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THE SITUATION ROOM

President Obama Steps Back from Fighting Words; Terrorists Recruiting in America's Heartland; Republicans Show Support for Sonia Sotomayor's Confirmation

Aired July 25, 2009 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: The president steps back from fighting words with police and a red hot dispute over race, but he stops short of a formal apology. Has he tamed down the uproar over an African-American scholar's arrest?

Plus, one of the FBI's most important terror investigations since 9/11. Terrorists allegedly are recruiting in America's heartland. Young people are vanishing and then dying a world away. And only on CNN, airplanes blown to bits to beat the terrorists at their own deadly game. The Feds are exploring new ways to smuggle explosives past security using suitcases, liquids, and even candy.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

What might have been a resolvable local incident sparked a divisive national controversy. Now several twists regarding the arrest of an African-American scholar, Henry Louis Gates. President Obama who said the Cambridge, Massachusetts police acted stupidly is now dialing that back. He says he regrets inflaming the controversy but does not necessarily take back his opinion of what happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I continue to believe based on what I have heard, that there was an overreaction in pulling Professor Gates out of his home to the station. I also continue to believe, based on what I heard, that Professor Gates probably overreacted as well.

My sense is you've got two good people in a circumstance in which neither of them were able to resolve the incident in the way that it should have been resolved and the way they would have liked it to be resolved. The fact that it has garnered so much attention, I think, is a testimony to the fact that these are issues that are still very sensitive here in America.

Be mindful of the fact that because of our history, because of the difficulties of the past, you know, African-Americans are sensitive to these issues. And even when you've got a police officer who has a fine track record on racial sensitivity, interactions between police officers and the African-American community can sometimes be fraught with misunderstanding.

My hope is that as a consequence of this event, this ends up being what's called a "teachable moment," where all of us, instead of pumping up the volume, spend a little more time listening to each other, and try to focus on how we can generally improve relations between police officers and minority communities. And that instead of flinging accusations, we can all be a little more reflective in terms of what we can do to contribute to more unity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The president spoke with the police officer and with Professor Gates and said that all three of them will at some point, sit down over at the White House maybe for a beer.

For more on this, I spoke with two African-American men with very different thoughts about black men in America, Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons and syndicated columnist Larry Elder.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

Let me start with you, Larry.

What do you think? The president's remarks, you have heard them. Do you think this now puts this whole controversy to rest?

LARRY ELDER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I -- I suspect it's probably got another day or two shelf life. I -- I could be wrong, because there may be a -- a civil lawsuit down the road which would kick this back up again.

But, at end of the president's press conference, he made a comment that was over the line. He first said that Gates is a friend of mine, I don't have all the facts. So far so good. And then he proceeded to say that the police acted stupidly, and that you can't arrest somebody in their own home, without at all talking about the horrific things that Gates said to this officer that precipitated the arrest.

That said, today, he used the same verb, Wolf, that I used in a column I recently wrote. Don't worry. I'm not going to go after anybody for plagiarism. And that is overreaction.

Cops are trained at the academy to take abuse, F-words, S-words, comments about your mother, which is what Gates allegedly made towards this officer, and you're trained to walk away from that. So, I don't believe that he should have been arrested. At most, maybe a report could have been filed to a prosecutor, and the prosecutor might have investigated it and maybe might have filed charges.

But you walk away from that. You're trained to deal with that kind of abuse.

BLITZER: All right, let me let Jamal -- you were shaking your head when he was -- when Larry was speaking.

But go ahead and weigh in on that specific point that the president originally said, you know what, I don't have all the facts, but then he went on to say, the police acted stupidly. JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think the president probably -- stepped up and said something that a lot of African- Americans were thinking, which is that, for an African-American middle-aged man who walks with a cane to be in his home and to be arrested, regardless of what he said -- I have talked to lawyers about this. It doesn't matter if you're belligerent in your home. As long as you're not threatening, that you can say whatever you want.

That's not an arrestable offense. So, I -- I can't help but think what would have happened if someone like our friend David Gergen, who is also a professor at Harvard, if that this had happened to him, whether or not there would not be some outrage that he was arrested out of his home because he spoke (INAUDIBLE) to a police officer when he thought that he was breaking into his home, and he was not, whether it was that or another situation.

And I have been on the wrong end of that situation in my own life, and I think that this is something that a lot of African- Americans would prefer that we -- we have a more serious conversation about, maybe get out of the context of this particular incident, but we have got to figure out how to get police officers in the black community on a better page.

BLITZER: Larry, have you ever been racially profiled?

ELDER: Have I ever been stopped? Have I ever been stopped possibly because I am black in a neighborhood where it is unlikely that there is a black person? Yes.

But, whenever I have been stopped by the police -- and, by the way, I was stopped only a few days ago not far from my house. I live in a nice neighborhood. I drive a nice car. I rolled through a stop sign. It was a non -- it was a police officer, I believe, of Hispanic descent.

I was polite. He was polite. He found out I lived near the neighborhood. He told me he was looking for people who have been breaking in homes in the neighborhood, not for people who are residents. And he let me go.

Politeness begets politeness. What bothers me more about what the president said, not only basically siding with professor Gates, Wolf, is that he implied that there was a racial motive behind this, without any evidence whatsoever.

One of the reasons, I believe, one of the reasons that Barack Obama was elected president is that many of us wanted to get beyond racism. He had an opportunity. He called it a teachable moment later. But then he had an opportunity to say, look, everything ought to be judged on a case-by-case basis. Just because it's a white officer and a black civilian doesn't necessarily mean there's racial animus or there's a racial motive behind this. Don't stereotype blacks, police officers, but, blacks, don't stereotype officers.

Obama could have said that, and didn't.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: And the president now, Jamal, does say that he knows the officer, Sergeant Crowley, is an outstanding officer, has actually invited him and professor Gates to come to the White House for a beer and to talk about all of this.

He -- he seems, the president of the United States, regretful that he sort of inflamed this whole uproar.

SIMMONS: Well, the political strategist in me says that he probably did the right thing for the -- for the -- for the body politic or for his particular political situation. And probably he -- personally, I'm sure he did what he thought was right.

The black man in me who got pulled over when I was 19 or 20 years old in Michigan with three friends because a woman inside of a convenience store thought we had bulges in our jackets, and the cop came up and stopped us when we got back on the highway -- even though she didn't claim that we stole anything, but just that we had bulges in our jackets, and we had to answer questions on the side of a highway in the middle of the night -- that person in me wishes that he wouldn't have had to say what he said today.

And, so, I think I would prefer that, you know, when we talk about this situation, you think about what it would be like if we had had the situation reversed, and it was a white professor, a black police officer who arrested in his home because he thought that he was breaking in.

I think right-wing radio would be going off -- off the charts, saying that here was a man's home that was violated. And most lawyers will tell you, in your home, you have a lot of rights to protect your home. Here's a -- here's a man who was taken out of his home by jackbooted thugs.

BLITZER: All right.

SIMMONS: I think the right-wing -- I'm not saying this cop was -- but the right-wing radio hosts would be going nuts about this kind of thing.

BLITZER: All right.

SIMMONS: But, here today, we're not.

BLITZER: Very quickly, because we have got to go.

Larry, is this a good debate that the country is having right now?

ELDER: Well, again, had Obama handled it the way I suggested it, which is, let's deal with this now on a case-by-case basis, this is not your grandfather's country.

Gates lives in a city with a black female mayor, in a state with a black governor, and in a country with a black president. It is not the same as it used to be. The police department is not the same as they were 50 or 100 years ago. And we ought to deal with these things on a case-by-case basis, not jump to conclusions.

He failed to do that.

SIMMONS: Well, Larry, I'm not -- Larry -- Larry, I'm not 50 -- Larry, I'm not 50 or 100 years old. But I also will say this, that it's possible for things to be better socially and politically, and to still be bad legally.

ELDER: Well, I don't know what to tell you, other than the fact is that we need the police.

SIMMONS: We do.

ELDER: The police are the line between us and the bad guys.

And I don't know what kind of neighborhood Gates lives in, but I grew up in South Central. And a disproportionate percentage of the crime is done by black people against other black people.

So, to have this hostile attitude towards the police from the black community that is generated quite often by irresponsible so- called civil rights leaders, I think, does not serve the country well.

BLITZER: All right, guys, we're not going to end this debate, but the debate certainly will continue.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Jamal Simmons, thanks very much for coming in.

SIMMONS: Thank you.

BLITZER: Larry Elder, thanks to you as well.

ELDER: Jamal, thank you.

And, thank you, Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Professor Gates reacted to the president's remarks in an e-mail he sent to CNN's Don Lemon. Let me read it to you.

"Yes, I was very pleased that the President called me today, and I was pleased that he proposed that I meet with Sergeant Crowley at the White House, since I had offered to meet with him since last Monday. I am eager for this to be used as a teaching moment to improve racial relations in America. This is certainly not about me."

Meanwhile, the police officer involved also speaking out. He explained his recollection of what happened after it was established that Professor Gates lived in the house in question.

(BEGN VIDEO CLIP) SGT. JAMES CROWLEY, CAMBRIDGE POLICE: I was continuously telling him to calm down during this whole exchange because I really didn't want this either. And I didn't -- although I didn't know at the time who Professor Gates was, knowing he was an affiliate of Harvard, I really didn't want to have to take such a drastic action because I knew that it was going to bring a certain amount of attention, unwanted attention on me. Nonetheless, that's how far Professor Gates pushed it and provoked and just wouldn't stop.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That was certainly before the president spoke out on Friday. And now Sergeant Crowley says he'll be happy to come to the White House, have a beer with the president, and Professor Gates and move on.

A special SITUATION ROOM investigation. Terrorists recruiting young Americans to fight and die in a far off land.

Plus, smuggling bombs through security and blowing up airplanes. Federal agents are doing it to learn how to keep terrorists from doing it.

And the first landing on the moon. The first giant step. The former astronaut, Buzz Aldrin relives those extraordinary moments that took place 40 years ago this week. Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I just want people to keep on working. Just keep working. I want the bill to get out of the committees. And then I want that bill to go to the floor. And then I want that bill to be reconciled between the House and Senate. And then I want to sign a bill. And I want it done by the end of this year. I want it done by the fall.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: But can that happen? Here to talk about the president's health care goals and other issues are Democratic Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas. And they're both members of the appropriations committee. Senators, thanks very much for coming in.

All right, let's talk about health care, which is the big issue facing Congress right now. And I want to see if the two of you, we can get some common ground on some of the most sensitive issues that still have to be resolved. For example, the government option of public health insurance program sponsored by the government to compete with the private insurance companies. Senator Hutchison, is that something you would be opened to? SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R), TEXAS: You know, it's a very -- it's very difficult to say, particularly with the proposals on the table and the cost and the disincentive for small businesses to hire people and give them private coverage. I don't think that it is good for our country and our health care system to have a big government plan that starts bleeding off the private insurance which gives the quality and the choices that Americans have come to know and expect and like. So that's the concern that we have about that big government plan, that it will cost so much and that it will start bleeding off the private sector and the choices and the quality.

BLITZER: All right. So you don't like it? Senator Reed, if there's no government plan in there, if there's no public option as it's called, a government health insurance company, would you be willing to go along with that?

SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: I prefer the private option. We voted a private option - a public option, rather, out of committee. And we provided this public option so that it would be a fair competitor with private insurance. Not displaced private insurance. In my state, 80% of the market is controlled by two companies. So it's hardly a highly-competitive market for health insurance. So the competition is necessary. And frankly, the hope is that, you know, fair competition, not tilted towards one side or the other will result in cost controls over time.

BLITZER: So you disagree on this government option. But there's a compromise proposal that some of your colleagues are putting forward, which calls for cooperatives. Not exactly government run health insurance operations, but not necessarily completely private either. Is that, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, something you could live with?

HUTCHISON: Well, I think the key is something that Jack just said. And is a fair competition. Because if you give the advantage to something that is less expensive that also rations health care, then that is going to take away the options particularly where you are taxing or fining small businesses for not giving health care to their employees. And I think when you couple a disincentive for hiring with the public option that's going to be less expensive...

BLITZER: So...

HUTCHISON: ...but also rationing in many ways...

BLITZER: But what about cooperatives?

HUTCHISON: ...that's the bad combination.

BLITZER: Are you ready to support cooperatives, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison?

HUTCHISON: Well, I think the devil is in the details, Wolf. What is in a cooperative? And will it be something that would be affordable and offered to small businesses?

BLITZER: All right.

HUTCHISON: So that they can give affordable options to their employees.

BLITZER: I hear you saying you're open-minded on that option. What about you, Senator Reed?

REED: Well, I've actually been talking with Senator Conrad, who's a major proponent. And one suggestion I made is we have in my home state essentially a cooperative made up of the federal community health centers. And they provide very, very good effective integrated care. It's an existing enterprise. That might be something that could be a fallback position if we cannot muster the support for the public option as it's come out of the committee. I hope we can muster the support, though.

BLITZER: Do you support, Senator Reed, a tax increase on rich people to help pay for insurance for those who can't afford it?

REED: I think we have to first pay for this. We in the last decade, we have embarked on many proposals that were not at all paid for. They were deficit financed. Medicare Part D, expansion, these things. We have committed to paying for it. I think one point that has to be made, though, is the president has already obtained concessions from major industry players like the insurance companies, the pharmaceutical companies, the hospitals that they will effectively control or give up billions of dollars over the next ten years.

BLITZER: But you - you support this tax increase, this surtax as it's called.

REED: Well, I'm trying to stay open minded about these tax proposals because the finance committee has not yet really focused on one or the other on our side. There's been some proposals, for example, about not taxing directly high income Americans, but taxing insurance policies, the very, the most expensive, the most comprehensive insurance policies So there's a lot in play here.

BLITZER: All right.

REED: But I am committed to and making sure that this is paid for.

BLITZER: What about you, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison? Are you open to having a tax increase on the wealthiest Americans?

HUTCHISON: Well, you're talking about a lot of the small businesses in America to pay for this. And I think that's a disincentive for hiring at a time that we need people to hire and get our economy going again.

Also, let me just talk to you about where I am right now. And you can hear the loud speakers. I'm in an emergency room at Parkland Hospital. That is the county hospital that treats indigent patients. And it's the teaching hospital. And part of the pay-for that has come out of the House bill is to take money from this hospital and every hospital, that is a teaching hospital, or one that provides care to indigent patients.

In Texas, because we have such a high number of uninsured, that amounts to almost a billion dollars a year that goes to cover these indigent patients. And when you're talking about cutting these hospitals in order to pay for a new plan, I don't think the numbers that you're going to add in the Medicaid option is going to outweigh the continued cost that these hospitals have and we'll have to cut back services to pay for.

BLITZER: I'll give you the last word, Senator Reed. I guess the bottom line is, there's still an enormous gap between the Democrats and the Republicans, an enormous gap between the House and Senate. And it's going to take quite a while if there's going to be a deal for this to get resolved?

REED: I think this is a terribly complicated set of issues. And in the substance, not just the politics. And so there is a necessarily a lot of detailed discussion back and forth. I don't think we're as far apart as it might appear. I know Senator Baccus on the finance committee is in communication, reaching out, trying to develop a bipartisan approach. I think, hopefully, that will be the best approach.

But we're bound and determined to complete this legislation this year and to deal with the one of the points that Kay made. The millions and millions of uninsured who are, I think, will be much better off under this program in Texas or Rhode Island or elsewhere, than under the current status quo is just not sustainable.

BLITZER: Senator Reed, thanks for coming in.

REED: Thank you.

BLITZER: Senator Hutchison, thanks to you as well.

HUTCHISON: Thank you, Wolf. Thank you.

BLITZER: The Feds are trying to think like terrorists. They're blowing up planes and experimenting with ways to stop attackers in their tracks.

And a Republican senator explains his big decision to support Judge Sonia Sotomayor's high court nomination. Lindsey Graham breaking ranks and speaking out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Look at that. You might think it's a horrible act of terrorism, but it's not. It's actually meant to prevent attackers from bring bombs on planes. Our Homeland Security correspondent Jeanne Meserve is over at a special government lab in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Airplanes, blown to smithereens all in the name of science and security. But wait. This story really begins at the transportation's security laboratory in Atlantic City, where Patrick O'Connor builds bombs for the government.

PATRICK O'CONNOR: This is a real explosive that I have here in my hand.

MESERVE: O'Connor has built hundreds of improvised explosive devices disguised as electronics, footwear, even an innocuous stack of DVDs. The designs evolve based on intelligence about the bombs terrorists are building.

O'CONNOR: Usually use a thief to catch a thief. And that's what we do here.

MESERVE: Some of the bombs are detonated in old planes to test whether a similar device could bring down a flight. Others are put in luggage and run through screening machines. If the bombs are not detected, scientists try to close the security gap to beat the terrorists.

SUSAN HALLOWELL, TRANSPORTATION SECURITY LAB: It's a game of cat and mouse. They understand to some measure what we're doing. And we counteract that with better-improved technology.

MESERVE: Machines are not the total answer.

ROBIN KANE, ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATOR, TSA: At the end of the day the technology detects very specific threats. It does not detect a terrorist.

MESERVE: But better machines would be a valuable tool. Scientists do a high resolution cross-section scan of a peanut M&M to show us how they might some day be able to ferret out a explosive material by examining its density and granularity. Others are trying to crack the problem of detecting liquid explosives by capturing and measuring the vapors emitted from a homemade concoction concealed in a bottle of cold medicine.

HALLOWELL: Well, I can't tell you what's in the Nyquil bottle, but it's something that's really bad that we need to keep off the airplanes.

MESERVE: Not all the work being done here will lead to better bomb detection. But some might. And it could prevent something like this.

(on camera): Researchers here practice something they call "bagology". They will take a piece of luggage like this and run it fully loaded through a screening machine to try and figure out what sorts of ordinary objects set off false alarms. That way, they can eliminate those false alarms, making airport screening more efficient as well as more effective. Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Atlantic City, New Jersey.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: An urgent FBI investigation. Terrorists recruiting young people from America's heartland to go off and fight for them.

And then also, a threat to the homeland. Rudy Giuliani who oversaw New York's response to 9/11 tells me what he thinks the U.S. should do about it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Almost eight years after 9/11, they're still out there. Terrorists are being trained and recruited from places such as Baghdad and Kabul. And now they're being recruited in of all places, Minneapolis, right in the heartland of America.

Let's bring in our own Brian Todd. He's just back from Minneapolis with a very disturbing story and some disturbing images. Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. An FBI official tells me they have never dealt with anything like this. What started out as a couple of missing person's cases has evolved into what authorities are calling one of the most significant anti- terrorism investigations inside the U.S. since 9/11.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Jamal Bana was the kind of son a modest immigrant family pins its hopes on -- 20 years old, the oldest of seven, a college student studying engineering -- preparing to live the American dream. Then last fall, his family says, suddenly, with no warning, he disappeared. A few days later, the phone rang. A local community activist translates for the boy's mother.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he said I'm in Somalia and hung up the phone.

TODD: Somalia -- violent and deeply poor, was the place Jamal's family had fled in hopes of building a better life. Now, he was mysteriously back there.

Why?

Through short, fitful communications, in which Jamal always sounded guarded, the family came to believe this is what he was caught up in -- a vicious, chaotic civil war between Somalia's government and a terrorist group called al-Shabaab, linked to al Qaeda. Family and friends believe Jamal was recruited to fight with al-Shabaab.

But that wasn't the worst of it. Omar Boley, a close family friend, says then came another contact earlier this month and the shock they never dreamed possible.

(on camera): So his father wakes up Saturday morning and someone has told him that there's a picture of his son.

What happened?

OMAR BOLEY, BANA FAMILY FRIEND: Yes, to the Internet. And he was really upset. And when he saw...

TODD: Jamal Bana.

BOLEY: That's Jamal Bana, yes.

TODD: (voice-over): Pictures posted on the Internet show a man with a fatal bullet wound to the head, the same man being carried through the streets of Mogadishu. The parents believe this is Jamal. The circumstances of his death are unclear. His mother, still barely able to talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY KARE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And somebody must have put something in his mind. He must have been somewhat disillusioned and indoctrinated, because he didn't have any clue about Somalia at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Who convinced Jamal Bana to go to Somalia?

An FBI official tells me the Bureau is investigating what appears to be a substantial recruiting effort by that terrorist group, al- Shabaab, in immigrant communities across the US. More than a dozen young men of Somali dissent have disappeared from the Minneapolis area alone in recent months. At least three, including Jamal Bana, have wound up dead in Somalia. There was also Shirwa Ahmed, who blew up himself and 29 others last fall -- the first ever suicide bombing by a naturalized U.S. citizen. And just weeks ago, community activist Abdirizak Bihi lost his 17-year-old nephew, Burhan Hassan.

(on camera): Do you know about their methods?

How do they do this?

Do they come in and talk to these young men inside the mosque outside?

Do they call them on cell phones?

Do they kidnap them?

ABDIRIZAK BIHI, NEPHEW KILLED IN SOMALIA: They kidnap them in the sense of mental kidnapping, not physically. But they play a role of a male role, a mentor.

TODD: (voice-over): Bihi, community leader Omar Jamal and others say they hold one place at least loosely responsible.

JAMAL: All of these kids missing, they all have one thing in common. They all participated in youth programs in that mosque. TODD: (on camera): This is just a leafy working class street in Minneapolis. It seems like an unlikely setting for it. But some community leaders say that this is the center of the recruiting effort to send those young men to Somalia, the Abubakar As-Siddique Islamic Center. And we have not been allowed to film inside, but we did catch up to the imam of this mosque at another institution where he works.

They are saying that your mosque is responsible, that you allowed, at the very least, people to come in and recruit these young men to leave and go fight with the militants.

What's your response?

SHEIKH ABDIRAHMAN SHEIKH OMAR AHMED, IMAM, ABUBAKAR AS-SADDIQUE ISLAMIC CENTER: That is -- that is a baseless accusation, clearly. The mosque -- the mission of the mosque is a -- to worship. It's a worship place. And people come to worship and go. We don't have any control over what comes to everybody's mind or ideology.

TODD: (voice-over): Sheikh Abdirahman Sheikh Omar Ahmed says at least two of the young men who died did worship at his mosque. But he says no recruiters came around. His mosque does not support al- Shabaab and he says he's encouraged local families to keep their sons from going to Somalia. The imam has not been accused of any criminal wrongdoing.

Federal authorities made their first arrest in the case, charging Salah Osman Ahmed and Abdifatah Yusuf Isse with providing material support to terrorists and conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim or injure people overseas.

CNN could not reach Ahmed's attorney. Published reports indicate he planned to plead not guilty.

The other suspect, Isse, has pleaded guilty to at least one count, providing material support, and is cooperating with federal authorities.

And this may be just beginning. In court papers obtained by CNN, his attorney says, Mr. Isse will be the last defendant indicted -- cold comfort for families to fled violence and terrorism only to find it followed them.

(on camera): How do you think his family will do from here?

And he was the oldest.

BOLEY: Tough. The last time you were with -- with me and we went home. And she doesn't want to hear this story again because she told me whenever I see someone who is talking about my son, I feel bad. I cannot sleep. I get sick. So this happened. There's nothing I can do. We pray for him. That's what she says. And I that's what I believe.

BLITZER: And joining us now, a man closely associated with the war against terrorism, the former mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani.

Mr. Mayor, thanks very much for coming in.

Tom Foreman is here.

We're going to continue this discussion.

But Brian Todd, excellent reporting you've done. And you're getting new information on how these guys actually, what, went over to Somalia?

TODD: That's right. We spoke to a local travel agent in Minneapolis. We were asked not to give this agent's name or the name of the business, Wolf.

This person says that one of the young men who died traveled from Minneapolis to Nairobi, Kenya on November 4th of last year. This agent says that agency sold tickets to at least two of the young men who died. He is -- this agent has seen a pattern of young men flying to -- from Minneapolis to either Nairobi or to Dubai and the UAE, paying about $1,800 in cash per ticket.

Now, from one of those two cities, this agent says, they make their way to Mogadishu on a Somalia carrier named Da'allo Airlines. But this is essentially the pattern that this agent has noticed in their travel.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Brian, one of the things that is raised by this, obviously, one of the big fears is if they can go this way in this fashion, what is to keep any of these young men, after being indoctrinated or joining such a movement, from coming back here?

TODD: That is a real concern. An FBI official told me flat out, they cannot rule out -- the bureau cannot rule out the possibility that these young men, when they're trained in Somalia, could come back to the United States and conduct a terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Many of them have U.S. passports.

BLITZER: Mr. Mayor, I'm anxious to get your thoughts, as someone who was intimately involved in battling terrorists.

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Sure. Well, I mean, that's the way the attack in London took place on July 7 of 2005. Coincidentally, I happened to be there, a half a block away. So I got involved in all the information about it.

They were -- if I recall correctional, they were English citizens. They were citizens of the U.K. They had gone to Pakistan or Afghanistan for training and then came back, because it was easy for them to come back.

FOREMAN: And, in many ways, the attackers that you dealt with on 9/11...

GIULIANI: Right.

FOREMAN: -- were people who were sent here... GIULIANI: Right.

FOREMAN: -- in seemingly benign form -- traveling. And they settled in. And then these people...

GIULIANI: Perpetrated this (INAUDIBLE). But what -- what they did in the U.K. was, they just added -- I know this is a bad word -- but they added to their profile. So all of a sudden, they started looking at people that were going back to Pakistan -- people who were traveling over recent months back there. And so they tried to add to their, at least, set of facts that they used, this new piece of information, which, hopefully, the FBI will do. And if they have somebody cooperating already, they at least have a -- a nice leg up trying to figure this out and (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: And what is so worrisome is the recruiting methods -- if they can get to these guys, you know, and sort of brainwash them to -- to fly over there to begin with.

GIULIANI: And think of it as a cult. I mean, (INAUDIBLE) these parents, it's like -- it's like the cults that would get control of their teenage children and take them off on some camp somewhere.

FOREMAN: So having dealt with this directly on your city on this terrible, terrible day, talk to us about the tools that you think we need now to stop this.

What are we missing (INAUDIBLE)?

GIULIANI: Well, always the most important think you need is information. I mean the -- the thing we lacked -- the government lacked on September 11 was enough information about these organizations.

The fact that the FBI is in there already investigating has -- apparently hasn't cooperated...

BLITZER: Right.

GIULIANI: ...it's going to help.

(CROSSTALK)

FOREMAN: -- information gathering technical ability grown better or worse since then?

GIULIANI: Well, it's grown more sensitive. Better. It's grown better, much more able to focus on these things, much more aware of it, much more international cooperation. Even with whatever political breakdowns happen, the cooperation with the U.K., the cooperation with Germany, the cooperation with France much, much better than it has been in the past.

FOREMAN: What else, very quickly?

What are some other items we need more of? GIULIANI: We need electronic surveillance. It's part of information. But when you -- part of what the FBI does is if you have an informant and you have information, you're going to turn that into -- you're going to turn that into wiretaps. You're going to turn it into trying to get into the organization; ultimately, trying to infiltrate the organization itself. That's the best way to -- that's the best way to break it up. And then an understanding of what's going on over there, as well as what's going on over here. This is being exported and imported back and forth, as you pointed out. So we're going to have to have a lot of presence over there and try to find out what's going on within those organizations.

BLITZER: Intelligence is a priority...

GIULIANI: And then educating...

BLITZER: ...number one.

GIULIANI: And then educating the families. I mean the most heartbreaking part of this is it appears as if these families don't want this. This is not -- this is not -- you would think this was happening, you know, in some parts of the Middle East. This training takes place in the mosque, in the family. Here, this is -- and this is the good part of it, at least from the point of view of America -- this does not appear to be happening in the family. This is happening external to the family. So more awareness of it by families can -- can help.

BLITZER: We've got to leave it right there.

Mr. Mayor, thanks very much, as usual.

GIULIANI: Thank you.

BLITZER: Brian, excellent reporting.

FOREMAN: Yes, thanks.

GIULIANI: Thank you.

BLITZER: Hard to believe this kind of stuff is going on in Minnesota and elsewhere, presumably, as well.

Tom Foreman, thanks to you, as well.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And 40 years later, former astronaut, Buzz Aldrin tells us what it was like to land on the moon while running low on fuel.

Also, he's voiced doubts about Sonia Sotomayor during the confirmation hearings.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: And you have said some things that just bug the hell out of me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: But you may be surprised how Senator Lindsey Graham now feels about the Supreme Court nominee.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: The senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee has put aside any doubts he may have had about Sonia Sotomayor and now supports her nomination to the United States Supreme Court. That would be Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

He's joining us now from Capitol Hill.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

GRAHAM: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: I remember covering all of your questioning. I think it's fair to say, among the most riveting of all of the senators -- your questioning of Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

At one point, you said some of her statements, "bugged the hell out of me."

GRAHAM: That's right.

BLITZER: Yet today you're saying you're going to vote yes to confirm her.

What happened?

GRAHAM: Well, the speeches she gave, I think, bugged a lot of people, not just me. The idea that "a wise Latina woman" more often than not, because of her experience and background, would reach a better conclusion than a white male is not something I think most Americans want to embrace.

I think Americans embrace the idea that diversity is good for the court.

But I looked at her record and I put the speech in perspective. She's lived an incredible life. She's been a judge for 17 years. There's no indication that her speech drove way she judged. And I based my decision on her qualifications and what a lot of nice people had to say about her. And, quite frankly, she's come a long way in life and worked very hard. And I think her time as a judge has been well within the mainstream. So I supported her.

BLITZER: And her judicial philosophy -- the empathy issue that some of the other Republican critics have raised -- that doesn't bother you? GRAHAM: Well, Senator Obama said he could not vote for Judge Alito or Roberts because they didn't have enough empathy and, at the last analysis, you've got to look at a judge's heart. I don't believe that's the appropriate standard. I can't understand what's in your heart any more than you can understand what's in mine. And when you start looking at these subjective factors, it makes me fearful that judge -- people will not want to become judges.

So Scalia and Ginsburg -- one conservative, one liberal -- got over 90 votes. It used to, the Senate based their decision on qualifications, good conduct and experience. That's where I'd like to get the Senate back to and get away from this politicizing the judiciary and try and figure out people's hearts. That's not good for the judiciary.

BLITZER: No one worked harder for John McCain than you did. As soon as I heard word earlier today that you were going to vote in favor of her confirmation, I -- I said to myself, I wonder what John McCain is going to do.

Do you know?

GRAHAM: I don't know. But he voted against her to begin with, when she went on the 2nd Circuit. And there's reasons to be concerned and troubled about her record. And I can understand someone feeling that they can't vote for her.

But here's what I tried to do. Elections matter to me. President Obama won.

When he was Senator Obama, he did not do a very good job of trying to be fair to President Bush.

I want to end this Mideast politics, when it comes to judges. Her record, to me, was one of extremely well qualified. She got the highest rating from the Bar Association. She's been a judge for 17 years. And I think she'll be a very valuable member of the court.

From a conservative's point of view, I don't think she's going to be any worse than Judge Souter. So I felt like I wanted to take the Senate back to a new place.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Lindsey Graham speaking with me earlier in the week.

In 1969, Americans went where no person had ever gone before. We're marking the 40th anniversary of the first human ever to walk on the moon. Come along for the excitement, the anticipation, and the imagination. Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, he's here in THE SITUATION ROOM with revealing details of his journey.

And police versus farmers and people eyeing a solar eclipse, just two of this week's hot shots.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: It happened 40 years ago this week. A new frontier reached, an impossible challenge met. On July 20, 1969, Americans planted their feet and their flag on untouched ground. Apollo 11's landing on the moon launched a new era of space exploration and scientific discovery. And our world changed forever.

Our Washington bureau chief David Bohrman and I sat down and spoke about it with one of the first two humans ever to walk on the moon, the Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Nobody had ever done this before. Were you're thinking about your own safety. Did you say to yourself, you know what, this could be it, I may not be leaving the moon. I may just be arriving on the moon?

ALDRIN: I'm an optimistic guy, Wolf. I don't think about the downside.

What we are is alert as possible if something goes wrong to then pick up and start concentrating on the downside. But we don't want us to cause the downside by being not sufficiently attentive to the positive way.

So, we're strictly geared toward looking, performing. We've done the simulation many, many times in the computer in Houston, and, then when it was upgraded, the computer down at the Cape, for the final computer Ropes that we called them then, which was the version of the computer that was going to fly in the actual spacecraft.

BLITZER: All right. I want you to listen to this, David, especially you, both of you. Listen to this. This is right to the minute 40 years ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 40 seconds away from the Apollo 11 liftoff.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: F-band pitch. Plus 1-8. Copy?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We're at exactly, David, ten minutes now, almost exactly to when the lunar module touched down on the surface of the moon.

DAVID BOHRMAN, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, CNN: It's entering the period that Buzz was just talking about, that sort of sort of last 10 or 11 minutes. And what they were trying to do was incredibly comp complicated, was really -- was a kind of descent that had never been tested before, either.

You know, they had been flying simulators of something that was going to approach the LEM. Neil Armstrong had a terrible accident and had to parachute out from one of the LEM simulators on earth.

BLITZER: One of the rehearsals.

BOHRMAN: One of the rehearsals. And I think what is going to happen now in the next ten minutes is that the computers are pretty much maxed out, the technology is pretty much maxed out, and the computer alarms on board Eagle begin to sound.

And a lot of decisions had to be made in real time both by Buzz and Neil onboard the space craft and by all the folks in Houston as they were all in real time with pretty primitive computer technology as we look at it today, were trying to analyze what the alarms were, if it was serious, if they had to abort, or if they were going to be able to make it down.

BLITZER: In football terms, you were calling audibles at the line of scrimmage even with, what, eight or nine minutes to go.

ALDRIN: Well, no. I think mission control and Houston had the abort or no abort. They had the interpretation of any difficulty. And when the program alarms came on, we weren't about to just hit the proceed button, because that says I accept that, I'm going to go ahead anyway.

You may need to take some other action. But we didn't know what that was. It was in thick guidance and control dictionary, we called it. So, that's still stowed down there. And as we're coming down to land, we weren't about to pull it out, and leaf through turn the pages.

We asked mission control, give us an OK on that alarm, while the computer's continuing to fly us smoothly. nothing wrong other than orange light, the program alarm.

BOHRMAN: And as they begin to get closer and closer to the surface, I think -- I mean, Armstrong began to realize, well, they were sort of heading for an area that didn't look too hospitable, and they needed to do some quick thinking to go beyond it.

And in reality, they used up almost all the fuel on board the LEM, right? And 10, 12 seconds of fuel left?

ALDRIN: Well, the computer got us down to 3,000 feet above the surface. And I think that was the last alarm -- it was a slightly different type, but we had to go on that one.

And we were approaching a landing at that point, and the computer was going to continue to go all the way. Well, the commanders of all the missions decided that they didn't want the computer to actually do the touchdown. So, a comfortable way to take over was to take over manually at 500 feet.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: He was on the moon exactly 40 years ago this week. Wow.

In India, students try out some solar eclipse goggles. Just one of our hot shots of the week. Pictures worth a thousand words.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's a look at some this week's hot shots from our friends over at the Associated Press. In Michigan, another newspaper closed up shop as "The Ann Arbor News" printed its final issue.

In Switzerland, riot police faced off against farmers during a demonstration over the price of milk.

In India, students tried out goggles as they prepare for an eclipse.

And in Germany, check it out, two newborn Asian bear cats sat in a basket over at the Berlin Zoo. Some of this week's hot shots, pictures worth a thousand words.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. Join us weekdays in THE SITUATION ROOM from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. Eastern and every Saturday at 6:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN, and at this time every weekend on CNN International.

The news continues next on CNN.