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THE SITUATION ROOM
Iran At Nuclear "Breakout Capability"; Israeli Hawk Taking Charge; Cartoon Half-Apology; Taxing Your Miles; Obama Honeymoon: Not Over Yet
Aired February 20, 2009 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, Iran closer to a nuclear weapon than anyone thought. A troubling new report just out.
As Washington and Tehran talk of a potential new era, here's a question -- what's the fallout?
Also, an Israeli hawk gets first crack at forming the next government.
Will unity prevail or will hardliners possibly be putting the country at odds with the Obama administration?
And while Congressional Republicans opposed the stimulus package, local officials are clamoring for its dollars and President Obama is jumping into the GOP divide. James Carville and Ken Blackwell -- they're standing by live to discuss that and more.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We start with troubling news from the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency. We're learning that Iran has now passed an important milestone in its possible quest for nuclear weapons and may be closer to having an atomic bomb than previously believed. The White House says it highlights what it calls "the urgent need to deal with Iran's nuclear ambitions."
CNN's Reza Sayah is in Tehran.
He's joining us with details -- Reza.
REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a nuclear bomb -- U.N. Atomic inspectors say Iran now as enough enriched uranium to make one. And reaction in Washington and Western powers is sure to be very different than reaction here in Iran.
The report, coming from the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, basically saying two things -- that Iran has more enriched uranium than it previous said it had and that enriched uranium is enough to make one atomic bomb if it is enriched further. We spoke to the foreign ministry here in Tehran and they said they were aware of the report, although they haven't examined it -- Friday being a holiday here in Tehran. They said once they'll examine it, they could deliver a response in the next few days.
If previous responds are any indication, Iran is going to stick to its position that it's used repeatedly, and that is, they are not breaking any international laws and they're abiding by the IAEA guidelines and nuclear inspectors. And, yes, they do have enriched uranium, but that is for their peaceful nuclear program. And that position -- that defense has been effective, because the IAEA and nuclear inspectors have simply found no evidence that Iran is going after nuclear bombs or breaking international laws.
This report is coming at a time when both Washington and Tehran have said they're willing to talk to one another, negotiate and improve relations. Enriched uranium and this nuclear program, without question, the biggest stumbling block -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Reza.
Thanks very much.
Reza Sayah, our man in Tehran.
The former Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is now on track to hold that position again but potentially could put his country at odds with President Obama.
Our senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, is in Jerusalem with the latest -- Ben.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the elections are over and now the man who should be Israel's next prime minister has to get down to business.
WEDEMAN (voice-over): Benjamin Netanyahu climbed to the top with his hawkish views and sometimes bellicose tones. And now that the Likud Party leader has been tasked with forming Israel's new government, he may be on a collision course with an administration in Washington eager to get peace talks moving again and sending out feelers to Iran.
Netanyahu has appealed to his opponents to join him in power: "We need a new approach, a different approach the approach of unity," Netanyahu said: "These great challenges should make us join hands."
These challenges are many -- Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program, Hezbollah to the north, Hamas to the south.
GIL HOFFMAN, ISRAELI ANALYST: He's going to be leading a country that has more missiles aimed at it than any country in the world has ever had -- and not only now, but in history. And that's not going to be easy to deal with. You know, the new president of the United States, who wants to make his mark to deal with and he has an international economic crisis that affects Israel just like it affects any other country in the world.
WEDEMAN: Netanyahu was Israel's prime minister from 1996 to 1999 and had positioned himself as a hard-liner. But it wasn't long before he swallowed his pride, met with Palestinian leader, Yaser Arafat, and even grudgingly worked out agreements with him. Ten years later, Netanyahu is still lukewarm on the peace process. He's called for the Hamas-led government in Gaza to be toppled and has said that the 22- day Israeli offensive in Gaza didn't go far enough.
WEDEMAN: Rhetoric is one thing, but when you're the prime minister of Israel, things look very different, indeed -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ben Wedeman in Jerusalem.
Let's go back to Jack.
He has "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: I bet that news will positively ruin Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's dinner tonight.
BLITZER: It might.
CAFFERTY: Yes, it might.
Democrats gained control of Congress in 2006 by effectively hammering Republicans over a culture of corruption. But as the Associated Press points out in some analysis they've done, the very same thing could wind up biting the Democrats right in the situation.
When it comes to ethical behavior, it turns out Senator Roland Burris of Illinois is only the latest in a pretty long line of growing embarrassments. Burris now admits he tried to raise money for ousted Governor Rod Blagojevich in Illinois, who allegedly tried to sell Obama's Senate former seat.
Blagojevich, was, of course, another black eye for the Democrats.
And New York Congressman Charlie Rangel -- he's the subject of a House ethics investigation for a couple of different issues.
Pennsylvania Congressman Jack Murtha under scrutiny, as well, since the Feds raided two defense contractors that got millions of dollars in funding from Murtha.
Then come the Democrats with tax issues. Both Tom Daschle and Nancy Killefer stepping down from potential posts in President Obama's inner circle.
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner was confirmed after it was revealed that he failed to pay some of his taxes.
Another would-be cabinet member, Bill Richardson, didn't make the cut due a grand jury investigation.
And the president had to waive his own ethics regulations regarding lobbying ties in order to confirm William Lind as deputy Defense secretary.
During the campaign last fall, Barack Obama struck a cord with the American people when he vowed to clean up Washington and change the way business is done.
Here's the question -- are the Democrats threatening to self- destruct over ethics issues?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile, where you can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you.
A controversial proposal to track how much you drive with GPS and tax you by the mile.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The chip I don't like just because, again, I just think it's Big Brother. I mean the GPS alone records everywhere you go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That's just one of the concerns. We'll have details of the proposal out there and what the White House is now saying about it.
Also, tracking down Osama bin Laden from a Southern California university campus -- can a geography professor succeed where U.S. intelligence has failed?
Plus, "The New York Post" issues an apology, I guess, of sorts for the cartoon some found insulting to President Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLY MCBRIDE POYNTER INSTITUTE: It was very sullen and insolent and sort of blaming everyone else rather than taking responsibility -- very much like a 13-year-old.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: There's a demonstration outside "The New York Post" right now in New York.
I want to go to our own Susan Candiotti -- Susan, "The New York Post" issued a statement -- some say it's a non-apology, others are calling it an apology of sorts.
What's going on?
What's the latest in the reaction to that controversial cartoon?
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the debate is on at this noisy rally today. This is led by a coalition of groups, including Reverend Al Sharpton, joined today by movie director and actor Spike Lee.
And I think it's fair to say that this group is calling "The New York Post" partial apology that they only partially accept it.
CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Critics of "The New York Post" say the cartoon evoked historically racist images -- appearing to compare President Obama to a raging chimpanzee who had been shot by police.
Today, the paper apologized -- well, sort of. In a statement, "The Post" said the cartoon was meant to mock what it called: "an ineptly written stimulus bill" and: "To those who were offended by the image, we apologize."
But it also said some of its critics: "see the incident as an opportunity for payback," adding: "To them, no apology is due."
Critics said that's not enough.
REV. AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: Clearly, they don't know the difference between offensive art and satire. And the apology is good, but now let's get to policy.
SPIKE LEE, FILMMAKER: As an artist, you have a right to say what you want. But when the chips fall, you've got to stand up and own up to what you did.
CANDIOTTI (on camera): So is this really a non-apology?
MCBRIDE: It was very sullen and insolent and sort of blaming everyone else rather than taking responsibility -- very much like a 13-year-old.
CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Typically unflappable New Yorkers appeared torn.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's really kind of a non-apology. And I think that having published it was absolutely inexcusable and a colossal exercise of poor judgment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's sufficient. I mean, I think it apologizes to anybody that was offended, and yet I think it upholds, in a way, their right to publish freedom of -- freedom of the press.
CANDIOTTI: And now the National Action Network says it plans to file a complaint with the FCC, asking the FCC to yank a waiver granted to the "New York Post's" parent corporation, News Corporation -- to pull that waiver that allows that group to own several media holdings in the same city -- Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: All right, Susan.
Stay on top of this story for us.
Let's bring in Brian Todd right now.
He's working on another controversial story -- an idea that was floated by the secretary of Transportation to tax drivers out there for every mile they drive.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was. He talked about this idea, then it was dialed back by the administration. It's pretty controversial, Wolf.
Government officials -- transportation experts tell us there are going to have to be new ways set up to pay for the maintenance of the country's roads, bridges and other infrastructure. Gas taxes are not cutting it. One idea floated now may help a great deal, but it also could be a tough sell with motorists.
TODD (voice-over): A small box on the dashboard, a tiny antenna on the trunk -- not GPS or mobile communications, but a system to tax you for the miles you drive. It's been tested in Oregon. And other states are considering it.
ROBERT PUENTES, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Well, the federal gas tax is building up enough revenues even to maintain the systems that we have today, no less expanding it for a 21st century economy.
TODD: Last fall, Congress had to approve $8 billion for roads and bridges because gas taxes couldn't pay for all of it. Experts say people are now driving less, buying more fuel-efficient cars, so there's less gas tax money.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood talked about a federal mileage tax, telling the Associated Press: "We should look at the vehicular miles program, where people are actually clocked on the number of miles that they traveled."
But after CNN and others inquired about it, White House said this...
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That it is not and will not be the policy of the Obama administration.
TODD: Even though the mileage taxes might eventually take the place of gas taxes, there is driver backlash.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm one of those people that actually travel a little far to go to work. I travel like two hours. So I don't know about something like that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's a bad idea. I don't want them to know where I'm at.
TODD: If it happens, computer chips would be placed in cars and the government would track drivers with GPS-like systems -- logging how much each car is driven and where.
One consumer watchdog group is monitoring the privacy issues surrounding this idea.
HARLEY GEIGER, CENTER FOR DEMOCRACY & TECHNOLOGY: And for law enforcement might have an interest in that information. Civil litigants might also. And depending on the safeguards built around the device itself, a domestic abuser might have interest in that information.
TODD: Now, when Oregon state officials tested this idea, their report said that privacy was protected, because, in their words: ""No specific vehicle point location or trip data could be stored or transmitted." Just mileage totals in certain zones were tallied and the amount of fuel purchased -- Wolf.
But the privacy concern here is going to be big if this is ever implemented.
BLITZER: And there's another concern in terms of the incentive for people to drive cars that are more fuel-efficient.
TODD: It's a big concern. Because some people say that if this is implemented, you know, the gas guzzlers are going to be taxed at the same rate as the fuel-efficient cars. But one expert says, look, the incentive is still going to be there because gas prices are probably going to go up again anyway. So the incentive overall to buy a fuel-efficient car is still going to be there.
But, again, that's another debate on this -- on this proposal.
BLITZER: It's a debate out there. But I suspect it's mute for now, because Ray LaHood may have floated this idea...
TODD: That's right.
BLITZER: ...the former Republican Congressman from Illinois, who is now the Transportation secretary.
BLITZER: But you saw how quickly the White House slapped him for even raising that idea.
TODD: They've dialed it back. And every state official who we talked to in other states who were considering this said it's really not a huge proposal on the table right now. But they have to think of something. It's one of many proposals that they're thinking about because they can't pay for the infrastructure right now.
BLITZER: Brian, thanks very much.
A horrifying attack sparks debate -- should people be allowed to keep chimpanzees as pets?
One expert calls them ticking time bombs putting owners and entire communities in jeopardy. There's new information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.
Plus, a hair weave accredited with saving a woman's life. We have details of how it happened and what happened.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Mary Snow is monitoring other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Mary, what's going on?
SNOW: Well, Wolf, we'll start on Wall Street. Another dive for the Dow. This amid growing concerns about some of the nation's banks. The Dow fell 100 points today, to 7366. Shares of Citigroup and Bank of America plunged. This is one day after the Dow closed at its lowest level since October of 2002.
Rebel aircraft attacked the heart of Sri Lanka's capital. Officials say a Tamil jet dropped a bomb that killed at least two people and wounded 47 before it crashed. The wreckage was found on top of a government building. Officials say a second Tamil jet was shot down.
Meanwhile, Sri Lankan forces are continuing to assault rebel positions in the North.
And the question -- where did it all go?
Investigators in the largest Ponzi scheme ever learning today that Bernard Madoff didn't invest any of their money. As of now, the court-appointed trustee says that nearly $1 billion has been recovered. But $49 billion is still missing. He says victims could get each back as much as $500,000.
And under the category of you have to see it to believe it, a 20- year-old Kansas City woman escaped harm after a bullet fired at her head ended up tangled in her hair weave. Officials say if it wasn't for the weave, the slug would have entered her skull. Her ex-boyfriend allegedly fired the gun at her in a convenience store parking lot. He's now under arrest. She was not harmed -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Good for her. Fortunately, she had that hair weave.
Thanks very much, Mary. I want to remind our viewers that we're on six days a week. Tomorrow, THE SITUATION ROOM, 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Every Saturday, 6:00 p.m. Eastern, THE SITUATION ROOM. Among other things, we'll be speaking with a former top CIA official who was charged the looking for those weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He didn't find them. Charles Duelfer among our guests tomorrow, 6:00 p.m. Eastern, THE SITUATION ROOM.
A college geography professor thinks he and his students can help track down Osama bin Laden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why not leave it up to the government?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, listen, it's been eight years, right?
So I mean at some point I think you can say like OK, this is -- let's just do our best to try to create a model from which we can try to find him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We're going to tell you exactly where this professor thinks the al Qaeda leader is hiding.
Also, the chief of staff for embattled Senator Roland Burris of Illinois resigned.
We'll speak about it with James Carville and Ken Blackwell.
Is it time for the senator to follow suit, to move on?
And attention continues to swirl around the mother of those octuplets.
Could the spotlight help the kids in the long run?
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, the FBI has finally tracked down the financier, Allen Stanford, who allegedly bilked investors out of billions of dollars.
So where is he now?
You may be surprised by the answer.
And more calls for Senator Roland Burris of Illinois to resign. And now late breaking news that a top aide is stepping down. Can the embattled senator hold on?
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We want to go to right to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.
He's looking a look at some brand new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation polls on how the president of the United States is doing.
How's he doing -- Bill?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the honeymoon is still very much on, although there are some Americans whose love is fading.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): President Obama is a month into his honeymoon.
Is the love still there?
Yes, it is. Mr. Obama's approval rating is still very high -- 67 percent.
When was the last time President Bush had an approval rating that high?
You have to go all the way back to March, 2003, when the initial fighting ended in Iraq.
Still, 67 percent approval is 9 points lower than two weeks ago. Two thirds of that decline came among Republicans. For them, it's over.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THIS WEEK," COURTESY ABC)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If this is going to be bipartisanship, the country is screwed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: It's the stimulus plan, isn't it?
Overall, public support for the plan is strong -- 60 percent of Americans favor it. But the stimulus plan has become a real cause of contention. Nearly a quarter of Republicans support it, but more than three quarters of them don't. It won't work, they say.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It has hundreds of billions of dollars in projects which will not yield in jobs.
SCHNEIDER: Will too, say Democrats, nearly 90 percent of whom support it.
REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: It is going to stimulate the economy. It's going to create jobs. In the State of California, we are going to get almost 400,000 jobs.
SCHNEIDER: Is there anything people think President Obama can't do?
Yes. The public isn't sure he can end the partisan gridlock in Washington.
Do they really want him to?
Yes. Most Americans say they would rather see Mr. Obama trying to reach a bipartisan compromise rather than pass laws he thinks are right for the country that are not supported by Republicans. In other words, they want to see more love.
SCHNEIDER: Has the Republican Party taken a hit because they opposed the stimulus plan?
Well, the Republican Party is still nearly 20 points behind the Democratic Party in popularity. That was also true in December. It doesn't look like the Republicans have paid a price for opposing the stimulus plan, but they haven't made any gains, either -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Bill Schneider, thank you for those numbers and the analysis.
Let's bring in our Democratic strategist, the CNN political contributor, James Carville, and Republican strategist Ken Blackwell. He's the former Ohio secretary of state -- the Republicans clearly feel, though, they have, James, some momentum going right now.
JAMES CARVILLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, CLINTON SUPPORTER: Well, they're the only people that feel it. They're held in the lowest disrepute of any political party in modern polling. And as Bill Schneider just pointed out, they're 20 points behind and not gaining anything.
So, I guess, you know, when the chief intellectual leader of your party is Rush Limbaugh and he's telling you everything is fine, then maybe you think you're doing well. But they haven't convinced the public of that at all yet.
BLITZER: Because he still, Ken, he still has an incredibly high job approval rating, the president of the United States -- almost 70 percent.
KEN BLACKWELL, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think President Obama has a high approval rating. But I don't think that the Democrat- controlled Congress has a very high opinion rating. And...
BLITZER: No. But the point that James was making, it's 20 points higher than the Republicans.
BLACKWELL: Well, I think -- and this, too, shall change. One of the things that we have witnessed over the last several weeks is that corruption and duplicity have no party affiliation. And as one of your earlier reports indicated, that is starting to chip away -- duplicity and corruption is starting to chip away at the Democrats' popularity. And to the degree that President Obama is not Teflon, it's going to start to chip away at his popularity.
BLITZER: And you warned the Democrats weeks ago, James...
BLITZER: ...that there would be more of those "scandals" involving political corruption involving Democrats because of the very nature -- there are more Democrats out there right now.
CARVILLE: Right. Well, yes. And to be fair, Senator Durbin and Senator Reid never wanted to seat what is now Senator Burris -- probably not for very much longer. And I think Democrats were sort of, if you will, there's kind of a forced marriage here.
So, but, yet. And I think he will do the right thing and resign forthwith.
But who knows?
We have a long way to go before we would catch up with these guys when they were in power.
BLITZER: The new...
CARVILLE: But you can't -- there are always going to be people, you know, there's always going to be mischief out there.
BLACKWELL: I'm sure you will catch up soon enough. Because absolutely power could corrupt absolutely and I really do think that right now, there is an imbalance of power that takes away the checks and balances most people want.
BLITZER: The Democratic governor of Illinois, Pat Flynn, he's the new governor who replaced Rod Blagojevich, he said this today about the Illinois senator.
GOV. PAT FLYNN (D), ILLINOIS: I would ask my good friend, Senator Roland Burris, to put the interest of the people of the land of Lincoln first and foremost, ahead of his own and step aside and resign from his office.
BLITZER: That's a Democrat calling a Democrat to resign.
BLACKWELL: This is a family feud that I'm not going to get in the middle of because the only thing that would happen is that I would be coming to the aid of one of the family members. Look, it is very clear. This is a mess that the Democrat Party has created for itself and it's going to have to work its way through it. JAMES CARVILLE: The Democrat Party as Secretary Blackwell refers to it, it's leaders that never wanted to seat Burris in the first place, so let's be very clear. We had Blagojevich, you had Randy Duke Cunningham who stole more than Blagojevich ever thought about stealing, but understand that the Democrat Party as you like to refer to it, I have no idea what it is.
BLACKWELL: The Democratic Party.
CARVILLE: They never wanted Burris to be appointed anyway.
BLACKWELL: I looked at the vote count and it doesn't reflect that. If these folks have any backbone, if they have any principal, if they didn't want him, they wouldn't have confirmed him.
CARVILLE: The governor appoints him, the senate does not confirm. That's not the way the constitution works.
BLACKWELL: They wouldn't have seated him. Their procedure --
CARVILLE: They never wanted to seat. The Democrat Party as you refer to it never wanted to seat him. He was appointed by the governor.
BLITZER: All right. Let me move on to what President Obama's clearly trying to do. He knows he doesn't have much support if any in the senate. Three senators, Republican senators voted for the economic stimulus package. Zero members, Republican members of the house voted, but he thinks he has an opening among Republican governors and certainly among Republican mayors. I want you to listen to what the mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, said after he emerged from the white house today, there was about 80 governors inside who met with the president.
MAYOR ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA (D), LOS ANGELES: I was with 80 mayors who represent the largest metropolitan area in the United States and it was unanimous, Democrat and Republican alike. We are excited about getting people back to work, making the infrastructure investments that we need to get our economy moving again.
BLITZER: 80 mayors, I misspoke not governors. Is he going to succeed? Because these mayors, you were a state official in Ohio, a lot of these governors like Charlie Crist of Florida, Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, they may be Republican, but need the money as well.
BLACKWELL: Only one way we're going to get out of this, jobs. As long as the bloom is on the flower and there's great promise of the infusion of tax dollars will create jobs, there's going to be tremendous pressure on local officials. I was a former mayor of Cincinnati, so the constituents can come out and speak to the mayor when the member of the senate or even the governor and have some distance, some flow between himself, herself and the constituents. I don't think that the stimulus package is going to work. It's not going to create jobs.
BLITZER: James, can the president drive a wedge between the Washington GOP community as opposed to those outside?
CARVILLE: I think it can because Republicans in Washington, this is a big thing and Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly and Karl Rove, they believe this economic situation is largely made up by the media. So they're really not committed to changing this. These mayors out there, Republican, Democrat, people on the ground, Charlie Crist in Florida, they understand this is a real thing going up. This is not some kind of creation of the New York Times. So they're looking for action. I think that's what this president is doing. I think he's moving in a lot of directions, different directions very quickly to solve this.
BLITZER: If you were still is mayor of Cincinnati, Ken, would you want to money?
BLACKWELL: I would want to money and very specific projects. This sort of blanket approach, this sort of grab of taxpayer dollars and screening it back to governments inefficient is not the way to go.
BLITZER: All right. We'll leave it at that note. Thanks very much.
Cyber crooks using some cutting edge technology to rip you off.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a mini camera capturing you as you're putting in your information. And it also had a skimmer that was capturing your credit card number. With that, you could do a ton of damage.
BLITZER: Now a major crackdown. We get a rare look inside the secret service.
Plus, the first lady's message to the people who keep the country moving. Michelle Obama in her own words, raw and unfiltered. That's coming up.
BLITZER: The U.S. government has been trying to track down Osama Bin Laden for years, but now a college geography professor in California thinks he may be able to locate the world's most wanted man without even leaving the classroom. CNN's Thelma Gutierrez is joining us with details.
THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're talking about an associate geography professor who uses satellite imaginary to find endangered trees in a tropical forest on the other side of the world. He says if I can do that then why not apply the same principle to the hunt for Osama Bin Laden.
GUTIERREZ: From his tiny UCLA office, Tom Gillespie is on the trail of the FBI's most wanted man. TOM GILLESPIE, UCLA ASSOCIATE GEOGRAPHY PROFESSOR: I think everyone would like to know where Osama Bin Laden is.
GUTIERREZ: Osama Bin Laden has alluded top government officials for years. This professor of geography and his students have joined the search. It's taken them through the rugged terrain through Afghanistan and Pakistan. They've even searched house to house in a town where Bin Laden may be hiding. They've done it all from Los Angeles, using high resolution satellite imaginary. The results were published in the MIT international review.
GILLESPIE: The resolution of the imagery has gotten so high that for almost every point on earth, almost every day, we have .4 meter resolution data.
GUTIERREZ: That's about 16 inches. Then they apply something called distance decay theory which is used in geography to predict the distribution of wildlife like this crested iguana. But this time, Bin Laden is the endangered species. They began their search by applying what they know about Bin Laden, like his last known location. Gillespie's model shows there's more than a 90% probability that Bin Laden is not in a remote cave, but in this large town called Orakzan in a tribal region of Pakistan.
GILLESPIE: We use his life history characteristics which are things like his height which is 6'4" so we assume all buildings are over 6' 4". He has a kidney dialysis machine so we assumed all buildings had to have electricity. We assume that there's protection, so we assumed a wall over three meters.
GUTIERREZ: They looked for the buildings and found three that matched. What if your assumptions incorrect; for example, the intelligence community doesn't necessarily believe that he is on dialysis?
GILLESPIE: That's a good question. If they believed that, it would be great if they believed that, this would great to us know.
GUTIERREZ: Gillespie has no doubt the government is also using satellite in their hunt. Why not leave it up to the government?
GILLESPIE: It's been eight years, so I mean at some point you can say, let's do our best to try to create a model to find him.
GUTIERREZ: Tom Gillespie said he informed the FBI. He went to their website and submitted the study but he hasn't heard back from them. About the study, the FBI would only confirm they received it. Wolf?
BLITZER: Thelma, thank you; Thelma Gutierrez in L.A.
Cyber security experts say internet crime has become a huge, huge business. Now, federal law enforcement officials say they're cracking down on cyber crime. CNN's Sandra Endo is covering this story for us. Sandra, you got a rare inside look at what's going on. What did you find out?
SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, it was pretty interesting. Usually, people think about the secret service protecting the president, but they also protect the nation's financial infrastructure, including online credit card fraud and identity theft. Cyber security is one of President Obama's priorities. This month he called for a 60-day review of the nation's online network. We went behind the scenes where agents into a cyber crime lab where agents are investigating growing online crime.
ENDO: This is a rare inside look at how the secret service is cracking down on criminals stealing your identity and your financial information.
JEFF GILBERT, U.S. SECRET SERVICE: This can store hundreds of numbers.
ENDO: It just takes one quick swipe. The credit card information is captured in a skimmer and then the information is sold to criminal networks, usually overseas. At this electronic crimes lab in Atlanta, special agent in charge Jeff Gilbert shows us video evidence of a debit card scam rigged on an ATM.
GILBERT: It's a mini camera that's capturing you as you put in your information, and they also have a skimmer that will capture your credit card number. With that, you can do a ton of damage.
ENDO: The secret service says selling the personal information nets hundreds of millions of dollars each year. The size and sophistication of these schemes are increasing. The secret service is using partnerships around the world to protect the nation's financial infrastructure.
JOHN LARGE, U.S. SECRET SERVICE: It's a lot safer to commit a cyber crime than go rob a bank.
ENDO: Agents are using advanced technology to examine counterfeit money. This checks for bars and bills and looks for color-changing ink. High tech computer software allows them to pull information off hard drives and cell phones, evidence collected after arrest. In order to prevent hackers from calling and deleting valuable text messages and contact lists from cell phones, investigators use this box to is disrupt phone signal service. According to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, an organization that tracks security breaches nationwide, more than 2.5 million known records were breached since 2005. These are just some of the methods the secret service says it's using to protect your personal information.
GILBERT: I think in any agency, you have to utilize both covert and overt operations to help you to stay ahead of the curb.
ENDO: Overall, federal agents say the internet is safe, but there are ways to protect yourself. Only go to trusted websites and merchants, install antispyware on your computer and be sure to check your credit statements for any inaccuracies. Wolf?
BLITZER: That's good advice Sandra. Thank you.
What anyone thinking about keeping a chimpanzee as a pet needs to know.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's no question that a baby chimp is adorable, but they grow up to be 150 pound chimp with a lot of energy seven times stronger than an adult human.
BLITZER: We'll have an update on the debate set out by the horrible attack in Connecticut earlier in the week.
Also, an update on the woman who gave birth to octuplets. Could the public's fascination with her and her eight babies actually turn out to be of benefit to the babies?
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The 55-year-old Connecticut woman mauled by her friend's chimpanzee earlier in the week has been moved to the facility where the first face transplant in the United States was performed last year. The shocking brutality of the act is raising questions as to whether or not the powerful chimps should be kept as pets. CNN's John Zarrella has more.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: September and Pepsi used to be someone's pets. They lived a life not that much different from Travis, the chimpanzee that mauled its owner's friend. Backyard chimps, as they are called, become so humanized, they may not know they are chimps.
JEN FEURSTEIN, SAVE THE CHIMPS: Pepsi when he first arrived, did not want others to touch him.
ZARRELLA: Feurstein is director of operations at the Save the Champs facility in Fort Pierce, Florida. This is where September and Pepsi live now, along with nearly 150 other rescued chimps, once used in entertainment, for research or as pets. The people here say no chimpanzee should be kept captive, but if there's no alternative, they should be in a sanctuary, not a home. Here they live 25 to an island, each surrounded by water. Chimps don't swim.
FEURSTEIN: It means they can be out here without having to be confined in cages.
ZARRELLA: Bars and steel gates separate where the animals are fed from the staff. The rule, simple. Only for veterinary care are the animals touched. The reason, simple. Their power unmistaken.
FEURSTEIN: There's no question that a baby chimp is adorable. But they grow up to be 150-pound chimps with a lot of energy, seven times stronger than an adult human and capable of causing very serious harm.
ZARRELLA: The Connecticut attack has brought the issue of primates as pets to the forefront again.
WAYNE PACELLE, PRES., HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE U.S.: These animals in private homes are ticking time bombs.
ZARRELLA: Says the human's society Wayne Pacelle. And only 20 states have laws against it.
PACELLE: If the owners are stupid enough to allow this animal into their home, they shouldn't be allowed to jeopardize the rest of the community.
ZARRELLA: Feurstein said they are like furry humans, making it easy to forget just what they're capable of.
Experts say because chimps so much like humans, we can become attached and comfortable around them. And that can be a dangerous mistake.
John Zarrella, CNN, Fort Pierce, Florida.
BLITZER: Let's go over to California. CNN's Ted Rowlands is standing by on new word with what's going on with the mother of those octuplets.
Ted, what's going on?
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, daily we're getting updates on this story. There's a lot of news out there that people follow. But for some reason, this story about the octuplet mother, is one that people just can't seem to get enough of.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Eight is enough. More than enough. A birth that will take your breath away.
ROWLANDS: Next Thursday it will be a month since the story broke that a California woman gave birth to octuplets. Since then, the saga of Nadya Suleman, her 14 kids and her fertility treatments has become an international obsession. Cameras now follow the octo mom's every move, and millions of people are weighing in online at places like mom logic.com.
GILLIAN SHELDON, MOMLOGIC.COM: Some of our moms are absolutely furious that it was allowed to get to this point, that this woman's doctor even implanted eight more embryos in a woman who already had six other children. They've also been sympathetic. They feel really sorry for her.
ROWLANDS: At celebrity website tmz.com, they say a Nadya Suleman story gets instant attention.
MIKE WALTERS, TMZ.COM: The moment we put it up, our hits are going, you know, people are just diving into the story. They want to know why. They want to know how. They want to know where. They want to know everything about this lady.
ROWLANDS: Many people are concerned about how Suleman plans to care for 14 children. Her father, according to Harpo Productions, told Oprah in an interview scheduled to air next week, he has concerns about his daughter's "mental situation." Celebrity attorney Gloria Allred has even jumped into the story. She wants to have Suleman let a nonprofit agency called Angels in Waiting to care for the children using donation money.
GLORIA ALLRED, ATTORNEY: Not one cent would go to Nadya, or anyone else in her family.
ROWLANDS: Suleman didn't seem to go for the idea while plowing through cameras outside her home.
NADYA SULEMAN, OCTUPLETS MOTHER: I think whoever wants to do that just wants publicity.
ROWLANDS: Publicity is something Nadya Suleman is likely to have lots of for a very long time.
ROWLANDS: Of course, with stories like this, a lot of the information is misinformation. She supposedly was going to buy a $1.2 million house. That turned out not to be true. What is true, all eight of the babies doing just fine.
BLITZER: Good for them. Happy to hear about that, Ted. Thank you.
Let's check in with Jack again for the Cafferty file.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I didn't catch all that. Did anybody say who's going to pay to raise all those kids?
BLITZER: No. Nobody knows I don't think right now.
CAFFERTY: Oh, yes, we do. Yes, we do.
BLITZER: Unless somebody starts paying her a lot of money for exclusive access to the pictures let's say.
CAFFERTY: Yeah. Well, my guess is that the taxpayers will wind up stuck with the tab on that whole farce.
Question this hour, are the Democrats threatening to self- destruct over ethics issues? David in Missouri writes, "Yeah, I'm sorry to say they will implode. They're not making good, thoughtful decisions within their ranks. Burris is a huge distraction from what we need to be doing. I'm a Democrat myself and I'm not happy at all with all of the chaos."
Tony in Michigan says, "Sure they are. Does that surprise anyone? The real fault lies with the American people. We've tolerated this from elected officials for far too long. We need to force the changes that need to happen or we'll just continue."
David in Delaware, "Jack, President Obama and his administration are dealing with public administration the best they can. Let's not forget he's only been the chief executive for a month. We put up with Cheney for eight years. Washington had its problems well before Obama. Hope will come just give a chance."
Donna in Colorado Springs, "I really hope they don't. They need to just look at what happened to the Republicans and hopefully learn from the mistakes that they made. Democrats at times seem to be their own worst enemy."
H.D. in Phoenix, "No, they just need to follow the example of their GOP brethren and downplay things and deny the facts and eventually Americans will forget these little scandals. It worked for Reagan and Bush Sr. and Bush Jr."
Tom in Florida, "The party in power seems to be bent on destroying any credibility they may have had. History seems to continually repeat itself when politicians are involved."
And Derick in Greenlawn, New York, "Jack, it's about time we pass a moral stimulus package. I suggest a bipartisan solution of a bible, and Turbo Tax software for our elected and appointed leaders."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile and look for yours there among hundreds of others. It's Friday night. Next hour, we're going to do a question about how can you tell if you're suffering from bailout fatigue.
BLITZER: Looking forward to it, Jack. Thank you.
The first lady says we're just at the beginning of a long and extraordinary journey. We're going to hear from her, in her own words, next.
BLITZER: First lady continues her meet-and-greet tour of her husband's administration. Here's the first lady at the transportation department today.
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: Throughout our history, from early railway workers, who laid the first tracks to the sleeping car porters whose unions became an organized trail blazer in the civil rights, my uncles were Pullman porters, to the men and women today who manage ports, drive trucks and repair roads and bridges, our nation's transportation system has been a vital source of well-paying jobs, and a backbone of America's middle class.
So that's why your management, the work that you're doing here in transportation, to manage the investments in the economic recovery plan is so very important. People across the country are counting on you. To keep them safe, to help them live their lives, and to put them back to work. We are at the beginning of what will be a long and extraordinary journey. We're going to need each and every one of you. We're going to need one another. Not just here in Washington, but across the country.
And Barack and I want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the service that you've already committed, for the years that you've worked for administrations, all throughout the history of this fine nation. I want to thank you for your sacrifice. Because many of you who were public servants have been sacrificing every year, sacrificing within your own families, coming to work when it's hard, and working even harder. So just know that we value you. That America values you. And together we can get this country moving again.
So thank you. Thank you so much. And let's get to work.