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U.S. Will Bring Home 30,000 Troops From Iraq; Is Iran Arming Anti-U.S. Factions in Afghanistan?

Aired September 11, 2007 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, President Bush will act on the advice of his top general in Iraq and bring home 30,000 U.S. troops. The skeptical senators and presidential candidates wonder if that so-called surge is really a success.

Long accused of arming rebels who kill U.S. troops in Iraq, is Iran now doing the same thing in Afghanistan?

What's behind Tehran's trouble making? We have new information.

And a pro-football team accused of cheating.

Did a cameraman working for the NFL's Patriots steal signals from the other team?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

President Bush will tell the nation this week that he plans to cut the U.S. troop presence in Iraq by about 30,000 troops by next summer. That's no surprise now that the commander-in-chief, we all know, agrees with his Iraq military commander on rolling back the U.S. troop level to where it was in earlier this year, in January and February, before the so-called surge.

But General David Petraeus found plenty of skepticism in the Senate today about the U.S. mission.

CNN's Michael Ware is standing by live in Baghdad for us.

But let's go to our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, first for the latest -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, even the many Senators who respect General Petraeus think he's been dealt a losing hand, that despite his best efforts, Iraq has become mission impossible.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE) MCINTYRE (voice-over): In his second day of testimony, General David Petraeus was still defending his assertion violence is down in Iraq because of the success of the surge.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: General, as you know, there are independent studies, such as General Accounting Office report, that disputes your statistics.

MCINTYRE: Petraeus' answer -- his numbers covered five more weeks, when things really turned around.

GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDER, MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE-IRAQ: And that does have quite a significant difference because, again, the trend of a 12-week trend, the final five weeks have been pretty important.

MCINTYRE: Biden offered another explanation -- Iraqis deserting their neighborhoods to get away from death squads and sectarian militias.

BIDEN: They're voting on the surge with their feet. When the surge began, about 50,000 Iraqis a month were fleeing their homes for fear of sectarian violence, and today they're leaving their homes at a rate as high as 100,000 a month since the surge.

MCINTYRE: Both General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker insisted a secure, stable, democratic Iraq is still attainable, even if, as Crocker said, the slope of the trend line is not steep.

RYAN CROCKER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: The process will not be quick. It will be uneven, punctuated by setbacks, as well as achievements, and it will require substantial U.S. resolve and commitment.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D-CA), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: I ask you to take off your rosy glasses. You had them on in '05. I believed you. I thought for sure we were going to see the Iraqis take over their own defense.

MCINTYRE: But some critics, like Republican Chuck Hagel, didn't blame General Petraeus for what, to some, is beginning to look like mission impossible.

BIDEN: It's not your fault, General. It's this administration's fault.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

MCINTYRE: Now, anti-war groups are seizing on something that General Petraeus said late in the day in response to General John Warner, who asked if success in Iraq makes America safer.

Petraeus answered, "Sir, I don't know, actually. I have not sat down and sorted it out in my mind."

Wolf, you can expect you're going to hear more people talk about that.

BLITZER: Yes -- Senator John Warner, not General John Warner.

MCINTYRE: Yes.

BLITZER: I just want to make sure that our viewers know. He was in the Navy. He was -- he never reached that level.

But let's talk a little bit about this decline. We're now told when the president addresses the nation later this week, presumably on Thursday, he's going to say I accept General Petraeus' recommendation to reduce by next summer the U.S. troop level by about 30,000 troops.

Right now, Jamie, I take it there are about 168,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. That would bring it down to about 138,000 troops.

But we've also been told that the U.S. Army was demanding a significant troop withdrawal of soldiers by April because they didn't have the troops that would be necessary to sustain that so-called surge level beyond April without going -- unless you had to go from a 15-month rotation to an 18-month rotation, which no one wanted to do.

So isn't General Petraeus only doing what the Army was effectively demanding?

MCINTYRE: Well, General Petraeus and everybody in the U.S. military recognize that if, for some reason, the president would decide to extend the surge, it was going to take extraordinary measures. As you said, it could have been lengthening deployments, but it could also mean sending more troops early. It could have meant deep -- digging deeper into the reserves.

But the Army is very stretched. So they knew the surge had to end in April unless they took extraordinary steps. General Petraeus is saying it can end and that will lessen the burden somewhat. But the big question now is they're going to buy about six more months.

Then what do they do with the additional 130,000 or so troops?

How long will they have to stay?

And General Petraeus' answer is, I'll get back to you on that in March.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Jamie McIntyre reporting for us.

By rolling back its troop strength to pre-surge levels, is the United States moving back to square one in Iraq?

Let's go to Baghdad right now.

Joining us, our correspondent, Michael Ware -- Michael, as I was saying, if they go back to the pre-surge level, that's sort of open- ended. Unclear how long those troops will have to stay in order to maintain -- at least maintain the level of security they have right now.

What do you think of this?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's true, Wolf.

I would expect that whether you like it or not, America's military and diplomatic footprints in this country is going to be significant for a sustained period of time. Whenever I speak to military analysts or planners or any of the diplomats, no one is deluding themselves. They're saying that with this country so broken, so torn apart by America's intervention here, that they can simply walk away completely -- it's not being entertained.

What is being entertained is how much you can scale back and how you then rethink your goals and who do you look to as your new partners. And what we're finding increasingly from the testimony of both the ambassador and the general here in Iraq is that their answer -- the cornerstone of America's policy going forward is engagement with the Sunni tribes and the Sunni insurgency. This seems to be their next building block.

BLITZER: I want you to listen, Michael, to the ambassador, Ryan Crocker. He keeps making this point during these hearings yesterday and today.

I'm going to play you a little clip.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROCKER: In my view, a secure, stable, democratic Iraq at peace with its neighbors is attainable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, do you agree that a secure, stable, democratic Iraq at peace with its neighbors is attainable?

WARE: Well, it is, depending on a number of things. One is how many generations are you prepared to wait? Even the outgoing U.S. ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, in his last sit-down interview before he left Baghdad, he himself said that, yes, while he still holds a democratic Iraq as the ultimate goal, he considered it would take generations. And for it to truly take root in this country, that's what it will require.

Also, to bring about this democratic Iraq that the ambassador is pursuing, that doesn't necessarily mean that it's in the current form it is now. You could have a drastic change in the face and the shape of this government, either by parliamentary or even non-parliamentary means. All of these things are being canvassed.

So, yes, those goals may be attainable. But the path to those goals has not been discussed nor how long America will have to hold out and dig in here in Iraq -- Wolf. BLITZER: I think few Americans are thinking in terms of generations for democracy to emerge in Iraq, those goals.

Michael Ware, thanks very much.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty.

He's joining us now in New York once again with The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Go back to that point you were making with Jamie McIntyre.

When is the president going to speak to the nation?

BLITZER: Probably Thursday night, we're told.

CAFFERTY: And he's going to announce that he has decided to bring home 30,000 troops from Iraq next spring?

BLITZER: He's going to say he's accepted the recommendations of General Petraeus.

CAFFERTY: This was going happen any way. That was the point you were making with Jamie McIntyre. Everybody knew it was going to happen anyway, that unless they extended the deployments of these soldiers from 15 to 18 months, they're out of troops. They've got to bring some home because their deployment there is going to be over. And yet they're going to spin this and try to create this impression in the minds of the people in this country that they actually give a damn about drawing down the military presence in Iraq. This is going to happen whether, you know, they wanted it to or not, unless they extend deployments and start dragging more Reserve and National Guard people over there. But they're going to present it as something else.

Think you're a liberal or conservative?

In turns out it might all be in your head.

There is a new study published in the journal "Nature Neuroscience" that says liberals and conservatives think in very different ways. Researchers suggest that while conservatives are often seen as more structured and rigid when they make decisions, liberals are more often flexible and open to new experiences.

And they trace these stereotypes to actual differences in brain activity. As the lead study author at New York University put it -- quoting here -- "There's range of ways that people process information. Some people are more comfortable seeing the pros and cons of the situation. Others are more comfortable seeing the situation in only one way."

Recognize yourself yet?

Here's the question -- do you think the brains of liberals and conservatives work in different ways? E-mail your thoughts to caffertyfile@cnn.com or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile.

It might all be in the genetics -- Wolf.

BLITZER: (LAUGHTER). Well, we'll see. Nature versus nurture.

CAFFERTY: There you go.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jack, very much.

Up ahead, first Iraq, not another secret campaign by Iran to meddle with U.S. interests and harm the U.S. troops.

Who's getting Iranian weapons now?

Barbara Starr is standing by with that story.

As Al Qaeda's leaders issue a new 9/11 anniversary message, we're on the front lines with U.S. troops in bin Laden's backyard. Coming up, a CNN exclusive -- Nic Robertson on the border.

And six West Virginians are charged with kidnapping, torturing and sexually assaulting a young woman. They're white. She's African- American. Authorities say a hate crime charge could be added.

Stick around.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Six years ago today, terrorists hijacked four airlines and unleashed a devastating assault on America. At New York's Ground Zero, the names of the victims were read out by firefighters and first responders. Ceremonies were also held over at the Pentagon and in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where Flight 93 went down.

Al Qaeda also marked the 9/11 anniversary with another message from its leader.

Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd.

He's joining us -- Brian, no doubt that this message came from whom?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, no doubt this time either. The CIA confirms this is Osama bin Laden. Now, analysts believe this production is completely separate from Friday's videotape. This is audio only, with a still picture of bin Laden. But the images presented have the same resonance.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Stylishly produced, with English subtitles and images of burning towers chromo-keyed in the background, Osama bin Laden's anniversary message implores young men to join the cause and praises one who died for it. He eulogizes Waleed al-Shehri, a hijacker on the first plane to hit the World Trade Center.

OSAMA BIN LADEN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Abu Musab al-Shehri is one of these magnificent men whom the verses of the revelation affected.

TODD: And as promised, al-Shehri speaks. In a last testament he taped while preparing for the attacks, he seems to warn his American enemies how it will play out. "We shall come at you from your front and right and left and from above and below you."

This is the seventh testimonial from a September 11 hijacker and analysts say there are likely to be more.

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: It does go to the fact that they do have a long-term media strategy. You know, bin Laden wrote a letter to Mullah Omar just before 9/11 saying 90 percent of the battle is in the media. They take their information operations pretty seriously.

TODD: Are those operations shaped by an American?

Adam Gadahn is a California-born convert to Islam -- a jihadist that works with Al Qaeda's media operations. He's on the FBI's most wanted terrorist list, with a million dollar bounty on his head. But that didn't keep him from recently sending his own message to America.

ADAM GADAHN, AL QAEDA SPOKESMAN: We shall continue to target you at home and abroad, just as you target us at home and abroad.

TODD: U.S. officials say they have no evidence that Gadahn wrote any part of bin Laden's latest messages. But officials and analysts say he does have access to Al Qaeda's leadership and they can see his possible influence in at least one of the bin Laden tapes.

BERGEN: It was highly politicized. It was a sort of undergraduate level, you know, leftist critique of the American body politic. And that sounds a lot like Adam Gadahn to me.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

TODD: But U.S. intelligence officials are clear. They say this is not case of Adam Gadahn "sitting at bin Laden's elbow giving him news from the Internet."

They believe, in fact, that Gadahn is not physically with bin Laden or Ayman Al-Zawahiri, but is likely in the same general area -- the tribal regions of Pakistan -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, fascinating information.

Thanks very much.

The Al Qaeda spokesman, 28-year-old Adam Gadahn, grew up on a California farm with no television or computer. He is described by friends as a very bright loner. He was home schooled and became obsessed with death metal music. He converted to Islam as a teenage and first went to Pakistan after an assault arrest back in 1997. His parents last heard from him in the year 2002.

Last year, Adam Gadahn was charged with treason.

Osama bin Laden has managed to stay a step or two ahead of his pursuers for years. But he could be within a stone's throw of U.S. troops now patrolling some very rugged territory.

Our senior investigative correspondent, Nic Robertson, is with those troops in a CNN exclusive -- Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're right on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Over there is Pakistan. The mountains rise up very steeply. This is in the northeast corner of Afghanistan. It is very mountainous, the Hindu Kush Mountains. There are no fences. There are no border controls right there. There's a path that runs along the mountainside across that border. It comes to a small bridge.

The U.S. troops here found out that Taliban and others were using that bridge to bring supplies, ammunition, people into Afghanistan. They set up a checkpoint here that controls the main road running alongside the border, controls that point of entry from Pakistan coming into Afghanistan.

What they say they've been able to do here is interrupt the supply and resupply for anti-government elements, be they Taliban, be they Al Qaeda, be they allies of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. They've been interrupted here. They've been in firefights here -- an intense firefight a month ago.

But what the troops say they're doing here, they're not trying to win by running around the mountains and shooting on all their possible enemies. They say that's not the way to go.

What they're doing here, they describe it as nation building -- building health clinics, building schools, putting in a hydroelectric power system -- a micro-hydroelectric power system. And it's by winning the support of the local population, denying the area to Taliban, to Al Qaeda in that way, that they hope to win the fight here.

This is the front line in the war on terror. The U.S. National Intelligence Estimate report recently said that Al Qaeda and Taliban are regrouping across the border there in Pakistan.

BLITZER: All right, Nic.

Thanks very much.

Nic Robertson is on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan with that exclusive report.

Up ahead, they sit in a high profile committee and they're running for president -- a handful of candidates take some advantage of free face time.

And under suspicion -- the father of missing British girl Madeleine McCann goes online with a new statement. We're going to tell you what he's saying right now.

Stick around.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Our Carol Costello is monitoring some other stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Carol, what's going on?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A couple of things, Wolf.

A video shoot for "Power Boat" magazine went horribly wrong this morning off of Sarasota, Florida. A helicopter carrying the video crew hit a boat and went down, killing two of the three people on board. No one in the boat was hurt.

A food fight in New York has national implications. A judge today tossed out a first of its kind rule that would have made fast food chains in the city post every item's calorie content on their menus. Fourteen states are on their way to copying New York's rule, hoping to fight obesity. But the judge says the rule conflicts with federal laws.

And ice at the top of the world is at an all time low. Scientists using satellites to measure the size of the Arctic ice pack report it's shrunk to about half the size of the United States. At this rate, they say the Arctic ice pack may disappear every summer by the year 2030 -- about 40 years earlier than current predictions.

That's a look at the headlines right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Carol, thanks very much.

Up next, one of them may be in the White House before the job in Iraq is done. Coming up, what the '08 presidential candidates are asking General Petraeus.

Also, we're going to explain some of those ribbons decorating the general's chest.

Stick around.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, a Minnesota court schedules a September 26th hearing for Senator Larry Craig's request to withdraw his guilty plea to a disorderly conduct charge as a result of his bathroom bust. That's only four days before Craig's self-imposed deadline to clear his name or resign from the Senate.

A surprise move from OPEC -- more oil for the holidays. The 12- nation cartel has just decided to increase oil production as of November 1, which should keep prices stable, although they went up to $78 a barrel, a record high earlier, today.

And the U.S. urges restraint as pressure builds for an Israeli retaliation to a horrific rocket attacks. Dozens of Israeli soldiers were wounded by a rocket fired from Gaza, which is now controlled by Hamas militants.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

For several senators running for president, today's Iraq report from General David Petraeus provided a highly visible opportunity to go on record once again about the war.

Let's go to our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley.

She's here in THE SITUATION ROOM -- so were they all able, as they say, Candy, to get their licks in?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they were all able to get their point across. You know, it's often said that the Senate is not a good platform for a presidential bid. But every once in a while, it can be the right place at the right time and the right subject.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

CROWLEY (voice-over): The campaign trail moved indoors Tuesday, with five of the '08 presidential candidates in the spotlight of the Petraeus hearings.

SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: I don't seem to get an indication -- I don't get a feeling here that there's any real opportunity or optimism that this is going to get better.

CROWLEY: It was Campaign Lite -- similar substance without the fierce rhetoric sometimes heard in town hall meetings across Iowa and New Hampshire. Talking to a crowd of anti-war Democrats is different than talking to a diplomat with a portfolio under his arm and a general with ribbons on his chest.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: This is a criticism of the either of you gentlemen, this is a criticism of this president and the administration, which has set a mission for the military and for our diplomatic forces that is extraordinarily difficult now to achieve.

(VIDEO OF PROTESTERS DISRUPTING HEARINGS)

CROWLEY: With more than 60 percent of Americans opposed to the war, the hearing was not expected to nor did it change the ever hardening position of the '08 Democrats. BIDEN: If, in fact, the circumstances on the ground are exactly what they are today in March of next year, will you recommend the continuation of somewhere between 130,000 and 160,000 troops being shot at, killed and maimed every day there?

PETRAEUS: Mr. Chairman, that's a pretty big hypothetical.

BIDEN: I don't think it's a hypothetical. If they're the same.

PETRAEUS: I would be very hard-pressed to recommend that at that point.

CROWLEY: While Democrats used the Petraeus hearings to air their opposition to the war, Republican Senator John McCain found reinforcement -- the kind he rarely gets along the campaign trail.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I believe we cannot choose to lose in Iraq and I will do everything in my power to see that our commanders in Iraq have the time and support they request to win this war.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: The Petraeus report offered '08 candidates a high profile venue to underscore their rhetoric but next week rhetoric meets reality as the Senate begins work on the defense authorization bill. The Democratic leadership expects several Iraq related amendments to be offered including one, Wolf, to de-fund the war.

BLITZER: And Washington could see fireworks at that point. Candy, thanks very much.

It's difficult to watch General Petraeus without noticing the array of badges and ribbons on his chest. The defense distinguished service metal is the highest defense decoration is awarded to officers for exceptional performance and contributions to national security. The defense superior service metal recognizes superior service and honors accomplishments over a long period. The bronze star with a V for valor is awarded for heroic or meritorious service against an armed enemy and the meritorious service metal is awarded for outstanding non-combat achievement or service.

U.S. officials have long accused Iran of arming and funding militants who target U.S. troops in Iraq. Now there's word Iraq is making trouble across another border with U.S. troops once again on the receiving end.

Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

Barbara, what are you learning?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, while all of the news this week has been about Iraq, consider this. Iran may well be opening up a new front in the war on terror.

CNN has learned Iran is stepping up a secret smuggling campaign into Afghanistan, all aimed at killing U.S. and coalition troops. Military officials tell CNN Iran is regularly smuggling weapons and fighters across the Afghanistan border to supply insurgents involved in heavy fighting in southern Afghanistan's Helmand Province. U.S. officials had previously acknowledged a handful of Iranian weapons inside Afghanistan. In June, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he wasn't sure what was going on.

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: But there clearly is evidence that some weapons are coming into Afghanistan destined for the Taliban but perhaps also for criminal elements involved in the drug trafficking coming from Iran.

CROWLEY: But now military sources say a classified assessment concludes Iranian weapons are regularly being handed off to Taliban fighters. The U.S. believes it's all being coordinated by a highly organized network of insurgents across Afghanistan backed by Iranian operatives.

Some Iranian weapons are even showing up far to the east along the border with Pakistan. And as Iranian backed attacks inside Iraq appear to continue largely unchecked, analysts say no one should be surprised at Tehran's troublemaking across the region.

JOHN PIKE, GLOBALSECURITY.ORG: There's no way they will sit back and allow the Americans the freedom of action in their backyard and Iraq and in Afghanistan.

CROWLEY: Wolf, U.S. officials say all of this comes as attacks against U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan have risen sharply in the last several weeks.

Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Barbara. Barbara Starr reporting from the Pentagon.

At the same time, there is stunning new information today about last week's reported Israeli air strike in northern Syria. CNN learned that weapons bound from Iran to Hezbollah militants in Lebanon may have been the targets.

Let's bring in our chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour. She has more.

Christiane.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there's been much speculation about the exact nature of the Israeli aircraft over Syria last week. Sources are now telling CNN sources in the region have told me that in fact Israel did conduct a strike, a military strike against Syrian territory on Wednesday night leading into the Thursday. This apparently was an air strike.

There is differing questions as to whether some Israeli ground troops were involved either as forward air controllers directing those strikes or as bomb damage assessment forces but as you know, Israel says that all its planes got out and right now sources tell me that Israel is very pleased with "the success of the operation."

In terms of what the target could have been, there is some speculation but apparently the consensus according to sources have told me is that this could be weapons that were transshipped to Syria for Hezbollah, shipped by Iran via Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Sources telling me that this is a pattern that's been going on for the last several years with no retaliation or action taken against it.

Now, we asked CNN's Barbara Starr to help pin these reports down and her sources, both in the Pentagon and in the administration, confirm now that Israel did launch an air strike against Syrian territory against a target that it caused "a big hole in the desert" and furthermore the American sources say that they are happy to have this message carried loud and clear to Iran and Syria via Israel, the message that in fact aircraft can get in and out of that airspace, conduct a target, conduct a raid and get out.

We have heard that Israel sent a "calming message" to Syria before the attack. We have heard that the European chief diplomat, Javier Solana, was the conduit for that message. His office has so far not confirmed that to us but they have said that Solana since the attack, since that action last week, has been the conduit between the Israeli and Syrian foreign ministers urging cool heads and calm to prevail.

Wolf.

BLITZER: Christiane Amanpour reporting for us. Thanks, Christiane, for that story.

Up next, the White House Homeland Security Adviser, Fran Townsend. She's here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're going to talk about the new Bin Laden tape, another one released today. How much power does Bin Laden really have as we mark the sixth anniversary of 9/11?

Plus, a high tech spy story involving Patriots and Jets but not the kind you're used to seeing here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll explain. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Exactly six years after the 9/11 attacks, Osama Bin Laden is still taunting Americans. Is the United States any closer to catching up with the al Qaeda leader? Joining us in THE SITUATION ROOM is the White House Homeland Security Adviser, Fran Townsend.

Thanks for coming in.

FRAN TOWNSEND, WHITE HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: It's good to be here.

BLITZER: This new videotape, a second one, at least the audio that we've heard, you have had chance, another expert to the U.S. government, to review it. I assume this is Osama Bin Laden once again? TOWNSEND: Yes. We do believe that it's Bin Laden's voice that we hear. Obviously, there's no new video footage. It's the same picture we saw in the last tape. It's really introducing the martyrdom tape of one of the 9/11 hijackers.

BLITZER: It shows him praising one of the hijackers. They do this almost every year or so they release some of these tapes. It's interesting and let me ask you this question, the significance, if any, that Osama Bin Laden is introducing this so-called martyr?

TOWNSEND: Well you know Wolf, this is a day really where as a country we honor and pay tribute to the sacrifice and heroism we saw in response to those horrible attacks. For him to insert himself is really offensive. I think that's people's reaction. This is a day where we want to devote ourselves to the memory of the people that we lost. We really have tried not to focus on the tape. We don't see any direct threat in it. And this is kind of become par usual.

BLITZER: It's more propaganda from al Qaeda. Maybe their media adviser, this ex-American, Adam Gadahn, who is from California went over there and some of the experts are saying his fingerprints are all over not only this but some of the other videotape of Osama Bin Laden that was released over the past few days.

TOWNSEND: That's right. You remember we saw a long Adam Gadahn tape just before the '04 election in October of '04 where he spoke directly to the American people.

BLITZER: That was the Osama Bin Laden tape.

TOWNSEND: There was an Adam Gadahn tape.

BLITZER: Because he's made up several tapes in recent years.

TOWNSEND: That's right. Clearly his knowledge of American media and his knowledge of America and how to communicate in English is one of the things that Bin Laden and al Qaeda have been taking advantage of.

BLITZER: The other day you told me that in your opinion and I'm paraphrasing but you used the word about Osama Bin Laden as being impotent. That's caused controversy because a lot of experts say he's not impotent. Look at the incidents that have occurred maybe not on U.S. soil but whether in Spain or England or potentially in Germany. Explain what you mean when you say Osama Bin Laden is impotent.

TOWNSEND: I'm actually glad to have the opportunity, Wolf. Because I was surprised that it was misunderstood. There's no question that al Qaeda as an organization remains a critical threat to this country and even in that interview I referenced the attacks in Germany and Denmark. Now we have the attacks in Algeria and so al Qaeda as an organization is incredibly powerful. We heard in the National Intelligence Estimate that we have seen a resurgence. They are regaining in for example the federally administrated tribal areas of Pakistan. What I was responding to when I said virtually impotent is this is what Bin Laden does. He's the spiritual leader. He's the propagandist in chief, if you will, of al Qaeda. This is what he can do. This is his contribution to the fight. He's a bit of a coward. He's the guy who talks big but he sends other people to do his dirty work in this country and around the world.

BLITZER: There has been suggestion that his number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is really the man of power within al Qaeda right now. Is that right?

TOWNSEND: Certainly the Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, made the point that Zawahiri really is the intellectual, the person who forms the ideology and the hateful and destructive and violent ideology behind al Qaeda. I think that's right.

BLITZER: Is there increased what they call chatter right now around this anniversary of 9/11 that is causing experts counterterrorism experts in the U.S. government a little bit more heightened concerned?

TOWNSEND: Well you know, when National Intelligence Estimate was released, the community made the judgment that we're in a period of heightened threat. I don't know of anyone who does this work that doesn't think that's true.

It's interesting. When you ask about increased chatter, I would say we've seen an increase in the amount of intelligence we are seeing to suggest that we're in a period of heightened threat but I think to term it chatter sort of diminishes it. We have men and women in the intelligence and military communities and law enforcement gathering this vital information and helping us to connect the dots to understand it.

BLITZER: Do you believe there are sleeper cells, individuals in the United States right now, who are prepared to launch a spectacular, as its been described, terror attack once again against the United States?

TOWNSEND: We know that that's al Qaeda's chief goal, a spectacular attack with mass casualties. We know Director Mueller's testimony yesterday before Congress that there are a number of active investigations of sleeper cells in this country. Obviously identifying, investigating and disrupting sleeper sells is the number one priority for the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security and we take that responsibility very seriously.

BLITZER: So the answer is there are sleeper cells in the U.S. right now? There are terrorists who are at large just waiting?

TOWNSEND: There are certainly cells that we're aware of and the FBI is investigating. I would stop there because I'm not prepared to say that we know that they're ready to launch spectacular attacks. If we knew that, we would obviously arrest them and disrupt it.

BLITZER: Fran Townsend, thanks for coming in. TOWNSEND: Thank you.

BLITZER: Up ahead, inside the minds of politicians. Do you think the brains of liberals and conservatives work in different ways? That's Jack's question. Jack you're your email. That's coming up.

Also, there's a very strange story unfolding in West Virginia. Six people accused of kidnapping and torturing a woman for a week. Will hate crime charges be added?

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

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BLITZER: For a 20-year-old West Virginia woman it was endless days of unspeakable horror, torture of every kind, rape, physical abuse, degradation. All allegedly at the hands of six people. She's black. They're white. And now they're in custody. CNN's Kathleen Koch is watching this horrific story for us.

Tell our viewers what happened, Kathleen.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's truly unbelievable. It reads like the script of a horror movie with an unfortunate young Charleston, West Virginia, woman as the victim. Police say these Big Creek, West Virginia buildings were torture chambers where for at least a week, 20-year-old Megan Williams was held captive and brutalized. Six West Virginians, a mother and son, mother and daughter and two other men are facing charges including kidnapping, torture and sexual assault. Police went to the site in Big Creek, West Virginia after receiving an anonymous tip that a woman was being held there against her will.

SHERIFF W.E. HUNTER, LOGAN COUNTY, WEST VIRGINIA: Upon approaching the place deputies found Frankie Brewster man sitting on the front porch, got to talking to her. She got up and walked toward the door and a young black lady came to the door and said please help me.

KOCH: According to the criminal complaint, Frankie Brewster allegedly beat Williams and forced her to perform sexual acts on her. Bobby Brewster, the complaint goes on, sexually assaulted Williams and forced to eat dog and rat feces and lick up blood and drink from a toilet. Combs allegedly held a knife and forced the victim to perform oral sex, sexually assaulted and cut her several times. Karen Burton allegedly pulled and put William's hair, choked her and cut her ankle with a knife while uttering a racial slur. Alisha Burton also allegedly pulled out and cut the victim's hair and sliced her with a knife. Police say George Messer allegedly poured hot water over Williams while she was sexually assaulted by another suspect.

HUNTER: She had had two black eyes. Part of her hair had been pulled out. She had lacerations on her legs, marks on her neck and she had been physically, mentally and sexually abused.

KOCH: The six suspects are in jail pending bond. They have asked for court-appointed attorneys. The FBI is investigating whether the alleged torture of the Charleston woman is a hate crime. Why is CNN using Megan Williams' name? Because the family says it wants the public to know what happened. Just how the young woman met the suspects is unclear. The six all have a long list of prior arrests.

Wolf.

BLITZER: What a horrible, horrible story, Kathleen Koch reporting for us.

Let's move on.

The case of missing 4-year-old Madeleine McCann is in the hands of a Portuguese judge today after a prosecutor found enough evidence to bring charges. Officials won't say if the charges are against the girl's parents. Kate and Gerry McCann were named as suspects last week. Gerry McCann is now speaking out about these late developments online.

Let's go to our internet report, Abbi Tatton. Abbi, what are they saying?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, they're saying that the facts will show that they played no role in Madeleine's abduction and that they are both 100 percent confident in the other's innocence.

This is Gerry McCann's latest blog entry written late last night from the U.K. where the couple returned over the weekend on the official find Madeleine website that was at one point updated constantly with news of the search but this is the first online update that we have seen since the couple were named formal suspects late last week.

Gerry McCann goes on to call this an unending nightmare and says on the site they are preparing for any possible charges appointing attorneys to help in preparing their defense, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Abbi, for that. We'll watch that story.

A winning football game, a suspicious guy with a camera and you have another potential sports scandal. The team under scrutiny this time is the New England Patriots and this time the charge is cheating.

Let's go back to Carol Costello. Carol, what's the story here?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, you know Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had a pretty good day Sunday completing 22 of 28 passes. With a quarterback like that no needs to cheat? But tonight there are allegations the Pats went covert on the sidelines.

Sunday's game was an ugly loss for the Jets. Randy Moss confounded the Jets' defense catching nine passes for 183 yards. The Patriots dominated whipping the Jets 38-14 but there is controversy in that big win. The Pats are accused of cheating.

ELLIS HOBBS, PATRIOT'S CORNERBACK: If it's true, then it's true. Obviously we're in the wrong. But like I said, I'm standing behind my team and my coaches and my personnel and our staff. I don't believe we would do those type of things.

COSTELLO: That sort of thing is a Patriots' employee roaming the sidelines allegedly videotaping the Jets defensive coaches sending signals to the players on the field in order to decipher them later.

According to the NFL, "Clubs have been reminded that the videotaping of an opponent's signals on the sidelines is prohibited. We're looking into whether the Patriots violated this rule."

According to ESPN, the NFL has confiscated that camera, placed it in a sealed box and sent it to the league office. This controversy is another black eye for an all-American team that captured our imagination in the first super bowl after 9/11. The underdog team with the Americana name, Patriots, over the Rams.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's an honor to welcome a true football champs but as well really fine Americans.

COSTELLO: That image has been tarnished by the Coach Bill Belichick, whose gruff demeanor rubs some people and the press the wrong way. He also doesn't exactly like Jets Coach Eric Mangini. Even his choice of dress on the sidelines causes waves. That hoodie gets on fans' nerves. But the cheating allegations may resonate far more and Patriots players are stepping up.

HOBBS: We put hours in as individuals, as a team and to have to go out there and cheat. You know I just throw that out the window.

COSTELLO: But the NFL isn't. If the Patriots are found guilty of illegal videotaping, it could cost the Patriots future draft picks.

So no comment from the Patriots. No comment from the Jets. Including whether the Jets complained to the NFL and finally, no word on when this matter will be resolved.

Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We'll watch it together with you, Carol. Thanks very much.

Jack Cafferty is standing by with your e-mail. That's coming up next. Do you think the brains of liberals and conservatives work in different ways? Jack Cafferty and the Cafferty File right after this.

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BLITZER: Let's go to Jack Cafferty for the Cafferty File.

Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question is, do you think the brains of liberals and conservatives work in different ways?

George in Florida writes, "The brains of conservatives and liberals don't work in different ways. They work the same way, when they work, and that's the difference. Liberals use their brains more, while conservative brains sometimes atrophy from lack of us. Name an issue, global warming, evolution, et cetera, the conservative will ignore the evidence just not think about that. It's a matter of exercising the brain, not a difference in the way the brain works."

Mike in Omaha, Nebraska, "Sure they do. Conservatives think, while liberals feel. Pretty much cut and dried."

Jeanne writes, "Hi Jack. No it's not genetic. My idiot sister thinks George Bush is the greatest thing this country could have."

Bill writes, "Of course liberal and conservative brains work differently. Conservative brains work; liberal brains do not."

Minnette writes, "Your emotional, condescending, snide and sneering opinions are out of place on a news network. You would be much more effective, and happier, if you were to cultivate a more inclusive, magnanimous and compassionate point of view like Anderson Cooper for existence. You come off as old and bitter. I'm sure there's more to you than that." No Minnette, actually there isn't. That's about all you get.

Dan in Vancouver, "Do I think the brains of liberals, conservatives, work in different ways? I'm not sure the brains of either are actually functioning at all, Jack. It's getting really ugly out here!"

Phil in Grants Pass, Oregon writes, "Jack, I didn't know Republicans did any thinking. I thought Rush Limbaugh did all their thinking for them."

We invite you to tune in next Wednesday, September 19th, 8 o'clock eastern time. We're going to do a one hour long special on the Cafferty File talking about just how ugly it's getting out there. We will tackle issues like the do nothing democratic congress, what's happened to our presidency under George W. Bush and what the next president will have to do with the mess that is sure to be left behind. We invite you to join us, 8 o'clock eastern time for that deal. You'll be watching, won't you Wolf?

BLITZER: Of course. It's right after THE SITUATION ROOM. Next Wednesday night, 8 p.m., a one hour Jack Cafferty special, the Cafferty File. It's going to be great, Jack and a lot of our viewers are wondering, how is the new book doing?

CAFFERTY: The new book is doing remarkably well. I think on the Barnes and Noble web site that's number 11 and on the Amazon website I think it's like number 26 or 27 so it's doing very well but it's not doing well enough so go buy some!

BLITZER: OK Jack. We'll see you back here in one hour, Jack Cafferty, he's a member of our family.

Let's go to "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT." Kitty Pilgrim is sitting in.

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