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THE SITUATION ROOM

Lower Standard for Success in Iraq. U.S. and Iran Controversy Steals the Spotlight from Iraq at Egyptian Conference. Afghans Upset About Civilian Deaths. Interview with John Edwards. Interview with George Tenet.

Aired May 2, 2007 - 1900   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Lou.
Happening now, startling comments suggesting the president is setting a lower standard for success in Iraq. Could that clear the way for a compromise with Congress?

He's accused of having blood on his hands, now George Tenet firing back on how America was led into the war in Iraq. My one-on- one interview with the former CIA director, that's coming up.

And an assassination attempt and nuclear standoff and standoffs with his own children, his presidential diary gives us a stunning new look at the mind of Ronald Reagan.

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

Tonight President Bush appears to be lowering the bar for victory in Iraq. He's offering a new take on the definition of success a day after vetoing the Democrats' timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops. Listen to what Mr. Bush said and how press secretary Tony Snow struggled to explain it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Slowly but surely the truth will be known. Either we'll succeed or we won't succeed. And the definition of success, as I described, is you know sectarian violence now. Success is not no violence. There are parts of our own country that you know have got, you know, a certain level of violence to it. But success is a level of violence where the people feel comfortable about living their daily lives.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Acceptable level of violence, I mean how can that possibly be defined?

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That is a very good question and I don't have an answer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's bring in our White House correspondent Ed Henry. Ed, was this a mistake by the president or is it part of a new strategy? ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think it seems pretty clear the White House is trying to ratchet down expectations. That is what this was about. The president, first of all on the whole success question, will see whether we succeed or not, that's in stark contrast of what the president was saying just a few months ago, clearly changing -- trying to change expectations there.

And secondly, when you look at what he is saying about an acceptable level of violence in Iraq, that sounds pretty similar to what John Kerry, Democrats are already pointing out, similar to what Kerry said in the 2004 presidential campaign about a so-called acceptable level of terrorism when John Kerry compared it to prostitution or organized crime and that you can never completely eradicate it, but you just try to manage it. Well it sounds pretty similar to what the president was saying. You can bet Democrats will be all over that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Stand by for a moment, Ed. The president also sat down with congressional leaders today to discuss the possible compromise war spending bill after the House failed today to override the president's veto. Let's listen to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just after that White House meeting ended.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: We made our position clear. He made his position clear. Now it is time for us to try to work together to come together. But make no mistake, Democrats are committed to ending this war and we hope to do so in unison with the president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, she is sounding conciliatory, the other side sounding conciliatory as well. What are the prospects for compromise, though, Ed?

HENRY: Seems like both sides are trying to sort of ratchet down the rhetoric from yesterday when they were really digging in and trading barbs and what not. They don't want it to backfire with the American people while the money is not getting to the troops. But the bottom line is a compromise is not really in sight yet.

The president is dispatching his chief of staff, Josh Bolten, to Capitol Hill tomorrow, start negotiations on a second war funding bill. The president while he's sending that signal about compromise is really not ready to compromise. He is not giving an inch on the key thing here, a timeline to withdraw U.S. troops, so while both sides sending signals to maybe reach out to the other, still no compromise in sight -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry at the White House -- thank you.

Is the United States about to hold high-level talks with a bitter foe? The secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, is in Egypt where world diplomats are looking for ways to try to reduce the violence in Iraq, but all eyes are on a possible, repeat possible, U.S. meeting with Iran, especially since Tehran today said an honest dialogue would be welcomed.

Our State Department correspondent Zain Verjee is in Sharm el- Sheikh -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Sharm el-Sheikh conference is about fixing Iraq, but it could be overshadowed by other agendas.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE (voice-over): Iraq is supposed to be the star of this party, but the diplomatic dance between Iran and the U.S. may steal the spotlight. A coy Condoleezza Rice is cracking open a door that could lead to the highest-level talks in 30 years. She told reporters on her plane if she runs into Iran's foreign minister, she is planning to be polite and see what the encounter brings.

The U.S. accuses Iran of helping Iraqi fighters with training and deadly explosive devices that kill U.S. troops. Once prepared to only talk about Iraq, Rice now says if the conversation wanders into Iran's nuclear program, she'll go with the flow. It's unclear whether Iran even wants to sit down with the U.S. without getting something in return.

JON ALTERMAN, CTR. FOR STRATEGIC & INTL STUDIES: Iran feels they have a very strong position. Iran is not looking to pick a fight, but Iran also doesn't feel the need to be helpful.

VERJEE: Another sideshow, Syria. The U.S. says it's turning a blind eye to insurgents crossing its borders into Iraq and is undermining Lebanon's fragile government. All eyes are on Rice to see whether she reverses U.S. policy and talks to the Syrians.

And Iraq's Sunni Arab neighbors are coming with their own concerns, frustrated that Iraq's prime minister continues to shun Iraq's Sunnis. They are fearful of Iran's position as a powerful Shia force in the region and its potential nuclear threat.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE: Secretary Rice is playing down expectations at the summit saying progress on Iraq will take time, but with competing agendas among Iraq's neighbors, it's hard to see how Iraq's future can remain the focus -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain Verjee on the scene for us in Sharm el-Sheikh. We'll check back with her tomorrow.

The United States keeps a watch list of countries where the right to worship is in serious jeopardy. It includes, among other countries, Afghanistan, Cuba, Egypt and Indonesia. But now for the first time the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is adding Iraq to that list citing what it calls violations of the rights of Sunni and Shiite Muslims. The commission blames terror groups and sectarian violence, but also the Iraqi government.

U.S.-led forces are angering a key ally in the war on terror. Dozens of Afghan civilian have died in recent days during raids against the Taliban. Afghanistan's leader now warning patience in his country is wearing thin.

Let's turn our Brian Todd. Brian, what is this all about?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is about a real upsurge in fighting in recent weeks between Taliban forces and U.S.- led force in Afghanistan. Several reports of noncombatants caught in the crossfire and a resentment among Afghans that has now reached critical mass.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): One of America's most crucial allies in the war on terror fed up with how U.S. and NATO-led forces are fighting the Taliban in his country.

HAMID KARZAI, PRESIDENT, AFGHANISTAN: We can no longer accept civilian casualties the way they occur. It's becoming to be heavy for us.

TODD: How heavy? A U.N. official in Afghanistan tells CNN they have credible reports that 49 civilians were killed in a brutal fight last weekend near the western city of Herat. One injured man gives his account of who the casualties were.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There were no Taliban. Ten of my relatives have been killed.

TODD: A U.S. officer said there were many Taliban killed in that battle. Contacted by CNN, an office with NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan also speaking for U.S. forces says, we have no specific confirmation of any civilian casualties. It, of course, remains a possibility. And we appreciate President Karzai's words and we're making inquiries into the incidents.

There have been many incidents. One U.S. officer in Afghanistan tells us Taliban extremists, quote, "Have been fighting more than fleeing in recent weeks", as U.S. and NATO forces stepped up operations. Battles that have clearly raised concern at the highest levels over how aggressively this war should be fought and how to approach those caught in the crossfire. That U.S. officer says it often takes time after a battle to determine who the civilians are among the dead and wounded. And this from Michael Scheuer, who once headed the CIA unit assigned to go after Osama bin Laden.

MICHAEL SCHEUER, FORMER CIA OFFICER: You never kill civilians for the sake of killing civilians, but you never refrain from killing civilians if it's essential to defeat the enemy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Scheuer says if anything U.S. and NATO forces have not been aggressive enough. He says the Taliban won't be defeated in Afghanistan unless more force is applied and inevitably he says there will be more civilian casualties -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Do we know, Brian, how many civilians have been caught in the crossfire recently?

TODD: Well the ways that they are getting caught in the crossfire are many. One journalist there tells me in several of these battles, NATO-led forces have been quick to call in air support and some casualties have occurred because of that. But experts say the Taliban often fights from positions right in the middle of villages and some of those civilians killed are relatives of Taliban fighters.

BLITZER: Brian, thank you for that -- a very worrisome development in Afghanistan.

Jack Cafferty is joining us from New York -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, one of the few Republican success stories in last year's mid-term elections and now he's got a few words of advice for his party's presidential nominees. Schwarzenegger told Politico.com he hopes the candidates send the message that if elected, they will govern from the center. GOP candidates often move to the right to court voters, especially in the primaries, but that's not how Schwarzenegger, who will attend the Republican debate tomorrow, thinks it ought to be done.

He says, quote, "What is important is to be in the center and accomplish everything by reaching across the aisle to work with Republicans and Democrats in order to bring people together. I want to see that because that's very important, especially now, the way Washington is getting nothing done." Nice observation, Arnold, you are absolutely right.

It sounds like he might be taking a page from his own playbook. Schwarzenegger was reelected as a Republican in one of the bluest states in the nation. His centrist approach to healthcare has gotten a lot of attention. Some people think it ought to be a model for a national Republican healthcare plan, so here's the question.

What can Republican presidential candidates learn from California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger -- besides how to bench press 200 pounds. E-mail CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile -- Wolf.

BLITZER: They can learn a lot from him. But our viewers I'm sure have some good ideas, as well, Jack. Thank you.

Coming up, could the CIA director have prevented the war in Iraq?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You met with the president almost every single morning. You briefed him on overnight developments. If you didn't think it was worthwhile going to war against Saddam Hussein, you clearly could have made that...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wolf, the job of the director of Central Intelligence is to provide data, not to make policy...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: ... policy...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no...

BLITZER: ... but you could tell the president you know there's no evident threat from Saddam Hussein. He's contained.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: George Tenet is sounding off on his critics in a one- on-one interview. You're going to want to see this. That's coming up.

Also, the presidential candidate John Edwards, find out why he says President Bush must be stopped right now and why he is accusing Rudy Giuliani of fear mongering.

Also, Ronald Reagan's diaries -- the former president uncensored, hear what he has to say about getting shot, his complaints about his kids and a lot more. You're going to want to hear this.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: First the rejection and now the response. Now that president Bush has fulfilled his threat to veto the war spending bill, how are some Democratic presidential candidates responding? One says Democrats should hold their ground against President Bush.

John Edwards is joining us now from Portland, Oregon. Senator, thanks for coming in.

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: You know what some of your Democratic senatorial rivals are saying. It's easy for John Edwards to say that, he's out of the Senate right now. He doesn't have to live directly with the consequences of not providing funds for the troops.

EDWARDS: Anybody who is running for president of the United States, which is a very serious matter as you know, Wolf, has to take responsibility for whatever position they take and for me this is not -- shouldn't be about politics. It's about life and death. It's about war. And I think the American people sent a clear mandate in this last election that they want a different course on Iraq. And the Congress needs to stand its ground.

BLITZER: But they don't have the votes to override that presidential veto. You need two-thirds majorities in both Houses. They simply don't have those votes.

EDWARDS: Well then what they should do is send the president another bill that funds the troops and has a timetable for withdrawal. And if he vetoes that, they should send him another bill that has funding for the troops and a timetable for withdrawal. It's very important that they stand their ground on this. This is not a time for political calculations. It's a time to show some courage.

BLITZER: Here is what the president said is at stake right now in the war in Iraq. Listen to what he said yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. BUSH: Al Qaeda has made Iraq the central front in their global campaign. And that's why success in Iraq is critical to the security of free people everywhere.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Do you disagree with him?

EDWARDS: Absolutely. This president uses that threat to justify every single thing he's done. He uses it to justify what's happening in Iraq. He uses it to justify Guantanamo. He uses it to justify torture. He uses it to justify the illegal spying on Americans. We got -- how much longer are we going to back down from his political rhetoric and let him have his way? He has to be stopped, Wolf.

And by the way, the American people are behind what the Democrats in the Congress are doing. They expect their leaders to stand their ground. And that's what we ought to be doing. We should not in any way walk away from our position on this.

BLITZER: One of the Republican presidential front-runners, Rudy Giuliani, says that if a Democrat is elected president, the United States is going to suffer in a major, major way. Listen to what Giuliani says.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If one of them gets elected, it sounds to me like we're going on defense where we've got a timetable for withdrawal of Iraq. We are going to wave the white flag there. We're going to try to cut back on the Patriot Act. We're going to cut back on electronic surveillance. We're going to cut back on interrogation. We're going to cut back, cut back, cut back and we'll be back in our pre-September 11 mentality of being on defense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, strong words from Giuliani. What do you say to him?

EDWARDS: Fear mongering. It's the same old fear mongering that they've been engaged in for years. What I would ask Americans is do you feel safer than you did you when George Bush was elected in 2000? Do you feel safer today? Are you happy with what's happened in Iraq?

Because what Giuliani, McCain, Romney, all of them, the best I can tell, are saying is they are going to continue on this same course. I mean the question for the American people, and I think the answer is going to be obvious, the question for the American people is, do they believe we can be smarter and still be aggressive about protecting this country? And I think they're going to answer that question in a resounding way come November of 2008.

BLITZER: John Edwards, the Democratic presidential candidate, thanks for joining us.

EDWARDS: Thank you, Wolf, for having me.

BLITZER: And still ahead tonight here in THE SITUATION ROOM, was the folk singer Joan Baez banned by the U.S. Army -- a new antiwar controversy with echoes from Vietnam.

And sex scandal and the priest hood, the former New Jersey governor, Jim McGreevey going to seminary. We'll tell you what's going on.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Our Carol Costello is monitoring stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Carol, what's going on?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Let's start with NASA, Wolf.

Some bad news for NASA -- a train carrying motors and nose cones for the space shuttle solid rocket boosters derailed in Alabama today. The wreck was caused when a 60-year-old trestle bridge collapsed. Six people were hurt, but NASA says the accident will not delay next month's scheduled flight of the shuttle Atlantis.

The Bush administration is being slapped with a new subpoena. It seeks all of Karl Rove's e-mails related to the firing of those eight federal prosecutors. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy issued the subpoena today to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Leahy doesn't accept the White House claim that some e- mails sent by deputy White House chief of staff Rove are simply missing.

Some daring thieves made a clean getaway after a $1 million armored truck heist in Florida this morning. The truck was delivering money to a check-cashing store in Hialeah Gardens when two robbers walked up. A couple of shots were fired and a short time later, the robbers drove away in their own car with more than $1 million.

And the Food and Drug Administration wants three dozen anti- depressants to start carrying a warning about young adults and suicides. The labels already warn the drugs could cause suicidal thoughts in children and adolescents. The FDA wants to extend the warning to cover people who are between 18 and 24 years old.

Those are a look at the headlines right now, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Carol, for that.

We are getting some incredible new pictures into THE SITUATION ROOM of a tornado today at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Let's bring in our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton. Abbi, show our viewers what we are seeing.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, it was about 12:45 p.m. local time this afternoon when public information officer Larry Furr (ph) received a call to take a look out of his window. He did and this is what he and other employees at White Sands Missile Range saw, these incredible pictures sent into CNN.

Larry, he described it as a weak tornado. He said it looked like it was moving towards them, but the radar indicated it was moving away and he says it's on the ground for about 45 minutes, during which time employees at the missile range took these photos. Larry says people there say this is one of the most well defined tunnels that they've seen out there. He did add though this happens all the time, that they call them dust devils. There are no reports of injuries -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Abbi, for that. Those are incredible pictures.

Just ahead, war, blood and blame.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They also have said I have blood on my hands.

BLITZER: Yes, they do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And let me say something. That's the most repugnant thing I've ever heard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: George Tenet fires back at those who say he bears some blame for Iraq's death and discord. The former CIA director also (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on the White House.

He'll be here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And Don Imus' contract -- was he fired for doing exactly what he was hired for? Our Anderson Cooper with an exclusive look at his contract. Find out why the former radio talk show host is now fighting back.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, a high-profile meeting fails to produce a meeting of the minds. One day after President Bush vetoes that war- spending bill, he met with congressional leaders over at the White House, but they could not find compromise. The meeting broke up after about 30 minutes.

Israel's foreign minister says the prime minister should resign. A commission of inquiry says severe failures in Israel's conduct of last summer's war with Hezbollah and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Tzipi Livni says Ehud Olmert should step down for his role. Olmert is giving no sign he will do that, at least not yet.

Today a judge in Mississippi refused to dismiss a case that's been brewing for more than 40 years. It involves a man said to have once been a member of the Ku Klux Klan and accused in the kidnapping and killings of two African American teenagers.

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

A furious battle is raging over just how America was led into the war in Iraq. George Tenet who headed the CIA at the time says he's been turned into a scapegoat. He is the author of a new book, it's called "At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA." I spoke today with Tenet. He conceded that in the lead-up to the war he was flatly wrong on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, and not precise enough in assessing Saddam's contacts with al Qaeda and his nuclear weapons program, neither of which panned out.

Here is an excerpt from this very damning critique from retired CIA officers. They wrote a letter to you after your book came out. Among other things they say this, "by your silence you helped build the case for war. You betrayed the CIA officers who collected the intelligence that made it clear that Saddam did not pose an imminent threat." And then they go on to say, "instead of resigning in protest when it could have made a difference in the public debate, you remained silent."

What do you want to say to these angry CIA officers who think you should have resigned?

GEORGE TENET, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Well first of all, Wolf, there are other officers who have a sharply different view. Maybe you'll talk to them...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: We have another letter from them who support you.

TENET: Let me say this. They also have said I have blood on my hands.

BLITZER: Yes, they do.

TENET: And let me say something. That's the most repugnant thing I've ever heard. We woke up and I woke up every day to protect men and women in uniform. They said on this show and said that we had reporting from a source that said he didn't have WMD. They mischaracterized that reporting. That reporting said he doesn't have a nuclear weapon, but he's developing one covertly and aggressively. He is stockpiling chemical weapons. The weapon of last resort is mobile missiles

They mischaracterized that reporting. That reporting said he doesn't have a nuclear weapon, but he's developing one covertly and aggressively. He's stockpiling chemical weapons. The weapon of last resort is mobile missiles with chemicals and he's dabbling in -- in biological weapons.

So, the implication is, is that we fed phony information to the president. We didn't.

The implication is, is that when the post-war situation emerged, that we didn't speak truth to power and tell the president exactly what was happening on with an insurgency, why de-Baathification, disbanding the Army and other issues, were not being pursued in a way we believed, and how an insurgency was going to develop.

The notion -- the notion that we didn't speak truth to power, didn't tell people what we believed in the confines of government...

BLITZER: He...

TENET: Look, I was the director of Central Intelligence. My job is to do the best I can to give people the best data possible. Policymakers make their decisions.

I know that we acquitted our responsibilities consistent with our values.

BLITZER: You met with the president almost every single morning. You briefed him on overnight developments, told him what the threats were. You had an opportunity to speak directly to the president and if you didn't think it was worthwhile going to war against Saddam Hussein, you clearly could have made that case.

TENET: Wolf, the job of the director of Central Intelligence is to provide data, not to make policy. The minute...

BLITZER: You didn't have to make policy...

TENET: No, no, no...

BLITZER: ... but you could tell the president...

TENET: No. The minute...

BLITZER: ... you know...

TENET: The minute...

BLITZER: ... there's no imminent threat from Saddam Hussein. He's contained... TENET: It was never a...

BLITZER: ... in his box...

TENET: It was never a question...

BLITZER: ... the no fly zones are working. There is no need to go to war.

You could have said that to the president.

TENET: Wolf, our job is to tell them what we believe and what the intelligence shows. Once you cross the line, your objectivity them becomes questioned. Your analysis then becomes questioned. It's a line that I adhere to.

Now...

BLITZER: Should you have said -- spoken to the president more bluntly, though?

If you felt as strongly as you did that there were no imminent threat, should you have said, Mr. President...

TENET: It was never...

BLITZER: ... I've got to tell you...

TENET: ... ever been...

BLITZER: ... I see all of this intelligence...

TENET: Wolf...

BLITZER: ... there -- some of it is good, some of it is questionable.

TENET: Wolf, there was not a question of imminence. It was always the question of surprise. Policymakers made a determination on the fact that they didn't want to be surprised. Everybody understood the nature of this threat. That's the determination they made.

Illogical?

Not illogical. Their job to make that choice. My job to provide the data.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: You're being, as you know, criticized from the left, from the right, from the center.

Maureen Dowd writes in the "New York Times": "If you have something deadly important to say, say it when it matters or just shut up and slink off."

William F. Buckley, Jr. writes in the "The National Review" online: "How did such a man, so vain, so emotional, so unreasoning, become head of the CIA?"

Do you want to respond to these critics?

GEORGE TENET, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Well, Wolf, you know, history will make an ultimate judgment about me and the work we did. And the American people may appreciate the fact that we took down the Taliban in Afghanistan. We were responsible for disarming Libya. We dismantled the A.Q. Khan proliferation network. We built a coalition of the willing around the world to fight terrorism.

No other Americans have died on our soil because of a lot of work that the CIA and the FBI has done.

The record, of course, and the report card, is mixed. History will judge. I'm proud of what we did and proud of our people.

BLITZER: There's no doubt that you did some very, very positive things and the examples you cite are very significant.

The question is on the war in Iraq, which continues and what many see as a huge blunder, looking back on the role that you played, are you sorry?

Do you have any regrets? Do you want to apologize to the American public?

TENET: Wolf, we regret the fact that we were wrong on WMD. I do not regret the fact that our intelligence worked hand in hand with the American military on the ground to save lives. I do not regret the fact that in the post-war period, we spoke truth to power, called it as we saw it. We were very, very direct about the inadequacies of the post-war planning. And I think we performed the way we were supposed to.

BLITZER: Do you want to apologize?

TENET: No, sir. I -- we all regret that we were wrong. There's no -- there's no CIA director and our people never would put people in harm's way for a bad reason. We did our best. We were wrong.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: I have to ask you a question on allegations the CIA -- your agency -- engaged in torture. You've said there was no torture. You won't describe what the "enhanced interrogation techniques" used against al Qaeda suspects involved.

But Khalid al-Masri, a German citizen, born in Lebanon, he wrote a piece in the "L.A. Times" saying this: "I was handed over to the American Central Intelligence Agency and was stripped, severely beaten, shackled, dressed in a diaper, injected with drugs, chained to the floor of a plane and flown to Afghanistan."

TENET: I...

BLITZER: Is that true?

TENET: I don't believe what he says is true, but let me say this. Let me say this about this about this whole torture question.

In the aftermath of 9/11, we lived with a palpable fear of how much we did not know about what was going on in our country.

Senator McCain started a great debate here.

Here's what I would ask people.

I know that the program we engaged in saved lives -- thousands of lives. I know it helped us against al Qaeda.

The policymakers, the president, the Congress determine where you want to be in the moral continuum. We are a country of laws and a country of values. Tell us where you want to be. Make it very, very clear to us. Have consensus on it. Don't let the pendulum swing back and forth. Give your intelligence community clear instructions and we'll follow them.

BLITZER: In a war, if American POWs were exposed to the same "enhanced interrogation techniques" that these suspects were exposed to, would that be appropriate?

TENET: Well, you never -- look, Wolf -- look, Wolf, I would never -- I don't know whether they would be exposed to and I don't want to talk about techniques.

Here's the only thing I'd say to you, again.

Make a determination of where you want us to be. Tell us what the right thing to do is. We'll do it.

I know that in that time period after 9/11, we understood the risks. We understood we were on new territory. The president authorized. The attorney general said it was legal. We briefed the chairman and ranking member of our oversight committees.

Nobody was hiding anything. We were in a -- we were in a tough environment. If you don't want to do it, that's fine with us.

BLITZER: One -- one example -- could you give us one example, because you say it saved thousands of lives...

TENET: Yes.

BLITZER: ... these techniques.

TENET: Yes.

BLITZER: Can you give us an example? TENET: Well, we found out about additional airline plots against the East and West Coasts of the United States. We...

BLITZER: Thanks to these techniques?

TENET: Thanks to these techniques.

We found out about that surveillance of financial institutions in New York thanks to these techniques.

We found out about plots in Karachi thanks to these techniques.

We identified people we never knew about who were planning further terrorist attacks against the United States thanks to these techniques.

BLITZER: So if you had to do the techniques over again, you'd do them?

TENET: Well, it's not that you would do them. If you're authorized and it's legal and it's briefed and we play in the -- and we play in a system of laws and governance. It's not just us. You know, in the time period that I lived in and the threats that we faced and the issues we were dealing with and you're -- Wolf, where are you going to be if you're holding someone who you know is coming to kill you and your family tomorrow afternoon and you didn't do what you thought you needed to do to get the data?

What would you be saying to me today?

You would be saying to me you didn't do your job and you didn't save lives.

Well, that's extreme, isn't it?

Well, that's what we were living with at the time.

BLITZER: The book is entitled "At The Center of the Storm: My Years At The CIA,"

George Tenet with Bill Harlow.

Thanks very much for coming in, Director.

TENET: Thanks very much, Wolf.

A pleasure.

BLITZER: And Tenet also says in his gut, he still believes al Qaeda is still here in the United States right now, plotting an even more sensational attack than occurred on 9/11.

Up ahead tonight, the just revealed Ronald Reagan diaries -- they offer new insights that might surprise the 40th president's critics.

And a new calling for a former governor who revealed he's a gay American.

What would that calling be?

The priesthood.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Today, we're getting our best look yet inside the mind of the former president, Ronald Reagan.

"Vanity Fair" magazine just out with exclusive excerpts from a new book based on the president's handwritten diaries.

Our special correspondent, Frank Sesno, who covered the Reagan presidency for CNN, has this report.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I, Ronald Reagan, do solemnly swear...

FRANK SESNO, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The actor turned president started keeping a diary the day of his inauguration in 1981 and almost never skipped a day. The entries ranging from the profound to the mundane. There is humor and emotion throughout.

He writes of driving through throngs in New York: "I wore my arm out waving back to them. I pray constantly I won't let them down."

An assassination attempt nearly killed him. The president remembers: "I walked into the emergency room and was hoisted onto a cart, where I was stripped of my clothes. It was then we learned I had been shot and had a bullet in my lung. Getting shot hurts."

The diaries are filled with reflects to politics and politicians, terrorism and tax cuts. Of the dramatic 1986 summit with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev when both countries nuclear arsenals were on the table, Reagan writes about this refusal to kill Star Wars, his dream of a shield against incoming missiles: "I pledged I wouldn't give away SDI and I didn't. But that meant no deal. I was mad. He tried to act jovial, but I acted mad and it showed."

There is much, much more. The diaries reveal rifts with his children. One time his son Ron hung up on him: "End of a not perfect day." After his daughter Patty screamed about the Secret Service protection invading her privacy, he wrote: "Insanity is heredity and you catch it from your kids."

But something else is constant -- his devotion to Nancy shines through again and again. This entry from 1981: "Our wedding anniversary -- 29 years of more happiness than any man could rightly deserve."

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: Frank Sesno reporting for us.

Until now, the five volumes of Ronald Reagan's diaries have only been available to scholars. The 784-page book, coming out this month, is only the abridged version. The Reagan Library says an unabridged version of Reagan's diaries should be available in about a year.

There's a growing controversy tonight involving the folk singer Joan Baez and the U.S. Army. She wasn't able to perform at a conference for wounded troops.

The question is why?

Our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, has details -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, singer Joan Baez seems to think that she is persona non grata at Walter Reed. But the Army insists it's nothing personal.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM HONET AND THE PENTAGON CHANNEL)

JOHN MELLENCAMP (SINGING): This is our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCINTYRE (voice-over): John Mellencamp won praise for how, at his Friday night concert for wounded troops at Walter Reed, he stuck to singing and muzzled his criticism of the Iraq War.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOAN BAEZ (SINGING): I never died, said he.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCINTYRE: But his friend, anti-war activist Joan Baez, has put politics back on center stage with a letter to the "Washington Post" alleging she was banned from appearing at the event at the last minute.

Baez writes that while she stands as firmly against the Iraq War as she did the Vietnam War, she regrets having ignored the needs of returning veterans and realizes now she might have contributed to a better welcome home. And she calls it a "strange irony" that four days before the concert, she was not approved by the Army to take part. Army officials insist there's nothing strange about it. They simply didn't know that Joan Baez was invited to appear until after a contract with H.D. Network, which was broadcasting the concert, had already been finalized.

A spokesman for Walter Reed told CNN: "The notion Ms. Baez was banned is certainly not the case. She is welcome here. I don't know of anybody who is banned."

A spokesman for Mellencamp confirmed to CNN that Joan Baez's name was not submitted until the Monday before the Friday concert, but said that's when they had planned to deal with specifics.

The Army insisted that was simply too late to change the complicated arrangements.

Joan Baez sings a duet with Mellencamp on his current album, "Freedom's Road." At the concert, he simply dedicated that song to his friend Joan, without any fanfare.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

MCINTYRE: A spokesman for John Mellencamp tells CNN he doesn't think there's any political litmus test for performing at Walter Reed. After all, he notes, Mellencamp is against the war and they let him in -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon.

The Los Angeles Police Commission now investigating the melee at yesterday's immigration rally in Los Angeles. Police fired rubber bullets at demonstrators, struck some with batons. Officers say they were targeted with rocks and bottles.

The police chief says some of the officers' tactics were, in his words, inappropriate.

Lou Dobbs is following that story.

He's getting ready for his own prime time "Broken Borders" special that begins right at the top of the hour.

He's joining us with a preview -- hi, Lou.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf.

And thank you.

At the top of the hour, our special report on a community in conflict -- a community trying to come to terms with the impact of illegal immigration.

We're at Penn State Hazelton campus in Hazelton, Pennsylvania.

Tonight, we'll be examining our national crisis in illegal immigration and border security. We'll also take a look at this community's efforts to stop the huge disruption caused by illegal immigration and to come to terms with how to deal with the issue.

We'll be talking with the mayor of Hazelton, Lou Barletta; some of the country's leading advocates on both sides of this highly charged argument; and we'll be talking with members of our audience representing every possible viewpoint that we could find in this terrific community. Please join us for all of that and much more, coming up at the top of the hour. I guarantee you it will be an illuminating hour.

Wolf -- back to you.

BLITZER: We'll be watching, Lou.

Thank you very much.

And still ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, a new calling for the former governor who shocked the nation when he announced he's gay. Find out what New Jersey's Jim McGreevey is doing next. You might find it hard to believe.

Plus, we have an exclusive look at Don Imus' contract.

Does he have grounds to sue over his firing?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: He stunned the country when he came out as the nation's first openly gay governor. Now, New Jersey's Jim McGreevey says he has a new calling and some may find that one surprising.

Let's go back to CNN's Carol Costello.

She's joining us in New York.

What's McGreevey planning to do now -- Carol?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it appears he's thinking about becoming an Episcopal priest. We don't know if he will, but he's taken the logical first step.

As you know, the U.S. denomination supports gay clergy, which has divided the worldwide Anglican community.

McGreevey will no doubt add to that controversy.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

COSTELLO (voice-over): The mere suggestion Jim McGreevey could become a man of god is mind-boggling to many in New Jersey. After all, scandal has been his middle name.

But it's true. New York's General Theological Seminary told us: "We are pleased to confirm that he, Jim McGreevey, has been accepted to the Seminary's three year master of divinity program."

After graduating, McGreevey will decide if he wants to continue the process and become an Episcopal priest.

It's an interesting next step for a man who has publicly announced his failings. In 2004, when he was governor of New Jersey, McGreevey, with his wife beside him, told his constituents he'd lied to them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AUGUST 12, 2004)

JIM MCGREEVEY, FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW JERSEY: My truth is that I am a gay American.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Not only that, but he'd been having an affair with a staffer.

McGreevey created more controversy with his book, "The Confession," detailing his long struggle with his sexuality, sometimes graphically.

One memorable passage: "I settled for the detached anonymity of bookstores and rest stops, a compromise, but one that was wholly unfulfilling and morally unsatisfactory."

This year, McGreevey is in the middle of a sometimes bitter divorce. His wife appeared on "Oprah" this week, telling millions she was still angry at the damage he had caused.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM THE "OPRAH WINFREY SHOW," COURTESY HARPO PRODUCTIONS)

DINA MCGREEVEY: He had married -- married me for political gain. He lied and cheated on me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: All of this will matter in whether the Episcopal Church will allow McGreevey to become a priest. Speaking about the qualities the Church looks for, the bishop of New York told me: "Of course moral background matters. We don't expect people to be sinless, but to live a quality of life with a deeper knowledge of god."

(END VIDEO TAPE)

COSTELLO: Now, the bishop also told me generally speaking, it takes years to become a priest. The process not only involves the seminary, but long time teachings within the church. The final decision on who gets to be an Episcopal priest in the Northeast region, though, rests with him -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Carol Costello reporting.

Thank you.

He's off the air, but with tens of billions of dollars at stake, Don Imus is not going without a fight.

Our own Anderson Cooper is joining us now from New York.

There's a possible lawsuit, I take it -- Anderson, you've had a chance to look at some of the details.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, "Fortune" magazine has been reporting the possibility that Don Imus may sue CBS for breach of contract, saying that he was fired in -- inappropriately and without cause.

He has some $40 million left on his contract, so there is certainly a lot of money at stake. "Fortune" reporting that he has hired out of the country's pre-eminent First Amendment attorneys.

But CNN has obtained our first look and, really, anyone's first look, at the contract itself -- Don Imus' contract with CBS Radio. I have it right here. Our CNN senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, got hold of this contract. He is poring over it right now. He says it is unlike anything he's ever seen and would be a big bolster to Don Imus' case.

In particular, the contract -- the section I have right here says that CBS Radio desire Imus to be controversial, irreverent and they acknowledge the personal character of the shock jock Imus Show, certainly bolstering Imus' case that CBS knew full well what the content of his program was.

We'll be having this at the top of the hour on "360."

BLITZER: All right, Anderson.

Actually, at 10:00 p.m. -- or 11:00 p.m. Eastern tonight.

Coming up, a lot more on this story.

Anderson Cooper reporting for us.

Up ahead, the California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, as political teacher.

What can GOP presidential candidates learn from him?

Jack Cafferty is standing by with your e-mail.

And a special hour with Lou Dobbs. That's coming up at the top of the hour from Hazelton, Pennsylvania. Find out how one community is dealing with the impact of illegal immigration. That's only minutes away -- Lou and his prime time special, coming up at the top of the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're only about two-and-a-half minutes away from Lou Dobbs's "Broken Borders" special. That's coming up at the top of the hour. You're going to want to see that.

In the meantime, let's go to Jack Cafferty in New York -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question this hour, Wolf, is what can the Republican presidential candidates learn from California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger?

Jeff in Bluff City, Tennessee: "Simple, Jack -- do what the voters want done. They're the real deciders. Elected officials only understand polls at election time and they have no problem making policy based on the polls at that time. I think this governor responds to what the voters want while serving, not just during election time. Other officials could learn a lot from that."

Mary Ellen in Marysville, Ohio: "Please, if it weren't for the nurses of California beating his butt into the ground, you wouldn't have seen this change. Face facts -- he was forced into submission. His "girly men" tough guy talk didn't work with them. You're giving him far too much credit. Credit goes to the people of California for toning him down."

Dennis in lasv, Nevada: "Governing doesn't need to be a zero sum game. It's about coalescing ideas from disparate interests into public policies that meet the needs of a wide range of constituents. Arnold has shown all his peers that it can and does work. Too many politicians on both sides think in order for their side to win, the other side needs to lose. And when that happens, we all lose."

Charley in California: "If saying that he's a Republican and then rolling over for a socialist legislature makes Arnold in the center, then, yes, he sure is in the center.

Greg in Vista, California: "Other than being a bit more bipartisan, not much. I didn't vote for Governor Schwarzenegger in the last general election. He is an open borders, free trade advocate, AKA pro-illegal alien amnesty idiot. All you have to do is look at how illegals have decimated our state."

And Nate says: "The candidates can learn from Arnold how not to be girly men."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to cnn.com/caffertyfile. We post more of them online, along with video clips of the file -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.

Let's end this hour with a look at some of the hot shots -- pictures coming in from our friends over at the Associated Press -- pictures likely to be in your hometown newspapers tomorrow.

In Afghanistan, British troops fire mortar shells during an operation aimed at removing the Taliban from the southern province of Helmand.

In Grand Rapids, Michigan, a woman cleans an inflatable shark slide in preparation for a spring carnival.

In Blue Springs, Missouri, a fourth grader sits at a poker table with a root beer and a stack of chips during a festival at his school.

And in Louisville, the racehorse Hard Spun stretches his neck while grazing after his morning workout at Churchill Downs.

That's it for us.

Let's go to Lou Dobbs and his special prime time special.

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