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THE SITUATION ROOM

Republican Senator Breaks Ranks Over Iraq War; CIA Releases Formerly Classified Documents

Aired June 26, 2007 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Lou.
Happening now, a key Republican breaks ranks with the president on Iraq and another one calls for a pull-out plan. Is the dam about to burst for the GOP, unleashing a torrent of anti-war sentiment.

The CIA hangs out its dirty laundry. Documents kept secret literally for decades shed new light on domestic spying and a conspiracy with mobsters to kill Fidel Castro.

And it's the closest thing yesterday to a Beatles reunion. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr with the widows of John Lennon and George Harrison. Larry King will join us live this hour, a special preview.

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

Tonight, there's powerful evidence of the tide turning sharply against the war in Iraq and against President Bush. Our brand new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows public support for the Iraq war has plunged to a new low of only 30 percent. That's helping to drive down the president's approval rating in the process. It's back to its all-time low point of 32 percent -- all of that and a dramatic GOP defection. Senator Richard Lugar, the influential former chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee now urging Mr. Bush to change course in Iraq very soon.

Let's turn to our congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. She's watching this story. Dana, this is a pretty significant development. Republicans look like they're breaking ranks with the president.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well it definitely is starting to look that way. And today, Wolf, we have another GOP senator breaking ranks with the White House on Iraq. So what we have here is in less than 24 hours, two Republicans the president used to count in his corner on Iraq, now saying he must change his policy there immediately.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): Ohio Republican George Voinovich has a new Iraq proposal he calls plan E -- "E" for exit from Iraq.

SEN. GEORGE VOINOVICH (R-OH), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: We're running out of time. I don't think it's fair to the next administration to say hey, by the way, we're leaving this baby for you guys to figure out.

BASH: Voinovich now wants to start bringing troops home. It's another GOP defection on the war, coming right on the heels of this late-night bombshell dropped by the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Lugar, suggesting the president's strategy for more troops in Iraq has failed.

SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R), INDIANA: In my judgment the costs and risks of continuing down the current path outweigh the potential benefits that might be achieved. Persisting indefinitely with the surge strategy will delay policy adjustments that have a better chance of protecting our vital interests over the long-term.

BASH: Democrats jumped on Lugar's declaration as a pivotal moment.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: I believe Senator Lugar's words yesterday could be remembered as a turning point in this intractable civil war in Iraq.

BASH: Republican reaction to Lugar's comments, all the buzz in the halls of Congress was mixed. Some supporters of the president's plan for more troops in Iraq were unmoved, saying the strategy needs more time. Senator Lindsey Graham told reporters as much as I respect Senator Lugar, I think it's unfair to the troops in the field to say the surge is not working. But other Republicans who have become increasingly frustrated with the current Iraq strategy haled Lugar for going public with his long-held private criticism. Senator John Warner calling it a harbinger of GOP votes next month challenging the president to change course. The White House appealed for patience.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It is very important to go ahead and let the surge, number one, finish getting put in place and second, let's see what results it produces.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: But for a growing number of Republicans here, their patience is up. What Senator Lugar and Senator Voinovich both told us today is that what they're trying to do here with putting out these plans, Wolf, is to get the president's attention. Try to convince him and his top aides that it's their responsibility to come up with an exit strategy just like they appeared to in the last 24 hours -- Wolf.

BLITZER: On foreign policy, when Senator Lugar speaks, people listen. I assume he's spoken with the White House about all of this.

BASH: He has. He told us this morning that he did get a call from the White House, that they do want to talk to him about his decision to come out and also, about his plan. He said that he does expect to see a senior member, at least a couple of senior members of the president's team here, perhaps the national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, maybe later this week.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Dana, on Capitol Hill. A 10-year-old CNN interview with Osama bin Laden could be a crucial turning point in the terrorism trial of Jose Padilla. Jurors today were shown the tape as prosecutors sought to make their case that Padilla was part of a holy war plot.

CNN's Susan Candiotti is in Miami -- Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's a chilling interview that might have serious repercussions in the Jose Padilla terror trial.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amidst these remote mountains of Afghanistan...

CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Four and a half years before the September 11th attacks, CNN aired a rare, exclusive and in retrospect foreboding interview with Osama bin Laden.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We declared a jihad, a holy war against the United States government, because it is unjust, criminal and tyrannical.

CANDIOTTI: Jurors in the Jose Padilla terror trial were allowed to watch that CNN interview. A former U.S. attorney says it might seal Padilla's fate.

GUY LEWIS, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: It is devastating. I mean, I don't want to say, you know, game, set, match, ball game over. But that is the case.

CANDIOTTI: The defense battled to keep jurors from watching the interview. Arguing bin Laden's threats have nothing to do with the trial. Padilla and two others are charged with conspiring to murder people overseas, and support a holy war before September 11th. Former U.S. attorney Guy Lewis says Padilla's lawyers have one defense against the bin Laden tape.

LEWIS: He didn't know about the tape. He's not involved in the making of the tape. He didn't even have knowledge of the tape itself.

CANDIOTTI: Judge Marcia Cooke allowed prosecutors to show the CNN interview. She said to provide context for a wiretapped phone call between Padilla's co-defendants, who allegedly discuss it and praise bin Laden. Padilla's voice is heard only a handful of times on wiretaps. In one, talking about asking his mother for supplies. An FBI agent testified when Padilla says "open door," he meant an opportunity to travel for jihad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a rumor here that the door was open somewhere. I wrote a letter telling her to tell my mom to send me an army jacket, a book bag, and a sleeping bag. CANDIOTTI: Padilla's fingerprints are on a mujahideen application for an al Qaeda training camp in 2000. But the defense claims Padilla, an American, was overseas to become a better Muslim and learn Arabic. The judge forbids jurors from hearing the chilling end of that CNN interview.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are your future plans?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): You'll see them and hear about them in the media.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): God willing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CANDIOTTI: After seeing that interview, the jury also heard wiretaps of Padilla's co-defendants who had just watched that interview on CNN in 1997, the interview with bin laden. The co- defendants are praising bin Laden, saying, Allah, oh Allah, protect him -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Susan thanks very much. Susan Candiotti watching the story for us from Miami.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty in New York for "The Cafferty File". That's pretty chilling stuff, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: It is. And after you saw what happened on 9/11, revisiting the very end of that interview is particularly chilling.

The United States, as you know, Wolf, runs a huge trade deficit with China. Americans can't wait to buy anything they make. The problem is, a lot of it is junk and some of it is dangerous. And the latest example of that is automobile tires. The government has ordered a small New Jersey tire importer to recall 450,000 tires made in China for pickup trucks, SUVs and vans, because they may come apart and cause crashes.

Seems the Chinese manufacturer stopped including a safety feature that prevents these tires from separating. Now, that manufacturer's out with a statement from China, denying that the tires are defective. But that's not all. There have been several other high profile safety problems that stem from Chinese products this year alone.

Toys have been recalled because they contain lead. Several kinds of toothpaste recalled after the FDA said they contained a poisonous chemical used in antifreeze. Chinese put it in toothpaste. And of course, there were those dozens of brands of pet food, recalled because they contained an industrial chemical that was poisonous to the pets for which the food was manufactured.

A spokesman for the tire industry's main trade group tells the "Wall Street Journal" that as imports grow, it's essential that all manufacturers comply with U.S. safety regulations. Now, there's an idea. Here's the question.

What can be done about faulty and/or dangerous products coming in to the United States from China? E-mail your thoughts to CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jack.

Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, long kept secrets now revealed. A plot to assassinate the Cuban president, Fidel Castro. Secret surveillance of some reporters, all disclosed in newly declassified CIA documents -- 700 pages revealed today.

Also, she's for, he's against. Elizabeth Edwards supports gay marriage. Her husband, the presidential candidate John Edwards, does not. You might not believe how John Edwards says he found out.

And can Rudy Giuliani convert some religious conservatives to support him? His campaign makes a special appearance today at Pat Robertson's Regent University.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It's rare to see a presidential hopeful's spouse openly disagree with the candidate's positions during a campaign. But that's just what has happened in the John Edwards camp. Elizabeth Edwards has broken with her husband over the issue of gay marriage.

Let's turn to CNN's Mary Snow. She's watching this story for us. All right, Mary, tell our viewers where the two Edwards' part ways.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, John Edwards has said this is one of the hardest issues for him. He supports civil unions, but his wife is taking it one step further.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): On gay marriage, Elizabeth Edwards parts ways with her husband. She favors legalizing it.

ELIZABETH EDWARDS, WIFE OF JOHN EDWARDS: I don't know why somebody else's marriage has anything to do with me. I'm completely comfortable with gay marriage.

SNOW: To hear John Edwards tell it on "The Tonight Show," his wife's position was news to him.

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Can I tell you how I found out?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

J. EDWARDS: I read it in the newspaper.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really. (LAUGHTER)

J. EDWARDS: It's the first time. She's never told me that.

SNOW: The Democratic presidential hopeful has said he will only support civil unions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think homosexuals have the right to be married?

J. EDWARDS: No. Not personally. Now, are you asking me about me personally, but I think there's a difference between my belief system and what the responsibilities of the president of the United States are.

SNOW: One Democratic strategist says well, sometimes the spouse takes a differing position from the candidate deliberately; this was probably not one of those times.

CHRIS LEHANE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I really do think that it was probably a surprise to him to learn about his wife's specific views. And I think that they're being straightforward on that.

SNOW: Since none of the major presidential candidates has come out in favor of legalizing gay marriage, it doesn't make a difference that Elizabeth Edwards supports it. The group Freedom to Marry, which does not endorse candidates, says yes, it can.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you guys doing?

SNOW: And notes that John Edwards has been saying he's wrestling with the issue.

EVAN WOLFSON, FREEDOM TO MARRY: A more political way of looking at it is that it's an attempt somewhat to have it both ways. To say I'm not there yet, but nudge, nudge, wink, wink, I'm going to get there. I'm moving in the right direction.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: And some Democratic strategists say among Democratic primary voters, Elizabeth Edwards' support of gay marriage could serve as an olive branch to people who care about the issue, but they say in a general election it would be seized upon as a polarizing factor by opponents -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Mary, thank you. Mary Snow reporting for us.

The next presidential debate to be featured here on CNN will be on July 23rd. We're teaming up with YouTube. It will be the first debate where you can submit your questions to the candidates online.

In order to become president sometimes you must face some tough crowds. That's what Rudy Giuliani did today. He was embraced by a man and an audience who don't necessarily embrace all of his views. Our chief national correspondent John King is joining us now from Virginia Beach, Virginia. That's where Rudy Giuliani was today. He was pretty warmly received, I take it, John, by Pat Robertson's Regent University?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He certainly was, Wolf. And it's part of one of the most interesting dynamics of the Republican campaign. Call almost any of Rudy Giuliani's opponents and they will say once voters get to know, especially conservatives get to know that he supports abortion rights, his lead in the polls will dissipate.

Rudy Giuliani will be brought back to earth. His stop here today at a landmark of the Christian conservative movement, all part of his effort, Wolf, to prove them wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.

KING (voice-over): As introductions go, hard to top.

PAT ROBERTSON, CHANCELLOR, REGENT UNIVERSITY: He may one day become not New York's mayor, but America's leader. So it's a great pleasure to welcome a dear friend and a great leader...

KING: And so the stage was set, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a supporter of abortion rights, introduced by a friend, who just happens to be a founding father of the anti-abortion religious right.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not going to give a political speech.

KING: Of course, it was a political speech, but strikingly not one direct mention of abortion. This as close as he came.

RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Don't expect you are going to agree with me on everything, because that would be unrealistic.

KING: It was a deliberate choice, visiting a Christian conservative campus to make his case that leadership and tough talk about fighting terrorism and illegal immigration matter as much if not more to most Republican voters as the moral and social issues that have often defined past GOP primary battles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And if this is a one-issue election, it's about remaining on offense against terrorists.

KING: The luncheon was part of a university series on executive leadership and Giuliani told reporters raising abortion would have been out of place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a decision to make a speech on leadership and I've done it 400 times and I never mentioned abortion before, so it would have actually been a conscious decision to go out of my way to mention it.

KING: Giuliani has made his support of abortion rights the centerpiece of some recent speeches; in part to overcome criticism that his early campaign answers on the issue were inconsistent or confusing. But advisers like Ed Goeas say his persistent strength in the polls is proof most voters who oppose abortion rights are nonetheless open to voting for Giuliani.

ED GOEAS, GIULIANI CAMPAIGN POLLSTER: You have about 65 to 67 percent of those primary voters are pro-life. But our own polling has come in around 20, 21 percent of what we call pro life deal breakers.

KING: Chuck Slemp is the Regent student body president and an active college Republican. He opposes abortion but is considering backing Giuliani and says his conversations on this conservative campus leave him convinced he has plenty of company.

CHUCK SLEMP, REGENT UNIV. STUDENT BODY PRES.: We've got to look at the whole broad picture and pragmatically say can this individual win in a presidential race.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Now as for the often controversial Robertson, he met Giuliani on a trip back from Israel several years ago, says they bonded in their conversation. Wolf, they also share a fight against prostate cancer that they say helped them bond even more. Robertson right now is neutral in campaign 2008, although he is on record saying he thinks Giuliani would make a great president -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I take it Giuliani also threw some red meat to the crowd when he spoke about former President Bill Clinton and his record on terrorism?

KING: He sure did and it's quite interesting. Part of Rudy Giuliani's message to Republicans said hey, I will take the fight to the Democrats if you make me your nominee. He said that when the World Trade Center in his city was attacked back in 1993, when U.S. soldiers were killed overseas by terrorists, he said Bill Clinton treated it like a law enforcement case, like a criminal case, not like an act of war.

Rudy Giuliani saying today's Democratic candidates are in the same quote, "state of denial" as he said Bill Clinton was back in the 1990s. Rudy Giuliani saying if he is the Republican nominee, he will take that fight to the Democrats, saying you must stay on offense on the war on terrorism. And Wolf, that is what he hopes helps him overcome some of the reservations among social conservatives. He hopes they say I don't agree with him on abortion, but I think this guy will take it to the Democrats and perhaps keep the White House in Republican hands.

BLITZER: And in almost all the national polls, if not all of them, he's still the frontrunner among registered Republicans. John thanks very much.

Up ahead tonight, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, new hot spots and danger in that wild life -- wildfire near Lake Tahoe in California. We'll go live to the fire zone.

Plus, all of you who still love the Beatles, listen up. It's a very historic day for the group. Its surviving members and the widows of those who are gone, our Larry King is with them right now. Larry is standing by to join us live for a special, special briefing.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Bad news right now for firefighters battling that devastating wildfire south of California's Lake Tahoe. They had hoped weather conditions would help them get a leg up on the flames, but things took an unwelcome turn.

CNN's Kara Finnstrom is joining us now from Meyers, California. Kara, what happened?

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well firefighters have been saying all along that they're really at the mercy of the winds here. And the winds have picked back up. And what we've heard is happening right now, we've got some live aerial shots to share with you, is that some of the embers that were inside of the zone, that firefighters believed they had kind of contained by cutting a fire line around, have actually kind of jumped over that line and ignited some hot spots on the other side.

Now, this is in a pretty populated area. There are some concerns. One of our CNN producers has seen that there have been some evacuations underway in that area. But firefighters tell us they're not ready to say they're going to move that fire line actually back yet. What they're going to do is really aggressively fight those hot spots.

We're also told a structure is burning. Not sure if that's a house or what type of building. But if they're going to kind of combat all of that, they hope to get it under control -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Kara Finnstrom, let's stay in touch. Thanks very much. Good luck to those firefighters and all the residents in that area.

Carol Costello is on assignment in Ohio. Brianna Keilar is monitoring stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Brianna, what do you have?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, at this moment, the Coast Guard is searching 35 miles off the coast of Oregon for an F-15 fighter jet that went down during a training mission. The Oregon Air National Guard saying that the plane went down about three hours ago. And as of yet, there is no word on what happened to the pilot. This was a jet that was based at Portland Air Base. Meanwhile, in news around the world, Iranian state run television says the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will begin rationing gasoline to motorists tomorrow. It says the move is intended to reign in the use of imported fuel in anticipation of U.N. sanctions over Iran's nuclear program. Angry Iranians set fire to a gas station in Tehran to protest the rationing. And Iran is the world's second largest OPEC producer of crude oil but it lacks refining capacity, so it must import about 40 percent of its gasoline.

And Germany is barring the makers of a movie from filming at German military sites, because of its star. Tom Cruise is to portray a World War II German officer who was in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. Germany's defense ministry says Cruise and his fellow producers were denied access because Cruise is a Scientologist. The moviemakers say that Cruise's beliefs have no bearing on the film, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Brianna, for that.

Just ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, plotting with mobsters to kill Fidel Castro. The CIA lets its skeletons out of the closet. They're called the family jewels. Declassifying hundreds of pages of secret documents.

Vice President Dick Cheney claims he's not part of the executive branch of the government. I'll ask Democratic Senator Joe Biden what he thinks about that.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, from prime minister to a prime player in the pursuit of peace. It's Tony Blair's last day on the job and we've learned his next job will be as an envoy for the Israeli/Palestinian peace process. Officials say an announcement will likely come tomorrow.

Claims of responsibility for a murderous act. Today, a group called the Islamic State of Iraq said it's behind yesterday's suicide bombing at a major Baghdad hotel right in the center of the city. The group, which includes al Qaeda, posted its message on the Internet.

And a three-judge panel could rule literally at any moment on a request from Lewis "Scooter" Libby's attorneys. They filed an emergency motion, hoping to keep Libby out of prison pending appeal of his convictions in the CIA leak case.

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

Locked away for decades, they tell stories of kidnappings, domestic spying, and assassination plots. Now, the CIA has taken the wraps off some of those secret records. Let's go to our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve -- Jeanne. JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the papers have the drama of a John Le Carre novel.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE (voice-over): 1960, Cuban President Fidel Castro targeted for assassination -- according to newly declassified documents, the CIA recruited two of the nation's most-wanted mobsters to take Castro out with six poison pills. The plot was eventually scrapped, but one of the mobsters later tried to blackmail the agency -- these revelations and more part of the so-called family jewels, 700 pages of CIA documents that show an agency with few limits in the '50s, '60s and '70s.

THOMAS BLANTON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY ARCHIVE: Black bag jobs, wiretaps, you name it. All it too was orders from on high. If the president was mad, sic the CIA on these people. If the president wanted to get rid of some obnoxious foreign leader, sic the CIA on them. And there didn't seem to be any serious congressional oversight.

MESERVE: According to one memo, Howard Hunt, an ex-CIA agent, called his former contacts at the agency, looking for an accomplished lock picker, apparently to assist with the Watergate break in.

Other documents reveal the CIA provided a safe house and equipment for Secret Service surveillance of the 1972 Democratic and Republican Conventions.

Spy satellites and Soviet subs were among the subjects of Michael Getler's reporting in the 1970s. The CIA put him and other journalists under surveillance to uncover their sources.

MICHAEL GETLER, FORMER "WASHINGTON POST" REPORTER: They have no charter to carry out domestic law enforcement, which is what they were doing. And they were way out of line in doing it.

MESERVE: Some say CIA abuses like these could not take place today.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Today's structure for supervising the CIA is radically different. And, so, I don't think Americans today need to look at these documents and say, oh, my God, what are they doing now?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE: CIA Director Michael Hayden says, the agency now protects Americans within a strong framework of law and review. The documents, he said, provide a glimpse of a very different era, a very different agency -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jeanne Meserve reporting for us. Thanks, Jeanne.

They may read like fiction, but these hundreds of pages of CIA documents are all too real, a stunning look at recent American history.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Joining us now is Tom Blanton. You just saw him in the piece. He is the director -- executive director of the National Security Archive here at George Washington University.

You have been trying for a long time...

BLANTON: Fifteen years.

BLITZER: ... to get these documents. You have it right there. I just want you to lift it up, show it -- show our viewers this -- this booklet, how thick it is. What, 700 pages?

BLANTON: Seven hundred pages long.

BLITZER: And the title is?

BLANTON: They actually called it "The Family Jewels." I personally was sticking to skeletons in the closet. That's what Colby used to call it. But the Office of Security titled the opening memo, "Re: Family Jewels."

BLITZER: So, there is a wealth of material. I'm sure you haven't had a chance to completely go through it. But give us your bottom-line assessment, what you have seen right now. How historically significant are these documents?

BLANTON: It's the firsthand -- it's the first-person testimonials. It's kind of a whole generation of CIA officers going into the confessional and saying, "Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned," and writing up what their sin was just for the eyes only of the director.

BLITZER: And they knew they were sinning when they did these things.

BLANTON: Exactly. And that's how he -- what he asked them. He said, think of anything you have done that was off the reservation, against the law, violated the charter. Write it up. Get it to me. I don't want to read it in the paper first.

BLITZER: Tell us about the plots to assassinate Fidel Castro.

BLANTON: There is just amazing detail here, particularly about ideas of poison pens, exploding bombs. There has been a lot of detail out on the assassinations. To me, the stuff that really jumped out of this collection was much more the domestic surveillance. This is sort of the CIA as our Stasi.

BLITZER: Because the FBI is supposed to do that kind of thing.

BLANTON: Exactly right.

BLITZER: The CIA is supposed to spy around the world, but it's not supposed to be involved in...

BLANTON: That was their excuse.

BLITZER: ... in domestic activities.

BLANTON: Exactly right. And that was their excuse. They said, we're looking for foreign intelligence. That anti-war movement, that couldn't be homegrown Americans doing that. That must be sponsored by Moscow or Beijing. And, so, they were looking for the communist influence in the movement.

BLITZER: But why didn't they trust the FBI to do it? Because that's what the FBI is supposed to do.

BLANTON: I think, basically, because there was no limit back then on what they could do. There was no congressional oversight. There was no real oversight within the executive branch.

Colby, Will Colby, who got this file delivered to him, said he was shocked. He had been in Vietnam for five years. He didn't know about all this domestic stuff. Even the CIA's own right hand didn't know what left hand was doing.

BLITZER: And they were really watching, not only politicians and academics, but journalists, as well.

BLANTON: Absolutely. They were tracking, taking pictures of Mike Getler through his picture window.

BLITZER: From "The Washington Post."

BLANTON: Exactly right, just because he had written a couple stories, leaked information, made the administration look bad.

BLITZER: And they were obsessed with Jack Anderson, the syndicated columnist, and his entire staff, if you will.

BLANTON: Absolutely.

BLITZER: He used to write that "Merry-Go-Round" column in "The Washington Post" and...

BLANTON: Full of leaked documents.

BLITZER: ... hundreds of other newspapers. He was getting a ton of stuff, and they wanted to know where he was getting it from.

BLANTON: Following him all the time. They took the teams of CIA agents, specialists in surveilling KGB guys, and sicced them on to the journalists, 24/7 coverage, tracking them from the elementary school down the street.

And what they ultimately found out, they found who their sources were, but they never found the sources of the leaked information. And I think that's what's striking. And this is probably right in your bailiwick, Wolf, because top officials were so obsessed with the spin. They spent so much time working on their own press coverage, on their own headlines. There's this amazing item in here where they get a memo -- this is about the drug experimentation on unwitting Americans. And the guy, Sidney Gottlieb, who was the mad scientist, guru, was talking, reporting on it to the inspector general.

And the director's staff says to the director, we don't think the -- the director would be ill-advised to say he's acquainted with this program.

It's like, let's spin this one.

BLITZER: You heard John McLaughlin, the former deputy director of the CIA, at one point acting director -- he's a CNN national security adviser right now -- say, this couldn't happen in this day and age.

You know there are a lot of people out there who believe it could happen in this day and age.

BLANTON: Right.

BLITZER: You have studied this for as long as anyone. What do you think?

BLANTON: It's absolutely the case that the CIA of 1973 would never have declassified these memos. It is a different agency today, for sure. There's way more congressional oversight. There is way more internal executive branch oversight. There is way more oversight within the CIA. There aren't mad scientists there anymore.

But, there are bits and pieces of these family jewels, these skeletons, that resonate a little too closely with...

BLITZER: Like what?

BLANTON: Warrantless wiretapping.

BLITZER: Right now.

BLANTON: Seen that in the headlines recently?

BLITZER: Yes.

BLANTON: Rendition kidnapping. One of the 18 key jewels is a detention of a suspected defector for several years...

(CROSSTALK)

BLANTON: ... doing now.

BLITZER: What about allegations of torture?

BLANTON: Exactly.

So, I think the CIA would like to say there is a bright line with the past, but people are going to look at this, and it's going to raise the issue yet again, how do we have a spy agency, a secret agency, in a democratic society? How do we hold them accountable? Well, step number one is a little sunlight.

BLITZER: And I guess you have got to give the director, Michael Hayden, a lot of credit for releasing this. Did he have any choice? Did he have to release it? Could he have kept these family jewels secret for another decade?

BLANTON: He might have been able to. He didn't have a lot of choice.

We had a Freedom of Information Act request for these. On the cover page -- when the CIA hand-delivered these documents to us this morning, the cover page says, this is in response to your Freedom of Information Act request. We're cleaning up our backlog of old requests, yours from 1992. It's the oldest one in our backlog.

But the real reason Hayden was releasing this, a bunch of very smart diplomatic historians invited him to come speak to them last week. You don't show up to a bunch of historians and say, sorry, guys, I'm going to hold all your sources secret.

He had to release something. This is at the top of the list of what people have been asking for, for 30 years.

BLITZER: Tom Blanton, he has been waiting 15 years for these documents.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Go home and read them right now. We will talk.

BLANTON: Thanks, Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Still ahead tonight: a Beatles reunion. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, and the widows of John Lennon and George Harrison, they will join Larry King -- Larry King standing by to join us live. We will talk about the Beatles.

And Obama vs. Clinton again -- crossing paths on the campaign trail leads to a new spat over who could hit the ground running as president. You don't want to miss what Obama is saying about Clinton right now.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Another Democrat is opening fire against Vice President Dick Cheney and his claim that his office is not -- repeat, not -- part of the executive branch of the government.

Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden was here in THE SITUATION ROOM earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Does the vice president, Dick Cheney, have a point when he says that he's also the president of your body, the U.S. Senate, and, as a result, he's not necessarily bound by the decisions, the regulations of the executive branch of the U.S. government?

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Wolf, I have a bad habit, as you know -- we have known each other a long time, and we're just getting to the quick of it here.

Look, he's got all this secret information. He has total access to every single solitary secret in the federal government. Why -- who died and left him boss?

Who -- no matter what construct you come up with, why is he not responsible for being accountable to how he handles that information?

And this ridiculous construct, this constitutional web he's weaving that he is president of the Senate; he's not a -- look, if he's not -- Rahm Emanuel has a bill. If he's not a member of the executive branch, good. Eliminate his salary. Take away his house. You know, let him, you know, work on...

BLITZER: You would support that?

BIDEN: Oh, sure.

I mean, look, this guy is becoming absolutely -- look, what's -- the part that bothers me the most, Wolf, is not these cockamamie ideas he comes up with. They're damaging America.

The policy prescriptions he has been in charge of, the way he has had this web of control over the president's policy related to national security has fundamentally damaged American interests. This is more than an academic constitutional exercise.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And there's new verbal sparring in the Democratic presidential race pitting Senator Barack Obama against Senator Hillary Clinton. It actually happened yesterday in Chicago, where both White House hopefuls were raising campaign cash.

Outside his event, Obama questioned whether Clinton would be ready to take over the Oval Office.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The only person who would probably be prepared to be president on day one would be Bill Clinton, not -- not Hillary Clinton.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Today, Hillary Clinton's campaign sent out a fund- raising e-mail from former President Clinton, contending his wife would be -- quote -- "ready to lead."

But a Clinton spokesman tells CNN, the e-mail had been previously planned, and was not -- repeat, not -- a response to Obama's jab. The Clinton camp would not directly comment on Obama's remark.

Up ahead: Rock 'n' roll history, it's being made today, a Beatles reunion, Paul and Ringo with the widows of John and George. Our Larry King, he's standing by live to give us a preview of his must-see show tonight.

And what can be done about faulty or dangerous products coming into the United States from China? Jack Cafferty standing by with your e-mail.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Tonight: the closest thing possible to a rock 'n' roll dream come true, a Beatles reunion. The two surviving members of the Fab Four, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, are teaming up with John Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, and George Harrison's widow, Olivia.

Our own Larry King has been on hand for this truly historic event.

Larry is joining us from Las Vegas today.

You were there, Larry. Give our viewers a sense of what was going on.

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Well, we had quite a celebration.

First, Wolf, a -- this is the one-year anniversary of the opening of "Love." That's the combination of Cirque du Soleil and Beatles music that has been an incredible hit since the day it started here in Las Vegas. And tonight was the one-year anniversary, so Paul McCartney flew in. Ringo Starr came in from L.A. The two widows are here. They're all going to be on my show tonight at 9:00 Eastern.

And they unveiled these two unusual -- they call them plaques -- they're more like portraitures -- of the late John Lennon and George Harrison.

Actually, it was George Harrison who conceived the idea of this show -- he thought of it, brought it to his wife, and then sadly passed away -- of going with -- combining Beatles and Cirque du Soleil. They put it all together, got in touch with the powers that be here in Las Vegas.

The shore's been an enormous hit. And we're very proud to be part of this one-year anniversary tonight. BLITZER: Tell us a little bit about your show tonight. How are you going to bring these four people together? Tell us a little bit about what you have in store.

KING: What we're going to do is, we're going to have, first, the founder of -- the founder of Cirque du Soleil will be with us in two of the segments. We will open two segments with the widows.

And then we will have two long segments with Paul and Ringo, and then a segment in which we feature things that have happened backstage and around the proceedings. We will show you highlights of what took place here about an hour ago.

And, then, in the final segment, we will have all four together, Yoko, Olivia, and Ringo, and Paul. And that will be historic, a first. All four will sit together. We will converse. And then we will take you to the opening of the "Love" show tonight.

In our last segment, the four of them will be on stage. They will walk on stage. They will go to their seats. I will be right behind them and close the show. And, so, hopefully, the audience at home will get the flavor of what it's like in this beautiful theater here in Las Vegas, Nevada.

BLITZER: You know, those...

KING: It's going to be quite a night.

BLITZER: Those of us of a certain age, we, of course, remember the Beatles. But it's amazing when you see younger people nowadays. You know, they were born, what, 15, 20, even 30 years ago. They don't -- they didn't live through that period, Larry, like we did, but they love the Beatles as well.

KING: Not only that. Paul McCartney's album is number two now, his new album. It's a runaway bestseller. Ringo has got a new album coming out in a couple months. They still sell.

And this gift shop here, I'm told, does -- this is not a large gift shop. It does $10 million a year in Beatles paraphernalia.

BLITZER: It's amazing. It's an amazing show, too. If you go to Vegas, you have got to see this show.

Larry, we will be watching.

KING: And we will be right here. And it's all taking place at the Mirage Hotel.

Thanks, Wolf. As a Beatles fan, I know you will be watching.

BLITZER: Oh, you better believe it.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Larry, thanks very much. And, to our viewers, please be sure to watch this very special "LARRY KING LIVE" tonight, a virtual Beatles reunion, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, 6:00 Pacific. If you like the Beatles, you're going to want to see this.

Jack Cafferty loves the Beatles. He's joining us from New York right now with "The Cafferty File."

You're of a certain age too, Jack. You know, we grew up with the Beatles.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, and Sinatra and Crosby and the McGuire Sisters and...

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Who are they?

CAFFERTY: You know, some of the best Beatles music they ever did was when they covered some country and western tunes. They recorded some Carl Perkins and stuff, magnificent music.

Anyway, back to faulty tires and poisonous pet food. The question is: What can be done about faulty and/or dangerous products coming into the United States from China?

Sandy writes from Florida: "Maybe U.S. companies can open some plants in Mexico, give our southern neighbors steady work, the ability to support themselves and their families in their native country. We can import safe products, and, thus, solve two problems at once."

Tom in Minnesota: "How about holding the importers responsible? I'm talking about Wal-Mart, China's eighth largest trading partner, ahead of Germany, and the dozens of other American companies that earn huge profits by importing goods from a country where slave labor is still a common practice. They're as responsible for the quality of the products they sell as the Chinese crooks who are manufacturing them."

Bill in Texas writes: "Jack, there isn't much that can be done about the faulty products coming from China, since U.S. trade policy is driven by corporate money. It's kind of like comprehensive immigration reform. Nobody listens to us on trade either."

(COUGHING)

CAFFERTY: Pardon me.

CAFFERTY: John in Utah writes: "The communist Chinese government has found the most effective way to wage war against the U.S. And we're floating their war budget. In no uncertain terms, the toothpaste and pet food toxins were chemical weapons, with trade as the delivery vehicle. And, because our own government has sided with the communist government against our safety, we have no defense but the "Made in China" warning label. Fight them with your wallet." Barbara in North Carolina: "What can be done? What we should have been doing all along. That's checking the products before releasing them to the public. If we're not checking products coming in here, anybody can let anything come into the country and kill us all. Are we that loosey-goosey with foreign imports?"

And Taylor in Auburn, Alabama: "My dad always used to say that you get what you pay for. Maybe all that 40 cent toothpaste and those $400 plasma TVs are not such a great deal after all."

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

BLITZER: Jack, thanks. See you tomorrow.

Let's check in with Paula to see what's coming up right at the top of the hour -- Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf. Thanks.

We start off tonight in Washington with the latest on how members of the Senate are trying to get the debate on immigration back on track.

And then we have a story with some incredible pictures for you. It is the end of a conflict that involved a policeman and ended with a shooting caught on his squad car's camera.

Also, are the Republicans thinking about getting rid of Vice President Dick Cheney and replacing him with former Senator Fred Thompson? I will ask "The Washington Post"'s Sally Quinn about that and a whole lot more -- coming up at the top of the hour, Wolf.

Hope you will join us then.

BLITZER: We always do. Thanks very much, Paula, for that.

Still ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM: He can eat more than four hot dogs every minute. But now one of the world's fastest eaters sees problems to his very big mouth. CNN's Jeanne Moos with "Moost Unusual" story.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You might say it's forcing a diet on a man with a huge appetite, a man who can eat more hot dogs in a minute than a lot of us could eat in day. His skills may have been sidelined, though.

CNN's Jeanne Moos has this "Moost Unusual" story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Most of us eat hot dogs. This guy inhales them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kobayashi has pulled into the lead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Kobayashi takes it again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The once and future king.

MOOS: But now the king of competitive eating may be dethroned by injury.

RICHARD SHEA, PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF COMPETITIVE EATING: He has "jawthritis."

MOOS: That would be arthritis of the jaw, or as the champ put it on his blog, "My jaw surrendered," this while training for the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July contest that he's won six times in a row.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see the human struggle apparent in every compression of the jaw.

MOOS: A few too many compressions, apparently.

(on camera): Like carpal tunnel of competitive eating.

SHEA: It would be like, the day before the Super Bowl, Tom Brady, you know, having a rotator cuff issue.

MOOS (voice-over): Back when Kobayashi first won, he was a young, skinny guy. By last year, he was so buff that he had six-pack abs, even full of wieners. His record, 53.75 hot dogs in 12 minutes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our dog couldn't eat that fast. We have got a dalmatian. And it's like, if you lay 50 hot dogs, he couldn't eat that fast.

MOOS: But now Kobayashi says arthritis of the jaw makes it hard for him to even open his mouth.

(on camera): Supposedly, he can not fit anything bigger than a finger in his mouth. Did he say anything like that?

SHEA: You know, he was saying two fingers.

MOOS (voice-over): The president of the International Federation of Competitive Eating spoke on the phone with the champ, and described him as bummed and crestfallen.

Who could gain from Kobayashi's loss?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is trying to rewrite history!

MOOS: California's Joey Chestnut almost beat the champ last year. And, in a qualifying contest, Joey ate more dogs than Kobayashi.

When he heard of the champ's injury?

JOEY CHESTNUT, HOT DOG CONTESTANT: My first thought was that, oh, my God, he's -- he's playing games, trying to get me off my training.

MOOS: Kobayashi says he's still coming to the July 4 competition, though he doesn't know if he will be able to eat. Joey has set his own gut-wrenching wiener goal.

(on camera): So, you're shooting for 61, 62 HDBs.

CHESTNUT: Yes.

MOOS: That's hot dogs and buns.

(on camera): I just like to say HDBs.

(voice-over): Joey Chestnut did win last year's weigh-in stare- down with a fake kiss.

(LAUGHTER)

MOOS: Eating this many dogs, you would think a champ's downfall would be colitis, not jawthritis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joey Chestnut moving now, twitching like the colons of the caffeinated.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And this just coming into CNN from the House of Representatives, specifically Republicans in the House of Representatives: They have just voted amongst themselves, a non- binding resolution, opposing immigration reform as it now stands in the Senate.

By a vote of 114-23, house Republicans decided they don't like the Senate measure. This is significant, because Nancy Pelosi says she's not even going to bring up the matter unless 60 or 70 Republicans are inclined to vote in favor. Only 23 of these Republicans now say they support what the Senate is doing.

Even if it passes the Senate, this vote would not seem to bode well for the future of immigration reform in the House. We will watch this story -- a lot more coming up tomorrow in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

"PAULA ZAHN NOW" starts right now -- Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks, Wolf. Appreciate it.

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