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THE SITUATION ROOM

Talking With the Enemy: One-on-One With Iran?; Al Sharpton's Roots: Surprise Ties to Strom Thurmond; Chavez Leads Anti-Bush Rally

Aired March 9, 2007 - 17:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, HOST: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, it's mano a mano in South America. Dueling tours by President Bush and his regional rival, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, who is about to lead what he calls an anti-imperialist rally aimed at the American leader.

The day Castro dies, will there be a massive exodus from Cuba? Massive celebrations in Miami?

Authorities are trying to get ready.

And an alleged madam in a Washington courtroom -- is she ready to name names?

Who's afraid of her little black book?

Wolf Blitzer is off today.

I'm Suzanne Malveaux and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A serious misuse of power by the FBI -- that's the finding of a Justice Department investigation.

Here's our Justice Department correspondent, Kelli Arena -- Kelli.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, Congress mandated a report from the inspector-general when the Patriot Act was reauthorized. It is a scathing review of how the FBI has been using its new powers under the Patriot Act.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

ARENA (voice-over): The FBI is under heavy fire for improperly and, at times, illegally using powers under the Patriot Act.

ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: The question should and must be asked how could this happen? Who is accountable?

And the answer to that is I am to be held accountable.

ARENA: But this time, sorry may not be enough.

Senator Arlen Specter, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the FBI has gone too far and is threatening action. SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Perhaps take away some of the authority which we have already given to the FBI, since they appear not to be able to know how to use it.

ARENA: The anger is over the FBI's so-called national security letters used to get bank, phone and Internet records without first going to a judge. The inspector-general says the FBI issued many more of those letters than it reported, that the Bureau issued improper requests and sometimes gathered information on the wrong individuals.

And when agents broke the rules, well, the FBI didn't always report it.

MUELLER: I should have provided the appear training, education and internal oversight.

ARENA: The report did not find any criminal misconduct, just a lot of sloppy work. But it provides fuel for critics already concerned that our civil liberties are being trampled.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: We all want to stop terrorists. We all want to stop criminals. But the -- the FBI work for us, the American people, not the other way around.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

ARENA: Director Mueller says that he has already starting to make improvements and the attorney general has urged lawmakers to be patient, to allow the reforms to work. He also asked the I.G. to do a follow-up report in another four months -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, Kelli, is there going to be any change in the Patriot Act as a result of this?

ARENA: Well, that's certainly what lawmakers are threatening, Suzanne. And we'll see if they take the attorney general's guidance to just sit back and wait and see how the reforms that Mueller says he's put in place will actually work out.

MALVEAUX: OK, thanks so much, Kelli.

ARENA: You're welcome.

MALVEAUX: Thanks for keeping us updated.

Air strikes and artillery are pounding away in Afghanistan as America and its allies battle Taliban diehards. A big offensive is underway.

Our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, is with the Royal Marines.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, Operation Achilles is now into its fourth day. Overnight last night, we could hear a heavy gun battle going on in the vicinity of the town of Sangin. The battle that we could hear involved Apache gunships firing rounds from heavy machine guns. We could hear aerial bombs being dropped from fighter aircraft and we could hear artillery crashing in in the Sangin vicinity.

The operation is over about 100 square miles, Operation Achilles. It is continuing. British Royal Marines commanders are at the forefront of some of the fighting here.

What they are doing varies from town to town. In some towns, it's a very peaceful message, talking to the people there, ensuring that they remain calm, ensuring that they understand what's happening. In other areas, what they are doing is going into areas where they know there are Taliban, where they know there are senior Taliban figures and quite literally driving up to their front doors, drawing them out into firefights and then in those firefights, those they don't capture are being killed.

The operation is expected to last another several weeks. The location we're at is in North Helmand. It is a location that keeps changing. And that is the nature of this battle. These Royal Marine commanders moving around this massive area, trying to draw out the Taliban and get them into the type of firefights that we could hear going on over last night -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Nic, thanks so much.

And at this hour, at this moment, we have word of a key arrest in Iraq.

At this hour, our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre -- what can you tell us and who is this person?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, we're just getting word from our folks in Baghdad that the Iraqi Interior Ministry is claiming that there have taken into custody Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, who is the leader of the Sunni insurgent group, the Islamic State of Iraq.

This capture apparently resulting from an Iraqi raid in the Abu Ghraib District. This is not involving U.S. forces. In fact, the U.S. has not confirmed the capture of this militant leader.

But the Iraqi authorities are telling our folks in Baghdad that that is the case -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Jamie, how significant is this guy?

MCINTYRE: Well, it's hard to say how significant any particular individual is, but this group has claimed responsibility for attacks against the United States, against U.S. helicopters and is also believed to be responsible for the execution of some Interior Ministry officials.

So, any time you get a key leader, that is progress. And the U.S. would also point to the fact that this apparently came as a result of the Iraqi part of this Baghdad security initiative. Again, that's a key part of that strategy, for the Iraqis to be out in front taking these actions.

MALVEAUX: So, perhaps the Bush administration will use this as a -- a sign of success for the new plan. I imagine, perhaps, Pentagon officials will say the same.

MCINTYRE: But nobody is going to be too quick to declare victory here. This is a long process. It's going to take months to see if this security plan is really succeeding.

MALVEAUX: Jamie, thank you so much for that breaking news.

I'm sure you'll have more as we get it.

And, of course, Jack Cafferty is in New York with The Cafferty File -- Jack, what do you have?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I have a couple of questions.

The first one is who names a kid Newt?

The second one goes, it doesn't get any better than this. The former House speaker, Newt Gingrich, admits now that he was having an extra-marital affair while he was leading the effort to impeach President Bill Clinton for lying about having an extra-marital affair.

It gets better. Gingrich admitted cheating on his wife in an interview with the conservative Christian group, Focus On The Family. He says: "There are times I have fallen short of my own standards. There's certainly times I've fallen short of god's standards."

Gingrich has been married three times. The affair happened when he was with wife number two. He insists he should not be seen as a hypocrite for going after Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal at the same time he was going after somebody on the side. He says Clinton got in trouble for committing a felony and that he wasn't judging the president personally, but rather for the crimes he committed. The crime was perjury.

Gingrich has been seen as a potential 2008 presidential candidate. He said he's going to wait to see how the Republican field shapes up before deciding.

If he gets in, the Republican candidates would have a lot of wives among them.

Here's the question -- Newt Gingrich admits to cheating on his wife.

Should he still consider running for president?

E-mail your thoughts to caffertyfile@cnn.com or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile.

It's like a carnival down there in Washington, isn't it, Suzanne? MALVEAUX: Jack, it all sounds very, very messy.

CAFFERTY: I love it. I just -- I love it. It's like watching a train wreck.

MALVEAUX: OK.

Jack Cafferty, thank you so much.

And, of course, up ahead, heroes of 9/11 -- former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and firefighters at odds. We'll have details of a grudge that could impact Giuliani's presidential campaign.

Also, an accused madam threatening to reveal names of thousands of clients who used her jess right here in the nation's capital.

Plus, the Reverend Al Sharpton on his surprise family ties to a notorious former segregationist.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: An old dispute is coming back to haunt a leading presidential campaign. It is a grudge by firefighters dating back to the 9/11 terror attacks against former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

CNN's Mary Snow joins us live from New York with the story.

Obviously a lot of controversy here.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is, Suzanne.

And that old wound is being exposed by a new rift.

At issue -- the nation's largest firefighters' union is angry that Rudy Giuliani has declined an invitation to attend a forum with presidential candidates from both parties next Wednesday.

Union members vow to tell what they describe as the real story of Giuliani and 9/11.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, friend to the first responder. It's a familiar image on the campaign trail.

GIULIANI: What's your mascot?

SNOW: Giuliani's candidacy has been largely defined by 9/11.

But the International Association of Firefighters is vowing to expose what it describes as Giuliani's offensive and personal attack on firefighters following the September 11th attacks. HAROLD SCHAITBERGER, PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FIREFIGHTERS: For this union, but more importantly, so many of our members, it's an act that will not be forgiven or forgotten.

SNOW: It was November of 2001. Then Mayor Giuliani reduced the number of firefighters allowed to enter the pile at ground zero to recover remains, citing safety concerns.

GIULIANI: We were given very, very strong advice several weeks ago that this site was a disaster waiting to happen.

SNOW: Firefighters protested, saying they wanted to continue searching for the remains of their brethren.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FIREFIGHTERS: Do the right thing! Do the right thing!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW: When firefighters tried to enter the pile, raw emotions spilled over. Fifteen firefighters were arrested.

SCHAITBERGER: The mayor, I believe, showed disrespect in understanding the importance of allowing us to continue with that recovery.

SNOW: The IAFF is angry again, this time that Giuliani won't attend the union's upcoming forum, where presidential candidates make their case to members.

Giuliani's supporters, like retired New York City Firefighter Lee Ielpi, are coming to his defense. Ielpi lost his son, also a firefighter, on 9/11. He's now part of the campaign group, Firefighters For Rudy.

He accuses the union of partisan politics and points out that the IAFF endorsed Democratic presidential candidate, Senator John Kerry, in 2004.

LEE IELPI, REUTERS FDNY/GIULIANI SUPPORTER: I mean it's turned into nothing more than another one of those political venues where they figure they could use their power to sway an election. And I think it's really tasteless that they're doing it this way.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

SNOW: Now, a Giuliani aide says Giuliani's schedule prevented him from attending next week's forum. The head of the group, Firefighters For Rudy, responded for the campaign, saying it was honored by the support of so many first responders -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Do you have a sense of who else is going to be at that forum? SNOW: Checking with candidates today, the major Democratic candidates -- Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Barack Obama, former Senator John Edwards, all planning to be there.

On the Republican side, former Governor Mitt Romney is not scheduled to attend and Senator John McCain's office says that they are trying to work it out, but it's definitely not a yes at this point.

MALVEAUX: Mary, thanks so much.

SNOW: Sure.

MALVEAUX: An alleged former madam threatening to go public with the identity of thousands of clients.

CNN's Brianna Keilar is live outside the courthouse with more on a case that may have some here in the nation's capital very, very nervous -- and you take those numbers, thousands. The odds are we know at least somebody on that list -- Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Suzanne.

Deborah Jean Palfrey, accused of running a business of ill repute. But she says she did no such thing.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

KEILAR (voice-over): Alleged Madam Deborah Jean Palfrey left the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. Friday after entering a not guilty plea on racketeering and money laundering charges.

DEBORAH JEAN PALFREY, ACCUSED MADAM: The firm, Pamela Martin & Associates, operated as a legal high end erotic fantasy service.

KEILAR: Palfrey says she made her employees sign a contract that said they will not engage in illegal activities while employed at her company, Pamela Martin & Associates.

But the federal indictment against Palfrey says she was heading up a large scale prostitution ring from 1993 to 2006 and that as part of the hiring process, Palfrey had male testers essentially audition prospective female employees to determine if they could perform the appropriate prostitution activities.

The government has seized Palfrey's assets. Montgomery Blair Sibley, the lawyer for her civil case, says his client is broke.

To pay for her defense, Palfrey is raising money on her Web site and she's offering to sell the contact information of her former customers.

MONTGOMERY BLAIR SIBLEY, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: There are telephone records from 1994 until August of 2006 detailing every call in and out of this service. It conservatively is 10,000. If you do the math, it may be closer to 15,000 telephone calls in and out. (END VIDEO TAPE)

KEILAR: Palfrey has already released a sample page of the phone records online and her attorney says there are 12 parties who are "seriously interested" in buying this massive little black book in its entirety -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: So, is there anything that's stopping her from releasing the names in this little black book?

KEILAR: At this point, there doesn't really appear to be. The judge is considering a gag order that would stop her from selling this information, but at this point that's not in place.

MALVEAUX: Brianna, thank you so much.

And coming up, Daylight Savings Time coming early this year. We'll show you who may not be ready and help you make sure that you are.

Plus, concerns that some bomb sniffing dogs may not be up to scratch.

Can they help keep up with the latest terrorist techniques?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: As part of Congress's Energy Policy Act of 2005, Daylight Savings Time will start early this Sunday, three weeks earlier than in previous years. The move is meant to save energy.

But will you have to expend more energy to adjust?

And are major companies ready to spring forward ahead of schedule?

Internet reporter Jacki Schechner has all the answers to all of that -- Jacki, what will -- is it going to be confusing? What do you expect is going to happen here?

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: No, it's pretty simple. And when I'm done, you'll have no excuse to be late for work on Monday, unfortunately.

You know, for years, electronics and computers are set to automatically adjust for Daylight Savings Time. But this year, you may have to do a little extra work.

Microsoft and Apple both have the options on their computer of setting what's called an automatic software update. It's your responsibility to make sure that option is turned on if you have Windows Vista or Mac OSX, the latest version, you may not have to do anything at all. But both companies have pages on their Web sites to show you exactly what does or doesn't need to be done. Now, we also reached out to corporations, because once your part is over, what have they done?

Well, we spoke to phone companies today. We spoke to banks, we spoke to airlines. They all say they've been working on this for months. They don't expect any problems, but they have teams in place over the weekend just to make sure. And if you go to cnn.com/situationroomblog, we're working on compiling all of those important links for you -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: So, no excuse. We've got to be on time for work.

SCHECHNER: Not a single one, once we're done.

MALVEAUX: OK, thanks, Jacki.

And, of course, Carol Costello, never late, joining us with the latest on all the other stories that are happening -- Carol, what have you got?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I am always on time.

Thanks, Suzanne.

It turns out that you do have the right to bear arms in your own D.C. home. For years, Washington, D.C. forbid those who lived in the city to own a handgun and keep it in their home. Well, today a federal appeals court overturned that ban. The court rejected the city's argument that the Second Amendment applies only to militias. It is a victory for some who fought the ban and wanted to keep a gun because they live in a high crime neighborhood.

Checking the bottom line, Ford is trying to rev up employee morale in the midst of downsizing. The automaker plans to give bonuses to most of its workers despite posting a record loss last year of more than $12 billion. Most salaried workers and supervisors will get $300 to $800, depending on their location and rank. Of course, Ford's new CEO had received $6 million in stock options as his bonus.

Another story affecting the bottom line -- orange juice lovers, get ready to be squeezed. Florida's orange crop is expected to drop 11 percent more than last year's already low figures. That's the word from the Agriculture Department. Growers are slowly recovering from hurricanes, citrus disease and freeze. Orange juice prices have risen significantly over the past several years and now they are expected to increase even more.

And a mixed close on Wall Street today, with no big ups or downs. Some investors worried about the mortgage industry. But a government report showed strength in job growth boosted optimism. So, for the week, the Dow and the S&P each gained more than 1 percent. The Nasdaq rose almost 1 percent. But the market is still significantly lower than it was before the recent plunge.

That's a look at the headlines right now -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Carol.

We'll keep watching.

And, of course, coming up, will there be a Cuban exodus when Fidel Castro dies?

We'll show you why U.S. officials are preparing for a worst case scenario.

And will the U.S. talk to Iran at this weekend's regional conference on the crisis in Iraq?

I'll ask one of the key American players, the former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, word of an important arrest in Iraq, a man believed to have ties to al Qaeda. The country's Interior Ministry tells CNN the leader of a militant group called Islamic State of Iraq has been taken into custody.

Also, narrowing down the cause of that deadly plane crash in Indonesia. Officials there tell CNN weather conditions and the runway were both OK for landing. Twenty-two people died in that crash. Eight are still missing.

And a new focus in the probe into that horrible New York City fire. Investigators now focusing on a space heater that may have had a damaged cord. Eight children and one woman died in the Bronx blaze, the deadliest in New York City in 17 years.

Wolf Blitzer is off today.

I'm Suzanne Malveaux and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Vanished -- a key member of Iran's defense establishment very familiar with the inner workings of Hezbollah militants and perhaps with Iran's own nuclear program.

Is he in the hands of the West?

CNN's Ben Wedeman is in Jerusalem and joins us now.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, the case of the missing Iranian general is a whodunit that has many people in the Middle East scratching their heads.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Sixty-three-year-old former Iranian Deputy Defense Minister Alireza Asghari traveled to Istanbul a moment ago then disappeared, leaving behind only questions.

Was he kidnapped? Did he defect? Who was behind it? The Americans? The Israelis?

MEIR JAVEDANFAR, MIDDLE EAST ANALYST: The United States and Israel are very much involved in trying to find out as much as possible about Iran's nuclear program, how -- where is it right now? What are the -- what are the challenges and when is Iran likely to have a nuclear bomb?

And the information that General Asghari would have would fill in some very crucial gaps, I believe.

WEDEMAN: There are, in fact, many other gaps going back many years.

A senior Iranian Revolutionary Guard officer in Lebanon in the 1980s and '90s, Asghari may have information about the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marines barracks in Beirut, which left 241 dead.

Israel would no doubt like to pick Asghari's brains about Hezbollah, an organization he helped develop.

Danny Yatom served as head of Mossad, Israel's spy agency.

DANNY YATOM, FORMER MOSSAD CHIEF: Whatever happened during those years and had the signature of either the Hezbollah or Iran probably was orchestrated by this man.

WEDEMAN: Iranian officials say Asghari was kidnapped by Western intelligence services. Israeli and American officials deny involvement.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

WEDEMAN: The only certainty in the case of Alireza Asghari is that he's vanished and some observers here suggest more high profile Iranians could disappear under similarly murky circumstances as a full blown crisis looms over Iraq's nuclear program -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Ben Wedeman in Jerusalem.

The U.S. and Iran will both have seats at the table tomorrow in Baghdad when Iraq and its neighbors discuss ways to end the violence there.

Zalmay Khalilzad is the outgoing U.S. ambassador to Iraq.

Thank you, Mr. Ambassador, for being with us in THE SITUATION ROOM.

First and foremost, are you going to meet with your counterpart, your Iranian counterpart, tomorrow, one-on-one, face-to-face?

ZALMAY KHALILZAD, OUTGOING U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: Well, that has not been decided, but we will be in the same room with the other participant.

But as far as a one-on-one meeting is concerned, that has not been decided.

MALVEAUX: Now, either you're being coy here or we're in trouble, because this obviously sounds like foreign policy based on happenstance.

KHALILZAD: No. We have said for some time that if it is useful, we will be willing to sit down with the Iranians and talk about Iraq. I've had this authority for about a year, but we have not been able to do it either because the timing has been such when we have felt it was not going to be useful, or the Iranians have been unwilling to participate in such a meeting. But if it is judged that it will be useful, we are prepared to sit down with them and talk with them bilaterally as well.

MALVEAUX: Now, why hasn't that judgment been made already? I mean, your partner, David Satterfield, from the State Department, says, well, maybe if we bump into each other over orange juice. It all sounds like a game here.

What kind of determination do you have to make, essentially, overnight?

KHALILZAD: Well, I'm not taking any oranges with me to the meeting, but if we judge that a bilateral meeting would be useful, and we will be prepared to do so -- as I said, this is a decision that was made more than a year ago by the president, and there are issues of concern that we have with Iran -- we would be willing to do that.

MALVEAUX: What does Iran need to reassure you in just the hours ahead, so that you will go ahead and have the one-on-one talks with your counterpart? What do you need to hear?

KHALILZAD: Well, we want to make sure that it will be useful, that the discussions will be authoritative, and that it will focus on Iraq, and how we can do what we can, and what Iran can do to assist Iraq, in becoming a more secure place. That means by preventing the sending of weapons to Iraq from Iran, and the training and support for militias. Those will be the kind of issues that we will be discussing with them, if we have a bilateral meeting.

MALVEAUX: Mr. Ambassador, obviously this is all going to come down to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Do you trust this man? Is this something you can work with?

KHALILZAD: Well, there are a variety of groups inside Iran. There are people who have opposed President Ahmadinejad's policies and the statements that he has made.

MALVEAUX: But you've got to work with the president here. You've got to -- Mr. Ambassador, obviously you have got to work with the president here. I mean, clearly, there are other religious leaders, as well, but you have to work with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Do you trust him?

KHALILZAD: Well, I -- it is not up to me to decide who the president of Iran will be. I personally do not think that he can be trusted, but as far as the Iranian system is concerned, there are a variety of forces that are shaping the future of the policy of that country, and there are people who have raised questions about Ahmadinejad's policies.

And should they be willing to cooperate with regard to Iraq, that would be a good thing for Iraqis and for the region. And we would welcome such an approach by Iran.

MALVEAUX: Thank you very much, Mr. Ambassador, for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

KHALILZAD: Well, thank you. It's good to be with you.

MALVEAUX: And up ahead, a former presidential candidate weighs in on the current race to the White House and much more. My interview with the Reverend Al Sharpton is coming up.

Plus, four-legged fighters in the war on terror, bomb-sniffing dogs. We'll show you why some say their efforts aren't up to snuff.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: One is a prominent civil rights leader, the other a notorious former segregationist. So, imagine the surprise of Reverend Al Sharpton when he learned some of his ancestors were owned as slaves by ancestors of the late senator Strom Thurmond.

Al Sharpton joins us now from New York.

Thank you so much, Reverend, for being here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

REV. AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: I understand you recently went on a trip to South Carolina, to the Thurmond plantation. I think there might have been some unmarked graves of slaves. What did you find there, and what were you feeling?

SHARPTON: Well, I went to visit the graveyard that was in the church there in South Carolina that showed that the Thurmonds and the Sharptons, the owners of my forefathers, actually were buried together. And then I was told that the plantation of Sharpton, of Jefferson Sharpton, who was married to Anita Thurmond, who directly owned my great-grandfather, was about three or four miles away from there on, ironically, Sharpton Road. That's how big they were as slave owners, the road was named after them.

So I went over to that plantation. And actually, the guy who owns it, a gentleman named White, had maintained most of the main house and the shack that the slaves stayed in, because he's a history buff. So he wanted it like it was.

And I was literally able to walk in the shack that my great- grandfather probably stayed in as a slave because it was 200 years old. It was a very eerie feeling. But it also gave me a connection to the whole plight of people that I could now directly tell the story of how we came as property and chattel and were able to rise through the abolitionist movement, all the way to the civil rights movement.

So, as much as it gives you a sense of outrage and pain, it gives you a sense of obligation to live up to what your great-grandparents and grandparents would have wanted you to be, having options they didn't have.

MALVEAUX: Was it painful?

SHARPTON: Very painful. I think that to sit there and realize that you're walking on land that your great-grandfather had to work and never get paid, and that you see an unmarked grave of the plantation where slaves are buried -- no one knows who would have been his parents, because he was brought onto slavery in Florida. But his parents lived there all of their lives. And yet, you see in the cemetery behind the church, where the Thurmonds and the white Sharptons were buried, thee huge tombstones that are still updated.

It's very painful. But I think out of that pain, you also have got to say that they expected more than our being irresponsible and in acting in any way that would denigrate the legacy of our fight to pursue freedom and equality.

MALVEAUX: Reverend, let me ask you as well if this as painful -- as you know, the late Strom Thurmond secretly -- he had an affair with a housekeeper, so he had a biracial, a black daughter he kept secret all of his life. Her name, Essie Mae Washington-Williams.

And she said of your reaction to finding out your connection here with the family, she says that, "In spite of the fact he was a segregationist, he did many wonderful things for black people. I'm not sure that Reverend Sharpton is aware of all the things he did. I kind of feel that there was an overreaction."

SHARPTON: Well, I mean, you know, she's talking of a father, whether he denied it or not. I mean, I don't know what I overreacted. I said to the reporters, "Well, did you ask her, overreacted how?"

I said I was shocked. I said that it was something I never expected. How is that an overreaction?

I did not call him names. I didn't go to the cemetery and desecrate the cemetery. So I think it's kind of, you know, questionable to say I overreacted.

I think anyone would react the way I did if they found out that the exact story of someone just three generations away from them is a shocking story. And to be connected to Thurmond, you know, one can say all they want about he may have privately done some things for blacks. He never publicly denounced being a segregationist. He never apologized publicly for the policies he upheld.

MALVEAUX: Reverend...

SHARPTON: So, later in life if he moderated or not, he never denounced what he did for what made him famous.

MALVEAUX: ... do you have any interest at all in meeting Ms. Washington-Williams and being a part of the family?

SHARPTON: If I have talked to her, I would have nothing against talking to her. I'm not seeking it.

You know, ironically, I was in an airport and ran in -- met a lady who identified herself as Mrs. Thurmond. And I talked to her cordially.

This is not about personal cordiality. This is about a history of real shame and ugliness this country has to deal with, and I think it's also a story of glory that some of us, black and white, fought out of slavery, fought through segregation, and fight even now to make America better. So, I think my story is something that is a lot more than a personal conversation.

MALVEAUX: Reverend Sharpton, let me turn to presidential politics. This, a quote, Minister Louis Farrakhan, when he was asked today about the chances for Barack Obama to become president.

Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOUIS FARRAKHAN, NATION OF ISLAM LEADER: I think he's capable of being an answer. But who will provide him with the money so he can contend with Mrs. Clinton and her big bank, or Giuliani and McCain and their growing bank? So the people that bankroll you, they're the ones that ultimately call the tune.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Reverend, what do you make of his comments?

SHARPTON: I mean, I don't know the whole context of his comments. I think that many of us see that Senator Obama has good talent, and certainly great potential. But I think that a lot of people are trying to see what his campaign will represent and who will be a part of it.

I've had more conversations of late, have become aware of his background in terms of the things he's done around issues that I'm concerned about in Illinois, but frankly, we just didn't know him enough -- know him well enough, a lot of us. And I think that when your campaign emerges before you have these relationships, people have the right to ask questions.

I think people knew Mrs. Clinton, for good or bad, there were relationships there, good or bad. I think people even know Edwards. So, I think that is an expected reaction, if you don't know who the finances are, who the staff is. You don't in politics, or even in leadership -- and I don't think Minister Farrakhan is in politics, but you don't give anyone a blank check, because you don't know what you're giving and who you may be giving it to in terms of who is surrounding them. It has nothing to do with the person.

MALVEAUX: Reverend, the last time you and I spoke here on THE SITUATION ROOM, a very sad occasion, as you know, the death of the late James Brown. Can you give us any kind of update on the status? I understand there's a lot of controversy over whether or not the body has been buried.

Do you -- do you know?

SHARPTON: He will be entombed in a matter of days. The -- his six children have put together their own funds and said they are not going to wait for the continued battles over the estate, or whatever is going on in the courts.

Their father should be laid to rest with dignity, and they are going to make sure that happens. They've done it out of their own pocket.

I think he'd be sad that it would have to come to that, but I think he would be proud they would do it. And I think the courts will decide the other issues. I think they want to protect the legacy of James Brown, who more than deserved that.

MALVEAUX: Reverend Al Sharpton, thank you for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

SHARPTON: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: Thank you.

(NEWSBREAK)

MALVEAUX: And up ahead, Fidel Castro has been a fixture on the world stage since 1959. But some day, perhaps soon, he'll leave office for good. Then what? Are U.S. officials worried about a tidal wave of refugees?

And dueling presidents. President Bush is in the back yard of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. Our State Department correspondent Zain Verjee will show us how each president is the trying to counter the other.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: On tour in South America today, President Bush declaring himself a good neighbor. And Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez, declaring, "Gringo, go home," as he prepares to lead an anti- President Bush rally. Here's our State Department correspondent, Zain Verjee.

Quite a controversy.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPT. CORRESPONDENT: It is, Suzanne. Gearing up right now for a protest against President Bush at a soccer stadium in Buenos Aires. It's filling up with a lot of people. The president himself is just miles away in Uruguay.

Now, the star speaker at this rally is Hugo Chavez, and his target, President Bush. Venezuela's president really, Suzanne, never seems to miss a chance just to swing punches and give President Bush a jab whenever he can. Chavez also is launching his own sort of counter-tour to President Bush's visit to the region.

He's calling this particular protest an anti-imperialist rally, and he's saying that this trip is really all about the U.S. trying to improve its image. There are so many people, Suzanne, in the region that are seeing president's -- President Bush's visit to Latin America essentially as an attempt to counter the influence of Hugo Chavez.

Now, the administration, for its part, says that this trip is not about Hugo Chavez, but it's about democracy and bringing health, education and shelter to the poor in Latin America.

So, there you are, live pictures at this rally. Posters of Hugo Chavez in the crowd. Says that this trip is not about Chavez, but it's about democracy in bringing health, education and shelter to the poor in latety America there you are, live pictures at this rally. Posters of Chavez in the crowd. And, he's expected to speak shortly, Suzanne, and we'll bring that to you as it unfolds.

MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you so much, Zain.

The U.S. government is bracing for the death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, planning for everything, from out-of-control celebrations, to a mass exodus.

CNN National Correspondent Suzanne Candiotti is in Miami with those details -- Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Suzanne.

And last July, when Fidel Castro was rumored to be on his deathbed, U.S. authorities were forced to start planning for a -- for a post-castro Cuba. And Miami exiles can't wait.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We saw this a lot.

CANDIOTTI (voice over): At her colorful store selling all things that remind you of Cuba...

MARIA VAZQUEZ, STORE OWNER: One of the favorite things we sell in the store, which is the Cuban toilet paper that has castro. And this is, "Make your wish come true."

CANDIOTTI: ... Maria Vazquez sells party kits for the day Fidel Castro dies. It's no joke that the Bush administration is worried about a free-for-all when Castro is gone.

MIGUEL VAZQUEZ, STORE OWNER: There are going to be people trying to go back to, you know, find their families, and there are going to be a lot of people taking advantage of all the confusion and all the commotion to come over.

CANDIOTTI: U.S. authorities warn, don't even try. You will be stopped.

The Department of Homeland Security staged a two-day drill this week in Miami to rehearse what it might be like. Coast Guard players mimicked boaters trying to get to Cuba and others trying to get out.

ADM. DAVID KUNKEL, U.S. COAST GUARD: We are united there will be no tolerance for uncontrolled borders.

CANDIOTTI: During the practice, 40 Cuban migrants landed on shore for real. Few experts think there will be a huge exodus when Castro dies. The last mass exit came in 1994, when Cuban rafters filled the Florida straits. One exile activist who's attempted several so-called freedom flotillas to Cuba says when Castro dies, no one should be openly celebrating.

RAMON SAUL SANCHEZ, DEMOCRACY MOVEMENT: Are we going to celebrate that we still have hundreds of political prisoners in Cuba's prison, that there are still executions taking play in Cuba, that the families are divided, that we have a 50-year dictatorship in power?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CANDIOTTI: If Cubans head to Miami, the Coast Guard says its goal is to stop 95 percent of them -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Susan.

And, of course, we're going to go back to New York to Jack Cafferty with "The Cafferty File."

Jack, what do you have?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Newt Gingrich has admitted to cheating on his wife. So the question we asked this hour is "Should he still consider running for president?

The hypocrisy of some of this hasn't escaped a lot of you.

Richard in Portland writes, "Hypocrisy: Newt did this while impeaching Clinton for his indiscretions. Is another jerk who thinks the law doesn't apply to him all the Republicans ever have to offer?"

Patrick in Ponca City, Oklahoma, "The fact that he had an affair (which is bad enough) doesn't bother me quite so much as the fact that he was one of the loudest voices calling for the impeachment of President Clinton for the very same reason."

Actually, that's not true. Bill Clinton was impeached for committing perjury, for lying to a grand jury. He was not impeached for his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Patrick also writes, "Then he had the infuriating gall to claim in a recent interview that he, Gingrich, shouldn't be considered a hypocrite."

Jim in Willowick, Ohio, "I find it amusing Newt Gingrich doesn't want to be considered a hypocrite for engaging in an extramarital affair concurrent with his leadership in pursuing the impeachment of Bill Clinton. The moral leadership of the Republican Party takes another ding. What a non-surprise."

Vance in Flint, Michigan, "Jack, do you think that maybe Newt's name is about to be released by the alleged D.C. madam? Maybe this isn't his conscience speaking but rather his preemptive damage control."

Jim in Toronto, "Sure, Newt ought to run for president. If he swears on a stack of bibles, he will leave the cheating only on his wife and not on his country."

And Mike in Macomb, Illinois, "Why not? The right is getting more all-inclusive in direct proportion to the likelihood of a Democratic president. If Ted Kennedy hurries and announces he's now a Republican, he might even get a nod."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to cnn.com/caffertyfile and read more of them online -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Jack, thanks so much.

And up next, why some dogs may not be up to snuff in the war on terror. One of the world's -- one of the world's most highly developed anti-terror weapons.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Now a weapon in the war on terror, the highly- sensitive nose of a bomb-sniffing dog. But not every canine can do the job. And to avoid having dogs bark up the wrong tree, the government is setting standards.

Once again, our Justice Correspondent, Kelli Arena, with our CNN "Security Watch".

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here we go. Good boy.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Meet Archie. He's an ATF dog used to detect explosives. He trains every day because he has to.

RICH CLABEAUX, ATF SPECIAL AGENT: The only way he gets to eat is when he sniffs explosives.

ARENA: Archie is one of about 800 drugs specially trained by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to detect explosives such as TATP, highly volatile and favored by terrorists like shoe bomber Richard Reid. But experts worry other sniffer dogs aren't up to scratch. That's because even now, six years after 9/11, there's no mandatory national standard for bomb dogs.

TERRY BOHAN, CHIEF, ATF CANINE PROGRAM: At the end of the day, if an explosive is missed, that will be a huge tragedy. And that's what we train to prevent.

ARENA: With so much riding on these noses, the ATF is hoping its law enforcement partners will run with its standard. The ATF training and testing requires dogs to identify 10 key substances and never miss a single one, or they don't get certified.

BOHAN: The seriousness of the business, anything below 100 percent in this is not acceptable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good girl.

ARENA: Many agencies, including the CIA and local law enforcement, like Washington's transit police, are already on board and out on the job.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good girl. Good girl. That's a good sniff. Good girl.

ARENA: Canine specialists say technology has nothing on a well- trained dog. They are mobile, adaptable, and it turns out you can teach an old dog new sniffs.

(on camera): The ATF is conducting testing like this across the country. As one trainer put it, having a dog that isn't properly trained is like having an unloaded gun. It's just for show.

Kelli Arena, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: And remember, stay with CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.

We're here every weekday afternoon from 4:00 to 6:00 Eastern. We're back at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, just one hour from now.

Until then, I'm Suzanne Malveaux in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Lou Dobbs is next.

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