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Iran Responds to Sanctions Announced Yesterday; Arson Arrests in California; Queen Rania Interview

Aired October 26, 2007 - 17:00   ET


CAFFERTY: Chuck in Illinois: "If it were only a question about oil, it would be wrong to attack. But, sadly, Iran has terrorists as leaders and there would be a much higher price to pay should they get a hold of nukes."
Karl writes: "The United States can't go to war with Iran. If oil prices climb to the heavens, it will crumble our economy and our way of life. Oil runs the world. The U.S. is very dependent on oil. A shortage ruins us."

Tom in Pennsylvania: "Bush starts running his mouth about attacking Iran, oil prices spike and his cronies in the oil industry get even fatter. Funny how that works out."

And Glenda in Colorado: "If you're going to start putting restrictions on who we can invade just because of $200 a barrel oil, then you take all the fun out of being a right-wing conservative." -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jack.

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

Happening now, Iran responding to new U.S. sanctions with some disturbing new threats and provocative maneuvers.

Is the drumbeat for war growing louder?

Also, extra protection for homes as flames close in, but it does come at a price. California wildfires unveiling a new class divide.

And his company supplies crucial body armor to U.S. troops. Now he's accused of stealing millions of dollars for luxuries, including a huge Bat Mitzvah with Aerosmith and 50 Cent performing.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Iran indifferent and defiant in the face of new U.S. sanctions over the Iranian nuclear program. And the country's actions and words are taking on new military overtones, with Tehran threatening swift retaliation to any U.S. aggression, in their words.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is standing by live.

She's watching this story.

All right, so what are the Iranians saying and doing in response, in effect, to what the U.S. announced yesterday -- Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, in response to the U.S. sanctions, it appears that Iran is toughening up its already very hardened positions.


STARR (voice-over): It was an Iranian made-for-TV parade. The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, Iran's spiritual leader, inspects the troops and then his message to the U.S. -- a formation designed as a sword pierces a Star of David, the American flag and swastika. Iran's leaders appear to be hardening their position. The day after the U.S. announced its sanctions, Iran's nuclear negotiator said U.S. action would have no effect on Iran, saying: "They have imposed sanctions on us for 28 years. The new sanctions are just in the same direction."

The commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard was quoted by Iranian news agencies as saying Tehran would respond to any U.S. strike with "an even more decisive strike."

Many wonder if President Bush is still trying to send his own signal.

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.

STARR: But the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff made his position clear -- U.S. commanders want a diplomatic solution.

ADM. MIKE MULLEN, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: I think that we have to be very mindful of risks associated with follow-on steps which would engage us in yet a third country in that part of the world, in any kind of conflict.


STARR: But, Wolf, the Defense Department is getting ready just in case. The latest signal of that -- the military is spending money now to build a 30,000-pound bunker busting bomb. The biggest bomb in the U.S. inventory, it would be used against deeply buried hardened targets -- the very kind of thing that Iran has, the world believes, to hide its nuclear weapons program -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Barbara, thank you.

Barbara is at the Pentagon.

Let's go to Iraq right now, where the latest casualty figures show a steep drop in U.S. troop deaths. So far this month, 33 U.S. service members have been killed in Iraq. That's about half the number killed in September and an even greater decrease from the 84 killed in August. At this pace, the fatality number in October would be the lowest monthly total in more than a year.

Now to the fires in California. At least five people now arrested in connection with Southern California's wildfires. None of them are connected to the major blazes, but investigators are finding important new clues as they search for the person or persons who started the 26,000-acre Santiago Fire.

CNN's Jeanne Meserve is joining us now.

She's watching the story for us.

What's the latest on the investigation -- Jeanne?

JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, first, let me tell you that right now sheriff deputies are up in Silverado Canyon -- that's on the north edge of this fire -- telling people to get out. There is a mandatory evacuation order in place there, but some people did not heed it. Now, they say -- authorities say that fire is within about an hour of their homes, so they're going around again, knocking on doors, telling the people who didn't get out to get out now.

Meanwhile, in the investigation, no arrests, no search warrants. But people close to the investigation tell CNN they do believe there's some forward momentum.


MESERVE (voice-over): The road where the Santiago Fire started closed to most traffic, as a wider area along the road is searched. One source close to the probe says investigators theorize one or more arsonists may have set the fire at two points along the road by throwing something from a vehicle. They are examining a wider area for anything that could have been intended to start the fire but didn't ignite, or something like a cigarette butt, which might contain DNA evidence. Thus far, the source says, little physical evidence has been found. Publicly, investigators are being tight-lipped.

KARL VASILKO, ATF NATIONAL RESPONSE TEAM: I don't want to elaborate on evidence, on leads, suspects or anything like that.


MESERVE: Meanwhile, the offer of a quarter million dollar reward has triggered more than 300 calls to a tip line.

KRIS CONCEPCION, ORANGE COUNTY FIRE AUTHORITY: With each one of those calls that come in, regardless of how wild we think it is, we are chasing each and every one of them down.


MESERVE: Meanwhile, a source tells CNN that investigators are looking further afield for evidence. They are doing things like pulling videotapes from toll booths nearby, videotapes from dashboard cameras and police cars, trying to figure out who they can place near the scene of this fire when it started last Sunday night.

Wolf -- back to you.

BLITZER: And I assume that not only local and state, but federal investigators are all converging on this probe.

MESERVE: That's correct. The ATF alone has 35 investigators who they've brought in here to supplement the local people here. ATF also has brought in chemists so they can do some laboratory analysis here before it goes off to the ATF lab for more complete analysis. So that's just a sampling of the kind of resources being brought to bear on this one -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's hope they catch these guys.

Thanks, Jeanne, very much.

Jeanne Meserve reporting from Irvine in California.

Let's go back to Jack in New York for The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: A bunch of kids with new improvised explosive devices -- now, that's a new definition of the Iraqi insurgents coming from Republican presidential hopeful and part-time dolt Fred Thompson. He was asked at a South Carolina campaign stop whether he would bring back U.S. forces from Iraq.

Thompson replied saying this: "We will not be a safer country, we will not be a safer America if the whole world watches us being defeated by a bunch of kids with IEDs."

Thompson didn't say under what circumstances troops should leave Iraq, but he said that as of now, U.S. forces are succeeding securing the country.

Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden shot back at Thompson's assessment of the insurgency. Biden said this: "If Senator Thompson thinks we're fighting a bunch of kids, he's totally divorced from reality. He should come back to Iraq with me and talk to our soldiers, who are in the middle of a civil war between lethal militias, or fighting the Bush-fulfilling prophecy of Al Qaeda in Iraq, or being blown up by IEDs." Joe Biden, unquote.

Here's the question -- what's your reaction to Fred Thompson's describing the Iraqi insurgency as a bunch of kids with IEDs?

E-mail us, or go to

Let's see, he's late getting in. He announces on "The Tonight Show." He doesn't go to New Hampshire. Now he's saying stuff like this. He's -- he might want to get his audition reel in order, because he'll be available for one of those acting jobs pretty quick, I think.

BLITZER: All right, Jack.

Thanks very much. Jack Cafferty with The Cafferty File.

Up ahead, wildfires destroying everything from trailer homes to multi-million dollar mansions.

But do the rich have an extra advantage when it comes to protecting their homes?

Also, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, taking the talk over U.S. missile shields in Europe to a surprising new level -- comparing them to a crisis that almost resulted in nuclear war.

Plus, Jordan's Queen Rania -- find out why she's so concerned about possible U.S. military action involving Iran.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Welcome back.

Carol Costello is off today.

Brianna Keilar is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Brianna, what's going on?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Russia's president is invoking one of the most tense and dangerous cold war standoffs to express his opposition to a U.S. plan to build a missile defense system in Europe. Vladimir Putin today likened the plan to the Soviet Union putting missiles in Cuba in the early 1960s. That, of course, led to the Cuban missile crisis and brought the United States and the Soviet Union to the brink of nuclear war.

The White House is scolding the Federal Emergency Management Agency for staging a phony news conference about its response to the California wildfires. White House Press Secretary Dana Perino says the White House does not condone the move and that it will not happen again. On Tuesday, FEMA employees played the part of reporters questioning the agency's deputy director. Real reporters weren't told about the supposed news conference until 15 minutes before it began.

Georgia's Supreme Court is ordering that a 21-year-old man in prison for having consensual oral sex with a teenage girl be released immediately. Genarlow Wilson was a 17-year-old honor student and football star at the time of the incident and the girl was 15-years- old. Wilson has already served two years of a 10-year sentence, but the State Supreme Court said that sentence is cruel and unusual. As you can imagine, Genarlow Wilson's mother was joyful today after hearing that her son would soon be free.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JUANESSA BENNETTE, GENARLOW WILSON'S MOTHER: It's been almost four years. So it's -- wow!. It's been a success and it's been a downfall. So, you know, the success is that now, you know, what I feel is justice, you know, will be served. And I'm glad it will help so many other, you know, teens and so on and so forth. But it's -- wow!. I don't know, right now, I'm just kind of...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're swimming.

BENNETTE: a loop. I think I ran around the house like 20 times.


KEILAR: Wilson's attorney says she expects her client to be released any minute.

Well you know those little free food samples grocery food stores sometimes hand out?

How about washing them down with a free shot of whiskey?

As we told you yesterday, that would have been possible under a new proposal in Wisconsin, but it was vetoed by the governor today.

However, free wine and beer samples are still legal in the state -- Wolf. So, bottoms up.


Thanks very much.

Brianna Keilar reporting.

The Southern California wildfires aren't discriminating. They're cutting through both rich and poor neighborhoods alike.

But do wealthier homeowners have an advantage others can't afford?

CNN's Brian Todd once again joining us -- Brian, some people are buying some extra fire protection from insurance companies and it seems to be paying off.

What's going on?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, they are doing that, to the extent of hiring private firefighters. Now, more people are doing this, but it is not for every zip code.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It virtually burned to the ground.

TODD (voice-over): Fred and Janet Judge have an idyllic view. Their backyard sweeps out to a canyon in Rancho Sante Fe. The canyon is now charred. The Witch Fire burned right up to their property.

FRED JUDGE, RESIDENT: And they sprayed all of these bushes here, sprayed all of this through here...


F. JUDGE: All of this you see where it actually stopped the fire from coming up the hill.

TODD: It's no twist of faith that the judge's yard and house were spared.

F. JUDGE: There's no question in my mind that the foam was the difference between us being able to come back to a home that's intact, compared to having it burn to the ground.

TODD: The foam he's talking about is a chemical retardant sprayed by private firefighters. The Judges arranged it through their insurance company. Fred Judge says his firemen for hire got to his house just in time, before the fire department. Many of these contractors are trained firefighters, like Bryce Carrier. But he says they try be more of a complement than a competition.


Well, and the best scenario is that we can get here before the fire department actually is here. We don't want to step on any toes or, you know, get in any issue where we're, you know, kind of like a cluster.

TODD: These private contractors were very effective during the Southern California fires. But critics say this service is too exclusive -- only available in wealthy neighborhood like this. They have a point. Those who get the service pay premiums of at least $10,000 a year. Most own homes worth at least a million dollars, in places like Malibu and Aspen, Colorado. Fred Judge believes that equation will change.

F. JUDGE: Competition will drive the price of this stuff to be affordable by everybody. I think we're going to see a revolution now.


TODD: Fred's insurance company says it wants to help spur that revolution. An official with the American International Group told me that they want to work with public fire departments to help them offer this kind of service to those who aren't in the most affluent zip codes -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brian, thanks very much.

Brian Todd on the scene for us out in California.

Fire investigators have now determined the cause of many of the Southern California wildfires. And as we just showed you, the Santiago Fire in Orange County is now officially labeled arson, as is the Rosa Fire in neighboring Riverside County.

According to the "Los Angeles Times," downed power lines are expected for the Canyon Fire in Malibu and the Buckwheat Fire in northern Los Angeles County. Investigators suspect the Magic Fire in nearby Stevenson Ranch was caused by welding sparks from construction work.

Another student dies from a staph infection, and parents and teachers are furious -- understandably so, ahead. Why they're blaming the school for potentially putting other kids in danger.

Plus, a plane with no pilot -- our own Miles O'Brien takes the controls. That's coming up a little bit later on.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Parents at a middle school in New York City are raising serious questions about whether they should have known sooner about the student who died from a drug-resistant staph infection. That's the bacteria some are now calling the super bug.

CNN's Jim Acosta is joining us now from New York with more on this story -- Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, parents are giving student officials an earful because they just found out about the student's death yesterday -- 11 days after he died.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Weeks before Omar Rivera died of a drug- resistant staph infection, his friends at school said they saw something wrong with the seventh grader.

ANDREW MCKENZIE, FRIEND OF VICTIM: One I was at lunch and he had told me something about something that was on his leg. And he had like a whole bunch of stuff on his back. So then I didn't know what to do, so I just sent him to the nurse. And from then, I never saw him again.

ACOSTA: Health officials now the bacteria MRSA, AKA the super bug, has struck again. The 12-year-old student from Brooklyn died on October 14th. But parents and teachers didn't know about the potentially infectious bacteria that killed Omar until the 25th -- 11 days later. That's when city officials sent this letter home to parents, informing them the school had undergone an extra cleaning and encouraging students to practice good hand washing.

Instantly, many parents were alarmed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I told him to wash his hands constantly and we bought him a sanitizer and have him clean his hands a lot.

ACOSTA: Some city leaders are slamming the response as tardy.

CHARLES BARRON, CITY COUNCIL MEMBER: I want to know why the Department of Health -- even if they suspected this was something, they should have disinfected the school immediately, because I'd rather proceed with caution and even if it isn't then, you know, you have, at least, a safe school.

ACOSTA: City health officials claimed they were never required to inform parents insisting the odds the infection would spread to other students are low.

DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, NEW YORK CITY HEALTH COMMISSIONER: In this situation, where people are grieving because a child has died, it's natural to inform people. But there's no need to necessarily inform the school and there's certainly no urgency about informing the school.

ACOSTA: Health officials are concerned the bug is spreading from outside its traditional breeding grounds in hospitals. A Virginia high school student died from a MRSA infection earlier this month.

Back at Omar's Rivera's school, the principal is both defending her handling of the infection and trying to comfort students.

BUFFIE SIMMONS-PEART, PRINCIPAL: We have taken every precautionary measures -- internally and externally -- to ensure the safety and welfare of our students.


ACOSTA: And a parents' meeting is scheduled at the school tomorrow, where the question of the day will be why did the school not know sooner -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta watching this story for us.

A good question.

Thanks very much for that.

The next step in the standoff between Turkey and the Kurds in Northern Iraq. Turkish military leaders make a key decision. We're going to show you what role the White House will play.

Plus, one-on-one with Queen Rania of Jordan. I'll ask her about Iran's nuclear program, the conflicts in her region and whether she thinks the U.S. should have invaded Iraq.

All that and a lot more right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


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

Happening now, from fires to football -- Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego is being cleared of fire evacuees who were taking refuge there. City officials say it will be ready for the NFL San Diego Chargers. They host Houston Sunday afternoon.

Oil prices hit new highs. At the New York Mercantile Exchange, light sweet crude futures ended the day trading at more than $91 a barrel. That's a record. Prices have surged about 8 percent since Wednesday alone.

And Turkey's top military commander says Ankara will not strike at Kurdish rebels in Iraq before Turkey's prime minister holds talks with President Bush next month. The two leaders are scheduled to meet here in Washington November 5th.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Tensions with Iran up another notch as the Bush administration announces new sanctions. That move is causing concern across the Middle East.

I talked about the possibility of war with Iran and a lot more with Queen Rania of Jordan.

Your Majesty, how worried are you that there could be a war involving Iran sooner rather than later?

QUEEN RANIA, JORDAN: Well, obviously, a war is always something to worry about. And, as you said, our region is already riddled with so much conflict that another war would definitely not be something that we would welcome.

When it comes to the issue of the nuclear program, it's important for Iran to abide by international regulations and to remain open to inspection by international regulatory bodies. And clarity and transparency are what are is important here.

And beyond that, it's important for this issue to remain on the international negotiating table. This is not a confrontation between the United States and Iran. I think if there are any threats, then those are threats that will affect the international community, and, therefore, we all must have a unified stance with regard to this issue and ensure that we explore all diplomatic avenues before we make any move toward military action.

BLITZER: There seems to be a potential for military action elsewhere, not far from Jordan, as well. Turkey very concerned about the Kurdish rebels, the PKK terrorists in the northern part of Turkey -- excuse me, of Iraq, in the Kurdistan part.

How worried are you about a full scale war erupting on the Turkish/Iraqi border?

QUEEN RANIA: Well, we obviously understand Turkey's concern and we support Turkey's government and its need to protect itself from any terrorist attacks.

However, I believe that a full scale military action, again, will, destabilize the region. And so it's very important for the Iraqi government, as well the leaders in the Kurdish-controlled region, to work together to ensure that the PKK fighters do not cross the borders into Turkish territory and for there -- therefore not to be an escalation of this conflict.

Very important for Turkey to continue talking to the Iraqi government because, at the end of the day, we need to ensure that we protect the territorial sovereignty of Iraq.

And, as you know, the Kurdish-controlled region is probably one of the most stable regions in Iraq at the moment. And we can ill afford more conflict in Iraq. The situation, as you know, in Iraq is very, very unstable. And although the conflict is probably the most talked about conflict, what people really need to focus on, as well, is the humanitarian situation in Iraq.

More world attention needs to be paid to what is going on to the average Iraqi woman and child. More difficult to be a child in Iraq than it ever was in history. We have more than one in four children under the age of five who are malnourished.


And there's an enormous, excuse me for interrupting. An enormous amount of displaced people internally, externally about 2 million refugees and Jordan has taken in nearly a million refugees, I believe, which has put an enormous strain on Jordan.

RANIA: Jordan has taken in about 700,000 refugees, which, obviously, has stretched Jordan. It's put a tremendous amount of pressure on infrastructure and our environment and our resources. You know, displacement is a very tough for those that are displaced and for the country hosting them.

And no one country is responsible. I think the humanitarian situation the international community and we must work together to make sure that we restore stability and security to the lives of these, of these families.

BLITZER: So, your majesty, I'll ask you a blunt question. Was the U.S. invasion of Iraq a blunder?

RANIA: Well, I think there is no simple answer to that question. You know what we have today is a multi-facetted problem that needs a multi-facetted solution. We will have to work together as hard as we can to restore safety and stability because at the end of the day the prosperity and stability of Iraq is in the best interest of all of us.

And, again, I want to emphasize the humanitarian situation, very, very important for us to really work together to ensure that the Iraqis can go back to normality in their lives.

When you talk about displaced, a lot of those leaving Iraq are the doctors, the scientists, the engineers. Those are Iraq's best hope of rebuilding the country. So, reconciliation and reconstruction needs to happen as soon as possible. BLITZER: How damaged is the U.S. image, the U.S. reputation in the Arab and Muslim world?

RANIA: Well, there are some negative perceptions of the United States and the Arab world. And, as you know, since 9/11 and since the war in Iraq, tension business between east and west have been become very inflamed.

But you know nothing is not reversible. We can work on this. We can try to bridge those differences. We can try to overcome the mutual suspicion and trust.

First and foremost, we can do this by trying to resolve the core issues in the region, mainly the Palestinian and Israeli conflict, as well as the situation in Iraq.

You know over the past seven years, not much has been done with regards to finding a resolution to the Israeli Palestinian issue. And, today, we have a situation where we have a good chance of finding a final solution, a final just solution to this issue. Hopefully next month there will be the peace conference that the American administration is working very hard to back and we have engagement from many different Arab countries that are backing this up, as well, I just hope we can finally put this to rest.

BLITZER: You have been here in the United States attending a military conference out in California that the first lady of California, Maria Shriver, hosted and you're hoping to improve the status of women in the Muslim world and Arab world, including in Jordan. You have your hands full.

I'm going to read to you from the state department's last human rights report on the treatment and status of women in Jordan because I think it does underscore that there are some serious problems. "Women experience legal discrimination and pension and social security benefits inheritance, divorce, ability to travel, child custody, citizenship, and in certain limited circumstances, the value of their Shari'a or Islamic law court testimony." It's still serious problems involving women in Jordan.

RANIA: Absolutely. You know we have many challenges. But let us not overlook the many achievements that have been made.

You know in education, women have achieved incredible results. We have higher number of female college graduates than we have male. Primary school enrollment is almost universal and equal between boys and girls.

We have women who are in politics and in parliament and the cabinet. They have the right to vote and be voted into public life. We have many woman in the private sector and women in the judiciary system, judges. We have women in the army.

So women are really making their mark and a lot of progress.

Having said that, we still have many hurdles and many challenges, but more than just changing policy and changing some of the legal framework that may hinder women's progress. I think we need to work on changing some of the mindsets and cultural perceptions that stand in the way sometimes. You know, where women sometimes feel that they have to make a choice between their career and their family where there are sometimes a culture of dependency on the male and a member of the family.

So, but change is happening and there is so much to be celebrated. I'm so proud of so many achievements that I see every single day in Jordan. And our job is to really highlight at the grassroots some of those success stories because these are the women that are very quietly and proudly eroding some of the negative stereotypes.

BLITZER: And I know you have been an excellent role model for a lot of women not only in Jordan but elsewhere in the Arab world and in the Muslim world.

Queen Rania, your majesty, I know you have been on a busy schedule, thanks so much for spending a few moments with us.

RANIA: It's a pleasure. Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Want to go to Atlanta. The young man who had served two years in prison for consensual sex as a teenager, Genarlow Wilson, is now speaking to reporters with his attorney, B.J. Bernstein. Let's listen in. This has been a fascinating case.

GENARLOW WILSON, IMPRISONED TEEN: For what I believe is justice, no.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you have to say to all the supporters and all the people that believed in you?

WILSON: Well, I want to say thank you very much. You know, it means a lot to me and my family that so many people came to our defense and stood up and fought for us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And your attorney?

WILSON: Oh, she's wonderful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is the first thing you'd like to do when you go home tonight?

WILSON: Get some rest.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where is the welcome home party?

WILSON: It's not going to be any more parties for a while.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you ever think you'd see this day?

JUANESSA BENNETTE, GENARLOW WILSON'S MOTHER: Yeah, I did. I did. I still have faith. You have to have faith. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What was it like when you first got back home this morning and your son was going to be free after all this time?

BENNETTE: I had laid down for five minutes when she called me. It was on the first or second page of a 48-page fax and she was like, get up and get dressed. I was like, what? What is going on? I was just screaming. I ran around the house, inside the house 20 times before I could decide what I needed to do and then I was like, I need to wash my hair I need to brush my teeth. I don't have any clothes in my closet. So, it was, it was, you know it was amazing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Completely out of the blue for you, too?

BENNETTE: Completely out of the blue. We had no idea this was going to happen today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you give up hope? Were you thinking this was just not going to happen?

BENNETTE: You know I didn't give up hope. But I had to reevaluate myself and I had to come at peace with myself because I was getting agitated and irritated. I never gave up hope in the judicial system and I never gave up hope and all the prayers that went out for us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What lesson do you hope he's learned?

BENNETTE: I know he's learned a lot of lessons now and to make wiser decisions, as with you know any other teenagers. I hope they learn something from this, as well, because a lot of people do stand to gain from this or I have gained from this, I'll say. It won't happen to another teenager in Georgia.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you want to get out there and tell other teens?

WILSON: Oh, definitely.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is something you would like other teens to learn from?

WILSON: I just want them to know that this is nothing that they want to come to and, you know, they should be, you know, very hesitant before they, you know, join certain crowds and make certain decisions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, what do you have planned for your son now tonight and in the future couple days?

BENNETTE: In the coming days we're just going to take it one day a time. Spend a lot of family time. I know he's got to put some meat on those bones.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What would you like to say to Reverend Al Sharpton?

BENNETTE: Thank you.

Thank you to everyone.

Not just Reverend Sharpton, to him, as well, but thank you to everyone for all the prayers and all the support.

BLITZER: All right, a very, very happy family, the Wilson family. Genarlow Wilson, he was 17 years old and had consensual sex with a 15-year-old girl. He was sentenced to ten years in prison but the Supreme Court of Georgia now ruling that was cruel and unusual. A 4-3 decision noting that Georgia law has since been alter today make it punishable by no more than one year in prison and no sex offender registration.

A spokesman for the Georgia attorney general says there will be no appeal. So, he is now free, Genarlow Wilson after spending two years in prison for consensual sex.

When we come back, he ran a company that supplied body armor to U.S. troops. Now he's accused of stealing millions of dollars to live a lavish lifestyle, spending millions for a bat mitzvah. More details coming up.

And a plane without a pilot. Our own Miles O'Brien gets behind the controls of NASA's high-tech firefighting weapon.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM


BLITZER: Elvis Costello singing happy birthday to Senator Clinton. Mrs. President he called her at a New York party fundraiser last night celebrating Hillary Clinton's 60th birthday.

Our senior political analyst Gloria Borger is here watching all of this. I want you to listen what her husband, the former president of the United States, said about the human touch she brings to this campaign. Listen to this.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: The happiest times for me in this is when people from New York come up to me and tell me about something they did that she did with them that was purely human. When they had a child who was ill with no health care, when they needed help and no one else would help and it happens to me all the time. She's in this for the right reasons.

BLITZER: All right, Gloria. She has a commanding lead in the national polls and clearly the frontrunner. What do you think her appeal is right now?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, what's striking to me, Wolf, her appeal is so broad.

Take a look at our CNN poll we just did. 71 percent of women and 65 percent, I believe, of men say that she is a strong and decisive leader. That number should be 65 percent. Now, for women, that is a huge number because she's clearly made headway with all kind of women, she's made headway with men, though, which is really, really interesting. Clearly she's burnished her national security and her defense credential. She served on the senate armed services committee. Wolf, with women she's broadened her appeal, not only with those working women that she's really tried to appeal to those waitress voters, but, now, women all over and all economic groups are supporting Hillary Clinton.

I spoke with somebody in her campaign who said it now may be a matter of pride for women to support someone they think can actually get the nomination and win the presidency.

BLITZER: In our new CNN Opinion Research Corporation poll take a look at this, Congress does not have a high job approval. Only 22 percent of the American public believes that Congress is doing a good job. Any good news for Congress in this or the democrats for that matter?

BORGER: Congress as an institution, Wolf, is not really doing very well. It always stayed around that percentage. Even worse where the president is at right now, in the mid 30s. Any silver lining, it may be for the democratic leaders in Congress because their approval rating and our poll is at 43 percent. That's still not great, but it's redeemable as you head into the next election.

BLITZER: Gloria, thanks very much. Gloria Borger, senior political analyst.

The former head of a company that makes body armor for U.S. troops is being held on federal corruption charges. The recently unsealed indictment accusing him of stealing millions of dollars and it provides some stunning details about the lavish lifestyle the money was allegedly used to fund.

Jason Carroll is following this story. He's joining us live now from New York. What a story, Jason.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. You know the indictment alleges the former CEO spent $194,000 on a Bentley, $20,000 on party invitations and the list goes on and on.

David Brooks, a multi-millionaire who lived the high life is now in the hands of federal authorities. They allege he lived in luxury, by stealing money from his company, which is responsible for supplying body armor for U.S. troops overseas. Federal prosecutors say brooks used insider information and made 185 million dollars selling stock in DHB Industries, the company he founded. They also allege he stole $8 million from the company to buy things such as $1 million worth of vacations to France, Italy and the Caribbean, $106,000 worth of horse vitamins, $50,000 worth of flat screen TVs, more than $11,000 for family acupuncture treatments, over $100,000 for a belt buckle studded with diamonds and rubies in the shape of the American flag, and nearly $8,000 for his wife's facelift. Another extravagant expense, authorities allege charging $122,000 to the company credit card to pay for iPods and digital cameras as party favors at a $10 million bat mitzvah party for his daughter at New York's Rainbow Room. Brooks paid performers 50 Cent and Aerosmith shown here at the event on, as well as Tom Petty, the Eagles and Kenny G.

Brooks' attorney told a local newspaper, his client will fight the charges saying "It is a lot easier for the government to make allegations than to prove them." Brooks resigned from DHB Industries last year. The company now known as Point Blank Solutions said in a statement, there is a new management team in place, which has instituted various corporate governance reforms to restore shareholder value.

And, Wolf, we tried contacting Brooks' attorney a number of times. Today he did not return our calls. Brooks will spend the weekend in jail. The bail hearing is set for Monday.


BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jason Carroll, watching the story in New York.

Still ahead, the high-tech eye in the sky giving firefighters in southern California an edge. You're going to find out how they literally can see through the smoke.

And Jack Cafferty wants to know, what is your reaction to Fred Thompson describing the Iraqi insurgency as "a bunch of kids with IEDs."

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


BLITZER: Let's check in with Lou Dobbs to see what's coming up at the top of the hour.


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you.

Tonight we are reporting on what the border patrol calls a zero tolerance policy against illegal aliens along part with our southern border in Mexico. How about that? What took the border patrol so long? Authority for that policy has been in place for more than half a century. We'll have the story.

A new shock today for middle class families already struggling. Crude oil prices going above $92 a barrel for the first time selling just below that, a new record high. We'll have a special report of what that means for working men and women in this country and their families.

New evidence that a rising number of voters have had a belly full of partisan blather and inaction. The latest opinion poll showing three quarters of Americans have lost all confidence in this Congress. I'll be joined by three of the country's best political analysts and strategists. They'll be talking about the day of the independent.

Join us at the top of the hour. Please. Wolf, back it you.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Lou. See you in a few moments.

Crews battling some of the southern California wildfires are getting an edge from high-tech drones, literally seeing through the smoke.

Our chief technology correspondent Miles O'Brien is joining us. How valuable are these drones, Miles, to the firefighters?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CHIEF TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: The firefighters say they're invaluable, Wolf. For a third day in a row they're getting help from the unmanned vehicles to fight a different kind of battle.

Herman Posada is on the front lines of the California fires. Even though he's sitting in an air conditioned trailer 150 miles away at Edwards air force base.

HERMAN POSADA, UAV PILOT: It has take on the hazard of the pilots being in the cockpit and just kind of transformed it a little bit.

O'BRIEN: He is flying NASA new unmanned aircraft, offering firefighters an unprecedented nearly real-time view of the fire lines using an infrared sensor which sees through the smoke and clearly defined the hot spots.

DON SULLIVAN, NASA AMES ENGINEER: This is the active fire, this area has been burned already and this white already is the hottest area.

O'BRIEN: NASA engineers developed the high-flying idea after spending a lot of time in the trenches with firefighters learning what tools they need.

SULLIVAN: We developed infrared images that are used by the interpreters who really need to know how hot the fire is and where will it be in a couple hours or tomorrow.

O'BRIEN: The aircraft is a civilian version of the predator B. Armed version are widely used by the military and CIA in Iraq and Afghanistan to track and target al Qaeda operatives.

Econa is an Indian name for intelligent, conscious or aware. This spinning disk is the infrared camera. The most important instrument on this aircraft when it comes to dealing with forest fires. This is a 45 degree camera that is in the visual range. This whole pod, though, is completely mogular. You can take it out and put something else on there and use it for other scientific experiments, if you need to.

NASA will use it for weather and earth science experiments and as a way to test new applications for unmanned aircraft. Perhaps they'll find ways to make it easier to fly. I watched Herman as he brought Econa in for a landing and it is a lot harder than being in a cockpit.

POSADA: All you have is sight. All your other senses have been removed. You can't feel the engine over speeding. You can't feel the sink rate and all that, you're relying off the monitor.

O'BRIEN: Wolf, the UAV pilots tell me the best pilots are the ones that use the home software on their home desktops for flight simulation. So parents, if you think your kids are wasting their time playing those games, maybe not, Wolf.

BLITZER: Miles O'Brien, fascinating material, thanks for that.

Up ahead, what is your reaction to Fred Thompson's describing the Iraqi insurgency as a bunch of kids with IEDs. Jack Cafferty and your e-mail, next.


BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack Cafferty for the Cafferty File.


JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question this hour, Wolf, is what's your reaction to Fred Thompson's describing the Iraqi insurgency as "a bunch of kids with IEDs?"

Karl Wisconsin, "Is this what the republicans mean when they say support the troops? Does he mean our troops are so inept that they can't control a bunch of kids or that's just an expression that really old people use or perhaps he's trying to sound folksy, which is what got our current president-elected. In any case, I think his show should be canceled."

Britain in Massachusetts, "He's simply implying that what we're doing is correct and the way most left wing individuals react is ridiculous because we clearly have it under control. Get off his back already."

Paul in Georgia, "Maybe if Fred gave those juvenile delinquent insurgents a good scolding they'd all go home, go to their rooms, finish their homework and behave themselves."

Francisco, Arizona, "Fred Thompson's just as divorced from reality as George Bush. This reminds me of the Bush remark, bring them on. Is this the best the Republicans have?"

Don in Tennessee, "As a fellow Tennessean of Fred's, I only have one thing to say. The more you see of Fred, the more you like monkeys."

Max in Connecticut write, "I'm sorry Fred Thompson is flaming out. I really wanted him to make Sam Waterston attorney general." And John in Miami writes, "Fred Thompson is extremely versatile. We've seen him as a lobbyist, an attorney, a senator and an actor. Now we're seeing him as a stand up comedian."

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


BLITZER: A lot of the pendants, as you know, Jack, think Hillary Clinton has it wrapped up. But a real fight breaking out on the Republican side. Giuliani may be in the front-runner in some of the national polls, in all the national polls but he has his hands full in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, some of those early states.

CAFFERTY: But he's not getting any heat from Fred Thompson in places like Iowa and New Hampshire because Fred hasn't bothered to go there and campaign.

BLITZER: How do you explain that?

CAFFERTY: I can't. I don't know. If you want to run for office, you go and talk to the voters who are going it be voting. I mean Iowa and New Hampshire aren't big places, but they're first. The campaign style there, I think, is terrific. You have to go out and talk to people and explain your position instead of doing a sound bite. I don't understand how a candidate who's serious about the office can simply forget about that. Those people are not going to be happy.

BLITZER: All right. Jack, see you back here in one hour. Jack Cafferty with the Cafferty file in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Remember, November 15th I'll be in Las Vegas to moderate a presidential debate among the Democratic candidates.

See you back here in one hour.

Let's go to Lou right now in New York.


DOBBS: Thank you very much.