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THE SITUATION ROOM
Ban on Some Flights in New York Goes Into Effect
Aired October 13, 2006 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Kitty. And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you tonight's top stories.
Happening now, breaking news. A new ban on some flights in New York City. It's a direct response to the small plane crash into a building that killed Yankees' pitcher Cory Lidle, and his flight instructor. It's 7:00 p.m. in New York, where this new rule could be key to Homeland Security. We're watching this story.
America's staunchest ally in Iraq meanwhile sounds unwilling to stay the course. It's midnight in London, where British Prime Minister Tony Blair is endorsing his army chief's call for a troop pullout, quote, soon.
And a campaign stampede by a former Donald Trump apprentice. Is this any way to test Homeland Security, the elephant in the room heads to the border. I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We have breaking news for you tonight. Some significant developments in the wake of that plane crash that killed New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and his flight instructor. The Federal Aviation Administration has just announced it's changing the rules governing flights along New York City's East River. CNN's Mary Snow is joining us now live from New York. She has the late breaking developments. Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, the FAA says tonight, it is banning fixed wing aircraft from flying above the East River unless those planes have -- are in direct contact, that is, with air traffic control. Now, this comes two days after Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle's plane crashed into an apartment here on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. And it came as a surprise to many, including the governor of New York George Pataki, that these small planes could fly at such low altitudes with visual flight rules in effect, only. And that meant that those planes were not in direct control with air traffic controllers. The governor and others had called for the FAA to review these rules, the FAA released a statement just last night, saying it was doing so, and then, today, just a short time ago, said it is putting these rules in place, effective immediately, saying its doing so out of safety considerations. Wolf?
BLITZER: And a lot of concern, at least expressed by some lawmakers, politicians in New York and others, Homeland Security experts, even a small plane could cause a lot of damage in the hands of a terrorist.
SNOW: Absolutely. And so many what if questions were asked in the wake of this crash. And many, as I said, were surprised that these small planes could get so close to the city skyline.
BLITZER: A plane loaded with dynamite, TNT or even worse could in fact be very deadly. Mary, thanks very much for that. We'll have more on this story coming up. Stay tuned to CNN though, day and night for the most reliable news about your security.
Tonight, there are serious questions over when foreign troops should leave Iraq. In a surprise assessment, America's most supportive ally in the war now says its troops should leave sometime soon, a direct quote, those comments from the chief of the British army, and endorsed today by none over than the British Prime Minister Tony Blair himself. Our Zain Verjee is following this new development. She's joining us now with more. Zain?
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, stunning comments from a senior British military commander. His remarks about Iraq are igniting a furious debate both in Britain and here in the U.S.
VERJEE (voice-over): The British prime minister says he's in full agreement with the overall comments from the chief of the British army, that Britain's should not stay in Iraq forever. But Tony Blair says some of the words are being taken out of context. In the London newspaper "The Daily Mail," General Richard Dannatt says British troops in Iraq are making the situation worse. And he says the British troops should leave Iraq soon. The paper also quotes him saying the post invasion plan for the war was poor. Dannatt echoed some of his comments about Iraq in a TV interview.
GEN. RICHARD DANNATT, BRITISH ARMY CHIEF: We need to keep pressure on because we can't afford to be there indefinitely. We have a major commitment in Afghanistan, we've got commitments in the Balkans still. And I'm particularly concerned to make sure there isn't an army being for five-years time, for ten-years time for whatever problems in the world crop up next.
VERJEE: Meanwhile, Dannatt says some of his comments to the paper are being overblown. In remarks on the British defense ministry website, Dannatt did say the British troops are helping the security effort in Basra, but quote, "There are other parts where our mere presence does exacerbate and violence results."
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VERJEE: Britain's army chief though insists that his comments do not represent a split within the government. Still, his remarks have been seized upon by many anti-war groups. Wolf?
BLITZER: Zain, thanks very much for that.
Britain by the way, has more than 7,000 troops in Iraq. Many fighting the southern part of the country in Basra. Let's go there for a better sense of the situation right now.
BLITZER: Joining us now, our correspondent Michael Ware, he's embedded with British forces in Basra, in the southern part of Iraq. Michael, you've heard of the comments of the British military commander General Richard Dannatt, suggesting that the mere presence of British forces in Iraq is exacerbating the situation, making it worse. Does that coincide with what you're seeing and hearing on the ground?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very much so, Wolf. I mean the Brits are struggling to find a fine balance between their presence contributing to a stability and a safe and secure environment, yet also having that presence as you say exacerbate attacks. Indeed I had a British commander in the field tell me just a few days ago, before General Dannatt made his comments, that he'd redeployed his forces from their base, because essentially, they were a magnet for attacks. They were encouraging attacks in the province where this commander operates. I've also just had a conversation with a very senior British diplomat here in Basra, and he says, in many ways, insurgent groups and militias gain political traction by attacking British forces. This is one of the currencies of political credibility here in the south, and particularly in Basra. The British diplomat suggested that after the withdrawal of British troops, which he is not suggesting occurs right now, these insurgent and militia forces will struggle to reclaim that credibility, as they will no longer have a force to bounce off, that being the Brits, and the Brits are under daily assault. In the last 24 hours, Brits just here in the city alone have been attacked seven times by small arms, roadside bombs, and mortars, and 107 millimeter Katyusha rockets. Wolf?
BLITZER: Michael, we're showing our viewers pictures from all over Iraq. You have spent a lot of time not only with British forces but with U.S. military forces throughout Iraq, over these past three and a half years. Based on all those conversations, do U.S. military commanders feel the same way as this British commander, basically, that Iraq, a Muslim country, doesn't want any foreign forces there?
WARE: Well, it's very clear that the American forces indeed, all the coalition forces, are seen as occupiers, that almost universal vein throughout the Arab parts of the country. Plus there is the religious factor, it's a very easy call to arms, both for Sunni and Shia extremists to attack coalition forces, indeed, al Qaeda describes them as, this is where you can come and fight the great Satan itself, that being America. However, U.S. commanders, won't say they've echoed this idea from General Dannatt, that the presence alone of coalition forces encourages attacks. It is not such a firmly held belief among American commanders. They recognize that it is a factor, however, they believe that their presence still remains for the greater good despite any exacerbation of anti-American sentiment. Wolf?
BLITZER: What about, Michael, this comment from General Dannatt suggesting that U.S., British, the international coalition, they had a pretty good plan to get rid of Saddam Hussein, to overthrow his regime, but didn't have much of a plan for the post-war. In other words, they were relying, in his words, more on optimism than any real solid plan. What do you make of that?
WARE: Well, that's a very commonly held belief, and you don't have to stretch too deep beneath the surface to get top American or British commanders, nor the diplomats to say that grievous errors were made in the early parts of the occupation of Iraq. Indeed, as many disparaging comments that are made about the original coalition administration, headed by Paul Bremer. Key decisions to disband military forces here in Iraq. The introduction of the de- Bathification program and essentially just stripping away at the entire government apparatus. These people now say that they are paying the price for these errors. In fact they're saying that this has been the legacy that they are encountering and are still trying to combat today. In fact, one of these British diplomats said that we are not even at a standing start in some regards, we are at a handicap even now. Wolf?
BLITZER: Michael Ware is our correspondent on the scene for us, embedded with British forces right now in Basra. Michael be careful, thank you.
WARE: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's go to New York. Jack Cafferty is joining us with The Cafferty File. Jack?
JACK CAFFERTY: Wolf, as much as we all complain about our government, the fact of the matter is, when it gets down to the voting, most incumbents get re-elected. The thinking seems to be something like this. The rest of them are bums, but my congressman or senator is one of the good guys. And in some cases, that's undoubtedly true. But they are part of a system that's no good. It's not what they do so much as individuals that matters, but what they manage to accomplish as a group. And as a group, they stink. It's worth remembering your senator is not your senator at all. He's Exxon's senator or Boeing's senator, or some drug company's congressman. And the only way it will ever change is if we force it to change. So, here's the question. Are you willing to vote against an incumbent even if you like him, in order to change the government? E-mail us your thoughts, firstname.lastname@example.org or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile. Wolf?
BLITZER: Good question, Jack, thanks very much. We'll get the answers coming up.
Also, a new felon in the United States Congress about to do some hard time in prison. Another election-time scandal, this time for the GOP.
Plus, Colin Powell. Did President Bush fire him? And did he have grave doubts about the war?
And elephants across the border, a congressional candidate pulls a stunt that shows a gaping hole at the border. Jeanne Moos will have that story. Stick around, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Right now, Congressman Bob Ney of Ohio is a convicted felon and a political threat to his fellow Republicans. Ney pleaded guilty today to corruption charges in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. But get this, he's refusing to resign from the House of Representatives right away. And now House leaders are threatening to actually go ahead and kick him out. CNN's Joe Johns is following the story. He's joining us tonight. Joe?
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Bob Ney may have pleaded guilty but right now it looks like he's going to keep collecting his government paycheck for a while. His lawyer says, he won't resign immediately.
JOHNS (voice-over): Court documents in the Ney case read like an attack ad writer's dream. Ney admitted accepting trips worth $170,000, luxury accommodations in Scotland and London, golf at St. Andrew's, along with meals and concert tickets. In a statement he blamed lobbyist Jack Abramoff and Washington. "I never acted to enrich myself or to get things I shouldn't," he said. "But over time, I allowed myself to get too comfortable with the way things had been done in Washington, D.C. for too long." Even though he pleaded guilty to corruption charges, his lawyer will only say he'll resign before his January 19th sentencing. The White House wants Ney out.
TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What Congressman Ney did is not a reflection of the Republican Party, it's a reflection of Congressman Ney and he ought to step down.
JOHNS: And the congressional GOP agrees, saying they'll move at the earliest possible time to expel Ney. But by then, the election will be over. Republicans for their part are trying now to turn the tables, for example, hitting Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid for what the GOP calls a shady land deal. Reid has aggressively defended the deal, saying it was all above board and perfectly legal.
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JOHNS: Still, though, Republicans being in control of the House and Senate remain the focus, Congressman Bob Ney could get a prison term of 27 months and fines of up to $60,000.
BLITZER: Is he sticking around refusing to resign basically because of the paycheck he's still getting from the American taxpayer?
JOHNS: Wolf that is the assumption, that he is sticking around for the money, he needs it. And what we're talking about is about $15,000, through November, which is the time when the lame duck session comes that they would expel him if he doesn't step down first.
BLITZER: So he wants that money, and he's presumably going to get it. Thanks, Joe. Joe Johns reporting for us.
Now to the Mark Foley congressional page scandal. An e-mail the Florida Republican sent to Governor Jeb Bush in 2004 just before the presidential elections has now surfaced. Then Congressman Foley complained that he was being ignored by President Bush during his various trips to Florida. Foley wrote Governor Bush, and I'm quoting now, "Have I done something to offend the White House? I am always getting the shaft. They came to Ft. Pierce a few weeks ago and said I was not allowed to attend, yet Joe Negron is there. Tomorrow POTUS, which stands for the president of the United States, is in Martin County and I'm told I am not allowed to be there either. I can't quite figure what I have done but this is a continuing pattern of slights. I have constantly put the president in the best possible light on everything from Haiti to hurricanes, sorry to trouble you and I wouldn't if this wasn't so frequent. Adam Putnam was with him today in his district."
President Bush made a number of trips to Florida while he was campaigning for re-election in 2004, Florida was a key state, of course. His brother, the Governor Jeb Bush reportedly responded to Foley's e-mail, saying the congressman wasn't being intentionally snubbed. Let's bring in our congressional correspondent Dana Bash. Dana, what are you picking up about these e-mails?
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I talked to several current and former senior Bush administration officials, as well as a former Foley aide, trying to get a sense of whether or not the White House really was in fact trying to snub Mark Foley, or, and if so, why. And it turns out, in fact, despite the fact that Mark Foley said in that e-mail that he has always stuck by the White House, there was a feeling inside the Bush political shop, especially from Karl Rove, the president's top political advisor of course, that Mark Foley was somebody who really wasn't on their side all of the time. Somebody who, according to one official, used to grandstand and would say things in public about the White House that made them quite angry politically. In fact, listen to a quote from Mark Foley, just a few weeks before he wrote that e-mail to Jeb Bush, complaining he was snubbed by the White House.
He told a Florida paper, speaking about the president's, the way the president speaks, quote, "He gets a deer-in-the-headlights look. When he stands at a podium, he's grabbing it like a lifeline." Now, that's a Republican talking about his own president, in the swing state of Florida, just a few months before the president was trying to win re-election there. Wolf?
BLITZER: Dana, have you found any suggestion, any reason to believe he was kept away for any other reason?
BASH: No. In talking to several sources, the answer to that is no. In fact I talked to one senior administration official today who said flatly, if anybody is suggesting that the White House snubbed Mark Foley because of the fact that he was gay, or even because anyone in the White House had any idea about his inappropriate behavior, this official called that, quote, ridiculous. In fact, one of Foley's former aides told me today that the reality is, he did spend time with the president when the president was in Florida, often. In fact, one of the pictures that has now become infamous is of the president and Mark Foley and former FEMA director Mike Brown touring after one of the hurricanes a couple of years ago in Florida. And, Foley was known inside the White House as one of those congressmen, according to another senior official, who wanted to be invited to everything. This official, said, quote, he believed he was the dean of the Florida delegation. Any time the president was in Florida, he wanted to be there. Now that is a quote about Mark Foley. I can tell you in covering the White House and Congress, it probably could be a quote said about a few other members of Congress when it comes from the White House. Wolf?
BLITZER: I suspect you're right, Dana. Thanks very much, Dana Bash reporting for us.
And I'll speak about the Foley and Bob Ney controversies, among many other subjects, the battle for Congress with the chairman of the Republican and the Democratic Parties, Ken Mehlman and Howard Dean, they'll be joining me this Sunday on "LATE EDITION," 11:00 a.m. eastern, "LATE EDITION", the last word in Sunday talk.
And there's an important story we're getting now. Let's go to our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre. What are we picking up Jamie?
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, it appears that the U.S. government may have the first evidence to confirm whether or not North Korea conducted a nuclear test. We have been reporting all day that an initial test of air samples didn't produce any evidence of radioactivity. A U.S. official tells CNN that the U.S. government now has some evidence of radioactivity at that North Korean nuclear site, and while he called the evidence preliminary, he says, if it's confirmed, it would put the U.S. in a position to be able to say, for sure, that North Korea did conduct a nuclear test Sunday night, Monday morning Korea time. But again, this is preliminary evidence, it would be the first real indication, the detection of radioactivity near the site, presumably from air samples that it was in fact a nuclear test, after basically almost a week of uncertainty.
Now, another official told CNN that there are people at the director of national intelligence office, working late tonight to perhaps put out a statement. Again, they are reviewing the data. They want to be very careful before they go public with anything that resembles a confirmation, but again, after a week of really having no solid indication, it appears that the U.S. may have some evidence that will help them make a decision one way or the other.
BLITZER: As we welcome our CNN international viewers to this program, Jamie, the fact that its taken so long to determine, yes, there's some evidence, residue of a nuclear test, does that suggest it was a relatively modest, little test, or can we draw that conclusion?
MCINTYRE: Absolutely, in fact, that's the most, you know, logical explanation for why it's taken so long, because it was so small. It's also possible that because it was so small, very little radioactivity would have been released. At this point, officially, the U.S. government hasn't ruled out that it was a non-nuclear blast of some kind. But they've been operating under the assumption all along that it was a nuclear test that didn't go well, that produced a very low yield in the range of 200 tons, a quarter, less than a quarter of a kiloton, a very small blast, so, they think it's something that didn't work very well, but again, without the evidence of radioactivity, they were not able to say for sure. And now it appears they may have some preliminary indications of that. Again, they're going to want to be very careful before they make any sort of public declaration.
BLITZER: Preliminary indications that it was in fact a nuclear test. Is the U.S. best capable to make that kind of determination, or the South Koreans, the Japanese, the Russians, obviously the Chinese, they're much closer to the scene than we are.
MCINTYRE: But the U.S. is flying collection planes out of Japan, so they're just as close as Japan. And they're using the best technology that they have. Now, you know, collecting air samples for instance can be affected by something as simple as the wind blowing in the wrong direction. If the wind is blowing away from where you are collecting and they're not flying by the way directly over North Korea, you may get a sample that doesn't show anything. So -- you know, as we reported this morning, when they were doing the initial test, it wasn't the only test that they were doing, and it appears that some subsequent test results coming back are now giving a positive indication. But again, we want to stress, it's preliminary. Nothing has been announced, and the U.S. is going to want to be very sure that they can be confident in the information before they make any public declaration.
BLITZER: Leading up to this first test, assuming it was in fact a nuclear test, there were indications, there were indications that the North Koreans were about to do this. Are they seeing right now any other indications that a second test could be in the works?
MCINTYRE: No. They've said that it would not surprise them if North Korea were to conduct a second test. But at the same time they see no preparations for the test. And Wolf, you're absolutely right. Before this test, the intelligence community was convinced it was the real thing. In fact, I'm told that CIA director Mike Hayden in briefing some people about the prospect of the upcoming test, said, look, don't look at this as a threat. This is an announcement. They believed that North Korea was going to try to detonate a nuclear device. That's what all the intelligence indicated.
BLITZER: All right, stand by for a moment, Jamie. We're going to continue to follow this breaking news. Joining us on the phone is Wendy Sherman, she was counselor to the former secretary of state Madeleine Albright. She accompanied Madeleine Albright on that trip to North Korea where they met with Kim Jong Il. Wendy Sherman, what do you make of this development, now, apparently, official confirmation coming into CNN now, that this was in fact a nuclear test, that there are some samples of radiation that would suggest that it was precisely what the North Koreans said it was.
WENDY SHERMAN: Well I think that none of us should be surprised. I heard Jamie say, and I quite agree with him, when the intelligence community said once North Korea announced it was going to do a test there was no reason to believe that they were not. There were early reports today that indicated there was no radiation but now the subsequent report showed that there probably was. And I think we have to take it very seriously when North Korea said they were going to shoot off a missile, they did. When they said they were going to test a nuclear weapon, we have no reason to believe, and now there appears to be confirmation that that is exactly what they did do.
BLITZER: Well it looks now like the United Nations Security Council could vote as early as tomorrow on a set of sanctions to go into effect against North Korea. Sanctions not as tough as the Bush administration originally would have liked, but still presumably significant. Will this have an impact, do you sense, given your experience with the North Koreans on Kim Jong Il?
SHERMAN: Well this certainly will provide some pain, and there ought to be consequences to actions like having a nuclear test. I think it is important that Russia and China be part of this vote, and it appears that they will vote for the resolution, and that's a very important signal to North Korea. But at the end of the day, North Korea made a calculation before they did this nuclear test, that there would be sanctions, but that they could survive those sanctions, and live to be a nuclear weapon state, which, it appears they are most decidedly.
So, when the sanctions are in place, North Korea will still have its nuclear weapons. They still might become a nuclear weapons factory, trade or sell, or create an arm's race, not only on the North Korean peninsula, but around the world. And, so, President Bush and the administration must go back to diplomacy, because we must hold back this build up of nuclear weapons in North Korea.
BLITZER: Wendy Sherman, stand by for a moment. I want to go back to our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre. You're getting some more information, Jamie?
MCINTYRE: Well Wolf I just want to be very clear because we're talking about a very serious international matter. Exactly what CNN has been told. CNN has been told that the U.S. government has evidence of radioactivity, not proof, but evidence. And that the evidence is preliminary, and that if it's confirmed, then the U.S. will be in a position to say this was a nuclear test. Now there's some qualifiers in there so I just want to be clear that we don't go beyond what the official has told us, and, I will tell you, that we expect there may be some sort of announcement on this as early as tonight. But it all depends on the analysis of the data, the confidence level that the government has, again, before it makes any public announcement. So what we're reporting tonight is the first indication that the U.S. may be in a position to confirm this, but they have not come out and said that yet.
BLITZER: And that announcement, that statement would come from the U.S. government, presumably, Jamie, is that what you're saying? Do we know where, when, anything like that?
MCINTYRE: Well you know if I was guessing, I would guess, this is the kind of the thing you would hear from the White House. But I can tell you that the director of national intelligence office is the one that's burning the midnight oil tonight, trying to make sure that they have all the information together.
BLITZER: That's John Negroponte's operation, he's in charge of the intelligence community. Wendy Sherman, you've heard those qualifiers that Jamie just accurately put forward. What do you make of that?
SHERMAN: Well I think Jamie is quite right to be very careful here, because over the last few years, as we all know, starting with the reports about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the intelligence community's credibility has come under some concern, to say the least. And so I think it's quite incumbent on the administration to be as absolutely sure as they possibly can be.
I think that North Korea clearly is moving forward with its nuclear weapons program. We all presume they've had nuclear weapons. So I think one operates on the presumption that this was a test, but I think that given the intelligence community's track record, and our credibility around intelligence around the world, it is very important to be very, very careful about what we are doing here, so I quite agree with Jamie.
BLITZER: And I just want to recap, for our viewers who may just be joining us in the United States and around the world on CNN International, here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we have now learned, thanks to Jamie McIntyre, that the U.S. government has what its calling evidence of radioactivity involving that North Korean test.
Preliminary, preliminary evidence, if confirmed, it would in fact determine conclusively, conclusively that the North Koreans did engage in a nuclear test, presumably a small one, but a nuclear test, as they said. Dan Rivers is our correspondent in Seoul, South Korea. He's joining us on the phone now. What are they saying in South Korea? It is just assumed, Dan, that this was in fact a nuclear test?
DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on phone): Well, at the moment, we still haven't had any reaction from the government here. It's still probably too early for them to react, but I think that they have been working under the assumption that this was a nuclear test.
If we now have evidence of that, clearly, that will move things up another notch here. We see during the week, government scientists have been monitoring, you know, radioactivity levels here. We've seen pictures of that on the roof of one of the universities. They've been monitoring radiation levels.
Now, I don't think, as far as I'm aware, that that radiation level would have increased down here. We're quite a long way from the test site, several hundred miles. It may be that they have other ways of monitoring in terms of planes, in terms of boats further up the coast of North Korea.
I know, certainly, there are a number of ways that this could be detected by the comprehensive test treaty organization, which has a huge number of monitoring sites around the world, and those include things like infrasound sites, which they can detect low frequency noise through the atmosphere. They have low frequency noise detectment devices under the water in the sea. They have various ways of measuring radioactivity in the air, so there are a number of ways of measuring this.
And this is the first time that we have been told of some radiation, if this is true, if it is confirmed. Certainly, we got confirmation of the seismological activity, at the time of the test. But it was very small. There were conflicting reports of how big it was.
But some people are saying it was less than a megaton, which would be very small indeed. And there was speculation that perhaps it was possibly conventional explosives. This is a concern, this radiation, then that would tend towards the idea that this is either a very small nuclear advice or that the nuclear device somehow didn't go off as planned. But certainly this will move this up another notch. Wolf?
BLITZER: Dan, very quickly, how much pressure is the South Korean government under right now to start a nuclear weapons program of its own?
RIVERS: I don't think at the moment there's any suggestion that the South Koreans are going to try and procure their own nuclear weapons. They are under the umbrella of the United States, in terms of a deterrent. What I think there is pressure for, though, is for the government to change its dealings with the north, to end its policy of engagement with the north, the so-called sunshine policy, and to get tough with the north.
Now that may mean cutting off aid, that may mean cutting off trade with the north. And the north is totally reliant on China and the south, economically. And I think that's where we may see a change in policy, not in them procuring some of nuclear deterrent, but in terms of getting tough, with what goes over the border and with what they trade with the north, and what humanitarian.
BLITZER: Dan Rivers is our correspondent in Seoul, South Korea right now. Dan, thank you for that.
We're following the breaking news that there is now what a U.S. official says evidence of radioactivity coming from that site where the North Koreans insist they did engage in a nuclear weapons test.
Let's go back to our Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre, who broke this story for us. What else are you picking up, Jamie?
MCINTYRE: Well, Wolf, at this point, again, I just want to underscore the caution that there's been no official announcement from the U.S. government. And the reason for that is they want to have a high degree of confidence in what they say before they say anything publicly.
But a U.S. government official has told CNN that they have picked up evidence of radioactivity at the site. He called it preliminary evidence, and said it needed to be analyzed and confirmed, but there are people working late tonight in the U.S. government, trying to do just that.
Obviously, Wolf, with the vote scheduled tomorrow in the United Nations on sanctions, something that would resemble proof of a nuclear test would be something the U.S. government would want to have in hand. But all this week, the intelligence community has been very cautious, saying that they couldn't confirm or deny a test. And I think you're going to see the same sort of caution here. s BLITZER: And if they do get that hard confirmation, there could be a statement, Jamie, as early as maybe tonight, the U.N. Security Council, set to meet tomorrow, and approve a new UN Security Council resolution, imposing sanctions against North Korea. We are watching this story very closely.
The tension over North Korea's test is certainly focusing new attention on the world's most heavily fortified border. That would be the demilitarized zone dividing north and south Korea. It's been visited by U.S. presidents and other world leaders. More recently, it was visited by our own Zain Verjee. She was just there in the last several weeks. Zain, you had an unusual opportunity to get up close to what could be the most dangerous spot on earth.
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. We went to one particular spot at the DMZ where you can actually get a bird's eye view of North Korea. Here's a little bit about what we were able to see.
VERJEE (voice-over): When presidents want a close-up of North Korea, this is where they come. Checkpoint three, on the South Korean side of the DMZ. This two and a half mile buffer zone is the only stretch of land that separates about 2 million troops from nations still officially at war. Shoot a glance below, a bridge straddles the two countries, the bridge of no return.
(on camera): This is the closest we can get to the bridge of no return. If you look over there, you can just about make out a North Korean guard post. The military demarcation line runs right through the center of the bridge and on the North Korean side the bridge has actually been walled off and it's covered by some bushes, so you can't see it too clearly.
(voice-over): Bill Clinton posed for a photo op here but went too far, throwing security in a tizzy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Clinton walked out, possibly a little too far. Security battalion was rushing to get guys to pull him back. It's not a secure location, the guard post on the other side is manned 24 hours a day.
VERJEE: The bridge is a relic of war, named for Korean POWs faced with a cold choice after hostilities ended. Capitalist south or communist north? If they crossed the bridge, they could never return. American prisoners have also walked this walk. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The last Americans to cross the bridge were in 1968, Commander (INAUDIBLE) and the crew of the USS Pueblo, after being held captive by North Korea for 11-1/2 months.
VERJEE: Icons of the cold war are everywhere at the DMZ. A fake town juts out from the North Korean side. Tall apartment buildings where nobody actually lives, nicknamed propaganda village. North Koreans used to blast patriotic music and messages from loudspeakers here to entice the other side.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They constructed apartment buildings so when they played the propaganda, they could say look how much money we have. You should defect to the worker's paradise.
VERJEE: It may not be a worker's paradise but it's a splendid sanctuary for birds, a strange soundtrack to a landscape loaded with land mines.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The most unique part is just seeing how well I think the wildlife has flourished within this area and having two armies on opposite sides of it and it being untouched.
VERJEE: For the animals here, the state of war is their peace. If this conflict ever ends the land will be destroyed, the area cleared of mines to make it safe for people. And for the troops stationed here, life goes on with the threat of war always hanging in the background.
VERJEE: And Wolf, there's a heavy concentration of troops and weapons on both sides of the DMZ. There are more than two million men believed positioned on either side. Tensions along the border though have appeared to increase since North Korea claimed to have conducted a nuclear test. Wolf?
BLITZER: And presumably, Zain, they'll even increase more now with this report that we're getting that evidence of radioactivity has been detected. It's preliminary, but presumably, if confirmed, it will move up the tension.
I remember when I was there, along the DMZ, at any one point, you could see the South Korean soldiers who seemed much bigger and more healthy than the North Korean troops. Was that your impression when you were there?
VERJEE: The South Korean soldiers, they have to beat least six feet tall. There are certain requirements. Everyone has to be a black belt -- or most of them, at least -- in Tae Kwon Do. And really the whole scene at the DMZ is one of intimidation, of glaring and staring at each other, but despite it, all feeling like it's a little bit of a sense of they are bullies in a playground where each of them are really trying to poke each other's eyes out.
It really has that serious undertone and, over recent days, there have been reports that South Korean security officials and guards and troops have been increased there at the border, at the DMZ, because if war does break out, that would be the line of fire. The men there would be receiving the fire from each other first.
BLITZER: And the artillery, the conventional weaponry they have there is awesome. And forget about nuclear, even the conventional weaponry could kill hundreds of thousands of people very, very quickly.
Zain, excellent reporting for us. Thanks much very for that.
This note to our viewers: on CNN and CNN International, I'll speak this Sunday with John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, about the nuclear crisis with North Korea. That airs on "LATE EDITION," the last word on Sunday talk, beginning at 11:00 a.m. Eastern. We're on the air for two hours every Sunday.
Still to come, we'll have more on the breaking story we're following here in Washington.
Also this -- years after escaping death at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, a plane crashes into her apartment. Mary Snow has this amazing story. You're going to want to see this. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: It's the other breaking news story we've been following this hour. Just about an hour or so ago, the Federal Aviation Administration announced it is banning low altitude flights along New York's East River. That comes two days after a small plane crashed into a high rise condominium building there, killing the Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and his flight instructor.
There are also new details emerging tonight about a woman whose apartment was destroyed by that crash. It turns out this isn't her first close call. Once again, let's go to the streets of New York.
CNN's Mary Snow is joining us -- Mary.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this really is an incredible story emerging from the Upper East Side. Consider these odds: in a city of eight million people, that not just once, but twice, the same person could be affected by two rare, freak accidents in this city. And that's the story of Kathleen Caronna.
SNOW (voice-over): Caronna first made headlines in 1997 when she escaped death at the Macy's Day Thanksgiving Parade. You may remember when strong winds caused the Cat in the Hat balloon to slam into a lamppost and crash into the crowd and hit Caronna in the head and critically injured her. She was in a coma for nearly a month. In a lawsuit she filed and later settled, she stated the accident had caused her permanent brain damage.
Flash forward nearly nine years later to Wednesday's crash when Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle's plane crashed into two stories of this Upper East Side apartment building. One of those apartments is where Kathleen Caronna lived.
SNOW: Now, Kathleen Caronna did not want to be interviewed. I did speak with her mother earlier today who just said it is unbelievable that this could happen twice to the same person. She describes her daughter as a very strong woman, and she just said it's just once, yet again, an example of just how strange life can be -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Mary Snow, thanks very much. Mary Snow reporting for us.
And get this -- another Yankees player has been involved in a plane mishap. The third baseman, Alex Rodriguez was one of seven people on board a private jet that overshot the runway at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, California, earlier today. The airport says an emergency ground system stopped the plane, and no one was hurt.
Just ahead, more on the breaking news we're following. Evidence, evidence that that North Korean test was, in fact, a nuclear test, preliminary evidence coming in, showing some preliminary signs of radioactivity. Much more on this important story coming up, right after this.
BLITZER: Let's get some more now on the breaking news we're following concerning the nuclear situation with North Korea. Our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, is back. He broke this story for us just a little while ago. Update our viewers, Jamie, on what precisely we know.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: OK, I want to be careful here, Wolf, but a U.S. official tells CNN that the U.S. government has preliminary evidence that would suggest there was, in fact, radioactivity coming from that North Korean nuclear test site, this would be the first real confirmation, if confirmed, that North Korea did, in fact, set off a nuclear device underground Sunday night, Monday morning, Korea time. But again, no official announcement has been made. No official determination has been made while this evidence is being analyzed, although, a statement could come as early as tonight.
BLITZER: Also comes the night before, potentially, of this UN Security Council resolution that would impose sanctions against North Korea. We'll watch that as well. Jamie, thank you for that.
Up ahead, tonight. Would you vote against an incumbent you like, simply to change the government? Jack Cafferty with your e-mail.
And get this, an elephant border stunt. A congressional candidate, a mariachi band, and a few massive pachyderms marched right into the country without any security stopping them. Jeanne Moos will have that story.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty joining us once again from New York. Jack?
CAFFERTY: The question this hour, Wolf, is this. Are you willing to vote against an incumbent, even if you like him, in order to change this worthless government we've got in Washington?
Nikki in Pittsburgh: "Jack, I'd vote my own mother out to change this government. Sometimes you have do things you don't want to do for the greater good. If the majority of our senators and congressmen held to this philosophy, the Neys, the Abramoffs and the DeLays would be squashed before making a fortune on the backs of hard-working Americans."
Rob in Seattle: "Yes, I typically vote against an incumbent, especially if they've been there for awhile. I think they go in trying to make a difference, but become fat and corrupt over time. There's something to be said about a country that lets you overthrow the government every two years."
C in Fresno, California: "As my old man used to say, vote the in's out and the out's in. That's what I'm going to do this time around. Perhaps then we'll have some oversight."
George in Illinois: "I don't see the incumbents sweating, but I did see them move very quickly to employ those electronic voting machines."
Mike in Mandan, North Dakota: "I didn't feel well, gave my doctor seven months to get to the bottom of it. Finally, even though I liked him a lot, I changed doctors and I was diagnosed with cancer. Had I not changed doctors, I'd be worm food right now. This country has undiagnosed cancer and it's most certainly time to change doctors."
And Tracy in Tempe, Arizona: "If I can launch a man out of my life that I loved because he wasn't good for me, I can and will certainly have no qualms about saying good-bye to a lawmaker that I might simply like. And unlike a boyfriend, they don't even -- oh, never mind."
BLITZER: Jack, have a great weekend, thanks very much.
Still ahead, an elephant charged on the U.S./Mexican border. Complete, get this, with a mariachi band. Stay with us. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Those of us who have covered politics have seen some strange campaign photo ops in our day. But not anything like the spectacle that played out with the U.S. border with Mexico. Who better to tell this strange story than CNN video columnist Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN VIDEO COLUMNIST (voice-over): We see him, all right. An illegal immigrant crossing into Texas.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see him.
MOOS: Come along for the chase.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Quickly, quickly!
MOOS: They may sound like stampeding elephants, but that part of the story comes later. Back to the illegal immigrant chase.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope he doesn't have a gun.
MOOS: The only thing anybody's shooting off here is their mouth.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right under the U.S. crossing station.
MOOS: This is Raj Bhakta, running for Congress in Pennsylvania, through Raj is better known as one of the contestants...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... Those pants, man, they are on fire, man. Those pants!
MOOS: Who eventually got fired in season two of "The Apprentice."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Man, I'm getting my ass handed to me today.
MOOS: but Now he's a Republican congressional candidate, and one of his big issues is immigration. While visiting a border crossing in Brownsville, Texas.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, hey, hey.
MOOS: Raj stumbled on that illegal immigrant. And as the practically immigrant ran right into the border checkpoint.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unbelievable.
MOOS: Raj mocked what seemed to be the lack of border security.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You going to catch somebody?
MOOS: The border patrol says both Raj and the immigrant were already under surveillance, and the immigrant would have been caught anyway.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's our border security for you, right there.
MOOS: The immigrant was detained.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we did something today.
MOOS: What Raj did was make this campaign video. If they couldn't catch an immigrant crossing the Rio Grande, how about an elephant splashing in it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With a mariachi band playing, and there's nobody playing here, play on boys.
MOOS: The three elephants were briefly detained at a checkpoint later, as they were being driven back to the circus they came from.
The border patrol said, "To our knowledge, there is no problem with bringing three elephants and a mariachi band to a private ranch along the border."
(on camera): Elephants aren't the only ones who never forget. How could fans of the "Apprentice" forget the time that Raj hit on the receptionist moments after being hired by Donald Trump?
DONALD TRUMP, THE APPRENTICE: Raj, I think you made a lot of mistakes. Raj, you're fired.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So Robin, what is your number?
MOOS (voice-over): We don't know if he got the girl, but he did get the elephant.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go, welcome to America.
MOOS: America, the land of the free and the home of broken borders, or is it broken Spanish?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you say hold on in Spanish?
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: I'll be back Sunday, 11 a.m. Eastern for "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk. Among my guests, the US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton. That's it for me. Let's go to Paula in New York -- Paula?
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