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U.S. And Iran Hold Diplomatic Talks Described As "Business- Like" For First Time Since Iran Hostage Crisis; Dr. Kevorkian to be Released

Aired May 28, 2007 - 19:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Happening now -- historic thawing in U.S. relations with Iran. The first high level talks in almost three decades. Face-to-face warning about Iran's influence in Iraq. What was accomplished?
Also this hour, Dr. Death is about to be released from prison. Will Jack Kevorkian revive his campaign for doctor-assisted suicide?

And the picture most news outlets find too shocking to show. Princess Diana unconscious and dying. Why is one TV network airing the photo now? Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm John King. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Direct and historic talks between the United States and Iran. The first in 27 years. Diplomats representing the two longtime enemies sat down in Iraq to discuss the violence ripping that country apart. But looming over the meeting, growing tension between Washington and Tehran over Iran's nuclear program. Let's go straight to CNN State Department correspondent Zain Verjee.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, the U.S. is hoping that by breaking the diplomatic deep freeze with Iran, it could help the situation in Iraq.


VERJEE (voice-over): November 1979 -- Americans held hostage at the U.S. embassy in Tehran. U.S./Iran relations ripped apart.

Now, for the first time in almost 30 years, the two sides meet face to face for high level talks.

RYAN CROCKER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: The atmosphere of the talks has been business like.

VERJEE: The burning issue -- Iraq. The U.S. says Iran is pumping in money and weapons, including roadside bombs that kill U.S. troops.

Iran denies that. In Baghdad's sealed off green zone, U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, confronted the Iranians. He has 36 years of the diplomatic game under his belt and guided the four hours of conversation in English, Arabic and Farsi.

Crocker says the U.S. wants to see Iran take action. CROCKER: We're going to want to wait and see not what is said next, but what happens next on the ground.

VERJEE: Crocker said Iran blames the U.S. for what it calls an occupation and even criticized U.S. training of Iraqi forces, saying it was inadequate.

At the same time, a bomb killing 20 people in the heart of Baghdad -- a grisly reminder of the realities on the ground, underlining the performance of the talks.

But the historic talks come as tensions between the U.S. and Iran seem to be getting worse. The U.S. is war gaming, with nine ships near Iran's shores. Iran insists it will push on with its nuclear energy program, saying once again, it's ready to share its nuclear expertise with its neighbors.

The U.S. fears Iran wants a bomb and is considering a new round of sanctions to punish Iran.


VERJEE (on camera): Ambassador Crocker says the Iraqi side has indicated that it would like to invite both sides again to talk in the near future. He says the U.S. hasn't received a formal invitation, but when it does, it will consider it. John?

KING: State Department correspondent Zain Verjee.

There are growing concerns insurgents and extremists in Iraq are taking their tactics beyond the country's borders, fighting and unleashing terror throughout the Middle East and some fear the United States could be next. CNN's Brian Todd joins us live now. Brian, what evidence are we seeing about exporting terror from Iraq?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John, security officials in Lebanon now tell us a deadly standoff inside their borders involves some very unwelcome visitors.


TODD (voice-over): Explosions and gunfire in northern Lebanon. Lebanese security forces encircle a refugee camp, battling a militant group called Fatah al-Islam.

A top Lebanese security official tells CNN some of the militants they're fighting came straight from Iraq.

Experts say after years of drawing in militants from around the world, insurgent groups are exporting fighters from Iraq into Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan. And it may not stop there.

FAWAZ GERGES, AUTHOR "JOURNEY OF THE JIHADISTS": If the situation continues in Iraq, if Iraq becomes a major foothold, a major base for Al Qaeda, I would argue that Al Qaeda could very easily send militants and terrorists and suicide bombings into American shores. TODD: And it's not just fighters being exported, according to a former State Department intelligence official, who just wrote a report on this development.

DENNIS PLUCHINSKY, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Iraq is a laboratory for tactics and terrorist techniques -- how to put cells together, how to work cells, how to carry out surveillance of the target.

TODD: November 2005 -- militants believed to be from Al Qaeda in Iraq, then led by Abu Musab Zarqawi, stage nearly simultaneous bombings at three hotels in Amman, Jordan, killing more than 50 people.

Zarqawi, since killed by U.S. forces, bragged about those he'd sent from Iraq.

AYMAN AL-ZARQAWI (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Three lions left their dens in Baghdad and headed to the heart of Amman to carry out the blessed attacks against three targets known to be headquarters of Jews, crusaders and other enemies of God.


TODD (on camera): Now one of the biggest frustrations here according to terrorism experts is that we've seen this pattern well before those 2005 attacks when the Afghan jihad against the Soviets were left unchecked and set up training camps later attended by some of the 9/11 hijackers.


KING: And, Brian, any evidence we're seeing tactics beyond the greater Middle East exported even farther?

TODD: Experts say they've already been further than the Middle East. Former State Department intelligence official Dennis Pluchinsky who interviewed for our piece says ethnic militants in Bangladesh, Thailand and even some criminal gangs in Mexico have started to imitate some of these tactics.

KING: Troubling report. Brian Todd. Brian, thank you very much.

Tonight the nation is marking the service and sacrifice of America's war dead. President Bush is of course among those marking Memorial Day with somber words and high praise. CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux joins me now. Suzanne, how has the president's Memorial Day message evolved over the years?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, it's very interesting covering the president the last five years. He's very consistent when he talks about the sacrifice of the troops and his family and their families, rather. But also, if you listen very carefully, perhaps a turn of phrase or even watch a gesture, it is clear that he's also reflecting the status of the war. (BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice-over): President Bush's first Memorial Day speech was at a time when the nation was not at war. The idea of combat distant.

BUSH: We can never measure the full value of what was gained in their sacrifice. We live it every day in the comforts of peace and the gifts of freedom.

MALVEAUX: That peace would be shattered three-and-a-half months later on September 11th. U.S. troops would go into Afghanistan to rout the Taliban and go after al Qaeda.

In 2002, Mr. Bush was notably more personal.

BUSH: For some military families in America and in Europe, the grief is recent with the losses we have suffered in Afghanistan.

MALVEAUX: In 2003, the president took on Iraq. After the fall of Baghdad, a confident Mr. Bush declared major combat operations over. Three weeks later, he used his Memorial Day speech to honor the fallen, as well as taunt Saddam Hussein.

BUSH: That the moral force of democracy is mightier than the will and cunning of any tyrant.

MALVEAUX: That so-called tyrant was captured nearly seven months later. But, on Mr. Bush's fourth Memorial Day, there were 947 American dead.

BUSH: America is safer. Two terror regimes are gone forever. And more than 50 million souls now live in freedom.

MALVEAUX: Just a couple days later, power was handed back to the Iraqis. They later held their first free elections in half-a-century. But, on the president's fifth Memorial Day, the U.S. death toll had doubled. He pleaded to stay the course.

BUSH: And we must honor them by completing the mission for which they gave their lives, by defeating the terrorists.

MALVEAUX: The administration made optimistic predictions about American troops coming home, until the bombing of a sacred Shiite mosque, which turned Baghdad into chaos. On Mr. Bush's sixth Memorial Day, the U.S. death toll stood at more than 2,700, and the president was fighting the perception he was out of touch.

BUSH: We have seen those costs in the war on terror we fight today.

MALVEAUX: Many concluded, the cost was too high, and voted to put the congressional Democrats in charge to change course.

Now, with the U.S. casualty count over 3,800, the president is facing a war-weary nation, but remains resolute. BUSH: They lived and died as Americans. May we always honor them.


MALVEAUX (on camera): And John, it's noteworthy that on the president's seventh Memorial Day, he is still, still trying to convince Americans and his critics that the war is worth it. John?

KING: And Suzanne, did they talk about the challenge of that at all? The president on this Memorial Day at about 38 percent approval rating, well over a majority of Americans say end this war, bring the troops home. How much more difficult is it from a communication standpoint?

MALVEAUX: Well, they certainly talk about the challenges ahead. We even heard the president in his last press conference warning there's going to be a bloody, bloody month of August. That, of course, before General Petraeus actually looks and assesses the situation on the ground. So they expect that it is going to get much worse before it gets better.

KING: Suzanne Malveaux on this Memorial Day at the White House. Suzanne, thank you very much.

Coming up, the battle over the beginning of life. Evolution versus creationism. We'll take you to a new museum that puts dinosaurs and people together.

Plus the man called Dr. Death. Jack Kevorkian is about to be a free man again. Find out what he's saying now about doctor assisted suicide.

And Princess Diana and the controversy over the crash that killed her. Should the pictures be broadcast? Stay right here. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


KING: Our Carol Costello is monitoring stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Carol, what do you have?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: We'll start out with a sad story, John.

The sports world mourning the death of New England Patriots defensive end Marquise Hill. A search team found his body this afternoon in Lake Pontchartrain near New Orleans after his jet ski capsized in rough water last night. A passing boater rescued his female companion around 9:25 last night but was unable to find the football player. Marquise Hill was just 24 years old.

Another blow to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ailing government. Japan's agriculture minister hanged himself today just hours before he faced questioning for alleged bookkeeping fraud. He was found unconscious in his apartment and was rushed to a hospital where he was later declared dead. This is the first suicide by a Japanese Cabinet minister since World War II.

Mt. Everest is a lot cleaner tonight. Climbers from Japan and Nepal removed about 1,000 pounds of garbage that was littered there over decades. Japanese mountaineer Ken Noguchi organized the cleanup. This is his fifth. He says he's collected nearly 20,000 pounds of garbage since he began his campaign in 2000.

Poland's conservative government is investigating the Teletubbies. The government appointed children's right watchdog says she is concerned the BBC children's show promotes homosexuality. Of course, that statement appears to echo comments made years ago by the Reverend Jerry Falwell. He suggested one of the characters, that would be Tinky Winky, could be gay. Poland's rightist government has drawn criticism for its apparent stance against homosexuals.

We'll keep you updated about this one.

KING: I want to know. Please do. Carol Costello, thank you very much.

Teletubbies still running across the screen, there.

Tonight American farmers are banking on lucrative new exports to Cuba under a loophole in the U.S. trade embargo against Fidel Castro's regime. Cuba expects to sign deals worth $150 million in meetings starting today with U.S. food producers. CNN's Morgan Neill has more from Havana.

MORGAN NEILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, here in Havana's Convention Center, talks are just getting under way between U.S. food producers and Cuba's government. Under an exception to the U.S. trade embargo, U.S. food producers have been allowed to do business with Cuba. While this trade is relatively small for the United States in terms of other partners, for Cuba it's very important. Indeed, in 2004 and 2005, the U.S. was the top food exporter to Cuba. On recent years, there has been somewhat of a decline. We talked to one of the U.S. representatives here about why that may be.


KIRBY JONES, U.S. CUBA TRADE ASSOCIATION: I think part of the reason it hasn't been increasing is because of the current restrictions, which make carrying this trade out very difficult.


NEILL: That hasn't stopped several states from sending delegations here as well as several congressmen. Now we've asked several people here whether they've seen changes in this process since President Fidel Castro was forced to hand over power to his brother Raul July of last year. They've been telling us, no, it's very much business as usual.


KING: Morgan Neill for us. We'll keep an eye on that. The United States relaxed the trade embargo in 2000 to allow the sale of agricultural goods and medicine on a humanitarian reasons on a cash only basis. Since 2001 the United States has exported $1.5 billion worth of goods to Cuba. Last year wheat, chicken and corn last year were the top exports from this country to Cuba.

Just ahead, Iraq Study Group co-Chairman Lee Hamilton. I'll ask him if he would have voted for the Iraq War spending bill had he were still in the Congress. Hamilton has a surprising response.

And the man some nickname Dr. Death will soon be released from prison. Jack Kevorkian says he is preparing for his release by preparing to say something big.


KING: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, 21 people are dead after a car bomb ripped through a commercial district in Baghdad. Officials say the bomb was left in a parked car near a Sunni mosque but that civilians were the target.

More than 60 people are wounded. Hamas fires rockets into Israel. This despite calls for a cease-fire from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Today Israel's political and military leaders approved an army plan to intensify ground operations in Gaza.

And Britain hands Russia a formal request for the extradition of a Russian businessman accused of poisoning a former Russian spy. Britain says they have enough to charge the suspect with murder in the death Alexander Litvenienko.

Russian officials say they will not extradite the man. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm John King. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

More now on our top story. Iran and the United States holding direct talks today for the first time in 27 years. American diplomats are offering fairly positive reviews. For Iranian reaction let's go now to CNN's Aneesh Raman in Tehran.

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, with both sides calling this historic meeting a positive step, the waiting game now begins within the Islamic Republic. The question is who wins the support here? Hardliners in this country have been eager to torpedo any thaw in U.S./Iranian relations. They think the U.S. is out for nothing more than regime change and only have to look as far as the Persian Gulf to see why, where U.S. warships remain and gunboat diplomacy, in essence, is reminding Iran the U.S. has other means.

The other side, are moderates within Iran who see Iraq as a vehicle perhaps to bring the two countries together. Iran, it seems, brought up the idea of a committee with Iran, the U.S. and Iraq, all members, to discuss the security situation there. It was contradictory to what the foreign minister said earlier that Iran would not hold talks unless the U.S. admitted to a failed foreign policy. So we don't know where that is heading. But the biggest indication on all of this are words we're likely to hear from Iran's president and the country's supreme leader -- John.

KING: Aneesh Raman, in Tehran. Thank you very much.

Direct talks with Iran are among the many recommendations made by the Iraq Study Group in its report last December. Earlier I spoke about the landmark meeting between the United States and Iran with the co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group, former Democratic Congressman Lee Hamilton. Among the subjects we discussed, whether he approved of this dramatic change of heart by President Bush in sitting down with Iran.



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have made it clear to the Iranians that there is a possible change in U.S. policy; a policy that's been in place for 27 years. And that is that if they would like to engage the United States that they've got to verifiably suspend their enrichment program.


KING: Not only have they not done that, Congressman Hamilton, suspend their nuclear program, they've been bragging in recent days that it's making good progress. And the U.S. side says the nuclear program did not even come up in the talks today.

So, a major retreat by President Bush. I know you believe it is the right retreat, but should they have raised the nuclear program in these talks, or too soon for that?

LEE HAMILTON, CO-CHAIR, IRAQ STUDY GROUP: We have a long list of very difficult problems with Iran. I would put, I think most people would put, the nuclear problem at the top of the list. But you can't solve all of those problems in one sitting. You certainly can't solve that nuclear problem in one sitting.

You have to start, and you have to start somewhere. We're starting with the problems in Iraq. That makes perfect sense to me. But we must not limit the talks to that. And I think you have to be prepared to have some flexibility in the agenda so that you can go where the conversation dictates.

KING: Another issue that apparently did not come up is the five Americans now being detained in Iran. One of them a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson, sir, of which you are the president. You have written President Ahmadinejad on this issue. A, have you received any response from the Iranian government yourself? And are you disappointed, sir, that the Bush administration, in these talks, did not at least raise this issue briefly and put it on the table?

HAMILTON: I have not received a response from the president. That letter was written on February 20th, so he's had plenty of time to respond. Clearly that's a disappointment to us. I've written some other officials as well.

We at the Wilson Center would like to have seen this issue on the agenda for the discussions today. But we certainly want to see it brought up at some future point, if it could not for whatever reason be brought up today.

Haleh Esfandiari now is in, I think, the third week of imprisonment. We haven't even been able to see her. We don't know what her well-being is. She has had extremely limited conversations with her mother, 93 years of age, of a minute, or two minutes, at a time by telephone. So we're very anxious for her welfare. And, of course, the welfare of the others being detained.

KING: Want to bring your thoughts to the political debate back home, Sir. This is Memorial Day, a day on which politics is often pushed to the side. We're in a heated campaign season already. I want to ask you first about something the president said at Arlington National Cemetery. He was there for the traditional wreath laying and his traditional speech about the fallen.


BUSH: From their deaths must come a world where the cruel dreams of tyrants and terrorists are frustrated and foiled, where our nation is more secure from attack, and where the gift of liberty is secured for millions who have never known it. This is our country's calling. It's our country's destiny.


KING: I don't think, Sir, any American would argue that going into Afghanistan after 9/11, was this country's destiny. But in your view is the war in Iraq -- is that a war of destiny or is it a war of one man's choice?

HAMILTON: I think the war in Iraq was a war of choice, not of destiny. I don't think anyone quarrels with the idea that the United States, as a matter of foreign policy, should promote democracy. But, of course, it makes all the difference in the world how we do it, and what kind of resources we're prepared to spend to achieve our goals.

My personal view is that we should not try to impose or force democracy on other nations, but we should always be willing to encourage, to prod, to push, if you would, them in the direction of accountability, transparency, democratic practices.

The question really is not whether you do it, it's how you do it. And I think particular attention has to be looked at the use of military force. I don't think that's the way you get to democracy.

KING: Let me ask you, Sir, about the Democratic debate in the primary season back here at home. You were a Democratic congressman from Indiana. One of your party's most respected voices on international policy when you were in the Congress. If you were Congressman Lee Hamilton and had to vote on the supplemental appropriations bill last week, that the decision was cut off funding for the war, as many Democrats voted because there was no timetable to bring the troops home. Would you have voted for that bill, and given the president money even though you didn't have a timeline for withdrawal, or would you have voted against it?

HAMILTON: I would have voted for it. I see it as a process. I think it's terribly important that the president and the Congress develop a unity of effort in our war in Iraq. You can look back and find all kinds of mistakes that are made, but we are where we are.

The president is beginning to show some flexibility. He is beginning to show a change of course in Iraq. And I think the congress has been pushing and prodding him in that direction. This is not the end game in the relationship between the president and the Congress. I see it as an ongoing effort. There will be four, five, six or seven more votes in the Congress on this topic. My hope is at the end of the year -- my belief is, that you'll see the president and Congress beginning to come together.

We're not going to succeed in Iraq unless we have a unity of effort. We've not had that in the past. We're in the process of trying to get there. And I see this bill as a step in that direction.


KING: Up ahead tonight, he went to prison for helping gravely ill people end their lives. Now Jack Kevorkian is about to get out. Will he resume assisting suicides?

Plus, controversial images of a dying princess. We'll have details of a new British documentary on the death of Diana and the rarely seen pictures that have some outraged.

Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


KING: The man known as the suicide doctor is expected to be released from prison Friday. Doctor Jack Kevorkian served more than eight years for the lethal injection of a terminally ill man. CNN's Carol Costello is following that story.

Carol, do we know what Doctor Kevorkian plans to do once he's free?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN NEWS ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: Yes, we do. It's likely he'll go on a speaking tour and make lots and lots of money. Word is he'll continue to sell his assisted suicide in speeches across the country.


DOCTOR JACK KEVORKIAN, ASSISTED SUICIDE ADVOCATE: When the patient hits the switch, the saline is cut off, at the same time the pentathol is started, a concentrated solution, which puts a person in deep coma.

COSTELLO (voice over): Jack Kevorkian helped so many die with his cocktail of deadly drugs he earned the nickname "Doctor Death."

Due to be released from prison on Friday he's preparing to tell the world, again, why he believes doctors should help terminally ill people die. Telling a reporter in Detroit, "All I'm doing is trying to prepare for the big press conference coming up. I've got to have answers at my fingertips."

Answers that were not good enough when he helped kill a man on national television. Prosecutes in Michigan were appalled as they watched Kevorkian helping a man commit suicide on "60 Minutes."

KEVORKIAN: We're ready to inject. We're going to inject in your right arm.

COSTELLO: Fifty-two year-old Tom Yout suffered from Lou Gehrig's disease. After the program, Yout was dead and Kevorkian in court.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Guilty of a lesser charge of second-degree murder.

COSTELLO: He was sentenced to 10 to 25 years. After eight years in prison and now 79, he seems to have lost some of his bravado. Kevorkian in 1990 --

KEVORKIAN: I'll break the law because it's immoral. If you send me to jail, you better keep me there because I'll do it again when I get out.

COSTELLO: Today he says assisted suicide has "got to be legalized. I'll work to get it legalized, but I won't break any laws doing it."

Kevorkian's initial efforts did cause several states to take up the issue of assisted suicide, but only Oregon allows people the right to die. The law took effect in 1997, and according to the Associated Press, since then, 292 people asked their doctors to prescribe drugs to end their lives, which they did.


COSTELLO: Kevorkian's lawyer says there is plenty of interest in Kevorkian's ideas. Some are offering the so-called Doctor Death $100,000 per speech -- John.

KING: That's a hefty speaking fee. Carol, you know at 79 years old, do we know anything about his own physical and medical condition?

COSTELLO: Apparently he's not in the greatest of health. He has liver disease, he has diabetes, he has high blood pressure. And he also has Hepatitis C. But Kevorkian says he is ready for that press conference which will take place on June 5th. Then he'll go on a speaking tour.

KING: We'll be watching. Carol Costello for us. Carol, thank you very much. Why this? And why now? That's what many in London and beyond are asking about one British television network's decision to air controversial images of Princess Diana. CNN's Phil Black is in London with the details.


PHIL BLACK, CNN INT'L. CORRESPONDENT: John, this is Kensington Palace, it was Princess Diana's home. And it became the focus of Britain's grief in the days after her death.

Now a new documentary, investigating the accident that killed her, has been branded insensitive. Ten years on, the people here still feel very strongly about losing Diana.


BLACK (voice over): Just minutes after leaving the Ritz Hotel in Paris on August 31, 1997, Princess Diana lay unconscious, dying within the wreckage of this car.

For almost 10 years, the British media has adhered to an unwritten code not to publish or broadcast photos taken of the princess after the accident. But now one British TV network is breaking ranks and it's caused quite a stir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a particularly sick gimmick. They are only interested in extraordinary amount of publicity and that they have already got.

BLACK: The Channel 4 documentary "Diana: The Witnesses In The Tunnel" includes an image of a doctor attempting to treat the princess at the scene. An image CNN does not have the rights to broadcast. The producers have obscured her face and body. That's still offensive, according to the opposition conservative party.

ED VAIZEY, SHADOE BROADCAST MINISTER: If they decided to black out Diana's face because they recognize the photographs are sensitive, then they shouldn't show the photographs at all. I don't think they can have their cake and eat it.

BLACK: Channel 4's executive insists their use of the photograph is sensitive and necessary, telling CNN, "There was a very conscious decision on our part taken when we set out on this project that we wouldn't be showing any images of the occupants of the car. A similar image has already been shown by another U.S. network and an Italian magazine.

The British public will form their own judgment when the program is aired next week. Almost a decade since the nation first grieved for Diana, this outrage shows her death can still provoke powerful emotions.


BLACK: In a statement, Diana's sons William and Harry say they want their mother to be allowed to rest in peace. But in the countdown to the anniversary of her death, it is unlikely this documentary will be the only re-examination of that night in Paris 10 years ago. Back to you, John.

KING: Phil Black for us in London. Unlikely, to say the least.

Up ahead here, she's been a leader of the anti-war movement and often a thorn in the side of president bush. Cindy Sheehan, mother of a fallen soldier, makes a major announcement this Memorial Day.

Plus, Rosie O'Donnell takes her fight from "The View" onto her blog. We'll show you what she's saying.

Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM .


KING: On this Memorial Day, some recreational boaters are very upset with a proposal to clamp down on their pastime. New regulations are being proposed in the name of homeland security. CNN Homeland Security Correspondent Jeanne Meserve has our "Security Watch".


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The Navy's Blue Angels attract an armada to Maryland's Severn River. But just ask this patriotic crowd about proposals to license all boaters, in all states, for homeland security.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not going to be safer. And the reason is, is because the only people that are going to get licenses are law- abiding citizens like myself.

MESERVE: There are even less enthusiastic about the idea of putting transponders on recreational boats.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There goes my business.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're going to give away my fishing spots.

MESERVE: Licenses and transponders, ideas being floated by the commandant of the Coast Guard.

ADM. THAD ALLEN, COMMANDANT, U.S. COAST GUARD: What we're trying to figure out is how buy down the risk in our ports.

MESERVE (on camera): The Coast Guard worries that small boats like these could be used for surveillance, to deliver a terrorist to a target, or could be packed with explosives and used like a bomb.

(Voice over): Remember the U.S.S. Cole, when a small boat laden with explosives rammed into it 17 sailors were killed. U.S. Harbors are full of potential targets. Cruise ships and tankers, chemical plants, and other critical infrastructure. They are also full of small boats. CAPT. BRAIN KELLEY, U.S. COAST GUARD: Just the sheer numbers and the ability to hide among recreational traffic is something that makes it difficult for me to find the threat -- and to address it.

MESERVE: Some say the Coast Guard should be more aggressive about establishing areas where small boats cannot go.

MIKE SCIULLA, BOAT US: They need to establish secure zones. They need to put the manpower and resources into establishing those zones and making sure that the boating public knows what those zones are.

MESERVE: The Coast Guard is holding a conference in June to encourage dialogue on these ideas, but expect some argument, too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to have freedom; as few rules as possible.

MESERVE: Jeanne Meserve, CNN, on the Severn River.


KING: Stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.

Cindy Sheehan gained fame by camping out to protest the war. It looks like she's now packing up and going home. Abbi Tatton has the situation online -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Cindy Sheehan is writing on "Daily Kos", John, saying that basically this is my resignation letter as the face of the American anti-war movement. This in a post in the diary section of "Daily Kos" just this morning.

She said she had reached some heart-breaking conclusions this Memorial Day morning saying that she is basically done. She was the darling of the Left as long as she just protested Republicans. But when she started pointing fingers at Democrats, support for my cause began to erode.

This comes two days after Sheehan penned another letter to the Democratic Congress slamming them for passing the Iraq spending bill. And in the post today, she's saying it's over. She said, "That I'm going to take whatever I have left and go home. I'm going to go home and be a mother to my surviving children."


KING: Abbi Tatton, for us. Thank you very much, Abbi.

And up ahead, a post-fight analysis. Rosie O'Donnell takes to the Internet to vent her feelings about her former co-host on "The View." We'll have her unvarnished views. Stay right here, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


KING: Here's a look at some Memorial Day hot shots coming in from our friends at the Associated Press.

In Chicago, a man mourns his brother while visiting a memorial of more than 3400 boots representing U.S. military personnel killed in Iraq.

In Montana, Army National guardsmen ride horses during the dedication ceremony of the Armed Forces Memorial Bridge.

In Wisconsin, a Wiccan priestess places flowers at a grave stone of National Guard Sergeant Patrick Stewart. Today marks the first ever Memorial Day dedication of grave markers with the Wiccan pentacle on them.

And in Minnesota, five-year-old Noah Tool wears his father's American Legion hat during a Memorial Day ceremony.

That's this hour's hot shots, pictures often worth 1,000 words.

Our Carol Costello is monitoring stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Carol is in New York.

Carol, what do you have?

COSTELLO: Oh, an amazing story to start off with, John.

Three people are alive after their plane crashed near Napa, California. It landed upside down. The small plane took off this morning from Concord. Ten minutes later the pilot radioed he was having engine trouble. The plane crashed a short time later. Two people inside suffered minor injuries, a third person was unhurt.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's decision to shut down an opposition aligned TV station is sparking violent protest. The station was kicked off the air at midnight and replaced with a state-run channel. In Caracas today national guard troops fired teargas and rubber bullets into a crowd of protesters. At least three people were injured.

The two whales that ended up 90 miles inland in Sacramento's river are halfway back to the Pacific Ocean, but they've come to an abrupt stop. The mother humpback whale and her calf are in a holding pattern near a bridge. Rescuers cannot predict what the whales will do next.

A medical team plans to administer a second round of antibiotics to the injured whales today. And then from there, John, they'll just hope the whales decide to go in the right direction and head into the Pacific Ocean.

KING: We'll keep rooting for them, Carol. That's an amazing story. Carol Costello, thank you very much.

After the smack down between Rosie O'Donnell and her co-host on "The View," O'Donnell is taking to the Internet with a post-fight analysis. CNN's Jeanne Moos, who else, has this most unusual story.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): What other star would let herself be seen like this.


MOOS: You can watch Rosie sneeze on her video blog. Watch Rosie swig. Don't worry, she's not getting drunk. You can examine Rosie examining herself.

O'DONNELL: Talk about stress-related Rosacea. You can play connect the dots right now.

MOOS: All dots lead to this.

O'DONNELL: You said nothing and that's cowardly.


O'DONNELL: When I saw the split screen. That's when I knew it was over.

MOOS: Rosie used her video blog for post-fight analysis, answering e-mailed questions from fans and foes. Somebody wanted to know if conservative co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck had apologized. Rosie said she'd called and spoken to Rosie's longtime partner.

O'DONNELL: I haven't spoken to her and I probably won't. I think, it's just as well.

MOOS (on camera): But through the miracle of previously recorded videotape -- Rosie and Elisabeth did speak again. They didn't just speak. They got lovie dovie.

O'DONNELL: Ladies and gentlemen, it's Elisabeth's birthday.

MOOS: Memorial Day happened to be Elisabeth's 30th birthday and "The View's" Memorial Day show was prerecorded two weeks or so ago.

O'DONNELL: Happy birthday to you!

MOOS: Taped before the two of them went nuclear.

O'DONNELL: I asked you a question.

HASSELBECK: Let me ask you a question.

MOOS: Hard to believe that this was what Rosie was talking about not long ago.

O'DONNELL: You know what your birthday gift is from me?


O'DONNELL: You and Tim and the baby get to spend a whole week at my house in Miami. MOOS: But you can kiss those hugs and kisses good-bye.

O'DONNELL: Big, fat lesbian loud Rosie attacks innocent, pure Christian Elisabeth.

MOOS: On her video blog, Rosie answered e-mail comments from critics --

O'DONNELL: Quit being bin Laden's mouth piece. If only it was about bin Laden. His name should be bin forgotten. Remember, it was all about bin Laden? We forgot him; 3,000 kids later, dead.

MOOS: Conservative websites and pundits accuse Rosie of coddling terrorists by suggesting, for instance, that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed had been tortured. That remark resulted in this, with the caption, Shake Rosie Muhammad captured yesterday by U.S. forces.

What captured our attention was the verbal smack down.

HASSELBECK: Defend your own insinuations.

MOOS: Now, the only view that's Rosie's is through the rear view.

O'DONNELL: Bye-bye!

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


KING: I don't do it very often, but I think on that one I'll just button my lips.

Thanks for joining us and join us every day from 4 to 6 p.m., and at 7 p.m. Eastern, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm John King. Thanks again for joining us. Enjoy the rest of your holiday. Up next, "Paula Zahn Now".


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