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Chinese Missile Knocks Out Satellite in Orbit; Attorney General Gonzales Testifies Before the U.S. Senate

Aired January 18, 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, a Chinese missile knocks out a Chinese satellite in orbit. What will be the next target of this new satellite killer? Why America's eyes and ears in space may now be more vulnerable.

Also, video you will see here only on CNN. Investigators search for a man who spilled a vile of mercury inside a subway station, then simply vanished. Is there a terrorism link to this heavy metal mystery?

And Barack Obama considers a run for the White House. Is he ready for the race factor and all that that brings? Is America ready?

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

We'll get to all of that. But first, tonight a senator's powerful show of anger at the Bush administration that made more than a few jaws drop and heads turn. It happened today on Capitol Hill when the attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The new Democratic chairman, Patrick Leahy, let loose with tough questions and strong language.

Let's turn to our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena -- Kelli.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is the first time the attorney general appeared the Judiciary Committee since the Democrats took over control of Congress and I can tell you this is hardly a friendly reception. Democrats pounced on several of the administration's anti-terror policies, including domestic wire taps, the detention of terror suspects in Guantanamo Bay. But the most heated exchange came when Judiciary Chairman Senator Patrick Leahy brought up a man named Maher Arar.

Now he is a dual Canadian and Syrian citizen. He was deported from the United States to Syria where he says he was tortured. Now Arar was allegedly on a watch list for suspected terrorist ties and he's since been cleared by the Canadian government. Listen to this, Wolf.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: We knew damn well if he went to Canada, he wouldn't be tortured. He'd be held. He'd be investigated. We also knew damn well if he went to Syria he'd be tortured. And it's beneath the dignity of this country, a country that's always been a beacon of human rights to send somebody to another country to be tortured.

ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Before you get more upset, perhaps you should wait to receive the briefing...

LEAHY: How long?

GONZALES: I'm hoping that we can get the information next week.


ARENA: Gonzalez told Leahy that officials said that they got assurances from Syria that Arar wouldn't be tortured. But Leahy promised Gonzales that if he did not get the information that he promised within a week, that Leahy would be holding another hearing on this issue very soon, Wolf.

BLITZER: It makes a lot of difference in Washington when the Democrats are in charge of the House as opposed to the Republicans. And we saw that evident, very evident today at the Senate Judiciary Committee. Thanks very much for that -- Kelli Arena, our justice correspondent.

There's an alarming story, potentially very alarming story we're following. A ballistic missile streaks into space, blowing a satellite out of orbit. The target is Chinese and so is the weapon. But that test of the satellite killer has some very ominous implications for American space vehicles.

Let's turn to our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're just finding out today that last week China conducted a successful test of a weapon that can knock a satellite out of the sky. According to U.S. government officials, the Chinese tried this three times and on the fourth attempt, they were successful, shooting down an aging Chinese weather satellite on a polar orbit that was passing over the Chinese space launch center.

A medium range ballistic missile was used to crash into the satellite, smashing it into hundreds of pieces, which the U.S. has tracked into the same orbit. They say, by the way that space debris could pose a hazard to other satellites as well.

The implications of this are enormous. In the event of warfare with China, it would mean that China would be able to knock out U.S. satellites that are used for communications, for guidance of smart bombs and troops on the ground and for reconnaissance. Right now, the U.S. is reduced to protesting, there's not much else that U.S. officials say they can do -- Wolf. BLITZER: All right Jamie thanks very much -- ramifications obviously very, very serious. A National Security Council spokesman, by the way, says the U.S. and some key allies have expressed concern to the Chinese government, saying China's development and testing of such weapons is inconsistent with the spirit of cooperation in space. We'll follow the story for you.

There's new word tonight that an Iranian offer of concessions was snubbed by the Bush administration when it was riding high after the toppling of Saddam Hussein. Did the United States government miss a monumental opportunity to try to defuse tensions with Tehran?

Let's turn to CNN's Brian Todd. He's got the story -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're told that back in 2003 before Iraq deteriorated, before Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power in Iran, there was an opening that could have led to a valuable partnership in the region.


TODD (voice-over): Two former U.S. officials and a current Iranian official tells CNN of a brief opportunity between the United States and Iran that could have prevented sectarian violence in Iraq or possibly curbed Iran's nuclear ambitions. They say it came in the spring of 2003, shortly after Saddam Hussein was driven from power. The officials tell CNN of a written offer to begin talks from Iran's top leaders who feared they might be next.

VOICE OF LARRY WILKERSON, FORMER POWELL CHIEF OF STAFF: This included at the bottom level, tactical level terrorist exchanges. It also included middle-level issues, such as operational issues, such as the stability situation in Iraq and also strategic-level issues such as their own potential nuclear program.

TODD: Colonel Larry Wilkerson then chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell says the document came across his desk. CNN obtained a copy from Trita Parsi, a former adviser to a U.S. congressman who also received it. The unsigned letter does not promise that Iran would work to stabilize Iraq, disarm Hezbollah or curb its nuclear program in exchange for security guarantees, but lays those issues out as talking points.

TRITA PARSI, AUTHOR, "TREACHEROUS TRIANGLE": If the United States at the time had chosen to explore these discussions, and negotiations would have been successful, then most likely Iraq would not be in the mess that it is today.

TODD: Larry Wilkerson says top State Department officials wanted to engage the Iranians but when the overture reached the White House...

WILKERSON: It died in the vice president's office with the same mantra that he normally used to kill such things, we don't talk to evil.


TODD: An aide to Dick Cheney said his office could not confirm the initiative or Cheney's response. A spokeswoman for Powell says the former secretary believes at the time neither he nor other top members of the administration viewed this letter as a great bargain. And a State Department spokesman has said even if Iran presented a conciliatory face at the time, the regime would have considered supporting terrorists and weapons of mass destruction -- Wolf.

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

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, the retirement of 78 million baby boomers over the next decade or so is a fiscal crisis in the making. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warned Congress today that the economy could take a serious hit if Social Security and Medicare are not revamped. The government has known about this for as long as everyone else, but so far has chosen to do nothing about it.

Gee, what a surprise. Bernanke urged lawmakers to address these issues sooner rather than later, saying quote, "about 10 years ago was the right time to start dealing with all of this. He warned the huge wave of retirees will affect both the U.S. budget and the economy. He said the rising deficits would likely increase federal debt and that in turn will drive up interest rates.

So the question is this tonight. What should the Congress do about the approaching Social Security and Medicare crises? E-mail us at or go to -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll see what they do. They've been grappling with this, as you know Jack, for a long, long time.

CAFFERTY: Yes, grappling is a euphemism for looking the other way and doing nothing.

BLITZER: Maybe they'll get a commission to take a look at it, Jack. Thanks very much.

CAFFERTY: Yes, get a study group.

BLITZER: Coming up, a presidential race factor, death threats and a real fear of assassination. Find out what African American candidates are facing on the road to the White House.

And a CNN exclusive, is this a dry run for a terrorist attack? In our CNN "Security Watch", video you'll see only here on CNN. Video that has law enforcement authorities taking a closer look at the Los Angeles subway system.

And "Enemy Within" -- our Christiane Amanpour with a special report on a man who wants to end democracy and would like to see death penalties going for anyone who insults the prophet Muhammad. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Tonight, a side to the race to the White House that we rarely get a chance to see. Senator Barack Obama has been attracting lots of attention. And now he's formed a presidential exploratory committee as he weighs a possible run for the White House. But one man who has been in this position warns racial issues absolutely cannot be ignored.

Let's turn to our chief national correspondent, John King -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the man you speak of is Jesse Jackson who twice back in 1984 and then in 1988 sought the Democratic presidential nomination. It's interesting to note he's from Chicago like Barack Obama. He says it's too early to talk about endorsements, too soon for that right now. But he says he's inclined at this point to support the man who would be the next African American in the Democratic field, Barack Obama.


REV. JESSE JACKSON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's all in my heart, linked to Barack. He's a next door neighbor, literally. I think he's an extension of our struggle to make this a more perfect union. I'll talk with all of them, but my inclinations are really to Barack.

KING (voice-over): And yet as Jackson shares memories of 1984 and 1988 with his friend, he also remembers the ugly side.

JACKSON: There was such an antipathy toward my running. We received the most threats of any candidate ever.

KING: Jackson aides and Secret Service officials from those days recall racial slurs, hate mail and death threats, not just against the candidate.

JACKSON: I had the most sensitivity to the fact that we had security at our home. The threats were very real. Every place we went, Secret Service was always on edge. And if you think it's not real, if you think about what happened to John Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy and Dr. King, there's the ever-present threat.

KING: The outpouring of encouragement for Obama now stirs memories of 1995 when retired General Colin Powell's book tour brought talk of running for president. Alma Powell worried her husband's race would make him a target for assassination.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Certainly, Mrs. Powell was concerned about his safety. However in the end, she said, Colin, whatever you want to do, I'll support you.

KING: In the end Powell decided not to run and long time confidant Bill Smullen (ph) says race and safety ultimately were minor factors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Quite frankly it was, as he called it, that fire in the belly that simply was not there.


KING: I also had a conversation today, Wolf, with an old friend. He's now the mayor of Richmond, Virginia, was once the governor of Virginia, Doug Wilder, the African American and a trailblazer in his own right, the first governor of a state that was once the capital of the confederacy. He says there's a great deal of excitement about Obama.

Like Jesse Jackson, he thinks the race is in fact it will be less of an issue now. Twenty years after Jackson first ran for the presidency, Doug Wilder thought about it, you'll remember, back in 1992. But Dough Wilder says it's still an issue. Not as much a factor, he doesn't think, but still an issue. But he thinks Obama could be the man to break through.

BLITZER: I get the sense that Barack Obama really doesn't like to talk about all of this.

KING: He prefers to be considered a candidate for president is an African American as opposed to an African American candidate for president. It's a distinction that has a big difference in the eyes of those who have run before. But he does -- in his book, he talks about it, he says he thinks that white Americans are much more willing now to consider African American candidates.

And we are told by advisers, although they're very reluctant to talk about this that Senator Obama did talk to his wife about this. They have two young daughters. And they talked about racism and they talked about the security concerns in their consideration of running for president. But in the end he decided look, I've run in the big state of Illinois. Chicago has had racial problems in the past.

In southern Illinois he's wondered how he would be accepted. He thinks he's been fairly well accepted in Illinois. The ugly moments have been at a minimum. And he thinks that will be the same around the country as well.

BLITZER: Let's hope that stays the case. Thanks very much, John, good report.

And I spoke earlier with New York Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel and asked him whom he would prefer as president, Hillary Rodham Clinton or Barack Obama?


REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: I think it's exciting that we've got to have at least those two candidates and others proving who will be the best person. I told Obama, I said, Senator, if you don't get involved in this race and test your popularity, your intellect and your ability to lead, you will regret it for the rest of your life. But I also shared with him that Hillary Clinton is our favorite daughter in the state of New York. And we would prefer to have a solid Democratic support for her if she decides to become the candidate. But I think both of them exciting for the Democratic Party, the debate and the discussions. And no matter what happens we'll be winners.

BLITZER: Sounds like you'd like a Clinton/Obama ticket?

RANGEL: Well, we'll see what happens. But you know it's a little too early.


BLITZER: Congressman Rangel is the chairman now of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. And we spoke earlier. I want to thank John King. As you know, he's part of the best political team on television. And remember for the latest political news at any time check out our political ticker at CNN.Com/ticker.

This note, tomorrow right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, an exclusive joint interview with former President Jimmy Carter and former Vice President Walter Mondale. We'll talk about Iraq, Iran, President Carter's controversial new book. A lot more tomorrow right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up ahead tonight in THE SITUATION ROOM our CNN "Security Watch" -- a mercury spill on a subway platform. Was it an accident or was it a test run for a terror attack? We're going to show you what happened. We have the video you will see only here on CNN.

Plus, Iraq's prime minister taking a sharp jab at President Bush even as the White House faces growing opposition to sending more U.S. troops to Iraq. I'll talk about it with the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joe Biden.

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


BLITZER: Welcome back. In our CNN "Security Watch" tonight, video you'll see only here on CNN, an investigation now under way into a very bizarre incident in a Los Angeles subway station where a man actually spilled a vile of mercury on the platform. Was it an accident or was it something more sinister?

Let's turn to CNN's Deborah Feyerick. She's joining us now with details. This is really a pretty amazing story, Deborah.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well it is, Wolf. Four weeks after a mercury spill on the Los Angeles subway, the FBI is just now asking the public for help finding the man who spilled the hazardous material on a train platform in the city's business district. They want to question him to rule out terror.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) FEYERICK (voice-over): What do these pictures mean? Especially in a post-9/11 world when what appears ordinary may be the key to a future terror attack. This surveillance video obtained exclusively by CNN shows the Pershing Square subway station in Los Angeles late Friday before Christmas. A man in a brown jacket crouches on the platform and spills a silvery liquid from a small bottle. An accident -- maybe, except the liquid turns out to be mercury, about five fluid ounces.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Doesn't make sense. The only thing that does make sense is to find him and interrogate him

FEYERICK (on camera): The fact that it doesn't make sense, is that what bothers you the most?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, because the -- he's got a heavy metal and he's taking it into a subway. There's no good reason to do that, none.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Ken Robinson, a terrorism expert who worked intelligence in the Pentagon, has analyzed hundreds of al Qaeda tapes for CNN.

(on camera): When you look at this incident, do you think in your mind that this is a dry run for a terror attack?

KEN ROBINSON, TERRORISM EXPERT: I for sure think that it should be treated as if it is.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Mercury found in thermometers is dangerous when swallowed, but spilling it would have no immediate toxic effect. That's one reason the L.A. County Sheriff's Department in charge of the investigation believes the spill was likely an accident. Also, the man who spilled it placed a call moments after from a call box alerting authorities. Their consensus...

STEVE WHITMORE, L.A. COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPT.: That this was just an -- it was again a goofy accident. Not any kind of a dry run based on the person's behavior.

FEYERICK: But in 2005, joint FBI and Department of Homeland Security intelligence bulletin warns terrorists may make calls to test police reaction. In the case of the spilled mercury, according to the HAZMAT cleanup report read to CNN, law enforcement did not respond for a full eight hours.

Pat D'Amuro, now a CNN analyst, was a top FBI counterterrorism agent. He says it's premature to rule out terror.

PAT D'AMURO, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: I'm not saying in this video these individuals are terrorists. But there's some very strange activity that needs to be identified here.

FEYERICK: The sheriff who oversees the investigation sent out an alert to be on the lookout for a man described as white or Middle Eastern wanted in connection with a possible act of terror. Four weeks later, the FBI in Los Angeles sent out its own bulletin saying the man is still wanted for questioning in connection with unexplained activity.


FEYERICK: Now, the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, is in Los Angeles today. He's having a press conference on gang initiatives. The members of the media poised to ask him questions about this investigation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: In your reporting, Deb, have they said authorities that this is extraordinary or they've seen similar kinds of incidents in the past that turned out to be not much?

FEYERICK: Well, they treat threats virtually every day or alleged threats, people phoning things in. This one is different because it involves mercury, which is a known hazardous material. In and of itself it won't do that much damage, but if it's combined, for example, with another chemical, it could become toxic. So, this is one of those situations where you have to think outside the box.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much -- good reporting from Deb Feyerick for us. And to our viewers, remember to stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.

Just ahead, fighting words -- Iraq's prime minister blames President Bush and his team for a nation torn apart by war. We'll talk about it to Democratic senator and likely presidential candidate Joe Biden.

And "Enemy Within" -- our Christiane Amanpour with a special report on radical extremism. We're going to meet one man who wants to end democracy, also wants the death penalty for anyone who opposes the prophet Muhammad -- Christiane Amanpour with a special report that you're going to want to see right after this.


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Happening now -- mission accomplished. In China a missile that can seek out and destroy an orbiting satellite. U.S. government officials say China successfully tested one last week. And that could, could pose a new threat to satellites important to the U.S. military communication systems and a lot more. The White House has logged a formal diplomatic protest.

The Iraq war will cost about $8.4 billion a month. That estimate from the Pentagon and that's up from a similar accounting for last year. That estimated the war to cost about $8 billion a month.

And completing 100 hours of work in less than half the time -- today House Democrats finished their so-called 100 hours agenda, passing an oil revenue bill. When they took over the House, Democrats promised to pass six major pieces of legislation in the first 100 legislative hours. That as the countdown clock on the screen shows they did it in about 42 hours.

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

Tonight, President Bush is downplaying a very sharp jab from a critical partner in Iraq. Namely, the prime minister, Nouri al Maliki. Wait until you hear what the Iraqi leader is now saying. Let's get some specifics from our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it really is an extraordinary interview to watch and to listen, of course, of Maliki saying that if you give them the right weapons and equipment that there will be very little need for U.S. forces, say, three to six months down the line.

He also laughs at a question when asked whether or not President Bush needs him more than he needs President Bush. He calls it an evil question. While the White House denies that this is a war of words, it is very clear these are not the kind of words the president wants to hear.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): It was his first interview since President Bush laid out his new strategy to bring calm to Iraq, and it was biting.

Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, the man Mr. Bush is counting on to take the lead in turning things around, turned the tables, blaming the Bush administration not providing enough weapons for the Iraqi troops to secure the country.

NOURI AL-MALIKI, IRAQI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I believe that our armed forces could be in much better position than it is now and if that had had happened, it would have spared us and people with other foreign forces a lot of losses.

MALVEAUX: President Bush brushed off Maliki's criticism, focusing instead on his new pledge to Maliki to send more American troops to help secure Baghdad.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We may not be providing it as quickly as he wants, but nevertheless, it's a good sign when the prime minister says just give us the capabilities. And that's precisely what my new strategy and new plan is attempting to do.

MALVEAUX: But his strategy also requires Maliki to step up his military and political responsibilities, and administration officials have been warning him, America's patience is wearing thin.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the Iraqi government was on borrowed time. Maliki borrowed a familiar phrase from the Bush administration, suggesting the criticism would only embolden the terrorists. He said: "I believe such statements give a morale boost to the terrorists and push them toward making an extra effort, making them believe they have defeated the American administration. But I can tell you, they haven't defeated the Iraqi government."

White House aides downplayed Maliki's comments, characterizing it as a sign of his independence, meant to show strength to the Iraqi people.


MALVEAUX: Now aids are saying that they believe that all of this tough talk from Maliki really is for domestic consumption, the Iraqi audience. They say President Bush is heartened by some of the recent developments of actions that Maliki has taken, the two Iraqi brigades going to Baghdad, the increase in detaining militia, as well as the tough words against Sadr -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Extraordinary developments, Suzanne. Thank you very much for that.

Meanwhile, Maliki's words come amid better opposition to the president's plan from many members of the United States Congress. Just a short while ago, I spoke to Senator Joe Biden. He's the new chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and a likely presidential candidate.


BLITZER: Let's talk about this Nouri al-Maliki statement -- very harsh -- blaming, in effect, the United States for the lack of progress in dealing with the security situation in his own country, this after almost four years of U.S. involvement in blood and treasure.

What do you make of this?

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: What I make of it is, he strongly opposes the president's plan to escalate the war in his own country in Baghdad.

Yet, we were told by the secretary of state, coming up, testifying before us in my committee, just last week, which you covered, Wolf, saying that, no, no, the Maliki government is there, and the Iraqi forces are going to be there to help us do this, when, in fact, it's clear -- it's clear -- that there is overwhelming opposition to the president's plan by the very people we're going to rely on, as we send our soldiers door to door in a city of six million people -- more than six million people -- in the midst a civil war.

BLITZER: I think what it shows is, he wants a free hand to do what he wants to do...

BIDEN: Exactly right.

BLITZER: ... and he doesn't want the burden of having to deal nicely, if you will, with a lot of Sunnis in Iraq.

BIDEN: That's exactly right.

BLITZER: He's a Shiite leader. He wants equipment. He wants money from the United States, but he doesn't want to be dictated by the United States.

BIDEN: Exactly right.

But think what that says, Wolf. It reinforces the point that this is a sectarian war, and it reinforces the point that it is folly for the president to send 17,500 Americans into a country -- into a city of over six million people, on the promise that he's going to get support from Iraqi forces.

Our military guys and the secretary acknowledges that if the Iraqis do not help in this mission, and, quote ,as she said, "lead" the mission, then there's no possibility of succeeding. So, what are we going to do? Send these young men and women into a meat grinder here?

What we should be doing is the opposite. We should be letting Maliki know that he's not going to get our help if he doesn't straighten out and have a political solution here.

And that is why the Iraqi Study Group, why Joe Biden, why Les Gelb, why everyone across the board, including the president's own generals, have said, Mr. President, we should be telling them we're going to be ramping down, not ramping up, because he cannot count on us to, in fact, be the fodder for his civil war. He has to make some political compromises.

BLITZER: The -- last week, you said something very direct.

You said that the only way the president is going to budge and change his position is if enough Republicans, members of his own party, stand up and express their strong opinion. Well, a lot of Republicans are doing exactly that. But he's not budging.

Did you miscalculate in that...


BLITZER: ... thinking?

BIDEN: No. I think we just started. We just started.

I know that the Republican leadership is surprised that the Biden-Hagel resolution was able to get two leading Republicans to sign onto it, and with -- along with Senator Levin, who drafted it with us, number one.

Number two, I think they're going to be surprised when we vote it out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And evidence of the fact that they are worried about it, the word right now is -- and I don't know this for a fact -- is, the Republican leadership is talking about filibustering the ability to vote on this.

BLITZER: That's what the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, told me on Sunday.

BIDEN: Right.

BLITZER: This is an important statement.

BIDEN: Right.

BLITZER: And you need 60 votes. Will you have 60 votes to break that filibuster?

BIDEN: I -- the answer is, I don't know whether we will have 60 votes to break it, but think of what the statement says, Wolf.

A sitting president, with the opposition of every major political -- every major -- almost every major military leader, leaders in his own party, two former Republican secretaries of state, former secretaries of defense, all of them telling him, Mr. President, don't do what you're about to do.

And, then, on top of that, you come along, and you have a bipartisan resolution saying, don't do it, Mr. President, and there's -- they have got to filibuster it to stop it?


BLITZER: And Senator Biden also told me he is running for president. He will formally go through all the paperwork by the end of the this month, not to create an exploratory committee, but to run for president of the United States.

Up ahead, the war within. Fiery words from a Muslim cleric. He's not in the Middle East. He's in Britain. The advocates the death penalty for anyone who opposes the Prophet Mohammed. Our Christiane Amanpour talks with him.

And you talk and text with it. But you can also use it to fight crime? A tantalizing thought that New York City Police hope will soon become a reality. Our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton is standing by with details. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: In a moment, a special report from our Christiane Amanpour that shows how radical Islam is posing a threat to the West. That's coming up.

First, though, check in with Carol Costello for a closer look at other important stories making news -- Carol.


Hello to all of you. U.S. oil inventories are up and that's sending the price down. The cost of a barrel of crude oil dipping below $50 a barrel at one point today. Overall, oil has dropped 17 percent since the end of last year. And one analyst says we could see prices near $47 a barrel within the next two weeks.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed an executive order said to be the first of its kind. It mandates a minimum 10 percent reduction in carbon emissions from transportation fuel by 2020. The move is designed to encourage the development and use of alternative fuels in California.

And killer winds are battering much of northern Europe tonight. They're blamed for 25 deaths. And they're also disrupting travel for tens of thousands of people. Wind gusts at London's Heathrow Airport have been clocked at 77 miles an hour. And Germany has seen record gusts of up to 118 miles an hour.

Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Weird weather, indeed.

Thank you very much, Carol, for that.

A new breeding ground for extremism, where a cleric seeks the death penalty for anyone, anyone who insults the Prophet Muhammad and where terrorism has already taken a stunning toll. That's happening in England right now.

This weekend is the premiere of CNN's "SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT", our new program.

Let's check in with our chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour -- Christiane.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, just like so many Britons and so many people around the world, we were shocked when the suicide bombers blew up trains and buses back in the summer of 2005. And we wanted to see what was going on inside the Islamic community in England. It's a big community, 1.6 million. And a small minority of them are extremists, espouse the most shocking, the most radical beliefs in ideology. And we followed them. But we also followed the others.

But first, we went to the extremists to hear what they had to say.


ANJEM CHOUDARY, ISLAMIC EXTREMIST: One day you will conquer Rome!. One day -- one day, you will conquer the White House!

AMANPOUR (voice over): Anjem Choudary is the public face of Islamic extremism in Britain. His group, Al Muhajiroun, disbanded before the British government could outlaw it under its new antiterrorism rules. But that hasn't shut Choudary up. CHOUDARY: Whoever insults Islam also (INAUDIBLE) the Prophet Mohammed. Whoever insults Islam deserve capital punishment.

AMANPOUR: That was Choudary's inflammatory rhetoric just days after Pope Benedict's controversial speech about Islam.

CHOUDARY: Pope Benedict, you will pay!

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Pope Benedict, you will pay!

CHOUDARY: The Mujahedeen are on their way!

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: The Mujahedeen are on their way!

AMANPOUR: Outside Westminster Cathedral, British Catholics looked on in disbelief.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They can stand outside our church and abuse us and abuse our religion and abuse people that we hold dear with absolute impunity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The simple question to the Christians is, do you condemn what the pope said?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I don't condemn...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you condemn the pope?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What he said...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you condemn the pope?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If any of us was to amble up to, you know, the mosque at Regents Park and (INAUDIBLE) Allah or Mohammed, or what have you, the best case scenario you'd be taken away by the police for inciting racial hatred. The worst case scenario, attacked by a bunch of thugs wearing tea towels on their heads.

CHOUDARY: Democracy, hypocrisy!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Democracy, hypocrisy!

AMANPOUR: Even away from the bully pulpit, Choudary, who is a lawyer, not a cleric, continues to advocate extremist views, like calling for Sharia, Islamic law, for Britain.

CHOUDARY: All of the world belongs to Allah. And we will live according to the Sharia law. This is fundamental belief of the Muslims. You know, if I was to go to the jungle tomorrow, I'm not going to live like animals.

AMANPOUR: Anjem, basically a lot of what you're saying is, it's my way or the highway. I mean, how does that kind of logic fit into a democratic state like the one we live in now? Like the one you live in? You live here by choice.

Do you not believe in democracy?

CHOUDARY: No, I don't at all. We believe that people must live according to the Sharia.


AMANPOUR: And a lot of these extremist views are being espoused in mosques around England. But the thing is, these people are being challenged. They're being challenged by the majority of British Muslims, who are the moderates in the mainstream. There's an interesting debate that you'll see later on in this program, where this Anjem Choudary goes and says some similar things to a group of Muslims, who tell him, "This is not an ideology, sir. This is a mental illness."

And we did find them. We sought out the other side of this story, the other voices, those who are fed up with the religion being hijacked by extremists and those who advocate violence and jihad and who want to bring it back to the sensible center.

And it's incredibly hopeful and optimistic because individuals all over, in all sorts of walks of life are now beginning to realize it's now or never on this very serious issue.

BLITZER: So this group, Christiane, the one -- the man we just heard from and his followers, what you discovered represent what you're saying is a small percentage of the Muslims in Britain?

AMANPOUR: It is a small percentage. Nonetheless, what we've seen here, that part of that small percentage did create devastation and murder on the subway transit system a year ago. But it is a small percentage. But they are being radicalized, as you know. Like you know, in so many parts of the world, the Iraq war has added fuel to the radical fires. And in order to try to stop more impressionable disaffected Muslim youth from going in that direction, the moderates who we found, the mainstream artists, preachers, all sorts of members of the community are beginning to stand up to be counted and to try to stop this.

And that's what we found important because that side of the story basically almost never gets told.

BLITZER: Christiane Amanpour doing important reporting for us, as she always does.

Christiane, thanks.

And make a note, see Christiane's full report, "The War Within", this weekend at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. It's the kickoff of our brand-new series called "CNN: SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT". It airs Saturday and Sunday night, 8:00 Eastern. You're going to want to see this.

Up ahead, YouTube crime fighters. Find out why New York City wants you to use your cell phone and video camera to try to catch criminals.

And Jack Cafferty wants to know what Congress should do about the approaching Social Security and Medicare crisis. Jack, standing by with your e-mail when we come back.


BLITZER: Can a camera phone actually help fight crime? That's what New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is hoping. In his annual State of the City address, Bloomberg said New Yorkers will soon be able to send police digital pictures as they call 911.

Our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton has details -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, it's a new program that could change the way police respond to 911 emergencies.


TATTON (voice-over): Mayor Michael Bloomberg calls it a revolutionary innovation in crime fighting. 911 meets YouTube.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (R), NEW YORK: Equipping 911 call centers to receive digital images and videos New Yorkers send from their cell phones and computers -- something no other city in the world is doing.

TATTON: New York officials hope sending in images will quickly become standard practice.

Though this plan may be a first, police in many cities have been expanding their use of the Internet. Last December in Hamilton, Ontario, a man was arrested after police investigating a murder posted surveillance video on YouTube.

A video recently posted online of a beating by school girls led to attempted assault charges.

And in New York City, police used photos of this subway flasher, posted on the Internet, to make an arrest.

But when it comes to reporting incidents as they happen, until now, it's mainly been news organizations soliciting eyewitness images. When Yankees' pitcher Cory Lidle's plane crashed into a Manhattan building last fall, New Yorkers instantly sent images from the crash site to CNN. Now, New York City police are hoping to tap into the same technology to help 911 operators prioritize emergencies.


TATTON: New York City officials say the program won't be too costly if the technology is already in place. They expect it to be up and running within two years -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Abbi, for that. Let's go back to New York and Jack Cafferty with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack. CAFFERTY: Some ominous words from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke today, Wolf. He warned Congress that this economy could take a serious hit if Social Security and Medicare aren't revamped. He urged lawmakers to address those issues sooner rather than later. The question is, what should Congress be doing about the approaching Social Security and Medicare crises?

Evelyn in Morgan City, Louisiana -- "I think Congress should do everything to get the illegal aliens off Social Security and off welfare. Who is responsible for them being on it anyway? The more and more help the aliens are getting will soon be the doom of what used to be a great thing."

Laura in Newport News, Virginia -- "We will have to take the cap off Social Security and use that money for national health care. That in turn will help keep the younger work force putting money into the kitty until their turn comes to retire."

David in Shreveport, Louisiana -- "I think we should roll back those tax cuts President Bush gave to the richest Americans. That would be a good first step to finding the money."

Ginny in Aptos, California -- "Suspend all retirement pension of Congress except Social Security benefits until the Social Security problems are solved. And then watch how quickly things happen."

Dennis in Arkansas -- "I'll tell you what they're going to do, Jack. They'll point their finger at the other side of the aisle, spin, spin, spin, look for another Terri Schiavo to talk about, confer with their lobbyists, vote themselves a raise and then take the rest of the day off. In other words, business as usual."

And A.J. writes -- "If you continue to ask difficult questions, such as what Congress should do about Social Security and Medicare, I will refrain from watching your program without additional medication."

If you don't see your e-mail here, you can go to and read some more of them online -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Could get expensive if A.J. continues to do that. Jack, see you tomorrow. Thanks very much.

Let's check in with Paula and see what's coming up right at the top of the hour -- Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf, thanks. Coming up just about six minutes from now, we will sign a light on America's hidden secrets bringing intolerance out in the open. Tonight, we're going to take a closer look at the worries about racism and security in the presidential race if Senator Barack Obama really does run for the White House.

Also, an airline passenger who sued for big bucks, saying he was taken off a plane and treated like a terrorist, all because of the way he looked. Air safety and racial profiling coming at you at the top of the hour, Wolf. We're going to have a pretty heated exchange with our debate panel tonight.

BLITZER: We're going to be watching, Paula. Thank you very much. Sounds good.

Still ahead tonight right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, rescue on ice. You're going to want to see this. Deer gone wild, and a television helicopter that actually saves the day. Jeanne Moos with the story when we come back.


BLITZER: We have seen animal rescues before, but never one like this. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You know how everyone talks about that deer in the headlights look? Well, for a deer that's truly frozen, check out this ice-bound deer on a lake in Oklahoma.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it's right in the middle the water.

MOOS: The ice was too slippery for a deer to get its footing. To the rescue, the local news chopper. KWTV's pilot Mason Dunn (ph) had the bright idea of using his helicopter's whirling blades to shove the deer to shore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I thought, well, if I can get close enough, maybe I can blow -- just blow the deer over to the shore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got it, Mason.

MOOS: Talk about a deer crossing. We can only imagine what's crossing through this deer's mind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got it, bubba.

MOOS: The rescue got us thinking about what a weird deer season it's been. There was the deer that wandered into the Iowa Target store, and when employees tried to coral it, spill in aisle three.

It was just one of several deer caught on surveillance tape, rather than by hunters this season. Security cameras captured this deer leaping over desks inside a bank branch in suburban Pittsburgh. A few years back, cameras at a Washington, D.C. metro station caught a deer walking down the escalator and prancing on a platform.

And who could forget the scene that played out in front of the Washington Monument?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's really neat.

MOOS: To the delight of tourists, the officers chased the deer around, eventually tranquilized it, until it staggered like a drunken sailor. But when it collapsed and officers tried to restrain it, oops. Finally managed to tackle and transfer to a wilder locale.

This was the season of the deer that got its head stuck in a plastic Jack-o-lantern for several days. Eventually folks found the empty pumpkin with deer hair on it, so we assume the deer survived.

The deer gone wild theme is big on the Internet, where famous maulings end up translated into other languages.

And finally, there was a time that a child named Little Bear had an "oh, deer" moment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We saw the deer. So I grabbed the camcorder.

Who is that, Bearsy? A deersy friend?

MOOS: With deersy friends like these...


MOOS: ... who needs enemies. The Little Bearsy came out of it unscathed.

Deer are getting more daring, but they can still be dumb. What deer in his right mind would wander into a store with a name like Target?

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: And please join us tomorrow night for an exclusive joint interview with former President Jimmy Carter and former Vice President Walter Mondale. That's it for me. Let's go to Paula in New York -- Paula.


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