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THE SITUATION ROOM
Benazir Bhutto Assassinated
Aired December 27, 2007 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: the breaking news we are following, Benazir Bhutto's chilling message before her assassination. She vowed to hold Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf responsible if she were killed. This hour, the secret e- mail I was told about weeks ago and can share with you only now.
Plus, President Bush's tough choices and worst nightmares in Pakistan. Does Bhutto's death set him on a new course?
And the candidates for Mr. Bush's job have plenty to say about Bhutto's assassination and how they would deal with Pakistan now -- all that and the best political team on television.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
In just a moment, the story I was asked to report to the world if the former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was killed, the e- mail she sent casting blame for her assassination two months before it happened.
But, first, we are learning more about Bhutto's final moments, this startling image showing her waving to the crowd, appearing to be an open target during a campaign rally. Officials say she was shot in the neck and chest by an attacker, who then blew himself up.
Crowds mobbed Bhutto's casket as it was taken from the hospital later. Her assassination is bringing new instability to a nuclear- armed Muslim nation, a vital U.S. ally in the war on terror, and also the possible hiding place of Osama bin Laden.
Riots and chaos reportedly are spreading throughout the country, with Bhutto supporters torching cars and blocking roads, and the fate of the January 8 elections in Pakistan and the future of any democratic reform now more uncertain than ever.
A witness to Bhutto's final deadly ride, the photographer who took this image of Benazir Bhutto standing in an open sunroof of an armored vehicle. Listen to the way he described what he saw.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN MOORE, GETTY IMAGES: You know, the vehicle was moving very slowly, because the crowd was all around, and it was pushing through. She clearly wanted to get close to her people.
I was very surprised that she was coming out of the sunroof of this car, considering what happened in Karachi a while back. And I had been photographing her pushing through the crowd. And the vehicle sort of surged forward. And I got out of the way and moved a little bit ahead of it.
And, suddenly -- well, I turned around and heard three shots go off, and saw her go down, fall down through the sunroof down into the car. And, just at that moment, I raised my camera and started photographing with the high-speed motor drive. And that's how I was ability to capture some of the explosion when it went off and then the aftermath.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Dramatic pictures, indeed.
Now our exclusive report on Benazir Bhutto's grim warning of what might happen to her and why. Her fears of an assassination have now, unfortunately, tragically, come true. And only now can I reveal to you what I know.
This past October, Benazir Bhutto sent an e-mail to her longtime friend and U.S. spokesman Mark Siegel.
Addressing the danger she faced in her homeland, Bhutto wrote these words. And let me quote them precisely: "Nothing will, God willing, happen. Just wanted you to know, if it does, in addition to the names in my letter to Musharraf of October 16, I would hold Musharraf responsible. I have been made to feel insecure by his minions. And there is no way what is happening, in terms of stopping me from taking private cars or using tinted windows or giving jammers or four police mobiles to cover all sides, could happen without him."
At Bhutto's request, Mark Siegel forwarded that e-mail to me the day he received it. That was back on October 26. But he told me I could not report on it unless -- unless Bhutto was killed.
Coming up, my interview with Mark Siegel and the reaction from Pakistan's ambassador to the United States. That's coming up.
But what's happening in Pakistan clearly matters here in the United States. That nation is a critical ally in the U.S. fight against terror. Many believe Osama bin Laden is hiding out in Pakistan's lawless northwest border with Afghanistan. And Pakistan already has a significant nuclear arsenal.
President Bush was quick to react, strongly condemning Bhutto's assassination.
Our White House correspondent, Ed Henry, is covering all of this. He is at the president's ranch out in Crawford, Texas.
Serious, very serious implications, Ed, for the United States in that part of the world.
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, enormous ramifications. In fact, it is going to be more difficult because of all of this chaos now for Pakistan to focus in on the war on terror and the hunt for bin Laden.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We send our condolences to all the people on Pakistan on this tragic occasion.
HENRY (voice over): A somber President Bush spoke from his Texas ranch to mark the death of Benazir Bhutto and send a tough message to those who murdered her.
BUSH: The United States strongly condemns this cowardly act by murderous extremists who are try to go undermine Pakistan's democracy. Those who committed this crime must be brought to justice.
HENRY: With chaos growing in the streets of Pakistan, aides acknowledge Mr. Bush is concerned there's a risk the assassination will spark more violence.
SCOTT STANZEL, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: We would urge calm and hope that all the Pakistanis would mourn her death, celebrate her life, and unite together in opposition to the types of extremists that are trying to stop the march of democracy.
HENRY: Mr. Bush was so alarmed about the situation that, just hours after the nation, he called Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf.
BUSH: We urge them to honor Benazir Bhutto's memory by continuing with the democratic process for which she so bravely gave her life.
HENRY: But it's unclear how committed Musharraf really is to those democratic reforms, especially with questions about whether Pakistan has misused billions of dollars in U.S. aid intended to crack down on extremists. And with Musharraf's government so unstable, a chief U.S. concern now is making sure Pakistan's nuclear weapons do not wind up in the hands of terrorists.
JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, FORMER DEPUTY CIA DIRECTOR: I don't think we should by complacent about this. If extremists have been able to penetrate into the army garrison city of Rawalpindi and carry out an assassination on the nation's principal civilian politician, we have to ask ourselves whether they can penetrate other areas.
HENRY: Another big question, of course, whether or not the elections that are scheduled for January 8 should be delayed. The White House does not want to touch that. They do not want to look like they are meddling in Pakistan's affairs now more than ever. So, they are only saying they want to see free and fair elections move forward at some point -- Wolf.
Ed Henry at the Crawford ranch for us, thank you.
Exactly one week from today, Iowa's Democrats and Republicans will gather across the state and begin the process of choosing the next president of the United States. In the lead-up to that first critical contest, the assassination today of Benazir Bhutto is making a big impression out on the campaign trail.
Dana Bash has the GOP response.
But let's begin with Suzanne Malveaux. She is watching the Democrats' response.
And they are all speaking out about how this could have an impact in the war on terror -- Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, all the candidates offered their condolences, but this quickly turned into an opportunity for a showdown, a debate, if you will, over who has the foreign policy chops to take on this volatile region.
MALVEAUX (voice-over): With the Iowa caucuses just days away, anything can change the political landscape, including the assassination of a key U.S. ally, Pakistan's former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
The condolences came quickly.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our thoughts and prayers are with her family.
MALVEAUX: But Senator Hillary Clinton was able to add this.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have known Benazir Bhutto for a dozen years. And I knew her as a leader.
MALVEAUX: In fact, in 1995, when Clinton was first lady, she visited then Prime Minister Bhutto as part of a two-week South Asia tour to promote women and children. She brought daughter Chelsea along, who was studying high school Islamic history.
Recently, candidate Clinton has been trying to distinguish herself, most notably from Senator Barack Obama, over her experience in foreign policy.
But her other chief rival, Senator John Edwards, not only asserted his close ties to Bhutto. He said he called Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf to assess the crisis.
Not to be outdone, former Governor Bill Richardson, previously a U.N. ambassador, called for Musharraf's resignation, while Senator Joe Biden, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and arguably the Democratic candidate with the most foreign policy experience, lamented, his direct warnings to Musharraf to protect Bhutto were rebuffed.
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And the failure to protect Mrs. Bhutto raises a lot of hard for the government and the security services that have to be answered.
MALVEAUX: And, Wolf, Senator Dodd released a statement as well, talking about his 26 years of experience on the Foreign Relations Committee.
But the big question, whether or not this really is going to matter, whether or not it resonates with Iowa caucus-goers, voters here, the Democrats, the latest polls showing that it is not terrorism, but rather it is Iraq, health care, as well as education. Those are really the top priorities, the top issues that concern residents here -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Suzanne in Iowa covering the Democrats.
Dana Bash is covering the Republicans.
They all reacted in strong words, Dana, today as well.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Pretty much all the Republicans reacted, in part because of the fact that this is really a grave situation, what happened in Pakistan, but also because it is just one week before the Republican caucuses. And the focus, just like on the Democratic side, has been more on domestic issues. And Republican candidates realize that it could switch very quickly to issues of terrorism and national security.
But, Wolf, if you listen carefully to the Republican candidates, they do have a different emphasis and tone.
BASH (voice-over): In Iowa, John McCain opened a town hall paying his condolences and playing up his experience.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I knew Benazir Bhutto. I know Musharraf very well. And, if I were president of the United States, I would be on the phone right now and I would be meeting with the National Security Council.
BASH: In Florida, Rudy Giuliani talked terrorism.
RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Each one of these events that happens reminds me that we have to do everything we can to prevent these terrorist attacks and we have to do everything we can to win this war that Islamic terrorists are perpetrating against us.
BASH: In New Hampshire, Mitt Romney called for propping up moderate Islamic leaders.
MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And we must come together in an effort, in great haste and with great earnestness, to help overcome the threat of the spread of radical, violent jihad.
BASH: Fred Thompson also talked tough on terror. FRED THOMPSON, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And it's a global conflict. And al Qaeda wants to bring Western civilization to -- to its knees.
BASH: Mike Huckabee declared it too early to discuss the impact of Benazir Bhutto's assassination, and offered prayers.
MIKE HUCKABEE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First of all, let me begin by expressing on behalf of, I think, every American our sincere concerns and apologies for the horrible incident that has happened in Pakistan.
BASH: GOP reaction varied. But the reality is, two candidates, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, score best on national security, and they got into an instant tussle to delicately capitalize on an issue that had receded.
McCain even admitted to CNN, it could help him.
MCCAIN: I'm the one with the most credentials and the most experience and the most judgment.
BASH: Giuliani immediately connected the attack in Pakistan to his biggest strength, 9/11.
GIULIANI: America feelings a strong sense of, I think, connection to something like this because of what's happened to us.
BASH: But McCain bluntly challenged Giuliani's foreign policy experience.
MCCAIN: Well, I think he did a great job post-9/11 in handling in the post-crisis situation, I don't know how that credential -- how that provides one the credentials to address national security issues.
BASH: Now, it is really hard to tell how Bhutto's assassination is going to affect the Republican race, but I can tell you this, Wolf.
This building where I'm standing, it was packed with undecided Republican voters here earlier today to listen to John McCain. Many of them told us that they see what happened in Pakistan as a bit of a wakeup call, that, as much as they have been focused on taxes and immigration, they now are reminded that terrorism is a huge challenge still, and that may affect the way they choose who they want to be their Republican nominee for the White House -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Dana, thanks very much -- Dana Bash out on the campaign trail in Iowa.
This important programming note for our viewers. We are going to have a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM later tonight. We will be here at 8:00 p.m. Eastern with the latest on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and the latest on how it is affecting the race for the White House, once again, a special SITUATION ROOM tonight 8:00 p.m. Eastern.
Benazir Bhutto's certainly knew the risks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENAZIR BHUTTO, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF PAKISTAN: Yes, of course, they would like to go against me. There's a lot at threat, because under military dictatorship, an anarchic situation has developed which the terrorists and Osama have exploited. They don't want democracy. They don't want me back. And they don't believe in women governing nations. So, they...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You are going to hear more of what Benazir Bhutto spoke about, her security concerns, in that recent interview she had with me in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Also, the man who forwarded me that exclusive e-mail from Benazir Bhutto. I was told not to reveal it unless she died. In it, Bhutto worries about her life and lays blame in the event of her death. The bearer of the e-mail, Bhutto's longtime friend, her adviser, Mark Siegel, he's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
And could her assassination serve to help terrorists? We will tell you why some think it gives al Qaeda more room to run free.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Benazir Bhutto certainly was fully aware of the dangers she faced returning to Pakistan.
She joined me in THE SITUATION ROOM only three months ago to talk about that danger and said she was prepared to take those risks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You're a relatively young woman. How scared are you, though? Because, as you know, Osama bin Laden and other terrorists, they have attacked you in the past and they clearly would like to go after you now.
BHUTTO: Yes, of course they would like to go against me. There's a lot of threats, because under military dictatorship, an anarchic situation has developed which the terrorists and Osama have exploited. They don't want democracy. They don't want me back.
BLITZER: They don't want a woman to be the prime minister of Pakistan either.
BHUTTO: And they don't believe in women governing nations. So they will try to plot against me. But these are risks that must be taken. I'm prepared to take them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's get back now to our exclusive on Benazir Bhutto's chilling warning of what might and actually did happen to her.
As we reported earlier, she sent an e-mail to her longtime friend, her Washington representative, Mark Siegel, saying she would hold Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf responsible if anything happened to her.
I spoke with Mark Siegel and Pakistan's Ambassador to the United States.
I began by asking Siegel about the concerns Bhutto had about her security.
MARK SIEGEL, FRIEND OF BENAZIR BHUTTO: As we prepared for the campaign, former Prime Minister Bhutto was very concerned that she was not getting the security that she had asked for and that her husband had asked for. It was very, very specific that they had asked for jammers to -- to set off IEDs. That was denied to be allowed in by the government of General Musharraf.
She had asked for special vehicles. That was denied to her. She had asked for special tinted cars. She had asked for four police vehicles to surround her at all times. She basically asked for all that was required for someone of the standing of a former prime minister. All of that was denied to her.
She sent me the e-mail because she...
BLITZER: Well, let me interrupt -- let me interrupt for a moment, Mark, because I just want to be precise.
This was two months ago, October 26, that she sent you that e- mail. Based on what you know -- and I know you were in contact with her a lot over these two months -- did she not get any of those extra security precautions that she sought?
SIEGEL: She got some police protection, but it was sporadic and erratic. She did not get the jammers that were necessary for the IEDs. She did not get the protection that she thought was necessary.
And she became increasingly concerned that this was not getting any better, but actually getting worse, as she toured the country in preparation for the January 8 election, which she thought was basically rigged from the top down and the bottom up. But she was going to fight the fight, because she was willing to sacrifice everything for the cause of democracy in Pakistan, and has been for most of her life.
BLITZER: I don't know...
SIEGEL: And, today, she paid with her life.
BLITZER: Let me bring the ambassador, Mahmud Ali Durrani, into this conversation.
Mr. Ambassador, you have heard the complaints. I want to get your reaction.
MAHMUD ALI DURRANI, PAKISTANI AMBASSADOR TO UNITED STATES: Well, I respect Mr. Siegel. He's a very knowledgeable man, indeed, and he got this mail from Benazir Bhutto. That is also true. I'm aware of that.
But I think it is a bit naive if you try and blame the government of Musharraf or the government of Pakistan that this happened because there were inadequate protection. When she came to Karachi -- let me put the record straight for everybody -- that there were, I think, a sea of security people.
There was -- she was surrounded by police vehicles. And, had it not been one of the police vehicles which took the blast in Karachi, unfortunately, she would have died there. There was a bubble around her of security. The PPP insisted that they have their own private loyalists around. They were there, too.
And there were about 7,800 to 8,000 security people deployed just for that. And that is more security than anybody deploys anywhere in the world.
BLITZER: Let me -- Mr. Ambassador, let me ask you specifically whether those items that she requested back in that e-mail on October 26, whether they were in fact made available to her.
Mark Siegel says they were not, including using tinted windows or giving jammers for police mobiles to cover all sides. Did she get the specific -- the specific security precautions that she thought she needed to stay alive?
DURRANI: Wolf, she is not a security person. She's a politician.
I think the government of Pakistan provided her all the security that was necessary. Now, you tell me, even without jammer or tinted windows, the way she was hit, she would have been hit with tinted windows or without tinted windows, or without the IEDs. No IED was used, no use of tinted windows.
So, it's just a blame game. And the problem with this blame game, to my fear, is that the real culprits are going to get away.
BLITZER: Straight ahead: what went wrong, how a killer penetrated the security ring around Bhutto.
And a presidential candidate sees his other job exposed. You are going to hear what Mike Huckabee is doing on the side. He needs the cash. But does it pose any legal problems?
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Pakistan on red alert, as they are calling it right now, chaos and rioting in the streets. We are taking a closer look at the worst-case scenarios and how the U.S. military would respond.
Plus, will President Bush rethink his support for the Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf? The best political team on television standing by to consider the options.
And Benazir Bhutto in her own words -- coming up, more of my interview with her before her death, what she saw back then as her greatest threat.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: a violent death and a dangerous new set of options. U.S. officials ponder what to do about Pakistan now that Benazir Bhutto is dead.
Benazir Bhutto's assassination also putting an old issue back on the presidential campaign's front-burner. Brand-new national security worries could change voters' attitudes toward the candidates.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
One person describes it as the unthinkable becoming a chilling reality. Now Benazir Bhutto's assassination leaves much of the world in shock. What's happening in Pakistan matters right here in the United States, especially with some experts saying that Bhutto's death could help the terrorists.
Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is joining us right now.
Barbara, you have been speaking to experts out there. What are they saying?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, according to the analysts, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and the instability and violence in Pakistan puts all of this front and center for the Pentagon's war on terror.
STARR (voice-over): Pakistani forces are now on red alert, as anti-government demonstrations spread. For the U.S., it is a high- wire act with this critical ally and nuclear power.
The U.S. has been funneling President Pervez Musharraf and his army billions of dollars in aid for years to fight extremists. But the assassination is the clearest indication the strategy isn't working.
Former CIA acting director and CNN analyst John McLaughlin says stability in Pakistan is in jeopardy.
JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN ANALYST, FORMER, ACTING CIA DIRECTOR: I think the bottom line is Al Qaeda probably has a little more running room here, because the country will be in such chaos in coming weeks, that the capacity of authorities to focus on Al Qaeda will be diminished.
STARR: The fundamental Pentagon concern -- Musharraf will be so consumed by the struggle to stay in power, his army and security services will not pay enough attention to Al Qaeda, which already has found a growing sanctuary in Pakistani cities.
An eerie prediction by Defense Secretary Robert Gates just last week.
ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Al Qaeda right now seems to have turned its face toward Pakistan.
STARR: Within hours of the assassination, Bush administration officials spoke to their counterparts in Pakistan, urging them once again to have the Pakistani Army step up its counter-insurgency efforts against Al Qaeda. Beyond Al Qaeda itself, U.S. officials say that former operatives in Pakistan's intelligence services loyal to Al Qaeda could be responsible for the attack. If stability isn't quickly restored, analysts warn the breakdown of Pakistan could mean grave new risks.
STEPHEN COHEN, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: At that point, we begin to wonder who's got the nuclear weapons, who controls them, where are they at?
In fact, we could be worried about that sooner if there's a break in the security barrier around those nuclear weapons and one or two of them get picked off by -- by a radical of some sort or another.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
STARR: Now, Congress had already put limits on aid to Pakistan, wanting to see more progress on democracy before sending more money. But top administration officials say there's a much urgent problem right now, Wolf, and that's restoring basic law and order on the streets of that country -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
Barbara Starr for us at the Pentagon.
Grim scenarios are begging the question, what should the U.S. do about Pakistan right now?
Let's get some analysis from our team -- our senior national correspondent, John King; our senior legal analyst, Jeff Toobin; and our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger. John, let me start with you.
This is a real crisis with enormous ramifications for the United States, first and foremost, unfolding right now.
JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the options over the past several months, when it comes to Pakistan, have gone from bad to awful to worse to potentially nightmare scenario. The United States had so hoped, despite all her flaws, that the elections would restore some semblance of democracy in Pakistan, be a symbol to the region, provide stability in Pakistan and provide an alternative to Musharraf.
Now, the administration has little choice -- even though it is unhappy with Musharraf -- to continue to give him aid, to continue to support him because of the security instability. So the options were bad to begin with, and on this day, they are dramatically worse.
BLITZER: And it underscores, Jeff, the whole nature of the security threat. It could change in heartbeat if you will, and we're seeing that unfold right now.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It could, although one possible good scenario is that the election goes forward and a secular, democratically elected, stable regime takes power. And there are those that believe -- there are those who know Pakistan who say -- who don't believe the nightmare scenarios that extremists will win the election. If you give the Pakistani people the opportunity, they will choose responsibly and there will be a stable government that is more popular and more stable than Musharraf.
BLITZER: We can...
TOOBIN: That's the good scenario.
BLITZER: We can only hope.
We can only hope.
But, Gloria, this does throw a wild card out there into the presidential race right now. You're in Iowa watching this unfold. And, all of a sudden, things have changed -- at least the debate -- for a while.
GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think the debate has changed a little bit. I was out with the Democratic candidates today, Wolf. And each of them, in their own way, was trying to make the case that they have the national security credentials to really deal with this kind of a problem.
I ran into Joe Biden somewhere. He told me he had just gotten off the phone with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. John Edwards had talked -- had spoken to Musharraf. And Obama was late for a rally, he told everyone there, by about an hour because he was on the phone with military officials, as well as the State Department.
So they're all trying to make the case, of course, that they would be the most prepared to deal with this kind of a crisis.
TOOBIN: Wolf, can I jump in here and just ask you a question?
You know, you have a had a unique perspective on this story because of this e-mail that you received from Mark Siegel.
Could you just talk a little bit about how that e-mail came about?
BLITZER: It was very weird. It was the end of October, October 26th. I had known Mark Siegel for many years, going back to when he had worked in the Jimmy Carter White House as a political strategist at that time. And over these many years, he became very close to Benazir Bhutto. They were very close friends. He worked for her as a paid Washington consultant -- lobbyist, if you will. But they were very, very close over the years.
She sent him an e-mail saying if something happens to me, I blame -- in effect, I'm paraphrasing -- Musharraf for not providing me the security that I need. And she asked him to make it available to me, but only to be able to report about it if something were to happen to her. And, unfortunately, this morning when we all got up, we learned that something awful had happened. And it was just a -- it was just a painful, painful thing, because I've known Benazir Bhutto myself for many years, as well.
TOOBIN: Was this the first thing you thought of when you saw this -- when you heard the news that she had died, you thought of this e- mail that was sitting there in your in box?
BLITZER: Yes. Right. I was sitting in my hotel here in New York and the first thing I thought about well, you know, what a lovely lady she was and an honorable woman and a decent political leader. But then I said, you know, she sort of predicted this, that this was going to happen.
I know Gloria wants to weigh in.
Go ahead, Gloria.
BORGER: Well, Wolf, I actually -- I mean we're a bit -- we're becoming inquisitors here, asking you these questions.
But do you think that she really believed that this was going to happen?
Because, you know, in many ways, it wasn't surprising that it did.
BLITZER: I think she knew the dangers. She had two brothers who were killed, a father who was executed. She knows death, this woman. And, you know, even in that interview at the end of September in Washington in THE SITUATION ROOM, she spoke of, you know, knowing the fears, knowing the dangers. But, you know, I guess as a political leader, she probably assumed it wouldn't happen to her. She said she was putting herself in the hands of Allah.
You know, I want John King to weigh in on this, as well, because, John, as you look at this situation and -- it just brings back memories of a lot of exchanges that I've had with Benazir Bhutto over the years. She was a well known political figure in Washington.
KING: Considerable stature in Washington, considerable stature in the Western world. Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, saying today let's not let the terrorists kill democracy in Pakistan.
And, Wolf, the e-mail you just shared will already stoke the reaction -- the word -- those words being made public will stoke the reaction of her political supporters anyway, whether it is true or not, they believe -- and they will believe passionately -- the Musharraf government was complicit in this, if not directly involved in it, allowing the security environment in the country -- whether that's fair or not -- to exist that allowed this assassination to happen.
So the big question now is -- Jeff does lay out the potential good scenario. And many believe if you have a free and honest and fair elections, the Pakistanis will make the right choice.
But can you have that and can you have reconciliation at a time -- the tensions are so high right now and Pakistan is one of many flaming spots in the region.
BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by...
BORGER: You know, the...
BLITZER: ...because we're going to continue this conversation.
We're going to also take a closer look at this Muslim woman being mourned around the world right now.
Much more of our roundtable right after this.
BLITZER: Shock waves from the assassination of Benazir Bhutto are being felt around the world.
Let's get back to our senior national correspondent, John King; our senior legal analyst, Jeff Toobin; and senior political analyst, Gloria Borger.
You know, it dawned on a lot of us, Gloria, that here was a Muslim woman who was being mourned literally all over the world -- not only in the United States, Pakistan -- but all over the world. People were sending in their condolences. And it's -- something like that does not happen very often. BORGER: No, it doesn't not happen very often. And, in fact, Hillary Clinton a little bit about this woman, as she kept talking about her today. And I think, you know, here in Iowa, as you look at a female presidential candidate, you see this woman being mourned all over the world, you understand how much the world has changed.
BLITZER: A relatively young woman, Jeff, Benazir Bhutto. She was only, what, in her mid-50s, early 50s. She had a long life ahead of her and a lot of people thought she was going to do very well in that January 8th scheduled election in Pakistan. Obviously, that's not happening now.
TOOBIN: And someone who is really beloved in the West and very well known in the West. This is a woman who got her undergraduate degree at Harvard. She spent many years as a graduate student at Oxford in England and lived much of her life in England. So, she was known by many people in the -- in the sort of media world and outside of the media world, in both -- in all the English speaking world, not just in Pakistan.
BLITZER: And even though she knew of the risks, she wanted to go back to Pakistan, knowing the dangers, knowing there are people who would want to kill her. She wanted to go back and do what she felt was her duty.
So, John, you know, put on your political hat and give us a sense how this plays out over the next week. It's only one week until the Iowa caucuses.
KING: Well, politically, here in the United States, Wolf, the question is will voters view this as a defining moment?
Will they view it as an episodic -- we'll watch it over the next few days and then go back to where they were thinking, and, say in the Republican primary, go back then to immigration and issues like that?
The Democratic Party was more about Iraq, but increasingly about the economy and health care. Or will voters say wait a minute. George W. Bush was president on 9/11. The next election, he will pass from the stage. Whether we like him or not, we're picking our first new post-9/11 president here and will the war on terror -- will international affairs matter more?
If that is the case, can Hillary Clinton make the case my experience matters?
Can John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, who have sort fallen out of the -- down in the top tier to the lower part of the top tier -- do they reassert themselves in the race?
It all depends, first and foremost, on whether Iowa voters go to the caucuses one week from today and say we need to think again about this -- about what issue we should put at the top of the agenda -- or at least near the top of the agenda. We won't know the answer to that for several days. I know our correspondents in the field and Gloria today at those events in Iowa today say many undecided voters in Iowa are saying, hmmm, I'd better think again about this.
BLITZER: All right, John, Jeff and Gloria.
Guys, thanks very much for that.
She was surrounded, certainly, by security. But an assassin got through. Coming up, security experts weigh in on what went wrong.
We're back in 60 seconds.
BLITZER: Attention is focusing right now on the security surrounding Benazir Bhutto.
With so many threats and previous attempts on her life, how was that able to happen, this assassination?
Let's go back to Carol Costello.
She's watching the story for us -- you've been talking, Carol, to security experts.
What are they saying?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, they're just sort of shaking their heads, there were so many mistakes made. Still, it is not so black and white. It is difficult to protect anyone anywhere who is running for office -- especially in a country where people are willing to kill themselves to kill.
COSTELLO (voice-over): From the moment Benazir Bhutto went back to Pakistan, she became a target -- and she knew it, telling CNN she knew she was risking her life. Yet security experts say she exposed herself, as many candidates running for office do, allowing people close enough to touch her. She needed that political money shot.
MCLAUGHLIN: I just think we have to bear in mind how difficult it is to protect people in an environment like this, particularly if the protected party does not stay inside that security bubble that's created by security people.
COSTELLO: As Bhutto spoke in a city park, Pakistani officials told us she was surrounded by personal and government security -- a detail as big as President Musharraf's. At this point, the crowd around her was under control. But when she left the podium, that began to change.
You can see a man reaching out for her being restrained. And just before Bhutto gets into her vehicle, the crowd around her grows. KEN ROBINSON, TERRORISM EXPERT: If there is no crowd control, where there's no way to discern between those who are in her security service and just the general public, it's very hard for anyone who's trying to protect her to sort out who the threats are.
COSTELLO: Then, according to Robinson, Bhutto's security failed to protect her as the candidate was getting into her car, allowing her to be exposed to the crowd.
ROBINSON: You just don't do it. From a security standpoint, you would have wanted to have that car covered and not have anyone around it.
COSTELLO: The pictures do show Bhutto's vehicle was only partially armored -- not fully equipped to withstand most explosive attacks.
ROBINSON: They simply don't use them because the candidate then looks like they're hiding.
COSTELLO: And Bhutto clearly wasn't. You can see her vehicle had a sunroof. It's something you will never see used in the United States because of what happened to President Kennedy.
ROBINSON: They got rid of the bubble. They got rid of those open cars in the United States based on the loss of that president.
COSTELLO: And what happened to President Kennedy happened to Bhutto. As she waved to the crowd through that sunroof, a gunman shot her in the neck and then blew himself up. Bhutto died in a Pakistani hospital two miles away.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
COSTELLO: And, oddly enough, Wolf, that park where Bhutto was speaking was named after Pakistan's first prime minister. He himself was assassinated there in 1951.
BLITZER: What a sad story.
Carol, thank you very much.
Carol Costello reporting.
Benazir Bhutto had high hopes for her country. On the eve of her return to Pakistan, she talked about the dangers she faced and what she hoped to accomplish. You're going to hear it here in her own words, my recent interview with her. That's coming up.
Plus, he says he's not running for president.
So why is the New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, buying ads in Iowa?
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Benazir Bhutto spoke with us here at CNN many times over the years. She was in THE SITUATION ROOM in Washington last September just before her return to Pakistan after eight years in exile.
In light of today's tragedy, that conversation about her hopes, her fears is especially poignant.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What kind of security will you have when you go back there?
BHUTTO: Well, I have raised the issue of my security with General Musharraf. And I've asked him to provide me the security that I'm entitled to as a former prime minister. I hope that he will provide me the security, because I have been a target of terrorists in the past and I know I could be a target in the future.
BLITZER: Who are you more afraid of -- the al Qaeda, Taliban elements who hate you or elements in the Pakistani military?
BHUTTO: I'm not afraid of either the al Qaeda or the Taliban elements or the Pakistani military. But I think at the end of the day, the people who try and plot will use al Qaeda, will use Taliban, because Taliban and al Qaeda are the groups that will suffer the most major reverses if my party and I are returned to power. We fought them in the past because we want a stable Pakistan, a prosperous Pakistan and we can't get any stability with militancy and extremists.
BLITZER: The president -- you've had a strained relationship, to put it mildly, with President Musharraf. In his book, he says that when you ran your party, you were chairperson for life in the tradition of the old African dictators. Strong words coming from him.
And all the charges of corruption -- that your party was rife with corruption, your husband -- what do you say to those allegations, which some, including Michael Scheuer, the former CIA analyst, said had a strong element of truth?
BHUTTO: Well, I would say that a person is innocent unless proved otherwise. There's no sentence against me. These are politically motivated charges. When the chief justice of Pakistan proved to be a problem, he was slapped with corruption charges.
These are deliberate allegations made to detract attention from the institutionalized corruption of the military. Transparency International, a reputed international group, has said that corruption under the military regime is far greater than it was under previous civilian predecessors.
BLITZER: You have called President Musharraf a dictator -- and he runs a dictatorship. But, as you know, the Bush administration -- the U.S. government has a strong relationship with -- with President Musharraf's government and relies on the Musharraf government to cooperate in the war on terror, to provide some sense of stability and security in that part of the world.
What's your basic complaint with what the U.S. is doing right now?
In other words, is the U.S. supporting a dictatorship?
BHUTTO: I certainly think that the United States has supported a dictatorship for its own short-term strategic reasons arising out of the war against terrorism, where Musharraf has seen -- has been seen as a reliable ally. But last year, President Bush went to Pakistan and made a pledge to support democracy and free elections. And Condoleezza Rice yesterday gave a statement expressing her disappointment about the arrests of political activists. So I think that the United States is gently trying to prod General Musharraf onto the path of greater democratization, which I welcome.
BLITZER: But do you have any doubt that President Musharraf is committed to destroying al Qaeda, which has gone after him on several occasions, as well?
BHUTTO: Well, he says he's committed to destroying them.
BLITZER: What do you think?
BHUTTO: I don't think he's been very effective. I think that the longer -- many people think the military is the solution. I don't. I think the situation has become anarchic and will continue to be anarchic as long as there is a military-dominated regime in Pakistan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Benazir Bhutto speaking with me in THE SITUATION ROOM at the end of September.
Coming up, Mike Huckabee's surge to the top of the polls is producing closer scrutiny and new questions. He's still doing something that other presidential candidates gave up long ago.
And remember, we have a special addition of THE SITUATION ROOM coming up in one hour. Join me at 8:00 p.m. Eastern for the latest on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and the killing's impact on the race for the White House.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Checking our Political Ticker, Republican Mike Huckabee doing something presidential candidates don't normally do -- charge speaking fees. His spokeswoman confirms the former Arkansas governor gave two or three paid speeches last month and plans to give several more in February. It's unusual, but apparently not illegal. And the Huckabee camp says because the candidate is not a current officeholder, so he needs the money.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg insists he's not running for president.
So why is the Republican turned Independent running ads in Iowa and New Hampshire newspapers?
Bloomberg and some fellow mayors are sending out an anti-gun message to the White House hopefuls. The ads in today's "Des Moines Register" and New Hampshire "Union Leader" cost more than $22,000 dollars and were bought by a non-profit group largely funded by the billionaire mayor.
Remember, for the latest political news any time, you can always check out our Political Ticker at CNN.com/ticker. And you can take the best political team with you anywhere. You can download our political pod cast at CNNPolitics.com.
I'll see you in an hour, 8:00 p.m. Eastern -- a special SITUATION ROOM.
Until then, thanks very much for watching.
"LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now.
Kitty Pilgrim sitting in for Lou -- Kitty.
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