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Putin Offers Compromise on Missile Defense Issue; Interview With Carl Bernstein

Aired June 7, 2007 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou.
Happening now, a surprise turn in the tensions between the United States and Russia. President Bush had urged Vladimir Putin to stop hyperventilating over missile defense. Now both sides may be breathing a little bit easier.

Also this hour, secrets from Hillary Rodham Clinton's past. The journalist, Carl Bernstein talks about his new book and what he says are details about the Democratic presidential candidate that she doesn't want us to know about.

And exclusive pictures from a long running U.S. hostage drama -- the plane crash in Colombia that started it all, a failed rescue attempt, and rebel forces intent on kidnapping and killing.

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

Up first this hour, it's make or break time for bi-partisan compromise on immigration reform. The U.S. Senate moving toward a critical vote on the bill and its controversial pathway for citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants. The measure failed in an earlier test vote. If it happens again, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, says the compromise will be dead.

We're keeping tabs on the Senate action. We're going to go there live when the votes are being cast. That could happen soon. In the meantime, though, police aimed water cannons at protesters today at the G-8 summit, just days after the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, threatened to aim missiles at Europe. The protesters were angry that a missile feud between the U.S. and Russia was sidetracking the summit. But suddenly, President Putin pulled a shocker. After weeks of harsh rhetoric, the Russian leader today made a stunning offer to President Bush.

Our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is in Germany. Suzanne?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, before President Bush's meeting with President Putin he said that this missile defense shield system is not an issue to be hyperventilating about. But then there was something that happened in that meeting that caught both the president and his aides off guard.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MALVEAUX (voice-over): Emerging from their anticipated showdown over missile defense, a surprise. Russian leader Vladimir Putin offered a proposal to end his heated standoff with President Bush over U.S. plans to build a missile defense system in Eastern Europe considered a welcome step to repairing U.S.-Russian relations.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He made some interesting suggestions.

MALVEAUX: The suggestion, to cooperate with the United States in building the missile defense shield, but on Russia's terms.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This will create necessary grounds for common work.

MALVEAUX: While President Bush envisions putting a radar in the Czech Republic and 10 missile interceptors in Poland to confront potential missile launches from rogue states Putin sees this setup in his own backyard as a threat to Russia's security. Instead, Putin wants to use an old Soviet built radar system already based in Azerbaijan, which it shares with that government.

This would give Russia some involvement in detecting threats. After Putin laid out his plan, national security adviser Stephen Hadley huddled with the president's team. U.S. secretaries of defense and state will meet with the Russian counterparts to study the plan in the weeks ahead. Putin suggested that if he got his way, he would no longer have to consider aiming his arsenal at Europe.

PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translator): This will make it possible for us not to change our stance on targeting our missiles.

MALVEAUX: With the chill thawing now between these two, the talk of cold war was replaced with talk of a summer trip.

BUSH: I told Vladimir we're looking forward to having him up to my folks place in Maine, in the beginning of July.


MALVEAUX: But Mr. Bush's next stop on this trip is Poland. That is the site where he wants to put those missile interceptors. It is an idea that Putin is dead set against -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux at the G-8 summit in Germany.

Half a world away, yet another surprise -- North Korea today sent what may be a message to the G-8 summit in the form of short range missile tests. Here's our State Department correspondent Zain Verjee. Zain?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, North Korea wants some attention. It doesn't like to be neglected.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) VERJEE (voice-over): North Korea's Kim Jong-Il is feeling left out. So, as world leaders meet in Germany, he's fired a few short range missiles on his side of the world. The U.S. reaction -- measured.

TOM CASEY, STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: We don't view these kinds of actions as helpful, and, have always called on the North Koreans not to take any steps that would raise tensions or concerns in the region.

VERJEE: This round of missile tests the U.S. says has been done before and not as threatening as the ones North Korea fired last July. Those included a long range missile that could hit the U.S., but it has put North Korea back in the headlines.

Joe Cirincione of the Center for American Progress says when North Korea is ignored they start rattling the chains. Remember the break through deal in February when North Korea agreed to shut down its nuclear reactor? Well, it's not happening. North Korea is getting impatient.

It says it will only act after it gets its money, $25 million, stuck in a bank in Macau. The U.S. had initially frozen the cash, accusing North Korea of counterfeiting U.S. bills. The U.S. says the cash has been freed. But North Korea can't find a bank that wants to make the transfer.


VERJEE: North Korea experts say if the money issue isn't resolved, there could be more significant tests from North Korea. Wolf?

BLITZER: Zain Verjee over at the State Department.

Meanwhile, as the ice melted, at least for the time being between the U.S. and Russia, President Bush joined other G-8 leaders today in an agreement to try to fight global warming. But is that agreement full of hot air?

Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd. He's joining us. Brian, is there less here as far as the deal is concerned than meets the eye?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, experts say there is actually some substance here and it puts us on the road to getting something done on climate change, but some of the rhetoric from the G- 8 leaders, they say, is a little bit over the top.


TODD (voice-over): The leaders call it a huge step forward in the battle against climate change, their deal at the G-8 summit for industrialized nations to cut greenhouse gases that cause global warming. But listen to how they qualify it.

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We are going to be, from a starting position of considering the having of emissions by 2050, which is a huge thing.

TODD: Considering cutting emissions in half by 2050, not actually agreeing to that hard target for cutting them, as the German chancellor and other European leaders had hoped, environmentalists furious that no deal was reached for emissions to be cut to certain levels by a date certain.

A top Greenpeace official says the agreement in Germany is clearly not enough to prevent dangerous climate change. President Bush had always refused to sign up for those hard targets to cut emissions. Are the Europeans caving?

REGINALD DALE, CTR. FOR STRATEGIC & INTL STUDIES: They have agreed to what the United States was proposing, which was basically that in future, there will be a global framework for the plan to reduce global warming, but that each country will be able to do it in its own way.

TODD: Experts say Bush has also compromised.

ANDREW REVKIN, AUTHOR, "THE NORTH POLE WAS HERE": To actual dates for agreeing on something to come after the Kyoto protocol, which is this existing treaty that the United States has rejected, that doesn't involve big developing countries like China.

TODD: That deal also set hard targets and dates for greenhouse gas cuts, an idea the major powers now seem to concede won't lead to any major deal on global warming.


TODD: What the mayor powers are moving toward now starting with this deal at the G-8 is negotiations for each country to cut their own emissions. But China and India are crucial to that. Experts say they will soon replace the United States as the world's major sources of greenhouse gases, Wolf.

BLITZER: So what are the chances, Brian that China and India will play ball?

TODD: Well the consensus is they will if again no hard targets for emissions cuts, no hard dates are set. That was the nonstarter that the Bush team has always rejected, as well.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us.

Meanwhile, environmental activists want the G-8 summit to act now on global warming, and Greenpeace protesters in speedboats led police on a wild chase today as they tried to drive that message home. Take a look at this.

They raced through the Baltic Sea near the summit; one boat load of protesters is run over by a police boat. Watch this.




BLITZER: Three of those protesters were injured in that incident, was not pretty.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's joining us in New York. Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, in an effort to improve America's tattered image abroad following the mess in Iraq, a California congresswoman wants to send DVDs of classic Hollywood movies overseas. "The Los Angeles Times" says Democrat Diane Watson wants to start saturating the globe with films like "Meet me in St. Louis" with Judy Garland, and "National Velvet" with Elizabeth Taylor and "Lassie Come Home".

Watson says, quote -- "we can choose what we really feel represents us in the best light. We're not going to do films about war or films that have great violence in them, no films about slavery, wouldn't want to do "Gone With The Wind". She says that's not the image I want to promote."

The plan is to send these movies to libraries of U.S. embassies and consulates all around the world, "Lassie Come Home." Watson has also introduced a bill that would open libraries to the public, and she's looking for donations of both movies and equipment to play them, so it wouldn't require any government funding.

And although the State Department doesn't take positions on proposed legislation, a spokesman says they are willing to work with Congress on ways to support public diplomacy efforts. So, here is the question.

Can Lassie, Judy Garland and Elizabeth Taylor succeed where George Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld have failed when it comes to America's image overseas? E-mail or go to -- Wolf.

BLITZER: She may be onto something, you never know, Jack.

CAFFERTY: I doubt it.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Coming up, the journalist who helped break Watergate digs into Senator Hillary Clinton's life story and her family secrets. My interview with Carl Bernstein. That's ahead.

Also, how far did Vice President Cheney go to get the president's controversial wiretapping program approved? New details on that and Democratic charges that the vice president left a lot of fingerprints.

And "Borat" was a hit film. Now it's hit with a new lawsuit. We're going to tell you who is suing and why.


BLITZER: We're keeping a close watch right now on the Senate floor. Members are about to decide the fate of a controversial immigration reform bill. We are standing by for this, the second critical test vote of the day. It's a vote that could prompt the Senate's top Democrat, Harry Reid, to pull the plug on the measure for the time being.

We're standing by for the results. As soon as that vote starts, we'll bring it to you. This is a critical vote that we're watching on the Senate floor. At stake right now, the immigration reform compromise. It could live or it could die. We might know very, very soon.

Also today, the House of Representatives thumbed its nose at a threat from President Bush. And the president responded by saying, no way will he stand for it. The House passed a bill to roll back the Bush administration's restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. It would allow researchers to get stem cells from embryos made for in vitro fertilization that would normally be discarded. The House majority leader, Steny Hoyer says the bill and I'm quoting now, "seeks to preserve life", but in a statement, President Bush says the House, quote, "chose to discard existing protections on human life". He's vowing to veto this bill.

In another major story we're following right now, a former Bush administration official and some Democrats are pointing the finger at Vice President Dick Cheney for his role in a highly contentious government program. Our Justice Department correspondent Kelli Arena has more. Kelli?

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, new details are emerging about Vice President Cheney's role in trying to get the administration's controversial wiretapping program approved back in 2004 by a very reluctant Justice Department.


ARENA (voice-over): Democrats say his fingerprints are all over it.

SEN CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: It hardly comes as a surprise that the vice president was involved, when you look at the record of this administration.

ARENA: Following his dramatic testimony last month, former Deputy Attorney General James Comey is fueling speculation that it may have been Vice President Cheney who turned the screws in 2004 on a very sick then Attorney General John Ashcroft. That after Justice officials told the White House its classified terror program wasn't legal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The vice president ought to come clean and answer the questions. What did he do? How much effort did he take? ARENA: In new written testimony Comey says he told Cheney on a Tuesday that he was refusing to certify the program. On Wednesday, then White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and chief of staff Andy Card were sent to lean on Ashcroft as he lay in a hospital bed.

JAMES COMEY, FORMER DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: I was very upset. I was angry. I thought I had just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man.

ARENA: The vice president won't comment. Andrew Card won't comment. Neither will Gonzales.

ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I am not going to comment on Mr. Comey's testimony or talk about the program.

ARENA: Apparently the vice president just couldn't let it rest. Comey says that Cheney leader opposed a promotion for one of his deputies, Patrick Philbin, who was involved in the dispute.


ARENA: Congressional leaders have asked the Justice Department for more details on that controversial surveillance program. Now Justice already missed one deadline imposed by Congress and have yet to respond. Wolf?

BLITZER: Kelli Arena reporting. Thanks Kelli.

President Bush's nominee for surgeon general of the United States is facing harsh opposition from gay rights activist who have some serious questions about his stance on homosexuality.

CNN's Mary Snow is joining us once again. Mary, what is the complete these groups are making about Dr. James Holsinger?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, their complaint is that he has an anti-homosexual ideology and they say it clashes with public policy.


SNOW (voice-over): The president's pick for surgeon general is part of what one gay rights group calls a hostile crusade against homosexuals. Critics accuse Dr. James Holsinger of being biased against homosexuals and they vow to block his nomination.

MATT FOREMAN, NATIONAL GAY & LESBIAN TASK FORCE: The surgeon general is the doctor for all Americans, not just for heterosexual Americans who believe a certain kind of doctrine.

SNOW: A 1991 report Holsinger prepared for the United Methodist Church is drawing fire. In it Holsinger concludes that homosexuality is both unnatural and unhealthy. He compares male and female reproductive organs as pipe-fittings and determines, quote, "When the complementarity of the sexes is breached, injuries and diseases may occur." UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was an insulting piece of propaganda in which he used his medical license to give it some substance. He's never repudiated that.

SNOW: Holsinger's office referred all calls to the Department of Health and Human Services. The HHS is quoted as telling The AP that Holsinger based the paper on available scientific data from the 1980s and was not reflective of his thinking.

The White House is defending him saying he dedicates his life to public service and on numerous occasions he has taken up the banner for under-represented populations and he will continue to be a strong advocate for these groups and all Americans.

Holsinger supporters include Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher, who cites his work to reduce obesity as one of his qualifications for the job of surgeon general, but critics cite his religious ideology including a 2004 vote to expel a lesbian from the clergy in the United Methodist Church as why he shouldn't be surgeon general.


SNOW: Now, again, Dr. Holsinger's office referred all calls to the HHS. We've contacted HHS several times throughout the day, but they have not gotten back to with us a statement. Wolf?

BLITZER: Mary Snow, thank you. Mary is going to stay on top of this story for us.

Still ahead tonight here in THE SITUATION ROOM never before seen video of the crash site where American contractors were taken hostage by Colombian rebels. They are still being held four years later.

Also, throwing punches in the State House. We're going to show you about the fight -- what this fight is all about.

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


BLITZER: A letter turns up in a lost archive. It shows the frustrations of President Abraham Lincoln in the middle of the Civil War. Let's go back to Brian Todd. Brian, what is this discovery all about?

TODD: Wolf, this letter gives us an inside view of a commander in chief in a very difficult war. President Lincoln realizing what is at stake, trying to get his generals to seize on a rare opportunity.


TODD (voice-over): Early July 1863, just after the Union's victory at Gettysburg midway through the Civil War, President Lincoln writes to Major General Henry Halleck (ph), his top official at the War Department. Lincoln wants Halleck (ph) to urge the Union's commanding general in Pennsylvania, George Meade, to press the advantage against Robert E. Lee's wounded Confederate Army. If General Meade can complete his work so gloriously prosecuted thus far, by the literal or substantial destruction of Lee's army, the rebellion will be over.

Researcher Trevor Plante, who found the letter, says the basic contents were already known second hand. But finding the original reveals the date and Lincoln's urgency.

TREVOR PLANTE, NATIONAL ARCHIVES: The note expresses Lincoln's optimism that if Meade can destroy Lee's army, the war would be over. For the next several days, both Halleck (ph) and Lincoln implored Meade to fight Lee's army before it crossed the Potomac River.

TODD: But Meade and his exhaustive force do not pursue the fleeing rebels, and a week later, Lee escapes. Lincoln later writes to General Meade in a letter he never sends your golden opportunity is gone, and I am distressed immeasurably because of it. The war will be prolonged indefinitely.

PLANTE: You can feel Lincoln savoring that the end of the war is within his grasp, and thus the great disappointment he had with Meade's failure to deliver.


TODD: Lincoln was often frustrated by generals who were not aggressive enough like General George McClellan. The war continued for nearly two more years after that. When it was all over, more than 600,000 Americans had perished, more than all of the country's other wars combined. Historians have often wondered how many could have been spared if the war had ended right then after Gettysburg, Wolf.

BLITZER: What a story. Thank you very much, Brian. Appreciate it.

Meanwhile, it's the site of an amazing find in Philadelphia. Archaeologists have now uncovered a hidden passage way used by nine of George Washington's slaves. They found it at the first president's home. The underground passage way is near Philadelphia's Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.

Just ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM is Hillary Rodham Clinton qualified to be president of the United States? What makes her tick? What's going on in her life? The famed Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein talks about that, and much more, in a new book. He'll be here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Plus, Americans held hostage by Colombian rebels for four years, now there are new details of their ordeal.

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


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, the Bush administration is set to suspend a post 9/11 security measure temporarily. It requires that U.S. passports be used for travelers flying to and from Canada and Mexico. The administration says instead that travelers will be able to show a State Department receipt showing they have applied for their passport -- major backlog getting those passports.

President Bush's job approval rating has just matched its all- time low. Only 32 percent say they are satisfied with the president's performance in a new Associated Press/Ipsos poll. Iraq clearly a major factor.

And in Baghdad's violent Sadr City, someone puts a bomb beneath a parked car near a popular restaurant while many people ate lunch. At least five people are dead.

Meanwhile today, military officials said one U.S. soldier died after a bombing in Baghdad yesterday.

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

He's been paying very close attention to American presidents since Watergate. Now the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Carl Bernstein has written a new book about a presidential candidate. It's called "A Woman in Charge," the life of Hillary Rodham Clinton. I sat down with Carl Bernstein just a short while ago.

Let's talk a little bit about what makes Hillary Clinton tick and I want to read a passage from the book, on page 554.

As Hillary has continued to speak from the protective shell of her own making, and packaged herself for the widest possible consumption, she has misrepresented not just facts but often her essential self.

Give me an example or two.

CARL BERNSTEIN, AUTHOR, "A WOMAN IN CHARGE": Her own book. Her own book, "Living History," which is supposed to be an autobiographical account of her life, beginning in her childhood, is at variance with the rendition of events by those who were closest to her and around her at the time. Her best friend from childhood, Betsy Evelyn, told me in great length, as you read in the book, about how abusive her father was of her mother, how he humiliated her.

And Hillary, in "Living History", describes an almost idyllic father knows best suburban childhood. It was anything but. Her father was a sour, unfulfilled man, a martinet, beat the kids. She, in fact, in her own book talks about he didn't like to spare the rod. And we don't know the extent to which he beat the children. She says in her book that she thought it was sometimes used excessively and she tried to intervene on behalf of her brother. She doesn't say at all anything...

BLITZER: So how did that impact her as an adult?

BERNSTEIN: I'm not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, but obviously she grew in a house in which her mother was humiliated constantly or continually by her husband. People who came to the house, including Hillary's first boyfriend, Jeff Shields, who I talked to, wondered why Hillary's mother did not leave the marriage.

Her mother, Dorothy Rodham, counseled Hillary, counseled her brother Tony -- people in this family do not get divorced. So one of the...

BLITZER: So that's an example, you're saying, of where she was --

BERNSTEIN: Yes. Again, her book -- and I say that in a footnote, actually, or an end note to the book, her book is full of omissions, obfuscations. It's not mendacious. It's a self-portrait as she would like to see herself, but it has very little to do with -- with the full reality of her life. And what's so sad about it is she's better than her own book. She's more interesting than her own book. It's a great story.

BLITZER: Let's talk about her marriage. This is what you write on page 117: "Their friends observed a remarkable chemistry. 'She's the only one that gets up in the morning with a dark cloud over her head, and he gets up with the bright sun,' said a photojournalist who followed the Clinton in Arkansas and Washington."

"As the day goes on, he falls into a funk, and she's the one who will refocus him. It's one of those things if you'd never met them, neither of them would have reached the heights that they did."

BERNSTEIN: No question.

BLITZER: That they made each other better.

BERNSTEIN: They made each other whole.

She has been the constant of his process since they were in college, in law school together, and he has been the constant of her process, particularly now. He was in the foreground when he was president, and she was the manager. She was the disciplinarian.

Now that role has reversed, but they are linked and complementary in their roles. They each have their areas of expertise, as you know, when you read the book. It talks about how his area of expertise going into the presidency was economics, hers was social policy. That's one reason she got the job of health care.

But they work together as a team, sometimes well and sometimes really badly.

BLITZER: And then you write this: "He wanted in 1989 to end his marriage. Hillary refused. She would fight to keep her marriage and her family together. She had put too much of her own heart and mind and soul into her partnership with Bill to abandon it. She had invested too much."

I don't want you to go through the whole story right now, but how serious was the possibility that the two of them were about to get divorced?

BERNSTEIN: This basic information came from Betsy Wright, Bill Clinton's chief of staff in the gubernatorial years who witnessed his acting out in this affair that he had with a woman named Marilyn Jo Jenkins. Witnessed his exits, coming, going. And finally, Bill told Betsy Wright that he had wanted to leave the marriage, that Hillary, in Betsy Wright's words to me, would not give him a pass.

I talked also to Diane Blaire, Hillary's closest friend of her life, probably, who said that Hillary had come to her around this time in 1989, 1990, and said, "What am I going to do if I'm on my own with Chelsea? I don't know how much money we have."

It's -- and gradually the story was pieced together by Betsy Wright.

BLITZER: But they survived that crisis in their marriage.

BERNSTEIN: Well, again, Bill then decided, according to Betsy Wright, that he wanted to stay in the marriage with Hillary for many reasons, not the least of which was Chelsea, and that he would try to make the marriage work, and that they had had discussions about what those conditions would be to continue in the marriage.

BLITZER: Did she cooperate with you at all in the writing of this book?

BERNSTEIN: She -- not in the writing of the book. Not at all.

BLITZER: Did she give you any interviews?

BERNSTEIN: No, she did not. And she was good in the beginning about telling their friends, if you want to talk to him, it's all right with me, if you want to.

And she had told me, as had Bill Clinton, that she would talk to me for the book. And then in the end, after, oh, five, six times in which people working with her said she would talk to me, she said no.

And this gets back to something basic. The Clintons, but especially Hillary, Hillary has never wanted anyone else to tell her story except herself.

She is very much a camouflaged woman. She's hidden behind that camouflage.

Her own biography as she sees it and has written it is far from what really is a full account. And I think as we got closer to a full account here, she decided she -- the last thing she wanted was to have anything to do with it.

BLITZER: Because her people don't like this book, as you know. They've been saying all sorts of nasty things. That specifically, it's a good yawn, they say.

BERNSTEIN: Well, what's so interesting, they said that before there was a book. They said that before they had a book and before they read it.


BLITZER: Carl Bernstein, speaking with me earlier. So, what is the Clinton camp also saying about this new book? We got a response from a Clinton spokesman. Let me read it to you. "I think that say you saw firsthand on Sunday night at the debate, Americans are interested in Senator Clinton's plan for improving health care, lowering gas prices, and bringing our troops home from Iraq, not this author's personal agenda to take old stories and rehash for cash."

The spokesman then goes on to say, "His publisher could have saved the millions of dollars they spent on the book and relied instead of a free library card. But if you're having trouble falling asleep and you can't get your hands on any Ambien, this book ought to do the trick."

Once again, that statement from a spokesman for Senator Clinton.

Still ahead tonight here in THE SITUATION ROOM, exclusive never before seen video. It involved a nightmarish scene involving a plane crash, a long ordeal for some kidnapped Americans. Our Joe Johns standing by with the story.

And suing the distributor of "Borat." One man says he suffered from being included in the film. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Now to exclusive video that's never been seen before. It shows the site where a plane carrying four Americans crashed and their four-year hostage nightmare began. Here's CNN's Joe Johns.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Spring, 2003, Colombia. A small plane flies low over rebel hell territory on an anti-drug surveillance mission. Four Americans are on board. Private contractors working for the U.S. government's drug eradication program. The plane goes down in the worst possible place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Magic worker, magic worker, we have lost engines. We have north 0203.

JOHNS: They are surrounded by gunman, soldiers of the largest armed rebel force in the western hemisphere, a guerrilla group that goes by the name FARC. FARC controls huge areas of the Colombian jungle, earning money from the cocaine trade, waging war against the Colombian government. Its members kidnap and kill and the U.S. government has branded FARC a terrorist organization. In this October 2003 video, one of the Americans describes what happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The aircraft, I looked, and I heard gunshots and the FARC were on the ground, they were shooting into the air.

JOHNS: The plane's pilot, and American, and a Colombian intelligence officer are taken away and shot dead, execution style.

This never before seen footage of the crash site, taken by a recovery team, shows the wreckage, and the bodies. The three surviving Americans, Thomas Howes, Keith Stansell and Marc Gonsalves are taken to a FARC camp. They have been held ever since.

More exclusive footage obtained by CNN taken by the Colombian army, after a failed attempt to rescue the hostages. By the time the army got there, the men has been spirited away, out of sight, all but forgotten for the next three years.

May, 2007, an incredible development. A Colombian police officer, part of a group of 60 hostages that includes the Americans, escapes and tells his story. Kim Chow (ph) says the Americans are alive, that he saw them just weeks ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope they make it back soon. One way or another, I know some day they will see the light of liberty.

JOHNS: This week, an even bigger break. Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe, who was elected on promises he would destroy the FARC, releases 50 FARC fighters from Colombian jails, and says he will free over 100 more.

It's what the FARC they have wanted all along, a prisoner exchange, terrorists for hostages. There's been no response from the FARC, but the families of the captured Americans are more hopeful than they have been in years. Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.


BLITZER: And coming up later tonight, 10:00 p.m. Eastern, Joe will have more on the American court case that some fear could jeopardize the release of those hostages. That will air tonight, 10:00 p.m. on "ANDERSON COOPER 360." Up ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, one man does not think the movie "Borat" is very funny. He's suing the film's distributor, saying the movie caused him ridicule and humiliation.

And look at this, when politicians attack: a brawl in the Alabama Senate. We'll tell you what's going on. Stay with us.


BLITZER: A hit film hit with another lawsuit. A New York man is suing 20th Century Fox over his appearance in the movie "Borat." Let's go back to Carol Costello. She's watching this lawsuit in New York. What's the basis of the suit, Carol?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, you would think the lawsuits would stop, but no, they just keep on coming. This one is about public humiliation. This movie made a lot of money by making non-actors look foolish. The question is, is that against the law?


SASHA BARON COHEN, ACTOR: Hello, nice to meet you. I'm new in town. My name is Borat.

COSTELLO (voice-over): This is the alleged humiliating scene in question. Comedian Sasha Baron Cohen playing a fake journalist from Kazakhstan, greets the people of New York City by trying to kiss them.

As he puckers up for 31-year-old Jeffrey Lemerond. Lemerond is suing anonymously as John Doe. His lawyer claims this scene is a violation of his client's civil rights. So he is smacking the movie's distributor, 20th Century Fox with a lawsuit, because Lemerond suffered "Public ridicule, degradation and humiliation and is liable for compensatory and punitive damages."

B.J. BERNSTEIN, ATTORNEY: Here's this company making millions of dollars from this film. You in it, you didn't mean to be in it, and you didn't get any money.

COSTELLO: Others have sued, like the college students who watched a Pamela Anderson video with Cohen in the movie. They claim the film portrayed them as drunken racists and sexists. A judge threw out their suit.

Borat wins, ah but there is one twist in the Lemerond case. In the trailer used to sell the movie, his face is obscured. We'll slow it down so you can see it.

COHEN: I want to say hello.

COSTELLO: Does that mean 20th Century Fox erred by showing Lemerond's face in the movie? Not necessarily because the trailer and the movie are two different things.

BERNSTEIN: And the commercial itself which is trying to advertise the film, that would be using it for commercial purposes to get you to come see the film. That would put it in a different category. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: Different category. In other words, had 20th Century Fox shown Lemerond's face in its commercial for the movie, then he could sue under the New York statute.

But in a movie, pretty much anyone is fair game if they are in a public place. Now, I know you are wondering if Lemerond signed a release. He did not. If he had, he could have had control over his image. We tried to contact his lawyer, and his lawyer's assistant said the lawyer had no comment. Wolf?

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Carol, for that. Jack Cafferty is watching all of this unfold in New York as well. Jack?

CAFFERTY: We're moving on here to another penetrating issue, confronting the populous of this land. The question is: Can Lassie, Judy Garland and Elizabeth Taylor succeed where George Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld have failed when it comes to America's image overseas?

There is congresswoman in California, wants to start sending tapes of "Meet Me in St. Louis" and "National Velvet" all around the world, trying to buff up our image.

Bill writes from Florida: "Lassie guided us home, Judy kept us on the yellow brick road to home, and Elizabeth reminded us of our desire to be at home. Bush, Cheney and Rummy tried to send us in a different direction when they got behind the curtain, painted the road dark and made it slippery from spilled oil. Now, the emerald city's in Iraq, and we're having trouble getting out of there."

Robert in New York: "Jack, has the ghost of Ronald Reagan inhabited this daffy congresswoman's body? Does anyone think old- fashioned, Technicolor movies recalling times that never were would actually help our image abroad? Come on."

Tom in Ohio: "Jack, if this woman wants to improve the images of America with films, she should pick some about Americans. "Lassie Come Home" and "National Velvet" take place in England. Let's send them "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." I think a couple of gold-digging sexpots represent the country's values much better."

H.L. in Mesa, Arizona: "Jack, if there was any interest in these movies at all, the Chinese would have pirated them years ago."

P. writes: "Jack, this is one of the weirder suggestions I've heard, but I like it. Movies like "Lassie," "National Velvet," and lots of other G-rated movies invoke feelings that represent the feelings that make people all over the world want to come here. We think they're corny because we are angry at our country right now. But compared to a lot of countries, we don't have that much to be angry about."

And finally Suzie in Georgia writes: "I must say, I admire whoever is on your staff, whether it's you or an assistant." Actually, it's my producer, and her name is Sara Leader (ph), "who finds these little tidbits to brighten our lives. Once more you shine a light on how brilliant our members of Congress are and how hard they're working to bring democracy to the little people."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to We post more of them online, along with video clips of "The Cafferty File." No clips from "Lassie Come Home."

BLITZER: But Sara Leader (ph) is brilliant, we agree on that.

CAFFERTY: Absolutely brilliant and if it were not for her, I would be working at the Exxon station.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Jack, see you tomorrow.

Let's find out what's coming up at the top of the hour on "PAULA ZAHN NOW." Hi, Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, aren't you going to give Jack just this much credit?

BLITZER: I give him some credit.

ZAHN: All right. We're going to tell what's coming up here just about seven minutes from now. We're bringing some of this country's most vulnerable targets for terrorism out in the open. Why is it so easy for would be terrorists to find jet fuel pipelines?

Plus, how people with bad credit are getting a second chance. It's called piggybacking. Just wait until you see how that works.

Plus, the latest on Hillary Clinton and a brand new controversial book out. Carl Bernstein is our guest tonight.

BLITZER: We'll be watching. Thank you, Paula.

Still ahead, a slugfest in the Alabama Senate. We have the video, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Our Carol Costello is monitoring some other stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Carol? What do you have?

COSTELLO: Well, Wolf, talk about a political punch. Tensions over election reform apparently came to a head in the Alabama Senate when Republican Senator Charles Bishop punched the Democratic senator right in the head.

The two had to be pulled apart. Senator Bishop said he punched his colleague after the senator called him a name, and of course he says he regrets his action.

Chiquita Banana is being sued by relatives of dozens of people killed by militants in Colombia accused Chiquita Brands International of sponsoring terrorism. The lawsuit was found in Washington. It comes after the company's admission it paid Colombian militants to protect its banana-growing business. Chiquita denies the allegations in the suit. It says the payments were demanded by militant groups in return for protecting its workers. Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much Carol for that.

What started as mere mania has become a full fledged frenzy. CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a most unusual look.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The photographers were already leaping over bushes to document the first snack delivered to Paris Hilton, post-jail -- cupcakes. But Paris was the one getting eaten alive by commentators.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ridiculous. What a pile of.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is so not hot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does she have a medical condition?


MOOS: Actually, the Web site TMZ is reporting it was a mental, not physical condition that provoked her release from jail to house arrest. Jail medical officials reportedly agreed with Paris' psychiatrist.

HARVEY LEVIN, TMZ.COM: He felt she was on the verge of having a nervous breakdown.

MOOS: Jail officials weren't say what her medical problem is, but they were saying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is certainly not unprecedented.

NAJEE ALI, PROJECT ISLAMIC HOPE: That's a big lie. They will let an inmate die before they send him home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The responsibility is the sheriff of Los Angeles County.

ALI: Sheriff Baca, shame on you.

MOOS: This civil rights group leader is planning a protest outside Paris' house. And Al Sharpton is already coming up with rhymes.

AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: If you have the right complexion to get the right connection, you get the right legal protection.

MOOS: On "The View," the news was greeted with a gasp.

BARBARA WALTERS, THE VIEW: Paris Hilton has been released from prison.

Do you think it was the right thing to do?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope that she gets Jesus in her life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's awful.

MOOS: Now that Paris is out of jail, what to do with all that free Paris merchandise? So, I guess the early release makes the online game "The Prison Life" obsolete.

But for old time's sake, let's play one more time. Stamping license plates and even stamping Paris' Chihuahua, known in the game as Clinkerbell. That's not nice! But at least back at Paris' house, gourmet organic dog food arrived. The cupcakes were first slipped under the bar, sort of like at prison.

Because of privacy concerns, officials wouldn't disclose the medical reason for Paris's reassignment, so folks guessed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She broke a nail.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cosmetic surgery run amuck?


MOOS: And some just couldn't absorb the news that Paris had gotten what critics call a get out of jail free card.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't believe this news.

MOOS: Oh, you don't believe it's true?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: May I see your press credential or anything?

MOOS: A press credential. Hold on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I don't believe this news.

MOOS: Maybe she should have said, I don't believe this is news. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: Thank you Jeanne and thanks to our viewers. Please join us every weekday 4-6 p.m. Eastern, another hour at 7 p.m. Eastern. Tomorrow, countdown to launch the space shuttle Atlantis, set to blast off this time tomorrow. Let's go to Paula in New York -- Paula?


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