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Diplomats Refuse Iraq Assignment; Nuclear Facility Lockdown

Aired November 2, 2007 - 17:00   ET


CAFFERTY: Craig in Ohio: "Not nearly enough, but all right for a start. This needed to happen sooner rather than later. The Republican machine was going to dismember Hillary if and when she won the nomination anyway. Me thinks she and Bill have too many skeletons in the closet to mount a successful campaign."
And Mimi in Nashville, Tennessee: "Enough to hopefully prompt Al Gore to jump in as an Independent." -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Jack.

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

Happening now, the country's largest nuclear power plant in lockdown after explosives are found in a worker's truck -- sounding the alarm from Arizona all the way to Washington.

Also, a nine inch knife stuck in his head -- an American soldier lives to tell a story -- a war story like you've never heard before.

And the former president, Jimmy Carter, is the latest politician to speak out about UFOs. He tells us what he saw the in sky decades ago.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


A pipe bomb found at the nation's largest nuclear power plant. The facility near Phoenix still in lockdown at this hour.

Our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena, is joining us now live -- Kelli, what are your sources telling us about this scare?

And it is a real scare.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this involves the Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant. And it seems that security got it right. A contract worker was stopped and detained at a security point, where a pipe bomb was found in his truck.

Now, officials say that he didn't try to hide this device and that they have no indication that this event has any connection to terrorism. The man is in custody and he's being questioned.

Now, this bomb is described as very small, Wolf -- not even big enough to blow up the truck that it was in. The security checkpoint is about a half mile away from plant. And officials there say there was never any danger. But, still, they locked everything down until a security sweep could be completed.

Now, officials won't I.D. this worker. They won't say which company employs him. He was a contractor. All they'll say is that anyone who has access to this plant must submit to a background check.

And the plant, by the way, Wolf, supplies electricity to about four million customers. This is why so much attention is being paid to this incident -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Kelli, for this information.

Coming up right now, they're frightened and angry over possible mandatory postings to Iraq. But State Department workers aren't getting any sympathy from the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice. She and other high-ranking diplomats are taking a very hard line, saying duty calls.

Secretary Rice is in Turkey.

Our State Department correspondent, Zain Verjee, is there, as well -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice just flew halfway around the world to prevent a clash between Turkey and Iraq. But she couldn't escape the war of words with her own employees.


VERJEE (voice-over): From one firestorm to another, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice -- the target of a new onslaught of personal attacks from enraged anti-American protesters in Turkey's capital, while facing a near revolt from American diplomats angry that they may be forced to serve in Iraq.

JACK CRODDY, FOREIGN SERVICE EMPLOYEE: And I'm sorry, but basically that's a potential death sentence and you know it.

And then another thought, who will take care of our children?

Who will raise our children if we're dead or seriously wounded?

VERJEE: Secretary Rice is responding to the harsh criticism from her own employees during a town hall meeting on Wednesday. Now, she's sending a cable to diplomats around the world: "I commit to each of you that all those who serve in Iraq and their families will receive the department's full support before, during and after their assignment."

Her U.S. envoy to Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, was sharper, saying the diplomats need to put national interests over their personal safety and those who don't are in the wrong line of business.

A former U.S. ambassador to Syria agrees. EDWARD DJEREJIAN, RICE UNIVERSITY: It was incumbent upon the Foreign Service officers to accept hardship assignments, sometimes in war zones. And that certainly has been a tradition of the Service.

VERJEE: The U.S. Embassy in Iraq is short by almost 50 diplomats and is having a hard time getting volunteers to fill the spots. So, the State Department is now ordering some to go -- whether they like it or not.

CRODDY: Any other embassy in the world, the embassy would be closed at this point, with all this come incoming rocket and everything.

VERJEE: It hasn't been since Vietnam that Foreign Service officers were forced into duty. Condoleezza Rice is appealing to patriotism to help settle the diplomatic fury, telling reporters: "People need to serve wherever they're need. This is one of the highest priority tasks of the United States and we are going to meet our obligations."

But she has an uphill battle.

CRODDY: You roll your eyes, but we have polled the Foreign Service. Twelve percent of your Foreign Service believes that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is fighting for them -- 12 percent.


VERJEE: Aides to U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, tell us that he has got ambitious plans in Iraq to turn things around, so he needed diplomats with specific skills to help him -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain Verjee in Turkey for us with the secretary of state.

Thank you.

A federal judge is clearing the way for the secretary of state to be subpoenaed in a high profile national security case. Two former lobbyists for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee are charged with passing defense secrets. Rice is among 15 top officials their lawyers want to testify. The judge says he'll monitor what the officials will be allowed to say to avoid compromising national security.

A Saudi Prince and former ambassador to the United States is raising eyebrows with a surprising claim. He says the 9/11 terror attacks could have been avoided if Saudi warnings had been heeded by Washington.

Our international security correspondent, Paula Newton, has more on what Prince Bandar is now saying -- Paula.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the allegations came right out of the blue. And no one seems to know exactly why the Saudis are making them just now.


NEWTON (voice-over): The explosive claim is designed to strike a nerve and how could it not?

Saudi Arabia's national security adviser says 9/11 could have been prevented if only U.S. officials had listened to his country's warnings.

PRINCE BANDAR BIN SULTAN, SAUDI NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): If U.S. security authorities had engaged their Saudi counterparts in a serious and credible manner, in my opinion, we would have avoided what happened.

NEWTON: In a documentary on the Arabic network, Al-Arabiya, Prince Bandar, a former Saudi ambassador to the U.S., claims his intelligence officers were following the 9/11 hijackers with precision.

The Bush administration said it was seeking clarification.

TOM CASEY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: If he has any information that hasn't come to light as a result of the 9/11 Commission or any of the other studies that have been done on this, it would be useful for him to explain it.

NEWTON: All of this echoes what Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah said earlier in the week, before a controversial visit to London -- that his kingdom could have also prevented the July 2005 London bombings.

KING ABDULLAH, SAUDI ARABIA: (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): We have sent information to Great Britain before the terrorist attacks in Britain. But, unfortunately, no action was taken. And it may have been able to maybe avert the tragedy.

NEWTON: The Saudi king refuses to put up any evidence to back up his allegations, saying the intelligence is too sensitive. And that's the problem. King Abdullah knows all of this raises persistent questions about whether Western governments were naive about the terrorist threat -- just now, at a time when Western allies are accusing the Saudis of the same thing.

Fifteen of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi, as is Osama bin Laden. A significant number of Saudi fighters are in Iraq right now attacking U.S. soldiers. Saudi petro dollars help fuel and fund Islamic extremism. In fact, a recent Congressional report noted Saudi Arabia has an uneven record in the fight against terrorism, especially with respect to terrorist financing.


NEWTON: Still, both U.S. and British government officials told CNN no matter what the Saudis are claiming and why, they do have unique leverage infighting extremists -- leverage Western governments need. So they're not about to pick a fight with them -- Wolf. BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Paula Newton reporting for us.

Let's check back with Jack Cafferty.

He's got The Cafferty File in New York.

What do you make of this Saudi claim -- Jack?

CAFFERTY: Well, I think they're also instrumental in providing a homegrown crop of terrorists that graduate from those madrassas that the Saudis allow to be operated in their country -- those schools that teach very small children to begin to hate anything Western from the time they're old enough to understand who we are and what we're about. You know, they talk out of both sides of their mouth and, quite frankly, it kind of makes me angry. I mean 19 of the hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. I wonder how many of them graduated from those schools that the Saudi government gives permission to operate in the country. Give me a break here.

The head of the -- here, this will thrill you.

You're a taxpayer?

Listen up.

The head of the government's product safety agency, along with her predecessor, have taken dozens of trips paid for by the industries they regulate. The "Washington Post" reports Nancy Nord and her predecessor, Hal Stratton, took trips to places like China, Spain, San Francisco and New Orleans. The tab totaled almost $60,000 -- and was paid by toy, appliance and children's furniture makers, along with others they're supposed to be overseeing. Some were paid for by lobbyists and lawyers who represent the makers of products linked to consumer hazards.

Think this government isn't broken?

Officials at the Consumer Product Safety Commission say these trips provide a way for the commissioners to meet with manufacturers, hear their concerns and come up with ways to make the products safer.

I guess you can't use the telephone or a computer or e-mails. They've got to go to China to have these meetings.

They say the agency's lawyers and ethics officers signed off on the trips.

Well, that doesn't surprise me either.

But several ethics experts point out these trips are a violation -- an ethical violation. Government travel regulations specifically state that government officials should not accept trips if they would lead people to question an agency's integrity. The commissioner who served under President Clinton didn't take any trips paid for by industries that her agency regulated. And Democratic Senator Bob Menendez said this: "It seems while American children are playing with lead-filled toys, the people that should be looking out for them have been working on their golf swings with corporate bigwigs."

Here's the question -- do you see a problem with the heads of the Consumer Product Safety Commission taking dozens of trips paid for by the industries they regulate?

E-mail your thoughts to or go to

I mean you just want to throw your hands up -- Wolf.

I mean that's -- there isn't anybody watching out for any of us.

BLITZER: I see a problem.


BLITZER: Thanks, Jack, very much.

A rash of arson fires in the U.S. Congress -- blazes mostly set in women's bathrooms.

How could a criminal escape all the security on Capitol Hill?

We're taking a closer look at the investigation.

Plus, knife in the head -- an American soldier in Iraq becomes a medical breakthrough after a bizarre attack.

And massive flooding in Mexico -- thousands stranded,

Stick around.



BLITZER: A small fire on Capitol Hill today -- the latest in a series of similar blazes that may be the work of a serial arsonist.

Let's go to Brian Todd.

He's up on the Hill watching all of this for us.

What are you learning about these very suspicious fires, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we've got some new information on the kind of perpetrator that investigators may be looking for, but there is still a lot of mystery surrounding these cases and the trail has been cold for five weeks.


TODD (voice-over): Investigators scour a Senate office building on Capitol Hill -- the aftermath of the seventh fire on the Hill since September 26th. More than a month and still no arrests -- no viable leads.

SGT. KIMBERLY SCHNEIDER, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: The investigators are going to look at the possibility that they may be connected. At this point in time, there's no reason to believe that they are.

TODD: But they appear to be strikingly similar. Six of the seven fires have been set in women's bathrooms -- all of them in two Senate office buildings. No one has been hurt, but there have been evacuations and false alarms. Police say today's fire, in the Dirksen Office Building, was set around 8:00 a.m.. Some entrances to that building are open to outside visitors an hour earlier. But a federal law enforcement source who's spoken with responders at the scenes of these fires say investigators tend to believe this is someone with inside access and knowledge of these areas.

This is a full-fledged arson probe. A veteran arson profiler recently told CNN the perpetrator could be seeking power, relieving stress or...

RON TUNKEL, ATF PROFILER: It's very thrilling for them to cause fire engines to come to the scene, firemen -- firefighters to scramble around, police cars to show up, people to run screaming from their homes and everybody looking. That causes a lot of excitement.

TODD: Our federal source says there are surveillance cameras in the approach hallways of the women's bathrooms where the fires have been set, but it's not clear if any cameras have captured the perpetrator.


TODD: And we're told that investigators are looking at the images from all the cameras near those areas. We're also told by Capitol Hill police that they are stepping up patrols in these buildings to aid the investigation. But they have been stepping up patrols and adding officers since the first fires on September 26th, Wolf, and they appear it be no closer to catching this person.

BLITZER: Brian Todd on the Hill for us.

Thank you very much.

Let's hope they catch this person soon.

It's not just the lives of lawmakers and staffers that are at risk. The U.S. Capitol gets about three million visitors each year. Tickets are given out on a first come, first serve basis. There are 2,300 Capitol police officers and they're looking for prohibited items, including food, beverages and any kind of weapon.

Take a look at this image. It's an x-ray of an American soldier with a nine inch knife stuck in his head. He was attack while on duty in Iraq. And amazingly, amazingly he's lived to tell the story.

Let's go to our medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

She's watching this story for us -- Elizabeth, I've got to tell you, how could anyone survive this kind of brutal assault?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I know. When you see that knife go halfway through his head, you have to wonder. And the answer is a little bit of luck and a lot of teamwork. Now, Sergeant Dan Powers is an M.P. and he was responding to an explosion in Baghdad in July when all of a sudden he felt a blow to the head and thought he was hit by a sniper. But as you can see, it was a knife.

Now, the luck is, is that it just -- it missed his brain. I mean really, that's the most simple way to put it. It missed his brain and ended up in his sinus cavity. And the teamwork started when the medic who was there -- and here you see me walking with him in Fort Bragg yesterday -- the medic right there who responded -- he left the knife in. That was a crucial decision. If he had pulled it out, he would have bled to death, most likely.

And then the teamwork continued when he ended up at a hospital about 50 miles north of Baghdad. He started to bleed and he lost 40 percent of the blood in his body. But the surgeon managed to save him. And he survives today. You can see he looks terrific and he says he has absolutely no repercussions to this attack at all -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, thank god for that.

A very, very amazing story, Elizabeth, thank you very much.

Coming up, the comedian Drew Carey's new cause. That would be medical marijuana. We're going to show you what he's doing to try to influence federal law.

Plus, the president's brother breaking his silence on the Republican presidential candidates. Jeb Bush now revealing what he really thinks about them.

Stick around.



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

What's going on -- Carol?


Federal agents reportedly learned three weeks in advance that O.J. Simpson and a memorabilia dealer were fighting to try to retrieve personal items Simpson says were stolen from him. According to the Associated Press, documents show the memorabilia dealer alerted the FBI to the plan, but was told that did not absolve him of any potential crime. Simpson and five other men were arrested after allegedly storming a Las Vegas hotel room to retrieve those items.

Efforts to head off a screenwriters' strike appear to have failed. The Writers Guild of America voted a short time ago to go on strike at 12:01 Monday morning. It will be the first time Hollywood writers have gone on strike in 20 years. The main sticking point is royalties from DVD sales and so-called new media, including Internet downloads.

Important evidence in the kidnapping case against astronaut Lisa Nowak thrown out today. A Florida judge ruled late this afternoon that statements former astronaut Lisa Nowak made to investigators in February cannot be used against her in court. In today's decision, a judge ruled that the statements and other evidence were illegally obtained.

And clocks will be set back an hour at 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning. That's right, it's time to fall back. But some users of cell phones and PDAs are discovering that their devices have made the change early. A new law this year moves the end of Daylight Savings Time from the last Sunday in October to the first Sunday in November. A spokesman for the manufacturer of Blackberry wireless devices says some software was not updated, so you're not crazy. You don't have to do anything to your clocks until Sunday.

Back to you -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The good news, though, we all get an extra hour of sleep.

Is that right?


We do -- an extra hour. And that will feel good.

BLITZER: Real good.

Thanks very much, Carol, for that.

Heavy rains and flooding have forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes in Southern Mexico's state of Tabasco.

Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, is watching the videos of the flooding online.

What are we seeing, because this is a horrendous story -- Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it really is. Seven hundred thousand people have been forced from their homes. And some of the people have been documenting their experiences online. We're literally seeing dozens of videos like this one here -- waist deep water. You can see businesses and homes submerged. The title of this one is -- this is the tragedy that Tabasco is suffering from. We spoke to Jessica Mehija (ph). She's in the state capital of Tabasco. That's Villahermosa here. These are sandbags that residents of that city have been filling to try and prevent the water coming -- bursting the banks from the river. It's not doing much good. Eighty percent of that city is underwater. Jessica says that there's been less rain today, but forecasters do say that more is on the way -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a story.

Thanks very much.

Let's hope everything turns out OK with those people in Mexico.

Former president Jimmy Carter on a UFO experience.


JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I was back as a peanut farmer and the head of a Lion's Club in Southwest Georgia, I and about 25 others saw something in the air that changed colors and was round and came and left.


BLITZER: The former president explains what he saw and what and why he doesn't think little men from outer space actually exist.

Plus, Drew Carey the libertarian -- "The Price Is Right" host gets political in a push for medical marijuana.

And Jeb Bush weighs in on Republican candidates. Hear what he really thinks about each one of them.

Stick around.



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

Happening now, political upheaval in Venezuela. Only hours ago, lawmakers there approved controversial reforms to the countries constitution that greatly expand the power of the president, Hugo Chavez. The measures have sparked protests and still must be approved by voters next month.

President Bush may be facing his first ever veto override. Just a short time ago, the president vetoed a $23 billion bill to fund popular projects like repairing hurricane damage, restoring wetlands and preventing flooding. The legislation is thought to have the support of well more than two-thirds of Congress needed for an override.

And a former supervisor at a South African school for disadvantaged girls funded by Oprah Winfrey is being held on abuse and sexual assault charges. In a written statement, Winfrey says it's her deepest hope that the accused is brought to justice.

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

Two key Democratic lawmakers are now throwing their support behind President Bush's nominee to fill the post of attorney general of the United States. Senators Chuck Schumer of New York and Dianne Feinstein of California both say they'll vote in favor of the nomination of the former judge, Michael Mukasey. This all but assures that Mukasey will be approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Earlier today, the chairman of the committee, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, said he opposed the nomination. Mukasey has been under increasing criticism for his refuse to condemn the controversial interrogation technique known as waterboarding. He says it's repugnant personally to him, but he says he doesn't know if it's illegal because he hasn't been briefed on the classified information.

Just a short while ago, I spoke to the Republican presidential candidate, John McCain. The Arizona senator is a former prisoner of war himself in Vietnam and an outspoken opponent of torture.

He says he will support the Mukasey nomination. I asked him, though, about waterboarding.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ARIZONA: It is torture. There's no doubt about it. And Mr. Mukasey will get briefed on this the specific procedures that are being used and I have every anticipation that he will say that it's illegal and that it is torture. There's no doubt about it being torture, Wolf. Paul pot used it in acts of genocide, Burmese monks today are being afflicted by this terrible torture, practice of torture and it's a violation of the Geneva conventions of which we are signatories. The question is, my view is whether as attorney general of the United States this nominee will not allow waterboardering and I'm confident he won't.


BLITZER: You can watch the full interview with Senator John McCain, the republican presidential candidate this Sunday on "LATE EDITION." "LATE EDITION" starts at 11:00 a.m. eastern. It's on for two hours, "LATE EDITION" the last word in Sunday talk.

He's been seen as a possible White House contender but while former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is sitting out this campaign, he is giving some opinions of the current crop of republican presidential hopefuls.

Let's go to our national correspondent, Susan Candiotti. She's watching this story for us. What is the former governor now saying, Susan?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's been almost a year since Jeb Bush left the Florida's governor mansion and is now living in a swanky condo in Miami and aside from speaking at some schools and doing fund-raising, he is now weighing in on the GOP race for that party's nominee for president.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Talking today with the 43rd chief executive of the great state of Florida.

CANDIOTTI: Right off the bat, former Governor Bush side stepped a question of the republican candidates.

JEB BUSH, FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: I'm not going to do the weakness because I saw somebody that did that, Dan Bartlett and came out pretty bad looking.

CANDIOTTI: Here's how former presidential counselor Dan Bartlett recently sized up some fellow republicans, starting with Mitt Romney.

DAN BARTLETT, PRESIDENTIAL COUNSELOR: I think the Mormon issue is a real problem. Biggest dud, Fred Thompson. President, Huckabee, you got to be kidding.

CANDIOTTI: Jeb Bush focused on each candidate's strengths starting with front runner Rudy Giuliani.

BUSH: He sees the world the way it is and he's direct and he communicates well and he's got high and a tremendous personality. People are drawn towards him.

CANDIOTTI: He used two words to describe late-entry Fred Thompson.

BUSH: Fred Thompson I think is a committed conservative.

CANDIOTTI: Bush gushed over John McCain.

BUSH: His courage, I was in my bed watching this with my wife, I got out of bed and started cheering. I assume you're talking about the Woodstock thing.

CANDIOTTI: He knocked Hillary Clinton to spend $1 million for a Woodstock concert museum.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now my friends, I wasn't there. I'm sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event. I was, I was tied up at the time.

BUSH: He did it in a humble way. Not a way that was grandstanding at all.

CANDIOTTI: This is what impresses Bush about Mitt Romney.

BUSH: Intellectual curiosity which I think the next president of the United States will need to have.

CANDIOTTI: Bush likes Mike Huckabee.

BUSH: He's clear minded about the moral of principals which you can't un-tether, particularly if you believe in limited government, you have to advocate self-government.


CANDIOTTI: Now, Bush wouldn't tip his hand on who his favorite is, insisting that he will support the party's nominee. By the way, one of his sons, George P., is working for Fred Thompson and Jeb, Jr. is working for Rudy Giuliani. Wolf.

BLITZER: Susan Candiotti in Miami reporting, thank you.

The former President Jimmy Carter is now weighing in on several issues from the democratic presidential campaign. The former president is cautioning against assuming that current frontrunner Hillary Clinton will wind up as the nominee. Listen to this.


FORMER PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER: She's way ahead, but I think this time in advance of the democratic primaries, nobody would have dreamed that Michael Dukakis would have been the nominee or John Kerry would have been the nominee or I would have been the nominee or Bill Clinton would have been the nominee. You can't tell this far ahead of time.


BLITZER: President Carter also weighed in on the subject of unidentified flying objects, UFOs. Tuesday's debate the Ohio Congressman and democratic presidential contender, Dennis Kucinich, said he and many other Americans, including the former President Jimmy Carter, have seen UFOs. Today Jimmy Carter clarified his experience.


CARTER: When I was back as a peanut farmer and a head of a club in southwest Georgia, I and about 25 others saw something in the air that changed colors and that was round and came in left. We couldn't figure out what it was. It was unidentified as far as we were concerned. But it is impossible in my opinion. Some people disagree to have space people from other planets or stars that come and say, I don't think that's possible.


BLITZER: Former president was speaking on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING" from a Habitat for Humanity out in Los Angeles.

Game show host and libertarian, Drew Carey, becoming an outspoken advocate for medical marijuana and other causes. You're going to find out what he's saying.

Some parents are outraged as a kid's TV show takes on the subject of torture.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: The debate over torture is a hot topic right here in Washington, but is it an appropriate subject for children. One kid's show addresses the issue. Carol Costello is here and she's watching the story. What is the show and what is it doing talking about torture right now?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm telling you it was a very provocative program. This is interesting that this is coming up now. It was the topic on conservative radio talk shows today and it's the subject of an online rant. The Nick News story was first aired in February, but it is re-release has made some parents really angry.


LINDA ELLERBEE, NICK NEWS: You're standing up against people who make decisions every day.

COSTELLO: Linda Ellerbee's Nick News strives to treat kids with respect tackling weighted topics like the 10-year-old suspected arsonist who started one of California's huge wildfires. And the space shuttle "Discovery's" latest rendezvous with the International Space Station. But the latest edition of Nick News tackled child protesters and their crusade against things like torture, like the abuse at Abu Ghraib and the controversy over waterboarding.

ELLERBEE: Mica (ph) believes the torture of people who are suspected of terrorist connections is a crime in itself.

COSTELLO: With that Ellerbee, featured a 14-year-old boy named Mica (ph) who makes his own torture outfit to mimic pictures from Abu Ghraib and then he hits the street.

MICA (ph): I laid down in the center of the mall where people were walking through and then, eventually, the police came and they told me that I had five seconds to evacuate the building.

COSTELLO: For some parents that was too much, one mother blogging on the Internet, "My 8-year-old doesn't need to listen to this on a network she watchs "Spongebob Squarepants" and "Fairly Odd Parents." Don't kids get enough from the evening news?" Other bloggers telling me, "Try highlighting a young conservative shouting that abortion is murder or talking about immigration in a segment from Nickelodeon and see the outrage it would receive." Others blogging, the kids "are not walking their walk. They're being spoon fed and indoctrinated by the left." They point to Mica's (ph) sign as proof the world can't wait. It has its own website, depicting the president's face in a nuclear mushroom cloud. Its mission, to impeach President Bush, which Mica (ph) did push on Nick News.

KRISTEN FYFE, MEDIA RESEARCH CENTER: A 14-year-old dressing up in an Abu Ghraib costume makes me wonder whether there is some talking from mom and dad that is going on in that.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COSTELLO: Maybe so. I did hear from Nickelodeon who sent me this statement. They said, "The focus was to show that kids' today are not apathetic. Nick News deals with issues that are pervasive in kids' lives and always asks them to think for themselves and form their own opinion. For over 15 years, the Emmy and Peabody Award- winning series has built its reputation on the respectful and direct way it engages its audience and we support its ongoing mission of giving kids a voice." You decide.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much, Carol Costello reporting.

He may be an unlikely advocate for medical marijuana, but the "Price Is Right" host Drew Carey taking up that cause along with others in a political advocacy campaign. Brooke Anderson is on the story from Los Angeles.

DREW CAREY, GAME SHOW HOST: Welcome to the "Price Is Right."

BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Game show host and comedian Drew Carey has built a career on making people smile. Now, he's hoping to make people think about politics.

CAREY: There's one thing they sell here in California that's legal that the federal government doesn't want you to have.

ANDERSON: Carey is producing and starring in a series of issue oriented web videos for reason.TV. In the latest he defends the use of medical marijuana.

CAREY: Medical marijuana has been legal in California since Prop 215 passed in 1996 by a large margin, but the federal government doesn't agree with the citizens of California and uses the controlled substances act to continue to conduct raids on the marijuana dispensaries with the support of local police.

ANDERSON: In another, he advocates privatizing L.A.'s freeway system to alleviate gridlock.

CAREY: Let a private company do it and you get a fast pass and you pay 5 bucks.

DAVID KNOT, REASON FOUNDATION: Drew Carey takes our ideas and puts a recognizable face to them.

ANDERSON: David Knot is president of Reason foundation, a libertarian non-profit behind reason.TV.

CAREY: Here we go, buddy.

ANDERSON: Carey has a long history with Reason. A decade ago, the non-smoker lit up with the group to protest the smoking ban in California restaurants and bars.

CAREY: Send me to jail.

KNOT: He was protesting the lack of freedom and the intrusion of government.

ANDERSON: Carey plans at least 18 more libertarian oriented webisodes in the future.

CAREY: Smell that smell? It's the smell of freedom.


BLITZER: That was our Brooke Anderson reporting. 30 states, by the way, now have some type of medical marijuana law, according to the marijuana policy project. 11 states protect patients and Maryland offers protection from jail, but not from arrest. 18 states, along with the District of Columbia, are on record recognizing the medical benefits of marijuana, but offer no protection. Federal anti-drug law trump state laws that allow the use of medical marijuana.

Lou Dobbs is getting ready for his show that begins right at the top of the hour and Lou standing by with a preview, hi, Lou. Unfortunately, he's not standing by. But we'll get to Lou's preview coming up.

Also coming up Jack Cafferty with answers to your question, his question and that is this hour, do you see a problem with the heads of the Consumer Product Safety Commission taking dozens of trips paid for by the industry's they regulate?

Also, the attorney general nominee won't say whether waterboarding is torture, but some journalists find out from themselves the hard way.

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


BLITZER: All right, let's check back with Jack Cafferty for the Cafferty file. Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the question this hour is do you see a problem with the heads of the Consumer Product Safety Commission taking dozens of trips paid for by the industries they regulate?

Ben writes from Mars, Pennsylvania, "A problem, not at all. I never expected the government to keep me safe. They can't protect me from terrorists. They can't protect me from hurricanes. They can't even protect me from the government itself. How can I get excited that a few products can't get approved because the head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission jumped into bed with the manufacturers? I planned around the problem, though, I don't buy anything."

Jerry in Hawaii writes, "I think it is about time that the government starts doing things honestly. Perhaps all trips of all government officials should be posted on the public website so the public can see. I'd even like to see pork barrel amendments to bills posted so we know what's going on with our congressional folks too." Don't hold your breath.

Gary in Tennessee writes, "There's nothing wrong with a pure business trip being paid for by a company or supplier. Much can be learned from on-site visits. I do have a big problem, though, when they stay at a resort and golf or entertainment is part of the trip."

Frank in Florida writes, "Well Jack, it ought to be no surprise the Bush administration's Consumer Product Safety Commission is in the belly of the giant. This is the same administration that allowed the drug companies to set up Medicare part "D," the same administration that sleeps with Blackwater and Halliburton."

Matthew in Connecticut, "It's obvious that corporations and government are filled with as much lead and poison as toys."

Bobby in Studio City, California, "I'm all for these commission monkeys taking just one more trip to Iraq."

And James writes from Idaho, "Jack, depends on what your definition of conflict of interest is, signed Bill Clinton."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to We post more online along with video clips of the Cafferty file. Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, see you soon. Thank you.

Let's check in with Lou right now to see what is coming up at the top of the hour. We prematurely introduced you a few moments ago.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm delighted to be with you, and as many times as you want to introduce me, I'm delighted. Wolf, thank you very much.

Coming up at the top of the hour tonight, we're reporting on what appears to be an astonishing ethics violation in Washington. Imagine that. A somewhat astonishing even by the standards of this Congress and this White House; top government safety officials accepting overseas trips. You remember ethic's reform and all that. Well, they accepted if from the very same toy companies they're supposed to be regulating, but there may not be quite the conflict here you would expect because they really don't regulate them anyway. Nonetheless, we'll have complete coverage.

Also, the backlash against Governor Spitzer's outrageous decision to give drivers' licenses to illegal aliens; Senator Hillary Clinton's decision to support her governor. Their charges now, however, the federal government is ignoring backlash and, well, just probably won't be putting up with allowing this governor to weaken the real I.D. act.

And a small town in Pennsylvania being threatened by potentially lethal gases. Even more disturbing, officials charged with protecting that town and its residents fail to warn them about the dangers. A little minor item that a little concerning even by 2007 standards of government. We'll have the special report and I'll be joined by three of the nation's best political strategists and analysts and they're going to make some sense over what we call a presidential campaign. I know you've got some excitement building in your home about one of these wonderful candidates. We'll be able to share that with you shortly. Please, join us at the top of the hour. Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Lou, thank you very much.

In news around the world, just within the past few hours the U.S. military now reporting three American airmen killed in combat operations north of Baghdad. But the overall number of U.S. military deaths in Iraq is trending downwards. Our special correspondent Frank Sesno is here in THE SITUATION ROOM with us. What are you seeing, Frank?

FRANK SESNO, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Well this is very interesting, Wolf. We're trending down, as you said. We've asked lots of tough, what if questions here over the past several weeks. What if country flies apart, if Iraq falls apart? What if America packs up and leaves, what if the killing gets worse? Fair is fair.

The number of Americans, Wolf, has fallen. Let's take a look at exactly what we're seeing here. What you see is Americans deaths killed in action trending downward. Forty deaths in October, that is substantially lower than a few months ago. That's the surge at work. Look at what is happening with Iraqi civilian casualties, civilian deaths. This is much more predictable, but still trending downward.

So this week we asked a different question.


SESNO: What if the U.S. death toll in Iraq stays down? Goes down more? What if by this measure things actually improve? Well, hats off to General David Petraeus, first of all, architect of the surge, he'd look even more like a hero. Who knows? Maybe one day he'll run for president.

Speaking of presidents, he may be tempted to say, I told you so, probably not too high profile, though, considering how mission accomplished stood the test of time. The military will be relieved. Fewer battlefield deaths is always good news and maybe the draw down can start at the end of the year as advertised. Political implications if the Iraq death count stays down and helps the republicans stay the course message, especially Giuliani and McCain, who have been most vocal.

MCCAIN: The surge is succeeding in more ways than we even supporters have anticipated.

SESNO: As for the democrats, it's a tougher turn. At this week's debate they weren't asked what if the surge is working. It could have been an awkward moment, though, but they're not likely to change their tune now.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I want to end it.

SESNO: What if Iraq's security picture continues to improve? It will pave the way for the really big test.

Iraq's government is supposed to use the breathing space as President Bush has called it to get its act together. There is some progress, electricity and oil output but back in Baghdad, the sectarian divide hasn't been fixed and oil law hasn't been passed and militias haven't disarmed. Fewer combat deaths is welcome news, but by no means the whole story.


SESNO: By no means the whole story, Wolf. What if these numbers stay down? What is the impact on the American public? Very quickly, back to the wall here once again. What we've seen is we have seen a very stable sense over the course of 2007 of people who say that they do not support, they actually oppose the war, even though there's been some improvement on the ground. And, so, it's, Wolf, most likely that those attitudes will stay and, in fact, the expectation to get out may intensify because they're saying, OK, some stability on the ground, time to come home. So, it's -- it cuts really both ways.

BLITZER: There will be pressure to can declare a victory and get out of there.

SESNO: Or something and get out.

BLITZER: Frank Sesno, thanks very much.

Up ahead, Jeanne Moos shows us what waterboarding looks like. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM


BLITZER: A hotly debated interrogation method could derail the president's pick for the top job over the Justice Department and all the debate over waterboarding has lead journalists to have themselves waterboarding. CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a most unusual and serious look at TV reporters, protesters and amateurs using themselves as demonstrations.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's one thing to see an animation of waterboarding and another to see the real thing. Sound like the Bush administration's nominee for attorney general hasn't seen a demo.

MICHAEL MUKASEY, ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: I don't know what's involved in the technique, if waterboarding is torture, torture is not constitutional.

MOOS: It depends what the definition of waterboarding is, but this reporter didn't define it, he demonstrated it, on himself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you have to say? What do you have to say? MOOS: Kaj Larsen is a reporter for Current TV, Al Gore's outfit. He used to be special ops and once had to undergo waterboarding as part of military training, but this time he paid other professional interrogators.

KAJ LARSEN, REPORTER: I weaseled him down to $800.

MOOS: To waterboard him so folks could decide if it amounts to torture.

LARSEN: It start to create the sensation of drowning.

MOOS: They stuffed a rag into Larsen's mouth. They began pouring and then the shaking began.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he's getting ready to say something.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can end this now, just talk.

MOOS: Larsen's producer actually ended it telling the interrogators to stop after 24 minutes. Normally a person breaks after two or three.


LARSEN: Oh, that sucked.

MOOS: Current TV says Larsen was the first to do a serious demonstration of waterboarding over a year ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only place he can breathe is through his nose and we're going to fill that with water.

MOOS: FOX News reporter, Steve Harrigan, also waterboarded himself. They placed cellophane over his mouth and poured water in his nose.

Anti-war demonstrators have taken the demonstrating waterboarding and posting their protests on You Tube. Even a few amateurs have tried it at home, timing themselves to see how long they can last.


MOOS: Not smart. Do it wrong and experts say waterboarding can kill you. And then there's this instructional waterboarding tape supposedly leaked from the military.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Step two, blindfold your subject.

MOOS: Turns it's a parity. They recommend splashing water generously.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This will overall aid in the overall drowning look and feel.

MOOS: For the good old days when waterboarding meant riding a board on water. Now, that's constitutional, Mr. Attorney general nominee. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: All right, let's go to Lou in New York. Lou.