Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Al Qaeda Resurgent; Missing Mt. Hood Climbers Found Safe and Sound; New Footage JFK's Last Moments; Interview with Mahmud Durrani, Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S.; Hecklers Taunt Romney's Mormonism
Aired February 19, 2007 - 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, Christine.
Happening now -- al Qaeda out in the open, new word the terror network is growing, and it's a dangerous presence inside Pakistan right now. Is Osama bin Laden there as well?
Also this hour, Hillary Clinton and John McCain in a bind over Iraq. The presidential hopefuls are trying to stand firm on their respective positions, but are they actually making voters suspicious?
And Republican Mitt Romney confronted with an angry tirade against his religion. Is this new evidence the religious right won't accept his Mormon faith or his presidential campaign?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Tonight, worrisome signs Osama bin Laden's terror group is still operating. Al Qaeda appears to be training new terrorists and establishing new camps inside one of America's allies, Pakistan. And this apparent al Qaeda come back is raising questions of just how much the U.S. is winning the war on terror.
Let's turn to our Brian Todd. He's watching the story. He has the latest details -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the new concerns stem not just from an al Qaeda presence in Pakistan, but a new level of organization and reach.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
TODD (voice-over): Is Osama bin Laden rebuilding his network inside Pakistan? U.S. officials tell CNN of more al Qaeda training compounds there, that Pakistan's tribal region near the Afghan border has become a safe haven for senior al Qaeda leaders. I asked CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen if bin Laden and his top lieutenant are directing operations there.
PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well clearly, Ayman al Zawahiri is in this area. According to other intelligence officials I've spoken to, bin Laden is in an area further north (UNINTELLIGIBLE) where kind of a lot of the central al Qaeda operation is going on. TODD: What goes on there? Bergen says bomb making instruction, more tactical operation with the Taliban, evidence he says by more cross border raids and suicide bombings inside Afghanistan.
But Bergen and a U.S. official tell CNN al Qaeda operations in Pakistan have reached even further, training plotters involved in the July 2005 London bombings and the thwarted attempt to bring down U.S. airliners over the Atlantic last summer. What could they do in the future?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One is do a radiological bomb in a major European city. This is quite within their capabilities. That's not a chicken little scenario. Also, they could bring down a commercial jet with a rocket-propelled grenade (UNINTELLIGIBLE) missile.
TODD: We asked Pakistan's ambassador to the United States are there al Qaeda training camps inside his country's borders?
MAHMUD DURRANI, PAKISTANI AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: There may be in odd place, and when we have found them, we take it out. We have done that recently, but saying that they have reestablished themselves and there are a lot of compounds and they have rejuvenated, that is incorrect.
TODD: The ambassador also rejects any notion of American forces crossing into Pakistan to go after al Qaeda even though U.S. forces have targeted al Qaeda militants there from the air -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us. And this note, we'll have a lot more on this apparent al Qaeda come back. I'll speak with Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S., Mahmud Durrani and CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen later this hour.
Meanwhile, a deadly new round of violence in Iraq and a troubling new tactic. Today, north of Baghdad, insurgents detonated car bombs at a U.S. Iraqi outpost, leaving two American soldiers and eight Iraqi police officers dead. U.S. military officials are calling it a coordinated attack.
Also, across Baghdad alone, 33 Iraqis died in various attacks today. And yet amid all of this violence, an assessment of Iraq's security that some are questioning. And joining us now from Baghdad, our correspondent Michael Ware.
Michael, over the weekend, a statement coming from the prime minister's office, Nuri al-Maliki, saying the new security plan being implemented in his words has been a dazzling success during its first days. Do you see evidence of a dazzling success?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well certainly not yet, Wolf, not with multiple car bombings still going off. There has been a decline or a decrease in particular types of violence in particular areas, but to be able to be in a position to call this a dazzling success is far more ambitious of the prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, than even the American commander in control of Baghdad.
The commander of the First Cavalry Division on the weekend noted the decrease, the lull in particularly sectarian violence. The numbers of tortured and executed bodies showing up on the streets of the capital each morning are certainly down, but even the American general said it's way too early to tell if this is a trend.
Indeed, it fits into a pattern that we have seen many times before. As the general pointed out, whenever the U.S. military changes tactics, whenever there's a new step up, whenever anything changes, the enemy, be it the Shia militia or the Sunni insurgents, more often than not sit back or they lay low and watch.
They think. They adapt and then they change their tactics and strike back. Certainly what we're seeing now is a war holding its breath -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Who is the audience do you think that Nuri al-Maliki is addressing when he speaks of a quote, "dazzling success." Are the Iraqis, the international community, the American public, who is he trying to impress?
WARE: Well, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has a lot of people to please. And it's impossible to please everybody, clearly. Now, he's obviously trying to address a domestic constituency that has been living with this violence for longer than they care to remember. They just want it to end.
They're looking for him to deliver on security. Now, these people know that it just ain't so. They're still living it. The marketplaces are still being hit with car bombs. Even though the number of bodies showing up each morning as a result of sectarian violence is down, the bombs are still going off.
There's still the chatter of machine gunfire. There are still attacks going on here in the capital, Baghdad. But Nuri al-Maliki needs people to believe that things are more secure. He also needs the Bush administration to believe this. As President Bush has outlined I think relatively clearly, this is Prime Minister Maliki's last roll of the dice. He very much needs to make it so. So he's got a lot of audiences he's trying to keep happy here.
BLITZER: Michael Ware in Baghdad for us -- Michael, thanks.
WARE: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: When it comes to the war in Iraq, two of the leading presidential contenders are on a slippery tightrope tonight for different reasons. They're Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Senator John McCain, and Iraq could make or break their campaigns.
Here is our senior political analyst Bill Schneider -- Bill.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, this is not a good time to be a Washington establishment candidate as two contenders are finding out.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Hillary Clinton and John McCain are senators and Washington insiders. They're both facing voters who are angry and apprehensive about the war in Iraq and suspicious of Washington politicians who sound calculated and cautious.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I remain troubled, though, about your position on Iraq and your unwillingness to apologize to the American people for your vote to authorize the war. Could you explain?
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: If the most important thing to any of you is choosing someone who did not cast that vote or who has said his vote was a mistake, then there are others to choose from. But to me, the most important thing now is trying to end this war.
SCHNEIDER: Senator Clinton's response is not to be defensive.
H. CLINTON: If the president won't end this war before he leaves office, then I will, and I have a very good idea about how that can and should be done.
SCHNEIDER: McCain has the opposite problem. Republican audiences like his support for President Bush.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I believe we can succeed. I can't guarantee success, but I guarantee failure will result in chaos.
SCHNEIDER: But they worry that his close identification with the war will make it difficult for him to get elected, especially if President Bush's troop build-up does not go well.
J. MCCAIN: This is a terribly difficult time, and Americans and people of Chicago are angry and frustrated and sad.
SCHNEIDER: McCain ran as a maverick in 2000. This time, his close ties to President Bush and his embrace of the Iraq cause are making him look more and more like the establishment candidate at a time when both he and Senator Clinton are discovering the voters are in an anti-establishment mood -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Bill Schneider reporting for us. Thank you, Bill, for that.
Jack Cafferty is off today. Coming up, what if anything is Pakistan doing about an apparent al Qaeda come back within its borders? I'll ask the Pakistani ambassador to the United States.
Also coming up, presidential candidate Mitt Romney is put on the defensive about his Mormon faith. Is this a sign of tough times ahead for the Republican and his efforts to reach out to the religious right? Plus, high drama on Oregon's Mt. Hood -- rescuers reach three climbers stranded on a frigid snowy peak. We've just gotten new details from the scene. We'll go there live. That's coming up next.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Happening now -- in Oregon three mountain climbers and their dog walking away from the nightmare they endured. They came down a mountain where they spent the night trapped.
Our Chris Lawrence is in Mt. Hood, Oregon now with the latest -- Chris.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, we now have confirmation that all three of those climbers are down from the mountain. The rescue teams have brought all three and the Labrador Retriever named Miss Velvet safely down from the mountain. They're all being evaluated at sort of a base camp and there may be the possibility that one of them may be transported to a hospital, but they're all in fairly good shape for what they have gone through.
Once they slid off the side of that ledge, dropped probably 100, 150 feet below the other group of climbers that they were with, they had to hunker down, the three climbers and the dog. Meanwhile, the other five climbers were also hunkered down, trying to send out word to rescue teams to come get them. But what really turned the tide was the fact that they had these electronic locaters and they were well prepared for what could happen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TREVOR LISTON, RESCUED CLIMBER: We knew weather was coming in, so we had a pretty low threshold of turning around the next day. We had brought enough gear just in case Saturday wasn't bad, we would just kind of hunker down for the day and maybe Sunday would be better, but -- so we had food and gear for two nights up there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAWRENCE: Yes, he was part of the first group of five that was brought down yesterday. Just in the last few minutes, we received new video of snowmobiles bringing those other three climbers back down from the mountain, much earlier than we had been led to believe by authorities initially.
They had said it could be anywhere from five to seven hours to get them down that mountain. They were talking about a three to four mile hike through avalanche country trudging through snow, made it out to seem very, very treacherous. So it's a very good thing that they're now back at a base camp and being evaluated. All three climbers and the Labrador Retriever they huddled with all night -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And we've just been showing our viewers, Chris, the new video coming in showing those climbers getting into that ambulance to help them, but I take it all of them are doing relatively fine. Is that right, Chris?
LAWRENCE: Yes. Well we're told that all three are in fairly good shape, you know with everything that they have gone through. One may be taken in for further treatment.
BLITZER: Chris Lawrence on the scene for us. Chris, thank you for that.
Meanwhile, a shocking confrontation on the campaign trail. Mitt Romney is heckled over his faith. Let's go to CNN's Carol Costello. She's joining us in New York with details of this face-off -- Carol.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, it was pretty nasty. I just talked with Romney's campaign. Kevin Madden told me the heckler's blunt comment came out of the blue and with a ruckus by far.
COSTELLO (voice-over): A Florida retirement center, a heckler hurled insults at presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I want my testimony to read that I voted for a man who stands for the Lord Jesus Christ, and you, sir, you're a pretender. You do not know the Lord. You're a Mormon.
COSTELLO: It's something Romney has heard before. His easy response won him a standing ovation.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One of the great things about this great land is we have people of different faiths and different persuasions. And I'm convinced that the nation does need -- the nation does need to have people of different faiths, but we need to have a person of faith lead the country.
COSTELLO: But Romney's faithful dog him. Although there are nearly six million Mormons in the United States, many Americans are confused about Mormonism. The HBO show, "Big Love" doesn't help. It's a show about a man with three wives who lives in Utah. Many viewers assume this polygamist family is Mormon, but the Mormon Church outlawed polygamy more than a century ago. Perhaps the more nagging question is about what the Mormons believe about the Bible and Jesus Christ.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We believe in God, the eternal father, his son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. Jesus Christ is at the center of our worship, and we believe he is the Son of God and the Savior and Redeemer of the world.
COSTELLO: Still, the Mormon belief and Christianity is different. They reject traditional Christian beliefs about the Holy Trinity. For example, they feel God was a person as well as Jesus. Evangelicals call Mormons a Christian cult. Romney tried to change minds by inviting evangelicals to his home for some Mormon one-on-one. He hopes the questions and the heckling will eventually go away. M. ROMNEY: I don't think faith will become a factor in the final analysis, but it may become an issue people talk about early on, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) they've put aside those differences and focus on the capabilities of the individual candidates, their vision, their aspirations, where they take America, and why they're running.
COSTELLO: We'll see. As for who won, the heckler or Romney, well Romney's camp says he got the standing ovation. It was the heckler who was booed out of the room -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Carol thanks for that. And by the way, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints started in upstate New York in 1830. Members followed their leaders west to what's now Utah, settling the area in 1847. By 1963, the church had two million members. Today, it's approaching 13 million worldwide.
Still ahead tonight right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, haunting images on this President's Day. Newly found video of John F. Kennedy shortly before he was shot four decades ago. You're going to want to see these pictures for yourself.
And an airline in crisis. JetBlue cancels many more flights, strands many more passengers. Can it get its schedule back on track?
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Haunting new footage of President John F. Kennedy's final moments surfaced online today. The newly discovered video shows President Kennedy and the first lady in their Dallas motorcade seconds before the president was shot.
Our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton has a closer look -- Abbi.
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, this home movie sat undiscovered for more than 40 years, shot by Texan George Jefferies, now 82 years old. He went to work that day in 1963 with his camera, hoping to catch a glimpse of President Kennedy. What he caught on camera were these crystal clear images of Kennedy's motorcade there with the first lady just 90 seconds before the assassination.
Jefferies just last year mentioned he had the footage to his son-in-law. They agreed together to donate it to the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas. The museum curator there, Gary Mack, says it's the clearest images he's seen of the first lady from the motorcade. Mack believes that there are more images out there that we've yet to see -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Haunting pictures indeed. Abbi thanks for that.
On this President's Day, a politically charged question. Who was the greatest president of the United States? A new "USA Today"/Gallup poll asked Americans to rate the men who have served in the Oval Office. Of the 15 who earned mentions in the survey, three came out on top.
Abraham Lincoln with 18 percent, Ronald Reagan with 16 percent, John F. Kennedy with 14 percent. How did the father of our country stack up? George Washington came in sixth with seven percent naming him as the greatest U.S. president. He was beaten out by the last president, Bill Clinton.
He came in fourth with 13 percent. And where does our current president stand in the ratings -- in the rankings that is? George W. Bush came in eighth with just two percent of Americans calling him the greatest president ever.
Just ahead, is al Qaeda finding safe haven and building new terror camps in Pakistan? I'll ask the country's ambassador to the United States.
Also, JetBlue singing the blues and taking drastic action today as it struggles to recover from the chaos brought on by the winter weather.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now -- U.S. military officials are trying to figure out Iran's intentions. CNN has learned that Iranian boats crossed into Iraqi waters at the northern end of the Persian Gulf for the past 10 days. The boats sailed near Iraq's off shore oil terminals to gauge the military response. Officials say it was not seen as an aggressive act.
Also regarding Iran, the nation started its largest war games in nearly a year. The state run media saying it involves three days of ground maneuvers. Video footage shows missile and rocket launchers and the Iranian government report an estimated 60,000 troops participating.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're getting word of a coalition air strike against the Taliban target in Afghanistan. Let's go straight to our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre for the late breaking developments -- Jamie.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this dispatch from Afghanistan, more evidence of the ongoing war there and the tactics that the U.S. military is employing against the Taliban, according to the U.S. military, the Afghan and coalition forces were clearing an improvised explosive device in western Uruzgan Province.
They came under attack by what they said were Taliban insurgents. U.S. air power was called in. The Taliban insurgents reportedly retreated to a nearby cave where the U.S. dropped a 2,000-pound bomb on the entrance to the cave, sealing them inside, apparently killing them in the process. The U.S. says that no Afghan or coalition forces were injured in the engagement. But again, Wolf, just evidence that that war is raging in Afghanistan.
BLITZER: Clearly the situation in Afghanistan heating up. Jamie thank you for that information. Let's get a little bit more now on our top story, the fact that al Qaeda appears to be regaining in size and strength inside Pakistan.
Joining us now, Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, Mahmud Durrani. And CNN terrorism analyst, Peter Bergen. Mr. Ambassador, thanks very much for coming in.
DURRANI: It's a pleasure.
BLITZER: It's a shocking development, and I want to get your side of the country. The suggestion is that in your country on sovereign Pakistani soil al Qaeda is regrouping in north Waziristan, one of the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan and is potentially planning terrorist attacks, not only there, but around the world.
DURRANI: I think this is a total and gross exaggeration. That the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) group is there and they are building the way they are. There may be an odd you know group of al Qaeda, but the projection that has been given today, including your television, CNN today, giving five pictures of the old training and Osama bin Laden, this is not true.
BLITZER: Are you saying that in Waziristan (ph), in Pakistan right now, there is no al Qaeda? That they're not regrouping, they're not training, they're not getting ready again?
DURRANI: No. There are two things. There may be some elements of al Qaeda, but they're not training in large numbers. They're not regrouping. That is inaccurate. What I'm saying is there may be some elements of al Qaeda, but not in the force that has been projected.
BLITZER: What are you hearing, Peter? Because you have been studying this closely. Speaking with top U.S. and other analysts.
BERGEN: Well, I mean, I think the view of the U.S. military and intelligence officials is that there are training camps in this area. They're not large. We're talking about 10 or 20 people training in bomb making inside compounds. The sort of thing that is hard to see from the air. Hard to see from outside.
BLITZER: We know what 10 or 20 people could do on 9/11. So ...
BERGEN: And look at the London attacks on July 7, 2005. The British Home Office, two of the leaders trained in Pakistan with al Qaeda, met with al Qaeda, went back and implemented the attacks in London. So I hear what the ambassador is saying, but clearly, U.S. military intelligence officials and U.S. intelligence officials in general feel that there is some regrouping going on in the tribal areas where.
BLITZER: The further suggestion, Mr. Ambassador, is that your government has actually made a deal with some of the tribal warlords there to stop Pakistani military forces from actually going in and cleaning out this situation.
DURRANI: It's very, very sad when people say this. I mean, Pakistan is one country which is literally put everything in the shop window. They're fighting the terrorists. We're getting the maximum casualties even today. We've had a number of terrorists, suicide bombers in our country from Peshar to Quetta to southern Punjab, in Islamabad. We are fighting this menace every day.
BLITZER: The suggestion is that Pervez Musharraf, the president of Pakistan, he is firmly committed, and he's been a target of al Qaeda, several assassination attempts, but there are other elements in your security services, intelligence services, the military, that I don't know if they're in bed, but they're cooperating with these elements.
DURRANI: Totally and utterly incorrect because I know the top three layers of ISI, I know the top and medium level leadership in the army. There is no question they're in control of Pervez Musharraf. They are doing exactly what he tells them. There may be something wrong at the foot soldier level. Maybe on the border. Yes, it is possible, but overall, the military, the intelligence is totally committed. We're fighting for our own souls.
BLITZER: Peter, what are sources telling you?
BERGEN: I mean, let's look at the general -- assassination attempts against General Musharraf. They did involve people in the Pakistani army. Lower levels, but that's according to the Pakistani government. So clearly, there must be some sympathy for al Qaeda and al Qaeda-like groups as the ambassador says, it may not be at the top level, and it's certainly not official government policy, but the fact is if you look at the suicide attacks in Afghanistan this the past year, there were 139. That's more than the entire history of the country. As the ambassador said, there were at least six suicide attacks in Pakistan just in the last month.
BLITZER: And here is the other charge. Mr. Ambassador, and we want Pakistan to provides its side of the story. Osama bin Laden is siding out some place in this area, in Pakistan. His number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is there. The leader of the Taliban is in Quetta, you have heard this suggestion many times. I want to hear your side of the story.
DURRANI: My friend Peter has also said that once in a while.
BLITZER: It's not just -- he's quoting U.S. military sources.
DURRANI: Yes but to the best of my knowledge and information, they are not in Pakistan. In fact, nobody knows where they are. If we knew where they were, they would have gone by now. This is total speculation.
BLITZER: Why is everyone speculating, Peter, that these guys, whether it's Mullah Mohammed Omar, the leader of the Taliban, or Osama bin Laden , Ayman al-Zawahiri, why is everybody working under the assumption they're hiding out inside Pakistan? DURRANI: Let me just say that the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency testified in January that the plot to bring down 10 American airlines luckily averted in the summer of 2006 was directed from al Qaeda in Pakistan. He said that in the record in intelligence testimony. Also James Jones who is the head of NATO forces said in September also in testimony before the Congress that the leadership of al Qaeda of the Taliban, pardon me, was in Quetta, which is an area of Pakistan.
BLITZER: That is a major city. Why not simply go in there and clear it out?
DURRANI: It's easier said than done. But first of all, I don't think the leadership of the Taliban is there. That's totally incorrect.
You see, the problem is, you have to clean out Afghanistan. The tribal area is a very small fraction of the total Afghanistan. I think Mr. Bush brought out in his latest address on what the problems are in Afghanistan. You have to solve those out. There is far more space in Afghanistan than there is in the tribal area. There are people there. You don't have control over that country. So why should they all come here? The leadership of the al Qaeda and the Taliban, to the best of my understanding is in Afghanistan. I can't say with certainty, but ...
BLITZER: You suspect.
DURRANI: I more than suspect.
BLITZER: You believe it. All right. We'll leave it there and continue this. Ambassador Durrani, thanks very much for coming in.
DURRANI: My pleasure.
BLITZER: Peter Bergen, thanks to you as well.
BLITZER: And still ahead tonight, a Washington power couple confronts racism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: I had to restrain myself because it was clear he thought that he could get away with making a clearly racist statement about I had to be careful that I wasn't seen with a black person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That's our world affairs analyst, the former defense secretary William Cohen. He and his wife Janet have written a powerful book about life as an interracial couple. I'll talk about it with them.
Also, details of a deal that will impact millions of radio listeners. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: An airline in meltdown, and a CEO who says he's humiliated and mortified. The winter weather that started JetBlue's nightmare has long since cleared, but the airline just can't seem to wake up from the bad dream. Let's turn to CNN's Mary Snow. She's joining us live from New York's Kennedy Airport with the latest. Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is where JetBlue is headquartered. You can see behind me the airline has really been struggling to get back to business as usual. Today alone, a quarter of the flights had been cancelled. JetBlue has apologized, but tomorrow plans to take aggressive action to make up for its mishaps.
SNOW (voice-over): Day six of JetBlue's crisis and the airline is still reeling, canceling flights to 11 cities on Monday alone. And passengers still want answers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rescheduling us is not going to be the answer.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're not -- no.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's not the answer. We need to do better than that.
SNOW: The trouble started during a Valentine's Day ice storm at New York's JFK, when JetBlue left passengers stranded on planes for up to 10 hours. Since then, there's been a ripple effect of backups.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They need to fix it. I'm sure they will. I mean, or they'll go out of business.
SNOW: JetBlue's CEO, David Neeleman, told the "New York Times" he is "humiliated and mortified" by the breakdown of operations.
That's a far cry from when the airline launched in 1999 and soon after became a darling of the industry.
DAVID NEELEMAN, CEO, JETBLUE AIRWAYS: We want to be the airline that aims to bring humanity back to air travel.
SNOW: An airline spokeswoman says JetBlue's CEO is busy finalizing details of a Passenger Bill of Rights. It's being touted as the strictest of its kind. JetBlue says it will impose penalties on itself, compensate passengers if it can't recover from weather and other events.
But will it be enough to regain trust among customers?
ERIC DEZENHALL, CRISIS MANAGEMENT CONSULTANT: I think that the incident with people staying on the runway for hours and hours is a disaster. It's an F. I think that introduction of a Bill of Rights is a good solid B.
SNOW: Crisis management consultant Eric Dezenhall says JetBlue must go beyond an apology to recover.
DEZENHALL: People want to see that a company is suffering. And, second, people want to know personally relevant solutions.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
SNOW (on camera): JetBlue tomorrow plans to detail its customer bill of rights and the airline says it expects to be 100 percent operational by tomorrow as well. Wolf?
BLITZER: As you know, Mary, a lot of people would like to see a federal bill of rights, whether Congress moves in that direction or the executive branch. What is the latest on that possibility?
SNOW: There certainly is a lot of pressure, especially since last week when many passengers found out they didn't have many rights. The airline industry though, has been trying to buck this, saying more problems would be created if the government set strict limits.
BLITZER: Mary Snow at Kennedy Airport for us. She'll follow up and see what is happening with Jet Blue tomorrow. Thank you, Mary.
Up ahead, protestors coming too close for comfort to Condoleeza Rice. We'll have details of why they wanted to see the secretary of state.
Plus, two Washington power players talk about their experience as an interracial couple. The former defense secretary William Cohen and his wife Janet. You may be surprised at what they actually face. Their story coming up next.
BLITZER: Now, "Uncovering America." Our series of reports on issues often ignored by the mainstream media. Tonight, race and romance. He's a former secretary of defense of Irish and Jewish roots. She's a successful African American journalist. A Washington power couple by any definition, and yet even they are not immune to the cold glare of racism. They have written a story about the bond and challenges they face.
The book is called "Love in Black and White."
BLITZER: Joining us our world affairs analyst, William Cohen, and his wife, Janet Cohen.
Guys, thanks very much for coming in.
Mr. Secretary, let me start with you, because it's hard to believe when the two of you got married you faced discrimination, and it was -- it was a painful experience for both of you, but give us one example, Mr. Secretary.
COHEN: Well, it wasn't as painful for us as it is for many people, but we certainly had to confront the issue of whether or not there could be a mixture of racists, and certainly that wedding took place in the United States Capitol, which was built on the backs of slaves during the early years. But our marriage would have been illegal as recently at 1967 in the case of Loving against Virginia. And as a result, the Supreme Court, they abolished those anti- miscegenation laws, and as a result of that, people such as Janet and me were able to meet and to marry and to succeed.
But we encountered some discrimination, to be sure, in our personal appearances in various parts of the country. But it's not as intense as many other couples have had to face.
BLITZER: Because at one point -- I want Janet to weigh in a second. But at one point, you write you were ready to slug someone. Talk a little about that.
COHEN: Well, we in a restaurant in New York, and a table next to us was waiting to make contact with us. And as we got up to leave, they got up to leave, and a man came over to me and said, "Well, you're a public figure and you have to be careful who you're seen with."
And I said, "Well, what do you mean?" And he looked over at me and past me at Janet. And I said, "Mister I am over the age of 21 and free. I don't have to be concerned about anyone I'm seen with." But I had to restrain myself because it was clear that he thought he could get away with making a clearly racist statement about I had to be careful that I wasn't seen with a black person.
BLITZER: Janet, what was it like for you?
JANET LANGHART COHEN, JOURNALIST: Well, it was pretty easy. It's easier for our dynamic.
I think if I were a black male and Bill were a white female, we would have a different story to tell you in America. They're more accepting of this mixture of interracial marriage.
But for me, the funniest thing that happened was when one of Bill's colleagues in the U.S. Senate asked him, "Which one of Janet's parents is white?" And Bill said, "Why do you ask?" And he said, "Well, because she's so intelligent," and I thought, he's still in the Dark Ages.
BLITZER: It's hard to believe that that kind of mentality, Janet, still exists, but talk a little bit more about some of the -- I guess the reactions that when people see the two of you, what it's been like.
LANGHART COHEN: Well whenever we go to a ball game to see the Wizards down in DC, after the game a group of black guys will come and will just swarm Bill. Black people love him. I think they love him and accept him, and wonder if I'm lost. Am I a wannabe or what's the thing here with Janet? But I don't think we've had any real serious problems as it relates to race.
COHEN: Part of it has to do, Wolf, we both have achieved positions of some success in our respective professions. And I think people accept that, or are more accepting of it.
We're not trying to be and aren't a poster couple for interracial marriage. What we want to the say is, let's go back and look at past. Anti-Semitism, certainly I experienced that in growing up, even though I am not technically Jewish. Nonetheless, I knew a lot about that. Janet growing up to a single parent mother in racist Indiana at that time, where the Klan was very active.
So we both came from positions of modest families growing up, experiencing discrimination, and yet we both have been able to meet. And again, to join hand in hand.
And what we want to say to the general public -- you know, follow your heart. Be with the one and marry the one you love, but just be aware that there are still consequences.
It's changing. America has come a very long way. It still has a way to go, but it only can happen in America that we could be together as we are. And I think that's true of many, many interracial couples.
LANGHART COHEN: And it's a union like this one that produced a Barack Obama.
BLITZER: And talk a little about that Janet, because he's running for president. His father was from Kenya, his mother was from Kansas, and he's obviously a rock star right now. But talk a little about the biracial aspect of Barack Obama from your unique perspective.
LANGHART COHEN: Well, the story -- or the question has been asked, is he black enough? And that question has been asked by my community.
And I don't think we're asking, is he -- is his pigmentation dark enough, or is he culturally black? I think they're asking the question, because you're black, do you empathize with our issues? Do you understand what our problems are? And if you become president, will you address those issues? Unlike so many other presidents who promise us everything and give us nothing.
COHEN: I have a problem with the question itself, Wolf -- Is America ready for a black president? It's as if we're still living in this mentality that if you're white, you're superior, and if you're black, you have to prove something beyond simply your credentials.
Now for so many years we've always said that black athletes could be running backs, not quarterbacks, they could be slugging outfielders but not pitchers. They could be assistant coaches, but not coaches. We've seen each and every one ever those myths shattered. And I think that that's what's taking place in this country today with greater acceptance and respect for interracial marriage, or relationships, and that's something that I think is to the credit of America. To our great credit.
LANGHART COHEN: Well, you know, we've been to the moon and we're still asking these questions of, can a black person were president? Can a woman be president? And here I am a black female, and people often ask me, "Well, you're black and you're female. Hillary's in the race. Obama's in the race. Who are you going to choose?"
Well, I'm going to listen to the issues. I'm going to listen to the interests that are mine.
BLITZER: All right. That's a smart answer.
And I've known both of you for a long time. I've got to tell you, I read the book and learned a whole lot more. It's a great read, an important read as well, part of our "Uncovering America" series.
Let me thank both of you for coming in.
Our world affairs analyst, William Cohen, and Janet Cohen. The book is entitled, "Love in Black and White: A Memoir of Race, Religion and Romance."
Thanks very much.
LANGHART COHEN: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's find out what's coming up at the top of the hour on PAULA ZAHN NOW. Kyra Phillips filling in for Paula tonight. Kyra is in New York. Hi, Kyra.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good to see you, Wolf. Among the stories we're bringing out into the open tonight, Senator Barack Obama's answer to critics who say he can't be elected president because he's black. Will it also satisfy critics who says he just isn't black enough.
Also "Out in the Open", an obscure religion. Animal sacrifice and a man says anyone who tries to stop him is open to discrimination. It's "Out in the Open" at the top of the hour, Wolf.
BLITZER: All coming up right in a few minutes. Kyra, good to see you in New York. We'll be watching.
And still ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, getting serious about a major merger. We'll have details on a satellite radio deal in the works and one factor that could derail it.
And where is her hair? CNN's Jeanne Moos on Britney Spears' new look. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Let's check out some of our hot shots. In Pakistan, family members wail for missing passengers who were aboard a train where two bombs exploded.
On the West Bank an Israeli soldier tells Palestinian men to be quiet during a dispute between Palestinians and Jewish settlers.
In Trinidad, mud covered members of a band parade through the streets during a carnival celebration.
In Ukraine, a woman plays with, get this, one of her 91 cats in her two-room apartment.
Some of the hour's top "Hot Shots," pictures often worth a thousand words.
Let's go to Carol Costello in New York for some other headlines. Carol?
COSTELLO: Ninety-one cats. I can only imagine what it smells like. In the news tonight, protestors got pretty close to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice in Jerusalem. She held a joint summit with Israeli and Palestinian leaders today. Israeli police say they arrested three activists who managed to reach the hotel floor where Rice was staying.
She apparently was not in her room at the time. Police say the activists are supporters of a former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst convicted of spying for Israel.
Oprah Winfrey and Howard Stern could soon join forces on your radio. XM and Sirius satellite radio announced today they have agreed to a merger. Investors have been speculating about this deal for months. The $4.6 billion deal will likely get tough scrutiny from federal regulators. An FCC rule says one radio satellite radio provider cannot buy another one but that could be waived. You never know. Wolf?
BLITZER: We'll see what happens on that front. Thanks, Carol, very much. Tonight, the bald facts about a pop culture spectacle. Britney Spears as we have never seen her before.
Here is CNN's Jeanne Moos.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): How do you like your head?
JEANNE MOOS (voice-over): Beneath that hood was the shaved head that launched a million headlines.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Call her Britney Shears.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bold, bald new look. MOOS: Forget to be or not to be. This was to be the question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this a haircut or a cry for help?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A way to blow off steam or a serious cry for help?
UNIDENTFIIED FEMALE: I think it is a cry for help.
MOOS: The last time there was this much hoopla about a haircut was almost a half century ago.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bad news too for the long hair set this year. Recognize Elvis? He lost his hair to the army.
MOOS: Some say Britney lost her mind to an army of press. Maybe only her hairdresser knows for sure.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think maybe she's overwhelmed with the paparazzi.
Oh my God. It was crazy. We locked the doors and tried to close the curtains. They would have charged in there if the door was unlocked.
MOOS: Other stars have shaved their heads. Demi Moore did it to play "G.I. Jane". And Natalie Portman shaved for "V for Vendetta". Melissa Etheridge lost her hair to cancer treatments. Armchair doctors were quick to psychoanalyze Britney, hypothesizing everything from post partum depression to outright mental illness.
JILL DOBSON, "STAR MAGAZINE": I think she's in the middle of a nervous breakdown, and all of America is witnessing it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Britney may have felt other people were controlling her through her hair.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We tend to consume the celebrities until there's nothing left of them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's hounded, and she's a person in trouble.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She used to be someone to look up to and now it's just completely fallen down the tube.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm so glad she's not my daughter.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't really like her anymore because of what she's done.
MOOS: But what some don't like is the press.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't understand why she is the covered at all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have this crap, and it's sort of upsetting.
MOOS: It's irresistible fodder for us, from "The View."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just hope she doesn't start dating Anna Nicole Smith's lawyer.
MOOS: To "Regis and Kelly" showing themselves bald.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't really know what shape your head is until it's gone.
MOOS: Reminds us of the recent YouTube phenomenon. Psycho bride cuts off hair. Turns out they were just acting. While arm chair analysts seem to think Britney was acting out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hate my hair.
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: That's it for us. Let's go to Kyra sitting in for Paula. Kyra?
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com