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THE SITUATION ROOM
The Man Who Freed A Terrorist; Blackwater, A Master Of War; Democracy Afghan-Style
Aired August 22, 2009 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: The shocking decision to let a convicted terrorist go free. This hour, my exclusive interview with the Scottish official who sent the PanAm bomber home and reactions from victims' families who are angry, disgusted and still grieving.
Plus the CIA's controversial partner in a secret plan to kill Al Qaeda leaders. We have uncovered new information about a private firm's role in the Bush administration's war on terror.
And an inside view of the crucial election in Afghanistan. U.S. Senator Bob Corker, he is on the scene monitoring the vote. Was it a victory for democracy?
We want to welcome our viewers from the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in "The Situation Room."
This man was found guilty of killing 270 people in cold blood, 189 of them Americans. And now he's free back home in Libya. Greeted by hundreds of people waving flags and celebrating. Abdelbaset Ali Mohamed Al Megrahi was the only person convicted in the 1988 bombing of PanAm flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
His release this week from a Scottish prison is causing shock and outrage around the world. And one man is taking responsibility for it, calling it an act of compassion for a man who's said to be dying of prostate cancer.
And joining us now from Scotland, the Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill. Mr. MacAskill, did Al Megrahi kill 270 people?
KENNY MACASKILL, SCOTTISH JUSTICE SECRETARY: Yes, he was convicted by a Scottish court.
BLITZER: Is it normal procedure in Scotland, that someone, a convicted mass murder who gets cancer is free to go home to his wife and family?
MACASKILL: Well, thankfully in Scotland we don't have many convicted mass murders and this tragedy devastated our country as it did to lives of people in the United States and elsewhere.
BLITZER: Is there any precedent in Scotland, where a mass murder, someone who killed 270 people in cold blood has been freed to go home to his wife and family because he's suffering from canner?
MACASKILL: This crime is unprecedented in our small country. It's actually the worst atrocity, terrorist atrocity ever perpetrated anywhere within the United Kingdom. So it's a circumstance that has never happened before and I hope that it's a circumstance that will never reoccur.
BLIZER: Are there precedents where murderers, just regular murderers, just someone who killed someone in cold blood, and served only a very small portion of his or her sentence has been freed to go home and spend the rest of his life to his wife and kids because he or she is suffering from canner?
MACASKILL: Well, each and every compassionate release that's being granted and have been granted since the year 2000 has been under individual circumstances. And as we are seeing, in Scotland, justice is equally tempered with mercy. Those who commit an offense must be punished and have to pay a price. Equally, we (INAUDIBLE) even those who perpetrate crimes against us have not respected us or shown any compassion.
He is a dying man. He didn't show compassion to the victims, American or Scottish, that does not mean that we should lower ourselves, debate ourselves or abandon our values. He was justly convicted. But we are allowing him some mercy to return home to die.
BLITZER: Do you have one example, one precedent of a convicted murderer in Scotland who served only a small portion of his sentence who was allowed to go home because he was suffering from cancer?
MACASKILL: These matters are dealt on each and every application being individual. As I've said since the year 2000, there have been 30 such applications. I have had some two applications. I have not had to deal with the question of a mass murderer because as I said these matters are few in Scotland.
And certainly this atrocity was a barbarity that we've never experienced before in our small country. And is a barbarity we hope will never be replicated here nor we wish it anywhere else but equally, the Scottish justice system is predicated upon justice being enforced but mercy and compassion being capable of being shown.
BLITZER: So I just to be precise because I want to move on. Mr. MacAskill, you don't know of one murder in Scotland who has ever been released for compassionate reasons after serving only a small portion of their sentence?
MACASKILL: Well I don't know the nature of applications for compassionate release that were dealt with by my predecessors - responsible for justice in Scotland. I can confirm to you that clearly those who I have granted compassionate release, so far, were not murderers. That's because in Scotland we do not have terrorist atrocities as a norm.
This incident back in 1988 remains the worst ever terrorist atrocity anywhere within the United Kingdom. We have faced potential barbarities of sort. Just a few years ago when I was just a few months into the job, but as I say, these matters are unique. That's how we hope it stays, not only in our land, but in any other land. BLITZER: All right. Here's what Susan Cohen whose daughter was aboard the Pan Am flight, what she told us today, listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOICE OF SUSAN COHEN, MOTHER OF LOCKERBIE BOMBING VICTIM: It is absolutely sickening when you say compassion, I feel ill. I feel physically ill. If that is the most misplaced compassion I can imagine, I mean we could weep, couldn't weep for poor old Adolf Hitler there, gee and maybe Mussolini and we should feel sorry for these people, I guess.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Mr. MacAskill, what do you say to someone like Mrs. Cohen who lost her daughter and thinks about her every single day?
MACASKILL: Well, I said all along and I said it in my statement. I'm very, very sorry for the grief. It started on the 21st of December 1988 when an heinous atrocity was perpetrated above one small town in Scotland, taking the lives, not just of Americans but 11 people from our small land. Nothing can assuage their grief. There's nothing I can say to Mrs. Cohen or to anyone else that will ease the pain they have on a day in, daily basis.
But in Scotland, the justice system is predicated on vengeance but on bringing people to account. And equally our value system is predicated to treat people in a matter of merciful and compassion, even if they do not show us as we would wish to show to them. So I'm so heart felt sorry for Mrs. Cohen and every other victim, whether Scottish, U.K., American or (INAUDIBLE) but equally we are adhering to the values that we have and are following the due process of law that we possess.
BLITZER: Do you realized that you have made their grief so much more powerful right now because they see the picture of this guy walking on a plane and flying back home to Libya where he's about to be received with a hero's welcome?
MACASKILL: I have released a sick man. The medical evidence given to me in a report dated 10 August by the Scottish Prison Service says that he's terminally ill. That is a sentence that I cannot impose in Scotland. No court could. We do not have the death penalty. It's final, terminal and irrevocable.
That sentence that he now faces cannot be revoked by any court or overruled by any jurisdiction. I have decided to allow him go home to die. I am showing his family some compassion, I accept it was a compassion not shown to families in the United States or in Scotland. But we have values, and we will not debase them and we will seek to live up to those values of humanity that we pride ourselves on.
He was brought to justice after tremendous (INAUDIBLE), not simply by Scottish police and prosecution authorities but by the United States. Equally as I would say, in Scotland justice is tempered with compassion and that is to say that's why he's been allowed to go home to die.
BLITZER: For relatives of the victims, the decision is unleashing a new wave of heartache.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I think of 270 people died and the sorrow we have gone through, and the horror we have gone through and now one man decides to release him. OK, one man makes this decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We'll have more reaction to the controversial release of the Lockerbie bomber and some angry words for the Scottish justice secretary. And how long does Al Megrahi really have to live? We're taking a closer look at the medical evidence in part two of my exclusive interview with the Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.
Plus it was a vicious slaying that helped galvanize the civil rights movement in the United States. Now, personal details of the events surrounding the death of Emmett Hill.
BLITZER: President Obama warned Libya not to give the Lockerbie bomber a hero's welcome, but that's exactly what happened. We have more now on my exclusive interview with the man who set him free, the Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.
I kept pressing him about his so-called compassionate release of the man who killed so many people and how soon can this convicted terrorist might die of prostate cancer.
I read the medical report that you received. You put it online and it says now that in the last few weeks he's been complaining of back aches. His sleep pattern is disturbed. He appears tired and drawn. The specialists appeared to have conflicting assessments whether or not he has three months to live or many months to live.
It just seems to a lot of people, especially in the United States right now that you're letting a guy go back who potentially could live for a long time.
MACASKILL: The report I have dated 10th August - I think the one you just read to enlighten us is quite clear. It says that now that the prognosis is (INAUDIBLE)
BLITZER: Let me interrupt of a moment, minister. It say that one specialist but the others say that, and I'll read it to you, reviewing the total picture, the concluding specialist's view is that in the absence of a good response to treatment, survival could be on the order of months and no longer than many months. Whether or not prognosis is more or less three months, no specialist would be willing to say.
MACASKILL: Well, the evidence I have from the director of health and social care for the Scottish Prison Service, and it's his advice along with that of the prison governor and indeed of other relevant bodies in Scotland that his prognosis that he had since deteriorated. It is now that he has less than three months to leave. I'm obliged to accept that, I am not medically qualified and I do not challenge it.
And what I accept is that he is a dying man. Verdict is brought upon to him by a higher power but I am prepared to stand up for the values that we hold as a people of Scotland not to lure them, not to de-beast (ph) them, not to live in manner that others would seek to do. We brought him to judgment, but we allow him to go home to die.
BLITZER: How much pressure, Mr. MacAskill were you under by higher ups to let him go?
MACASKILL: None, this is my decision based upon my responsibility as a cabinet secretary for justice in Scotland. As you would be aware, I have refused the prisoner transfer application. I recognize and accept that the American families and indeed the American government were led to believe or were given clear understanding at the time of pre-trial negotiations that he would serve his sentence in Scotland. I accordingly rejected an application by the Libyan government for him to be transferred back to an institution in Libya.
However he also made an application for compassionate release. I was prepared to decide, I looked at the evidence and as I say, I was persuaded that he is a dying man and it was my decision and my decision alone, based upon following the rules and regulations and laws we have in Scotland, and I believe standing by the values of humanity that we possess as a people that I believe he has been brought to account for the heinous atrocity -
BLITZER: All right.
MACASKILL: And we are prepared to show some leniency and mercy to his family even though he did not show that to ours or indeed to any family, American, Spanish or -
BLITZER: So, I'll just ask this question that a lot of people are asking - if your son or daughter or brother or sister were on that plane, would you feel the same way?
MACASKILL: In Scotland, we view these matters through the court system. We do not possess a system of vengeance or vigilantism. If my son or daughter were taken in a manner like that, I would expect to be replicated of what happened. The Scottish police to investigate. The Scottish prosecution system to bring him to account and the Scottish court system to act. That is what was done. Judgment was done. He has been punished but he now faces a sanction that we do not possess in Scotland.
We do not have the death sentence. Had he not been terribly ill, he would have remained in a Scottish prison. He now faces a sentence that I can't bury, but we're prepared to show clemency in his final days to his family, despite the fact that he didn't show that to ours.
BLITZER: All right. Mr. MacAskill, you realized that for the rest of your life, this was your decision, you're going to have to live with this decision for the rest of your life. This was a major decision, probably one of the most important if not the most important political decisions you have ever made. Are you comfortable knowing that from now on, the name Kenny MacAskill, Scottish Justice secretary will be linked to the release of this mass murderer?
MACASKILL: I'm proud to say as the cabinet secretary for justice in the government of Scotland. This is a decision I did not seek to make, it's a decision that I would not have wanted to make, but it's a decision that had to be made. An application was made by him and an application for prisoner transfer was put in by the Libyan government.
The buck, as you would say in America, stops with me. I have made that decision following due process, following the laws and guidance that we have in Scotland and I believe living up to the values and the humanity that we possess in Scotland. Many will disagree, many do agree. I know that it divides opinion in the world as it divides opinion in the family.
But my responsibility was to make that decision and I did so on the basis that in Scotland we want justice done, but we want compassion possessed and capable of being shown. Two wrongs never make a right.
BLITZER: Kenny MacAskill is the Scottish Justice secretary. Thanks very much for joining us.
MACASKILL: Thank you.
BLITZER: Reopening the wounds of a terrorist attack. We're going to get reaction to the interview you just heard from two people who lost loved ones Interviewer: he Lockerbie bombing.
And why did the CIA secretly hired a private security firm to help hunt down and kill Al Qaeda leaders. The author of a new book about the Blackwater company and it's operations in the war zone, will join us right here in "The Situation Room."
BLITZER: We have been listening to the man who let the convicted terrorist go free. You heard my exclusive interview with the Scottish Justice secretary. Now let's hear from two people who lost loves in the PanAm flight 103 bombing.
Rabbi Stephanie Bernstein's husband was killed and Brian Flynn lost his brother.
BRIAN FLYNN, LOST BROTHER IN LOCKERBIE BOMBING: Well, after watching that my first reaction was to think back to an expression my Irish grandmother was who do you think you are? Because how dare he speak with such self righteousness. I thought when I first heard his speech today that I thought it was driven by cowardice and political expediency, but then when I saw this interview, it actually has given a lot by vanity as well. He's just relishing in this moment. It's an atrocity in of itself but that interview just made it worse.
BLITZER: What about for you, Stephanie?
RABBI STEPHANIE BERNSTEIN, LOST HUSBAND IN LOCKERBIE BOMBING: Well, to me it represents naivete. A naivete that somehow releasing this man is the right thing to do. We saw that he was greeted with a hero's welcome in Tripoli this evening. And I'm sad to think that I think our president is naive as well. That was almost more shocking to me than the interview with MacAskill.
BLITZER: Why was President Obama naive?
BERNSTEIN: To say that this man should be under house arrest? The White House has not been in touch with us contrary with what he said. Unless something happened today which I'm unaware of. And the White House and this administration could have made a difference. We'll never know, because they did not weigh in early. They did not weigh in publicly, and for the president to say that this man should be under house arrest shows grave naivete in my point of view.
BLITZER: Brian, do you agree?
FLYNN : Yes and I think one of the things that was not mentioned at all is you're sending this guy and you mentioned it well, briefly, but you're sending this guy back to the people who ordered him to commit the murder. I mean, this is not a new country, there's not new leadership, Megrahi was behind it. And I think that there's this lack of understanding that oh, we want him to go home to his family and die.
Well, let's send him back to the people that ordered the hit. I mean, we thought - and Stephanie has been with us the entire time, we fought for 20 years to get some morsel of justice. There's only one man in prison. He didn't do it alone. He was working for Libyan intelligence. And now we have a situation but even that one guy was taken away from us.
BLITZER: You're a rabbi, Stephanie, and we heard the minister, the Scottish Justice secretary repeatedly say two wrongs don't make a right in defending his decision.
BERNSTEIN: Yes, well I think one thing to think about is that this man could have been and was treated compassionately in prison for his illness. That does not mean that he should be released in order to go back as Brian said to the regime that caused the bombing to begin with and killed my husband and Brian's brother and so many other people.
BLITZER: Tell me something other about Michael Bernstein, your husband.
BERNSTEIN: My husband was a Nazi hunter. He worked for the office of special investigations at the Department of Justice. He was the assistant deputy director. So one of the ironies here is that he was committed and in effect gave his life to bring to justice what we would call the foot soldiers of the holocaust.
BLITZER: And those are your children in the picture we're showing right behind you.
BERNSTEIN: Yes, those are my children. They're now 28 and 24. And they did not get the benefit of growing up with their father. So the idea of justice is very important here. Justice to me means that we care just as much about justice for the foot soldiers as we do for the people who masterminded the bombings.
BLITZER: Brian, tell me something about J.P. Flynn, your brother.
FLYNN: He was a great older brother. When he died I was only 20 years old, he's a year and a half older than me. And it was a typical case of the older brother who took care of his younger brother and we played sports together all the time. It was interesting, there was a quote soon after he died that someone said, it's a real shame that we no longer have J.P. because he's the type of man that would have made a difference. And that's something and I try to imbue in my kids that they have a responsibility now that they had survived.
BLITZER: The Scottish minister, he may be watching this program right now. We're seen around the world and in Scotland. I wonder if you have anything you want to say to him.
BERNSTEIN: No. I said I was one of the people who participated in a video conference in July and I gave a victim impact statement. I'm beyond sickened and I don't - I truly don't understand how he could have made this decision and how he can sleep at night, quite frankly.
BLITZER: Brian, what about you? Do you have something to say to him?
FLYNN: I have a lot to say to him if he was here in person, some of it is not quite appropriate for the program. But I think, one thing I would say is that he didn't just betray America and dishonor the victims. I also think the Scottish government has betrayed it's people. I mean, this was not an attack just on the United States because it was a U.S. airliner. This was an attack on Scotland.
This image keeps coming to my mind of a little boy, four days before Christmas, running home and the plane landing on him and he gets burned up in jet fuel. And how that image did not stop him from releasing him. And the other thing that was fascinating to me, I did some research today. Did you know that 60 to 100 people die every year die in Scottish prisons of natural causes. He doesn't release any of them? And none of them are mass murderers. Why did you release this one?
BLITZER: And I asked him repeatedly if there was one precedent of any murderer ever in Scotland who has been released because he or she was suffering from a terminal disease, and he didn't have one precedent. He's the justice secretary, he should have those legal precedents if there are some.
FLYNN: Did you know what he said 30 have been granted, 30 compassionate releases had been granted. Six were rejected. What did those six people do that he rejected them and you let this guy go?
BLITZER: Clear point. All right. We're going to have to leave it right there but I suspect the story is not going away. Let me express to you and all the families of the victims of Pan Am flight 103. 270 people died on that day. 189 Americans. Our deepest, deepest condolences. I know it doesn't get any easier all these years later.
FLYNN: Thank you.
BLITZER: Thanks to both of you for coming in.
He was secretly hired by the CIA to track down Al Qaeda leaders. Was the Blackwater firm effectively part of the U.S. military? We'll talk with the author of a brand new book, about the controversial security contractor.
And President Obama outlines his Afghanistan war strategy for U.S. war veterans. Could the outcome of the country's presidential election this week make or break his plans? We'll talk to one U.S. senator who lives in Afghanistan monitoring the election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are continuing to ramp up the pressure in Afghanistan. And we had a, what appears to be a successful election in Afghanistan, despite the Taliban's efforts to disrupt it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Taliban insurgents waged a brutal anti-election campaign, doing all they could to try to intimidate voters. But in the end, many Afghans defied the Taliban and cast their ballots for president. Results aren't expected for days and there are some reports of irregularities from international observers.
And joining us now from Islamabad, Pakistan, Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee. He is in Pakistan after spending some time in Afghanistan where he monitored the elections. These were historic elections. The second presidential elections. Were you impressed or not so much, Senator Corker?
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I was, Wolf. I found in the places I was, I was in 45 different voting stations. I did not see any irregularities myself. Things were orderly, people waited in line from 4:30 in the morning until 7:00 when the polls opened and I had to say I was very impressed.
BLITZER: Were you impressed enough to come home convinced that things are moving in the right direction or the wrong direction in Afghanistan overall?
CORKER: Well, overall, Wolf, Stanley McChrystal, the general in charge, is doing this 60-day assessment. I was successful in getting some benchmark language in this last supplemental appropriation.
And I do thing the broader issues have not been articulated fully. I think there's a lot of work to do. We're going to be in Afghanistan, I think for a very, very long time.
And so the overall picture, certainly we're adding more forces, we're adding more money, there's no question, but I do think that there's no question part of my reason to be here is to make sure that I understand fully what it means to be successful in Afghanistan.
So on those questions, I still think there's a lot of discussion to take place.
BLITZER: You're a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Do you believe that more troops beyond 68,000 already deployed or on the way to Afghanistan, more U.S. troops are necessary?
CORKER: You know, General McChrystal again is going to be making that assessment in the next few days. Actually, his 60-day assessment was due three or four days ago. He wanted to see what happened in the selection process.
I would be surprised if he doesn't ask for more troops. There is no question that without security there is really no way for the country to move ahead.
But I will tell you, eating dinner, being with people here, talking with them, the fact that security was more of a concern during this election than the 2004 election, obviously says a lot by what's occurred here over the last five years, obviously says a lot about what's occurred here over the last five years.
And, again, I think there are a lot of questions that need to be answered. To be successful here, for this country to truly function, we're talking about nation building. This is not a more limited engagement. This is going to have to be a much more brad engagement.
And, again, I think there's going to be more discussions back at the capital after these assessment are made, and certainly I'm going to be monitoring the benchmarks.
BLITZER: A lot of Americans are frustrated that the NATO allies, and this is supposed to be a NATO operation in Afghanistan, that a lot of them are MIA right now. Why don't they join the U.S. and build up the forces instead of putting so much of the burden only on the United States military?
CORKER: I think much of the population of those countries back home have been disenchanted with Afghanistan. We've got 40 or 41 countries involved. There's a lot of caveats, as you know, as to what their troops can actually do as they're involved with NATO. I think a lot of it has to do with unpopular support back home.
I don't want to sound negative, Wolf, but this whole ramping up, every time we put a flag into a country, that means that we're there to stay. That means a lot. And, again, we certainly had some reversals over the last several years. It's going to take a lot more engagement for us to be successful.
Much of it depends on what happens here in Pakistan too. The two absolutely are joined together. And I will tell you that in meeting with military officials here today in Pakistan and meeting with others, I am actually very much more optimistic about Pakistan than I was a year and a half ago being here.
And again, the success of this region in dependent upon success in both of these countries.
BLITZER: I know that in a lot of domestic issues, especially health care, you disagree with President Obama and his administration. But from what I'm hearing, as far as Afghanistan and Pakistan is concerned, and correct me if I'm wrong, senator, you're pretty much on board with President Obama.
CORKER: Again, I have raised a lot of questions with the administration. I think when it comes to foreign relations, we need to certainly be very bipartisan. Unfortunately in the past that hasn't always been the case.
So let me say this -- I have a lot of questions. I'm going to be asking some tough questions when we get back.
I do realize that the strategy that we had in place that was more limited was not yielding the kind of results that need to be yielded for us to be successful here.
So I don't have a better answer. I certainly have a lot of questions. I think it's incumbent upon all of us serving, and I'm sorry I'm so tired tonight, but upon all of us serving to ask those tough questions.
But there's no question that changes had to be made for us to be successful. I look forward to certainly talking to military and civilian leadership when I get back home about some of the things that I saw here and certainly continuing to probe as we move along. I plan to come back to this region many times.
BLITZER: One final question before I let you go to sleep, Senator Corker, as far as the outcome of the elections in Afghanistan are concerned, does it really make much difference from your perspective, from the U.S. perspective, if Hamid Karzai, the incumbent, is reelected or his chief rival Abdullah Abdullah, the former foreign minister is elected? Does it really make any difference to the U.S.?
CORKER: I think there would be policy differences. The official position of the U.S. was neutral. I think to incumbent, he felt like that was not supportive since he had been working with us. But I think our position was truly neutral.
Would there be policy differences, just like there would be in our country? Yes, I'm sure there would. There were different campaigns that each of them conducted.
But at the end of the day, I think what we wanted to see was as much as possible an election without gross irregularities. I think that may have been the case. That's certainly what I say in the limited area I was in, Herot (ph).
I think we want a partner that is truly going to work with us in a way that tries to weed out the corruption that's taking place within government now, to be a steady partner as it relates to building an economic base. And I think, again, our best position, as it has been stated, is to be neutral and work with whoever the winner is.
BLITZER: Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, thanks very much for joining us.
Private security contractor Blackwater -- the firm that caused so much controversy in Iraq. Is Blackwater now helping the CIA try to hunt down Al Qaeda?
Plus, Emmett Till's cousin reveals new details of the events surrounding the racially charged murder that helped launch the civil rights movement in the United States.
And the young journalist who interviewed President Obama turns the tables on me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Go ahead and interview me.
DAMON WEAVER, JOURNALIST: Why do they call you Wolf?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is a private company playing a key role in the effort to hunt down and kill Al Qaeda leaders? A stunning report in the "New York Times" says contractors are working at secret bases in Afghanistan and Pakistan, also loading bombs and missiles on drone aircraft. That's all just for starters.
Let's talk about this with CNN executive producer Suzanne Simons. She's the author of a brand new book entitled "Master of War, Blackwater USA's Eric Prince and the Global Business of War." Suzanne, thanks very much for coming in.
SUZANNE SIMONS, AUTHOR, "MASTERS OF WAR": My pleasure.
BLITZER: And thanks for writing this book. I want to talk about it in a moment.
But first let's talk about this story in the "New York Times" that Blackwater has been used to put the bombs, actually, to place the bombs on these drones, these pilotless aircraft that go in over Pakistan areas and elsewhere in Afghanistan and try to kill suspected terrorists. What do we know about this?
SIMONS: Well, what we do know is that the relationship between the CIA and the company goes well back to nearly a decade now, and that they do in fact work at two sites, one in Afghanistan, the other in Pakistan.
Now, what they -- what sources have told me in the course of writing the book is that yes, they provide security at those sites. They didn't tell me they were loading hell fire missiles on to those drones. That something that the "New York Times," as you mentioned, came out with yesterday.
However, I was actually at the CIA base in Jalalabad with Prince back in 2007, and it was kind of an unusual situation. I was there as an author in the course of writing this book and doing research, and sort of seeing how he brought the business aspects to the military and sold the services.
A lot of the guys he was talking to, and he wouldn't talk to them within earshot of me, but a lot of the guys he was talking to I assumed were part of these teams that go out with case officers, and they were hunting for those high-target Al Qaeda operatives.
BLITZER: Suzanne, what have you learned about those reports now that the CIA actually wanted to use Blackwater operatives to go out and kill Al Qaeda suspects and others? Apparently the new CIA director Leon Panetta cancelled that whole operation, nothing ever came of it. But it's pretty dramatically reported.
SIMONS: And here's the interesting thing about it -- the thing people don't really know. In fact we can say that Blackwater was hired to provide training for the CIA, so we know that much.
Were they actually ever going to pull the trigger? Being that they're contractors and that it's a classified contract, the CIA is not commenting on it. Nobody really knows for sure whether they were actually going to be the ones sent into the field.
But it brings up a great debate in Washington, which is really sort of the crux of why I wrote the book as. Senator Feinstein talked about it today. It is an issue of what is inherently governmental. How many of these contractors that we hired, the various government agencies hired to take on tasks, are doing things that really shouldn't be in the hands of hired people and should be only for government workers?
BLITZER: Because it seems that over the past dozen years or so, so much of the work of the U.S. military, so much of the work of the U.S. intelligence community has been outsourced to this private contractors like Blackwater.
SIMONS: They was a little slip a couple years ago when the intelligence community was presenting its budget. And it's costs for that information usually, but they said that 70 percent of the intelligence budget was going out to private contractors, 70 percent. Now, I talked to a former very high ranking official at the CIA also in the course of writing the book, and he told me, hey, when I started my career -- and he was a career CIA man -- when I started my career, the contractors were parking cars in the parking lot. Today they're doing practically everything, including analysis and interrogations which a whole other box of worms there.
BLITZER: In your book "Master of War," you write extensively about Eric Prince who created Blackwater. Whatever happened to him?
SIMONS: He's still around. He's still running the company. He's still got his fingers on a number of government contracts. They changed the company name earlier this year after -- you might remember they got kicked out of Iraq. The Iraqi government said after a horrible shooting in September of 2007, we don't want you here anymore.
It took the State Department a good 16, 18 months to be able to find a replacement for the company. That's how integral they had become to the mission in Iraq. And they finally were able to do that.
And Eric Prince realized the name "Blackwater" has almost become radioactive, and you really need to do something to change it. So he changed the name of the company. He's got different people working there. His former executives have almost all left. But he still has a great number of contracts with the government today.
BLITZER: And the new name of the company is XE, spelled X-E, but it's pronounced "zee." What does that mean, if anything?
SIMONS: It's like some sort of an inner gas that is undetectable, which I kind of laughed at, because I think that's exactly what he would like his company to be is undetectable, but I just don't think it's ever going to happen.
BLITZER: The book is entitled "Master of War, Blackwater USA's Eric Prince and the Global Business of War." The author is Suzanne Simons. Thanks very much for coming in, Suzanne.
SIMONS: My pleasure always, Wolf.
BLITZER: It's the racially charged murder that shocked the country and helped launch the civil rights movement. Now Emmett Till's cousin reveals new details of what really happened. He was there.
Plus, the young journalist who interviewed President Obama and the secret to his success.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Why do they call you "Dynamite D"?
WEAVER: Because I'm dynamite. I just explode.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: It was a murder that rocked America, not only because of its brutality, but also because of the victim, a boy named Emmett Till. The 14-year-old from Chicago was visiting what might as well have been a different country for him, the deeply segregated Mississippi of 1955.
And while he had been warned to mind his manners around white people, his joking nature got the better of him, triggering a tragic string of events that helped galvanize the fledgling civil rights movement in the United States.
Till was staying that summer with the family of his cousin, Simeon Wright.
BLITZER: Tell us about the incidence, because all these years later, supposedly he whistled -- he was a young boy, 14-years-old, at a white woman, and that sparked a chain of events.
First of all, did he actually whistle?
SIMEON WRIGHT, EMMETT TILL'S COUSIN: He actually whistled. I was standing right beside him. And I know I was at one school speaking, and one boy said his mother said didn't whistle. I said his mother wasn't there.
BLITZER: You were there.
WRIGHT: I was there.
BLITZER: So what kind of a whistle was it?
BLITZER: Like one of those whistles.
WRIGHT: It scared us half to death. He was outside of the store. He wasn't inside.
BLITZER: How many kids were there at the time.
WRIGHT: It was six of us in the car with us -- my brother Maurice and I, Wheeler.
BLITZER: And so you as a southern boy, you would have never done that?
BLITZER: And he didn't think it was a big deal?
WRIGHT: He expected us to laugh.
BLITZER: He just was trying to be cute?
WRIGHT: Trying to be cute, trying to be funny. He didn't know the danger.
BLITZER: And there really was danger in this particular case. Follow-up -- what happened then? You guys went home?
WRIGHT: Right, we couldn't get in the car fast enough and get out of there. And my brother Maurice was driving the car. We traveled about two miles down the road, when he saw a car in the rear view mirror. He saw the lights. So he thought it was Mrs. Bryan's husband chasing us.
BLITZER: This was the woman?
WRIGHT: The woman that Emmett had whistled at.
So everyone jumped out of the car except me. They ran down into the cotton fields to hide. And I didn't want to get out because I was afraid I was going to get lost or separated from them.
But it was a neighbor going home, so when they got back to the car, Emmett begged us not to tell daddy what happened.
BLITZER: Your daddy?
BLITZER: And so nobody said anything to your dad?
WRIGHT: We didn't say anything.
BLITZER: So no adults knew about this?
WRIGHT: Except our neighbor, because the son of our neighbor went home and told his parents. But my mother and father, they didn't know about it.
BLITZER: All right, so, then what happened later in the night?
WRIGHT: That night we went to sleep, and the next day, Thursday, we heard from a neighbor, the girl, one of our neighbors said you're going to hear more about this. We know these men and they're going to do something about it.
BLITZER: This was the husband of the white woman, right?
WRIGHT: Yes. She said they were going to do something about that.
BLITZER: And so they warned you?
WRIGHT: Our neighbors, yes.
BLITZER: Your neighbors were white or black?
BLITZER: And they had heard about this through the grapevine. So what did you guys do? WRIGHT: Well, Thursday passed and nothing happened, Friday passed and nothing happened. Then we forgot about it.
BLITZER: And you and Emmett were in the same bedroom, basically.
WRIGHT: The night they came that Sunday morning, and when I woke up -- I heard the noise first. I woke up and saw two white men standing at the foot of my bed. One had a gun and a flashlight in his hand. He ordered me to lay back down and go back to sleep, and they made Emmett get up and put his clothes on.
BLITZER: How did they know it was Emmett that whistled?
WRIGHT: They were looking for a fat boy from Chicago, because the first room that they went in was the room that my nephew Wheeler Parker was in. They woke him first and they said, this is the wrong boy. We're looking for the fat boy from Chicago.
Then my dad led them around to the room, to my bedroom.
BLITZER: What happened next? They took him?
WRIGHT: They took him out to the car, and there was someone waiting. It was my dad said, a woman's voice. They asked and said, is this the right boy? He heard a woman's voice respond that it was.
BLITZER: It was the wife.
WRIGHT: I believe to this day that it was Carolyn Bryant and nothing has happened in 54 years to cause me to change my mind.
BLITZER: And they took him -- what did they do with him, with Emmett?
WRIGHT: They took him. They went about 20 miles north of where they live, up to a barn where the brother was the manager of this farm. They took him in there, they beat him, they tortured him, then they shot him in the head and they threw him in the Tallahassee River.
BLITZER: Emmett Till, that story really galvanized so many people all over the civil rights and set in motion a lot of what we've seen over these many, many years. Fifty years later there's an African-American president of the United States. Would you have ever have believed that?
WRIGHT: I said it would never in my lifetime. I went on TV in the Chicago area, I said, look, I said it would never happen, but they proved me wrong. Things have changed so much.
BLITZER: When he was elected president of the United States and we reported that he had won, how did you feel at that second?
WRIGHT: I tell you, I'm like Michelle Obama, proud to be an American. And the press can take it any way they want to, I am proud to be an American.
(END VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: Simeon Wright, the cousin of Emmett Till.
A cub reporter making the rounds here in Washington first interviews President Obama, then me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WEAVER: Do you like working for CNN?
BLITZER: I love working for CNN.
WEAVER: Will you give me an internship?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The 11-year-old Damon Weaver and me. We asked each other some tough questions.
Plus, a girl gets an unexpected visit on the first day of school from her dad who's serving in the military. It's just one of our "hot shots," pictures of the week.
BLITZER: Here's a look at some of this week's hot shots.
In the Philippines, demonstrators tried to keep a fellow protester from being arrested as a tussle broke out.
In Germany, the Chancellor Angela Merkel greeted young workers at a grocery store.
In Oklahoma, a second grader received an unexpected visit from her father, in the military, on this, the first day of school.
And if Afghanistan, two boys and their donkeys transport a ballot box to a remote village for the presidential election.
Hot shots, pictures worth 1,000 words.
A sixth grader from Florida has scooped veteran journalists up by getting an interview with President Obama. After that, 11 year old Damon Weaver sat down and asked me some of the tough questions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WEAVER: Why do they call you Wolf?
BLITZER: That's my name. That's my real name, I didn't make it up.
WEAVER: Is that because you have a lot of hair on your face?
BLITZER: No, but maybe that's a good example, but that's not why they call me Wolf. But that is my real name, I didn't make it up.
Go ahead, ask me another question. WEAVER: How did you get the name, then?
BLITZER: It was my grandfather's name on my mother's side, his name is Wolf. I was named after him.
WEAVER: Do you like working for CNN?
BLITZER: I love working for CNN.
WEAVER: Will you give me an internship?
BLITZER: I will. When you finish your sophomore year in college, you work really hard, you'll come and be and intern here at CNN.
WEAVER: Why is your last name Blitzer?
BLITZER: That's my last name, Blitzer. That's my dad's name, Blitzer. So I didn't make that name up either. That's my real name.
WEAVER: You must be playing with a linebacker (ph)?
BLITZER: It's funny you say that, because when I in high school, I did play linebacker. But that had the blitzing linebackers. But I was one of the original Blitzers. I did play linebacker. That's very good.
Now, they call you "Dynamite D," don't they?
BLITZER: Why do they call you Dynamite D?
WEAVER: Because I'm dynamite, I just explode.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What a kid. I love that kid. After our interview, Damon spoke to "Time" magazine, and when asked if he wanted someday to be a TV anchor, he said he wanted to be -- get this -- Wolf Blitzer. He said he might even work with Wolf Blitzer one day. I suspect he will sooner rather than later.
Join us weekdays in "The Situation Room" from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. and every Saturday at 6:00 p.m. eastern right here on CNN, and at this time every weekend on CNN International.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. The news continues next right here on CNN.