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A Counter-Memo on "Torture"; "Mortal Threat" to U.S. in Pakistan; Mortgage Executive Found Dead

Aired April 22, 2009 - 17:00   ET



Happening now, breaking news -- new fears that violent extremists could take over nuclear-armed Pakistan. A dire warning from the secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, as Taliban fighters move closer and closer to the Pakistani capital.

After President Obama dropped key restrictions on dealings with Cuba, Cuba's president, Raul Castro, says he's ready to talk about everything. Now, his brother Fidel says not so fast.

And they've been targeted by arsonists for using animals in their research labs. Now, scientists are staging protests of their own against what the FBI calls domestic terrorism.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Fresh controversy today over what some are calling torture -- those harsh interrogation techniques authorized during the Bush administration. One former Bush official says he objected to the interrogation methods and that his attempts to -- to go forward with trying to avoid those techniques were actually suppressed.

So what exactly is going on?

We asked CNN's Brian Todd to take a closer look.

A pretty explosive charge from inside the Bush administration.


This former State Department official, this gentleman here, Philip Zelikow, says he doesn't know who at the White House tried to squash his position. But he said he did send a warning that the legal arguments for enhanced interrogation wouldn't hold up in court.


TODD (voice-over): Memos stating that waterboarding, sleep depravation might be legal -- Philip Zelikow was a top deputy to former secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, when the memos were first circulated in 2005 and remembers his first thought about the government interrogation program. PHILIP ZELIKOW, FORMER DEPUTY TO CONDOLEEZZA RICE: This was a much more systematic and Orwellian program than I had thought it was.

TODD: Some months later, Zelikow, who was also once executive director of the 9/11 Commission, decided to circulate his own memo. It said this about the legal argument for enhanced interrogation.

ZELIKOW: The legal reasoning in this memo presents a view of American Constitutional law and what would be allowed in America under our Constitution, that I thought was an extremely unreasonable view of our prohibitions against cruel and inhuman treatment in our own country.

TODD: Zelikow says his colleagues told him his memo wasn't popular at the White House.

ZELIKOW: They thought the memo was way out of line. And, in fact, I was told the White House had asked that all copies of the memo be collected and destroyed.

TODD: But Zelikow believes one or two copies were saved and are in the State Department archives. When we asked him for a copy, he said he didn't have one and that it would be classified.

We called the offices of former President Bush, former Vice President Cheney and some of their deputies, but could get no response.

A former White House counsel under the first President Bush says he doesn't know about Zelikow's memo, but doesn't believe someone would try to destroy it.

DAVID RIVKIN, FORMER ASSOCIATE WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: And there's an enormous difference between saying I wish you didn't do that to let's suppress it. And, of course, the proof is in the pudding. It didn't get suppressed.


TODD: David Rivkin believes White House officials would have figured Zelikow would keep a copy of that memo and that they wouldn't get away with trying to destroy it. We asked Zelikow about that. He said it perplexes him, as well, but he believes an effort was made to destroy his memo. Again, he does not know who that was.

Incidentally, he first wrote this about this experience on "Foreign Policy" magazine's Web site -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Now, Zelikow's boss was the then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

What -- what was her involvement in all of this?

TODD: Zelikow claims that Condoleezza Rice backed him up the entire way in his efforts to try to present a counter argument to these legal memos. We called Secretary Rice's office this afternoon. Her chief of staff said she would not comment on any of this. She's staying out of it for right now.

BLITZER: All right, Brian.

Thanks very much.

The debate continues.

Let's move on to the breaking news right now. With Taliban extremists poised to take over a district just outside the capital of nuclear-armed Pakistan, the secretary of State, Hillary Clinton says she sees that as a mortal danger to the United States itself.

Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

She's got more on this developing story that is causing an enormous amount of concern here in Washington -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. You know, the U.S. has paid Pakistan billions of dollars to fight terrorists. Right now, it's not looking like money well spent.


STARR (voice-over): It's a chilling notion -- could the Taliban be planning and succeed in taking over Pakistan?

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We cannot underscore the seriousness of the existential threat posed to the state of Pakistan.

STARR: The problems have moved beyond the lawless border region. After seizing the Swat Valley, Taliban militants have increased their presence in the neighboring Bunder District, some 60 miles from the capital, Islamabad. The U.S. doesn't believe militants have full control of the region, but that may not matter.

The Taliban vow to bring Sharia law here. That means few rights for women and swift, hard line justice -- all a challenge to Pakistani president, Asif Ali Zardari.

Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, is back in the region for more meetings with Pakistani commanders. U.S. officials insist Pakistan still fully controls its nuclear weapons, but there is deepening U.S. worry that Pakistan's military remains reluctant to challenge the Taliban and their effort to appease militants may have simply emboldened them.

MAJ. GEN. MICHAEL S. TUCKER, U.S. ARMY: It is on our radar. We're concerned about that.

STARR: Concerns are only growing. The latest U.S. assessment -- insurgent leaders may have thousands of fighters in their ranks.


STARR: And one of the big questions for the Obama administration now, Wolf, is, of course, the obvious -- if the Taliban were to take over Pakistan or really make that attempt to do so, would the Pakistani military step in and take over before the Taliban could?

It's not a scenario the U.S. wants to face -- Wolf.

BLITZER: But the Pakistani military is a huge military, Barbara. They have a half a million soldiers right now on active duty, another half a million in the reserves. They clearly could deal with a few thousand of these Taliban fighters if they had the -- if they had the orders to do so.

I assume that's the assessment over at the Pentagon.

STARR: That is the assessment that you -- you know, you fingered it, Wolf. It's the orders to do so. The U.S. the Pentagon has been pressing the Pakistani military commanders to issue those orders to crack down. And so far they haven't. And what only appears to be happening is that the Taliban are growing in power and influence, challenging the central government of Pakistan. And it's putting the Pakistani military in a very difficult position -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Barbara.

Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon watching this story.

Let's go back to Jack.

He has "The Cafferty File" -- a lot of concern here, Jack, about what's happening in a nuclear-armed Pakistan, even as we speak.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, although the interview you did earlier with the Pakistani government official, he didn't seem to be that concerned. He treated it like they were isolated in a valley surrounded by mountains and that the Pakistani military was more than capable of meeting the challenge, should it become necessary.

The question is, who do you believe on this stuff?

President Obama's national intelligence director says that Bush era interrogation techniques, which many call torture, may have worked. Dennis Blair wrote in an internal memo: "High information came from interrogations in which those methods that were used and provided deeper understanding of the al Qaeda organization that was attacking this country."

Blair added he'd like to think he would not have approved such methods in the past. But he doesn't fault the people who made the decisions at the time and will defend those who carried out orders that they were given. He says the information gathered was valuable, in some cases, but there's no way of knowing whether they could have found out the same things using other methods.

Blair says the bottom line is these techniques have hurt America's image around the world and the damage they have done has outweighed any benefits.

Former Bush administration officials have argued the interrogations were an important part of the war on terror. Former CIA Director Michael Hayden says the use of these techniques: "made us safer."

And former Vice President Dick Cheney agrees. He says that he's asked the CIA to declassify other memos that show what was gained from these harsh interrogations.

Just yesterday, President Obama left open the possibility of criminal prosecution for former Bush administration officials who authorized this stuff. But he continues to insist that the CIA officers who carried out the interrogations should not be prosecuted.

Meanwhile, a new Senate report shows senior Bush officials authorized aggressive interrogation techniques like waterboarding and forced nudity despite concerns expressed by both military psychologists and lawyers.

So here's the question: If so-called enhanced interrogation techniques yielded results, does that make them OK to use?

Go to and post a comment on my blog.

The old ends justifies the means conundrum -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good question, Jack.

Thank you.

Shock and sadness at the apparent suicide of a top Freddie Mac executive.

Is it linked to investigations of the troubled mortgage giant?

We're learning new details. Stand by.

And new developments in the alleged wiretapping of a powerful Congresswoman. The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, now revealing what she knew about all of that.

And fighting anti-American hatred in the Arab Middle East -- Jordan's Queen Rania is here in THE SITUATION ROOM with some advice and a reality check.


BLITZER: More on the breaking news this hour -- new fears that a key U.S. ally in the war against terror armed with nuclear weapons could potentially fall into the hands of terrorists. Taliban insurgents have extended their base of power in Pakistan to within striking distance of the capital, Islamabad. It's a dangerous complication for the United States military, as it sends more troops into neighboring Afghanistan.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, is here.

He's watching all of this unfold -- they've got a handful, the U.S. military, Chris, as we take a look at this situation, not only in Afghanistan, where the military is located in the thousands, but in neighboring Pakistan. A very worrisome development.


And let's start right here in Afghanistan, where U.S. troops are fighting right now.

A senior U.S. commander said just today that 80 percent -- up to 80 percent of the insurgent attacks and violence is happening right here in the Southern region of Afghanistan. In fact, he says that right now, it looks like the U.S. military is at a stalemate right there.

Now, let's take you a little bit east. We'll take you into Pakistan. This is the area that we normally would talk about, that border -- that eastern border with Afghanistan -- with the eastern part of Afghanistan. But we're going to focus right here, the Swat Valley, because that's an area that the Pakistani government cut a deal with the Taliban to allow them to impose Islamic law there. A U.S. counter-terrorism official said that if they see more deals like this, it could portend very bad things.

Here's why. They have now -- the Taliban have moved down south into Buner. Reports we are getting are that they are imposing Islamic law in certain areas, ordering men not to cut their beards, stricter standards for women, confiscating property, that sort of thing.

Also, they have set up checkpoints in cities that are bordering other regions to the south, southwest and west, which could mean possible movement in the future -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And as you heard the Pakistani ambassador tell us here THE SITUATION ROOM a little while ago, they insist they didn't make a deal with the Taliban, they made a deal with tribal leaders, some of them are close to the Taliban. That's a distinction that they're trying to emphasize.

Here's the question. If the Taliban and their forces are that close -- about 60 miles to Islamabad, right there, the capital of Pakistan -- how close are they, actually, to Pakistan's nuclear arsenal?

LAWRENCE: A great question. The Swat Valley, 100 miles; Buner, about 60 miles; Islamabad, right here, just no -- no more than 10 miles outside Kahuta. That is the main nuclear lab for Pakistan. It is also their center for long range missile research. It's where they produce highly enriched uranium.

A little further south, Khashar. That reactor there produces enough plutonium to allow Pakistan to produce at least one, possibly as many as five, bombs a year. And just to the east of that, Sargodha. The air base there is the central air command for Pakistan. It also houses Pakistan's equivalent of the U.S. Navy Top Gun school. And we believe that is where the large crews would be housed.

One caveat to all this, you can see how close it is. Almost every official that we have spoken to says the Pakistan military remains in firm control of its nuclear arsenal.

BLITZER: I sure hope so.

All right, Chris, thank you.

Another story we're following right now -- a community is in shock, a company is in mourning and questions are swirling.

Why did a man described as a happy husband, dedicated worker and devoted to his community apparently commit suicide?

Police think David Kellermann, the acting chief financial officer of the mortgage giant, Freddie Mac, hanged himself at home.

What happened is unclear. What is clear is his company is mired in controversy and investigation.

We asked CNN's Kate Bolduan to take a closer look at this story.

You're out there in Vienna, Virginia, right outside the nation's capital -- Kate, what are we learning?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as soon as word got out, many started questioning if there is any connection between this tragedy that happened in the home behind me and the investigation into David Kellermann's company.


BOLDUAN (voice-over): News of David Kellermann's death has shocked this picturesque community in Northern Virginia.

PAUL UNGER, NEIGHBOR: I was in stunned silent and I shed tears. I -- it -- I feel terrible.

BOLDUAN: An employee of mortgage giant Freddie Mac for more than 16 years, 41-year-old Kellermann had been its acting chief financial officer since September. Fairfax County police were called to Kellermann's home just before 5:00 this morning.

EDDY AZCARATE, FAIRFAX COUNTY POLICE: When officers arrived, they found Mr. Kellermann downstairs. He was dead. We don't suspect any foul play based on the scene that they saw.

BOLDUAN: A source close to the investigation tells CNN Kellermann died of an apparent hanging. This coming at an already difficult time for his company. The government took over Freddie Mac last year, as the subprime mortgage crisis spun out of control. And during the short time Kellermann was acting CFO, a recent public filing reveals Freddie Mac was under investigation by federal prosecutors and the Securities and Exchange Commission for accounting and disclosure issues.

But a company spokesperson says: "Freddie Mac knows of no connection between David Kellermann's death and the regulatory inquiries that were discussed in our recent SEC filing."

Freddie Mac's acting CEO, who visited the grieving family, called David Kellermann's death "a terrible personal tragedy," adding: "his extraordinary work ethic and integrity inspired all who worked with him."


BOLDUAN: Now, the Justice Department had no comment on the ongoing investigation into Freddie Mac or Kellermann's death. However, a government offi -- government sources, I should say, do say that the investigation, the criminal probe into Freddie Mac is still in its early stages -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a story.

All right. Thanks, Kate, very much.

President Obama making some major changes in U.S. policy toward Cuba -- so what do Cuban-Americans think of these changes?

A major shift in the poll numbers and the reason why -- that's coming up.

Plus, protecting the president's image -- it's a top priority over at the White House. We're going behind-the-scenes to show you the P.R. machine in action.


BLITZER: Let's go right to Fredricka Whitfield.

There's a story just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Fred, what's going on?

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is a pretty serious indicator of just how lean and tight these times are about to get for General Motors and anyone who works for G.M. The Associated Press is reporting that G.M. is preparing to close most U.S. factories for up to nine weeks this summer. And, you know, of course, G.M. has already received $13.4 billion in government loans. And there are many rules and areas in which to comply for the government restructuring plan. Perhaps this might be one of them, in order to save money. We know that G.M. has also been asking for additional funding.

But again, the Associated Press is reporting that G.M. is preparing to close most of the U.S. factories this summer alone for about nine weeks. Meantime, there is other news that we're following, as well. After initially denying it, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi now says that she knew -- rather -- let me indicate that I'm -- I'm -- OK, her fellow Congress -- California congresswoman, Jane Harman, had been wiretapped. In transcripts provided by her office, Pelosi told a newspaper luncheon that she was informed "a few years ago because half her leadership position." But she added she was not fully briefed on the nature of the conversations.

And an update on the woman who broke her neck and back during a turbulent airline flight and was left paralyzed. Her doctors tell CNN that she is now developing some motion in her toes and getting back some sensation after undergoing two operations. The mother of three struck her head on the plane's bathroom ceiling. She does not want to be identified.

And New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is planning a massive green initiative for his city. He's proposing a series of laws that would require environmentally friendly upgrades for more than 2,000 older buildings. City officials estimate that it will cost almost $3 billion to complete, create 2,000 new jobs in the process and save $750 million a year in energy costs -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We're going to continue to watch that G.M. story. That's quite a story that's just developing.

What did you say, nine weeks they're going to shut down their plants?

WHITFIELD: Nine weeks this summer. Almost all the U.S. factories this summer for nine weeks.


WHITFIELD: It's pretty significant.

BLITZER: Yes, very significant.

All right, thanks very much.

And it certainly is a sign of what's going on over at General Motors right now.

Who's really in charge of Cuba right now?

President Raul Castro responding to U.S. gestures by saying he's ready to talk about everything. But his brother Fidel Castro says not so fast.

And they've been targeted by arsonists for using animals in their research. Now scientists are staging protests of their own against what the FBI is calling domestic terrorism.

And protecting the president's image -- that's certainly a top White House priority.

But can the administration's P.R. machine keep up with all the paparazzi? We'll tell you what we know right here THE SITUATION ROOM.


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

Happening now, breaking news -- Taliban militants now wielding control less than 100 miles from Pakistan's capital. And that's prompting new concern about the country's nuclear weapons and a dire warning today from the secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

The Pakistani ambassador to the United States -- he'll be joining us at the top of the hour.

French commandos turn over almost a dozen suspected pirates to authorities in Kenya. The men are accused of trying to hijack a Liberian cargo ship, but the French chased them down and captured them.

And a mixed day on Wall Street. The Dow down -- it lost more than 80 points on continued concerns about the financial crisis. The S&P lost six points, while the tech heavy Nasdaq was up two points.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Ninety-three days into his administration, President Obama has launched a series of initiatives. There have been bold steps forward, some stumbles along the way. We're taking a closer look at the record with the -- a major on-air event. That would be the CNN national report card for the first 100 days. That's on the 100th day, which coincides with next Wednesday, beginning at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

One major policy shift -- that would be Cuba. The president this month lifted some restrictions on visits and money transfers between American citizens and relatives in Cuba. The Cuban president, Raul Castro, then said he's prepared to talk with the U.S. about everything -- human rights, freedom of the press, political prisoners.

But Fidel Castro today stepped back from his brother's comments, suggesting Cuba has no political prisoners, he insists, and calling on President Obama to lift the U.S. embargo.

Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is here taking a closer look at Cuba policy shifts and how it's playing with one key group -- Bill?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, do Cuban- Americans go along with the changes President Obama is making in U.S. policy toward Cuba?

According to some new evidence, they do.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Stereotypes about Cuban-Americans may be out of date, according to a new national survey. Cuban-Americans are reliably Republican. But look at how they feel about President Obama. Two thirds favorably.

Unalterably opposed to any change in American policy, 64 percent support President Obama's decision to lift restrictions on visits and money transfers by Cuban-Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he did a great thing, something presidents should have done a long time ago.

SCHNEIDER: More and more Cuban-Americans believe all Americans should be allowed to travel to Cuba. Two-thirds feel that way now.

And the trade embargo?

Cuban-Americans are split.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to keep the embargo, you know?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cuba, he need to open to the -- to the world, you know?

SCHNEIDER: The number of Cuban-Americans who support ending the embargo has increased from 28 percent in 2003 to 36 percent in 2006 to 42 percent now.

Why the shift?

Here's one reason -- younger Cuban-Americans are less hard line than their elders. Why?

FERNAND AMANDI, BENDIXEN AND ASSOCIATES: A lot of them have family, have direct ties to the island.

SCHNEIDER: But views are changing, even among the first generation of Cuban Americans.

AMANDI: The historic exile wave of Cuban immigrants that came in the 60s and 70s, there really was a reversal of opinion taking place here.

SCHNEIDER: The U.S. policy of isolating Cuba for the last 50 years has not produced much change. Maybe more contact with the U.S. will increase pressure on the Castro regime to change. President Obama thinks so. Apparently so do more and more Cuban Americans -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Bill Schneider with the latest numbers, thank you. Fascinating stuff.

Let's talk about this and more with our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley, the Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor Donna Brazile and the Republican strategist Kevin Madden. I'll start with you Kevin. I know your group has some business interests, associates that might be dealing with interests in Cuba. But tell us what you think about these changes in U.S. strategy, in U.S. policy toward Cuba that the president has announced.

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Again I do think what's most important was in the package we saw which was this signifies a generational shift among Cuban Americans. One thing that's different about the current dynamic is that President Obama doesn't really behold to a political constituency went there. For example, he won Florida without the support of Cuban Americans. But most important is that the Cuban American population believes that isolation, which has been essentially the best way to summarize our policies there for the last 50 years is not working. There are many even Republicans who believe we can continue to thaw that isolation with more engagement of the people of Cuba, at the same time taking a hard line with Castro. The difference I think is that President Obama is not taking a hard line with Castro. He's signifying warmer relations with somebody who I believe and many Republicans believe is a tyrant.

BLITZER: At least so far, the U.S. under President Obama has been doing all the giving and so far we haven't seen a lot of changes, a response coming from the Cuban government.

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: We thought that Raul Castro spoke on behalf of the Cuban people last week when he made some overtures and Senator Clinton said this might be a new beginning. Including freeing political prisoners, but now Fidel Castro, or the ghost of Fidel Castro has re-emerged to say, let's hold off. Look, the Obama administration is seeking a new beginning with Cuba, starting with allowing Cuban Americans to be able to go back home or to exchange or give money. But at the same time I think the Obama administration is looking for some overtures in freeing political prisoners, expanding Democratic freedom and of course human rights abuse.

BLITZER: This has been a hot political potato for a long time, Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Obviously the dynamic is changing and we have to look as Donna implied, look at what President Obama has done and that is step up the people to people exchange with Cuba. But he has said very clearly, now we need to see something from them and obviously today what we know is that the leadership in cube barks no matter which brother you have is pretty immaterial.

BLITZER: Day 93 now of the Obama administration, we're counting down today 100 next Wednesday. Northern policy in general, Cuba being important, but relations with Europe and Venezuela and Russia. Give me a grade, how is the president doing so far.

MADDEN: Well of course bias opinion here, I would give the president a d. I think what we have seen are troubling signs of a president for the first time offering more criticism of his own country on foreign soil than we have ever seen before. I think President Obama was critiqued quite directly by my old boss Governor Romney this week in that he has been too timid on many of these foreign policy overtures that he has made around the country. He should be instead of apologizing for American prominence around the world, he ought to be championing it.

BLITZER: Republicans are really hammering him on this notion that he's apologetic for U.S. misdeeds in the past, even as he goes into Europe or Asia or South America.

BRAZILE: President Obama ran on the platform of change of course and the reasons opposed that. But he also said he wanted to rebuild our relations, strengthen our alliances and that's what he's doing. Republicans don't agree with him on his approach to diplomacy, but it's important for the American people and for our interests across the globe that we not only rebuild our relations, but to strengthen our ties because we need help in Afghanistan, we need help in Iraq and there's nothing we can do militarily without having a strong diplomacy.

BLITZER: Because if you listen closely to what he said he would do as a candidate, he's doing now.

CROWLEY: He is. And the problem is it isn't over, it's exactly what Donna said, what happens now? We do need help. Does it work to reach out and to say to Germany and France, gee, we have made some mistakes, but we would really like you to put some stimulus money into the economy, well, they haven't done it yet. To go to NATO and say it's a great organization, we're on board and we want to work with you, but they didn't put any troops out there. So far we have a lot of symbolism, he has done exactly what he said he would do, but we haven't yet see the substance of what he will do.

BLITZER: Dick Armey the former Republican majority leader gave him an f on the economy.

CROWLEY: By partisanship all around, give him an a.

BRAZILE: I grade papers. I give him a strong a.

BLITZER: Not an a plus?

BRAZILE: There's still room for improvement.

BLITZER: Always room for improvement.

One week from tonight, we mark President Obama's 100th day in office with a special event. The CNN National Report Card, the first 100 days, you'll have an opportunity to grade the president yourself and you'll also have an opportunity to grade the cabinet and his Congress. Next Wednesday night, it all starts here at 8:00 p.m. eastern only on CNN.

Anti-American attitudes, they're hardening in the middle east, I'm going to be talking about that and more with Jordan's Queen Rania. What can the U.S. do to change perceptions? Pakistan's ambassador to the United States is here THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll ask him about the break news we're following right now, Taliban militants now wielding power only miles from the Pakistani capital.


BLITZER: President Obama has been reaching out to the Muslim world. Yesterday he hosted Jordan's King Abdullah. I spoke about a lot of what's going on in a special one-on-one interview with Jordan's Queen Rania.


BLITZER: Your majesty, thanks very much for joining us. Welcome to Washington.

QUEEN RANIA OF JORDAN: Thank you very much. Pleasure to be here.

BLITZER: You're going to be meeting with the president of the United States, the first lady of the United States. You have a lot going on. But education, especially educating young girls in Jordan, in the Arab World, in the Muslim World, that's your passion right now. You have a huge challenge ahead of you.

RANIA: Absolutely. I think education, a global education should be a priority for all of us. When we think of Millennium Development goals, I think the one key to unlocking a lot of the changes that we're facing the world is through education. And the sad fact of the matter is that we have 75 million children out of school today and it is actually an investment that we should really focus on, even in an economic downturn because it's an investment that doesn't devalue, it pays dividends many times over, and it's actually quite an inexpensive investment. It takes us - it costs us only 11 billion dollars annually to put every child in school in low income countries.

Now when you think of the hundreds of billions of dollars that have been mobilized in order to help the banking system, 11 billion is something that we can afford.

BLITZER: In the Muslim World, in the Arab World, there seems to be so much discrimination, though. And correct me if I'm wrong, against little girls getting the same level of education that little boys get.

RANIA: Well, in the Arab World there have been good investments made in terms of increasing general enrollment in trying to achieve gender parity but the fact remains that we have 6 million children who are out of school in the Arab World, two thirds of them are girls and - but I think the real challenge is now to really focus on the quality of the education, so although we've managed to put more children to school, we haven't managed to give them the skills that they need when they get out of school and there hasn't been the link between the educational system and the private sector, which means that one in four of our young people is actually unemployed.

BLITZER: I know in Jordan you are doing the best you can but elsewhere in the Arab World, certainly in parts of the Muslim World there is this discrimination against girls. Girls can't even go to school, for example, in Afghanistan under Taliban controlled areas. How big of a problem is this because we hear these reports and to those of us in the West it's a source of great outrage?

RANIA: Well, Afghanistan is an extreme case. And when you look across the Arab World, the situation differs in each country. But for the most part now in the Arab World, there is an understanding that education for girls should be a top priority and I think mindsets are changing in that regard.

That said, we still do have some discrimination which we have to overcome.

BLITZER: Because we heard a highly publicized case the other day of Saudi Arabia, of a 47 year old man marrying an eight year old girl and apparently this was very legal.

RANIA: Well, it should not be legal and it certainly wouldn't be legal in Jordan. But as I said, mindsets have to be change. What we confront when it comes to gender parity are the obstacles are very much in terms of the traditions, the mindset, the cultural attitudes. And those, unfortunately, take a long time to change. They need patience and persistence and a long time to - working along that path. But hopefully we are getting there.

And as I said, it's not only just focusing on gender parity, (inaudible), but it's also focusing on the kind of education that we do give our young people. In the Arab World we still focus too much on rote learning, on memorization, not so much on - we teach children what to think rather than how to think.

BLITZER: Because we've heard so much over the years, especially here in the United States since 9/11 about the madrassas, these religious schools where these young boys are taught, according to what we heard in the 9/11 Commission testimony and all of that, basically to hate the West.

How big of a problem in the education system are these madrassas in the Arab and Muslim World?

RANIA: As I said, you cannot generalize about the Arab World as a whole because the situation differs in many different countries. So, for example, in Jordan I have a program called medressadenet (ph). I don't want madrassas to always be associated with something negative because madrassas, actually the translation is "my school" and in that program, what we've done is - we did a needs assessment over the 500 worst schools in Jordan and we look at everything they need and then we try to partner with people in the private sector, in government, in NGOs and the community trying to help fix those schools and to really revamp them.

And as a result, we've had a change in mentality where their responsibilities for education shifted from just being a public responsibility to being everyone's.

BLITZER: Have you gone through the textbooks? Because the textbooks supposedly are a source of a lot of this hatred where they teach young kids to hate the West, certainly to hate Israel.

RANIA: I'm a strong believer that in education we should - education should be agenda-free. Certainly free from any political agendas or religious agendas because every child should be given the ability to learn how to think and not what to think. They should be able to be given the tools of how to explore the rest of the world, how to surf the Internet, how to acquire knowledge and then they can make their own judgments about the rest of the world and there is nothing worse that anyone can do than to seed stereotypes of prejudice in young people's minds and to try to shape the way they think and they view the world. Because I think at the end of the day, when we grow up, we have to have the right tools to make our own judgments and our own decisions.

And if that happens, then that's something we should fight anywhere, whether it's in the Arab world that you see that happening, everywhere. Whether in the West, in some cases here in the United States, all over the world, you have people trying to pass on their own prejudice and stereotype onto the younger generation.

And that, for me, is a terrible thing that's almost equivalent to abuse of children.


BLITZER: One week from today, President Obama will make his first 100 days in office. He promised transparency in the White House, but he has delivered in submit your video questions to and tell us what you think.

It's a White House priority, looking at the president's image. But can the White House pr machine stay ahead of the paparazzi?

I don't like the word tourism any more than anybody else does. But if this doesn't get us close to the definition of it, I don't know what does.


BLITZER: Animal rights extremists are targeting scientists right now. Let's go to CNN's Ted Rowlands. He's working the story for us. There are suggestions domestic terrorism could be involved. What do we know, Ted?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a group of scientists here at UCLA have been the target of arson at the hands of extremist and a group of them got together and said you know what, we've had enough. So, today they showed up at an animal rights protest with a protest of their own.


ROWLANDS: While this group called for scientists to stop using animals for research, scientists and their supporters gathered to demand a stop to the attacks against them. Over the past three years, several UCLA researchers that use animals in their labs have been targeted by arsonists, who have anonymously identified themselves as animal rights activists.

DAVID JENTSCH, UCLA PROFESSOR: It was just complete - a complete shock to see how quickly something like this can happen.

ROWLANDS: Professor David Jentsch who uses primates for research is the latest UCLA faculty victim, his car was set on fire outside his home.

JENTSCH: I don't like the word terrorism any more than anybody else does, but if this doesn't get us close to the definition of it, I don't know what does.

ROWLANDS: The FBI calls it domestic terrorism.

SALVADOR HERNANDO, FBI: We believe it's just a matter of time before someone's going to be hurt. When devices are placed on the front door, on the front doorstep, so that a house might burn down, there might be somebody inside.

ROWLANDS: Animal rights activists say for years without success they've tried with videos like this one posted on the PETA website to convince the public that animals used for science are subjected to horrendous cruelty. Many activists say while they don't condone arson attacks, they understand them.

CHRIS DEROSE, LAST CHANCE FOR ANIMALS: They have no other alternative, you know, nobody's listening to us anymore. We do hardcore investigations. We do big exposes and nobody really cares. You have an element of people out there saying you know what, we're going to take it another step further.


ROWLANDS: Scientists here say there are also subjected to near constant e-mail and phone threats. There were two arrests last week by the local authorities here. Two people arrested for felony stalking, but, Wolf, still nobody has been arrested in any of these arson cases.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for that, Ted Rowlands reporting from L.A.

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

CAFFERTY: If the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques yielded results, does that make them OK to use?

Richard writes: "Waterboarding was a war crime punishable by death to the Japanese who used the interrogation technique during World War II. It was also an atrocity when used on Cambodian civilians after the Vietnam War. Dick Cheney should be waterboarded just to prove that lessons from history are not his to ignore."

Frank in Cape Coral, Florida: "Yes, yes, oh yes, let me think, yes. If it saves one American's life, let me repeat myself, yes."

John in Tennessee: "Burning down the house to kill termites works too but it may not be the best approach to pest control. Blair himself admits that other methods may have yielded the same info. Torture is never justified, no matter what the result might be."

Tony in Houston: "When dealing with terrorists and their heist acts, I think there should be no limit on what we need to do to get the information to defend ourselves. If terrorists are willing to kill themselves and innocent women and children, then they open the door to any tactics we deem necessary."

Thom in Michigan writes: "That is the exact thinking we have condemned other countries for. That is the exact difference between us and those whom we consider uncivilized and void of human rights. If we can justify torture, than we have lost all that we have been."

Mark writes: "I can read all the responses now. We'll all right our big, white horse decrying these interrogation methods. But then when there is another terrorist attack, everyone will wonder why the government didn't do more to stop it."

And Mickey writes: "No. My grandparents who arrived through Ellis Island would be rolling over in their graves if they knew that the beacon of freedom they sought had adopted the practices of the regimes they fled."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog, And look for yours there. There are hundreds of really, really good ones to read -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Yep, always are, Jack. Thank you.

Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, says it's a threat to Pakistan's very existence. The country's ambassador to the United States will be here in just a few minutes to talk about the latest Taliban advances, militants now seizing power within miles of the Pakistani capital.

And the White House carefully guarding the president's image. Why it's so important and how it's done.


BLITZER: 93 days in to the Obama administration and as we close in on the first 100 days, protecting the president's image is certainly becoming a top priority over at the White House. CNN entertainment correspondent, Brooke Anderson, shows us how it's done -- Brooke?

BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, with such intense interest in the first family's private lives, it's no surprise the White House is taking major steps to protect the Obamas' image.


ANDERSON: The Obamas' love story, the Obamas at home, even grandma. First family headlines dominate magazine covers, much of which the result of a well-oiled PR machine inside the White House doing its best to control how the public perceives the Obamas.

RAPHAEL SONENSHEIN, POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR: If the White House did not try to influence the coverage of the first family, they're asking for a terrible invasion of privacy.

ANDERSON: But the May issue of lifestyle publication "Washingtonian" proves not all exposure can be controlled. This image, for example, taken last December in Hawaii had been published before and the magazine did not contact the White House before using it after slight alterations.

SONENSHEIN: The notion of using a telephoto lens of getting a picture of the president or president-elect on a beach in a bathing suit is intrusive.

ANDERSON: The "Washingtonian" tells CNN the pictures illustrates the golden age of D.C., a hot president matched with a hot city. The White House has no comment. But political science professor Raphael Sonenshein said publications like this are the exception, not the rule.

SONENSHEIN: They put a lot of photos out already on their own trying to preempt the paparazzi. And if 98 percent of the images they are comfortable, the other ones I don't think you'll sweat that.

ANDERSON: Pretty good odds for a man used to keep score.


ANDERSON: Wolf, the number one rule the Obamas have, the kids, are basically off-limits except during public family appearances. Back over to you.

BLITZER: All right. Brooke, thank you.

Remember one week from tonight will mark President Obama's 100th day in office with the CNN "National Report Card," the first 100 days, I'll be joined by John King and Soledad O'Brien and the best political team on television. That's 8:00 p.m. evening one week from tonight.

Breaking news, the U.S. accusing Pakistan of surrendering to terrorists, Taliban fighters now claiming greater control of the nuclear-armed nation. Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S. gives us his country's first official response, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.