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More Rape Victims Emerge in Baghdad; Allegations that Israel Contemplates Iran Strike; Anna Nicole Smith's Remains Awarded to Child's Guardian

Aired February 22, 2007 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou.
Happening now, (INAUDIBLE) warfare, new insurgent tactics casting a cloud of fear and death over Iraq, tonight inside the danger and the terror.

Also this hour, a new reason to fear Iran's nuclear program, a U.N. report is now out and the White House is not happy. But will Iran's defiant president pay a price?

And a very bizarre and emotional new chapter in the death of Anna Nicole Smith. A judge awards custody of her body and leaves many people wondering what he's thinking.

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

We begin tonight with fresh evidence of a frightening new insurgent weapon, a chlorine bomb. The U.S. military says a raid near Falluja uncovered a car bomb factory complete with deadly chemicals. A car bomb loaded with chlorine canisters blew up in Baghdad yesterday, killing six and unleashing a poison cloud which sent dozens of pumping, choking people to the hospital.

Tuesday, a chlorine tanker truck rigged with explosives, blew up near Taji, killing at least six and sickening scores more. Last month in Ramadi a suicide bomber blew up a dump truck loaded with a chlorine tank. The U.S. military says that with these dirty chemical bombs, insurgents are changing their tactics, trying to raise the terror level among the Iraqi people.

So have the insurgents found a new way to strike fear and spread death? And joining us now in Baghdad our correspondent Michael Ware. Michael, what's going on with these chlorine gas bombings, these truck filled with this poison gas, exploding, killing lots of people in the Baghdad area. Is this a new technique?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we're seeing, Wolf is two kinds of attack here. Let's get started with that. One is your ordinary car bomb packed with explosives, but they're putting in some chlorine gas tanks that will go off with the detonation. The second kind of attack which is of the kind that we saw a couple of days ago is actually a gas -- chlorine gas cylinder tanker rigged with explosives that was detonated.

These are two of three we've seen in recent weeks. We saw a car bomb version in Ramadi, as well. Now, in these attacks, in Ramadi, 16 people were killed. In Baghdad here there was six killed, and in Taji, I believe it was five. However, it's not known how many people died from the explosions themselves. And how many died from the attacks of the effects of the chlorine.

What we do know that in these two attacks, in Baghdad and in Taji, more than 200 people were hospitalized with respiratory illness. What we need to be aware of is that chlorine is a very difficult thing to use as a weapon. Indeed, if you don't get it just right, a lot of it just burns off harmlessly in the explosion and becomes nontoxic.

You need to concentrate this stuff. But I can tell you this, Wolf; insurgents have been experimenting with these things since 2003- 2004. I was with them when they were trying to fill mortars with various types of chemicals, mainly, blister agents, left over from Saddam's regime. Indeed, an example that was sent to me at one point, I had to have removed from my house by an American military HazMat team. So these guys have been dabbling with these things. There just seems to be a surge in it in the past three or four weeks.

BLITZER: And one of the most dangerous parts of it, the plume, this cloud that develops, you don't know which direction it's going to move. And you don't know if you're in the vicinity of one of these explosions which way to run.

WARE: Well, from what we're being told by the experts is that essentially a chlorine gas cloud is invisible, so you can't see it anyway. But you need it in a high concentration, certainly for it to be lethal. However, it doesn't have to be in that kind of a concentration to cause respiratory problems or other kinds of irritations, so it may not kill.

But as we all well know with weapons of this sort, their true power is the ability to instill terror. And let's have a look at it, Wolf. Let's be frank. You and I are now talking about this, three attacks in Iraq. The people of Iraq are now talking about it. Ignorance, people unaware of the true impact or limitations of these weapons are talking about this and the fear spreads. That's the real power. Not the damage the bomb itself causes.

BLITZER: A real weapon of terror. Michael thanks very much.

Meanwhile, insurgents in Iraq are flaunting another deadly tactic. They're shooting down American helicopters. Today, we learned two people were recently detained, implicated in these recent downings. In just four weeks, eight American helicopters were down by hostile fire. More helicopters have been shot down so far this year than in all of the last year.

It's one of the most taboo subjects in the Arab world, rape. But it is being used as a weapon right now in Iraq, and with victims now coming forward, and arrests being made, Iraqis are being forced to confront rape in truly unprecedented ways.

Let's turn to CNN's Carol Costello. She's joining us from New York with the story -- Carol. CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, it's astounding that these women are coming forward. I mean this is a region where honor killings are still practiced. The claim of rape could cost you your life.


COSTELLO (voice-over): They've become the latest pawns in the ugly war between Sunnis and Shiites. Two Iraqi women have come forward with very public claims they were raped. The first allegation came Monday when a Sunni Muslim woman appeared on Al-Jazeera TV and declared three Iraqi police officers raped her.


COSTELLO: The Shiite-led Iraqi government was quick to react. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki calling her allegations fabricated propaganda aimed at obstructing law enforcement.


COSTELLO: What some say is Maliki's rush to judgment sparked protest in support of the alleged victim, heightening tensions between Sunnis and Shiites and caused a concern in the United States about Maliki's leadership -- Congresswomen Ellen Tauscher.

REP. ELLEN TAUSCHER (D), CALIFORNIA: Well it's kind of shocking. If you can imagine having the head of state in any other country speaking about what should be a local criminal matter, we should not be involved in this other than as the head of state to demand that the rule of law and the kind of due process that this woman should have should be followed by the local jurisdiction.

COSTELLO: Iraqi newspapers are closely following the story. It's being debated on Arab TV. Some commentators challenging the U.S. military doctors who treated the alleged victim to release her medical records.

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE-IRAQ: She was released with her medical records. What she does with those is her own decision. But nothing out of the multi-national force will be released from us.

COSTELLO: So far, U.S. Officials are staying out of it. But now, another Sunni woman has come forward, this time, accusing Iraqi soldiers, her story again on tape and very public. And while four Iraqi soldiers were arrested on this complaint, some U.S. lawmakers say there have been other victims of such abuse in Iraq who are keeping silent.


COSTELLO: Something else disturbing about Prime Minister Maliki's response to these allegations, he fired a top Sunni official for calling for an international investigation. Lawmakers here in the United States are calling for a more professional investigation into these matters -- Wolf.

BLITZER: These are almost unprecedented images being broadcast around the world on these Arabic stations, Al-Jazeera, among others. And it's causing a huge uproar because it's so unusual for these women to actually come forward and say they've been raped.

COSTELLO: Yes, you don't even tell your family that you've been sexually assaulted because sometimes that can lead to your death. So this is truly astounding that an Iraqi woman would appear on television and say she was raped.

BLITZER: All right Carol. We'll stay on top of this story. Thank you very much.

From Iraq to Iran and its act of defiance -- Iran now expanding its uranium enrichment activities and moving ahead with programs that could help it build a nuclear bomb. That's what the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency reported today to the U.N. Security Council. So what can anybody do about this?

Our Tom Foreman reports on some drastic actions one nation may be considering. But let's begin with various U.S. options, Mary Snow watching the story for us -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the U.S. plans to meet with U.N. Security Council members early next week to weigh options and that includes tougher measures in the sanctions imposed on Iran in December.


SNOW (voice-over): With Iran defiant and expanding its nuclear programs, what is the next step for the U.S.? The Bush administration has two aircraft carrier teams in the Persian Gulf region. Officials say it's a reminder of how quickly they can move other ships into the region. There is a call for stiffer economic sanctions against Iraq. But one former diplomat says they must be carefully targeted.

CARNE ROSS, DIRECTOR, INDEPENDENT DIPLOMAT: I think the lesson from Iraq is that you need to be a lot more intelligent about sanctions. You need to design very carefully targeted measures that hit the people in power, don't hit the civilian population.

SNOW: One idea is to target businesses, engineering and construction companies, for example, that are controlled by the Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps.

MATTHEW LEVITT, THE WASHINGTON INSTITUTE: Now IRGC holds billions of dollars in resources and enjoys billions of dollars in no- bid contracts that it gets from the Iranian regime.

SNOW: Experts say for the U.S. to put economic pressure on Iran, it will be more complicated than sanctions imposed on North Korea. Those sanctions were focused on the elite.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Denying Kim Jong Il and his cronies the ability to import the cigars and caviar they wanted was an easy way to put economic stress on that elite without impacting the average North Korean at all.

SNOW: A big difference -- Iran has oil. Experts say oil sanctions can be very damaging but are a double-edged sword.

ROSS: If Iran's oil was taken off the market, oil prices would presumably spike, and the pain would be felt much more broadly than just in Iran. That arguably is something that few people want to contemplate. I think Iran knows that.


SNOW: One big obstacle is getting broad international agreement on tough sanctions since Russia and China would likely resist -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A tough assignment all around. Thank you, Mary, very much.

While the Bush administration weighs its diplomatic options could a military strike against Iran be on the table as well? The president has said flatly he's not planning a preemptive attack, but what about another country?

Our Tom Foreman has been looking into that -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, right now, there is open debate in Israel about the idea of possibly waging a military strike against Iran.


FOREMAN (voice-over): Iran's missiles are currently unable to reach as far as the United States. But America's long-time ally, Israel, is well within range.

JOHN PIKE, GLOBALSECURITY.ORG: The (INAUDIBLE), which is currently operational, has arranged 2,000 kilometers can get to Israel.

FOREMAN: So top Israelis are calling for action to stop Iran's nuclear program.

EHUD OLMERT, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: A lot still can be done and ought to be done. And the sooner it will be done, the better it will be.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI OPPOSITION LEADER (through translator): We can stop Iran. This is possible. This is our major task.

FOREMAN: The talk is still focused on diplomacy and sanctions. For years, it's been widely believed that Israel has nuclear weapons. They have never confirmed the claim. But the Israeli government has said in the past that Israel would not tolerate a nuclear Iran. And in 1981, the Israelis bombed a reactor in Iraq over similar concerns. Would they strike Iran now and how hard?

GEN. DAVID GRANGE, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It doesn't necessarily mean that Israel would use nuclear weapons against Iran, maybe conventional strikes. But if they feel that it's inevitable that they're going to be attacked, and knowing if things get out of control, and that's why wars do start, quite often, that they would take preemptive action.

FOREMAN: And that's where it gets very tricky for other nations. If Israel were to strike Iran, Iran would strike back at Israel and perhaps Israel's friends, including America.

COL. SAM GARDINER, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET.): They'd have a significant retaliation capability. They could go after us in Afghanistan. They could even do terrorist attacks on U.S. facilities. It could be a very high price to pay for the use of a military option.


FOREMAN: We recently spoke with the Israeli embassy here in Washington, and they said they will not comment on a hypothetical situation. They have spoken in the past about diplomatic solutions or perhaps putting more economic pressure on Iran. But if Israel did launch an attack on Iran, here is what they would go for first.

These are the missile sites around the country, some of which would be capable of reaching to Israel. And these are the nuclear sites around the country, which are in question right now, possibly involved in the development of nuclear weapons. Both sets of sites would be very high on the Israeli lists of targets. And, Wolf, right between don't forget there will be Israel and Iran, there is Iraq with 140,000 U.S. troops, not a very good place to be.

BLITZER: Soon it will be 160,000 or so if all those 20,000 actually go there. Thanks very much -- Tom Foreman reporting for us.

Jack Cafferty is off today. Coming up, security versus privacy -- a controversial scanning machine is going into service. Will you be forced essentially to bare all?

Plus a judge's ruling about Anna Nicole Smith's body may raise some eyebrows, but his behavior on the bench left some jaws dropping.

And Britain's Prince Harry heads into the line of fire -- new word tonight on his mission and the danger.

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


BLITZER: Some surprising new developments in the battle for control of Anna Nicole Smith's body, an extremely emotional judge makes a key ruling in a very unusual hearing.

Let's turn to CNN Susan Candiotti. She's joining us now from Fort Lauderdale with what has been quite a day down there -- Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And it all came down one day earlier than everyone expected. Saying we cry for her, Judge Larry Seidlin today put to rest the battle over where to put Anna Nicole Smith's remains to rest. Directing the lawyer representing her baby to decide where she will be buried. It will be in the Bahamas.


CANDIOTTI (voice-over): To call this a courtroom drama is an understatement. And in the starring role Broward County District Judge Larry Seidlin, crying at times, as he issued his ruling a day early on who gets to bury Anna Nic Smith. His decision -- the legal guardian of Smith's 5-month-old daughter.

JUDGE LARRY SEIDLIN, BROWARD COUNTY FAMILY COURT: Richard Milstein, esquire, as Guardian ad Litem for Dannielynn Hope Marshall Stern is awarded custody of the remains of Anna Nicole Smith.

CANDIOTTI: Seidlin passed over the other claimants, Smith's estranged mother, Virgie Arthur, and Smith's longtime companion Howard K. Stern. But in releasing the body, the judge made his wishes tearfully clear.

SEIDLIN: I want her buried with her son in the Bahamas. I want them to be together.

CANDIOTTI: After the hearing, an unprecedented show of unity from Stern, Larry Birkhead, Smith's former boyfriend, who like Stern also claims to be Dannielynn's father, and Smith's mother, all agreeing they want Smith laid to rest next to her son Daniel who died suddenly last September.

HOWARD K. STERN, SMITH'S BOYFRIEND: I just want to say that I'm very grateful that Anna Nicole's wishes are going to be carried out.

CANDIOTTI: But just minutes later, another twist revealed by the Broward County medical examiner.

DR. JOSHUA PERPER, BROWARD COUNTY MEDICAL EXAMINER: At this time I have a court order, but the court order is under appeals.

CANDIOTTI: Attorneys for Smith's mother tell CNN they filed the appeal. But the medical examiner is predicting it will quickly be dismissed. And that within days he will accompany Smith's body to the Bahamas at the judge's request.


CANDIOTTI: And despite that appeal, the lawyer representing Dannielynn says he will make arrangements for the burial and carry it out as soon as possible -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And this was strictly on the issue of where she'll be buried. It had nothing to do with the paternity custody of this little baby daughter.

CANDIOTTI: That issue has yet to be decided. Still don't know whether a DNA sample will be taken from the baby in the Bahamas or here or at all. But this judge said, enough of the baloney, let's find out who the father is.

BLITZER: The saga continues. Thanks Susan for that.

Carol Costello is in New York. She's monitoring stories coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. Carol, what's crossing the wires right now?

COSTELLO: Got a couple of things for you, Wolf. News of a huge crackdown on illegal immigration -- three executives of a Florida- based cleaning company now under arrest. They're accused of pocketing more than $18 million in unpaid taxes collected from hundreds of illegal immigrants they employed. The government says the executives used the money to buy extravagant items like beach homes and racehorses.

And the British defense ministry making official weeks of speculation -- they have announced that Prince Harry, third in line to the throne, will indeed deploy to Iraq likely sometime this spring. He'll command 12 men and four tanks. The deployment is part a scheduled rotation of British troops and comes as the government is announcing plans to draw down British forces in Iraq.

Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Carol, thank you very much.

Still ahead tonight right here in THE SITUATION ROOM...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know what I'm going to do, I'm going to call the president and tell him I disapprove of what the vice president said. That has no place in our debate.


BLITZER: What did Vice President Dick Cheney say to make the Speaker of the House so angry?

Plus, new realities in New Orleans -- did Katrina wash away the city's African American soul?

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


BLITZER: A milestone in New Orleans as residents of the devastated lower Ninth Ward take the keys to two new homes. They're believed to be the first built in the neighborhood since Hurricane Katrina hit. But despite some signs of progress, some fear Katrina has taken the African American soul out of New Orleans.

CNN Gulf Coast correspondent Susan Roesgen has tonight's uncovering America report -- Susan.

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this was the center of African American life in New Orleans, the lower Ninth Ward, nearly swept away by the big flood. But also nearly swept away now is the African American influence in New Orleans' politics and culture.



ROESGEN (voice-over): This is a New Orleans tradition that goes back more than 100 years, African American men who parade as Mardi Gras Indians. But after Hurricane Katrina, half the Indians are gone. Too many African Americans all across the city evacuated and haven't come back in spite of the hope that they would.

MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: This city will be chocolate at the end of the day.

ROESGEN: Last year, Mayor Ray Nagin predicted that African Americans would be the dominant majority again in New Orleans. But so far, it hasn't happened. Before Katrina, African Americans made up 67 percent of the city's population. Today, that number is just 52 percent. And what used to be the most powerful voting block in the city is missing.

SILAS LEE, POLITICAL ANALYST: That Democratic base is now dispersed whereas before it was centralized in specific areas of this city. Now, that base is dispersed between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, as well as Texas and Georgia. Therefore, the ability to do the traditional get out to vote activity is not there.

ROESGEN: Political analyst Silas Lee says more white moderate candidates will have a much better chance of getting elected now and although the city has had only African American mayors for 29 years, Lee says Ray Nagin may be the last for awhile when his term is up.

Also the shift to a more conservative political base could mean trouble for liberal white politicians like Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco and U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu. Unless more African Americans return, their political hold on this city, like the Mardi Gras Indian, is in danger of fading away.


ROESGEN: Something else to consider is what political effect New Orleans evacuees might have now on their adopted homes in places especially like Texas and Georgia -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Susan, thank you for that -- Susan Roesgen reporting.

Just ahead, an order to kill -- it's one year after a single act of terror turned Iraq into a killing field. We're going to show you how it came to this.

And much more on the very uncivil war between the backers of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama -- does either of them come out a winner? Who won? Who lost? We'll be right back.


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, death and dread delivered by a new tactic. Insurgents in Iraq are using dirty chemical bombs to sicken, scare or exterminate anyone nearby. Today we learned a raid near Falluja uncovered a car bomb factory complete with deadly chemicals.

In the CIA leak trial, jurors weigh Lewis "Scooter" Libby's fate. The judge told them to consider just how much people can remember things. Libby is accused of lying about learning the name of Valerie Plame, but he contends any inaccuracies were simply due to a faulty memory.

And if Senate Democrats are not careful, they could be back in the minority. Independent Senator Joe Lieberman who caucuses with Democrats suggests if they try to block Iraq war funding, he might become a Republican. That's from the Politico -- should that happen the Senate would be split 50/50, giving Vice President Cheney the decisive vote.

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

The one-year anniversary of the bombing of the golden mosque in Samarra. Now, a special report on the impact of that bombing. We want to warn you that some of the video is very graphic and can be difficult to watch. This attack, at one of the world's most important Shiite mosques, set off a wave of retaliation and sectarian violence that continues today. CNN has chosen not to show you any actual executions, but a warning, once again, this video may be difficult to watch.

Here's CNN's Michael Ware.


WARE (voice-over): These men are going to die. Shia accused of being militia members executed by Sunni hard-liners because they believe in a different brand of Islam. Their deaths displayed in this slickly-produced video by the Iraqi guerrilla group Ansar al-Sunnah, loosely affiliated to al Qaeda.

This footage, typical of images released by Ansar al-Sunnah and seen on Iraqi TV stations, was distributed by the group in the last few weeks. And as Sunnis kill Shia, so, too, Shia kill Sunnis, like these men, kidnapped, tortured, their bodies, hands still bound, dumped in a Baghdad neighborhood controlled by a Shia militia. Dozens of bodies appear on the capital's streets every morning.

To Iraqis, this is civil war -- what it looks like, what it is -- a daily accumulation of terrible moments just like these, borne by families on both sides of Iraq's sectarian divide. Sectarian violence has plagued Iraq almost since the invasion itself, but its full fury was not unleashed until one year ago, February 22, 2006, when this holy place was blown up apart.

The Golden Dome Shrine in the town of Samarra, north of Baghdad, one of the holiest sites in Shia Islam, its bombing so incendiary, moderate Shia leaders who had managed to hold back their faithful in the face of violent provocation for nearly two years finally lost control. The weeks after the bombing said to be by al Qaeda, though it never claimed responsibility, saw scores of Sunni mosques attacked.

This one raked with machine gun fire. The blood of its attendants staining the floor.

What had been ad hoc sectarian attacks turned into systematic widespread campaigns of ethnic cleansing, roaming death squads and indiscriminate suicide bombings. Included in the insurgent video, a sermon by a senior Shia cleric calling for revenge against Sunnis just days, says a Mehdi army source, after the Samarra bombing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): If you want someone to tell you to kill, and there's no one, I tell you to kill. I take the responsibility. Kill any Wahhabi, kill any Ba'athist.

WARE: A top aide to the radical Shia militia leader Muqtada al- Sadr, the clerics words used on this insurgent video as a warning to fellow Sunnis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It's your responsibility, my responsibility, and the responsibility of every cleric and tribal leader to mobilize a devout Shiite army, to kill Ba'athists (INAUDIBLE). The imam orders you to kill.

WARE: Though Mehdi army sources say he was quickly ordered to curb his public anger, the sentiment was widely felt. This civil war, sparked by the Samarra bombing and defined by the bloodletting that followed, is the legacy of this man, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al Qaeda in Iraq leader assassinated by a U.S. missile in June.

He planned from the beginning as this letter, intercepted and released by U.S. intelligence agencies and the coalition administration in February 2004 clearly outlines, Zarqawi, an extremist Sunni, described Shia as the most evil of man kind and believed only by provoking them into the kind of violence seen in the wake of Samarra would this slumbering Sunni nation awake and eventually emerge victorious.

One year on, death squads, the U.S. military says, are protected by and hidden within Iraq's police forces, haunt a terrified Sunni community. Al Qaeda assassination teams and car bomb attacks slaughter Shia in their neighborhoods. Unknown bodies float down the Tigris River, and Iraq is much closer to what Zarqawi wanted it to be.

Michael Ware, CNN, Baghdad.


BLITZER: Serious reporting from our Michael Ware.

Thank you.

Other stories we're following: as poll numbers are persistently low, some have called his credibility into question. Now, the Vice President Dick Cheney is experiencing some stinging side effects from all of that, even as he travels abroad.

Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd. He's watching the story -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, just moments ago in Sydney, the vice president showered praise on his Australian hosts, saying Prime Minister John Howard has never wavered on the war on terror, a reference to Australia's troop presence in Iraq and perhaps a dig at the British and all the critics Dick Cheney seems to be encountering wherever he goes.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And Cheney is to be recognized as the war criminal that he actually is.

TODD (voice-over): In Australia, at home a once invincible vice president is besieged, but defends a U.S. path in Iraq that still bears much of his signature.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we were to do what Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Murtha are suggesting, all we'll do is validate the al Qaeda strategy. The al Qaeda strategy is to break the will of the American people.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA) SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The vice president's statements are beneath the dignity of the debate that we are engaged in.

TODD: Dick Cheney also returns fire against Senator John McCain for this attack on other architect of the war.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: I think that Donald Rumsfeld will go down in history as one of the worst secretaries of defense in history.

CHENEY: I disagree with John. John said some nasty things about me the other day, and then the next time he saw me, he ran over to me and apologized. Maybe he'll apologize to Rumsfeld.

TODD: McCain last month said the president listened to much to the vice president, he was very badly served.

Also hanging over Cheney's head, his former chief of staff awaiting a jury's verdict on perjury and obstruction charges, a trial that's pulled back the curtain on the vice president's office, showing a coordinated effort to publicly strike back at a high profile critic and vicious infighting with the CIA over who should take blame for faulty pre-war intelligence.

Despite this trail, Mr. Cheney still has committed support. FRANK GAFFNEY, CENTER FOR SECURITY POLICY: Dick Cheney remains a very active and generally very effective player inside both the administration and inside Washington. Reports of his political demise, I think, have been greatly exaggerated. Reports of his incompetence are exaggerated, as well.


TODD: And the facts remain Dick Cheney still has the ear of the president and is still message, never straying from his belief that this administration is on the right course in Iraq and the war on terror -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you for that, Brian Todd, reporting.

And as we said, the vice president's poll ratings remain low. A recent "USA Today"/Gallup poll shows only 37 percent of Americans view him favorably, 58 percent view him unfavorably.

And this additional note: when promoting a preceding story, we inadvertently showed the wrong caption over video of the speaker of the House. And for that we apologize.

Still ahead tonight, here in the SITUATION ROOM, a tear-jerking judgment, literally. In the Anna Nicole Smith trial, the judge makes his point in words and sobs. Jeanne Moos will take a look.

And it's getting ugly early. The Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama food fight continues today. Can they either of them score political points from it? Candy Crowley, standing by for that.

We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Right now, Senator Hillary Clinton is in the backyard of the movie mogul who produced high drama in the Democratic presidential race. She's is in California for a big money fund-raiser tonight. And you can bet her supporters are buzzing about the first big feud of the 2008 campaign, or as "The New York Post" is dubbing it, the big chill.

Senator Clinton's uncivil war with rival Barack Obama and producer David Geffen is casting a red hot spotlight on questions about her electability. And it's not just the heavy baggage from her husband's administration, her critics say, that could bring her down.

At the latest gathering of Democratic presidential hopefuls, Senator Clinton took some sharp jabs from her rivals on Iraq. Let's go to our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's unlikely that voters will remember this spat one month from now, much less 11 months from now, when the primary season opens. Still, politics are measured in moments, and this was one of them.


CROWLEY (voice-over): And on the second day, camp Obama was in above-it-all mode. Barack, said an aide, considers Senator Clinton a friend, an ally, and thinks there's bigger stuff to talk about.

They were less sanguine in camp Hillary, where the feeling is Obama is getting a free ride in the media. The politics of hope, insisted one, is the politics of trash.

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You know, as someone who is very excited about seeing the first viable woman, the first viable African-American compete for the White House, it was quite disheartening to see this story play out. But I think it's over. I think the campaigns are regrouping.

CROWLEY: To review the bidding: David Geffen, a former fund- raiser and friend of the Clintons, is now an Obama supporter. He gave an interview and laid into the Clintons, calling them among other things, liars. Camp Clinton demanded that Obama immediately condemn Geffen's remarks and give back the money Geffen raised. Obama then responded with a caustic note saying the Clintons never had problems with Geffen when he was fund-raising for them and staying in the Lincoln bedroom.

Anywhoo, add up the score of the first mud wrestle of the season, you must give camp Clinton points for following the candidate's rules laid out in her first trip to Des Moines in late January.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK; When you are attacked, you have to deck your opponent.

CROWLEY: She was talking about Republicans at the time, but if the shoe fits.

On the other side, give Obama props for neatly sidestepping the fact that Mr. Geffen had just helped raise $1.3 million for Obama's presidential bid.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: My sense is that Mr. Geffen may have differences with the Clintons. That doesn't really have anything to do with our campaign.

CROWLEY: So, who won? Answer: Well, naturally John Edwards, Bill Richardson, Tom Vilsack, et al.

BRAZILE: So I think round one went to what I call the second- tier candidates, who are waiting for the top-tier candidates to stumble so that they can get on stage.


CROWLEY: And so it goes, that 11 months before anybody casts a vote, they are throwing punches. There are many more ahead -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Candy, thank you for that. Up ahead, the controversial airport scanner that reveals more than you may want to show, about to go into service. And we're going to have details of the controversy.

Plus, courtroom drama of the highest order. Emotions spilling over in the battle over Anna Nicole Smith. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: In our CNN "Security Watch" tonight, a controversial airport scanning machine is about to go into service. But critics are voicing serious privacy concerns, saying the device can record what amounts to nude pictures. Our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, is joining us now live from Phoenix -- Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they've called it the X-rated X-ray, an electronic strip search. What we're talking about here in Phoenix, starting tomorrow, people at TSA checkpoints who were pulled for secondary inspections will have a choice. They can go through a pat-down or they can be scanned by this machine called a backscatter machine.

Now, the old incarnation of this machine took an extraordinarily detailed picture, which showed weapons concealed on the body, but also revealed details of the anatomy which some people felt went way too far.

Deployed here is the next generation. This still displays some detail, but much, much less, and still, the TSA says, will show things hidden on the body.


ELLEN HOWE, TSA: The whole process takes about 45 seconds. You have two scans. It's very low-dose radiation that can see through the clothing but not through the skin, and it's equivalent to the amount of radiation that you would get, say, in two minutes on an airplane flight at altitude.


MESERVE: Now, privacy advocates are concerned that even though the operators won't see a detailed image, that one will be captured and stored inside the machine. The manufacturer and the TSA say that is absolutely not the case.

The TSA has taken other steps to try to address privacy concerns. For instance, the person who is looking at the scanned image will not be in the same room as the person being scanned. Male TSA officers will be looking at men. Females will be looking at female images. And all of this, an attempt to make people more comfortable with the process.

But if people are still uncomfortable, the TSA says, they can just opt for that pat down instead. This is just a pilot program and just here in Phoenix for the time being.

Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: This takes about 45 seconds. The pat down, what does that usually take?

MESERVE: They say it takes just about the same amount of time. But they want to test this technology in a real-life situation. That's why it's rolled out here. They want to see if it's reliable. They want to see if there are any operational glitches. And they also want to gauge how people react to it. And if there privacy concerns mean that it's going to be rarely used -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jeanne Meserve. We'll watch this unfold together with you.

And remember, stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.

Still ahead tonight right here in the SITUATION ROOM, courtroom craziness in the Anna Nicole Smith case. We're going to take a closer look at what happened today. Jeanne Moos, standing by with that.

Plus, a gift from beyond the grave. We're learning new details of James Brown's estate.

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


BLITZER: There are circuit courts and then there are circus courts.

Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos on the battle over Anna Nicole Smith.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's hard not to be judgmental about the judge.

SEIDLIN: It's what...

MOOS: When he starts to choke up, even before he gets to his ruling.

SEIDLIN: I hope when it's read, we keep our cool.

MOOS: But the one who lost his cool was Judge Seidlin...


MOOS: ... who let out a groan as he started to read the ruling.

Anna Nicole's boyfriend and mother buried their heads as the judge spoke of burying Anna Nicole.

SEIDLIN: I want her buried with her son. I want them to be together.

MOOS: It's tough enough to lose control, but worse to know that your loss of composure will be the media's gain, destined to be shown over and over.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I feel like I should apologize for being the only person who wasn't crying.

MOOS: Some referred to Judge Seidlin as Judge Larry, intimating he wanted to be the next Judge Judy. Entertainment website TMZ even reported he once compiled an audition tape. We have no idea if that's true. But his folksy comments...

SEIDLIN: This is life. We all come with some broken suitcases.

MOOS: ... Earned him headlines like "Nutso Judge".

SEIDLIN: And I was a former taxi driver.

MOOS: ... from the Bronx, drove a taxi as he worked his way through school. Became famous at the Anna Nicole hearing for nicknaming attorneys after where they were from.

SEIDLIN: Texas, this testimony doesn't helped you.

SEIDLIN: California, you'll do the speaking.

SEIDLIN: You two are very fine, my Florida ones.

MOOS: The attorney nicknamed Texas caused a flap when he fainted hours before the ruling.

SEIDLIN: What do you need as a diabetic right now.


SEIDLIN: Here's my credit card.

MOOS: The witness ended up fishing a protein bar out of her purse and handed it over to Texas, the diabetic.

After all the pithy quotes...

SEIDLIN: Don't test me anymore. Don't test me. I'm tested by the best.

SEIDLIN: And find out who the father is. That's enough baloney here.

MOOS: After the video presentation of a pregnant Anna Nicole stoned on something, the judge finally got to his ruling and choked, drumming his fingers as he tried to regain his composure.

SEIDLIN: And I hope to God you guys give the kid the right shot.

MOOS: The judge empathized with Anna Nicole. SEIDLIN: You know, she had to live all of her years under this kind of exposure. I just get a week and a half of it and it's ready to flatten me down.

MOOS: There's nothing the unblinking eye of the courtroom camera likes better than eyes blinking back tears.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: What a judge. What a judge, indeed.

Carol Costello is in New York. She's monitoring some other important stories.

Carol, what do you got?

COSTELLO: I can't believe you're making me follow Jeanne Moos. I'll give it a good shot.

New revelations tonight about James Brown's estate. The late singer's lawyer says Brown left instructions for a fund to pay tuition for needy children at schools in Georgia and South Carolina. The lawyer says the dollar amount of the I Feel Good Trust has not yet been determined. He adds that Brown's will leaves many of his personal possessions to his six grown children and all other assets to this trust.

Investigators are trying to find out how this plane ended up in a large creek in Middlesex County, Virginia. The plane with just a pilot on board went down early this afternoon in a creek off the Rappahannock River. A private boat picked up the pilot. Still, no word on the extent of his injuries.

A military wife convicted of throwing a cup of ice into a car that cut her off is finally out of jail. Jessica Hall was released from a jail in Stafford, Virginia, after a month-long stay. She was convicted of maliciously throwing a missile into an occupied vehicle. No one was hurt. Hall could have been sentenced to two years behind bars. But yesterday, a judge sentenced to her to probation.

Big changes at Wimbledon this year. Female tennis players who win receive as much prize money as their male counterparts. The chairman of the All-England Club, which hosts the event, says he hopes the decision will provide a boost for the game as a whole. He says the change is also intended to recognize the enormous that women players make to the game and to Wimbledon.

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

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Carol.

I'll see you tomorrow right here in the SITUATION ROOM.

Remember, we're hear 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern, another hour 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

Tomorrow among our guests, Ralph Nader. He says Senator Hillary Clinton is a panderer and he's not leaving -- he not ruling out the possibility he might challenge the Democratic presidential nominee again. We'll talk to Ralph Nader.

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


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