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Senator Clinton Calls for Limit on Troop Levels; More Republicans Break Ranks with President; Interview with Former Presidential Adviser Richard Clarke; President Bush's U-Turn on Global Warming?

Aired January 17, 2007 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou. 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, standing up against the buildup in Iraq, Senator Hillary Clinton calls for a limit on troop levels while a key Republican calls the president's plan dangerously irresponsible. I'll be speaking with Senator Chuck Hagel this hour.

A just released transcript that takes you inside the cockpit of a doomed airliner. Moments after the co-pilot comments on the lack of lights on the runway, this Comair jet crashes in Kentucky.

And the doomsday clock creeps closer and closer to midnight. Is the world getting more dangerous? Our Jeanne Moos takes a look.

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

First tonight, Senator Hillary Clinton stakes her ground on a troop buildup in Iraq, making the president's plan an even bigger target in the early race for the White House. The New York Democrat is pushing for a cap on troop levels in Iraq on a day when lawmakers of both parties are drawing new lines in the sand over the war. And that includes her potential rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Senator Barack Obama.

Our correspondent Brian Todd is standing by. But let's go to Capitol Hill first. Our congressional correspondent, Dana Bash with the latest. Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, today the Democratic leadership joined a leading Republican Bush critic in introducing the first legislation, I should say, a nonbinding resolution opposing the president's plan in Iraq. Now that sets up the very first clash between the Democratic Congress and the Bush White House Iraq, yet much of today's attention went to a Democrat who said that kind of symbolic resolution doesn't go far enough.


BASH (voice-over): What could possibly generate this standing- room only crush of reporters on Capitol Hill? Senator Hillary Clinton, adding her voice and a new plan to the growing congressional opposition to sending more troops to Iraq.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Rather than an escalation of U.S. troops, which I do not believe will contribute to long-term success in Iraq, we should be beginning a phased redeployment of U.S. troops.

BASH: Just back from Iraq, the probable 2008 presidential contender laid down what she called her marker. Legislation that would cap the number of troops as of January 1. Tie U.S. funding to Iraq's performance like disarming militias. And require the Bush administration to engage in regional diplomacy.

H. CLINTON: What I've heard out of the administration thus far, I think we will eventually have to move to tougher requirements on the administration to get their attention.

BASH: Capping troop levels in Iraq was proposed by several Democratic White House hopefuls trying to position themselves early and forcefully against the Bush Iraq plan. Senator Chris Dodd had already introduced a similar bill to Clinton's.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: But beyond just expressing our opposition, I felt we needed to do something more meaningful

BASH: Within minutes of Clinton's press conference, the man who could be her strongest 2008 challenger said I not only favor capping the number of troops in Iraq but believe it's imperative that we begin the phased redeployment I called for two months ago.

H. CLINTON: I can count...

BASH: But even Clinton admitted her bill isn't likely to get a vote. What the Senate will debate soon is a new symbolic resolution backed by Democratic leaders and a Republican, which states it is not in the national interest of the United States to deepen its military involvement in Iraq, particularly by escalating the United States military force presence in Iraq.

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R-NE), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: I will do everything I can to stop the president's policy as he outlined it on Wednesday night.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Support is not there for the president's policy in Iraq. The sooner he recognizes that reality and reacts on it, the better off all of us will be.


BASH: And the Democrats' political goal here is to get significant Republican support in order to send that kind of strong message to the president that there isn't support in Congress for his plan. Now there are eight Republicans in the Senate who have come out publicly opposed to the president. Yet, only one of those, in addition to Senator Hagel, has told CNN that they're ready to support this new resolution.

Because many of them say that they simply think that the language as it's written now is too partisan. Now as we speak, what Republicans are doing, Wolf, is trying to stop the GOP revolt, meeting as they did, at the White House today, inside the leadership office, trying to find alternatives to what the Democrats and Chuck Hagel proposed today -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana Bash on the Hill, thank you. And this note. I'll be speaking with Republican Senator Chuck Hagel to find out what he calls Iraq's policy of disaster. That's coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

On Capitol Hill, more and more Republicans as Dana just noted are breaking ranks with the president on his plan for troop buildup. Some are billing it as a full-scale revolt against an unpopular commander in chief and an unpopular war.

Let's turn to CNN's Brian Todd. He's following this part of the story -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the president says no question, 2006 was a lousy year for Iraq. Well that obviously led to a lousy 2006 election for his party. And now some top Republicans are signaling louder than ever they're fed up.


TODD (voice-over): In a recent interview, President Bush said he's not surprised that some on Capitol Hill are skeptical of his new plan for Iraq. But Mr. Bush might not have counted on the brush back from within his own party that some are calling a Republican revolt. Among the most startling defections, a conservative senator from Kansas with his own designs on the White House.

SEN. SAM BROWNBACK (R), KANSAS: The United States seems to care more about a peaceful Iraq than the Iraqis do. If that is the case, it's difficult to understand why more U.S. troops would make a difference.

TODD: Based on our research and conversations with senators and their aides, CNN counts eight Republican senators as firmly against the president's new plan. Five who indicate they're leaning against it. And two who have not embraced it.

MIKE ALLEN, "THE POLITICO": There's losing this large number of senators and as many as 50 or 60 Republicans in the House. That's a shocking number, something this White House has never had to cope with.

TODD: Still analysts say it doesn't mean the Republican defectors will endorse a democratic resolution on Iraq. And they say there's a clear political calculation here. Of the eight senators firmly against the president's plan, five of them are up for re- election in 2008. KEN RUDIN, NPR POLITICAL DIRECTOR: These lawmakers know that George W. Bush can't save them in 2008. Only their instincts, political instincts can save them. And their instincts may tell them that the war is not something to rely on.


TODD: A political calculation clearly understood at the White House where officials say they still want to consult with as many lawmakers as possible in part to challenge them. As one administration official said, part of the conversation ought to be, if they don't support the president's plan, what is theirs? Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brian, thank you -- Brian Todd reporting.

And California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is also weighing in on the debate, suggesting U.S. troops in Iraq should withdraw by the end of the year, says Iraqi officials should be told they need to be self reliant by that point. But the governor says he does support President Bush's plan to send 21,000 more troops to Iraq.

President Bush may feel like he's behind barricades over at the White House tonight. Facing a growing backlash over his Iraq strategy, he's now backtracking on his domestic surveillance program, a key element to his anti-terror strategy.

Let's go to the White House. Our correspondent Ed Henry has the latest -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, for five years, the president basically had a free hand in how he conducted the war on terror, but as you just heard on Iraq and also now on the issue of domestic spying, the president is dealing with a whole new political reality.


HENRY (voice-over): A sharp reversal for President Bush on the issue of warrantless wiretapping, even though Press Secretary Tony Snow tried to portray it as a situation where the Justice Department has no problem with an independent court monitoring the administration's controversial domestic spying.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The foreign intelligence surveillance court has put together its guidelines and its rules. And those have met administration concerns about speed and agility.

HENRY: A far cry from what the president has repeatedly asserted that he need special powers because the 1978 FISA law was outdated.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I looked, I said, look, is it possible to conduct this program under the old law? And people said it doesn't work in order to be able to do the job we expect this to do. HENRY: Democrats who have long charged the president's terrorist surveillance program may have been illegal and unconstitutional declared it was about time the president came around.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: They don't have to follow the law. They can step outside of the law. They don't have to follow the checks and balances that I'd say all Americans, no matter what your political beliefs might be, all Americans ought to ask, why are they doing this? Why are they doing this? Because it doesn't -- in the long run it does not protect us, not if we take away our liberties.

HENRY: New Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy was planning aggressive questioning of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Thursday, but the White House denied any effort to preempt that.

SNOW: It's the FISA court, which is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court which has done this. What you're doing is you're accusing that court of engaging in political activity to, what, bail out the Bush administration? I don't think so.


HENRY: Also, this decision now being held by the Democratic Senate Intelligence Chairman Jay Rockefeller. He said this is a good move, but he also says it's a repudiation of what he called the administration's go-it-alone approach -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry at the White House, thank you.

Let's go to New York. Jack Cafferty is standing by with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Go it alone indeed. More and more alone as the days go by. Iraq is the whole world's problem. That's according to the new secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki- moon. Ban met with President Bush yesterday. The two men agreed to work together for peace in trouble spots around the world.

The secretary general told reporters that Iraq needs the quote, "urgent attention of the international community", unquote. And in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies he said this. Iraq is the whole world's problem. I pledge my best efforts to help the Iraqi people in their quest for a more stable and prosperous Iraq. The U.N. role can assist in building an inclusive political process, helping to cultivate a regional environment supportive of a transition to stability and pursuing reconstruction.

Here's the question. The new United Nations secretary-general says Iraq is quote, "the whole world's problem" -- unquote. Is it? E-mail your thoughts to or go to -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

And still to come, Republican rebel, the GOP senator, Chuck Hagel, here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He calls Iraq the worst foreign policy disaster since Vietnam. Find out what he plans to do about it.

Also, left, right alliance -- evangelicals teaming up with environmentalists to combat global warming. How much influence will they have on the president's policy?

Plus, moments before a tragedy. The last seconds before a plane crash caught on tape. Hear for yourself how a routine flight took a terrible turn down the wrong runway.

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


BLITZER: Now an unusual take on what happened -- what would happen if U.S. troops were to pull out of Iraq. We get it from Richard Clarke, the former U.S. counter-terror czar under both Presidents Clinton and Bush. In the past, he warned of serious attacks by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. He also warned of attacks by Saddam Hussein into Kuwait before the first Gulf War. In this interview, he offers another prediction. Is the president's plan going to work?

RICHARD CLARKE, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: No, I think the president's plan just delays the inevitable. At some point, whether it's next year or two years from now, or five years from now, all U.S. major combat units will leave Iraq. And when they do there's going to be chaos. We've created that situation for ourselves.

And there's nothing that we can do, in my analysis, between now and next year or five years from now, that will change that outcome. So the only thing that happens by staying on another two years and putting more troops there is that more Americans get killed and more Americans get maimed.

BLITZER: So what should the U.S. do? Just simply pull out and say there's nothing that the United States can do and leave?

CLARKE: No, no, I think there's a vast middle ground. And people like to say you're either in favor of staying forever or you want to cut and run tomorrow. I think what we can do without major U.S. combat units, is to use intelligence units, is to use Special Forces units, is to have an over-the-horizon presence which can go in when necessary to stop, let's say, al Qaeda from creating a sanctuary, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) al-Anbar.

We have an obligation to continue our rebuilding effort and our assistance effort. There are all sorts of things that we can do, short of having 160,000 combat troops there. I just am not convinced that having 160,000 combat troops there is doing any good whatsoever. It is, of course, providing targets. And we've had 3,000 Americans killed. And just as bad, 2,000 Americans have become double amputees.

I think an awful lot of the people who are fighting us over there are fighting us just because we're there. And if we left, a vast amount of the fighting would go away, if we pulled out the combat units.

BLITZER: The administration argues if the U.S. were to leave too quickly, a whole new generation of Osama bin Ladens, of al Qaeda operatives who are being trained in the al-Anbar Province right now would have that kind of Afghanistan-like sanctuary and they would come out and kill a lot of Americans.

CLARKE: Well only if we let them. And there's absolutely no reason why we would let them. You don't have to have combat -- U.S. combat troops in al-Anbar to stop al Qaeda from building up in Afghanistan there. You can use intelligence forces.

You can do Special Force raids. You can do bombing. You can have a political settlement with the Sunni sheiks in the areas and ask the Jordanians and the Saudis to be part of that. This dichotomy, this false dichotomy of either we have two Marine divisions out there or al Qaeda takes over is just not very analytical.

BLITZER: I want you to listen to what the top Republican in the Senate, the minority leader, Mitch McConnell told me on Sunday. Listen to this.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: What we do know has been extremely successful. And the principle reason for going on offense after 9/11 and Afghanistan and Iraq was to protect us here at home. That part of the war on terror has been 100 percent success. We've not been attacked again for five years.


BLITZER: He says the Bush administration deserves a lot of credit for that. What do you think?

CLARKE: Well I say the bureaucracy does deserve credit for not allowing another attack, but it has nothing to do with the fact that we're in Iraq. If anything, the fact that we're in Iraq makes it more likely another attack will occur because we're making more enemies and we're not concentrating on reducing our vulnerabilities here at home. Frankly, if you're worried about terrorism, the thing to do is to go out of Iraq and go after bin Laden, go after al Qaeda, reduce our vulnerabilities here at home not to stir up the hornets net by being in Iraq.

BLITZER: Richard Clarke is the author of a new novel entitled "Breakpoint". It's a chilling novel of how vulnerable the United States is to cyber attack. Although his book is fiction, he believes the United States is not prepared right now and faces a worse than Katrina-like disaster.

Up ahead, President Bush is losing allies and members of his own party are starting to abandon him on the war in Iraq. We'll speak with one of them, Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, who says this is not a monarchy we have.

And fugitive from Iraq. We'll find out how a former Iraqi government official escaped from an Iraqi prison, flew right into Chicago without anyone stopping him.

Stay with us. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Let's check in with Carol Costello. She's got a closer look at some other important stories making news. Hi, Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, Wolf. Hello to all of you.

If you have a kid heading to college, the House of Representatives has voted overwhelmingly to cut interest rates on some federal student loans. It's a move some say could save students and their parents thousands of dollars. But critics, including the White House, warn it might encourage more debt. It's the fifth of six bills that House Democrats pledge to pass in their first 100 legislative hours.

Travelers who have mistakenly wound up on government no-fly lists will soon be able to at least try to correct the problem. The Homeland Security Department says starting February 20, a one step process will be available for people to seek review of the status with the Transportation Security Administration. An estimated 31,000 travelers are affected every year because their names are similar to those on the no-fly list.

We're just getting in some new pictures in from Los Angeles. And I want to show you what I-5 looks like now. This is the highway in the mountains north of Los Angeles. You see a huge backup. It's very icy on that highway because earlier this morning they had a blizzard with some snow. And the highways were icy because of unusually cold temperatures in California. Right now, the north and southbound lanes of I-5 are shut down. In fact, the California Highway Patrol is escorting 100 cars at a time off of the highway. That's why you see this huge backup here. What a traffic nightmare. When it clears though maybe we'll have an update for you next year. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) California.

Also Missouri investigators are looking at some old missing children cases to see if Michael Devlin might be connected. He's the man charged with kidnapping the two Missouri boys who were found at his apartment last week, one of whom was missing for four years. Of particular interest the case of 13-year-old Bianca Piper who disappeared in 2005 and Arlin Henderson who vanished in 1991 when he was 11 years old.

That's a look at the headlines right now, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, see you in a few moments, Carol. Thank you.

And just ahead, is President Bush's new plan for Iraq, quote, "dangerously irresponsible". Senator Chuck Hagel says so and he's a member of the president's own party. Coming up, I'll ask him to explain why he feels the Iraq plan is so dangerous. And a story of what happened from those who experienced the horror, voices from last year's Comair jet crash that killed 49 people. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Happening now, the Bush administration reverses itself. It will now allow the FISA Court to oversee its domestic surveillance program and the administration says it will seek the court's permission before eavesdropping. The NSA spy program originally operated independently of the FISA Court.

Also, a bipartisan group of senators introduces a nonbinding resolution proposing more troops going to Iraq. Says the U.S. strategy and the presence in Iraq can only be sustained with public and congressional support. Democratic Senators Joe Biden Carl Levin and Republican Senator Chuck Hagel are co-sponsoring the legislation.

And nature's wrath has killed at least 60 people in nine states, amid a paralyzing winter storm from as far south as Texas to as far north as Maine.

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

Turning now to the tale of an American who took an important post to the Iraqi government but then ran into some very serious trouble in Baghdad. He's back home after some hair-raising adventures. And that's raising a lot of controversy.

Let's turn to our senior national correspondent John Roberts. He has an amazing story -- John.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SR. NAT'L CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's a story of intrigue that's remarkable even by Iraqi standards. It involves the former Iraqi electricity minister, an American citizen, charges of corruption and a daring prison break.


ROBERTS (voice-over): Iraqi officials say he is a fugitive. But Aiham Alsammarae was back at work in his Chicago area engineering firm today.

AIHAM ALSAMMARAE, FORMER IRAQI ELECTRICITY MIN.: For the sake of myself and sake of my family, I have to do it. If you are in my place, or any other American, official or not, in my place, he would do what I did.

ROBERTS: What Alsammarae did was break out of an Iraqi jail in Baghdad's green zone, then flee the country. He had been the electricity minister in Iraq's interim government, even met President Bush in the Oval Office. Last October, he was convicted on corruption charges and sent to prison. He appealed and won. The conviction was overturned in December and Alsammarae claims he was ordered released. But when officials said he would be transferred to another jail for processing, Alsammarae, a Sunni and a U.S. citizen, bolted.

AIHAM ALSAMMARAE, FORMER IRAQI ELECTRICITY MIN.: They said to follow the procedure, you have to go outside the Green Zone and we have to do the fingerprints for you. I said this is impossible because I would get killed.

ROBERTS: The escape, however, had been long planned. Alsammarae fled to the Baghdad Airport, changing cars three times, then took a private jet that had been waiting for him for a week there from Jordan. There, he got a new U.S. passport from the embassy, and after doing some business in Dubai, flew back to Chicago.

The State Department was well aware of his escape. But because DHS didn't know of any outstanding warrants against him, he was allowed back into the country. Alsammarae admits he has five more cases pending against him in Iraq, but claims he made bail and that a judge who wants him returned to Baghdad has sectarian motives.

ALSAMMARAE: All of these accusations are coming from him. He's politically motivated and he's working with militia right now. And before, he was working a Ahmad Chalabi, and both of those guys are my political enemies.

ROBERTS: The escape is an embarrassment for the State Department, which was quick to insist U.S. officials did nothing to help Alsammarae leave Iraq. The Iraqi government has not yet asked for him to be extradited, and it's not clear if the U.S. would even hand him over.

For his part, Alsammarae is proclaiming innocence and vows he will voluntarily go back to Iraq to face both the remaining charges and fight a government, he says, is increasingly hostile to Sunni Muslims.

ALSAMMARAE: I will go to Iraq, hopefully in two months, to fight this government and make them go. Those are sectarian governments and we have to work hard to take them out from there.


ROBERTS: So how much risk did Alsammarae really face while he was in Iraq? A U.S. official told me that he spent four months in jail without incident, though he protested almost daily that his life was in danger. That said, however, Iraq has changed a lot in the last five months, Wolf.

BLITZER: It does underscore the enormous tension between Iraqi Sunnis, of which he was one, and Iraqi Shia.

ROBERTS: He believed that he was going to be taken from the Green Zone to a jail in a Shiite neighborhood and that he was either going to be killed on the way, or killed once he got to that jail. Now, Iraqi officials tells you no, it was just standard procedure. But Alsammarae really believes his life was in danger.

BLITZER: And the tragedies. He went back originally to Iraq because he wanted to help the country and look what happened. Good reporting. Thanks very much, John.

ROBERTS: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Republican Senator Chuck Hagel is proving once again today that he's one of the Bush administration's toughest critics on Iraq. The Nebraskan's decision to team up with Democrats on a resolution opposing a troop build up is clearly a new slap at the president. The Vietnam War veteran hasn't ruled out a run for the White House in 2008, in a race that's already being defined by the Iraq conflict.


BLITZER: Joining us now, Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. He's a key member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: You've said that this is the worst foreign policy disaster for the United States, the war in Iraq, since the Vietnam War.

Who do you blame?

HAGEL: Well, I think we could assign blame all around, Wolf. But the real issue is how do we move forward? How do we get out of this? We don't walk away and leave a mess, which we already have. We've got to think it through.

That's going to require the American people being behind the president with a policy that can be sustained. That means a bipartisan consensus in the Congress. That's what Senators Biden and Levin and I introduced today.

I think you're seeing a number of senators and congressmen over the last few days start to express themselves rather directly about what the president proposed Wednesday night. I don't believe that the best interests of our country, for the long-term and short-term, is served by escalating our military involvement in Iraq.

Wolf, we've been there almost four years, thousands of American casualties, tens of thousands wounded, almost a half a trillion dollars spent. This is a tribal, sectarian civil war that has now embroiled Iraq.

Yes, the territorial integrity of Iraq is critical for the Iraqis to have any opportunity to sort this out themselves, and we can help preserve that. We can't just pull out, nor should we, nor will we.

But we've got to be wiser in how we use our people. To feed more young men and women into a civil war that we cannot stop or change is wrong, and it is devastating our military. It's devastating our standing in the Middle East. It's hurting our budget. It's destroying our military. So we need a new course of action, and only a sustained, bipartisan position that the American people will support will be required to finish this over the next few years. And that's what we were talking about today.

BLITZER: A few years, Senator?

You think this is going to go on a few more years?

HAGEL: Oh, of course it's going to go on a few more years. And the real question that we have to ask ourselves, Wolf, is what America's role is going to be in that next step that the Iraqis are going to have to take. They are going to be the ones that will determine the fate of their country. We can't do that. We can help them.

A number of the Baker-Hamilton Commission recommendations put forward, I thought, was representative of a good, new bipartisan foundation the president could have seized upon, using diplomacy, using our military force, using our influence to bring together a new framework, a new frame of reference for the future.

How this all plays out in Iraq, I don't know. But I think what some of us are saying here, we're no longer going to just quietly stand by, as we have done, literally, for four years, and let more of our young Americans be thrown into this battle when they cannot change the outcome.

This is an internal issue and the Iraqis themselves are going to have to sort this out. They must want their own freedom, their own future, more than we want it for them.

BLITZER: All right, Senator, the White House has already said today that the resolution that you and Senator Levin and Senator Biden want to put forward is not going to affect the president's policies. They're going to go forward with their surge, as they call it, the increase of the U.S. troops.

What else should be done if they ignore this symbolic, non- binding resolution?

HAGEL: Well, let's start with the fact that we have a form of government, Wolf, that represents co-equal branches of government. Article 1 of the Constitution is not the presidency, it's the Congress. We have separation of powers, as it should be.

But we have a co-equal branch of government. We need to be part of any resolution in foreign policy or any policy for our country. We have essentially walked away from that the last four years.

So when the president talks about or his administration spokesmen say that regardless of what the Senate does or the Congress does in any resolution, we're not going to pay heed to that, I think they'll want to review that, because here is the way a democracy works, if people have forgotten. November 7th, the people of this country changed the management in Congress. It was over one issue more than any other, and it was Iraq. Seventy-three percent that I've seen in the last poll, and I believe it was your poll, last week, 73 percent of the people of America said that they disapproved of this administration's handling of

Iraq. That should tell everyone something. There's accountability in leadership. There should be. There is accountability in politics.


HAGEL: Now, this is just the beginning, Wolf. This thing is going to play out over the next few months, with appropriations, more resolutions. You saw Senator Clinton's introduction of a bill today. This is just the beginning.

BLITZER: Well, she says there should be a cap, a ceiling, how many U.S. troops should be allowed to serve in Iraq.

Do you support that?

HAGEL: Well, I haven't looked at it yet. But my point is this: There is going to be more than one resolution introduced. There's going to be more than one bill introduced. This is the biggest issue facing our country since Vietnam. It is dividing our nation, Wolf. It is dangerous for our country. It's dangerous for the world.

The Congress needs to be part of this. The American people must come to some consensus, with some confidence, that somebody is mature up here, somebody is looking out for the interests of this country in the longer-term and the Congress needs to be part of that.

There must be a national debate on this issue, Wolf, and we haven't had one. There now will be and if the administration thinks that they can disregard whatever actions the Congress may take -- I can't predict what will happen -- I think they'll want to reevaluate this. This is not a monarchy, Wolf. We tried that once. It didn't work.

BLITZER: We're out of time, Senator.

A very quick question.

Are you getting closer to a final decision whether or not to run for president?

HAGEL: I'll let you know, Wolf. I've got to make a decision soon and I will make that decision.

BLITZER: All right, we'll stand by for that, Senator.

Thanks very much.

HAGEL: Thank you. BLITZER: Chuck Hagel of Nebraska joining us.


BLITZER: And up ahead tonight, evangelicals teaming up with environmentalists on global warming. Find out if it will have an impact on the president's policy.

And final moments on tape -- hear for yourself how a wrong turn ended in disaster. We'll have details. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Welcome back. We're just learning that the pilots of that Comair commuter jet that crashed in Kentucky last August violated airline rules in the moments before takeoff. That comes just hours after a transcript of the cockpit recording was released showing the co-pilot noticed something weird moments before the crash. Let's turn to CNN's Brianna Keilar. She's joining us now from the newsroom here in Washington with the latest -- Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a Comair spokeswoman tells CNN the crew violated airline policy by having non-essential conversation. Now that spokeswoman says it's premature to say what role that violation could have played in this crash.

Meanwhile, audio of the tower communications with the crew and the transcript of the cockpit voice recorder tell us the crew of Flight 5191 missed at least one clue that they were attempting to take off from the wrong runway.


KEILAR (voice-over): Four minutes before it ran off the end of Runway 2-6 and crashed into trees, Comair Flight 5191 was cleared to take off from Runway 2-2 at Kentucky's Lexington Blue Grass Airport.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Comair 191 taxi to runway 2-2.

KEILAR: With Pilot Jeffrey Clay at the controls, co-pilot James Polehinke acknowledged on the radio.

JAMES POLEHINKE, CO-PILOT, COMAIR FLIGHT 5191: Three triple zero and taxi 2-2.

KEILAR: Polehinke indicated the plane would head for Runway 2-2, the airport's longer runway, and the only runway that was lit. Lights are required by the FAA if the sun isn't up, as was the case at this early hour on August 27th.

Instead, the plane headed for Runway 2-6. Half the length of the long runway, it was not lit.

Earlier, Polehinke had told Captain Clay that lights marking the end of the runway had been out on a previous night when he flew into Blue Grass. This may have led the two pilots to believe the lack of lights was no cause for alarm, no indication that they were on the wrong runway.

As the plane sped down the short runway, co-pilot Polehinke, now at the controls, asked Captain Jeffrey Clay to set the thrust. Then Polehinke says, "That is weird with no lights."

Seconds later, Captain Clay says: "Whoa," there's some ambient noise, Captain Clay says an expletive and then Flight 5191 crashes.


KEILAR: The NTSB said the single air traffic controller in the tower at Blue Grass that morning was busy with paperwork when the plane crashed. Now the newly released tower communications show even after the crash, he told the airport's emergency dispatcher the plane was taking off the longer runway -- Wolf?

BLITZER: What a tragedy. Brianna, thank you very much for sharing that with us.

Unusually warm weather in parts of the United States and Europe, focussing new attention right now on global warming. And some are now speculating President Bush may be poised to make a u-turn in the stance on this controversial issue. Let's go back to CNN's Carol Costello in New York -- Carol?

COSTELLO: Wolf, here's the buzz: we will hear a major shift in the president's policy on global warming in his State of the Union next week. What will it be? Well, that's the billion dollar question.


COSTELLO (voice-over): While extreme weather and melting ice caps plague us, scientists who say global warming is partly the blame are holding their breath. Could President Bush spell out a radical plan to combat global warming in the State of the Union? The rumor started in a London paper. Look at that headline: "Bush set for climate change U-turn." The "Observer" reporting President Bush is beginning to talk about more radical measures. More radical than what he said last year in the State of the Union?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world. The best way to break this addiction is through technology.

COSTELLO: That didn't exactly resonate with environmentalists who say the voluntary approach doesn't work.

EILEEN CLAUSSEN, PEW CENTER ON GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE: Their solution is to invest a relatively small amount of money in new technology. Their solution is to allow emissions to increase, until at least 2012. Their solution is to ask industry to do a little bit, which really is not much different than what I would call business as usual.

COSTELLO: But what would be different is if President Bush put a cap on emissions, meaning American companies would be forced to cut down on what seeps out their factories and their mufflers. Something politically sensitive and quickly shut down.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You're talking about enforceable carbon caps in terms of industry wide and nationwide. We knocked that down.

COSTELLO: Maybe now. But there is a growing course of voices that may push, no shove to the president to measures he's resisted all along.

RICHARD CIZIK, NATIONAL ASSOC. OF EVANGELICALS: We will not allow, if the creation to be degraded, be destroyed, by human folly.

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: I am Al Gore, I used to be the next president.

COSTELLO: Sounds like something Al Gore would say in his documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth." But that's the message from 45,000 evangelical churches that have joined forces with scientists to fight climate change. Talk about evolution.

So perhaps it's only fitting that atheists and scientist Steven Hawking unveiled the Doomsday clock, moving it forward for the first time since 9/11, in part to highlight climate change, a threat he says that's second only to nuclear weapons.

STEPHEN HAWKING, ASTROPHYSICIST: We foresee great peril since governments and societies do not take action now to render nuclear weapons obsolete and to prevent further climate change.

COSTELLO: But are dire warnings enough to persuade President Bush to make a radical change in his policy towards global warming? As his spokesman told us, we'll have to wait and see.


COSTELLO: But here's a clue, according to the White House, tax incentives for things like hybrid cars are working. Greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow, but at a slow rate. So perhaps we shouldn't expect a U-turn after all -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Carol, thank you -- Carol Costello reporting.

Up ahead, the new United Nations secretary general says Iraq is the whole world's problem. Jack Cafferty wants to know if you think is. Plus, Jeanne Moos on that countdown to Doomsday. Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Let's check in with Jack Cafferty in New York for the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Wolf, the new secretary general of the United Nations says that Iraq is, quote, "the whole world's problem." We asked, is it?

Here's some of what you wrote us.

Carol writes from Washington: "Yes, the U.S. occupation of Iraq is a "world problem" as it has real potential of causing World War III. Middle East stability affects us all."

Mary in Dover Plains, New York: "No, Jack, Iraq was no one's legitimate problem until George Bush happened. Iraq will be what Iraq decides it will be. We are the world's problem. Ban Ki-moon is still new to this. We'll catch on."

Anthony in Washington, D.C.: "Yes, Iraq is the world's problem. As human beings we are all responsible for others in need. This problem, however, was made exponentially worse through poorly planned U.S. policy and a hardheaded president. It's the world's problem and the president owes the world and especially Americans an apology."

Harold in Fernandina Beach, Florida: "If he believes this then why doesn't his country surge 21,000 troops to Iraq? And don't leave out the U.K.; they seem to be surging in the other direction."

Henry in Goodyear, Arizona: "Yes, it is. We're in a fight for survival. It's time that we as nations build a united front and get the Iraq situation cleared up, as well as terrorism. The U.S. needs its allies and we must all work together to end the Iraqi problem."

And finally, Grant in Gladstone, Illinois: "Jack, I believe the new U.N. battle cry should be: don't worry about the horse going blind, just load the wagon. How in the world did Mr. Bush convince Mr. Ban to jump on board so quickly? Does Mr. Ban have a Big Oil background as well?"

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to and read more of these online.

Don't worry about the horse going blind, Wolf, just load the wagon.

BLITZER: The other story that you reported on earlier, this Bush administration decision to turn around it's FISA court requirement for the domestic surveillance. This does represent a major change. Earlier, they said they couldn't do this through the FISA system. Now they're saying, "Well, after all, I guess we can."

CAFFERTY: It's amazing what a change of power in the Congress will do. I -- you know, up until the Democrats swept the House and Senate. My guess is that they're trying to be a little more accommodating because -- is it tomorrow the Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is going down to the Senate there to testify in front of a hearing? He might be trying to deflect some of the questions he was anticipating. But it's interesting. Suddenly there's a little cooperation here and there, at least some glimmers of it.

BLITZER: On that, global warming, and maybe some other issues as well.

Jack, I'll see you tomorrow.

CAFFERTY: All right, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

BLITZER: And still ahead, countdown to doomsday. The clock is ticking. CNN's Jeanne Moos standing by to tell us the time. What time it is for us? All of us?

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


BLITZER: You may think you know what time it is. But some scientists say it's later than you think.

CNN's Jeanne Moos reports the doomsday clock is ticking.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Do not adjust your watch. It won't help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I have the time. It's 2:30.

MOOS (on camera): No, it's five minutes to doomsday, did you hear?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's about a quarter to 3:00.

MOOS: Did you hear it's actually five minutes to doomsday?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hear that every day.

MOOS (voice-over): But we mean doomsday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gee, I wish we had one of them doomsday machines.

MOOS: Doomsday like you see in the movies.

KENNETTE BENEDICT, BULLETIN OF THE ATOMIC SCIENTISTS: We take the idea of doomsday very seriously.

MOOS: This was the latest unveiling of the so-called "Doomsday Clock". Since 1947, a group of highly respected atomic scientists have been symbolically moving the hands, forward when the world is looking for dangerous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two minutes to midnight.

MOOS: Back when, for instance, nuclear negotiation seemed to lessen tension.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seventeen minutes to midnight.

MOOS: That was the best it's gotten. After 9/11, the Doomsday Clock was set at seven minutes. And now the scientists say things have gotten worse.


MOOS: That's theoretical physicist Steven Hawking speaking through a voice synthesizer, paralyzed by Lou Gehrig's Disease. Scientists in London joined those in Washington via satellite.

BENEDICT: We stand at the brink of a second nuclear age.

MOOS: They blame nuclear advances by North Korea and Iran, plus the 26,000 nukes the U.S. and Russia have, plus a new culprit: global warming.

Movies like "The Day After Tomorrow" may be alarming. But also alarming is this quiet clock.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. That's all I can say.

MOOS (on camera): But, I mean, do you really feel like the end of the world could come?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, if some idiot presses the button. And there are so many idiots at the heads of government now, don't you think?

MOOS (voice-over): At five minutes to doomsday, no wonder why this guy was on "60 Minutes".

MOOS (on camera): Do you legal like it's the end of the world?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not at all. But it makes me want to go get something to eat right now.

MOOS (voice-over): So the next time you look at your watch, keep an eye on the big hand and think big end of the world thoughts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twenty-two minutes to 3:00.

MOOS (on camera): Did you know it's five minutes to doomsday?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations.

MOOS: The movies may make it look like fun and games.

(on camera): What time it is?


MOOS: Actually, it's five minutes to doomsday. Have you heard this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my goodness, I'm late for an appointment.

MOOS(voice-over): Must be on her way to draw up a will.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: And this Friday in the SITUATION ROOM, 7:00 p.m. Eastern, former President Jimmy Carter and former Vice President Walter Mondale are back together, a joint interview discussing all sorts of things.

In the meantime, let's go to Paula in New York -- Paula.


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