-chief is both unhelpful and wrong. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I would suggest -- suggest respectfully to the president that he is not the sole decider, that the decider is a shared and joint responsibility.

BASH: At issue is this...

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm the decision maker.

BASH: ... the president's recent statement that he will determine strategy in Iraq, regardless of whether Congress votes to oppose his plan to send more troops there.

SPECTER: Mr. President, reconsider and recognize the shared responsibility with the Congress, and let's work it out.

BASH: Senator Arlen Specter has long been an opponent of robust executive power without the check of Congress. He carefully notes Congress's power of the purse when it comes to the war, but insists...

SPECTER: I am not threatening anybody. I am expressing a view of the constitutional authority of the president and the Congress and looking for a way, for an accommodation to work it out.

BASH: Specter is one of many Republicans opposed to the president's plan to send more troops to Iraq. But that plan did get a qualified boost from the leaders of the Iraq Study Group.

JAMES BAKER, IRAQ STUDY GROUP CO-CHAIRMAN: My bottom line on the surge is, look, the president's plan ought to be given a chance. Give it a chance because we heard all of this. The general that you confirmed 81-to-nothing day before yesterday, this is his idea. He's the supporter of it. He's now the commander on ground in Iraq. Give it a chance.

BASH: That came with a warning. A surge in U.S. troops will only work with a simultaneous push for diplomatic activity, and the administration must work harder to, quote, "put the screws" on Iraqi prime minister Nouri al Maliki.

LEE HAMILTON, IRAQ STUDY GROUP CO-CHAIRMAN: I've lost my patience with Maliki. He has known what he needs to do for a long time. If they don't perform, and if they don't perform pretty quickly, then we will lose it. I don't care how many troops you put in there.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: The chairmen of the Iraq Study Group also said that a short-term increase in troops in Iraq or any other military strategy simply will not work with another one of what they consider their key recommendations, and that is diplomatic engagement with Iran and Syria -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana, busy on the Hill as usual. Thank you.

Who should make the decisions on Iraq? Coming up, I'll speak live with the Republican who spoke out very candidly today. That would be Senator Arlen Specter.

How is the Bush administration reacting to the war powers challenge that is coming right now from Capitol Hill? Let's turn to our White House correspondent Ed Henry -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, basically, the White House seems unfazed by the latest comments from Senator Specter, other lawmakers in both parties challenging those war powers. What they're basically saying is, Look, the president reached out, in their eyes. He heard all their views. But ultimately, he made a decision to increase the number of troops in Iraq. He's sticking with that decision, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino telling CNN, quote, "Congress controls the money, the president controls military forces. The president is not only the decision maker, but he is the only commander-in-chief."

And one thing that's significant in that comment you heard at the beginning, Congress controls the money. You heard it yourself in your interview with Vice President Cheney last week, the vice president almost daring Congress to cut off some of the funding for the war in Iraq. He knows, as everyone at the White House knows, that's politically explosive, democrats afraid to do that right now, politically perilous.

But what Democrats hope is that the debate that's going on now, more and more Republicans like Specter start coming out and saying sharp things that eventually, eventually, it will open the door potentially to cutting off funding, Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry at the White House. We're going to get back to you. Thank you.

The president's pick to command U.S. forces in the Middle East told Congress today the strategy in Iraq is not working and the time is short if the United States hopes to turn around the situation there. Let's bring in our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the current commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific says he's yet to come to many conclusions about what may be his next challenge, both Iraq and Iran.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE (voice-over): Under questioning from senators, Admiral William Fallon withheld judgment on President Bush's plan to dispatch reinforcements to Iraq, or even whether he'd support sending more troops if the new commander, General David Petraeus, requested them.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: And if he said he needed more, you would support him? ADM. WILLIAM FALLON, CENTCOM NOMINEE: I don't know, sir. I haven't been there yet. I'm not in the position to make that judgment.

GRAHAM: Well, it's his judgment about 21,500. Does it make sense to you?

FALLON: I will better be able to give you an informed answer when I understand the situation better.

MCINTYRE: Fallon said one thing he did understand was that the old strategy wasn't working and that the Iraqis would have to meet what he called milestones soon.

FALLON: I believe the situation in Iraq can be turned around, but time is short.

MCINTYRE: The recent battle in Najaf, in which outnumbered and outgunned Iraqi troops were forced to quickly call in U.S. reinforcements, including massive air strikes, has raised questions about whether even the best Iraqi forces can truly stand on their own. But one U.S. commander who works side by side with the Iraqis told CNN the Iraqi police and army acquitted themselves well.

COL. MIKE GARRETT, U.S. ARMY, COMMANDER, 4TH BRIGADE COMBAT TEAM (AIRBORNE): There would have been more Iraqi casualties, but they could have done this by themselves without any assistance from us.

MCINTYRE: Colonel Garrett told CNN that the Iraqi forces suffered only eight deaths in the engagement, while hundreds of insurgent fighters were killed, although he admits many of those deaths came from 500-pound bombs dropped by U.S. warplanes. More than 400 suspected militants have been detained.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: And Wolf, on Iran, Admiral Fallon suggested that all diplomatic options need to be exhausted. But interestingly, he hinted that if Iran were to block oil traffic through the Strait of Hormuz, the U.S. could do the same thing, putting the economic screws to Teheran -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I think it's fair to say, Jamie, that the fact that he is a sailor sends a powerful message to Iran. Explain to our viewers why this is extraordinary, so far at least, that someone from the Navy will take charge of the U.S. military Central Command.

MCINTYRE: Well, you know, this came up in his hearing, and Admiral Fallon says his sense of it was that they wanted a strategic commander with experience with a regional command, and that the color of his uniform didn't make any different. But he also pointed out that they will have very competent Army commanders in charge of Iraq and Afghanistan, and that would leave him free to focus on Iran.

BLITZER: And the Iranians can't help but notice the enormous firepower of those battle groups in the Persian Gulf right now. Jamie, thanks very much for that.

Iran's support for extremists in Iraq should not go unchallenged, despite the risk. That's the warning today from the former U.S. intelligence chief, John Negroponte, who's the nominee right now to become the number two official over at the State Department, the deputy secretary of state. But even if the United States offers proof to back up its rhetoric on Iran's activities, how should it punish Iran? Let's bring back Brian Todd. He's looking at possible scenarios -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, zeroing in even more, many are asking whether a military response against Iran is a viable option for the U.S. The answer may depend on how you game it out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): The U.S. has recently deployed more firepower to the Gulf, including a second aircraft carrier, but finding the right targets in Iran where aid to Iraqi militants could be coming from might be a challenge. One alternative, according to war game expert Colonel Sam Gardiner: target Iran's nuclear facilities instead.

COL. SAM GARDINER, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET.): If the United States were to do that, that would probably be about a three-day air campaign, with aircraft like the B-2, cruise missiles fired from ships and aircraft. And we would go after the facilities we know about.

TODD: Gardiner says attacking nuclear sites would be a two-fer, punishing Iran for meddling in Iraq and setting back their nuclear program for a few years. But Gardiner and other military analysts we spoke to believe a full-scale conventional attack using U.S. ground forces is unlikely, given the U.S. commitments elsewhere.

But would Iran retaliate? The Iranians have several options.

GARDINER: They could use military force to restrict the flow of oil inside and outside the Gulf. That's big deal.

TODD: They could also step up their aid to militants attacking American forces in Iraq, or even respond militarily themselves.

GARDINER: Iran has a relatively sophisticated chemical and biological warfare program, and they really do have the missiles to deliver them. Chemical weapons could go down on American forces in Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Analysts say even if Iran just disrupted the supply of oil, they could drive up global prices to about $100 a barrel or more, a potentially devastating economic blow -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, watching these various scenarios for us. Brian, thank you very much. This just coming in to CNN. The senator and likely presidential candidate Barack Obama has just put out his own plan to stop what he calls the escalation of the war in Iraq, the Illinois Democrat introducing binding legislation to begin a phased redeployment of troops from Iraq. His goal, he says, to get all combat forces out of Iraq by the end of March 2008, a little bit more than a year from now. He says his legislation would not affect funding for troops currently in Iraq.

Let me read to you a couple quotes of what he said in his statement. "Our troops have performed brilliantly in Iraq, but no amount of American soldiers can solve the political differences at the heart of somebody else's civil war." He goes on to say, "That's why I have introduced a plan to not only stop the escalation of this war but begin a phased redeployment that can pressure the Iraqis to finally reach a political settlement and reduce the violence." And one other thing he says, "The American people have been asked to be patient too many times. Too many lives have been lost, and too many billions have been spent." He concludes by saying, "It's time for a policy that can bring a responsible end to this war and bring our troops home" -- Senator Barack Obama, member of the Foreign Relations committee, speaking out, introducing binding legislation to try to end this war.

Still ahead, Jack Cafferty with "The Cafferty File." That's coming up.

Also, a major holy day for Iraqi Shi'ites. Is it enough to stop the violence and the killing that's tearing the country apart? We'll get the latest from Baghdad.

And the government weighing a major change in the rules for airline pilots. We'll have details of what's being considered and why.

Plus, Republican senator Arlen Specter says President Bush is not the sole decider when it comes to Iraq. Senator Specter is standing by to join us live this hour. We'll talk about the growing power struggle between the White House and the Congress.

Stay with us. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Check in with Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File." Jack? Jack? Can you hear me, Jack? I think we're having some trouble with Jack. Jack, can you hear me?

JACK CAFFERTY, "THE CAFFERTY FILE": Congressman John Murtha, who's just back from a trip to Iraq, this afternoon said this about contractors who are working over there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, we're going to have extensive hearings to find out exactly what's going on with contractors. I hear estimates of a hundred thousand. But the worst thing is, we don't know. They don't a clear mission and they're falling all over each other. I saw nothing in Iraq, I heard nothing and found nothing that led me to believe that redeployment is not the right strategy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAFFERTY: He has good reason to worry. Almost four years into the war in Iraq, here's something that you probably never heard about. The Bush administration relies on thousands of private soldiers to fight the war in Iraq. It's all happening behind the backs of the American people, and with very little oversight from Congress.

An op-ed piece in "The Los Angeles Times" by Jeremy Scahill describes Blackwater USA, a secretive private military company based in North Carolina. Blackwater has close ties to the White House, the largest private military base in the world, a fleet of 20 aircraft and 20,000 soldiers. Last week, it was a Blackwater helicopter that was downed in Baghdad, killing five civilians. And remember back in 2004, when four American contractors were ambushed and later hung from that bridge in Fallujah? Those were Blackwater employees, too.

According to a military census, there are about 100,000 U.S. government contractors in Iraq. Tens of thousands of them are mercenaries. Quoting this op-ed piece in "The LA Times" -- "Bush and his political allies are using taxpayer dollars to run an outsourcing laboratory. Iraq is its Frankenstein monster."

Oh, and the guy who owns this Blackwater outfit? Fellow named Eric Prince (ph) -- secretive, mega-millionaire conservative and major bankroller of the president and his allies.

Here's the question. What does it mean that President Bush is using taxpayer money to fund a private army in Iraq without the knowledge of the American people? E-mail your thoughts to caffertyfile@CNN.com, or go to CNN.com/Caffertyfile.

BLITZER: He just came back, John Murtha, Congressman Murtha, and he's obviously very, very irate about this whole contractor issue, and he says he's going to hold investigations and hearings. So we'll presumably learn a little bit more about what's going on, Jack.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: All right. Thank you.

Experience counts, and that's one of the reasons the government says it's considering raising the mandatory retirement age for the airline pilots. CNN's Brianna Keilar is joining us now from the newsroom with the latest -- Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, right now, commercial airline pilots are forced to retire at 60. This new proposal would up that to 65, with a condition. If one pilot in a cockpit is between 60 and 65, the other must be under 60. Both sides in this debate cite safety as their main concern.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR (voice-over): To support its proposal for increasing the mandatory retirement age for pilots, the Federal Aviation Administration is pointing to foreign countries who in recent years have done the same thing without repercussions.

MARION BLAKEY, FAA ADMINISTRATOR: Moving the pilot age up to 65 is the right thing to do. Experience counts. It's an added margin of safety, and at the end of the day, that's what really counts, doesn't it.

KEILAR: But wait. In 2001, it was safety that prompted the FAA to object to the change when Congress considered it. Back then, the FAA cited a study that showed pilots aged 60 to 63 had a greater accident rate than pilots aged 55 to 59.

NICHOLAS LACEY, FORMER DIR. OF FLIGHT STANDARDS: Until we can be sure that increasing the age 60 limit will not negatively impact the level of safety, we cannot support a change through legislative action.

KEILAR: Safety isn't the only issue molding this debate. Money matters here, too. In one corner, younger and laid-off pilots who benefit as their older colleagues age out. In the other, veteran pilots, who watched their pensions evaporate as airlines declared bankruptcy in recent years. They stand to gain five more years of paychecks.

Historically, the Airline Pilots Association, the world's largest pilots union, has opposed the increase. That's still the union's official line, but its new president personally supports increasing the pilot retirement age.

JOHN PRATER, ALPA PRESIDENT: You have to understand we've just gone through an industry that has gone through bankruptcy and just decimated many of our contracts.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: Marion Blakey, head of FAA, says this rule will probably take 18 months to be adopted, and it could take more than two years. Until then, pilots who turn 60 will be out of luck if they want to keep working -- Wolf.

BLITZER: If it does change, Brianna, how is the FAA going to determine that pilots over 60, before they reach 65, are actually fit to fly?

KEILAR: Well, right now, all pilots have to go through medical exams twice a year. And there's also training requirements. The FAA says pilots 60 to 65 would be subject to those same things.

BLITZER: All right, Brianna. Thanks very much. Brianna Keilar in the newsroom.

Coming up: Iraqi Shi'ites walking the streets of Baghdad freely and in relative safely. We're going to show you what made this welcome change possible.

Plus, we'll also have some details of a major report due out this week on global warming and the warning it contains for all of us.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time.

Happening now, a just released and truly shocking Pentagon survey showing many U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan simply lacking adequate equipment. That includes armored vehicles, protective gear and communications equipment.

Also: She spent 85 days in jail for refusing to talk. Now former "New York Times" reporter Judith Miller is telling all on the stand in the trial of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, her testimony contradicting the former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney about when he learned the identity of an undercover CIA officer.

And former House Speaker Dennis Hastert recovering right now from surgery. The Illinois Republican had his gallbladder removed. In a statement, his office says the 65-year-old Hastert is expected to make a full recovery. And we certainly wish him a speedy recovery.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

At least 50 people were killed across Iraq today by bombs, mortars and some seen here, bullets. Gunmen opened fire on a minibus, killing at least seven Shi'ite pilgrims in Baghdad. Many of the attacks targeted Shi'ites, but millions still packed the streets in their holy sites, observing a ritual of mourning that goes back more than a millennium. And in many places that observance went peacefully.

CNN's Michael Holmes got a rare first-hand look in Baghdad.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we managed to do something rather unusual today, walking among those pilgrims observing Ashura in Khadamiya (ph). Now, that's something that's been quite impossible to do, really, for Westerners for literally years.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES (voice over): Up close at the religious ritual of Ashura in Baghdad's Kadhamiya district, men, young and old, beating their heads with swords and knives, sharing the pain of the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, the Imam Hussein, killed in a battle 1,4000 years go.

"For Hussein, for Hussein!" the man yells at us.

To walk these streets is to feel the fervor of Shiites at the third most important shrine in Shia Islam. This was for us both a rare opportunity and a statement on security in Baghdad. It's been a long time since we have been able to walk freely like this on a Baghdad street. Just five U.S. soldiers with us and, more importantly, a respected local sheikh.

Usually video like this is shot by Iraqis, not Westerners. But this day we walked within maybe 400 meters, less than 250 feet of the revered shrine, in an area controlled by Shiite militiamen. Children approach us, adults look on, and the observance continues.

(on camera): There were some rockets and mortars fired earlier today, none of them landing here in Kadhamiya. No injuries. And the celebrations here have been going off largely without a hitch amid very tight security.

(voice over): An hour or so later, however, a mortar did land in this area, wounding nine pilgrims. But security efforts were considered successful here.

Multiple checkpoints keeping vehicles out. Even children patted down before proceeding. There was devotion, not tension on these streets. Huge vats of rice and meat cooked and handed out to hungry pilgrims who traveled from far and wide, mushrooming the local population from 100,000 to more than a million.

U.S. troops based here say walkabouts like this are the way forward where possible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've got to engage with the people. That's the only way you can find out what their issues are.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: Well, Kadhamiya is often the scene of sectarian strife, bodies dumped in the streets, mortar strikes, and the like. And as I pointed out in that report, there was a mortar that landed and injured people within an hour of us leaving. But probably largely because of the presence of that sheikh and also U.S. troops who insist on patrolling parts of Kadhamiya on foot, we were able to briefly experience what life once was in that area and what many people hope it will be again -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Michael Holmes reporting for us.

Michael, thanks.

She went to Iraq in the weeks immediately after the U.S. invasion, wound up spending months, 22 months there, over the course of the past three and a half years. Sabrina Tavernise of "The New York Times" wrote a gripping personal account Sunday of how Iraq has simply unraveled, in large part because of the ruthless and relentless violence we see on a daily, daily basis.

Sabrina's joining us now from New York.

What an article you wrote Sunday in "The Times," Sabrina. Thanks very much, first of all, for writing it. But give our viewers a sense of how you began to realize that the hope is gone and despair has come about.

SABRINA TAVERNISE, "NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I guess it was -- kind of goes back to spring of last year, when a lot of the families I used to go visit and just spend time with and have lunch with in the afternoons started to ask me not to come and started to make plans to leave. And I think that, you know, as the months went by and the violence became worse and the death counts became worse, people just saw fewer chances for their children, they saw fewer chances for their lives and their futures, and middle class people, like teachers and doctors, people who would be building the democracy that we want, we wanted to have happen in Iraq, basically just chose -- chose to leave.

They didn't really see that they had very many options for their futures.

BLITZER: Because that's what -- you know, I keep hearing from so many reporters and others who spent quite a bit of time in Iraq that immediately after Saddam was overthrown, so many idealistic, well- intentioned Iraqis started coming back -- scientists from academia. They really had such high hopes, and so many of them now are either dead or they have become refugees. They're living in Syria or Jordan or elsewhere.

TAVERNISE: Yes, so many people had returned. And, in fact, you know, aid agencies prepared for a huge mass exodus. But, in fact, it was the opposite, a lot of people were coming back.

And, you know, I had -- one of the elements of my piece was my own cell phone, which has been the same for the most of the time I've been there. And I had so many families, so many middle class people, so many people I would go and talk to and understand what was happening in the country. And at a certain point some time last year, I realized so many of them were gone.

They were either dead, they were missing, or they had left because they couldn't -- they couldn't -- they just didn't see a future for themselves in the country anymore.

BLITZER: This is such a heartbreaking story for so many Iraqis, especially the Iraqi Sunnis, because so many of them think they have no future in Iraq.

TAVERNISE: Yes, it's hard -- I mean, it's for the middle class across the sects, definitely. But the Sunnis who even are lower or poorer classes really are -- they're obviously the minority, and the neighborhoods are slowly being squeezed and pushed by the Shiite militias. And the Shiites are obviously the ones in power, the ones in the government, the ones that ultimately will probably be really kind of running things in the city.

The neighborhoods have very few services. Sunnis can't go to the hospital. If your kid gets sick, you can't bring your kid to get his broken leg fixed in the hospital in the middle of the night. The ambulance won't come to your neighborhood to pick your kid up.

You know, you can't get the police to come to bring the bodies away that are dumped in your backyard. So it's a very different feeling for Sunnis families than it is for families in Shiite areas which have larger numbers of services, which have more community organizations. They have connections with the police, they have connections with tribes, they have connections with the government.

BLITZER: They have their militias as well.

So, what's the bottom line? You spent a long time in Iraq. You risked your life. You did some amazing reporting.

What's your opinion? Is there any hope right now, or is it looking almost like doom and gloom?

TAVERNISE: It's rally hard to tell. I mean, I've talked a lot in the past couple of months with some very smart young military officers who have some pretty innovative ideas for how they want the security plan to go. We hope that it will have some effect, they will be able to bring back some type of security in the neighborhoods.

But the problem is that people don't really trust each other anymore. And in a lot of cases -- or in some cases, I should say -- people do want to kill each other.

So, it will depend on, you know, how quickly they can get security and how much patience the American public has to allow them to do that.

BLITZER: Sabrina Tavernise, of "The New York Times."

Excellent work. Thanks very much for coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM.

TAVERNISE: Thanks.

BLITZER: And still ahead, global warming. Some scientists now say it's happening even faster than anyone thought. We're going to have details of a major report about to be released.

Plus, my interview with Republican senator Arlen Specter. He now says President Bush is not the sole decider when it comes to Iraq. Senator Specter standing by to join us live.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There's a developing story happening out in Washington State. Let's go back to Carol for details -- Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: That's right, Wolf. A federal jury has found the city of Seattle guilty of violating the constitutional rights of 200 protesters back in 1999. You'll remember these pictures. It's protesting against the WTO, the World Trade Organization.

A lot of property was damaged. Literally, there were thousands of protesters here. But this federal jury found that the city of Seattle violated the Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.

Seattle already paid out $800,000 in settlements to protesters during this protest in 1999. And the city of Seattle is expected to appeal this latest ruling.

Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Carol. Thanks for that

Meanwhile, a warning about global warming. It's expected this week as scientists from around the world release a new report based on the latest climate change research.

CNN's Mary Snow is in New York. She has some details -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, 2,500-plus scientists worked on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, touted as the most comprehensive report on global warming. And some who previewed it paint a sobering picture.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice over): The signs are there, but climate changes like melting ice sheets may be happening faster than expected. That is according to leading scientists from around the world who are about to detail the effects of global warming in a major report later this week.

KENNETH DENMAN, AUTHOR, IIPCC REPORT: We're hoping that it will convince people that it's -- you know, that climate change is real and that we have a responsibility for much of it

SNOW: The report is expected to conclude that scientists are more convinced than ever humans are causing the increase in global temperatures. And they're worried.

CHRISTOPHER FIELD, CARNEGIE INSTITUTE: It's as if we're standing in swimming pool with the water up to our chest. When the temperature rises, now the water is up to our chin or our nose, and every little wave is going to mean that it's over our head.

SNOW: What will climate changes mean? Some scientists predict, for example, that sugar maple trees could vanish from New England by the year 2100 and coastal communities will feel the effects when melting ice leads to rising sea levels.

GAVIN SCHMIDT, NASA GODDARD INST.: If those sea levels are rising faster than we anticipate, then people who are living near the coast or you who have low-lying land properties, they'll see -- they'll start to see things like increased storm surge damage and increased erosion.

SNOW: Climatologist Gavin Schmidt reviewed the U.N.-backed report and says it's not time to panic, but people need to rethink things like the cars they drive.

SCHMIDT: The planet is going to warm, it's going to continue to warm. And there will be potentially very serious consequences should that be allowed to get out of control.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Now, not all scientists remain convinced that global warming is being caused by humans. Some, although they are in the minority, claim global warming is part of a climate cycle -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll stay on top of this story and get all the other details coming out this week, Mary. Thank you.

Lou Dobbs getting ready for his program that begins right at top of the hour. Lou standing by with a little preview -- Lou.

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": A little preview we have.

Coming up at 6:00 p.m., we'll be reporting on the tens of billions of dollars that illegal aliens are sending out of this country each and every year. Border state lawmakers say some of that money should be used for border security, and they have a plan to do just that.

We'll have the story.

And a new front in the fight to raise the wages of working men and women in this country. Senator Jeff Sessions is demanding much more bigger fines on companies that hire illegal aliens and lower American wages. Senator Sessions among our guests here tonight.

The United States struggling to come up with an effective policy to stop Iran's rising threat to this country and its interests, particularly in Iraq. What in the world is the Bush White House doing?

We'll have that report.

And three of the countries leading talk show hosts on radio join us.

Please be with us at the top of the hour right here on CNN.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: We'll see you in 15 minutes or so.

Thanks very much, Lou, for that. Up ahead, the power struggle between Congress and President Bush over Iraq is heating up. I'll talk about it with Republican senator Arlen specter. He says the president is not -- not the sole decider.

And coming up in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour, Fidel Castro out of the public eye now for months. Is it changing anything, though, on the streets of Havana?

We're going to take you there. That's coming up at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get back to our top story now, the battle over the war powers and who should weigh in when it comes to committing troops abroad.

Republican senator Arlen Specter says President Bush is "not the sole decider," arguing that Congress shares much of the responsibility.

Senator Specter is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Thanks for coming in.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Nice to be with you, Wolf. Thanks for the invitation.

BLITZER: I'm going the play a clip from what the president said and what you said today.

Let's listen.

SPECTER: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In that I'm the decision maker, I had to come up with a way forward that precluded disaster. In other words, I had to think about what's likely to work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPECTER: I would suggest -- suggest respectfully to the president that he is not the sole decider.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. You did it respectfully, but you gave him a little slap, the president of the United States.

What made you decide that this was the time to speak up on this sensitive issue, the war powers between the legislative and the executive branch.

SPECTER: Well, I didn't give him a slap. What I did was articulate the principle of the Constitution, very basic, and that is separation of power and checks and balances, and the way the Constitution is written, the president is not the sole decider. The Congress has a very loud voice. And I made the statements today in a Judiciary Committee hearing where we're examining the constitutional issues.

Look here, Wolf, I want the president and the Congress to come together. I think there can be an accommodation. There are other plans which are possible to have a much better chance of victory.

BLITZER: But you know the administration top officials are saying it doesn't make any difference what you guys in Congress do. They're moving forward with their strategy, they're moving forward with their plan.

SPECTER: Well, Wolf, the president has yielded. A few months ago, he said he wanted no additional troops. Now he's changed his mind.

He said he was opposed to a commission for 9/11. Changed his mind.

Didn't want a commission for weapons of mass destruction. Came around.

Wasn't going to put the terrorist surveillance program under the FISA accord. He came around.

The president called a group -- bipartisan group in. I met with him, met with a group of Republicans, with National Security Council, Hadley. The president's calling all of the Republicans in to have a meeting on Friday.

BLITZER: So what do you see him doing? Where is he changing his mind as far as this troop increase in Iraq is concerned?

SPECTER: Well, I think the president reads the election returns. I think the president sees the feeling of so many members of Congress.

And listen, these are friendly voices. I think the Democrats are friends, too. But there is an element of partisanship. But when Republicans speak out -- and I'm a -- I'm a friendly voice. I want to -- I want to work it out with the president.

There's a plan which is circulating, Wolf.

BLITZER: Which plan is that?

SPECTER: Well, it is a plan which requires the two conditions the president set down in the State of the Union speech. First, that Iraqis had to be responsible to end the sectarian violence. And secondly, they had a secure Baghdad. I think -- and there are a lot of military people who feel this way -- that we ought to give the Iraqis notice. I don't know what the exact date should be. The military people ought to decide that.

BLITZER: A deadline.

SPECTER: As long as we are there, they're going to leave it up to us.

BLITZER: Because you have been on record now for months saying this is a civil war. And a lot of people are suggesting already, you know what? The American public didn't buy into sending U.S. troops to get involved in a civil war.

SPECTER: Well, I think it is a civil war. And our troops are at risk there.

They're between the Shiites and the Sunnis. And I would say let's leave them here and let's have them on the perimeter of Baghdad. Let's have them guard the infrastructure and the oil wells. Let's give them -- give them training. But let's make a modification here.

Listen, on this date of the record, it does not seem to be that 21,500 additional troops will make a difference. I agree with the president, we're looking for victory. And I also agree that the consequences of defeat are very, very, very serious.

BLITZER: So are you closer to Chuck Hagel right now or to John Warner, shall we say?

SPECTER: I'm closer to neither. I'm closer to Arlen Specter.

The Senate is the world's greatest deliberative body by reputation, and we ought to deliberate on this. And I intend to be on the floor during the debate, and I intend to speak out, and I have some questions. And I'm going to keep my powder dry until I see exactly how it all plays through.

BLITZER: So you're still open-minded in terms of a resolution, you're going to vote for or against it.

SPECTER: I'm open-minded, and my hope is yet that we can come to terms with the president and we can work out an accommodation and an agreement to avoid this confrontation.

Listen, we had a meeting today, a closed-door meeting of Republican senators, and I have never seen such -- such emotion and such concern. It's a life-and-death situation. And people were talking an all sides of the issue.

And I have been in the Senate a while now. And I haven't seen any issue that's gripped the Senate like this one has.

BLITZER: Are they concerned that they're losing confidence in this strategy, this administration's strategy?

SPECTER: Well, some are and some aren't. Most candidly aren't. But some are.

And we had a very respectful discussion. When people say that we ought not to debate this issue, and that it hurts the morale of the troops, I think the troops are concerned and the public -- the polls there at the military newspaper showed that most of the troops didn't like the way things were going. But listen, our pay grade is to decide it. And the cost of democracy is to have a debate.

BLITZER: So you don't have a problem with Democrats and some Republicans questioning the president's strategy right now? Because the argument the White House is saying, this aids and comforts the enemy.

SPECTER: Not only don't I have a problem with it, I think it is healthy. That's the price of a democracy, and that's a small price to pay.

But the president, in his State of the Union speech, said that on great constitutional issues there ought to be debate. And on this date of the record, it's hard to see how 21,500 will be significant.

But I want to consider it carefully. I'm still consulting with my constituents, taking the pulse of 12 million Pennsylvanians, talking to my colleagues and thinking about it very hard.

BLITZER: Senator Specter, thanks for coming in.

SPECTER: Always great to be here, Wolf. Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

And up next, Jack Cafferty says the president is using taxpayer money to fund a private army in Iraq without the knowledge of the American people. He's wondering what you think of that.

Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack Cafferty -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour is: What does it mean that President Bush is using taxpayer money to fund a private army in Iraq without the knowledge of the American people? This outfit is called Blackwater, and there are reportedly thousands of them on the government payroll and doing duty in Iraq.

Ike writes, "Months ago, stories began appearing on the news about security guards for private American companies in Iraq actually engaging the enemy and being killed. I wondered at that time why no one said the word 'mercenaries'. How sad."

Eileen in Alexandria, Virginia, "No surprise there, Jack. The most secretive administration ever would tell us nothing if it weren't for a legislative branch and a free press. Unfortunately, not much investigation has occurred since before the war began. When we weren't told the truth we weren't told anything."

Ivory in Houston writes, "It means we're playing through the nose for Blackwater and other friends of the administration. Bush is always going on about supporting the troops. He should pay the troops what he's paying his private army buddies. Even half would still be an enormous amount."

"Americans are saps. We don't even know what's being done and by whom in our name."

Kay in Naples, Florida, writes, "We're not too smart. We ought to demand that Congress take control of this mess, censure the president and vice president, impeach them both, and let us get on with our lives."

And Greg in Grand Rapids, Michigan, "Private armies? Isn't that what got the Romans in trouble? I'd like some congressional oversight on this war to begin today and the constitutionality of hiring private mercenaries should be first on the list. I wasn't in favor of any of the talk about impeachment proceedings until I learned about this Blackwater scandal last week. Get this guy out of our government" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, you just heard Senator Specter say the president is not the sole decider, the only one who makes these decisions. It looks like the president is getting increasingly uncomfortable with some Republicans, not only Democrats.

CAFFERTY: Well, Senator Specter was in a position when he chaired the Judiciary Committee to hold formal hearings where the witnesses were placed under subpoena and forced to testify under oath about all kinds of questionable behaviors by the Bush administration and he didn't do it.

BLITZER: All right. Jack, we'll see you back here in an hour.

We'll be back in one hour, 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

Let's go to Lou in New York.

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