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THE SITUATION ROOM
Chaos in Haiti; Al Qaeda Seeking WMD?
Aired January 26, 2010 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to the viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: Desperate for food, thousands of Haitians charge a distribution center and are driven back by peacekeepers using pepper spray. Can enough aid reach quake survivors to stave off total chaos?
A chilling new study says al Qaeda is determined to acquire weapons of mass destruction to launch a spectacular attack. I will speak with the author, a former top CIA official.
And four men are arrested in the office of a Democratic senator in an alleged attempt to tamper with the phones. At least one of the suspects is believed to be a conservative activist.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Let's begin with the breaking news, though, out of Haiti right now. Listen to this and listen carefully, a man pulled alive, alive from the rubble in Haiti today, exactly two weeks after that devastating magnitude 7 earthquake leveled much of Port-au- Prince.
Let's go straight to CNN's Hala Gorani. She's on the scene for us with more on what we know right now.
Wow, Hala, what an amazing story. Tell us what we know.
HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right.
What we know is that members of the 82nd Airborne Division were on a rubble-clearing mission when they found this man. This is according to reports coming to us through the U.S. military. A 31- year-old who was then taken to the hospital. We understand from our sources as well that the man had access to fluids.
And, of course, this is essential, as you know. People can very rarely survive without foods, water of some sort for more than four or five days, so this would be 14 days, Wolf, after the earthquake struck. We reported on that man who had been trapped for 12 days -- 14 days is most unusual. But if he had access indeed to water or something to actually hydrate his body, it would explain that he was able to survive this long. And remarkably, according to doctors, he has a broken femur, a broken thighbone. He's 31 years old, but otherwise in stable condition, Wolf.
BLITZER: And so the 82nd Airborne, troops from the 82nd Airborne, who have been basically almost from the beginning, they were watching this area being cleared off and all of the sudden they see someone who appears to be alive?
GORANI: Right. This is what we understand, that they were assisting in the rubble-clearing operations. We have been seeing a lot more of that, by the way, here in the Haitian capital over the last 48 hours, where big earth-moving machinery is clearing some of the rubble that had been blocking the streets.
So, what we understand is that this man presumably was trapped underneath some rubble and had no way of communicating with the outside. This was not a rescue operation in the way that we saw that rescue operation over the weekend where that 24-year-old man was rescued from under the rubble of a hotel.
This was a different situation. It sounds, Wolf, which is also remarkable, where it was possibly accidental, that they were not looking for a survival, but just stumbled upon one.
BLITZER: Is formally -- the search-and-rescue operation, in that over with, that they're not really searching and rescuing anymore, they're just in this recovery phase? What is the Haitian government saying?
GORANI: Well, the Haitian government a few days ago -- and this was before the 24-year-old had been rescued -- said we are moving into another phase of recovery.
However, if there are signs that someone might be alive under the debris, of course, then rescue crews would go and try to find that person, but we are clearly in a different phase right now, Wolf, because the probability of actually finding someone alive is so remote.
But these types of stories are the stories that give people hope and that also prompt them to ask authorities not to give up.
BLITZER: The 82nd Airborne, we know that those troops are there. There are U.S. Marines there. There are U.S. sailors aboard the ships offshore who are there. And are they very visible, though, in Port- au-Prince? Do you see U.S. military personnel walking around with their uniforms?
GORANI: I personally haven't really. And I have really driven around the city quite a bit. I took a very long tour today, and I didn't see that. I understand they assist sometimes rubble-clearing and debris-clearing operations and provide security in some cases.
They are not sort of a common site when you walk out of a building or when you go to certain neighborhoods. I cannot think of an instance today when I saw a U.S. military or U.S. troops in this city. But they are here, of course, assisting in recovery, assisting in trying to rebuild this city, but not the kind of the pervasive sort of scene, or the pervasive sight that you would -- that some people would potentially expect, given the numbers -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, this is the picture we are showing our viewers now, Hala, this picture. The AP, the Associated Press, is telling us this is a 35-year-old man pulled from the rubble in Port- au-Prince today. You see U.S. military personnel from the 82nd Airborne administering, trying to assist this 35-year-old.
And as you point out, he has a broken thighbone, but no apparent other injuries, 14 days after this earthquake, two weeks, surviving, Hala, in the rubble. If you look at this picture, it is simply an amazing picture, when you think about two weeks inside. We know there have been some others who have emerged, and they did have access to some bottles of drinks or some other lollipops or whatever. This is a different -- we don't know what the situation was for this individual.
GORANI: No, we don't. And it is going to be very interesting to try to figure that out.
What is interesting about this man is, he did have a crush injury. The man who was rescued over the weekend, Wismond Jean- Pierre, had no crush injury. And that is very important, because doctors tell us that, if you do have broken bones, it can lead to severe infection, it can lead to gangrene.
So the fact that this man survived with a broken thighbone for 14 days, imagine the pain he might have been under, and the fact that infection and gangrene did not lead to a loss of life in this case is absolutely fascinating.
We a team at the hospital right now. Actually, our Karl Penhaul is there and Alec Miran, our producer. And we are going to of course be over in the next few hours gathering as much information on this remarkable rescue story, Wolf.
BLITZER: We are going to have a lot more on it. I guess some people will say it is a miracle. There's no doubt about that. A lot of people will be saying that.
Thanks very much, Hala. We are going to get back to you and our entire team. We have got reports coming in from Anderson Cooper, among others, so we are going to be all over this story and all the other news from Haiti as well.
To find out how you can make a difference and help those who are helping Haiti, you can go to our Web site, CNN.com/impact. If you haven't done that, this is a good time to do it. These people are going to need your help.
We are going to have a lot more coverage from Haiti coming up, also more on the other breaking news that we have been following. These four men have been charged with attempting to tamper with phones in the office of a Democratic U.S. senator. Stand by. We will update you on that and more when we come back.
BLITZER: Let's head over to Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, Congress could pass health care reform if the men were sent home. So says Democratic Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter from New Hampshire.
At a town hall-style meeting over the weekend, here's what she said to the voters:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAROL SHEA-PORTER (D), NEW HAMPSHIRE: We go to the ladies room, the Republican women and the Democratic women, and we just roll our eyes at what's being said out there. And the Republican women said when we were fighting over the health care bill, if we sent the men home, we could get this done this week.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAFFERTY: Shea-Porter added she wasn't trying to dis the men in Congress, but that females understand how to care for relatives and they could find common ground there.
The congresswoman suggests that Maine's two women senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, work very well together. Critics are slamming Shea-Porter, calling her comments bizarre, sexist and arrogant, along with divisive, uninformed and totally embarrassing. They say opposition to health care has nothing to do with gender.
A group of Republican women members of Congress came out with a statement that the conversations this congresswoman -- quote -- "claims to be referencing have never taken place with any of us" -- unquote.
Never mind that. Now that the Democrats have lost their supermajority in the Senate, health care reform, which seemed within their reach just a few weeks ago, is slipping away. The Democrats are trying to figure out other ways -- any way -- to get the measure passed. Time to think outside the box.
Here's the question to you: Would health care reform be better off with women in charge? Go to caffertyfile@CNN.com and post a comment on my blog.
You know, you could make the argument, Wolf, that we would be better if they were in charge of everything, the military, the federal government. The men who have been running this stuff for all these years have not done that great of a job, now, have they? (LAUGHTER)
BLITZER: You're right. You could make that argument. I think she was trying to make that argument, but she got herself into a little trouble.
CAFFERTY: A little bit of a trick bag, but it will be interesting to see what our viewers say.
BLITZER: Yes, I think our viewers will say that it depends on the man, it depends on the woman.
CAFFERTY: Well, but we can't -- then there would be no reason to read the e-mails, right? We have to let them weigh in.
BLITZER: Let them weigh in, and weigh in, they will. Thanks, Jack. Thanks very much.
BLITZER: All right. There's some breaking news we are following.
Four men were charged today with attempting to tamper with the phones at the office of a Democratic U.S. senator. One of them is said to be a very well-known conservative activist. What is going on here?
Our Lisa Sylvester has been looking into this.
Lisa, what are you learning?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the four men were actually in court today. And the official charge is entering government property under false pretenses for the purpose of committing a felony.
The U.S. attorney's office says two of the men dressed -- they looked like the real deal. They were dressed in blue denim pants, work shirts. They had tool belts, hardhats, and showed up at Senator Mary Landrieu's district office. And they said they were there to fix the phones.
A third person, James O'Keefe, was also in the office with a cell phone recording what was going on. Now, O'Keefe, as it turns out, is the same man in controversial videos taken inside ACORN's office where he posed as a pimp with a woman posing as a prostitute. And they asked workers there for tax advice to set up a brothel.
That video ignited a firestorm of criticism against the liberal community activist group. In the Landrieu incident, the two men, they did manage to get access to a phone at the receptionist's desk. They then said they needed to get into a telephone closet to access the main system. At that point, they were directed to the U.S. General Services Administration, which has an office in the same building. And there they were asked for identification, which they said they left in their vehicle. Now, a fourth person has also been named in the complaint, authorities saying that helped assist in the planning and coordination.
And Senator Landrieu's office says this is an ongoing investigation and at this point in time, they're saying that they can't comment on this.
BLITZER: I understand, Lisa, you are also getting some new information about one of the other suspects here?
SYLVESTER: Yes, that's right. Robert Flanagan was one of the men who dressed as a telephone repairman. He is also the son of William Flanagan, the acting U.S. attorney in Shreveport. So, we are going to find out more details, exactly who these four individuals are, and what was the motive? What were they thinking here?
BLITZER: What was going on here? A lot to investigate, and we will. Thanks very much, Lisa Sylvester reporting.
There is other breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. The Associated Press is now reporting Toyota is suspending U.S. sales of eight recalled vehicles. We are going to get you details on that and more when we come back.
BLITZER: An arsenal of high-powered weapons and map a of a U.S. military base, that is what police say they found when they searched the New Jersey hotel room of a suspect involved in a scuffle with law officers and that has prompted an arraignment on weapons charges and a lot of questions.
CNN's Deborah Feyerick has been looking into this story for us.
Deb, this man was heavily armed, we are told. What do police say he was planning on doing?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is exactly what the FBI and other agencies are right now trying to determine, whether Lloyd Woodson was planning some kind of terrorist attack, possibly against a military installation.
When he was arrested, police say that he was carrying a loaded semiautomatic rifle, four ammo clips that included maximum-damage hollow-point bullets. Now, he had rented a small hotel room in which police also found a grenade launcher, another semiautomatic rifle, a night-vision scope, a police scanner, a map of a military base, and a red-and-white-checked Arab head scarf.
So far, authorities have not uncovered a link to terrorism, but they haven't ruled it out totally. He's being held right now on felony weapons charges -- Wolf. BLITZER: What about his military background? What do we know?
FEYERICK: Well, Woodson spent a year with the Navy serving board the USS Orion, a submarine support vessel.
A Navy spokesman tells us that he deserted in 1989, did not surface for about eight years, at which time he was held in jail and then discharged. Now, that was about 10 years ago.
During his first appearance today, he really appeared angry. He kept his head down. He did not greet the judge. He seemed annoyed when the judge asked if he spoke English. He answered abruptly, yes -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We don't know which military installation the map shows, do we, but there are a few military installations in that vicinity, right?
FEYERICK: Well, exactly. About an hour, there's the Naval Weapons Station. That has four combat support ships. Also, McGuire Air Force is there, Fort Dix, and a Naval air engineering station. It is not clear whether or not Woodson had a car. Someone connected to the motel where he was staying tells us that he did not -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Did police just get lucky finding him?
SYLVESTER: You know, they really did. He went into a Quick Chek convenience store about 4:00 in the morning. The clerk got suspicious, thinking that possibly he was going to shoplift, so she calls 911. Police came. They questioned him, realized he had something under his jacket.
So, they give chase when Woodson ran. Now, a store manager that we spoke with says that clerk really prevented a possible tragedy. And, Wolf, given that arsenal that he allegedly was carrying, it's very likely she did -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Deborah Feyerick working this story for us -- Deborah, thank you very much. We will continue to monitor what is going on, lots of unanswered questions.
BLITZER: President Obama's proposed spending freeze is getting a cold shoulder from some lawmakers. In fact, the kind of plan he will lay out in the State of the Union address sounds like something he himself once opposed.
Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is joining us now with more on this turnabout, shall we call it?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Let's call it that.
The president wants a freeze on nondefense, nonsecurity discretionary spending, which also omits Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. So is this politics or policy? Yes, it is.
CROWLEY (voice-over): Sometimes, what is said on the campaign trail stays on the campaign trail.
October 7, 2008.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I recommend a spending freeze that, except for defense, Veterans Affairs and some other vital programs, we will just have to have across-the-board freeze.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: I disagree with Senator McCain about an across-the-board freeze. That is an example of an unfair burden-sharing.
CROWLEY: President Obama is not the first chief executive to be at odds with his campaign rhetoric, nor is Robert Gibbs the first press secretary asked to explain a turnaround. Degree of difficulty, 9.5.
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What the president has proposed, as I have said to others, is a process by which every family in America has to make budgetary decisions, what they have to spend money on vs. what they would like to spend money on, but they can't afford in tough times.
CROWLEY: Still, the freeze would not take effect under October, the next fiscal year, and the $250 billion the federal family is expected to save over 10 years is a minuscule half-a-percent of the budget. The White House says you have got to start somewhere.
GIBBS: As we said yesterday, I don't think that this is intended to solve all of our problems.
CROWLEY: Many economists say a spending freeze in a sluggish economy is a bad idea. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman called it appalling. Many Democrats worry vital domestic programs providing real aid to the struggling will be jeopardized.
The president embraces this freeze idea in the wake of three Democratic election defeats and repeated polls showing Americans are worried about the deficit. It is also in advance of a big midterm election this November, all of which makes the House Democratic leader thinks the president is on to something.
REP. STENY HOYER (D), MARYLAND: And I think members will make it clear to their constituents that we are making progress on an item very important to their constituents. And I frankly think that will be politically helpful to them.
CROWLEY: On balance, it seems a freeze may be more valuable for its political bang than for any dollars that will be saved. BLITZER: I loved the way you described Robert Gibbs' job. He's not the first press secretary in the White House to have to explain an apparent change of course by a president as opposed to what was said during the campaign.
CROWLEY: Exactly. It is always a tough job, and it's particularly tough when -- you know, it probably was a lot easier to be a politician when tape recorders hadn't been invented.
BLITZER: Before there were TV cameras and tape recorders.
BLITZER: You know what? That has a lot has changed since then.
BLITZER: Candy, thanks very much.
We have got a lot more coming up, including al Qaeda. Is al Qaeda planning some sort of massive, spectacular attack against the United States with weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, chemical, biological? Stand by. We have got a former CIA officer who has got information.
BLITZER: The federal government gets poor grades when it comes to preparing for a major bioterror attack. That assessment from a bipartisan panel comes just one day after another study warned that al Qaeda is still determined to use weapons of mass destruction.
Joining us now, the author of that study, Rolf Mowatt-Larssen of the Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. He's a former top CIA official. Also here, CNN's national security contributor Fran Townsend. She was homeland security adviser to President Bush.
Rolf, thanks very much for coming, Fran, to you as well.
Your report says al Qaeda still has ambitions of what is described as a spectacular attack against the United States using chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons?
ROLF MOWATT-LARSSEN, BELFER CENTER FOR SCIENCE AND INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: Yes, Wolf, that is correct.
The report's purpose was to lay out as much of the evidence that the intelligence community had accumulated from before 9/11 through in this case the end of 2003 in order to present a case of what they were thinking, how they were going about organizing themselves in order to do a big-scale attack, either biological or nuclear.
BLITZER: What evidence is there that they are still trying to do it, because, right now, it looks like they're trying to some small- scale, relatively small-scale things?
MOWATT-LARSSEN: Well, I think you have to look at al Qaeda as a group that has been severely diminished since 9/11, but it maintains a capability to possibly put together a spectacular attack. It doesn't have to be a WMD attack, but I think, if we dismiss al Qaeda's capability to put together another 19 men and half-a-million dollars in order to do a big attack, we would be certainly too complacent in where we think we have come since 9/11.
BLITZER: Because, you remember, in 2003, you had information that the number two of al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahri, was planning some sort of poison gas attack in the New York subway system, but he didn't go forward with that. Why?
MOWATT-LARSSEN: Well, you get into the realm of speculation here, but...
BLITZER: What do you believe?
MOWATT-LARSSEN: What I believe is that that attack at that time did not suit al Qaeda's purposes.
BLITZER: Because it was not big enough?
MOWATT-LARSSEN: That would be my best guess, that they were looking at something that they could do that would have a far more impactful influence over what we were doing and what they perceived to be doing in this war than that attack.
BLITZER: Because the argument, Fran, has always been that these guys, whether bin Laden or Zawahri, they are very patient. They see this long-term struggle against the U.S. And if it takes 10 years, 20 years, they are going to be patient and get the job done. Do you buy that?
FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: I do buy that, Wolf.
And, in fact, we know that they had over the years looked at anthrax, that capability. We know that they looked to acquire the capability in the WMD area across all these methods. And we became really concerned when bin Laden issued a fatwa, a religious ruling, authorizing the use of WMD against civilians. And we understood that that was part of the path that they would take if they actually wanted to deploy the capability.
Of course, the big challenge is, how do you know when it goes from aspirational to operational?
BLITZER: Because that's an issue right now. The assumption is that bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri, they can inspire people out there, but they don't have the operational capability to do much right now, holed up in some cave along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Do you believe that?
MOWATT-LARSSEN: Well, I think what you're seeing is a lot of bottom-up, in other words, a lot of initiative by people that they are not in control of anymore. Their ability to control this global terrorism movement is greatly diminished.
But, again, the central control of a single spectacular attack, I think they would still maintain that type of capability. And as Fran indicated, this fatwa was extraordinarily important, because it shows that they thought they were getting closer to something that might have...
BLITZER: They've never...
MOWATT-LARSSEN: ...might have been that (INAUDIBLE).
BLITZER: They never resolved that anthrax attack -- the letters that were sent to members of Congress, some people in the media.
To this day, we don't know who was responsible, right?
FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Well, that's right, Wolf. There were a number of developments in the FBI investigation. They did -- you remember the guy is dead now...
BLITZER: They pinned it on one guy...
TOWNSEND: That's right.
BLITZER: ...who worked in bioterrorism for the U.S. government. He died. But there are a lot of people who think that there are still a lot of open questions on that.
TOWNSEND: Well, there are, Wolf. And what we do know is al Qaeda had an anthrax -- a nascent anthrax capability in Afghanistan.
BLITZER: Do you believe al Qaeda was responsible for those anthrax letters?
MOWATT-LARSSEN: We have not had any intelligence that I've seen that would suggest that Al Qaeda was responsible for that attack.
BLITZER: But you had a lot of intelligence saying that Al Qaeda was -- was attempting to use anthrax?
MOWATT-LARSSEN: That's correct. Up until 2001 -- the end of 2001, they had a very strong program, as Fran -- Fran indicated, two networks, one in Pakistan and one in Malaysia, that was trying to develop anthrax. We do know that. We have not seen the tie-in to the anthrax letter attack, however.
BLITZER: Do you be -- why is it so hard to find bin Laden?
BLITZER: You worked at the CIA for, what, 25 years? MOWATT-LARSSEN: Yes. Yes, I would first say, I think, like all of my colleagues, that we -- we will not rest until we find bin Laden and Zawahiri. But it -- the next best thing you can do is make them increasingly irrelevant, which I think the U.S. has done in its response. And also remember how hard it is to find any two people in the world if you're looking -- no matter how hard you're looking.
So that's not an excuse, but I think we will get them eventually.
BLITZER: Ralph Mowatt-Larssen from Harvard, formerly of the CIA.
Fran, thanks very much to you, as well.
TOWNSEND: Thank you.
BLITZER: Appreciate it.
We have a lot more coming up, including our stimulus project. We have some new information coming in. Stand by.
And Haiti -- we've got the latest on that, as well.
BLITZER: There's breaking news involving Toyota.
Let's go back to Lisa Sylvester to update us on what's going on.
What have we -- what have we just learned -- Lisa?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Toyota has been having a problem with eight of its vehicle models where the gas pedals can actually stick under the floor mats. And last week, they issued a recall of 2.3 million vehicles. Now they're taking it a step further. They're now are asking dealers to suspend U.S. sales of these eight models to give them some time to fix this problem of these gas pedals.
They are also suspending manufacturing at five of their plants beginning the week of February 1st.
We want to give you a list, though -- and we have a graphic that we can share with our viewers -- of the vehicles that are being impacted. It's the 2009-2010 Rav 4, the 2009-2010 Corolla, the 2009- 2010 Matrix, the 2005-2010 Avalon. It's also the 2007-2010 Camry, the 2010 Highlander, the 2007-2010 Tundra, and the 2008-2010 Sequoia.
So Toyota is trying to get ahead of this problem. But, clearly, this is something that's going to be ongoing and it's going to impact a lot of people, especially if you drive a Toyota.
BLITZER: Well, what are they saying?
What -- if somebody has one of these vehicles -- these models, what should they do?
SYLVESTER: Well, there was a recall that they had -- that took place last week and they were supposed to take it back to the dealer and to have a fix. But I -- I'm not quite sure if the problem is that they're not getting the word out or if it's -- the problem is that you've got dealers that are still selling these vehicles, is what it sounds like. And that's why they want to halt production at this point in time, to be able to figure out what exactly is going on, because it is a very dangerous situation. If you can imagine, you're driving along, the gas pedal gets stuck and suddenly the car starts to accelerate without you having any control over it.
BLITZER: It's very dangerous. And we're going to have a lot more on this story. It affects millions of people, so we'll watch is. Lisa is going to work this story, among other reporters.
So here's a question for all of you -- is the stimulus plan that the Obama administration pushed forward, with the backing of Congress, turning into jobs for you?
Most of the reporting on the stimulus plan has just scratched the surface over these many months -- a few facts, mostly opinion. This week, we're going beyond what's been done before and trying to really examine the facts.
CNN's Kate Bolduan got an exclusive interview with the boss of the Recovery Board. That's the independent agency mandated by Congress to make sure that the spena -- that the spending is wise and not wasteful.
What did you learn?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And this is also the man that's in -- also in charge of running the administration's recovery Web site, Recovery.gov, Wolf.
And what we're talking about here, it's $862 billion -- a very big number. And we have exclusive access to the man and the office of the stimulus watchdog.
BOLDUAN: (voice-over): An early morning car pool with his wife, arriving at a nondescript building just steps from the White House -- probably not what you'd expect from the man tasked with overseeing hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars.
EARL DEVANEY, CHAIRMAN, RECOVERY BOARD: Tom, why don't you start today?
BOLDUAN: His name, Earl Devaney; official title, chairman of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, affectionately known as the RAT Board.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM FEBRUARY 23, 2008)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With the appointment of Earl Devaney...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Sixty-two years old and ready to retire, Devaney was appointed by President Obama just days after the stimulus bill was passed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM FEBRUARY 23, 2008)
OBAMA: And I pointed out just when I saw him, I mean he looks like an inspector. I mean he's -- he's tough. You know, he barely cracks a smile.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: We found out the president was planning to make that announcement just 10 minutes beforehand. His wife got the news from a co-worker who saw it on TV.
DEVANEY: I had a hard time coming up with the right birthday present this year, the right Mother's Day present...
BOLDUAN: (on camera): You should save that.
DEVANEY: ...the right Christmas present.
BOLDUAN: (voice-over): We spent a day with Earl Devaney to find out how he does his job watching out for you money.
(on camera): Is anyone coming up and saying, where are my tax dollars today?
DEVANEY: No. Nobody today. But I wouldn't be surprised. I think -- I really do think that if you're going to steal money, this is not the money to steal. There's too many eyeballs on it.
BOLDUAN: (voice-over): His staffers call him "the big guy." He's a former college football lineman, later, a Secret Service agent turned inspector-general. He's best known for helping uncover the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal at the Interior Department.
(on camera): You are the watchdog of the stimulus.
How big is this job?
DEVANEY: Absolute -- the enormous figure of $787 billion, which is very hard to get your head around. The job is what I.G.s do. Everyday, we -- we look for proactive ways to prevent fraud, waste and abuse.
BOLDUAN: (voice-over): And we now know the stimulus total is up to $862 billion.
DEVANEY: The one about the states, are they coming in?
BOLDUAN: Devaney is considered a straight shooter and no- nonsense, but did come under fire when bad information surfaced on the Recovery Web site, including reports of stimulus jobs in zip codes that don't exist. So far, though, he maintains a rare reputation in Washington -- well-respected on both sides of the aisle.
REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: I encourage you to continue doing the great work that you're doing.
DEVANEY: I'm very appreciative of your work.
BOLDUAN: Republican Darrell Issa calls Devaney the most honest man he knows.
ISSA: I think there's going to be one silver lining to the stimulus, and that's going to be the work that Earl Devaney and the -- the whole Recovery.gov is doing.
BOLDUAN: He answers directly to Vice President Biden.
(on camera): And there were two things that you made very clear to tell the vice president.
DEVANEY: I would tell him what he needed to hear and not what he wanted to hear, and that I would probably make him mad within the first six months.
BOLDUAN: How did that work out?
DEVANEY: I think -- I don't know if mad is the right word, but I've -- I've -- we've had -- the vice president and I have had some interesting discussions.
BOLDUAN (voice-over): Those interesting discussions have likely included Devaney's take on counting stimulus jobs. Last November, when critics raised questions about White House claims of how many jobs the stimulus had created or saved, Devaney suggested the numbers aren't so clear.
DEVANEY: I believe that the principal down side of transparency is embarrassment. And there is enough of that here to go all around.
BOLDUAN (on camera): Why should the American public trust you -- trust Earl Devaney with their tax dollars?
DEVANEY: All I've ever done is tried to ensure that the American don't get ripped off or don't have their money wasted.
BOLDUAN: One year ago, I would have to believe so many people would say they had no idea who Earl Devaney was.
Would you have preferred to keep it that way?
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BOLDUAN: And good luck on that from here on out. The latest and the most up to date stimulus project information is set to be posted on the Recovery Board's Web site this Saturday. We will all be looking at that.
But before that, tonight at 8:00 on "CAMPBELL BROWN," we're taking a closer look at just how Earl Devaney does his job. And we ask the question on everyone's mind, who's really making sure our taxpayer money is not being wasted -- Wolf, it was an interesting conversation.
BLITZER: Yes. He sounds like a great guy. You don't want to mess with a former football player and Secret Service agent. That combi...
BOLDUAN: Yes. I...
BLITZER: ...combination, you don't want to...
BOLDUAN: I knew my place there.
BLITZER: You don't want to mess around.
BLITZER: Yes. OK. Good work.
Thanks very much, Kate.
BOLDUAN: Of course.
BLITZER: And this is what CNN does on the Stimulus Desk, from morning until night every day this week, we're sifting through the raw data so you don't have to, then reporting on the stories you want to know about. As we check the facts, if we find something interesting -- good or bad -- we're going to tell you about what we're doing and what our investigation is uncovering.
To the Stimulus Desk right now, our CNN chief business correspondent, Ali Velshi -- Ali, you've got a team over there. You've got a lot of books over there.
What else are you learning?
ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: We wanted to call it the geek squad, but that -- that name is already taken. So we're calling it the Stimulus Desk.
The bottom line is I've got a whole bunch of people poring through a whole bunch of books. These are all of the descriptions of all of the individual projects that have received money from government, about some -- about 56,000 or 57,000 of them.
And we are calling and finding out, when we see these projects, what was done, how much money was passed out and whether jobs were created or -- or what was -- what was found out. So we've -- we've got two that we want to update you on. One of them was a grant of $3.249 million made to the Tulane National Primate Research Center in Louisiana. It's part of the NIH. It is -- it -- they -- they use primates to research major infectious diseases -- AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, which are the three deadliest diseases in the world. We contacted them. That money has gone to creating about 21 jobs. And they expect about 40 jobs to be created, ultimately. Most of the positions are full-time for two years. Some of them are for one year.
So we've got some resolution on that.
One that we're looking into right now, Wolf, that I want to tell you about, is a -- a grant of $841,000. Emily Smith right here is actually on the phone getting information on this right now. It's the Texas Engineering Experiment Station in College Station, Texas.
Wolf, they're looking into projects to investigate human-robot interaction in situations where robots are necessary -- emergency response, hostage negotiation and health care.
We do not know how many jobs have been created or are planning to be created there, but we're looking into that right now.
Wolf, the total number of dollars under CNN review at the Stimulus Desk right now is above -- almost $1.9 billion. As you know, this is over $800 billion. But we are working through this 17 hours a day, picking projects one at a time. And we're -- there we go. We just updated it. $1.965 billion worth of projects are under investigation -- under review by CNN.
And I have to tell you, Wolf, in fairness, we're finding somewhere it does seem that the money has worked and created jobs. We're finding some where it's harder to get answers. And we found at least a few where it definitely has not achieved a desired result -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And we're going to post a lot of this information at CNN.com, right?
VELSHI: Yes. That's absolutely right, CNN.com/stimulus.
BLITZER: Good work.
All right, Ali.
Thanks very much.
BLITZER: Tomorrow on "American Idol," can a $5.5 million resort town restoration project be a good use of your stimulus money?
You're going to find out why one woman is grateful the government is spending the money.
Then tonight on Campbell Brown at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, is the stimulus working for average Americans?
And later tonight, 10:00 p.m. Eastern, on "A.C. 360" investigates -- they investigate why stimulus money is being wasted on unnecessary road signs. The stimulus project all this week only here on CNN and over at CNN.com/stimulus.
There's breaking news in Haiti right now. Fourteen days, two weeks since the earthquake.
Members of the U.S. Airborne -- 82nd Airborne Division have just found a man in the rubble alive.
We're going to Haiti.
BLITZER: Let's go back to Lisa.
She's monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
What else is going on -- Lisa?
SYLVESTER: Hi there, Wolf.
Thirteen thousand Verizon employees are about to get a pink slip. The telecom giant announced the job cuts today after posting a $653 million fourth quarter loss. The lay-offs will happen this year. They won't target any specific geographical area.
And the Taliban are claiming responsibility for a suicide bombing today outside a U.S. military base in Afghanistan. Officials say the bomber detonated a minivan packed with explosives outside the main gate of Camp Phoenix, on the outskirts of Kabul. The Associated Press quotes officials as saying 14 people were wounded, including eight American troops.
And a deadly accident today on the Metro Rail Line in Maryland. Officials say two transit workers were hit and killed by a maintenance truck while working on a track early this morning. This is just the latest in a string of fatal accidents on the D.C. Metro system, including a June crash that killed nine people. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.
And it's a legislative setback for President Obama. Today, the Senate rejected a measure he backed that would have created a bipartisan task force to recommend ways to reduce the deficit. The recommendations would have included tax cuts and spending curbs. But the measure was killed by anti-tax Republicans and Democrats who are nervous about getting railroaded into cutting Social Security and Medicare -- Wolf.
BLITZER: That's a lot of people at that Verizon story that are going to be losing their jobs. That's going to affect what, how many did you say?
SYLVESTER: It's 13,000 Verizon employees. And they're not saying if it's -- that it's going to come from any particular region in the country, but it's going to be spread across the company.
Yes, that's -- that's going to really hurt.
BLITZER: Yes. It's going to hurt a lot.
All right. Thanks very much, Lisa, for that.
We're going to take a quick break.
When we come back, Jack Cafferty and The Cafferty File.
And Jeanne Moos is coming up, as well.
BLITZER: All right, let's get to the breaking news.
This is the video we're now getting in from Port-au-Prince. Fourteen days after the earthquake -- look at this. A man has survived in the rubble. These are troops from the 82nd Airborne Division. They went in. They were clearing the rubble, overseeing some of the action, clearing the rubble. And then they discovered someone was alive two weeks after the earthquake.
We're told that this individual has a broken thigh bone, but no other apparent injuries.
Our reporters are now on the scene.
We're going to go there right at the top of the hour and get more information.
But look at this, a dramatic survival story coming out of Port- au-Prince.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now for The Cafferty File.
It makes you feel good...
BLITZER: ...that they found a survivor like that -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: That's a tough guy.
CAFFERTY: Two weeks lying there like that?
The question this hour, would health care reform be better off with women in charge?
That's the opinion of at least one Congresswoman from New Hampshire.
Ken writes from New Jersey: "We already have a woman in charge, Nancy Pelosi. We also have a woman in charge of Health and Human Services. We have a woman secretary of State, a woman Homeland Security secretary, a woman secretary of Labor, a woman EPA. Gee, women are everywhere in government. So what is the point? Competent is what matters."
Josh in California says: "If a man were to have made the same statement about women, we would never hear the end of it. So why is this OK? And, no, it wouldn't be better off. But I also don't think it would be worse off. Everybody needs to put their heads together to figure this out. No one person has the answer."
Joanne in St. Louis says: "Maybe, but I'm more interested in seeing women in charge of all foreign policy worldwide."
Alan in North Carolina says: "At this point, putting 5-year-old children in charge would be a vast improvement."
Paolo writes: "Just about anything would be better off with woman in charge, and this is coming from a macho male."
Ryan in Illinois says: "I'm all for it. As the Congress en masse has painted itself into a corner on health care reform. Plus, these proceedings could then be televised on C-SPAN or "The View"."
And Ken in California: "Sure, they'd be better off, as long as they're not Democrats or Republicans."
if you want to read more on the subject, go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile and check out some of the other e-mails.
I wonder how much he's going to have to say, our president, tomorrow night about health care reform in the State of the Union address. A touchy subject at this point.
BLITZER: Very touchy. They're going to go small, I think -- much more modest...
BLITZER: ...in terms of their goals, because they have no choice at this point.
CAFFERTY: I think you're right.
BLITZER: All right, Jack.
Thanks very much.
Don't go too far away. We've got two breaking stories we're working on. Much more coming up on this dramatic survivor rescue story in Port-au-Prince two weeks after -- after the earthquake.
Also, much more coming up on Toyota -- suspending sales in the United States of eight models. Millions of people could be affected. Stand by.
BLITZER: Lots of people are talking about pants on the ground.
CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a Moost Unusual look.
JEANNE Airborne Division, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): It's a song that has taken America by the seat of its saggy pants. Four little words -- pants.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pants on the ground, pants on the ground.
Airborne Division: ...on...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pants on the ground. Pants on the ground.
Airborne Division: ...the...
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Pants on the ground.
Airborne Division: ...ground.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're looking like a fool with your pants on the ground.
Airborne Division: It started as an audition for "American Idol" sung by a guy calling himself General Larry Platt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL," COURTESY FOX)
GENERAL LARRY PLATT: Looking like a fool with your pants on the ground.
SIMON COWELL, CO-HOST: I have a horrible feeling that song could be a hit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Airborne Division: Soon, we were getting hit over the head with it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM YOUTUBE/ITHACAPPELLA)
UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Pants on the ground, pants on the ground.
(END VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pants on the ground.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM YOUTUBE/JUNGLEBOY PRODUCTION)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You look like a fool, pants on the ground.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Airborne Division: Minnesota Vikings' quarterback, Brett Favre, rallied his victorious teammates with it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY YOUTUBE/FOX)
BRET FAVRE, MINNESOTA VIKINGS: Pants on the ground. Pants on the ground.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Airborne Division: The Vikings then lost their next game.
Jimmy Fallon performed it in the guise of Neil Young.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON," COURTESY NBC)
JIMMY FALLON, HOST: Pants on the ground, pants on the ground.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Airborne Division: It's become a t-shirt, a Facebook page, a game -- try keeping the pants from hitting the ground.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see people singing "pants on the ground" all day long.
You know who they were?
Kids with their frigging pants on the ground and they have to understand it.
Don't you understand, Larry Platt is calling you an idiot?
Airborne Division: Keep your shirt on, even if they don't keep their pants on right. Pants became a prop.
Airborne Division (on camera): But you know for sure that pants on the ground has been run into the ground when politicians start singing it.
(voice-over): A Canadian politician, T.J. Burke, a member of the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick, used pants to attack an opponent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY GOVERNOR OF NEW BRUNSWICK) T.J. BURKE, NEW BRUNSWICK LEGISLATOR: The leader of the Conservative Party was very clearly caught on CBC with his pants on the ground.
(singing): Pants on the ground, pants on the ground, looking like a fool with your pants on the ground.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Airborne Division: From a commandeered P.A. system in Walmart.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pants on the ground. Pants on the ground.
Airborne Division: To a kid dropping his pants.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Pants on the ground.
Airborne Division: To a poodle...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looking like a fool with your pants on the ground.
Airborne Division: Just wear a belt and quit belting out this song.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY WLTV)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Pants on the ground, pants on the ground.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Airborne Division: Jeanne Moos, CNN...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY WLTV)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looking like a fool with your...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Airborne Division: ...New York.
BLITZER: And happening now, three breaking news stories we're following in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Toyota suspends sales of eight models, including some of its most popular ones here in the United States. The carmaker deciding a recall didn't go far enough to protect consumers.
Also, an alleged attempt to tamper with the phones at a U.S. senator's office. We're digging for new details on the arrest and why Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana was targeted. Stand by for that.
And a new rescue in Haiti, two weeks after the earthquake.
Are there hopes that more survivors might be found?
I'm Wolf Blitzer in CNN's command center for breaking news, politics and extraordinary reports from around the world.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.