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Iran Releases British Captives; Will Gonzales Remain Attorney General?

Aired April 5, 2007 - 19:00   ET


Happening now, British captives are free. But might Iran seize U.S. troops next? A top Navy commander warns Iran of terrible consequences. It's a CNN exclusive.

Plus, the attorney general grilled before he's grilled by senators. How far is Alberto Gonzales willing to go to try to keep his job?

And worst-case scenarios of global warming -- predictions that major American cities could be devastated by powerful storms.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A blunt warning to Tehran from a top U.S. Navy commander as the Iranian government finally releases those British sailors and marines. In an exclusive interview the chief of Naval Operations says U.S. sailors won't be seized like those British captives, at least not without a bloody fight.

Let's go to CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr with this exclusive report. What are they saying tonight, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, we spoke to Admiral Mike Mullen, the chief of Naval Operations, and in that exclusive interview with CNN, Admiral Mullen laid it on the line. He said it was his expectations that U.S. Navy sailors and United States Marines would never be seized in an incident such as happened to the British.

Now he was very careful not to criticize the British troops. No one really knows what those young people might have faced at the hands of the Iranians. But Admiral Mullen went a significant step further reminding everyone that the United States military always exercises what they call the right of self-defense. That if U.S. troops came under some threat of being taken captive, they could shoot to defend themselves and that he said they wouldn't have to ask anybody for permission -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, Barbara, what if the United States, however, finds itself in a similar position?

STARR: Well, if they did, we asked Admiral Mullen, what about all of that and he said for U.S. troops that may be taken captive, may be detained against their will, there is a very strict code of conduct. Listen to what the admiral had to say.


ADMIRAL MIKE MULLEN, CHIEF OF NAVAL OPERATIONS: It's who you are, what your social security number is, and -- and very limited in terms of any kind of response when you're -- when you become a prisoner or a hostage.


STARR: Admiral Mullen making it clear that U.S. troops won't engage in a lot of conversation. Admiral Mullen also going on to say that the military has reviewed all of its security procedures in the Persian Gulf, has even stepped up its protection measures further and wants to talk to the British Navy about what happened to them so that they can learn more from this entire incident -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Barbara, thanks so much for that exclusive. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

Tonight a hostage crisis averted. The British prime minister, Tony Blair and a P.R. coup claimed by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. So who came out ahead?

CNN's Robin Oakley is in London for that story -- Robin.

ROBIN OAKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, what the British public and media are arguing about now is quite simply who won this diplomatic spat. Tony Blair supporters argue that he got the captives back without having to issue an apology or to cut any kind of deal. Iran's supporters say it has scored a huge public relations coup in the Middle East by taunting and holding off a power like Britain for a fortnight and then in an active magnanimity releasing the captives, so transforming the image of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at least temporarily. But the real winners, those 15 captives, back in uniform, back in Britain and back with their loved ones -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Robin Oakley, thanks again.

And back in this country right now Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is laying low and bracing to do battle. Gonzales has said to be intensely preparing for congressional hearings that could determine the fate of his career.

CNN's Brian Todd joining us now live. Brian, at first the Justice Department wanted to push back the date of testifying, they move it forward. Why haven't we seen Gonzales lately?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, essentially he is hunkered down. The attorney general and his team admit the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in less than two weeks is absolutely crucial to his survival and he has got to be ready.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TODD (voice-over): He's about to face Democrat senators that want to tear him down and Alberto Gonzales is preparing like it's a heavyweight title fight. Justice Department officials tell CNN he's staying behind closed doors, canceling a family vacation and will go through mock grilling sessions possibly with outside legal advisers.

DAVID WINSTON, GOP CONSULTANT: It's now gotten to the point where the credibility of the attorney general is really coming into play and he's -- and he -- and this has all been self-inflicted.

TODD: By conflicting statements, critics say, between Gonzales and his former chief of staff about the firings of eight U.S. attorneys.

ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Was not involved in seeing any memos, was not involved in any discussions about what was going on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think the attorney general's statement that he was not involved in any discussions about U.S. attorney removals is accurate.

TODD: Gonzales will have to answer for to that to this man -- Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy. In an letter to Gonzales, the Democrat seems to warn him of the pressure he will face in an April 17 hearing, repeatedly scolding Gonzales for not responding in a timely manner to the committee's inquiries, instructing the attorney general to include in his written testimony all the specifics of your role in the firings. Justice officials tell CNN Gonzales has started to reach out to at least a dozen members of Congress to try to smooth the way, the vast majority of them, fellow Republicans.

RON BROWNSTEIN, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": So he starts this kind of isolated, even among Republicans and what he really needs to do if he is going to keep his job is to reassure Republicans enough to the extent that they feel comfortable defending the president's position to keep him on.


TODD: In fact, several GOP consultants who asked for anonymity since they were talking about Gonzales' future tells CNN what he says in the next few weeks and how it's received will be crucial to his support in Congress. One of them said, quote, "He has a tall order. It has to be a compelling presentation" -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, Brian, we'll all be keeping a very close eye on those hearings. Thank you so much.

And Carol Costello out of New York. I understand that you have some breaking news involving the former first lady, Betty Ford.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, the former first lady, Betty Ford, is in the hospital recovering from some kind of surgery. They are not releasing much information. But she is in the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, California. She's said to be doing well. She is 88 years old.

Her birthday is Sunday and, as you know, her husband, the former President Ford, died back in December of '06. He was 93. We get more information about what this surgery was exactly and when she is expected to be released from the hospital, of course we'll pass it along to you -- back to you, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you so much, Carol, for that breaking news.

Now we go to Jack out of New York with "The Cafferty File". Jack, what are you following at this hour?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Do we get paid tomorrow? We do, don't we?

MALVEAUX: I think we do.

CAFFERTY: Yes, Friday is payday. So when you get your paycheck tomorrow, think about this. Ford Motor Company posted a record $12.7 billion in losses last year -- that's with a "B". But the company paid its new CEO, Alan Mulally, $28 million for his first four months on the job. That works out to $7 million a month or $1.5 million a week or $300,000 a day.

I was going to do the hourly rate, but I was getting too upset. This is all according to a company filing with the SEC today. In addition to the 28 mill for four months pay Mulally also picks up a hiring bonus, some stock options and, of course, relocation costs. It's one thing to pay the CEO of a profitable company well, but Ford lost almost $13 billion last year.

And while Mulally was pocketing close to 30 million large for his 120 days on the job, Ford was moving ahead with plans to close down plants and cut more than 30,000 hourly jobs this year. Oh, yes and there's this -- last month the company announced that all full-time staff would get a modest bonus for 2006. It was an attempt to boost morale as the company downsizes. Modest is the operative word, the bonuses range from three to $800.

So here's the question -- should the CEO of Ford Motor Company, which lost almost $13 billion last year, be paid $28 million for four months work? Hey, if those jobs are available, I'm out of here. E- mail us at or go to I mean I could figure out how to lose $13 billion in a year if somebody laid 28 million on me. I could do that.

MALVEAUX: Jack, you might have a lot of people following you, too, for that job and that raise.


MALVEAUX: All right. Thanks again, Jack Cafferty.

Coming up, Congressman John Murtha makes demands of the White House.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have to force this -- this accountability on to this administration. They haven't had accountability for six years. They have to have accountability.


MALVEAUX: The outspoken critic of the Iraq war responds to the president's threat to veto a pull-out deadline. That interview ahead.

Plus, presidential candidate Mitt Romney's hunt for the votes of gun owners. Did it misfire?

And new warnings that global warming is not a distant threat, but a potential danger to some of America's biggest cities.


MALVEAUX: Some say it's an inconvenient truth that's more like a frightening nightmare. American cities partly wiped away by global warming. Now just take a look at our wall here. I mean all of the animation. Imagine freak storms, forceful hurricanes and fierce floods erasing parts of Miami, New York, Boston and Washington, D.C.

Our Mary Snow is in New York. Mary, what is the theory behind this doomsday scenario?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, the theory is really based on a number of projections about the impact of global warming. This is decades away, but it looks at the worst of what could happen when it comes to rising sea levels and stronger hurricanes.


SNOW (voice-over): The threat of global warming, melting polar icecaps is well known by now. In the United States, scientists point to milder winters with things like slowing maple syrup production in the Northeast as evidence of climate change. But some say that example could pale in comparison to future risks that are on the scale of destruction New Orleans experienced with Hurricane Katrina.

PHILIP CLAPP, PRES., NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL TRUST: It's time to stop debating the science and really beginning to protect people that are at risk from this kind of phenomenon.

SNOW: Phil Clapp is the president of the National Environmental Trust, a nonpartisan science and policy group. The group has come up with worst-case scenarios of the effects of climate change on cities at risk of rising sea levels and strong storms -- high on the list, New York.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have most of the areas of the financial district in southern New York -- in the southern end of Manhattan flooded. SNOW: Clapp says both New York City airports could be underwater in the event of a category two hurricane with the sea level rise of about two feet. In Washington, D.C., if there was a strong storm along the Potomac, the area stretching from the mall to the White House lawn could be at risk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a rather large flooding event for Washington, and there would be a lot of destruction to national monuments and memorials.

SNOW: Miami, especially South Beach, could see severe flooding and so could Boston's financial and historic areas. On the West Coast, the worst-case scenario calls for the San Francisco Bay to expand and make Sacramento a bay city. These models are projected for the later half of this century. Many scientists say stopping all carbon emissions now won't reverse the effects of climate change completely.

GAVIN SCHMIDT, CLIMATE SCIENTIST, NASA GODDARD: The real debate is we have some global warming that will -- that's going to continue regardless of anything we do, but then we have worst case scenarios, which if we carry on with our "business as usual" kind of approach are really very, very serious.


SNOW: The vast majority of climate scientists buy into the theory of global warming and sea level rise, there's no certain agreement about how bad it will or won't be or when it will happen -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: So, Mary, we see how the major cities are impacted, but what about the inland areas?

SNOW: Well, one area of concern in the United States is the Mississippi River Delta area and scientists say that that is one of about a half dozen most at risk for rising sea levels.

MALVEAUX: Mary Snow, thank you very much, a fascinating report.

A scare today for Americans aboard a Greek cruise ship off the island of Santorini -- almost 1,600 passengers and crew had to abandon ship after the boat slammed into a reef and began taking on water.

Our Abbi Tatton has been tracking the ship and the rescue efforts online all day. Abbi, how are folks doing?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Well, everyone is off the ship at this point and these are pictures here of the Sea Diamond, sent in to CNN through I-Reports. This is from Nikos Sirigos, who was watching from the shore as the evacuation took place. You can see the ship had taken on water, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

And this is at the end of the evacuation, an evacuation that was, in fact, caught on the island's Web cameras as they were trained off the coast and we were watching these this afternoon. You can see multiple small vessels heading there for the Sea Diamond to pick people up and take them to shore. You can also see the people on the shore watching as this all happened.

The cruise operator says that all passengers have been safely disembarked, that there were no casualties. The operator was in the process of sending another one of its ships for the passengers on Santorini -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And Abbi, I noticed that there are cameras set up on the island. Is that for security or why did they actually have them there?

TATTON: We found these on tourist sites. Visitors that are headed to Santorini want to check out what's going on there, sponsored by restaurants, but this is where we were watching this whole evacuation take place earlier on today.

MALVEAUX: Fascinating. Thank you. Abbi Tatton.

And up ahead in THE SITUATION ROOM, he helped bankroll one of the most controversial ads of the 2004 presidential campaign. Now he's the one in the middle of a political firestorm.

Also, a college town up in arms over charges that an American flag was torched -- hard lessons at Yale.


MALVEAUX: Our Carol Costello is monitoring stories coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Carol, what do you have, checking all the wires and video feeds this hour?

COSTELLO: Incoming right now, Suzanne, an FBI agent is dead after a shootout with three bank robbers in Readington, New Jersey. Agents investigating a series of bank robberies confronted the suspects as they were escaping the bank. Shots were fired, injuring the agent. He was taken to a hospital in Newark, where he died -- two suspects now in custody, authorities still searching for a third.

The pet food recall now includes dog biscuits made by the Alabama company Sunshine Mills. The Food and Drug Administration says they are contaminated with potentially toxic wheat gluten. In the meantime, Menu Foods is expanding its recall of several products to include a broader range of dates. Also, the FDA is now warning consumers not to use American Bullie A.B. Bull Pizzle Puppy Chews -- hope you got that -- and Dog Chews made by T.W. Enterprises. The agency says they could be contaminated with salmonella.

He was once the biggest shareholder of the Chrysler Corporation, now Kirk Kerkorkian is offering to buy the struggling automaker back for $4.5 billion. Kerkorkian's bid is contingent on reaching a deal on a new labor agreement with the United Autoworkers Union. He says if he buys the company he'll offer ownership stakes to the union and its membership as well as Chrysler management.

Plans for a controversial U.S. ID card are running into opposition in New Hampshire. Today the state legislators lower House soundly rejected the real I.D. program. The bill now goes to the State Senate. In 2004, the U.S. Congress passed a law calling for that program. It's intended as a post-9/11 security measure that critics say would cost billions of dollars to administer and would pose a risk to privacy.

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

MALVEAUX: Carol with the very latest. Thank you so much, Carol.

And just ahead, Democratic Congressman John Murtha takes aim at the Bush administration over Iraq.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are the kind of people that -- that are individuals. They are not 140,000 troops. They are 140,000 individuals whose families are affected by these deployments and were caught in a civil war.


MALVEAUX: And Murtha has even more to say.

Also, all dressed up, but at least for a while they had no place to go. But now that those captive British sailors are free, Tom Foreman asks -- what's with the suits? The fashion statement is just ahead.


MALVEAUX: Some Senate Democrats are fighting mad tonight over President Bush's decision to, in essence, go behind their backs. While Congress is on break, Mr. Bush used his power to make recess appointments to give a Republican donor a U.S. ambassadorship. That let him get around those intense opposition to the nomination.

Here's our congressional correspondent Andrea Koppel.


ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's the man who helped bankroll one of the hottest ads of the 2004 presidential campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even before Jane Fonda went to Hanoi to meet with the enemy and mock America, John Kerry secretly met with enemy leaders in Paris.

KOPPEL: Sponsored by the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, this ad among others helped sink Senator John Kerry's 2004 campaign for the White House. Now thanks to a recess appointment by President Bush, St. Louis businessman Sam Fox who donated $50,000 to the group is about to get a new title -- ambassador to Belgium. During his Senate confirmation hearing in February, despite sharp questioning from Kerry, Fox refused to apologize for the ads. SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: So you see no responsibility as an individual citizen to try to guarantee that you're not going to support that kind of politics of personal destruction?

SAM FOX, AMB. TO BELGIUM NOMINEE: I think that one side is giving to the other side almost have to.

KOPPEL: In a statement Kerry called the Fox recess appointment sad but not surprising. Presidential candidate Connecticut Democrat Chris Dodd called it outrageous, underhanded and an abuse of executive authority that he wants investigated. Two other recess appointments made this week are also raising red flags for some. Including Susan Dudley, who will serve as a regulatory czar in the White House Office of Management and Budget and Andrew Biggs who will get the number two spot at the Social Security Administration.

(on camera): The White House has defended its decisions and with regard to the Fox appointment, President Bush has said he is qualified to serve with a long list of accomplishments and a strong willingness to serve our country.

Andrea Koppel, CNN, Capitol Hill.



Happening now, in just the past few minutes we learned Betty Ford is recovering from surgery in California. Representatives are not saying exactly what the surgery was for, but a statement does say it was performed this week. The former first lady turns 89 Sunday.

Turmoil in the oil markets settles down after Iran released those 15 British service members. A barrel was down 10 cents to just over $64.

And it's the political equivalent of the rich get richer. It appears Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's astonishing fund-raising numbers are inspiring more people to give. His campaign says it's gotten $435,000 via the Internet in the 24 hours after it reported raising $25 million.

Wolf Blitzer's off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

In the war over Iraq, one outspoken Democrat suggests the country's violence is proof that the country is in the middle of a civil war, no matter what the Bush administration says. Representative John Murtha of Pennsylvania says the administration should be held accountable for its Iraq policy.

Congressman Murtha, thank you so much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. It seems as if each day the president is taken a harder and harder stand on his position. Let's take a quick listen to how he described the Iraq war.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's not a civil war. It is pure evil. And I believe we have an obligation to protect ourselves from that evil. And so while we're making progress, it also is tough. And so the way to deal with it is to stay on the offense.


MALVEAUX: Do you think that the president makes any more of a convincing case here when he sets up this debate as one of good versus evil?

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Suzanne, I don't know who he's listening to. I don't know who is giving him advice, because what he's saying -- when I think that the Congress will have appropriated $1.2 trillion in the last year and that the oil production is less than pre-war, electricity production is less than pre-war, I don't know how he can measure and say there's progress. And then he makes the flat-out statement that if he doesn't get money, or the bill isn't passed, that he will extend troops. He's already extended 12 units in Iraq. He already had 70,000 with stop-loss, which means they can't be discharged.

And he's preparing to send two units back with less than a year at home. And so he is -- he's blaming the Congress for something that his policy has been responsible for forcing the military to violate their own guidelines. Now, if he vetoes this Iraq Accountability Act, he's vetoing money that would go to Walter Reed, vetoing money that would go to health care, for post- traumatic stress, money that would go to brain injury. Money that's needed for training and equipment. He's sending units back with inadequate training. We are saying in the Iraq Accountability Act the president has to be accountable. $1.2 trillion, and he has to be accountable.

MALVEAUX: What do you think of the Senate majority's idea, Harry Reid, when he says, perhaps, if this legislation is vetoed with the timetable for withdrawing troops, then we're going to go ahead and withdraw most of the funds for the Iraq War? Do you think that that's going too far, or do you think that's an appropriate way here to confront the president?

MURTHA: Well, let me just say what the problem that he has. We have 126,000 contractors in Iraq. And we can't even hold them accountable. We don't know who they are. The Iraq inspector general said to me, "You have to help us get accountability." Now, what am I talking about? I'm talking about some of those contractors are being paid more than the secretary of defense, out of the 126,000. So we cut five percent out of that money. Yes, I think that if he vetoes the bill, we have to do something dramatic, because the public is demanding that there be accountability.

MALVEAUX: The president not only is debating here about the short term in terms of U.S. troops here, but he's also making the case of long term. He says that Americans are going to have to be there for the long term. Take a listen to this analogy. BUSH: Well, after World War II, after we had a brutal war with the Japanese and Nazi Germany, our troops stayed behind and helped these societies recover and grow and prosper. And now we're reaping the benefits of helping our former enemies realize the blessings of liberty. Europe is free and at peace.

MALVEAUX: Congressman, do you believe that this analogy is actually accurate, that it could apply to the Middle East, as the president is arguing?

MURTHA: Suzanne, my dad served in World War II. His dad served in World War II. We had defeated the opposition. We were fighting against a state. Here, we are fighting against tribes, we are fighting against -- against -- we're caught in a civil war. Much different situation. We had completely defeated the opposition after World War II, and we helped them rebuild, as we should have. This is entirely different situation. It's not getting better. It's getting worse. And that's the problem.

MALVEAUX: The president is just asking -- he is asking for time, and even his generals. I want you to hear what General Petraeus is also asking for, as well.

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDER, MULTINATIONAL FORCES IN IRAQ: I'm not sure that hard and fast deadlines are useful in the sense of providing the enemies out here, you know, just a time to which they have to hang tough and then know that we would be gone.

MALVEAUX: So, why not give the president a bill here without strings attached, the supplemental war funding, and then revisit the issue, say, six months from now, when the president says perhaps we'll see some progress, that General Petraeus says you will actually have tangible results?

MURTHA: Because we hear that every six months. And there's been no results. There's absolutely no indication to me, in all I've studied and looked at with this war, that there's any -- any results that are positive at all.

He has to say it. General Petraeus has to say that. But the point that I'm making is, that all the measurements that we make, 60 percent unemployment, people dislike us, the Iraqis want us out of there, and the American public wants us out -- the American public is fed up with this war. And the big thing is the individuals who are serving. These are the people who serve that are hurt, that go to Walter Reed, that end up in Bethesda, the ones who are disabled. And I just had a young fellow disabled in my office this morning. These are the kind of people that are individuals. They're not 140,000 troops, they're 140,000 individuals whose families are affected by these deployments and were caught in a civil war. That's the reason, I say, we can't win it militarily.

The secretary of defense said that before a hearing in the committee that I serve on just the other day. We can't win it militarily. Its got to be a diplomatic -- international diplomatic effort. MALVEAUX: Congressman Murtha, thank you so much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Always good to have you.

MURTHA: Nice talking to you, Suzanne.


MALVEAUX: Up ahead tonight, a candidate hunting down votes from gun owners. But are Mitt Romney's claims backfiring on him?

A college flag burning with international implications. Find out the serious charges three Yale students are now facing. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


MALVEAUX: A new dust-up tonight in the 2008 presidential race. It's left Republican Mitt Romney with some explaining to do. At issue, did Romney exaggerate his history as a hunter? CNN international correspondent Bob Franken is here. And Bob, what do we know about Romney's claims about his hunting?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we do know that when a presidential candidate feels he has to cozy up to hunters saying he's one of them, he certainly is. At the very least, he's a hunter for votes.


FRANKEN (voice-over): Mitt Romney this week in New Hampshire.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've been a hunter pretty much all my life. I never really shot anything terribly big.

FRANKEN: And the campaign is really taking umbrage at reports it's only been twice in that life, when he was 15 on an Idaho ranch, said a spokesman, he spent an entire summer handling firearms and shooting at varmints.

"Since then," he went on, "Romney has been shooting on more than a few occasions."

And there was last year, on a game preserve.

ROMNEY: I went quail hunting this last year.


ROMNEY: With Governor Purdue in Georgia.


ROMNEY: And it -- that's a challenge. But it was fun, I've got to tell you. It was a really fun...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had a good... FRANKEN: Why has Romney been doing all this?

Why did he become a member of the National Rifle Association last August, a lifetime member, no less?

He's running for president.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come to the gun show.

I'm running for president.

FRANKEN: But as Massachusetts governor, Romney supported gun control and a ban on assault weapons. And the NRA would not comment for CNN.

And who can forget the photo-op of 2004 -- Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry traipsing around in hunting gear?

Actually, Kerry is firing away now at Romney, saying he had never hunted in a preserve.

And call it coincidence, but Senator John McCain has decided to announce now support from a just formed New Hampshire sportsman's coalition.

CHUCK DOUGLAS (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: And it's not about squirrels. It's about people being able to defend themselves, defend their families and their property.

FRANKEN: By the way, McCain does not hunt, but it's beside the point, according to his campaign, which says he is an avid fisherman.


FRANKEN: But what is clear is that part of a presidential campaign apparently should be a walk in the woods, real or imagined. And we probably should, Suzanne, be grateful for one thing that Vice President Cheney is not a candidate.

MALVEAUX: A little bit of a shot there.

FRANKEN: A little cheap shot.

MALVEAUX: Maybe. But let me ask you this. We hear about things, Iraq, health care and how important is gun control, at least in the primary?

FRANKEN: Well, it's certainly important in the Republican primary, the Republican Party, the GOP is pretty much the party that the NRA and its supporters have gravitated to, so it certainly is an important thing to associate with them.

MALVEAUX: All right. Bob, thanks so much. Appreciate it. Right now, Yale is burning with red-hot rage. Many on campus are asking if some students are committed an act that many consider to be anti-American and if they did, why?

Our Carol Costello in New York. Carol, how are they explaining this? Why has this become a very big deal?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, you know, on it a strange story, Suzanne. That's the thing. Why? Why would they set an American flag on fire? If it was a prank, gosh, it was really kind of a dumb thing to do. The three young, smart, Ivy-Leaguers, well, they did something really stupid.


COSTELLO (voice-over): An American flag burning. It's an image that gets many Americans blood boiling. So when New Haven police pulled and Old Glory in flames from this house in New Haven, Connecticut, it was an attention grabber. The man who owns the place is angry.

MARC SURACI, HOMEOWNER: They endangered the lives in the building and maybe the building next to it.

COSTELLO: The alleged culprits, Yale freshman Farhad Anklesaria from Britain and Nikolaos Angelopoulos from Greece. And 23-year-old senior Hyder Akbar, a U.S. citizen born in Pakistan, with strong ties to Afghanistan. In fact, Akbar worked for U.S. forces as a translator in Afghanistan. His father, who was Afghan, worked with President Hamid Karzai.

The young man even wrote a book called "Come Back to Afghanistan" so Americans could understand what that country was about.

The question now is why he and his friends allegedly burned an American flag hanging from somebody else's front porch. Their former attorney wouldn't comment on that but said, "All three of these gentlemen are clearly happy to be in the United States and happy to be attending Yale."

Now, keep in mind the act of burning a flag is not illegal. But prosecutors say this case goes well beyond that charging all three with nine counts apiece, including reckless endangerment, criminal mischief and arson.

The Yale students spent the night in jail, appearing in court the next morning. Reporters from "The New Haven Register" said they seemed confused.

MARY E. O'LEARY, "NEW HAVEN REGISTER": They came in. They were shackled. They had leg irons and handcuffs and according to the reporter who was there, they looked dazed.

COSTELLO: All three have now been released on bond but have not yet entered a plea. As to whether they will get to go back to school, Yale is not commenting. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO (on camera): Now, the young men have a new attorney who told the Associated Press late this afternoon, Mr. Akbar loves the United States. It was just a foolish college prank, but if that's the case, it was really foolish. Because if convicted, Akbar and his buddies could spend up to 20 years behind bars.


MALVEAUX: Interesting case. Carol Costello, thank you.

And up ahead, dealing with the unfriendly skies of Fallujah. U.S. forces are undergoing some high-tech training to prevent deadly incidents involving helicopters. CNN's Jamie McIntyre has an exclusive report.

And $28 million for four months of work? Jack Cafferty is incensed. Are you? Our e-mails are just ahead. Your e-mails in "The Cafferty File."


MALVEAUX: In Iraq, a U.S. Army helicopter went down south of Baghdad, injuring four troops. The initial assessment is that it was damaged by small-arms fire. That's what a U.S. military official tells CNN. But the official says it's not clear if the gunfire actually brought down the chopper or if the pilot decided to land after realizing it had been targeted.

Today's incident is part of a disturbing pattern. Sixty-one helicopters have gone down in Iraq since May of 2003. About half of them were brought down by hostile fire.

Enemy fire aimed directly at you by terrorists bent on taking you out. That's what many U.S. troops face virtually every day in Iraq. Our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre recently got an all- too-real look at just what they go through.


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Welcome to the unfriendly skies of Falluja.

MAJ. MIKE HANSEN, APACHE INSTRUCTOR PILOT: I would say we're taking some kind of large caliber fire, RPG, or ...

MCINTYRE: I'm sitting next to Major Mike Hansen, an instructor pilot, as we dodge flack in a Black Hawk over Iraq. Except we're actually in a simulator 7,000 miles away. But it sure feels real.

Wow, I think we actually pulled some Gs on that turn.

Hansen is demonstrating a technique called run and dive, it's the opposite of the old Cold War doctrine of holding a position and firing from long range. In Iraq, that could be a fatal mistake. HANSEN: The longer you stay in one general location, the more interest you are going to bring upon yourself.

MCINTYRE: Simulators like this one at the Army's Aviation War Fighting Center at Ft. Rucker Alabama allow pilots in training to fly the same missions they'll fly in combat without the danger.

(on camera): What kind of feedback do you get from the pilots who go through this training and then actually flight real mission?

HANSEN: They see it and they say, gosh, this is just like what we were flying in at Fort Rucker in the center. Obviously, we don't have every single building out here. And a lot of the weather effects may not be the same, depending on what time of year they show up.

MCINTYRE: But that's changing, too. This next generation virtual recreation of Falluja does have every single building and constantly updated from satellite images. Brendan Kelly is working on a program that allows pilots to rehearse their mission on a laptop.

(on camera): All of these buildings are exactly where they are.

CW4 BRENDAN KELLY, U.S. ARMY: Yes, and they are dimensionally and height wise accurate.

MCINTYRE: And the trees, too.

KELLY: Yes, all placed based on the imagery.

MCINTYRE (voice-over): Back in the simulator, we hit a building, encountering the red screen of death.

HANSEN: You fly into something in the virtual environment, you're going to crash as well.

MCINTYRE: Some day, in the not too distant future, the technology may be so good, that pilots will fly unmanned aircraft into the battle by remote control. But the experience may still have a familiar side effect of flight.

(on camera): Actually, was getting a little motion sick there.

(voice-over): Jamie McIntyre, CNN, Fort Rucker, Alabama.


MALVEAUX: And Jack Cafferty now joining us in New York. Jack, what are the viewers talking about?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, we did this piece about the CEO of Ford Motor Company. The company lost almost $13 billion last year. But the CEO, a guy named Mulally, they brought over from Boeing, was paid $28 million for four months of work.

So we asked if that was a good idea. By the way, I don't work for Ford. I don't drive a Ford. I don't own any Ford stock. And this story doesn't matter to me one way or the other, not one iota. But I was interested in your views.

Zach writes, "This example of big business executives receiving unfair salaries, especially $28 million for four months while employees who have been working for Ford for decades are getting laid off shows how America's economy is slowly degrading into oblivion."

Marva writes from Beggs, Oklahoma, "No. Frankly any CEO at the helm of a corporation reporting such massive losses ought to be required to return his salary. CEOs should be paid under the merit system."

Chad in Erie, Michigan. "I work for Ford and it's odd to see one of the big wigs getting beat up for wages instead of us lowly hourly folks. I can say this for Al Mulally. He did a good job at Boeing and what Ford needs now is someone who can turn around a manufacturing business. People who can do that don't work cheap. I personally don't mind if he does make all those millions if Ford stays around and then I keep my job."

Thelma in Castalia, Ohio. "Oh, now I understand. So that's why Ford needs the $22 a month they started cutting out of my husband's pension for health care coverage that was supposed to be a lifetime benefit according to the contract he signed when he retired."

Mike in Boston writes. "I'll never buy a Ford."

Chad in Vancouver. "Jack, if Ford is surviving and still around in 10 years, what the board pays its executives is irrelevant. Stop trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator, those who always bitch about the boss. Remember who provides the work."

Ron writes, "Would you please contact Ford Motor Company for me and tell them I'll do the job for $10 million in year."

And Dave in Florida writes, "Jack, don't sell yourself short, you could easily lose $30 billion blindfolded."

If you didn't see your e-mail, here you go, where we post more of them online and there is video clips there too.


MALVEAUX: Looks like a lot of views there. Thanks, Jack.

And now we go to Paula Zahn. What is coming up on your show in the next hour, Paula, what do you have?

PAULA ZAHN, CNN HOST: Hi, Suzanne, thanks so much.

That would be about nine minutes from now. We're going to start off with the results of a special investigation. We're going to take you to a city that is actually allowing dangerous sex offenders to live under a busy highway overpass to come and go as they please.

Also, an unbelievably disturbing story from Louisiana school tonight. Fifth graders actually having sex in front of their classmates. We're going to hear from an eyewitness coming up at the top of the hour and find out what's going to happen to these kids. And the most important question is, Suzanne, where were the teachers that day?

MALVEAUX: Certainly. Certainly. Thank you so much, Paula.

And ahead, Iran's fashion statement. Political theater complete with costumes. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


MALVEAUX: Our Carol Costello is monitoring stories that are coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. I understand you have an update on one of those stories.

COSTELLO: Yeah, some developing news to tell you about, Suzanne. That FBI agent that died after a shootout with three bank robbers in Readington, New Jersey. Initially agents thought one of the bank robbers shot this FBI agent. It turns out, according to the FBI, that another agent accidentally shot this FBI agent.

Apparently all these robbers were heavily armed. A lot of shots were fired. And the agent just got in the way of gunfire. He was taken to a hospital in Newark, where he later died. Authorities do have some suspects in custody.

Seconds count in an emergency, but if you call 911 from your cell phone, rescuers may not know exactly where you are. So the head of the Federal Communications Commission is calling for changes to help make it easier for first responders that includes tightening accuracy requirements for the technology that helps locate you. Right now it ranges from a few yards to several miles. That's a look at the headlines right now, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Carol, thanks so much.

They were held in captivity for weeks, and two nations were locked in a standoff as the world watched. But you might not think that people would be watching what those 15 captives were wearing. But our own CNN's Tom Foreman, you were, along with a lot of other people. Why?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I don't think you could avoid it. It was simply mesmerizing. They went away in uniforms, then they showed up in this totally different set of outfits. Take a look.


FOREMAN (voice-over): This morning as they left Iran, the captives were again wearing that clothing given to them by the Iranians. Similar to what is normally worn by many government officials there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have a good luck, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much. FOREMAN: Fashion consultants give the suits low marks.

MICHAEL CLEMENTS, "WASHINGTON LIFE MAGAZINE": They looked a bit baggy. And I think probably the tailor, just like the negotiators, are working under a tight deadline, so they didn't have much time to work.

FOREMAN: But the clothing and the elaborate send-off may have suited the Iranians just fine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... it's common.

FOREMAN: Reporter: making it look like the Brits were not so much prisoners as honored guests and demonstrating that troops from a powerful nation could be forced to abandon their uniforms.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that, just as the British government and the Iranian government came together in diplomacy to get these, you know, men and women back home, it seems as if they made a diplomatic compromise on the fashion as well.

FOREMAN: The Iranian media say the prisoners were given vases, handicrafts and pistachios laid out in gift bags that matched their suits. In the end, foreign affairs analysts say, all this let Iranian leaders have their cake and eat it, too. Showing their military resolve to the western world by capturing the Brits, then displaying their diplomatic savvy by setting them free. A grand piece of political theater, complete with costumes.


FOREMAN (on camera): You want an extraordinary contrast to consider here? Back during the Vietnam War, Jeremiah Denton who is a retired senator -- he's a retired naval admiral, he was taken hostage by the Vietnamese. He was held for seven years. Tortured the whole time, and when he was put on TV, he not only did not cooperate, but while he spoke, he blinked in Morse code the message, "torture."

I spoke to the -- to the admiral today. He had some astonishing things to say. He said these young people should not be judged too quickly. That there should be a fair hearing into what they did as captives but there are still serious questions about that as well.

Not just what the Iranians did, but what these British folks did. Did they comport themselves as well as they might while in captivity? Serious questions from military people who are saying, the Iranians, we know the deal with them. What about this?

MALVEAUX: So the suggestion is perhaps they were too cooperative in their behavior when they were held captive?

FOREMAN: Nobody wants to say that but they are saying there was an awful lot of smiling, an awful lot of backslapping, you're being measured for suits. Maybe that shouldn't have happened.

MALVEAUX: Thank you so much. Tom Foreman. Thanks for joining us. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. Up next, PAULA ZAHN NOW.


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