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THE SITUATION ROOM
Clinton Campaign Hostage Situation; Chicago Train Accident
Aired November 30, 2007 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BLITZER: Sparks terror in a very small New Hampshire town. We'll have continuing coverage of this story.
Also, a sharp turnaround in Iraq. As the death toll drops, a top critic of the war seems to make a stunning turnaround of his own. I'll ask Congressman Murtha -- he's just back from Iraq -- where he stands now.
And Hillary Clinton gets a warm welcome at an Evangelical super church.
Can Democrats find new converts to their cause?
I'll ask "Purpose-Driven" pastor, Rick Warren.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
A tense standoff happening right now in Hillary Clinton's campaign office in Rochester, New Hampshire. A man claiming to have a bomb possibly still holding hostages inside. We're told at least one hostage is inside.
I want to welcome our viewers on CNN International watching us from around the world.
Anderson Cooper is on the scene for us. We want to check in with Anderson right now for an update. For those viewers just tuning in -- Anderson, tell them what we know right now.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, we -- what we know about is this. About a block-and-a-half or two blocks in that direction is the Hillary Clinton headquarters in this town -- this small town in New Hampshire. At approximately 1:00 p.m. a man walked into to the office. He had a coat on. He opened up the coat and had what appeared to be some sort of bomb-like device strapped with duct tape to him. It's not clear if it's real or not. We simply do not have that information.
One woman was able to get out of the office with a baby. According to witnesses, she walked into a nearby store. She had been crying. She asked them to call 9/11 and said that a man had had walked into Senator Clinton's office with what appeared to be a bomb.
We do not know the current status inside the office. We don't know exactly what is going on. Clearly, the police had been in communication with this man since -- WMUR is reporting that two people have thus far left -- been allowed to leave the office. But, again, we don't know how many or if any are still being held. And, as far as we know, we have not been able to independently confirm that two people have, in fact, left the office. But that is what WMUR is reporting, that two people have left the office.
It is a very tense situation here. The police have cordoned off several blocks in this entire area and we are simply waiting for -- for any development that may occur. It has gotten dark just about half an hour ago, which makes it all the more difficult for police. They're going to have to light up the area. But, again, media is being kept back, understandably. And, in fact, this entire area has been evacuated. As soon as this word spread of what was happening, the local schools were evacuated, as were the local businesses and the other political offices in this town.
Barack Obama's office, as well as John Edwards' office, were evacuated, as well -- Wolf.
BLITZER: The police captain who briefed us just a little while ago suggested -- in fact, said flatly, this is a hostage situation, although he declined to say how many hostages were inside, simply saying this is a hostage situation. It's a fluid situation. So there's either one or two hostages, we're told, still inside. That's the latest information that we're getting. And, presumably, one or two may have been released earlier.
COOPER: Well, he did say this is a hostage situation. When he was then immediately asked, is this man still holding a hostage, he refused to clarify. So he refused to say whether or not there was one hostage or not, though he did -- maybe it was he misspoke and or maybe he said something he wished he didn't say. He did say this is a hostage situation. But he would not elaborate. And he was questioned quite vigorously on that for the next couple of minutes.
So he -- the police, really, are trying to stay very tight- lipped, understandably. This person may have access to a television, may be watching. So they want to be very careful about what kind of information they release -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And if I know campaign offices in small towns or big towns, there are always a lot of TVs in there and they're always watching television, monitoring what's going on.
Anderson, stand by for a moment.
I want our viewers to be able to listen to one eyewitness who was nearby when this situation began to unfold.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY WMUR)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I was in the business next door just working like any other normal day, not really paying attention to the outside, doing my job. And my husband called me and asked me what I was doing. So I told him I was working. And he told me that I needed to leave the building immediately. And I didn't understand why. He told me that there was something about a bomb. So I immediately grabbed my jacket and ran out the door. When I got out the door, I had seen that there were cops down the street. Both ends of the road were blocked off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That eyewitness clearly shaken, understandably so, by what has occurred in little Rochester, New Hampshire.
You're looking at these pictures that scene.
Mary Snow has been monitoring all the developments and all the information that's coming in -- pick up the story, Mary, on the additional information that we're getting.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are learning a little bit more, Wolf, from the New Hampshire Department of Safety. An official there telling us that local police believe that they know the hostage taker. And they say that he is apparently upset with the mental health care situation in the United States. You just heard Anderson saying that, you know, police are being so tight-lipped, obviously, about this situation they're calling a fluid situation.
Also, in terms of Senator Clinton, she is not in New Hampshire. She was supposed to be at an event this afternoon in the Washington, D.C. area. She canceled that. And an adviser saying that there's no decision made on whether she's going to go to New Hampshire, that she's sitting tight and that she is in constant contact with police officials and law enforcement officials and really kind of taking her cue from them.
Also, you know, it's a very small area. There are other campaign headquarters right near this one -- Senator Obama, Senator Edwards. They were evacuated as a precaution, but everybody turned out to be safe -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Mary, stand by, because I know you're getting new information coming in all the time.
I want to go back to Anderson Cooper.
He's in Rochester, New Hampshire with us right now.
You heard Anderson -- Mary suggest that some believe that this individual may be upset about the mental health system -- mental health care here in the United States right now. As you'll remember, in our last Democratic presidential debate, Hillary Clinton was one who spoke very, very forcefully in terms of parity for physical health, as well as mental health, and if he's upset at Hillary Clinton because of the mental health care system he shouldn't be necessarily upset at her because she's the one -- she's among those saying there should be parity in the health care system for mental health and other ailments, as well -- just an aside to what is going on.
You never know with these individuals what their grievances are, but you have to take their accusations -- their charges -- very seriously.
And I assume law enforcement where you are, Anderson, has to worry about the so-called worst case scenario -- that it isn't a hoax, but this guy has a real bomb.
COOPER: Absolutely. I mean they're -- they have to take it seriously. The bomb squad is on the scene, as well as the FBI. We were told the Secret Service, as well as well as numerous state and local law enforcement agencies and the fire department is here. I've seen state troopers. I've seen highway patrol, as well as local Rochester police.
It is a very fluid situation. That is the term the police continue to use. We've been seeing cars come and go, police kind of standing around in clumps discussing the situation. Clearly, they're not sure what is going to happen. I mean it is, at this point, anyone's guess as to how this is going to play out.
BLITZER: I want our viewers, Anderson, to listen to what Captain Paul Callaghan from the police department in Rochester, New Hampshire, told us, just moments ago.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAPT. PAUL CALLAGHAN, ROCHESTER POLICE: It's still ongoing. It's a fluid investigation. The first thing I want to tell you is after we assessed this situation, we evacuated the area. There was an elementary school, a K through eight school, that was in the area of our lockdown. We worked with the school department to get some buses over there and safely transport those students over to another school so their parents could come and get them conveniently.
We're working with -- we then notified our tactical response team. And that comprised a regional tactical response team. That comprised our agency, which is Rochester, the Durham, New Hampshire Police Department and the Dover, New Hampshire Police Department.
We then notified the state police explosive unit and they responded here promptly.
Now, you may ask me why we notified the bomb unit. It's because we had information that we felt we needed them here.
But I can tell you now, the situation is still fluid. I want our residents to know that the area is stabilized, that we're very confident that we have the resources available to be able to handle this situation effectively and safely. Again, we're dealing with a lot of cooperation from a lot of agencies -- a lot of local agencies. The sheriff sent us resources. The state police have sent us resources. And we have the FBI, the ATF and the Secret Service.
I would follow it up, a lot of active leads and we continue to follow up some leads now.
CALLAGHAN: It's really -- it's inappropriate to do that right now because this is a fluid investigation.
I'll just tell you, based on the information we received and how we assess that, is we've secured and stabilized the area and notified our regional team to respond and notified other resources to assist us in this.
QUESTION: Is this a hostage situation?
CALLAGHAN: This is a hostage situation.
QUESTION: Who's in the building right now?
How many people?
CALLAGHAN: Again, that is information that is inappropriate to release.
QUESTION: But wait, you said this is a hostage situation, right?
That means that there are still people in the building?
CALLAGHAN: Again, I'm not going to get into any details.
QUESTION: There is or was?
CALLAGHAN: Again, I'm not going to give you any details on this investigation. It's still ongoing. It's still fluid.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Captain Paul Callaghan of the Rochester Police Department briefing us just a little while ago. And you're looking at these pictures coming in courtesy of our affiliate, WMUR, downtown Rochester, New Hampshire. There's a hostage situation that still continues on the scene. And we're going to go back to Anderson Cooper shortly.
Let's check in, in the meantime, with Jack Cafferty.
He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: Twenty-eight retired generals and admirals say that it's time for this country to repeal the U.S. military's policy of don't ask/don't tell. On the fourteenth anniversary of this being signed into law, they've signed a letter calling for Congress to get rid of it. They say there are 65,000 gays and lesbians serving in the military and there are more than a million gay veterans -- all of whom have "served our nation honorably." In the years since Bill Clinton enacted the don't ask/don't tell policy that allows gays to serve in the military only if they keep their sexual orientation secret, more than 12,000 gays have been discharged from the service. The retired officers say they have dedicated their lives to defending the rights of our citizens to believe whatever they wish. And they highlight recent comments by General John Shalikasvili. He was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when this policy was adopted. He now argues for repealing it.
Efforts to get Congress to repeal the legislation have not gotten much traction. Top Pentagon officials have said they will follow the lead of Congress.
When it comes to the presidential race, all of the Democratic candidates say they favor a policy change. The Republicans want to leave it as it is. The public seems to side with the Democrats. A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll that we did last spring shows that 79 percent of those surveyed are in favor of allowing gays to serve openly in the military.
So that's our question -- is it time for the U.S. to rethink don't ask/don't tell when it comes to gays in the military?
Your thoughts to Caffertyfile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you for that.
We'll check back with you shortly.
And remember, we're staying on top of the standoff over at Hillary Clinton's campaign office in Rochester, New Hampshire.
We'll go back there live shortly.
Also coming up, he's one of the most outspoken Congressional critics of the war in Iraq.
So what does John Murtha make of the significant drop in violence there?
I'll ask him. He's standing by to join us live.
Plus, what was Hillary Clinton doing speaking at one of the most influential Evangelical churches in the country?
I'll ask the man who invited her, author and pastor Rick Warren. He'll be here live in THE SITUATION ROOM, as well.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We've been watching this unfolding drama in Rochester, New Hampshire. A hostage situation. A man walks in to Hillary Clinton's campaign headquarters in the small town not far from Manchester, New Hampshire in Rochester, New Hampshire, claims he has some sort of explosive device and is holding one hostage, maybe more.
There's a statement that's been released from the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Abbi Tatton is getting that online -- what are you -- what are they saying?
ABBI TATTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is at HillaryClinton.com, at the Web site usually reserved for the latest news and events from the campaign. At the front page now, that statement given out by the campaign earlier: "There's an ongoing situation in our Rochester, New Hampshire office. We are in close contact with state and local authorities and are acting at their direction. We will release additional details as appropriate."
That statement front and center at their main campaign Web site and at their news Web site also -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, we're going to stay on top of this story.
Anderson Cooper is on the scene for us in Rochester, New Hampshire.
We'll go back there shortly.
But there's other important news we're following -- very important news. As most of our viewers know by now, there now has been a stunning drop in the death toll for U.S. troops in Iraq. Thirty- seven have been killed this month -- on track to be the lowest monthly total in more than a year. The Iraqi death toll for civilians also has plummeted.
Has that turnaround led to an equally stunning turnaround by a leading critic of the war in Iraq?
Democratic Congressman John Murtha is joining us now from his home district in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
What's the answer, Congressman?
Because there wee some suggestions you have been telling reporters, based on your visit to Iraq -- and you're literally just back -- that the military surge is, in fact, working.
REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, what I have been saying is mixed results from the surge. But I was inspired by the troops at Thanksgiving dinner with the troops and they're making a terrible sacrifice in staggering cost to them and their families -- not only lives lost, but people who have been hurt and will pay a price for years to come. And, of course, we will have spent $455 billion.
But the real key is not only are our troops doing well, but the Iraqis are finally starting to step up in the provinces. But, still, the government -- the central government, as the Iraqi leader said -- or as the American leader said to me -- the thing that's the most concern to them -- stability in Iraq -- is the fact that the central government is not doing its job.
And I told President Maliki this. I told him, I said let me just tell you something. The American public is patient. We're spending $14 billion a month and we have to see some results. You have to do something dramatic.
And what does he do?
He thumbs his nose at America, not even attending the Middle East conference, which we had in Annapolis.
BLITZER: All right...
MURTHA: So, you know, he's not responding and it's very frustrating.
We can't win it militarily. It has to be won by the Iraqis and they still are snubbing their nose at the United States.
BLITZER: Because there's been a little commotion, as you know, Congressman, over the past 24 hours that statements you're making now seem to be very, very different than what Nancy Pelosi and other leaders in the Congress are saying and what you said earlier.
I'm going to play a little clip of what you said back in April and what you said yesterday. And then I want you to clarify for our viewers what's going on.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MURTHA: I think the surge has failed. I think there was no possibility it was going to work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MURTHA: I think the surge is working.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, those were two very different statements, what you said back in April and what you are suggesting now. So go ahead, this is your chance to clarify what exactly you mean.
MURTHA: Yes, let me say exactly. The military part has always been something that we knew we could accomplish. We recommended several years ago they needed more troops, not only in Iraq, but in the military as a whole.
But the Iraqi government has not stepped up. There's a lull in the fighting. And I was optimistic yesterday that we could even work out some sort of a compromise because of the legislation we passed for the $50 billion. We passed a $459 billion bill, Wolf, that took care of everything at home -- everything the Defense Department needs. Then the president threatens to close down -- cut off 200,000 jobs, many of those the wives and spouses of the people that are deployed to Iraq -- cutting off counseling services, all the things we put extra money in for.
So, you know, a disconnect between what's really going on. The mixed result that I'm talking about is the fact that militarily, sure, we can win, but the problem that we have is the Iraqis aren't stepping up. And if the central government doesn't do de-Baathification, we're not going to be able to maintain the lull in the fighting that's going on. The Iraqis did step up in the provinces, and that's been a big part of it, as the military commanders told me when I was over there.
BLITZER: And those were mostly Iraqi Sunnis out in the provinces, as opposed to the Shiite dominated government in Baghdad.
BLITZER: There's been some suggestion, congressman, that Nancy Pelosi, the speaker, was leaning on you to sort of revise your position over the past 24 hours.
Is that true?
MURTHA: No. I haven't talked to Nancy about it at all. I feel very strongly that -- militarily, I've said right along, there is no question about it militarily. The thing that disappointed me -- after I said yes after talking to General Lute in the White House. And I said to him, general, here's the things that aren't happening. He seemed to agree with that. Then the president comes out and says we're going to lay off 200,000 people. And he said this after I had already talked.
Well, that's distressing to me. He's threatening -- he's using the families of the military, holding them hostage to the amount of money we appropriated for the very things he's talking about cutting off -- child care, counseling and, of course, keeping the bases open. In other words, he's saying we're going to close down the bases -- the training bases and so forth. That's unacceptable to me...
BLITZER: Here's what he said...
MURTHA: ...and it's...
BLITZER: Here's what he said, Congressman.
I'll play a little clip of what the president said yesterday at the Pentagon after his meeting with the top military brass.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Pentagon officials have warned Congress that the continued delay in funding our troops will soon begin to have a damaging impact on the operations of this department.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, do you want to respond to the president?
MURTHA: Let me tell you, we have appropriated $1 trillion in one year for the military. I voted for every cent. But we are not getting cooperation -- we're not getting a plan. We sent a plan over. We said, look, we need no torture -- and we passed it several times in Congress, that we need to be fully trained and fully equipped before you send them overseas into combat. And the third is we need a goal to get our troops out.
We haven't got any kind of plan from them. Until we get that plan, it won't be satisfactory.
BLITZER: Congressman John Murtha, glad to have you back here from Iraq.
Thanks very much for coming in.
MURTHA: Nice talking to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you.
And we're continuing to watch the breaking news out in New Hampshire -- Rochester, New Hampshire. You're looking at these pictures. There's a standoff over at the Hillary Clinton campaign office. There's an individual who has simply walked in and taken some hostages -- at least one, maybe two still inside. He claims to have some sort of explosive device strapped to his body. We're going to go there live when we come back. Anderson Cooper is on the scene for us. Also, we'll speak with the FBI's former chief hostage negotiator.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, fans are mourning the death of Evel Knievel. His daredevil motorcycle jumps included buses, sharks -- even an attempt at Idaho's Snake River Canyon. Evel Knievel was 69 years old and had been in poor health for many years.
Also, new hope for the longest held U.S. hostages still held in captivity. The first new images of them in four years. Colombian police discovered recent video of three defense contractors who were seized by Columbian rebels after their plane crashed in 2003.
And no survivors in the crash of a Turkish plane with 57 people on board. The flight from Istanbul went down as it was preparing to land in the southern Turkish city. No word on the cause.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Let's get some more now on our top story, the breaking news we're following -- the hostage crisis at Hillary Clinton's campaign office in Rochester, New Hampshire.
CNN's Anderson Cooper is on the scene for us as it's unfolding right now. The drama still, still very, very obvious -- Anderson, what's the latest?
Excuse me, Anderson Cooper -- we'll get to him in a moment.
Mary Snow is on the scene for us -- Mary, update our viewers on what we know.
SNOW: Well, Wolf, this situation has been going on now for more than four hours. And the latest briefing -- the only briefing that we've had from police in New Hampshire -- in Rochester, New Hampshire -- they are only saying that this is a fluid situation.
Captain Paul Callaghan, who held a news conference within the last hour, did describe it as a hostage situation, but would not elaborate on any details or on how many people may have been involved.
We are hearing some information from the New Hampshire Department of Safety that police believe that they know the hostage taker and they have said that he is upset with the mental health care situation in the United States.
What we know so far, according to reports, is that a woman with a child was released shortly after this hostage situation began around 1:00 p.m.. Witnesses say she went to a nearby store and called police, telling them what had happened.
We also know that after about 3:00 p.m. Eastern, we did see a woman emerge from the Clinton campaign headquarters.
In terms of the police involved -- the help the police are getting, officials are saying that the FBI, the ATF and Secret Service are involved in this investigation.
Also, Wolf, after about 3:00 p.m. Eastern, there had been witnesses who said that they saw police giving a cell phone or putting a cell phone into that campaign headquarters. Whether or not they have communication, though, with the hostage taker -- police are refusing to elaborate on that -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, thanks, Mary.
Stand by, because I know you're getting more information all the time.
Let's get a little analysis of what's going on to help give us a better idea of the situation.
We're joined on the phone now by Steven Romano. He's a former FBI chief hostage negotiator.
Mr. Romano, thanks very much for helping us.
This, presumably, could be a rather prolonged situation. Normally in a situation like this, they like to wait it out, is that right?
STEPHEN ROMANO, FORMER FBI HOSTAGE NEGOTIATOR: That's correct, Wolf.
I understand it's been going on for four hours, but that's a relatively short period of time, depending on what this subject -- what his story is, what his frustrations and anger is all about. And hopefully the authorities, I'm sure, are trying to make contact with him and get him to express himself to them and try to slow things down and resolve the situation peacefully.
BLITZER: If, in fact, his grievance is the mental health system in the United States, at least that gives hostage negotiators an idea of what, presumably, they could talk to him about.
ROMANO: Absolutely. Obviously, this man is frustrated and in desperation. He is engaged in this activity. And law enforcement's job, at this point, is to let him express his views and what it is that drove him to this point.. And, as I said, hopefully bring to this a peaceful resolution.
BLITZER: Who takes the lead in a negotiation like this?
Would it be the local -- the police department in Rochester, New Hampshire?
Would it be New Hampshire state police?
Would it be federal agents, whether from the FBI, the ATF?
We know there are Secret Service personnel involved, as well, since the Secret Service does provide protection for the former first lady, Hillary Clinton.
What would the normal situation be?
ROMANO: Well, normally, Wolf, it would probably be the Rochester, New Hampshire Police Department. But I would add that there's always a team effort here. So regardless of who the lead agency may be, they will be working in concert with other agencies. And everyone has the same goals and objectives, which is to resolve the incident peacefully.
BLITZER: I ask the question because as excellent as the Rochester police department may be, we don't know if they have the kind of expertise to deal with the hostage situation. I suspect there aren't a whole lot of hostage situation that have unfolded in a small, beautiful little town like Rochester, New Hampshire, over the years.
ROMANO: Well, yeah, I'm not sure what the background is up there, but I'm confident that the right people are on the scene. And working together in a team fashion and trying to resolve the situation.
BLITZER: Stephen Romano, I want you to stand by for a moment, Stephen, because Mary Snow is getting additional information for us. Mary, what are you picking up?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we just got a statement from the Obama campaign saying our thoughts and prayers are with the Clinton team as we await a safe resolution to this situation. Other campaigns have also been sending out similar statements, but, also, we heard from the Romney campaign saying, as a security precaution, it has asked its field offices to lock all exterior doors and be on alert for suspicious individuals. We've seen this happen in Rochester, New Hampshire today, also some of the other campaign offices. You were talking with Elizabeth Edwards earlier. A lot of these campaign offices are so close together so they're taking some additional, according to the Romney campaign, security precautions.
BLITZER: All right. Mary, stand by because Stephen Romano is still on the phone with us. He's joining us. He's the former FBI chief hostage negotiator. What do you make of these developments? Give us a little perspective.
ROMANO: Well Wolf, what I've heard so far I think is all positive from the standpoint that he has released several people. I'm not sure how many people he continues to hold but that is definitely a positive sign of progress that he was able to release some people he was holding and it's been going for four hours and many times the longer the situation can go, the better chance of emotions coming down and the ability to reason increases considerably over time. And, hopefully, that will be the case in this situation.
BLITZER: We heard from one of your colleagues earlier that even though the S.W.A.T. teams are very, very well-trained, presumably they could rush this building. They're trying to save this individual's life, as well. They want to make sure that no one is hurt in this situation. That's why they're continuing to let it go on.
ROMANO: Well, that's absolutely true, Wolf. The goals and objectives is to resolve the situation with no loss of life, even that of the subject himself.
BLITZER: Looks like these pictures that are coming in from Rochester, New Hampshire, that we're bringing in here and we're delaying the pictures slightly by a few seconds to make sure that nothing untoward gets on the air. We're monitoring carefully what we're doing but it looks like there is another hostage maybe, maybe, I want to stress this Stephen Romano, being released right now. These are pictures coming in courtesy of our affiliate WMUR. That would be really encouraging if that is really what is going on.
ROMANO: Yes. Once again, that would definitely be a sign of progress and the other thing is, when these people come out, they're going to be able to share valuable information with --
BLITZER: There you see it, if you're watching, Stephen Romano, it looks like somebody is being escorted by the local police and just walked away from that building. So clearly, that could be very, very encouraging.
ROMANO: Yes, it definitely can be. And, as I said, hopefully there will be some very valuable intelligence that will come from that person to assist the authorities in the best attack to bring it to a successful conclusion.
BLITZER: We had heard earlier that at least one individual was still being held hostage, a woman. We can only hope and pray that that woman we just saw in that picture is in fact the woman that was inside who is now out. That, as I say, would be very, very encouraging.
The most important thing right now, Stephen Romano, is that the hostage or hostages who may be still be inside are released and then that will give authorities an opportunity to discuss.
These are pictures that were taken earlier during the daytime that we're seeing right now. It's now dark in Rochester, New Hampshire. That was another woman who was being escorted from the building, but that occurred hours ago.
ROMANO: I see. I don't have the privilege of watching the telecast right now from my location. So, I'll just have to take your word for what you're describing.
BLITZER: We're trying to show our viewers out there what's going on right now without, obviously, doing anything that could hurt or damage this really, really sensitive and dangerous situation. Any time you have an individual claiming to have a bomb and maybe having a hostage or hostages inside and we're watching live pictures unfold, obviously, potentially very worrisome situation. And those of us in the news media who are covering it, we're trying to be as careful as we possibly can and not further complicating what already is a very, very complicated situation.
You're seeing these pictures of a vehicle from Dover police that's been brought to the area. The S.W.A.T. teams, I guess they're getting a lot of assistance from various communities in the area.
Stephen Romano is on the phone with us, a former FBI chief hostage negotiator, right now. The situation, as it unfolds, Stephen Romano, is a very delicate moment I suspect right now. What do you think?
ROMANO: Absolutely. Any time anyone enters or exists a crisis site, there's always a heightened sense of alertness because things have to be coordinated and we don't want anything to go wrong or actions to be misinterpreted on the part of the hostage taker. So --
BLITZER: Hold on one second, Stephen Romano. I want to listen in to our affiliate. They're providing some information right now. Let's listen in live.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're looking at live images of the police scene at North Main Street, as well as moments ago the video of the smaller box to your right there, of the young woman who may very well have just been released as a hostage from Hillary Clinton's campaign offices there on North Main in downtown Rochester.
If that is, in fact, and if what we have and if what we know to date is accurate, then three of four young volunteers and staffers in Hillary Clinton's North Main Street office in downtown Rochester have been released. That would mean one would be left according to the reports of the math that we have been doing with unofficial and unconfirmed reports at this point. We are just awaiting official word from the Rochester police and from the state police. We were not able to get much from Captain Paul Callahan for obvious reasons because they're trying to maintain the integrity of the scene. As we know, we're confident there are communications between the hostage holder and the law enforcement in the area.
We've been trying to figure out who the person is behind the scenes here of the doorways in the Hillary Clinton office and who would have taken these hostages. We can tell you that Foster's Daily Democrat is reporting as of now they believe the suspect who took the hostages as this man right here. This is a picture of the person they believe, according to Foster's Daily Democrat.
This is Leland Eisenberg of Somersworth who is well known to police in Rochester. I am now directly reading the reports from Foster's Daily Democrat. They posted this online. You're looking at a picture now of Leland Eisenberg, the man being reported as the suspect behind the scenes here, the hostage taker in downtown Rochester, Leland Eisenberg, of Somersworth, who is well-known to police in Rochester.
The reports say he took over the office just about 12:45 this afternoon. One of the released hostages as we have shown in our early video was in her early 20s. She left at about 3:05. We do believe that another woman was taken out by a S.W.A.T. vehicle and it's very possible in the last ten minutes a third woman was just released.
Eisenberg is described as being in his 40s with salt and pepper hair, with a history of mental illness and that he reportedly told his stepson to watch the news today. We got that part of our reports from a woman who works at the governor's inn a few blocks away who claims that she spoke with Eisenberg's stepson who came in asking for a cup of coffee and began sharing what was going on here in downtown Rochester saying that his dad was Leland Eisenberg of Somersworth, who had -- was facing a divorce, is in a bad way in terms of his own personal life. She claims that the stepson was describing Leland Eisenberg as someone who had been drinking for 72 hours straight and had told his stepson before entering these offices.
BLITZER: All right, so, there you have it from our affiliate there on the scene reporting the latest information that they're getting. They believe three hostages presumably have been released, but one more is perhaps inside Hillary Clinton's campaign office in Rochester, New Hampshire. One additional hostage may still be inside and they're also reporting that the local police believe they know the identity of the individual holding this -- responsible for this hostage situation, one Leland Eisenberg from Somersworth, New Hampshire; someone who is described as being very familiar to local law enforcement; the report suggesting going through a divorce, having some other serious financial problems.
I wonder if Stephen Romano, the FBI former chief hostage negotiator, is still on the phone with us. Stephen, if you are, give us your interpretation of what potentially, potentially this means for this hostage drama.
ROMANO: Well, Wolf, it wasn't all that surprising to hear that the subject involved in this hostage taking is experiencing some significant stressors in his life. Normally, what drives these situations is an individual experiences a loss of some type whether it be a relationship or whether it be a job or what have you. But that's what many times drives them to such a desperate act, as to engage in a hostage taking and, therefore, maybe trying to bring some attention to his life and the things that are going wrong and how he sees straightening the situation out. So, that was pretty much expected that there would be some kind of stressor like that.
The other part that alarmed me a bit that I heard was the use of alcohol. Because, as we know, that's going to lower inhibitions and it can definitely impair a person's ability to reason, which is what the authorities are trying to work so diligently in trying to resolve the situation by lowering his emotion and getting him to see that the best course of action would be to let whoever he's holding go and come out peacefully.
BLITZER: All right, Stephen Romano, stand by. I want to go back to Mary Snow. She's watching this story and she's getting additional information. What are we picking up? What are we confirming?
SNOW: Wolf, as you just have confirmed, the hostage taken has been identified by authorities as Leland Eisenberg and he is in his 40s. We had known throughout the day that the state officials have reported that police new the hostage taker and that he apparently, he must have made some statements about being upset with the health care situation in the United States. It's unclear how that kind of transpired but that was some information we were getting from a state official in New Hampshire. Again, the identity of the hostage taker, Leland Eisenberg, and what we do know from WMUR that it had been reporting that he apparently had had a history of mental illness. Wolf?
BLITZER: And serious problems, family problems, as well; they were saying going through some sort of divorce, as well.
I want to go back to Stephen Romano, the former FBI chief hostage negotiator. He's joining us from Greenville, South Carolina. He's on the phone watching all of this unfold for us. You made the point that if drinking were involved in this incident that further complicates this situation and I know you've been involved in helping to negotiate peaceful standoffs, peaceful resolutions of other hostage situations around the country. Explain how they're dealing with this and if, in fact, alcohol is a factor.
ROMANO: Well, if alcohol is a factor, they're still going to try to communicate with this person, let this person vent and tell his story and if it's a problem with the health care system, to try to get the background of those problems and his perspective and what he believes needs to be done to change things. They're going to still, regardless of if he has consumed some alcohol, hopefully they're still able to communicate with him in a somewhat rational way.
I guess the other part of the equation that complicates things also is his stability, his mental stability or emotional stability, which seems to be in question also. So, it would sound like the authorities definitely have their work cut out for them, but I'm sure they'll move at a slow and steady pace and do all the right things to get him to express himself and eventually come out of the situation, let the people go and end the situation peacefully.
BLITZER: Obviously, they want to make sure they try to protect Leland Eisenberg himself who has now been identified as the individual that walked into Hillary Clinton's campaign office in Rochester, New Hampshire, claimed he had some sort of explosive device strapped to his body and started taking hostages.
We are being told by our affiliate WMUR that three individuals are believed to have been released but perhaps one more is still trapped inside with Mr. Eisenberg. Let's listen to what one eyewitness said earlier.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I could see pretty much everything out of the front window, particularly upstairs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What were you seeing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just a lot of police ready to react quickly. I couldn't see anything inside the headquarters.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you hear?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was actually pretty quiet except for police radios for quite a while and then we heard some, they were talking to him over the loud speaker. I couldn't make out what they were saying. But, obviously, just trying to ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get in touch with him?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, exactly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At one point you saw some hostages leave.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did that look like?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They seemed to be, considering everything, pretty together. All right. They weren't panicky or anything. They just seemed a little bit distresses but very together and no tears or anything, just upset.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did they have a lot of officers surrounding them?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As soon as they got away, yes, they were whisked away pretty quickly.
BLITZER: There's an eyewitness who watched this situation unfold. It's now approaching five hours since it began around 1:00 p.m. eastern up in Rochester, New Hampshire.
We're going to continue to watch this story, bringing you all the latest information as we get it, but, once again, the hostage holder is still inside Hillary Clinton's campaign office in Rochester. You're looking at live pictures coming in. Also, we believe according to our affiliate, at least one person is being held hostage inside. Much more of our coverage; we'll also talk to pastor Rick Warren about this and other subjects, much more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We're watching this continuing situation unfold. It's nighttime now in Rochester, New Hampshire, where there is a hostage situation there at the office of Hillary Clinton. The situation has not yet been resolved. One individual, who has been identified as Leland Eisenberg, is described as the individual who walked into that building. The store front office, you're looking at video of Leland Eisenberg. There you saw from our affiliate WMUR who's on the scene.
Ed Henry is over at the White House getting some reaction from the U.S. Secret Service. Ed, the Secret Service is involved because the former first lady, Hillary Clinton is involved even though she's here in Washington; she's not in New Hampshire.
ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. We're told by the Secret Service that Mrs. Clinton is in fact in the Washington, D.C., area. Obviously, they don't want to be too specific about that. But you're right, even after she was first lady and when she has been ever since she's been in the U.S. senate, she has had Secret Service protection, not just on the campaign trail but in the corridors of the United States Senate, after hours at her home and all of that, as we know, along with the former president.
Now, a spokesman for the agency here in Washington is telling me that the agency is keeping a very close eye on the situation in New Hampshire. He said, "We're monitoring the situation very closely." They also are trying to assist local law enforcement in any police way that they can. He also added, though, as I said, that their protectee in their case, Senator Clinton, is not there on the ground in New Hampshire. She is in the Washington, D.C., area, but obviously they're still keeping a close eye on her. He said they are watching this and they're waiting to see "how this unfolds." Wolf?
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Ed Henry at the White House.
I want to bring in Rick Warren, Pastor Rick Warren. He is author of the best selling book, "The Purpose Driven Life." He's joining us now from the Saddleback Church, his church in Lake Forest, California.
Pastor, thanks very much for coming in. We have other subjects to talk about, but I would like you to weigh in on this hostage drama that is unfolding in Rochester, New Hampshire, right now.
RICK WARREN, PASTOR, SADDLEBACK CHURCH: Okay. Well, as a pastor of about 30 years, I've had to actually be in a couple of hostage situations, and Wolf, the predominant emotion in any hostage situation is always fear. Only desperate people resort to hostage taking and fear almost never responds to logic. When somebody is terrified, all the calm talking doesn't talk them down. You just have to wait until the adrenaline subsides and then you can talk to them logically about you're in a no-win situation and, of course, we're praying for the police officers that nobody will get hurt there and they'll get a calm resolution to it.
BLITZER: We pray with you, Pastor Warren, that this is resolved peacefully. It's interesting this is the campaign office in Rochester, New Hampshire, of Hillary Clinton. She was just there at your church. You invited her to come in and speak. It's causing a little bit of a commotion out there, as you well know, given her views in favor of abortion rights. Tell our viewers why you invited her to speak at your church and the fallout from that.
WARREN: Well, in the first place, we invited, I think eight total candidates, four republicans and four democrats and the only one who chose to come was Hillary Clinton, but five of them did send videos. We got video speeches from Mike Huckabee, from John McCain, from Mitt Romney, from Barack Obama and from John Edwards. So, there was pretty good representation of four republicans and three democrats. But we didn't ...
BLITZER: The issue, excuse me, the issue on the agenda was fighting AIDS in Africa, is that right?
WARREN: Yeah, that's exactly right. In fact, I only asked them one question. The question was, if you were elected president, what would you do about this issue? We weren't talking about foreign policy. We weren't talking to them about domestic policy. We weren't talking about other areas we care about like abortion and things like that. We asked them about this one issue. This is a conference on a single issue. What are you going to do with AIDS? No one has done more for AIDS than President Bush having put $15 billion and we wanted to ensure that that legacy has gone on because people don't realize that if that money is cut off, the millions of people whose lives are being saved right now around the world, they will die. They will die. It's not like you can stop the medicine and continue to live on and on for the rest of your life. They will die. So it's a very important issue of life and death.
BLITZER: Some people, though, were critical of you for inviting her because of her support for abortion rights. They say she should have never been allowed into your church. What do you say in response?
WARREN: I say two things in response to that one of them, I said this for years. If I only worked with people I agree with 100%, I couldn't even work with my wife because nobody agrees with you 100%. And in order to get things done, you often have to build alliances. The specialist on this, one of my heroes was William Wilberforce, who worked with people he disagreed with on other issues in order to get the ultimate abolition of the slave trade done and I've just tried to follow that model. I think it's an effective model.
The other thing though is on a personal basis, if somebody is in a car accident and they're lying on the side of the road dying and they're bleeding to death, when you walk up to them, the first question you ask is not, was it your fault? You say, can I help you? And if I have to get somebody in a car and get them to the hospital in order for them to live, I don't care if that person is a Christian or a Muslim or a Jewish person or an atheist. If they will help me get that person to the hospital and save a life, I will use their help.
BLITZER: Pastor Rick Warren, thanks very much for joining us. "The Purpose Driven Life" is his best seller. Thank you very much for all the good and important work you do as well and we're praying with you, we're praying with all of our viewers out there that this hostage situation in Rochester, New Hampshire, at Hillary Clinton's campaign office there is peacefully resolved. We'll have you back soon, thanks very much for coming in.
WARREN: Thank you, Wolf. And prayers do work.
BLITZER: I think you're right.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty. I know he's praying with all of us, as well. Jack?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the 14th anniversary, Wolf, of don't ask, don't tell and a bunch of retired generals and admirals have signed a letter, 28 of them in all, suggesting it's time to rethink this policy in the military for gays. That's our question. Is it time to rethink don't ask, don't tell when it comes to gays in the military?
Donna writes from California, "I was in the Army 30 years ago. The difference between another woman hitting on me and a hetero male was the woman gave up when I declined their advances. Yes, change the policy. Didn't we lose many qualified Arabic linguists over this; i.e., we tons of intercepted intelligence and not enough people to decipher it."
Patrick writes, "If someone is willing to pick up a gun, wear the uniform of our country and die for my freedom and yours, they're a hero whether they're homosexual or heterosexual."
Todd in State College, Pennsylvania, "If the government can tell businesses, this is interesting, that they cannot discriminate against employees or potential employees based on sexual orientation, then why can the government discriminate against employees of the American people?"
Dan writes, "When Clinton came out with the don't ask, don't tell idea, he not only did it to allow gays into the military, but also to protect them from unwanted harassment. I know people can be intolerant, so in my opinion, the military shouldn't ask or care if you're gay. However, gay soldiers should be prepared for outing themselves in such a conservative institution as the U.S. military."
John in Oklahoma, "As a two-tour Vietnam veteran I can tell you when you're under fire the last thing on your mind is the sexual orientation of the man next to you. You do your best to keep each other alive."
And Dan from Cincinnati, "The policy should be repealed. The republicans who pretty much want it to remain as is, should remember what the subversive pacifist liberal named Barry Goldwater once said, it matters whether someone can shoot straight, not whether he is straight." Wolf?
BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.
And happening now, the breaking news that we're following, a hostage crisis is unfolding at Hillary Clinton's campaign office in New Hampshire. Some captives have been freed, but at least one, maybe more may still be held as a man who claims to have a bomb continues to be holed up inside. We have new information on the suspect, as well.
Plus, fear on the campaign trail. Senator Clinton and her presidential rivals confronting the risk to their staffers' lives. We're watching this part of that story.
And a new democratic divide over the war in Iraq. The anti-war critic John Murtha nudges his party a little bit off message and stuns his long-time pal, the house speaker.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
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