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THE SITUATION ROOM

Iowa Caucus Countdown; Bhutto Assassination Video

Aired December 31, 2007 - 17:00   ET

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


BLITZER: Lott served one year of a six year term that runs out in 2012.
Remember, for the latest political news check out CNNPolitics.com.

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

Happening now, shocking images suggest Pakistan's Benazir Bhutto was shot at nearly point blank range. My exclusive interview with her widower, who suggests Pakistan government has something to hide.

If Hillary Clinton was president more than a decade ago, would she have acted to stop the Rwanda genocide?

The Clintons try to build up her foreign policy experience, but Barack Obama is not buying it.

And NASA releases reports of thousands of pilots complaining of fatigue, equipment failures and many near collisions.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Stunning new pictures show the last moments of Pakistan's opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto, killed during a rally last week. And those pictures are adding fuel to the furious dispute over just how she died.

CNN's Zain Verjee is in Islamabad with the latest -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, almost every day there are new images of Benazir Bhutto's final moments. But more images don't necessarily mean clearer answers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE (voice-over): Did a bullet kill Benazir Bhutto or did she die, as the government insists, of a fractured skull when she struck her head, falling into the car?

As more images emerge of a man apparently aiming a gun at Bhutto, doubts grow over the official account and the firestorm of controversy rages. New video of the scene shows Bhutto's head and scarf moving suddenly -- suggesting she was struck by at least one bullet.

ATHAR MINALLAH, HOSPITAL BOARD MEMBER: It could have been a bullet.

VERJEE: Athar Minallah is a board member at the hospital where Bhutto was pronounced dead and a lawyer for the doctor that attended to her. He says the doctors involved are threatened -- not free to speak up. Minallah penned an open letter on their behalf, saying: "They are distancing themselves from the government's story."

CNN has obtained the doctor's medical report, which says: "Blood was continuously trickling down and whitish material that looked like brain matter was seen in the wound and on the surrounding hair."

It says Bhutto's death was a result of an "open head injury with depressed skull fracture, leading to cardiopulmonary arrest."

There was no bullet found in the wound, but it could have exited. The doctors wanted a full autopsy to further explore the wound.

MINALLAH: Under the law of Pakistan, an autopsy at that time was mandatory and the police was absolutely responsible for that.

VERJEE: Minallah says the police chief did not agree to an autopsy.

Bhutto's family has refused to exhume her body and do an autopsy because they say the government can't be trusted.

The confusion surrounding her death has also spurred conspiracy theories.

Could she have been killed by a sniper firing at long range?

Security experts say that's not credible. And there are questions, too, whether the shooter was also the suicide bomber or whether there were two men as this picture suggests -- a shooter and a bomber.

(on camera): Without an autopsy, any conclusion is almost impossible. So for now a shocked population lives with confusion and speculation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain Verjee reporting for us from Islamabad.

Thank you.

Fleeting images foreshadowing the horror.

What do those shocking video pictures tell us about the final moments of Benazir Bhutto?

Brian Todd has been looking into this part of the story -- Brian, you've spoken with a security expert.

What are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're learning where to look for clues in two critical pieces of videotape. And with no autopsy forthcoming at this point, that video may provide some very credible answers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): A frenzied crowd before the shots -- then, sheer chaos -- the kind of scene bill spent his professional life trying to prevent. Pickle, a former Secret Service agent who headed Al Gore's protective detail during his 2000 presidential campaign, looks at the videotape of Benazir Bhutto's killing with a trained eye and notices something that he believes supports the idea that she died from those nearly point blank gunshots.

BILL PICKLE, FORMER SECRET SERVICE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: At the first shot, both bodies move to the right -- both the security guard in white, as well as Prime Minister Bhutto. You see a lifting of the scarf, as well.

TODD (on camera): And what does that tell you?

PICKLE: Well, tells you that both reacted to something at the same time -- that it was not a bomb because there's obviously -- after the shots were fired -- the explosion did not knock her or the concussion did not knock her to the right.

TODD (voice-over): From analyzing the videotape, Pickle says he does not think there were snipers involved.

PICKLE: I don't mean to be too graphic, but a high-powered sniper rifle is going to essentially make her head explode.

TODD: We look at the video of what appears to be the gunman seemingly focused on his target. Given the timing between those shots and the blast, Pickle believes this was a professional job.

PICKLE: It could be the order was whoever gets the closest. We may not be able to be able to use the gun. We may misfire. We may miss. The bomb can pretty much get everything within proximity. So it could have been just a backup.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

TODD: Pickle says this was a crime of opportunity, that the opportunity here was very obvious. The target perched in a slow-moving car, peering out from the top, surrounded by a crowd that was allowed to get far too close. He says this was a protection agent's worst nightmare -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What does he say about the Pakistani government's assertion that she died from some sort of a skull fracture as she went back into that sunroof and hit the latch or whatever?

TODD: Well, he says he can't rule that out. But something critical here to look at. He says when you look at the pictures of the blood inside the car, the location of the blood is critical there. It's on the seat and on the floor on the right hand side. He says that's consistent with a possible exit wound from those gunshots from that one gunman who had the pistol. He says that that's where she would have bled inside that car.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, good reporting.

Thanks very much.

Benazir Bhutto's widower, Asif Ali Zardari, is the co-chairman now of her Pakistan Peoples Party and is now grooming their 19-year- old son for a leadership role.

In an exclusive interview, Asif Ali Zardari tells me he wants next week's parliamentary election to go forward as scheduled. And Zadari says that that view is shared by another key opposition leader, the former Pakistani prime minister, Nawaz Sharif.

My interview -- an exclusive interview with the widower of Benazir Bhutto -- that's coming up shortly here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Violence took a terrible toll in Iraq this year. But the U.S. military there is actually ending the year on a more positive note. Casualties are down and there are gains on the ground. That's not the case, though, in Afghanistan, where attacks the U.S. military deaths are sharply up.

Let's go to our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, who's watching both of these wars.

Two wars, yet ending the year with two different stories.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: It's a very different scenario, Wolf.

In Iraq, today, it's already 2008. And so far, as far as we know, no American servicemen lost his life in Iraq.

In 2007, those kinds of days were few and far between for the U.S. military. December is a really good example. Take December, for example. Only 21 American troops died in Iraq in December. And that compares to 112 the same time last year. It's a dramatic drop -- only the second lowest time in this war that we've seen totals this low.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE (voice-over): For the U.S. military, 2007 was the deadliest year of war -- in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iraq, at least 899 Americans died in 2007 -- eclipsing the previous high of 849 back in 2004. In Afghanistan, the numbers were lower, but just as grim -- jumping to 116 American deaths -- the first time the yearly U.S. death toll has exceeded 100.

The difference is that in Iraq, the trends appear positive. Take December. So far, only 21 Americans have died compared to 112 last December. That's the second lowest monthly total since the war began -- continuing a dramatic decline that began after the U.S. troop surge reached its full strength in the summer. And in December, only 600 Iraqi civilians were killed, compared to about 3,000 one year ago, according to U.S. military estimates. For America's top commander in Iraq, it's reason for optimism, but not celebration.

GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS, U.S. ARMY: It will emerge slowly and fitfully, with reverses, as well as, advances, accumulating fewer bad days and, gradually, more good days. There will inevitably be more tough fighting.

MCINTYRE: In Afghanistan, the record high U.S. casualties were combined with a record high suicide bombings by Taliban and al Qaeda forces, funded by a record high opium crop, which is turning the country into a narco state.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

MCINTYRE: Wolf, in Iraq, the positive signs include the increasing willingness of Iraqi factions to take on Al Qaeda and that six month cease-fire declared by Muqtada al-Sadr. Those are both things that bode well for the U.S.

In Afghanistan, the signs don't look as good. There's the turmoil in neighboring Pakistan and there is the failure of NATO to provide all the military forces it's promised. Both of those make the trends in Afghanistan look not as good -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Jamie, thanks very much.

Jamie McIntyre with a tale of two wars.

A New Year's message today from North Korea. The communist nation urging the United States to scrap what it calls America's hostile policy. The message carried by the official news agency. It comes as North Korea fails to meet a promise -- a year end deadline to come clean about all its nuclear problems -- all its nuclear programs, that is.

Would President Hillary Clinton have stepped in to stop genocide in Africa?

Bill Clinton says his wife wanted him to intervene, but Barack Obama says that he's more interested in the future. The fight over foreign policy -- that's coming up.

And no more Mr. Mean Guy.

Has Mike Huckabee had a real change of heart?

I'll ask his chief rival, Mitt Romney. He's standing by live.

And under pressure, NASA releases air safety documents in which pilots reveal a number of near disasters. You're going to want to see this if you fly.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: This is how they celebrated midnight in Moscow at the Red Square, the Kremlin.

Let's listen in a little bit.

(VIDEO OF NEW YEAR'S IN MOSCOW)

BLITZER: Happy new year to all our friends and viewers in Russia. Midnight over there now has come and gone.

If Hillary Clinton had been president more than a decade ago, would she have stepped in to stop the slaughter -- the genocide in Rwanda?

That's part of the latest campaign skirmish between Clinton and Barack Obama, just days before the Iowa caucuses.

Let's go out to CNN's Suzanne Malveaux.

She's on the campaign trail in Iowa.

They're slugging it out, these two Democratic frontrunners, over foreign policy -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, absolutely, Wolf.

Foreign policy has really become one of the hot button issues, specifically when it comes to the battle between Senator Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton. That is why it is no surprise when it was President Clinton who weighed in about his controversial policy regarding genocide in Rwanda that some ears perked up.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice-over): In 1998, President Clinton and then First Lady Hillary came to Rwanda to apologize. Hundreds of thousands of people had been slaughtered there on Clinton's watch, as the U.S. government stood by. If only Bill had listened to Hillary, perhaps the genocide could have been stop. That's what the former president is now saying -- stumping for his wife on the campaign trail.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Eight hundred thousand people macheted to death. But I believe if I had moved then, we might have saved as many as a third of those lives. And I think she clearly would have done that.

MALVEAUX: Hillary Clinton confirmed the story Sunday, that she urged her husband to intervene.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that our government failed shortly after the genocide ended. And I personally apologize to women whose arms have been hacked off, who had seen their husbands and their children murdered before their very eyes and were at the bottom of piles of bodies.

MALVEAUX: Hillary Clinton has highlighted her foreign policy experience to make the case she is better qualified and prepared to be president than her opponent, Senator Barack Obama.

Earlier, Obama seemed to minimize her experience by referring to her duties as sipping tea with dignitaries.

(on camera): Is it fair to say that was more than pouring tea, that that visit that she went with her husband to Uganda?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think they're getting a little jumpy right now because we're at the end of a campaign. But, you know, I will let them sort out who was involved in what (INAUDIBLE). You know, that's not my concern. My -- what I am concerned about is who has the judgment to lead us in a new direction on foreign policy.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): CNN political editor Mark Preston says that President Clinton's move to give credit to his wife for the good while taking blame for the bad is a useful strategy.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: He's saying that voters really need to give Hillary Clinton a second look on what her role was in his administration. She played a very key role. And Hillary Clinton, in a time of need and a time of crisis, is able to step up and make the right choice, make the right judgment about what to do.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

MALVEAUX: And, Wolf, Preston and other analysts say that it's really impossible to know what the first couple talked about, that, really, voters have to take them at their word. President Clinton said himself that it was not something that he discussed with his full national security team -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux in a windy Des Moines, Iowa. Thanks, Suzanne, very much.

If you're in Iowa, by the way, yourself, we want your campaign trail videos, your pictures. You can share your experiences and your analysis all day long tomorrow with us. Send us your I-Reports right now. Just go to CNNPolitics.com.

Republican Mitt Romney is crisscrossing Iowa by bus today, making his final appeals to the undecided caucus goers.

Mary Snow is following his campaign -- Mary, how big an effort is the Romney campaign putting forward in Iowa today?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's really massive. You know, this campaign has been in the makes for about a year now. And now Mitt Romney finds out if his investment will pay off.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks, you guys.

What a welcome.

SNOW (voice-over): Mitt Romney puts his machine to the test. He's poured millions into his campaign -- more than any other Republican presidential hopeful. In his final push in Iowa, he's fighting off a challenge from main rival Mike Huckabee -- who has far less cash and organization.

ROMNEY: We may not have the money, but I believe we've got the heart of people in Iowa.

SNOW: Getting down to the wire in a close contest, Romney is relying on old-fashioned politicking to sway the undecideds.

ROMNEY: We've been able to get folks who have been sitting on the fence to say, you know what, we're going to get behind your campaign. And I see that in some of these meetings.

SNOW: While he hits the road, his organization is cranking to high gear.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mitt Romney for president.

SNOW: State Republicans are watching to see if Romney's investment pays off.

CHUCK LAUDNER, IOWA REPUBLICAN PARTY: It's been overwhelming. Mitt Romney learned from past races -- in Bush, Forbes and beyond -- that you have to spread your roots out wide and deep.

SNOW: That spans from county leaders and grassroots activists to last minute volunteers to Young Republicans. And Romney has blanketed the airwaves with ads, including this one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM MITT ROMNEY FOR PRESIDENT CAMPAIGN AD)

ROMNEY: It's time to turn around Washington.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW: Romney spent an estimated $6.5 million to Huckabee's estimated $1 million plus. But whether Romney's investment pays off will be seen in turnout -- and that's where his organization is stepping in -- working on everything from phone calls to offering rides and car pooling.

GENTRY COLLINS, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN IOWA DIRECTOR: We're doing everything we can think of.

SNOW (on camera): Shovels?

COLLINS: We haven't resorted to shovels yet, but we're not that -- we're not above it.

(END VIDEO TAPE) SNOW: The big concern, of course, is a snowstorm on Thursday. The Clinton camp has actually distributed shovels to captains -- precinct captains -- just in case. As for Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney's main rival, he does not have the centralized organization that Mitt Romney does here in Iowa. And he just told me that he's really relying on volunteers and, also, outside groups -- groups that support home schoolers, gun rights -- to really get out the vote and ramp it up before Thursday -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow watching all of this for us.

Mary, thanks very much.

And my interview -- my live interview with Mitt Romney is coming up in the next hour. You're going to want to hear his response to Mike Huckabee.

Also, an exclusive interview I conducted today with Benazir Bhutto's husband.

Does he think Pakistan's election should go forward in the wake of his wife's assassination?

That interview, coming up.

Plus, Chelsea Clinton out on the campaign trail for her mom -- but she's doing it relatively silently. We'll explain why.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's how they celebrated New Year's in Sydney, Australia when it turned midnight there.

Let's watch this briefly.

(VIDEO FROM SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA)

BLITZER: And Happy New Year to all our friends and our viewers in Australia.

Remember tonight at 11:00 p.m. Eastern, our own Anderson Cooper will have his own celebration. He'll be covering the events at Times Square. "A.C. 360: Countdown to 2008," tonight, 11:00 p.m. Eastern. You're going to want to see Anderson at Times Square. He's got a cast of millions there with him.

Carol Costello is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- hi, Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, severe winter weather is disrupting travel plans for thousands of people in Colorado this New Year's Eve. Interstate 70 west of Denver closed, with snow and winds up to 70 miles an hour, creating prime avalanche conditions. About 2,000 people are stranded in Red Cross shelters in the Rockies.

She tried to kill President Ford three decades ago. Now, Sara Jane Moore has been released from a California prison. Her parole comes 32 years after she fired a single shot at Mr. Ford outside of a San Francisco hotel. The bullet missing his head by inches. Just two weeks earlier, another woman, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromm, tried to kill Ford in Sacramento.

Existing home sales up just barely in November, but I did say up. The National Association of Realtors is reporting a scant 4/10 of a percent increase from October. But that's still the second slowest month since 1999 and sales are down a full 20 percent from a year ago. And home prices are down more than 3 percent from last year.

Light up while you can -- the new year arrives in France at the top of the hour and smoking will be banned in all of the country's cafes, restaurants, bars and other public spaces. It's a drastic move in a country where almost one quarter of the population lights up. So there's an amnesty period to ease the shock. The ban will not be fully enforced until Wednesday.

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

BLITZER: That's amazing. And if you've been to France ever, you know how they love their cigarettes over there. That is truly an amazing story. We'll see how they cope in France.

All right, thanks very much, Carol, for that.

Benazir Bhutto's husband -- he's now speaking out about his wife's assassination. He'll update us on the investigation into the murder that's rocking Pakistan, the region, much of the world. My exclusive one-on-one interview right here in THE SITUATION ROOM with the widower. That's coming up.

Also, why Chelsea Clinton snubbed a 9-year-old reporter out on the campaign trail. Details of what she said to her.

Plus, airline pilots revealing some near disasters that NASA didn't want you to know about.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, says the deal he helped broker to free hostages held by Colombian rebels is on hold. Chavez says the rebels tell him Colombian military operations are prohibiting the hostage release. And we're just learning that a 3- year-old born to one of the hostages may be with a child welfare agency in Bogota right now. We're watching this story. Also, at least 124 people are now confirmed dead in election violence in normally stable Kenya. The reelection of the country's president has resulted rioting by opposition supporters, who allege election fraud. We're watching this story, as well.

And there's controversy over new passport cards for Americans traveling to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. The passport cards are equipped with technology that makes data on the card electronically readable from up to 20 feet away -- an upsetting prospect for some privacy advocates.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Days after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, a dispute rages over how she died. But, her political party already looking to the future. Bhutto's 19-year-old son, Bilawal is the subject of much talk about destiny and dynasty. CNN's John Voss is in Karachi -- John.

JOHN VOSS, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Bilawal is more at home in London and Dubai than Karachi, but his selection as the leader extends the most famous political dynasty to a third generation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice over): Bilawal Bhutto Zardari's most important criteria for leading Pakistan's biggest political party is his dna. Here, the family named Bhutto is a campaign slogan and is now a three-generation political dynasty which began 40 years ago Benazir's father, the much revered Zulfiqar Bhutto founded the Pakistan's Peoples Party. On Sunday night, Bilawal changed his name becoming Bhutto Zardari's.

ALI DAYAN HASAN, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: They have remained the principled voice of democracy in Pakistan and I think that is why there is this link that is maintained between the Bhutto's and the party.

VOSS: Bilawal is just 19, the only son and eldest of Benazir's three children. He spent much of his life abroad attending Dubai's most prestigious high school for elite students and now enrolled in Oxford University in England where his mother also studied and a world away from the poverty of Pakistan's slums, home to many of his party's most loyal supporters.

AKBAR ZAIDI, POLITICAL ANALYST: He doesn't have the experience, he hasn't lived here, he doesn't know the culture ambiguities of the politics of this country. So, I think that he'll just be the face.

VOSS: A face and a name which analysts say will be able to turn an outpouring of grieve and anger over his mother's assignation into votes. But his father, Asif Zardari says one day his son will be more than just a symbolic leader. Until then, he'll run the part with a small group of officials.

ASIF ZARDARI, BHUTTO'S WIDOWER: We will groom him, altogether, all of us will be in this party and rule together and hopefully when he's responsible enough than I can go and play golf.

VOSS: The Bhutto name comes with tragedy, as well. Benazir's father was hanged by a military dictator. She's buried along side him at the family mausoleum, the same place where her two brothers are also laid to rest, one allegedly poisoned, the other gunned down.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

Bilawal will be out of the turmoil of Pakistani politics soon enough when he returns to Oxford to continue his studies. Besides, even if he wanted to stay for a seat in parliament, he'd have to wait six years until he's legally old enough - Wolf.

BLITZER: John Voss, in Karachi for us. The widower of Benazir Bhutto, Asif Ali Zardari, is now co-chairman now of her political party. He insists that next week's parliamentary elections must go forward as planned and he tells me that another leading opposition figure, the former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, shares that opinion right now. Asif Ali Zardari spoke with me by phone earlier today in an exclusive interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

What is the latest on the investigation of the assassination, the killing, of Benazir Bhutto?

A ZARDARI: The government has been trying to put a new spin on it every day, but the latest piece of evidence that has come on the television is Channel 4 report of the exact way the assassin hit Benazir and the exact position and everything is now very clear that she was shot. I had maintained from the first day that she was shot either point blank or by a very high-powered sniper rifle, now it seems that she was shot nearly point blank by a pistol.

BLITZER: What about the Pakistani government's assertion that she hit her head on a latch going into the van, into the sunroof, and that was the cause of her death?

A ZARDARI: That was three days ago. Since then, this footage was released on Channel 4, and that denies all their claims as such. It just proves that they've just been trying to muddy the water from the first day.

BLITZER: Do you believe that Baitullah Masud, the Taliban al Qaeda-oriented rebel leader was responsible for killing your wife?

A ZARDARI: Wolf, when the first attack took place, that is what the government claimed. And Benazir herself had denied that. On the second day she said I will not hold him or any of these so-called al Qaeda's responsible. She left a letter for you also in which she does not put the responsibility on the al Qaeda's.

BLITZER: Well, who do you believe is responsible for killing...

A ZARDARI: I think whoever has to gain from her death, and definitely the sitting government has to gain from her death. They should be held responsible and anyway we're calling for the Pakistan People's Party has passed a resolution. We're calling for a an investigation team under the auspicious of the United Nations to be assisted by the British authorities and we are going to be writing to the United Nations and we are going to be writing to the British prime minister and British Parliament and we are hoping to lobby in America for their support, too.

BLITZER: When you suggest that you have to see who benefits from her death, who does benefit from Benazir Bhutto's death? There's no doubt the Taliban and al Qaeda were after her. They never liked the idea of a modern woman leading a Muslim country like Pakistan.

A ZARDARI: It's not the question of they didn't like her, but it's too far-fetched. If we win, then we come, and then maybe we would have taken another approach to it. And Baitullah Meshed has already denied it.

BLITZER: So you suggest -- you're suggesting that this was not necessarily an al Qaeda or Taliban-associated assassination?

A ZARDARI: The whole situation of al Qaeda and the terrorists is very wishy-washy. We have too many things going around that seem to be pointing towards different sources in Pakistan.

BLITZER: And who benefits, from your assessment, as a result of the death of Benazir Bhutto?

A ZARDARI: Obviously the government of today.

BLITZER: Why would the government of today benefit because President Pervez Musharraf is coming under enormous pressure as a result of what happened? Why does he benefit?

A ZARDARI: They all benefit because there's no open opponent. There's no Benazir Bhutto, there is no large than life figure to oppose them. Because she was not looking to just shared government, to come into government. She was looking for them to go back, oust of the army and get into power and the people's government like democracy going.

BLITZER: Asif Ali Zardari, what do you want the United States government to do right now?

A ZARDARI: I want them to help me find out who killed my wife, the mother of my children.

BLITZER: And specifically, what would you like President Bush to do?

A ZARDARI: I think President Bush should first of all assist us in getting the investigation going that we are demanding.

BLITZER: An international investigation? Do you want that to be under the auspices of the United Nations?

A ZARDARI: Yes, we do. BLITZER: Similar to the investigation into the assassination of the late Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri?

A ZARDARI: Yes.

BLITZER: That's the kind of investigation that you want?

A ZARDARI: That's the kind of investigation I want. It's not just that she was -- because if you see the latest footage, it is very obvious, Wolf, that first the assassin fires, and then the bomb goes off. That means the assassin dies in the bombing, so there's no proof of anybody or nobody. So it's -- the question is, who benefits? Why did this happen? Why wasn't all this precautions taken which she'd been asking, begging? I was running around the world begging people all around the world to help us in security. Why would they not give us assistance on that if they were so keen and if they're so fair, why were we denied all sorts of security equipment that we asked for?

BLITZER: Are you scared for your own security right now?

A ZARDARI: After the death of my wife, I mean, everybody is scared. Anything they can do, if they can get away with this, if they can get away with this, they can do anything.

BLITZER: Explain what motivated your wife to undertake that huge risk, which we obviously all know how severe that risk was.

A ZARDARI: Wolf, in one word, I'd say democracy, democracy, and democracy. And Pakistan itself.

BLITZER: She believed that she could survive the threats?

A ZARDARI: She was such a fatalist, she had such faith in God. She said if God wants me to live, they can't do anything to me.

BLITZER: And your children, how are they doing, especially your son?

A ZARDARI: They are children, but they are copying as much as they can. I think they're copying much better than I am.

BLITZER: Well, we wish all of them, and you certainly, only the best, our deepest condolences to you once again. Good luck. Good luck to all the people of Pakistan. Right now these are definitely time, not only for Pakistan, but for the region and the world. We'll stay in close touch with you. Thank you very much.

A ZARDARI: Thank you for calling, Wolf. Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thank you. Asif Ali Zardari is the co-chairman of the Pakistan People's Party. And he also tells me, by the way, he hasn't spoken with Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf. In fact he says he won't even take the phone call if Musharraf made one. We're waiting for a response from the Pakistani government about the claims made by Zardari's and others. We'll update you here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A former first daughter who could fill that role again. Chelsea Clinton stomping for her mom in Iowa. We're going to show you why she's often seen but seldom heard.

Plus, Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney is hoping his massive effort in Iowa will pay off. He's standing by to join us live from the campaign trail. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

Chelsea Clinton campaigning for her mom, but silently. She refuses to talk to reporters. Get this, even a 9-year-old girl that asked her a simple question didn't even get much of an answer. Carol Costello is watching this story for us.

Why isn't Chelsea Clinton talking?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: I guess she wants to keep up the mystique. Who knows, It does seem really cold that tell a little girl trying to be a reporter, no. And it was such an innocent question. The little girl wanted to know if Chelsea's dad would be a good first man, but Chelsea Clinton is one disciplined woman. She says no to all reporters.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice over): Chelsea Clinton is a star in her own right. The crowd at this Iowa rally seems just into her as it was into her mom. The difference, mom speaks directly to the crowd from center stage. Daughter smiles and then works her magic one on one.

KEN VOGEL, POLITCO.COM: She doesn't speak on stage during the events, but she schmoozes the crowd afterwards and is apparently quite graceful and effective in doing so.

COSTELLO: And Chelsea Clinton doesn't talk to the press. And it doesn't matter how young. Sidney Rieckhoff is 9-year-old, she's reporting on the Iowa caucus for the Scholastic News, she's talked to everyone from her favorite, Fred Thompson, to Chelsea's dad, Bill. But Chelsea, no way.

SYDNEY RIECKHOFF, SCHOLASTIC NEWS: She said, I'm really sorry, but I can't do questions from the press.

COSTELLO: Miss Clinton agreed to pose with Sidney for a picture. Some political analysts say Chelsea's role is ingenious, her poised yet silence presence next to her mother is good enough to remind America that the senator has a terrific daughter.

VOGEL: I think just her presence is enough to soften Hillary Clinton's image.

COSTELLO: But others, like Sally Vadel Smith, who wrote "For Love of Politics," finds Chelsea's campaign appearances peculiar. Smith says Chelsea is smart and well spoken. So why not speak out? She has before. Remember this from her father's '92 Democratic Convention appearance?

CHELSEA CLINTON, HILLARY'S DAUGHTER: I would like America to know about my mother and father is that they are great people and they're great parents.

COSTELLO: But most analysts don't expect to see her doing something like this again. Her occasional campaign appearances appear to be effective, even for this young Sidney, who despite being disappointed Ms. Clinton's "no comment," likes her.

RIECKHOFF: She was really pretty and she looked really nice.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: And Sidney's going to keep at it even though she got that no comment, Wolf. But you know, by keeping -- by Chelsea Clinton keeping her comments to herself, she remains kind of an intriguing mystery and perhaps by doing that she gets to keep her life separate from her parents and she gets to keep her life private.

BLITZER: Sidney could be here in THE SITUATION ROOM in the not too distant future.

COSTELLO: She could. She was dogged (ph), she went right up to Bill Clinton, right up to Chelsea Clinton.

BLITZER: She's got what it takes. All right, thanks very much, Carol, for that.

The candidates are breaking records and breaking the bank with ad spending in Iowa. Check out these estimates from the Campaign Media Analysis Group that tracked ad spending. Mitt Romney tops the Republican group spending six times more than the second and third place ad spenders, that would be Fred Thompson and Mike Huckabee. Notice Rudy Giuliani and John McCain are not spending a dime on ads in Iowa because they're focusing on a later contest. All told, the Republican candidates spent $9.5 million on ads in Iowa through Christmas.

On the Democratic side, Barack Obama tops the list spending a couple million dollars more on ads then second place Hillary Clinton. Bill Richardson actually has spent more on ads than John Edwards, even though Edwards is in a close three-way contest with Obama and Clinton, right now according to the polls. All told, the Democrats have spent almost $24 million on ads in Iowa, more than twice what the Republicans have spent.

Airline disasters averted with just seconds to spare. Pilots now talking candidly in a survey NASA did not want to you see. But now it's out and we're going to show you what's inside.

Plus, Republican presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee, pulls an attack ad at the very last second. I'll ask him why when he joins us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: They celebrated New Year's Eve in Taipei just a little while. Look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love Taiwan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Did you hear the guy say, "I love Taiwan?" There it is. They know how to celebrate New Year's in Taiwan. All right, thanks very much. Happy New Year to all of our friends there, as well.

They are the airline secrets that NASA didn't want you to know about, but now under intense pressure, the agency is finally releasing interviews with thousands of pilots revealing frightening near collisions, equipment failures, and much more. Let's go to our space correspondent, Miles O'Brien. He's watching the story for us.

All right, share the news with us, Miles. What do we know?

MILE O'BRIEN, CNN SPACE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's a scary aviation study that NASA bought and paid for and is now telling us to ignore.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice over): The NASA researchers called on more than 30,000 pilots beginning in 1998 and asked them if they had any safety concerns. The reports seem to conclude twice the number of bird strikes, twice the near misses and four times the number of engine failures acknowledged publically by aviation regulators. But NASA administrator, Mike Griffin, himself an accomplished pilot, doesn't believe it.

MICHAEL GRIFFIN, NASA ADMINISTRATOR: This is an area if someone comes in and says we're seeing four times as many engine failures as are being otherwise reported, it calls into question the reporting mechanism.

O'BRIEN: Griffin released the 16,000 page report in the wake of controversy. Months ago the "Associated Press" filed a Freedom of Information Act request for it. An associated minister said no, saying the study "could materially affect the public confidence in, and the commercial welfare of, the air carriers." In short order, Griffin was on Capitol Hill facing pointed questions.

GRIFFIN: Now, I've already made it clear that I do not agree with the way that this was written and I regret any impression that NASA was or would in any way try to put commercial interest ahead of public safety.

O'BRIEN: The report also includes notes on the researcher's conversations between pilots, their concerns include cockpit security, fatigue, radio and air traffic congestion, and cost cutting on maintenance.

But, Griffin says the study was flawed from the outset.

GRIFFIN: This research work was not properly peer reviewed at its inception and the data that was extracted from the survey was not properly validated at its conclusion.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: So, the study that NASA says is essentially useless cost you and $11 million, actually, a little more than that in tax paying money. I asked Mike Griffin how this could happen, he said well, it's a red flag for the agency and in the future, studies of this size, and smaller ones, relatively speaking, will get more attention at the top. So we hope, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's hope, $11 million, I guess in the scheme of Washington, it's small potatoes. It's still $11, Miles.

O'BRIEN: I'll take it.

BLITZER: Yeah. OK, thanks very much.

2008, now only just more than six hours away here on the East Coast. We're going to take you live to New York's central Times Square, that's where New Year's Eve is getting ready to be celebrated. We'll show what you what's happening.

Also, Mike Huckabee pulls a campaign ad, attacking his rival, Mitt Romney, then calls a news conference to show it to news reporters. I'll ask him why. And I'll get Mitt Romney's response. Two of the leading Republican presidential candidates, both of them will be here in THE SITUATION ROOM in the next hour, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Take a look at this. You're looking at live pictures from Berlin, right now. They're getting ready to celebrate midnight there within the next 2-1/2 minutes or so. We'll show you that once it happens. This is what it looked like earlier, a couple hours ago or so, in Moscow. We're going to show you the celebrations in Moscow when it turned midnight, there. It was 4:00 p.m. out on the East Coast. Actually, we don't have Moscow, but it was a lovely scene. There it is. You can see the Kremlin, you can see Red Square in Moscow when the fireworks went off there at midnight.

People all over the world celebrating the start of 2008. And they're going to be celebrating at Times Square, that's coming up and only about six hours or so. Let's check in with Erica Hill, she's already getting ready for the festivities.

You're going to be there later tonight with Anderson Cooper and a lot of other people -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, just about a million of our closest friends, Wolf. It is already packed out here, as you can imagine. People are actually started getting here very early in the day. At this point, I believe Times Square is closed off. So, if you're not here already, you're not getting in.

But the good news is you can, of course, watch the party right here on CNN, Anderson Cooper hosting our party which begins here at 11:00, here tonight. As you can join us an hour before the ball drops, we're going to be with you all night long.

Again, about a million people are here, right now. The ball, by the way, is brand-new this year and this is the 100th year of the ball drop. So big news, as always. And we're going to be down in Times Square, as well, talking to people, finding out why they decided to come and brave the elements to join the world's biggest New Year's Eve party.

I can tell you, Wolf, this is my third year doing it and it is absolutely worth it. I highly recommend it if you ever have the chance, come on down. Of course, it's easier, too, when you have the media pass and you can get out if you need to.

We're going to do a little trivia, too, Wolf, and I just want to let you in on it. Because I think you may know this question. We're going to be asking people in the crowd if they've been watching the news and if they know who this guy is.

BLITZER: Very, very cute. Very cute. I think I know who that is. I think our viewers in THE SITUATION ROOM, they know who that is. Erica, you're going to have a great time tonight. We'll be watching it with you and Anderson Cooper. Our special coverage begins at 11:00 p.m. Erica, thanks very much.

And it's getting close to 6:00 p.m. here in Washington on this New Year's Eve. It's midnight in central Europe. Celebrations, welcoming 2008, are happening, right now. There's a live picture we're getting in from Berlin at the famous Brandenburg Gate. This was the scene, two hours ago, at Camp Taji in Iraq, northwest of Baghdad where the members of the U.S. military ushered in the New Year.

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