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Simpson Out on Bail; African-American Leaders Call on '08 Candidates to Back the Jena 6

Aired September 19, 2007 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, O.J. Simpson on the freeway again. This time it's a trip away from jail. He's out on bail, but could he end up in prison for life?

No freedom now for a Louisiana teenager accused in a racially charged assault case. As protesters gather, African-American leaders and others calling on the '08 candidates to back the Jena 6.

And his nation is branded a sponsor of international terrorism, but the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants to visit 9/11's Ground Zero.

Will New York roll out the red carpet?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


O.J. Simpson is free on bail and he's cleared to return home to Florida, leaving a Las Vegas jail just a short time ago. The notorious former football star making a brief appearance in court today. The hearing televised live.

Let's go to CNN's Ed Lavandera. He's joining us in Las Vegas with more -- so where is Simpson right now, Ed, do we know?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We understand he's in a casino here, at the hotel where he had been staying here in Las Vegas, but, actually, the place where he was arrested, The Palms Casino in Las Vegas. Now we presume he is beginning the process of trying to figure out how to get out of town.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): O.J. Simpson handcuffed and wearing jailhouse blues -- it triggers a flashback to the days of Simpson's double murder trial. The prosecutor from that trial, Marcia Clark, was sitting in the front row. She now works as a special correspondent for the "Entertainment Tonight" TV show.

JUDGE JOE BONAVENTURA CLARK COUNTY, NEVADA DISTRICT COURT: Mr. Simpson, won't you stand up please, Mr. Simpson? LAVANDERA: But this time, the former football star faces 11 criminal charges, 10 of them felonies, including robbery, burglary and coercion, all with a deadly weapon, as well as conspiracy charges.

Simpson listened passively. But notice his reaction to the two kidnapping counts. He didn't enter a plea today, but his lawyer says it will be not guilty.

Next came the main issue.

BONAVENTURE: Bail is set on this case at $125,000, total bail cash surety. As a condition, Mr. Simpson, there are certain conditions to posting bond here. You're ordered to surrender your passport to your attorney.

LAVANDERA: The judge also barred Simpson from any contact with the alleged victims, his co-defendants or any witnesses.

BONAVENTURE: Do you understand that order?

O.J. SIMPSON: Yes, sir.

BONAVENTURE: And, Mr. Simpson, by no contact, I mean no direct contact, no indirect contact whatsoever. If you see them, you're to avoid contact. If you see them walking down the street, you're to cross the street. You're to have no indirect contact. You're to not use any means to contact these individuals. Don't use e-mail, telephone, mail, passenger pigeon -- no whatsoever contact.

LAVANDERA: Wearing a sport coat and a white shirt, O.J. Simpson walked out of the Las Vegas jail, driven away from the glare of the cameras by his attorney.


LAVANDERA: Wolf, and the arrests continue to pile up here in Las Vegas. Let's get you up to speed on the two latest arrests this afternoon. A fifth suspect in connection with this robbery at the hotel. So it will be O.J. Simpson and now four other men. We understand that that fifth person is now being processed here at the jail in Las Vegas. And, also, in a bizarre twist, one of the victims in this case, a man by the named of Alfred Beardsley, has been arrested here in Las Vegas, as well, on a parole violation. California authorities want him -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Another one of the alleged victims is still in the hospital in critical condition.

What do we know about him?

LAVANDERA: And, right. And the second victim in this case is in that hospital in Los Angeles. He had suffered a heart attack several days ago and he is now, we're told by hospital officials, his condition is improving. He was in critical yesterday. Today he's listed as being in fair condition.

BLITZER: All right, at least he's getting a little bit better.

All right, Ed, stand by.

We'll check back with you

Simpson's name is tied forever to that double murder trial more than a decade ago. And despite his acquittal, some are questioning whether he and his lawyers could ever find an impartial jury.

Let's go back to CNN's Carol Costello.

She's picking up this part of the story for us -- you've been speaking to a lot of people, Carol.

What's the consensus out there?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, well, Wolf, O.J. Simpson's lawyer thinks he can seat an impartial jury, one willing to forget about all that baggage Simpson carries with him.

The consensus?

It won't be easy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is "The State of Nevada v. Orenthal James Simpson."

COSTELLO (voice-over): It was all so familiar -- O.J. Simpson in court, a media circus outside waiting for Simpson's attorney.

YALE GALANTER, SIMPSON DEFENSE LAWYER: My only focus up until this point in time has been securing Mr. Simpson's release from captivity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nice work, dude. Up high.

GALANTER: Thank you very much.


GALANTER: OK, thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, now, let me hand you...

GALANTER: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

COSTELLO: This whole strange scene one reason reporters are asking the question whether Simpson can get a fair trial.

Attorney Yale Galanter says call me corny...

GALANTER: But I believe that if you identify the proper issues, you can get a fair jury. The second issue is we understand who our client is. We know what public perception is. We know what you guys think. I mean you know, we don't live in holes.

COSTELLO: According to our poll, 80 percent of Americans believe Simpson murdered his ex-wife and her friend, Ron Goldman, despite his win criminal court. And experts say that may make it difficult to seat jurors who will believe Simpson's side of the story.

Adding to the mix, lawyers who are sharing with the nation parts of their jailhouse conversations with Simpson.

This is attorney Scott Holper on CBS.


SCOTT HOLPER, ATTORNEY: He has utmost confidence in his counsel and, you know, he has 100 percent support from his daughter, who is in town, his sister and his girlfriend Christy.


COSTELLO: The problem?

Scott Holper isn't on Simpson's legal team. Galanter is and he says Holper is hurting his client.

GALANTER: You will never hear out of my mouth anything I discussed with Mr. Simpson.

COSTELLO: But legal analyst Drew Findling says while none of this is good, Simpson's lawyers do have one thing going for them.

DREW FINDLING, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: The case is a nightmare. It's a mess. And I think things are starting to swing in O.J.'s favor.

COSTELLO: Thanks, in part, to Simpson's alleged accomplice, Thomas Riccio, who just happened to secretly tape what transpired in that Las Vegas hotel room.

SIMPSON: Think you can steal my stuff and sell it?

Don't let nobody out of this room. (EXPLETIVE DELETED)!

COSTELLO: And then Riccio sold the tape. Findley believes the messiness of this case will convince a jury to be fair -- even to a defendant they are sure to dislike.


COSTELLO: Now, I know what you're thinking -- there was plenty of evidence in Simpson's murder trial, right, the last trial?

And the jury did not act as most Americans expected. But Findling believes we've all learned from that trial, including perspective jurors -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Carol Costello. What a story.

Thanks very much.

Carol watching this story for us.

After days, by the way, of these fast-moving developments, Simpson's case about to slow down dramatically.

Our senior legal analyst, Jeff Toobin, standing by. He's going to be joining us later this hour. We're going to be talking about where this case heads next. That's coming up.

Coming up, right now, though, is Jack Cafferty.

He's been busy -- you've been busy getting ready for your big special tonight -- Jack.

Before you do that, give our viewers a sense of what you do every day here in THE SITUATION ROOM for The Cafferty File.

CAFFERTY: You mean this?



Rudy Giuliani says he's the liberals' worst nightmare. A new radio ad running in Iowa another chapter in the war of words between the Republican presidential candidate and the group

It all began with MoveOn's ad last week in the "New York Times" referring to General Petraeus as "General Betray Us". After Giuliani criticized the ad, MoveOn immediately came out with a TV add that goes after the former New York mayor for withdrawing from the Iraq Study Group.

And now there's this. Giuliani's radio ad says: " is the most powerful left-wing group in the country. They spent millions electing anti-war liberals and they publicly brag how the Democratic Party is theirs, bought and paid for. Why is MoveOn attacking Rudy Giuliani? Because he's their worst nightmare. They know Rudy is a Republican who can beat the Democrats and they know no matter what they say that Rudy will never ever, back down."

Well, Giuliani is already apparently running against the Democrats, which is fine, except for the one small detail, which he isn't the nominee yet.

Nevertheless, calling himself the liberals' worst nightmare is an interesting strategy when you take into account how divided this country already is.

The question then is this -- is going out of your way to alienate people a good way to bring this country together?

That's supposed to be up on a nice full screen so you can read it now, but apparently we don't have that. There it is.

You can send your answers to or you can go to -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, let's talk about what's coming up at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time after THE SITUATION ROOM -- a one hour special Cafferty File.

What's coming up, Jack?

CAFFERTY: Well, yes, I think we've got a pretty good show lined up. We have Senator Chuck Hagel, who is an outspoken critic of the Bush administration. And unlike Vice President Dick "Five Deferments" Cheney and President George Texas Air National Guard Bush, Chuck Hagel wore the uniform, fought in Vietnam, was wounded a couple of times and knows well what war is all about. He thinks the president's policy on the war stinks. He thinks the surge -- he calls it the worst foreign policy mistake this country has made since Vietnam. And he has some other interesting things to say and I'm delighted to have him on the show. He's a tough guy to get. But he watches The Cafferty File, interestingly enough.

Also, an old buddy of mine, Whoopi Goldberg, is on. She always has something to say. She's one of the -- she's the newest, or the second newest, I guess, co-host of "The View" on ABC Television. So she'll be on.

There is a special cameo appearance by the Wolfman. Dr. Blitzer will be with us via videotape.

We have your e-mails. We have some I-Reports. We've got reports from Candy Crowley and Ed Henry and Joe Johns on the pathetic state of Washington, D.C. and the people who try to run this country.

It's my kind of stuff. I'm looking forward to it.

BLITZER: I sort of like your phrase, Wolfman's Jack.

CAFFERTY: That's -- well, that's who I am.


CAFFERTY: I'm Wolfman's Jack.

BLITZER: Jack, stand by.


BLITZER: Thanks very much.

It sounds like a terrific hour, 8:00 p.m. Eastern tonight.

Up ahead, tens of thousands of people head for a tiny Louisiana town for a major civil rights rally. You're going to find out what the presidential candidates are saying as they come under pressure to speak out. Private security guards facing possible exile from Iraq.

So who's going to protect America's diplomats?

A thousand of them are in Baghdad. I'll ask the number two U.S. military commander in Iraq.

And remember that $54 million lawsuit over a pair of pants?

It's driving the owners of that small dry cleaning store to desperate measures.

Stick around.



BLITZER: The United States is urgently trying to resolve a dispute with Iraq over the threatened expulsion of thousands of private security guards. Iraq blames the Blackwater USA security firm for a weekend shootout which left a number of Iraqi civilians dead. Meantime, American diplomats in Baghdad are left without their armed escorts.

Let's go to our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre.

He's watching this story for us -- there's got to be an investigation, I assume, Jamie, underway?


You know, this is not the first time that civilians have been killed in Iraq by private contractors. But this incident has really fired up the Iraqi public and has the State Department on a full court press to try to calm things down, even as the events of the original incident are in sharp dispute.


MCINTYRE (voice-over): This victim, an Iraqi lawyer, told CNN from his hospital bed the American contractors from Blackwater opened fire unprovoked.

HASAN SALMAN, IRAQI LAWYER: (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): They opened fire at all cars from behind. The bullets are in my back.

MCINTYRE: Blackwater USA tells CNN the deaths, as many as 20 civilians, according to Iraq, resulted when its security forces, protecting a State Department convoy, returned fire in self-defense, as permitted under the rules of engagement.

Both the U.S. and Iraq are investigating the Sunday attack. But what is not in dispute is that the Iraqi government has had it with Blackwater and wants its 1,000 employees out of the country. "We will not tolerate the killing of our citizens in cold blood," vowed the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki at a news conference, insisting Blackwater must be held accountable.

The threats forced the State Department to curtail embassy convoys outside the Green Zone temporarily and create a new joint commission aimed at calming Iraqi anger.

TOM CASEY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: What we want to do in light of this incident is have an opportunity to, with the Iraqis, work out a joint understanding of what we might be able to do to improve the effectiveness and safety of these operations.

MCINTYRE: But some of Blackwater's competitors say the company's high profile reputation and run and gun approach to security may be working against it.

Jamie Smith is a former Blackwater vice president who now runs a competing firm.

JAMES SMITH, SCG INTERNATIONAL: You know, they've got helicopters overhead. They've got Humvees. They've got big armored trucks. And, you know, their -- the guys are, you know, have got their guns sticking out all over the place and it looks like a, you know, it's like a rolling porcupine.


MCINTYRE: One thing the new U.S./Iraqi commission may try to resolve are the murky rules surrounding licensing of security firms in Iraq. Companies complain that they are often forced to pay bribes and they are very reluctant to put their employees under the Iraqi system of justice, which, they say, is riddled with corruption -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon.


So how long will U.S. diplomats be forced to hunker down in Baghdad's so-called Green Zone?

If private security guards aren't allowed to protect them, who will?

Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno is the number two U.S. military commander in Iraq. He heads the multinational corps, Iraq.

What does it say about the state of security in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, General, when American diplomats -- and there's a thousand of them, at least, at the largest U.S. embassy in the world, in Baghdad, simply are confined to their little Green Zone?

They can't leave that secure area because they don't have armed protection.

What does it say about the environment in Baghdad? LT. GEN. RAYMOND ODIERNO, U.S. ARMY: Well, first, I would tell you the security environment in Baghdad continues to improve. Now, I will tell you that by some small groups, Americans and Westerners are targeted. So that's why, obviously, as our diplomats move around, they have to have security with them. And that's because they are specifically targeted by these groups.

I will say that there are many other people that work for the State Department that are out with or are embedded, provincial reconstruction teams that get -- that move around with our forces that will continue to be out there working every single day. And I believe this -- this will be a temporary halt for our diplomats leaving the Green Zone as we continue to work through this issue with the government of Iraq.

BLITZER: Because if they kick out these private security firms, presumably, you, the United States Army or the Marine Corps, would have to provide security for the American diplomats.

Would you have enough troops to fill that need?

ODIERNO: Well, we'll wait to see what happens. Obviously, we'd have to -- if that occurred, we'd have to re-look what we're going to do. We obviously would be able to provide security for them. But let's wait to see what happens with this commission first, as we move forward, before we decide and determine whether we'll need military to secure our diplomats or not.

BLITZER: Let's turn to a subject that's on the agenda on Capitol Hill, in the Senate today, this amendment that Senator Jim Webb of Virginia is putting forward, namely, that if a soldier or a Marine spends 15 months out in Iraq, they would be able to spend 15 months back at home with their families. In other words, the amount of time you spend there is the same amount of time of an interval you would spend back here.

Practically speaking, is that a good idea?

ODIERNO: Well, I mean I think fundamentally we all agree with -- that we want our soldiers to spend an adequate amount of time home with their families. I mean we all agree with the concept.

What we don't want to do is have legislation that paints ourselves into a corner, because the Army is a very complex place. We have soldiers that move all around and there might be some unintended consequences if we're given very specific legislation that inhibits us from deploying soldiers.

So I think the bottom line is we agree that we want to give our soldiers as much time as home as possible. There's no real argument with that. But I don't think we want to paint ourselves in the corner by legislating that.

BLITZER: General Odierno, one final question. General Petraeus was here in Washington last week. There was a lot of commotion. As you know, he made his report to the Congress, to the American people. The president then spoke. Practically speaking, you -- you're in charge of the U.S. troops on the ground.

What's been the fallout?

What's been the impact on a day to day basis of what was accomplished here in Washington last week?

ODIERNO: First, I would say General Petraeus and I have a completely collaborative process. I knew exactly what he was going to talk about. We talked about it. He used my recommendations. We agreed on the way ahead. I think it's a proper way to head. We feel comfortable with the direction win.

Thirteen consecutive weeks we've had reduction in attacks. The week ending 15 September was the lowest amount of incidents we've had here in Iraq since before the Samarra mosque bombing. That's pretty significant. IEDs are trending down. We believe we're seeing more normalization coming back in parts of Iraq -- not all parts.

We think because of this and the continued improvement of the Iraqi security forces, the reduction of forces that he's addressed is proper at this time. We also think it's right for him to do another assessment in March because that will give us time now to do another assessment, assess where we're at so we can continue to move forward here and work with being successful and leaving here with an Iraqi government that can handle themselves over a long period of time.

So here, it's very positive. We feel good about where we're at. General Petraeus gave his recommendation. We're behind that recommendation and we feel we'll continue to move forward here in Iraq.

BLITZER: General Odierno, be careful over there.

Good luck.

Thanks again for joining us.

ODIERNO: Thank you, Wolf.

It's always a pleasure.

BLITZER: And still ahead, a surprise lawsuit from a former evening news anchor. We're going to show you who Dan Rather is taking to court and why.

Plus, a massive and deadly explosion. You're going to find out why the U.S. believes it was an assassination.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring some other stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Carol, what's going on? COSTELLO: A couple of things, Wolf.

Let's start on the wide screen. The White House strongly condemning the killing of anti-Syrian lawmaker in Lebanon today, calling it a politically motivated assassination. Antoine Ghanem, a member of the Lebanese parliament, was killed in this bomb attack in Beirut. At least five others were killed, as well, dozens more hurt. The attack comes just six days before parliament was scheduled to elect a new president.

Tough talk from Iran today. The deputy commander of Iran's air force says plans have been drawn up to bomb Israel if the Jewish state were ever to attack Iran. Israel responded, calling the statement "extremist and hateful." The U.S. had some adjectives of its own, describing the commanders words' as "unhelpful" and seemingly provocative.

And here in the United States, the owners of a Washington, D.C. dry cleaners are closing a second shop after being sued for $54 million over a missing pair of pants. The case went to trial back in June and the owners won. But they say their six figure legal bills, combined with a loss in profits, took a toll. They say they will now focus their energy on the last of their three shops that do remain open.

Back to you -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Carol, very much.

Up next, the dramatic day in the O.J. Simpson case. He's out on bail. His attorneys are working their defense.

Are the odds in their favor?

Our legal expert, Jeff Toobin -- he's standing by live with some analysis.

And a massive protest looms over a racially charged assault case in Louisiana. Now fresh calls for the presidential candidates to get behind the Jena 6.

Stick around.



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

Happening now, coalition forces in Afghanistan say Taliban fighters used children as human shields during a battle with U.S.-led troops. Officials say insurgents attacked a coalition patrol, then gathered the children in a compound to prevent a counter-attack. The coalition says its soldiers did hold their fire, but eventually caught the insurgents as they tried to flee. Today, Israel declared the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip a "hostile entity," citing numerous rocket attacks on Israel from that territory. Israeli plans to disrupt electricity to Gaza and reduce shipments to just essential food and medicine.

Hamas calls the move -- and I'm quoting now -- "a declaration of war."

Authorities in Nevada say they're scaling back their search for Steve Fossett, not calling it off. It's been two weeks since the millionaire adventurer disappeared while flying his plane.

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

Let's get some more now on our top story this hour. O.J. Simpson freed on $125,000 bail but after days of fast-moving events, the case is likely to slow to a crawl.

Let's go to our senior legal analyst Jeff Toobin. He's watching all of this unfold.

All right. Jeff, walk us through this process. He was released. He got into a car, drove away, presumably back to his casino hotel. What happens next?

JEFF TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: The judge has scheduled a status conference for sometime in late October, hasn't set the exact date. Now the ball is really in the prosecution's court. They have to decide whether they're going to schedule a preliminary hearing or present this case to a grand jury that they have that choice, but Yale Galanter, the main defense lawyer for Simpson, says he is about to start a three-month trial so nothing much is going to happen in this case until the new year at the earliest. So after a week of very fast-moving developments, as you say, it's going to slow down awfully fast.

BLITZER: It's going to slow down until at least next year or some time. If there is no plea agreement and a trial starts, that's not going to happen this year, is that right?

TOOBIN: There certainly will not be a trial this year. Don't rule out entirely the possibility that the case somehow falls apart at this stage. Certainly O.J.'s lawyers will be arguing to the prosecutors that upon reflection, this is not a case that they should bring and this is a time, if they're going to walk away from the case, this is when they'll do it.

BLITZER: Because the cast of characters involved in this case, Jeff, are about as weird as it gets. It's hard to differentiate who are the good guys, who are the bad guys.

TOOBIN: I'll say. Larry King did an interview with this fellow, Tom Riccio, who is the person who introduced O.J. to the memorabilia dealers who supposedly had stolen this stuff from him. This is a guy with four prior felony convictions, including arson, escape from prison, and apparently, at least according to Riccio himself, the government has immunized him when he was the one who led O.J. into this hotel room. I think that's a very problematic position for the government to be in, but we haven't heard the government's side of the story yet and it will be interesting to see how they deal with that potentially big problem.

BLITZER: As you know, a lot people out there would just love O.J. to spend the rest of his life in jail. Can he get a fair trial? Can jurors and a judge in this particular case, can they separate themselves from the history and simply focus in on what is going on right now?

TOOBIN: You know, usually I am a great believer in juries and I think they generally do a great job but here we have a situation, the CNN poll said 80 percent of the people polled believe that O.J. Simpson was guilty of killing Ron Goldman and his ex-wife 13 years ago. That's such an overwhelming consensus that it's hard for me to imagine how that can be put aside, no matter how many times a judge tells them to do that.

BLITZER: Let me take this opportunity to congratulate our own Jeff Toobin on his new book. It is just out. It's already a best- seller, "The Nine, Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin." Congratulations, Jeff, on writing this great book.

TOOBIN: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: I think our viewers are going to want to read every word. He has a history of writing best-sellers and this one is certainly going to be a major best-seller.

Jeff, thanks again.

TOOBIN: Thanks, Wolf. See you next week.

BLITZER: Former CBS news evening news anchor, Dan Rather, is suing his old network and his old bosses saying they made him a scapegoat.

Let's go to Mary Snow. She's following these late breaking develops.

What are we learning about this lawsuit, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, Dan Rather is seeking $70 million in damages in this lawsuit. He has filed it against his former employers, CBS, its parent company Viacom and three of his bosses.

Now the former CBS Evening News anchor claims his former bosses breached his contract causing him significant financial losses and he says they seriously damage to his reputation. Rather claims that CBS intentionally mishandled the aftermath of a report he did that was critical of President Bush's performance as an officer in the Texas Air National Guard. That report aired in September of 2004. Now, he says his bosses were trying to, in his words, pacify the White House and used him as a scapegoat to take the blame who what he calls alleged journalistic errors. In July, Rather told CNN's Larry King he was puzzled when CBS told him in November of 2004 that he was being let go as anchor of the CBS Evening News.

DAN RATHER, FORMER CBS EVENING NEWS ANCHOR: What I do know is that it was a contract which went unfulfilled and there were promises not kept. I was surprised by that. I never heard the other side of the story, which is to say that I never heard from the top of the corporation or the top of the news division.

SNOW: This lawsuit also coming as a surprise because in that same interview, Rather told Larry King that he had no complaints and that was just two months ago. We did contact CBS for reaction. It issued a saying, "These complaints are old news and this lawsuit is without merit."


BLITZER: A lot of people I assume, Mary, are going to say that Don Imus worked out some sort of major financial settlement with CBS since then and maybe Dan Rather is looking for a settlement as well. All right. We'll watch this.

We have an important programming note for our viewers as well. Dan Rather will be the exclusive guest tomorrow night on "LARRY KING LIVE." "LARRY KING LIVE" airs 9:00 p.m. eastern. Dan Rather, tomorrow night.

Jena, Louisiana, is it the new Selma, Alabama? Jena is in the center of a smoldering racial controversy that's moving into the presidential race. That's coming up.

Also, Iran's president wants to lay a wreath at ground zero when he is in New York City next week. The city just gave its answer. You're going to find out what it is.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: A tiny town in Louisiana is now bracing for a massive civil rights rally tonight.

The racial tensions in Jena, Louisiana have been escalating last year. It started when a group of African American students sat underneath a tree at a high school where white kids usually hung out. The next day three nooses were hanging from that tree. Weeks later a group of African American boys jumped a white classmate. The victim wasn't critically hurt but the six teens involved were charged with attempted murder. People in the town were outraged until lesser charges were eventually filed. Tomorrow thousands of people from across the country are expected in Jena to protest. The controversy in Jena is now becoming an issue also in race for the White House.

Let's bring in our senior political analyst Bill Schneider. He is joining us with this.

How is this impacting the presidential campaign, Bill?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the central issue is racial injustice and all of the presidential candidates are under pressure to address that issue; some more than others.

Several presidential candidates have spoken out about the racially charged controversy in Jena, Louisiana.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: The case in Jena cries out for a full investigation by the department of justice's civil rights division.

SCHNEIDER: John Edwards statement said, "We still have two criminal justice systems in this country - largely defined by race and class."

Republican candidates are certain to be asked about the issue. But Democrats are under pressure to speak out. Civil rights is a defining issue for the Democratic Party. And African American voters are the Democratic Party's base.

Jesse Jackson was in South Carolina this week where he said, "If I were a candidate, I'd be all over Jena." Jackson, who has endorsed Barack Obama, urged his candidate to be bolder in order to overtake front-runner Hillary Clinton.

Obama is under special pressure in the Jena controversy. He is the only black candidate running for president. Obama is also the first national black political figure who does not come out of the civil rights movement, though he claims to have been inspired by it.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: I'm here because you all sacrificed for me! I stand on the shoulders of that.

SCHNEIDER: Obama appeals to white voters as well as blacks as a uniter. His statement about the Jena case last week evoked powerful racial symbols but it also called for healing.

"When nooses are being hung in high schools in the 21st century, it's a tragedy. It shows that we still have a lot of work to do as a nation to heal our racial tensions. This isn't just Jena's problem; it's America's problem."

The state newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina reported that Jackson criticized Obama for, "Acting like he's white," in his response to the Jena issue, although Jackson said he does not recall making that statement.

Jackson, today, released a statement commending Obama for speaking out. "Any attempt to dilute my support for senator Obama will not succeed," Jackson said. Obama released a statement saying, "We should stand as one nation in opposition to this and any injustice," adding, "I'll continue to fight to heal the wounds of division in our nation as president."

Jackson is pressuring Democrats to be more outspoken. But most Democrats, including Obama, are trying to avoid sounding divisive.


BLITZER: All right, Bill. Bill Schneider reporting. The case has certainly put the small town of Jena under a very hot spotlight and as we mentioned, tomorrow thousands of people are expected to show up for a protest.

Our Gulf coast Correspondent Susan Roesgen is joining us now live from Jena.

So what's the town doing to prepare for this, Susan?

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN GULF COAST CORRESPONDENT: They are bracing for it, Wolf. We expect schools to be closed tomorrow. Most businesses will be closed tomorrow. But the debate between justice and race will be wide open.

Big city activists have come to small town Louisiana. Reverend Al Sharpton parted the sea of cameras to meet with 17-year-old Michael Bell who has been locked up since September.

REV. AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: It breaks our heart to see him in handcuffed and in leg shackles. But his spirit is high. He has said that he is very encouraged to know that thousands of people are coming to this little town to stand up for him and his five friends.

ROESGEN: Bell was the first of six black teens known as the Jena 6 to face felony charges for the school attack on a white classmate, Justin Barker. The case has brought national attention and local anxiety.

Can we talk to you about the Jena 6 case?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I don't think so.

ROESGEN: All right.

However, the district attorney, Reed Walters, did want to talk. Justin Barker stood right behind him.

REED WALTERS, LASALLE PARISH, L.A., D.A.: With all of the focus on the defendants, many people seem to have forgotten that there was a victim in this case. The injury that was done to him and the serious threats to his survival have become less than a footnote.

ROESGEN: White residents are the majority in this town of 3,000. But, Thursday, civil rights activists promised to bring tens of thousands of protesters. Barricades have gone up around the local courthouse which will be the scene of a huge rally but a representative of the nation of Islam warned that barricades won't protect Jena if justice is not done.

MINISTER DERIC C. MUHAMMAD, NATION OF ISLAM: My Minister Farrakhan says that you should watch the weather. Watch the weather. He said that God will wipe Jena off the map. He says that she will be but another nail in America's coffin.

ROESGEN: Louisiana state troopers say they will be here in force to keep the peace.

At least seven different groups, Wolf, have applied for permits and received permits here to march tomorrow. We don't know, again, how many people that might be but each of those groups had to agree to a $2 million insurance policy in case there is any property damage or injuries to anybody, which everyone here hopes will not happen.


BLITZER: Let's hope. Thanks very much, Susan, for that. Susan Roesgen on the scene.

Our internet reporter Abbi Tatton is also following the story.

How is tomorrow's protest being organized online, Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, the blogs, web sites, radio shows that have been pushing for action on this case a couple of months are now full of details about the rally tomorrow. Information on buses leaving from points around the country leaving later tonight. But it's not just in Jena.

The online group color of which organized an online petition about this which has almost 240,000 signatures online said they sense that people that couldn't travel also wanted to get involved so they've been putting online materials together so people can organize around the country. A spokesman today for Color of Change said that almost 200 events are organized large and small.


BLITZER: Thanks, Abbi, for that.

And this programming note to our viewers. Please be sure to watch tomorrow night when the CNN special investigations unit gets to the heart of the crisis. "Judgment in Jena," 8:00 p.m. eastern tomorrow night after THE SITUATION ROOM. Kyra Phillips will be hosting that.

Up ahead, he's coming to America and Iran's president wants to go to one of the most solemn sites in the country. Details of this surprising request, that's coming up.

Plus, look at this. Carefree lives in the face of unimaginable suffering. There are haunting new images of the women and women behind the Nazi death machines.

Stick with us. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: The Iranian president wants to visit 9/11's ground zero when he is in New York. Let's go to CNN's Deborah Feyerick. She's in New York right now.

This is causing lots of controversy. Tell our viewers what is going on, Deb.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, he says he wants to pay his respects. Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, asked New York officials for permission to go to ground zero and lay a wreath on the site where more than 2700 people died on 9/11. Now, following a meeting of officials from the Secret Service, the Port Authority and New York City Police Department that request was denied.

COMM. RAY KELLY, NEW YORK POLICE: Construction is ongoing, so we did allow, obviously, on September 11th, people to go into the site. Construction is now back in full swing. So I think it would not be possible to have him go to any area, other than the area where most of the public goes.

FEYERICK: Now although the Iranians were not involved in the attacks on the World Trade Center, the U.S. response to the requested visit was immediate. The State Department saying, "It is a appalling that President Ahmadinejad, one of the world's leading sponsors of terror, would find it appropriate to visit this hallowed ground."

Also, speaking to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

ZALMAY KHALILZAD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Iran, who, as you know, supports terrorism, it's a source of problems in Iraq and a source of some of the problems in Afghanistan, we do not support tragedy that happened at a site where so many people lost their lives be used as a photo-op.

FEYERICK: And the Iran president is expected to arrive in New York late Sunday, address the U.N. on Monday and then stay through until Wednesday. The police spokesman said that any requests to even visit the area around the site would likely be denied.


BLITZER: Deb Feyerick reporting for us. Thanks, Deb, very much.

Nazi SS officers at leisure while the gas chambers and the ovens were working overtime. Hidden away for more than half a century, photos from the Auschwitz death camp have just been revealed.

Let's turn to CNN's Brian Todd.

Brian, you're showing us another site of evil.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is Wolf and after all these years, we think we know everything about what went on in the concentration camps but this discovery gives us an astonishing and almost surreal new look at the people who perpetrated that horror.

You'd think they're lounging at a country resort. Some gather carefree for drinks in the afternoon sun. A line of women pose on a fence. One pretends she is upset that her bowl of blueberries is finished. The year 1944. The place Auschwitz. These women communication specialists for the Nazi SS.

SARA BLOOMFIELD, DIR., U.S. HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM: We're seeing them enjoying life. We're seeing them as they saw themselves as normal happy, as humans.

TODD: The very same day these pictures were taken, 150 eastern European Jews arrived at the same complex and most were gassed to death. This album compiled by Karl Hooker, an aid to the commandant of Auschwitz, is now on the National Holocaust Museum's website. Hooker, his fellow officers and their female colleagues seen almost gleefully whiling away their off hours at a time when Auschwitz was operating beyond capacity.

JUDITH COHEN, U.S. HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM: To such extent to the fact they were burning corpses in open pits because they couldn't accommodate them all in the crematory they had built.

TODD: When they took breaks from the slaughter, a favorite past time was the accordion sing-along. Joining in here, Dr. Joseph Mengele, the Nazi physician known for doing grotesque medical experiments on Holocaust victims and at Auschwitz, selecting who was fit to live and who wasn't. Eight newly revealed pictures of Mengele are in this collection. The only photos linking him to Auschwitz, sobering for their casual depiction of how little conscious he seemingly had.

COHEN: You don't see him doing anything outrageous but he is going about enjoying himself as if his moral compass had shut down.

TODD: Holding hands, sitting on the laps of these murderers and their collaborators, young children.

BLOOMFIELD: We see it as so exceptional but, remember, this is a world of self-justification, a world about -- that teaches us about the human capacity to rationalize.

TODD: Perhaps the most telling illustration of that, December 1944, the Soviet Army within earshot of Auschwitz. Karl Hooker lights a Christmas tree candle.

Just weeks later, Hooker and the other SS officers would abandon Auschwitz. The Soviet Army would liberate the camp. Karl Hooker would not be tracked down and prosecuted until 1963.


BLITZER: What a story. All right. Brian, thanks very much for bringing that to our viewers.

Jack Cafferty is standing by with your e-mail. His question this hour is going out of your way to alienate people a good way to bring the country together?

Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Check back with Jack Cafferty for the Cafferty File.


JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Radio ad out in the air in Iowa where Rudy Giuliani refers to himself as the liberal's worst nightmare so the question is, is going out of your way to alienate people a good way to bring the country together?

Zeke in Phoenix, "Jack, alienating people seems to work pretty well in the even numbered years. Mexicans are taking the jobs. Gays are destroying American families. Liberals support terror. It doesn't bring the country together but it brings enough of the radical right together to form about one fourth of the voting block."

Glenn writes, "The left wing's worst nightmare? Please! Such arrogance. Rudy is much less relevant and important than he thinks. He has created a fictional stellar history for himself and now he is starting to believe his own b.s."

Humphrey in Florida, "Mr. Cafferty, ask yourself the same question and maybe you could be impartial in some of your comments." Thanks.

Richard in Seattle, "Traditionally, mayors do not all of the sudden become presidents. Rudy Giuliani is eminently qualified to become mayor of New Orleans where his experience cleaning up crime is sorely needed. Ray Nagin can't do it, but Rudy can."

John writes, "Can anyone run for office without trying to eke out the smallest of majorities anymore? Sure, 51 percent will get you victory but what about the 49 percent you've alienated? It's no wonder we have so much gridlock."

And Jeannine in Michigan writes, "I know this is not the question, but I will watch your special tonight if you don't talk about O.J." Jeannine, his words will not pass my lips! Will not be mentioned. That's a promise! We do invite you to join us tonight at 8:00 eastern.

We're going to talk about a lot of stuff. No O.J., no Anna Nicole and no Lindsay Lohan. We're going to talk about how ugly it's getting out there which is the title of my new book. Guests include, Whoopi Goldberg, Republican Senator Chuck Hagel and a cameo by the Wolf man will be our guests.

You can go to You can send us your I- reports. You can email us at We're going to read some emails and just we may even sing hymns.

BLITZER: Will people get a flavor during this one hour special about the book though? Is the book sort of running through the Cafferty File special? CAFFERTY: Yes, in a manner of speaking. Some places more, some places less. There's a portion of the program tonight that will deal with some of my personal life that has never been talked about before. You and I discussed it a little bit the other day. So people that turn on the TV and say where did this idiot come from and why does he have the views he has, that may explain some of it. My general displeasure with the status quo particularly inside the Beltway will be on full display.

BLITZER: We will be watching right after THE SITUATION ROOM. The best-selling author, Jack Cafferty with a special tonight.

Jack, thanks very much.

CAFFERTY: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's go to Kitty Pilgrim. She's sitting in for Lou.