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Prince Harry Barred From Clubs; JFK Assassination: New Study, New Doubts

Aired May 18, 2007 - 17:00   ET


And given these spouses are so high profile, some political observers say one of their biggest balancing acts will to be make sure they keep their role as number two to their spouse and not steal the spotlight -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Mary Snow reporting for us.

And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, another family feels the grief from a bloody ambush and troops remember fallen comrades, as the hunt goes on for missing Americans in Iraq's so-called Triangle of Death.

Also, the speaker of the House speaks out on Iraq. We'll hear from Nancy Pelosi on the chances of a war funding compromise with the White House.

And for decades, Americans have had doubts about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. A new study is now out.

Can modern science disprove the official version of what happened?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


We now know identity of the fourth American soldier killed in last weekend's insurgent ambush in Iraq's Triangle of Death. The fate of three missing Americans is still unclear. Their comrades are keeping the faith as they keep up a desperate, desperate search.

CNN's Arwa Damon is embedded with U.S. troops on the hunt near Yusufiya -- Arwa.

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the U.S. military did name the fourth soldier that was killed in Saturday's ambush, Sergeant Anthony Schober. His platoon commander described him as a tall, goofy guy with a unique sense of humor.

In fact, when speaking of the seven men -- four of them killed, three of them still missing -- the platoon commander said what made them truly unique was their sense of humor that carried them through the darkest times.

And these are, right now, very dark times, not just for the platoon, but for the entire brigade, the 2nd Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division. The search still continues for three kidnapped soldiers. Missions are rolling out 24 hours a day, targeted raids bases on intelligence, much of that gathered from detainees.

Since Saturday, the U.S. military detained about 800 individuals, most of them military-aged males, and has released over half of them.

But they say that the best leads that they are getting are from those detainees.

This is very much the roller coaster ride for all of the troops who are involved. Each mission that goes out, each raid brings with it renewed hope that they will find their missing men. But so far, we are at the end of the seventh day of this search and still no sign of those three soldiers -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Arwa Damon reporting for us.

Let's hope they find them soon.

When news came that sergeant Anthony Schober was among the soldiers killed in that ambush, it was a devastating blow to his relatives. But they remember him with pride.

Let's go our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the U.S. Army knew that it had the remains of one of the four missing soldiers. It just didn't know which one until the DNA tests came back.

Last night, the family of Sergeant Anthony Schober got the word.


MCINTYRE (voice-over): According to his step-dad, Anthony Schober joined the Army after September 11th and never looked back.

EDWARD SCHOBER, SON KILLED IN IRAQ: At the age of 17 he came to me and said he wanted to join the Army. He was affected by the 9/11 incident.

I asked whether he was sure about this and really wanted to do it. He said yes. So I signed the papers.

When he came home from basic training, advanced training, I noticed a huge difference in him. He truly changed from a boy to a man.

MCINTYRE: After four tours in Iraq, Schober had reached the rank of sergeant and was considering the military as a career.

SCHOBER: When his deployment was going to be finished, he was going to be stationed over in Italy. He was looking forward to it. Not once he did mention he's -- he wanted to left military. Not once. MCINTYRE: Sergeant Anthony J. Schober was from Carson City, Nevada. Besides his mother and stepparents, he had two younger sisters. He was 23.


MCINTYRE: And, Wolf, the search goes on for the other three missing soldiers. A military official tells CNN that a uniform recovered may hold some clues. But as of tomorrow, this search will have extended into a full week -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jamie, thanks very much.

Our heart goes out to that family and all the families of those soldiers who are missing and, obviously, killed.

Other news we're following, overseas Israel launched more air strikes against Hamas today. Palestinian sources say three militants were killed when their car was hit in Gaza City. The air strikes come amid a violent Palestinian power struggle and rocket barrages into Israel.

CNN's Ben Wedeman is in Jerusalem -- Ben.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the fighting involves Israel, Fatah and Hamas in a deadly three way battle that seems to be getting more volatile by the day -- actually not by the day, by the hour.


WEDEMAN (voice-over): Pandemonium and panic after another rocket attack from Gaza. The Israeli town of Sderot has been the target of dozens of Hamas' crude Qassam missiles in recent days. Crude or not, the Qassams are wreaking havoc on Sterot's residents.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert came to see the damage Thursday night and extend his sympathies. But in a town where patience is all but exhausted, sympathy is no substitute for action. With each new rocket that crashes into Sderot the town and each new civilian casualty, pressure mounts on Olmert and his government to hit back hard.

EPHRAIM SNEH, ISRAELI DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER: We should break this wave of rockets. This may take some time, but through pinpoint attacks on the perpetrators, on the planners, we should -- we should break it.

WEDEMAN: Israel has already carried out a series of air raids in Gaza, striking Hamas targets, while the latest truce between Hamas and its archrival, Fatah, is barely holding.

Hamas leader and Prime Minister Ismail Haniya is appealing for calm. "Since yesterday," he says "I've been calling on all security services, on all gunmen to withdraw from the streets, to return to their positions and barracks and homes." The men with the guns, however, don't seem to have received his call. They still rule the roads. The gunfire still echoes over Gaza's deserted streets, leaving the civilians caught in the middle in increasingly dire straits.

The refrigerator is all but bare at the home of Gaza taxi driver, Ahwni Sawafiri (ph), the family virtual hostages in their own home.

"All the stores are closed, so there is nowhere to get food," says Ahwni. "On every street there are masked gunmen asking who you are, where you're coming from, where you're going."

At Gaza's Shifa Hospital, it's hard to say which is busier, the emergency room or the morgue. Soon they may both be even busier. Israel is beefing up its forces around Gaza. It may be only a matter of time before Gaza feels the full weight of Israel's military might.


WEDEMAN: But Israeli military officials are worried that Hamas is ready, indeed, eager for a ground invasion. First, because it would reunite the Palestinians. And, second, because it would allow Hamas the opportunity to put into practice lessons learned from Hezbollah from last summer's Lebanon war -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ben Wedeman reporting for us.

A Palestinian aid worker, by the way, is accused of plotting to assassinate prominent Israelis, including the prime minister, Ehud Olmert.

The prime minister's office says Masseb Bashir, a Gaza resident, was arrested in Jerusalem last month and has admitted working with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Bashir is said to have entered Israel several times to conduct what Israeli authorities say were surveillance and other actions, and to have trained with the PFLP. He gained entry because of his background working for the humanitarian international group Doctors Without Borders.

Jack Cafferty is off today.

Up ahead, controversy from Capitol Hill to workers across the country over the new immigration reform bill.

But what about the millions of undocumented workers it will directly impact?

Find out what they're saying about it.

Also, some Rush Limbaugh fans are furious over what he said to former President Bill Clinton. We're going to have details of their surprise run-in.

And Britain's Prince Harry facing a backlash because he's not going to Iraq.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: It's a bipartisan effort now that the Senate immigration reform bill, unveiled yesterday, is facing bipartisan opposition on Capitol Hill. The measure offers a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, which critics say is simply amnesty. Even among those not completely opposed to the measure, the devil is in the details and the House passage of this bill is far from assured. And even if it does pass, it could just add more problems to a system that some say is already seriously flawed.

Those are among the arguments that people on the Hill will be debating.

Our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, is joining us now -- Jeanne, tell us about the current problem with what's called worker verification.

JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the Senate bill requires that within 18 months, employers electronically verify that any new workers are legal.

But the big question is will they have an effective tool with which to do that?


MESERVE (voice-over): Tracy Hong was 10 years old when her family immigrated from South Korea. She has been a U.S. citizen for 15 years. But when a new employer used a government pilot program to check her employment eligibility, they were told she couldn't work in the U.S. legally. Ironically, her new job was with the House of Representatives Immigration Subcommittee.

TRACI HONG, HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE ATTORNEY: So I had to take my passport, first go to the House Judiciary Committee's personnel office, then to the House personnel, then to the Social Security Administration and then sort of round and round and round again.

MESERVE: Hong's case got straightened out. But critics say the electronic verification program, called Basic Pilot, isn't ready for widespread use. Right now, with 16,000 employers signed up to use it, critics say it has an error rate of about 11 percent.

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D), CALIFORNIA: Maybe that doesn't sound like that much, but if it's 11 percent of all the people employed in the United States it's over 20 million people who are Americans who would be told you're not allowed to work.

MESERVE: A more fundamental flaw -- Basic Pilot cannot detect when a worker is using documented information that belonged to someone else. Case in point, although Swift & Company meat packing participated in Basic Pilot, recent immigration raids of their plants netted more than a thousand illegal workers.


MESERVE: The program is being upgraded to give employers photos to help with verification. And the Department of Homeland Security says its accuracy has been improved to about 95 percent. They say Pilot is ready to grow quickly to help ensure that people working in the U.S. are doing so legally -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jeanne Meserve, thanks very much.

At the center of the storm, an estimated 12 million undocumented workers who face major hurdles under the bill if they want to become legal residents here.

So what do they think of it?

CNN's Thelma Gutierrez is getting some reaction in Los Angeles.

You've been speaking with illegal immigrants in the L.A. area -- Thelma.

What are they saying?

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I can tell you that there is some sense of relief. Now, the undocumented workers that we spoke with today say that they're cautiously optimistic that the road to legalization may finally open up to them. But they're also concerned about some of the hurdles they'll have to overcome to be able to stay in the United States legally.


GUTIERREZ (voice-over): On a day when hundreds took to the streets of Los Angeles to march for immigrant rights, word came from Washington that legalization might be in sight.

Sweet news to Chuy Arias, who has waited years to come out of shadows.

CHUY ARIAS, UNDOCUMENTED WORKER: I'm happy for the fact that I've been here for 12 years and now, finally, I'm going to be able to legalize my status.

GUTIERREZ: Miguel Lopez says it's all he's ever hoped for -- the chance to work legally and support his family. But legalization for Lopez and others like him won't happen overnight. Those who were here before January 1st of this year will be eligible for a four year renewable visa. But they will first have to pass a background check and take English classes.

ARIAS: I think it's a wonderful idea not just for the United States but for us.

GUTIERREZ: They will have to pay $5,000 in penalties and fees, and the head of household will have to return to their country of origin to register there, as well.


Then how will we return?

How much will it cost to go back and forth?

If we leave, what will happen to our jobs?

That part will be difficult for us.

GUTIERREZ: Armando Rodriguez welcomes the news, but says it raises many fears about losing his job if he must return to Mexico to register and fears about whether he'll be allowed back into the United States once he leaves.

ARMANDO RODRIGUEZ, UNDOCUMENTED WORKER (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): We will do what they ask so that we can have this opportunity.


GUTIERREZ: Under the bill, the heads of households who return to their country of origin to register will be guaranteed the right to return. But one employer told me today that if his worker leaves the job, there is no guarantee that they'll be employed when they return. So, in the end, many workers may not want to take that risk -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thelma Gutierrez in Los Angeles watching this story.

We're going to stay on top of it.

Thank you.

Coming up, an effort reach a compromise on Iraq War funding breaks down.

Amid the bickering, is an agreement, though, out of reach?

We're going to hear from the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi.

And you can zoom into your own neighborhood on an Internet satellite map. But try to zoom into, say, the local power plant and you may have a problem. We're going to tell you why.

We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Are those popular mapping programs on the Internet a threat to state and national security?

Some sensitive locations are being blocked from public view right now.

Let's bring in our Internet reporter Jacki Schechner -- Jacki, explain to our viewers why this is happening.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, it's security concerns. When we use something like Google Earth to fly into the vice president's house, it doesn't show up in detail. In fact, it looks like it's intentionally been blurred out. Well, that's because there are some locations in the United States that could be considered potential targets.

Just last week one government official told the Associated Press that this kind of satellite imagery may need government restriction.

But we took a closer look and it seems that there may be more detail out there than you might expect. For example, this Ohio power plant is blurred out on Google Earth, but you can see it in plenty of detail on Microsoft's Live Search. Here, you can take a look at the White House -- no detail on Live Search. But if you take a look at Google Earth, you can see the detail.

Now, Microsoft says that it does intentionally blur out some images for security purposes, on a case by case basis. Google says that it gets some of its images from a variety of agencies and it's been up to those agencies to address security concerns.

We spoke to one state agency that supplies Google with its images and it says that it worked with its specific state police to blur out 30 sensitive locations in that particular state -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I suspect they're going to be refining this stuff over the next weeks and months and years.

Thanks very much, Jacki, for that.

Carol Costello is off today.

Mary Snow is monitoring some other stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM -- Mary, what's going on now?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the government says poultry and fish exposed to feed tainted with the same chemical that prompted that massive pet food recall is safe to eat. The Food and Drug Administration and the Agriculture Department have cleared 80,000 birds to be released and processed. Officials say that tests show the chemical melamine does not accumulate in the animals and poses a very low risk to humans who eat them.

And checking the bottom line, hybrid cars have been getting a free pass in car pool lanes, but that may soon change. To promote the use of hybrids, the government allowed drivers to use the HOV lanes regardless of how many passengers they have. Now the EPA wants to limit that to only the most fuel-efficient hybrids, those with 25 percent higher fuel efficiency than regular cars.

Meanwhile, researchers at Purdue University are reporting a promising breakthrough on clean burning hydrogen powered engines. They found a way to produce hydrogen on demand by combining aluminum pellets, gallium and water. The system alleviates the problem of storing and transporting hydrogen, which has been a major stumbling block. Hydrogen is seen as the ultimate clean fuel. Its only byproduct is water.

And the bottom line on Wall Street, it's wrapping up the week with a record for the Dow. It gained more than 79 points, closing above 13,556.

The Nasdaq and the S&P 500 also posted modest gains -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Mary, for that.

Still to come here in THE SITUATION ROOM, both sides are dug in. But the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, says she's optimistic about a compromise on an Iraq War funding bill. She tells us why in a one-on- one interview. She spoke with our John Roberts. That's coming up.

And, first he was told he can't go to Iraq. Now Britain's Prince Harry is being told he can't go partying. We're going to show you why.

Stay with us.



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

Happening now, British Airways bracing to pay a hefty fine after admitting to breaking price fixing laws with its fuel surcharges. The airline is being investigated in both the U.K. and the U.S. after officials were tipped off by rival Virgin Atlantic Airlines.

Also, gasoline prices hitting a record high today for the sixth day in a row -- almost $3.13 a gallon, according to AAA. And a national retail group is reporting tonight a ripple effect, with many consumers saying they're making fewer shopping trips, eating out less and delaying major purchases, all because of the price of gas.

And biologists working on a Plan B as they try to lure two wayward whales from California's Sacramento River back to the Pacific some 90 miles away. So far, recorded whale sounds have failed to move the mother and calf. Scientists say if that doesn't work by Tuesday, they'll try herding the whales with boats while banging on pipes underwater.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Efforts to reach a compromise on Iraq War funding collapsed today once again, at least temporarily. Democrats and Republicans left the White House bargaining session each complaining that the other side wouldn't budge.

The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, says she's still optimistic a deal can be reached. She spoke with our John Roberts of CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING."


PELOSI: We'll be able to pass something that will support our troops. And we will do it before we leave for the Memorial Weekend.

JOHN ROBERTS, "AMERICAN MORNING": But you know what the president is saying -- no timelines. He's also saying no hard and fast benchmarks.

Are you going to have to capitulate?

PELOSI: Well, I know what the president is saying. What the president is saying is I don't want any accountability. Just give me a blank check for a war without end. Don't have the Iraqi government held accountable for not having political solutions while our young people die.

That's what the president is saying. I hear it very clearly. We'll have a proposal that supports our troops and we'll have it in a timely fashion. But we will also have it in a way that holds the president much more accountable than he wants to be.

ROBERTS: How much of what we have seen in these negotiations is you saying to your base, I'm trying everything I can before you eventually have to give the president what he wants?

PELOSI: What you see is the Democrats in the Congress, who have the majority, saying we're doing everything in our power to end this war.

ROBERTS: Do you trust general Petraeus?

PELOSI: I have great confidence in General Petraeus...

ROBERTS: Are you...

PELOSI: And I want the search to work. Our young people are in harm's way.

ROBERTS: Are you willing to suspend talk of timetables until he reports back on the situation for Iraq?

PELOSI: Absolutely, positively not.


PELOSI: Because, the fact is, is that we are in the fifth year of this war, longer than World War II. And every year it's one thing or another -- until this and until that, until we form a government, until we do this or that.

Until there is a plan in place that says to the Iraqi government unless you take initiatives to provide a political, economic and diplomatic solution to this war this is not a war without end for us. Our young people are dying. We lost nearly 1,000 in the last year alone, while everybody is talking about a surge.

ROBERTS: But aren't you undercutting him to a degree to say I have great confidence in you, but we want to pass a bill with timetables to get out of Iraq now before you have reported on how the situation is going?

PELOSI: Year alone while everybody is talking about a surge. But aren't you undercutting him to a degree to say I have great confidence in you but we want to pass a bill with timetables to get out of Iraq now before you have reported on how the situation is going?

PELOSI: That's not what we're saying. Our legislation said we believe that in order to bring this war to an end, we must change the mission.

ROBERTS: Let me shift gears to immigration.


ROBERTS: The Senate bill, as proposed, would that pass the House?

PELOSI: Well, the Senate bill as proposed is a good first step, as President Bush said. And I agree with him. It's a good first step. I would hope that in the amendment process in the Senate that it would be improved bill.

ROBERTS: What are your problems with it?

PELOSI: The most important difference we have with the Senate bill, as I understand it now, is the family unification, and some of the concerns we have about the guest worker program.

ROBERTS: Do you have more of a problem with Democrats or Republicans when it comes to the immigration bill?

PELOSI: Well, with the Republicans. You saw -- I don't know if you saw...

ROBERTS: Because you've got a lot of liberals in the Democratic Party who are saying, we don't like this idea of a guest worker program.

PELOSI: Right. Well, I don't either. I mean, I like the idea of a guest worker program, but it would have to be defined in a much different way than in the Senate bill, as I understand it.

Now, again, I have to read the fine print, but right now I think it would undermine our U.S. workforce, drive down wages, and be disruptive to any family situation for these guest workers going back and forth to their countries.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: And you can catch John Roberts' interview with the speaker, Nancy Pelosi, the full interview. That will air Monday morning on AMERICAN MORNING. That begins at 6:00 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

In the midst of the 2008 presidential brawl, candidates often miss the comforts of home. The Associated Press asked the White House hopefuls to share their favorite reminders of where they came from. We heard some of the Democrats' answers in the last hour. Let's check out some of the Republicans this hour.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has fond memories of the family bible that both he and his father used to take the oath of office as governor. His dad, George Romney, of course, was governor of Michigan.

When former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee thinks of home, he's thinking of trains, because he lived near the train tracks.

Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas thinks wheat. He is from Kansas, after all.

And in that same vein, Senator John McCain of Arizona longs for the taste of southwestern enchiladas.


Another setback for Britain's Prince Harry. Now he's told he can't deploy to London's hot spots.

CNN's Jim Boulden is in London -- Jim.

JIM BOULDEN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, first Prince Harry is told he can't go to Iraq, and now it looks like he can't go nightclubbing. Well, that's according to "The Sun" newspaper, which has the headline, "Harry In Club Ban".

The paper says the Ministry of Defense has told Prince Harry it would not be a good idea for him to be seen leaving some of London's top nightclubs in the early hours of the morning while his men are fighting in Iraq. "The Sun" paper also says that Prince Harry is likely to be given ceremonial duties while his squadron, the Blues and Royals, are away. That could include him having to protect his grandmother.

So now we know what the spare to the throne will be doing on his on hours. It's just not clear what he'll be doing during the off hours while his men are in Iraq for six months -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jim.

Jim Boulden in London for us.

Up ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, did a lone gunman assassinate President Kennedy in 1963? There's new high-tech ballistic evidence that's raising some intriguing questions. Brian Todd standing by with the story.

And then Rush Limbaugh meeting his arch rival, Bill Clinton. So how did it go?

Tom Foreman is standing by to tell us about it.

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


BLITZER: New research is raising doubts about the theory that President John F. Kennedy was killed by a lone assassin.

CNN's Brian Todd has been looking into a new study.

Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the authors of this new finding are careful to say that their research just points to the possibility that Lee Harvey Oswald wasn't the only shooter that day in Dallas. To get there, they say, look at the bullets.



TODD (voice over): For more than four decades, the government's official finding has said Lee Harvey Oswald fired three bullet at John F. Kennedy and two of them hit the president. But the authors of a new study claim the modern science they used may disprove that.

PROF. CLIFF SPIEGELMAN, TEXAS A&M UNIV.: There is no scientific evidence to support the claim that there are only two bullets from two groups. And...

TODD: Texas A&M University professor Cliff Spiegelman, and his research team that includes a former FBI forensics expert, say the old finding that bullet fragments found at the assassination scene in Dallas could have come from only two bullets because no two bullets are identical is flawed. The team acquired other bullets from the same batches that Oswald used, chemically tested them against data from the fragments at the scene.


SPIEGELMAN: One of our 30 bullets matched the assassination fragment.

TODD: That means, this new study says, three or mour separate bullets could have struck the president. And if that's the case, a second assassin is likely. That's because only three casings were found near Oswald's rifle, and any additional bullet couldn't be traced to him. But before all the conspiracy theories and references to the grassy knoll are rekindled, one researcher says hold on. Former prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, out with a new book on the assassination, says the theory of other bullet matches is not new. He doesn't discount that it's possible, but says that it doesn't translate into another gunman.

VINCENT BUGLIOSI, AUTHOR, "RECLAIMING HISTORY": No bullets other than the three ejected from Oswald's rifle has ever been found and linked with the assassination. No weapon other than Oswald's Mannlicher-Carcano weapon has ever been found and linked with the assassination.

What I'm saying is that you have to look at the totality of evidence.


TODD: Cliff Spiegelman says all he wants is for bullet fragments found at the scene to be re-analyzed, directly this time, using modern techniques. The downside to that, Spiegelman says modern chemical testing will destroy those fragments. Historical evidence gone forever -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much.

And many Americans are still preoccupied by the murder of the 35th president and don't seem to take the official version of his death at face value. Hundreds of books have been written about the Kennedy assassination.

Seventy to 80 percent of Americans believe President Kennedy was killed as a result of a conspiracy. The accused gunman himself may have suggested something bigger.

Lee Harvey Oswald screamed out, "I'm just a pasty!" as he was led past reporters in the Dallas police building after his arrest.

Joining us now is the presidential historian Robert Dallek. He's the author of a number of books, including a biography of John F. Kennedy entitled "An Unfinished Fife". His latest bestseller is entitled "Partners in Power: Nixon and Kissinger".

An excellent, excellent book.

Professor, thanks for coming in.


BLITZER: All right. You've studied this about as closely as anyone. What do you think about this notion out there that there was a conspiracy, it wasn't just Lee Harvey Oswald?

DALLEK: Wolf, this has been going on for, what, 43 years now. And nobody, nobody has ever been able to prove that there was a conspiracy.

I don't believe there was one. I think Lee Harvey Oswald was the only killer. This recent Bugliosi book, 1,612 pages. He delved into every aspect of this assassination.

What interests me more is the question of why people are so wedded to this idea that there was a conspiracy.

BLITZER: And what's the answer to that?

DALLEK: My answer to it is that they can't accept the proposition that someone as inconsequential as Oswald could have killed someone as consequential as Kennedy. But also, I think, reflects the climate of suspicion, the feelings about deception on the part of the government, which not only goes back to the Kennedy assassination, but then, of course, to the Vietnam War, feelings that we were deceived, that Lyndon Johnson misled us. Feelings that Richard Nixon was, of course, so secretive and so deceptive, so manipulative.

And now, of course, we're back in this frame of mind with this Iraq War and all these feelings about the...

BLITZER: It's just a skepticism in government and official accounts.

DALLEK: Right.

BLITZER: But when he screams out "I'm just a patsy!" as he was being led past reporters in Dallas, what are we to take -- what are we to mean of that?

DALLEK: Well, the man was not a very stable human being. He was pretty irrational. And to have done what he did seems to me to suggest that he was less than rational.

And he was also very paranoid, full of conspiracy ideas himself. He had lived in the Soviet Union for a while. He was full of regard for Castro and Cuba.

He may have thought he was doing Castro's bidding. There's no evidence at all that Castro or the Cubans had anything to do with the assassination. He may have thought that, and so could have said, well, I'm a patsy, you know? It's really Castro and the Cubans who were behind this.

But who knows what he believed, and who can accept what he believed? He seemed to be such a deranged individual.

BLITZER: The obsession with JFK all these years later, a new study comes out like this one, and we're still obsessed by it. Why?

DALLEK: Right. Because I think, Wolf, the country has such a yearning for a John Kennedy. It has such an eagerness for hope, for a better time, and Kennedy kind of gives that to them. You know, it's so interesting. When you ask people in this country who are the greatest presidents, they tell you Washington, Lincoln, FDR, Kennedy and Reagan. And I think Kennedy and Reagan are there not because they were truly great presidents, but because they continue to give the country a kind of hope, a kind of optimism, and people regret the fact that Kennedy's life was cut short and he's a blank slate.

(INAUDIBLE) you can write anything on it that you want, and he died so young. He's frozen our minds at the age of 43 -- 46, rather. He remains a kind of heroic figure. And we can't let go of this somehow.

And it's sad in a way because it, I think, says a lot about our contemporary political mood rather than about the realities of the assassination.

BLITZER: So, bottom line, you're prepared to accept the official Warren Commission report, as opposed to subsequent studies, including one from members of the House Judiciary Committee that came many years later that couldn't rule out some sort of conspiracy?

DALLEK: Very good work by a man named Max Holland on the Warren Commission report. There are flaws in it. There are defects. But, by and large, the basic assumption, as Bugliosi argues, is accurate that Oswald was the only killer.

BLITZER: And that his motive was?

DALLEK: Well, his motive was who knows? He thought he was doing some kind of service for the country. He thought he was doing some kind of service for his radical vision of the world.

So who can ever know what an assassin's motives truly are? They seem to be so deranged.

BLITZER: I guess one of the reasons that so many of those of us who lived through that period are still obsessed with it was because he was himself gunned down only a few days later. And this notion that he was going to be silenced for whatever reason, that has resonated with a lot of people out there, because there was a bigger story, potentially, out there.

DALLEK: Yes. Well, that's a big part of this story, that Jack Ruby -- who was Jack ruby? Why did he kill him?

BLITZER: And his connections -- his own connections with the mob or whatever.

DALLEK: Right, exactly. But you know, Wolf, what it reveals is the old adage that history is argument without end. People are going to be arguing about this conspiracy business in relation to Kennedy 100 years from now.

It will just go on and on because there are uncertainties that we can't pin down. Like, as you said, the killing of Oswald and Ruby's connections.

BLITZER: Robert Dallek's got two excellent books. He's got many excellent books. Let me give them both plugs.

The book on John F. Kennedy, "An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963," and his new book, "Partners in Power: Nixon and Kissinger".

Thanks very much for coming in.

DALLEK: My pleasure. Thanks.

BLITZER: And still ahead, the U.S. government accusing a key Arab ally of a miscarriage of justice. We're going to show you why Egypt's government is -- what Egypt's government is doing now that is raising very serious concerns right here in Washington.

Plus, we also have some details of Rush Limbaugh's surprise meeting with former president Bill Clinton. You're going to want to stick around for this.

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



BLITZER: The Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, is a key U.S. ally, but he's been in power for almost a quarter of a century. And his most recent rival is now in jail, a case which the U.S. State Department is now calling -- and I'm quoting -- a "miscarriage of justice".

CNN's Aneesh Raman reports from Cairo.


ANEESH RAMAN, CNN MIDDLE EAST CORRESPONDENT (voice over): His was the face of democratic reform. His campaign in 2005 the main challenge to Hosni Mubarak, and Egypt's first-ever multi-candidate presidential election. But Ayman Nour ended up coming in a distant second, and soon after ended up here, caged in court, sentenced to five years in prison for forging signatures on a petition. A sentence Nour and many international rights groups charge was politically motivated.

Now, after a year and a half in custody, his wife Gamila claims that earlier this week, her husband endured the worst abuse yet.

NOUR: He was beaten up very badly in his chest and his left part of his chest. His rib was broken.

RAMAN: The Egyptian government so far hasn't commented on the charge, but even before this alleged incident, Nour was in poor health, suffering from diabetes and a heart condition. And yet, he remains in prison, not just because of the Egyptian president, Gamila says, but also because of the United States.

NOUR: They are backing dictatorships to crush the bones of the opposition. And this is my conclusion, especially after what happened to Ayman.

RAMAN: President Mubarak has been in power for 25 years, and now his opponents feel betrayed by shifting American priorities.

(on camera): Once a vocal champion of democratic reform here, over the past two years the Bush administration has had to change focus in the Middle East, to Iraq and nothing else.

(voice over): And while it maintains reform in the Middle East is an important goal, increasingly they say it must come from within.

TOM CASEY, U.S. STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: And that change has to be led internally by the people of the region. But our support for it continues, and it continues without any break or any change.

RAMAN: Gamila Nour is far from convinced.

NOUR: We are not going to believe again what they said before just after the elections. We are not going to believe again. My husband was one of thousands of people who believed.

RAMAN: Once the face of hope for many Egyptians, Ayman Nour is now the face of an opposition fading away.

Aneesh Raman, CNN, Cairo.


BLITZER: CNN spoke with the Egyptian embassy here in Washington about this story. It denied any political influence in the case against Ayman Nour and said democratic reform continues to make progress in Egypt. Meantime, an Egyptian court has rejected Nour's appeal, meaning he'll have to complete his five-year sentence.


BLITZER: Up ahead, a friendly conversation between two men with very unfriendly pasts. That would be Rush Limbaugh and former president Bill Clinton. We have some details of their surprise run- in. You're going to want to hear what was said, what wasn't.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: He's one of Bill Clinton's harshest critics. You might be startled at how Rush Limbaugh is describing a surprise meeting with the former president.

CNN's Tom Foreman is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Tom, tell us what happened. TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, this is like the start of a joke. Rush Limbaugh and Bill Clinton walk into a restaurant together. But it's not a joke. This really happened. They became the most unlikely dynamic duo.


FOREMAN (voice over): Restaurants make for strange bedfellows. Or was that politics?

Conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh used to make acid jokes about the Clintons. When Bill Clinton was president, Rush belittled daughter Chelsea's appearance.

Later, when Rush fans wondered if Hillary could rise beyond her Senate seat, Rush said, "I'm not worried about Hillary. She puts her pants on one leg at a time like every other guy does."

Since then, the Billary industrial complex has risen to new heights. Hillary is running for president, and Rush is gushing over a casual encounter with Bill at New York's Kobe Club steakhouse, even though he acknowledged his listeners might read it as dining with the enemy.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: What am I supposed to do, Folks, when he comes to my table? Am I supposed to stand up and leave?

FOREMAN: Rush said on his show he shook the president's hand and they exchanged pleasantries. The pair didn't eat together, but Rush said they acknowledged their live-long battle of the bulge.

LIMBAUGH: "You're looking great. You're tan, fit. You look very good out there."

And I reach out my hand, "Mr. President, it's a pleasure to meet you."

We shook hands and so forth. And he -- he hung around for, I guess, two or three minutes, maybe five. I asked him what he had to eat.

He said, "Well, I had chicken. I had fish. That's what we had."

FOREMAN: Rush's rendition of the dining encounter wasn't without its digs. Alluding perhaps to Clinton's tarnished reputation over his extramarital affair, Rush recounts the following.

LIMBAUGH: At some point during conversation with the mayor, I looked to my left, and the former president was intently chatting up the woman that I was sitting with. He had leaned down and his elbows and arms were on the railing of the booth. And they were in intense conversation.

FOREMAN: At the Kobe Club, employees say they caught the East meets West encounter, and that Clinton started the chitchat. JEFFREY CHODOROW, OWNER, KOBE CLUB: I think it was very cordial. And then he went back to his table. And then at some point later he came back.

FOREMAN: And at the end of the night, Limbaugh returned the pleasantries.

CHODOROW: Rush Limbaugh went out -- you know, left and went outside, and I guess the president was standing there. And so he went over to say goodnight to him.


FOREMAN: Not exactly the Yalta Conference, but still interesting.

We got in touch with the former president's office. They have no response to all of this. They're not talking about it the way Rush is.

BLITZER: Rush makes a living talking. But then again, Bill Clinton likes to talk normally as well.

They're absolutely refusing any comment?

FOREMAN: Yes, they don't want to say anything about this. And it's understandable.

You know, former presidents, very often, they're kind of quiet about their private dealings. And understandably so. But his imitation of the president was sort of OK, not great.

BLITZER: All right.

FOREMAN: Not totally flattering.

BLITZER: I suspect this subject will not be part of your weekend "THIS WEEK AT WAR".

FOREMAN: No, it will not.

BLITZER: You've got a lot of other serious stuff to report.

FOREMAN: Yes, we do.

BLITZER: Saturday night, 7:00 p.m. Eastern, replayed Sunday afternoons, 1:00 p.m. Eastern, right after "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk.

FOREMAN: Hope you'll be there.

BLITZER: "THIS WEEK AT WAR". Tom Foreman will be hosting it this weekend.

We'll be back in one hour, 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

Until then, thanks for joining us.

Let's go to Lou in New York.


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