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Bush vs Obama: Debate Over Iraq and Afghanistan Continues; Auto Giant G.M. Makes More Cuts; Teen Faces Interrogators at Guantanamo Bay; Will Bush Administration Members Face War-Crimes Charges?

Aired July 15, 2008 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, a sobbing 16-year-old facing his American interrogators at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. This Canadian was captured in Afghanistan. The tape of his questioning is the first of its kind to be made public. We'll share it with you.

President Bush and Barack Obama now arguing over Iraq and Afghanistan, while a top U.S. military commander puts out an urgent call for more troops in armor. We have a CNN exclusive.

And as auto giant G.M. makes massive cuts in an effort to try to survive the oil crisis, strange looking cars racing across the country without using a drop of gas. Do they hold the secret to saving the economy?

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

A just released videotape offering the first look at an interrogation inside the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. The suspect, at the time a sobbing teenager from Canada, captured in Afghanistan.

Let's go right to our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena.

She's working the story for us -- all right, Kelli, tell us about the video.

What's the story behind this story?

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, as you know, we've never seen a tape like this before. And after hearing about harsh interrogation techniques, waterboarding, no one knew exactly what to expect.


ARENA (voice-over): It's not what you'd expect. A 16-year-old boy thousands of miles from home, obviously upset at times.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I'm not a doctor, but I think you're getting good medical care.

OMAR KHADR, DETAINEE: No, I'm not. You're not here. ARENA: The U.S. government says Omar Khadr killed a U.S. serviceman during a firefight in Afghanistan. He was 15 at the time, a Canadian citizen. Now he's being held as a terrorist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This kid needs to come home. This kid is not a terrorist.

ARENA: The tape of his interrogation at the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay is the first of its kind to be made public.

KHADR: You don't care about, that's what.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I do care about you.

ARENA: The video was released by his lawyers following a Canadian court order. On the tape, Khadr is being questioned by Canadian intelligence officers. But there's no harsh interrogation on the tape. The 16-year-old is crying uncontrollably and says he was tortured in Afghanistan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The civil libertarians will wring their hands and say how horrible, you made this little boy cry. The folks on the other side will say look at that, they're offering him a hamburger. They're not mistreating him at all.

ARENA: His lawyers are hoping the tape will put political pressure on the Canadian government to demand Khadr to be sent home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's time for Canada to act like every other Western nation in the world and demand the repatriation of its citizens.

ARENA: The Canadian Foreign Affairs Office said: "Discussions regarding his repatriation are premature and speculative."

And the Pentagon says: "Khadr should be held accountable for his actions."


ARENA: Now 21-years-old, headed is expected to go before a military commission in October -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Any indication, Kelli, if more of these kinds of tapes are going to be released?

ARENA: You know, we don't know. I did speak to some military lawyers today who said that they would not be surprised to see it. But as you know, when we talked about tapes before, many that the military had were destroyed. So that is an open question.

BLITZER: Good work.

Kelli watching this story for us.

The U.S. military says it plans to prosecute about 80 of the 270 men held at Guantanamo Bay right now. Twenty have been charged so far. About 180 detainees have appealed, complaining the government is unfairly restricting access to evidence that could clear them of wrongdoing. Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court concluded they have a constitutional right to challenge their detention in federal court. On Saturday, a federal judge issued an order setting a schedule for appeals. The hearings will mark the first time the detainees have had an independent civilian judge actually review their case.

A sharp exchange between President Bush and a would-be successor over America's wars. Just two days after a bloody battle took the lives of nine U.S. troops in Afghanistan, President Bush is taking heat from Democrat Barack Obama, who today called the war in Iraq a dangerous distraction.

Let's go live to our White House correspondent, Ed Henry. He's watching the story for us.

Ed, the president is pushing back today, isn't he?


He never mentioned Senator Obama's name. But he did respond to questions at a press conference about Obama's plan, some of his words out there. And it's very clear that what's fascinating is, for all their differences, these two men do agree one thing -- that the war in Afghanistan is not going very well now, it needs more focus. But they have vastly, vastly different ideas about how to fix it.


HENRY (voice-over): With violence rising in Afghanistan, the president acknowledged the war there is going worse than Iraq. So he may keep shifting U.S. troops from one battlefield to the other, despite weariness among Americans.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I understand exhaustion. I understand people are getting tired. And but I would hope that whoever follows me understands that we're at war. And now is not the time to give up in the struggle against this enemy.

HENRY: One of those who wants to follow him into office, Democrat Barack Obama, charged Iraq has diverted resources from Afghanistan, renewing his call for removing U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16 months.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As should have been apparent to President Bush and Senator McCain, the central front in the war on terror is not Iraq. And it never was. And that's why the second goal of my new strategy will be taking the fight to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

HENRY: At a press conference, Mr. Bush was asked to respond. A president who has called Iraq the central front and a central front in the war on terror shifted ever so slightly.

BUSH: These are two very important fronts, both of which, you know, are important to the future of the country. And therefore we've got to succeed in both.

HENRY: Asked what advice he would give Obama, who is about to visit Iraq, the president said he should resist demands from liberal groups to withdraw troops and instead listen to commanders on the ground.

BUSH: I would ask him to listen carefully to Ryan Crocker and General Petraeus. I understand for some in Washington, you know, there's a lot of pressure. You know, you've got these groups out there, you know,, you know, banging away on these candidates. And it's hard to kind of divorce yourself from the politics.


HENRY: Now Obama's Republican opponent, John McCain, today chastised him for laying out these foreign policy plans before he even goes on this trip to Iraq. But Obama responded that he doesn't need the trip to realize that the strain on the U.S. military, between the long tours of duty in Iraq and the fact that June was the bloodiest month in Afghanistan -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry.

He's watching this story at the White House.

The other would-be commander-in-chief, as Ed just pointed out, he did speak out directly about America's wars. Republican John McCain had some blunt advice for his rival, saying Barack Obama should hold off on his criticism until after his upcoming trip to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Listen to this.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In my experience, fact-finding missions usually work best the other way around. First, you assess the facts on the ground, then you present a new strategy.


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

You know what's good is these two guys have very different positions on Iraq and Afghanistan. It's the -- one of the most substantive issues of debate in this campaign and they're beginning to duke it out, as we all want them to do.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, it's patently absurd for John McCain to continue to insist that Barack Obama is not entitled to any ideas about the war in Iraq because he's not sitting in a tent in the desert talking to General Petraeus. That -- you don't have to -- you don't have to live in the ocean to learn about fish. I mean this war has been going on for more than five years and we all know about the war in Iraq. So, you know, he's a little too cute by half to say, well, you should hold on having any ideas until you go over there. I mean that's just nonsense, total, complete nonsense.

The man who could become the first black president of the United States is calling on blacks to take more responsibility for improving their own lives. Speaking to the NAACP in Cincinnati, Obama got the most applause when he urged blacks to do more for themselves.


OBAMA: When we are taking care of our own stuff, then a lot of other folks are going to be interested in joining us and working with us to take care of America's stuff, teaching our daughters to never allow images on television to tell them what they're worth...


OBAMA: Teaching our sons to treat women with respect and to realize responsibility does not end at conception, that what makes them a man is not the ability to have a child, but to raise one.


CAFFERTY: Obama said the problems that plague the black community are not unique to them but "We just have them a little worse".

Obama's been criticized by Jesse Jackson for talking down to blacks. Jackson is clearly in the minority on this, no pun intended. The largest study ever done of African-Americans shows 84 percent of those surveyed say they think blacks do need to be "more responsible for themselves as individuals". And other Civil Rights Activists give Obama high marks for balancing his role as a black candidate with the need to speak to all races.

So here's the question -- is Barack Obama talking down to blacks, as Jesse Jackson claims, when he tells them they must take more responsibility for themselves?

Go to You can post a comment on my blog. You know, I don't have to actually be in THE SITUATION ROOM down there, Wolf, to know what THE SITUATION ROOM'S all about.

BLITZER: I think you're absolutely right. But you know what, you are in THE SITUATION ROOM no matter where you are, Jack, every single day.

CAFFERTY: It's an annex.

BLITZER: Like it or not.


BLITZER: Some of the stories we're working on this hour. A top American carmaker fighting for survival right now and a 2,400-mile auto race that doesn't use a drop of gas.

Also, a former reality TV star now running for Congress.

And zoo visitors are harassing animals -- sometimes with deadly results.

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


BLITZER: General Motors are moving to ensure its very survival in these very tough economic times. Executives announcing some drastic measures, but they're downplaying rumors the company could go under.


ROBERT LUTZ, G.M. VICE CHAIRMAN: There has been a lot of speculation on Wall Street among analysts about the possibility of bankruptcy, which we have vehemently denied. Because we are in very tough times with a difficult economic situation and a shift away from trucks to very small passenger cars, we do face some near term liquidity problems.


BLITZER: Let's bring in our senior business correspondent, Ali Velshi.

Ali, how bad off is G.M. right now?


The stock is still under $10. That's almost a 54-year low. And they did this because there were so much talk of the possibility of bankruptcy or G.M. having to pair up with somebody else. This is the world's biggest carmaker. It's iconic.

Now, they are trying to raise $15 billion by the end of next year through various means, including laying off more people -- probably white collar workers this time. And the executives are not going to get any tax bonuses that were not predetermined.

But they're shifting basically from more trucks into more cars. They're going to have 300,000 fewer cars -- trucks in production at the end of the year, adding another 50,000 cars. There is a definite shift. It's consumers who are directing this shift and G.M. is having to sort of catch up, like the other automakers are.

But it is a company in trouble. Today, they're making an effort to try and stave off the talk of bankruptcy and suggest that they might actually be able to make a go of it. But it's still a long time away. The shifts are happening very quickly for these auto companies -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It seems every day we get another one of these huge economic -- these institutions in the United States...


BLITZER: ...whether Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, the mortgage lenders, that seem to have so many serious problems. And it just sort of reinforces this notion of jitteriness and nervousness among Americans.

VELSHI: Yes. You've used the right word. You used the right word. Institutions -- that's what has Americans worried -- Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, General Motors. That's what's got people worried about the economy and that's why today you saw President Bush, Ben Bernanke and Henry Paulson, they were all trying to sort of give some sense of the fact that the economy, in their view, will be OK in the long-term. But Americans are worried -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We certainly are.

Ali, thank you.

And, as Ali just mentioned, General Motors is the world's largest automaker, with 284,000 people making cars and trucks in 33 countries. But the company certainly has struggled in recent years and seen its value plummet -- $10 a share, as Ali just mentioned. In April, 2000, G.M.'s stock was at an all-time high, more than $93 a share. It's plunged more than 62 percent this year alone, opening this morning at a 50-year low of only $9.41 a share. After today's announcement, G.M.'s stock rallied a little bit, gaining more than 5 percent.

We're watching this story.

All right. Let's go right to Carol Costello. She's watching a story incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What are we learning?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I'm sorry to follow up with more bad economic news, Wolf. This story just in to CNN. The Associated Press reporting that American Airlines, the nation's largest airline, cutting 200 pilot jobs. It's part of an overall move to cut the airline's workforce by 8 percent as it struggles with soaring jet fuel prices.

A package of tough new sanctions against Myanmar got a unanimous vote of support in the House of Representatives. It freezes assets of the country's military rulers and bans the import of gems, including rubies -- one of the country's top exports. The bill now goes to the Senate, which voted last year to ban timber from Myanmar.

Lots of controversy over this billboard near Orlando, Florida. It shows the burning World Trade Center on 9/11 and the message, "please don't vote for a Democrat." A businessman who lives in the area paid for it. But even local Republicans call it inappropriate, while the local Democratic Party chair says it's blatant exploitation.

The Environmental Protection Agency is implementing new rules on burying carbon dioxide. New technology allows coal-fired power plants to sequester the gas underground rather than release it into the air and contribute to global warming. While the gas itself doesn't hurt groundwater, it can leach contaminants out of surrounding rock.

And Massachusetts is on the verge of joining California, allowing gay couples from elsewhere to marry legally in the state. The Massachusetts Senate has voted to repeal a 1913 law barring marriage for couples who can't legally marry in their home state. The Massachusetts House is expected to vote this week. And Governor Deval Patrick says he supports the repeal.

And congratulations to the entire SITUATION ROOM staff. We have been nominated for an Emmy award for our extended breaking news coverage of the assassination of former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. This is our first Emmy nomination. And, of course, I'm sure it will be the first of many to come.

BLITZER: Well, in August, THE SITUATION ROOM will have been on the air for three years. The first Emmy nomination for THE SITUATION ROOM, although we at CNN did win an Emmy last year for our political coverage of the last election so...

COSTELLO: We did, indeed.

BLITZER: And these come...


BLITZER: Let's go. Let's go for it. I know with your cheering on that will help, Carol.

Thanks very much.

From Texas to Canada without a drop of gas -- solar cars, solar cars on the road to the future. We're going to show you what's going on.

Plus, some of the country's most notorious killers in prison.

So why is their message being allowed on the Internet?

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


BLITZER: So in the wake of all the restructuring underway right now at G.M., what does the future hold for the auto industry in our country?

The answer may be right over our heads.

CNN's Susan Roesgen is over at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. She's checking out solar cars -- Susan.

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this might be the wave of the future. It's not exactly practical enough yet. And it's not exactly big enough yet. But someday it might be.


ROESGEN (voice-over): Right now, they still look like alien spaceships. But if a bunch of college kids can make cars that average 65 miles an hour on nothing but sunshine, why can't the big automakers build solar-powered cars for the rest of us?

WALTER HERBST, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY: And the solar cells we're running right now are as efficient as we can afford. And at that, they're terrible expensive.

ROESGEN: Northwestern Professor Walter Hertz says the current expense and the size of the solar panels both need to get smaller before mass production. But the technology is there and the concepts could be closer to reality than you think.

A Swiss adventurer is traveling around the world this month in his own solar car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is country number 28.

ROESGEN: His car looks more normal than the racing cars, but that's because the solar cells are attached to this long battery that's hauled around behind it. Still, there's not even enough power for air conditioning -- and not really enough room for a passenger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have guys much taller than you in the car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't even fit.

ROESGEN: It's not such a great ride now. But designers say you might be driving one in six or seven years.

HERBST: And as absurd as that sounds, the reality is that Google -- Google wasn't around seven years ago. So think where they are today. And that's why I'm enthused. Think where we'll be in seven years.

ROESGEN: In fact, Toyota is planning to have a few solar panels on some of its cars within two years -- not that long before we are driving on sunshine instead of on gas.


ROESGEN: Now, the next stop for that guy who's going around the world in his solar car is going to be Santa Cruz, California. And if you're driving your old-fashioned gas guzzler, Wolf, somewhere in the Omaha area, that's where you'll see the college kids and their big American solar challenge race. But you won't see them anywhere near a gas station -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Susan Roesgen, thanks.

I think it's only matter of time. Probably in the not too distant future, we'll see a lot of those solar cars. Top U.S. military commanders now calling for help as the situation in Afghanistan grows even more desperate.

And the secret international report that says top U.S. officials -- at least some of them -- could be subject to prosecution for war crimes.

And the first American deserter from the Iraq War handed back to the U.S. military by Canada.

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


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

Happening now, the U.S. House of Representatives voting overwhelmingly to override President Bush's veto of a bill that would halt some cuts in Medicare payments to doctors. The Senate is scheduled to vote later. That's coming up in the next couple of hours.

Also, the price tag soars for what would be the country's first nuclear waste dump. The Bush administration now says the planned facility at Nevada's Yucca Mountain will cost $90 billion instead of the $58 billion that was first estimated.

And the long-awaited shift in oil prices -- they took their biggest drop in 17 years today on fears of declining demand. Crude dropped more than $6 a barrel today, settling in at almost $139.

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

The bloody battle that took nine American lives just this week is just the latest sign of a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. And now some top U.S. military commanders are calling for help.

Let's go live to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, who's working the story for us.

How bad is it -- Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Afghanistan is clearly the war now without enough troops and not enough equipment.


STARR (voice-over): In the remote mountains of Eastern Afghanistan, new indications of just how bad things are this summer. CNN has learned that the Joint Chiefs of Staff is conducting an internal review on whether to recommend Afghanistan should become as high a military priority as Iraq. Until now, Iraq has always been the major combat arena. U.S. commanders in Afghanistan are asking for more troops to be sent within weeks. Until now, more troops were not expected until next year. In an exclusive interview with CNN, the U.S. military's operations chief in Afghanistan says he also needs more MRAP mine- resistant armored vehicles.

BRIG. GEN. MARK MILLEY, U.S. ARMY: Our estimate is, is that additional forces are needed during this fighting season. And we have asked, you know, the folks back home to -- in the Pentagon and in the big Army and elsewhere to produce and ship over more MRAPs.

STARR: Commanders say the threat is deeper than just the growing number of insurgents. The Taliban have more money and better organization.

MILLEY: They are exhibiting a better level of training and leadership than they have in previous years.

STARR: The general also says he's fairly sure he knows which insurgent leader was behind the attack that killed nine U.S. troops at that local Afghans know more than they're telling about how nearly 200 insurgents were able to assemble.

MILLEY: There's no doubt in my mind that the local villagers had -- had to know something was up. Exactly who is when and how many, etc., that kind of stuff, is probably unknown.


STARR: And Wolf, a senior U.S. military official tells CNN perhaps the most worrisome sign, some of those 200 insurgents may have crossed the border from Pakistan undetected and unstopped -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The situation clearly deteriorating. Barbara will watch it for us.

They've been controversial from day one. Now there's word the Bush administration policies toward terror suspects could -- could -- expose top officials to actual war-crimes charges. The "New Yorker" magazine correspondent, Jane Mayer, writes about that and much more in her brand new book, already a major best seller "The Dark Side." Jane is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Thanks for coming in.


BLITZER: These are serious allegations, war crimes charges could potentially be leveled against top administration officials. You name a lot of names in your book. What do you think?

MAYER: Well, I think it's more a political question than a legal question, really. There's a question whether there's a political appetite for this. There are Democrats on the Hill who are calling for these kinds of hearings and trials. I don't really know.

BLITZER: But one reviewer wrote about your book, the evidence in there would suggest that top administration officials who were in charge of authorizing what you believe was torture, and many others believe was torture, they should avoid traveling to several Western European countries because they could be arrested for war crimes. Name names, who was -- who was responsible for what you would consider to be violations of the Geneva Conventions and American law?

MAYER: Well, I mean, in fact, the whole top of the administration, the president, the vice president, David Addington.

BLITZER: Who is the chief of staff for the vice president.

MAYER: Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, Doug Feith was up at the Pentagon today. There's a whole slew of people. What the book makes clear really is that this wasn't the action of some bad, rotten apples on the bottom of the barrel as people were saying at Abu Ghraib. It was a program that was put into place by the top of our government to use the toughest possible terms possible to get information.

BLITZER: The CIA issued a statement on Friday, when your book actually started filtering out, details, among other things, saying this -- "The interrogation methods used to question detainees have been lawful, safe and effective. The program has yielded valuable information that has helped the United States and other countries save lives and disrupt terrorist operations."

MAYER: Right. It's very hard to tell completely, because we haven't had access to all of the facts. But I can tell you, the CIA has said that its program was not only safe, but also very careful. They ended up renditioning -- that is, kidnapping -- people who were completely innocent and holding them, one nor 154 days in a dungeon in Afghanistan before they let him out.

They had a pretty good idea, I tell the story in the book, they had a pretty good idea that he was innocent from the start. But they just didn't know what to do about it exactly. They had kind of a bad feeling about it, but they just held him there. There were also people, there was somebody who was interrogated to death by the CIA who died in what the coroner said was an asphyxiation that came from being crucified.

We've got some situations that have taken place in this country where the records are just coming out. I did my best to piece this together. I'm sure there were some triumphs, too. This is going to be a mixed picture but ...

BLITZER: Let me ask you, when you say crucified, actually nailed to a cross?

MAYER: Not nailed but hanging from his arms in such a way that it made him impossible to breathe. Yes. His name was Jamadi, yes.

BLITZER: Here's a quote from "The Dark Side," your new book. Referring to Abu Zabayda, one of the terror suspects picked up. "Abu Zubayda's 'hard time' began when he was locked into the tiny coffin for hours on end, which he described as excruciatingly painful. It was too small for him to stand or stretch out. So small, he said he had to double up his limbs in a fetal position." And he later started making up stuff just to avoid being interrogated along these lines.

MAYER: Well, that's part of the problem. Which is the question is, did we get good intelligence out of this or not? And there's ample reason to believe that we got a mixed record. One -- one of the top people at the CIA said to me, 90 percent of what we got was crap. So, it's not necessarily a success story all the way around.

BLITZER: In describing specifically the vice president, Dick Cheney, and his top aides, including David Addington, you write this, these are strong words. "As part of that process," in which they authorized this kind of extreme interrogation techniques, some would describe them, "for the first time in history, the United States sanctioned government officials to physically and psychologically torment U.S.-held captives making torture the official law of the land in all but name." Now you don't use those words easily.

MAYER: I don't. I think torture has become kind of a semantic game recently. But take a look at the people in the administration themselves who talk about it, Richard Armitage who served three combat duties in Vietnam. He said, "I'm embarrassed for even having this conversation. Waterboarding, of course, it's torture." Tom Ridge, the Former Homeland Security Secretary said, "of course, it's torture."

Mike McConnell who is currently the head of national intelligence for us said if it was done to me, I would think it was torture. It was sort of a silly game in some ways. Basically whether it was torture or not may not even ...

BLITZER: But some will argue, as you know, in the environment after 9/11 you know what? We just lost 3,000 Americans. You got to do what you got to do.

MAYER: Right.

BLITZER: And you've heard that argument.

MAYER: You know, and I understand it, and I actually am very sympathetic to it. The question is, seven years later, do we need to keep doing the same thing? And can we take maybe a rational look and see, is this what we want our country to become? Or are we better than this? And a lot of -- it's not really -- just this is not a book of opinion. It's a reported book. And it tells the story of a lot of people, including Republican lawyers, military men, FBI guys, who basically said, there's a more honorable way to win the war on terror.

BLITZER: You've done amazing, amazing reporting in this book.

MAYER: Thanks.

BLITZER: It's not just some sort of opinion piece.

MAYER: No, it's not.

BLITZER: You've done real reporting. Jane Mayer, the author of "The Dark Side: How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals."

Thanks for coming in.

MAYER: Thanks, Wolf. Great to be with you.

BLITZER: Danger at the zoo. Who is looking out for the animals? Coming up, a visitor who was caught on tape for harassing an animal. What it could mean.

And Barack Obama talks to our very own Larry King about that magazine cover that seemed to depict him and his wife as terrorists.


OBAMA: I know it was the "New Yorker's" attempt at satire. I don't think they were entirely successful with it.


BLITZER: Zoos in this country and indeed around the world are now grappling with a growing problem, visitors who insist on harassing the animals. Sometimes with deadly results.

Let's go back to Carol. She's working this story.

It happened once again, Carol?

COSTELLO: It has happened once again. And wouldn't you know it, Wolf, the guy posted his stupidity on the Internet? I know that sounds harsh, but taunting wild animals is dangerous and it can mean a very painful death.


COSTELLO (voice-over): It's the latest "why don't we just call it what it is? Dumb move by a human animal.


COSTELLO: He posted his jaguar encounter a few days ago with the headline, "Me Getting Close to a Jaguar." He says he climbed over a fence at the Oklahoma Zoo, which happens to be four feet high, to pet the nice cat, because all the cat wanted to do was play. It was purring. Lesson number one, a purring jaguar does not equate with your cute kitty named "Boo."

WAYNE PACELLE, HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE U.S.: One cannot deduce certain behaviors based on what we think our domesticated cats do. Jaguars are dangerous powerful animals. There is a reason why they're behind fences and behind moats at zoos and people should not have any interaction.

COSTELLO: Lesson number two, it could be a criminal offense to climb a fence to get close to an animal at the zoo. Yes, the Oklahoma Zoo is seeking legal counsel to determine if our jaguar lover should be prosecuted. DWIGHT SCOTT, EXEC. DIR., OKLAHOMA CITY ZOO: To go over a barricade like that to be that close to the animals, you're just really risking your life seven.

COSTELLO: Like your life. Remember what happened last year at the San Francisco zoo when a tiger escaped her cage? The cat killed a teenager, and mauled two others. On Sunday, a man in the Ukraine fell into a zoo's bear pit after he ignored warning signs to stay back. Zookeepers tried to save him. They failed.

This risky behavior has prompted zoos like D.C.'s National Zoo to institute 24-hour police patrols and electric fences that not only keep animals in but people out.


COSTELLO: The Oklahoma City zookeeper told us, it's up to the lawyers on whether to charge this guy. The guy could be trespassing or it could even be cruelty to animals -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Sometimes people do not only stupid things, not only reckless things, but very, very dangerous things, Carol. Thank you.

Some of the country's most notorious killers are just mouse click away. A growing number of prisoners -- get this -- now have their own Web pages. Bring in our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton.

Abbi, how many of these are there?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we've seen hundreds of them online. Here's just a few that we've pulled up for you here. Scott Peterson, convicted of killing pregnant wife Laci. And there's his page with pictures and personal notes to people that write to him.

There's another one here, this is Richard Allen Davis, sentenced for killing 12-year-old Polly Klaas. And he has a page as well. And he's got artwork on his site. We took a look at these a couple years ago on THE SITUATION ROOM. "The L.A. Times" has done a piece today looking for more of them.

There are people looking for pen pals online. Some people protesting their innocence. Civil rights groups saying this is their First Amendment right to post here. But it's some victims' rights groups that are saying it's disturbing, this is hurtful to the victims' families that might come across these and also might glamorize death row.

BLITZER: Do they have access to the Internet in prison? I didn't think they did.

TATTON: No are they don't. And I want to make that very clear. They are not going online to post the material. But they have got snail mail, the old-fashioned way, they can write and then a third party can post the stuff online.

BLITZER: They have friends that open up and create the Web sites.

TATTON: And, in fact, a lot of these are all coming from this one group, a Canadian group which exists to abolish the death penalty, and since 1998 they've provided a free Web presence to anyone, any one of these death-row inmates, who want to post online.

BLITZER: All right, Abbi is working the Internet like she does every single day. Thank you.

He was on the first season of TV's "Real World," so here is the question: is that enough to get him in the next session of the United States Congress?


BLITZER: He was on the first season of MTV's "The Real World." So here's the question -- is it enough to get him into the next session of the United States Congress?

Let's go to Mary Snow. She's in New York working this story for us.

Mary, is this candidate facing a reality check of sorts?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. Real-world television is now real-world politics for Kevin Powell. And just like his life was an open book on television, Powell says he's a transparent and an accountable public servant and that includes some painful chapters.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the true story.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of seven strangers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Picked to live in a loft.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And have their lives taped.

KEVIN POWELL, (D) CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I'm Kevin and I'm running for Congress in the area.

SNOW (voice-over): Kevin Powell wants people in Brooklyn's Fort Green to know him as Kevin running for Congress. But some people know Kevin Powell from his last high profile job on TV, on MTV's "The Real World."

POWELL: I'm going to go to law school and I said, no, I'd rather write.

SNOW: Sixteen years later he's pounding the pavement in Fort Green in his first political campaign. He's challenging 13-term veteran Congressman Edolphus Towns in the Democratic primary in September. Powell is hoping his pop culture fame will give him a boost with young voters. POWELL: Some people said, hey, I saw you on "The Real World" I want to vote you. If that's what it takes. Of course, I believe in democracy, I always say check out our platform but just that recognition does not hurt at all.

SNOW: Congressman Towns downplayed his competition.

REP. EDOLPHUS TOWNS, (D) N.Y.: People will look at the fact that we've been providing services and that they will come back out and vote me in, it's as simple as that.

SNOW: But moments later Towns went on the attack repeatedly mentioning issue of violence in Powell's past.

TOWNS: I really feel once they start asking the questions and he has a tremendous reputation of beating woman.

SNOW: We went back to Powell for his reaction. He says he's been transparent and written about his past publicly. He sent us a statement saying, "Between 1987 and 1991 I did have a history of violence against women. Thanks to years of therapy, my spiritual development and the support and encouragement of women like Gloria Steinem, I have long since moved beyond the destructive behavior to become a pro-feminist and anti-is exist male actively engaged in gender issues."

One Democratic strategist says the fact that the politics are getting ugly so early is a telling sign.

HANK SHEINKOPF, DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY: When an incumbent attacks an opponent so quickly it's not so much he's worried but he wants to take his life out before he gains any momentum.


SNOW: Kevin Powell has emphasized he's reformed himself from what happened two decades ago. He's made anti-violence a message of his campaign and held a forum yesterday called stop the violence in America. He said he invited his opponent to attend but his office never responded -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A pretty amazing admission, violence towards women in his earlier part of his life. How damaging does he think this will actually be in his campaign?

SNOW: Yes, it is a pretty extraordinary admission. He says he's been very open about it, that he's been writing about it. He says that he is actively engaged in finding solutions and feels his opponent is distorting who he is.

BLITZER: We'll watch the story, Mary, together with you. Thank you.

Let's go right back to Jack Cafferty. He is in New York and he's got "The Cafferty File." CAFFERTY: My guess is his chances of being in the next chances of Congress are somewhere between slim and none, and none would be the odds-on favorite.

Question: is Barack Obama talking down to blacks as Jesse Jackson claims when he tells them that they must take more responsibility for themselves?

Kate writes: "I don't understand how encouraging someone, anyone, to be a better parent is talking down. My father left when I was younger and never was around. Even though I am white, I wish someone could have encouraged him to do otherwise. That isn't talking down to people. It's encouragement that often lifts them up."

Rob in Tucson, Arizona: "While I'll never vote for Barack Obama, I don't believe he's talking down to blacks. All he's doing is stating the obvious. Bill Cosby has been saying this for the last several years as well. Show a little responsibility for yourself and your family. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton both feel a little dissed by Obama because he managed to get where he is without their help."

He said a mouthful there.

Gord in Boston says: "Deadbeat dads are not exclusive to the black community. Obama is trying to appeal to some white voters. While this message is certainly not Willie Horton, it sounds a bit like the old tough on crime, hint-hint line. Obama certainly has thrown a lot of his primary supporters under the bus now the general election is here."

Jay writes: "Absolutely not. I'm an African-American male and was impressed with what he had to say. For too long we have depended on government to do what we should do and can do for ourselves. The black family is deeply fractured with very few father figures in the household and that has an affect on our young, black males who have no role models."

Rhonda in Lamont, Illinois, writes this: "He's telling all men to stand up and be men. The only people who think they're being talked down to are the ones that it hits home with."

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

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

He deserted the war on Iraq. Now Canada is having him back over to the United States military. So what happens to him now? Plus, the man accused of killing a Border Patrol agent set free.

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


BLITZER: A man accused of killing an American Border Patrol agent is set free and now he's the subject of an intense manhunt and cross border finger pointing between the U.S. and Mexico.

CNN's Kara Finnstrom reports.


KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mexican authorities tell CNN they are now searching again for Jesus Navarro Montez, alleged killer of U.S. Border Patrol agent Luis Aguilar. Navarro is suspected of running over Aguilar in a Hummer in the desert as the agent tried to stop two suspected drug smugglers fleeing for the Mexican border. But after just five months in custody, Mexican authorities released Navarro. The immediate backlash was against Mexico.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If this is Mexico's idea of cooperation, I shudder to think what betrayal looks like.

FINNSTROM: Now the finger pointing has crossed the border from Mexico to the U.S. the Mexican Embassy says Mexican officials contacted the U.S. government several times asking for enough information to hold or extradite Navarro but got nothing. He was freed June 18th when a Mexican judge cleared him of an unrelated charge. Mexican officials say they immediately appealed that judge's decision and started looking for Navarro again. The following week, far too late, they say they got an extradition request from the U.S.

The U.S. Department of Justice is refusing to say when they made that request. And that has Congressman Brian Bilbray fuming. He blasted the Justice Department on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT."

REP. BRIAN BILBRAY, (R) C.A.: This is one of those outrages there's a dead officer serving his country, serving his constitutional responsibility, and nobody is asking the right questions or at least going through the paperwork to make sure the bad guy doesn't get released.

FINNSTROM: What the Justice Department did say in a statement issued this week. "We cannot provide details with respect to the nature and timing of possible charges against any possible defendant or defendants."


FINNSTROM: And I spoke with agencies -- with the Mexican Embassy today. Authorities there stressing to us that they feel the two countries are working together to bring Navarro back in. They say, also, there has been some wrangling in the U.S. between different agencies over what they did or did not do -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Kara Finnstrom in L.A. for us working the story.

Kara, thanks.

Let's go right to Lou Dobbs. You heard his show mentioned. He's watching this story.

A lot of similar stories for a long time and the question is who's to blame, Lou? Who do you blame for this huge, huge blunder?

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Well, first and foremost you have to put blame on the United States government, the U.S. Justice Department, the Department of Homeland security and the Bush administration. They're responsible to prosecute those who kill our law enforcement agents. They knew where Navarro was. Jesus Navarro was in custody for five months.

The Mexican government secondarily, because obviously if they wanted to cooperate with U.S. government authorities, they would have done so. Instead the judge simply dismissed the case and moved on and the Mexican law enforcement officials simply did not cooperate or extend themselves in any way.

So this is a travesty. It's represented in what is happening at our border. The cooperation between these two governments, the Mexican government, the U.S. government, it's tragic because the Mexican government is incompetent. It's corrupt and it's ineffective despite the best efforts of Felipe Calderon over the past six months.

BLITZER: Does it take five months to put together an extradition, piece, a document seeking this guy's extradition to the United States?

DOBBS: I think the answer is hell no. That's why I put the blame squarely on the U.S. government. It is irrational, inconceivable, unbelievable what this administration, this federal government, is doing. And the way in which it's abusing our law enforcement agents who are responsible for the security of our borders and our ports. Think about this, not only was Border Patrol Officer Aguilar killed and his suspect in custody for five months.

For seven months now, more than seven months, we've been awaiting an appellate court decision to free Ramos and Compean, two border patrol agents, who were convicted on the testimony of an illegal alien drug smuggler who was committing crimes while testifying against those agents. It's -- mindless what's happening, Wolf.

BLITZER: Lou is going to have more in an hour on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT."

Lou, thank you.

DOBBS: You bet.

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