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Inside a Church That Preaches Hate; Bonds Pleads Not Guilty; Omaha Shooter Info; CIA Destroys Videos

Aired December 7, 2007 - 17:00   ET

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


CAFFERTY: Barrett writes: "I doubt the polls you described got any other result than the one they wanted. I have to admit that it pains me that more than 50 percent of Americans are willing to be losers again and will follow the Democrats down that path. But as an officer in a large veteran's organizations, I seldom hear veterans espousing any methods that would tell the enemy when we're leaving or are they willing to leave without winning whenever that might be?"
Patty in Newportville, Pennsylvania: "Dear Jack, this is not surprising. Our military members and their families are the only ones sacrificing anything for this war. Bush and his cronies told everyone else to spend, spend, spend. Then when our brave soldiers come home, they find themselves up against a bureaucracy that makes them jump through hoops to get the benefits they richly deserve.

Jack in Florida writes: "The disapproval of the war is far too late for the nearly 4,000 troops who have died and those thousands more who have been maimed for the rest of their lives. What took them so long? Patriotism is not enough. Common sense should prevail."

Jim writes: "Even the military is admitting that Bush's war is wrong. And that means that it's high team Pelosi put impeachment back on the table."

And Eric writes: "Get out the orange sauce. The lame duck is done." -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

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

Happening now, outrage in Congress over the CIA's destruction of videotapes showing terror suspects being interrogated.

Will the Justice Department investigate?

What's the White House saying?

Also, a rare inside look at a church notorious for highly offensive protests at U.S. troops' funerals. They explain why they believe God wants them to preach hate.

And new support that Hillary Clinton might not want. You're going to find out what Andrew Young said about her and her husband, in what some are calling a stinging endorsement.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

New fallout right now from the CIA's revelation that it destroyed videotapes of harsh terror suspect interrogations. The Senate's number two Democrat now asking the Justice Department to investigate.

Let's turn to Our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena, who first brought us the story yesterday -- Kelli.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, members of Congress are absolutely outraged. There are still way too many questions about what happened, why it happened and whether it was legal.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARENA (voice-over): Lawmakers want to know if anyone at the CIA broke the law by destroying those interrogation tapes.

SEN. TED KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: What would cause the CIA to take this action?

The answer is obvious -- cover-up.

ARENA: They're also angry about being left in the dark. In a letter to employees, CIA Director Michael Hayden said that Congressional leaders were told of the intention to destroy the tapes ahead of time. But Congresswoman Jane Harmon, who was the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, and other lawmakers insist that's not true.

REP. JANE HARMAN, (D-CF), CHAIRMAN, TERRORISM RISK SUBCOMMITTEE: No one ever informed me that tapes were being destroyed.

ARENA: The tapes were made in 2002, after the president approved severe interrogation techniques for terror detainees, which included waterboarding -- or simulated drowning. Government officials with knowledge of what was on them say they included interrogations of two prisoners -- one of them, Al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah. The CIA says the tapes were destroyed in 2005 -- right in the middle of a major debate over whether the agency's actions amounted to torture. They were never made available in any terrorism trial or even to the 9/11 Commission.

DANIEL MARCUS, 9/11 COMMISSION GENERAL COUNSEL: If the commission had known at that stage that videotapes of some of the detainee interrogations existed, we would have insisted on seeing them.

ARENA: Hayden says the tapes were destroyed to protect CIA interrogators. If their identities were ever leaked, he argued, they could be targeted by Al Qaeda.

But it's not flying.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It's a pathetic excuse. They'd have to burn every document at the CIA that has the identity of an agent on it under that theory.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

ARENA: The CIA maintains that there was no legal or internal reason to keep those tapes. The Justice Department says it has received the Congressional request to investigate and that it's in the process of fact-finding -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Kelli.

Thanks very much.

Kelli Arena reporting.

The White House press secretary, Dana Perino, says the president just found out about the tapes yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I spoke to the president this morning about this and he has no recollection of being made aware of the tapes or their destruction before yesterday. He was briefed by General Hayden yesterday morning. And as to the others, I'll have to -- you know, I would refer you to the vice president's office.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We're going to have a lot more on this story coming up. By the way, she says, the president -- in watching this story, that the president, when he was told about it, didn't seem to recall any information about the existence of these tapes earlier. Once again, we're going to be continuing to follow this story. That's coming up later this hour.

Meanwhile, there's a new tactic in providing a glimmer of hope for the U.S. military mission in Iraq. The tactic is finding success where Iran's government -- Iran's government apparently has failed.

CNN's Michael Ware has an exclusive report from Baghdad.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You see this blood here.

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The blood is from one of the victims.

WARE (voice-over): In yet another Baghdad torture chamber...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The blood (INAUDIBLE).

WARE: ...signs of the horrors within. But in the cooperation of these men, signs, too, of America's new hope for victory. For it was these Iraqis who put an end to the torture. A U.S.-backed militia with a difference.

(on camera): This is extraordinary, what we've seen happening in the Sunni community with Americans supporting new Sunni militias to drive out Al Qaeda and to stop Shia death squads we're now seeing in the Shia community for the very first time.

(voice-over): These men are from that community -- Shia fighters in Central Baghdad now battling the Shia Mahdi Army and death squads from other Shia factions.

(on camera): This is from the American Department of the Army.

(voice-over): And doing it all under contract to the U.S. Army. Their leader, Abu Fahad (ph), able to command 102 men and patrol the streets -- doing what the Iraqi government is not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We find drugs and blood.

WARE (on camera): Really?

(voice-over): Bringing a sense of calm where there was none and delivering reconciliation by protecting families regardless of their religious sect -- which cuts to the heart of America's dilemma in Iraq. U.S. generals know military gains will be squandered without true reconciliation. The solution is people power, Abu Fahad tells me, with the bottom of the pyramid, he says, forcing change at the top.

REAR ADM. GREG SMITH, U.S. NAVY: And that's, I think, where the strength of Iraq it's going to find its foundation, is in the people itself.

WARE: People's mistrust in Iraq's government is widespread. Even Iraq's national security adviser worries about his own parliament.

MOWAFFAK AL-RUBAIE, IRAQI NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: There are a couple of member of counselor of representatives who were very, very close to the insurgency. And some of them, they were working intimately and helping the terrorists in this country.

WARE: Whatever the evidence, there's plenty of suspicion. In November, a car bomb was found at this prominent Sunni politician's home. His guards arrested. Another Sunni M.P. was detained for almost two months after a U.S. raid on an alleged insurgent meeting, though his staff maintained it was only a funeral. A third Sunni M.P. is now being hunted. He vanished when charged with an assassination attempt on a secular rival in which the target's two sons died. And a fourth Sunni M.P. has left Iraq -- accused of kidnapping 150 Shia and a role in the suicide bombing of parliament's cafeteria -- claims he denies, yet he remains vehemently anti-American, branding the U.S. occupiers, the insurgency legitimate.

On the other of parliament, this powerful Shia politician fled to Iran this year, after CNN revealed he bombed the U.S. embassy in Kuwait in 1983. U.S. military intelligence officers suspect at least three other Shia politicians are tied to Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards Corps -- a unit the U.S. government classifies as a terrorist organizations. Local intel sources believe the number may actually be as high as 21. But for America, even one could be too many. U.S. patience is limited.

SMITH: And so much damage has been done to the trust and confidence of the average Iraqi in governance, in trusting the leadership.

WARE: Top U.S. officials are now taking a tougher line to prod Iraq's administration to deliver. As Admiral Smith warns, its window of opportunity could be closing, with the Western world's support at stake. Already, the U.S. is backing other players beyond the government -- like militia leader, Abu Fahad.

Michael Ware, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: Solid reporting from Michael Ware -- an exclusive report.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty.

He's got The Cafferty File in New York -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: That guy is amazing.

BLITZER: Yes. That was a good report.

CAFFERTY: I mean he should win like all the Pulitzer Prizes and stuff for this work he does over there. It's unbelievable.

The Republican presidential candidates -- this is going to be good. The Republican presidential candidates will square off this coming Sunday night in Miami in a debate that is an attempt to woo Hispanic voters. It's going to be translated into Spanish, the debate, and it will be broadcast live from the University of Miami on the Univision network. It could be very interesting.

The debate comes at the same time that a new poll suggests Hispanic voters are returning to the Democratic Party after several years of drifting toward the Republicans. A Pew Hispanic Center found that by 57 to 23 percent, Hispanic registered voters say they favor Democrats over Republicans.

One expert tells the South Florida "Sun-Sentinel" newspaper, so far in this presidential campaign, the Republicans have, "handled the Hispanic vote very callously." He points to the Republicans' rhetoric on illegal immigration as off-putting to this block of voters.

On the other hand, it's exactly what a lot of Americans who are sick and tired of millions of illegal aliens pouring into this country want to hear the politicians say.

So the candidates are going to be called on to perform a very delicate dance -- say things that will appeal to Hispanic voters without making other Americans angry by appearing to be sucking up to that voting bloc. Hispanics only make up about 9 percent of the nation's voters. But -- and this is a big but -- they make up a much larger share of the voters in a lot of the big key swing states -- places like Florida.

So here's the question -- what should the Republican presidential candidates say to Hispanic voters at Sunday's debate?

You can e-mail your thoughts to caffertyfile@CNN.com or better yet, do this. I have a new blog and you can post your comments there. All you have to do is go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and then click on "add a comment" and then you can do whatever you want after that, say whatever you want -- up to a certain point. You can also find The Cafferty File commentaries and video clips. We'll post your letter there. That way other people can go on there and read your thoughts.

You've got to get the letter past Samantha. Samantha is The Cafferty File's standards and practices lady. Samantha's standards aren't real high, but she has some.

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: You can't swear in these e-mails. You can't say things that are libelest. And if Samantha signs off on your stuff, then it goes right on the blog and you can share it with the whole world. So check it out.

BLITZER: A very popular feature developing out there.

Thanks, Jack, very much.

CAFFERTY: OK.

BLITZER: Videotapes of CIA terror interrogations destroyed -- what, if anything, was the agency trying to hide?

I'll talk to one journalist who may know the answer. The author, Ron Suskind -- he's standing by live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Also, he spent a year with members of one of the country's most notorious churches. Now his new film puts their hatred in the spotlight. They explain why they do what they do.

And a prominent civil rights and political leader backs Hillary Clinton.

But did he embarrass her in the process?

His surprising remarks. That's coming up, as well.

Lots coming up, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: More now on our top story. Growing calls for an investigation into the CIA's destruction of videotapes showing harsh interrogation of terror suspects. Ron Suskind has written extensively about how the U.S. is fighting terrorists. His latest book, a huge best-seller, entitled "The One Percent Doctrine".

Ron is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Thanks for coming in.

RON SUSKIND, AUTHOR, "THE ONE PERCENT DOCTRINE": Nice to be here.

BLITZER: All right, you wrote extensively about Abu Zubaydah, who was one of the top Al Qaeda operatives whose interrogation was actually videotaped back in 2002. That videotape now destroyed, as we all know.

What might we have seen if that videotape had been made public?

SUSKIND: Well, look, they threw the whole playbook at Zubaydah. He was the first major captive. There was great agitation to get one of the top Al Qaeda people. And they tried everything on him. They -- the hot and cold, the slapping, the -- obviously, the waterboarding. You know, remember, he was injured. He was shot during the capture of Zubaydah. And so they nursed him back to health, essentially, with some fine American doctors so they could begin the torture.

BLITZER: And -- because you write in the book -- and I want to read precisely what you said: "According to CIA sources, he was waterboarded -- a technique in which a captive's face is covered with a towel that water is poured atop, creating the sensation of drowning. He was beaten, though not in a way to worsen his injuries. He was repeatedly threatened and made certain of his impending death."

Here's the question -- did it work?

Did he talk?

Did he provide useful information?

SUSKIND: Look, Zubaydah was oversold as to his value. He did provide some value. There's no doubt about that. But when it came to that period, that moment, we ultimately said he was more valuable than he was. Interestingly, the greatest yield from the interrogation came not from the extraordinary measures, it came from much more subtle conversation about Koran, about his role, predestination, things like that. That's where he gave us the things -- the few things that were of value.

BLITZER: What do you think the CIA -- if they're trying to protect something they say they're trying to protect the identity of the interrogators because they could be made targets by Al Qaeda or their sympathizers, as well as their families.

What do you think about that argument that General Michael Hayden made public yesterday?

SUSKIND: Well, look, there's nothing to say that this videotape would have become public if they had not been straight with a lot of people about it. It's clear now, if you talk to members of Congress, folks in the Intelligence Committees of both the House and Senate, that they were not straight as to the existence of the videotape and what was there.

Right now, what people are calling for is an investigation as to who knew what when. Now, if this was handled within the CIA, as Mike Hayden has said, well, then there's somebody in the CIA that acted unilaterally. If that was the case -- and I think that would be a surprise -- then that person certainly will be drawn in front of the hot lights...

BLITZER: Because they say that this was a decision made by the guy who was in charge of clandestine operations...

SUSKIND: Yes, Jose Rodriguez.

BLITZER: ...and he made it on his own.

But let's get some context now, because the tape was actually made back in 2002. It was destroyed in 2005.

What was going on in 2005 that, for some, might raise some alarm bells?

SUSKIND: Well, it's the end of the Tenet year. It's the beginning of the Goss year. Remember, Porter Goss is brought in...

BLITZER: George Tenet was the CIA director. Porter Goss, a former member of Congress...

SUSKIND: That's right.

BLITZER: ...was brought in as the new CIA director.

SUSKIND: And the view, Wolf, was that he would bring the CIA into line, that they were a renegade agency. And mostly the vice president, and the president, said, we want these guys to march to lockstep. That was the period in which these tapes were destroyed.

Now, Goss, I think has said publicly he was outraged by this. But, ultimately, a director of operations at CIA is not going to do something like this -- so dramatic -- destroying evidence that, clearly, people want -- including the 9/11 Commission -- without some authorization from above. It simply doesn't work that way.

BLITZER: So, based on what you know about Washington and these kind of situations, I assume there's going to be a full scale investigation and people are going to want to drag some of these guys before Congress.

SUSKIND: Well, it's interesting. You know, the administration, up to this point, might have subverted the intent of certain laws. But they tend to not have crossed the line in terms of an actionable investigation or prosecution. This may be the case in which that line that was crossed. And the question, again, everyone is asking is who authorized this, at what level?

Frankly, at this point, lots was being authorized from the White House in terms of the CIA. And it's hard to believe that Jose Rodriguez, an upper middle level -- I mean he's a top guy -- would have acted unilaterally to destroy evidence that clearly people wanted.

BLITZER: Because, already words are being thrown out there -- obstruction of justice, perjury, tampering, destroying evidence -- serious words that have brought down presidents, as you well know -- at least one president in the past. That would be Richard M. Nixon.

Is that reaching this kind of level?

SUSKIND: It depends on the will of Congress at this point. And it also depends on that old saw -- it's often the cover-up that really draws them on the petard.

BLITZER: Because Ted Kennedy is already calling it a cover-up.

SUSKIND: Well, you know, at this -- at this juncture, there's very much of who knew what when. The fact is, is that a lot of people are shrugging -- who knew? I didn't know. I don't remember hearing anything. That's not going to stand up in court or under hearings when you are taking the oath of truth.

BLITZER: So when it's said by the current CIA director -- remember, he came in much later. He was not there -- General Michael Hayden -- when this destruction of the videotapes was going on. When he says it was reviewed by the inspector general, the council and the committees -- the Intelligence Committees were informed about this, you're raising questions about all of that, is that what you're saying?

SUSKIND: There is no doubt people were misled about these tapes, their existence, what was on them and the fact that this is evidence that people were asking for that was not provided. I mean it's that simple. You talk to the folks on the 9/11 Commission and they say, you're kidding me, you're kidding me?

There was this sort of documentary evidence that we could have used?

We wouldn't have to have made it public, but at least we could have used it to come to our judgments. And they essentially ducked.

BLITZER: And God knows, the 9/11 Commission got a lot of other highly sensitive, classified information.

SUSKIND: It was the most important commission since the Warren Commission -- and they were denied.

BLITZER: Ron Suskind's book, "The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America's Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11." Thanks for coming in.

SUSKIND: My pleasure.

BLITZER: They preach that God hates America and that U.S. deaths in Iraq are punishment. It's a message they carry to soldiers' funerals. Now, a rare look inside this very controversial church.

And firefighters searching for terrorists -- we'll have details of a new controversial plan.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In the aftermath of September 11th terror attacks in New York, first responders complained about a lack of effective communication between police and firefighters. Now, some people are worried that firefighters in the city may be communicating too much with law enforcement.

CNN's Jeanne Meserve explains -- Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a fiery debate erupted over a Homeland Security plan to expand the use of firefighters to search for terrorists.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE (voice-over): The New York City Fire Department knows about terrorism. Three hundred and forty-three of its men were killed on September 11th.

Since then, the department has trained its members to look for and report things that could indicate terrorist activity.

CHIEF SAL CASSANO, NEW YORK CITY FIRE DEPARTMENT: We get into, you know, many different places -- homes and different places of business every day, whether it's inspections or responses. And we thought that we would be the perfect people to, you know, help out on this war against terror.

MESERVE: But the program sets off alarms with constitutional experts.

JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW: It's using firefighters to get around the fourth amendment and the need for a warrant. What it effectively does is turns firefighters into sort of moving surveillance devices for the police.

MESERVE: Despite those concerns, top members of the New York Fire Department have been given security clearances by the Department of Homeland Security to make it easier to share the most current terrorism intelligence. DHS hopes the program will expand to fire departments in other cities.

A DHS official says it is not trying to turn firemen into terrorism snoopers and insists this isn't a big brother thing.

The New York Fire Department agrees.

CASSANO: Nobody's out for a witch-hunt. We're not breaking down doors. We're not going into back doors.

MESERVE: On every call, New York firefighters look for unusual telecommunications equipment, bomb making chemicals, maps, photographs. But one Arab-American group is wary that innocent people could be ensnared.

IBRAHIM HOOPER, COUNCIL ON AMERICAN-ISLAMIC RELATIONS: It's the book on the shelf. It's the picture on the wall. It's the language. It's the dress. These kind of things that could raise suspicion in some -- with somebody who had a particular prejudice or a bias.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

MESERVE: Even a firefighters' union is worried the program could erode trust and make some people reluctant to call for help when they need it -- hurting public safety, not enhancing it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jeanne.

Thanks very much.

Jeanne Meserve reporting.

A church with a message most people -- almost everyone would find repugnant.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "FALL FROM GRACE," COURTESY K. RYAN JONES)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need to preach too these fags that the Lord is going to kill them if they don't obey the Ten Commandments.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We're going to preview a new documentary that follows members across the country as they protest at American soldiers' funerals.

Also, Atlanta's mayor endorsing Hillary Clinton, but not necessarily in the most flattering way -- the former mayor of Atlanta, that is. That story coming up.

Plus, chilling surveillance images of that mall massacre in Omaha. We have the pictures.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, Russia is resisting U.S. calls for new sanctions against Iran. After a meeting with the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today, Russia's foreign minister says Iran's nuclear program has, in his words, "no military element" -- a direct quote. He says Moscow favors talks with Iran instead of sanctions.

Winter weather arrives across much of the nation. A storm dumped more than two feet of snow on parts of California and the Rocky Mountains. Now, the system is moving east with snow and ice predicted from the plain states to New England over the weekend.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

U.S. forces in Afghanistan are using a new tactic against Taliban insurgents, one that's proving to be as dangerous as it is effective. Our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is with U.S. forces near the Afghan/Pakistan border. Nic?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there's a lot of talk these days from U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan about helping with reconstruction, about helping Afghanistan's government getting back on its feet and connect with the local community. But here on the border with Pakistan, there is still a very real fight going on with the Taliban.

FIRST SGT. RANDY COLLINS, U.S. ARMY: The other night basically out at the end of this finger here.

ROBERTSON: First Sergeant Randy Collins points towards the border with Pakistan from where about 40 armed Taliban were fast approaching.

COLLINS: We spotted them and had to instantly act because there were about 400 meters from the cup at that time.

ROBERTSON: The cup, or command outpost, is new, built to stop attacks on a nearby bigger base. It is 8,000 feet, almost two and a half thousand meters up in the mountains, close to the border with Pakistan. The tactic has worked, but now they are the target.

CAPT. ROB MCCHRYSTAL, U.S. ARMY: This place takes a lot more of the contact, but, as you can see, this place is designed to take, to take fire. It's very well-protected, very well fortified.

ROBERTSON: The border with Pakistan runs right along the front of the mountains, about three kilometers or two miles away and this point on this base is at the sharp end of the front line in the war on terror.

Helicopters are always on call, an essential to deter the Taliban in the rugged terrain and extend the fire power of the base. New joint coordination with Pakistani troops is having some effect on the incursions but communications is rudimentary and the Taliban keep coming.

COLLINS: We're essentially standing here in front of a huge dam trying to plug small holes with our fingers and they just keep popping up wherever they go.

ROBERTSON: In villages close to the base where Taliban did roam freely, results are better. But emphasis here is put firmly on being ready for the next attack.

With winter closing in and the temperature falling well below zero at night, the hope is the next few months will be quieter.

One thing that is becoming clear, whether we're close to the border here with Pakistan or watching some of these reconstruction projects, U.S. troops here are spread very thin, Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Nic Robertson on the scene for us, excellent reporting from Nic, as usual. The U.S. mission in and around Afghanistan is known as Operation Enduring Freedom and so far this year it's lost 111 service members. August was the deadliest month, 16 troops killed, most by improvised explosive devices. 464 U.S. servicemen and women have been killed since Operation Enduring Freedom was launched back in 2001.

This important programming note for our viewers, an exclusive Sunday interview coming up with Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf; he will be among my guests on "LATE EDITION," "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk. It airs Sunday morning, 11:00 a.m. eastern. You're going to want to see my exclusive interview with President Pervez Musharraf.

A legal victory for one of the country's most notorious churches, a federal appeals court has cleared the way for members of the West Borough Baptist Church to protest at American soldiers' funerals in Missouri while a lower court decides whether laws banning the protests are constitutional. Meanwhile, there's a new documentary out giving us a rare inside look into this extremely controversial church.

CNN's Jason Carroll is joining us now from New York with more on this story. A lot of people wondering what's going on, but tell us about this new documentary.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is definitely a documentary that will offend a lot of people out there, but the members of the West Borough Baptist Church aren't worried about that. As long as their message gets out, they're okay with it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL: Wherever they show up, anger follows.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: God is cursing this nation!

CARROLL: They say they're good Christians preaching god's word. Their critics say all the followers from West Borough Baptist Church preach is hate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is a curse.

CARROLL: A new documentary takes a closer look at the Kansas- based church and its leader Fred Phelps. Filmmaker Ryan Jones is also from Kansas and says the documentary began as a class project at the University of Kansas. His end result is called "Fall from Grace." So compelling Showtime bought it.

K. RYAN JONES, DIRECTOR, "FALL FROM GRACE": Hate groups like this are not new and they will not go away.

CARROLL: Is that how you would identify them? As a hate group?

JONES: Absolutely. Yes. It's hard to avoid that when they have signs that most of them had the word hate.

CARROLL: Jones spent a year at the church shooting their controversial protests. Followers picket funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq saying their deaths are god's way of punishing the United States for supporting homosexuals. They feel the same way about the victims of 9/11 and hurricane Katrina.

JONES: In order to be around them or try to understand them, you have to step outside of the bounds of logic because they don't exist there.

CARROLL: Jones says even the smallest members of the church preach hate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to preach to these fags that the lord is going to kill them if they don't obey the Ten Commandments.

CARROLL: Jones says the hardest part was interviewing a widow of a soldier whose funeral was interrupted by the followers. Jones screened his documentary for half of the 72 member congregation. Shirley Phelps, daughter of church leader Fred Phelps told CNN, we absolutely love it. Jones says that's because the church likes publicity, even if it's not favorable.

How do you feel about those who criticize and say, we shouldn't be giving them any publicity at all?

JONES: Right. That's an issue that I really struggled with. The film is very much about education of let's just shine the light on them and learn everything that we can about them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL: Jones went on to say that he believes the best way to deal with the hate group like this is to be well informed about them. This movie "Fall from Grace" debuted on Showtime earlier this week. Set it re-air next week. All you have to do is check your local listings. Wolf?

BLITZER: Jason, thanks very much.

Meanwhile, there's growing outrage over those funeral protests and that's led to 40 states banning them since last year. It's considered a misdemeanor in most states but in five of those states, Delaware, Indiana, North Carolina, Michigan, and Wisconsin for that matter, they treat these multiple offenses, potentially, as a felony.

Race and fidelity and the presidential campaign.

ANDREW YOUNG, FORMER ATLANTA MAYOR: And Bill is as every bit of black as Barack.

BLITZER: The former mayor of Atlanta, Andrew Young, says it was a joke but hear what else he had to say. That's coming up.

Plus, new information and dramatic images of the gunman inside the mall in Omaha, Nebraska.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Andrew Young, the former mayor of Atlanta, and the stalwart of the 1960s civil rights movement is now weighing in on the democratic presidential race and stirring up a bit of controversy in the process.

Carol Costello is here in THE SITUATION ROOM, following this story. He supports Hillary Clinton, but she certainly probably is not very happy with some of the words he had to say.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You wonder about what happens to people when they appear like on a website. When you're talking on the web and you're in front of a live, receptive audience, maybe you do become a tad too comfortable. Andrew Young, the well respected civil rights leader, former mayor of Atlanta and an ambassador to the United Nations just let it all out on Newsmakerslive.com, an online infotainment network devoted to African-American issues. Listen as Mayor Young answers the question, do you want Barack Obama to be president.

(BEGIN VIDE CLIP)

YOUNG: I want Barack Obama to be president, in 2016. Barack Obama does not have the support network, yet, to get to be president. The Clinton, the Clintons have, he's smart, he's brilliant, but you cannot be president alone. Hillary Clinton, first of all, has Bill behind her and Bill is every bit as black as Barack. He's probably gone with more black women than Barack.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: He said the Clinton probably went out with more black women than Obama but the mayor said he was only clowning around. He was kidding. Young has not publicly endorsed Hillary Clinton, but he has thrown a fund-raiser for her. Listen to what he says about the Clinton political machine. You'll hear him talk about Bill Clinton's decision to run for president.

(BEGIN VIDE CLIP)

YOUNG: If you read about the Clintons, when Clinton decided to run, Hillary set up a defense committee and that's what they called it. You know what it was? It was go around and neutralize all the women he had ever been involved with. She got her friends to be the defense committee, to protect him from the attacks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Maybe not the best example. He was trying to convey the Clintons are well-equipped to deal with the meanness in political campaigns and Barack Obama's political life has not matured enough to handle the hardship. No comment from either Clinton or Obama but both probably not very happy with Mayor Young.

BLITZER: You have to be careful what you're saying. Even in jest, it can be take on the wrong way. Thanks very much for that, Carol.

Let's go to the campaign trail right now where the latest poll numbers show a shift in priorities among voters in that key state of Iowa.

Our Suzanne Malveaux is in Des Moines right now. Suzanne, for a long time voters out there said the Iraq war was their top concern, but that's not necessarily the case any more. What is it now?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's really quite incredible to see because as U.S. troops come home, as the casualties go down in Iraq, there really is this dynamic shift that is taking place in the campaign and I got a chance to talk to a lot Iowans about what is happening.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: For months Iraq dominated the headlines and was the number one issue for voters poised to pick the next president. But now an Iowa a dramatic shift is taking place. All about the economy. At Drake Diner in Des Moines, residents seem to share an unease.

TAUNYA COOPER, IOWA VOTER: I remember when Clinton was in and stuff and I felt like I had more money, I had more money to spend. I felt like more secure and now I feel like I'm just holding on to every dollar for some reason.

JEFF HOGA, IOWA VOTER: I drive an hour to work every day and I have been for quite a while and with the gas prices jumping up like they have, it's basically double the amount of money I have to spend to go to work.

MALVEAUX: For Keith Taylor, a father of three little kids, he's focused on education.

KEITH TAYLOR, IOWA VOTER: Make college more affordable, that would be excellent.

MALVEAUX: The latest CNN Opinion Research Corporation poll backs up what many Iowans are stressing. 29% say the economy is the most important issue in determining who they'll vote for president. The Iraq war is right behind followed by health care, terrorism and immigration. Political analyst David Yepsen of the Des Moines Register believes the shift in priorities is changing not only how candidates campaign in Iowa, but will have a national impact.

DAVID YEPSEN, DES MOINES REGISTER: I think Iowa is the same as the rest of the country when it comes to the economy. People are nervous, you know, high gas prices, the stock market is jittery, the mortgage crisis. People are scared.

MALVEAUX: For republican Patti Spencer Burdette, the fear permeates everything. Her number one priority ...

PATTI SPENCER BURDETTE, IOWA VOTER: America is staying strong and united.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: And republican candidate Mitt Romney was here in Des Moines and he was at an editorial board meeting of the Des Moines Register and he was asked what kind of questions are you getting from voters that are important issues. Interesting enough, Wolf, he said he is no longer getting questions that much about the Iraq war, but rather the economy and immigration. So, expect to hear those things permeate throughout the campaign. Wolf?

BLITZER: Suzanne, thanks very much. Suzanne Malveaux Des Moines for us.

Coming up, baseball's homerun king gets his chance to weigh in on the allegations that he lied about using steroids. That story coming up.

And Mitt Romney answers more questions about illegal immigrants working in his home. And he gets a bit testy about it.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Just a short while ago out in San Francisco, baseball's homerun king Barry Bonds was in court. He's facing charges stemming from an investigation into an alleged steroid distribution ring.

CNN's Ted Rowlands is joining us outside the courthouse. What happened at the proceedings today, Ted?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well no surprises, not guilty from Barry Bonds. It's been four years since he allegedly lied to a grand jury. Today the home run king was in front of a federal judge.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROWLANDS: Baseball's home run king, Barry Bonds, had to push his way through a wave of cameras and microphones to get into the federal courthouse in San Francisco. Inside, Bonds pled not guilty to four felony counts of perjury and a count of obstruction of justice. Bonds is accused of lying to a grand jury in 2003 about steroid use. If convicted, the baseball star could face up to 30 years in prison.

Prosecutors asked the judge to restrict Bonds from traveling outside the United States, but the judge denied that request, allowing him freed on a $500,000 bond. Bonds, who broke baseball's career home run record earlier this year, has been playing under a cloud of suspicion for alleged steroid use. Bonds denied he ever knowingly used any illegal performance enhancing drugs.

ALLEN RUBY, BONDS' ATTORNEY: Barry Bonds is innocent. He has trust and faith in the justice system. He will defend these charges and we're confident of a good outcome.

ROWLANDS: Bonds stopped to sign an autograph inside the courthouse, but had nothing to say as he walked out with his wife. The circus-type atmosphere now customary in high-profile cases was in full swing outside the courthouse.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

Next court date in this case is February 7th, Bonds doesn't have to be here. Most folks following this, including Bonds' defense attorneys, don't think it will go to trial until late next year, after the season. A lot of folks have speculated, Wolf, that Barry Bonds would never play baseball again. A local media today reporting that he is very close to signing with the Oakland A's. Wolf?

BLITZER: Ted, thanks very much; Ted Rowlands reporting from San Francisco.

This just coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM. The suicide note of Robert Hawkins, the young man who gunned down eight people before killing himself at a mall in Omaha, Nebraska, earlier in the week. He writes, let me quote now, he says, "I just snapped. Everyone will remember me as some sort of monster." It comes just a few hours after disturbing new images were released from the scene of the deadly rampage. They do little to clarify what caused the tragedy, though.

CNN's Dan Simon joining us now from Omaha with details. Dan?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we are seeing for the first time today some terrifying images of the shooter inside the shopping mall armed with that AK-47 assault rifle. In the images you're seeing squarely contradict the sentiment of three young women we spoke to earlier today. These three women were part of the same group home program for troubled teenagers as the shooter. What they're telling us is the images you're seeing on television totally different from the Robert Hawkins they knew. They described him as somebody who had a sense of humor, somebody who always had a smile and someone who is not a loaner; the type of person you normally associate with these types of mass shootings. One of the questions I asked is why Robert Hawkins may have specifically targeted this shopping mall and they could only theorize.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He got along with mostly everyone. But the situation we knew him in, he didn't have a choice. He kind of had to get along with everyone.

SIMON: What do you mean?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the system, in placements, you don't, you know. I can't really explain it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have it just make the best of the situation you're in and the people that you have to be around all the time. So, you get to know them and have no choice but to get along with them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He never said anything like that he was going to shoot anyone, but he had kind of a sick sense of humor.

SIMON: Oftentimes when you have these kinds of tragedies, the people who knew the shooters talk about warning signs. But these people we talked to today, these three young women said they absolutely saw no warning signs. So it's really a mystery in terms of what ultimately led this shooter to go on this awful rampage here in Omaha. Meanwhile, the shopping mall you see behind me, the Westroads Shopping Mall, it's going to reopen tomorrow. A positive sign for this community, but, specifically, the Von Maur store where this all unfolded, it is going to remain closed and we don't know when it will reopen. Wolf?

BLITZER: Dan Simon in Omaha for us, thank you very much.

It's a delicate dance, republican presidential candidates are preparing for a debate aimed at Spanish-speaking voters. Jack Cafferty with your e-mail on that.

And serious new questions about the congressional page program. You might be surprised by what some are saying are going on inside the dorms on Capitol Hill.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's go back to Jack Cafferty. He has the Cafferty File. Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Interesting debate coming up Sunday, Wolf. Republican presidential candidates are going to debate down in Miami. The debate will be translated into Spanish and carried on Univision. Our question is, what should they say to the large block of Hispanic voters in that state and else where? Patrick writes, "Thanks for all your hard work. We kept the gates open as long as we could, but the kill-joy Americans who have been paying the tab want you out. Thanks though you have made us republicans all rich. Don't worry, plan "B" is coming. We'll outsource the rest of the jobs coming your way soon."

Linda in Arizona, "Most of you would be voting against your economic self-interest to vote for a republican. We know you're a bunch of wannabes but you don't really understand the system yet. You're the under class under republicans and we know how to keep you that way. That's what they should say." Don't wait for it.

Buddy writes from Georgia, "Tell the Hispanic citizen voters to tell in Spanish, if necessary, all the illegal Hispanics to go home and, please, get in line. We citizens would love to have them here under our rule of law. Buenos Dias."

John in Alabama writes, "What should they say? Thank you to those who have respected the immigration policies and laws of the United States and thank you for learning English. For those who have not come here legally, please go home. Take care of your children. Do not leave them here and fix your country before you try to change ours. Mochas gracias."

Joe in Delaware writes, "Maybe a clear distinction between immigrants and illegals. Plain talk: 1986 amnesty made problems worse, no new amnesty before the ports and borders are secured. Urge Hispanics to press Mexico to improve their standard of living."

And Jose writes, "Hasta la vista, Baby." Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, see you in a few moments.

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