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Blackwater Banned From Iraq; Stories of Survival
Aired September 17, 2007 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: To our viewers, you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, hired guns from America now reportedly banned by Iraq. A U.S. security firm loses its license after a bloody shootout in Baghdad.
Did they go too far in trying to protect their clients?
Dozens were killed in that fiery crash of a Thai airliner. But many others somehow managed to walk away and now they're telling their extraordinary stories of survival.
And O.J. Simpson in a Las Vegas jail without bail, facing possible felony charges in what police say was an armed robbery.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
They're hired guns paid to protect U.S. diplomats and contractors on the dangerous streets of Iraq. But now Iraq is banning a top U.S. security firm there and the U.S. State Department is apologizing after a bloody shootout in Baghdad killed Iraqi civilians.
Let's begin our coverage of this important story with our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
Some serious fallout from this incident -- first of all, Barbara, how important are these private contractors, these security firms, in protecting Americans in Iraq?
BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, these security firms are absolutely vital. There are thousands of private security personnel in Iraq, many of them protecting U.S. government officials, protecting reconstruction projects and other key U.S. and Iraqi sites.
What has happened here is yesterday in Baghdad, there was a shootout. A U.S. State Department convoy being guarded by the Blackwater firm, a private security firm, was moving through Baghdad. Apparently a car bomb went off. Shooting broke out, with small arms fire. According to Blackwater -- we have spoken to the company -- they say they fired back when they came under attack.
But the Iraqi interior ministry has now said it will -- it hasn't done it yet -- it will pull Blackwater's license, not allow them to operate in Iraq anymore. It says when the shooting all stopped, there were eight Iraqi civilians dead and 14 wounded.
This is not the first incident, but this time the Iraqis say they're going to make Blackwater stop doing business in Iraq. Whether that really happens remains to be seen.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has already called the Iraqi government, called officials on the phone, says she regrets the incident. It is now under investigation by the State Department and the U.S. military in Baghdad -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Well, you correct me if I'm wrong, because the numbers I've seen, Barbara, suggest Blackwater has about 1,000 security personnel serving in Iraq. There are about 25,000 such security -- private security guards working for the United States government in Iraq. Most of them, if not all of them, are former U.S. military personnel. They know how to deal with these kinds of things. They make a lot more money, obviously, than troops in action.
But the Blackwater security personnel, they were responsible for protecting the U.S. ambassador, Ryan Crocker, and other senior U.S. government officials in Iraq. And whenever top officials from the U.S. government showed up in Iraq, they were the ones who went out and protected them, is that right?
STARR: They are very well known. They do a good deal of work indeed, Wolf, in protecting the very top -- very senior State Department officials, as they move around Baghdad, which, of course, remains very dangerous. Again, Blackwater says they came under attack. The Iraqis say when the shooting stopped, civilians were dead -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's get some more on this story.
Barbara, thanks very much.
As we said, they play a vital security role in Iraq.
But should civilian guards be using strong arm military tactics?
Let's go in to Brian Todd.
He's watching this story for us.
All right, give our viewers a little sense of what these guys actually do -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, they say they'll use lethal force if necessary to carry out their mission. Now, observers in Iraq say these private security contractors there often barrel through the streets in heavily armed convoys and that while that meets the security needs, it's also what strikes fear in the hearts of Iraqi civilians.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
TODD (voice-over): Guarding a diplomat or a truck full of gravel, their M.O. is the same -- go in number, move fast, carry plenty of weapons, be ready to use them.
"GONZO," SECURITY CONTRACTOR: If we get ambushed and cut off, yes, then we're going to fight back. That's what paid to do, you know, to protect the clients, protect the asset.
TODD: That's Gonzo, a private security contractor in Iraq profiled by CNN last year.
Who are these people?
SUZANNE SIMONS, CNN EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: A lot of these guys are former Special Forces people who have had experience -- prior experience -- in the U.S. military. Some of them are people who have also have a law enforcement background.
TODD: And some are from other countries, according to a CNN executive producer Suzanne Simon, who worked on the series and is writing a book on security contractors. She says Blackwater protects diplomats like U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker.
Critic Jeremy Scahill, who says Blackwater officials wouldn't talk to him for his book on the firm, says the rules of engagement for these operatives remind him of the wild West.
JEREMY SCAHILL, AUTHOR, "BLACKWATER": The job of private security contractors in Iraq is to keep alive the individual or the facility that they're protecting. And if that means gunning down a bunch of Iraqis on the side of the road to keep that person alive, then it's on.
TODD: A top Blackwater official responded.
MARTY STRONG, BLACKWATER USA VICE PRESIDENT: Sometimes you just drive four more seconds and you're completely out of whatever -- whatever attack they had for you. That's usually the easiest way to get out of things and that's usually what happens every day. So I think just he is misinformed.
TODD: Experts say security contractors in Iraq can make around $600 a day. This video, shot in 2005 by a contractor in Iraq, shows the dangers these people face.
(VIDEO FROM IRAQ)
TODD: Of the roughly 25,000 security contractor in Iraq, the U.S. government estimates about 200 have been killed. But experts say the Pentagon doesn't keep an official tally.
Who are these contractors accountable to?
SIMONS: Ultimately, they're accountable to the United States government. Now, who exactly is going to prosecute them is a horribly difficult question to get into.
(END VIDEO TAPE) TODD: One agency which could prosecute them is the Department of Justice. And we are told the FBI is investigating an incident last Christmas in which a Blackwater employee is alleged to have shot and killed a security guard for a top Iraqi official. But as of yet, no charges have been filed in that case and experts say no contractor has ever been charged in the death of an Iraqi -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian, how many people has Blackwater lost in Iraq over the past four-and-a-half years?
TODD: Well, people close to the company estimate that Blackwater has lost about 30 employees, including that one horrific incident more than three years when four of its men were ambushed, killing and mutilated in Fallujah.
BLITZER: Brian Todd watching this story for us.
Thanks, Brian, very much.
Let's check back with Jack Cafferty in New York for The Cafferty File -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: All right, Wolf.
Guess who said this?
We quote here: "I think that the country, after the last couple of years, has a bias in favor of change, I think probably starting with Hurricane Katrina and coming through Baghdad and the whole sense of too much spending."
No. It's a Republican -- former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, speaking to the "National Journal" about why he thinks that Democrats are poised to walk off with the big prize next year. Gingrich cites a lack of enthusiasm in the Republican conservative base, a stunning level of intensity in the anti-war left. And he says when you add it all up, the odds are probably 80-20 in favor of Democrats winning the 2008 presidential race.
Of course, you have to remember that Newt may get in the race himself. And part of the reason he's painting such a dire picture is no doubt to convince Republicans that if he decides to run, the odds will improve in Republicans' favor.
Gingrich says one of the things that's lacking in the GOP field is a candidate capable of forcing Clinton or Obama to defend the failed bureaucracies of Democratic administrations past. The problem as Gingrich sees it is no Republicans are calling for dramatic change.
On the contrary, it seems to me like, for example, Rudy Giuliani, who's leading in most Republican polls, often sounds a like lot like George Bush, Jr. Jr. So here's the question -- what do you think the odds are the Democrats will win the 2008 presidential election?
You can E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or you can go to cnn.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.
Jack will be back shortly.
Dozens died in that fierily crash of a jetliner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I -- I only just had one thought, that I, you know, I refuse to die. That was the only thing I thought of.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: But some survivors tell how they walked away.
And Hillary Clinton announces a new health care reform plan.
What did she learn from her unsuccessful attempt to change the system back when she was first lady?
Plus -- get this -- no watches, jewelry, neckties or fake fingernails -- why some doctors are being given a strict new dress code. We'll tell you what's going on, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We have some stunning new video of that deadly plane crash in Thailand, taken by a survivor who somehow managed to walk away. Officials in Thailand now say 89 people, including four Americans, were killed when this airliner skidded off a runway yesterday in very bad weather at a popular beach resort. You can see the miserable weather conditions in this video, as the plane burns in the background. Forty-one of those aboard did survive and some are now telling frightening tales of botched landings and fiery crashes.
CNN's Andrew Stephens is in Phuket, Thailand -- Andrew.
ANDREW STEVENS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they're still trying to identify the last few remaining victims from Sunday's crash here in Phuket. But some did get out alive. And here's some of their stories.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
STEVENS (voice-over): This was the scene just minutes after the One-Two-Go jet crashed -- fire trucks spraying the filming wrecking, dazed and injured passengers -- survivors of one of the worst airline crashes in Thailand's history.
This 30-second film, taken on a mobile phone by 23-year-old artist Parinywait Choosaeng, on his way home from Bangkok, now recovering in hospital.
"I thought I was going to die," he said. "I felt the plane skidding and then there was a huge bang. And after just a few seconds, I could see people on fire." They were trapped in their seats. I couldn't do anything. I just got out."
Parinywait got out through a tear in the fuselage, miraculously, only slightly injured. He says he was saved by the medallion of Buddha he wears around his neck.
Erik Nihlen and Christopher Marken from Sweden were sitting next to the emergency exit when the plane hit.
ERIK NIHLEN, CRASH SURVIVOR: And we just, you know, put our heads between our knees and just -- like I only just had one thought, that I, you know, I refused to die. That was the only thing I thought of. And then we just came to a stop. And then like you could hear -- you don't hear much. You just -- I just told my friend, "Let's get out, out, out, out."
You could see people coming out and you kind of helped them halfway. You know, some people -- because we were barely shocked, you know, because we were out so fast. But people were coming out with burns. Like the skin was -- there was no skin left, it was burning. And people were walking with broken ankles.
STEVENS: stories of two survivors. But dozens of others, among the 130 on board, didn't make it, most of them foreign tourists from Europe, the U.S., the Middle East and Australia, coming to enjoy a tropical break at Thailand's top tourist destination. Authorities are still trying to identify the last of the victims. But already the wreckage of the 23-year-old MD-82 jet has been cleared. The black boxes holding vital information on the final few minutes of the flight have been found.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
STEVENS: Now Phuket, which is Thailand's second busiest airport, is now back open. But the crash has cast a long shadow over this normally bustling tourist Mecca -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Andrew Stevens in Phuket for us.
The Bush administration is not alone when it comes to talking tough about Iran's nuclear program. Now a top French official suggests talk may not be enough, suggesting it's time to prepare for military action.
Our senior international correspondent Jim Bittermann is in Paris.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): France opposed the war in Iraq. But its foreign minister says Iran is another story. He was questioned Sunday on television about Iran's nuclear plans.
"We must prepare ourselves for the worst," Bernard Kouchner says.
"What does that mean?," he's asked.
"That is war, sir," Kouchner responds before adding, "We prepare ourselves first by trying to set up plans which are the responsibility of the general staff." The foreign minister quickly added, too, that he did not think war was (AUDIO GAP). The United Nations has imposed some sanctions against Iran and is considering ways to toughen them up.
But Kouchner says Europeans should consider sanctions outside the U.N. framework and that France is beginning to act on its own. The foreign minister said major French companies, including those in the energy sector, are being told to stop any further investing in Iran.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy took an equally hard line late last month when he said that if Iran constructed a nuclear bomb, it would, as he put it, face bombardment.
Nicolas Sarkozy (THROUGH TRANSLATOR: For me, an Iran armed with nuclear weapons is not acceptable.
BITTERMANN: And analysts believe France's new president has more in mind than just Iran.
DOMINIQUE MOISI, FRENCH INSTITUTE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: I think there is a new France since Nicolas Sarkozy came to power. There's a new style. There's a new diplomatic content. And, obviously, there is a new relationship with the United States and Washington.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BITTERMANN: Iranian commentators responded with hostility to the harsh tone from the French, accusing the government here of pandering to the U.S. -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim Bittermann reporting for us.
Thanks, Jim, very much.
The French prime minister, Francois Fillon, tried today to downplay the foreign minister's comments, saying everything must be done to avoid war. At the same time, he called for, "the most severe sanctions possible against Iran if it continues its nuclear program."
Still ahead, no reservations for the former head of the Federal Reserve. Blunt criticism for President Bush and the GOP from one of their own.
Plus, criticism over censorship over the Emmy awards last night. Some stars were silenced. We'll tell you why.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring some other stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Carol, what's going on?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We'll start with an interesting one, Wolf.
CNN has confirmed this afternoon that federal authorities filed a criminal complaint in New Jersey against three men who've donated money to both Democrats and Republicans. The complaint filed in federal court charges all three men with mortgage fraud. The Politico, an online political Web site, is reporting that two of the men were arrested last month and a third is being sought in India. While an initial review of federal elections records shows that they were not as prolific campaign contributors as Norman Hsu, they did donate to some big names in the political world, such as Senator Hillary Clinton and the National Republican Congressional Committee, among others. Hsu, as you remember, was a major donor to Clinton and other Democrats. He is now under arrest after being on the lam for his conviction for investment fraud.
In other news this afternoon, Massachusetts is the latest state hoping to cash in on casino gambling. Governor Deval Patrick wants to license three full scale casinos in what he says would create thousands of jobs and generate billions of dollars. Indian tribes, as well as casino companies, would be eligible to bid if the state legislature approves the idea, but, of course, that is far from a slam dunk.
The subprime mortgage crisis is rocking one of Britain's largest lenders. Customers are lining up to pull their money out of Northern Rock after it announced a financial emergency. They've withdrawn $4 billion since Friday, prompting a promise from the treasury to guarantee all deposits. But there's fear that panic could spread, hurting other lenders, even the U.K. Economy itself.
And British doctors are being considered -- or are being ordered, rather, to go casual -- no ties, long sleeves, even the traditional white coats all banned in a dramatic effort to curtail hospital borne infections. U.K. Health officials say the garments could harbor germs, along with jewelry, watches and even fake fingernails. All of them banned, too, under these new rules.
Back to you -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Carol.
Thanks very much.
Still ahead, Hillary Clinton promises health care for everyone if she's elected president.
Can she possibly deliver?
His words can still move markets. Wait until you hear what the former Fed chairman, Alan Greenspan, is now saying about the Bush administration's economic policies.
Plus, O.J. Simpson sitting in a Las Vegas jail awaiting possible armed robbery charges. We have the tape of the alleged hotel room break-in. You'll be able to hear it as it happened.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, President Bush reaching outside his inner circle for his next attorney general, nominating the former federal judge, Michael Mukasey, to replace Alberto Gonzales. Senate Democrats generally welcome the choice of Mukasey, who has presided over several high profile terror cases.
And on Wall Street, all eyes are on the Federal Reserve in tomorrow's crucial meeting.
Will there be an interest rate cut and how much?
The jitters pushed all three major indices down slightly.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Her attempt to change the nation's health care system left her politically bruised and battered back when she was first lady. Now as a Democrat presidential frontrunner, Hillary Clinton is trying once again. She called today for universal coverage, health care for every single American.
Let's go to our senior political analyst. Bill Schneider
He's watching this story for us -- Bill, this is a story that has changed over these past many years.
What's different this time?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, this time, Senator Clinton seems to have learned an important lesson from the failure of health care reform in the 1990s.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Physicians are taught, first do no harm.
Hillary Clinton seems to have learned the same lesson from her earlier experience with health care reform.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: We will do no harm to the parts of our system that are working.
SCHNEIDER: Her earlier plan collided with an inescapable reality. In January of 1994, 80 percent of Americans said they were satisfied with their health care and 69 percent were satisfied with their health insurance. They wanted some kind of assurance that they could keep what they had and liked.
Instead, after watching the hair Harry and Louise ads, they feared the government was threatening to take it away from them.
Clinton's new plan starts with the assurance, if you like what you have, you can keep it.
LINDA BLUMBERG, URBAN INSTITUTE: What she's trying to do is to use the existing administrative structures that we have in place for providing insurance coverage and not build new ones.
SCHNEIDER: The idea is to expand the system so it covers everyone.
BLUMBERG: This is all about redistribution when you are giving insurance coverage to individuals who can't otherwise afford it.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's raising taxes as opposed to holding taxes level, and that's not the right course for solving our health care problems.
SCHNEIDER: Some of the money for subsidies to the poor will come from the rich.
CLINTON: I will pay for some of it by rolling back part of President Bush's fiscally irresponsible tax breaks for the highest income Americans.
SCHNEIDER: But middle income Americans who felt threatened in 1994 are now being promised greater choice, including the choice to keep what they have.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
SCHNEIDER: Critics on the right complain her plan goes too far. Critics on the left complain it doesn't do far enough. The Clinton campaign claims she feels perfectly comfortable in the middle -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Bill Schneider, thanks very much.
So is Hillary Clinton setting herself up for another bruising by tackling the health care issue head on?
Let's go to our chief national correspondent, John King.
You and I covered her initial Hillary Care health care plan back in 1993. And a lot of bad memories for Hillary Clinton as a result of what she and her team did then.
JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There certainly are, Wolf.
But, you know, she has a husband who's a pretty good political strategist. And Bill Clinton used to always say if you have a political problem, don't run from it, tackle it. She is defined by that plan. Many believe it was too liberal. Many believe it contributed hugely to the Republican revolution in 1994, the conservatives coming into power saying the Clintons are not the middle of the road Democrats that ran for the White House, as they are liberals.
So she is trying to redefine herself. She has no way to escape this issue from her own personal history and no reason to escape it as a candidate, because anyone in both parties will tell you, the top strategists, that Iraq is number one. Number two is economic anxiety, with health care being the giant issue under that title -- Wolf.
BLITZER: John McCain issued a statement saying: "I haven't seen it, but if it's anything like the last time around, I will oppose it vigorously."
And the Giuliani campaign saying: "Senator Clinton's latest health scheme includes more government mandates, expensive federal subsidies and more big bureaucracy -- in short, a prescription for an increase in wait time, a decrease in protection care and tax hikes to pay for it all."
They're going after her major league, except for saying it's socialized medicine.
KING: Well, they'll get to that if they need to. And it shows you uniquely though how Hillary Clinton is in this race. She has two "kick me" signs, if you will. She is being hit from the left by her own Democratic rivals. Former Senator John Edwards, chief among them on this day saying her plan does not go far enough. It doesn't do enough.
And she's being hit from the right by the Republicans who are convinced she is going to be the Democratic nominee. So you have the Democratic candidates who are trying to knock her off her air of inevitability for the Democratic nomination. The Republicans already running against her. And this is a big test for her.
And guess what, if you want to be the nominee of your party or the president of the United States, you are going to have to deal with tough tests. But this is a defining issue for Hillary Clinton.
And, Wolf, they actually think in her campaign, number one, not only can she get back to the middle a little bit with this plan, but number two, she can be more human by saying, yes, you are right, I did do this before and I made a lot of mistakes and I learned from it.
BLITZER: And it was 1,000 pages, if you remember, that detail all the fine print the last time, everybody remembers that weird chart they had trying to explain it. There it is. Take a look at that chart. There's Bob Dole.
He was the Republican leader in the Senate at the time. I couldn't understand it. I don't know if you understood it at the time. But I assume this one is a lot simpler to appreciate.
KING: It better be because that chart used by the Republicans back in the first debate during the Clinton administration, that was it. That was the arrow that just pierced the plan and convinced -- allowed the Republicans to convince -- remember, Bill Clinton ran as a new Democrat.
It allowed the Republicans to go to the American people in that campaign and say, they lied to you, they are big government liberals. They want more government control. It's interesting, though, as the Democrats push this issue, you know, Romney, Giuliani, all the Republicans have health care plans, too. Why? Because the American people do want the government to do more. The question that will be answered in this campaign is, how much more?
BLITZER: John, thanks very much. John King reporting.
When Alan Greenspan speaks, world markets listen. And now the former Federal Reserve Chairman is giving blunt and some surprising opinions in a brand new book. He has sharp criticism for President Bush and the GOP, and some dire financial warnings we should be paying attention to. Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow. She's watching all of this in New York.
Mary, so what's the former chairman saying?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, for one thing, Wolf, Greenspan is clarifying something he said in the book that has gained so much attention, that the Iraq War is largely about oil. He says he doesn't believe oil was the administration's motive to go to war, but he does believe removing Saddam Hussein was essential to securing the world's oil supplies.
But oil is not the only economic threat he sees.
SNOW (voice-over): It's Alan Greenspan as you've never heard him before. The man who carefully crafted every phrase he uttered while Federal Reserve chairman for 18 years, opens up in his memoir "The Age of Turbulence." He sees the turbulence in the housing market getting worse before it gets better.
ALAN GREENSPAN, FMR. FEDERAL RESERVE CHMN.: We do know that the housing market has a significant way to go on the downside. The price decline has not ended by any means that I can see.
SNOW: Greenspan sat down with Andy Serwer of Fortune magazine, also owned by CNN's parent, Time Warner.
ANDY SERWER, FORTUNE: You sort of get the feeling that he's unclear whether or not this is going to throw us into a recession.
SNOW: Greenspan deflects criticism that he is to blame for troubles in the housing market, by keeping interest rates low. And says he didn't deserve credit either when the economy was strong.
He does not hold back on politics, unleashing stinging criticism against the Republican Party.
GREENSPAN: In the election of 2006, the Republicans deserved to lose. And the reason is that they had originally come to office with major important policy initiatives and they went out of office solely seeking power. And in the end, they achieved neither.
SNOW: Greenspan puts much of the blame on the president's policies, writing: "With George Bush came the tax cuts, unmatched by decreased spending and in the wake of September 11th, still more open- handed spending."
The White House weighed in an Greenspan's book with a spokeswoman saying: "We are not going to apologize for increased spending on national security matters." Some political observers say you can bet Democrats are going to use it as ammunition.
STU ROTHENBERG, ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT: You will see Democrats using this, both in the presidential race, but also I wouldn't be surprised if they tried to use it in a congressional race, arguing that Republicans mismanaged the economy and the government during their years controlling Congress.
SNOW: Now Greenspan considers himself a libertarian Republican. Just he will vote in 2008? He told The Wall Street Journal he doesn't know yet -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Mary, thanks very much. Mary Snow watching this. And by the way, for more of Andy Serwer's interview with Alan Greenspan, you can go to cnn/money.com -- cnnmoney, that is, dot-com.
O.J. Simpson, he is in trouble with the law again. The former football great is under arrest. He is facing several felonies. We have the dramatic tape of the incident that put him back in jail.
BLITZER: Also, the actress Sally Field gets bleeped at the Emmys. Was it because of what she said about the war in Iraq? Carol Costello has a lot more of that coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: O.J. Simpson jailed without bail and due in a Las Vegas court Wednesday to face felony charges stemming from what police say was an armed robbery. Simpson maintains it was just an unarmed confrontation over sports memorabilia. Let's go to CNN's Ed Lavandera. He is joining us with the latest from Vegas.
Ed, what happened today?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a lot of maneuvering today on behalf of O.J. Simpson's attorneys as they begin the process of trying to get him out of jail. He had come to Vegas to celebrate the wedding of a friend. He ended up in jail and many people across the country waking up today and saying, here we go again.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): When O.J. Simpson and his entourage entered a Palace Station Casino Hotel Room last Thursday, it didn't take long for tempers to erupt. One of the men who was with Simpson recorded the altercation, a recording made public by the celebrity Web site tmz.com.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (expletive deleted) you. Mind your own business.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at this (expletive deleted).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get over here.
SIMPSON: You think you can steal my (expletive deleted)?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Backs to the wall.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was trying to get past you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Walk your ass over there.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
LAVANDERA: O.J. Simpson says he was trying to recover sports memorabilia that had been stolen from him by a former agent.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SIMPSON: Think you can steal my (expletive deleted)?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mike took it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You, up against the (expletive deleted) wall.
SIMPSON: I know (expletive deleted) Mike took it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Search him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I know what Brian is trying to prove.
(END AUDIO CLIP) LAVANDERA: Las Vegas Police say Simpson's entourage brandished weapons. O.J. says guns weren't involved. But police say they've confiscated two guns they believe were used in the theft. O.J. Simpson still sits in jail, held without bail, and it could be a couple of days before O.J. is released, if at all.
JUDGE NANCY OESTERLE, CLARK COUNTY COURT: Right now what is going on is the 48-hour, which is the probably cause paperwork, is being walked directly to the assigning judge. She will review the 48- hour paperwork to determine whether or not there's proper cause to detain him. She would not see him in person to do that. Then within 72 hours, then she must physically see O.J. Simpson in her courtroom or on the video court. I believe she does it in person. So that would be this Wednesday morning.
LAVANDERA: Hecklers turned out to catch a glimpse of O.J. as he was arrested and escorted to the Las Vegas jail.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
LAVANDERA: A "free O.J." banner is already flying, a reminder of this circus-like atmosphere that clouded Simpson's murder trial. This infamous mug shot in 1994 captured the fall from grace of a football hero turned movie star, 13 years later, this is O.J.'s newest snapshot from behind bars.
LAVANDERA: Now as I mentioned, O.J. Simpson's attorney has been quoted as saying that he will try to get O.J. Simpson out of jail before Wednesday. But until then, that's all the information we have in terms of when that first court appearance will be and the earliest that O.J. Simpson at this point seems to be able to get out of jail -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ed, have the police already interviewed everyone they suspect is involved in this incident?
LAVANDERA: Well, they have apparently talked to the two men who were the sports collectors who were in that room that were allegedly assaulted or confronted in this case. But police also say that there are four other people that they are looking for and want to question.
There is conflicting testimony so far from what we've been able to gather as to exactly what happened and whether or not guns were brandished in this altercation. So the police say they still have a lot of work to do and they are still trying to track down four people they suspect will be able to shed more light onto what happened last Thursday.
BLITZER: Ed Lavandera is on the scene in Vegas for us, thanks very much. And according to Las Vegas Police, the items Simpson took from that hotel room include pictures and footballs he had autographed. Simpson tells CNN he took leather-bound copies of his first book, "I Want to Tell You," which he wrote back in jail in 1995, as well as a pair of cleats signed by hall of famer Joe Montana and baseballs signed by Pete Rose.
So what could we expect at Simpson's hearing on Wednesday? Let's go to our senior legal analyst, Jeff Toobin. He knows a lot about O.J. Simpson, wrote a bestseller about the case back in 1995, '96.
Jeff, how strong is this case seemingly against Simpson right now?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Very hard to tell at this point. It was a chaotic situation. Certainly the existence of this audio tape doesn't help because at a minimum, it contradicts the version that he has been supplying to our Ted Rowlands and other journalists where he has said this was simply a business dispute.
That sounds like something more than a business dispute with people -- with O.J. himself saying things like, "up against the wall." As for what the testimony is of the other people, I think we have to wait and see. It's likely that there will be credibility issues because the people who get involved in the memorabilia business, the people who get involved with O.J. Simpson tend not to be of the highest character these days.
BLITZER: Well, that audio tape is -- would it be admissible in a court if this ever comes down to a real trial against O.J. Simpson?
TOOBIN: Assuming it's authentic, and I have no reason to think it isn't. I think it's certainly admissible because you couldn't argue that it was improper activity by government law enforcement taping things they shouldn't tape because it wasn't taped by law enforcement. It was taped by someone who was there, and he had, as far as I can tell, every right to do it. And O.J. wouldn't have the right to suppress it, I don't think.
BLITZER: He's potentially facing, what, decades, if convicted on all these charges in jail? He's 60 years old. Is that realistic?
TOOBIN: Well, I think if he's convicted of armed robbery, a sentence of over 10 years is certainly possible. The reason why he's being detained in lieu of bail is because the penalty is so serious. The incentive to flee when facing a sentence like that is great.
And of course, as we all know, O.J. Simpson has a history of flight in his famous Al Cowlings-driven white Bronco is certainly what's on the judge's mind in not granting him bail at this point.
BLITZER: And so Wednesday, when this hearing occurs, will they determine at that point whether or not he's eligible for bail?
TOOBIN: Yes, that will be the main issue decided on Wednesday. And he has got to hire a lawyer and get together a bail package. He has got to prove to the authorities that he can put something up like a house or cash or something that will show that he will guarantee his appearance in court. And frankly, I don't know if his financial situation will allow him to do that.
BLITZER: Because we heard earlier that if he can't afford a lawyer, the court will make a lawyer available to him. I assume there would be a lot of lawyers lining up to represent O.J. Simpson right now, even if he can't afford necessarily to pay them. But correct me if I'm wrong.
TOOBIN: I think this is an irresistible opportunity. Unfortunately for O.J., the most famous criminal defense lawyer in Las Vegas happens also to be the mayor, Oscar Goodman, so I don't think he'll be in a position to be representing O.J. But knowing Mayor Goodman, I bet he'd love to do it.
BLITZER: All right. Jeff Toobin, we'll watch this story together with the rest of us. Jeff, thanks very much.
Still ahead, celebrities censored over at the Emmy Awards last night. We're going to show you why one remark in particular is fuelling conspiracy theories.
And Jack Cafferty wants the know, what do you think the odds are that the Democrats will win the 2008 presidential election? Jack with the "The Cafferty File." That's coming up and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's go back to Jack Cafferty for the "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: Newt Gingrich said today, Wolf, that he thought the odds were about 80/20 that the Democrats would win the White House in 2008. We asked what you think the numbers ought to be?
Kay in Texas writes: "I have every confidence the Democrats will do or say something horribly stupid, enough to keep them from getting elected in 2008, at least that's what I'm hoping for."
Bill in Wisconsin: "Zero. GOP kills. Dems faint. Specials interests empty the till. The purple finger will prevail." I don't understand that.
Nancy in Baltimore: "If our current Democratic Congress is any example of what we can expect with a Democratic president, I'd bet my over-mortgaged house there won't be many blue states come election night."
Tom writes: "If we only have a choice of Democrat or Republican, 80/20 sounds about right. But I think it's time to hear from the independents. If a strong independent stood up and started talking, we'd see a real change."
Ron in San Francisco: "You have to have a spine to win. And the Democrats haven't had one for years. It is obvious they will grab defeat from the jaws of victory. I wish I didn't believe that, but experience has taught me to expect nothing else."
Jason in Virginia: "Being a former Republican myself, I have to say the odds are very good. The Republicans are fooling themselves by thinking everything they do is a sure thing. In this country and at this time, they, like everyone, have got to work for it. And they are and I don't see that changing. So I do see Democrat in the White House in '08."
Ray in Texas: "Politics is like a Halloween party, some where a donkey outfit, others dress as an elephant. There is nothing different inside, I will never vote for a politician supporting illegal immigration. And that is the only thing that matters to me."
And finally, Cedric in Staten Island: "Democrats remind me of the New York Knicks, they could be up by 20 points with a minute left in the game and still find a way to lose it. If Jeb Bush was running, I wouldn't count him out."
I invite you to tune in Wednesday, 8:00 Eastern time. We're going to be doing a one-hour special of "The Cafferty File," talking about just how ugly it's getting out there. It is getting ugly out there, you know. You can go to cnn.com/caffertyfile. You can send us your I-Reports. You can also e-mail us at email@example.com. We'll read some of your e-mails on the show.
And, Wolf, I just got a note from the publisher, my book has been out a week, it is going into its third printing.
BLITZER: That's pretty good. And it's an excellent book. We've been trying to promote. And I think our viewers are responding. A lot of people out there are responding, Jack, because they're getting a whole different side of Jack Cafferty that they're unfamiliar with when they read that book.
CAFFERTY: Well, there's a little slice of my personal life, some of it not Hallmark card material, that is included, but it might give some context to viewers of this program about why I tend to see things the way I do.
BLITZER: I went into a Barnes & Noble over the weekend and there you were, Jack, right in midst of all the great ones. I was so proud.
CAFFERTY: Made you lose your appetite for lunch, didn't it?
BLITZER: All right. Jack, I'm going to talk in the next hour -- at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, we'll talk a little bit about the special you're going to do Wednesday night. You're going to tell our viewers what is going on. But stand by, hold your player. We have got a lot to talk about. Jack Cafferty, the best-selling author right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Allegations of censorship at the Emmy awards, stars have some of their comments bleeped out. But one politically charged comment in particular is raising lots of questions. Let's go back to Carol Costello.
What's this controversy, Carol, all about?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Wolf, remember when Sally Field won her first award and she said: "you like me, you really like me"? As memorable as that was, her comments at last night's Emmys may live on, too.
COSTELLO (voice-over): Remembering that all the world's a stage, Sally Field used her moment under the lights to go way beyond thinking everyone she worked with on "Sons and Daughters."
SALLY FIELD, ACTOR: And let's face it, if the mothers ruled the world, there would be no goddamned wars in the first place.
COSTELLO: Except, that's not what you heard at home.
FIELD: And let's face it, if the mothers ruled the world, there would be no...
COSTELLO: Censored by FOX. It didn't that i can long for the blogging world to go crazy with conspiracy theories. The Carpetbagger Report blogs: "It's certainly possible that an overly sensitive Puritan was at the switch and the decision to block the comments had nothing to do with politics. But it was a News Corp. broadcast."
Well, not exactly. But News Corp. Is the parent company of FOX Network, which carried the Emmys. And FOX News, run by former Republican consultant Roger Ailes, is a favorite target of liberal groups because of its conservative agenda.
FOX Network denied politics had anything to do with Field's censorship, telling us: "Some language during the live broadcast may have been considered inappropriate by some viewers. As a result, FOX's broadcast standards executives determined it appropriate to drop sound during those portions of the show.
It is true Fields wasn't the only star edited. Ray Romano threw his own PG-16 rated bomb.
RAY ROMANO, COMEDIAN: A lot has changed in TV in two years. For one, from what I hear, "Frasier" is screwing my wife?
COSTELLO: Katherine Heigl of "Grey's Anatomy" fame could be seen mouthing a swear word as her award was announced, but at that point she had no mike.
We did talk to Sally Fields after the show who seemed surprised she was censored.
SALLY FIELDS, ACTOR: I don't care. They got what I meant.
COSTELLO: And what did she mean? Fields says she was merely paying homage to their character on "Brothers & Sisters" who sent a son off to the Iraq War.
FIELDS: I said that because that is the heart of Nora Walker's story. And I felt I wanted to acknowledge that. I wouldn't be here had that not been the heart of Nora's story. (END VIDEOTAPE)
COSTELLO: You decide. If you're wondering about FCC rules when it comes to bad words, it doesn't have a banned list. But it is possible, lots of people complain and send their complaints into the FCC, the FCC could fine FOX for its use of bad language -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. You think that FOX, the broadcast networks, are being overly sensitive to the whole Janet Jackson fiasco, the whole wardrobe malfunction and all of that at the Super Bowl a few years ago?
COSTELLO: I think that has a lot to do with it, because oddly enough, that issue is back in court as we speak. Because, you know, CBS paid the fine but now it is fighting it. So all of that is in the mix as well. So it's possible -- really possible, that FOX is just being conservative to avoid fines.
BLITZER: Carol, thanks very much. Carol Costello reporting.
Still ahead, Ellen DeGeneres, she has a message for me on the red carpet over at the Emmy Awards. We're going to show you what she had to say. That's coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the "Hot Shots" coming in from the Associated Press in Baghdad. Children wait for food outside a mosque that provides food to poor families during Ramadan.
In Cape Coral, Florida, overturned cars are strewn around a parking lot after a tornado swept through the area.
In Indonesia, animal rights activists dressed as skeletons holds signs outside the Australian embassy, calling for an end to live shipments of cattle.
In Rio de Janeiro, two wrestlers compete for the gold medal during the World Judo Championships. Some of this hour's "Hot Shots," pictures often worth 1,000 words.
She calls herself "the Wolf Blitzer of daytime TV, but without the facial hair." Last night, the talk show Ellen DeGeneres sent a message to me from the red carpet at the Emmy Awards.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wolf Blitzer has been trying to get you on the show.
ELLEN DEGENERES, HOST, "THE ELLEN SHOW": Yes. He didn't answer my phone call. I called him during my show. They put me on hold, some woman, some mouthpiece just talked to me -- no, she was sweet. I think her name was Jill. But anyway, he didn't pick up the phone. So if he wants to pick up-- he was on some live show or something. I said... UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was live to air.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's your message for him?
DEGENERES: I will come on, get on the show with me. Yes, do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Here's my message to Ellen. Of course, I'll be on your show and I'd love you to come on my show as well. One thing though, just don't call when we're live here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We can't take your phone call, but happy to take it any other time.
That's it for us right now. We'll be back in one hour, 7:00 Eastern. "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now. Kitty Pilgrim sitting in for Lou -- Kitty.
KITTY PILGRIM, GUEST HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Thanks, Wolf.
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