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Interview With Former President Carter; Boot Camps for Troubled Teens Potentially Deadly

Aired October 10, 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: Happening now, a terrifying morning, undercover officers and prison gangs are out to get them. Tonight, the threat it's just now being exposed and the white supremacists said to be behind it.
Plus, Jimmy Carter insists President Bush isn't telling it like it is. Carter says he knows the current administration has used torture. This hour my in-depth interview with the 39th president of the United States.

And a source of hope for troubled young people proves to be dangerous, and even deadly. Tonight, a startling new portrait of boot camp horrors. I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A powerful charge from the former president of the United States, Jimmy Carter, directly contradicting the current president. Carter saying the Bush administration is torturing terror detainees, despite repeated denials by the White House and the president. Listen to this clip from my interview with Jimmy Carter today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Bush said as recently as this week the United States does not torture detainees.

CARTER: That's not an accurate statement. If you use the international norms of torture as has always been honored, certainly in the last 60 years, since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was promulgated.

But you can make your own definition of human rights and say, we don't violate them. And we can -- you can make your own definition of torture and say we don't violate it.

BLITZER: But by your definition, you believe the United States, under this administration, has used torture.

CARTER: I don't think it, I know it, certainly.

BLITZER: So is the president lying?

CARTER: The president is self-defining what we have done and authorized in the torture of prisoners, yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The Bush White House calling Jimmy Carter's comments quote, "sad." We're going to have the interview. The interview with Jimmy Carter, that's coming up later this hour, including his claim that the Bush administration is appealing to what he is calling ultra right wing warmongers. He says Republican presidential candidates are appealing to ultra right wing warmongers. He also says Rudy Giuliani, in his word, is "foolish." The interview with Jimmy Carter. You're going to want to see it this hour.

Just a short while ago a key congressional committee approved a resolution that pins the genocide label on Turkey for mass killings carried out during the first World War. The full House is likely to follow and that has the White House and U.S. military commanders deeply worried about the impact on the current war in Iraq, and beyond. Let's go to our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre, Jamie's standing by. Why are military officials, Jamie, so concerned about what is going on in the House of Representatives?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, that vote 27 to 21 in favor of a resolution, that the White House admits is well-intentioned but they say may well worsen relations between the United States and NATO ally Turkey.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NANCY PELOSI: The House will be in order.

MCINTYRE (voice-over): As if to underscore her defiance of the Bush administration, Speaker Nancy Pelosi gaveled the House to order with a prayer by an Armenian chaplain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With the solemn burden of history, we remember the victims of the genocide of the Armenians.

MCINTYRE: That historical note has become a testy confrontation with the White House. At issue, a House resolution labeling the killings of hundreds of thousands of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War I, "genocide". President Bush used that word himself as a candidate back in 2000 but says now the timing couldn't be worse.

BUSH: This resolution is not the right response to these historic mass killings, and its passage would do great harm to our relations with the key ally in NATO.

MCINTYRE: The Pentagon argues the resolution would anger Turkey and hamper the war effort in Iraq. Seventy percent of air cargo, including armored MRAP vehicles, as well as 30 percent of fuel fly by way of the Incirlik airbase in Turkey.

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Access to the airfields and to the roads and so on in Turkey would be very much put at risk if this resolution passes and the Turks react as strongly as we believe they will.

MCINTYRE: Foreign affairs committee Chairman Tom Lantos framed the debate as a sobering choice between condemning genocide and supporting U.S. troops.

REP. BRAD SHERMAN, (D) CALIFORNIA: We cannot provide genocide denial as one of the perks of friendship with the United States.

REP. DAN BURTON, (R) INDIANA: We're in the middle of two wars and we've got troops over there that are at risk. And we're talking about kicking the one ally that's helping us over there in the face right now. It just doesn't make any sense to me.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: And it's not like relations between the United States and Turkey aren't strained already. The Turkish parliament is considering authorization to allow ground troops to go into northern Iraq to seek out those Kurdish rebels that have been attacking across the border into Turkey. That's something the U.S. fears would simply open another front in the war that, in an area of Iraq which up to now has been the most stable part of the country. Wolf?

BLITZER: Jamie, the ramification is simply enormous right now. Thank you very much. And as Jamie just noted, the president's stance on the Armenian issue is a sharp turnaround from the position he took as a presidential candidate. Look at this from February 2000, Mr. Bush saying and I'm quoting, "The Armenians were subjected to a genocidal campaign that defies comprehension and commands all decent people to remember and acknowledge the facts and lessons of an awful crime in a century of bloody crimes against humanity. If elected president, I would ensure that our nation properly recognizes the tragic suffering of the Armenian people."

Also tonight a warning to police and federal agents in Texas about the Aryan brotherhood. Members of the prison gang, the warning says, are out to get you. Let's go right to our justice correspondent Kelli Arena, she's following this story. Kelli, what's going on?

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the FBI alerted law enforcement in and around Dallas, Texas, after it received information that a member of the Aryan Brotherhood had given orders to other members to try to identify the names and addresses of undercover officers who are investigating the gang. Now, the advisory went out at the beginning of the summer, but was just made public by a local TV station in Dallas, that advisory also said, Wolf, that members of the gang are threatening to steal weapons from the homes and cars of officers there.

BLITZER: What do we know? What else do we know about what the undercover officers discovered and what these gang leaders are saying?

ARENA: Well, Wolf, you know, this is certainly not a new phenomenon, but obviously there was some new information about a renewed effort and law enforcement officials tell me that, basically, the bottom line here is, it's always a good idea to remind officers of the danger that they face and not to let their guard down.

BLITZER: Haven't heard about the Aryan Brotherhood lately. What's going on, on that front? ARENA: You know, Wolf, you're right. We've heard a lot about al Qaeda lately. This is as you know a white supremacist group that got started back in the '60s in San Quentin. Law enforcement officials say that their main activities now include drug trafficking and extortion, both inside and outside prison walls and to join, members basically have to commit what's called a significant act of violence, so view it as a very dangerous group. Wolf?

BLITZER: Kelli, thank you very much. The first lady Laura Bush almost never tackles controversial issues which makes her op-ed column in today's "Wall Street Journal" a real eye opener. She tells the military government of Myanmar, also known as Burma that it needs to go. Let's go to our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux, she's following the story for us. What's the behind the scenes part of this, Suzanne?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the first lady said she was at the Crawford Ranch watching television when she saw those very disturbing pictures, the hundreds of monks, the protesters essentially being carried away by those government officials. So she said she had to do something more, she felt that she had to do something more. And today she did just that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice-over): Mr. President, what do you think of your wife's editorial today? The president gave a thumbs up for his wife for taking on the military government of Myanmar, also known as Burma. In a scathing editorial in "The Wall Street Journal," first lady Laura Bush warns the military dictatorship, "President Bush is prepared to slap on more sanctions if they do not move towards democracy within the next couple of days." She specifically calls on the generals to step aside to make way for a unified Burma, governed by legitimate leaders. It's a rare foray into foreign policy, but one she has increasingly embraced.

LAURA BUSH: I think we can keep the attention on it. I hosted a roundtable on Burma last year during the United Nations general assembly in New York.

MALVEAUX: Since then she's fired off numerous statements, provided written testimony before the senate, and just yesterday, got on the phone with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to discuss whether there was any progress. Mrs. Bush says it's personal. A cousin involved in the issue first told her about it years ago, but aides say now she's become much more outspoken because it has turned into a crisis.

ANITA MCBRIDE, FIRST LADY'S CHIEF OF STAFF: You know, she never intended to be an activist on the world front. She's worried for the Burmese people, very worried for them.

MALVEAUX: With the president's low standing on the world stage, largely due to Iraq, perhaps the first lady is the better messenger. But aides say Mrs. Bush is not concerned that she is upstaging her husband. MCBRIDE: She is a good spokesman and she's a good advocate and the president would be the first person to tell you that.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: But is she influential enough to sway other world leaders. Leaders from India and China who have very strong economic ties to that government and so far have expressed reservations about supporting any tougher economic sanctions. Wolf?

BLITZER: Suzanne, thank you. Suzanne is at the White House. Let's go back to New York and Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File." Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY: Wolf, Al Gore is the missing ingredient in the 2008 presidential race, at least that's according to one group of democrats. A movement called "draftgore.com" has taken out a full page ad in today's "New York Times" calling on Al Gore to run for president. It reads in part, "Mr. Vice President, there are times for politicians and times for heroes. America and the earth need a hero right now, someone who will transcend politics as usual and bring real hope to our country and to the world. Please rise to this challenge or you and millions of us will live forever wondering what might have been." The group says 136,000 people have signed its online petition so far and the letter comes just two days before the scheduled announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize. Gore of course is a nominee for the prize this year because of his work to bring attention to global warming. A spokeswoman for Al Gore says although he deeply appreciates the feeling behind the ad, he has no intention of running for president. Nevertheless, in a recent poll, Gore finished behind Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, but in a statistical tie with John Edwards, and well ahead of other democratic candidates like Bill Richardson, Dennis Kucinich, Joe Biden, Mike Gravel and Chris Dodd. So here is the question, is Al Gore what's missing from the 2008 presidential race? E-mail your thoughts to caffertyfile@cnn.com or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile. Wolf?

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jack. Jack will have your e-mail coming up.

A former president takes on the current president, gloves off and Jimmy Carter rips into Republican presidential candidates, including Rudy Giuliani, whom he's calling foolish. My one on one interview with Jimmy Carter, this hour, that's coming up.

With a gun in each hand a teenager opens fire on fellow students and teachers. What sparked this bloody high school rampage?

And a disturbing report on troubled teens, facing abuse and worse from people hired to help them. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Public schools in Cleveland, Ohio, will be closed tomorrow after a high school shooting that left at least four people injured and a teenage gunman dead. Let's go straight to CNN's Carol Costello, she's monitoring the story for us. What are we learning tonight Carol?

CAROL COSTELLO: We know a little bit more about the shooter, Wolf. We know that he was a white young man, 14 years old. He was a freshman, apparently he was into Goth, he was wearing a Marilyn Manson tee shirt, his fingernails were painted black, this is all according to our affiliate in Cleveland WOIO. They also say that police have been at his house, questioning his family and his neighbors. Neighbors have told WOIO that this kid had a lot of trouble with his mom and authorities had to be called to the house several times. They also say that he was being pushed some way at school and it was time he pushed back. They're now trying to figure out where he got the guns.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO (voice-over): It's all so agonizingly familiar, frantic, frightened students calling their mothers and fathers, describing what should never happen anywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All the kids were upset, they were screaming and yelling because they didn't know what was going on but they did hear the shots and they didn't know what had happened. All they know was that someone was in the school with a gun.

COSTELLO: Witnesses say it was a 14-year-old boy with a gun in each hand. He opened fire in a hallway, hitting five people, two adults and three fellow students, that he was the shooter came as no surprise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said if he would shoot up the school, he'd let me and some other dude he knew go and all that but I didn't think he actually meant that. I thought he was just kidding around.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When did he say that to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like a month ago.

COSTELLO: Another student told local reporters the young shooter often came to school wearing a trench coat and an empty pistol holder around his leg. Today he was armed and as the first shot rang out a code blue, a warning came over the school loud speaker system. Some students knew what to do, hiding under tables, locking classroom doors.

JOANNE DEMARCO, CLEVELAND TEACHERS' UNION: You know, schools are supposed to be safe places, safe places, and you know, not that Cleveland's immune to anything going on in the nation but success tech would have been the last place we would have thought of.

COSTELLO: Success Tech is a small academy a rigorous technology high school funded in part by the Bill Gates Foundation. Students have to apply to get in. Some parents say security has been an issue in the past because the school is overcrowded and there is no metal detector by the doors. Today, some say that should change. (END OF VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: Now I say the school was overcrowded. It's still actually a pretty small school, only a couple of hundred students but the school is not very large. The school is reviewing the security policy, as you said, Wolf, there will be no school tomorrow. But administrators will be there trying to figure out what they could have done better.

BLITZER: All too familiar these incidents over the years.

COSTELLO: It sounds like they had some warning signs from this kid though, because he was making very open threats to many students within that school.

BLITZER: Carol, thank you very much. Carol Costello reporting.

Troubled teenagers facing abuse, even death at the hands of the people paid to help them. That's the picture government investigators are now painting of some of the so-called boot camps that promise desperate parents they can turn their children around. CNN's Mary Snow is joining us from New York. Mary, what else are investigators saying about these boot camps?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, one investigator puts it this way, he says "to hear the details, you'd think you were learning about human rights abuses in third world countries." The government's probe comes at the same time a Florida case is getting widespread attention.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): The shocking video shown in a Florida courtroom is key evidence in the boot camp death of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson. Seven guards and a nurse are on trial for manslaughter for not getting medical help for the teen soon enough. They testified they thought he was feigning illness. While that Florida case has been getting a lot of public attention, the government has been investigating a number of other programs for trouble teens and says its found thousands of cases of abuse, some resulting in death. A government investigator told a House panel kids endured disturbing practices

GREG KUTZ, GOVT. ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE: Being forced to lie in urine or feces, being kicked, beaten and thrown to the ground, and being forced to use a toothbrush to clean a toilet and then forced to use that toothbrush on their teeth.

SNOW: Some of these boot camps bill themselves as wilderness programs and prey on parents' desperate to help their kids. Paul Lewis sent his 14-year-old son, Ryan, to a wilderness program on the advice of therapists, while there, Ryan killed himself. Lewis says he was first told there were no warning signs beforehand but a police officer later revealed the truth.

PAUL LEWIS, FATHER OF RYAN LEWIS: He told us that the night before Ryan died he had slashed his arm four times with a pocket knife, issued to him by the program. He told them, "take this away from me before I hurt myself anymore."

SNOW: The problem is there is no central oversight of these programs but one group that is most closely tied to these kinds of boot camps is on the defense.

JAN MOSS, NATL. ASSN. OF THERAPEUTIC SCHOOLS: They are not certified by our organization. We are not an accrediting agency, we are not a licensing agency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What the hell do you do?

SNOW: The National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs describes itself as a trade organization and is asking for regulations.

MOSS: We are a young organization, learning as we're going. We have made mistakes in the past. We recognize that.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: The lawmakers are looking into the possibility of imposing federal regulations to prevent questionable juvenile camps from closing down in one state only to reopen in another. Wolf?

BLITZER: Mary Snow reporting, thank you.

The former president, Jimmy Carter, criticizing the Republican presidential candidates. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: They all seem to be outdoing each other in who wanted to go to war first with Iran, who wants to keep Guantanamo open longer and expand its capacity, things of that kind. They're competing with each other to appeal to the ultra-right wing, warmongering element in our country

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The former president has even more sharp words for some other Republicans. You're going to want to hear the rest of this interview, that's coming up shortly this hour.

Also his military record is under a cloud. Finally some answers about the mayor of Atlantic City. There are new developments, details and a lot more here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Students at Colombia University's Teachers College in New York City are simply outraged because someone left a noose on an African-American professor's office door. They took their anger to the streets today. Our Allan Chernoff was in the middle of the demonstration. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Not here, not anywhere. Students and faculty of Colombia University responding to a shocking act of racism at Columbia's Teachers College, a hangman's noose found on the office door of Professor Madonna Constantine Tuesday morning.

PROF. MADONNA CONSTANTINE, TEACHERS COLLEGE: Hanging the noose on my door reeks of cowardice and fear on many, many levels. I would like the perpetrator to know, I will not be silenced.

CHERNOFF: Constantine, a professor of psychology and education is author of a book entitled "Addressing Racism."

RICCO WRIGHT, TEACHERS COLLEGE STUDENT: What we decided to do was to rally together as a community of not only people of color, but of all races and all ethnicities to show that this type of hate is intolerable.

CHERNOFF: Students and faculty say they were stunned to learn of the incident, which police are treating as a hate crime. Perhaps in Jena, Louisiana, some said, but at Columbia University? What did you feel in your heart?

INGRID CURNIFFE, TEACHERS COLLEGE STUDENT: Well, obviously as an African-American young woman, anger was the first thing, because I couldn't believe that in 2007 something like this could actually happen at such a diverse institution.

CHERNOFF: Security guards checked for Columbia ID's at all entrances to the school, leading many to suspect the perpetrator may have been a member of the Columbia community, a frightening prospect for some of the school's African-Americans.

VALERIE CAMILLE JONES, TEACHERS COLLEGE STUDENT: I personally felt scared for my own security, because I was nervous on how what the next attack would be, if it would be an actual attack and not a noose.

CHERNOFF: The New York City Police Department says it has not yet identified any suspects nor made any arrests.

(On camera): Police detectives are aware that Professor Constantine has had some pretty serious tension with one of her colleagues, a professor in her own department, who she is suing for defamation. That woman, who is not white, did not respond to CNN's requests for comment. Allan Chernoff, CNN, New York.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Former President Jimmy Carter isn't holding back when it comes to the candidates. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: It's foolish. I hope that he doesn't become president.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: I'll tell you which candidate he's talking about. That's not, by the way, the most controversial statement the former president made. My one on one interview with him. That's coming up.

Also, Senator Clinton gets some unusual advice from voters, not about her policies, but about her shoes and her hair. Lots more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: To our viewer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, disagreement made them walk now agreement will bring them back. United Auto Workers union says members will soon resume work at Chrysler hours after they went on strike. Both sides reached a tentative contract agreement including resolution on health care costs.

He was the nation's top lawyer now Alberto Gonzales has hired a lawyer to defend him. The former attorney general's new attorney will represent him in investigations of mismanagement over at the justice department.

And blastoff, a Russian spacecraft heads to the international space station. On board, a Malaysian, a Russian and an American. Her name is Peggy Whitson and she will be the first woman to command the international space station.

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

A former president unleashed. Right now, Jimmy Carter has some stinging words for republican presidential candidates on the Iraq war, even for some of his fellow democrats. In a one on one interview, Carter talks with me about the republicans whom he says are courting the ultra-right wing and he says he knows "certainly" that the Bush administration is not being honest about one very controversial issue.

And joining us now, the former president of the United States, Jimmy Carter. His new book is entitled, "Beyond the White House: Waging Peace, Fighting Disease, Building Hope."

Mr. President, welcome back.

CARTER: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's get to the book shortly -- let's talk about some of the issues on the agenda. Right now, Republican presidential candidates, including Giuliani, making the suggestion that if Democrats are elected to the White House, U.S. national security will suffer. Here's what Giuliani says: "If one of them gets elected, it sounds to me like we're going on the defense. We're going to cut back, cut back, cut back, and we'll be back to our pre-September 11 mentality on being on defense." What do you want to say to Rudy Giuliani?

CARTER: Well, I thought on pre-September 11 that George W. Bush was in the White House and the Republicans were in charge.

I think, during the Clinton years, we kept our country safe, we protected out interests around the world, we were admired by almost everyone on earth, and we were free. And we were also out of a war. So I think that history has shown that the Democrats are just as firm and staunch on security as are the Republicans. It ought to be a non- partisan issue, and it's a ridiculous thing for Giuliani to be making a claim of that kind.

BLITZER: Do any of these candidates, presidential candidates, scare you?

CARTER: Not on the Democratic side, no.

BLITZER: What about the Republican side?

CARTER: Well, they all seem to be outdoing each other in who wanted to go to war first with Iran, who wants to keep Guantanamo open longer and expand its capacity, things of that kind. They're competing with each other to appeal to the ultra-right wing, warmongering element in our country, which I think is a minority of the total population.

BLITZER: Who scares you the most?

CARTER: I wouldn't want to judge between them, because if I condemn one of them, it might escalate him to the top position in the Republican ranks.

BLITZER: But basically, what I hear you saying is, from your perspective, on the issue of national security, there's really not much of a difference between the Republican front runners.

CARTER: That's exactly right. I think the Democrats, basically, want to see the Lee Hamilton and the James Baker recommendation -- one of the finest blue-ribbon commissions ever established in this country -- unanimously recommended what we should do about Iraq.

BLITZER: The Iraq Study Group.

CARTER: Yes. And the Democrats are basically for that; the Republicans threw it in the waste basket and said, We don't want that, we want to be much more militant, stay in Iraq indefinitely, and maybe invade or attack Iran, and I think that's the startling difference between the two.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about Iraq, which still seems to be the number one issue facing the American voters right now. I want to play a clip of what two of the Democratic front runners, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, said at their recent debate, in terms of keeping U.S. forces in Iraq over these years, if they were elected. Listen to this:

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that we should have all our troops out by 2013, but I don't want to make promises --

(END AUDIO CLIP)

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is my goal to have all troops out by the end of my first term. But I agree with Barack; it is very difficult to know what we're going to be inheriting.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, so what do you think? Because a lot of people are surprised that neither one could commit to getting all U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of their first term, if in fact they are elected president.

CARTER: I agree with the premise that you can't predict what's going to happen, but I disagree with their basic supposition that we'll still be there. I think the American people and the blue-ribbon commission, to which I just referred, all prefer that we get out.

But if we should see an unforeseen development in the future where the Iraqi people, completely in control of their own affairs, request the American troops to stay in isolated areas for a period of time, I think that would possibly be acceptable. But that's not my personal preference.

BLITZER: So on this issue, you disagree with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

CARTER: Absolutely. We ought to get out earlier than 2013.

BLITZER: How quickly do you think the U.S., realistically, could withdraw all 168,000 troops from Iraq?

CARTER: I think over an 18-month period, we could be totally out, if that's our desire, but I never have seen anybody in this current administration or the Republican candidates advocate that we ever get out of Iraq. I think they want to stay there permanently.

BLITZER: On the scale of, you know, historic precedents and historic blunders, from your perspective, what kind of blunder was the invasion of Iraq to get rid of Saddam Hussein?

CARTER: Among the preeminent blunders of American history. It was predicated on false claims, deliberate or not, I don't know. It was incorrectly consummated and perpetuated.

The claims of what -- how easy it would be were wrong. And I think everyone -- just about everyone agrees that the whole war in Iraq has been carried out with a series of blunders.

BLITZER: Some suggest it is the worst foreign policy blunder in American history. Are you among those? CARTER: I would put it almost on an equal basis with Vietnam, yes. Those two in my lifetime certainly would be the worst two blunders.

BLITZER: In the book -- the new book, "Beyond the White House," you write this on page 252: "We had assumed in earlier years that our commitments and activities in support of human rights were in harmony with those of our government. And we were able to cooperate with officials in Washington. That is no longer a dependable premise."

That sounds like a swipe at President Bush.

CARTER: Well, in a way -- you know, I think the entirety (ph) of global human rights community, with its multiple facets, including those deep inside Pakistan and Israel, B'Tselem and Al-Haq, both would -- all would agree with the fact that our country, for the first time in my lifetime, has abandoned the basic principles of human rights.

We have said that the Geneva Convention does not apply to those people in Abu Ghraib Prison and Guantanamo. And we have said that we can torture prisoners, deprive them of an accusation of the crimes to which they accuse.

BLITZER: President Bush said as recently as this week the United States does not torture detainees.

CARTER: That's not an accurate statement. If you use the international norms of torture as has always been honored, certainly in the last 60 years, since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was promulgated.

But you can make your own definition of human rights and say, we don't violate them. And we can -- you can make your own definition of torture and say we don't violate it.

BLITZER: But by your definition, you believe the United States, under this administration, has used torture.

CARTER: I don't think it, I know it, certainly.

BLITZER: So is the president lying?

CARTER: The president is self-defining what we have done and authorized in the torture of prisoners, yes.

BLITZER: But that raises a really important question. Those who are engaged in torture, who commit torture, potentially that could be a violation of international or other laws.

CARTER: Yes, I think so.

BLITZER: Has there been a violation of the law from your perspective?

CARTER: If you use the international treaties to which we are committed... BLITZER: Like the Geneva Conventions...

CARTER: Like the Geneva Conventions, and also...

BLITZER: Because early in the -- they said the Geneva Conventions don't apply to these detainees who were not wearing uniforms. They were not part of any formal army. They were picked up on the battlefield and brought to Guantanamo Bay.

CARTER: My impression is that the United States Supreme Court has said that is a false premise. And I presume that the administration complies with the rulings of the Supreme Court.

And the international community obviously still adheres to and professes to commit themselves the honoring of the Geneva Convention, and also the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the United States helped draft and promoted and has endorsed up until six-and-a- half years ago unanimously among all the...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: So should someone be held accountable?

CARTER: Well, I think we -- the best way to hold people accountable in this country is through the election process.

BLITZER: That is the best way to get -- in other words, from your perspective, to get rid of the incumbent administration and move on. But you don't want to see any formal charges or a trial...

CARTER: No, I don't think so. I think that would be inappropriate. That has been done in some cases, as you know, but I don't think it is appropriate at all.

BLITZER: The former president Jimmy Carter who once sent U.S. troops into Iran to try to rescue American hostages, now warning against any attack against Iran and he hopes Rudy Giuliani does not become president. You're going to find out why.

Much more of my interview with Jimmy Carter straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: As president of the United States, Jimmy Carter had his own personal showdown with Iran. Americans were held hostage on his watch for 444 days and he sent troops in to try to rescue them. That operation failed. So how should the United States handle Tehran these days and why does he think Rudy Giuliani is in his word foolish? More now from my interview with Jimmy Carter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's talk about a sensitive subject on the agenda right now, Iran. And I want to play for you a question that was put to -- by one of our viewers to us in this CNN I-Report. Turn around, and you will hear the question directly. JAMES HASSINGER, GLENDALE, CALIFORNIA: Hello, Mr. President. I wanted to know what you think of the build-up to war that is being obviously advocated by the vice president and the president, the current administration, and what you think our best actions would be in regards to Iran? Thank you very much.

CARTER: Well, I basically agree with Condoleezza Rice, who has taken issue with the vice president -- with Vice President Cheney, on whether we should promulgate the possibility of war against Iran.

I have noticed that even some of the administration officials or spokesmen for them have even advocated using nuclear weapons against Iran. I think it would be a horrible mistake to attack Iran militarily.

How would we invade Iran when we don't even have enough troops to give them leave to go home to their families from Iraq? We are short on...

BLITZER: Well, some of these so-called experts say you could do it with air power alone, cruise missiles, bombers, you go in their and destroy their so-called nuclear facilities.

CARTER: I know some experts say that. I don't agree with that. And what we should do about Iran -- first of all, do not attack Iran. Secondly, what to do? I think two things to be very brief, we don't have much time. One is to start talking to Iran, communicate with Iran.

After the Shah was overthrown and the Ayatollah Khomeini took over, we continued our diplomatic relations with Iran. I had, as you know, about 75 people in Tehran, some of whom were taken prisoner. And the Iranians had about 75 of their representatives in Washington. So talk to them and communicate with them.

Secondly, use strong diplomatic means to make sure they don't go ahead with a nuclear program. And I think that -- and to quit threatening to attack them, because that just increases their fervor in developing all kinds of protective devices...

BLITZER: You will...

(CROSSTALK)

CARTER: ... maybe a nuclear weapon.

BLITZER: You will be surprised that Rudy Giuliani, the Republican presidential candidate, disagrees with you about this. And I'm going to play a little clip of what he says, listen to this.

CARTER: I could almost write it for him, because I know the extreme cases that he has made.

BLITZER: All right. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Iran is a greater danger than Iraq. Iraq should not be seen in a vacuum. And we have to be willing to use a military option to stop Iran from becoming nuclear.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. What do you say to Giuliani?

CARTER: He is foolish. I hope that he doesn't become president and tries to impose on the American people a conviction that we need to go to war with Iran when we are still at war with Iraq.

BLITZER: But do you believe that Iran is working on a nuclear bomb?

CARTER: I don't know. I think if they are, some people surmise that they are, they are -- several years in the future. And I think we can best deter that by diplomatic relations with them and consultations with them and stop threatening that we are going to attack them so they won't think that they have to respond with all kinds of devices.

BLITZER: You know, you have been criticized for your handling of Iran when the Shah was in power, you know, in the late...

CARTER: I have heard about that.

BLITZER: In the late '70s. Looking back all of these years, knowing what has happened, what, if anything, would you have done differently?

CARTER: I would have had one more helicopter in our rescue mission, which would have brought all of the hostages out safe and free. And so I had to wait from April, around until five minutes after I was no longer president when all of the hostages did come home safe and free.

BLITZER: Because the argument is, as bad as the Shah was on human rights and other issues, he was an ally of the U.S. and probably better than the current regime and that the U.S. should have stuck with him.

CARTER: Well, we couldn't stick with him, he was not overthrown by anything the United States did, he was overthrown by his own people. And as I said earlier, after they did overthrow the Shah, we took care of the Shah as best we could and we also continued our conversations with -- our diplomatic relations with the new regime.

BLITZER: The Senate passed a resolution the other day sponsor -- co-sponsored by Senator Lieberman and Senator Kyl saying this: "It is the sense of the Senate that the United States should designate Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist organization."

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential front-runner, she voted for that resolution that passed 76 to 22. Was that a good vote on her part?

CARTER: She has the complete freedom to vote the way she chooses. Had I been in the Senate, I would not have voted for it because an earlier version of that, which I read, said that this also involved direct military action against Iran.

So in effect, that vote was giving the administration the imprimatur of Congress to go to war against Iran, the same thing that she voted for earlier...

BLITZER: Because some of her critics said...

(CROSSTALK)

CARTER: ... to go into Iraq.

BLITZER: ... that she would indirectly give authorization to the president if he wanted to go to war against Iran by this kind of vote. Her critics, some Democrats and Republicans.

CARTER: But I'm not criticizing her. I'm just telling you the way I would have voted had I been there, because I think that a vote for that resolution about Iran opens up the possibility of the administration saying in the future we have got authority from the Congress -- from the Senate to go to war.

BLITZER: The Israelis bombed some sort of facility Syria, as you know, in September. And there are now suggestions, including in The New York Times, that there is a dispute between the vice president, Dick Cheney, the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, on what it entails and whether the U.S. should have authorized or gone along with this in The Times today.

It says this: "It has long been known that North Korean scientists have aided Damascus in developing sophisticated ballistic missile technology. And there appears to be little debate that North Koreans frequently visited a site in the Syrian desert that Israeli jets attacked September 6th. Where officials disagree is whether the accumulated evidence points to a Syrian nuclear program that poses a significant threat to the Middle East."

What do you make of what -- you are an expert on the Middle East, what do you make of this attack, the U.S. response, what should the U.S. response have been, and this dispute, apparently, that has developed between Secretary Rice and Vice President Cheney?

CARTER: Well, almost without knowing the subject, if somebody asked me, do you agree with Condoleezza Rice or the vice president? I would just say automatically, I agree with Condoleezza Rice not even knowing what the subject is.

But in this case I don't really know, I don't any access to any sort of intelligence briefing or the facts. My guess is though that the site did not involve nuclear capabilities, but it might very well have involved long-term -- long-range missiles, because the North Koreans, even though it is a destitute financial country, is superb in technology development with the limited capabilities they have.

I'm thoroughly familiar with that. And so my guess is that they were helping Syria develop some kind of missile technology.

BLITZER: And do you have a problem with the Israelis using F-16s or other U.S.-made hardware in this kind of a strike?

CARTER: Well, that is a judgment for the Israelis to make. And I understand not only has the United States and Israel stayed mute, but also Syria has remained mute about it. So I don't know enough about the subject to comment, Wolf.

BLITZER: In the new afterward to your other bestseller, "Palestine: Peace not Apartheid," you write this. You write: "America must not be seen in the pocket of either side. We cannot be peacemakers if American government leaders are seen as knee-jerk supporters of every action or policy of whatever Israeli government happens to be in power at the moment. That is the essential fact that must be faced."

CARTER: That is certainly true.

BLITZER: You caused a big stir in the last book, as you well know. Any second thoughts?

CARTER: No. Not at all. And I think that finally, after seven years of no effort to bring peace to the Middle East. The administration has now taken a very bold step, and I hope a very successful step next month by convening talks in the United States between Israel and the Palestinians for the first time with any substance involved.

This will be a very good step in the right direction, which I pray will be successful. But we can't just say we adopt all of the policies of the Israeli government, now the Palestinians can come in if they want to as a second-class citizen and hope to be successful.

BLITZER: Let's talk about another quote from your new book, "Beyond the White House," page 74: "One of our nation's ill-advised and counterproductive policies is the prohibition against Americans visiting Cuba and the punitive embargo against our 11 million neighbors who live under the communist regime of Fidel Castro."

Now you met with Fidel Castro. He is obviously very sick right now. What do you want, just a complete lifting of all of those restrictions?

CARTER: Yes, certainly. That is what I did within six weeks after I became president. I lifted all restraints on travel to Cuba and started to establish diplomatic relations with Cuba. In fact, we established interest sections, as you know, one in Havana, one in Washington, that are still there after all of these administrations, they see the value of it.

I think what we do with our embargo and punishment of the Cuban people is to turn them against us and it makes Castro into an unjustifiably claimed hero because he blames all of his problems, most of which he causes himself, on the United States over to the north, because we are punishing the Cuban people.

So I think the best thing to do is to open up all travel and commerce and communications between the United States and Cuba. Let the Cuban people see what freedom and democracy is.

BLITZER: Let's wind up this interview with another question from a viewer that was sent in on our I-Report. Turn around and you will hear the question.

CARTER: OK, fine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VICTOR MAI, TEMPE, ARIZONA: Hello. My name is Victor Mai. And I'm a student here in Tempe, Arizona. This question is for former President Jimmy Carter. What advice would you give to the future 44th president of the United States involving the economy, the future of Iraq, and the rising cost of tuition for college students like me?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Why don't we focus in on the rising cost of tuition for a college student like him? We've already spoken about Iraq.

The economy -- if you want to talk about that, you can.

CARTER: Well, I've got 11 grandchildren, so I'm deeply involved in college tuition. I hope we can hold down college tuition and be quite constructive on student loans. But I think that the new president of the United States, that I pray will be a Democrat in 2009, will make a speech that I think in 20 minutes can totally transform the attitude of the rest of the world toward America, just by saying, When I'm president, we will never again resort to torture. When I'm president, we will honor all international agreements, which have been consummated by my predecessors, concerning the control of nuclear weapons.

When I'm president, I'm going to join and be the leader of the rest of the world in protecting the quality of our environment. And now that I'm president -- she's already -- if he or she has already taken office -- to say, I want our country to raise high the banner of human rights. And we will once again be the leaders of these things.

I think in those few moments, which might only take ten minutes of a(n) inaugural speech, we can completely transform the negative image that the United States now has around the world, into a positive image.

BLITZER: The book is entitled, "Beyond the White House: Waging Peace, Fighting Disease, Building Hope." The author is Jimmy Carter.

Mr. President, thanks for coming in.

CARTER: I've enjoyed it, Wolf. Thank you very much. BLITZER: And you notice Jimmy Carter saying when the next president takes office she, he used the word "she" should say this.

We asked the Giuliani campaign for a response to President Carter's comments. So far they have not responded.

Tomorrow right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, my one on one interview with democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, on his race to try to catch up with Hillary Clinton. Questions about his experience, the war in Iraq, what to do with Iran, a lot more. My interview with Barack Obama tomorrow, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Tonight, is Al Gore what's missing from the presidential race? The people behind the new draft Al Gore campaign think so. What about you? Jack Cafferty standing by with your e-mail.

Also ahead, a Hillary Clinton campaign appearance that sort of left her in knots. Jeanne Moos with a most unusual story.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring some other stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What's going on, Carol?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, thanks Wolf.

Fire from a derailed freight train still burning in northeast Ohio. Several cars jumped the tracks and overturned around noon eastern time, sparking a large smoky blaze. CFX Railroad says the tanker cars carried hazardous materials. Nearby homes were evacuated. No injuries reported.

Fire too in Perry, North Carolina where a contractor accidentally drilled into a gas line starting that blaze. Take a look, flames shooting up 100 feet into the air, visible for miles. The blaze burned a truck that was parked at the site. Businesses were evacuated and again, no one was hurt.

The final chapter in the mystery of a missing mayor. Atlantic City's Robert Levy resigned today. Levy hasn't been seen or heard from since September 26th and his disappearance came in the middle of an investigation into false statements he made about his military service. His lawyer now says Levy was in rehab, de-toxing from pain and other medications.

And more than two dozen workers at a New Jersey hospital are suspended because they looked at George Clooney's medical records and someone leaked the information to the news media. The actor was treated at Palisades Medical Center last month after he suffered a broken rib and scrapes in a motorcycle accident. In a statement, Clooney says he hopes the matter can be settled without suspending those medical workers which is very big of him, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks, Carol, very much.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty in New York for the Cafferty File.

Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's some die-hard Al Gore fans out there and they put an ad in the "New York Times" today urging Mr. Gore to get into the race. The question, is Al Gore what's missing from the 2008 presidential race?

Nicholas in New York, "To me Al Gore is the world's best hope for peace and prosperity. A Gore/Obama ticket would bring us from a preceding eight years of division disaster. Mr. Vice President, I've been with you since 2000. I need you. We need you. The world needs you, now."

Olin in Covington, Washington, "Al Gore is not what's missing from 2008 election. He does a good job when he's focusing on only one issue but the president must be capable of dealing with dozens of issues at the same time. What's missing is more coverage of the candidates who are not in the top four."

Scott in Ottawa writes "Hands down Al Gore would win if he stepped into the circle of fools and for what? A few hundred thousands a year and no sleep for the next four years. He knows it's best to leave a legacy of impotent foreign affairs, broken borders, forgotten victims of Katrina, an endless war, a likely nuclear war, and trillions of wasted dollars on Bush's shoulders. Who would want to inherit the steaming pile that Bush has left in our front yard?"

Ryan in Alabama, "He isn't missing at all. He'll put the Gore in Clinton/Gore.

R.J. in Wisconsin, "Neither parties put up a worthy candidate to help reshape this struggling democracy of ours. I will gladly support Al Gore if he decides to run, but in truth a goat with a tie on will have my vote over any of the candidates so far!"

Hugh in New York, "Too soon to play the Gore card. Wait until Hillary stumbles. Plenty of time. (Maybe just before the convention?) Take a deep cleansing breath and exhale slowly."

And Anthony in Connecticut "If Al Gore's hot air were in the race, we'd really have global warming."

If you didn't see your email 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: Let's see if he wins that Nobel peace prize Friday. That's coming up. We'll see what happens.

CAFFERTY: Well, he might but I don't know if that will change his mind. Do you? BLITZER: No, I think you're right. I think he's not going to run but we'll see.

CAFFERTY: OK.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.

You don't hear this very often at a campaign event. Listen to this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you tie your shoes, so you don't trip over them? And have Medicare?

BLITZER: It's Hillary Clinton fit to be tied. Jeanne Moos with a most unusual story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You already know a lot about Hillary Clinton. Now you're about to know more about her shoes than you ever expected. CNN's Jeanne Moos looks at a most unusual Clinton campaign event.

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A typical day on the campaign trail.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: That's so nice of you. Thank you.

MOOS: Collecting compliments, posing for photos.

CLINTON: I feel like this is my class picture!

MOOS: A candidate can't afford to be tongue-tied. But what about the candidate's shoe?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And lastly, would you tie your shoe so you don't trip over it?

MOOS: Voters scrutinize the candidates from head to toe, right down to Hillary's Minnetonka moccasins.

CLINTON: I bought these moccasins which I highly recommend to you at the Ford Dodge Museum and Gift Shop. They are so comfortable.

MOOS: And then Hillary got comfortable taking a seat so she could tie her shoe. Audience members craned their necks to get a better view.

Barack Obama in his sensible footwear, Hillary in her moccasins. At least they don't have to worry about stumbling like the speaker of the house in heels.

Never underestimate the power of footwear. In 1952, this photo of Adlai Stevenson won a Pulitzer Prize and inspired a political ad.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'd rather have a man with a hole in his shoe than a hole in everything he says

MOOS: A jingle that Bill Clinton could relate to. And if photos aren't examining a candidate's sole, they're getting in her hair. In Iowa, an 84-year-old Hillary supporter brought pictures of his favorite hair style to a Hillary event and gave them to her handlers.

ERNEST KELLENBERGER, CLINTON SUPPORTER: She would just look so much better if she fixed her hair like Paris Hilton had it. She'd look like a real dignified person.

MOOS: But you know Paris Hilton isn't very dignified. You know, she's pretty wild.

That didn't deter Ernest Kellenberger. He loves Paris's upswept look. It reminds him of old movie stars. So he went to the library and he printed out pictures of Paris to the Internet so he could give them to Hillary.

But you know my producer said you said something about her looking like she just got out of bed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He says that about every woman that doesn't fix their hair like he thinks it should be fixed.

MOOS: That's Ernest's wife's chiming in. He just hates what he calls straggly straight hair.

KELLENBERGER: And most of them have a crooked part.

MOOS: At the web site Politico, they put Hilton's hair on Hillary's face, Paris Clinton for president and as if having her shoes and her hair scrutinized weren't bad enough, beware of pacing in front of the middle class express, lest it express this.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

BLITZER: Thank you, Jeanne. And thanks to our viewers.

Remember, we'll be here tomorrow with my special interview with democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama tomorrow here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, Soledad O'Brien with a CNN special investigation, "Minds Of the D.C. Snipers."

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