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Sex Abuse Scandal Roars To Life; The Risks Of A Libya No-Fly Zone; McCain Urges No-Fly Zone in Libya; Will Hearings on Radical Islam Do More Harm than Good?; NPR Chief Resigns Amid Scandal

Aired March 9, 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, pro-Gadhafi forces stepping up the pressure on the Libyan rebels in what could be a turning point in this civil war. Our correspondents are in the battle zone right now.

Rebels plead for the U.S. and others to set up a no-fly zone over Libya. We'll hear from a veteran of the 1986 U.S. air strikes against Gadhafi on what's involved. And I'll speak with Senator John McCain this hour. He's pushing for U.S. military action.

Plus, fresh fallout from that conservative activist sting operation against NPR, National Public Radio. The network makes a stunning announcement.

Breaking news, political headlines, and Jeanne Moos, all straight ahead.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Has the Libyan civil war reached a turning point? As Moammar Gadhafi's military goes on the offensive in western Libya, the poorly organized rebels are finding themselves in a rather tough position.

CNN's Ben Wedeman saw Gadhafi reinforcements heading to the rebels control town of Ras Lanuf, and he says the rebel's hold there is looking pretty tenuous. Here's his report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The wounded keep oncoming. Ambulance after ambulance wails up to the emergency ward at Ras Lanuf hospital. The normally cocky opposition fighters showing the strain of a battle in which they are seriously outgunned. Their spirits severely challenged by the Libyan government forces artillery, rockets, and aircraft.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The situation is very bad.

WEDEMAN: How many wounded?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More than 25. Just now. WEDEMAN: It's not clear how much longer these largely inexperienced fighters can hold on. The ever present threat from air strikes forcing them to run for cover. Ahmed Fituri (ph) left his clothing store in Benghazi to carry a sum (ph) seven surface to air missile, but he knows he has little chance of hitting one of those planes. He's losing hope that the much-discussed no-fly zone will ever materialize.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just the talk. No have any action. Just talking, but we will help from a lot coming help to us.

WEDEMAN: Shooting wildly in the air, dancing, and singing may be good for morale, they're not, however, having much impact on the balance of power.

WEDEMAN (on-camera): Just a few days ago, the rebel forces were advancing steadily westward. Now, it appears that advance has come to a screeching halt, and it may be turning in the other direction.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Appall now hangs over Ras Lanuf. At least one oil storage tank to the west was hit in the fighting by whom it's not clear. This is the first time since the rebellion began more than three weeks ago that Libya's oil infrastructure has been damaged. What started as a revolution has become a war.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Ras Lanuf, Eastern Libya.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And joining us now, Nic Robertson, he's in Tripoli. Nic, the fighting is continuing in Zawiya, not far from where you are right now. You had a personal experience involving what's going on. Share it with our viewers.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, on Monday, we were outside of Zawiya. When I say outside, about (INAUDIBLE) from where the rebels were, inside the town where we couldn't cross the army, and we could hear heavy anti-aircraft gunfire, small arms fire, artillery fire going on. The following day, from a doctor who told us that two doctors have been killed in the town.

They're both the medical clinics. The rebels use had been closed down, but, indeed, the army was killing civilians rather than giving them medical treatment. We haven't been able to confirm that. And, indeed, today, it's been impossible to get any kind of an update out of Zawiya, but what has happened is that on state television, we've seen pro-Gadhafi demonstrations from Zawiya fronted on the screen now happening in Zawiya, live pictures.

From what we can see, these demonstrations coming from the outskirts of Zawiya, but the government right now is re-keen to get journalists in there. Though, they've had a couple of border trips in the last sort of six or seven hours. They even want to take journalist in overnight. It's just beginning to look like the government really feels, despite everything they said they have a last few days, beginning to get a sense that they control it and now want to show that off, Wolf.

BLITZER: These demonstrators, not only in Zawiya, but let's say in Tripoli right now, professing their love for Gadhafi. Are these just sort of rent-a-crowd demonstrators or are these Libyans sincerely in love with Gadhafi?

ROBERTSON: You know, it's interesting, Wolf. We talked today with somebody who's against Gadhafi here, and he describes these people as being naive, as being foolish, as being poorly educated, and then, he says that's why they support Gadhafi. He says that's the 40 years of Gadhafi's rule. He's managed to instill mindset of fear into these people. Fear that if they don't go along with the government, with Moammar Gadhafi, the country will end up in chaos.

So, that's part of where there fervent comes from, but it's clear that we hear stories that some people are paid to go there. It's very hard to prove. Even if they turn, it's very hard to prove that somebody actually is paying them to go there, but it certainly seems there is an element of everyone who (INAUDIBLE) doesn't want to appear any less fervent than the last guy who did.

You get a sense that it's sort of part coercion and part commitment, but it's a type of people who really don't want to be seemed to be letting the sight down because they don't know what that might mean for them, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. Probably, some of them are afraid if they don't do it. They could be in trouble. Finally, there seems to be some new diplomatic outreach that the Libyan regime is now undertaking. What are they doing?

ROBERTSON: Yes, that's right, Wolf. They've been getting increasingly frustrated that they can't get any bassinette from the U.N. recognize. They can't get any response from Britain, France, Germany, other countries who they've asked to send their fact finding teams to Libya to look at the claims of aerial bombardment and massacres. They can't get any response. So, now, they're sending their Secretary of State for International Cooperation, sending him not only to Portugal, but to Greece and Malta, as well.

They want him to go to other countries. Now, this is really the Libyans now making some outreach to try and get that message heard. So, it's clear the international heat is having an effect. They want to get some friends, and they want to get their voice heard in the international community again, Wolf.

BLITZER: Nic Robertson on the scene for us as he has been for the several weeks. Thanks very much. Nic's in Tripoli.

There are other signs that pro-Gadhafi forces are gaining on the battlefield. And there's other information as well that we're getting, including fresh violence today in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the Egyptian protest movement that forced President Hosni Mubarak from power last month. That follows attacks late yesterday on pro-democracy activists by people armed with machetes, knives and whips. Opposition activists report 44 people were injured. And state-run Egyptian television now says 13 people were killed in separate clashes overnight between Catholic Christians and Muslims in Cairo. The clashes broke out as Christians protested last week's burning of a church.

He was in the forefront of the pro-Democracy movement that forced Egypt's president, Hosni Mubarak, to step down. Now, Mohamed ElBaradei has just announced he will run for president of Egypt, himself. Speaking at a privately on Egyptian TV channel, ElBaradei said he nominates himself for the upcoming election. He called for a new constitution for Egypt as opposed to amending the current document. ElBaradei is the former head of the United Nations Nuclear Watchdog Agency.

Jack Cafferty is thinking about the U.S. role in Libya. He's here. He has the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: We're in a tough spot, the United States. Very tough spot when it comes to Libya. President Obama has taken some heat for not being more vocal on what's going on there. The White House has said repeatedly that it's weighing its options. Nothing is off the table, but the president has said little more, and we've been waiting for a while now.

The president is walking a bit of a tight rope if the U.S. were to act unilaterally. No matter how noble the cost of helping those Libyans fighting for their freedom, we would be seen as interfering yet again in the internal affairs of a Muslim nation. That perception what got us 9/11. So, President Obama is not saying much publicly. He's had strong words for Gadhafi demanding he step down, but he stopped short of calling for any other specifics, and Gadhafi is still there.

In the meantime, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has emerged as the mouthpiece for the administration. She traveled to Geneva last week, met with top diplomats to discuss military and humanitarian options in Libya. Clinton told Sky News yesterday, the United States wants to see the international community support a no-fly zone. She also said it was important that the United States decide what to do about the conflict in Libya, the United Nations, rather, not the United States.

Some of the president's top aides were scheduled to meet today to talk about the situation in Libya. They included the Secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, CIA Director Leon Panetta, and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but the president of the United States, the commander in chief, not scheduled to attend.

Here's the question, when it comes to Libya, who has the stronger voice, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and give us your thoughts -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, thanks very, very much.

As Libya's civil war heats up, so does the debate over imposing a no-fly zone. We'll get the pros and the cons from a former fighter pilot who enforce the no-fly zone over Iraq and led the 1986 bombing of Libya.

The Republican Senator John McCain is also a former military pilot. He's strongly in support of a no-fly zone over Libya right now, at least parts of it. He's here in the SITUATION ROOM this hour. He'll explain why.

And straight ahead, a new sex abuse scandal rocking a major catholic diocese.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The sex abuse scandal that rocked the Catholic Church is now roaring back to life in Philadelphia where 21 priests have been put on leave in connection with suspected abuse cases. CNN's Mary Snow is in Philadelphia right now. The archbishop talked about the scandal in today's Ash Wednesday service. What's going on here, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, today, the 21 priests put on leave were named as individual churches told parishioners about who is on that list. And for those closely monitoring the church's sex abuse scandal say that the number of suspensions in a single day is unprecedented.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): As the faithful pack Philadelphia's catholic basilica for Ash Wednesday services and the start of a season of repentance, Cardinal Justin Rigali addressed the child sex abuse scandal within his ranks.

CARDINAL JUSTIN RIGALI, ARCHBISHOP OF PHILADELPHIA: During this lent, we are especially conscious of the grave sins of sexual abuse committed against minors, in particular, by members of the clergy.

SNOW: Churches throughout Philadelphia learned whether their priests were among 21 Rigali put on leave Tuesday after review of suspected child abuse. Several others would have been included, says the diocese, but one was already on leave, two were incapacitated, and two are no longer in the diocese, but their new superiors were notified.

RIGALI: Once again, we renew our commitment to make every effort possible to prevent these evil acts and to protect children from harm.

SNOW: Protesters representing victims of sexual abuse by priests weren't swayed by the cardinal's apology.

BARBARA BLAINE, SURVIVORS NETWORK: We think it's belated, it's begrudgingly given, and it's the bare minimum.

SNOW: Last month, a grand jury report concluded there were 37 priests with credible allegations of sexual abuse. Three priests were charged with alleged sexual assault of minors. A church leader responsible for investigating abuse reports was charged with endangering the welfare of a child. Of the rest, Rigali at the time, assured none were still active, but just days later, three priests were put on leave.

Around the same time, the cardinal hired former prosecutor Gina Smith, who has experience in child abuse case to investigate, which led to the additional suspensions. David Gibson who's written two books on the church's sex abuse scandal calls the action unprecedented.

DAVID GIBSON, AUTHOR: I think the church recognizes and Cardinal Rigali recognizes that they're almost at a tipping point. People are so fed up, and they're so suspicious. They have no idea what the church, meaning the hierarchy, is up to, that they have to take swift, dramatic action.

SNOW: And some of the Catholics attending the cardinal's service say these are trying times for them.

JOHN IVAN, PARISHIONER: It is a horrible thing. It's a shameful thing, but it's something that we'll get through.

MARY SCOTT, PARISHIONER: It's going to be a long time before I can face my priests and the people who run my parish and know that they weren't involved or didn't have some say in what happened in this. So, I think, that's where it rattles me the most.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (on-camera): And this isn't the first time that there's been a grand jury report detailing allegations of child sex abuse by a priest. There was another report back in 2005. And bishopaccountability.org, which is an organization tracking these abuse cases, say what's different here is that the D.A., by ways of the grand jury, followed up to see what the diocese here in Philadelphia is doing, and that raises questions about what other diocese around the country are doing -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So, Mary, what happens next to these priests?

SNOW: What happens now is these 21 priests who were put on leave yesterday, the district attorney says that, in these cases, the statute of limitations have run out. And now, it is up to the church to discipline these priests if it is going to -- it's going to continue its investigation, but the D.A. has also said that if any other victims come forward with allegations that are within the statute of limitations, that the D.A. will prosecute.

BLITZER: Mary Snow in Philadelphia for us. Thank you.

The former pilot who led the 1986 U.S. bombing of Libya is speaking out to CNN about imposing a no-fly zone over the country right now.

Plus, Senator John McCain, he's leading the push for a no-fly zone. He's here in the SITUATION ROOM this hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: As the death toll rises in Libya, rebel leader pleading with international community today to quickly impose a no-fly zone, but 25 years after a U.S. air strike against the Gadhafi regime, a key insider on that mission explains what it would take. Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is working the story for us. She has more -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been saying for days now that a no- fly zone over Libya amounts to combat. I talked earlier today to a retired naval officer who's actually done it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): It's been done before. In the no-fly zone over Iraq, U.S. war planes patrolled for over a decade, bombing targets, trying to keep the Iraqi military boxed in. Retired Admiral John Nathman commanded pilots flying those missions. It wasn't always easy.

ADM. JOHN NATHMAN, U.S. NAVY (ret.): In Southern Iraq, we tried to blow up one of these sector operation centers probably ten different times.

STARR: But then, ask Nathman about Libya. A 1986 bombing of a Berlin disco tied to Moammar Gadhafi led to a U.S. retaliatory strike. Nathman flew the lead FA-18 fighter jet over Libya. U.S. pilots fired missiles including harms to hit their radars.

NATHMAN: I remember seeing as one of those harms going off about ten miles off my nose, which blew up a brand new SA-6 site that had just been put in place by the Libyans.

STARR: Nathman says the Libyans were overwhelmed.

NATHMAN: I don't think the Libyans had us on radar. I think they were surprised. It was obviously we had caught them by surprise. You know, we were 200 feet above the sea, Mediterranean Sea. We had our radars off. We had our lights off. It was all done on timing. The tactical part of it was beautifully synchronized is the way they say it. Beautifully done.

STARR: The Libyans haven't updated their anti-aircraft system much in the decade since his mission, but there's still a threat to running a no-fly zone operation.

NATHMAN: It's actually a very good system.

STARR: Even if most of the military targets are right along the coast.

NATHMAN: Their radars can reach hundreds of miles out over the coast so they can see the NATO forces coming into their country.

STARR: Attacking aircraft would quickly find themselves over the desert trying to fight against a complex air defense system now behind them. A system provided years ago by the soviets, Nathman says don't count it out.

NATHMAN: But we're going to have to bring in big intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft. Those will probably have to come out of Afghanistan or Iraq. We're going to have to bring in electronic attack aircraft, either stripping them from aircraft carriers in other theaters like Korea or the Persian Gulf. Those are very important areas right now in terms of stability for the United States. And maybe strategically more important to what's happening in the country of Libya itself.

STARR: And there may be plenty of other problems.

NATHMAN: How do you decide when you're at night that that helicopter is a Libyan military helicopter carrying out operations against the rebels? Or is it a civilian helicopter providing resupply to the oil platforms?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (on-camera): And in the end, what would really be accomplished by a no-fly zone? Remember, years after no fly-zone operations in Iraq, Wolf, the U.S. still had to go to war to get Saddam Hussein out of power.

BLITZER: A lot of us remember that 1986 air strike against Libya. One fighter jet, two crew members were lost.

STARR: Absolutely. U.S. air force, F1-11 plane was shot down by the Libyans, and that is Nathman's point. He says Bob Gates is right. This would be combat. Don't think it's going to be easy. Don't think it's just flying over Libya and telling them not to launch their fighter jets. There will be a price to pay.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to get a different perspective coming up. Barbara, thanks very much.

Should the U.S. and its allies impose a no-fly zone over Libya? And who should be in charge? Senator John McCain, he's here in the SITUATION ROOM. He got a very different perspective. Standby.

And an outspoken congressman about to begin controversial hearings on the so-called radicalization of Muslim-American communities. Could his investigation backfire?

And a stunning announcement coming in from NPR just a day after an NPR executive was caught up in a sting operation by a conservative activist.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: And joining us now, Senator John McCain, he's the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Senator, listen to what the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, said this morning as to a possible military option in Libya.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: The British and French governments are going to the United Nations with a draft resolution that would authorize international action. We think it's very important that there be a U.N. decision on whatever might be done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, wouldn't go that far, but do you agree with the secretary of state that the United Nations needs to authorize any U.S. military action in Libya?

MCCAIN: I do not, because I think it's most likely, some people say absolutely sure, that the Russians and Chinese or either/both would veto any such resolution in the U.N. Security Council. So, in some ways, it could be a non-starter.

I do think there are other options, especially NATO, but other -- there are other coalitions of the willing that perhaps could be formed. And we have intervened in other parts, in other crises without the United Nations Security Council approval. It would be nice to have, but I think it's very unlikely given the expressed position of the Russians and also the Chinese.

BLITZER: What if there's no NATO authorization, because NATO requires unanimity?

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, I certainly would want to try that, but I would have wanted to try it some time ago.

Also, I think it's important to recognize the president of the United States have said Gadhafi must go. Now, if they have said that and that's United States policy, then it seems to me that one of the determining, not the only, but one of the determining factors in the conflict that's going on right now is whether there should be a no-fly zone or not.

It's very clear that the air control -- control of the air by the Libyan forces has an effect on the battlefield, which is very harmful to those anti-Gadhafi forces who are pleading for us to impose a no- fly zone, which I don't believe would be nearly as complicated as some would believe.

So, the fact is, it's -- it's our national policy and I think that a no-fly zone and other actions could be taken that, hopefully, would prevent further massacre of innocent, Libyan civilians.

BLITZER: I want to go through some of those other actions and the no-fly zone.

MCCAIN: Sure.

BLITZER: But let -- let me just get you on record: You favor a no-fly zone, but that would require first knocking out their air- defense capabilities, cratering their runways, taking out some of their other radar equipment. Is that right?

MCCAIN: I think it might require some of those actions. The first thing, though, is you tell Libyan pilots that if they fly, sooner or later, that they're going to die. And you will find, that has a very remarkable effect on their desire to fly.

Second of all, the four bases around Tripoli are the areas where their air assets are located. So you're not talking about covering the all of Libya.

Their maintenance of the aircraft they have is not particularly good. They're not a formidable force. We are the strongest nation in the world. We should be able to take care of their air defenses as well as their air assets without too much difficulty.

For 10 years, we enforced a no-fly zone over Iraq. And yes, it takes assets, but we were successful in doing so.

BLITZER: Here's what Bill Daley, the White House chief of staff, said on Sunday. I'll play the clip for you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL DALEY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Lots of people throw around phrases of "no-fly zone" and they talk about it as though it's just a game on a -- video game or something. And some people who throw -- throw that line out have no idea what they're talking about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: It sounded like he was referring maybe to you, to Joe Lieberman, to John Kerry, because you guys have been talking about it.

MCCAIN: Well, I'm very tempted to respond to that, but I -- I'd rather just ignore it --

BLITZER: Go ahead.

MCCAIN: -- and try to --

BLITZER: Go ahead and respond.

MCCAIN: No, no. It's -- it's not -- it's not -- it's a waste of your viewers time.

I think the facts are the president of the United States has said Gadhafi has to go. Right now, the advantage, to some degree, is with Gadhafi forces because of their control of the air and their tanks and superior equipment, and the mercenaries who are there.

So, if this is our policy that Gadhafi must go, then it seems to me some action needs to be taken. For examples, cutting off their -- jamming their communications, jamming their television capability. And be prepared to have to care for a very significant humanitarian situation which is already unfolding. So -- and explore, as the secretary of state has said, all other options. BLITZER: Including arming the rebels?

MCCAIN: I think we have to assess that situation. There is a provisional government that's being formed up in Benghazi now; the first step would be recognition of that government. And then I think we would have to assess how quickly we could get the weapons, what they need.

But I don't think there's any doubt right now that they're being outgunned, Wolf.

BLITZER: And so, just to be precise, you would recognize the opposition in Benghazi right now as the legitimate government of Libya.

MCCAIN: I -- absolutely I would, and I think they are, within a very short period, they are forming a government I believe headed by the former justice minister, and I think we could extend that recognition to them, absolutely. Certainly, Gadhafi has proven that he is illegitimate by the actions that he has taken.

BLITZER: One final question, Senator. It's a question I asked Nick Kristof of "The New York Times" about a week or so ago as well.

Would it be in the U.S. national interest to simply try to take out Gadhafi right now? Have him killed, for example?

MCCAIN: I -- I think it probably would be in our interest, but I think we've shown in the past that that is a much more difficult proposition than it initially appears. Look at attempts at our attempts at bin Laden.

I would focus my attention on trying to change the battlefield equation in whatever ways that I could so that the people of Libya are not continuing to be massacred.

And I want to emphasize my opposition to U.S. ground troops in Libya, because I think that would be very counterproductive.

BLITZER: Senator McCain, thanks for joining us.

MCCAIN: Thanks for having me on, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger. I know you're talking to sources at the White House and elsewhere, Gloria.

McCain makes the point that if the U.S. were simply to announce the creation of a no-fly zone, Libyan pilots would be scared out of their minds. They wouldn't even fly.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. That they would be -- they'd be heading to a certain death. And I think the White House wouldn't disagree with that. I mean, they're not saying that a no-fly zone wouldn't be effective. But I think there are a couple of things here. A, it's very clear they don't want to go it alone. They understand the problems with the United Nations. I think they'd like to do it with NATO. And "B," they believe it's a lot more complicated than Senator McCain obviously believes.

For example, how do you know how effective it's going to be? What if someone, a rebel is flying an airplane, and you shoot down the wrong person? What if Gadhafi's forces have surface-to-air missiles, which there are some reports that they do. What if we're shot down? Are we -- are we prepared for an American to be taken hostage in Libya right now?

And most of all, do we want to intervene in an Arab country right now? The third one. Would we want to do that alone? Absolutely not.

So I think what we're seeing, behind the scenes, they're trying to get something going with NATO, so that it wouldn't just be an American intervention.

BLITZER: McCain, though, says the president said Gadhafi must go.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: But if he survives and stays in power, that sort of undermines the United States.

BORGER: It does.

BLITZER: It makes the U.S. looks weak.

BORGER: It does. I mean, I think he does have a real point there. It's clear. Look, the United States did this with Egypt. Right? President came out, said Hosni Mubarak must go. Guess what? Hosni Mubarak went. Completely different place.

The United States would clearly like this to work like it worked in Egypt. But that's not the case. But they would also argue that they have said Gadhafi must go, but they're doing certain things already. They're talking about NATO conducting 24-hour surveillance of Libyan air space, humanitarian assistance, enforcing an arms embargo.

And again, Wolf, when you have this NATO defense ministers' meeting in Brussels, I think we may see something come out of that.

So the White House would say, "Look, it's not like we're doing nothing. It's not an either/or situation."

BLITZER: And you saw the irritation he had with Bill Daley, the new White House chief of staff. He didn't want to respond, but he held himself back, but you could see he was really irritated.

BORGER: I think McCain learned something from running for president, which is that sometimes it's better not to respond.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Gloria.

Controversial House hearings on Muslim American radicals. Is there really a problem? If so, could the hearings make it worse? We're looking at the possible unintended consequences. Stand by.

Plus surprising new fallout from a hidden-camera sting targeting NPR.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The House Homeland Security Committee chairman Peter King is facing sharp criticism from Muslim-American leaders and others ahead of tomorrow's hearings on radicalization of the U.S. Islamic community. And in addition to the huge uproar, there are real concerns about what happens after the hearings.

CNN's homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve is looking into all of this for us.

Jeanne, what are you picking up?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, some are asking if Congressman King's hearings could have the unintended consequence of increasing the number of radicalized Muslims and making them harder to find.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're messing with Americans now!

MESERVE (voice-over): There is already some suspicion and even some hate directed at Muslims. There is fear Congressman King's hearings could inflame those passions and make it less likely Muslims will cooperate with law enforcement.

ROBERT MARRO, MUSLIM AMERICAN: I don't know if Representative King realizes that, but that's -- that's the real danger to all of this.

MESERVE: According to one study, in 48 out of 120 terror cases involving Muslim-Americans, it was the Muslim community itself that tipped off law enforcement.

ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Tips that we have received. Information has been shared has been critical to our efforts to disrupting plots that otherwise might have occurred.

MESERVE: Law-enforcement officials say the level of cooperation varies from mosque to mosque. At the All Dulles Area Muslim Society in Northern Virginia, the imam works alongside the FBI and police to counter radicalization. No matter what comes out of King's hearings, he says that will continue.

IMAM MOHAMED MAGID, ALL DULLES AREA MUSLIM SOCIETY: Any Muslim who hear or see anyone about to commit a crime, they must and they have to report it. There's no option. There's no -- any way around this.

MESERVE: In his congregation are many young men who might fit the popular stereotype of a terrorist. But several are high-ranking Boy Scouts.

(on camera) Are you an all-American kid?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you know it.

MESERVE (voice-over): In fact, experts say there is no stereotypical Muslim terrorist. Those arrested in connection with domestic plots have varied in age, education and sex. Some are converts. Some are born in the USA.

CHARLES KURZMAN, UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA, CHAPEL HILL: The lack of a single profile for these -- single common denominator for these Muslim-American terrorist suspects makes it virtually impossible to suggest who might turn into a terrorist in the future.

MESERVE: One expert says the most useful thing the King hearing could produce is a commitment to better analyze how radicalization occurs, who is susceptible and how the jihadist message can be neutralized.

FRANK CILLUFFO, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Right now, we have a patchwork to bridge: some very good initiatives, but we don't have a true, honest-to-goodness counter-radicalization strategy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE: Some experts fear the hearings have the potential to feed into the jihadist message that the west is at war with Islam. And that, they say, could actually increase radicalization.

Meanwhile, Congressman King has responded to the attorneys general contention that the Muslim community has given law enforcement valuable tips. King tells Dana Bash, "That's not my experience." He says New York is the epicenter of terrorist activity, and he is unaware of any tips in the city or surrounding counties.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: We'll have live coverage of those hearings starting tomorrow. All right. Thanks very much, Jeanne, for that.

A stunning announcement from National Public Radio comes just a day after NPR was ambushed by a conservative activist in a sting operation.

Plus, puff by puff, Charlie Sheen's career goes up in smoke. Jeanne Moos, she is watching. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Fresh fallout from the story we reported yesterday about a hidden-camera video sting by a conservative activist targeting NPR. CNN's Brian Todd is here with a follow up.

Brian, dramatic developments today.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Two other shoes dropped today. Big shoes. Vivian Schiller, president and CEO of NPR, resigned today. The network's board chairman issued a statement saying the board accepted Schiller's resignation with, quote, "genuine regret and great respect for her leadership."

There have been various reports that Schiller was forced out, but an NPR spokeswoman said she could not confirm those.

This, of course, comes just one day after NPR's former senior VP for fundraising, Ron Schiller, not related to Vivian, was shown in an undercover sting video calling the Tea Party racist and scary among other things.

It was also announced today Ron Schiller will not be taking a job at the Aspen Institute, a prestigious research think tank. Was he pushed into that decision? I asked a spokesman for the Aspen Institute that question. He said in an e-mail that the man to whom Schiller would have reported said the decision was Ron Schiller's.

Wolf, two executives losing their positions today over this.

BLITZER: Does all of this sort of further imperil public radio funding, public broadcasting's funding from Congress, including NPR?

TODD: There are a lot of people who believe it does. And you know, on the video, as you recall, Ron Schiller says that NPR would be better off without federal funding. NPR execs have repudiated that, saying they need federal funds. But this has given ammunition to House Republicans who want to cut them off. The Republicans passed a budget last month that would eliminate funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Here's what House Republican leader Eric Cantor said today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: First of all, you know, the statements were that NPR realizes it doesn't need taxpayer funding. That's what the statement was about. And so perhaps, you know, the truth finally came out. And we're going to proceed along those lines, because that's what was said and indicated by that organization.

As far as the individual in the statements that he made, I think that they stand for themselves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: And we need to clarify on the congressman's remarks a little bit. None of NPR's on-air people actually expressed that view that the network didn't need public funding. And again, NPR executives say Ron Schiller's views on that don't reflect theirs. They say they need that federal money, Wolf, and they're clearly worried right now.

BLITZER: And we're learning now that O'Keefe and his operatives, they were also targeting another news organization.

TODD: It's incredible. A spokeswoman for the Public Broadcasting Service, PBS, said that her network also got approached from those operatives who worked with James O'Keefe. Those men were posing as wealthy Muslim donors offering NPR $5 million.

She says that they got approached for a similar meeting and that they broke off communications, because when they tried to verify the identity of the men's organization, they couldn't confirm it. They had posed as these operatives from a wealthy Muslim charity. They even set up a fake Web site. When PBS couldn't confirm that that really existed, they broke things off.

BLITZER: So NPR and PBS were targeted.

TODD: That's right.

BLITZER: And NPR got targeted more successfully than PBS.

TODD: That's right.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

By the way, NPR's Diane Rehm is a guest on "JOHN KING USA." That's coming up at the top of the hour. She'll discuss the implications of this scandal for local radio stations across the country. "JOHN KING USA" starts right at the top of the hour.

"The Cafferty File" is coming up. Then, life's a drag for Charlie Sheen. Jeanne Moos looks at his seemingly endless smoking.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like the way you go to Houston and you see -- when you go to Houston.com (ph) --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Right back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour is: "When it comes to Libya, who has the stronger voice in this country, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama?"

Mark writes, "Without a doubt Hillary Clinton. Unfortunately, she can't get that far ahead of the White House message, and even worse, the White House hasn't yet made up its mind. Too bad we don't have an adult in the White House like we do at the State Department." Ram in California says, "Absolutely the stronger more resolute voice consistently has been Hillary Clinton's. She warned presciently in Doha that the foundations of progress in the Middle East are, quote, 'sinking into the sand,' unquote, and the region faces disaster without real reforms. Events starting with Tunisia right through Egypt have proven her right."

Raich writes, "Neither. Talk is cheap. Both Obama and Clinton can talk till they're blue in the face, and the result will be the same. People in Libya will still die. Giving lip service to the media only builds a stronger case for replacement in the next presidential election."

Jenny in New York writes, "They're both doing what's appropriate for their positions and the administration. Together, they are playing it together perfectly so as not to stoke anti-Americanism."

Anthony writes, "I'm not a big fan of Clinton's, but I think she has a stronger voice on many issues than Obama. Obama has not demonstrated the leadership skills, or his professed leadership skills, since his campaign. The United States is the greatest nation in the world, and we deserve a great leader, which we don't have at this time."

Cal in Ohio writes, "Easy. Neither one."

Dawn says, "Who knows whose voice is stronger? While we talk, talk, talk, the brave people of Libya are dying. For God's sake, level the playing field with a no-fly zone. Give them a chance."

And Kirk in Minnesota: "Who cares? I'm tired of hearing about Libya. What are we going to do about it anyway? Invade?"

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

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty. You know, this Libya story, it's not going away, at least any time soon. Looks like this civil war is going to be protracted and who knows how long it will go on, how many people will die?

CAFFERTY: Can you imagine the price that Gadhafi will extract if his forces manage to beat this revolt back and he prevails?

BLITZER: Yes.

CAFFERTY: It will be -- it will be awful.

BLITZER: It'll send a message to a lot of other countries in that region, as well, that, you know what? What didn't happen in Tunisia, what didn't happen in Egypt, the militaries in those two countries basically refusing to kill fellow countrymen.

CAFFERTY: Right.

BLITZER: In Libya that's not necessarily the case, and maybe other leaders will learn that lesson, as well.

CAFFERTY: Well, and other people who want to revolt for their freedom will probably learn that, if you can't win for sure, you better be careful.

BLITZER: Yes, all right, Jack, see you tomorrow. Thanks very, very much.

"JOHN KING USA" coming up right at the top of the hour. NPR's Diane Rehm joins John to talk about that hidden-camera scandal rocking NPR right now.

And Charlie Sheen says he's winning. But guess what? All we see is a lot of smoking. Jeanne Moos is next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLIE SHEEN, ACTOR: It's radical. It's radical, and the people are doing exactly what they should be doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Charlie Sheen says he's winning, winning. I don't know if that's true, but I do know he's smoking, smoking. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): No one would ever accuse party boy Charlie Sheen of being a drag.

SHEEN: Facial or butt-al?

MOOS: But he's been doing nothing but dragging on butts, exhaling streams of smoke.

SHEEN: Hiya, Chuck E. Cheese malt.

MOOS: Smoking while hugging, smoking while talking.

SHEEN: Built by trolls. Keep that in mind. Phones were built by trolls.

MOOS: Pointing while smoking. Lighting cigarette after cigarette. Putting them out in a glass of who knows what.

It used to be Don Draper who inspired smoking montages --

(MUSIC: "Smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette")

MOOS: -- on the series "Mad Men," but some say this madman is the new poster boy for cigarettes, or when he gets crass, against cigarettes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like the way you go to Houston and you see -- why don't you go to Houston.com (ph). You see --

MOOS (on camera): Ew. That gross thing with the cigarette up his nose has spawned imitators --

(voice-over) -- from a YouTuber snorting smoke from a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) cigarette to a woman repeatedly snorting regular tobacco smoke.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It hurt. This is the dumbest thing I've ever done on video.

MOOS: In an era when they're banning smoking, even outdoors in parks, Sheen has been puffing away during network interviews, and between interviews, he's stalling --

SHEEN: Give me one second.

MOOS: -- pausing to suck in one last drag before he has to go in.

While everyone wonders if he's still on drugs or off, there's one drug habit he's flaunting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you had your breakfast yet?

SHEEN: No, I'm smoking a cigarette and drinking something I won't reveal. Unless they pay me.

MOOS: And to think that in the movie "Platoon" he played a rookie pot smoker --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First time?

SHEEN: Yes.

MOOS: -- who could barely --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put your mouth on this.

MOOS: -- keep his smoke down.

(MUSIC: Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit")

MOOS: Oh, he still occasionally complains about his own smoke.

SHEEN: It's all this smoke.

MOOS: And verbally assaults his lighter.

SHEEN: Why are you a whore?

MOOS: But like some sort of smoking machine, Charlie Sheen drags and dangles.

SHEEN: Take it or die violently.

MOOS: He makes a cigarette part of his body language.

(on camera): Charlie Sheen even had the nerve to show his ash.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A little bit of smoke and mirrors between you and the people so that you're just not, you know, overexposing yourself.

MOOS: Nice ash, Charlie.

(voice-over) Jeanne Moos, CNN --

SHEEN: Everybody --

MOOS: -- New York.

SHEEN: -- wins!

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thanks very much. That does it for me. Thanks very much for watching.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.