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THE SITUATION ROOM
D.C. Metro Trains Collide; Iranians Continue Protests
Aired June 22, 2009 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, we're following breaking news on several fronts. Right here in Washington, two subway trains crash, and the accident now is deadly. We're getting new pictures and information coming in.
Also, rage and fear in the eyes of Iranians -- this hour, powerful firsthand accounts of the unrest in Iran after an attack on protesters by riot police.
And President Obama cracks down on the habit he can't break, and now he's squaring a tough new anti-smoking law with his own struggle with tobacco.
Also, a fraud watchdog is fired. Did the White House boot him for being critical of an Obama supporter? What's going on?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
But, first, the breaking news from Iran. This hour, Iran's powerful security forces bracing for more anti-government protests and issuing its sternest warning yet that demonstrators will pay a price.
Protesters defied those threats today, gathering in a Tehran square to vent their anger about Iran's disputed presidential election. But riot police quickly moved in, reportedly attacking hundreds of people with tear gas and firing live bullets in the air.
Listen to this. A surprise admission today from the Iranian government that more ballots were cast in 50 -- 50 -- cities than the number of people eligible to vote in those cities. But authorities insist that would not have changed the outcome of the election.
Britain is certainly a target of anger in Iran, and it's now evacuating the families of diplomats from its embassy in Tehran. It's the first country to do that since this crisis erupted. The Iranian regime is calling for a review of its ties to the U.K., accusing it of meddling.
And a new call to action today for Iranian protesters from the opposition leader himself.
Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. She's at the Iran desk at CNN's global headquarters monitoring what's going on.
First, Abbi, tell us about this call from Mir Hossein Mousavi. ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, this was a recent update to the Facebook page of Mir Hossein Mousavi, calling for a protest, a demonstration, a peaceful demonstration, according to this update, on the streets of Tehran on Thursday.
It says stay tuned for further details, that they're being worked out right now, the protest called to honor the martyrs, according to this post on the Facebook page, and that call for a further demonstration, despite warnings from Ayatollah Khamenei on Thursday -- on Friday -- I'm sorry -- that the protesters would suffer consequences if they were to take to the streets again.
But that's an update from the Facebook page of Mir Hossein Mousavi. We're here at the Iran desk in Atlanta at the CNN Center, where we have teams of people monitoring state television. We have Farsi speakers going through the videos that we're bringing to you, sources on the ground corroborating the information that we're showing you right now.
And I wanted to bring this tape, which shows what the protesters are up against. Right now, this is at a sports complex which seems to have been turned into a dispatch center for the gang-like forces who have been patrolling the streets.
You saw motorcycles lining up there. Take a look at the protesters running in this video here, running to the left. You're wondering why they're doing that. The camera then pans to the right. And look at these motorcycles come down the street, two, four, six, eight.
You see them patrolling the streets. You see the protesters very quickly intimidated and getting out of the way of the Basij, of these gang-like forces who have been out on the streets, ready to meet any of the people that take -- go out and demonstrate -- Wolf.
BLITZER: They are very frightening, these black-clad Basij guys on their motorcycles with the batons and the tear gas.
Abbi, stand by. I want to get back to you.
CNN is harnessing all of its resources to bring you the latest information from inside Iran, but the country is putting severe restrictions on our reporters and many others, kicking a lot of journalists out of the country.
I spoke just a short while ago with one of the few journalists, Western journalists, left in Iran, "The New York Times" columnist Roger Cohen.
BLITZER: How worried should the main opposition leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi, be for his own personal security and perhaps for being arrested or even killed?
ROGER COHEN, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I think there's a very serious risk that he could be arrested. Everybody has been arrested.
I mean, all the people I saw when I arrived here almost two weeks ago, all the people around him, his aides, all the reformist intellectuals, they're all in jail. They're all in prison.
And he could very easily be arrested. He's clearly being limited in his movements. He's not been seen, to my knowledge, since last Thursday. He made a powerful statement Saturday morning. Then he was invisible and silent for 36 hours or so, which caused some disarray.
Then he did come out today again in the early hours of today and says that people have the right to protest this -- what he regards as this fraudulent vote. So, he's clearly limited in his movements. And, yes, the danger is there that he could be arrested. Killed, I would doubt that at this point.
BLITZER: What about you, Roger? How worried are you about your safety in Tehran right now?
COHEN: Well, it's very tense. And most people are gone. So it's kind of lonely. But, you know, I'm just trying to -- obviously, I think the story's of huge and fundamental importance. And I'm just trying to report it out until somebody tells me to stop, which, thankfully, hasn't happened yet.
BLITZER: Did you have a chance today to really walk around Tehran and get a personal feel of the tension, the fear factor in what's going on?
COHEN: Yes, I moved around a fair amount today, and I have certainly moved around a lot in recent days.
And, you know, tensions were absolutely at fever pitch on -- on Saturday and all of last week. The city is a -- is a little calmer now. But if you look into anybody's eyes, you see -- many people's eyes -- you see this smoldering rage. And there's a lot of fear about.
And as soon as you get to the downtown area, around Revolution Street and Revolution Square and Freedom Square, where a lot of the protests have taken place and where the security forces are really massed, the tension is very severe.
And I -- clearly, because I -- I'm conspicuous at this point, I'm looking over my shoulder. And everybody is, I think. And there's still a tremendous amount of tension in the air. And tonight, once again, the cries of "Death to the dictator," and "Allahu akbar," "God is great," were reverberating around the city just as strongly as ever.
BLITZER: And when they say, "Death to the dictator," specifically, who do they have in mind?
COHEN: Well, that's unclear.
I think, at the beginning, they had in mind President Ahmadinejad. One of the things that happened, has happened here over the last 10 days is that a movement that was directed very specifically at annulling the election and recovering votes that millions of people thought had been fraudulently lost has shifted, for many people, not for Mousavi himself -- and I think he's right, tactically, because the clerical establishment won't go along with a counter-revolution, but, for many people, it's shifted to the whole regime. And at the apex of that regime, of course, stands the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
BLITZER: Well, Roger, we will check back with you tomorrow. Please be careful over there, Roger Cohen, the columnist from "The New York Times," an eyewitness to history unfolding right now. Thanks, Roger.
COHEN: Thanks, Wolf. Bye.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: All right, there's also a major development here in the nation's capital, in Washington, D.C. Two D.C. metro trains have collided within the past hour, this occurring during rush hour.
Elaine Quijano is standing by. I think she's at the scene.
Elaine, are you there?
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I am, Wolf. I am standing on a bridge overlooking the train tracks. There is a stopped Metro train below me with its doors open.
We also see Metro Transit police on the tracks. They have been evacuating passengers from the train using stretchers, also carrying some of these passengers. From what we could tell, some of the passengers, at least one of them that I saw, did seem able to walk.
There are -- there are, though, however, reports -- Metro officials have confirmed that two people have died in this train collision here. We understand that there are people trapped as well. From our vantage point, we -- I have to tell you, we got pushed back from where we originally were, and so I have not seen ambulances or fire trucks on this particular side of the bridge where we are.
But they are obviously working to rescue the people who remain trapped at this hour. Quite a number of emergency vehicles, Wolf, we should tell you, really descending on the scene on our way up here. And the Metro officials, in fact, are working to brief reporters just a few feet away from me, Wolf.
But, again, the latest is, Metro officials are confirming, Wolf, two people have died. There are, of course, serious injuries here and reports of people still trapped in the trains -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Elaine, stand by, because Taryn McNeil is joining us on the phone right now. She's a spokesman for the Metro Transit Authority.
Taryn, how many dead and injured based on your latest information?
LISA FARBSTEIN, SPOKESWOMAN, D.C. METRO TRANSIT: Taryn had to take another call. This is Lisa Farbstein with Metro.
BLITZER: Can you answer the questions, Lisa?
FARBSTEIN: We have a report of, I can confirm, two fatalities and several serious injuries.
Obviously, our main concern is to treat the people who are injured and get them all the medical attention that they can and that we can get for them to make sure that, you know, they are treated properly.
BLITZER: Was this a head-on collision?
FARBSTEIN: I don't have any information as to the cause of the collision at this time. It's likely to be several days before we do have any kind of preliminary information on that.
BLITZER: And do we know how many people were in these cars, how many people are affected by -- by this collision?
FARBSTEIN: Well, they're -- the trains would have been fairly full, because it happened at 5:00, at the start of the rush hour.
How many that would be, I have no way of knowing at this time.
BLITZER: But you are confirming two dead right now and many others injured. That's right?
FARBSTEIN: Yes, indeed. Unfortunately, that is the case.
BLITZER: All right, Lisa...
FARBSTEIN: And, obviously, you can see from the images on your screen that there are emergency medical personnel at the scene doing everything they can to treat those individuals.
BLITZER: All right, Lisa, we will check back with you. Thank you.
The general manager of the D.C. Metro, John Catoe, said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN CATOE, GENERAL MANAGER, D.C. METRO: What I know thus far is approximately at (INAUDIBLE) we had some type of collision between two Metrolink trains. We're still in the process of getting individuals off of the trains, those individuals who can walk. There is a report of a fatality. We're not sure who that is, whether that's our employee or one of our customers. And, again, we don't know the cause right now. We're focusing on making sure that the people receive any attention that they might need.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, he's obviously -- that tape came in before we have confirmed that there are two fatalities, not one, and several people injured.
Peter Goelz is joining us, formerly with the National Transportation Safety Board.
It's going to be a thorough investigation whenever you have a collision like this. What's the immediate sense you're getting, Peter?
PETER GOELZ, FORMER MANAGING DIRECTOR, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: Well, the NTSB will launch a team, and they will be there shortly.
They have -- you know, they have gone out three times in the last three years for the Washington system, twice on track workers being killed by passing trains, once on a derailment. But they will look at this very carefully, because there -- there have been increasing concerns about the safety of aging Metro lines.
BLITZER: How safe are these trains, not only in Washington? But there are cities all over the country that have these subway systems, these trains. How worried should folks watching this be right now?
GOELZ: Well, I mean, it's a pretty safe form of transportation, but there have been some disturbing trends recently.
In Boston, in the Metro system up there, they have had a couple of incidents where the engineers were distracted by texting or using cell phones. Same thing -- there was a tragic accident in California on a larger rail -- on a commuter rail line on the same thing. I would say that this is -- this accident's going to get a lot of attention.
BLITZER: I don't know if you have access to what we're showing our viewers, Peter, right now in the screen. Do you see CNN right now?
GOELZ: I don't. No, I'm sorry.
BLITZER: Oh, because you clearly see these two trains in a collision, one train on top -- one cabin on top of another one. And it looks pretty, pretty devastating when you show that image. I don't know if we can get back to that, that picture. But it's a horrible, horrible picture.
GOELZ: Yes. And that -- and that would indicate some fairly high speeds. This -- this was not a low speed accident. I have seen some of the clips already. So, I'm just not watching it exactly now.
But this is -- the -- the NTSB will have a full -- full team out there to look at this. And they will look at the operations, the switching and exactly how you get two trains on the same -- same track.
And you can see one cabin, one train is directly above another train, so it must have been going at high speed to simply be elevated like that and wind up sitting on another train completely. It's a pretty devastating picture.
And for the millions of people who take subways and trains every single day, it's a source of concern, obviously not only here in the nation's capital -- there's that picture right there from our affiliate WJLA -- but it's a source of concern for folks all over the country.
All right, we will stay on top of this story and update you once we get more information, at least two dead here in Washington with this crash, and lots of others injured.
Let's check in with Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Goldman Sachs, the investment bank, is on track to make the biggest bonus payouts in the 140-year history of that venerable company, according to a report in the British newspaper "The Guardian."
Goldman staff in London were reportedly told they could expect record bonuses if the company, as predicted, has its most profitable year ever. The investment bank's earnings are up for several reasons, including a lack of competition, along with increased revenue from trading foreign currency, bonds, and fixed-income products.
Last week, Goldman Sachs repaid the U.S. government $10 billion in TARP money which it had received, which now leaves it free to do pretty much whatever it wants. Yet, the company is denying these reports about these record bonuses, calling them pure speculation. They say they won't know what the bonuses will be until the end of December.
But the company's CEO told lawmakers recently the firm is obligated to -- quote -- "ensure that compensation reflects the true performance of the firm and motivates proper behavior" -- unquote. Critics say the culture of excessive risk and excessive bonuses is what brought down the financial system in the first place.
And in light of the ongoing recession and record unemployment, and home foreclosures, and a whole range of economic woes, some could argue if this is the best time for Goldman to be considering paying out record bonuses. It's believed the firm paid $1 million or more to nearly 1,000 of its investment bankers last year.
So, here's the question: What message would it send if Goldman Sachs makes the biggest bonus payouts in its 140-year history?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. Post a comment on my blog.
You get a bonus this year, Wolf?
BLITZER: No. But it means that business must be pretty good, I guess.
CAFFERTY: I think Goldman Sachs is doing all right.
BLITZER: Yes, I guess so. All right, Jack, thanks very much.
I want to show our viewers this very dramatic picture of what's happening here in Washington, D.C. There it is. Take a look at this shot, if we can get it up on the screen. Two Metro trains collided here in Washington within the past hour or so. And one train is now on top of the other train, at least two dead.
There you see it right now. That's a live picture coming in from our affiliate WJLA. And we are going to update you on what we know and the lessons learned from this accident in Washington right in the middle of rush hour in Washington, D.C.
Also, haunting images coming out of Iran right now. We will hear from an Iranian who lived through the 1979 revolution and is still haunted by the memories.
Plus, President Obama says the U.S. is ready for any move North Korea might make. How seriously should the U.S. take that regime's missile threats?
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Nightmare during rush hour in any community. This is Washington, D.C. -- new pictures just coming in of a horrible train crash, the subway system in Washington, two trains colliding not far from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., not far from the Maryland border, two trains.
We don't know if it was a head-on collision or one train simply caught up to the other train from the rear. And you can see one train, one cabin on top of the other, indicating that these trains were going at fast speed. You're seeing these pictures just coming in of the injured.
We have confirmed that two fatalities did occur in this crash. It happened a little bit more than an hour ago, the red line here in Washington, D.C. We will stay on top of this story.
By the way, if you have any iReports of what's going on, send them to us at CNN.com, and we will get some of your images on the air as well, a horrific collision involving the Metro here in Washington, D.C., only a little bit more than an hour ago. We will update you when we get more information.
Meanwhile, President Obama's reviving a signature campaign slogan: Yes, we can. He used that today regarding what he calls a major step toward health care reform. The pharmaceutical industry has agreed to cut drug costs for senior citizens. It will be a major benefit for most beneficiaries for brand-name medicines purchased in what's called the doughnut hole in gap -- doughnut hole gap in coverage. That involves drug costs for seniors between $2,700 to $6,100 a year that are not covered right now by the Medicare Part D plan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So as part of the health care reform I expect Congress to enact this year, Medicare beneficiaries whose spending falls within this gap will now receive a discount on prescription drugs of at least 50 percent from the negotiated price they're paying -- their plan pays.
It's a reform that will make prescription drugs more affordable for millions of seniors and restore a measure of fairness to Medicare Part D.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Could save senior citizens about $1,700 a year with this new plan. President Obama wants more people to stay away from cigarettes at the same time. So, today, he set in motion the strongest ever anti-smoking government act. But can the president himself kick the habit?
Let's go to our White House correspondent Dan Lothian.
The White House talking about this today, Dan.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And, you know, the president saying that this anti-smoking measure will save lives and money, and while he gave a stern warning about the dangers of smoking, the president offered up only a CliffsNotes version of his personal story.
LOTHIAN (voice-over): It's a hard habit to break, and President Obama says he should know. He got hooked on smoking early.
OBAMA: Almost 90 percent of all smokers began at or before their 18th birthday. I know. I was one of these teenagers. And, so, I know how difficult it can be to break this habit when it's been with you for a long time. LOTHIAN: In a Rose Garden ceremony, Mr. Obama signed a tough new anti-smoking measure into law, aimed at snuffing out temptations young people find hard to resist.
OBAMA: It will curb the ability of tobacco companies to market products to our children by using appealing flavors.
LOTHIAN: While the president has been outspoken in this anti- smoking campaign, it's unclear whether he practices what he preaches. Mr. Obama ignored a question I asked on his personal struggle with smoking. His spokesman said the addiction remains a day-to-day battle.
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't honestly see the need to get a whole lot more specific than the fact that it's a continuing struggle.
LOTHIAN: But, on the campaign trail, the president frequently got specific on the issue. Kicking the habit became part of his narrative.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": Whatever you need to do.
LETTERMAN: And you -- see there -- you're using the gum.
LETTERMAN: So, you're OK. Are you still smoking? Or are you OK with...
OBAMA: Oh, no, no. The gum -- the gum's working good.
LETTERMAN: Working good.
Oh, boy. Oh, boy.
SMITH: I could use some now.
LETTERMAN: How do you...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEOTAPE) REP: This all matters because, as a popular, powerful figure, some say the president has the opportunity to better influence young people with his personal struggle.
But, for now, except for the few words we heard today, what once was a public part of the president's life has now become very private -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Dan Lothian, at the White House.
I quickly want to follow up on a story we reported on Friday. It involved the doctor who cared for President Obama in Chicago for 22 years before he became president of the United States. We noted that Dr. David Schneider doesn't think the president's current health care reform idea of a public plan goes far enough.
But that's because the doctor would prefer a single-payer system, a government plan of Medicare for all covering everyone. Just wanted to clarify that for you.
New video and information coming in to us via the Internet, as the Iranian opposition leader calls for continued protests, in defiance to what the grand ayatollah has said. We are going to have the latest coming in from Iran. Stand by.
And fallout from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's fall -- she cancels her attendance at some major overseas summits.
And what L.A.'s mayor told CNN right here in THE SITUATION ROOM about his political future. Will Antonio Villaraigosa run for governor of California?
Stand by for his answer.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: There's been a deadly subway crash right here in the nation's capital, in Washington, D.C., right during the height of rush hour.
CNN's Joe Johns is on the phone.
Joe, where exactly are you right now? Because the pictures coming in are pretty scary.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
Wolf, I'm -- well, for those who know Washington, D.C., I'm sort of behind the 200 block of Oglethorpe Street Northeast in Washington, D.C., not far from Catholic University.
It's really pretty -- a chaotic scene, I should say, Wolf, helicopters flying overhead. I'm right very close to a triage center that they have set up. But some of the people I saw who were lying down on the ground just a little while ago now appear to be stirring.
I did see some other people who I think were actually put on ambulances. It's very hard to tell the seriousness of the situation right now. What's clear is that this happened around 4:59 or so. It's been just a convention of -- of rescue personnel, police really trying to handle three different situations, the traffic control, the crowd control of people who are interested in what's going on, and also the rescue operation.
I -- I have no idea just how far along that is. So, we are all trying to get some more details from the authorities and hoping for the best here in the nation's capital -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And do we know yet, Joe -- I don't know if you've had a chance to actually see these cars, but what is it, a couple of these cars are on top of another.
Was this a head-on collision or did one train hit the other from the rear?
JOHNS: Right. That's anybody's guess. From my perspective, quite frankly, Wolf, I've heard -- I've heard it both ways. So I wouldn't be able to confirm that for you.
BLITZER: And this picture that we're showing, you take a look at that, half of a train on top of another train and you see the rescue personnel inside. That whole front of that -- that car is totally, totally destroyed. And this is an area, Joe -- and you know this area quite well, where these trains have an opportunity to really, really pick up speed between stops. And clearly, that's what happened.
If one train jumps on top of another -- one cabin actually is on top of the other -- it must have been going pretty quickly in order to be able to elevate itself in that kind of a situation.
JOHNS: They certainly do. And while we don't know it for a fact, we also know that around rush hour, these trains can be extremely crowded. It can be literally standing room only. I know I've been on these trains before in that type of situation. So the concern is that we're talking about trains packed full of people, complicating the rescue and also creating a very dangerous situation for the people who are on board -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And these are relatively new.
When I say the D.C. Metro system is relatively new, certainly compared to New York City's subway system. And, generally, has always had an excellent reputation, over these -- these many years here in Washington, D.C., isn't that right, Joe?
JOHNS: It certainly has had a very good reputation. It's very seldom that you hear about a serious accident. And we can certainly say there will be quite an investigation into all of this.
I remember -- actually, I wasn't in the city at that time, but one of the most serious crashes the Metro has had, if I can remember correctly, was the same day that Flight 90 crashed in the Potomac. It was a wintry day years and years ago.
And I remember how authorities, I remember reading about and watching authorities in the city dealing with both situations at the very same time. Fortunately, nothing like that since.
BLITZER: You know, well, we're going to stay on top of this story and update our viewers on what's going on.
Joe, I want you to stand by, because we're going to be getting back to you.
Betty Nguyen is also getting more information on what's going on -- Betty, what are you picking up?
NGUYEN: Well, so far, we are trying to determine exactly what might have caused this. You saw that video, Wolf, one of those trains on top of the other. And at the far end of that video, you can see the people standing on top of that.
Well, we have learned from our affiliate, WJLA, that's the front of the car that has just been sheared off there -- the front portion where the driver would have been.
Again, no word exactly as to who was killed in this, although we know two people have been; numerous injuries. As you heard from Joe, that there's a triage area that has been set up. In fact, two area hospitals have been put on alert for the injured.
But again, back to the question of exactly what happened, why this happened, what caused it. Well, we still don't have an answer to that. But we do know this. The Department of Homeland Security has issued a statement saying: "At this early stage, we do not have any clear indication of a nexus to terrorism. We will continue to monitor closely and provide support in any way needed."
But as you've been talking about, Wolf, this Metro train -- subway train must have been going at some speed in order for it to land on top of the other one.
Again, it's unknown whether this was a head-on collision or not. But we do know, at this point, that there are two people dead because of it and numerous injuries.
And that's the latest from here -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Betty. Stand by, because we know people are interested. Millions of people take these trains every day across the country; indeed, around the world. And whenever there's a collision like this, people want to know why it happened and to make sure -- to make sure it doesn't happen again -- learn lessons from this crash.
Joe Johns is on the scene for us, our long time correspondent -- Joe, I want to come back to you in a moment.
But we have an eyewitness who is joining us on the phone right now. Jodie Wickett is joining us.
Jodie, tell our viewers what you saw.
JODIE WICKETT, CRASH WITNESS: I'm a nurse. And I was on the train when it crashed. And we felt like we hit a bump and about five or 10 seconds later, the train just came to a complete halt and we went flying.
I went through the cars to the area where we thought there were -- there were cars over each other. And I went in there to try and help. And there was debris and people pinned under and in between the two cars.
And we were just trying to get them out and help them as much as possible -- pulling back the metal and whatnot. And some we couldn't and some we could, until an emergency crew got there.
BLITZER: And the car you were in must have been further behind, because the cars that really -- the collision part, you see one set of trains -- one set of cabins on top of another.
WICKETT: Yes. I was about two or three cars behind the train that was on top of another. And then...
BLITZER: Was your train pretty packed or was it empty?
WICKETT: It was -- it was virtually empty, because we had just -- the bus -- or the train had just restarted at the Glenmont station. So it was just refilling.
BLITZER: Did it seem to you that this was a head-on collision or one train colliding with the other from the rear?
WICKETT: It felt like we hit another train.
BLITZER: From the rear or from the head-on?
BLITZER: It looked like two trains just got their -- their computer systems or whatever -- they were both on the same track, they hit each other and that's what happened, the images that we're seeing.
Did you have a chance to see the casualties there?
BLITZER: You're a nurse. You were obviously anxious to help.
WICKETT: Yes. I -- I stayed. And we got everybody off the bus that could walk. And I walked up through the cars to the cars that were on top of each other. And I tried to assist with, you know, helping the people that were casualties.
BLITZER: You told us what it felt like when you heard -- you felt a little bump, then five or 10 seconds later, you could really feel the impact and people went flying.
What about you?
Tell us exactly -- and you were sitting or standing at the time?
WICKETT: I was sitting. And I was texting on my phone. And I had just texted somebody that I felt like we just hit a bump. And from that point on, it just -- it happened so fast I just -- I flew out of my seat and, you know, I hit my head and whatnot. But I'm virtually OK compared to what I saw. The people are just in very bad shape.
BLITZER: Do you have any idea how long it took for emergency crews to get to the scene?
WICKETT: It was probably about 10 to 15 minutes. We heard sirens right away, but I think it took them a few minutes to get to the train.
BLITZER: And did you hear people screaming?
WICKETT: No. No. The people that were hurt were -- the ones that could speak were calling back as we called out to them. A lot of people were upset and crying.
WICKETT: But no screams.
BLITZER: Well, where are you now, Jodie?
Are you out of the scene?
You're back home?
WICKETT: No. I'm escorted out to the edge of the scene. And I just -- I'm waiting to go somewhere.
BLITZER: And the train you were on, was it at that the bottom or was it -- was it the train that elevated and went on top of the other?
WICKETT: I entered into the cars. The bottom half of the top car was torn off by the bottom car. So I was virtually in both cars at the same time trying to help peel them apart to get to the people.
BLITZER: Well, thanks for your help, Jodie.
Appreciate it very much.
Jodie Wickett, a nurse, was on one of those trains. And she seems to think it was a head-on collision, based on what she felt and what she saw.
There's another eyewitness who spoke out just a few moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) QUESTION: You live right around here, sir?
HUGHES WEBSTER: Yes, I do.
QUESTION: When did you realize there was something going on?
WEBSTER: About a half an hour ago when I heard the large explosion.
QUESTION: What did it sound like?
WEBSTER: It sounded like -- it sounded like something exploded, actually. Something exploded. I just heard a lot of ambulances, lot of fire engines and such. So I came out to see what was going on there. Everyone was saying that the trains collided, one went on top of another. So it looks pretty bad.
QUESTION: What else did you see when you first came down here?
WEBSTER: A lot of people being carried off in stretchers and such, you know. A lot of people were hurt there.
QUESTION: Some people were walking off and some people were carried?
WEBSTER: I really didn't see anybody walking off so far. Everybody was actually being carried or being helped off of the tracks.
QUESTION: What's your name?
WEBSTER: Hughes. Hughes Webster.
QUESTION: H-U-G-H-E-S W-E-B-S-T-E-R:
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Another eyewitness witnessing this collision of these trains that's just happened here in Washington.
All right. We're going to take a quick break.
When we come back, we'll get back to the other breaking news we're following -- another dramatic day in Iran right now. We'll see and hear what was going on, when we come back.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: History unfolding in Iran right now -- the threat of another full-fledged revolution is being recorded in real time online. We're monitoring all the amateur video and firsthand accounts being posted on the Web.
Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. She's over at the Iran Desk at the CNN Global Headquarters.
This stuff is coming in pretty quickly right now -- Abbi.
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, I just wanted to bring you this one video that we've just been going through here -- video of a recent protest. Take a look at this. It's pretty interesting what it appears to show.
It looks like members of the Basij, these gang-like forces. They're an arm of the government that operates like gangs and have been doing so in the last few days. It appears to show them, if you can see it right there, jumping on a vehicle. Certainly, we can see that quite clearly.
A group of them then move across to building, seem to be trying to get into that building in some way. This is significant because over the weekend, Press TV in Iran was reporting that multiple arrests have been made. Over 400 arrests had been made because protesters had been vandalizing property.
In at least this video, it looks like members of the gang-like forces have been destroying cars. The voices that you hear during that video are saying to each other, "What are they doing? What are they doing jumping on that car?"
The protesters or the people in the streets trying to figure out who it is actually destroying that property -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Thank you, Abbi.
I know you're getting more information.
We'll get back to you.
In a news conference earlier today in Tehran, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman, Hassan Qashqavi made some accusations about Western media outlets. He accused everyone working at the BBC, the Voice of America and CNN of pursuing the weakening of Iran's unity -- that's a direct quote -- and seeking the disintegration of the country all because, he said, of ties to Israel and Zionism.
In addition, Qashqavi specifically claimed that CNN officially trains people to: "hack government and foreign ministry Web sites," citing a CNN.com story about how protesters used the technique against the Web site of the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
HASSAN QASHQAVI, IRANIAN, FOREIGN MINISTRY (through translator): This is (INAUDIBLE). They officially train the people to come and hack Iran's government's Web site. This is the English text. I can give it to you. This is a cyber war, this with -- isn't it a cyber war of the media with an independent government?
They ask people to use the U.S. system to hack our Web sites.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: In response, CNN released this statement. Let me read it to you: "The accusations are completely false. CNN stands by its comprehensive coverage of the Iranian election and the protests that followed. CNN has been and will remain committed to continuing its efforts to bring news from Iran to the world in whatever way it can. The images and events coming in from Iran speak for themselves. CNN is beholden to no government in its reporting on international affairs."
That statement from CNN.
Let's talk about what's going on in Iran, because history is unfolding right now.
Joining us, our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; David Frum, the former speechwriter for President George W. Bush; and our senior political analyst, David Gergen.
Does it have the feeling to you, David Gergen, of a momentous moment in world history?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Absolutely. There is almost a sense here that what we were watching in Eastern Europe just before the wall came down -- that the societies, at some point, they -- who -- in which there's a great deal of repression, there's a rebellion that sort of wells up from -- from within the populace. And they push and push.
Now, I think what -- what I think all of us should be worried about is that this is not going to be a Berlin Wall, but it's going to be a Tiananmen Square unfolding in slow motion. And, you know, that, I think, we should keep in mind, too. The likelihood here is unless there is a great division among the clerics and they help to bring this regime down is that the -- that the regime itself has all the power and all the guns.
Is that -- is that your sense as well, David?
DAVID FRUM, FORMER BUSH SPEECHWRITER: David Frum?
FRUM: I think that Tiananmen was, in many ways, a different world. We all remember that famous photograph of the man who confronted the tank in Tiananmen Square. That's the indelible image.
They had a little post on the New Majority site today about this.
That image we have because it was -- the film was physically stored inside a toilet for four days and then smuggled out to the Western world. The idea that images will be instantaneously and massively available in the way that they now are, that was unthinkable in 1989.
And that may explain, I think, one of the most puzzling things about this, which is for all the violence and repressiveness and terrorism of the Iranian regime, they seem very nervous in their application of force.
If that was provocation, for example, that you saw on the clip, why did they feel the need to do that?
Why have -- it's true that they're using tear gas and that's nasty. But they are not using the kind of live ammunition that the Chinese used -- that the Shah used back in 1978 and '79, when the world wasn't watching.
BORGER: You know, there may be a sense, though, that they understand that you can't put the genie back in the bottle and that the only thing that they have left to do against the people who are out in the streets is to intimidate them. And I think that's what we just saw on the video today, with the kind of thuggery, with somebody jumping on a car, going into a -- going into a building unprovoked.
BLITZER: You know, as if this crisis were not enough for President Obama, he's got another threat that he's worried about -- North Korea -- David Gergen, right now.
There's a ship moving and suspected of having, perhaps, nuclear equipment on it or military -- banned military equipment. And the North Koreans are making this public statement that they're going to launch a long-range ballistic missile toward the area of Hawaii just around July 4th, on top of all of this.
It's as if the North Korean leader is saying I want some attention, as well.
GERGEN: Well, there is this irrational defiance on the part of the North Koreans, because they know if they launch something against Hawaii, they're going get wiped out. And that, in itself, ought to be something of a deterrent.
But I must say, for the president now, he's got himself into a situation where, having promised to interdict and, in effect, signaling the world that this ship is containing illegal cargo and dangerous cargo, he has got to stop that ship before it makes its delivery. I don't -- I think otherwise, he's going to be seen as a paper tiger.
And the other thing that does occur here, Wolf, with Hawaii now having this -- you know, this potential threat against it, you know, missile defense suddenly becomes a lot more important. After all these arguments we've had about whether we should have some sort of missile defenses, having some missile defenses against rogue regimes actually turns out to be important.
BLITZER: Yes. He's made some tough statements about North Korea, David Frum. And forget about Hawaii, even though he was born there. But he's saying the North Koreans better not try anything.
FRUM: Well, let's not forget Hawaii. Bombing Hawaii -- it's been tried before. It didn't work out that well for the people who did it. But we know how to bring pressure on the North Koreans. It's a combination of interdiction and also this financial sanctions approach the Bush administration used, where they found where the bank accounts were and they squeezed them. And that is -- that was a method that was dropped by the Bush administration when they tried this negotiated approach that has been so tremendously disappointing.
So I think it may be time to revert to those intense financial sanctions -- going after the personal wealth of the North Korean elite. That seems to be what they're in this for, after all.
BORGER: You know, John McCain -- Senator McCain suggested over the weekend that the U.S. board this ship without permission if the ship is carrying missiles in violation of U.N. resolutions. At this point, I don't know whether that's something we're considering. But there seems to be some sentiment in the United States Senate that that's something we ought to be doing.
BLITZER: The president is going to have a news conference tomorrow in the Rose Garden...
BLITZER: ...right around noon. We'll, of course, have live coverage of that. We'll see how he responds. We know there's going to be questions on both of these issues. And a lot more.
Guys, thanks very much.
Let's check in with Lou to see what's coming up right at the top of the hour -- Lou?
LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Thank you, Wolf.
At the top of the hour, we'll have the latest on the train crash in Washington, D.C..
Also, complete coverage of the crisis in Iran, the U.S. response and the use of social networking to cover that crisis.
We'll also be talking with one of the leading authorities on the Islamic world. Dr. Fouad Ajami joins me.
Also, North Korea making aggressive new threats against the United States, as a U.S. destroyer tracks a U.S. cargo ship believed to be carrying weapons or nuclear materials.
And new concerns tonight about the safety of our food system after Nestle recalls cookie dough products because of the risks of E. coli contamination.
And a mystery tonight over the whereabouts of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, who has disappeared from public view for days.
And in our face-off debate tonight, we debate the president's new commitment to give millions of illegal aliens a path to citizenship -- what some call amnesty.
Join us for all of that and more at the top of the hour -- Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
We'll see you then.
We're going to continue to watch what's happening right here in Washington, D.C. -- a collision in the Metro system. Two trains colliding. They're carrying away the wounded right now. At least two dead. We'll update you on what we know right after this.
BLITZER: All right. During the height of rush hour here in Washington, D.C., two Metro trains collide. At least two people dead, lots of others injured.
CNN's Brian Todd is now on the scene for us -- Brian, how close are you to the -- to the seat of this collision?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I got about 200 yards from the actual collision site and did see the train that was upended. It was pitched into the air at about a 45 degree angle, literally on top of the other car. And then I went to a staging area not far from there where they were bringing some of the injured and talked to some people there. They were just waiting to be evacuated.
One sergeant from the D.C. Fire Department told me that he thought that they had pulled everybody out of the train. That can't be confirmed right now, because another official who was on the same scene, a another battalion commander, said he didn't have that information.
It's not clear at this point, Wolf, whether they've pulled everybody out of the train.
But some of the victims are describing what it was like. A woman named Victoria Davis, who was on the train that did not actually get pitched up into the air. She was on the train that got hit by that particular train. She said it was like a bad head-on collision in a car. She got jerked from her seat and turned her left ankle.
Another woman described it as an earthquake. Her arm was in a sling. She was waiting for friends to pick her up.
Some of the people here who are being checked out -- there are people wearing green plastic ribbons to show they've been checked out by paramedics. They are leaving the crash scene. In (INAUDIBLE), where I am, near the staging area, they just backed two ambulances down a pretty narrow road. They're starting to evacuate people.
But the streets around this -- this accident are very narrow and it's -- it's kind of slow going for the -- for the crews to evacuate people. BLITZER: When you saw those trains one on top of the other, Brian, did it look like it was a head-on collision?
TODD: It did look like a head-on collision, Wolf. It looked it was -- it was -- these two trains collided with a great deal of force. This trains was literally at a 45 degree angle, pitched into the air. And it looked like it had gotten thrown with really violent force up into the air.
I didn't get any closer than -- than about 200 yards away before I had to kind of hurry back to where the staging area was. But it looked like it was a very, very violent collision.
BLITZER: All right. Brian.
Brian Todd is on the scene for us at this deadly collision here in Washington, D.C.
I just want to alert you that the mayor of Washington, D.C., Adrian Fenty, he's going to be holding a news conference and making a statement around 7:15 p.m. Eastern, about 15 minutes or so from now. We'll have coverage of that. Stand by for that.
Let's check in with Jack Cafferty right now for The Cafferty File -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour is what message would it send if the investment bank, Goldman Sachs, makes its biggest bonus payouts in its 140-year history?
Jerry in Toronto says: "I don't see an issue with the bonuses. What I do see are the greedy not learning any valuable lessons. The next time the market fails, don't give them a pass and let them collect $200. The Monopoly money has run out. They can stand in the bread line with the rest of us." Martin writes from France
"It would send a great message that not all companies are struggling and there is hope ahead. Some companies can manage through these times well. Other companies, such as British Airways, are asking employees to work for free, take unpaid leave when times are tough. We have to expect the reverse. When times are good, reward the staff."
Walter writes: "So Goldman Sachs may have its most profitable year ever, leading to the payment of record bonuses. Has everybody forgotten about the $13 billion in taxpayer money funneled to Goldman through AIG during the last nine months? Sure, Goldman paid back the $10 billion of TARP money it took through the front door, but the $13 billion laundered through AIG and taken in through the back door would appear to have gone straight to the bottom line."
Steve writes: "Massive bonuses in the face of this difficult recession will further alienate the average, hard-working people who have to tighten their financial belts and who may have lost their jobs entirely. If society begins to see bankers as greedy and out of touch with the common person, there's a growing chance legislation could emerge that would limit or penalize massive compensation and bonuses. The bankers could be biting themselves in the rear-end."
Marc in Virginia says
"It's still a free country for now. They can pay their executives whatever they want."
And Nereida writes: "Goldman Sachs must be doing something right if they paid back their loan and managed to pay off bonuses, as well. I'm currently unemployed. I'd love to return to New York. Who should I send my resume to?"
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile and look for yours there, among hundreds of others -- Wolf.
BLITZER: See you tomorrow, Jack.
Thanks very much.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.
LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Thank you, Wolf.