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Date for U.S. Troop Withdrawal from Iraq; Fiery Train Derailment in Oklahoma; Russian Troops Pull Back in Georgia

Aired August 22, 2008 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, Barack Obama playing his vice presidential pick very close to the vest. He's chosen his running mate. The announcement could come at any moment. We're digging for leads and Democratic strategist James Carville will tell us what he knows. Stand by for that.
A pullout plan for U.S. troops in Iraq -- it's almost a done deal. There are dates on the calendar, but the devil is in the details.

And Russian troops on the move in Georgia. They're pulling back right now, but how far and for how long?

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

Barack Obama has selected his running mate. He's still keeping it a secret, though. The announcement could come at any time. Stand by for that.

This morning, Senator Obama told CBS what he's looking for. Sources say the candidate has been calling the runners-up, several of them, at least. He'll make his choice known by text message and then appear with his running mate.

We're staking out Senator Obama. In the video wall behind me, you can see we're looking at Senator Evan Bayh's home, among others. We're also monitoring flight -- private jets coming into Chicago's Midway Airport.

CNN's political unit is digging for clues on all the top contenders. The best political team on television has it all covered for you.

But first, some other news we're following right now with enormous implications for the United States. It's just about on the calendar -- a formal withdrawal date for U.S. troops from Iraq. President Bush spoke today with Iraq's prime minister about the pullout plan. It's being worked on by both sides. They're close to a deal.

The State Department says that we're not quite there yet, but an agreement is in the works.

CNN's Arwa Damon is in Baghdad. ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Americans are calling it time horizons. But for the Iraqis, it's more of a time line. Either way, there are dates in this draft that the Iraqis say both sides' negotiating parties agreed to, though the U.S. won't confirm that the draft is complete.

In it, the date June 30, 2009 -- all U.S. troops will withdraw to bases outside of Iraq's cities. And all American forces will be gone by 2011.

Getting to this stage in the agreement took a lot longer than either side wanted. And an American source close to the negotiations tells us the Americans gave up much more than they would have liked.

Once this agreement kicks in, the U.S. has significantly less detainee authority. Contractor immunity will be lifted, but the U.S. will retain jurisdiction over its own troops.

And there are caveats. The Iraqis can ask the Americans for help at any time and it can ask them to stay past 2011, depending on the situation on the ground.

Both governments do still have to sign off on this agreement -- something that is going to prove especially challenging on the Iraqi side, where it will go through layers of approval, ending with the Iraqi parliament.

And it's there that it is likely to face its biggest challenge. The radical Shia cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr's followers, have already been protesting America's presence, burning U.S. flags. And they have said that they will not sign onto this agreement because, even though it includes a time line, they don't trust the negotiators.

As for the Iraqi street, emotions are mixed. No one wants the U.S. to stay forever, but many are afraid of what will happen to their country when they leave -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Arwa in Baghdad watching this story.

And as she just told us, the troop withdrawal deal is easier said than done. The problems are piling up already.

Let's get some more on what we know.

We'll turn to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

She's looking into this story for us -- a lot, Barbara, needs still to happen.

BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, absolutely, Wolf. As Arwa just pointed out, this agreement already is mired in controversy even before a final agreement is reached.


STARR (voice-over): The problem with the U.S.-Iraqi troop withdrawal agreement -- a deal struck on paper must now meet the combat reality on the ground.

First, the agreement's target of June 30, 2009. That's when U.S. troops would withdraw from the cities. U.S. officials worry Iraq considers it a deadline. The U.S. sees it as a conditions-based goal. Getting out of Iraq's cities may be the most vital decision to be made. General David Petraeus' security strategy has revolved around the U.S. presence on Iraqi streets.

MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: The cities are the heart of the matter. And, therefore, to somehow suggest that we can go back to what were trying to do a couple of years ago and basically just hunker down in big bases outside the cities doesn't make much sense, unless you think the mission is basically complete.

STARR: Second, there is 2011, when the agreement reportedly says all U.S. combat forces will be out.

O'HANLON: I think the Iraqis will still need our help in a couple of areas in 2011 or after, including air support, maybe some ongoing training, maybe counter-terrorism commando-style techniques.

STARR: And those U.S. forces that are left still will need U.S. troops to protect them.

Third, the U.S. political campaign already is influencing military reality. Senator Barack Obama issued a statement saying he's glad the administration has finally shifted to accepting a timetable. The Pentagon still insists there's no timetable -- only a goal to get troops out based, as always, on conditions on the ground.


STARR: Now, Wolf, all of the dates in this agreement could change. But the reality is the U.S. military actually hopes nothing slips because they want U.S. troops out of Iraq so the next president of the United States can send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good point, Barbara. Thanks very much for that.

Let's go right back to Carol. She's following this train collision out in Oklahoma. You're getting new information. The pictures are really awful -- Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we're getting new information. These are earlier pictures from just less than an hour ago. As you can see, it once was a massive fire. The fire is still burning, but it's been limited to two cars on that freight train. This is northeast of Luther, Oklahoma, just north of Highway 66. It's part of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe train line. Now, the tracks belong to them.

Hazmat crews in the area have set up a command center now, Wolf. They're going through the train's manifest to see what was in each and every car. They're not sure what was inside the car that would burn that long. The smoke is still heavy in the area. There are oil wells nearby. We understand this is a rural area, so not many people live around the blaze, which is good. It was a freight train, so there were no passengers on board. But a crew was involved. But we still have word of no injuries -- at least so far. And as I told you before, the fire is not as intense as this right now, although those two cars remain burning. Back to you -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks, Carol. We'll stay on top of this story, as well.

More news from overseas. Russian troops on the move once again in the Republic of Georgia. This time they're supposedly pulling back. But it's not clear where they'll stop or how many will be left behind.

CNN's Michael Ware is on the -- in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi -- Michael.

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, despite a complicated picture, the general trend here in Georgia, to quote the Georgian national security adviser, is that on the front lines we are seeing a Russian pullback. However, the question remains just how far those troops are withdrawing, how many shall remain, in what role and what will be their numbers?

We know that some checkpoints are already being dismantled. However, others are not. Some Russian forces are on the move in armored columns accompanied by vehicles, troops leaving. Yet in some positions, they are remaining firm.

Indeed, we have the Georgian ministry of interior telling us that in some positions, the Russian soldiers are merely taking off their uniforms and donning those of peacekeepers or attaching white arm bands or symbols to designate themselves as peacekeepers.

Now, under the peace accord as it stands, as written, the wording is so broad that you can drive a Russian armored column through it. And that is, indeed, what we're seeing Moscow doing.

Whilst their troops shall be pulling back into the disputed pro- Russian enclaves of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Russian forces are insisting on the right to maintain a security or buffer zone to protect those peacekeepers.

The question remains how far into undisputed Georgia territory will those zones extend. Some are saying seven kilometers, some are saying 10, some suspect perhaps even more.

And there's nothing to say how many peacekeepers or forces the Russians may keep. Regardless, their deployment will be such that it would allow them to maintain pressure not just on the Georgian military, but on Georgia's whole economic infrastructure -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Lots of questions remain to be answered. All right, Michael. Michael Ware is in Tbilisi, Georgia for us. Barack Obama says he has decided on his running mate. We're simply now awaiting that announcement of who that person is going to be. We're staking out all the major contenders. We're also staking out Chicago's Midway Airport, not far from downtown Chicago, where Barack Obama is.

And James Carville is standing by live. He'll help us read the clues. Stand by for that.

Also, the trouble with the government terror watch list, plus the plan to fix it that potentially could make matters even worse.

Plus, the first TV interview with an Obama sibling many people don't know about. His life is shockingly different from the candidate's.

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


BLITZER: The choice has been made. An announcement could come at any time. Now we're simply waiting to learn who Barack Obama has picked for his running mate.

CNN's Mary Snow is waiting and watching and she's looking for all the clues, like so many of us -- Mary, what are you picking up?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, with all the staking out we've been doing, Wolf, we know a little bit more about the personal habits of the potential choices, but no hard clues, as the media and political junkies sit on pins an needles waiting.


SNOW (voice-over): What Senator Barack Obama knows about his running mate he didn't share publicly as he spent the day in Chicago. That left all eyes fixed on the short listers of potential V.P. picks. Cameras planted outside Senator Joe Biden's driveway and Senator Evan Bayh's house and the Virginia governor's mansion, where Tim Kaine lives. Web sites like Huffington Post flagged predictions and those who talk for a living, well...

BILL PRESS, "THE BILL PRESS SHOW": And it's so correct that those who know aren't talking and those who are talking don't know.

SNOW: But it's not for lack of trying. CNN's assignment desk monitored Chicago's Midway Airport for any sign Obama's V.P. choice might be arriving. Any sign of movement, such as Tim Kaine walking outside, or Evan Bayh taking his kids to camp, was more than noted.

The veep stakes reminded one political observer of the another sort of sweepstakes.

LESLIE SANCHEZ, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Isn't it a lot like the Publisher's Clearinghouse? I mean we're waiting for Barack to show up in a van with some balloons and be like you're it. SNOW: Well, maybe not balloons and a doorbell, but a ring tone is more like it. For all the gazing and speculation, the answer is expected to come in a text message. The Obama campaign asked people to sign up if they wanted to get the news sent to their phones.

ALLISON DALE, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN: I think it's a pretty clever strategy by the Obama campaign.

SNOW: Allison Dale has studied the impact of text messages and elections in a 2006 study.

DALE: The recipients of the text message were about 4 percentage points more likely to vote than people that didn't receive the text message.

SNOW: And that, says another researcher, is a change from the past.

TODD ROGERS, ANALYST INSTITUTE: The more personal the mode of contact is, the more effective. So that means canvassing door-to-door, talking to someone face-to-face is, by far, the most effective way to get someone to vote who would not have voted otherwise.

SNOW: And despite assurance that the answer would come via cell phone, the press wasn't willing to take the chance of missing a scoop.


SNOW: As for how many people signed up to get that text messaged, the Obama campaign hasn't yet given out a number. But researchers we spoke with point out that even getting those numbers is useful, since cell numbers aren't listed. Whether that translates into motivating people to vote is another story -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary, thanks very much.

And while Senator Obama is playing his vice presidential pick very close to his vest, John McCain is also caught up in the veep stakes himself.

Joining us now, the former defense secretary and former U.S. senator, William Cohen. He's chairman and CEO of The Cohen Group here in Washington.

It's a very clever development by Senator Obama to get to where, you know, we're going to send it out by text message.

Meanwhile, you have all of these hundreds of thousands of people signing up to get text messages from his campaign.

WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY, THE COHEN GROUP: Well, I think he's learned a great deal from his fundraising activities, as well, by going out into the Internet world and soliciting support from millions of people. So I think this is just a complement to that. And he's learned how to generate advanced expectations, anxiety, all of the above. BLITZER: And the longer the suspense builds up, the more time there will be for additional people to go sign up to his campaign and get those alerts.

COHEN: I think that's the case. He apparently has made his choice and is keeping that secret. I'm not how much longer he can do that. I think he wants to have it known that going into the weekend, so he'll have Saturday, Sunday and Monday going into the convention. But I think there's a point of diminishing returns over this weekend.

BLITZER: Yes. We expect to know either later -- any moment now.

COHEN: Right.

BLITZER: But either later tonight -- and tomorrow he's got a big event in Springfield, Illinois and we assume we'll know by then, at the very latest. You know, most of these potential presidential running mates, including Senator Joe Biden, Senator Evan Bayh. You served with them in the United States Senate.

COHEN: Right.

BLITZER: Who do you think it's going to be?

COHEN: I have no idea who it's going to be. If you look at -- Senator Biden brings strong foreign policy credentials. He would be highly energetic and would be -- have that fire in the belly to go out and take on, certainly, the Republican team. Evan Bayh, very solid. Indiana, a great state for Senator Obama to try to pick up. But there are some wild cards out there.

BLITZER: Do you think Hillary Clinton -- even though supposedly she hasn't been formally vetted over the past few weeks, she might still be viable?

COHEN: I think she's still viable. And I think that she -- he would pick her if felt that that's the only way he really could win. And he's got some vulnerabilities we're seeing in the polling.

BLITZER: Well, you know politics. Would she help him or hurt him? And the second part of the question, who potentially could help her more, Joe Biden, Evan Bayh, Tim Kaine -- than Hillary Clinton?

COHEN: She would be very strong for him to solidify the party. There is still great resentment on the part of some of her supporters. So it would certainly help her on her fundraising and eliminating that debt. She's very strong with blue collar workers. So she could be a strong candidate for him. There are other issues to contend with. She's also a polarizing figures for the Republicans to really get energized about.

There's still Al Gore out there, in terms of a real wild card for me. If you thought of someone who had all of the credentials, in terms of foreign policy, executive experience. He's achieved wealth, fame, the -- you know, the prize for all of his efforts on behalf of the energy field and the environment -- the Nobel Peace Prize, etc. He would be pretty strong contender...


COHEN: Although we haven't heard from him. We'll see (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: Well, he sort of took himself out of it. But you know what, he could change his mind. He's got eight years experience as a vice president, too. That would be quite a surprise.

COHEN: That would be a game changer I'm not sure that's the case, obviously. You know, this is a lot of speculation. But he would be someone that would fill many of the gaps that are seen for Barack Obama.

BLITZER: And you haven't endorsed anyone, even though you were best man at John McCain's wedding to Cindy McCain.

COHEN: That's right. I haven't endorsed anyone. I think that Governor Romney is still a very strong contender for John McCain...

BLITZER: On the Republican side.

COHEN: On the Republican side. He brings a lot to what John would be -- will need. He's got the foreign policy experience. He doesn't have the domestic side. I think that Governor Romney would be very strong for him.

BLITZER: You'd bring a lot, too, but you're not interested, I take it.


COHEN: I haven't been contacted, vetted.

BLITZER: Nobody's been vetting you yet.

COHEN: And no cell phone number.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much.


BLITZER: Secretary Cohen. Epic flooding and a rising death toll in Florida -- Tropical Storm Fay in a devastating march across the state.

Plus, Barack Obama's vice presidential pick -- as we've been saying, an announcement could come at any time. We're standing by to speak to James Carville. He's got some thoughts on what's going on. You'll hear them, right here THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Once again we're waiting to find out who Barack Obama has selected as his running mate. The Democratic candidate has made up his mind. He's keeping it secret for a little bit longer. The announcement, we're told, could come at any moment. Meantime, we're digging for details with the best political team on television. Democratic strategist James Carville, by the way, he's standing by live. We'll pick his brain, as well.

In the meantime, Carol Costello is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Carol, what do we know?

COSTELLO: Well, Wolf, the fate of Florida's Panhandle is at the hands of Tropical Storm Fay, where it could make another disastrous stop. Already today, the central and northeast coasts were submerged with more than 26 inches of rain. The storm is responsible for seven deaths in Florida. The governor says Fay reminds us a storm doesn't have to reach hurricane levels to be dangerous.

A U.S.-led coalition attacked a Taliban compound in Afghanistan today, leading to dispute about how many people died and exactly who they were. The Afghan interior ministry says the raid killed more than 70 people, including 50 children. The coalition says only 30 died and they were Taliban rebels. Conflicting reports have become more common as violence grows between troops and insurgents.

Chaos on a New Jersey interstate when a bus carrying Chinese tourists plunged 50 feet down an embankment. Two dozen people went to the hospital after two buses headed for Niagara Falls collided on I- 80. The crash sent one bus through the guardrail. It then flipped and landed on its side. Police say no one was seriously hurt.

That's a look at the headlines right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good for that. That's pretty frightening, though.


BLITZER: There's no doubt about that. All right, Carol, thank you.

It's the best kept political secret right now, though it's about to be revealed -- Barack Obama's choice for running mate. We're waiting for the announcement. We're chasing tips, we're staking out airports. Obama is in Chicago. His running mate could soon show up there. We're watching Midway Airport.

Also, details of the multi-million dollar fix that could make matters worse -- yes, worse -- for the government's troubled terror watch list.

And the CIA is hitting back hard against explosive allegations, calling a controversial new book -- and I'm quoting now -- "profoundly offensive."


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, the choice has been made, the announcement is pending. We'll soon know who Barack Obama's running mate is. It's an important decision and it will speak a lot about the Democratic presidential candidate.

Our political contributor, James Carville, is here to help us read some of the clues and what it all means.

Also, the Obama sibling many people have never seen. He's now giving his first television interview and he's giving it to CNN. You might be shocked at how different his life is from that of his half brother.

Plus, the FBI, the Secret Service, Homeland Security -- they're all working to prevent a worst case scenario at the Democratic National Convention. We're going to go inside the command center.

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

Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Kathleen Sebelius, Evan Bayh, Tim Kaine -- anyone else? The best kept political secret in the country right now -- Barack Obama's pick for vice president. The announcement, we're told, could come at any time.

CNN's Jessica Yellin is joining us now from Springfield, Illinois, where a huge Obama rally is scheduled for tomorrow. And we're expecting, Jessica, the presidential candidate and the vice presidential candidate to be where you are.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Both of them holding a rally here, the place that Barack Obama originally kicked off his presidential campaign back in 2007, and also the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln.

You know, a lot of people, Wolf, are asking why is the Obama campaign waiting until now, just the weekend before the convention, to announce who the V.P. is?

And I'll tell you, there are really two reasons that I'm hearing. One is to build a growing wave of momentum heading into the convention. And, secondly, to really control the coverage of this vice president by the media. So, old think was that the campaigns should announce a vice president a week in advance of the campaign -- this has been the last couple of cycles -- to give a whole week of voter attention to this new person. It's often a time voters connect with the campaign again and begin to refocus.

But the Obama campaign tends to think that people lose interest very quickly these days and that the media also loses interest. And so the closer they are to the convention, the more positive coverage they can get. And, also, by announcing this maybe late tonight or any minute now, or tomorrow morning, there's not that much time for the media to really focus on any of the negative aspects of this vice presidential pick's background, if there are negative aspects -- and, undoubtedly, everyone has them. So it really helps them control the coverage heading into the convention -- Wolf. BLITZER: That's a fair point, Jessica. Thanks very much for that. A lot of Hillary Clinton supporters as you well know and a lot of our viewers now, they're still holding out hope that she might be the vice presidential pick. Assuming she isn't, Jessica, what happens? What happens next as far as her supporters are concerned?

YELLIN: You know, we've talked a lot about this, Wolf, about how many Clinton supporters are not yet behind Barack Obama. I've heard a number of highly placed Democratic operatives and aides expressing some concern, they feel that the Obama campaign has not necessarily done a very good job of preparing Hillary supporters for the possibility that she's probably not the running mate.

That if the Obama campaign knew this for some time, they could have put out message, let people down early so there was no expectation that Hillary could be the running mate. At this point, you still hear people, I get them coming up to me saying is it going to be Hillary and Obama on the ticket together?

So there's still that expectation, there's still a big chance of disappointment in some of the quarters of Hillary ranks. So that could even harden sentiment against Obama against those people and make it harder to win them back over by November.

BLITZER: Let's continue this discussion, Jessica, thank you. James Carville, you just saw him up on the screen a second ago. Let's talk to him right now about going on. I assume, James, you saw that item on by Mike Allen saying, you know, what, the Obama campaign has never actually formally vetted Hillary Clinton over these past few weeks. What do you make of that?

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think I heard what my friend Paul Begala said. He's exactly right. People who want to make peace and want a part of unity myself being with them, I think we've suffered a big blow today to the hard-liners. I think Senator Obama, I don't think he's ever spoken to Senator Clinton about the vice presidency or even sought her council if I'm not going to pick her as to who she's going to pick.

So I don't think it's based on -- we can all be surprised, he may pick her, but after that, it was pretty clear that not only were they not interested in having her, they were really not very interested in her opinion.

BLITZER: But is it true she hasn't been formally vetted, we heard Greg Craig, one of the top advisers to Senator Obama earlier in THE SITUATION ROOM say you know what, she's been vetted for 20 years, she really doesn't need formal vetting over these past few weeks. Do you buy that?

CARVILLE: Well, again, some diligent reporter will have to ask, but I don't think that Senator Obama has had a conversation with Senator Clinton about the vice presidency, either by her or about seeking her counsel on who it should be. So based on what I know and maybe there's things I don't know and that's very possible, that they were not particularly interested in her or her counsel on this. BLITZER: We know they did have a long meeting at Senator Dianne Feinstein's house early on right after she basically -- we don't know what, it was just the two of them in the room. We don't know what the conversation was like then.

CARVILLE: Right. We don't. So I want to be careful to say, but obviously, it seems that at a distance from what I know from the "Politico" story and what I know from other things that -- and that's his perfect right. He certainly won the nomination and he can pick who he wants.

I think but there is faction in among Senator Clinton supporters that she's trying to bring into the fold, that said to Obama's people don't really care what you think or say. I think she's working out of the story in the "New York Times" this morning how on 10 different occasions, she endorsed Senator Obama, trying to get her people to go with him. That wasn't to the satisfaction of the "New York Times" but she was out there working as hard as she can. And I think that she's going to continue to do so.

But there's no doubt that some people are going to view this as that she is not being accorded respect that is someone who basically got slightly more than half of the popular vote in the Democratic primaries.

BLITZER: Because he has repeatedly said she would be on anyone's short list.


BLITZER: But if he never even seriously considered her, she certainly wasn't on his -- we don't know obviously.

CARVILLE: We don't know, right. We do know, I think, the story is accurate that she was never vetted. But we don't, to my knowledge, maybe somebody does, but we'll have to ask, if she was ever contacted or discussed this or did he try to seek her advice on who would be someone that could do a good job, unite the party, that I don't know. It is interesting, but I do think the "Politico" story this morning, did, unfortunately, strengthen the hand of the puma faction.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about your advice for Senator Obama right now. You're one of the few Democratic strategists who's actually managed to get a Democrat elected to the White House on two occasions back in '92 and '96, re-elected, that would be Bill Clinton. Give us one or two or three hard pieces of advice right now you would offer to Senator Obama, what he needs to do over the next 70 days or so to become the next president of the united states.

CARVILLE: Well, the first thing I would do is I would own the economic issue. And I would point out very clearly the distinction between traditionally Republican and Democratic presidents using the basis of book that I've just read by Professor Bartels is I believe the gentleman's name from Princeton who conclusively shows that Democratic presidents have far superior record on economic issues. I would point out that McCain is just absolutely a mirror image of this current president on this.

BLITZER: We remember, "It's the economy, stupid," that line from the '92 campaign. So you said go back to "it's the economy, stupid."

CARVILLE: I would do it and I would focus - and also I would express some - I don't know if anger is the right word, but I would express some dismay or disgust with what's happened to people. What's happened to people's income, what's happened to the deficit. I think he's got to show people that he's fired up about this and he has a sense of urgency and immediacy about what he wants to do about it.

BLITZER: So those two pieces of advice. Anything else?

CARVILLE: Well, there's a lot of other things that we could talk about. I think he's going to do a good job at the convention. I certainly think that we need reconciliation in the party. I would certainly counsel him to get advice from President Clinton, Senator Clinton, Democrats everywhere. I think people really want to win this election and they want to come together and they want everybody to be treated with respect and graciousness.

BLITZER: How hard should he go in criticizing John McCain, his rival, given the fact that John McCain is a war hero? He spent almost six years or so as a POW. How tough can he go right now in making the case against John McCain, personally, Senator Obama?

CARVILLE: Well, look at what it did to Senator Kerry who won a silver star. I don't think he needs to make a personal case against Senator McCain. I don't think that's what people's doubts are. I think he can certainly point out that time and time again, Senator McCain supports the same economic policies this administration does.

The fact that as was pointed out this morning, his program of doing way with deductibility of healthcare insurance for employees would actually be a tax on middle class people. I think he can certainly point out the fact that Senator McCain's foreign policy is more aggressive and more single minded that even President Bush's.

I think he would commit more U.S. troops around the globe. I would certainly look at his record on Social Security. And I would talk about that a great deal, but there's no doubt that I would be very clear that if you liked the last eight years under Bush, you would love the next four under McCain and I would drive that home, I would drive that home relentlessly.

BLITZER: We'll see you in Denver next week, James. I know Monday night there's going to be a big event highlighting New Orleans and its recovery, a subject close to your heart. We spoke to the governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, he's happy you're involved in that at the Democratic Convention. He's going to be at the Republican Convention doing something similar for New Orleans the following week. We all want to help New Orleans.

CARVILLE: We do and it's actually going to be Sunday night. And it's going to be stunning, probably the best accumulation of musical talent at any political convention in history. I'm not even going to begin to name, but the godmother of soul, Irma Thomas, who's my all- time favorite is going to be the headliners there. And Randy Newman is going to sing "Louisiana 1927." It's going to be the absolute party of the convention and I'm glad that the governor is doing it up at the Republican Convention, too, because we got a really story to tell down there. Appreciate you pitching it.

BLITZER: I think your wife Mary Matalin, she'll be involved at the Republican Convention as well. We'll be there Sunday night in New Orleans at that big party. James, good cause, thanks for coming in.

CARVILLE: Thank you, Wolf, appreciate it.

BLITZER: Chicago's Midway Airport is just one of the places we're staking out right now as we look for signs of Barack Obama's running mate. The text message announcement expected any time.

Plus, what his campaign may do with all those cell phone numbers they're collecting. And a world away, Barack Obama's half brother watches his famous sibling making history from very different circumstances. We have the first television interview with his brother.


BLITZER: The Democratic ticket is now complete. We're just waiting for one minor detail, who that vice presidential running made mate is going to be. CNN is staking out all the major contenders. We're looking for any signs, word could come any moment. We're standing by to share it with you. As soon as it happens, once we know, you will know.

But in the meantime, let's check some other news. The CIA is pushing back forcefully today against those explosive allegations in a controversial new book which claims the White House asked the CIA to forge a letter in order to try to show ties between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Brian Todd has been working the story for us. Brian, the CIA came out with a lengthy and formal statement.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. The agency calling this book flat-out wrong and profoundly offensive. But for context, the CIA is now formally responding to allegations that came out in this book more than two weeks ago. A CIA official told us they felt they had to undertake an extensive review of the allegations, talk to current and former CIA officers who were involved. Former Director George Tenet was also consulted.

Now taking you back. One of the central allegations in Ron Suskind's book "The Way of the World," published in early August that in 2003, the White House concocted a fake letter from the former head of Iraqi intelligence to Saddam Hussein saying that a 9/11 hijacker had trained in Iraq. Now Suskind wrote the White House ordered the CIA to formulate that letter and send it. The White House and George Tenet vehemently deny that.

Now the CIA says in a lengthy statement, quote, "to assert as Suskind does that the White House would request such a document, and that the agency would accept such a task, says something about him and nothing about us. It did not happen."

The CIA is also denying a second key allegation in Suskind's book that months before the invasion, the same Iraqi official Tahir Jalil Habbush, the head of Iraqi intelligence, had relayed to U.S. intelligence that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The agency says that is quote, "false and wrong."

Now I spoke with Ron Suskind a short time ago. He says he expected this response from the CIA but he completely stands by what he wrote. Suskind says those two items were not subjects of cursory interviews on deadline, but the result of long, extensive taped interviews with five individuals who were involved with prewar intelligence, Wolf.

BLITZER: And at least two of those individuals have come out and addressed their involvement in all of this, right?

TODD: That's right. Robert Richer and John Maguire, two former CIA officers. I'm going to give you what they said. Richards said he never received direction from George Tenet or anyone in his chain of command to fabricate this document. Maguire has simply said he has no knowledge to the origins of the letter. Those are fairly nuanced denials. This is all the subject of a congressional investigation. A lot more is probably going to come out of it.

BLITZER: I suspect if Congress gets involved and starts investigating, we'll learn more. All right Brian, thank you.

One of the key anti-terror tools is ailing, but some say in this case, the cure could be worse than the disease. Let's go to our homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve, she's joining us live. What's going on, Jeanne?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, it was supposed to improve the Terrorist Watch List and make the country safer but a member of Congress says an upgrade of an intelligence community computer system could makes us more vulnerable.


MESERVE (voice-over): Faces, names, movements, contacts of terrorists and suspected terrorists. Every shard of information from every government agency, all melded together. Created after 9/11, the system is used to create government watch lists and provide information to federal, state and local officials. But according to one lawmaker, this system is badly flawed and a $500 million upgrade may make it even worse.

REP. BRAD MILLER (D), NORTH CAROLINA: Seven years ago, we had a lot of the information, we didn't connect the dots. It appears now we've designed a computer system that was supposed to help us connect the dots and it has just lost the dots.

MESERVE: According to a congressional staff report, limitations in the existing system make it difficult to search or locate key data. For instance, the scraps in the suspect's pockets that can yield valuable clues like phone and credit card numbers and addresses. That pocket litter information is not consolidated in one place.

After the upgrade, the report says, the system will not have the ability to search e-mails and discussion threads, images and attachments. In tests, it couldn't match different spellings of suspected terrorists' name. And it will not connect to intelligence community Web sites like the CIA, FBI and NSA.

A former White House counterterrorism official says though it may have problems, the consolidation of information has been an important tool.

FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: We have to make sure that we do everything to strengthen this program. If it's off track, we've got it get it back on track. But I would be very surprised if the problems were as serious as they are outlined in that report.


MESERVE: Congressman Miller is calling for an investigation but this afternoon, the National Counterterrorism Center issued a statement saying Miller's information is, quote, "inconsistent with the facts." The NCTC says there has been no degradation in its ability to access, manage and share terrorist information -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Jeanne, thank you for that update. Remember, we're awaiting word on Barack Obama's vice presidential pick. We're learning new information about Barack Obama's half brother as well in Kenya. The sibling you probably haven't heard much about. CNN traveled to Africa to meet him. You will as well, stand by for that.

And is Hillary Clinton doing enough to help Barack Obama? His former rival is speaking out.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: So I think it's a fair assessment that I've done more than anybody has done in my position and I intend to keep doing everything that I can.



BLITZER: Security for the conventions is truly a massive operation, as all of us know. Our own Joe Johns, he's in Denver. He's just back from the joint command center where they're trying to make sure everything is safe and secure. What did you see?, Joe?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, you know, we actually got a look at the other situation room in this town today. This is of course the situation room that the Secret Service has set up in an undisclosed location in the Denver area. And Wolf, frankly it does look a lot like your SITUATION ROOM at least in front with all the T.V. screens and what not. But behind the scenes, there are something like 62 government different agencies ranging from the Department of Homeland Security, all the way down to the Public Utilities. And they essentially will be watching everything that happens in and around this facility while the Democratic National Convention is going on.

The correct name for it is the Multi-Agency Communications Center. And they put one of these up any time there is a national security event in the United States of America.

I would not have been able to help myself if I didn't confront sort of the Secret Service and ask them that pretty simple question people always ask at times like this. And that is how are you going to strike a balance between security of the people in this area and civil liberties? Let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a balance we need to strike. We need to have the highest level of security at these venues. But we try very hard and go to great lengths to make sure that these venues are as accessible as possible. We certainly don't plan on shutting down the city. We want the city to continue to do business and thrive throughout the event. But we need to make sure that the venues are secure.


JOHNS: Now those authorities could be keeping very busy. The estimates are that anywhere between 20,000 to 50,000 protestors could be here. Frankly, the police don't know what kind of situation they're going to have. But they're trying to take all the precautions. Wolf?

BLITZER: As well they should. Show us a little bit of the scene where you are, Joe.

JOHNS: Well yes, you need to take a look at this place. I think we have another camera set up nearby. So you can just take a gander at the CNN Grill. Now this is a restaurant that CNN has taken over. Those of us who are convention veterans really know just how far this coverage has come.

I can remember the days when there were trailers we all had to schlep in and out of. Now we've taken over an entire restaurant. It is going to be ours for a whole week. There is going to be a lot of food. And here's the hottest ticket in town besides the convention, an all-week pass to the CNN Grill. See you there, Wolf.

BLITZER: I'll be there. I'm sure a lot of other folks will as well. Thanks very much, Joe, for that. A lot of us remember the CNN Diner in New York four years ago.

Barack Obama picks his running mate. His choice about to be revealed. We're standing by, we're staking out the major contenders. We're looking for clues. You'll hear it first. When we know, you will know.

Plus, Hillary Clinton breaking her silence on Barack Obama's vice presidential search. Here's just the beginning of what she has to say. You're going to hear a lot more from Hillary Clinton coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you still want the job?

CLINTON: I have never said I did. I have always said that I will do whatever I can because I feel so strongly in making sure that we elect Senator Obama our next president.



BLITZER: Barack Obama has written and spoken about his relationship with his Kenyan father and his family there but little has been said about one of the candidate's closest relatives who lives in a Nairobi slum. CNN's David McKenzie sat down with him in his first television interview.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Barack Obama's memoirs have inspired many in Kenya. Obama tells his personal story about his reconciliation with his Kenyan father. For this young man, it's an intensely personal book.

GEORGE OBAMA, BARACK OBAMA'S HALF-BROTHER: I never knew my father. I was 6-months-old when he died.

MCKENZIE: Meet George Obama. His birth certificate shows he is Barack Obama's half brother. I found George in a slum in Nairobi, far away from the glamour of the presidential campaign. He says that Obama's history helped him come to term with his own past.

G. OBAMA: I think I learned a lot about my father. The same way he did, he came here, he is fighting for his roots. I was also trying to find my roots.

MCKENZIE: Barack Obama first met George when the Kenyan was a young child, calling the experience a painful affair. George shared the awkwardness.

G. OBAMA: I think maybe you don't have anything to say. It's like you are trying too hard. It's like I'm meeting someone for the first time. You really don't have anything to say.

MCKENZIE: Barack Obama's father left the family in America and came here to live in Kenya. That's where George Obama was born. They share the same father, but they have couldn't have had more different pasts. While Barack Obama grew up in Hawaii and Indonesia and settled in Chicago, swiftly gaining prominence, George Obama has led a very different life, growing up in the ramshackle slums of Nairobi. Some of the neighbors feel that perhaps the candidate Obama should help the brother Obama.

MELDA MARGRETTE NEGEI, GEORGE OBAMA'S NEIGHBOR: I'd like Obama to visit his brother, to see how he's living, to improve our way of life. See the place he's living. You have to come and change the place.

MCKENZIE: George bristles at the thought recent magazine articles, claiming that he is impoverished and desperate just don't sit well.

G. OBAMA: I was brought up well. I live well even now. The magazines, they exaggerated everything. I think I kind of like it here. I'm Kenyan, so definitely I'd really love to live in Kenya.

MCKENZIE: George is training to become a mechanic and helping out his extended family as best he can. He says he knows why Obama will be president.

G. OBAMA: I think because he wants to be. I think in life, what you want is what you're supposed to get.

MCKENZIE: He'll be rooting for his brother come November, while drawing inspiration from a story and a history that they both share.

David McKenzie, CNN, Haruma.