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THE SITUATION ROOM
Tiger Woods Speaks Out; Growing Hacker Threat
Aired February 19, 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 our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: Tiger Woods breaking his silence, apologizing for his affairs and the ensuing scandal that has put his career on hold. Can his words damage -- undo the damage, I should say, he has caused to his marriage and brand? We will play his full remarks this hour, unedited. If you missed it, you will see it and hear it here.
Also, hackers posing a growing threat to cyber-security. Is it even safe to do business on the Internet anymore? And are companies obligated to tell you if your personal information has been compromised?
And new developments in that airplane suicide attack on the IRS. The wife of the pilot is now speaking out about what she calls unimaginable tragedy.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
It was the most closely watched speech by a world-class athlete in memory. With his mother looking on from the front row, his wife absent, Tiger Woods apologized for the affairs the scandal that has sidelined his career.
He spoke about the therapy he is undergoing, his Buddhist faith and his plans to return to golf some day. We will hear his statement in its entirety later this hour.
But, first, details and analysis with CNN's Brian Todd and crisis management expert Dan Baum.
Guys, thank very much for coming in.
You have been spending a lot of time, Brian, looking at the crisis management part of this story for Tiger Woods.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And that is really some of the most fascinating components of this when you look at kind of how he handled this and how he broke it down. And we are going to talk to Dan about this.
Dan, thanks for joining us.
First of all, let's talk first about the overall atmospherics, the look of the room when he walks the way the room is set it up. I will admit it was a little stiffer than I thought it would be.
DAN BAUM, CRISIS MANAGEMENT EXPERT: Right.
TODD: It looked like the White House press room.
BAUM: It sure did. It was bizarre, wasn't it?
BAUM: He is a golfer, not a governor. But he steps out. He has got the blue backdrop. He's got the presidential lectern. He's the Obama-wear no-tie suit. It didn't make sense.
TODD: Why not?
BAUM: Well, what would have made a lot more sense was for him not to do something like this, do camera, with the fake audience, the pissed-off mom in the front row.
He should probably have gone to ESPN, gone to "Sports Illustrated," done something a golfer would do, not done something that say Mark Sanford would do.
TODD: OK. But let's talk about the ESPN and maybe the handpicked reporter asking the questions. You and I talked about this. He does this and he runs the risk of that reporter asking about, what about this woman, what about that woman, dragging this out to maybe a level of detail that he is not comfortable with.
BAUM: Well, that is true, but a big part of this apology and a big part of his future and what I consider to be sort of the Martha Stewart lesson is that he has got to step up, and in his case he's got to man up. So, he's got to ready to answer the hard questions.
BLITZER: But didn't he step up today by accepting full responsibility and repeatedly apologizing?
BAUM: Yes, Wolf. You are right. And we need to give him some credit for coming out and doing one thing that he has not done before, which is coming out and said, I did it, sorry, it was wrong.
TODD: I want to get into a little bit of that. We are going to play a clip of him doing that where he was probably his most brutally honest in all of this. Let's listen to that one clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIGER WOODS, Professional Golfer: I was unfaithful. I had affairs. I cheated. What I did is not acceptable, and I am the only person to blame.
I stopped living by the core values that I was taught to believe in. I knew my actions were wrong, but I convinced myself that normal rules didn't apply. (END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: And he said that a couple of times about normal rules didn't apply to me, I went too far.
BAUM: And this is the spot in his apology where I think he sounded like every man and he was speaking from the heart. It worked.
And you know what? If he had stopped there, all the better, but he went on and on.
BLITZER: At some point he's going to do a sit-down interview with someone, who knows who, and presumably, the reason he doesn't want to do it now is because the interviewer will start asking specific questions about the other women. How does he deal with that once he is asked in an exercise, what about X, Y and Z?
BAUM: Well, he can choose not TO answer those questions.
But I think the way he deals with all of this, by the way, is to sort of put down the microphone, pick up the golf club and go win some tournaments.
BLITZER: So, you are with Paul Begala on this one? He should just go out and start playing golf.
BLITZER: But golf, as a lot of experts have pointed out, it is a mental game, too. You really have to be focused. And if his mind is obviously dealing with all these other issues, including his family, he is not necessarily going to be at his best.
BAUM: Well, I am not saying he needs to go play golf tomorrow, but there is also no reason that he needed to come out and apologize today.
I think he probably needs -- he is suffering. It's obvious he needs to go take care of his personal issues, then come back and make a statement, which he will now have to repeat, and then go play golf.
The problem with today's statement is just sort of furies the storm in the middle of it. It does not put an end to it, which playing golf will.
TODD: OK. I want to get to another part of this. It was kind of odd and compelling at the same time, this vigorous defense of his wife's conduct in this. Let's play another clip here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOODS: Some people have speculated that Elin somehow hurt or attacked me on Thanksgiving night. It angers me that people would fabricate a story like that.
Elin never hit me that night or any other night. There has never been an episode of domestic violence in our marriage, ever.
Elin has shown enormous grace and poise throughout this ordeal. Elin deserves praise, not blame.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: He is clearly maybe at his most defiant in the entire thing right there and arguably maybe his most emotional. What do you make of that segment?
BAUM: Yes, I am not sure what to make of it, except to say if I was advising him, I would have told him not to say that at all.
BAUM: He is there to apologize. He has one thing to do. So now he is shifting to the offense. And he later does that with the media as well.
BLITZER: Say back off from the kids?
BAUM: Yes, which obviously he is angry. These are emotions he feels and now he's trying to defend his wife, but he is not the guy standing up and defending his wife. He is the guy that cheated on his wife. He needs to own that and just merely apologize.
TODD: Could there have been something else at work here, maybe someone telling him you have got to come forward and do something like this?
BAUM: We can't know what that would be, but he really just would have been better off to leave all that stuff out.
And then he later talked about performance-enhancing drugs and defended that, too.
BLITZER: He denied that he ever took any.
BAUM: Right. It was like deny, deny, deny. This needed to be apologize, apologize, apologize.
BLITZER: I think it is fair to say, though that this was his statement. He may had experts tweaking it, but he was speaking. He knew that had one shot on this day to go ahead and speak to the world, because it was not just people in the United States. The whole world was literally watching to what he had to say. And he wanted to make some points.
He made those points. Now he's going back into rehab. We will see what happens when he emerges from this second segment of rehabilitation.
Guys, thanks very much, Dan Baum and Brian Todd.
A reminder. We're going to be playing the entire statement for you later this hour. If you missed it, if you want to see it again, you will see it here in THE SITUATION ROOM. That's coming up in a few moments.
Countless people across the United States and around the world stopped what they were doing earlier today to watch Tiger Woods' apology, so how did it play publicly?
CNN's Richard Roth is gauging reaction in New York.
Richard, first of all, tell our viewers where you are, what you are seeing and hearing.
RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I'm here in the ESPN Zone, a sports Mecca here, in Manhattan, in the heart of Times Square, but seven hours ago here, it was really Tiger zone. Everything stopped, this cacophony of audio, of sports games, Olympics, silence, as everyone sat or stood and watched the 13-minute remarks by Tiger Woods.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOODS: Many of you in this room are my friends. Many of you in this room know me.
ROTH: Do you forgive him? Or do you think it will take time for that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I mean, I'm not here to judge him. He did what he did, and he has owned up to it. So I don't -- nobody supports what he did. You know,, it is what he does from today on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He doesn't have to apologize to me. He has to apologize to his wife. He has to apologize to his sponsors.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It will never be the same for him, ever. And that is unfortunate.
ROTH: What do you think?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he did a great job. He was very impressive. I think he said exactly what he should have said.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it is what I expected him to say, I'm sorry, nothing more, nothing less, and it was long overdue.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I forgive him. I'm a mom and a wife and I forgive him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tiger always wants to control everything. Let people in the room to ask questions or let somebody be in the room who isn't your friend.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is his private life. I don't particularly see why he has to apologize. I would just like to see him get back to golf.
(END VIDEO CLIP) ROTH: Look, as you can tell by those comments, there was a split along gender lines, Wolf. Almost every woman we spoke to was very supportive of Tiger Woods, his effort to apologize, having his mother there in the front row. The men were more analytical, some more critical.
A man before the speech said: He lied to me. I can't go back on that.
Another said Tiger tried to regain control of the situation, too much control. And some will wait until we see how Tiger Woods does when he comes out on to the golf course perhaps some time this year -- Wolf.
BLITZER: See together with the rest of the world.
All right, Richard, thank you.
All right, this just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now, a long awaited Justice Department report on those so-called torture memos. Those were the opinions from Justice Department lawyers during the Bush administration that authorized harsh interrogation techniques, including water-boarding.
This new report says that while attorneys, including John Yoo and Jay Bybee, may have used poor judgment, their controversial opinions do not -- repeat -- not amount to professional misconduct. The Justice Department's Ethics Unit recommending, as a result, no legal consequences.
A lot of liberals out there are going to be very, very disappointed in the Obama administration's Justice Department, no legal consequences for Justice Department lawyers during the Bush administration for those enhanced interrogation techniques, the legal opinions that authorized that.
Jack Cafferty is coming up next with "The Cafferty File."
Then, Tiger Woods' full statement and apology, it is more than 13 minutes of gripping television. You will see it raw and unedited right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
And flames of rage, a troubled man targeting his own house before a suicide airplane attack on an IRS office. Now his wife is speaking out.
And a disaster barely averted. We have the chilling recording of a near collision over a major U.S. airport.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Turn left and descend immediately. I don't care what altitude. Descend. You got traffic off your right.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's get right back to Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Wolf.
Before you go online to shop or pay bills, or check your bank statement, or even send an e-mail, stuff that we all do every day, stop and think about this: More than 75,000 computer systems at 2,500 companies worldwide have been hacked. A Virginia security firm, NetWitness, says it could be one of the largest, most sophisticated cyber-attacks ever discovered.
It began late in 2008 and wasn't even found out until last month. The attack targeted everything from corporate information to e-mails, credit card, login information. The hackers went after companies in the health and technology sectors, educational institutions, energy, financial firms, 10 government agencies, as well as Internet service providers.
Very scary stuff, when you consider some of these industries ought to know a thing or two about computer security. You think?
It's believed the hackers got employees at these targeted companies to download infected software or got them to open infected e-mails that were infected with attachments. And, from there, the attackers could commandeer the users' computers, steal the passwords to banking and social networking sites, and then helped themselves attack other computer systems. And the thing just went on and on and on. It took a year-and-a-half for them to even discover this thing.
Experts say the attack points up that traditional security approaches on the Internet just aren't working anymore.
Meanwhile, news of this attack comes after it was revealed that computer networks were compromised at Google and more than 30 other big companies. Google says the attack on them originated in China.
I wonder how safe the computers are that have to do our national security are?
Anyway, here's the question: How confident are you that the Internet is a secure place to transact business?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. Post a comment on my blog -- 75,000 companies hacked into, 2,500 different corporations. This is a massive assault on confidential Internet information, Wolf.
BLITZER: And just think how many people are involved as a result of that. It is shocking.
All right, Jack, thanks very much.
Let's talk about this with our national security contributor Fran Townsend.
So it is safe to do your personal business on the Internet right now?
FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Wolf, it is interesting. I think most people think it is just like identity theft. It's a crime that happens to somebody else, but not to me.
If you go on to and use the Internet and your personal information is lost or stolen, the company has an obligation to tell you, Wolf, that your information is stolen. But if I go on to that Internet site, I have no idea how often that site has been hacked, how much personal information of other customers has been lost, and so I don't really have any way of making a judgment as to whether one site is safer or less safe than others.
BLITZER: Should they be required to tell us that, yes, their security systems, their computers have been hacked, they have been violated X-number of times? Should we know that?
TOWNSEND: you know what? Doesn't it seem to you that we should?
After all, when you go on to log on to pay, it will say this site is going secure for you to make your payment and put your payment information in there. But I would want to know, and I think most Americans would want to know whether or not a site has been subject to hacking, has lost information in the past, how much, and what kind of information.
I do think that would be useful. And I think, as you see people become more and more concerned with this, and members of Congress, frankly, you are more likely to see that sort of requirement that that information be publicly disclosed.
BLITZER: And especially when you hear all these reports that these hackers are coming from China or Russia or elsewhere, even from Iran, for that matter, you have got to get nervous.
TOWNSEND: No, that is exactly right. And Jack asks the right question. Having worked inside the government for more than two decades, I can tell you, every day, we see Chinese, Russian hackers trying to get into government systems. Even our national security systems are not sufficiently secure and that is a huge priority for the current and prior administrations.
BLITZER: You and I were -- participated in a cyber war game this week as it was -- as I said earlier, it was pretty scary, what we saw, the ability to deal with these kinds of problems.
BLITZER: Fran, thanks very much.
So, what if a massive cyber-attack crippled, actually crippled the United States? This weekend you, can see how we might be able to respond to a real cyber shockwave, a CNN special you will not want to miss. It airs Saturday and Sunday night, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, 5:00 Pacific. This is fascinating and very important stuff. Tiger Woods in his own words. We are going to play for you the complete statement he made earlier today, apologetic, emotional, sometimes defiant. You will see it raw and unedited. That's coming up.
Plus, the wife of the pilot who launched the suicide plane attack on the IRS is speaking out about what she calls unimaginable tragedy.
BLITZER: It is the mea culpa heard around the world, for the first time, Tiger Woods publicly owning up to his infidelity on camera.
His speech from the start to the finish, you will see it, you will hear it live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: Their existence came to light during post- election protests last year. Now a former member of Iran's notorious Basij militia comes forward with inside stories of unspeakable brutality. You will see it here.
Lining up to land, then frantic instructions from the tower over a major U.S. airport -- two planes come within seconds of disaster. We have the tape for you.
And his wife calls it an unimaginable tragedy. We have the latest on the investigation into why Joe Stack's last act was to crash his plane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
As promised, we are now going to show you Tiger Woods' remarkable apology in its entirety.
This note: At one point, there was a major technical problem with the network pool camera. You will see the shot change to what is called the cutaway camera, which shows Woods and the audience. But you can still hear see everything he is saying.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOODS: Good morning. And thank you for joining me.
Many of you in this room are my friends. Many in this room know me. Many of you have cheered for me or you worked with me or you supported me. Now every one of you has good reason to be critical of me.
I want to say to each of you simply and directly, I am deeply sorry for my irresponsible and selfish behavior I engaged in.
I know people want to find out how I could be so selfish and so foolish. People want to know how I could have done these things to my wife, Elin, and to my children. And while I have always tried to be a private person, there are some things I want to say. Elin and I have started the process of discussing the damage caused by my behavior. As Elin pointed out to me, my real apology to her will not come in the form of words. It will come from my behavior over time.
We have a lot to discuss. However, what we say to each other will remain between the two of us.
I am also aware of the pain my behavior has caused to those of you in this room. I have let you down. And I have let down my fans.
For many of you, especially my friends, my behavior has been a personal disappointment. To those of you who work for me, I have let you down personally and professionally.
My behavior has caused considerable worry to my business partners, to everyone involved in my foundation, including my staff, board of directors, sponsors and, most importantly, the young students we reach. Our work is more important than ever.
Thirteen years ago, my dad and I envisioned helping young people achieve their dreams through education. This work remains unchanged and will continue to grow.
From the Learning Center students in Southern California to the Earl Woods scholars in Washington, D.C. Millions of kids have changed their lives and I am dedicated to making sure that continues. But still, I know I have bitterly disappointed all of you.
I have made you question who I am and how I could have done the things I did. I am embarrassed that I have put you in this position. For all that I have done, I am so sorry.
I have a lot to atone for. But there's one issue I really want to discuss.
Some people have speculated that Elin somehow hurt or attacked me on Thanksgiving night. It angers me that people would fabricate a story like that.
Elin never hit me that night or any other night. There has never been an episode of domestic violence in our marriage -- ever.
Elin has shown enormous grace and poise throughout this ordeal. Elin deserves praise, not blame.
The issue involved here was my repeated irresponsible behavior. I was unfaithful. I had affairs. I cheated. What I did is not acceptable and I am the only person to blame.
I stopped living by the core values that I was taught to believe in. I knew my actions were wrong, but I convinced myself that normal rules didn't apply.
I never thought about who I was hurting. Instead, I thought only about myself. I ran straight through the boundaries that a married couple should live by. I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to.
I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled.
Thanks to money and fame, I didn't have far -- I didn't have to go far to find them.
I was wrong. I was foolish. I don't get to play by different rules. The same boundaries that apply to everyone apply to me.
I brought this shame on myself. I hurt my wife, my kids, my mother, my wife's family, my friends, my foundation and kids all around the world who admired me.
I've had a lot of time to think about what I've done. My failures have made -- have made me look at myself in a way I never wanted to before.
It's now up to me to make amends. And that starts by never repeating the mistakes I've made. It's up to me to start living a life of integrity.
I once heard -- and I believe it's true -- it's not what you achieve in life that matters, it's what you overcome. Achievements on the golf course are only part of setting an example. Character and decency are what really count.
Parents used to point to me as a role model for their kids. I owe all those families a special apology. I want to say to them that I am truly sorry.
It's hard to admit that I need help, but I do. For 45 days, from the end of December to early February, I was in in-patient therapy, receiving guidance for the issues I'm facing. I have a long way to go, but I've taken my first steps in the right direction.
As I proceed, I understand people have questions. I understand the press wants me to an -- wants to ask me for the details and the times I was unfaithful. I understand people want to know whether Elin and I will remain together.
Please know that as far as I'm concerned, every one of these questions and answers is a matter between Elin and me. These are issues between a husband and a wife.
Some people have made up things that never happened. They said I used performance-enhancing drugs. This is completely and utterly false.
Some have written things about my family. Despite the damage I have done, I still believe it is right to shield my family from the public spotlight. They did not do these things, I did.
I have always tried to maintain a private space for my wife and children. They have been kept separate from my sponsors, my -- my commercial endorsements. When my children were born, we only released photographs so that they -- so that the paparazzi could not chase them.
However, my behavior doesn't make it right for the media to follow my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter to school and report the school's location. They staked out my wife and they pursued my mom.
Whatever my wrongdoings, for the sake of my family, please leave my wife and kids alone.
I recognize I have brought this on myself and I know, above all, I am the one who needs to change.
I owe it to my family to become a better person. I owe it to those closest to me to become a better man. That's where my focus will be. I have a lot of work to do and I intend to dedicate myself to doing it.
Part of following this path for me is Buddhism, which my mother taught me at a young age. People probably don't realize it, but I was raised a Buddhist and I actively practiced my faith from childhood until I drifted away from it in recent years.
Buddhism teaches that a craving for things outside ourselves causes an unhappy and pointless search for security. It teaches me to stop following every impulse and to u -- and to learn restraint.
Obviously, I lost track of what I was taught.
As I move forward, I will continue to receive help because I have learned that's how people really do change. Starting tomorrow, I will leave for more treatment and more therapy.
I would like to thank my friends at Accenture and the players in the field this week for understanding why I'm making this -- these remarks today.
In therapy, I've learned the importance of looking at my spiritual life and keeping in balance with my professional life. I need to regain my balance and be centered so I can save the things that are most important to me -- my marriage and my children.
That also means relying on others for help. I've learned to seek support from my peers in therapy and I hope someday to return that support to others who are seeking help.
I do plan to return to golf one day, I just don't know when that day will be. I don't rule out that it will be this year. When I do return, I need to make my behavior more respectful of the game.
In recent weeks, I have received many thousands of e-mails, letters and phone calls from people expressing good wishes. To everyone who has reached out to me and my family, thank you. Your encouragement means the world to Elin and me.
I want to thank the PGA Tour, Commissioner Finchem and the players for their patience and understanding while I work on my private life. I look forward to seeing my fellow players on the course.
Finally, there are many people in this room and there are many people at home who believed in me. Today I want to ask for your help. I ask you to find room in your heart to one day believe in me again.
BLITZER: The first woman he hugged, that's his mom. Others there, family, friends and associates. As you saw, no questions were allowed by reporters at that statement from Tiger Woods -- a very, very carefully choreographed event by the golfing great.
From Joe Stack's wife today, a message of sympathy and remorse. Meanwhile, officials begin the painstaking investigation into what ultimately drove Joe Stack to crash his plane into an office of the IRS.
We'll have the latest.
BLITZER: The wife of the man whom officials say crashed a small plane into an IRS office building in Texas spoke out for the first time today. She called the disaster, in her words, "unimaginable tragedy." The crash killed two people -- one of them, her very, very troubled husband.
CNN's Casey Wian is joining us now from Austin -- all right, Casey, what happened today?
It's been a pretty dramatic 24 hours since that crash.
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It sure has been, Wolf. A massive investigation is underway into the crash of a small private plane into the Texas office behind me yesterday. Authorities from at least half a dozen federal and local agencies are involved, all under the direction of the FBI.
WIAN (voice-over): Investigators pored through the wreckage of an Internal Revenue Service office building a day after a disgruntled taxpayer crashed his private plane into the second floor, killing himself and one person believed to be an IRS employee.
Investigators say that the pilot, software engineer and part-time musician, Joseph Stack, began his rampage earlier in the day by setting fire to his house.
(on camera): This is where a parallel investigation has been happening all day long. We've seen investigators from the FBI, Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, local fire departments -- all combing through the charred remains of Mr. Stack's home, trying to figure out how this fire started and how it burned so hot so quickly.
Evidence of that -- the home right next door, earlier today, we saw the insurance company investigators on the roof of that home trying to assess the damage there. So, clearly, this was a very, very hot fire.
Neighbors tell us that they heard an initial explosion and when they came outside and looked at Mr. Stack's home, they saw that it was almost completely engulfed in flames almost immediately.
Now, if you read the six page apparent suicide note that Stack posted on the Internet, it paints the picture of a man who had serious financial concerns. But if you look around at the neighborhood that his house is in, it paints a much different picture -- and that is of a typical, upper middle class, American suburban neighborhood.
(voice-over): Stack's wife asked a friend to read this statement.
RAYFORD WALKER, FAMILY SPOKESMAN: Sheryl says: "Words cannot adequately express my sorrow or the sympathy I feel for everyone affected by this unimaginable tragedy. I want to thank my friends, family, colleagues and neighbors, as well as members of my church and others, for their expressions of kindness and generosity in our time of grief.
WIAN: Stack played bass guitar in a rock-country outfit called The Billy Eli Band. His former band mates are searching for answers.
BILLY ELI, BANDMATE OF JOSEPH STACK: This has been such a shock because it just is totally out of character from -- from the Joe Stack that I played in a band with for three years.
WIAN: One victim remains hospitalized with serious burns.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
WIAN: Authorities have recovered two bodies from the IRS building behind me. One of them is believed to be the body of the pilot, Joseph Stack -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you.
Casey Wian is on the scene in Austin.
In the skies over a major airport, radio traffic no one ever wants to hear.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 1530, you've got traffic over there. Traffic at 1:00 less than two miles at the same altitude. Descend immediately.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BLITZER: Two planes seconds away from disaster.
Just ahead, what happened?
BLITZER: CNN has obtained a recording that anyone who flies will find rather unnerving. On it, you can hear air traffic controllers scrambling to avert an in-flight collision between two planes.
CNN's Brian Todd was over at Reagan National Airport earlier today and sent in this report.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, if you look up at any major airport, you're likely to see them -- lines of planes in the sky on approach. You see one plane landing here at Reagan National Airport. There's another one in the distance right behind it. Seemingly, not much margin for error in this equation. And in one recent incident, a frightening near miss.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Traffic at 1:00 and four miles...
TODD: (voice-over): Newly released audio recordings and radar images reveal one passenger plane steering right toward a line of others. It happened as the planes were approaching Denver's airport just before Thanksgiving.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And 1530, traffic alert. Traffic at 1:00 less than two miles at the same altitude. Descend immediately.
TODD: CNN obtained the sound and radar images from the FAA. The story was first reported by CNN's Denver affiliate, KMGH.
On that busy day, a line of planes approaching the Denver airport was directed over a fixed position on the ground, then funneled into something like a highway in the sky. That fixed position and that highway route over Denver are both named "Sage."
A Republic Airlines, code named "Brickyard," was flying parallel to that line and had already passed the fixed position, according to FAA officials. After he questioned the controller's guidance, the pilot proceeded, making something close to a U-turn -- right toward the oncoming traffic and narrowly flew behind one of the planes in line. As he veered, a controller caught the error and scrambled.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who's heading back toward Sage, Brickyard. Turn left and descend immediately. I don't care what altitude you descend, you've got traffic off your right.
TODD: FAA officials tell us the Republic Airlines plane missed one of the planes in line by less than two miles and had descended 200 feet below it.
I asked retired commercial pilot Mark Weiss just how close that was.
(on camera): The plane in orange is the one that is directed to fly to the fixed point. He crosses paths with the other two planes, essentially flying behind one and just ahead of another -- almost the same altitude, a little less than two miles apart at 700 miles an hour.
What's the scenario there for collision?
MARK WEISS, THE SPECTRUM GROUP: Well, the opportunity for something catastrophic obviously exists and it exists in very fast time. I mean the closure rate of aircraft at that speed is only a couple of seconds.
TODD: (voice-over): But FAA officials insist even if no evasive action had taken, the planes would not have collided.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
TODD: Still, the FAA's preliminary investigation indicates this was an operational error on the part of an air traffic controller. The FAA classifies these incidents A through D, with A being the most critical. This error was called a level B -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, thank you.
Is it safe to do business on the Internet?
Jack Cafferty is next with your e-mail.
BLITZER: It's time to check back with Jack for The Cafferty File -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour, Wolf, is, how confident are you that the Internet is a secure place to transact business?
H. writes: "After working as a Web designer and hosting Web sites for years on my own Linux servers, I have very little confidence in the safety of the Internet. Regarding national security, I believe we're sitting ducks and it's just a matter of time."
Jude writes: "The Internet was never a secure place to transact business. Even with all the anti-spy, anti-virus software out there, it's no match for these hackers. I was a victim of online banking theft, in which I lost money due to cyber hackers and I no longer do any online banking nor would I advise anyone else to, either. Santosh writes: "Financial transactions always risky online, but we don't have a lot of choice. It's faster and easier. Not only that, but many financial and utility companies have now gone paperless, and thus, we have less chance to avoid computer hackers." Greg in Cincinnati writes: "I'm a computer network engineer. I can tell you firsthand that the Internet is not a safe place to conduct any kind of personal business. There are special programs out there designed by convicted computer hackers that will seek out all of the personalized items you include in bank statements and even tax forms that are sent to the IRS via e-mail."
Mick writes: "The Internet is quite a safe place to transact business if you continue to use secured Web sites. I'm not concerned."
Hank says: "Faced with the choice of risk of my online transactions getting hacked or navigating down the expressways filled with bad drivers and road rage, I'll stay home and log on."
And Craig in Tampa writes: "Well, I just bought a new TV, a TiVo, stereo and some nice rims for my car. Thanks, Jack, for leaving your computer on."
If you want to read more about this, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile.
You -- do you use Internet for like banking and stuff?
BLITZER: No, I don't.
CAFFERTY: There you go.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN.
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