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Stock Market in Freefall; Was Cheney Targeted by Taliban?

Aired February 27, 2007 - 17:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where we've witnessed a market freefall. The Dow drops more than 400 points. The S&P has its biggest slide in years.
Also happening now, was Vice President Cheney a Taliban target?

A suicide bomber strikes at the U.S. air base in Afghanistan during Mr. Cheney's visit.

Spying for Castro?

Did they lead secret lives reporting on fellow exiles to communist bosses back in Havana?

And is Al Gore green enough?

Critics call his energy guzzling mansion an inconvenient truth.

What's he doing about it and what can we all do to cut energy use?

Wolf Blitzer is off today.

I'm John King.


Vice President Cheney was on the front lines of the terror war today and suddenly may have become a target.

Mr. Cheney was at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan when a suicide bomber attacked the gate. Fifteen people were killed, including a U.S. service member. The vice president suggests the bomb was meant to question the authority of the Afghan government. The Taliban say the bomb was aimed at Mr. Cheney.

Let's go now to our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, for the latest -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, as you mentioned, of course, at least 15 people killed, 20 injured in this attack. Military and U.S. officials saying Cheney was never in any harm, but really, there is a great deal of symbolism on both sides. The audacity of those to carry out this strike while Cheney was there. Cheney, of course, being the highest ranking senior administration official to be in a war zone overnight, someone who, of course, left unharmed wearing a black suit and cowboy boots.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): The bomb blast outside the U.S. Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan was so close to the vice president, he heard it himself. Cheney told reporters traveling with him: "It was about 10:00 a.m. this morning. I heard a loud boom and shortly after that, the Secret Service came in and told me there had been an attack on the main gate, apparently a suicide bomber."

Reporter Mark Silva, who was with the vice president, tells CNN...

MARK SILVA, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": I was at the base fire station with (UNINTELLIGIBLE) there had been a direct attack at the gate and the base had gone on code red.

MALVEAUX: Cheney was rushed to a bomb shelter nearby, as his plane was prepared to get him out.

SILVA: People started moving and everything advanced very quickly.

LT. COL. TAMMY HEATH, U.S. ARMY: The vice president was over a mile away from the actual entry control point. He was never in any danger.

MALVEAUX: But a Taliban representative reportedly claimed it was Cheney who was targeted, a charge military and administration officials quickly dismissed.

HEATH: It was completely coincidental that he was here at the same time this attack occurred.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You've got an isolated attack, as a result -- what we've often said about acts of terror, an individual who wants to commit an act of violence or kill him or herself, very difficult to stop.

MALVEAUX: But stopping attacks like this is precisely why Cheney is in the area in the first place. Just the day before, he was in neighboring Pakistan, meeting with its president, Pervez Musharraf, to put pressure on him to do more to crack down on the Taliban and al Qaeda, who are regrouping along the border.

Today, despite the deadly blast, Cheney went forward with his schedule, flying 18 minutes, 40 miles south, to Kabul, to meet with Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai.


MALVEAUX: And, of course, John, an important picture if you look at the wall there. This is something the White House wants the American people to see, Cheney as well as Karzai side by side.

The message here is that despite this increase in bombings, the violence there, that at least the U.S. mission is not lost in Afghanistan -- John.

KING: And, Suzanne, as this played out, as the White House tries to get the information about where the vice president was, when -- excellent when this happened -- was he at risk at all, all facts or any analysis or, some might say, spin from the White House, along with this?

MALVEAUX: Well, John, certainly a little bit of spin here, of course. Cheney, when asked whether or not he was targeted, what did this mean, he said, well, it means that obviously they're trying to target the Afghan government, the central government, actually challenging its authority. But they also put out a senior administration official who said Karzai was looking for reassurances from Cheney that the U.S. folks were not going to leave in that country, because they had heard reports back here in Washington about possibilities of leaving in Iraq -- John.

KING: A message from the United States to its allies -- send more troops to Afghanistan.

Suzanne Malveaux, thank you very much, at the White House.

And the Afghanistan attack comes a day after Vice President Cheney asked Pakistan to get tougher on terrorism. Pakistan's wild Waziristan region is said to be a source of cross border attacks by the Taliban and al Qaeda.

So should U.S. troops cross that border to go after them?

Let's get more from CNN's Brian Todd -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, that's been a very sensitive issue since 9/11. And this incident involving the vice president may put more pressure on Pakistan's president to allow U.S. forces in.


TODD (voice-over): A deadly strike in Bagram, close enough to a visiting U.S. vice president to make security forces twitch.

Military experts concerned about something else nearby, something Dick Cheney went there to address.

BRIG. GEN. JAMES MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: What's significant is the proximity of Bagram Air Base to Pakistan, which is only, as the crow flies, about 70 miles, as you can see right here, from Bagram to Pakistan. This is Pakistan. It's only about 70 miles. This region right here is called Waziristan. That is the root of the challenge.

TODD: A Pakistani region that U.S. officials say not only supports and trains anti-American militants in Afghanistan, but is also the hideout of the most notorious militant of all.

ADM. MIKE MCCONNELL, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: To the best of our knowledge, the senior leadership, number one and number two, are there, and they are attempting to reestablish and rebuild and to establish training camps.

TODD: U.S. officials are pressing Pakistan to crack down on the border crossings. But they say militants continue to pass.

What can America do?

MARKS: We could never politically -- we certainly could militarily -- but we would never politically violate the sovereignty of that nation and go after those training camps.

TODD: Although U.S. forces have struck militant targets in Pakistan from the air. But another obstacle -- finding the camps.

PETER BERGEN, CNN COUNTER-TERRORISM ANALYST: They are not large. They're not the sort of thing you can see from satellites from the air. But they're compounds where 10 or 20 people are learning bomb making, they're doing exercises.

TODD: One option?

A joint strike.

MARKS: A joint operation in Pakistan could take any number of forms. I mean it could be an air strike. It could be a precision- guided munitions. It could be led by intelligence sources on the ground, either Pakistani with U.S. support. It could be a Special Operations raid. It could be very precise.


TODD: But any U.S. military operations in Pakistan, even with permission, are fraught with political complications and personal dangers. Pakistani President Musharraf has already survived two assassination attempts -- John.

KING: Brian Todd for us on a very difficult issue.

Brian, thank you very much.

Bombings and brutal slayings shook Iraq today.

But could the bloodshed soon bring peace talks in which the United States would sit down with Iraq's neighbors?

Joining us now from Baghdad, our correspondent, Michael Ware.

Michael, let's break down this regional conference. More discussion today of getting Iran, Syria, Iraq and the United States at the table to talk about the future of Iraq. The administration has resisted for a long time talking directly to Iran and Syria.

Let's take the United States first.

What could be gained, if anything, for the Bush administration, besides simply being able to tell its critics be quiet, we finally sat down with them?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's obviously a symbolic gesture or symbolic nature to this. It shows that there's a degree of rapprochement from the U.S. both, you know, militarily, politically, and, indeed, diplomatically here in Iraq, looking to reach out to all parties, regardless of any differences on other issues -- the focus being Iraq, Iraq, Iraq.

However, beyond the symbolism of this approach, there is little, I would imagine, to really be gained. I mean the back channel communications between the U.S. and Iran are already open. The primary conduit, of course, being the Iraqi government, an entity both Tehran and Washington essentially share.

I mean it was two years ago I had a U.S. diplomat tell me that the Americans assume anything they tell the Iraqi government ends up directly in Tehran anyway.

So more than anything, this is a symbolic gesture, trying to rally international support for what could be a new diplomatic push.

KING: And if you are Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki or the very troubled endangered Iraqi government, what are you looking for out of this conference, especially on the number one issue every day, improving security?

WARE: Well, for security, what they are hoping is that they can somehow dampen down or temper external support for various fighting factions here in the country.

Now, is that going to come about through a series of diplomatic meetings?

That's unlikely. And let's not forget, this first meeting is really only a pre-meeting meeting. This is a getting together of a number of bureaucrats and representatives to pave the ground for what should be a ministerial level meeting that Secretary Rice believes could come in April.

So, really, there's a lot of questions that remain to be answered. And we've been down this road before. We've seen the Americans and the Iranians talk about having talks and not do it. We've had this government, now in its last throes -- this is its last ditch attempt, as President Bush has made very clear -- to get things right.

We see it pushing that through the Baghdad security plan militarily. This clearly is the diplomatic push -- John.

KING: And, Michael, you mentioned symbolism at the top. Imagine a table that has the government of the United States, the government of Iraq and the government of Iran. Iran certainly could say this is proof we are a player in the region.

What else would Tehran want at such a meeting? WARE: Well, I mean I think that apart from that kind of public acknowledgement, that endorsement of their regional role that they have, in fact, been displaying here, not just in Iraq, but, of course, also in Lebanon through Hezbollah, one of its other beneficiaries of its military intelligence and political support. I mean it's been flexing a lot of muscle in the region.

So this really would be an endorsement.

However, what it will really be looking for will not be happening at the negotiating table. What it'll be looking for is real concessions from the U.S. to pull back Iran's military efforts in this country.

It's not going to do that cheaply. It's going to want something real and we're not going to see that openly dealt with on the negotiating table -- John.

KING: And, Michael, in closing, you sound a tad pessimistic.

If you're the average Iraqi and what you care about most is being able to walk to the market, an end to the endless car bombings, an end to the sectarian violence, putting all these diplomats at a table, do you expect anything in the near term if this, even the pre-meeting, can be brought about?

WARE: No. Not the slightest thing, John.

KING: Michael Ware for us in Baghdad today.

Michael, thank you very much.

WARE: Thank you.

KING: Jack Cafferty is off today.

Up ahead, how green is Al Gore?

He sounded the alarm on carbon emissions, so you might be surprised to find out how much energy he uses. We'll show you.

Also, a Florida couple who confessed to spying for Cuba faces sentencing. We'll have details of the case that shocked the Cuban exile community.

And we'll be joined by White House Spokeswoman Dana Perino for more on the deadly attack that sent Vice President Cheney to a bomb shelter.

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


KING: Back now to our top story, the bomb attack at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, where Vice President Cheney was visiting.

The Taliban say Mr. Cheney was the target.

But was he ever at risk?

Joining me now, the White House deputy press secretary, Dana Perino.

Dana, thank you for joining us in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's go straight to that question.

Was this sort of a show and tell piece of bravado by the Taliban or was the vice president at risk?

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: It's hard to say. You know, I think that the forensics experts are going to have to do their own analysis and try to let us know.

But what I can say is that the vice president is safe. They say -- the Secret Service says he was never in any danger. It's a serious situation there in that part of the world. It's a dangerous place and the vice president was there stopping off in Pakistan and Afghanistan to talk about our need to continue to stay on the offensive against these terrorists.

KING: Well, let's move to that bigger question, the purpose for the trip. Surprise visits, not on the public schedule. When he went, especially to Pakistan, let's talk about that.

Clear signals from the vice president himself publicly and, from what we're hearing privately from administration officials, that he was going to give a tough message to President Musharraf that al Qaeda and the Taliban are increasing their activity up in those remote areas of Pakistan and that you, President Musharraf, must do more.

This is a president who, after 9/11, President Bush, said whatever it takes to get al Qaeda and those responsible. Al Qaeda and the Taliban are up there. President Musharraf is not doing enough.

Where is the line for the United States to do it itself, if it has to?

PERINO: Well, I think that the purpose of the trip -- and this was reiterated by a senior administration official that was on the trip today -- was to go and joint -- to reaffirm our joint commitment to aggressively work to tackle and dismantle the Taliban and al Qaeda.

It's serious business and we all think that we can -- we have to continue to do more and better. We know that spring is coming. We know that we're going to be on the offensive in going against them.

Pakistan has done a lot. President Musharraf has worked tirelessly. You know, he's had attacks on his own life and so he's very motivated. And we were there to talk jointly with our allies about the upcoming offensive and to make sure that they know that, you know, we're just as committed as ever these five years after 9/11. KING: You say he's done a lot. Our own terrorism analyst, Peter Bergen, says the plotters of that trans -- the Atlantic -- the plane attacks that were thwarted in recent months, that was plotted in Pakistan. So you say he's done a lot. Many would say, even allies of the administration, that he hasn't done enough.

Understanding the limits on him, the tough local politics, if you will, on President Musharraf, what more does he need to do?

PERINO: Well, I think you have to -- if you go back to that bomb plot back in August, you have to remember that we were the ones that -- we got the intelligence from out of Pakistan in order to help us disrupt that plot. And so, you know, the war on terror is one that you win on -- that you fight on multiple fronts, both on the intel side of things, as well as militarily, and, at the same time, helping Pakistan to improve their economic and political situation so that more people can feel that they want to not go by -- on the side of the terrorists, but stay as part of the freedom loving or peace loving people.

And so, you know, Pakistan has done a lot. Afghanistan has done a lot. And we've got a long way to go. These wars, as the president has said repeatedly, to set people's expectations, this is going to be a long war. And so you -- we can't let down our guards. We've been successful so far in preventing another terrorist attack in America. But, you know, that is not necessarily, you know, all just hard work and luck. It's a combination of many different factors, including intel.

KING: We want to bring you home to the domestic political debate. The speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, will be a guest on CNN's "LARRY KING LIVE" tonight. And in an interview with Larry, she said that the president and the vice president are living an illusion when it comes to what they say about the reality of the ground -- of what's happening on the ground in Iraq.

I want to give you a chance to respond -- living an illusion.

PERINO: Well, I -- it's hard for me to understand where that is coming from. The president gave a very sober assessment of the situation in Iraq when he announced on -- back in January his plan to increase the troop -- American troop presence in order to help the Iraqis secure Baghdad.

There is no one who understands this more than the president. Every morning he sees the casualty reports. He gets updates regularly throughout the day. His mind is never off of this war and not only, you know, the global war on terror and the broader war on terror and protecting the American citizens, but also the war in Iraq.

He knows that he was the one who made the decision to put our troops in harm's way.

Now, the president understands how very real this is. And he also understands that when we look at the Hill and the debate that they're having up there, one of the things we know about the Democrats is we know what they are against. What we don't know is what they are for.

KING: They're working on that, I think is what they would say in response to that. They're working on that and having a little bit of difficulty.

The deputy White House press secretary, Dana Perino.

Dana, thanks so much for your time today.

PERINO: Thank you.

KING: Thank you.

And coming up here, women and war -- a new study suggests the best way for female soldiers to deal with post-traumatic stress.

And part of San Francisco crumbling in a landslide. Some of the rocks that came down were the size of small cars. We'll bring you a live report.


KING: And more now on the dark day on Wall Street. A massive stock sell-off. The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunging more than 400 points.

We're now learning a technical glitch may have played a role.

CNN's Ali Velshi is in New York with the details -- Ali.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, this was suspected all afternoon and when the closing bell rang, there were widespread boos on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange because some traders thought there might have been a glitch.

We now have this word from Dow Jones, which calculates and reports the averages. It's not where the trades happen, but it calculates and reports them. And it says that around 2:00 p.m. today Eastern time, "The markets' extraordinarily heavy trading volume caused a delay in the Dow Jones data systems. And, as a result, the calculation of the Dow Jones Industrial Average temporarily lagged behind the market decline.

As we identified the problem, we decided to switch over to a backup system and the result was a rapid catch-up in the published value of the Dow Jones Industrial Average."

Dow says that nothing connected to trading on the Dow was connected, but the trading of stocks, individual stocks, is handled by the New York Stock Exchange, which has given us a statement to say that trading toward the end of the day was interrupted due to an intermittent technical problem that is being assessed as we speak.

We are still looking into this. We are on -- in touch with the New York Stock Exchange, trying to get to the bottom of whether or not there was actually a mistake in trading. What we know so far is there was at least a mistake in reporting of that trading. So when we saw that sudden drop from being down by about 200 and something points to 500 and something points within a few minutes, the Dow Jones Industrial Average calculation, according to this, was catching up.

But that trade was real, it was just catching up.

We will be on this story all night and all morning and we'll bring you what we -- John.

KING: And we'll keep checking back in as they explain the glitch.


KING: Ali Velshi for us in New York.

Ali, thank you very much.

And Carol Costello joins us now with a closer look at other stories making news right now -- Carol.


Hello to all of you.

Results just out from what's believed to be the first of its kind study on women and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It involved a group of female war veterans and found that those who received prolonged therapy like remembering their traumatic experiences vividly led to a greater reduction of their symptoms than those who received more traditional therapy. The findings appear in the new issue of the "Journal of the American Medical Association."

An anthrax scare at the University of Missouri. Investigators now believe it was a hoax by a foreign graduate student upset over his grades. He is now in custody, but officials did quarantine more than two dozen people just in case. And the campus was closed as a precaution.

Two men are now charged in what the U.S. terms the genocide in Sudan's Darfur region. Sudan's former interior minister and a militia leader are accused by the International Criminal Court in the Hague of 51 counts of murder, torture, rape and pillaging. The militia leader was arrested in November, but U.N. investigators say Sudan will not let them have access to the former interior minister.

Back to you -- John.

KING: Whoo, a horrible story.

Carol Costello.

Thank you very much, Carol.

And coming up, secret lives -- did a Florida couple funnel information to Fidel Castro?

And could the Bush administration have a change of heart when it comes to talks with Iran and Syria about the violence in Iraq?

We'll ask a Democrat on a key Senate committee.

Stay with us.



Happening now, Iraqi officials say 18 women and boys were killed when a car bomb exploded at a soccer field in Ramadi. The children as young as 10 years old. The blast injured at least 25 people, drawing condemnation from the country's president and prime minister.

Also, an arrest now reported in the attempted assassination of one of Iraq's two vice presidents. Adel Abdul Mahdi slightly injured when a bomb exploded under a chair only a few yards from him. At least 12 people were killed.

An advisory panel recommends the U.S. government approve an experimental bird flu vaccine made by a French drug maker. It would be the first drug in the United States approved to prevent the illness which has infected 270 people in 10 countries, more than half of whom died.

Wolf Blitzer is off today.

I'm John King.


Could the United States help bring an end to the violence in Iraq by sitting down with some of its arch foes?

That theory may soon be put to the test.

Let's go live to the CNN State Department correspondent, Zain Verjee -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: John, the State Department says it's not a change in policy, but it is a change.


VERJEE (voice-over): Talking to the enemy -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the United States will sit at the table with Iran and Syria to discuss how to improve the situation in Iraq.

RICE: Success in Iraq requires the positive support of Iraq's neighbors. This is one of the key findings, of course, of the Iraq Study Group.

VERJEE: That report recommends talking to Iran and Syria rather than continuing to freeze them out. The Bush administration has been under pressure since then to engage its adversaries. U.S. officials have accused Iran of playing a destabilizing role in Iraq by arming militias.

At a Senate hearing, Secretary Rice says she hopes Iran and Syria's participation in the conference will help.

RICE: We hope that all governments will seize this opportunity to improve their relations with Iraq and to work for peace and stability in the region.

VERJEE: But Iraq, not the United States, will host the conference next month for its neighbors, and will set the agenda. U.S. officials say this meeting is a discussion, not a negotiation.

But will there be one-on-one talks with Syria or Iran? A senior U.S. official tells CNN, "We're not ruling it out. But we're not ruling it in."


VERJEE: And officials acknowledge that U.S. support for this conference is also essentially to satisfy critics both at home and abroad. That the Bush administration, they want to show, is doing diplomacy and it is engaging -- John.

KING: And so, Zain, if this meeting comes about, is Iraq the only issue, or if the United States is at the table with Iran, might, say, its nuclear weapons program come up?

VERJEE: The officials here at the State Department have said the focus at this conference would only be Iraq and nothing else. If Iran wanted to talk about its nuclear program, it has to meet the conditions first -- stop enriching uranium, and then only the U.S. will negotiate.

KING: Zain Verjee for us at the State Department.

Zain, thank you very much.

And as Zain noted in her piece, Secretary Rice discussing this publicly up on Capitol Hill today. One of several big guns the Bush administration sent up before the Senate Appropriations Committee today to talk about Iraq and specifically the administration's new budget request.

Joining me now live from Capitol Hill, a member of that committee, Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington State.

Senator, let's begin with this meeting. You heard Zain Verjee say the administration says if nothing else, it hopes to silence the critics who say, why not sit down with Iran, give it at last one chance?

Are you satisfied? SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D), WASHINGTON: Well, I am delighted that the administration has taken a baby step forward on what the Iraq study commission recommended several months ago, to begin a regional discussion on this. We will wait to see if they really put their muscle and their mouth behind this and really work to find a regional decision. But it is a good first step forward.

KING: As you listen to the administration officials today, one of the questions, the challenges facing the Democrats, is, what do you do now that you are a majority party in Congress? And it has caused a bit of a problem, coming to a consensus among the Democrats.

I want you to listen to something your leader, the majority leader, Harry Reid, said today after meeting with the Democratic Caucus.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: We are so concerned about what's going on and so determined to change the course of the war in Iraq. We're going to continue to talk and do what we can to make sure that's the case.


KING: The "continue to talk" part., Senator Murray, suggests to me that the Democrats do not have a consensus about what to do next. One of the ideas on the table was the Biden-Levin plan to essentially reauthorize the war, say this was not the same war it was four years ago, U.S. troops should not be in a combat role, but instead should pull back to a support role. Is that the next step, or are the Democrats divided on that question?

MURRAY: Well, I think the Democrats are doing what should have been done several years ago, and that is sitting down having a comprehensive discussion about what we can do to make sure our troops are successful and they come home. I've been here for four years watching this. No hearings up until now.

Now we've had 40 hearings. We've had two votes. No votes in the past three and a half years, and finally now we're having the ability to talk about the alternatives and make sure we're doing everything we can to bring our troops home successfully. And I give great tribute to the Democratic Caucus for really trying to move to a place where we can make a difference and not just score political points.

KING: Should there be a timetable, a timeline to pull U.S. troops out, in your view?

MURRAY: There's a lot of proposals on the table. I remind you, we've only been in the majority a month and a half now, and we're putting those on the table and talking about them and trying to do the most pragmatic, smart thing we can do to be successful.

And, you know, it's going to take some discussion. But we will see a number of alternatives put forward, and we will be talking about those and working our way towards a place where we can get consensus.

KING: What about the troops' role going into Iraq? I know many Democrats oppose the increase in troop levels, but there are more troops going over, some of them, if my information is right, come from Ft. Lewis, in your home state of Washington.

MURRAY: That's right.

KING: And in the past, I'm told, most of those troops would go to the national training center before going off to Iraq. Now, at that base and others, they are getting their final training at the home base, which the Pentagon says would get them to Iraq quicker.

Will they get there less prepared?

MURRAY: John, I am concerned about this, and I asked General Pace at the hearing I was just at. I was actually at Ft. Lewis last week and asked the general there about that as well.

If we're keeping our troops there longer, who were supposed to come home in June, and sending new troops early, are they getting the training? Is there going to be an overlap of equipment and supplies and they don't have what they need?

They keep assuring us that they have what they need and they've got the training they need. But these are the critical questions that we have to be asking about the cost of this surge, whether our troops are prepared, and whether they're adequately trained when they go over there. And I remain concerned.

KING: And when the administration says it needs $100 billion, I think is the figure, or whatever the figure is, Democrats are facing this dilemma. Again, many on your base say if the only way to stop the war is to choke off the money, then choke off the money and force the administration to stop this war.

MURRAY: You know, I think that's the wrong question today. The right question is, after four years, thousands of men and women who have been injured, who have come home -- we saw what happened at Walter Reed or seen what's happened there, across the country we are seeing men and women who can't get into the V.A. once they've been discharged, who aren't getting the benefits. What is the cost and why is the administration not being forthright with us as a country about what the true cost of supporting our troops are?

And those are the questions we're asking very hard to this administration right now.

KING: Let me ask you about the broader war on terrorism and the vice president's trip to Pakistan. Clearly, to send a message to President Musharraf that the Bush administration does not believe he's doing enough up in those mountain remote areas. Al Qaeda and Taliban said to be resurgent. There is talk that there are new attacks being planned up there.

The president of Pakistan obviously in a very difficult political position back home. But what more should he do? Or perhaps the better question is, if he's not doing enough, should the United States unilaterally be going into those remote areas and doing more?

MURRAY: Well, I think what many of us are concerned about -- and I've heard a lot of my colleague senators here talk about this -- is that we have so focused our entire nation on Iraq over the last four years that we've forgotten the original cause that we all supported after 9/11, which was to go after the al Qaeda terrorist networks that are in Afghanistan. And because we've taken our eye off the ball, we have gotten behind there.

And I am very concerned about what's happening in Afghanistan, possibly Pakistan. The administration is taking, again, a small step forward to make a statement about that. But I think a lot more needs to be done in that part of the world.

KING: Help me out with "a lot more." Define "a lot more." Does a lot more mean U.S. troops, whether they are Special Forces operations, smaller operations, or larger operations? If there is Taliban resurgent, al Qaeda resurgent, planning and training being done in those mountains, define "a lot more."

MURRAY: Well, John, we are going to be briefed this Thursday by the secretary and other members of the administration about the situation there, and I'll be better able to answer it then. But I do think we -- many of us agree that our eye has gone off the ball in terms of Afghanistan and what's happening there. And it's time to relook at that very strongly.

KING: We will check back in a bit later in the week, perhaps, and ask the question.

Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, thank you so much for your time today.

MURRAY: You bet.

KING: Thank you.

And up ahead, the sentences are in for a Florida couple in a case involving spying and Cuba.

Plus, what's called Al Gore's own inconvenient truth. You might be surprised at how big his energy bills are.

Stay right here. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


KING: Sentencing today for a Florida couple who confessed to spying on fellow Cuba exiles for the Castro government.

CNN's Brianna Keilar joins us live now with the latest -- Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, this afternoon the husband of this couple was sentenced to five years in prison for conspiring to act as a covert agent for the Cuban government. He is a Cuban exile himself, also a U.S. citizen. His wife was sentenced to three years in prison for concealing her husband's crime.


KEILAR (voice over): He was one of their own, or so they thought. In south Florida, Cuban exile and college professor Carlos Alvarez accused of spying for the government of Fidel Castro. Also accused, Alvarez' wife, Elsa.

Both worked at Florida International University. He is a psychology professor and she is a counselor. But federal prosecutors say, for decades, the couple had a secret job, funneling reports on prominent Cuban exiles from their south Florida home to the Cuban intelligence services.

The Alvarezes were facing up to 10 years in prison when they entered a plea bargain. The couple's lawyer says they were only trying to foster communication between the U.S. and Cuba and find ways to ease the trade embargo.


KEILAR: The U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami says Alvarez was acting as a covert agent for Cuba for almost 30 years, John, between 1977, all the way through 2005.

KING: How does the government say they pulled this off, Brianna? What were the tricks of the trade, if you will?

KEILAR: Well, there were some interesting details that came out today. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami said that Alvarez received his instructions from the Cuban intelligence service and, among other ways, through messages on water-soluble paper. The office also saying that he kept his communications with the Cuban government secret by using decryption and encryption computer discs.

KING: Fascinating case.

Brianna Keilar for us.

Brianna, thank you very much.

And coming up here in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour, candid conversations inside Mitt Romney's campaign now made public in a leaked document. We'll show you what it says about his potential Republican rivals and even about President Bush.

And still ahead this hour, the ground gives way in San Francisco. But this time, it's not an earthquake. It's a landslide.

We'll take you there live.

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


KING: The jury has gone home for the day without a verdict in the trial of top former White House aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby in the CIA leak case, but not without a new development.

Let's get more now from our Brian Todd -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A bit of an odd twist very late in the day today. We believe right before the close of business, at 5:00, or maybe right at the close of business, the court received a note from the jury containing a question from the judge. The contents of that question we do not know.

There's no word as to exactly what that question is. And the court has told us that they will address that at 9:30 tomorrow morning. So we'll know more then.

But right at the close of business, just as they were getting ready to leave, a question for the judge in the Libby case. But as you mentioned, no verdict right now.

KING: No verdict as yet. Court back in session in the morning.

Brian Todd with the latest.

Brian, thank you very much.

And Carol Costello joins us now with a closer look at other stories making news.


KING: Now, next month's NASA shuttle launch will now be delayed after an overnight hailstorm damaged the shuttle's fuel tank.

Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, is standing by with the latest -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: John, NASA just wrapping up a press conference about that hailstorm yesterday that pelted the launch pad area with golf-ball-size hail stones and gusts of wind up to 62 miles per hour. And the photos at the NASA Web site show the damage that was done.

Damage all around the top of the external fuel tank. The worst damage ever seen from hail, they said today. Hundreds of spots now need attention, though they did say that nothing looks irreparable.

The shuttle is now rolling back to the vehicle assembly building for repair, and NASA is now looking at launch opportunities hopefully beginning at the end of April -- Wolf.

John -- sorry.

KING: That's quite all right. Remarkable pictures.

Abbi Tatton.

Abbi, thank you very much.

We're following a developing story in San Francisco, where a landslide has an apartment building on the brink of tumbling down. It's forced the evacuation of four buildings in all and left more than 100 people temporarily homeless.

CNN's Dan Simon is live for us in San Francisco with the latest.

Hi, Dan.


Well, we are in the middle of another downpour. The weather is simply ugly out here. So that's certain not going to help matters.

We are in an area of town known as North Beach. This is a part of town known for its restaurants and its nightclubs. You can see some of the affected buildings behind me. But the buildings that are of real concern are the ones at the top of the hillside, the hillside that just seemed to crumble away.

This happened at 3:00 in the morning last night. Everybody was sleeping. We were in the middle of another downpour then as well.

You are talking about 100 people that have been evacuated from their homes. Seven buildings in all now have been red-tagged. When you talk about red-tagged, you are talking about buildings that are simply uninhabitable.

In terms of where we go from here, engineers are going to have to figure out how to assess that hill, how to rebuild it. But just from past experiences, John, you are talking about something that could potentially cost millions of dollars and will also take a lot of time. So those people could be out of their homes for many months.

In terms of where we go from here, they are just trying to figure out how to stabilize that hill in the short term. But keep in mind, this is an area known for its landslides.

John, back to you.

KING: And so, Dan, the call still to be made as to whether you can fix that hill and keep that building there or whether the damage is so severe that building has to come down?

SIMON: Well, this has happened before. And no doubt, engineers can fix that hill. It's just a matter of how they are going to be able to do it.

You are probably talking about a lot of different kinds of materials. You are talking about cement and dirt. But it will cost millions of dollars. And like I said, will take a lot of time.

Back to you. KING: Dan Simon tracking that story for us and braving pretty horrible elements.

Dan, thank you very much.

Take care.

Up next, Al Gore's carbon footprint, and yours. Surprising new information about the former vice president's energy use.

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



KING: And so here's a question I'm sure you are asked every day. What's your carbon footprint? Well, it's based on two main factors.

First, your home energy use. That's comprised of the number of people in your home and the kinds of energy you use, such as natural gas, heating oil and propane. The other main factor is your transportation, what kind of car you drive and how often, as well as your air travel.

When you add it all together, the annual average carbon footprint for each American is 19 tons. That's roughly twice the size of the average Briton's carbon footprint, which is why people point the fingers at the United States.

There are a number of Web sites devoted to this issue.

Helping people reduce their so-called carbon footprint, our Abbi Tatton has more on what you can do -- Abbi.

TATTON: John, these sites let you calculate your own carbon emissions through air travel, the use of your car, and then working out how to offset them, to pay money to donate money to clean energy projects. One of these sites is Native Energy. You can work out how much a cross-country trip is going to cost you. It's about $24 there. That payable to new renewable energy projects.

This Vermont company partnered with the makers of "An Inconvenient Truth" to offset the emissions in terms of making that movie an Al Gore's travel.

Another company is TerraPass. They partnered with the Academy Awards to hand out to all the presenters of the Oscars a year of carbon-balanced living.

Now, environmentalists stress that's not just offsetting the carbon emissions, it's reducing them that's key -- John.

KING: Abbi Tatton for us.

Abbi, thank you very much. And remember, we're here every weekday afternoon from 4:00 to 6:00 Eastern, then we're back on the air at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. That's just one hour from now.

Until then, I'm John King in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now.


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