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THE SITUATION ROOM

Discontent in Yemen; Journalists Targeted in Egypt

Aired February 3, 2011 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, breaking news, a chilling twist in the Egyptian uprising. Journalists are being attacked in an effort to keep the world from witnessing the historic events unfolding in Cairo. Some reporters had to be evacuated in armored vehicles. The government effectively shutting down. Live pictures coming out of Cairo right now.

Also, one high-profile Egyptian journalist takes a dramatic stand, resigning her post and deploring what she calls Egypt's propaganda machine. We'll hear from her.

And echoes of Egypt in Yemen. Discontent is now boiling over there as well. Is Yemen next in line for a full-scale revolt?

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

We're following the breaking news out of Egypt this hour, where members of the news media have now come under what appears to be -- appears to be a coordinated attack ranging from harassment and arrest to beatings, some of them severe, targets including reporters and crews from CNN and other international news organizations, as well as international human rights workers. The secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, here in Washington condemned the attacks just a little while ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We condemn in the strongest terms attacks on reporters covering the ongoing situation in Egypt. This is a violation of international norms that guarantee freedom of the press, and it is unacceptable under any circumstances. We also condemn in the strongest terms attack on peaceful demonstrators, human rights activists, foreigners and diplomats.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's go straight to Cairo right now.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is standing by live.

Fred, what is happening right now? It's just after 1:00 a.m. in Cairo.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN BERLIN BUREAU CHIEF: Yes, Wolf, I'm sort of overlooking Tahrir Square here in central Cairo.

Right now, I can tell you it's a lot more quiet than it was the past couple of days. I did hear a few gunshots ring out into the night. I'm assuming that's because someone came close to some army personnel carrier or possibly also too close to a tank. But right now it really is a lot more quiet. The sort of Anti-Mubarak movements are fortifying their positions around Tahrir Square.

They really beat back the pro-Mubarak protesters throughout the better part of the day. As I was covering this out there live, there were really raging battles going on in the streets with people pelting rocks at each other and just the anti-Mubarak movement making more and more progress, fortifying their positions.

At some point one of the sides got out flash bangs, which are normally actually used to break up riots. They're sort of fireworks you shoot at other people. And those sort riots of subsided as the evening dragged on, and especially once it became dark.

It appears right now to us at least as though most of the pro- Mubarak movements have pretty much dispersed or run away. There's a few of them still left. But at this point in time, it seems fairly peaceful, at least measured by the standard from what I was telling you last night, Wolf.

BLITZER: And they're expecting a huge day of protests tomorrow. It's already Friday in Cairo. We're getting ready for huge numbers of people to come out right after prayers.

Tell our viewers here in the United States and around the world why we're not showing live pictures from Tahrir Square or anyplace else, for that matter, right now, how the government or whoever is responsible for intimidating the international news media have simply made it too dangerous, made it impossible for us to show live pictures.

PLEITGEN: Yes, they're certainly trying. We're obviously regrouping on our end as well. We're not going to be shut down by anyone.

But, yes, you said it before. It appears to be a concerted effort on the part of someone, somewhere, in the Egyptian officialdom. I can tell you I know of a lot of cases of reporters who have been beaten, cameras that have been confiscated by security forces, also by hotel staffs in certain places.

Crews, our crews, as you know, have already been harassed and in part beaten. I was on a shoot a couple of days ago when I was attacked by people. And it really did give the impression that these, most of them at least, were not ordinary protesters, that they knew exactly what they were looking for. They knew exactly how to grab the camera. They knew exactly that they were looking for a tape inside the camera. And they became very, very violent. We had stones thrown at a car that we were in. We had people try to drag us out of the car. And, as you know, other crews have had the same. And some of these crews, Wolf, have actually been detained, apparently, by Egyptian security forces, in part by the Egyptian military, in part also by regular Egyptian people, and their stuff has been detained.

So certainly this is a very, very dramatic turn of events, and certainly one that does not reflect very well on the people who are doing this -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm getting a lot of questions on Twitter, elsewhere, Fred, about our colleagues. Everyone knows that Anderson Cooper was beaten yesterday. Hala Gorani was threatened, intimidated yesterday as well. Some of our other producers and camera crews were. But today Anderson had another incident. Tell our viewers what happened to him today.

PLEITGEN: Well, Anderson, he was moving around in a car. I think he might have been -- even been together with -- with Hala. And that car was attacked as well. And from what I heard, the window was smashed. And then the driver was able to take off.

That's something where you really have to careful as well, is when you're moving around in a vehicle, where obviously sometimes when you get into traffic or you get into a place where you have to slow down, you are something like a sitting target, especially of course if you're in the wrong place, and these pro-Mubarak demonstrators come around.

I have had, as I said, a similar incident happen to myself. We really only made a very short stop. This was a couple of days ago in one place to film something. And immediately, guys descended on us, guys who we were pretty sure were ex-security forces or currently plainclothed security forces, immediately went for the camera, immediately started to get a mob going against us, started throwing rocks at or car, started trying to beat us. But we should tried to beat them back a little bit.

And then when managed to get out of there. So, right now, yes, it is a very delicate and dangerous situation. And the thing that happened to Anderson today is obviously in no way acceptable, Wolf.

BLITZER: I just want to reiterate that the whole world is watching what's happening in Egypt right now, not only here. We're -- we're seen on CNN and CNN International. So people in Egypt are seeing us as well. So you can try to hide the news from getting -- getting out, but you can't completely succeed. You can intimidate, but you can't necessarily completely cover up what's going on.

We're going to check back with Fred Pleitgen.

But Brian Todd is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

You're looking at what's going on, on this very question. BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And there are accusations now coming from U.S. officials, from many others, that the thugs instigating this violence are doing the government's bidding. And, as you've just seen, journalists are not just being caught in the middle.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): They're there to be our eyes and ears. But this chaos has suddenly turned on them. Journalists in Egypt are now targets, running for cover, hiding, many unable to dodge their attackers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who do you work with?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A newspaper in Spain.

TODD: Journalists have been beaten, stabbed, chased, rounded up. Police are accused of taking part in the harassment, and U.S. officials believe people from Egypt's Interior Ministry are involved.

P.J. CROWLEY, U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS: I think we have traced it to elements, you know, close to the government or the ruling party.

TODD: This comes as accusations persist that Egyptian government agents in plainclothes were among the pro-Mubarak demonstrators instigating some of the worst violence. There are accounts that some pro-government protesters were found with police I.D.s on them.

(on camera): Egyptian officials have come out and denied any government role in orchestrating the attacks in downtown Cairo, one of them calling the accusations a work of real fiction, and the Egyptian vice president has given his own version of who might be responsible.

(voice-over): Without giving specifics, Omar Suleiman says entities outside Egypt are to blame for all the violence.

OMAR SULEIMAN, EGYPT VICE PRESIDENT (through translator): Some other elements with special agendas have infiltrated. They might have agendas linked to foreign agendas or special international purposes.

TODD: And in an interview with ABC News, President Mubarak blamed them the banned political party the Muslim Brotherhood for the violence.

For Mohsen Sazegara, these scenes look very familiar.

MOHSEN SAZEGARA, CO-FOUNDER, REVOLUTIONARY GUARD: I have seen this before. It has happened in Tehran just in the same way.

TODD: Sazegara, a former aide to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in the early days of the Iranian Revolution, was a co-founder of the Revolutionary Guard. He says the presence of plainclothed thugs in Cairo, some blending in, others riding in on horses or camels, is similar to what happened in the streets of Tehran right after Iran's disputed election in 2009.

SAZEGARA: Look at the sticks that they have in their hands. And they start to beat the people.

TODD: He compares this to Iran's notorious Basij militia, controlled by the Revolutionary Guard, who road on motorcycles and walked around attacking protesters.

(on camera): Why do you believe the guys who came in on horseback and camelback were for the government?

SAZEGARA: Look at the guy here. He is a professional person, how to attack to a demonstrator, and his colleague keeps the horse. They are orchestrated with each other.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: But Sazegara says the Basij militia in Iran was better at this than the instigators in Cairo. He says in Iran, they were better armed, better equipped, had walkie-talkies and communicated with commanders who were monitoring the streets on traffic cameras.

Now, again, the Egyptian government has denied that it took part in this. State TV has even said some of the pro-Mubarak protesters were tourism workers upset that their industry had been hit hard by this.

Wolf, obviously not everyone buying that.

BLITZER: Yes.

And, as a journalist, I want to play this little clip, Brian, because you're going to hear Omar Suleiman, the new vice president of Egypt, say in that interview he did on Egyptian television today the following words, which are chilling, especially if you're a reporter working in Egypt right now. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SULEIMAN (through translator): I actually blame certain friendly nations who have television channels. They're not friendly at all, who have intensified the youth against the nation and the state. They are actually continuing.

They have filled in the minds of the youth with wrongdoings, with allegations, and this is unacceptable. I am really sad for those channels that are affiliated to brotherly nations. They should have never done this. They should have never sent this enemy spirit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now, he didn't define those channels affiliated with brotherly nations. He didn't say if it was CNN affiliated -- based here in the United States or the BBC in England or Al-Jazeera, which is based in Qatar, or Al-Arabiya, which is based in Abu Dhabi. He didn't say which -- which channels. But if you hear that and you're on the streets of Cairo right now and you're pro-Mubarak and hear the vice president say, these guys are endangering Egypt, that's got to be a green light to go ahead and do more of that.

TODD: You think this was an incitement almost to them, almost a signal maybe to them to go and do this?

BLITZER: That's the way I read it. When he says these channels are unfriendly and they're causing damage and, you know what, they're -- and it came right after he was talking about conspiracies and that these foreign nations should not be interfering in domestic Egyptian affairs.

It sounds like he and very similar, although he was much more blunt than Mubarak was, apparently, in the ABC News interview, but it's very, very chilling to hear a vice president say this.

We're just getting this in, by the way. And I'm going to read it to our viewers, because I think it's significant. Vice President Biden had a phone conversation with Omar Suleiman, the Egyptian vice president. And the vice president's office issued a statement.

The White House saying this: "The vice president today spoke by phone with Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman, reiterating President Obama's condemnation of the recent violence in Egypt and calling for restraint by all sides. He also restated the president's support for universal rights, including the right to peaceful assembly, association and speech."

The statement goes on: "Vice President Biden urged that credible inclusive negotiations begin immediately in order for Egypt to transition to a democratic government that addresses the aspirations of the Egyptian people."

And he wound up by saying this. This is a statement from the White House: "Biden stressed that the Egyptian government is responsible for ensuring that peaceful demonstrations don't lead to violence and intimidation, and for allowing journalists and human rights advocates to conduct their important work, including immediately releasing those who have been detained."

A number of our colleagues, not from CNN, but from other news organizations, Brian, as you know, they have been arrested. They have been detained. Some of them have been beaten, nearly killed in this process of simply trying to report the news.

TODD: And what specific -- when you ask the Egyptian government specifically about the violence toward journalists, you don't hear them coming out specifically denying that. They deny taking part or instigating the overall violence. They don't necessarily speak to the violence toward journalists.

I read one account where an Egyptian official said we don't know who is doing this to the journalist. But clearly when you listen to Nicholas Kristof and some of the others there, they believe that only they know who is doing it, that they're behind it.

Now we're going to see. It's now Friday, as you mentioned, in Cairo right now. Are we going to be able to see the pictures that we want to see from out of there? What are they going to do toward journalists? How is the army going to react to all this? This is very tense in the hours coming up.

BLITZER: Yes. The army is going to be critical. All right, Brian, thanks very much.

The man who is the focus of so much of this outrage is speaking out now for the first time in days. In an interview with ABC's Christiane Amanpour, the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, says he's troubled and pained by the violence of the last few days. He blames much of it on the banned Islamist opposition group the Muslim Brotherhood.

And Mubarak goes onto say he wants to step down immediately, but can't because he fears it will worsen the chaos. ABC News reports that Mubarak's son and one-time heir apparent, Gamal Mubarak, was in place in the palace in Cairo with his father during the interview.

There's one key way the crisis in the Middle East could affect you and me and all of us, in fact.

Jack Cafferty is here. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, as the unrest sweeps through the Middle East, not unlike a wildfire, it's worth remembering that this crisis will ultimately cost all of us at the gas pump.

And maybe this is wishful thinking, but let's try it just for a minute. Do you suppose that the chaos in that part of the world might finally, finally be enough to break this country's addiction to foreign oil?

Now, although Egypt is not a big oil producer, it plays a key role in the transport of oil and gas headed to the United States, to Europe and to Asia through all the Suez Canal.

Without it, shippers would have to send all this stuff around the Horn of Africa, which adds more than two weeks of delivery time to the global markets, not to mention the increased costs.

With the ongoing violence and protests in Egypt, some shippers are worried about disruptions to the Suez Canal or to nearby pipelines.

Nearly 2.5 million barrels of oil go through the canal every day. That's about equal to the entire output of Iraq.

All of this comes as global oil supplies are tightening mainly due to China's increasing demand.

And the markets are reacting. Crude is now trading at $103 a barrel. That's a 28-month high. Even before the Middle East erupted, some experts were predicting gasoline at $5 by next year.

And it's not just about the money. So much of the politics of the region has always been dictated by our need for their oil. Would it not be nice to do what's in our best national interest for a change, instead of being beholden to Middle East dictators for their oil?

Like I said, it's probably wishful thinking.

Anyway, here's the question: Should the chaos in the Middle East be enough to break America's addiction to foreign oil?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. Post a comment on my blog.

BLITZER: Been hearing that for about 30 years, Jack.

(CROSSTALK)

CAFFERTY: Ever since the Carter administration and the Arab oil embargo in 1973.

BLITZER: Yes. Not much has happened. All right, Jack, thanks very, very much.

Concern, deep concern at the State Department right now as it is stretching the concern far beyond Egypt. We're learning new details as the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, is calling leaders in that part of the world, including the Jordanian king.

And we will talk to a reporter who was literally, literally dragged through the street of Cairo. He's standing by to join us live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is working the phones as the crisis in Egypt unfolds. The State Department saying she spoke today to the king of Jordan, where more demonstrations are planned tomorrow.

Let's go to our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty. She's working this story.

What have you learned about this conversation with Jordan's King Abdullah?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that was an important phone call, because that really is a message not just to King Abdullah, but to nervous allies in the region.

And why are they nervous? Because as these U.S. allies look at what's going on in Egypt, they are figuring that if the U.S. is ready to walk away from President Mubarak, could it happen to them? And so what the message that Secretary Clinton was giving, you could really boil it down to change can be good if it's done the right way.

And what she is saying is, look, there were demonstrates on the streets in Jordan, but they were handled correctly. People were allowed to express their opinions. They also -- the king changed his government, and he did it correctly.

So you could actually say the message is we will stick with the guys who do it right, but President Mubarak is not doing it correctly. And then also, Wolf, we have some new information about the violence against the journalists and who is responsible.

Here at the State Department, they believe that it was in the government, somewhere in the Egyptian government, or in the ruling party. They don't know how high up. But we spoke directly with the ambassador, the Egyptian ambassador. And he said there is a security vacuum that's on -- in Egypt. We condemn that -- those attacks and that violence, and that the government is not responsible.

So, I think, Wolf, you know, this raises a big question of how much in control is President Mubarak.

BLITZER: There's a lot of questions it raises. All right, Jill, thanks very much, a very dangerous situation on the ground for the people of Egypt, also for journalists on the ground in Cairo, as we have been reporting, beatings, arrests and a lot more.

We are going to hear from one reporter who literally was dragged through the streets of Cairo, happy to be alive right now.

And we will also take you live to Yemen. CNN is there with details of a massive anti-government protest. Remember, Yemen, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has a huge base there right now. This is a major issue. Is Yemen next in line for a full-scale revolt? And if it happens there, what happens to al Qaeda in Yemen?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It's truly been a terrifying day for a lot of people in Egypt today. And, presumably, tomorrow, when the demonstrations get even more massive, it could get a whole lot worse.

The situation for journalists, all of the foreign reporters trying to report the news is getting really, really dangerous.

"The Atlantic" magazine's contributing editor Graeme Wood is joining us now. He was dragged through the streets of Cairo by a furious mob today.

Graeme, you're somewhere in Cairo right now, but tell our viewers here in the United States and around the world what happened. And you're no stranger to Cairo because you studied there as a younger person.

GRAEME WOOD, "THE ATLANTIC": That's right. I used to be a student at the American University in Cairo. And I have come back to report this. What happened to me this morning was I was going through part of downtown Cairo, and your viewers have to realize that pretty much every block of Cairo has its own local security force. People have set up with improvised weapons, with samurai swords, pieces of metal and sticks.

And at various times during the dam day, they will have checkpoints ready. And if you hit the wrong one, and the people manning it have the wrong attitude, then they might very well pick you up. And that's what happened to me.

They flipped through my passport, found some Iranian stamps and thought from that I might be an Iranian spy. So the next thing I knew I was dragged from the car and brought a few hundred meters away to a checkpoint where they determined that I was not in fact Iranian. And they eventually let me go, but a harrowing experience, nonetheless.

BLITZER: Did they beat you up or anything like that, or did they just drag you?

WOOD: They just dragged me. They knocked me around a bit. I was figuratively and literally shaken. But I didn't have any of the injuries that have afflicted some of the other journalists in the city today, which include stabbings with screwdrivers and beatings and people being sent to the hospital.

BLITZER: Now, this underscores the tension that has existed in recent years between Egypt and Iran. And the visa you had when you visited Iran in your U.S. passport, I take it there's a picture of you. The Iranians put a picture of you in the passport as part of the visa, and that's why these individuals suspected you may have been a -- quote -- "Iranian agent." Is that what happened?

WOOD: Yes. That's exactly right.

A lot of the people who are manning these checkpoints, it's not as if they're professionals. They don't know what it looks like to pick up someone with an actual Iranian passport. And so their eyes go straight to the Arabic script. They see Islamic Republic of Iran. And they have been primed. They have been told that you have to be on the lookout for Iranian agents.

And so when they see one who might be an Iranian agent, then immediately it's eureka. And they yell out to their compadres and then they gather around you and they drag you off. That's what happened to me.

BLITZER: And they were also not just looking for so-called Iranian agents. They were looking for other agents as well. Who specifically was on their target list?

WOOD: They said to me that they had been warned that there would be Iranian agent provocateurs out there. They said there would be Hezbollah, Hamas, Israelis as well, and then Qataris because of Al- Jazeera's so far quite pro- -- quite anti-Mubarak broadcasts. They believe that Qatar is involved in a conspiracy against Egypt as well. BLITZER: Because Al-Jazeera is based in Doha, Qatar. And that's why they go after the Qataris.

You heard the interview on Egyptian television today by the vice president, Omar Suleiman, in which he spoke about these foreign channels linked to what he called brotherly nations, but they're endangering Egypt. You point out, as I have, his words are precise, and they're chilling.

WOOD: Yes, that's right.

I mean, if we're already in an atmosphere where foreigners are being targeted, it's really a hair-trigger response if someone can think that I of all people would be Iranian. So, to have Suleiman go out and say that there are foreigners in our midst who are causing trouble is -- it's a very frightening, frightening turn of events.

BLITZER: What are you bracing for tomorrow? It's already Friday in Cairo, Graeme. But what are you bracing for? Because we understand after prayers there's going to be some huge demonstrations.

WOOD: That's my understanding as well. I haven't actually been in Tahrir Square since about 24 hours ago. So I can't speak to what it looks like there right now.

But I'm expecting that there will be clashes that equal what we saw on Wednesday.

BLITZER: Because Friday is a day of prayer in the Muslim world. And we're expecting huge demonstrations after individuals leave their midday prayers.

All right, Graeme, thanks very much. Be careful over there -- Graeme Wood of "The Atlantic" magazine joining us.

He had a harrowing experience, just one experience, but a lot of journalists. These are dozens and dozens of reporters. There are a whole list of journalists from all over the world, from Europe, from the United States, from the Middle East who are being targeted right now in Cairo. Who would have believed this could happen?

In the last 24 hours, we have seen some of the most dramatic images yet out of Egypt. CNN crews are capturing as much of it as we can. But we want to warn you: some of the video you're about to see is very disturbing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HUNTER MOORE, AMERICAN TEACHER: We've been out there since last Tuesday, the 25th. And sort of assessed the need of what we could do to help. And we realized that we could get some medical supplies and food to distribute. That's kind of the road that we've taken.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What kind of injuries did you see?

MOORE: Mostly head injuries. Easily 90 percent head injuries. Some that required much more medical attention than we could offer. A lot of it was, you know, many need stitches. But it was mostly head injuries. A lot of them came two or three times. They'd get patched up, and they'd run right back out there and come back with another head injury, minutes later.

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via phone): The anti-Mubarak demonstrators have managed to push the pro-Mubarak demonstrators out of Tahrir Square. They have largely taken over the roads leading in and out of the square, as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're right in Tahrir Square, where all of these protests are, of course, happening and these massive clashes. We're actually in between two makeshift checkpoints or barricades, if you will. That's the front line, and if I turn around, and then walk over here, then you'll see there's another one right back there where people are being checked.

Now the scene on Tahrir Square is that there's many, many people who were wounded in these bad clashes that happened during the night. A doctor who's working here, volunteering here, told us that many people were shot and that they were treating gunshot wounds that they say come from pro-Mubarak protesters.

At the same time the protesters are continuing to dig in. They're reinforcing their barricades and they're digging up more and more of these pavement stones. These are the projectiles that were used in the battles last night. It was really the weapon of choice as the two sides were pelting each other. And they keep digging these up and fortifying their positions.

(SCREAMING)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My mother. Sometimes she's worried and sometimes she says, "The country's changing, and I'm proud of you." It's not going to end today. We'll stay in the streets until it's -- until it's over.

SHAHIRA AMIN, FORMER NILE TV SENIOR CORRESPONDENT (via phone): I think the worst is yet to come. This is the price we have to pay for freedom, I guess. It's a high price to pay, but it will be worth it for the future generation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: A high-profile Egyptian journalist takes a dramatic stance, resigning her post with the government-run TV station and deploring what she calls Egypt's propaganda machine. We'll hear from her.

Plus, troubling new developments in Yemen. A major al Qaeda base right now. CNN is there for a massive anti-government protest. We're going to Yemen as well.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: It started in Tunisia, spreading to Egypt, and now we're following developments in Yemen, as well, where thousands and thousands of people, inspired by the events in Egypt and Tunisia, protested against their own president, who's been in office for three decades.

CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom is in the middle of everything going on in Yemen right now. He'll join us live in just a moment. But first, take a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CHANTING)

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are chanting for the minister of interior to open his eyes and see what's going on in the country. Now this kind of chanting we've heard a lot today. The people of Yemen want there to be change. They want there to be a regime change.

They are not happy with the pledges made by the president yesterday that he would not seek to appoint himself president for life and he would not seek reelection in 2013. Many of them say -- thank you. Many of them say that he needs to go now. This is a list of demands that the opposition is putting out today and that their supporters are putting out today. This is a crowd clearly emboldened by what they've seen happening in Tunisia and Egypt.

They say that they want people to have the kind of economic opportunity that they deserve.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And Mohammed is joining us now live on the phone from Yemen from the capital of Sanaa. What's happening right now? I know it's the middle of the night. But are they bracing for more of this on Friday?

JAMJOOM (via phone): Well, Wolf, when we spoke to a lot of the opposition leaders of the anti-government protests on Thursday, there were calls for more protests. We don't know yet when those will happen. As has been the case a lot, it would be (UNINTELLIGIBLE) from Yemen, a lot of times, they aren't quite organized till the last minute.

Yesterday was an exception. They've been calling for a day of rage for several days, inspired by Tunisia and the events in Egypt, as well. Some people think there could be some protests tomorrow or possibly the next day, but a lot of the opposition leaders and the protestors we spoke with today at the anti-government demonstration said that they do intend to keep coming out into the streets.

They will continue to try to organize people to come out and get their voices heard and show the kind of emotion out there, the anger directed at the government right now by a lot of the youth in the country, saying they want economic opportunity. They want jobs. They want to be able to feed their families, and that they're tired of the regime that's been in charge here now for over 30 years, Wolf.

BLITZER: What concerns a lot of U.S. officials, Mohammed, as you know, is that some of these protestors could be supporters for the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula organization, which is well-entrenched in Yemen right now. Did you get any indication of that among the protesters who were out today?

CALLER: It's interesting. Among the protesters we saw today, one of the key things was, this was a largely peaceful protest. There were anti-government demonstrations on Thursday, and there were pro- government demonstrations, as well. Thousands of people on each side just a few kilometers away. There were no clashes. There was a real tension before the protests happened that there might be clashes, there might be violence. That didn't happen. There was always worry there could be.

But among the people we spoke with in Yemen, government officials and regular citizens, as well, they don't believe al Qaeda is involved in this at this point. They downplayed that angle. But especially from regional neighbors and U.S. allies and other western allies, there is concern that, if this regime were to fail, and if Yemen would become a failed state or this -- or President Saleh would have to step down from office, who would fill the void? There is no leader that everybody have rallying behind. The movement is just to get him out of office. And the question is what would happen, especially in the country where there is a resurgent and emboldened al Qaeda, one that has grown and is a growing threat here, and one that is concerning regional neighbors and western allies alike -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll check back with you tomorrow. Mohammad Jamjoom, reporting for us from Saleh, the capital of Yemen.

A senior journalist for Egypt's government-run TV station is quitting, quitting in protest. She's speaking to CNN. Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're continuing to follow developments, all the developments in Egypt. We'll go back to Cairo in a moment, but Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What's going on, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf.

Well, the government's January jobs report is due out tomorrow. But we have the weekly report for now. And it is somewhat encouraging. The Labor Department says the number of people filing first-time unemployment claims last week fell 42,000 from the previous week to 415,000. And that is better than analysts were expecting.

Las Vegas police have made an arrest in a bold casino robbery. A man rode a motorcycle to the Bellagio Hotel last December and, with his helmet hiding his face, he walked up to a craps table, pulled a gun, and took $1.5 million in chips. Twenty-nine-year-old Anthony Carleo was arrested overnight. His father is a local judge who says he is heartbroken.

And some amazing finds by NASA's Kepler Space Telescope. Scientists say they have discovered five planets about the size of Earth, all orbiting stars in our galaxy. And each one of them is far enough away from the sun to make liquid water possible. And that is a key building block for any life form.

New York City is making its tough anti-smoking laws even tougher. The city council has voted to ban smoking in all 1,700 city parks and its 14 miles of beaches. Opponents argue the ban is intrusive and it goes too far. The city outlawed smoking in bars and restaurants back in 2003 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Lisa, thank you.

A veteran journalist for Egypt's government-run TV station, Nile TV, has simply had enough. She's quitting her job in protest. And now she's telling us, right here at CNN, the real story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMIN: ... and opposition protestors. After the supporters marched...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: An Egyptian journalist is taking a stand against what she calls the propaganda machine in her own country. Shahira Amin was a deputy head and senior correspondent for Nile TV, the government-run channel, until only a few hours ago. She has now quit her job and says she feels liberated and relieved.

She spoke to CNN's Jonathan Mann.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMIN (via phone): I spent the day at Nile TV yesterday, and I was only allowed to air the pro-Mubarak rallies that were going on, as if nothing was happening at Tahrir Square. We weren't allowed to reveal any figures. There was a near total blackout.

And I feel that this is hypocritical at this time. And I just don't want to be part of it.

I don't really care. I feel really good. This is something I should have done ages ago. And I just didn't have any alternative then, nor do I have one now. But I was happy to spend the day in Tahrir Square where the people are. And I'm on their side.

It really is the self-censorship. Most of -- they have been -- you know, people are too scared to tell the truth. And this is a built-in or inherent feeling that many Egyptian journalists have because of the detention and the arrests, systematic. And we hear about -- you know, we hear every day a different story. But I haven't been intimidated all these years. I have been telling the truth. So I'm happy to get away with it until now. But then, I just -- you know, this time around I just couldn't tell the truth. So I walked out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Shahira Amin. She's a courageous journalist in Egypt.

John McCain is speaking out about President Obama's handling of this crisis in Egypt. He's speaking to our own John King about why he supports President Obama's strategy so far and why now may be the most dangerous time we've ever seen in the Middle East. That according to McCain. That interview coming up on "JOHN KING USA" at the top of the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's go right back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour: "Should the chaos ongoing in the Middle East be enough to break America's addiction to foreign oil?"

Bob in Ohio says, "It should be, but it won't be. We don't have an affordable long-range, electric-powered alternative to replace our fossil-fuel-guzzling cars. And until that happens, we're looked on oil. I bet if the big oil companies held a majority interest in electric or battery production, we would have efficient, low-cost, electric or hybrid vehicles next week."

Jim writes, "Not as long as the oil companies run this country."

Rich in Texas: "The only way America is going to escape the stranglehold of foreign oil is for oil to become so expensive that Americans can no longer afford to buy it. Once that happens, then we'll start to get serious about alternative fuels and other modes of transportation."

Carol in Massachusetts: "Nope. Remember the gas lines of the '70s? If that didn't do it, nothing will. Americans are almost more loathe to give up their precious SUV gas guzzlers than their guns."

Mark in New Jersey: "Of course not, Jack. The oil companies would never allow it, and they have much more to say about it than us, the stupid voters. The House and Senate are owned by the oil companies, lock, stock and barrel, no pun intended."

Joe writes, "Should it be enough? Yes. Will it be enough? No. It seems we're happier to complain than make the difficult decisions to remove ourselves from foreign dependence. Natural gas, offshore drilling, solar panels, I don't care. Let's do it all and make America strong again."

Paul writes, "In the land of two-Hummer families, I don't think it's very likely."

And Kim says, "Does a heroin addict stop buying drugs because his dealer is having a family dispute? Not hardly. Foreign oil flows through our national veins like heroin through a junkie. So not only can we not stop; we won't be allowed to stop, because they are addicted to our money in the same way."

If you want to read more on the subject, go to the blog: CNN.com/CaffertyFile.

BLITZER: Will do, Jack. Thank you.

Jeanne Moos is coming up next here in THE SITUATION ROOM. And at the top of the hour, we'll have the latest from Egypt. Journalists increasingly becoming the target of very dangerous attacks and a fierce crackdown.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's a look at some very dramatic images of the protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Look at this.

A Molotov cocktail hits demonstrators on the October 6 bridge. Wow.

A man peers out a window overlooking the square as protesters stand behind barricades.

An anti-government protester throws a projectile at supporters of the president, Hosni Mubarak.

A car is engulfed by flames after being set on fire by protesters.

And a man prays in front of an Egyptian army tank, which -- some of those tanks have been positioned between anti-government protesters and pro-Mubarak demonstrators, as well.

"Hot Shots," pictures worth a thousand words.

Three days to go until the Super Bowl here in the United States this Sunday. And that may be a good thing with another winter storm slamming Texas. CNN's Jeanne Moos has this "Most Unusual" sneak peek at the ads you may be talking about on Monday.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Forget Roethlisberger and Rodgers, the up and coming stars of the Super Bowl could be a pug, a beaver, a pint-size Darth Vader, maybe even Adam and Eve.

Most advertisers spend a bundle making professional commercials.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the paws of a clairvoyant wooden creature.

MOOS: Bridgestone Tires used a real beaver and a stunt beaver.

But there will also be a half dozen homemade Super Bowl commercials. Doritos and Pepsi Max asked folks to make their own ads.

J.R. BURNINGHAM, MADE HOMEMADE AD: Oh, baby. Check this out. Come on!

MOOS: J.R. Burningham created "Pug Attack."

BURNINGHAM: I've always thought pugs running in slow motion was funny.

MOOS: So he borrowed a friend's pug. There were over 5,600 entries, competing for cash and exposure. "The Sauna" wasn't a finalist. "Adam and Eve" was.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A different take on an old story.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nah! I'm good.

MOOS: Some aspiring add makers had the same creative concept. For instance, the chip on the butt. Neither of those made the finals, but one called "The Best Part" did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You left the best part.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. I'm pretty sure they're...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mmm. Cheese.

MOOS: OK. That isn't as cute as, say, Volkswagen's Super Bowl spot featuring a miniature Darth Vader who finally gets the force to work when his dad gives him a hand.

(on camera) In the days leading up to the game, some advertisers even released trailers for their commercials.

(voice-over) For instance, the tale of a scorpion and the Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales is to be continued. Ditto for another Bridgestone Tire ad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rod, you sent this e-mail "reply all." You hit "reply all."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No!

MOOS: But those are created by agencies. The amateurs stand to win up to a million bucks if their homemade ads make it to the top of the "USA Today" ad meter.

(on camera) Now if I were a betting girl, I'd put my chips on the pug.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't hurt my dog.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN... (MUSIC)

MOOS: ... New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

For our international viewers, world news is next. "JOHN KING USA" starts right now.