Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Kagan Confirmation Continues; Is Afghan War Winnable?
Aired June 29, 2010 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She is waiting for another check from BP, but, so far, Suzanne, she has not received it -- Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Lisa.
You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: a Senate show-and-tell over don't ask, don't tell. Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan gets a grilling on her views of the gays in the military.
And is the Afghan war winnable? Why Bill Clinton says the U.S. needs to turn it into a home game. Wolf interviews the former president.
And false identities, secret handoffs, invisible ink -- prosecutors say Russian spy suspects used some techniques right out of the Cold War.
Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux, and you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan got a chance to answer her critics today, and the sharpest moments of her confirmation hearing centered around her views on gays in the military. Because she lacks a judicial record, those exchanges focused on her actions as Harvard dean.
I want to go straight to CNN senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash.
Dana, it's been a long day. It's been an incredible day. You have been there watching every twist and turn. Did she answer her critics to their satisfaction on that issue?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Some yes, some no. I think mostly no, but the point that you just made is important. It has been a very long day.
You can see the hearing is still going on behind me that started at 9:00 a.m. That is nine hours ago. Just a moment ago, one GOP senator said -- he actually complimented her on explaining how she would approach cases from the Supreme Court, but that is not how the day started. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
BASH (voice-over): Republicans launched their first missile at what they call Elena Kagan's most vulnerable target.
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: You were punishing the military.
BASH: Trying to block military recruiters while dean of Harvard Law School, in part because of the Pentagon's ban on gays serving openly.
ELENA KAGAN, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: I do oppose the don't ask, don't tell policy.
SESSIONS: And you did then?
KAGAN: I did then.
BASH: With a sharp barrage of questions, GOP Senator Jeff Sessions accused Kagan of violating the law and denigrating the military.
SESSIONS: You were taking steps to treat them in a second-class way, not give them the same equal access because you deeply opposed the policy.
BASH: Kagan defended what she called a difficult balance.
KAGAN: And we were trying to do two things. We were trying to make sure that military recruiters had full and complete access to our students, but we were also trying to protect our own anti- discrimination policy.
SESSIONS: I'm just a little taken aback by the tone of your remarks, because it's unconnected to reality.
BASH: Kagan once derided Supreme Court nominations hearings as a vapid and hollow charade because nominee deflected substantive questions.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Now, you set the standard. You probably reread those reads?
KAGAN: Many times.
BASH: But now that she's the nominee, a different standard.
KAGAN: I did have the balance a little bit off and that I skewed it too much towards saying that answering is appropriate, even when it would, you know, provide some kind of hints. And I think that that was wrong.
BASH: So, like past nomination hearings, questions and some non- answers.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Does the president in your view have the authority to detain American citizens without criminal trial if they are suspected of conspiring to aid terrorists?
KAGAN: Senator Feinstein, this will, I think, very much be a case that may come before the court.
Senator Kyl, I would not want to characterize the current court in any way. I hope one day to join it.
SEN. JON KYL (R-AZ), MINORITY WHIP: And they said you are not political, right?
BASH: And on that point, Kagan admitted:
KAGAN: My political views are generally progressive.
BASH: But also promised:
KAGAN: That my politics would be, must be, have to be completely separate from my judgment.
BASH: Kagan sometimes deflected Republican interrogators with a firm tone.
KAGAN: My approach in these hearings has been not to grade cases.
BASH: But throughout the day tried to disarm senators.
KAGAN: It means I would have to get my hair done more often, Senator Specter.
BASH: Interjecting with humor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where were you at on Christmas?
KAGAN: You know, like all Jews, I was probably in a Chinese restaurant.
BASH: Now, Kagan did answer some questions and some of her answers on hot-button issues may not please all of her fellow Democrats. For example, on gun rights, she said that she considers recent cases before the Supreme Court rulings upholding the Second Amendment a good precedent going forward.
Suzanne, it was a long first day of Q&A and so far, she appears unscathed in her path to confirmation.
MALVEAUX: And, Dana, I understand it is going to be a long day tomorrow, but you are in it for the long haul. We really appreciate it. I guess another hour or so left today?
BASH: About that. I think they are going to get through a couple of more senators asking questions and call it a night.
MALVEAUX: All right, thanks again, Dana.
Well, joining me now, our CNN's John King, our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, CNN political contributor Roland Martin, and former Justice Department official Victoria Toensing.
I don't know what the experience was like for all of you. I saw you on television all day.
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It was riveting.
MALVEAUX: It was exciting, exhausting, but it is the part of our process. We go through it every single time.
Obviously, the don't ask, don't tell military policy, U.S. policy was on the top of many critics' questions today. And here is how she basically came out and responded. Here is how she feels about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAGAN: I have repeatedly said that I believe that the don't ask, don't tell policy is unwise and unjust. I believed it then and I believe it now. And we were trying to do two things.
We were trying to make sure that military recruiters had full and complete access to our students, but we were also trying to protect our own anti-discrimination policy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Did she satisfy the critics here, or does this put her in a position where she looks like a judicial activist, which is, the bottom line, that is not what people are looking for?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I think that she did what she had to do, which was she held the votes she already has.
Jeff Sessions, the senior Republican on the panel, he is never going to vote for Elena Kagan. She is never going to satisfy him, but there was no rolling series of questions that suggested other senators, particularly Democrats, were going to abandon Kagan. And with 58 Democrats in the Senate, that is really all she has to do.
VICTORIA TOENSING, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: And it also did not mean squat that she admitted that she was against don't ask, don't tell. We knew that. Look at all her writings. And she has written on very few things. That is one of them. She has a record that she could not deny. The only thing she could do was say, of course I oppose it. I always have.
MARTIN: And we have to be honest. Judicial activism is simply a code word used by Republicans to criticize liberal judges, when in fact there are conservative judges who are just as active on the bench, just like you have folks who are liberal.
But, again, so whenever we use that phrase, that is exactly what it is being used as. Both sides knows very well what it means.
MALVEAUX: And Senator Jeff Sessions, John, you had a chance to catch up with him, talk with him afterwards after he pressed her on her role in all of this as dean of the Harvard Law School and the recruiting policy. I want to play that exchange real quick.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SESSIONS: I was deeply disappointed that she seemed to have followed the White House spin and ignore the reality. She has suggested she was following the Third Circuit law, when the Third Circuit law never applied at Harvard. She backed off of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Was there anything in your interview do you think that would have satisfied Senator Sessions? Did it matter what she said?
JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING, USA": I think, to Jeff's point, Senator Sessions is 99.999 percent certain to vote no.
What was interesting about that exchange with Senator Sessions was his tone, in the sense that he thinks she is being factually inaccurate describing when and how the recruiters were tossed off the Harvard campus, when and how they decided to let them back on. He says she only did it under pressure from her -- their dean at -- the president of the university when they were threatened with federal funding.
That will be litigated over the couple of days. But what was interesting from a political tactical standpoint is Senator Sessions' questioning her intellectual honesty. He said he didn't think she was a dishonest person.
My question going forward is, does he come out so unhappy with this nominee that he goes to minority leader, Mitch McConnell, and says, should we try a filibuster? Republicans have largely said they don't think that will happen. I think that is still the position today.
But if they get raw about some other points, that's an interesting question. Most Republicans don't want to do that. They think this is a good election year for them. Independent voters don't like that. They don't like filibusters. They just want to have an up-and-down vote. But watch that in the next 24 hours or so.
MALVEAUX: Did anyone see a raw moment there?
MALVEAUX: Go ahead.
TOENSING: Well, no, Jeff Sessions was making a finer legal point, though, and I can understand. I didn't think she did very well there, because what -- the Third Circuit opinion did not have anything to do with Harvard.
It actually covered another geographical territory.
TOENSING: So, what Jeff was saying, well, why did you change what you had to do in Harvard, because this opinion did not really affect you?
And she -- he did not make his point as clearly to the layperson as he could have, and she didn't -- she danced around it.
MARTIN: But, look, when it came to race issues and admissions, there are a lot of people who were not covered by the Fifth Circuit decision who changed their university policies as a result of that decision that affected the University of Texas and others.
MARTIN: No, no, but, again, there were people who were anticipating what would happen down the road. So, they said, we see how the court is going, so we will change our policies here.
So, it has happened in that case. So I am not surprised it happened in this case.
MALVEAUX: Elena Kagan said she would welcome cameras in the courtroom. And she said it was -- she called it an awesome sight when she was in the courtroom to watch the Supreme Court in action. What do you think -- what do you make of that?
TOOBIN: Well, this is an example of a generational change at the court.
We have often pointed out that voting records of Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan are probably going to be fairly similar to David Souter and John Paul Stevens. This is one issue where they really disagree, because Stevens and Souter were against cameras. And I think this is part of a slow movement that will ultimately get cameras in the courtroom.
MARTIN: We pay them. We need cameras.
MALVEAUX: All right. We are going to leave it there.
TOENSING: ... for the Supreme Court.
MALVEAUX: We will all be watching very intently and closely tomorrow. Thanks again, guys.
Jack Cafferty is going to have "The Cafferty File" in just a moment.
Plus, General David Petraeus backs the president's war strategy and gets the backing of a key Senate panel.
And those alleged Russian spies include several married couples, and three of them apparently have children. What happens to those children now?
Plus, Wolf's interview with Bill Clinton -- why the former president says we should be prepared for a few more years in Afghanistan.
MALVEAUX: Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File."
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Suzanne, the spotlight is back on the war in Afghanistan, big time.
In the wake of the public dismissal of General Stanley McChrystal and the renewed talk of a withdrawal date, there are lots of things being talked about in connection with what is now this country's longest war.
And none of it is very pretty.
As the U.S. continues to escalate troop levels, top officials are warning of a long, tough road ahead.
CIA Director Leon Panetta says the Afghanistan war has -- quote -- "serious problems." He says progress is being made, but the fight is harder and slower than anyone anticipated. Panetta cites problems with the government, corruption, drug trafficking, and the Taliban insurgency.
And speaking of corruption, "The Wall Street Journal" reports that American investigators think top Afghan officials have been flying more than $3 billion in U.S. aid and drug money to financial havens out of the country over the last three years.
That would be our tax dollars. "The Journal" says President Hamid Karzai's brother, long suspected of being deeply involved in Afghanistan's drug trade, is one of the officials in question. What the hell are we doing?
President Obama has said U.S. troops would begin pulling out in July of 2011, but he seems to be hedging on that lately.
Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger is warning, the U.S. exit strategy -- quote -- "provides a mechanism for failure" -- unquote. Kissinger says the public needs to be prepared for a long struggle.
Here's the question: Is success possible in Afghanistan?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. Post a comment on my blog -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: I'm sure you will get a lot of responses. Thanks, Jack.
MALVEAUX: President Obama's pick to run the Afghan war endorsed his commander in chief's strategy, including the 2011 deadline for starting a troop withdrawal.
While members of the Senate Armed Services Committee bickered over the issue, they did give General David Petraeus their endorsement. His nomination now moves to the full Senate.
Let's go live to CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.
And, Barbara, tells us about what this means and moving forward in terms of the mission.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, General Petraeus is expected to be confirmed by the full Senate within days, and on the ground in Afghanistan very quickly. The White House and the Pentagon trying to hit the reset button on this war.
STARR (voice-over): General David Petraeus' confirmation hearing underscored the general savvy negotiating the political mine fields on Capitol Hill. First, he pledged teamwork with other officials, a spirit that may have been missing during General Stanley McChrystal's time.
GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: The campaign in Afghanistan must be a fully integrated, civil-military effort, one that includes an unshakable commitment to teamwork among all elements of the U.S. government,
STARR: Petraeus let the committee know he is in touch with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Karzai's efforts to negotiate a settlement with some Taliban leaders. PETRAEUS: And this is something else that President Karzai and I discussed literally on the way over here, again, this morning. It's the next big focus.
STARR: A senior Republican expressed his annoyance, but the general would not be pinned into the corner about how big the troop withdrawal may be in July 2011.
PETRAEUS: What I have done is restate the policy as it currently exists, Senator, and the policy, again, that as I stated, I supported and agreed to back last fall to begin a process in July 2011.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: And somebody needs to get it straight, without doubt, what the hell we're going to do come July, because I think it determines whether or not someone in Afghanistan is going to stay in the fight.
STARR: Another worry, troops are concerned they are risking their lives due to combat rules restricting their ability to return fire for fear of civilians inadvertently being hurt. Petraeus promised a hard look at the rules.
PETRAEUS: In any operation the minute you go outside the gates -- you don't want to take risk coming than should be there in the first place. That's what we do. But we have a solemn obligation, really a moral imperative, to ensure that when our troopers and our Afghan partners are in a tough spot, that we do what is necessary.
STARR: And more difficult news: A new report from the special U.S. inspector general for Afghanistan says Afghan forces, they are woefully unprepared to take over. And, of course, it is only when Afghan forces take over in that country that U.S. troops can come home -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Thank you, Barbara.
A former commander in chief on the firing of General Stanley McChrystal. What does Bill Clinton think of President Obama's decision? Wolf Blitzer is going to ask him.
And we're tracking the storm called Alex, a potential hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico -- details of where it is heading now.
MALVEAUX: A former commander in chief on what it will take to win the war in Afghanistan. Wolf Blitzer goes one-on-one with former President Bill Clinton.
Also, small business owners caught in the BP backlash. Who is the boycott really hurting? Plus, 11 people arrested by the U.S. accused of spying for Russia. We have new details that could be straight out of a spy novel.
MALVEAUX: Wolf Blitzer spoke about the Afghanistan war with former President Bill Clinton. The interview took place in South Africa at the Fortune/Time/CNN global forum, which compensated the former president for his appearance.
Take a listen.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's talk about some of the global security challenges right now.
The war in Afghanistan, from the U.S. perspective, it is winnable?
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If it becomes a home game. Let me explain that.
Most people think that America had great success with the surge in Iraq. That is true, but it is important not to forget why the surge worked. We not only concentrated military resources in an area where we had the ability to have an impact and increase security. We did it in aftermath of the local Sunni leaders turning radically against the al Qaeda in Iraq, because they overplayed their hand and they went around decapitating tribal leaders that didn't agree with them on things like putting women in boxes and hiding them away in life.
So, our surge became the home team. The reason that every counterinsurgency has failed since World War II, except what the British did in Malaysia, where the insurgents were native Chinese, and not Malaysian, and they stayed 14 years, is that it's still an away game.
And look at the debate. If you have looked at any of the talk shows today, the problem with an away game is, you can always go home. And they don't have anyplace else to go. So, I don't care how much bigger your forces are, how much bigger your bombs are, how much more powerful your guns are. If they're willing to stay and play until you get tired, they win.
So, I think that General Petraeus and before him General McChrystal, I think they had the right idea. They are trying to turn it into a home game. If they do -- it is the same point I made to you. If this becomes about building an Afghanistan that the Afghans want and are willing to take responsibility for, instead of just shoveling a bunch of money there that goes out the door in corruption and does not help ordinary people, yes, they can prevail.
They have the intelligence, the skills, and the technology, and the raw courage to prevail. But it -- we have got to turn it into a home game. If President Obama can make it a home game, we will do all right.
But our objective there is to hem up al Qaeda, so they can't blow up America or Cape Town or anyplace else outside their neighborhood. However, that is not the objective of the Afghans. Therefore, we have got to marry our objective to theirs and make it a home game. If it becomes a home game, we can win.
BLITZER: How long will it take?
CLINTON: Nobody knows. I think that it is OK to have them on -- I'm sort of in a middle position here with this debate about whether the president did the right thing by saying when we're going to start to draw down, and the other guys that say, well, they will just wait us out.
I think that, keep in mind, converting it into a home game requires us to get -- to help create a government in Afghanistan with a level of competence and honesty that has historically not been the case.
So, if they think that they have got a blank check, there is no pressure on them. But I think we have to be prepared to do it for a few more years.
BLITZER: A few more years. Three? Five?
CLINTON: I don't know. I'm not close enough to it anymore.
I will just tell you, if I were running it every day and McChrystal, I think that -- I don't want to get into - I think the president did what he had to do, but before, the idea that we were sending all these soldiers out to try to relate better to the people in the villages and to do what they wanted to do and making deals with them, and that was the right strategy. It can't be just what we want. It has to be that we have to incidentally benefit by strengthening their ability to do what they want. He was trying to turn it into a home game, and we will either do it or we won't.
BLITZER: McChrystal, the president from your perspective had no choice, he had to fire him?
CLINTON: First, it was his decision, and secondly, I don't know that he did have a choice. Not so much because of what he allegedly said about the president. The presidents have pretty thick hides, but this is about civilian control of the military and about what he and his aides improvidently said about everybody else. When you are president, you field the team, too, and you are the home team, and you are the leader of the home team, and if you are not sticking up for your folks, that is a problem. So you can't let anybody, no matter how important they are dump on the vice president and the ambassador and who knows who else, and everybody got scalded except for Hillary and Secretary Gates, and so I think that he did what he had to do.
BLITZER: We haven't paid a lot of attention on Iraq lately, but I don't know about you, but I feel that this is by no means going to have a positive outcome, the influence in Iraq, and the election, and how worried are you by what we are seeing in Iraq right now?
CLINTON: I'm quite worried, but the deal we made there was to give them a chance. They had a legitimate election, and it turned out to be very tight. Tighter elections are harder to deal with in the aftermath than landslides, and I'm very worried about it. But I don't think that there was much we can do from a military point of view until they recognize that they, they have got to find some accommodation, and it is hard for them, because this is the first time they have had a government that is elected, so if you narrowly lose, you spend a whole lot of time trying to figure out how to turn the narrow defeat into a narrow victory by getting somebody to side with you or causing enough problems to get people to do what you want. That's all natural. I still think they have an excellent chance to have a successful enterprise if somebody can succeed in reminding those who didn't win that there is another election up the road. If they honor this one, their ability to be honored if they win the next win will be quite good, and since they have a lot of economic problems after all of the years of war, it is more likely than not that those who are on the short end will be on the long end the next time. I am very worried about it, but I don't think it can be fixed by sending in a bunch more soldiers in there. I think this is a political problem and we need to be talking to them and remind them they wanted control of their own destiny, and the election proved what they all knew, the country is divided, and they need to learn how to hang together so in Benjamin Franklin's words, so they don't hang separately.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: General Stanley McChrystal will apparently be allowed to keep his four stars in retirement. By law, McChrystal actually does not have enough time at that level to retire with the benefits of a four-star. But a senior pentagon official tells CNN's Barbara Starr that President Obama is waving the requirement because of McChrystal's many years of honorable service. He has spoken with Secretary Gibbs about the move and Congress has to move to approve the retirement.
A boycott of BP targets gas stations with the oil giant's logo, but is all of that anger aimed in the wrong direction?
And some of the alleged Russian agents are parents, raising the questions, what happens to their children?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How hard is it to be a spy when you have kids of any age?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That has to be incredibly difficult, because when you are a spy, the focus of your life is to be a spy.
MALVEAUX: It is hard to look at anything with the BP logo and not think of the gulf oil disaster, and some people are venting their anger at the thousands of BP gas stations across the U.S. but CNN's Mary Snow reports that the anger may be misdirected. Mary, the first time I went to a gas station all of the time and I had no idea it was BP until the oil spill. How are people responding?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is mixed. Some stations are affected and some are not. But the bulk of the BP gas stations in the United States are not even owned by BP, but by independent owners. So they are trying to redirect anger that is hurting their business and today, BP announced some help.
SNOW: Owning this Chicago BP station, Bob Juckniess is spending a lot of time explaining to customers that BP doesn't own the station, that he is an independent owner.
BOB JUCKNIESS, BP STATION OWNER: Every time something happens where they try to stop the leak and it fails, they are coming in the next day saying, now, what are you going to do?
SNOW: As a result, Juckniess says that the business at his ten stations have dropped 20%. The backlash has been building.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Boycott BP!
SNOW: Along with the protests more than 700,000 people have signed up for the boycott BP fan page Facebook page. And Public Citizen is calling on consumers to boycott BP products for three months, but what about independent BP gas station owners? We asked the president of the advocacy group?
ROBERT WEISSMAN, PRESIDENT, PUBLIC CITIZEN: Well there's no question that a boycott is going to hurt some innocent victims. That's true of any boycott, whether or not BP owns the station, people will be hurt, and that is something that has to be taken into account for anybody who calls a boycott at any time. But we do need a way to hold BP accountable, and this is one way to do it.
SNOW: Of the 10,000-plus BP stations, the vast majority are independently owned and the owners are turning up pressure on BP for help. The company is now offering help to the tune of an estimated $60 million. Cash is being offered to some owners, and many wanted to be able to cut the price of gasoline to bring back customer, and owners are being offered a reduction in credit card fees and marketing and advertising, and in a statement, the company left the door open saying that "BP will continue to evaluate the program and offers as the situation and environment evolves." Also reaching out to gas station owners, Public Citizen. It wants the gas station owners to speak out publicly against BP. Bob says for one, he is not signing up.
JUCKNIESS: Am I frustrated with some of the things that have occurred in the gulf? Yes. Am I disappointed in the efforts to date? Yes. But at the end of the day, I'm still associated with the BP brand and I have to do what I can to salvage my business.
SNOW: And the BP owners are saying they are caught in the middle. Though he will not express opposition to BP, he is asking gas station owners to volunteer to help with the cleanup efforts in the gulf, and something he is planning to do in the next few weeks. Suzanne?
MALVEAUX: All right. Thank you, Mary.
Well, false identities, buried cash, invisible ink and secret hand offs are some of the methods that prosecutors say an alleged Russian spy ring used in the United States. Our CNN's Brian Todd reveals more.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here's the handoff, and what is the object of this brush pass?
ERIC O'NEILL, FORMER FBI OPERATIVE: The object is to exchange the information and device without making eye contact and minimal contact with bodies as possible and as slick as possible.
MALVEAUX: An 11th member of the alleged Russian spy ring was arrested today in cypress and faces extradition the United States. Now in this country, the shock waves are still spreading as prosecutors describe details of a deep cover intelligence operation that sounds like it is straight out of a spy novel. Our CNN's Brian Todd is looking into that, and it is so fascinating to actually unfold all of the details of this ring. It is amazing.
TODD: It is like reading a novel, Suzanne. This was the deepest of cover. According to court documents these alleged spies were told by the Russian handlers this was a long-term operation. Prosecutors say that they were invested in education, housing and everything, and seems that the operatives took that commitment further.
TODD: Prosecutors say they had very clear marching orders from Moscow to, recruit spies with information on American industry and weapons and go so deep undercover that you blend in and stay a while. The alleged spies also called illegals include at least four married couples. According to local officials and a report in the New York Times at least three of those couples had children, and some very young.
They are leaving children here and had children and now what happens?
O'NEILL: Well, it boggles the mind. They are going to at least be two elementary school-aged children who quite possibly could be left behind in this if their parents end up in prison, and there has to be some sort of an amazing mindset to have children, to build such a life and discard it, because your operational profile is to be a spy and to recruit spies.
TODD: Eric O'Neill is a former FBI operative who helped to take down Russia's operative mole Robert Hanson, Russia's infamous FBI mole. O'Neill says it is unusual to have this many suburban families. The spy craft, prosecutors say some of it say it is the stuff of novels, like using invisible ink and traditional methods of exchanging information and money, like dead drops of packages and so called brush passes in public. The brush pass, how does it work? Well you have to hand off identical objects to each other like this blackberry that Eric O'Neill and I will do, and Eric here's the hand off. What is the object here, Eric?
O'NEILL: The objective is to exchange the information or device without eye contact, and with minimal body contact and as slick as possible so that any observer won't notice it happened.
TODD: You can't really stop, either?
O'NEILL: You can't stop. You have to move directly through and you don't want a pause and bumble, it has to be fast.
TODD: But they also got high-tech according to prosecutors like using stenography, embedding an encode message in an image that anyone could see on a web site, and then extracting that message with software and using computers with special capability. I spoke about that with Peter Earnest, former CIA operations officers. They used specially configured laptops with private wireless networks to communicate just between those laptops. What does that do for you in communication as a spy?
PETER EARNEST, DIR. INTERNATIONAL SPY MUSEUM: Well, all of the trade craft in espionage technology is designed to enable the intelligence officer to communicate to the agent without being seen with him or her.
TODD: And yet the defendants also met in some very public places and spoke fairly openly with the handlers according to prosecutors and one of the meetings was between an alleged spy and an FBI officer posing as a Russian handler. That was at an intersection and park here in Washington not far from our D.C. bureau. That meeting according to the documents was just about one day before this spy network was taken down.
MALVEAUX: And Brian, I understand there is new information about the timing of these arrests as well?
TODD: That's right. According to a justice department spokesman, the arrests had to be carried out this past Sunday because of the fact that one of the suspects was about to depart the United States. We don't have information on which one it was or where that suspect might have been going but they had to take them all down on Sunday. You can't take down one person in the operation like this and not take all of them, so they had to move fast on Sunday.
MALVEAUX: Brian, fascinating reporting. Thank you so much.
Lisa Sylvester is monitoring other top stories coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What are you work on? LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi Suzanne. Well, this just into CNN, the national incident command in charge of the gulf oil recovery says it needs help with the clean up and now the state department is announcing the United States will accept assistance from 12 other nations and international groups. Officials say they need more boom and skimmers. The government is trying to figure out how to get the resources. 27 countries have offered to help with the spill.
Manuel Noriega is telling a French court that he is a victim of a conspiracy started by the United States. The former Panamanian dictator testified for the first time today in Paris. Authorities say he laundered nearly $3 million in drug trafficking profits through French banks. Noriega was extradited from the United States in April after spending 20 years in federal prison.
And the body of Senator Robert Byrd will lie in repose in the U.S. Senate chamber Thursday. Members of the public won't be allowed on the Senate floor, but they can pay their respects from the gallery above. The West Virginia Democrat died yesterday morning. The white house announced that President Obama and Vice President Biden will attend the memorial service in Charleston, West Virginia on Friday. Byrd is the longest serving member of Congress with nine terms in the Senate after six years in the house. Hard to believe that Robert Byrd is no longer with us.
MALVEAUX: I am sure a lot of people will be paying their respects. Thank you, Lisa.
Jack Cafferty is next with your e-mail and then they are parlaying the parents' political fame into TV careers. Jeanne Moos takes a most unusual look.
MALVEAUX: Time now to check back in with Jack Cafferty. Hey, Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question this hour, is success possible in Afghanistan?
Joe writes from Brigantine, New Jersey, "Let's think about it a minute. The Afghan administration is corrupt and moving our money into their overseas bank accounts, the nation is a loosely connected group of tribes which must affect the formation and training of their national army and the dominant religion is one that's determined to keep the nation living in the 13th century."
Jeff writes, "Although Afghanistan has been the graveyard of empires, the U.S. can still win. We need to realize that this is more about building a new nation than fighting a war. This means that there will truly be a lights out moment in Afghanistan but continued diplomatic involvement seeking to foster a fragile new government."
Richard in Tennessee, "The problem is in the wording of your question. What is the measure of success? I don't have any idea why we are in Afghanistan beyond trying to catch the planners of 9/11. That sure had not been very successful."
Frank in Texas, "No, I do not believe we can ever have a clear victory in Iraq or Afghanistan. There is a never ending supply of Jihadists who are poor, uneducated and totally brainwashed by their so called spiritual leaders and it's unlikely that we will ever be able to eradicate extreme fundamentalism as long as we support Israel at the expense of the Palestinians and keep a military presence in Muslim nations."
Jane in Minnesota writes, "I don't think so and I've felt this way since it started. No other country has been able to tame it. There's illegal drug money to be made there. It's like Mexico. They can't tame the drug lords there either."
And Micah writes, "When after nine years of war nobody can define what a war win would look like in Afghanistan then it is time to get out."
If you want to read more, you'll find it on my blog, CNN.com/Caffertyfile. Suzanne, I will see you tomorrow.
MALVEAUX: I will see you tomorrow Jack. All right.
JOHN KING USA starts at the top of the hour. Among his guests, Kerry Hughes and Mark Penn on the Petraeus confirmation hearings.
But first, the reviews are in on Jenna Bush, Bristol Palin and more as they launch their TV careers. Jeanne Moos takes a most unusual look.
MALVEAUX: Here's a look at "Hot Shots." In China, rescuers helped villagers evacuate after a treacherous landslide. In Nepal, farmers plant rice in a field on national paddy day. In Australia, a delegate local parade for the grand parade of nations. In Pakistan, children play in the streets of Islamabad. Hot shots, pictures worth a thousand words.
Well their parents are famous politicians, and now they're taking their own crack of fame on TV. But the reviews are mixed. Jeanne Moos takes a most unusual look.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're the latest crop.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's pretty beautiful here.
MOOS: The daughters of famous politicians.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was hilarious.
MOOS: To get jobs on TV thanks to their names.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come on. We have to get going. MOOS: They've been going to morning news shows.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Contributing correspondent Jenna Bush Hager.
MOOS: And a teen drama.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The visitor everyone's buzzing about.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How did you know I had a baby?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bristol Palin.
MOOS: Bristol plays herself, a teenage mom.
BRISTOL PALIN: We're all teen moms and musicians, everyone in this program. This program is for teen moms.
MOOS: But reviews have been brutal based on a 30-second advanced clip.
PALIN: You're the world's greatest French horn player and I'm yo-yo ma.
MOOS: Meryl Streep she isn't.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Give her a w for wouldn't.
MOOS: You could build a canoe out-it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was nervous, definitely, but I had a wonderful time.
MOOS: The daughter of Senator Scott Brown didn't seem nervous.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To me, he's just the guy who taught me basketball.
MOOS: During a profile of her dad for the CBS "Early Show."
SEN. SCOTT BROWN: They're both available.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you scared or worried that I won't find someone? Is that why you said I wasn't available?
BROWN: No. It was strictly as a joke.
MOOS: Editor of "Hollywood Life" gave her a thumbs up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's very natural on camera. She's funny.
MOOS: No wonder she's more polished. She's a singer who's competed on "American Idol." But getting less respect was the former President Bush's daughter Jenna.
JENNA BUSH: From this magnificent --
MOOS: The schoolteacher is now contributing to the "Today" show.
BUSH: And when you set foot in Yellowstone, everything seems to slow down.
MOOS: Yeah. Everything. Including her delivery.
BUSH: Some visitors will sit for hours and never see any wildlife or an eruption.
MOOS: She got caught on camera reading her notes.
BUSH: We'll meet some of the people who like to jump out of the fast lane.
MOOS: There was some awkward chitchat with the anchors.
BUSH: A day at work. Natalie?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's the temperature there this morning, Jenna?
BUSH: It's pretty cold. The gloves.
MOOS: The reviews ranged from painful to train wreck.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think she's too bad. I think that she's got potential.
MOOS: But one person posted, "Without family connections, she couldn't get a gig doing the farm report on a public access show in Kansas." They're not beating around this Bush.
BUSH: The gloves.
MOOS: Jeanne Moos.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Me, too.
MOOS: CNN, New York.
MALVEAUX: Remember, you can follow what's going on in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm on twitter. You can get my tweets at twitter.com/suzannemalveaux. That's all one word.
I'm Suzanne Malveaux in THE SITUATION ROOM. "JOHN KING USA" starts right now.