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THE SITUATION ROOM

BP's Progress in Capping Well?; Top Secret America

Aired July 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: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: anomalies at the BP oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. So far, the cap is holding, but there is concern about seepage and methane gas. We're standing by for new information this hour, a BP briefing about to begin.

Also, "Top Secret America," a startling expose of an intelligence community grown out of control, so massive, it's almost become, the authors say, a fourth branch of government. We will talk with one of the "Washington Post" reporters who spent two years investigating it.

And the developer behind the controversial plan to build an Islamic center and mosque near ground zero in New York defends it against critics. You're going to hear him make his case.

We want to welcome or viewers within the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

There's some cause for concern as BP decides to extend its test of the new cap That shut in the notorious Gulf oil well. Now there's some methane gas that's seeping from the seafloor not very far away.

Let's bring in CNN's Chad Myers. He's following all of this for us.

Chad, update our viewers, what we know right now. These are sensitive moments.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Sensitive moments. And what we need to know, just put this in your head for just the first thing you think about. Every year from the year, I don't know, 2000 B.C., thousands of years ago until now, 40 million gallons of oil leaks into the Gulf of Mexico naturally from cracks in the crust of the ocean floor.

It just does. It just has been coming up forever. And so we have now some oil, possibly some methane, leaking out of some of these cracks. And now the government is saying, is this is a problem? Well, it could be, sure, if that oil or if that methane is coming from cracks in what would be the well. Absolutely that would be a problem. Because even then if we had it shut down, this oil and this methane could continue to leak forever. They don't want that to happen. They don't want this wellbore, they don't want this casing to be shattered or to break anywhere, because then all of a sudden this thing could leak forever. And that's certainly not the whole thing. Going down and down and down, from 5,000 all the way down to 18,000 feet, there's a very long bore here from the top of the -- where the Horizon used to be, before it sunk and burned, and then down here where the blowout preventer is, and then all of this soil, all of this crust. And in the crust, naturally occurring, there are cracks up and down, just because earthquakes happen. That's the shifting plates, the shifting faults.

And these faults allow seepage of natural gas and oil to come up from way down here, from the oil reservoir. What the oil reservoir does, if it's coming up here, the problem and the worry is, but now that we have stopped the oil and now that we know that this pressure in this entire bore is up to 6,811 PSI -- go to Home Depot. Try to find a pressure washer that's 6,000 PSI. I don't even know if they exist.

It's a tremendous amount of pressure, not from a small hose like a pressure washer, but from a very large hose, which is this wellbore. So, now we could break this wellbore. Someone could. The pressure could break it and then that would be a real problem.

They don't want that to happen. They want to see the pressures stay where they are. And they don't want obviously to see any oil leaking from someplace else. Well, they did see some methane leaking from three kilometers away, about two miles away.

But Admiral Allen said this is not -- we do not think this has anything to do with a breakage anywhere along the wellbore. Now, we do know that some bubbles are coming up from around the top up here, from where the old blowout preventer was. And they put the new cap on. It's not a perfect seal. We knew it wasn't a perfect seal the last time because oil was coming out.

But now they're seeing a few methane bubbles and compared to what it is, Wolf, it's still a win.

BLITZER: So far, the oil isn't spilling into the Gulf, at least over these past three or four days.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Chad, I want you to join me in the questioning.

I have brought in a Professor Ira Leifer. He's an expert in this whole area. He's a researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Ira, thanks very much for coming in. I want to point out to our viewers you were part of the government's flow rate investigating committee. You helped determine how much oil is seeping out.

Give us your bottom-line assessment. Based on everything you have seen and heard since the test started four days ago, how does it look?

IRA LEIFER, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SANTA BARBARA: Certainly the fact that oil is not going into the Gulf is a very good sign.

However, the concern is growing and needs to be maintained with high vigilance because there are pathways, as Chad just indicated, by which oil and gas coming out of the well into intermediate rock layers could reach the surface and create an uncontrollable situation. So, monitoring of this situation is very important and critical...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Are they still consulting with you? Or is that over with?

LEIFER: To my knowledge, the technical flow rate team got together, met, did its duty, and has been put to sleep, or laid to rest.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: If they were asking you right now what to do, what would you say?

LEIFER: I would say that it's really critical to have a continuous monitoring at the seabed to examine and make sure that there is no increase in the seepage and that seepage, natural seeps, so to speak, in the area aren't changing or increasing as the pressure changes in the well.

BLITZER: How can they tell if it's natural seepage or if it's seepage related to this oil disaster?

LEIFER: There's really no way to tell directly. What you would have to do is look for a change in pressure in the wellhead, and then look for change in the natural seepage, correlation between the two.

In one case, it comes up through cracks in the rock. In the other, it comes up through a pipe, but it's basically the same oil and gas.

BLITZER: I know Chad has a question he wants to ask you as well.

Go ahead, Chad.

MYERS: Ira, we talk a lot about the oil that comes up naturally. And I know there are organisms that eat this stuff, but did we really pollute the Gulf of Mexico so much with all of this oil that there's no way that these organisms could ever catch up? Do you know?

LEIFER: Well, eventually, the organisms, bacteria, always win in the long term, but we don't really want to wait for the long term.

Right now, the estimate for the total amount emitted by this event is comparable to natural seepage for the entire planet, the same order, and yet it happened all in one place. And there's a huge difference between dispersed oil that goes in wide areas and where it's all in one point. You can sort of see the difference between a drop of oil everywhere and it all on one bird or something. BLITZER: You have another question, Chad?

MYERS: I'm just wondering, is there any threat now that these dispersants that we have talked about being so toxic, could they be toxic to these organisms down there that we're going to rely on to eat this oil for so long?

LEIFER: I think the microbial communities will adjust to whatever the dispersants are, but it will make the process take longer.

And let me just add a real concern, which is that, geologically speaking, we know that natural systems explode in blowouts that create pockmarks, some of them as large as 22 kilometers in diameter, OK? So there's a real concern that if there's not continuous monitoring, there's a very large safety hazard to all the people working above at the sea surface.

It's only 35 minutes from the seabed for a large explosion of gas to reach the sea surface. And, really, we're very much worried for safety.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: What would happen?

LEIFER: There would be lives lost. A large blowout would lead to boats without water underneath them. They would crack and fall. It would also lead to a lack of oxygen that people need for breathing, and the scenario would be very negative.

BLITZER: Bottom line, the two relief wells that they're drilling, which they hope kill this well once and for all by mid- August, are you confident that will work?

LEIFER: I'm confident that eventually those relief wells will work.

BLITZER: What does that mean, eventually?

LEIFER: It may not be on the very first time. It's very difficult. And certainly the best technology I'm sure is being used. But in past experience, it has taken more than one try. I hope they get it on the first time.

BLITZER: If they don't get it on the first try, are they talking just another day or two or weeks or what?

LEIFER: Any of the above. Just keep trying and eventually they will get it.

BLITZER: Ira Leifer, thanks very much for coming in. Good to have you here in Washington.

LEIFER: Thank you.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is coming up next with "The Cafferty File."

Then: an intelligence community grown out of control in the wake of 9/11. We will talk with one of the reporters behind a chilling expose of Top Secret America.

Also, the man who wants to build an Islamic center and mosque only blocks away from ground zero in New York defends his plans against critics who call it insensitive, insulting, and even worse.

And an unlikely Senate candidate gives his first major speech -- details of what he said and how it was received.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, nearly nine years into the war in Afghanistan, and it seems there are more questions than ever about what exactly we're doing over there.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Afghanistan to lead the American delegation to the Kabul conference.

The Afghan government is supposed to talk at this international meeting about how it's going to tackle a deteriorating security situation and crack down on corruption.

But even as the United States has added tens of thousands of troops to the fight there, last month was the deadliest since the beginning of the war for international forces -- 103 coalition troops killed, and the militants keep attacking every single day.

The Obama administration says it's going to review its Afghan strategy later this year, but there are growing concerns from all corners about where we're headed.

Democratic Senator John Kerry says it's not clear the administration has a solid strategy. And Republican Senator Richard Lugar is criticizing a lack of clarity about U.S. goals in Afghanistan. Even the administration's point man for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, acknowledges that things are not working out as planned.

Meanwhile, a record number of U.S. soldiers killed themselves last month. The Army says 32 soldiers committed suicide in June. That's the highest in any month since the Vietnam War. Seven of those soldiers were on active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Army officials say we're not sure -- they're not sure what's behind the spike in suicides.

The United States, meanwhile, is approaching insolvency. We continue to pour hundreds of billions of dollars into a nine-year-old war, and no one seems to have a real good explanation of just why we continue.

So, here's the question: Is the war in Afghanistan really worth it?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good question, Jack. Thanks very much.

A proposal to build a community center that includes a mosque only blocks away from ground zero in New York is causing an uproar in New York and beyond.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick spoke with the developer behind this idea and asked some tough questions.

Deb, what did he tell you?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hey there, Wolf.

He says that the Islamic community center, with its prayer space, is getting built, period. It's a done deal, whether or not the existing structure gets landmark status. And it sounds pretty defiant. But to the driving force behind this, it's a labor of love.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK: This is where you sort of conceived of the idea?

SHARIF EL-GAMAL, SOHO PROPERTIES: Yes, it is.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Meet New York real estate developer Sharif El-Gamal, the man at the center of a controversial plan a stone's throw from the World Trade Center site.

EL-GAMAL: This is a Muslim-led project. This is an Islamic community center that will cater to all of New York. Fitness, gym and basketball courts.

FEYERICK: Plans include a performing arts center, swimming pool, child care facilities, and, yes, a Muslim prayer space two blocks from the worst terror attack in U.S. history.

(on camera): Why not have a prayer space for Buddhists or Jews or Christians? Or why must it be Muslim? It can't just be a business decision.

EL-GAMAL: There are Jewish community centers all over the country.

FEYERICK: But the Jews didn't take down two towers.

EL-GAMAL: There are YMCAs all over the country.

FEYERICK: But the Christians didn't take down two towers.

EL-GAMAL: And this is a need that exists.

FEYERICK: For those who are so still sensitive and so raw to this, their question, their overriding question is, why here? Why so close? It's two blocks, but it was close enough that landing gear ended up on the roof. Why?

EL-GAMAL: There is a need. It's supply and demand. The community wants it. The politicians are supporting it.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Maybe. But many who attended a town hall meeting recently were dead-set against it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have we forgotten what happened at 9/11?

EL-GAMAL: What happened that day is not Islam. What happened that day is terrorism.

FEYERICK: Coming out of that hearing, somebody said the Japanese would never have dared to build on Pearl Harbor. What makes this different?

EL-GAMAL: If you're at that hearing, the way that I was at that hearing, you come out understanding that there is a great need for dialogue now.

FEYERICK: El-Gamal says many people don't understand Islam, but does that make it Islamophobia?

EL-GAMAL: One hundred percent.

FEYERICK (on camera): Why?

EL-GAMAL: Because the moderate voice of Islam is not coming out.

FEYERICK: Can you guarantee that this center will root out extremism or completely reject any extremists that...

(CROSSTALK)

EL-GAMAL: A hundred percent. We will not tolerate extremism. We will not tolerate extremism.

FEYERICK (voice-over): And yet critics say the leader Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has links to groups that support terror.

EL-GAMAL: Imam Feisal is one of the most moderate Muslims that exists in this country today.

FEYERICK (on camera): Will you reject any money that comes either directly or indirectly from any person, any country, any organization, any corporation that has any links to terrorism? Will you be doing due diligence?

EL-GAMAL: We are going to be doing extreme due diligence, and we're going to hire the best security experts in the country to help us walk through the process. And we plan on being very transparent throughout the whole process.

FEYERICK: For those who would say this is not an olive branch to greater understanding, this is more an act of defiance, how would you answer those people? EL-GAMAL: This is an olive branch.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK: Now, El-Gamal points out that there are more than a million Muslims in the tristate area and that the American-Muslim consumer nearly $200 billion a year.

So, when he talks about these centers of business, it certainly is that. He hopes people of all religions and nationalities will be able to learn and share in the mainstream Muslim experience -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Deborah Feyerick, thanks very much for that report.

By the way, Sarah Palin is now tweeting about this whole controversy with some "Moost Unusual" lines. Jeanne Moos will take a look at that.

And millions of people with access to sensitive information and a spy network with untold reach. I will speak with the "Washington Post" reporter who uncovered an intelligence community so huge, so complex, even the White House may not have a complete handle on what's going on.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: A two-year investigation reveals a U.S. intelligence community so big, it's being compared to a top-secret fourth branch of the government. Dana Priest of "The Washington Post," one of the reporters behind the story, she is here to explain what she has uncovered.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A two-year investigation by "The Washington Post" is now revealing a massive U.S. national security apparatus that's being compared to a secret fourth branch of the U.S. government.

Take a look at this video put together by "The Washington Post" on its Web site with a summary of some of the conclusions of this report.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: You think you know America, but you don't know top- secret America. We're all aware that there are three branches of government in the United States. But, in response to 9/11, a fourth branch has emerged. It is protected from public scrutiny by extraordinary secrecy, top-secret America.

WILLIAM ARKIN, "THE WASHINGTON POST": This is a closed community. And since 9/11, it's become even more so. DANA PRIEST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": The money spigot was just opened after 9/11, and nobody dared say, I don't think we should be spending that much.

NARRATOR: It has become so big, and the lines of responsibility are so blurred, that even our nation's leaders don't have a handle on it.

Where is it? It's being built from coast to coast, hidden within some of America's most familiar cities and neighborhoods, in Colorado, in Nebraska, in Texas, in Florida, in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.

Top-secret America includes hundreds of federal departments and agencies operating out of 1,300 facilities around this country. They contract the services of nearly 2,000 companies. In all, more people than live in our nation's capital have top-secret security clearance.

DANA PRIEST: It's, again, the size, the lack of transparency and the cost. And if we don't get it right, the consequences are gigantic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And joining us now from "The Washington Post," the co- author of this article, "Top Secret America," Dana Priest. She -- her co-author is William Arkin.

Dana, thanks very much for joining us.

PRIEST: Thanks for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: What shocked you the most after this two-year investigation?

PRIEST: Well, really two things.

One was just the sheer size. We had a feeling that things had grown bigger. That's why we undertook this. But I guess, in the end, I was surprised at just how big it's grown.

We counted about 1,900 contractors, large companies, mainly, doing this work, and another 1,300 government organizations that work in the general area of counterintelligence. About a quarter of each of those are completely new after 9/11. And many, many of them have grown -- the ones that existed already -- have grown quite big following the attacks.

BLITZER: And despite this enormous growth, nearly a million people, Americans, now have top-secret security clearances. The federal government spends, what, $70 billion a year on intelligence? What's the latest number that you have?

PRIEST: It's much more than that.

The public number is $75 billion, but that does not include a lot of the military programs that are so important. The other point that is very surprising to me was that, in hundreds of interviews with former, but also current officials, many of them expressed frustration that they didn't know how -- how large everything had become. They didn't know how many people worked in it, and they didn't know just how much contractors were even under the employ of the U.S. government.

They have been trying to get some of that data, and still were very frustrated by it. In fact, tomorrow, Secretary Gates on the record has one of the more interesting quotes, shall you say, on this very issue, on his frustration in trying to even get the basic data. And that was certainly a surprise.

What does he say?

PRIEST: You will have to read it.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: That is going to be in part two of the article tomorrow. All right.

PRIEST: Part two about contractors, yes.

BLITZER: We will look for his quote.

Yet, despite the enormous growth since 9/11, the enormous number of people involved, the great sums of money involved, they couldn't connect the dots -- and you make this point in the article -- on the Christmas Day bomber, even though there was a lot of evidence pointing to what was going on, the -- Mutallab -- and, also, they couldn't connect the dots on U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter.

Why?

PRIEST: On the Christmas day bombing, I think it really is a great example of how the system became so big that the lines of responsibility were blurred. People assumed somebody else is doing that. And in this case, the National Counterterrorism Center, a center that was created after 9/11 that staffed by thousands of people, its job was to do this work. And it did not run all those leads to their end point. It either assumed somebody else was doing it or I don't know what. But it did not do its job. And I think that's because the lines had been blurred. People are remained confused about who has responsibility over somebody's issues.

The Ft. Hood shooter case is another example of what we found being redundancy and overlap. Too many organizations are doing the same thing. And in this case, you had the Ft. Hood shooter was at Walter Reed Medical Center as a psychiatrist when he started making very unusual remarks about Islam and Muslims fighting in Iraq for the United States. And nobody alerted the largest counterintelligence unit in the army, which is just 25 miles up the road from Walter Reed. That unit did not even have a clue, and one of the reasons is because it was actually working on another project that other agencies, the FBI and Homeland Security, were already very much involved. So, it wasn't doing its main job.

BLITZER: I guess the other side of the argument is that all this growth and redundancy and money spent has succeeded in preventing another 9/11 type of terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

PRIEST: I don't think anybody can actually prove that. They can prove that there haven't been attacks. They can show where some of them have been thwarted. We asked the government repeatedly for more instances of plots thwarted. We said, you know, of course, you don't need to tell us everything. Just give us a number or something, and they came back with nothing. It doesn't mean that it hasn't been done, but most of the time, administrations like to tout their successes.

And, you know, this is another thing. People in five said it's gotten so big we can't tell what parts are succeeding. We can't tell whether we're safer. It's not to say we're not safer, but we can't really determine that without this information. And so, you know, that's one reason there needs to be an examination. We spoke to the Secretary of Defense, Bob Gates, on the record, and he certainly said that he was going to look at his programs and Leon Panetta says he is already the director of the CIA.

BLITZER: The interactive map that you have on "The Washington Post" website shows locations all over the country where there are intelligence gathering operations. And you can click in and find more specifics, but you don't include the actual addresses of these operations. Is that because the government asked you not to do so?

PRIEST: No, it's because we decided on our own not to do so. We had shown this to the government several times over the last several months. We'd asked them to be specific on their requests. We got a little back in the way of specificity, so we had to make our own decisions about that and one of the topics of conversation was how far down on a map you can go. So, actually, the map you're looking at doesn't give you a location. It gives you the nearest city state, which means the nearest city within a state. And that's as far down as we go, both for the government and for companies.

On the government side, the dots don't say exactly what organization it is that's doing the work, it just says that it's government work and it doesn't tell you what kind of work is being done. So really, it's just a dot on the map. Maybe near the city that it's being done in, but not near the location where it's being done, and not what it is under that dot, what government organization nor what sort of information. But we felt like we needed to give you a visual on this in order for you to believe us that this has grown so large. So, we wanted you to be able to see it.

BLITZER: While at the same time not doing a bull's eye for terrorists. .

PRIEST: Exactly.

BLITZER: As far as targets are concerned. PRIEST: And you can play around with this other thing that we've done which is a database that you can look in and see all the redundancy in different organizations and judge for yourself whether our conclusions seem plausible. You can spend time on that. Moving it around from agency to agency, from type of work to other types of work and just see where the problems are.

BLITZER: Dana Priest of the "Washington Post". We'll look forward to part two and part three all the other parts that are coming along. Thanks very much for joining us.

PRIEST: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll have to dig deeper on this story with our national security contributor, Fran Townsend. She was the homeland security adviser to President Bush. She worked in the justice department during the Clinton administration. She's also a member of the CIA's external advisory board. You've had a chance, Fran, to read part one of this lengthy article two years in the works. So, was it accurate?

FRANCES TOWNSEND, FORMER BUSH HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: Well, Wolf, look, I think it makes it sound far worse than it actually is. For one thing, for the Congress who provides oversight of all intelligence programs and, by the way, funds them, allocates the money that get spent, they' been aware of this. What happened in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 was there was a critical crushing need for additional capability that the government didn't have. Remember, Wolf, you know, after the draw down of resources in the intelligence community, after the end of the cold ward, when 9/11 happens, the government needs all sorts of capability, and it contracts it.

In 2006, the intelligence community went through an inventory of core contract personnel and set some rules in the road about not permitting contractors to do essential government functions. That the government was going to have to lay out a plan for when it was going to use contractors, how much it was going to cost, and they've been going about that. It is by no means a work completed. It's a work in progress. But I think this makes it sound worse than it actually is.

BLITZER: Because the authors of this article say, you know what, not even people in the White House, let alone Congress really understood how big this intelligence community had grown. You worked in it for a long time. Were you aware, for example, that nearly a million Americans have not just sensitive or secret, but top secret classification? There are so many different agencies out there.

TOWNSEND: I was not aware of the number, Wolf, but I will tell you, you know, it's funny. When I was in government, I left in January 2008, the real burden, the real problem at that point was we couldn't get people cleared that we needed to get clearances for. And resources were devoted to that. I think we've got to now take a look at, do we have too many people with clearances? And do the ones who got it, are they working on essential contracts that need the require support for the government? I mean, I think that's a worthwhile thing to go back and look at.

BLITZER: And she says the official budget of the intelligence community is about $75 billion, but it's really a lot more because all sorts of programs are hidden in the defense department. Is she right on that?

TOWNSEND: Well, I think what she's referring to is hidden programs, Wolf, are called special access programs. Some programs are so sensitive, whether it's because of the information they contain or the technology, that they're very restricted in who can get access to them. That's so we don't have leaks to the public of information that we spent millions and billions of dollars to build a capability. We don't want it revealed to our enemies. And so, there are special access programs inside the defense department. It's really the responsibility General Clapper, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, to manager those programs.

BLITZER: And he's been nominated to take over as the director of national intelligence. We'll see if he gets confirmed on that point. Fran --

TOWNSEND: Wolf, I'll bet you --

BLITZER: You go ahead.

TOWNSEND: I'll bet you at tomorrow's confirmation hearing, he'll be asked an awful lot of questions about this.

BLITZER: I think we'll be covering it. Fran, thanks very much.

The U.S. government recognizes three levels of security clearances at the highest level, top secret, followed by secret, and then confidential. The general accounting office says as many as 2.4 million Americans hold some level of security clearance. And the "Washington Post" reports that 854,000 of those are top secret, nearly a million. And above top secret, secure compartmented information. That's for a restricted number of only the most sensitive individuals.

South Carolina surprise Democratic nominee for the senate speaks out for the first time. Alvin Greene delivers a weekend speech for his one-man campaign for the United States Senate. We're going to find out if he stumbled or proved himself a contender. Jessica Yellin was in South Carolina.

And Sarah Palin's most unusual weekend tweet. Why it has Word Smiths checking their dictionaries. Stay with us. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Democrat Alvin Greene came out of nowhere in South Carolina Senate primary and was promptly labeled by some of his own party as a political plant. Over the weekend, he delivered the first of a major speech, at least the first major speech he's delivered of his campaign. Our national correspondent, Jessica Yellin, was there. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): If there's one person who believes Alvin Greene could be South Carolina's next U.S. senator, it's Alvin Greene.

ALVIN GREENE, (D) S.C. SENATE CANDIDATE: I'm the best candidate in the United States Senate race here in South Carolina. I am also the best candidate for the -- I am also the best choice for the image award next year.

YELLIN: He does not lack for confidence in his debut campaign speech. Greene offered some specifics.

GREENE: Let's pick up with some of the projects that were put on hold after 9/11, such as improving transportation and infrastructure.

YELLIN: Some standard rhetoric.

GREENE: My campaign is about getting South Carolina and America back to work and moving South Carolina and America forward.

YELLIN: And a glimpse of his political philosophy.

GREENE: The punishment should fit the crime. Fairness saves us money. Let's reclaim our country from the terrorists and the communists. I know this guy that some folks got in trouble.

YELLIN: There were a few unusual moments, especially here when Greene seemed to be referring to his own run-in with the law. He faces a felony pornography charge for which he has not entered a plea.

GREENE: Anyhow, this guy met the criteria for a pretrial intervention but was denied. That same guy, this same guy's trial was scheduled for last week but was put off. Anyway, moving on.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Interesting. Jessica Yellin is here with us right now. How was he received by the folks there?

YELLIN (on-camera): You know, Wolf, this was a local hometown crowd. It was the NAACP of Manning, South Carolina, where he's from. The people I talked to came in very skeptical thinking that they were going to withhold judgment. Everyone I spoke to on the way out said that they liked him, they were impressed, and almost everyone said they plan to vote for him. Expectations were low, they clearly wanted to support their hometown guy.

BLITZER: You had a chance to speak with him a little bit one-on- one, right?

YELLIN: I did. I went by his home before the speech, which is also his campaign headquarters. He's really just a one-man campaign basically. He does have one consultant. He didn't want to talk to us because he was too nervous preparing for his speech. He showed me his speech, which was handwritten. He said he wrote it himself in pencil, double spaced, spiral line notebook. And there was a documentary filmmaker there from Los Angeles who was shooting him already, but he wouldn't answer our questions.

BLITZER: He really has no chance against Jim DeMint, the Republican incumbent, right? That's the prevailing assessment.

YELLIN: That's a prevailing wisdom and almost no Democrat could really challenge DeMint, unless, they have a huge powerhouse of fundraising behind them. But as one person in the audience said, hey, this is South Carolina, anything is possible.

BLITZER: And he mentioned the legal case against that has been put off. What is the status of that legal case?

YELLIN: He faces a felony pornography charge for allegedly showing college students some indecent material and asking to go to her room. He's not entered a plea. There've been some preliminary hearing. There was supposed to be a hearing last week that was put off. The reason he brought it up is because he said his frustrated prosecutors aren't being more lenient with him. He thinks he's not getting a fair shake.

BLITZER: Good time you're back from South Carolina. Thanks very much.

YELLIN: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jessica Yellin reporting for us.

Jack Cafferty is taking your e-mail. Is the war in Afghanistan worth it?

And the former Alaska governor, Sarah Palin, writes a puzzling post on Twitter.

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BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. What do you have, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. In Iraq, police say four people were killed and dozen injured in two car bombings north of Baghdad today. The death (ph) happened in Western Bakuba (ph) where a car bomb exploded outside a coffee shop. At least 20 people were hurt.

Earlier, a suicide car bomber hit a convoy for a British construction company at Eastern Mosul. Six Iraqis were hurt.

The navy is sending the USS George Washington to South Korea. The chief commander says it is to show America's, quote, "constant readiness to defend the Republic of Korea. The visit comes after months of tension since the March (ph) sinking of a South Korean warship. An international inquiry blamed North Korea. North Korea denies responsibility And Zsa Zsa Gabor is recovering from hip replacement surgery. The 93-year-old actress underwent a procedure to repair damage caused by a fall Saturday. A spokesman says Gabor will probably remain hospitalized at least four more days -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We wish her a speedy recovery. All right. Thanks very much, Lisa, for that.

Here's a question some are asking right now. lots of folks, in fact. Is the war in Afghanistan worth it? That question in the "Cafferty File." That's coming up next.

And when Sarah Palin tweets, people listen. But what she wrote has some people confused.

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BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack for the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Question this hour. Is the war in Afghanistan really worth it? There seems to be an increasing number of questions about what's going on over there and whether we're getting it done the way we decided we wanted to in the beginning.

Darren writes from Minneapolis, not anymore. When we first went there, our objective was to remove the Taliban, captured Osama Bin Laden. I was under the impression we accomplished the first part, created a Democratic government, and installed President Karzai. That hasn't worked. We were side tracked by Iraq. Now, the Karzai government is in disarray, the Taliban is back, Pakistani al Qaeda insurgents are wreaking havoc in the country. On top of that, we still don't have Osama Bin Laden. It's time to cut our losses. We bungled this badly.

Scott in California, we don't have a choice. We got into this war to prevent future terror attacks in taking place. Leaving it as is now would leave to the same problems that gave us 09/11, in the first place.

Dave writes the whole extension of the previous administration's war is an exercise in futility. Why not bring our troops home and go back to the old day of having the CIA take out our enemies. It sure would save a lot of money. Fighting in Afghanistan, bankrupts all who tried.

Cameron says, this is a long-term commitment the U.S. made under the Bush administration, and if we back out now, the only outcome it will guarantee is more enemies. The question isn't whether or not it's a wise decision in the first place. The question is what position will be putting ourselves in if we withdraw.

And Gary in Michigan writes, two decades after I came home from Vietnam, I spent 20 years with my gut wrenching and choking back tears trying to hide in a bottle of booze. All a while, trying to find the answer to why. I never found that answer, and in my sobriety realized there's no answer to why where in the war is an ideological one. I prayed the hundreds of thousands of soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan realize and accept long before I did. And without the hardships, then in their ideological war, there can never be an answer to why. Only in a war based on virtue can why ever be answered.

If you want to read more on this, you'll find it on my blog, CNN.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jack, see you tomorrow. Thank you.

It's not what Sarah Palin wrote that got Jeanne Moos's attention, it's the word she made up to say.

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BLITZER: She isn't the first politician to do it, and she won't be the last. The former Alaska governor, Sarah Palin, tweeted the most unusual word that caught the attention of CNN's Jeanne Moos.

JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Don't bother looking this one up in a dictionary.

SARAH PALIN, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: They could refudiate what it is --

MOOS: Excuse me?

PALIN: Refudiate what it is --

MOOS: Not only did Sarah Palin say it, she tweeted it while discussing the proposed Islamic community center and mosque near ground zero. Peaceful Muslims, please refudiate.

MOOS (on-camera): Now refudiate sounds suspiciously like an actual word that Sarah Palin probably meant to say --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Repudiate.

MOOS: But having said refudiate, she wasn't about to repudiate it.

MOOS (voice-over): Instead, she raised the anti (ph) with this tweet, "refudiate" "misunderestimate," "wee wee'd up." English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words, too. Got to celebrate it!

PALIN: Refudiate it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They misunderestimate --

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everybody in Washington gets all wee wee'd up.

MOOS: Talk about wee wee'd up, film critic, Roger Ebert tweeted, urgent to Sarah Palin USA: Shakespeare would rather have died than "coin" the meaningless non-word "misunderestimate". VOICE OF JAMES SHAPIRO, AUTHOR, "WHO WROTE SHAKESPEARE?": Shakespeare would have been howling in laughter at this one because she exemplifies just the kind of character that he loved to make up the comic butt.

MOOS: Oh, wow.

Shakespeare scholar, James Shapiro was referring to malapropisms by some of the bards comic characters that reconfirms that Shakespeare did coin lots of phrases and new words like red-blooded.

SHAPIRO: There's just a huge gulp between making up words and butchering them.

MOOS: Next thing you know, Shake-Palin is the rage on Twitter, telling the Palin story in Shakespearean terms, to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous liberals, or to quit half term, and by opposing rake in speaking fees. Sure, anyone is on camera all the time flubs (ph) it. Be it mispronouncing navy corpsman three times.

OBAMA: Navy corpsman, Christian Bouchard. Corpsman Bouchard. Corpsman Bouchard.

MOOS: Or putting an "S" on Twitter.

OBAMA: The headquarter of Twitters --

MOOS: But Twitters is now full of tweets about refudiate. You can plaster it on hats and mugs and greeting cards. Humorous, Andy Borowitz, joked, Palin says "Refudiate Appears In Fictionary" calls critics incohecent. To refudiate or not to refudiate, it's enough to get the bard.

OBAMA: Wee wee'd up.

MOOS: The bard of Wasilla.

Jeanne Moos, CNN

PALIN: Refudiate what it is --

MOOS: New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thank you, Jeanne. Remember, you can always follow what's going on here in the SITUATION ROOM. I'm on Twitter. You can get my tweets at twitter.com/WolfBlitzerCNN, all one word. You can also follow the SITUATION ROOM on Facebook. Go to facebook.com/CNNsituationroom to become a fan. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in the SITUATION ROOM. "John King, USA" starts right now.