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U.N. Secretary-General Gets a Scare in Baghdad; Is U.S. Taking Wrong Approach Towards North Korea?

Aired March 22, 2007 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, shell-shocked in Baghdad -- the U.N. secretary- general gets a close call.

Where are the insurgents getting all their weapons? Did the U.S. leave the arsenals unlocked?

And a CNN exclusive -- a former intelligence operative takes you inside the most secretive and perhaps most dangerous nation in the world.

But is the U.S. taking the wrong approach to North Korea?

And John and Elizabeth Edwards face a very serious new crisis, but they vow to press on with his presidential campaign and her battle against breast cancer.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


A shattering blast in the heavily defended heart of Baghdad stuns the visiting United Nations chief. It comes as critics are raising new questions about the Pentagon's lack of planning for the war in Iraq.

Did that put a vast arsenal in the hands of insurgents?

CNN's Michael Ware is in Baghdad.

But let's begin with our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, kind of a mixed message today. Some blistering criticism about the mistakes of the past, along with a couple of developments that could hold out some hope for the future.


MCINTYRE (voice-over): In Baghdad, a jarring reminder that Iraq remains awash in weapons after four years of war. An insurgent rocket caused no injuries, but prompted the new U.N. secretary-general to duck for cover during a press conference in the supposedly secure green zone.

It's the latest example of Iraqi insurgents' seemingly limitless supply of arms, which a new GAO report blames on poor prewar planning, in particular, the failure of the U.S. to secure Iraq's vast weapons stores back in 2003.

DAVI D'AGOSTINO, GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE: These munitions, looted from unsecured conventional munitions storage sites, have been the source of explosives for the majority of IED attacks.

MCINTYRE: The Government Accountability Office says it doesn't know how much weaponry is in the hands of insurgents, but says the U.S. has destroyed only 417,000 tons out of an estimated three and a quarter million, leaving more than 2.8 million tons unaccounted for.

The Pentagon says it's doing the best it can.

ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Probably the entire country was one big ammo dump and there were thousands of these sites. And so, you know, we're doing our best to try and find them.

MCINTYRE: A separate audit by the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction also faulted lack of planning for poor management of the $400 billion spent so far in Iraq.

But Stuart Bowen also told Congress that after his latest inspection, he's seeing real progress for the first time in almost two years.

STUART BOWEN, SPECIAL INSPECTOR GENERAL/IRAQ RECONSTRUCTION: That cautious optimism is a good sign and something that I had not returned from Iraq with in, I guess, over the last 20 months.


MCINTYRE: The U.S. military also reported progress on another front -- the arrest of two brothers who are suspected in connection with that brazen attack in January in which five American soldiers were killed when insurgents posed as Americans to breach Iraqi security. The Karzari (ph) brothers are accused of being part of a network that's smuggling Iranian IEDs into Iraq and also are said to be connected to Muqtada al-Sadr, the anti-American cleric -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jamie, thanks for that.

And as you saw, it was a truly terrifying moment today for the U.N. secretary-general. But an everyday fact of life for residents of Baghdad.

So what does that say about success or failure for the mission in Iraq?

Joining us now in Baghdad, our correspondent Michael Ware -- Michael, there was a huge scare earlier today.

I want to play this little clip of what happened when the U.N. secretary-general was in Baghdad with Nouri Al-Maliki, the prime minister.

Let's watch it.


BLITZER: Well, you see Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary-general. He is clearly startled, as he should be. In contrast, Nuri Al-Maliki, he's pretty cool, calm and collected.

Give our viewers a sense of what this videotape and this sound says to you, someone who's been there for four years?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's obviously, of course, Wolf, that the U.N. secretary-general is new to Baghdad, because this is an extraordinarily common occurrence throughout this capital.

I mean this happens in people's neighborhoods -- mortars lobbed without warning, rhyme or reason -- let alone the international zone, which is the heart of the U.S. embassy and the seat of the Iraqi government, which is headed by Nuri Al-Maliki.

We've seen on several occasions when insurgents have taken opportunities such as this during press conferences, just to throw the odd mortar or rocket into the international zone or the green zone just to let people know where they are.

Look at the play they're getting from just a couple of simple mortars. I mean the reverberations from that one moment are spinning not just across the country, but across the world. And it's extraordinary to see Nuri Al-Maliki almost holding his political fate there in its hands as he refuses to flinch while the newcomer secretary-general is obviously in quite some distress -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What struck me was that four years into this war, and certainly several weeks into the major security crackdown in Baghdad, the insurgents can still lob a mortar into this highly secure, so- called green zone, especially timed with the visit of the United Nations secretary-general.

What does that say?

WARE: Wolf, it says what it's always said. It says it's been this way since the beginning. You cannot protect the green zone from what, in military terms, is called indirect fire -- mortars, rockets and maybe the occasional missile, if they're lucky. They can lob them in from all sorts of directions. Indeed, they can do it from as close as Haifa Street, just a few hundred yards away from the green zone, well within striking distance of the U.S. embassy.

They can do it from across the river in Dora. They can do it from Sadr City.

And this isn't just one enemy, Wolf. This is Sunni insurgents. This is al Qaeda. This is Shia militias. They all lob mortars into the fortified green zone. This is Iraq. You can't protect it. It's the way business is done.

BLITZER: Michael Ware, be careful over there.

And thanks for joining us.

WARE: My pleasure.

Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Insurgent mortars rain death on an almost daily basis. At least 110 Americans have died from mortar or rocket fire since the start of the war. A .60 millimeter mortar, a .60 millimeter mortar has a range of up to two miles with a blast equal to a pound or two of TNT, not enough to penetrate most rooftops.

An .81 millimeter, an .81 millimeter mortar, has a range of more than three miles, with a direct hit likely to contain at least two pounds of TNT.

A .120 millimeter mortar has a much -- is a much heavier weapon, with a range of more than four miles. A direct hit is equal to 10 pounds of TNT and can devastate urban targets.

A nuclear-armed U.S. ally is rocked by unrest.

But can its leader hold onto power?

Let's turn to CNN's Brian Todd.

He's got more on this very important story we're monitoring right now -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Pervez Musharraf has already survived two assassination attempts in Pakistan. But now some believe his own efforts to consolidate his power could cause him to lose it.


TODD (voice-over): Are these protesting lawyers the beginning of the end for Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's lighting rod president, who rules a volatile country armed with nuclear weapons?

A top Pakistani journalist says this demonstration, over an ousted Supreme Court justice, is just one sign that Musharraf is losing his grip on power in this crucial election year.

AHMED RASHID, PAKISTANI JOURNALIST: Musharraf has become a lame duck in the sense that he cannot now fulfill his own agenda to remain president for the next five years.

TODD: Ahmed Rashid and another Musharraf critic say there's one key reason he's losing his hold. SAMINA AHMED, INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP: He's made these kinds of alliances which, I think, in the end, are going to be very counter- productive for him.

TODD: Alliances, they say, with partners that no longer trust him, including one of Pakistan's most influential political parties; tribal elders near his border with Afghanistan, many of them Taliban sympathizers; with his intelligence services; and the United States.

Top Pakistani officials deny it, telling CNN, Musharraf's on solid ground with all these groups.

But on the relationship with Washington, sources with knowledge of Musharraf's recent meeting with Vice President Cheney tell us Cheney made it clear Musharraf needs to crack down harder on Taliban operating inside Pakistan.

Still, with so much uncertainty over who might replace him, experts say it's too dangerous for anyone to walk away from Pervez Musharraf.

SETH JONES, RAND CORPORATION: The idea of major violence, street demonstrations erupting in a very fragile country with nuclear weapons, I think, from an international standpoint, including from an American standpoint, means it's very important to walk cautiously here.


TODD: And even Musharraf's harshest critics admit Pakistan's political parties are now in disarray after eight years of his rule. And when they were in power, they were corrupt and ineffective -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, thanks.

A very important story we're watching.

The terror attacks of 9/11 instantaneously made President Musharraf a vital ally and the United States started pouring aid into Pakistan.

Take a look at this. Over the past five years, the U.S. has increased military assistance to Pakistan by 300 percent. Last year, the total was $300 million. That alone could buy 15 fighter jets like the F16.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty in New York with The Cafferty File -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, John Edwards' wife Elizabeth was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. Today, sadly, the couple announced the cancer has recurred. Her doctor categorized it as metastatic stage four cancer. That's not good.

It's largely confined to the bones. The doctor said it's not curable, but it's treatable.

Despite his wife's diagnosis, Edwards said they're optimistic and talked about why he's staying in the race for the White House.


FORMER SENATOR JOHN EDWARDS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You can go cower in the corner and hide or you can be tough and go out there and stand up for what you believe in. And both of us are committed to the cause. We're committed to changing this country that we love so much. And we have no intention of cowering in the corner.


CAFFERTY: Edwards had said before that he would not have run for the office if his wife did not have a clean bill of health.

So here's the question -- do you think John Edwards should stay in the presidential race?

E-mail us, or go to

That's tough stuff -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very tough stuff. Our heart goes out to that family and wish them -- wish them only the best.

Thank you, Jack, very much.

Up ahead, we're going to show you the anti-American cartoons Iranians are seeing in their newspapers and on television and why it's absolutely no laughing matter.

Also, is the U.S. taking the wrong approach with North Korea?

Our Zain Verjee talks to a former intelligence operative and takes us inside the most secretive country in the world.

Plus, the man behind those anti-Clinton, pro-Obama video that's causing such a hit on the Web. He's now speaking publicly.

So why did he do it?

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


BLITZER: There are new developments in a story we've been following. We brought you details yesterday -- poor, even deplorable conditions at some U.S. military care facilities.

Disturbing results are in from a nationwide Veterans Administration review.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is on the story -- Ed. ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, V.A. officials insist that the majority of the problems this report discovered are just part of everyday normal wear and tear.

But not everyone agrees and some Democratic lawmakers say it's a sign of a bigger problem.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): Reports of unacceptable conditions at Walter Reed triggered this nationwide review of 1,400 Veterans Administration facilities. The report lists more than 1,000 instances of poor conditions and what's being done about them.

Most of the citations, like at this facility in St. Cloud, Minnesota, are about deterioration and upkeep -- old carpet, peeling paint, worn floor tiles or leaks.

But a few of them are more severe -- mold, bugs, sightings of mice and, in one case, even bats. The bat infestation was reported at this facility in southern Oregon. The bats are not just in the attics. They sometimes get inside the hallways.

The report says eradicating them may be too difficult, plus, the bats eat mosquitoes. The V.A. says the overwhelming majority of the citations are standard wear and tear, which are fixed on an ongoing basis, and that there is a plan to immediately fix the more serious problems.

Reaction from Capitol Hill Democrats, who now control the purse strings, was swift.

SEN. DANIEL AKAKA (D), HAWAII: It was heartbreaking for me to read the V.A.'s self-report, which uncovered conditions, as we've read of leaky roofs, deteriorating walls, moldy rooms and even bat infestation.

LAVANDERA: But one veteran hopes to broaden the issue from the buildings to the overall care.

BOBBY MULLER, VETERANS FOR AMERICA: This is not a story that's simply about, you know, mice and mold and doing the paint job. You've got to go deeper and really deal with the quality of the programs, or the lack of these programs, to treat this new generation of veterans that's coming back.


LAVANDERA: The report also says that the majority of the problems that were found at the V.A. facilities occurred in areas where patients are not treated and V.A. officials tell CNN today that the V.A. health care system is still widely cited as the best in the country -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Ed Lavandera reporting from Dallas.

Iran often shows off its latest weapons.

Has it now found a less deadly way to strike at the United States or will the end result be just as dangerous?

CNN's Aneesh Raman is in Tehran -- Aneesh.

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, for the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it is a new campaign against an old enemy.


RAMAN (voice-over): It's often with anger that Iran's leaders speak about the U.S. But on state-run TV, the state has been trying a different tactic. Mixed into the main news channel are political cartoons, often starting with a slate like this one, which reads: "no explanation needed."

This one pokes fun at U.S. policy in Iraq -- Uncle Sam running between bombs, looking for an exit. And when he finds three doors, no such luck.

President Bush also often gets a grilling. Here, he's talking to the world about Iran's nuclear program, alleging Iran wants nuclear weapons, all while his nose grows longer like Pinocchio in front of a laughing globe.

The cartoons -- and there are many -- have even made their way onto YouTube, varying from anti-American riffs to others about Israel that outside of Iran would be defined as anti-Semitic.

As for those on the U.S. the intent is clear, at least to moderates like this professor at the University of Tehran.

PROF. SADEGH ZIBAKALAM, UNIVERSITY OF TEHRAN: There are less anti-Americans amongst the average Iranian than -- than, say, five years ago, or certainly a decade ago. So maybe the government has realized that anti-American feeling is on the decline and they have started to make these cartoons to sort of sustain anti-American feeling.

RAMAN: But one cartoon that would have most Iranians agreeing is this one. It shows the U.S. Europe and the U.N. combing the ground for evidence of an Iranian weapons program. In the end, they've missed the arsenal that Israel allegedly has.


RAMAN: The cartoons appeal to many here, which is why some moderates are concerned they'll leave the average Iranian confused between American policy and the American people -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Aneesh in Tehran, reporting for us.

Thank you.

Coming up, an exclusive look inside North Korea. A former intelligence operative says what you've seen and heard may not necessarily be the full picture.

Plus, there's a new development in that pet food recall. Dozens of owners are now taking action.

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


BLITZER: Let's begin with Carol for a closer look at some other important stories making news -- Carol.


That Boy Scout who was rescued after being lost in the North Carolina mountains is out of the hospital. Twelve-year-old Michael Auberry is free to go home in North Carolina. That happened just a few hours ago. He is in good condition, still recovering from severe dehydration and exposure to the cold, though. Auberry wandered away from his camp site on Saturday. He was found on Tuesday, after an intensive search.

Court action today involving former astronaut Lisa Nowak, who is accused of trying to kidnap a romantic rival. Nowak's attorneys formally entered a not guilty plea on her behalf. Nowak is charged with attempted kidnapping, battery and burglary of a vehicle with a weapon. Her trial is set to begin in July. She's free on bail and she did not appear at today's arraignment in Orlando.

In news affecting small businesses, the economic impact of the bird flu. A report from a non-partisan, non-profit group says a severe pandemic would almost certainly lead to a major recession in the United States. The Trust for America's Health says the gross domestic product could drop more than 5 1/2 percent, resulting in a loss of $683 billion. And it says the U.S. is not prepared to face an economic shock of that magnitude.

Another story affecting small businesses, new Census figures are out showing which U.S. counties have lost the most people. Of the five counties that suffered the greatest population loss from 2005 to 2006, four were hit by Hurricane Katrina. Wayne County, Michigan rounded out the top five. That county includes Detroit and you know Detroit has been hit by layoffs in the automotive industry.

Back to you -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Carol, see you shortly.

Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, a cancer setback for the wife of a leading Democratic presidential candidate. John and Elizabeth Edwards speaking candidly about her condition and their future plans.

Plus, my interview with former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. He's just back from Darfur, where he witnessed atrocities and used his own medical training to help save lives. He's standing by to give us an eyewitness account. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


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

Happening now, Congress one step closer to an all out showdown with President Bush. The Senate Judiciary Committee, following the lead of the House, has authorized subpoenas of top White House aides to testify about the firing of eight federal prosecutors.

The White House fighting the move, instead offering to have Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, other officials interviewed, but with no oath and no transcript.

Also, the United Nations Children's Agency desperately seeking money for a critical aid program delivering fresh drinking water to 70,000 people in Baghdad each day. It ran out of money March 1st. Officials now warning the situation there is dire.

And a class action lawsuit now filed against the maker of that recalled pet food that's linked to more than a dozen animal deaths. Attorneys say more than 95 people have joined the case against Menu Foods Incorporated. No comment so far from the company.

I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards says his campaign will go on despite his wife's new health crisis. Elizabeth Edwards confirms her cancer is back and has spread.

Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow.

She's watching all of this unfold from Chapel Hill, North Carolina -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the Edwards' went public just one day after medical tests confirmed their fears. Elizabeth Edwards' doctor has diagnosed her with stage four breast cancer. But Elizabeth Edwards says she is incredibly optimistic.


SNOW (voice-over): John and Elizabeth Edwards decided they wanted everyone to hear it from them -- the cancer that Elizabeth Edwards battled came back.

FORMER SENATOR JOHN EDWARDS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's no longer curable. It is completely treatable.

SNOW: Unlike in 2004, when Elizabeth Edwards was diagnosed with breast cancer, this time the malignancy was found in her bone. The Edwards say they are optimistic and will press on with the presidential campaign. And Elizabeth says she's ready.

ELIZABETH EDWARDS, JOHN EDWARDS' WIFE: One of the reasons to do a press conference as opposed to a press release is that you can see, I mean, I don't look sickly. I don't feel sickly. And, you know, I'm as ready as any -- any person can be for that.

SNOW: It is a battle they faced before, when Elizabeth Edwards was diagnosed with breast cancer in the final days of her husband and Senator John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign.

Since then, Edwards has said his wife's health was a factor in his decision whether or not to run for president. But he says the doctors told him the campaign won't affect cancer treatments.

J. EDWARDS: Let me be absolutely clear -- any time, any place that I need to be with Elizabeth, I will be there, period.

SNOW: The couple held a press conference near the site where they were married 30 years ago this summer. And as they left to continue with the campaign, Elizabeth's doctor gave a more detailed diagnosis.

DR. LISA CAREY, ELIZABETH EDWARDS' DOCTOR: Her cancer looks like it's primarily in the bone. There may be some other sites, but they're very small and not as clear.

SNOW: And the exact treatment hasn't yet been decided.


SNOW: And the Edwards are wasting no time hitting the campaign trail. John Edwards is expected tonight in New York for a fundraiser. The couple is expected to be together tomorrow in California -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary, what did they say about how they decided to keep the presidential campaign going?

SNOW: They said that they talked about it yesterday and when asked did they think about suspending the campaign -- there has been so much speculation -- they said no, that they did not think about that and they felt -- feel committed to this. And Elizabeth Edwards particularly said that she felt it was important for John Edwards to go forward.

BLITZER: Mary's watching this story for us in Chapel Hill.

Elizabeth Edwards' doctor also spoke at that news conference, giving more details of her condition.


DR. LISA CAREY, ELIZABETH EDWARDS DOCTOR: Since this is -- you know, is not considered curable but is considered treatable, as you can imagine, the therapies that we give have to do two things. One is, they have to control the cancer, and the other is, they have to not make the patient sick.

Stage four breast cancer is a very heterogeneous thing. You know, so there's a -- you know, some people, none of the treatments we use work, and so their survival is short. Other people can live with it for many years. And exactly -- since it's so -- you know, if you think about it, it's like taking, you know, all of you and saying, what's the average age? Well, I can give you a number, but it's not meaningful for anyone of you. And unfortunately, we don't know until we give therapy exactly how hers will go.


BLITZER: The National Institutes of Health define stage four cancer as a tumor of any size that spread beyond the region of the breast and chest wall. The National Institutes of Health puts the five-year survival rate for stage four breast cancer at seven percent. Other sources put it as high as 21 percent.

We'll stay on top of this story for you.

We're joined now by another physician. He's also the former Senate majority leader. Bill Frist is just back from Sudan's Darfur region, where he saw firsthand what the U.S. government is calling a genocide.

Dr. Frist is joining us from Nashville, Tennessee.

Thanks, Senator, for coming in.

BILL FRIST (R), FMR. SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Thank you, Wolf. Good to be with you.

BLITZER: I want your eyewitness account of what you saw in Darfur, because we've been hearing a lot about it over these years. But you were there, you saw it up close and personal.

FRIST: Wolf, I did, and I spent most of the last month in Africa on the ground not as a political figure, not as a senator, but as what I am, and that is a physician. And most of my focus, unlike when other people go on, is the humanitarian effort. And the thing that I saw, the thing that I came back with, was disturbing in many ways.

Some progress has been made. The facts, everybody knows, there are about 300,000 people who have been slaughtered -- slaughtered in the last two years, three years. It is genocide, we are calling it genocide. But right now the government of Sudan is not stepping up action to end that genocide. Two million people displaced.

On the humanitarian front, the real challenge that I found is that there is a brink of crisis going on right now. The situation for the humanitarian workers, from the United States and from around the world, is becoming untenable.

Two quick examples. In the last six months, there have been 30 attacks by others on the United Nations compound where these humanitarian workers are.

BLITZER: Well, let me press you on this point, Senator. What else should the world be doing right now? We hear a lot about it, we all say never again. But it seems that there's a lot more that could be done to save these people that's not being done.

FRIST: Well, I think that's right. And I think the humanitarian workers, that crisis has to be addressed, because otherwise, people will starve, people will continue to die just from the starvation, the malnutrition and the health.

Now, from the political standpoint, there's a lot that can be done. Back in Rwanda, in 1984, the United States did not act, we were too late. The United Nations did not act and we were too late. And we stood by and watched a million people die.

Already, a third of a million people, almost, have died in Darfur. So, what can we do?

Right now, Andrew Natsios, our envoy to Sudan, is considering, and I strongly encourage him, to increase sanctions on Sudan today, to get President Bashir to stand up and end the genocide with his troops, with his military, with his government.

Secondly, we need to act in concert with China. China right now buys about 65 percent of all the oil coming out of Sudan.

BLITZER: And they are continuing to do so.

What about militarily? Is there a military option there? Not the United States, necessarily, but African nations, European nations, others can do to stop this slaughter?

FRIST: Well, it's hard to imagine now. Right now, the Darfur region in western Sudan is a huge region about the size of France. And it's desert. It goes on forever. So it's hard to imagine sending in military troops.

The United Nations has said they will send in 22,000 African peacekeepers, and that should be done, but the government of Sudan, through Bashir, says no, we're not going to let them in. We have got to have those African peacekeepers first.

So, before sending a military in -- you know, not U.S., and I would say not African -- what you need to do, at least give the United Nations peacekeepers a chance. Right now, there are 7,000 African peacekeepers there, they have no enforcement ability whatsoever, and that is totally insufficient.

BLITZER: When you were there, did you ever say, you know, I used to be the Senate majority leader, I wish I had done more while I had that position of power?

FRIST: Well, you know, it's interesting. On the floor of the United States Senate, before Secretary Powell, before the administration even considered calling this genocide, in July of two years ago now, we passed, unanimously, on the floor of the United States Senate, to call this genocide. About six weeks later, Secretary Powell and the administration said, yes, we will call it genocide. And when you call something genocide, it does step up the activity. We've done a lot. Right now, the American people today are feeding about 60 percent of all the people in Darfur today. So the American people are standing up, with the humanitarian efforts today. But we need to do more.

We need to have a more concerted effort within our government. We need to increase the sanctions. We need to put increased pressure on the Chinese government so that they can step in and put pressure on Bashir and others.

BLITZER: We're almost out of time, but you did perform surgery there, right?

FRIST: Yes. You know, what I do when I go to Africa -- and I have gone to Africa every year for the last 10 years doing medical mission work. Again, not as a political figure, but operating, doing surgery, addressing issues like clean water and vaccines and pharmaceutical manage and food. And that's where my focus was on this time.

I've been to Chad before. I've been to Darfur before. This time, we focused entirely on that medical humanitarian aspect.

BLITZER: I want to pick your brain on a political question before I let you go. Your former colleague, Fred Thompson, the senator from Tennessee, the movie star, if you will, you want them be president of the United States?

FRIST: Well, you know, I think Fred should consider strongly about entering the race today. He's gotten a lot of support. I've talked to a lot of the financial people in Texas, in Florida, and in California, and in New York, all of whom said, if he will step up, they will support him.

You know, he can communicate. He's got that sort of laid back approach. He can talk to the average person out there.

He captures hope within our party. And right now, we're not doing as good as job as we might. So I think he should strongly consider it.

I have talked to him this week. He's listening very carefully. He probably would not decide for several weeks. But he's listening very carefully.

BLITZER: I'll take that as a yes, Senator. Right?

FRIST: Say it again, Wolf?

BLITZER: I said I'll take that as a yes, that you would like to see him as president.

FRIST: Oh, yes. No, I think so today, because he captures that hope. He pulls people together in a way. He's got the experience. Obviously, he has experience on the judiciary side, on the legislative side for eight years. I know him well. I had -- essentially had lunch with him working in the United States Senate for eight years. He's got that ability to communicate.

And that is something that we need I think all across America, to bring people together and to get out of the rhetoric of the partisanship and the lack of civility that so characterizes Washington today.

BLITZER: He reminds some conservatives of another movie star who became president, but we'll leave that for another occasion.

Senator, thanks for your good work in Darfur. Thanks for coming in here.

FRIST: Thanks, Wolf. Great. Good to be with you. Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Senator Bill Frist.

Up ahead, our own Zain Verjee with a CNN exclusive. You are going to want to see it.

She talks to a former intelligence operative who says the U.S. is taking entirely the wrong approach toward North Korea. We are going to show you why.

Plus, the man behind a hugely popular YouTube ad against Hillary Rodham Clinton comes forward. Does he have ties to Barack Obama's campaign? What's going on?

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


BLITZER: Now to a CNN exclusive. Working with former intelligence operatives, we'll take you inside the most secretive country in the world. And now that it's tested a nuclear device, perhaps the most dangerous country in the world as well. But is the United States taking the wrong approach toward North Korea?

Let's turn to our State Department correspondent, Zain Verjee. She's standing by to tell us what she's learned about this very secretive nation -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPT. CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a few of us know what North Korea is really like. A few of us know what North Koreans actually think of the United States. One man has been there many times to try and understand the secretive state. He says it's not what we think.


VERJEE (voice over): Church -- James Church. It's a fake name for a real insider, a former Western intelligence operative. He's been to North Korea more than 20 times. He sat in on nuclear negotiations since the '90s. He's agreed to talk to CNN only if his identity stays a secret from North Koreans and from sources he's met in a lifetime of shadows.

JAMES CHURCH, AUTHOR, "THE CORPSE IN THE KORYO": It's hard for us to understand how threatening we look to them.

VERJEE: Church says the U.S. government doesn't get North Korea. And that, he says, could lead to a nuclear showdown.

CHURCH: Sometimes we're so interested in lecturing the North Koreans from our moral soapbox that we forget that there is this other perspective.

VERJEE (on camera): Do you think that all policies are essentially doomed to failure if we don't have a better understanding of North Koreans, of the North Korean psyche?

CHURCH: Yes, that's -- in a nutshell, that's -- I think that's our problem.

VERJEE (voice over): From his observations at nuclear negotiations, he says Americans tend to talk down to North Koreans, who see that as an insult.

CHURCH: They're very proud, and they absolutely want respect.

VERJEE: Church says the West is obsessed with portraying Kim Jong-il as simply a crazed dictator, and this, he says, leads to diplomatic missteps.

CHURCH: But in the process of fixating on him over the years, we've let a number of myths grow up, and a lot of simplistic descriptions of him overtake sort of a more serious look.

VERJEE: Then there are those pictures, the mass games, with thousands of North Koreans dancing in perfect unity. He says this footage doesn't represent North Korean life.

CHURCH: Most of their lives are not consumed by these parades. These parades are actually relatively rare.

VERJEE: But the North Korean government allows little or no access to Western media to show images inside the country.

(on camera): How do North Koreans actually see themselves?

CHURCH: When I sat next to a North Korean diplomat, and he began to commiserate with me about how difficult it was to raise teenagers, we were instantly, simply two fathers sitting next to each other and not representative of vastly different political and social situations.


VERJEE: James Church has written a novel called "The Corpse in the Koryo." He hopes that his book will show people the North Korea that he saw.

And we spoke to State Department officials today about Church's views. They gave no response, because they said they don't know who he is. The officials say the idea that no one in the U.S. government has a realistic view on North Korea just isn't accurate -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You were there along the DMZ last year. You went there, you saw this tunnel where people are trying to escape. Talk a little bit about that, Zain.

VERJEE: Well, you know, Wolf, the North Koreans dug three infiltration tunnels so they could secretly penetrate South Korea. We actually had a chance -- right here you can see it in the wall. We're going down into one of them.

A North Korean defector told South Koreans about this tunnel, and the South Koreans basically responded by digging their own tunnel to intercept and stop the North Koreans from coming on to their side. Today, on the southern side, which is where we were, you can take this tram. And you go down this interceptor tunnel, and you can go and see what the North Koreans were trying to do.

We went down more than 200 feet underground, and we were told then about 30,000 heavily armed troops could pass through that tunnel per hour. We weren't allowed to take any pictures inside the tunnel, but as you can see, we were having a good time -- Wolf. It's a big tourist attraction.

BLITZER: I can see. It looks like you were almost at an amusement park.

All right. A very serious story though, Zain. Thank you for bringing it to our viewers.

Up ahead, the man behind that hit anti-Clinton YouTube video, speaking out and saying he's proud of it. So why did it cost him his job?

And Jack Cafferty wants to know this: Should John Edwards stay in the presidential race after his wife's cancer setback? Jack and your e-mail, all that, coming up.


BLITZER: Let's check in with Lou Dobbs to see what's coming up right at the top of the hour -- Lou.


We'll be reporting tonight on a new effort by lawmakers and corporate America to force an amnesty bill through for 20 -- as many as 20 million illegal aliens. The co-author of the amnesty legislation, Congressman Luis Gutierrez, is among our guests tonight.

Also, illegal immigration helping to drive a population boom in counties along our southern border with Mexico. Those illegal aliens could have a huge impact on our elections and our democracy.

We'll be telling you all about that and why.

And what's left of our middle class faces a major new threat from communist China. Beijing preparing to challenge this country's commercial aircraft industry with technology supplied by, you guessed it, American aircraft manufacturers.

We'll have that report.

And the Senate Judiciary Committee has approved subpoenas. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Senator Patrick Leahy will join us here tonight.

We hope you will, as well.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: We'll be watching, Lou. Thank you.

It's a hit on YouTube, but it turns out that that hugely popular anti-Hillary Clinton video cost its creator his job. He's speaking out about it, saying he's proud of it, but he's -- but is he tied to Senator Barack Obama's campaign?

Let's turn to CNN's Carol Costello.

We reported on this yesterday. You have more on the fallout today -- Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Some more information for you.

You know, he's coming forward online, but physically he's still hiding out.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I intend to keep telling you exactly where I stand...

COSTELLO (voice over): Philip de Vellis created the anti-Hillary Clinton video sensation secretly, but now boldly blogs, "Hi, I'm Phil. I did it. And I'm proud of it."

So why not admit to it in the first place? His employer, Blue State Digital, has done Internet strategic planning for Barack Obama. For whatever reason, de Vellis ignored company policy that forbids outside political work or commentary. De Vellis has been terminated.

So, why did he do it?

ANDREW RASIEJ, TECHPRESIDENT.COM: I think it gives citizens, whether you're a political professional, or whether you're just an average voter, the feeling that you can actually be part of the conversation, that you can affect the discourse. COSTELLO: But de Vellis is no ordinary citizen. He's part of the Internet political mafia and has done work for a number of Democratic campaigns. Fellow mafia members are buzzing about his YouTube hit, some accusing him of stealing the idea from a blogger named ConnecticutBob.

See for yourself. The difference? ConnecticutBob took aim at Joe Lieberman during his re-election campaign last year and got only 1,000 hits. De Vellis' slicker take has now attracted more than 1.8 million hits.

He says he picked on Hillary Clinton because he thinks her conversation is disingenuous and Obama represents a new kind of politics.

And what does Hillary Clinton say?

CLINTON: This is a new era of campaigning. There's new ways of communicating. I think it's exciting that it is democratizing the process.

COSTELLO: But de Vellis' ad could have hurt the candidate he aimed to help. Barack Obama's vowed to run a clean campaign, and says, "The Obama campaign and its employees had nothing to do with the creation of the ad."

He and Clinton are now trying to control a message that's out of their control. Former Senator Bob Kerrey ran for president in 1992 and is now president of The New school.

His take on all of this?

BOB KERREY, PRESIDENT, THE NEW SCHOOL: It's apt to be both disruptive and destructive of the way we've done it in the old -- in the old days, but I would say, in general, anything that rewards high quality, anything that distributes the power outward, as opposed to inward, and anything that can be done in as unregulated a fashion as possible, I think it's apt to be good.


COSTELLO: You know, de Vellis did lose his job, Wolf, probably will not be unemployed for long. After all, his creation got more than 1.8 million hits. Somebody's going to hire this guy.

BLITZER: You're probably right on that, Carol. Thank you.

The man behind the ad didn't come forward without some online detective work. Let's go back to Jacki Schechner.

Jacki, what have we been learning?

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Well, Wolf, Arianna Huffington exposed Phil de Vellis on her group blog, The Huffington Post. We spoke to her today, and she says that she gathered her team of 35 to track down every lead they possibly could. She said they figured out it was somebody who supported Obama in the political community and then they just started making phone calls.

She wouldn't say to me how she specifically confirmed the final lead, but she says by the time she called Phil de Vellis herself, she knew for a fact it was him. She then posted online on her blog and then invited Phil to post for himself, and that's exactly what he did -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Are some of the bloggers, the liberals, sort of upset that it turns out the guy who did this ad himself is a Democrat?

SCHECHNER: There are some that are, actually. If you go online today, there's actually still some speculation that we still don't know the whole story.

But if you do believe it was de Vellis, the reaction from some Democrats is that he perhaps undermined the Democratic Party by creating an anti-Clinton ad, and not using his video skills to create an anti-Republican ad -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jacki Schechner on our Internet team, doing some investigations themselves.

Thanks, Jacki.

Up next, jack Cafferty wants to know if you think John Edwards should continue his presidential campaign now that his wife's cancer has returned.

We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Let's check in with Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question is, should John Edwards stay in the presidential race?

Ron in St. Louis writes, "I'm a Republican who has now decided to back Edwards for president. Unless you've been through this -- and I have -- you have no idea how much this shows a person's real character. Here are two people I would like to see in the White House. They're showing unconditional love for each other, which is important in going through this, as well as for the country. He's getting my vote."

Shirley in Atlanta, "Yes, John Edwards should stay in the race. The country needs him more than ever before. Elizabeth Edwards has encouraged him to run, and it may be the best thing for her, too. Ask any cancer patient, they'll tell you, keeping busy is vital. Sitting at home worrying does no one any good, and the campaign trail may actually help them."

Michelle in Tallahassee, "As a person whose father was diagnosed with stage four cancer metastasized to bone in late August, and who lost him in mid-December, I would respectfully suggest that Edwards reconsider his decision. When my dad was first diagnosed, I felt the same way the Edwardses feel, and my dad was adamant that my life and the lives of all who cared about him not be disrupted. We all honored that wish. However, if I knew then that I'd only have a little over three months to be with him, I would have spent every minute with him."

Somebody named A, just an initial, writes, "It's none of your business until he decides to tell us. How dare you trivialize a deadly crisis with a 'quiz'."

Paul, who's a doctor in New York, "John Edward should spend time with his wife considering how bad a stage IV breast cancer prognosis portends. He will not with the presidency, and his time is best spent with his wife."

And Kerry in Jacksonville, Florida, "Having survived a stage IV breast cancer, I believe each person and his/her spouse make their own choices. If you've never walked in the path of the disease and treatment, then it's unfair to make any comments. I think I lived because I went to work as many days as I was physically able. Aren't they doing the same thing?"

If you didn't see your e-mail here, go to We pulled some more of them there. There are also video clips of "The Cafferty File" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: See you in one hour, 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

We'll be back.

Let's go to Lou in New York.


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