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Benazir Bhutto Assassinated; Will Bhutto's Death Impact U.S. Presidential Contest?

Aired December 27, 2007 - 20:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: breaking news -- Benazir Bhutto holds Pakistan's president responsible for her assassination in an e-mail sent two months before her death. Tonight, the exclusive story I was asked to report to the world if the former Pakistani prime minister were killed.
Plus, President Bush's tough choices and worst nightmares in Pakistan. Nuclear weapons, the war on terror and the hunt for Osama bin Laden all right now hanging in the balance.

And the terror threat front and center on the U.S. campaign trail -- one week before the first presidential contest, could Bhutto's death change the race?

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

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world to this special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.

Tonight, the story Benazir Bhutto wanted me to tell the world on her behalf if she were assassinated. Just ahead, the secret e-mail written by the former prime minister two months ago.

But, first, Pakistan bracing right now for more rioting and chaos when Bhutto is buried in the coming hours. Officials say she was shot in the neck and chest by a gunman, who then blew himself up. At least 22 others were killed in the attack during a campaign rally today, as Bhutto rode in an armed vehicle, waving to the crowd through the sunroof.

Bhutto's assassination is bringing new instability to a nuclear- armed Muslim nation, a vital U.S. ally in the war on terror, and also the possible -- possible -- hiding place of Osama bin Laden.

My exclusive report on Bhutto's grim warning of what might happen to her and why -- her fears of an assassination have now come true. And only now can I reveal to you what I know.

This past October, Bhutto sent an e-mail to her longtime friend, her U.S. spokesman, Mark Siegel, in Washington.

Addressing the dangers she faced in her homeland, she wrote these word: "Nothing will, God willing, happen. Just wanted you to know, if it does, in addition to the names in my letter to Musharraf of October 16, I would hold Musharraf responsible. I have been made to feel insecure by his minions. And there is no way what is happening, in terms of stopping me from taking private cars or using tinted windows or giving jammers or four police mobiles to cover all sides, could happen without him" -- a direct quote from that e-mail.

At Benazir Bhutto's request, Mark Siegel forwarded that e-mail to me the day he received it. That was on October 26. But told me I could not report on it unless Bhutto were killed.

A few hours ago, I spoke with Mark Siegel and with Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, Mahmud Ali Durrani.

I began by asking Siegel about Bhutto's fears for her life.


BLITZER: Mark, thanks very much for coming in.

I know you and Benazir Bhutto were close for 25 users. You had a longstanding relationship with her. My deepest condolences to you on the death of your friend.

But give us the context of this e-mail that you received from her. This was two months ago.

MARK SIEGEL, FRIEND OF BENAZIR BHUTTO: Wolf, Benazir was -- was very concerned by the lack of security that she had on -- on her arrival in Karachi on October 18.

The circumstances around the assassination attempt on the night of the 18th, the morning of the 19th, was very, very suspicious. There was no investigation. Contrary to anything the ambassador might later say, there was no investigation of that horrendous killing, which killed 179 people.

The -- there -- she had asked that Scotland Yard and the FBI be involved, be brought in for forensic help for the investigation. The government of General Musharraf absolutely refused to have Scotland Yard or the FBI brought in.

As we prepared for the campaign, former Prime Minister Bhutto was very concerned that she was not getting the security that she had asked for and that her husband had asked for. It was very, very specific that they had asked for jammers to -- to set off IEDs. That was denied to be allowed in by the government of General Musharraf.

She had asked for special vehicles. That was denied to her. She had asked for special tinted cars. She had asked for four police vehicles to surround her at all times. She basically asked for all that was required for someone of the standing of a former prime minister. All of that was denied to her.

She sent me the e-mail because she...

BLITZER: Well, let me interrupt -- let me interrupt for a moment, Mark, because I just want to be precise.

This was two months ago, October 26, that she sent you that e- mail. Based on what you know -- and I know you were in contact with her a lot over these two months -- did she not get any of those extra security precautions that she sought?

SIEGEL: She got some police protection, but it was sporadic and erratic. She did not get the jammers that were necessary for the IEDs. She did not get the protection that she thought was necessary.

And she became increasingly concerned that this was not getting any better, but actually getting worse, as she toured the country in preparation for the January 8 election, which she thought was basically rigged from the top down and the bottom up. But she was going to fight the fight, because she was willing to sacrifice everything for the cause of democracy in Pakistan, and has been for most of her life.

BLITZER: I don't know...

SIEGEL: And, today, she paid with her life.

BLITZER: I don't know, Mark, if you saw that picture that was taken of her only moments before she was killed. She was standing up in a -- in the -- in this van, going through the -- the sunroof, which, I have to tell you, given what happened to her upon her return to Karachi after eight years in exile -- and more than 100 people, as you point out, were killed then -- and we're showing our viewers that -- that pictures right now -- some would argue that was pretty reckless on her part, to be going up and speaking like that through -- unprotected in a van sunroof.

SIEGEL: Benazir Bhutto believed in democracy and she believed in speaking to the people.

It's not reckless to go out and touch the people. Don't blame the victim for the crime. The person that was supposed to be protecting Benazir Bhutto and the other candidates was the government of Pakistan, was the government of General Pervez Musharraf. Don't blame the victim. Blame them.

BLITZER: No, we're not blaming the victim. But we're just pointing out that, only moments before she was killed, she was seen in this -- in this picture standing up through the sunroof in this van.

Let me bring the ambassador, Mahmud Ali Durrani, into this conversation.

Mr. Ambassador, you have heard the complaints. I want to get your reaction.

MAHMUD ALI DURRANI, PAKISTANI AMBASSADOR TO UNITED STATES: Well, I respect Mr. Siegel. He's a very knowledgeable man, indeed, and he got this mail from Benazir Bhutto. That is also true. I'm aware of that.

But I think it is a bit naive if you try and blame the government of Musharraf or the government of Pakistan that this happened because there were inadequate protection. When she came to Karachi -- let me put the record straight for everybody -- that there were, I think, a sea of security people.

There was -- she was surrounded by police vehicles. And, had it not been one of the police vehicles which took the blast in Karachi, unfortunately, she would have died there. There was a bubble around her of security. The PPP insisted that they have their own private loyalists around. They were there, too.

And there were about 7,800 to 8,000 security people deployed just for that. And that is more security than anybody deploys anywhere in the world.

BLITZER: Let me -- Mr. Ambassador, let me ask you specifically whether those items that she requested back in that e-mail on October 26, whether they were in fact made available to her.

Mark Siegel says they were not, including using tinted windows or giving jammers for police mobiles to cover all sides. Did she get the specific -- the specific security precautions that she thought she needed to stay alive?

DURRANI: Wolf, she is not a security person. She's a politician.

I think the government of Pakistan provided her all the security that was necessary. Now, you tell me, even without jammer or tinted windows, the way she was hit, she would have been hit with tinted windows or without tinted windows, or without the IEDs. No IED was used, no use of tinted windows.

So, it's just a blame game. And the problem with this blame game, to my fear, is that the real culprits are going to get away.


BLITZER: Coming up, more of my interview with the ambassador and with Mark Siegel. You are going to hear what Siegel and the ambassador are saying about their personal reflections on Benazir Bhutto. That is coming up later.

Bhutto knew the risks, but believed her work was worth it.


BENAZIR BHUTTO, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF PAKISTAN: I put my faith in God. I feel that what I'm doing is for a good cause, for a right cause, to save Pakistan from extremists and militants.


BLITZER: You are going to hear her chilling words in an interview she gave me in THE SITUATION ROOM only days before her return to Pakistan.

Extremists hoped to kill Bhutto from the day she returned. She even pleaded to Pakistan's president for more protection. Was lax security a factor in her killing? I will ask one of her friends who is an expert on the region, Arnaud de Borchgrave. He is standing by.

And will the assassination help terrorists roaming in some of Pakistan's lawless regions? We are referring to al Qaeda and the Taliban. You are going to get a rare inside look at a place normally off limits to TV cameras.

Much more of our coverage -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Benazir Bhutto's assassination raising serious questions about Pakistan, a Muslim nation nuclear-armed that's literally on the front lines in the war on terrorism.

Joining us now is Arnaud de Borchgrave to discuss what lies ahead. He's with the Center For Strategic and International Studies, a bipartisan research and analysis organization in Washington.

Arnaud, first of all, my condolences to you. I know you were friendly with Benazir for many, many, many years.


BLITZER: And it's a sad day for a lot of us who knew her.


BLITZER: But give us your sense.

In this e-mail -- and she was e-mailing with you throughout this period as well, as she returned to Pakistan after eight years in exile -- she pinned a lot of the problems not only on Musharraf, but other high-ranked officials in Pakistan's military and intelligence services.

How credible is that complaint that she made?

DE BORCHGRAVE: I think it's very credible.

And most of the people that hate her and are former members of the intelligence services are retired, such as General Hamid Gul. There are tens of thousands of people who would have loved to have seen her dead, Wolf.

I asked General Musharraf how many extremists you have in your country. He said it's about 1 percent, which is 1.6 million people. So, there literally hundreds of thousands of people who could have been on a list of suspects.

If you go up to the frontier with Afghanistan, north and south Waziristan, Jaibor (ph) tribal agency, all those places now are under al Qaeda and Taliban control. The Pakistani army is not fighting there anymore. They are in some places, but not in the key areas where the Taliban has got its privileged sanctuaries. They have gotten them back. You also have to look at the two provinces -- that is Balochistan and the Northwest Frontier Province -- where you have regional governments that are actually friendly to Taliban and to al Qaeda.

BLITZER: Well, how worried should we be about this Muslim country's nuclear arsenal right now? How secure are these nuclear warheads, given the uncertainty, the instability that potentially lies ahead?

DE BORCHGRAVE: Well, all we can do is take General Musharraf's word for it that they are secure, that the launchers and the warheads are stored in different places, as I understand it, at least 12 different places around the country.

We have given them all the equipment they need to secure those installations. But we have not been allowed -- our people have not been allowed to see them.

BLITZER: You have known -- you knew Benazir Bhutto for many, many years. I spoke with her just before she left. And she said she was willing to put her hand -- her fate in the hands of Allah. She was a fairly religious Muslim.

But what motivated her to give up the safety of the West -- she was living in Dubai and London, coming to the United States often -- to go into the area, knowing the dangers were as great as they were?

DE BORCHGRAVE: Well, she knew, of course, the minute that the decision was at hand to take off from Dubai to Karachi -- that's when I got the message, as you well know, not to come, because she felt that she would be endangering my life. That was the last message I got from her until she got home.

Then, as you know, a few hours later, 141 people were killed and over 350 injured when that first attempt was made to kill her. The only thing that surprised me was that it happened today. But I was expecting it to happen any day.

Obviously, you're never prepared for the absolute, the ultimate shock of these things, but I had -- it wasn't really a surprise to me. I realized that, when she went back, she was in effect condemning herself to a violent death.

The history of Pakistan is a blood-soaked history, as we well know. The military have been in charge for half of the 60 years that country has been in existence. And these military coups take place because democracy was not working. And that has happened time and again.

BLITZER: It was oh so predictable, but still oh so tragic and so sad.

Arnaud de Borchgrave, thanks very much for joining us.

DE BORCHGRAVE: Thank you, Wolf. Benazir Bhutto recently talked with me about being the target of terrorists. I asked her what she was more afraid of. Would it be al Qaeda terrorists or elements in the Pakistani military? You are going to hear her response.

And what impact might Bhutto's assassination have on the U.S. presidential race? Already, some of the candidates are talking about how they would handle a crisis like this one.

Much more of our special coverage coming up -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Benazir Bhutto spoke with us here at CNN many times over the years. She was in THE SITUATION ROOM with us in Washington last September, just before her return to Pakistan.

In light of today's horrible tragedy, that conversation about her hopes and her fears is especially poignant.


BLITZER: You're a relatively young woman. How scared are you, though, because as you know, Osama bin Laden and other terrorists, they have attacked you in the past and they clearly would like to go after you now.

BHUTTO: Yes, of course they would like to go against me. There's a lot at threat, because under military dictatorship, an anarchic situation has developed which the terrorists and Osama bin Laden have exploited. They don't want democracy. They don't want me back.

BLITZER: And they don't want a woman to be the prime minister of Pakistan, either.

BHUTTO: And they don't believe in women governing nations, so they will try to plot against me, but these are risks that must be taken. I'm prepared to take them.

BLITZER: Yes, your family has a history unfortunately, a tragic history, of assassinations.

BHUTTO: I know the past has been tragic, but I'm an optimist by nature. I put my faith in the people of Pakistan. I put my faith in God. I feel that what I am doing is for a good cause, for a right cause, to save Pakistan from extremists and militants and to build regional security. I know the danger is out there, but I'm prepared to take those risks.

BLITZER: Your father was killed in a political assassination.

BHUTTO: My father was killed. It was a very terrible moment in my life. But I also learned from him that one has to stand up for the principles they believe in. And I'm standing up for the principle of democracy.

I'm standing up for moderation. And I'm standing up for hope for all the people in Pakistan who today are poor and miserable and really quite desperate.

BLITZER: What kind of security will you have when you go back there?

BHUTTO: Well, I have raised the issue of my security with General Musharraf, and I've asked him to provide me the security that I'm entitled to as a former prime minister. I hope that he will provide me the security, because I have been a target of terrorists in the past. And I know I could be a target in the future.

BLITZER: Who are you more afraid of, the al Qaeda, Taliban elements who hate you, or elements in the Pakistani military?

BHUTTO: I'm not afraid of either the al Qaeda or the Taliban elements or the Pakistani military.

But I think, at the end of the day, the people who try and plot will use al Qaeda, will use Taliban, because Taliban and al Qaeda are the groups that will suffer the most major reverses if my party and I are returned to power. We fought them in the past because we want a stable Pakistan, a prosperous Pakistan, and we can't get any stability with militancy and extremists.

BLITZER: The president -- you've had a strained relationship, to put it mildly, with President Musharraf. In his book he says that when you ran your party, you were chairperson for life in the tradition of the old African dictators -- strong words coming from him.

And all the charges of corruption, that your party was rife with corruption, your husband, what do you say to those allegations, which some, including Michael Scheuer, the former CIA analyst, said had a strong element of truth?

BHUTTO: Well, I would say that a person is innocent unless proved otherwise. There's no sentence against me. These are politically motivated charges.

When the chief justice of Pakistan proved to be a problem, he was slapped with corruption charges. These are deliberate allegations made to detract attention from the institutionalized corruption of the military. Transparency International, a reputed international group, has said that corruption under the military regime is far greater than it was under previous civilian predecessors.


BLITZER: Benazir Bhutto speaking with me in THE SITUATION ROOM on September 26.

Pakistan is known as terror central, and CNN's Nic Robertson has seen it firsthand. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): This is Quetta, a major Pakistani city close to the Afghan border, normally off limits to journalists.


BLITZER: Coming up, an except from Nic's documentary on a nuclear nation where terrorists may be hiding right now and danger around every corner.

Plus, President Bush facing some harsh new realities after Benazir Bhutto's assassination. Will he be forced to change course to protect Americans from terrorists?

And the candidates for Mr. Bush's job have plenty to say about Bhutto's death and what should be done right now -- the best political team on television on this global crisis and the presidential race. One week tonight, the Iowa caucuses.

We will be right back.


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

Happening now: Benazir Bhutto is assassinated. Security experts say it didn't have to happen. And they're getting specific about what went wrong.

Bhutto knew she was risking her life. She recently sent an e- mail to be made public only in the event of her death. We reveal the contents tonight.

And this killing also puts national security and worries about terrorism right back on voters' minds just one week before the Iowa caucuses. It could shake up the race for the White House. We will examine all of this with the best political team on television.

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

Truly stunning security lapses that may have cost Benazir Bhutto her life -- security experts in this country are appalled at the way she was left vulnerable to attack.

CNN's Carol Costello is standing by live. She's been talking to security experts.

What are they saying, Carol?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I will tell you, they are shaking their heads. So many precautions could have been taken to protect Benazir Bhutto, but they were not.

But it's not so black and white. It's difficult to protect a woman who was running for office, especially in a place where there are so many people willing to kill themselves to kill.


COSTELLO (voice-over): From the moment Benazir Bhutto went back to Pakistan, she became a target, and she knew it, telling CNN she knew she was risking her life.

Yet, security experts say she exposed herself, as many candidates running for office do, allowing people close enough to touch her. She needed that political money shot.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I just think we have to bear in mind how difficult it is to protect people in an environment like this, particularly if the protected party does not stay inside that security bubble that's created by security people.

COSTELLO: As Bhutto spoke in a city park, Pakistani officials told us she was surrounded by personal and government security, a detail as big as President Musharraf's. At this point, the crowd around her was under control. But, when she left the podium, that began to change.

You can see a man reaching out for her being restrained. And, just before Bhutto gets into her vehicle, the crowd around her grows.

KEN ROBINSON, TERRORISM EXPERT: There's no crowd control where there's no way to discern between those who were in her security service and just the general public. It's very hard for anyone who's trying to protect her to sort out who the threats are.

COSTELLO: Then according to Robinson, Bhutto's security failed to protect her as the candidate was getting into her car, allowing her to be exposed to the crowd.

ROBINSON: You just don't do it. From a security standpoint, you would have wanted to have that car covered and not have anyone around it.

COSTELLO: The pictures do show Bhutto's vehicle was only partially armored, not fully equipped to withstand most explosive attacks.

ROBINSON: They simply don't use them because the candidate then looks like they're hiding.

COSTELLO: And Bhutto clearly wasn't. You can see her vehicle had a sunroof. It's something you will never see used in the United States because of what happened to President Kennedy.

ROBINSON: They got rid of the bubble. They got rid of those open cars in the United States based on the loss of that president.

COSTELLO: And what happened to President Kennedy happened to Bhutto. As she waved to the crowd through that sunroof, a gunman shot her in the neck and then blew himself up. Bhutto died in a Pakistani hospital two miles away. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: And chillingly, Wolf, the park where Bhutto was speaking was named after Pakistan's first prime minister. He himself was assassinated there in 1951.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: A horrible history of assassinations and death in Pakistan. All right, Carol, thanks very much.

Benazir Bhutto laying preemptive blame for assassination on President Pervez Musharraf in that e-mail that she shared exclusively with us. She wrote that e-mail only two months before she was killed. She held the Pakistani leader responsible should anything happen to her.

Let's talk about that and more with our senior national correspondent John King. He's here in New York along with our senior political analyst Gloria Borger and our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley. They're both in Des Moines, Iowa, watching the fallout, out on the political campaign.

The security really was an awful situation in Pakistan, John, under the best of circumstances. It's always, always risky but for her especially a few weeks after she arrived after eight years in exile, 140 or so people were killed in that initial attack on her. You know, so many questions remain to be answered.

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So many questions, Wolf, and the finger pointing in that chilling e-mail you just recounted that you received through Mark Siegel from Benazir Bhutto, is only likely to exacerbate the political tensions on the ground because as you well know, she says if anything happens to me in that e-mail she blames Musharraf.

Her supporters are already blaming Musharraf, so how do you bring about political reconciliation at a time Pakistan desperately needs it? The question now for Musharraf is, do you delay the elections or do you go forward? Does he try to reimpose any types of emergency power? And as he does that, you know that the most popular political leader in the country right now has been assassinated, and her supporters are feeling raw and angry and they blame the president of their own country.

BLITZER: And you know, Gloria, this coming -- in this e-mail that she wrote two months ago, she says if anything were to happen to her, I will hold Musharraf responsible. That's a direct quote. "I will hold Musharraf responsible."

It doesn't mean he directly tried to kill her, but she believed he was complacent because he and his security services didn't provide her the security that she needed.

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that the big question, Wolf, that's being asked right now, what if any role did Musharraf have in this, either implicit or complicit? Did he not give her the security that indeed she says she wanted and was not supplied, or is this something that could not have been avoided?

I mean, from Carol Costello's story, it seems clear that security experts in this country believed that this is something that could have been avoided. But then, of course, there are political implications because Musharraf is our friend and that's going to be raised in this political campaign have we bet on the wrong guy or gotten too close to him. After all, we talk about promoting democracy in this country.

BLITZER: Candy, there are already as enormous political fallout where you are on the campaign trail. The Democrats and the Republicans, they're making statements galore.

CANDY CROWLEY, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: They are, and what's interesting here is it enhances what they've really been arguing about, certainly on the Democratic side for a year. I mean, what they want to do at this point, what they all did at this point one way or the other was say, listen, I got foreign policy experience, whether it was Joe Biden or John Edwards who said well, I've just spoken with Musharraf.

They all kind of wanted to be out there saying if I were in charge, I would know, you know, what I'm doing. The Obama campaign, the Clinton campaign -- obviously, that's where the whole experience issue has played out. So the question really is now as we go forward over the next week, and that's all they have between now and the caucuses, does there -- is something going to happen in Pakistan? Will the tensions only heighten, which makes this a much more visible story? And therefore, in a race that is this close on both the Republican and the Democratic side really could make a meaningful difference in the outcome.

BLITZER: And I want to get to all that political stuff in a moment. But, John, very quickly before we take a break. For the president, President Bush, who's really aligned closely with President Musharraf right now, he's got all his eggs effectively in Musharraf's basket.

KING: And he has very few choices, Wolf. The critics will say you gave him too long of a leash. You should have pushed for elections a few years ago. Now, let him go so long without Democratic reform. The critics will also say billions and billions of economic aid and military aid have gone to Pakistan for what?

Osama bin Laden is still on the loose. Al Qaeda and the Taliban on the rise in the remote areas. So while the president is criticized at home, he has very little choice overseas. All he can do is support President Musharraf and try to tell him maybe a brief time-out in this election season until Benazir Bhutto's party tries to regroup, but he has. The president's only option is stick with Musharraf and tell Musharraf he has to stick with this elections eventually.

BLITZER: Only the other day, a few couple of weeks ago when I interviewed President Bush, he expressed his rock bottom solid support for President Musharraf. All right, guys. Stand by. We're going to continue this conversation. We'll have more with the best political team on television as the White House hopefuls are feeling the shock waves from the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

It's happening in Iowa, New Hampshire. Iowa, by the way, only one week away, the caucuses. Will what happened today in Pakistan have any impact on the voters? Plus, he calls her the bravest person he ever knew. Bhutto's American spokesman and long-time friend shares some very emotional memories. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Benazir Bhutto's assassination is thrusting terror and security concerns right through the front of the stage in the race for the White House with the Iowa caucuses now exactly one week away.

We're back with our chief national correspondent John King, our CNN senior political correspondent Gloria Borger, and our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley.

David Axelrod, Gloria, who is a stop strategist for the Barack Obama campaign, he made this statement today and it's causing a lot of angst out there. I'm going to play it. Listen.


DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA CAMPAIGN CHIEF STRATEGIST: She was a strong supporter of the war in Iraq which we would submit is one of the reasons why we were diverted from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Al Qaeda, who may have been players in this event today. So, that's a judgment she'll have to defend.


BLITZER: He's referring to Hillary Clinton. And a lot of people are saying he may have crossed the line and went too far and sort of pinning some of the blame on her for what happened to Benazir Bhutto today. You spoke with him. Tell us what he said.

BORGER: I did. I did. You know, as Jack Cafferty would say, it's getting ugly out there, Wolf. I spoke with him after he said that to a group of reporters at an Obama event earlier in the day, and I gave him the opportunity to take it back a bit. He kind of backtracked and said I don't mean to draw a straight line between Hillary Clinton's vote for the war in Iraq and what happened in Pakistan today, but he did make the same argument that Obama has been making about diverting resources away from getting Al Qaeda in Afghanistan because of the war in Iraq and he did not back off of that.

BLITZER: Are you sensing, Candy, you're out there that what happened in Pakistan, half a world away, is having an impact already on the race for the White House? CROWLEY: Well, sure, because it changed the conversation today. I mean that's what they talked about. So any time you change the conversation, you are going to change the dynamic. I mean, there are still voters out there that are undecided. Quite a few of them. If you listen to the pros here in Iowa, so along comes this issue.

You know, we've kind of been trending to economics as the top concern. Now comes a reminder that the world can turn on a dime. So what these campaigns believe is now is the time to begin to talk again about foreign policy, about the security of the U.S. I mean, this is after all, a nuclear-armed nation in Pakistan.

So, yes, I think it's already changed the conversation. And when you look at the Republicans and you look at the Democrats and you see how close they are in the polls, anything can change this race, in particular something like this.

BLITZER: And, I assume, John, that those candidates with heavy national security or foreign policy experience are going to benefit first, perhaps in these final days before the voters turn out. Listen to John McCain, for example, on how he reacted.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I knew Benazir Bhutto. I know Musharraf very well. And if I were president of the United States, I would be on the phone right now and I would be meeting with the National Security Council.


BLITZER: All right. What do you think?

KING: Well, he went on to say, Wolf, later talking to reporters that comparing himself to Rudy Giuliani saying Giuliani did a masterful job in New York after 9/11 but that is managing a crisis. That is not managing national security and foreign policy. So John McCain clearly thinks there's an opening here.

And, Wolf, Candy's dead right. This does refocus voters. The last election was the first one since 9/11. Many believe George W. Bush won that election since he was able to convince the country don't take a risk on John Kerry even though the Iraq war was turning more unpopular.

Now voters face this choice. George W. Bush will be leaving the stage. Osama bin Laden is still at large. The next president will inherit probably 100,000 to 120,000 troops in Iraq. They weren't thinking about it as much because the economy, health care and issues like that were taking the top of the agenda, if you will. You know they're thinking about it today. The question is, is this still at the top of their minds when the voters in Iowa, one week from tonight, make the first votes in this contest.

BLITZER: And Gloria, you know, go ahead make your point. BORGER: I was in the campaign rally with Obama today, though, where the question was not raised about Benazir Bhutto. In fact, at the beginning of the rally, Obama said look, I'm sorry. I was late because I was on the phone with military officials. I was on the phone with the state department because I need to be in touch with what's going on in the world, but then went into his closing argument about why voters should support him. And the questions were questions about health care and education.

BLITZER: Interesting. You know, a lot of us remember what happened on the eve of the elections in 2004. All of a sudden Osama bin Laden had that video that came out. And some have suggested that wound up helping George W. Bush get reelected and hurt John Kerry in the process. All of this goes to show how an external event could have enormous impacts on the political process right here at home.

John King, Gloria Borger, Candy Crowley, thanks guys very much. Coming up, an inside look at Benazir Bhutto. Her long-time friend explains why she put her life on the line and shares his emotional memories of the slain leader.

Plus, how the Taliban moved freely between Pakistan and Afghanistan. We're going to take you to the front lines "Terror Central," a rare look. You're going to want to see this right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: She was Pakistan's first woman prime minister and opposition leader and a champion for democracy, but Benazir Bhutto also was a wife, a mother and a friend. Now, personal reflections on Benazir Bhutto from the Pakistani Ambassador to the United States and her long-time friend, Mark Siegel.

Mark, I want to pick your brain. You've had a 25-year relationship with Benazir Bhutto. I've gotten to know her somewhat over the past several years myself. But this is painful for you given that relationship, that friendship you had with her. But tell us something about this woman that our viewers in the United States and around the world should know.

MARK SIEGEL, FRIEND OF BENAZIR BHUTTO: She -- she was the bravest person I ever knew. She was -- she was a very strong person. She was totally committed to the cause of democracy. She had -- was totally committed to sacrificing her own personal happiness for the people of Pakistan. Pakistan always came first before her children, before her husband, but certainly before herself. She knew that there were risks coming back, but those risks were important. She fought for the fight for democracy.

I asked her so many times over the years, you are brilliant, you are -- you are young. You are beautiful. You are so well educated. You have a wonderful family. You could have a wonderful life anywhere. Why are you doing this? And she said it is my destiny to go back and fight for the democracy and for freedom in Pakistan. And that always will come first and my family understands that, though. We have just collaborated on a book which will be coming out in January called "Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West," which is a book about hope and a book about the future and a book about everything that today wasn't. A time when, within Islam and between Islam and the west, problems can be reconciled peacefully and, you know, in a way that promotes peace in the future.

Benazir Bhutto told me that I shouldn't be afraid for her, that she was committed to God, that she had faith in God, and that she was in the hands of God. And today, she is.

BLITZER: Mr. Ambassador, I know you knew Benazir Bhutto as well. Give me a final thought on this extraordinary woman.

MAHMUD ALI DURRANI, PAKISTANI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Yes. First of all, for a change, I will agree with Mr. Siegel. I think all that he said I agree with him totally. She was a great woman, daughter of a great father. I have served under her, and in fact, I had dinner with her when she was in Washington recently. We discussed the political situation. I think her legacy will be a liberal democracy which will outlive her.

BLITZER: Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much for joining us. Our condolences to the people of Pakistan on this very sad day. Mark Siegel, thanks to you as well. Our condolences to you and all of her friends and family. A loss, a great loss indeed for the world. Benazir Bhutto was 54 years old.

Pakistan is front and center on the war on terror. It shares a border with Afghanistan. It's a key U.S. ally and its military has nuclear weapons. Its lawless tribal regions are the suspected hideouts of the world's most dangerous, most wanted terrorists including Osama bin Laden.

CNN senior international correspondent Nic Robertson has traveled extensively throughout Pakistan and the region over the last two years for his documentary "Pakistan: Terror Central." In this excerpt, he shows us how the Taliban move freely between Pakistan and Afghanistan.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Watch as this man threatens our cameramen. He and his friends don't want to be filmed. It's un-Islamic, they say. Off camera, they tell us they're Afghan Taliban fighters.

But these streets they brazenly stroll and not in Afghanistan. This is Quetta, a major Pakistani city close to the Afghan border. Normally off limits to journalists, I was given a rare government- escorted tour in April 2007.

ROBERTSON (on camera): It's after 11:00 at night and the police are taking us on patrol through Pashtunabad. It's an area that people in the city have told us is where the Taliban live, where the police want to show us is that they don't see the Taliban. They don't have any problems from them here. But the police don't patrol these back alleys and concede what the Taliban do there is beyond their control.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Pakistani journalist, Amir Mir, an outspoken critic of President Pervez Musharraf, moves around Quetta freely and sees much more than I'm allowed.

AMIR MIR, PAKISTAN JOURNALIST: Pakistan is the sanctuary for the Taliban. Almost the entire leadership of Taliban is hiding in Quetta.


MIR: In Pakistan.

TARIQ KHOSA, BALOCHISTAN INSPETOR GENERAL: There is absolutely no truth in this thing that there is some kind of a hub of Taliban leadership, or Taliban is taking it as a sanctuary, staying here, planning their movement.

ROBERTSON: But all along the border north of Quetta, U.S. troops are finding the Taliban are getting stronger. So strong, Musharraf cut a deal rather than confront them in Pakistan. He agreed not to hunt them down in return for a cease-fire.

PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, PRESIDENT OF PAKISTAN: Let's isolate the Taliban. With the people, take the people on your side. Otherwise, the most disastrous thing which could happen now and it is happening on the upland side, I'm trying to prevent it on the Pakistan side, is to convert Taliban movement into the people's movement.

ROBERTSON (on camera): So where we're walking up to right now, we're looking already into Afghanistan here as what? Just a few hundred meters away?


ROBERTSON (voice-over): To learn more, I head to Pakistan's tribal border area. The general in charge here tells me the Taliban he targets are homegrown Pakistani, not Afghan Taliban, and it's costing his soldiers dearly. Hundreds have been killed.

HAYAT: At night, they will put some IEDs somewhere on the road and later on, one of the comrades go in. They will just blast it off from the remote control and all that.

ROBERTSON: While we are here, we discover you can buy the latest Taliban videos of just such attacks in local markets. They're reminiscent of Iraqi insurgent propaganda. Even their terror tactics like IEDs, now beheading, seem honed in Iraq.

HAYAT: They also started resorting to -- which was a new phenomena in this area to the suicide killing.

ROBERTSON: Musharraf's compromised deal left tribes in the Taliban to police themselves while the army stuck to bases of border check posts.

ROBERTSON (on camera): Thank you again. Thank you. ROBERTSON (voice-over): From my travels and conversations, I can see that the deal was made from a position of weakness. It had little to do with protecting U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Musharraf was trying to save his own soldiers and keep the support of his army.

MUSHARRAF: We put a bottom line with them when we reached an agreement. There'll be no Taliban activity. There'll be no Al Qaeda activity on our side or across the border, and they have signed and they have agreed to this.

ROBERTSON: But the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate report issued in the summer of 2007 says that policy failed. It says the Taliban's ally, Al Qaeda, has used the deal to regroup in the border region and is now a growing threat to the U.S.


BLITZER: And please be sure to watch at 11:00 p.m. Eastern tonight. CNN's Special Investigations Unit will premiere Nic's report, "Pakistan: Terror Central."

Just a few minutes, "LARRY KING LIVE" has reports on the aftermath of the Benazir Bhutto assassination. Tonight's guests include presidential candidates Barack Obama, Rudy Giuliani and John Edwards. And we're getting new information about the deadly tiger attack over at the San Francisco Zoo. A check of other headlines that's coming up next.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Carol Costello with a check of the headlines now.

The wall around that tiger enclosure at the San Francisco Zoo was too low. Officials say the 12-1/2 foot wall was as much as four feet below national standards.

In the meantime, the "San Francisco Chronicle" is reporting the victims may have taunted the tiger. The paper says a shoe and blood were found inside the enclosure, but the police chief says only a footprint was found.

Powerful winds left thousands of southern California residents without power. Gusts with excess of 60 miles an hour knocked down power lines from Hollywood to West Los Angeles and kicked up blinding dust on desert roads.

And some tax filers won't be getting their refunds as quickly as they hoped. Congress waited until the end of the '07 session to fix the problem with the alternative minimum tax. Now, the IRS says it won't be able to start processing forms until February, delaying potential refunds by at least a month.