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THE SITUATION ROOM
Wrong Iraq Strategy; India Nuclear Fuel Deal; News Helicopter Crash
Aired July 27, 2007 - 1900 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Kitty.
Happening now, they said terrorists were practicing dry runs at airports, but guess what, it all turned out to be false. An elderly woman tells us how she was wrongly held for three hours, and asked a shocking question by security screeners.
Also tonight, TV news choppers collide. A race to cover a police chase ends in a deadly spray of metal, smoke and flames. How did it happen?
And NASA confirms allegations of astronauts drunk in space. Tonight, what the space agency is doing to prevent flying under the influence.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Alarms were raised all across the United States this week when we found out about a bulletin from the Transportation Security Administration with an ominous warning about airline travel. And that led to nerve wracking moments for passengers who were singled out. We have an important update for you tonight.
Let's go live to Brian Todd. He's watching this story for us. Brian, what is going on?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, that bulletin for law enforcement eyes only told of suspicion items recently found in passengers' bags at airport check points. And it warned that they may signify dry runs for terrorist attacks. Well it turns out none of that was true. Here's one example.
TODD (voice-over): July 5th, San Diego. Transportation Security Administration screeners find a bag with two ice packs covered in tape, with clay inside them rather than blue gel. It's included in a TSA bulletin warning of dry runs for terrorist attacks. This is the woman who carried those ice packs.
SARA WEISS, PASSENGER: I'm not a terrorist. I'm a 66-year-old woman with a bad back. I was on vacation, going to visit my son in San Diego.
TODD: Sara Weiss says the ice packs she carried like these had clay inside them because they were old and that's the way they were made. Weiss was held for three hours, questioned by San Diego harbor police and two men who she said were in plain clothes and didn't identify themselves. She says one question from a San Diego harbor policemen shocked her.
WEISS: Do you know Osama bin Laden? And my response was, first of all, I thought it was a very ridiculous and strange question, because if I did know -- if I really did know Osama bin Laden, and if I were a real terrorist, do you think I'd answer that question?
TODD: Contacted by CNN, the San Diego harbor police chief said his officers are not briefed to ask that question. Weiss says she also raised suspicion because she carried a report on a survey about Muslim Americans.
WEISS: I work for a faith-based organization. Part of the responsibility is to provide interfaith cooperation and understanding.
TODD: Is she angry about the experience?
WEISS: No, I'm not bitter. I understand that they had to do their job. I think they totally overreacted.
TODD: In fact, a U.S. government official familiar with the investigation now says there were valid explanations for all four of those incidents in that bulletin, and no charges will be brought in any of these cases. Wolf?
BLITZER: What does the TSA now say not only about the case of Sara Weiss, but the other individuals involved?
TODD: The TSA first told us the incident with Sara Weiss got on that bulletin because of a systems error, but they also say that they were correct to put all of these incidents on that bulletin, because whenever they find any suspicious objects, they have to quote, "run them to ground", as they say, and tell law enforcement to look out for items like that.
BLITZER: What a story. Thanks, Brian, for that.
A retired U.S. Army chief of staff is flatly declaring today that the United States went into the war in Iraq with the wrong strategy. Let's go to our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre -- some very strong testimony before Congress today, Jamie.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, very dramatic admission from General Jack Keane, the former vice chief of staff for the Army and the chief architect really of the surge strategy as an adviser to the Bush administration. He admitted before a House committee today that the strategy employed by the U.S. between 2003 and 2006, frankly, failed. He said it was a strategy for a short war that had no plan to defeat the insurgency. And that was a big mistake.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEN. JOHN KEANE (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Little did I know at the time that we had the wrong strategy, and we were beginning to embark on a campaign that so significantly underestimated the enemy, that by definition we protracted the war unnecessarily.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCINTYRE: Now Keane describes the situation there now as a difficult, complex situation. But he says it's far from hopeless. In fact, he says there's been a big turn-around lately. And he says it is underappreciated in the United States, the fact that the political dynamic is changing in Iraq. He sees victory still within its grasp. But of course, remember, Wolf, he is the chief architect of the plan that's being used now.
BLITZER: Thank you very much, Jamie, for that.
India and Pakistan, two nuclear neighbors always eyeing each other very nervously in an extremely dangerous part of the world, now one of them has reached a landmark agreement with the United States, an agreement that could give it an edge in a possible showdown. Let's go live to our State Department correspondent, Zain Verjee. She's watching this story unfold here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Zain, explain to our viewers what this is all about because the stakes are enormous.
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's really a big deal between the U.S. and India. Basically the deal allows India to get access to U.S. nuclear fuel and technology. Now it's still got to be approved by Congress, and India has to also allow for international inspections. Under Secretary of State Nick Burns (ph) says the agreement sends a really important message to a nuclear outlaw regime like Iran.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICHOLAS BURNS, UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE: It sends a message that if you behave responsibly in regards to nonproliferation, and you play by the rules, you will not be penalized, but will be invited to participate more fully in international nuclear trade.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VERJEE: Now, critics of the deal say that the U.S. basically caved here, because it promised to give India nuclear fuel, even if it tests a nuclear weapon. Now, India's neighbor, Pakistan, a key U.S. ally on the war or terror, isn't really happy about this. Pakistani officials say that look their country has energy demands as well. So they should really have a similar deal. And also, they warn that the deal really has the potential to trigger a nuclear arms race and can really create a degree of instability in the region as a result.
BLITZER: What are they saying about future deals similar to this one with other countries? VERJEE: Well the U.S. says they don't really have any plans to do a similar kind of deal in the future. They say the thing is here is that India is really an exception and it has a growing economy. And quite frankly, the U.S. trusts India.
BLITZER: It's also the world's largest democracy.
BLITZER: But the Pakistanis are going to be very, very angry about this. I'm sure they already expressed their opinions to the U.S. government. Zain, thanks very much.
VERJEE: Thank you.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is joining us from New York with "The Cafferty File". Hi, Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Nice to see Zain working late on a Friday night.
VERJEE: It's a real pain, Jack.
CAFFERTY: Are you addicted to e-mail? AOL is out with a third annual survey on that subject and some of the findings are quite frankly troubling. The poll shows e-mail usage on portable devices like Blackberries has doubled from three years ago, and that means Americans are checking their e-mail almost everywhere.
Fifty-nine percent surveyed said they check it in bed. Fifty- three percent check it in the bathroom. Thirty-seven percent check it while they're driving and 12 percent even admit peeking at their e- mail messages while in church. The survey done by our corporate cousin AOL also found the average user checks e-mail five times a day.
Fifty-nine percent check their portable device every time a new message comes in. Forty-three percent keep it nearby while sleeping so they can listen for incoming e-mail. Forty percent have in fact checked in the middle of the night. And a whopping 83 percent keep tabs on their e-mail inbox while they are on vacation.
With all these stats, it's pretty surprising that only 15 percent of Americans consider themselves e-mail addicts. To deal with your addiction, the experts suggest tips like using the away message, and the rule of three which means if you've e-mailed back and forth to the same person on the same topic more than three times, pick up the phone and talk to them.
So here's the question. It's Friday night. Go with me here. How do you know when you're addicted to e-mail? E-mail us at CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile. And a word of warning, Wolf, the most e-mail addicted city in the country, right there where you are, Washington, D.C.
BLITZER: Excuse me, Jack, hold on, I've got to check my e-mail. Oh, yes.
BLITZER: I love checking my e-mail during "The Cafferty File". It's a good opportunity to see...
BLITZER: ... who's sending us some e-mail.
CAFFERTY: There's nothing better you can do with that period of your life.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you very much.
Hollywood takes on Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You agree with it or not, if you go to war, it matters a lot, if you go to war carefully and intelligently as opposed to carelessly and arrogantly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A new film featuring former White House insiders on critical mistakes made early on in the war. We're going to have a first look at the film.
Plus, drunk astronauts, NASA tries to explain how they were cleared for liftoff, even though they were liquored up.
And helicopters collide. Two TV news choppers crash in flight while following a police chase.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Cocktails in crew quarters and allegations of astronauts so drunk that colleagues voice concerns about flight safety. Yet they were still allowed to fly. That's the gist of today's report released by NASA.
Let's go to CNN's John Zarrella. He's at the Kennedy Space Center. John, how is NASA responding to this report because it's truly shocking.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It really is, Wolf. You know, it's unfortunate that in recent times NASA's been getting more air time for stories that are happening on the ground than for things that are happening in space. And that happened again today where they spent over an hour at a news conference out of Washington trying to explain exactly what they're going to do now in the wake of a report that says some astronauts, we don't know how many, it may have only been a couple, it may have been more than that, these astronauts allegedly were drinking at the wrong time, and drinking in excess just before flights.
ZARRELLA (voice-over): If astronauts flew intoxicated, NASA officials say the agency didn't know then, but intends to get to the bottom of it now.
SHANA DALE, NASA DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR: We will act immediately on the more troubling aspects of this report with respect to alcohol use. And anecdotal references of resistance by agency leadership to accepting advice or criticisms about the fitness and readiness of individuals for space flight.
ZARRELLA: The allegations surfaced in a report the space agency commissioned in the aftermath of the Lisa Nowak love triangle incident. NASA wanted an evaluation of its mental and psychological screening processes for astronauts. The most damaging assertions in the study involve alcohol.
The report found alcohol was freely used in crew quarters. In two incidents, astronauts were so intoxicated they were deemed a risk to flight safety, but cleared to fly anyway. Senior flight surgeons felt their medical advice was being disregarded. But at this point the U.S. space agency does not know the extent of the problem.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't have enough data to call it alcohol abuse. We have no way of knowing if these are the only two incidents that have ever occurred in the history of the astronaut corps or if they are the tip of a very large iceberg.
ZARRELLA: The panel's report did not provide specific details of the two incidents, because in order to get candid information, the panel had to guarantee anonymity. But it was revealed that one of the incidents took place in Russia, before the launch of a Soyuz rocket. The other involved a space shuttle mission.
The astronaut did not leave earth drunk, because the mission was scrubbed. And he flew back to Houston on a T-38 NASA jet that the astronauts used to fly back and forth between Houston and the Kennedy Space Center.
ZARRELLA: Now, NASA is going to implement, ironically, what it calls the T-38 policy. And what that means is that when the astronauts are flying on these jet planes, they can't drink 12 hours before flight, and if they are found to be under the influence of alcohol, they can't drink.
NASA went back and looked and found that there's nowhere in their books, Wolf, that this is on the books anywhere that these rules applied to astronauts, so now they have to go back and they have to formally do this policy that astronauts shouldn't be drinking and flying, which seems to me, Wolf, to be a no-brainer anyway.
BLITZER: That's not exactly brain surgery. John thanks very much. Don't drink and go into space at the same time.
This new allegation of astronauts under the influence is just the latest in a string of serious embarrassments for NASA. Let's go to Mary Snow.
She's watching -- this agency once had a squeaky-clean reputation, but it's not the case anymore.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. You know the image is really being rattled by a number of headline grabbing incidents that John just mentioned, and this all happened within a relatively short period of time. It's raising questions whether this is coincidence or part of NASA's culture.
SNOW (voice-over): Their reputations are pristine. Astronauts for years have been known for having the right stuff. But the image of NASA's best and brightest is taking some hard knocks. Astronaut Jeff Ashby is in disbelief over the latest allegations of colleagues intoxicated during flights.
JEFF ASHBY, NASA ASTRONAUT: I certainly have seen nothing like it in my 10 years. And I've been very close to the crews that launch and been on three of them myself.
SNOW: The drinking claim surfaced as NASA disclosed another embarrassment that one of its subcontractors deliberately sabotaged a computer slated to fly on a shuttle mission. It couldn't compare to the black eye the space agency suffered in February when astronaut Lisa Nowak was arrested following bizarre behavior and alleged plot to kidnap a love rival.
There was the unforgettable detail from police that she wore a diaper for her long car ride so that she wouldn't have to stop driving. Nowak's lawyer said that was a lie. And in April a NASA contractor entered the Johnson Space Center and killed a male co- worker before turning a gun on himself.
KEITH COWING, EDITOR, NASAWATCH.COM: You can't avoid the issue of looking at this and say well, why are all of these things popping up and why are they always seemingly fixed to NASA?
SNOW: Some who keep close tabs on NASA chalk it up to coincidence and they question whether NASA is all that different from any other workplace.
BRIAN BERGER, SPACE NEWS: We hold NASA up to be this you know largely infallible organization that's all about the right stuff. They're the best and the brightest, at the end of the day, human.
SNOW: Now, a NASA official today says the agency itself was baffled by some of these cases it calls isolated. She said it shouldn't paint a picture of all astronauts or how NASA carries out its space flights -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Mary, thank you very much.
A third person has died from that rocket disaster at an airport in California's Mojave Desert. The explosion happened yesterday during testing of a propellant system. The facility belongs to a company headed by aerospace maverick Burt Rutan.
Rutan's so-called SpaceShipOne became the first private manned rocket to reach space in 2004. He and the billionaire partner Richard Branson's team were secretly building Spaceship Two (ph) in an enclosed hanger. SpaceShipTwo (ph) is envisioned as a fleet of commercial space vehicles.
They would take paying tourists 62 miles above earth at $200,000 per flight. Passengers would experience the view from space in five minutes of weightlessness.
Up ahead, deadly mid-air collision, two helicopters crash while following a high-speed police chase.
And Senator Barack Obama vows that America will look at itself differently if he's elected president. Can he change the face of race relations in our country?
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Check out this stunning shot of today's deadly disaster in Phoenix, Arizona. A pair of news helicopters plummeting to earth after colliding in mid air while covering a car chase. Everyone onboard both choppers falling to their deaths.
CNN's Carol Costello is here with details of this tragedy. What have you learned, Carol, about how this went down?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: It's such a grisly picture, Wolf. You know it's not clear, but questions already being asked about the need to cover these police chases from the air. Two Phoenix TV helicopters were following that chase.
Their footage was being shown live on television. All of a sudden one of the TV pilots said this thing seems to be wrapping up, and then he said, oh, gees, and viewers saw a jumble of spitting, broken images. Those choppers had crashed in mid air.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not sure which helicopters they were.
COSTELLO (voice-over): Thick, black smoke in a Phoenix park as horrified witnesses watched two TV helicopters crash in mid air and fall into flames on the ground.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was standing right inside the park when I seen two helicopters -- what looked like they were in mid air and they crashed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard like a loud gunshot. And then about two seconds after that, there was a real loud, like a huge bang and then just two helicopters coming straight down, falling in about three different areas and bursting into flames and debris is all over the place.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was devastated.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's coming up to Third Street and Osborn (ph)...
COSTELLO: According to local TV affiliates, the news choppers were following a police chase on a Phoenix highway. Police say a suspect had stolen a city vehicle and at one point jumped out of that car and into another vehicle on the highway. Police say it was at that point the helicopters collided.
Our affiliate ABC 15 is reporting its pilot Craig Smith and its photographer Rick Krolak are dead. KTVK is reporting pilot Scott Bowerbank and photographer Jim Cox were killed.
COSTELLO: Now, all who died were very experienced at their jobs. But if you have ever been in a TV chopper in the middle of something like this, and I have many times, you know that the pilot is paying attention to many different things. I mean he's flying the chopper.
He's also broadcasting information live on the air. You really have to watch what you're doing. Because not only that, because the pilot has to watch what's going on, on the ground, too, and they have to stay in touch with air traffic controllers. Lots to sort out yet, Wolf.
BLITZER: So what are the rules when it comes to filming, shooting these kinds of police chases?
COSTELLO: Well Wolf, from what I understand, usually air traffic controllers clear helicopters into an area where they can safely cover a police chase, but the pilots themselves are responsible for keeping separate from other aircraft in the air. The NTSB is now investigating. You know, Wolf, I should say, this doesn't happen very often.
BLITZER: It almost feels though like an accident waiting to happen. You've been up in those choppers. You've worked at stations that have had those kinds of choppers. What's it like to watch something unfold in that kind of environment?
COSTELLO: I'm telling you, every time I've been in a situation like that, my palms get sweaty, because it's nerve-wracking. Because the pilot, you know you don't know where the chase is going to go, so the helicopter is flying sometimes at a very steep bank. So you're like, you know, sideways almost. And the pilot in these cases are actually talking to the anchors in the studio and flying the helicopter and trying to figure out where the suspect is going to go next. So it can be very nerve-wracking. But as I said, this does not happen very often. But it certainly makes you wonder why it's necessary to cover these police chases at all.
BLITZER: All right. I'm sure there's going to be a full-scale investigation into this one. Thanks, Carol, very much.
A new documentary takes on the war in Iraq and declares there's no end in sight. We're going to tell you who's in that documentary. It's likely to become a very controversial film. Who's behind it?
Also, we're also going to tell you how Hillary Clinton's cleavage, get this -- her cleavage is figuring into a new Clinton fundraising campaign.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, the vice president, Dick Cheney, will undergo a minor surgical procedure tomorrow at George Washington University Hospital. Doctors there will replace the special pacemaker he has in his chest because the battery is going bad.
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign is firing back after a "Washington Post" fashion article about the candidate's cleavage. The presidential campaign is trying to use the incident to raise money saying focusing on women's bodies instead of their ideas is insulting.
And some stores nationwide are continuing to sell recalled canned chili and other foods potentially, potentially contaminated with botulism -- this according to the Food and Drug Administration. That's despite warnings that the Castleberry food products can kill.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
There's a new anti-war -- Iraq war documentary just hitting theaters today that's certain not to sit very well with the Bush administration. Our entertainment correspondent Sibila Vargas is joining us from Los Angeles right now.
Sibila, tell our viewers what this film is all about.
SIBILA VARGAS, ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is produced by the same Oscar nominated team that made the Enron documentary and this time "No End In Sight" is a biting critique of the Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq. Take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To the Iraqi people, food and medicines, and supplies and freedom.
CHARLES FERGUSON, DIRECTOR: Whether you agree with it or not, if you go to war, it matters a lot if you go to war carefully and intelligently as opposed to carelessly and arrogantly.
VARGAS: "No End In Sight", a documentary by political scientist, turned filmmaker, Charles Ferguson, details what he calls the catastrophic mistakes made by the Bush administration in Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was chairman of the National Intelligence Council.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was the director of strategic policy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rumsfeld called me to handle humanitarian affairs, reconstruction.
VARGAS: Among the dozens of former key players helping Ferguson make his case are Barbara Bodine (ph), who was placed in charge of the U.S. occupation in central Iraq after the fall of Baghdad.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We had no phones for a while.
VARGAS: Robert Hutchins (ph), chairman of the National Intelligence Council at the start of the war --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president hadn't read it, not even the one-page summary.
VARGAS: And Colonel Larry Wilkerson, chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell when the decision was made to invade Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The secretary's frustration, along with my own, grew as we watched our careful planning, our detailed planning, essentially discarded.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I interviewed people for the film, over and over again, they would tell me they were in Cabinet meetings, or they participated in briefings to the president. The same thing would happen, you would not ask questions, he did not read documents, he did not read intelligence analysis.
VARGAS: Ferguson says poor planning lead to what he calls the worst mistakes of the war. Insufficient troop numbers, lack of post- invasion protection for Iraqi civilians, and the disbanding of the Iraqi army.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Throwing half a million armed men into the streets with no jobs. And those men almost immediately began planning and creating the insurgency.
VARGAS: Now Ferguson says the copies of the documentary have been sent to key players in Washington. When contacted by CNN, the White House declined to comment. At the Defense Department, a spokesman says the Pentagon had not received a copy of the film, and, quote, "Its hard to comment on something you haven't seen."
The film does open today in New York City and in D.C. Back to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Sibila, thank you.
BLITZER: Is a close U.S. friend backing America's foes in Iraq? Dozens of foreign fighters cross into Iraq each month. The U.S. military estimates half of them are from Saudi Arabia. Along with that, a flow of funds from individuals in Saudi Arabia to Sunni insurgent groups is continuing.
The State Department says the Saudi government is trying to stop the flow of young men into Iraq who are, quote, "bent on blowing themselves up, or blowing up others." Secretary of State Rice, Defense Secretary Gates will raise this sensitive issue in a visit to Saudi Arabia next week.
Joining us now, our correspondent in Baghdad, Michael Ware.
Michael, the Saudis and their involvement in what's going on, causing some consternation here in Washington. Saudi Arabia, a largely Sunni Muslim country. They're not very happy with the Shiite dominated government in Baghdad. What are you seeing on the ground?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN INTL. CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we're seeing, Wolf, is that Saudi Arabia is experiencing just as much consternation with this U.S. experiment here in Iraq.
Now, they said before the war that it wasn't going to work. Indeed, I think the quote from memory was something like, "You'll fix one problem, being Saddam, and create five more." And then as they saw the American expedition unfold, they saw it fall to pieces. Now, at first they started whispering about it, then they started screaming about it. And for a long time now -- we're talking years -- they've been acting on that.
They've been providing funds to Sunni sheikhs and tribal groups. There's a connection to the insurgency. They're funding political opponents of this Maliki government, a government they don't trust. That is sentiment shared by most of the Arab world. It's seen as even an Iranian proxy, or so beholding to Iran, this government, that it cannot function as a truly independent entity.
The Saudis see that the American endeavor here in Iraq is not protecting legitimate Saudi national interests. They're saying this war is destabilizing the whole region to the disadvantage of America's allies.
BLITZER: Michael, do the Saudis see the Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki as noticing than an Iranian agent? Because that's the word they're spreading, according to "The New York Times."
WARE: Yeah, well, obviously I can't speak for the government in Riyadh, from here in Baghdad. What I can tell you is that the Arab world doesn't trust Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki, or this government. I mean, this is not really a government.
I mean, there's no water for people in the capital right now. Electricity, if you get it at all, is down to about an hour a day. And to fill up your car with gas, you've got to queue for anything for five to 12 hours, or even overnight. This government isn't delivering services.
This government is a loose coalition of militia, most of them backed or supported in one way or another by Iran. And we wonder why America's Arab allies are nervous at what they see as an expansion of Iranian influence? We're hearing they're allowing insurgent commanders and political leaders to gather in Jordan, in Syria, and indeed even in Saudi Arabia. Just expect this to pick up rather than deescalate, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Michael, thanks very much. Michael Ware is our reporter in Baghdad.
There's a new twist tonight in the race for the White House. For what they're calling transformer politics, tonight a dramatic new claim from Barack Obama about the future of race relations if he becomes president. But are African-Americans buying it?
And the filmmaker Michael Moore drops a new bombshell involving the Bush administration and a subpoena. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: It would surely make history, but it will transform America. Barack Obama possibly becoming the nation's first African- American president. Today a handful of presidential candidates spoke at the National Urban League Conference.
Obama told the mostly African-American crowd the U.S. would be different if he's elected. CNN's Tom Foreman has more -- Tom.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich all took the stage today in St. Louis, but it was Obama's words that stood out the most.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The day I'm inaugurated, the country looks at itself differently. And don't underestimate that power. Don't underestimate that transformation.
FOREMAN: Powerful words from Barack Obama, who is trying to become America's first black president. The senator from Illinois was speaking out about race at the National Urban League Convention in St. Louis.
OBAMA: Race is still an enormous factor in our society, but economics can overcome a lot of racial division. FOREMAN: He also said that action rather than high-minded discussion is the way to end racial polarization. Two of Obama's main Democratic rivals, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards also spoke about racial inequality.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I reject a conversation about 1.4 million young men as a threat, as a headache, or as a lost cause.
JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would ensure that judges that I appointed to the federal bench, believe in real equality and believe in the concept of affirmative action.
FOREMAN: Black voters are crucial to the Democratic Party.
Roughly nine in ten blacks vote Democratic. That makes them the most reliable voting block for the Democratic Party in this country.
FOREMAN: And they'll play an important role in picking the next Democratic presidential nominee. Especially in South Carolina and Florida, two early primary states. In CNN's most recent polls, Senators Clinton and Obama are running neck and neck among black voters nationally. Although Clinton was well ahead in South Carolina.
But it's still very early and many voters have not made up their minds.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not feeling that either candidate would be, at this point, that much of a difference.
FOREMAN: No Republican presidential candidate spoke to the crowd at the National Urban League today. But Mike Huckabee did speak to a smaller group last night, Wolf.
BLITZER: Tom Foreman, watching the story. Thank you.
"Sicko" producer/director Michael Moore is back in the news and it was Moore, himself, who broke this particular item. One that could have him answering to the Bush administration. Let's go back to Carol Costello. She's joining us with more on this story.
What is going on, Carol?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, talk about drama. And perfect timing for a guy about to go on national television. Moore says the U.S. government ordered him to go before a judge. But did it?
COSTELLO (voice over): Talk about a made-for-TV moment. Breaking news on the "Tonight Show."
MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER: I haven't even -- I haven't even told my own family this. You're asking me to say this on national television.
JAY LENO, THE TONIGHT SHOW: But it's NBC, Not that many people watch it.
MOORE: Oh, OK. All right.
I was just informed when I was back there with Jay that the Bush administration has now issued a subpoena for me, going after me for helping these 9/11 rescue workers.
COSTELLO: Well, not exactly. Moore's publicist told us Moore has not yet been served. But his attorney was contacted. Plus, if the U.S. Treasury Department does subpoena Moore to appear before a judge, it's because Moore traveled to Cuba without getting a government- issued license.
And according to the U.S. Treasury Department, those who violate the Cuban embargo face penalties under the Trading with the Enemy Act. The enemy in this case is Castro's Cuba.
MOORE: Which way to Guantanamo Bay?
These are 9/11 rescue workers. They just want some medical attention.
COSTELLO: Part of his documentary "Sicko" focused on three people who claim they became ill working at ground zero after 9/11. Moore took them to the Communist country and all three received medical care. And there they were, right smack in the middle of the "Tonight Show" audience, as Moore made this big subpoena announcement.
MOORE: I was there to help them. Now I'm going to face this further harassment from the Bush people. Aren't they busy with something else? You know, I just --
COSTELLO: The liberal-leaning Moore has long asserted his troubles with the Treasury Department are politically motivated. But keep in mind, although he applied for the license, he went to Cuba before it was granted. Moore has always maintained, though, he's in the clear.
MOORE: The law is very clear about this. We've broken no laws. The law says that any American can travel to Cuba for any journalistic endeavor.
COSTELLO: It appears a judge will have to decide that now.
COSTELLO: We asked the president's spokesperson about the subpoena, and alleged political motivation behind it all. Tony Snow told us, "We're not commenting on that." Wolf.
BLITZER: So what does Moore's lawyer saying? COSTELLO: Well, I called his office three times today. No call back. So your guess is as good as mine.
Thank you for that, Carol Costello, doing some excellent work for us.
There's a surprising new defender of the slugger Barry Bonds. You're going to find out why a high political figure believes Bonds denial of steroid use.
And what's in your bottled water? One company -- a major company -- makes an announcement that may make your next swig of water go down the wrong way. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds remains two home runs from Hank Aaron's all-time record. Bonds is at the center of a major sports controversy involving persistent allegations of steroid use.
One major supporter believes Bonds, when he says he didn't use the drugs. That would be Willie Brown, the former mayor of San Francisco.
BLITZER: Mr. Mayor, thanks very much for coming in.
WILLIE BROWN, FMR. MAYOR OF SAN FRANCISCO: Nice to see you, Wolf.
BLITZER: You know, a lot of people simply don't believe Barry Bonds when he insists he never used steroids. Why do you believe him?
BROWN: Well, it's difficult to disprove a lie. I believe he has not used steroids, because, one, he says so. And number two, he's taken every possible test, and he's passed every test. And he's also said -- be clear -- I've never taken steroids knowingly, other than those that might have been prescribed for whatever injury I might have received, and steroids are legal for some injuries, some form of steroids.
And so I say, the issue is not whether or not Barry Bonds has taken steroids or not taken steroids, the issue is whether or not he's going to break the record.
BLITZER: Those who have argued he has, point to such factors as his shoe size went from a 10 1/2 to a size 13. This is an adult male. Even his head size, his hat size expanded, which normally, even if you're bulking up and working with weights, your head size, or shoe size is not necessarily going to go up.
BROWN: That's a reality, frankly. But it doesn't necessarily say you used steroids. You ought to be in a position, as an individual, that if there are standard tests applied to determine whether or not you've used some substance, inconsistent with the rules, you pass those tests. You're no different than Lance Armstrong. You're no different than any of the other super athletes who happen to be out there.
The fact that you've grown larger than some other people is to your benefit, and to your credit.
BLITZER: But you do acknowledge that there have been numerous cases of baseball players trying to -- using steroids, to try to make themselves more powerful, a better hitter, better athletes. That has been relatively widespread.
BROWN: And not one of them has matched what Barry Bonds has been able to do, because they don't have the talent. Period. And that is the bottom line. There's also obviously been admissions by them, that they have tried. And they have not succeeded.
I don't know about you, Wolf, but I suspect I could take every steroid that there is, and I would still be the same size that I am now. I would still be equally as inept at swinging at a baseball and hitting it for any distance whatsoever, or throwing it for whatsoever. So, it's not a matter of steroids. You have to have the talent. The hand-coordination, the ability to be in sync with the nature of what --.
BLITZER: But argument, Mr. Mayor, and we're almost out of time, the argument is that these guys are such -- all of them are talented athletes and some steroids can put them really over the top and make them spectacular athletes, as opposed to just really talented athletes, which you and I, apparently, are not.
BROWN: Obviously it did not. Because nobody has been able to match the numbers of Mr. Bonds at any level, at any time.
BLITZER: The mayor, former mayor of San Francisco, Willie Brown, joining us.
Check out the White House briefing room earlier today. Stephen Colbert, the funny mock newsman, on Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report". Colbert stopped by to get is cast signed by the White House Press Secretary Tony Snow. But Colbert tells our Suzanne Malveaux, Snow isn't the only Washington personnel he wants to get an autograph from. Listen to this.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What do you think of Wolf Blitzer?
STEPHEN COLBERT, "THE COLBERT REPORT": He has a splendid beard. Why? Do you have something I can respond? Did he say something about me?
MALVEAUX: No, he didn't. COLBERT: Wolf's great. He's fantastic. I heard him described as a pit bull.
I'm sorry. Sorry. Is my interview getting in the way of your phone? Just say, Hi. See if Wolf will sign my cast.
BLITZER: Pit bull, Jack Cafferty. Yeah, that's what they call me, the pit bull here at CNN.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: I wasn't aware of that. But that's good.
BLITZER: That's Colbert. He's a fake news guy, he knows what he's talking about.
CAFFERTY: Well, if I ever break anything, I don't want you anywhere near my cast. What do you think of that?
BLITZER: Fair enough.
CAFFERTY: The question is, how do you know when you're addicted to e-mail?
John in Miami: "You know you're addicted to e-mail when you think a stamp costs 29 cents.
Peter in New York, "Hello, Jack. I'm e-mailing you from my BlackBerry while on vacation. I may e-mail too much, but it's not a need. Yes, I e-mail from almost everywhere, including my car. But I don' sleep with it.
Janet: "I love my e-mail. I check it constantly, as it might be from 1) friends 2) poetry publishers 3) CNN breaking news 4) just interesting stuff. I think e-mail is great and I couldn't and don't want to live without it."
Lauren writes: "You're addicted to e-mail if you're listening for message while making love."
David: "When it's 7:10 p.m. you're still work on a Friday e- mailing The Cafferty File."
Betty in Ontario: "You know you're addicted to e-mail when the e-mail message you're currently reading is from a person sitting across from you."
Frank in Arkansas: "You know you have an e-mail Jones when you go to a store that has computers and you ask if any are attached to the net so you can check your e-mail."
Genine writes: "You know you're addicted to e-mail when your in box is your home page and you've never logged off."
And Sean in Phoenix: "I figure out I was addicted to e-mail when I realized how often I e-mail answers to your questions, only to not have them read. Loyalty or addiction? Don't know. I'll have to bring it up at the meetings."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, go to cnn.com/caffertyfile. We post more of them online along with video clips of "The Cafferty File". Now back to the pit bull.
BLITZER: This pit bull, he checks his e-mail, when he gets up in the morning, before he goes to sleep at night. You never know who's sending you e-mail, Jack. It is a sickness, I've got to admit.
CAFFERTY: You don't realize actually how often you do it. But it's the only way we all communicate anymore. I don't answer a telephone when it rings, but I look at that e-mail thing all the time.
BLITZER: How did we live without it?
CAFFERTY: I don't know. But we did.
BLITZER: Cell phones, e-mail, a whole new world out there. Jack, have a great weekend.
CAFFERTY: You, too, Wolf. See you Monday.
BLITZER: Thank you very much.
CNN contributor Roland Martin is hosting a special hour. It gets underway right at the top of the hour.
Roland, tell our viewers what we can expect.
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Wolf.
It's six months until the first presidential primary. And who is finally making news, you, the voter, the folks who actually choose the president.
So, we're looking at the issues you care about. Why aren't more female voters more excited by the female candidate? Can any president separate the religious point of view from their policy decisions?
And outside of politics, is Michael Vick guilty until proven innocent? Join me at the top of the hour --Wolf.
BLITZER: Quick question, Roland. What do you think of what Willie Brown was saying about Barry Bonds?
MARTIN: He makes a great point. The bottom line is, has he failed any tests? No. Did he say I knowingly did not take steroids? That's what he said.
The bottom line is, you don't have the proof. You have people who are suggesting, who are making allegations, but the bottom line is, like we do in journalism, it's all about the facts.
BLITZER: Roland Martin, all right. I want to tell our viewers to make sure they stand by. He's going to have an excellent hour, coming up right at the top of the hour.
Roland, thank you very much.
One company comes clean about what's really in the pricey bottle of water. You'll be amazed when you see this next report. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
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 hometown newspaper tomorrow.
In Brazil, look at this. A synchronized swimmer flexes her foot and her skills m the pool during a final routine in the Pan American Games.
In the West Bank, an elderly Palestinian woman quietly waits during the funeral for a young man.
In China, a man stands in floodwaters, and holds his child as the ship passes by in the distance.
Take a look at this. No hands. The leader of the Tour de France gestures to another cyclist during the 18th stage of the race.
Some of this hour's hot shots, pictures worth a thousand words.
Carol Costello is monitoring some other stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM.
Carol, what do you have?
COSTELLO: Wolf, this may come as a shock to you, but the water in your Aquafina bottle is not from a spring. Jump back, it's tap water.
And today Pepsi Cola announced that the label on it's Aquafina brand bottled water will be changed. The bottles are now labeled PWS. The new labels will spell out what those letters stand for: Public Water Source.
New fallout for NFL star Michael Vick, after his indictment on dog fighting charges. Nike says it has suspended its contract with the Atlanta Falcons quarterback. It says it will pull goods with his name off the shelf at stores the company owns. But it stopped short of terminating its relationship with Vick. Reebok says it will stop selling Vick's replica jersey at retail stores and on its website.
Authorities have released the 911 call made by the mother of Lindsay Lohan's former personal assistant, shortly before Lohan's arrest. On the tape the woman is heard pleading for help. Saying a mysterious car is following her. Authorities later saw Lohan and the woman in what the police called a heated debate. Lohan was arrested for allegedly driving under the influence, with a suspended license, and felony cocaine possession.
Back to you.
BLITZER: Thanks, Carol. Have a great, great weekend.
COSTELLO: Thank you. You, too.
BLITZER: She's here in THE SITUATION ROOM with us, weekdays 4 to 6 p.m. Eastern. Another hour at 7 p.m. Eastern.
Among my guests, Sunday, on "Late Edition", the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad. Sunday 11 a.m. Eastern.
Till then, thanks for watching. Roland Martin's "Debate This!" starts right now.
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