Skip to main content
Search
Services


 

Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Nuclear Standoff: Iran Moving Forward; TB Border Security; Chopper Down in Afghanistan

Aired May 30, 2007 - 17:00   ET

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


CAFFERTY: He maybe shot himself in the foot. I don't know if there's a Republican that's going to make a real run at the White House anyway. I'm not sure there's anybody with the Republican moniker that can win in 2008.
But I suppose Thompson is as good a choice as any of the others who are in the race. And as one of the guests earlier suggested, Romney is not exactly catching fire. McCain has maybe shot himself in the foot, to the point where he won't be able to walk right again. And Giuliani, some real question marks about some of the social issues and some of the fear mongering, quite frankly, that he's done concerning 9/11.

So Thompson might sense that there's, you know, a little blood in the water, it's time to make a move.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's a big story.

We'll see what happens, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Oh, yes, huge.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, the White House raising the possibility of a long- term -- shall we say very long-term -- military commitment in Iraq -- U.S. Troops maintaining a presence there for decades.

Can the so-called Korean model work in the heart of the Arab world?

Also, he sparked an international health scare. Now the tuberculosis patient who flew to Europe and back is speaking out from a hospital isolation ward.

And the Cuban president, Fidel Castro, he's speaking out, as well. He's making a bold accusation. He says President Bush ordered his assassination.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in the in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Thousands of U.S. Troops in Iraq for decades to come -- it's an idea the White House is now floating, even amid growing calls to bring U.S. Forces home right now.

The White House press secretary, Tony Snow, citing another brutal war where American troops phased out of combat now provide support and security.

Let's go straight to our White House correspondent Ed Henry -- tell our viewers, Ed, the example the White House is now putting on the table.

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, critics like to compare Iraq to Vietnam. The White House would prefer to compare it to South Korea. But even that analogy may be tough to sell to the American people, especially with about 28,000 U.S. Troops still there, decades after the Korean War ended.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While he has less than two years in office, the president is thinking about the U.S. Staying in Iraq for a long time -- modeled after America's troop presence in South Korea for the last 50 years.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You have the United States there in what has been described as an over the horizon support role, so that if you need the ability to react quickly to major challenges or crises, you can be there.

But -- but the Iraqis are conducting their -- the lion's share of the business.

As we have in South Korea, where for many years, there have been American forces stationed there as a way of maintaining stability.

HENRY: The point is, the White House believes it may be easier to sell the American people on the idea that with continued help, Iraq could become a stable democracy like South Korea, instead of the next Vietnam.

But with a majority of the public already sour on the mission in Iraq, Snow backpedaled when pressed on whether he was suggesting that U.S. Troops will be in Iraq for decades.

SNOW: No, I don't know. I just -- I don't know.

(CROSSTALK)

SNOW: It is an unanswerable question. I am -- but I'm not making that suggestion.

(CROSSTALK)

SNOW: No. What I'm saying is you get to a -- a point in the future, where you -- you want it to be a purely support role.

HENRY: But given the fragility of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al- Maliki's government, the president has no idea when that will happen. SNOW: You don't have a crystal ball. What you do hope is that you get to that point where the United States moves away from primary combat roles as swiftly as possible.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

HENRY: Now, the president's problems in Iraq have put him on the defensive in advance of next week's G-8 summit in Germany. So this week has been all about the White House trying to show America in a positive light.

On Tuesday, the president, of course, announced tough sanctions against Sudan. Today, the president was talking today about doubling the U.S. Commitment to fighting global HIV/AIDS.

But despite all of that, it's still going to be difficult for the president to turn around all of that anti-American sentiment that's built up -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry reporting for us from the White House.

The United States, by the way, currently has about 28,000 troops left in South Korea. There are about 50,000 American forces deployed in Japan and about 66,000 U.S. Troops still, 60 years later, after the war, still in Germany.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Let's go right to our Barbara Starr.

She's watching a very serious story that's unfolding right now -- Barbara, tell our viewers what's going on in Afghanistan.

BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, very difficult news to report. But military officials, both from the United States and NATO, are now confirming a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter went down in southern Afghanistan a few hours ago.

It is not clear how many people were on board. We are told it was something less than 10. There are casualties, according to our sources. More information is expected.

This helicopter was apparently traveling in the very rough terrain of southern Afghanistan. At least two sources are telling CNN that all the indications are the way the helicopter went down -- that's how it's being described, that the helicopter, according to first reports, was brought down by some sort of enemy fire.

There are news reports at this hour that a purported Taliban spokesman made a phone call to one of the wire services claiming responsibility. None of that, of course, has been verified.

But military officials saying this is a U.S. Army helicopter that has gone down in southern Afghanistan.

At this point, of course, they are very concerned about trying to notify the families first of any details about the unit that was involved or the specifics of the people that were on board that helicopter.

More information is expected over the next several hours -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And I want to caution our viewers, initial reports very often prove to be not complete, sometimes inaccurate. The Associated Press reporting -- quoting a U.S. Military official as saying five American soldiers when that Chinook helicopter, in the words of A.P. The Associated Press, was apparently -- apparently shot down in southern Afghanistan.

You spent a lot of time in recent months -- recent years, I should say, Barbara, taking a look at how the enemy in this particular case, whether Taliban or Al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan or the insurgents in Iraq, the techniques they have in shooting down sophisticated U.S. Helicopters.

Correct me if I'm wrong, they seem to be getting better at it.

STARR: Well, there certainly, tactically, has been any number of instances, just over the last several months, especially in Iraq now. Of course, just yesterday in Iraq, we saw a U.S. Army two man helicopter, a Kiowa, brought down, according to first reports, as you say, by enemy fire.

Make no mistake, Wolf, helicopters carry a lot of defensive electronics, a lot of measures to try and avoid enemy fire, especially in Afghanistan, shoulder fired missiles or any type of machine gun fire from the ground.

But helicopters are vulnerable, especially in Afghanistan. We all know from our travels over there, it is very rough terrain. Those helicopters fly through those mountain passes and they clearly are very vulnerable to gunmen on the ground -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And we certainly remember in the '80s, the Taliban at that point used those shoulder-fired missiles to do devastating damage to the Soviet helicopters that were flying over Afghanistan.

Barbara, we'll stay on top of this story with you.

Thank you.

Other important news we're following here in THE SITUATION ROOM, right now we're learning new details about the man from Georgia with a severe drug resistant form of tuberculosis who flew to Europe and back, possibly infecting fellow passengers.

In a very rare move, he's being held in isolation in Atlanta under federal law and he's now speaking out publicly with his side of the story.

CNN's Mary Snow is joining us from New York with new details on the patient, his condition -- Mary, what's the latest, first of all, we're hearing from federal health officials? MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we just heard a briefing a short time ago and health officials at this point do not believe that he is highly infectious, but they say they have to be cautious. The patient, however, is explaining why he boarded commercial jets knowing he had tuberculosis, a diagnosis, he says, he got in January.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): He is not identifying himself, but a tuberculosis patient from Atlanta is questioning why federal health authorities waited until he was in Rome to issue a federal isolation order. That's what he told "Atlanta Journal-Constitution" reporter Allison Young in a phone interview.

ALISON YOUNG, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: He says that they had told him prior to the call in Atlanta, no one had told him to take precautions or to isolate himself.

SNOW: The Centers for Disease Control dispute that, and so does the medical director of the Fulton County Health Department, who told CNN that...

DR. ERIC BENNING, FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA HEALTH DEPARTMENT: We did tell him in no uncertain terms that he should not travel and we told him the reasons why. And we concurred in that with -- with his personal physician.

SNOW: But the medical director suggested that the man wear a mask while flying to prevent possible infection of others. It's not clear if he did.

The infected man flew through Paris to Greece to get married, then went on to honeymoon in Rome. It was there, he said, that the CDC told him to turn himself over to Italian health authorities.

YOUNG: He was very concerned that this would make it impossible for him to have some cutting edge treatment in Denver that was planned. And -- and he said he feared for his life and so he ran.

SNOW: According to the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution," he had been told he was placed on a no fly list, his passport was flagged and there wasn't enough funding for the CDC to send a plane. The CDC says talks were underway, but...

DR. MARTIN CETRON, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL: That would require some time. We indicated a couple of places where he could reach out and get some assistance, including the American embassy.

SNOW: But the man left for Prague, then got on a flight to Montreal, Canada, drove into the United States, and went to Bellevue Hospital in New York City, before been transported to Atlanta.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

SNOW: And asked about why he got on those commercial jets, the patient is quoted by the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution" as saying that he did not think that he was putting anybody at risk -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, a very worrisome story, indeed.

We're going to stay on top of this, Mary, together with you, as well.

The case raising serious concerns about border security.

How did the patient elude authorities and get back into the United States undetected?

Our homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve is working on that part of the story. Her report will be coming up.

Let's go back to Jack Cafferty in New York for The Cafferty File -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's a little confusing, Wolf. This guy suddenly is under armed guard. He's quarantined. It's like, you know, he's got some kind of super heebie jeebie case of T.B. And, yet, according to the guy at the -- the health department guy, he was told it was OK for him to fly.

He was diagnosed back in January, he said. He apparently was taking some kind of medicine, was on his honeymoon in Italy when he found out that the authorities were looking for him. His -- his bride was not infected.

But why was it OK for him to fly earlier and they said wear a mask, but go ahead and fly and then all of a sudden now it wasn't OK?

I don't follow that part.

BLITZER: There's still a lot of unanswered questions. And his side of the story doesn't match up to what we're hearing from the CDC.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

All right, more to come, I guess.

Vice President Dick Cheney -- onto another subject here -- doesn't want anybody to know who visits his house. And he feels so strongly about it that he had his lawyer instruct the Secret Service to destroy the records of the people who came to see him.

Cheney claims he can do this under the Presidential Records Act of 1978, which says the president and vice president can withhold certain information from the public.

The letter from Cheney's lawyer to the Secret Service was filed in court this past Friday. It's connected to a lawsuit that's been brought by the Citizens For Responsibility and Ethics In Washington.

Now there's a group with its work cut out for it.

They want to know which conservative religious leaders have visited the vice president's house. It's been standard practice for the Secret Service to destroy printed daily access lists of visitors to Vice President Cheney's residence. But because of this and other pending lawsuits now, the Secret Service says it's keeping copies of visitors' logs to Cheney's residence. Cheney insists, though, it's still up to him to decide who's allowed to see these lists.

So here's the question -- why doesn't Vice President Cheney want Americans to know who visits him at home?

E-mail caffertyfile@cnn.com or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That's a lovely home, too.

I don't know if you've been...

CAFFERTY: Have you been there, Wolf?

BLITZER: I've been to the...

CAFFERTY: Are you on those lists?

BLITZER: I've been to the vice -- I was there when Walter Mondale was vice president. I remember going there the first time. I assume my name is on the list for several vice presidents over the years.

CAFFERTY: Have you visited when -- since Dick Cheney has been vice president?

BLITZER: Yes, I have.

CAFFERTY: Oh, you have?

BLITZER: I have.

CAFFERTY: Do you want to tell us about that?

BLITZER: Some other time.

CAFFERTY: (LAUGHTER).

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.

CAFFERTY: OK.

BLITZER: Up ahead, Iran accused of helping insurgents in Iraq.

Is it now doing the same thing in Afghanistan?

We'll have details of disturbing reports that Iran is teaming up with an old enemy to harm the United States.

Also, the growing chill between Washington and Moscow.

Can it be felt as the major powers meet in Berlin? We'll ask the secretary of state in an exclusive interview. She's in Berlin with our Zain Verjee.

Also, find out why Fidel Castro says President Bush wants him dead.

And we're also staying on top of the breaking news, a U.S. Army Chinook helicopter down in Afghanistan. Five soldiers apparently feared dead.

We're watching that story, as well.

The breaking news here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We'll be right back.

COMMERCIAL

BLITZER: We're continuing to follow the breaking news out of Afghanistan. Two sources now telling CNN an American Chinook helicopter has been shot down by enemy fire. The A.P. Reporting five U.S. Soldiers killed and a claim of responsibility by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

CNN has not independently confirmed those reports.

We're watching this story very closely.

Ominous developments for the U.S. Military in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, there are new concerns unfolding right now that two long-time enemies are actually teaming up in Afghanistan, united by their hatred for the United States. And that would be Iran and the Taliban.

Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd.

He's looking into this story with really ominous implications, as well. Iran and the Taliban, teaming up, given their history, they've been pretty bitter enemies over the years -- Brian.

TODD: Absolutely, Wolf.

We're now told that Iran, despite that long time hatred of the Taliban, is now willing to arm that group in an effort to strike a blow against the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

TODD (voice-over): A U.S. Official tells CNN Iran is now providing limited support, including weapons, to its long-time foe, the Taliban -- the hard line Islamic militia that is battling U.S. And NATO-led forces in Afghanistan. Contacted by CNN about reports that British troops have intercepted sophisticated Iranian weapons headed for the Taliban, the British Defense Ministry said: "We know about illegal movements of munitions across the border from Iran to Afghanistan, destined for the Taliban. We are concerned that some of these munitions are of Iranian origin."

A former U.S. Intelligence official calls this a very disturbing development.

BRUCE RIEDEL, FORMER NSC OFFICIAL: That suggests that the Iranians are now going to start turning up the pressure on the NATO forces in Afghanistan. Since Iran has one of the most extensive intelligence networks in the entire country, they would have enormous capability to cause mischief.

TODD: An Iranian official at the United Nations denies his country is giving the Taliban weapons, points out the Iranian government has long supported Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, and has always seen the Taliban as an enemy.

U.S. Officials and outside analysts say Iran simply wants to make the U.S. Bleed in Afghanistan; does not want the Taliban to gain too much strength there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Iran and the Taliban nearly went to war in 1998 over the killing of 11 Iranian diplomats in Afghanistan. And the Taliban are also virulently anti-Shiite. So if these allegations are true, Iran is playing a very dangerous and delicate game.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

TODD: A game of what one analyst calls managed chaos -- just enough to bloody America's nose in Afghanistan. Now, some analysts believe this may not be coming from the top -- possibly from rogue elements within the Iranian regime. But a U.S. Official believes Iran's supreme leaders certainly have knowledge about these operations and would stop them if they wanted to -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What specific weapons, Brian, are U.S. Officials most concerned about, weapons that Iranians might be providing the Taliban?

TODD: Well, a Naval official told me today they found one so- called EFP, an expensively-formed penetrators bomb that can pierce American armor. This is similar to the weaponry that Iran has provided militants in Iraq. But this official says right now they cannot trace it directly to the Iranian regime.

BLITZER: All right, Brian, thanks very much.

And we're staying on top of the breaking news, as well, in Afghanistan. A U.S. Army helicopter -- a Chinook helicopter -- goes down. The Associated Press reporting five American soldiers killed in that operation in southern Afghanistan.

We're watching that very closely.

We're watching other news, as well, including the once warm relationship between the U.S. And Russia. Clearly, cooling considerably right now.

At issue -- missiles and missile defense. Sound familiar?

The secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice is in Germany for talks with the G-8 partners.

Our State Department correspondent, Zain Verjee, sat down with her for an exclusive interview -- Zain?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the United States says this is not the cold war, but it's getting very chilly between the U.S. And Russia.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

VERJEE (voice-over): Russia flexes its muscle, firing a rocket loaded with test warheads that it says it can destroy missile defense systems, like the one the U.S. Wants to build in Eastern Europe.

Russia doesn't want it in their backyard.

In an exclusive interview with CNN in Potsdam, Germany, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says it's not a threat to Russia.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: This is against smaller, but nonetheless potentially very deadly threats, of places like Iran.

VERJEE: She calls Russia's fears ludicrous.

But Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, hits back with a warning, saying there's nothing ludicrous about it -- the arms race is starting again.

(on camera): Are you being perhaps a little bit dismissive of the Russians' fears?

Perhaps there is an action that you could take that would allay their fears and make them a little more comfortable?

RICE: Well, you can't have it both ways. You can't on the one hand say it's a threat to Russia and on the other hand say that you can overwhelm it. Of course they can overwhelm it. That's the point we've been making.

VERJEE (voice-over): Lavrov's come back?

I hope no one has to prove Condi right.

Russia and the U.S. Are locking horns over Kosovo and a plan to make it an independent country. The U.S. Backs it. Russia doesn't.

Secretary Rice says President Bush will host Russian President Vladimir Putin in July in Kennebunkport, Maine, a more relaxed atmosphere where the recent barbs are less likely to fly.

(END VIDEO TAPE) VERJEE: At another press conference, sitting side by side, the arguments continued, this time over Lebanon. Lavrov warned that U.S. Weapons shipments to Lebanon were destabilizing. Rice responded, saying the U.S. Was helping Lebanon defend its sovereignty -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain Verjee on the scene for us in Germany, where the secretary of state is meeting with G-8 partners there.

We'll stay on top of this story.

Coming up, the case of a missing girl drawing new international attention. We're going to have details of her parents' emotional meeting with the pope.

Plus, a Republican actor taking a crucial step toward a White House run.

Is he the candidate conservatives have been hoping for?

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

COMMERCIAL

BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, the Justice Department investigation into the firing of those eight U.S. Attorneys is now expanding. The Department's watchdog arm says it will examine whether officials improperly politicized the hiring of Justice Department employees.

The decision follows official Monica Goodling's testimony that she considered job applicants' political backgrounds. And that's at least inappropriate, if not illegal.

And Robert Zoellick is President Bush's formal nominee now to head the World Bank. Zoellick is currently the vice chairman of Goldman Sachs in New York. He would replace Paul Wolfowitz, who was forced to resign.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in the in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A United Nations vote certain to anger Syria. The U.N. Security Council has just approved an international tribunal to probe and prosecute suspects in the 2005 assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri, a murder many believe was orchestrated by Syria.

Joining us now to talk about that and more, the new U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad.

As many of our viewers remember, he was most recently the U.S. Ambassador in Baghdad; before then, in Afghanistan. Mr. Ambassador, first of all, congratulations on the new assignment.

Thanks very much for coming in.

ZALMAY KHALILZAD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Well, it's great to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Tell us why this is so important, this U.N. Security Council approved tribunal to find out who killed Rafik Hariri.

KHALILZAD: Well, you know, Wolf, political assassination is a significant threat to the stability not only of Lebanon, but of the entire region. So making sure that there's no impunity for those who commit political assassination, this tribunal had to be established. And some people in Lebanon were standing in the way of the parliament's ratification of the agreement to establish a tribunal.

Today, the Security Council helped the Lebanese, in response to the request of the prime minister.

So the tribunal will be established as of the 10th of June next month.

BLITZER: Now, as you know, the Syrians -- the government in Damascus -- they hate this idea. There's widespread suspicion that they were responsible, at least indirectly, if not directly, for the killing of Rafik Hariri.

What does the U.S. Government believe?

KHALILZAD: Well, it's surprising before there has been any evidence presented to the court asking for conviction -- the tribunal -- the Syrians are saying they will not cooperate, according to reports, with the tribunal.

It is very important that the tribunal is established. The establishment of the tribunal will help with the investigation, with the collection of evidence, because now there is real prospect for being -- bringing people to trial. And I would expect that it would -- that the Syrians would have to cooperate with it but they're...

BLITZER: Well, what happens if they don't?

Well, we will have to see. I think at this point, that we are in the phase of collecting evidence. The U.N. Has appointed someone, as you know, who is doing his job, in terms of collection of evidence. And he believes the establishment of the tribunal will help.

BLITZER: Let's move on and talk about Iran right now. That's within your portfolio up at the U.N.

Here's what President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the other day. He said: "With god's help, the path to completely enjoying all nuclear capacity is near its end and we are close to the peak. The Iranian nation today has industrial nuclear technology and it will never retreat even one step from this path."

Tell us what you want right now, not necessarily you personally, the U.S. Government, in terms of tightening the sanctions on Iran.

What specifically do you want that's really going to squeeze them and make a difference?

KHALILZAD: Well, as you know, what we have done so far has not produced the kind of results that we want -- Iranian cooperation with the international community to suspend its enrichment and also the building of a heavy water reactor.

BLITZER: So what do you want?

KHALILZAD: We would have to tighten the sanctions, increase them, expand them to increase incentive.

BLITZER: Well, give me an example or two of what will really squeeze and have an impact on the government in Tehran.

KHALILZAD: Well, of course, we will discuss specifics with the other Council members. It would have to expand into the possible areas of military supplies to Iran, for example, would be one area; expanding the economic, financial parts, in terms of travel issues.

So there is a range of things that we could choose from.

BLITZER: But you know, Mr. Ambassador, you've got a huge problem. The economic relationship between China and Iran is enormous. A lot of Iranian oil exported to China. The Chinese sell weapons to Iran.

And Russia, another permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, they have a significant relationship. They are the ones who, in fact, have been providing the nuclear reactor equipment, the technology to build those facilities. Any indication you're going to get any -- any cooperation on substantive -- on substance and getting them to sever their relationships with Iran?

KHALILZAD: I don't believe that it serves anyone's interest, Wolf, for this regime in particular in Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. This is a regime that has a record of supporting terror, extremism. For such a regime to have nuclear weapons would be a danger to the entire world. So this is a defining issue.

BLITZER: But the Chinese and the Russians don't seem to buy it yet.

KHALILZAD: Well, I believe they do buy this. They don't want Iran to have nuclear weapons. But the question is, how much of a price they are willing to pay to increase the pressure, and that will be subject of our discussions in the coming weeks with them.

BLITZER: When you speak about travel restrictions to be imposed against Iranian officials, are you saying that the president, Ahmadinejad, should not be allowed to leave Iran?

KHALILZAD: Well, I'm not going to talk now with you on the specifics of individuals. But I think we need to look at the whole range of sanctions that need to be applied to increase incentive of the regime to cooperate on this issue. Because, as I said before, Iranian -- this regime's acquisition of nuclear weapons is a huge problem for the entire world.

BLITZER: We'll leave it on that note.

Mr. Ambassador, as usual, thanks very much for coming in, and good luck over there at the U.N.

KHALILZAD: Thank you very much, Wolf.

BLITZER: Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Coming up, federal officials desperately searching for a man with a rare and possibly deadly strain of tuberculosis. How did he slip into the country undetected?

Plus, he's old and ailing, but Cuba's Fidel Castro still has the strength to point fingers at President Bush. We're going to have details of his new, stunning allegation.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Our Carol Costello is monitoring stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get some more now on that Georgia man infected with a potentially deadly drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis. He managed to slip back into the United States despite federal efforts to track him down.

Our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, is joining us now with more.

Jeanne, what does this say about the situation along America's borders?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Customs and Border Protection knew authorities were on the lookout for the man infected with tuberculosis, but he reentered the U.S. undetected, raising questions about border security.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE (voice over): The man with tuberculosis slipped out of Rome on Wednesday, May 23rd. He tells the "Atlanta Journal- Constitution" he intentionally alluded authorities after being told his name was on the no-fly list and his passport flagged. Health authorities say they immediately tried to find him.

DR. MARTIN CETRON, CDC: We reached out on Thursday afternoon to federal partners to see what options there were to get help in identifying where the individual may be, and what we could do to alert potentially folks at international airports so they would let us know if they had found him.

MESERVE: But it was too late. The individual was already on a Czech Air flight from Prague to Montreal.

He then traveled by car from Montreal to the Champlain border crossing in New York. But the man had bought another airplane ticket on a later June 5th Air France flight from Europe to Atlanta, according to a homeland official.

Based on that, Customs and Border Protection had already been asked to look out for the individual and isolate him. Although the information had been disseminated to all air, land and sea ports of entry, including the one in Champlain, the man was not stopped.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE: A U.S. citizen does not have to show a passport when crossing the U.S.-Canadian border, and a homeland security official says the TB-infected man may possibly have willfully deceived border officials. But they are also investigating whether a CBP officer messed up, and the matter has been referred DHS internal affairs and the inspector general -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Is this a man, Jeanne, in any legal trouble?

MESERVE: Well, the CDC says they're not looking at this as a legal matter. And Homeland says they aren't yet either. They're still trying to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.

By the way, they aren't the only ones looking at it. The House Homeland security Committee has already scheduled a hearing for next Wednesday -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Sounds like a good idea.

Thanks, Jeanne, very much.

Up ahead, we're going to have new details on the breaking story we've been following. A U.S. chopper apparently shot down in Afghanistan. Our Barbara Starr standing by. She's getting new information from the Pentagon and other sources.

We're going to check in with Barbara right after this.

Also, Fred Thompson, inching closer to a big announcement. Our Brianna Keilar takes a closer look at the man and his resume.

That's all ahead right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: We've been following these very disturbing reports that a U.S. Army helicopter has gone down in Afghanistan. We're getting new information.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

Barbara, what are you hearing?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the latest information from U.S. military sources is this CH-47 helicopter was, indeed, most likely brought down by a rocket-propelled grenade. That is the initial report, but that is what officials are working off of.

That would indicate the helicopter was brought down at a fairly low altitude. But some of the details now that are emerging, the officials details, are disturbing.

The entire five-man crew on board this helicopter was killed. Two additional military personnel -- we do not know their nationalities -- the crew was U.S., obviously. Two additional military passengers also killed, and an Afghan passenger.

But a press release that has just been issued by NATO, because, of course, the U.S. operates in Afghanistan under NATO, says that there was some sort of military unit responding to the crash site, trying to render aid. They do not identify it, but they tell us when they unit went in, they were ambushed.

The rescuers came under enemy fire. There was a continuing fire exchange at that point. And this rescue patrol, we do not know who they were, then finally had to call in an air strike to eliminate the enemy threat -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And that's very disturbing, indeed. A similar situation happened not that long ago in Iraq, in Diyala province. A helicopter goes down, a rescue operation goes in, and the fighters going in for the rescue operation are then ambushed and killed in the process, as well. A similar situation may have happened here in Afghanistan.

All right, Barbara. Thanks very much. We're going to get back to you.

This is a very disturbing story out of Afghanistan.

Other news we're following right now, including Cuba. It's ailing leader making a shocking new claim, alleging that President Bush himself ordered his assassination.

Let's go back to Carol Costello. She's watching all of this.

He's made a lot of allegations over the years, but this one is sort of shocking right now. Give our viewers some perspective, Carol.

COSTELLO: Oh, it is shocking, Wolf. But let's face it, it's hard to tell if Fidel Castro is really telling the truth or is full of bluster.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO (voice over): Cuba's Fidel Castro may be struggling with an illness that forced him temporarily to hand over the reigns of power last year, but he's still out there making headlines. Just this week, he wrote a front-page essay in Havana's newspapers that President Bush wants him dead. Castro writes, "I am not the first nor will I be the last that Bush has ordered to be killed."

Today the White House just blew it off.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any concern about these incendiary remarks?

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's Fidel Castro.

COSTELLO: Bush has certainly never had much sympathy for Castro.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I strongly believe the people of Cuba should be free from the tyrant.

COSTELLO: But while there is solid evidence the CIA plotted several times to assassinate Castro in the 1960s, there is no evidence that Bush or any previous U.S. president ever gave the order that Castro should be killed.

Back in the '70s, the Church Committee said the CIA was a very busy place, plotting not only to kill Castro, but overthrow South Vietnam's Diem, Dominican dictator Trujillo, and the Congo's leader, Lumumba. All three eventually were assassinated, though there was no evidence linking the CIA to their deaths.

In the wake of the Church Committee's report, both presidents Ford and Reagan issued executive orders banning political assassinations. Even so, when U.S. jets bombed Tripoli in 1986, the targets included Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's compound. And a U.S. strike on Baghdad in 2003 was aimed at a building where Saddam Hussein or possibly his sons was believed to be.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: Now, President Ford's ban on political assassination remains in place, but after 9/11 President Bush issued a finding that made an exception of known terrorist leaders, and the man at the top of that list, Osama bin Laden -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Carol watching this story for us.

Carol Costello, thanks.

Up ahead, a new face in the race. The former senator and actor Fred Thompson primes the pump for a presidential bid.

And later, why doesn't Vice President Cheney want Americans to know who visits him at home? Jack Cafferty with your e-mail.

All that coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: "Law & Order" actor, former senator Fred Thompson poised to take the first step toward a run for the Republican presidential nomination. A recent CNN-Opinion Research Corporation poll places Thompson in a fairly distant third position behind former New York major Rudy Giuliani and Senator John McCain. But he hasn't even announced that he's running yet. Still, he's doing relatively well in the polls.

CNN's Brianna Keilar joins us now with a closer look at just who Fred Thompson is -- Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Thompson was elected twice to the U.S. Senate, but his political star power stems much more from his acting career and his role in a seminal moment for the Republican Party.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR (voice over): This was Fred Thompson's first important role on national television. He was co-chief counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee in the early 1970s. Thompson posed a critical question during the hearings that helped expose the depths of the Watergate scandal and ultimately led to President Richard Nixon's downfall.

FRED THOMPSON, MINORITY COUNSEL: Mr. Butterfield, are you aware of the installation of any listening devices in the Oval Office of the president?

ALEXANDER BUTTERFIELD, MILITARY OFFICER: I was aware of listening devices; yes, sir.

KEILAR: Thompson's next claim to fame also involves scandal and paved the way for his film and TV career. He was asked to play himself in the movie "Marie," about a Tennessee prison board case he tried that toppled a governor on charges of selling pardons.

THOMPSON, ACTOR, "MARIE": Do you think she lost her job for the reasons they gave or do you think it was because she dust didn't play ball?

KEILAR: Thompson became a quintessential character actor, the face and voice moviegoers recognized in films such as "The Hunt for Red October" and "Days of Thunder," even if they weren't sure of his name.

THOMPSON, "THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER": What's his plan?

ALEC BALDWIN, "THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER": His plan?

THOMPSON: Russians don't take a dump, son, without a plan.

KEILAR: Big screen recognition was a big asset when Thompson returned to the political arena. He easily won a 1994 special election in Tennessee to finish out Vice President Al Gore's term in the Senate. Thompson was handily re-elected in 1996.

While Thompson cast a striking figure in Washington, he was known more for his high profile than for his legislative accomplishments. When he decided not to run for reelection in 2002, he quickly returned to the entertainment industry.

Thompson landed the role of the new district attorney in the long running TV series "Law & Order". In addition, he's been cast more than once as a president.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: Thompson clearly knows a lot about being in the spotlight. But the red-hot glare of being a presidential candidate is a whole different beast. And as he jumps deeper into the White House race, his political credentials will be put to the test in ways they haven't been before -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A new political development today.

Brianna, thank you very much.

CNN, WMUR and the "New Hampshire Union Leader" are sponsoring back-to-back debates next week. The Democratic candidates square off Sunday, June 3rd. That's this Sunday. The Republicans go head to head Tuesday, June 5th.

Two hours each without commercial interruption.

Coming up next, jack Cafferty wants to know this: Why doesn't the vice president, Dick Cheney, want Americans to know who visits him at home? Jack and your e-mail when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends over at The Associated Press, pictures likely to be in your newspapers tomorrow.

In Managua, some the former -- some former banana workers rest in a hammock during a protest.

In Beirut, young Lebanese men toss each other in the air, celebrating a U.N. decision to create an international tribunal to prosecute those suspected of killing the former prime minister, Rafik Hariri.

In Madrid, a bullfighter flies in the air as he's butted during a bullfight. Ooh.

And on the Atlantic coast in Georgia, bikers celebrate finishing their ride across America. They set out from California on May 3rd, raised more than $26,000.

Good for them.

Some of this hour's "Hot Shots," pictures often worth a thousand words.

Nice pictures, Jack, as usual.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Lovely. They really are.

I've got to do a couple pieces of housekeeping here real quick.

The question this hour is: Why doesn't Vice President Cheney want Americans to know who visits him at home?

There are allegations in a lawsuit filed by a group that we talked about earlier that the vice president had instructed the Secret Service to destroy the records of people visiting the vice president's house in Washington. His office denies that he ever ordered those records destroyed. Nevertheless, there is some discussion about whether or not he is entitled to privacy over people that come to his residence and visit him.

Gary in Waterloo writes, "Would you want the American people to know who visited your house? As much as I dislike and distrust this sinister creep, and despite knowing he has no second thoughts about spying on us, I defend his right to privacy in his own home. Whether he'd do the same for me or not."

John in New York writes, "It's not his home. It's the vice president's house, funded by our tax dollars as part of his office. Who he sees there should be a matter of public record. As they say, if you have nothing to hide, you hide nothing. So what's he hiding?"

David in Ohio, "Jack, with all the problems we face as a nation with the sellout of our elected officials to big business for the sake of campaign contributions, you can't find a more worthwhile question than this? You're part of the problem, Jack."

Ted in Rockaway, "To paraphrase Mark Twain, it's better to let the world think you've sold out the country to big business interests than to reveal the records and remove all doubt."

Claire-Ann in Bermuda, "Do you want everyone in the world to know who visits your house? Just because he's the vice president of the United States down not mean that people have the right to dig into every area of his life. There is something called privacy."

Dan in Vancouver, "Jack, it's conceivable that it's at the request of those that visited his home. I mean, come on, would you want people to know you visited the home of Darth Cheney?"

Chris in Toronto, "You don't need a list to know who visited Cheney's home. Check the local hospitals for gunshot victims."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. We post more of them online, along with video clips of "The Cafferty File" -- Dr. Blitzer. BLITZER: Thank you very much, Jack.

Jack Cafferty, he's here every single day.

We're here weekday afternoons from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern. We're back for another hour live at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. That's an hour from now.

Coming up, Hillary Clinton's new prize -- an endorsement from a key Democrat. It's going to cause some significant impact on the campaign trail, but will it lock -- lock her up for the Latino vote?

All that coming up 7:00 p.m. Eastern, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Until then, thanks for watching.

"LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now.

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

Search
© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by CNN.com
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines