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THE SITUATION ROOM

Al Qaeda's Tools of Torture; Edwards Blasts Fellow Dems

Aired May 23, 2007 - 19:00   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: Al Qaeda's tools of torture. An exclusive look at a horrific how-to manual. What does it tell us about terror in Iraq?

Also this hour, presidential candidate John Edwards blasting fellow Democrats. He says they caved on an Iraq pull-out timetable. I'll ask him if it's easy to criticize Congress from the outside.

And choice words from a top House Republican. He says the Senate's immigration reform deal is -- let's just say they're words we're not going to use on TV.

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

Horrifying images uncovered in Iraq, a torture training manual detailing the gruesome methods insurgents and terrorists brutally use on their victims. We have to warn you, there are images here that will be extremely disturbing to many of you.

CNN's Brian Todd joining us now with an exclusive look. Brian, where were these pictures, first of all, found?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they were found in an Al Qaeda safe house during recent raids in and around Baghdad. U.S. military officials say these images that they just declassified show the true nature of what the Iraqi people are facing and they reinforce in the minds of American military commanders why U.S. forces are there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Torture at the hands of Al Qaeda. Victims suspended upside down and whipped, drilled through the hand, suspended from a ceiling and electrocuted. U.S. military officials say these cartoons are part of an Al Qaeda training manual, complete with how to use a blowtorch on a victim's body. These drawings given to CNN by the U.S. military in Iraq were found on a computer captured during recent raids of Al Qaeda safe houses.

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE IRAQ: They're made in a cartoon manner, so that, no matter what your literacy rate or what nationality you are, all you've got to do is look at this picture to understand how to conduct tortures of innocent people.

TODD: Methods, like taking a hot iron to the skin, and others too grotesque to show.

WILLIAM CALDWELL: This is the nature of the enemy that the Iraqi people are facing here in Iraq.

TODD: U.S. military officials say information from this raid led them to other safe houses where they freed dozens of Iraqi kidnap victims.

WILLIAM CALDWELL: ... which included a 13-year-old boy that literally had been tortured, electrocuted, whipped, beat by these Al Qaeda terrorists.

TODD: Pictures of scars on those victims tell only part of the story. General William Caldwell says the boy suffered more gruesome injuries. We asked General Caldwell, is this being done by Sunni Al Qaeda fighters against local Shias?

WILLIAM CALDWELL: This was Sunnis conducting it on Sunnis themselves, where they had brought in some of the population from that area.

TODD: Why? Kelly McCann of Kroll Security Group, a former U.S. special forces officer, says it's mostly a matter of intimidation.

KELLY MCCANN, KROLL SECURITY GROUP: I think that people are afraid of physical pain to that degree. They're afraid of this being done to their husband, their uncle, their grandfather, their child. So, yes, not only to extract information, but also to compel a local population to at least not help U.S. forces.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: General Caldwell says Al Qaeda typically sends that message with the kidnap victims to their families, and he says some of the people U.S. forces freed in these raids told them they had expected to be ransomed off back to their families -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Do these methods, Brian, seem to be unique to Al Qaeda? I know you've been speaking with U.S. officials and other outside experts. What do they say?

TODD: Well, U.S. officials for their part are being very cautious, saying only that they got them from an Al Qaeda safe house. They say they're going to try to get more information for us in the coming days about that. Kelly McCann says, however, that he recognizes some of these techniques from Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime. Other techniques he says he's seen from the Vietnam era, so there may be some borrowing going on there.

BLITZER: Horrific indeed. Brian Todd reporting for us.

Meanwhile, there are new developments in the search for those three missing American soldiers in Iraq. The body of one of them may -- repeat, may -- have been found. CNN's Arwa Damon is embedded with U.S. troops conducting that search.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The mission began with a 4:00 a.m. air assault.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, roger, we're going in.

DAMON: Driven by intelligence that individuals linked to the attack on U.S. forces 12 days ago were in this area, just southwest of Yusufiya.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) fake I.D. and, according to the interpreter, he is other than an Iraqi nationality.

DAMON: The soldiers test his hands for explosives and gun powders. He tests positive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Comes up black on here, just like this.

DAMON: This boy is also taken in.

JOHN MOYNIHAN, U.S. ARMY: This kid ain't (bleep) 11 years old. And his parents are saying that he's like 14, 15. Then, all of a sudden, his brother is saying, "I don't know how old he is." And then he keeps changing his mind from 11 to now 12 and now it keeps going up.

(CROSSTALK)

DAMON: Half the platoon breaks off. An unmanned aerial drone has spotted four men running away from the Iraqi army operating to the north.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About 200 meters, 250 meters, supposedly coming from somewhere in those palm groves over there.

DAMON: And then hiding in the read line.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, same read line, same grid. There's a house nearby; that's where they moved to.

DAMON: The soldiers tread carefully. No one needs any reminders about how dangerous these lands can be.

The men are about 200 meters, some 650 feet from the read line, where the four individuals were reported to be hiding in. But as we were maneuvering through these fields, they came across a directional charge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's right up there. The block sticking out of it with a pipe, probably has explosives in it. So we're going to go around.

DAMON: All males at the house are detained. None of the soldiers believe these men's story that they are farmers.

For these troops, this was a successful mission. They've detained eight people who they hope might have information about the kidnapped soldiers. What they don't know at this time is that a body, apparently dressed in a U.S. uniform, has been plucked from the Euphrates River some 20 miles away. These men came to Iraq expecting to get shot at; what they didn't expect, the nightmare of searching day after day for their missing comrades.

Arwa Damon, CNN, near Yusufiya, Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: The Euphrates River, where that body was found, is one of Iraq's key waterways, along with the Tigris River. The Euphrates is 1,700 miles long, beginning in Turkey, flows through Iraq, and empties into the Persian Gulf. Some islands in the river have provided coverage for insurgents to hide and launch attacks against U.S. forces regularly, and those U.S. forces obviously patrol the Euphrates as often as they can.

Meanwhile, U.S. military officials in Iraq are reporting nine more American troops killed yesterday and today. That makes 20 in the last four days alone, bringing the total number to 3,432 Americans killed in Iraq since the start of the war.

Amid those developments in Iraq, tensions between the United States and Iran are heating up, with both sides making moves that could push the situation to a boiling point. Our State Department correspondent Zain Verjee is joining with that -- Zain?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's a face-off between the United States and Iran. Neither side is blinking.

(voice-over): An American armada flexing muscle in broad daylight, war games. Nine U.S. warships steaming into the Persian Gulf, ever so close to Iranian shores. On board, 17,000 sailors and Marines.

But miscalculations can happen, especially with military drills in Iran's backyard. This in-your-face drill comes as both Iran and the United States turn up the heat. Iran has detained a fourth Iranian-American, Kian Tajbakhsh, a consultant working in Iran.

CASEY: The idea that somehow these people represent a threat to the regime is just absurd.

VERJEE: And now a top U.S. military commander tells CNN of a disturbing development, accusing Iran of forging a new alliance to spread terror in Iraq.

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE IRAQ: There are Sunni extremist elements that are, in fact, being funded by Iranian intelligence agents, and they're also providing some training for them, too. VERJEE: The United States has been trying to isolate the Iranian regime by supporting tough U.N. sanctions, cutting it off from international banks, detaining five Iranians in Iraq, and is planning to step up democracy programs inside Iran that support human rights, media access, and education groups.

Both sides trying to one-up the other in a battle of wills that shows no sign of letting up, even as they prepare to sit down on Monday for direct talks on Iraq.

KARIM SADJADPOUR, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE: Well, I think there's elements in both capitals, both in Washington and in Tehran, who don't want to see improved ties between the U.S. and Iran and don't even want to see a dialogue between the U.S. and Iran. And they're doing their best to torpedo these talks.

VERJEE (on screen): The International Atomic Energy Agency came out with a report today that blasted Iran for continuing its nuclear activity in defiance of international demands to suspend it -- Wolf?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Zain Verjee reporting from the State Department.

Let's go to New York and Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, we love to complain in this country. And the high cost of gasoline is giving us a lot of opportunity. A gallon of gas on average running Americans about $3.22; that's according to AAA. This is the 20th day the number's been above $3 bucks, and that's a new record.

The Congressional Joint Economic Committee held a hearing today to find out why the prices keep going up. Let me read that again: The Congressional Joint Economic Committee held a hearing today to find out why the prices keep going up. We're in good hands, aren't we?

New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, he's the chairman, thinks the mega-oil companies are a big part of the problem and the government should consider breaking them up. I can't even read this with a straight face. The Federal Trade Commission says the high prices are not because of any illegal activity on the part of the big oil companies. In fact, oil company supporters say that the mergers have led to greater efficiency in production and cost and have actually benefited consumers.

So here's the question: Do you think there's been any funny business when it comes to rising gas prices? E-mail your thoughts to Caffertyfile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile.

One of the things they tell us, Wolf, is these refineries are being shut down because they got to do maintenance on them. We're three days from the Memorial Day weekend. Is this when you want to shut down the refineries? Come on. BLITZER: Maybe in the winter when there's a lot of snow and, as a result, people are driving a little bit less. Maybe that would be a good time to do some maintenance.

CAFFERTY: They got a spot for you on that Joint Economic Committee down there. You could be a lot of help to those guys.

BLITZER: Thank you. Thank you very much, Jack. We'll check back with you soon.

Coming up, John Edwards taking on President Bush and fellow Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN EDWARDS (D), CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT: He will not negotiate; he will not compromise. He does not think he's capable of doing anything wrong. He has to be stopped.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: John Edwards here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're going to find out why he wants his fellow Democrats to get some spine.

Also, cursing immigration reform. A congressman's candid comments of what he really thinks of the bill.

And confession under oath. A key aide to the attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, admits she crossed the line and may have even broken the law. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Tonight, an identity crisis for Democrats. The party that won control of Congress by taking a firm stand against the war in Iraq is now embroiled in internal conflict. At issue, a decision by majority leaders in the Congress to drop a demand for a pull-out timetable. The result? Presidential candidates who are outraged or in turmoil right now.

Let's bring in our CNN senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. Candy, what's going on?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, in a rush to get this war funding bill passed before the Memorial Day break, both the Senate and the House will vote this week on a controversial bill that is likely to have repercussions into '08.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY (voice-over): Do you want to see what pressure looks like? Go ask Hillary Clinton if she'll vote for the Iraq spending bill, which does not include deadlines to withdraw the troops.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Look, today we're talking about this very important immigration issue. There will be time to talk about that later.

CROWLEY: A teensy bit testy in the hallway later, Clinton told reporters, "When I have something to say, I'll say it, gentlemen."

Ditto Barack Obama on the same question. "I actually want to read the provisions before making a statement on it," he said. "All right?"

It is a rock and a hard place for Democrats, especially the '08- ers. They worry they will look anti-troop if they don't support the timetable-free spending bill, but they fear their antiwar base -- read that: people most likely to vote -- will hold it against them if they do. And it will.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Democrats were elected by the people of this country to get us the hell out of that country, and they failed us miserably.

CROWLEY: From the streets of San Francisco to New York, they're watching as Congress prepares to vote.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm still in support of Hillary, actually, but I don't know. I guess we'll have to see how it plays out.

CROWLEY: At MoveOn.org, pivotal to the anti-war movement, they are out in force, handing out fliers, threatening to run ads against anyone who votes for this bill. More to the point, with all of the House and a third of the Senate up for grabs in the next election, anti-war groups are talking about finding candidates to challenge Democrats in the primary season.

ELI PARISER, MOVEON.ORG: Yes, I think people may look back at this moment and say, you know, this was a moment when we determined who was serious about ending the war and who was not.

CROWLEY: Clinton and Obama, who said previously they were against cutting off troop funds, are also being pressed by John Edwards, running third in the Democratic field. He is looking for some steam from the left.

JOHN EDWARDS (D), CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT: Any compromise that funds the war through the end of the fiscal year is not a compromise at all. It's a capitulation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: The '08 field is a microcosm of Congress in general, split and agonized over what to do. Joe Biden says he wants the war to end today, but he can't vote to leave the troops without money, so he's a yes. Dennis Kucinich and Chris Dodd are both noes. Dodd says he cannot vote to give the president another blank check -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Candy, thanks very much. And my interview with John Edwards, that's coming up later right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The first major change to the controversial immigration bill is now on the books. The Senate today voted an overwhelming 74-24 to cut the number of allowable guest workers in half from 400,000 to 200,000. It's probably not enough for House Minority Leader John Boehner. Boehner had some choice words for the measure.

CNN's Carol Costello is joining us from New York. Carol, what did Boehner have to say?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: I can't say it on television. Another politician lets an expletive fly. If there was any doubt the immigration bill is the proverbial political hot potato, there isn't now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO (voice-over): It's a heated debate over an immigration bill that few seem not to like. Maybe Congressman John Boehner did say it best when he told a group of Republican activists at a private gathering the immigration bill was a piece of (bleep). Really, he did.

MARC AMBINDER, NATIONAL REVIEW "HOTLINE": He said, "I told President Bush this morning that I wouldn't say anything bad in public about this "piece of (bleep) bill."

COSTELLO: Boehner's office told us his colorful description was merely an off-the-cuff wisecrack, but some observers say Boehner's (bleep) speaking to the growing frustration over an immigration bill that's become so controversial there can be no compromise.

BOB BARR, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Republicans, and conservatives in particular, have made the immigration such an emotional issue that now that we have a piece of legislation that gives conservatives many, many things that they used to want, they really don't know how to react to it.

COSTELLO: It isn't the first time a politician has let emotions take over. Senator John McCain dropped the f-bomb over the immigration bill just last week. Back in 2000, President Bush didn't know the mike was on when he let loose how he really felt about a certain reporter.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's Adam Clymer, major league (bleep).

COSTELLO: The vice president has also unleashed the f-word on occasion, and John Kerry was overheard telling supporters exactly how he felt about Bush's campaign people.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: These guys are the most crooked, you know, lying group of people I've ever seen.

BARR: It's really is unfortunate the example it sets for our children and government officials at other levels to use language like that.

COSTELLO: Perhaps, but to bloggers responding to Boehner's (bleep) description of the bill liked it. Compared to his politically correct statement on the immigration bill, where it took him 167 words to say what he objected to, his more colorful rejection took only four words.

AMBINDER: A congressman actually spoke his mind.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: And bloggers found that refreshing. And just another thought: There are some, mainly Senator Harry Reid, who think this heated, emotional debate could actually produce a better piece of legislation. I guess we'll wait and see.

BLITZER: It will be heated. There's no doubt about that, Carol Costello reporting.

Still ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, John Edwards takes aim at President Bush, and the president's homeland security adviser fires right back. Find out why she's calling Edwards' comments irresponsible.

And a virgin birth underwater, the amazing shark story, all that coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's a shocking statistic. Unicef says that one child in 20 in Iraq dies before the age of 5. The United Nations Children's Fund says it needs $42 million in the coming months just to provide basic needs to the children of Iraq. As CNN's Hugh Riminton reports, one major need is clean water.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HUGH RIMINTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The victims of this war are not only the kidnapped and tortured or the people blown up in market squares. There are those who simply drink. The hospitals are filling up. "I'm doing my best to keep her alive," says Iman Alwad (ph), but often the water we buy is green.

Iraq is approaching summer, and that is diarrhea season. "It's pollution in the drinking water," says Dr. Saad Mahdi (ph), a pediatrician at Sadr City's Ibin al-Biladi Hospital (ph). "The water contains parasites," he says, "and brings diarrhea and fever, also typhoid and hepatitis. They have gotten worse since the invasion."

For thousands of years, this has been the glory of Iraq. In a desert country, the water of the River Euphrates and this, the River Tigris, that flows through the center of Baghdad. But have a look over here. Into this waterway, where so many millions of people draw their essential needs, putrid, stinky effluent.

It is liquid death, not only sewage, but frequently bodies float in the Tigris. The original U.S. Iraq construction plan prioritized a quarter of the budget for water and sewage. But within months, $2 billion was shifted out of that allocation, as security became the pressing issue. Almost all of that money is now gone.

Unicef runs a tanker program. It's safe to drink this water when it comes. And people, women chiefly, come a long way to get it.

The Iraqi government is now under pressure to spend billions of dollars of its own money on infrastructure project, but there is no transparency, no timetables, no sign of work being done. It's sometimes lost among the banks, the whimpers.

Hugh Riminton, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: What a shocking, shocking story. If you'd like to get some more information on Unicef and would like to donate, go online to unicef.org/support. Make sure you use all lower-case letters. Unicef does incredibly important work, not only in Iraq, but all over the world.

Just ahead, John Edwards here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN EDWARDS (D), CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT: The reason there are terrorists actively engaged in what's happening in Iraq right now is because of the mess that George Bush and his administration have created there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The presidential candidate challenges Democrats to stand up to the president. And Vice President Dick Cheney welcomes a new grandchild, his sixth. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, who put a bomb in a bag and blasted a shopping district near Beirut? That's what Lebanese officials are trying to determine right now. Five people are hurt in a town about 11 miles northeast of the Lebanese capital. We're watching this story for you.

The White House says Vice President Dick Cheney's daughter, Mary, and her partner, Heather Poe, are now parents of a baby boy. Mary Cheney delivered Samuel David Cheney today. The vice president has said he, of course, warmly welcomes his sixth grandchild, despite some critics who oppose gay couples having children.

And a ban that forbids gay men from donating blood will stay in place. Today, the FDA restated its longstanding policy against gay men donating their blood. It's meant to prevent the spread of HIV through transfusions. Critics say the policy is scientifically unwarranted.

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

President Bush today is portraying the Iraq War as a battle between the United States and al Qaeda with Osama bin Laden still in the mix. In a commencement address at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Mr. Bush listed a number of alleged terrorist plots against the U.S. he says were thwarted. Let's bring in our White House correspondent Ed Henry. He's watching all of this unfold.

The president had cited several post-9/11 plots, including plots to fly airplanes on the East Coast and the West Coast. So what is new in all of this?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Those plots are really not new. We have heard about them before. So the timing of this, declassifying some key intelligence about the al Qaeda is really convenient to the White House politically.

It helps them try to build a case to keep U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq to fight al Qaeda.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY (voice-over): Delivering the commencement at the Coast Guard Academy, President Bush tried to push back at critics who say Iraq is a Vietnam-style quagmire.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The enemy in Vietnam had neither the intent nor the capability to strike our homeland. The enemy in Iraq does.

HENRY: Trying to bolster his case al Qaeda is the chief enemy in Baghdad, the president declassified intelligence showing in 2005 Osama bin Laden was trying to set up a unit in Iraq to launch terror attacks against America.

BUSH: There are many destructive forces in Iraq trying to stop this strategy from succeeding. The most destructive is al Qaeda.

HENRY: But detailing al Qaeda activity in Iraq in 2005, long after the war started, is fuel for Democratic presidential candidates, who charge the war actually increased the terror threat.

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The worst thing about the global-war-on-terror approach is that it has backfired. Our military has been strained to the breaking point, and the threat from terrorism has grown, not lessened.

HENRY: With weak public support for the Iraq War, declassifying intelligence about terror plots enabled the president to fall back on a strategy that worked in the 2004 and 2006 campaigns: the fear card.

BUSH: Here in America, we're living in the eye of a storm. All around us, dangerous winds are swirling, and these winds could reach our shores at any moment.

HENRY: But the president's decision to highlight bin Laden's ability to communicate with his top lieutenants raises questions about Mr. Bush's previous claims that the U.S. has disrupted the al Qaeda leader's activities.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY: Now the president's homeland security adviser Fran Townsend explains that the U.S. has not completely cut off bin Laden's communication with his top lieutenants, it has just disrupted some of his activities.

But obviously, bin Laden is still alive, he is still active nearly six years since the president vowed to get him dead or alive -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry at the White House for us.

The president's new attempt to connect dots between Osama bin Laden and Iraq is giving new fuel to some Democrats, that is when they're not hammering one another over the war in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And joining us now from New York, at the Council on Foreign Relations, Senator John Edwards, the Democratic presidential candidate.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

EDWARDS: Thanks for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: I know you're very upset that the Democrats in Congress blinked on this issue of a troop withdrawal, but they simply don't have the votes to override a presidential veto. What are they supposed to do if they want to keep funding the troops but at the same time make their point?

EDWARDS: What they should do is continue to submit funding bills supporting the troops to the president with a timetable for withdrawal. And if the president of the United States, George Bush, continues to veto those bills, it's the president who's deciding he's not going to fund the troops. And ultimately that would actually require George Bush to start withdrawing troops from Iraq.

And my basic view about this, Wolf, is not complicated. I think that the American people want a different course in Iraq. They made that clear in the last election. And what I am asking is for the Congress to stand its ground, to do what it needs to do for America. This is not about politics. It's about life and death.

BLITZER: But your critics say it's easy for you to say that, you're not in the Congress right now. You're not a member of the Senate. They have to vote yea or nay on an issue like funding troops and keeping troops fully protected with the funds that they need.

So it's easy for you to criticize from the outside. That's what your critics are suggesting. EDWARDS: Well, can I just say, respectfully, that I would disagree with that? First of all, I've been in that position. I have, in the past, voted against the funding bill, $87 billion, when I knew that George Bush was on the wrong course in Iraq.

And, secondly, and I think more importantly, I'm running for president of the United States. All of us running for president will be held accountable, ultimately to voters, for the positions that we've taken.

BLITZER: So what are you...

EDWARDS: Every one of my positions, including this one, will be evaluated by the voters, as it should.

BLITZER: All right. So the sitting members, like Senator Clinton, Senator Obama, Senator Biden, Senator Dodd, Congressman Kucinich, what do you expect they're going to do?

EDWARDS: What I expect them to do is stand their ground, to continue to support bills that have a timetable for withdrawal and to use whatever tools are available to them to prevent a bill from going to the president that does not have a timetable for withdrawal.

It's not complicated. That's what the American people want and I think that's what they should do.

BLITZER: Some of the Democratic leaders say they're going to find other opportunities in the next few months to attach that kind of troop withdrawal deadline to other legislation that the president wants. So while they're -- we're not going to get everything they want right now, they're still going to have that opportunity down the road.

EDWARDS: This president is not going to negotiate about this, Wolf. How clear could anything be? He will not negotiate. He will not compromise. He does not think he's capable of doing anything wrong. He has to be stopped. And the power that the Congress has is its constitutional power to fund. And they need to use that power to force this president down a different course. It's that simple.

BLITZER: The president spoke out today at the U.S. Coast Guard commencement, and he said the threat right now from al Qaeda in Iraq is enormous. And he made the comparison to Vietnam.

Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: The enemy in Vietnam had neither the intent nor the capability to strike our homeland. The enemy in Iraq does.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, what do you say to the president, Senator? EDWARDS: I say the president has used this term that he uses over and over, "global war on terror," as a political slogan. He uses it to justify everything he does: Guantanamo, the ongoing presence in Iraq, spying on Americans. He uses it to bludgeon people who disagree with him, who dissent and speak out in this democracy against it.

And he doesn't deal with the fact that he has completely devastated our military, both men and women and equipment, during the course of this war in Iraq, made us more vulnerable.

And on top of that, he has done incredible damage to the America's moral authority in the world. And it's that strength and moral authority that's required in order for America to lead. That's what the president of the United States has to focus on.

BLITZER: The president has just declassified intelligence, though, suggesting that Osama bin Laden instructed al Qaeda in Iraq to plot attacks against the United States from their sanctuary, from within Iraq.

We're going to be speaking later with Fran Townsend, the president's homeland security director. Don't they have a point when they say that al Qaeda in Iraq potentially could represent a huge threat against U.S. interests outside of Iraq?

EDWARDS: Yes, but they created this mess in Iraq, Wolf. And what is Osama bin Laden doing still at large? I mean, this is all the responsibility of the president of the United States and this administration.

The reason there are terrorists actively engaged in what's happening in Iraq right now is because of the mess that George Bush and his administration have created there, completely ignoring the advice of military leadership -- uniformed military leadership.

So to now use a mess that they created to justify their ongoing so-called global war on terror makes absolutely no sense. I mean, this is like -- basically what they're doing is they're saying to America, trust us, trust us. We told you the war was over. We told you things were getting better. We told you "mission accomplished." We told you this is all -- trust us. Follow our lead on this.

BLITZER: But let me ask you this, Senator. Before the U.S. leaves Iraq, shouldn't the U.S. try to destroy al Qaeda in Iraq so that they don't represent a threat down the road?

EDWARDS: Wolf, we have a responsibility, and the president of the United States has a responsibility, to identify al Qaeda everywhere it's operating. And not just al Qaeda, any terrorist group, everywhere that it's operating. And to use every tool available to us to stop them before they can do us harm.

And that means military intelligence, our diplomatic tools, our alliances. All those things are an immediate responsibility of the president of the United States. But what's missing from this administration is any kind of long-term plan to undermine the forces that create terrorism, the forces that create moral authority for America to lead, education, health care, fighting global poverty, fighting the spread of disease.

I mean, those are the things that undermine the forces of terrorism, and we're doing nothing about any of those things.

BLITZER: All right. One point, some Democrats are saying that they're opposed to the elimination of the troop withdrawal deadline, but they're happy that they have inserted in this legislation an increase in the minimum wage, which is long overdue.

Is that good enough?

EDWARDS: No. Lord knows I'm for raising the minimum wage, any way we can get that done is a good thing. But it shouldn't be tied to what's happening in Iraq. What we should be doing in Iraq is standing our ground, stopping what this president is doing, forcing his hand and forcing him to withdraw troops from Iraq.

BLITZER: One final question. How is Mrs. Edwards doing?

EDWARDS: Oh, very nice of you to ask. You always ask. Thank you, Wolf. She is doing -- she is actually doing very well.

BLITZER: Please give her our best and let's hope for the best. Senator Edwards, thanks very much for coming in.

EDWARDS: Thanks for having me, Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And I spoke with the president's homeland security adviser Fran Townsend about Senator Edwards' criticism of Mr. Bush. Here's how she responded.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANCES TOWNSEND, ASST. TO PRES. FOR HOMELAND SECURITY: I would tell you I think Senator Edwards' comments are irresponsible. I think they are offensive and outrageous.

The fact of the matter is the president -- not this president, not any president is responsible for the tragedy that happened on September 11th. This president did not by his actions force al Qaeda to target innocent civilians in Iraq or any place else in the world.

The point the president was making today was to show the American people what's at stake here. Why victory in Iraq is so important. Why we have to stay on the offense. The lesson of September 11th is we have got to fight them so they don't come here because we know in their own words that's what they want to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The president's homeland security adviser echoing comments Mr. Bush made in his commencement speech at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy earlier today.

BLITZER: Up ahead tonight, many here in Washington have wanted to hear from her. Now, she finally speaks out. A key figure in the scandal over those eight fired U.S. attorneys. She now gives her side of the story and makes a surprising admission.

And "Sicko," Michael Moore's defenders go online to make a point. Stick around, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The woman many people have been wanting to hear from, finally speaks out. She's Monica Goodling, former senior counsel to the attorney general, Alberto Gonzales. And a key figure in the scandal over those eight fired U.S. attorneys.

Testifying today before a House committee, Goodling says she screened applicants for career jobs at the Justice Department based on political affiliation. It's an admission she was grilled about.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it against the law to take those political considerations into account? You have got civil service laws, you have got obstruction of justice with any laws that you could have broken by taking political considerations into account quote, "on some occasions."

MONICA GOODLING, FMR. SNR. COUNSEL TO ALBERTO GONZALES: The best I can say is that I know I took political considerations into account on some occasions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was that legal?

GOODLING: Sir, I'm not able to answer that question. I know I crossed the line.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What line? Legal?

GOODLING: I crossed the line of the civil service rules.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Meanwhile, Goodling denied having a major role in choosing which attorneys would be fired. Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd. He is joining us once again.

Brian, you have been looking into her background, what do you find?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, she had been a mysterious figure after resigning from the Justice Department and then invoking her Fifth Amendment rights. But today, we did hear directly from Monica Goodling, not only about but her role, but also about her motivations.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GOODLING: At heart, I'm a fairly quiet person. I try to do the right thing and I try to treat people kindly along the way.

TODD (voice-over): But today, she was facing questions about the U.S. attorneys' dismissal scandal.

So who is Monica Goodling?

GOODLING: I went to public schools growing up, but I chose Christian universities, in part, because of the value that they place on service.

TODD: Classmates at Messiah College in Pennsylvania describe her as relentlessly hardworking, driven, a loner. She then attended Regent University Law School, founded by evangelist Pat Robertson.

GOODLING: I enjoyed being surrounded by people that had the same belief system.

TODD: From there, a meteoric rise at the Justice Department, becoming the attorney general's White House liaison. Facing Congress, she was poised. But as the scandal was breaking in March, a top official has told investigators she proceeded about 30 to 45 minutes to bawl her eyes out and say: "All I ever wanted to do was serve this president and this administration and this department."

But no one outworked Monica Goodling, says a former colleague. And one supervisor said she would be diligently Blackberrying as late as 2:00 a.m. Still, other former colleagues describe a woman who was abrupt and ruffled feathers of U.S. attorneys and others.

A close friend at Justice says that's because Goodling was unfailingly honest and sometimes might have been too direct.

GOODLING: I've seen in my life what violent crime can do it its victims and I knew that at some point I wanted to do my part to seek justice on their behalf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Goodling said when making recommendations on hiring an applicant or firing an attorney, she never determined that person's faith to be a factor -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting, thanks, Brian.

Two 9/11 first responders who went to Cuba with Michael Moore for his new film "Sicko" are now speaking out about their controversial travels. Moore's film attacks the U.S. health care system and compares it to the one in Cuba. The responders are offering a firsthand account of their journey online. Let's go to our Internet reporter Jacki Schechner.

What are they saying, Jacki? JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, they say there was no pressure from Michael Moore to get treatment in Cuba, but just an offer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They said, if you want to come, you're welcome to come. If you feel comfortable enough with the medical facility after you check it out and you want to get tested, there will be tests there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHECHNER: The two go on to praise the level of treatment and care that they got on the island. The video was made and posted online in conjunction with a group that raises awareness for the health concerns of 9/11 responders. Its founder says that these particular responders went to Cuba because they needed help that they weren't getting here in the United States. He says that he cried when he watched the film.

Now Michael Moore says on his Web site today that his film has been extremely well-received at the Cannes Film Festival in France. That he anticipates a fight, especially from the health care industry, when he gets back to the United States.

Moore has already received sharp criticism from former Senator Fred Thompson who wrote in The National Review Online Moore most likely visited a Castro show clinic in Cuba. He goes on to say that in reality the Cuban people have to wait in long lines for even the most basic medical services. And he calls Moore's trip, Wolf, a P.R. stunt to Cuba.

BLITZER: Well, if it is a P.R. stunt, he's getting a lot of publicity in advance of the release of the movie. Thanks very much for that.

Up ahead, if it seems like gas prices go up just about every time you fill up, you aren't that far off the mark. We're seeing the 11th straight day of record-high prices. So Jack Cafferty wants to know do you think there's any funny business going on?

And get this, no male needed. Apparently one female shark does not need a male to help produce an offspring. It's an amazing story. We'll tell you what's going on. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's go to Jack in New York for the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Wolf, the question this hour is, do you think there has been any funny business when it comes to rising gas prices? Here's a few that we could put on the air.

Ken in Seattle: "Jack, that's the dumbest damn question you have ever asked. Look at the obscene profits these companies are piling up. The turkey necks blame higher" -- turkey necks? "The turkey necks blame higher gas prices on supply. They blame it on refining. They blame it on the high cost of crude oil. The bottom line is oil company profits far and away exceed the impact of any of the pitiful excuses they give for gouging us."

Pete in Arkansas: "Here's a unique idea, shut down commodity futures trading and let a free market set gas prices. Watch the price come down."

Sely, Tucson, Arizona: "I, for one, believe the U.S. should have a few oil wells that aren't privately-owned. Give the privately-owned companies some competition, protect the public's interests, at least the very poor."

Maria in Germany: "What's funny is that Americans who use more gas than anyone else in the world, are finally paying as much as the rest of us have been paying for years."

Mike in Dillingham, Alaska: "Business as usual for the robber barons, gouge the consumers, pocket the obscene profits, buy off the compliant politicians, finance another petroleum war, refuse to build new refineries because people don't want them in their neighborhoods, pay lip service to developing alternative energy resources, and of course, blame the rising prices on supply and demand. There is indeed nothing funny about any of this."

Angela in Minneapolis: "I can't understand why each day the gas prices change. Don't they buy the gas in bulk at one price? Shouldn't they sell it at that price?"

And Jeff in Carmel, New York: "Time for Americans to stop blaming the oil companies for their problems. Every morning at the end of my block, a string of gas-guzzling SUVs sits waiting for the school bus to arrive. Their engines are idling. The air conditioning is howling. And the DVD players are humming away. Can a school child manage to walk to the end of the block without air conditioning? Personally I would raise the price until school children learn to walk again."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to cnn.com/caffertyfile. That's a new thing, isn't it? That's very attractive. And we have more -- we have clips of the "Cafferty File." We have more e-mails. And every two years we get a new graphic. That's very attractive.

BLITZER: Very nice graphic. We're always up to speed on that. Jack, thank you.

Here's a question, what are Americans paying at the pump? Some of the cheapest prices in the country is the Costco in Anchorage, Alaska on Debarres (ph) Road where a gallon of regular unleaded is going for $2.80. The most expensive gas we found is at the 6th Street Shell in San Francisco, there a gallon of regular is $4.33. A gallon of premium is a whopping $4.53. Who buys premium anymore? The most recent statistic says premium makes up 9 percent of all gasoline sales.

Let's find out what's coming up at the top of the hour on "PAULA ZAHN NOW." Kyra Phillips filling in for Paula tonight.

Kyra, tell our viewers what is coming up.

KYRA PHILLIPS, GUEST HOST, "PAULA ZAHN NOW": Thanks, Wolf. I like Jack's new graphic. At the top of the hour, a part of daily life in Iraq you've got to see to believe. Police openly buying Viagra and Valium just to cope. How can they ever take over security?

And you'll want to see the results of a CNN investigation into slot machines on military bases. Is the money they bring worth the gamble that soldiers won't get addicted. It's out in the open -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I think our viewers are going to want to see you, Kyra, thanks very much for doing this.

Still ahead, it's quite an unconventional way to give birth without any help from a male. We're going to tell you how one animal appears to have done just that. Stick around, you're going to want to see this. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A fascinating medical story tonight. Let's go back to Carol Costello.

Carol, what is going on?

COSTELLO: It is fascinating. You know, Jeanne Moos is off this week so it is up to me to tell this story. It is sort of -- it is a virgin birth. This is from the files of "what do you know?"

A female hammerhead shark at a zoo in Omaha, Nebraska gave birth in 2001. Scientists studied the event using new DNA technology, and they have concluded that she did so without the aid of a male partner.

Now this matter of reproduction has been found in some fish, but this is the first time it has been discovered in sharks. Now there are a number of theories out there, Wolf, and they are quite complicated. And I could go through them, but I won't right now.

BLITZER: We'll save some time for tomorrow. Thanks very much, Carol. Let's go to Kyra in New York -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Thanks, Wolf.

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