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Obama's NASCAR Strategy; Student Abroad Murder Mystery; Real Life "Jaws" Scare; War Crimes Charges Expected Against Leaders of Sudan; Interview with Pakistan's New Foreign Minister

Aired July 11, 2008 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, new controversy over U.S. treatment of terror suspects -- allegations of a secret international report saying top American leaders could actually be open to charges of war crimes.

Also, casualties of war -- funerals of Iraq War veterans hidden from public view, with one U.S. official fired for getting the military to abide by its own rules.

And Barack Obama reaching out to red state voters with an intriguing new tactic. We're going to take you inside his so-called NASCAR strategy.

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

They've been controversial from day one. Now there's word Bush administration policies toward terror suspects could expose top officials to war crimes charges.

Let's go to Brian Todd. He's looking into the allegations of a secret report.

Brian, what are you finding out?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, according to a new book, this secret report came from the International Committee of the Red Cross. Now, that group never discusses its reports and is upset that this became public. But the accounts of this document lay some serious allegations on the White House doorstep.


TODD (voice-over): New suggestions of accountability at the highest level for the treatment of terror suspects. In her new book, "The Dark Side," Jane Mayer, correspondent for "The New Yorker" writes: "of a report from the International Committee of the Red Cross.

According to Mayer's unnamed sources familiar with the report, it describes the CIA's treatment of Al Qaeda suspects like Abu Zubaydah "categorically as 'torture' and warned that the abuse constituted war crimes, placing the highest officials in the U.S. government in jeopardy of being prosecuted." A representative for another high value detainee, who has unsuccessfully pursued war crimes charges against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, isn't surprised by the allegation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seems quite clear that the orders to implement this torture program, both in the United States, in terms of Guantanamo, and internationally, came from the very top. And once it has become clear that that's the case, all of the people, including people very close to the president and the president himself, need to be prepared to justify the authorization of that torture program.

TODD: ICRC officials told us they would not comment on the book, other than to say they're upset that the information attributed to them was made public. The ICRC often meets with detainees at Guantanamo, but its reports are for government officials only.

White House officials also would not comment on the book.

Mayer writes her sources describe how Abu Zubaydah was locked for long periods in a cage "so small, he said he had to double up his limbs in a fetal position." And, "Zubaydah described being thrust head first against a bare concrete wall."

U.S. officials have admitted that Abu Zubaydah and other detainees were waterboarded, but they say al Qaeda operatives were also trained to invent allegations of torture. And CNN analyst Jeffrey Toobin says this of a possible legal case against White House officials.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: A written report is, by definition, hearsay. It also may not have taken into consideration whether the allegation is true. It may not have gotten the U.S. government's side of the story.


TODD: We did attempt to do that. We contacted the CIA about the allegations in this book. A CIA spokesman said the interrogation program was set up with legal guidance from the Department of Justice and: "The interrogation methods used to question detainees have been lawful, safe and effective. This program has yielded valuable information," he said, "that has helped the United States and other countries save lives and disrupt terrorist operations." -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And you've also gotten back some brush back, at least from one top official mentioned in the book, isn't that right, Brian?

TODD: Yes, Wolf.

A short time ago, I spoke with Cofer Black. He's the former head of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center.

Now in her book, Jane Mayer quotes another CIA official as saying that Black mentioned that: "Some day, we'll all probably all be prosecuted." That's for their efforts to go after terrorists. Black told me he never said anything like that to that official. BLITZER: All right. We'll watch this story.

She's going to be a guest, by the way, here in THE SITUATION ROOM next Tuesday. Jane Mayer of the "New Yorker" on her new book. We'll talk to her then.

Brian, thank you.

While the likelihood of American leaders charged with war crimes remains remote, it's a very real possibility in one troubled part of Africa.

Let's go to our State Department correspondent, Zain Verjee.

She's got the latest -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Sudan's leader could be the next sitting president to be charged with war crimes.


VERJEE (voice-over): Sudan's president has defied the world and it's coming back to haunt him as a campaign of mass murder goes on in the Darfur region of his country -- hundreds of thousands killed, more than three million displaced.

Next week, the International Criminal Court is expected to issue an arrest warrant for Omar al-Bashir, for genocide and crimes against humanity.

But Sudan is still defiant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is very serious. And all of them are hoping for our reaction.

QUESTION: Would those reactions include taking some of the peacekeepers hostage?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All are options, I tell you.

VERJEE: Earlier this week, seven peacekeepers were ambushed and killed.

BAN KI-MOON, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: I condemn such violence in the strongest of possible terms.

VERJEE: The United States is warning Sudan against revenge attacks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Violence serves the purpose of no party.

VERJEE: It's unknown whether we'll see Bashir in a courtroom, as in the case of Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic. The U.S. is staying on the sidelines of this fight. The U.S. no longer recognizes the court because it fears U.S. officials or military members could be prosecuted in politically motivated cases. The United States also works with Sudan on counterterrorism.

Real action may be up to the U.N. Security Council. But it's divided, with Olympic host China squarely in Sudan's camp.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would be a huge mistake for the Security Council to -- to stop the course of justice and accountability.


VERJEE: And arrest warrants could come as early as Monday -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll watch with you.

Zain Verjee reporting.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: In case you haven't noticed, Wolf, Iran is holding a fistful of aces at the poker table these days.

Consider this. The Islamic Republic, the second largest producing country of oil in OPEC -- four million barrels a day. The head of OPEC warns any military conflict involving Iran could result in what he calls "an unlimited increase in oil prices."

Think today's record of $147 a barrel is high?

He says the other members of OPEC would not be able to make up for lost production and that crude prices could head through the roof. Some experts predicting $250 a barrel or more.

Meanwhile, Iran continues to go along with its nuclear program. In an attempt to showcase some of its military might, the Iranians test fired a long-range missile Wednesday and several shorter range missiles on Wednesday and Thursday, although there's some question now about the authenticity of those tests.

A top Iranian military official has threatened to close down the Strait of Hormuz if Iran is attacked. Seventeen million barrels of oil a day flow through the Straits of Hormuz.

In light of these missile tests, the U.S. and Israel are beginning to flex their muscles, as well. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, "The United States will defend our interests and defend our allies."

That's a quote.

Israel, whom Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has vowed to destroy, also chiming in. Defense Minister Ehud Barak says he favors sanctions and diplomatic pressure but that Israel has proved in the past it's not afraid to act if its security is deemed to be at risk.

So here's the question: What should be done about Iran, considering how much influence it has over the world's oil supply? Go to and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You know, with oil now approaching $150 a barrel, can you imagine the transfer of wealth -- the billions and billions of dollars going to a country like Iran right now?

CAFFERTY: Well, I saw a thing the other day that at the current price of crude oil, the transfer of wealth from the United States to the Middle East totals $700 billion per year -- just from this country to them.

BLITZER: Unbelievable.


BLITZER: All right. We'll check back with you in a few moments, Jack.


BLITZER: Here are some of the stories we're working on this hour.

The first death is reported in California as wildfires spread. The governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, taking some drastic action, calling in the National Guard. They've been on the battlefields in Iraq. Now they're on the fire lines.

Also, Osama bin Laden strongly believed to be hiding out in Pakistan.

So why hasn't he been caught?

I'll ask the country's new foreign minister. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Plus, long lines and huge demand for Apple's third generation iPhone. It's faster, it's cheaper and some say it doesn't work.

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


BLITZER: This just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

It could be the first wildfire-related death in California this year. A sheriff's department has found a body in a burned out structure, but it's too early to say what caused the death.

Meanwhile, the governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has ordered the National Guard to join the battle against the wildfires.

Let's go out there. Reynolds Wolf is standing by. He's got the latest.

Reynolds, this sounds ominous. Are the firefighters, based on everything you're seeing right now, making progress?

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: They certainly are. To tell you the truth, Wolf, right now the fire is 50 percent contained. But still, there is that possibility with weather conditions -- the wind really intensifying this afternoon, there's a chance we could see those flames spread.

Now you mentioned the body that was found down in Concow. Concow is a community about three miles just to my left. That's where they found that body. What they're trying to do is prevent more of that from occurring.

You'll see some -- some crews right now racing off down parts of I-70, or rather, Highway 70. You'll see them moving this direction and then way down this road, the road is closed, not to bulldozers, but to fire crews.

Now we've got some video that we took earlier. Let's go that video and show you what we had right down this road. You'll see exactly what they've been dealing with -- this intense heat, these fires just raging up and down parts of Highway 70.

The objective, Wolf, is to stop the fire right there on the roadway, to prevent it from going down the hillside and affecting other communities, namely Paradise, California.

Now we do have -- off in the distance, you can barely just make it out, now moving beyond the trees, we got some assistance today in the skies above. You see a -- I believe it's a sky crane that is just over the tree tops. It's been dumping quite a bit of water, which is certainly a help. You also had some observation aircraft that have been circling around pinpointing those places that need the additional moisture, that rainfall. They met the rainfall (INAUDIBLE) the fire retardant. There it is. Let's get a shot of that very quickly, if we can. There we go. Jeff King (ph) is getting that shot for you.

Wolf, that has been the story. We're going to be seeing this play out through the rest of the weekend and possibly into next week. Again, as you mentioned, 2,000 more National Guard troops have been activated by the governor to get fire training, hopefully to come out here and lend a hand (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: Have you...

WOLF: ...and maybe (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: Reynolds, have you seen those troops yourself?

WOLF: We've seen a couple here at this -- at this area. This is actually a place called Scooter's Cafe. It's been a bit of a staging area. You see more fire crews coming through. This is a paramedic team. We've seen just a handful of them, but we know they're out there. They've also had convicts out here, convicts that have been helping out. They've had fire crews from all over the country, not just here locally. And, one more thing, crews from New Zealand may be coming in to join the fray.

BLITZER: All right. I guess they could use a lot of help.

Reynolds is on the scene for us.

And as Reynolds just mentioned, 2,000 or so National Guard troops are now on the fire's front lines. They're back from the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Here's CNN's Kara Finnstrom.


KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The fire-ravaged woods of Northern California.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, let's get those tool sharpeners tomorrow.

FINNSTROM: National Guardsman Mike Valdevia and Robert Rosbia are now deployed near the front lines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep your dime and we'll go up through there.

FINNSTROM: They're half a world away and on a far different assignment from their dangerous duty in Iraq.

SGT. ROBERT ROSBIA, NATIONAL GUARD IRAQ VETERAN: And in Iraq, you know, we're getting shot at and people are losing their lives.

FINNSTROM: Rosbia operated a .50 caliber machine gun in Iraq. He served there for 15 months.

ROSBIA: Here we're protecting lives, but this time I'm doing it with a cloud instead of a .50 cal machine gun.

It's a semi-rake/scraping tool.

FINNSTROM: Rosbia, a truck driver, is also a husband and a father. And his wife couldn't be happier to have him serving near home. He's one of the first California Guard troops to fight on the fire lines in more than three decades.

ROSBIA: She knows that there isn't somebody shooting at me and getting ready to cause me bodily harm and possibly take my life from me.

FINNSTROM: California needs help desperately. More than 1,700 fires have torched the state this month, exhausting firefighters. These fresh Guard troops have learned to hack through brush and create open spaces, where fully trained firefighters can make a stand.

Sergeant Valdevia is a natural when it comes to cutting fire lines. The married father of three just happens to be a tree trimmer. He's also a veteran of enduring, brutal heat. SGT. MIKE VALDEVIA, NATIONAL GUARD IRAQ CONTEST: The heat is actually kind of similar to the body. It starts kicking up a lot of heat underneath the collar. So overseas, we had temperatures of 117- plus.

FINNSTROM: But no complaints from these sergeants. They say this very different mission, back home in California, just feels good.

VALDEVIA: We've been driving back and forth. We get a lot of waves. We also get just people on the side we don't even know just honking.

Kara Finnstrom for CNN, Los Angeles.


BLITZER: Is the country where Osama bin Laden is thought to be hiding out and now Pakistan under pressure to deal with militants there. Pakistan's new foreign minister is here in Washington. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll talk about what his country's doing or not doing in the war on terror.

And the launch of the new iPhone is a disaster, some might say?

The day tech fans have been waiting for turns out to be a sort of meltdown. You're going to find out what went wrong.

That's coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


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

Carol, what's going on?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a top Iranian cleric says his country's missile test should not be seen as a threat to Israel. At Friday prayers in Tehran, Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani added that if Iran is attacked, it will strike back. Iran test-fired several missiles in the Strait of Hormuz this week. It claims that one of those missiles could reach Israel.

Colombia's FARC rebels say they were betrayed by their comrades. The guerrillas blame two of their commanders for the rescue of 15 hostages last week, including three U.S. military contractors. The rebel commanders were captured in the operation and Washington wants them extradited to the United States. Colombian officials have denied suggestions that rebels were bribed to turn over the hostages.

Bermuda is under a tropical storm watch as Hurricane Bertha moves ever closer. The National Hurricane Center says the outer edges of the storm will move near the island on Saturday. Bertha is packing maximum sustained winds of about 85 miles per hour. Forecasters say its strength could fluctuate. And best wishes to Olivia Newton John. The star of the movie "Grease," has gotten married three years after her longtime boyfriend vanished. Her lawyer says Newton John we'd businessman John Easterling in Peru last month and they had a second ceremony in Florida. It is the second marriage for both. Newton John had been with her boyfriend, Patrick McDermott, for nine years when he went on a fishing trip off of California in 2005 and never returned.

Back to you -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That was a sad story, indeed.

All right, Carol, thank you.

A faster, cheaper revamped new version of the Apple iPhone was released today in 22 countries. But less than one day on the market and customers are already running into some serious problems.

Let's bring in our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton.

What kind of problems are they having with this new and improved, supposedly, version of the iPhone?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: And the one that they stood in line for hours to get at 8:00 a.m. this morning. Well, Wolf, we've been hearing from our I-Reporters all day that they've been getting the thing home and they still can't switch it on.

An AT&T spokesperson just told us that the problem is an activation problem. It's a global problem with iTunes, which is used to actually turn the iPhone on. And they've been sending people home from the Apple stores to activate them later. But then we've been hearing from people who say hours later and I still can't do it.

BLITZER: Has this problem been involved with every one of these iPhones?

TATTON: No. We've been hearing from both sides, from people who are also very happy. We've got an I-Report here from Andre Short (ph), who stood in line actually from 11:00 a.m. Yesterday in New York Mills (ph). And he was the first person to receive it at 8:00 a.m. At that Apple store. He said it was a little slow activating it because there were so many people around the world doing it at the same time. But he says he's now got on just fine.

But we are still hearing reports from the other side, as well.

BLITZER: Yes. AT&T has the exclusive rights to the Apple iPhones. They launched this with so much fanfare around the world.

And the question has to be asked, how could they allow this to happen?

TATTON: Well, their response is that there's been so much global demand, you would have thought that they would have thought of that already. They are saying that they're sending people home to activate them later. We don't quite know when later will be, where everyone can get this switched on.

BLITZER: They'd better fix it and fix it quickly.

TATTON: Um-hmm.

BLITZER: Abbi, thanks.

Osama bin Laden almost certainly hiding out in Pakistan.

So what's keeping the world's most wanted terrorist from being captured?

I'll speak about it with Pakistan's brand new foreign minister. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Also, a British student murdered, an American student suspected. Now there are new developments in an Italian murder mystery.

Plus, Barack Obama is sponsoring a car in a NASCAR race. Could it help him win over some red state votes?

Stay with us.



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

Happening now, U.S. troops hunting down al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan?

Why Pakistan's foreign minister tells us it's not going to happen.

John McCain has a lot of ideas about how to reenergize America. We'll see if the rhetoric actually holds up against the reality.

And the road to the White House detours onto a racetrack -- what Barack Obama wants from NASCAR fans.

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

A former official at the Arlington National Cemetery says she was fired -- fired for trying to allow more news media access to the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq.

Let's go right to our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre. He's watching this story for us.

Give us all sides. What's going on?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the Army vigorously denies the idea that this young Iraq veteran was fired for questioning the policy. Nevertheless, just within this hour, the Army secretary -- the top civilian in the Army -- has announced an internal review to see if those tight restrictions can't be eased.


MCINTYRE (voice-over): When America's war dead are laid to rest in the gentle hills of Arlington National Cemetery, news coverage is allowed only if families request it, and even then is strictly limited. News photographers are told to stay as far as 50 yards away.

Gina Gray, a former Army staff sergeant who served in Iraq, tried to change that when she took over as public affairs director at the cemetery in April. And, as a result, she alleges, she was fired.

GINA GRAY, FORMER PUBLIC AFFAIRS DIRECTOR: I put my foot down and I refused to accept, you know, these made up regulations. I refused to accept the answer of that's the way it is. No, it's not. The way we treat the military when we give them a burial is something that is -- I think it's awe-inspiring.

MCINTYRE: The solemn rituals are seen from a distance through a telephoto lens, even if, Gray says, the families would welcome close- up coverage.

(on camera): And if the family wanted a reporter sitting right next to them?


MCINTYRE: They can't do that?

GRAY: No. The family is not given the opportunity to make that decision. The family is not given the opportunity to say, yes, I want the media to be able to see and hear.

MCINTYRE: And you think that's wrong?

GRAY: I do think that's wrong. It's up to the family.

MCINTYRE: And you think that led to your dismissal?

GRAY: Partly, yes.

MCINTYRE (voice-over): The Army and Gray's former boss at Arlington Cemetery dispute that.

THURMAN HIGGINBOTHAM, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, ARLINGTON CEMETERY: I just want to, you know, just to make it clear that her release from Arlington Cemetery had nothing -- absolutely nothing to do with -- with media issues.


MCINTYRE: Now, the Pentagon says that the policies at Arlington National Cemetery are designed to protect the dignity and solemnity of the proceedings and protect the privacy of the family. But nevertheless, Pete Geren, the Army secretary, has announced that -- this afternoon that he will have an internal review to see if there isn't a better way to balance the access of the news media against protecting the privacy of the families -- Wolf.

BLITZER: There's got to be a better way somehow.

Let's hope they come up with it, Jamie. Thank you.

Jamie McIntyre working a sensitive story for us.

It's a rugged no man's land that belongs to Pakistan perhaps only in name only. The so-called tribal region along the border with Afghanistan providing haven for militants, members of the Taliban, quite likely Osama bin Laden himself.


BLITZER: And joining us now, the new foreign minister of Pakistan, Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

Foreign Minister, welcome to Washington.


BLITZER: You've got a tough job ahead of you. I know you've been meeting with officials in the administration. They're very upset right now that Pakistan, your new government, apparently is not doing enough to stop the infiltration of al Qaeda and Taliban forces from the so-called tribal areas of Pakistan into Afghanistan, where they're killing Americans, killing NATO forces and going after Afghans. What's the problem?

QURESHI: To the contrary. The interaction I've had with the national security adviser, the secretary of state, their understanding. I give them my point of view. And they understand the situation. They know Pakistan is doing its best. And I told them the actions that we have taken in the tribal belt to check across border infiltration.

BLITZER: Robert Gates, the secretary of defense, issued a very tough statement saying he was severely disappointed that the new government in Pakistan wasn't doing enough, and General David McKiernan, the commanding officer of all NATO forces in Afghanistan, he said this. He said, "I link the increased incidents of violence in Afghanistan in part to those sanctuaries across the border and the ability to send militant groups and fighters into Afghanistan." Those are both very tough statements.

QURESHI: Indeed they are. But I want to assure you that Pakistan is doing whatever it can to be supportive. We feel that we have interest in a peaceful, stable Afghanistan. It is in our enlightened self interest to have peace and check the cross-border movement.

But on my view is, that it's a bit of exaggeration to just pass the buck to Pakistan. There are serious internal issues in Afghanistan. And I don't say at the Paris conference, the other leaders who were there, talking about Afghanistan.

BLITZER: Because you know a lot of the Afghans --

QURESHI: My discussions in --

BLITZER: A lot of the Afghans and others are blaming at least Pakistan in part indirectly for that bombing at the Indian embassy in Kabul, saying this is sort of dealing an old score retribution, if you will, between the long-standing conflict between India and Pakistan.

QURESHI: No, I think Pakistan in generations are on the mend. They are on a very even keel. They are improving. I've had very good interaction in Delhi. The foreign minister of India was in Pakistan. We are moving in the right direction. And we have nothing to gain by creating that environment.

BLITZER: Have you reached an agreement, an understanding with the Taliban elements in the so-called tribal areas of Pakistan in which your forces, the military forces, the intelligence forces basically will step aside?

QURESHI: No. We are not stepping aside. We are not withdrawing. The forces will be there. We have -- we are pursuing a policy of political engagement, but that does not mean that we will capitulate in front of terrorists. We will not negotiate. We will not talk to the terrorists. And if required, we will use force and we have used force in operations.

BLITZER: As you know a lot of U.S. experts insist that Osama Bin Laden is hiding out in Pakistan, perhaps along the tribal areas, perhaps even in Karachi, someplace. Based on everything you know, and you're part of the new government, and there's a lot of new hope for this government in Pakistan, where is Osama Bin Laden?

QURESHI: Well, if they know, I would want them to share that information and we could collectively go and get him.

BLITZER: Do you want to get him?

QURESHI: Certainly.

BLITZER: Where do you believe he is?

QURESHI: I have no idea.

BLITZER: And what about the al Qaeda forces in those tribal areas?

QURESHI: There are elements of al Qaeda that we are confronting, and we are dealing with, and we are using all our resources to fight them. Because we feel that this fight is not an alien fight. It is a fight that we believe in. It's a fight to protect our way of life. We have certain values, and the Taliban, the al Qaeda do not uphold the values that we believe in.

BLITZER: Tell us why you believe the U.S. Congress should continue to provide billions of dollars in assistance to Pakistan? A lot of that money, as you know, not being used in the so-called war on terror, but being used to bolster Pakistan's defenses against possible threat from India.

QURESHI: The U.S. Congress has to have a long-term, broad-based, stable relationship with Pakistan. We have to have an understanding in which we build institutions, we build democracy, we build values that we both ascribe to. We have a shared interest, and we need to support each other on that common approach, and we have to join our resources to fight that common enemy.

BLITZER: What do you want General Pervez Musharraf, the president of Pakistan, to do? Do you want him to stay at what he's doing or should he simply leave?

QURESHI: Well, it's for the Parliament to decide whether he stays or he leaves. But he should be playing his constitutional role as long as he is the defector president.


BLITZER: The foreign minister of Pakistan, speaking with me earlier right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Barack Obama's also talking about Osama Bin Laden today. You're going to find out what he has to say in our exclusive CNN interview.

And how might Senator Obama be planning to get those NASCAR fans on his side?

A powerful congressman, Charlie Rangel is angry. He is speaking out after questions about how much he pays for his New York apartments.

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


BLITZER: John McCain and Barack Obama holding dueling town hall meetings today. Obama has been aggressively courting women voters, especially those who were once backing Hillary Clinton. McCain's town hall in Hudson, Wisconsin, was for women only and listen to the counteroffensive he launched.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yesterday in New York, Senator Obama went on at great length about how much he cares about women's issues I believe in. Senator Clinton was nearby. And my opponent was saying all the right things. The fact is this, when you cut through all the smooth rhetoric, Senator Obama's policies would make it harder for women to start new businesses, harder for women to create or find new jobs, harder for women to manage the family budget, and harder for women and their families to meet their tax burden.


BLITZER: Senator McCain was also touting his plan for new offshore oil drilling, but he made this unfortunate slip of the tongue. Listen.


MCCAIN: I'll do everything in my power to get those offshore reserves exploited -- explored, discovered and -- explored, and, exploited, and we will send a message, we will send the message all over the world that the United States is on the road to become independent of foreign oil and America will stand on its two feet.


BLITZER: Senator Obama's against new offshore oil drilling. Here's what he said at his town hall in Dayton, Ohio.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we started drilling today, the first drop of oil wouldn't come for another seven years. And even then it wouldn't have a lot of impact on prices, because it would go to a world oil market. The Chinese and the Indians, they would be buying that oil just like us. You would not see a significant savings. Everybody agrees with that.

Meanwhile, the oil companies currently have the rights already to drill 68 million acres of land in offshore areas that they haven't touched. So the oil companies already have 68 million acres that they're not using effectively. And yet John McCain is talking about giving them more land to drill, with no guarantee that that would actually produce lower gas prices.

I believe that before we give the oil companies any more land, it's time we tell them to start drilling on the land they already have or turn it over to somebody who will, because we need that oil.


BLITZER: So is Senator Obama's criticism fair?

Our CNN special correspondent Frank Sesno is checking the facts on McCain's energy plans -- Frank.

FRANK SESNO, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, John McCain has proposed a sweeping energy policy. Much of it is designed to increase supplies where they're needed most. The approach is comprehensive, but at times contradictory.


MCCAIN: Thank you.

SESNO: John McCain is running ads filled with rousing imagery to prove he's got the energy to be the next president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We went to the moon not because it was easy, but because it was hard. John McCain will call America to our next national purpose, energy security. SESNO: McCain cast energy is a national security issue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Reduced dependence on foreign oil to domestic drilling.

SESNO: His energy pitch reflects the price and policy of the controversy. For example, he wants more offshore drilling. He used to oppose it. Now he says we need it. Barack Obama, even Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger say McCain's proposal's environmentally hazardous and could take years to bring more oil to market.

They're right about that last point. But so is McCain because if you want more oil, you have to find it first. The government says these waters could hold 18 billion barrels. McCain's a big booster of nuclear power.

MCCAIN: Nuclear power is safe. Nuclear power does not emit greenhouse gases.

SESNO: He's called for 45 new reactors by 2030. As for the waste, more trouble there, too. He favors putting it in Nevada's Yucca Mountain, says it would be safe there. In the speech in Denver in May, he suggested international storage, that could make Yucca unnecessary. The Las Vegas Sun criticized McCain's about-face on Yucca, and suggested he was just pandering to Nevada voters. The McCain campaign said the international storage idea was merely aspirational.

McCain favors ethanol. Though he once opposed it, it's the subsidies he doesn't like now. He says technologies like solar and wind can get off the ground if they just have stable, long-term tax credits. He's proposed a $300 million prize for a more efficient electric car battery. McCain wants the market place, not government to pick the new energy winners.


SESNO: Yet McCain would provide $2 billion a year to help develop clean coal. He would continue government guarantees to help build expensive nuclear plants and his proposed corporate tax cuts would help big oil's bottom line by nearly $4 billion a year according to the Liberal Center for American Progress. Sometimes conflicting elements of his energy policy reflect the complexity of the issue, and the politics at the pump -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good explanation, Frank. Thank you.

Some people wouldn't necessarily associate NASCAR with Democrats. But Barack Obama's campaign my soon try to change that.

Let's bring back Carol. She's working the story for us.

What are they up to?

COSTELLO: It's all in the talking stages right now, but maybe it's about time NASCAR dads got some love. They've been pushed aside by the Hillary women, but that may be about to change.


COSTELLO: NASCAR is not exactly Democrat-friendly. As put it, it's the only thing harder to find than a muffler in a NASCAR garage is a Democrat. Yet according to "Sports Illustrated's" Tom Bowles, Barack Obama, who excels at basketball, but not bowling, may allow his campaign to sponsor a race car in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This isn't a new idea. It's certainly a novel idea.

COSTELLO: Certainly not new to Republicans, who have sent their candidates to NASCAR events to rousing cheers. Democrats have been left to combat all that love rather ineffectively.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We don't need a president who just says, gentlemen, start your engines. We need a president who says, America, let's start our economy and put people back to work.

COSTELLO: But in 2008, according to SI's Tom Bowles, Obama is thinking of allowing his name to be plastered all over a race car, and his campaign donors may be able to pony up as little as 100 bucks to get their name on the car, too. But will it thrill NASCAR dads? David Kuhn wrote "The Neglected Voter, White Men in the Democratic Dilemma."

DAVID KUHN, POLITICO.COM: Obama can't look like a guy trying to be one of the guys. And the danger in visiting NASCAR, or as he looked like someone who is not one of the guys, but trying to be so.

COSTELLO: Many Republicans expect Obama, to, ah, crash and burn here so to speak. They've already unveiled their secret weapon. Cindy McCain will ride in a pace car in the Firestone 200 Indy-car race in July.


COSTELLO: But there's another fun twist to this story. The car Obama is thinking of sponsoring is actually owned by Beth Ann and Tony Morgenthal. They are staunch Republicans. As for what the Obama campaign is saying about this officially, they say we get a lot of good ideas every day, but there are no such agreements in place at this time.

BLITZER: I want to see Carol Costello in one of those pace cars.

COSTELLO: I would love that.

BLITZER: You should do that. Let's make it happen.

COSTELLO: You know my brother-in-law does the stock car thing.

BLITZER: You've got to do it. Carol, thank you.

She was an American college student studying in Italy. Now her roommate is dead and she's been charged with murder. There are new details in a brutal case. That's coming up.

It's a little too much like the movies. A giant shark spotted in an unusual place or maybe not that unusual. We'll show you what's going on right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: There are new developments in a murder mystery that's made headlines across Europe and kept an American student behind bars for months.

CNN's Alessio Vinci has the latest -- Alessio.

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it happened in Perugia, a medieval town north of Rome where every year thousands of students from all around the world, including the United States, come to study. Now the Italian prosecutors are seeking the indictment of American student Amanda Knox and two other suspects in connection with the killing of a British student back in November.


VINCI: Prosecutors say British student Meredith Kercher was murdered fighting off a sexual assault and for a handful of dollars. They have collected a mountain of evidence, 15,000 pages worth they say leads them to one conclusion. Amanda Knox, Raffaele Sollecito and Rudy Guede strangled and stabbed Kercher last November.

Prosecutors allege that Guede was arrested after fleeing the country, committed sexual violence on the victim, assisted by Knox and Sollecito. Guede took 300 euros, two credit cards and two cell phones in an effort to make the incident look like a break-in.

The murder weapon? This knife prosecutors say police found in Sollecito's apartment with DNA traces of both Knox and the victim.

All deny the charges. Prosecutors say they can place all three at the crime scene. Knox's lawyers have no comment but the attorney representing Sollecito says he can prove the prosecutors are wrong.

"We will prove that my client was not in the house at the time of the crime," he says, "but in his flat, watching a movie a computer, together with Amanda Knox."

Prosecutors contend that Knox and Sollecito offered different and conflicting stories about the night of the crime. Hours after her arrest, in a rambling four-page statement to the police, Knox wrote, "I know I didn't kill Meredith. That's all I know for sure." Then goes on to say, "These things seem unreal to me, like a dream."


VINCI: Wolf, judges will decide if there is enough evidence to go to trial, after a summer recess that ends in mid September. Until then, the suspects will remain behind bars awaiting a murder trial that, if it happens, defense lawyers say will last months -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Alessio. A real murder mystery in Italy right now.

Let's go back to Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: What ought to be done about Iran considering how much influence that country has over the world's oil supply? They produce 4 million barrels a day themselves.

John writes: "JFK didn't allow nukes in Cuba. Iran's ally Venezuela is very close to the U.S. The best way to keep missiles with nukes out of Venezuela is to stop the Iranian nuke program, with military action if needed, soon."

Donny in North Carolina: "Let's take the cards out of Iran's hands and start drilling in Alaska. It's a beautiful state but desperate times call for action. If we take away the dependency for foreign oil quickly, perhaps we can use diplomacy in this way. We don't need your oil. In fact, if you don't stop using missile threats and building nuclear weapons, we'll push the trigger on our pre- targeted missiles which happen to be aimed directly at your capitol building."

Jason says: "We need to just give up on them making a nuke. Let them have one, if they want. In fact, give them one. Who cares? We're causing ourselves an unlimited amount of problems trying to prevent things from happening and it's proving not to be worth it. If they use one anywhere in the world, they themselves will cease to exist."

Bob in Houston says: "No war, please. Negotiate. Why is it that a handful of people in any country can cause so much misery for so many? I don't think the Iranian people are happy with their nut job president. Let's not make their life miserable. Face to face meetings are needed to smooth out the situation."

Steve says: "How ignorant of fact are those who advocate talk. There have been negotiations going on spear-headed by Europe for years now all while the Iranians continue develop their nuclear capability. You think they're belligerent now? Wait till they get the bomb."

And Mark writes: "Hillary was right. Obliterate them."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at and look for yours there along with hundreds of others.

We've gotten thousands of e-mails on this Friday in June.

BLITZER: I'm not surprised at all because these are good, serious, tough questions. Jack, thank you.

A prominent congressman lashing out at reports of a supposedly lavish lifestyle. New York's Congressman Charlie Rangel answering allegations he has four rent-controlled apartments when New Yorkers, at least most of them, would do anything for one.

And just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, a real shark alert on the island where they actually filmed "Jaws."

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


BLITZER: A shark, possibly a great white shark, spotted off the resort island of Martha's Vineyard, prompting officials to put warnings on U.S. beaches and calling to mind the movie that he scared an entire generation. Our Boston bureau chief, Dan Lothian, is working the story for us.

"Jaws" a lot of us remember it was filmed there on Martha's Vineyard -- wasn't it?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. That's where it was filmed back in the '70s. The warnings are out today but the beaches on Martha's Vineyards do remain open. I talked to the police chief and the harbor master and they tell me there has been no sign of any additional sharks today. But everyone's talking about it.


LOTHIAN: Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water, a giant shark said to look like this one, is spotted lurking 70 yards off south beach on Martha's Vineyard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's real scary, yes. I think you need to stay out of the water.

LOTHIAN: Beachgoers are being warned after a pilot of a sightseeing plane said they saw the shark on Thursday. This fish tale is making headlines. Is it a great white? Is it really 20 feet long? Some are staying out of the water. Some are staying close to shore.

DANIELLE WALDROP, BEACHGOER: Only about two feet deep though. Yes. Not any deeper than that.

LOTHIAN: This is getting an unusual amount of attention. After all, Martha's Vineyard is where the movie "Jaws" was filmed. You know what this music means?

People are fascinated with sharks. They can't get enough of them at the New England Aquarium. This is the fish tank. They have nurse sharks and sand tiger sharks. Look how big that thing is. These only get between six and eight feet, at least the ones they have in here. Imagine what 20 feet looks like.

Greg Stone heads the aquarium's global marine program. GREG STONE, NEW ENGLAND AQUARIUM: It's pretty rare to see them hovering around the beaches in New England. This is part of their range.

LOTHIAN: A few years ago, this great white got stuck in a cove not far from Martha's Vineyard. Shark experts say there is no need to panic. Attacks by great whites are extremely rare. The last one happened in Massachusetts more than 70 years ago.

STONE: You're more apt to fall out of bed and hit your head on the dresser and kill yourself than you are to be attacked by a shark.


LOTHIAN: It's believed when these great whites do come close to shore, they are probably chasing food. State officials, by the way, continue to be on the look out. In fact, yesterday they sent up a plane to scan but could not independently confirm the sightings -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dan Lothian, thank you.

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