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Friends or Foes: America and Iraq's Refugees; Congo Crisis; Inside the Secret Service

Aired June 20, 2007 - 17:00   ET


CAFFERTY: K.P. In San Francisco: "The passport problem is just a delaying tactic. What's good for corporate America is good for the Bush administration. Who cares about the war on terror? It's just a bumper sticker anyway. Sadly, any terrorists that want to be in this country are already here. They come in with the illegal aliens. Who's going to stop them?"
And Mike in Florida writes: "Jack, sure, that idea ranks right up there with his amnesty bill as far as making sense. How much longer is he going to wait -- after seeing the suicide bomber graduation film, the terrorists will head our way" -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Jack, thank you.

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

Happening now, the president draws a line in the sand with his veto pen. Why a showdown over embryonic stem cell research may signal more White House moves to reject bills by the Democratic Congress.

Also, a bloody revolt by Islamic militants topples the Palestinian leadership in Gaza and now a former U.S. president is suggesting it's partly America's fault.

Is Jimmy Carter siding with Hamas?

And she's just back from Africa, where a civil war has left millions dead or displaced. I'll speak about it with actress and U.N. ambassador Lucy Liu.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


A showdown over embryonic stem cells. Facing a Democratic Congress and without much public support, President Bush doesn't have a lot of political muscle left, but he flexed his fingers today and picked up his veto pen.

Let's go live to our White House correspondent, Ed Henry.

He's watching this story for us -- Ed, the president didn't flinch when it came to this issue.


The president did not flinch and get used to it. The veto pen is one of the last weapons he has left, and he's going to wield it often.


HENRY (voice-over): Kicking off what may be a flurry of vetoes in his final days, the president rejected a bill increasing federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If this legislation became law, it would compel American taxpayers, for the first time in our history, to support the deliberate destruction of human embryos.

HENRY: Democrats charge the real motive is political payback to conservatives at the expense of millions of Americans suffering from diseases like Alzheimer's.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: This is just one example of how the president puts ideology before science, politics before the needs of our families. Just one more example of how out of touch with reality he and his party have become.

HENRY: Despite the criticism, a president who has only vetoed a total of three bills will bowl ahead with a series of vetoes in coming days, especially on spending bills to please his base.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He certainly will not hesitate to use the veto.

HENRY: Mr. Bush did hesitate to use his veto pen for six years because he got his way with a Republican Congress, though now he needs a weapon to blunt Democrats.

SNOW: The ball really lies in the court of those in Congress who have to decide is it better for them to have a confrontation and have a bill fail or is it better for them to work through perhaps a slightly more expanded collegial process and have a bill that can be signed for which they can take credit.


HENRY: A potential problem is that one of the architects of this veto strategy, Rob Portman, the White House budget chief, is now resigning. Now, White House aides insist his successor, Jim Nussle, will do just fine. But still, this is an awkward time for a transition, just as these budget battles are heating up on the Hill -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, thank you very much, Ed Henry.

When it comes to using taxpayer dollars, by the way, the American public appears divided. Our most recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll on this subject shows 53 percent of Americans favor the use of federal funds for embryonic stem cell research, 41 percent are opposed.

And this is President Bush's third veto since taking office -- the second time he's turned thumbed down on embryonic stem cell research. In between, he vetoed the Iraq War funding bill.

That's a tiny number, by the way. President Clinton cast 37 vetoes during his eight years in office. The first President Bush used his veto power 44 times. President Reagan, by the way, cast 78 records.

That -- is that the all time record?

No -- 635, that's the record, by the late president, Franklin Roosevelt.

Islamic militants, meanwhile, fired rockets into Southern Lebanon today for the first time since Hamas gained control of Gaza. Israel immediately answered with air strikes.

Sources on both sides say Israeli troops entered Gaza, killing four militants in a gun battle. And against this backdrop, a former U.S. president is saying it's at least partially America's fault.

Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd.

He's watching the story for us.

Some tough talk today from former President Carter -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, Wolf. And maybe, considering what President Carter has said about the Middle East and the Bush presidency over the past year, the source may not be so unlikely. Mr. Carter has launched another broadside at a time when tensions in the region are still very high.


TODD (voice-over): A charge you might expect from a Hamas leader, with the U.S. throwing its weight and money solidly behind Hamas' rival Fatah in the bitter Palestinian standoff.

ABDEL AZIZ DWEIK, HAMAS LAWMAKER: The United States put for itself a platform or agenda in order to make this government, the Palestinian government, which has been elected democratically, to collapse within three to six months.

TODD: What you might not expect -- a former U.S. president agreeing. At a conference in Ireland, Jimmy Carter is quoted as saying: "The United States and Israel decided to punish all the people in Palestine and did everything they could to deter a compromise between Hamas and Fatah."

No immediate response from the Israeli government. But Carter went a step further, saying of the Bush administration's siding with Fatah and shunning Hamas in last year's Palestinian elections, "that action was criminal."

The State Department spokesman says Carter is a private citizen entitled to his opinions. He says just because the United States refuses aid to Hamas doesn't mean it's punishing all Palestinians. But...

SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: As for the idea that we are somehow treating Fatah and Hamas differently, absolutely. Hamas is a terrorist organization and we're not going to provide aid to a terrorist organization.

TODD: Analysts we spoke to don't believe the Bush administration conspired to split up the Palestinians. They agree with President Carter that isolating Hamas completely has partially fuelled its war with Fatah.

Aaron David Miller, a former U.S. Middle East negotiator, says Carter should be praised for brokering the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. But Miller says it's not appropriate for Carter, 30 years later, to so openly side with the Palestinians, as he's been accused of, without understanding Israel's security concerns.

AARON DAVID MILLER, WOODROW WILSON CENTER: He's not anti-Israel and he's anti-Semitic. He simply understands one side's needs better than the other. And, as a consequence, much of his comments in recent years have not been helpful.


TODD: We asked President Carter's representative to respond to that particular criticism.

Our calls and e-mails were not returned -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What about the relationship that Jimmy Carter has had with the Bush administration?

There's been tension not only on this, but the war in Iraq and other issues, as well.

TODD: That's right, Wolf. A lot of tension. Mr. Carter has really roundly criticized the Bush administration for a number of foreign policy issues over the past year.

And if the White House is fed up with him, they are keeping it well within their -- within the walls of the White House.

Press Secretary Tony Snow says President Bush has "made it a graceful point of his administration not to respond to critiques from ex-presidents." And Tony Snow says they will stick to that decorum.

BLITZER: Brian, thank you.

Brian Todd watching this story for us.

Let's check in with Jack Cafferty.

He's in New York with The Cafferty File -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here's a pretty fair headline: "Billion Dollar Elephant Inches Toward Run." That's how one hard-line described New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's decision to quit the Republican Party and become Independent.

Bloomberg continues to insist he's not running for president, that he's going to finish his term as mayor and devote himself to philanthropy -- this is one of those things, though, it's beginning to walk like a duck and talk like a duck. One of these days it could be a duck.

In this case, his actions are starting to speak louder than words. The mayor's spent months now, he's traveled the country. He's spoken out on issues like immigration and global warming, gun control, health care. He's sharply critical of the partisanship that he sees paralyzing the federal government. And, boy, is he right about that.

Nevertheless, if Bloomberg decides to enter the race as a third party candidate, history suggests he'll be a long shot.

The New York "Daily News" says of Bloomberg: "He is a Democrat turned Republican turned blank in a country where no third party candidate has come ever close to winning the White House."

The "New York Post" points out that no one is more unhappy about Bloomberg's decision than Senator Hillary Clinton and former New York City Mayor Rudi Giuliani.

So here's our question -- how could New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's declaration of independence shake up the '08 presidential race?

Your thoughts -- or go to

That headline, Wolf, actually came from one of the Web sites, Historically, the New York tabloids have had a kind of a patent on those great one line headlines to -- to sum up a story. But "Billion Dollar Elephant Inches Toward Run" is not bad.

BLITZER: Not bad at all. It's a whole new world where these headlines are coming from.


BLITZER: Jack, I guess all of us are going to have to get used to it.

CAFFERTY: I -- well, I suppose. It's -- times are changing, or they're passing me by or something.

BLITZER: No, no. Nothing's passing you by.

Stand by.


BLITZER: Coming up, she's a woman on a gut-wrenching mission. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIU: We just jumped on a plane and we -- we got over to the DRC as soon as we could to investigate the situation.


BLITZER: The actress/activist steps into a life and death situation -- displacement, bringing victims' stories back to the world. My interview with Lucy Liu. That's coming up this hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Also, they look like props from a 007 movie. But they're the real deal. Our own John King reveals some secret tools of the Secret Service.

But coming up next, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issuing a stern warning to Hamas as the world watches its Gaza showdown with his government.

How will it all end?

I'll speak about it with the former Israeli prime minister -- maybe a future Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. He's standing by live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: For the first time since he former a new emergency government in the West Bank, the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, spoke publicly today, calling Hamas leaders "traitors" for what he termed their bloody coup in Gaza. Abbas, supported now by the United States and Israel, called for Hamas to hand back the reins of power in Gaza.

So where is all of this heading?

Joining us now, the former Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

He's visiting the United States.

He's in New York.

Prime Minister, thanks for coming in.


BLITZER: Before we get to that, I just want your reaction to what we heard from former President Jimmy Carter. He's saying this on Tuesday, he's saying that action was criminal. The United States and Israel decided to punish all the people in Palestine and did everything they could to deter a compromise between Hamas and Fatah.

He's really blaming the Israeli government and the Bush administration for creating, at least in part, the situation -- the awful situation that's unfolding right now.

What's your reaction?

NETANYAHU: You know, it's hard to react because it's so bizarre a statement. I mean you just -- given the response of the Palestinian leader, Abbas, who is attacking Hamas as a murderous clan, hasn't Mr. Carter been following the news?

Hasn't see seen how Hamas has turned Gaza into a bastion of barbarism? The savagery they're committing against their own Palestinian people, dropping people from the 14th floor, mutilating and torturing their fellow Palestinians? Turning Gaza into an Iranian base of the worst fanaticism on Earth?

I think -- I think he's placing his criticism in the wrong direction, frankly.

BLITZER: I think he's suggesting that if your government, the Israeli government, and the U.S. and the Europeans had worked to try to build bridges between Hamas and Fatah, and would have provided a lot more assistance early on, this situation need not necessarily have turned into what -- what you're describing right now.

NETANYAHU: I think, in a peculiar way, our actions meant to bolster the moderates actually worked to bolster the Hamas radicals. When you unilaterally leave territory, you're not helping the moderates, you're actually giving a reward to the radicals, because everybody says why did Israel leave?

Because of terror.

Who is doing the terror?


So our unilateral withdrawal from Gaza led to the Hamas political victory, which now led to Hamas' military victory.

But I don't think Mr. Carter is criticizing us on that score. He thinks we should have given Hamas more. In fact, we should give it less -- a lot less. And we should understand that we should cauterize right now this regime and keep it isolated. Otherwise, that cancerous growth of militant Islam would spread to the West Bank and from there to Jordan and the rest of the region. It's very dangerous now.

BLITZER: We heard some tough words from Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, today, against Hamas. Among other things, he says: "There is no dialogue with those murderous -- murderous terrorists."

I wonder if you see a major difference between the organization that he heads, President Mahmoud Abbas, as opposed to Hamas, because, as you know, your government, the current prime minister, Ehud Olmert, certainly does. President Bush certainly does. They've not only established full relations with Mahmoud Abbas' new government, but they're going to provide hundreds of thousands of dollars in assistance, as well.

NETANYAHU: I think Mahmoud Abbas is different from the organization that he leads. He just didn't clean it up. Because, for example, the Al-Aksa Brigades, which are part of Fatah, are just as bad as Hamas. He didn't really clean up his organization and he certainly didn't clean up Gaza from Hamas when he had the guns and the money.

I think there is an inherent weakness there. I think he -- he's obviously a moderate leader. He's one that, if he was strong enough, we could do business with him and try to create a peace with him.

BLITZER: If u were...

NETANYAHU: But he's not...

BLITZER: If you were prime minister -- and there is a possibility. The polls show that you're doing well, if there were new elections in Israel.

If you were prime minister, would you deal with Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority?

NETANYAHU: Yes, I would. But I'd also recognize the fact that what is keeping the West Bank from becoming Hamasstan -- becoming another Gaza -- is the fact that we're bolstering this regime, first of all, with our own security forces. I think we need to involve Jordan, as well. We need a regional component here, because the Palestinians evidently do not have the internal power to create internal law and order and prevent chaos and prevent -- prevent what's happening there.

So I think it's important that Jordan step in, because Jordan has an interest as much as we do, to shore up -- to prevent the militant Islamists from taking over the West Bank, which is right next to Jordan. I think that's important. The most important thing is not to repeat the mistakes of the past, not to unilaterally walk out from the West Bank, because every territory that we simply unilaterally walk out, without any security arrangement, without any peace, is taken up by Iran and its proxies.

BLITZER: What -- if rockets are launched from Gaza into Israel, and if you were the leader of Israel, what would you do?

Would you go back and reoccupy Gaza?

NETANYAHU: I don't think we'd want to keep it and I don't we would want to reoccupy it. But I think the important thing is to make sure that people understand that you can't rocket our cities. That's intolerable. I mean they're doing it without any provocation. They're doing it openly saying that their goal to wipe us off the map. And you can just imagine a city or cities in America that are hit from rockets across the border. I mean people would be screaming bloody murder and demanding that the government take action.

I think it will have to take action. Israel cannot sustain for long an Iranian base -- a murderous base, as Mr. Abbas correctly called it -- that is openly committed to our destruction. So I think we'll eventually have to take action.

What you see in Gaza is a sneak preview, Wolf, of what happens if we just walk away. It's a sneak preview of what would happen -- what's happened already, actually, in Lebanon, when we unilaterally walked away without security arrangements. That became a northern base for Iran on our northern border.

We walked away from Gaza. That became a southern base of Iran in our southern border.

If we just walk away from the West Bank, it's curtains for Abbas. It's curtains -- I think it places Jordan in dire jeopardy and it places Israel in dire jeopardy.

So that's not the path to peace. The path to peace is to get a strong partner who is committed to our -- coexistence with us and help them with the economy, help them with their way of life and get a security component in there that is missing. I would like to see Jordan take that up.

BLITZER: Benjamin Netanyahu is a former prime minister of Israel.

Thanks very much for coming in.

NETANYAHU: Thank you.

BLITZER: And coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, dramatic new video -- U.S. troops using their heaviest weapons to take out an insurgent weapons cache near Baghdad. We're going to go live to the Pentagon.

And the Bush administration delays a new rule on passports.

Will that end delays at the passport office and let Americans get on with their summer travel plans?

Much more of our news coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Our Carol Costello is monitoring stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Carol, what do you have?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A couple of things to tell you about, Wolf.

The Pacific island of Iwo Jima is now being called Iwa To. The island was the site of one of World War II's most brutal battles. Iwa To is the original name given to the island by inhabitants. Japan changed the name back to Iwo -- to To -- after residents said they were prodded into action by two recent Clint Eastwood movies.

More action from Hawaii's Kilauea volcano. Lava has oozed from a new location about eight miles from Kilauea's summit. Researchers began looking for a new lava breakout point after hundreds of small earthquakes were recorded on Sunday. The quakes suggested that underground lava was shifting beneath the surface. When a field crew arrived, lava was moving sluggishly. Four hours later, lava had stopped flowing. The area is now closed to protect public safety.

Checking the bottom line for you now, a devastating day on Wall Street. Treasury yields surged and that reignited fears among investors about high interest rates, thwarting corporate deal making and further hurting the housing market.

The Dow plunged 146 points.

The Nasdaq dropped almost 27 points.

The S&P also fell.

That's a look at what's happening now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Carol, for that.

Coming up, shedding light on a troubling reality.


LIU: This is one of the worst humanitarian crises since the Second World War. And it's not something that people talk about very often, because it's been going on for so long.


BLITZER: Lucy Liu sheds the glamour of Hollywood for a firsthand look at the grim plight of children in a troubled nation. You're going to want to see my interview with the actress and activist. She's now a special U.N. ambassador.

And later, secrets of the Secret Service -- we'll get an exclusive look at some of the high tech tools agents are using to protect their presidential charges.

Stay with us.



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

Happening now, if you're traveling in the Western Hemisphere, you have at least another six months before you have to show a passport. The Bush administration putting off its new travel rules because of an anger inducing backlog in the processing of new passports.

Britain's interior minister invoked Monty Python as he responded to Muslim outrage over the recent knighting of the author, Salman Rushdie. John Reed said a lot of people were upset when John Cleese made "Life of Brian," which parodied the life of Jesus. He says freedom of speech is worth defending.

And it's going to cost more to read "The New York Times." The newspaper has announced its cover price for its national edition will go up from $1 to $1.25 in the middle of next month. Delivery rates will rise from 3 to 4 percent.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq call for air support to target underground arms bunkers. We have some dramatic new video we're going to show you.

Our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, is standing by to tell us what's going on -- Jamie, tell our viewers the story behind these pictures.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, there's been a lot of attention paid to that offensive in Diyala Province, northeast of Baghdad.

But what we're going to show you now is involving U.S. troops that are operating southeast of Baghdad.

This is the 2nd Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division. They're on the ground. The fifth of the so-called five surge brigades. And they found a cache of weapons on the ground. They called in for F-16s to destroy those with 500-ton bombs.

Wolf, you recognize this kind of gun camera video. It was very popular during the 1991 Persian Gulf war. But we haven't seen as much of it lately.

It's interesting what those troops are up to down there in the south. They've been going house to house. They've been to over 230 houses. They've detained 50 people.

And, interestingly enough, they also destroyed 17 boats on the Tigris River that they say were used to transport bomb making material to Baghdad.

So very -- a lot of action down there in the south of Baghdad.

BLITZER: How does this operation, Jamie, compare with earlier operations in Iraq?

MCINTYRE: Well, you know, some people have been describing this as the biggest offensive of the war. That's not quite the case.

Given the level of fighting, the number of people they're detaining, this is a very significant operation, but it doesn't compare to the brutal urban warfare that took place, say, in Falluja back then. But make no mistake, this is real fighting, and it could be pivotal in the future of Iraq.

BLITZER: Jamie McIntyre watching this for us.

Thanks, Jamie.

On this World Refugee Day proclaimed by the United Nations, the international community is being asked to do more to help millions of displaced people. And some Americans wonder if the United States has a special responsibility to those who have left Iraq.

Our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, is watching the story -- Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the government has a tough task, balancing the humanitarian needs of Iraqi refugees against U.S. security.


MESERVE: During fighting in Falluja, Marine Captain Zach Iscol became so close to his Iraqi translator, Khalid Abood al-Khafajee, they call each other father and son.

CAPT. ZACHARY ISCOL, U.S. MARINE CORPS.: Abu literally wore the United States Marine Corps uniform in combat. And he wore it in high- intensity combat operations. In some ways, I owe my life and the lives of my Marines to him.

MESERVE: Abood and his family received death threats for working with the U.S., and in December they fled to Jordan, with hopes of coming to the U.S. But Iraq is teeming with violent enemies of the United States, and fears that terrorists will pose as refugees to come to the U.S. has held up Abood's request and thousands of others.

Now new screening protocols, additional interviews, checks of names and fingerprints against law enforcement databases. Homeland security won't be more specific for fear terrorists will game the system.

PAUL ROSENZWEIG, HOMELAND SECURITY DEPT.: I'm confident that it's the best system available that will -- that will address the issue. No system that any government has ever developed is 100 percent perfect.

MESERVE: The U.S. goal is to admit 7,000 Iraqi refugees this year, but less than 100 have been approved so far.

ISCOL: You won't believe this. I just got an e-mail from Abood.

MESERVE: Khalid Abood and this family are among them.

KHALID ABOOD AL-KHAFAJEE, IRAQI TRANSLATOR FOR U.S. MARINES: They told me that everything is ready to transfer me and my family to the U.S., and that was the greatest things I ever read (ph) in my life.


MESERVE: Abood and his family are slated to arrive later this month -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jeanne. Thank you very much.

Jeanne Meserve watching this story.

From Iraq to the plight of refugees in Africa, where a deadly civil war still wracks that continent's third largest country, what is being done to address the enormous humanitarian crisis?


BLITZER: And joining us now in New York, Lucy Liu, the actress, the UNICEF ambassador as well.

Lucy, thanks very much for coming in.

LUCY LIU, ACTRESS: Thank you, Wolf, for having me.

BLITZER: You're doing really important work right now in Congo and I know you were just there. Tell our viewers what you saw.

LIU: I saw some of the most horrific violence against women and children, I think, I have ever experienced in my life and it is something that I had never really thought could be possible and I really thank you for having me on the show because I really want to bring attention to the DRC as much as possible so that we can stop this.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about some of the numbers that UNICEF is putting out because I'm sure a lot of our viewers have no clue, have no idea what's going on in Congo. Three point eight million people killed between 1998 and 2003 in the civil war, 1,200 people still die each day, half of the deaths are children and since January alone of this year, 50,000 people have been displaced each month.

This is a horrific situation and people hear about this, they see the pictures, and they wonder what can they do about it? What advice do you have when you see what's going on? You were just there.

LIU: Well, I think that people should educate themselves as much as possible because this is one of the worst humanitarian crises since the Second World War. And it's not something that people talk about very often because it's been going on for so long. If you go onto UNICEF, their Web site and you can educate yourself on it and you can also donate money, even loose change can make a huge difference for these children.

I met people, women and children who had been raped and who had been so severely violated that one woman had dislocated her leg completely. There are people who have been displaced out of their villages. One woman fled when the militia came in to loot and witnessed a neighbor of hers who was decapitated.

I mean, these are things that are happening every day and the people have so little hope and I know that for children, especially, that they can bounce back so quickly with just a little bit - it's pretty tremendous how children are so vulnerable yet they have such strength.

BLITZER: Does UNICEF have access to the children there? Can they get in there and help them?

LIU: UNICEF does have access to the children but unfortunately the situation right now is so insecure that sometimes you can't even have the humanitarian efforts get into the territory. So I think also international pressure on the government would really help a lot as well and I think the more people who recognize what's going on there and the more people who donate money to the cause, I think that it will alleviate a lot of the tension there and hopefully some of the protection (ph) as well.

BLITZER: How did you get involved, Lucy, in this humanitarian mission because it is taking up a lot of your time right now.

LIU: Well, I have always been such a huge fan of children. I love them so much and UNICEF works globally with children and I've been working with them intensely on a lot of emergency situations and this is one that came up.

So we just jumped on a plane and we got over to the DRC as soon as we could to investigate the situation and unfortunately all of the reports that I read were actually worse on the ground and in person than on paper.

And I'm telling you right now that the situation there is so devastating and the lives there have been so shattered to the point where people have lost hope and I think that we're so privileged in our lives to have running water and electricity and a roof over our heads and if we recognize the small amount that we can contribute to these people it would just make a huge difference. I know that for sure.

BLITZER: I think you're right and I want to thank you, Lucy, for what you're doing. Thanks for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

LIU: Thank you, Wolf. And I'll see you again soon.


BLITZER: Congo, by the way, is the country from which the fifth largest number of refugees have fled. More than 400,000.

By far, the largest number, more than four million, have fled the two hottest war zones. That would be Afghanistan and Iraq. They're followed by Sudan and Somalia.

The world's 10 million refugees are fanning out around the world. According to numbers put out by the United Nations, the top three safe havens right now are Pakistan, Iran and the United States.

One person can make a difference. And today, that person is you. Impact your world by logging on to to learn how you can help right now. Being part of the solution just a click away.

Up ahead, when the bullets fly, it's the job of the Secret Service to stand in harm's way. John King's exclusive look at the agents as they train.

That's coming up.

Also, how could New York mayor Michael Bloomberg's declaration of independence shake up the '08 presidential race? Jack Cafferty standing by with your e-mail.

We'll be right back.



BLITZER: Can the Secret Service keep a step ahead of those who would try to harm the president or presidential candidates?

Our chief national correspondent, John King, is here. He's been taking an exclusive inside look as these agents train not only to deal with conventional threats, but new threats as well.


You'll remember the Secret Service very well from your days at the White House. And yesterday we showed you how they traditionally would protect a candidate or the president in a hotel setting, out rope-lining (ph) and shaking hands. We saw quite a bit of that in our exclusive peak at Secret Service training.

Some of the other things we saw come straight out of a James Bond movie.


KING (voice over): Jim Galvin's firearms class is a must for new Secret Service recruits.

JAMES GALVIN, WEAPONS SPECIALIST: Gentlemen, you're looking at a .50 caliber Smith & Wesson metal 500 revolver.

KING: The vintage weapons offer a glimpse at history and traditional threats to those under Secret Service protection.

GALVIN: The weapon system is cocked.

KING: Then comes the cell phone gun and a critical lesson. You don't just see gizmos like this in the movies.

This is a working cigarette lighter and a deadly weapon. This pen also can fire a fatal shot, as can this tiny device built to resemble a tire gauge.

GALVIN: This is a very, very articulately made zip gun. KING: The challenges of protecting a high-value target are dramatically more complicated in a world of fast-changing technology, not to mention global terrorism.

GALVIN: This is probably the most prolific rocket-propelled grenade system in the world.

KING: Protective and defensive driving has long been a part of Secret Service training. But now avoiding IEDs in a terrorist ambush is an added skill set for those who drive the presidential limo.

It is training retired agent Terry Samway says is modeled after real-life events.

TERRY SAMWAY, FMR. SECRET SERVICE AGENT: So if there's an IED explosion in Lebanon that attacked -- or in Russia that went after a political leader, we send people there and analyze it. Immediately, that is put into the training scenario.

BOB DIEHL, DRIVING INSTRUCTOR: This is a 1983 Cadillac. It is the last convertible ever to be built by the Secret Service.

KING: Bob Diehl is a Secret Service driving instructor, 17-year veteran who warns new recruits all the armor doubles the wait of the limos and SUVs.

DIEHL: It's a humbling experience, I guess is a way to put it, especially if you think you can negotiate through curves that you saw out here on our course. They don't react like a standard car does. Everything is a little slower in motion. Obviously, the braking distances increase and things like that.

KING: Most of those in training now are existing agents, refreshing their skills for presidential campaign duty, but there is also an unusually large class of new recruits preparing for an unprecedented post-campaign challenge. The Secret Service believes George W. Bush will be the most challenging former president in history to protect because his wartime stewardship will make him a high-value terrorist target long after he leaves the White House.

SAMWAY: That's why we have the mandate to make sure that whatever they did during their presidency, they're still safe from any of those lingering issues after their presidency.

KING: But before they can protect the president or former president, the new recruits are drilled in the basics, including target practice at 100 yards, and then a sprint to load up and fire again, this time much more up close and personal.


KING: That's fascinating, Wolf, as you watch all this weaponry, some of it conventional, some of it brand new, especially the things you can hide like a cell phone. You learn also how much of a consumer the Secret Service has become because of the threat of terrorism, because of the threat of technology and the new weapon system of intelligence.

The Secret Service does not gather its own intelligence, but it gets it from state and local police, from the FBI, and, as you know, from taking international trips with the president. In those cases, from the CIA, and foreign governments, as well, they say that has become the biggest change in their work, looking at mounds and mounds of intelligence, not only protecting the president, but also in protecting the candidates out on the trail -- Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama so far, but several more likely in the months ahead.

BLITZER: And like all former presidents, President Bush will have Secret Service protection for the rest of his life.

KING: Well, they changed the law. He's only guaranteed it now for 10 years. Bill Clinton was grandfathered in.

So, Bill Clinton is the only one, the last president guaranteed protection for life. But while the law now says only 10 years out of office, the Secret Service believes -- they don't like to talk about this publicly, but they believe now that President Bush will be a high-value terrorist target, and it is likely, or at least they will have to consider it when they get close to that 10 years, that he might need to keep some protection on.

BLITZER: Good reporting.

Thanks, John, very much. Fascinating stuff. Thanks to the Secret Service as well.

In an exclusive interview today on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING," co- anchor Kiran Chetry spoke with the first lady, Laura Bush, and they waded into presidential politics, at least a little bit.

Listen to this.


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Is a woman president a good thing, in your opinion, for our future?

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: Sure. Absolutely. I'm looking forward to voting for the first Republican woman president.

CHURCH: Are you still trying to actively recruit Secretary of State Rice?

BUSH: No. I have given up on that.

CHURCH: She says she's not running, of course.

BUSH: She won't.


BLITZER: The first lady didn't say who that Republican woman president would be. Still ahead, Jack Cafferty back with your e-mail on the race to '08.

Plus, a house, a crane and a costly mistake. What happened and who was inside when it did?

And Bill and Hillary Clinton send (ph) up Tony an Carmela. Should we tell you how it's playing in Jersey? Maybe not. We're going to let Jeanne Moos tell you what's going on in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: An Alabama man is taking a rather unusual task to race money for charity. He's counting to a million. And you can watch every second of it online.

Let's go back to our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner.

Show us what's happening, Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: He's counting, Wolf. That's all he's doing. Why don't we take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 32,389, 32,390...


SCHECHNER: This is Jeremy Harper (ph). He thinks this is going to take him about three months if he's counting 16 hours a day. He has a job, but he's taken about three months off his job to do this.

He's raising money for a charity called Push America, which is an organization that helps out people with disabilities.

Some of the questions people have been asking, he does have a girlfriend. She is not thrilled that this is how he's spending his summer, but he says no matter how boring it is, he's going to continue to do it.

He does stop to eat, to sleep, to update his blog, and do TV and radio interviews, although he's keeping those to a minimum because they take away from his counting time. He says no matter how dull, no matter how tedious, Wolf, he is going to keep counting.

He's now in the 32,000s, as you heard.

BLITZER: All right. Well, at least it's a good cause.

Thank you very much, Jacki, for that. Up ahead, the elephant has left the room. Jack Cafferty wants to know how could New York mayor Michael Bloomberg's declaration of independence shake up the '08 presidential race?

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


BLITZER: Time now to check back with Jack Cafferty -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour, Wolf, is how could New York mayor Michael Bloomberg's declaration of independence shake up the '08 presidential race?

Patrick in California writes, "Just what we need, a third cement- dweller (New Yorker) in the race. When are these morons going to get it that their elitist East Coast liberal agenda and mentality will never -- I repeat, never -- be acceptable to the general American public? The only thing Bloomberg will succeed in doing is throwing the election into the House of Representatives, guaranteeing a Clinton presidency."

Travis, also in California, L.A., "Any time a third party candidate with a chance emerges on to the scene, all you in the news ever talk about is what little chance they have and how they'll just end up as spoilers. What you never seem to mention is that not all Independent voters end up voting Republican or Democrat. Some of us actually think that what this country needs is more political choice."

Matt in North Carolina, "Can you say Bloomberg-Powell '08? With their combined talents, Bloomberg's domestic and economic policy strengths, Powell's military and foreign policy experience, and Bloomberg's money, they could not be stopped. They're a complete package that appeals to most Americans."

Stephen writes, "I hope he runs. Hope he does well. I've tossed up my hands with the current parties. The Republicans and their standard bearer (Bush) are arrogant, dishonest and have significantly injured America in so many ways. The Democrats have absolutely no backbone, even to stand up to a seriously weakened autocrat. It's time for a new party."

Kaya in Florida writes, "Can you find a better match than Gore- Bloomberg? Money, region, idea, religion, guts. America still has hope."

And John in Alabama writes, "Michael Bloomberg tells reporters: 'I'm not a candidate.' Well, that gets his first lie on his run for the White House out of the way. The next one will come much easier."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to, where we post more of them online, along with video clips of "The Cafferty File"

What do you think, Wolf? Is he going to run?

BLITZER: It sounds like it, it feels like it. But we'll see.

CAFFERTY: Yes. There's a lot of dissatisfaction in this country. I don't know if an independent candidate can get it done, but they might make a better run this time than they ever have before?

BLITZER: What's the sense in New York? Has he done a good job as mayor of this city?

CAFFERTY: I think people do give him credit for doing a good job. One of the reasons is he hasn't done anything that's gotten a lot of negative press. He's not in the news for the wrong reasons.

And I mentioned this before. What you see is kind of what you get.

He doesn't try to frost the cake beyond what he's got. If he doesn't have information on a breaking story, he'll hold a news conference and say, these are the facts I know, please don't ask me about anything else because this is all I have.

And I think people sense that he's honest in that way.

BLITZER: We'll see you back in an hour, Jack. Thanks very much.

That's it for us this hour.

Lou Dobbs standing by in New York.


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