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THE SITUATION ROOM
Airstrike Puts Allies At Odds; Charity: Troops Stormed Hospital; Charges of Election Fraud; "Fired Up and Ready To Go"; President Obama's School Speech; Critical Days for Health Care Plan
Aired September 7, 2009 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, after a NATO ally orders a U.S. airstrike, there is a growing dispute over civilian casualties in Afghanistan and who might bear the blame for the bombing.
Meantime, there are new claims that U.S. troops stormed a hospital.
With his agenda under attack, President Obama sounds his campaign battle cry -- fired up and ready to go.
But will that help him get a health care reform bill passed?
And swimmers are warned to stay out of the water, as great white sharks stalk the Massachusetts coast.
What are those giant predators doing there?
Scientists are trying to find out.
Wolf Blitzer is off.
I'm Suzanne Malveaux.
And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
A bloody airstrike in Afghanistan triggers sharp differences between allies. While they jostle over who might be responsible for civilian casualties, angry Afghans put growing pressure on NATO.
Let's go live to CNN's Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
It has been days since those fuel tankers were blown up.
Are we any closer to learning just what happened -- Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, we do know more now. U.S. officials -- NATO officials confirming it was a German ground commander who ordered two U.S. Air Force F-15s to drop bombs on these fuel trucks, where now we know some Afghan civilians were killed.
STARR: (voice-over): The commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan waded through the water to personally inspect the site where a pre-dawn airstrike on two hijacked fuel trucks killed Afghan civilians.
GEN. STANLEY MCCRYSTAL, U.S./NATO COMMANDER IN AFGHANISTAN: From what I have seen today in going to the hospital, it's clear to me that there were some civilians who were harmed at that site.
STARR: No one knows how many civilians might have been killed. A NATO official tells CNN classified pictures show about 100 people swarmed the site when the hijacked trucks became stuck. After the two 500 pound bombs were dropped, only a few people were seen running away. The official confirms to CNN the airstrike was ordered by the German NATO commander in Northern Afghanistan after a single local Afghan said there were insurgents at the site. NATO has been increasingly worried hijacked vehicles are turning into suicide car bombs, though the official says there was no specific intelligence about these trucks.
The German defense minister warned against hasty conclusions, however.
FRANZ JOSEPH JUNG, GERMAN DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): You know that there's a report from the Afghan side on the table now saying that 56 people were killed and 12 people were injured. And it says that all of them were Taliban.
STARR: But NATO is feeling the pressure from Afghans deeply upset by civilian casualties. McChrystal, who soon may ask to bring more troops into Afghanistan, also recorded a message for Afghan television and radio, promising a full investigation.
STARR: Now, the U.S. believes Afghan civilians may have gone to the area to siphon fuel from the trucks. But local Afghan officials are unsympathetic, telling NATO they believe most of the people there, indeed, were Taliban sympathizers -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: And, Barbara, there's a new controversy that is brewing in Afghanistan. A Swedish aid group today accused American troops of storming a hospital, forcing their way into locked rooms in male and female wards.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERS FANGE, SWEDISH COMMITTEE FOR AFGHANISTAN: Quite a big number of American soldiers arriving at the hospital. They tied up our guards and then they continued into the hospital and started searching the hospital and allegedly because they thought that there were some injured insurgent or Taliban who was in the hospital for treatment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Well, the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan said that last week's alleged raid was a clear violation of international recognized rules and principles, which could put clinics and hospitals at risk -- Barbara, what can you tell us about it?
STARR: Well, this is the last thing that General McChrystal wants to deal with -- yet another controversy involving Afghan civilians, already another investigation underway. NATO officials say, yes, troops from the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division went there to this hospital, run by the Swedish, along with Afghan police; that they entered the hospital, telling the hospital workers why they were -- there to look for this insurgent.
But the Swedish charity workers say they never got any word, that the troops just showed up, stormed their way in, that they even forced patients out of their beds while they were searching the hospital room by room.
So another investigation underway and another tough day in Afghanistan for General McChrystal, who's trying to make things go much smoother with Afghan officials -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you, Barbara.
Well, weeks after Afghanistan's elections, there are growing allegations of fraud and intimidation.
Our CNN's Michael Ware -- he's been taking the pulse in Afghanistan.
He joins us live from Kabul -- Michael, we are hearing reports -- lots of reports of suspicious vote totals and these polling stations, the neatly rounded numbers in favor of Karzai.
What are people telling you?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, no one's really surprised. I mean, hello, Suzanne, it is an Afghan election. I mean the smoke and mirrors of these corruption allegations, any vote rigging that did or did not go on, to a degree, is kind of meaningless. What rested on this election wasn't even the outcome, because as far as the Afghans are concerned, it's essentially one bunch of crooks for another bunch of crooks or one bunch of politicians with their warlord backers versus another bunch of politicians with their warlord backers. No one actually expects to be getting electricity or roads or hospitals in their village any time soon.
So what's important here is the fact that it's dragging out -- that it's become messy. If you could have stolen the election quickly and clinically, that, arguably, would have been better than what's happening now.
This is robbing the election of any hope of legitimacy that it may have possibly had -- what tiny shred. And, of course, this blows back on the U.S. mission. The U.S. mission had very little to gain from this election. If it went smoothly, it's the crooks for the crooks. If it went badly, if there was violence, if people couldn't vote or if there was -- you know, if it becomes mired in allegations of corruption, all of which has happened, then that does not look very well upon the American mission or the international mission here, that has supported this government and these elections -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: And, Michael, you have traveled down this very dangerous highway from Kabul to Kandahar. This is really the heartland of the Taliban and Americans paid hundreds of millions, basically, to repave this. It was seen largely as a symbol of success.
Is it now a symbol of what's going wrong in the country?
WARE: Yes. The Highway 1 is now a mark of the American mission in crisis. I mean it's just one very simple symbol of what's going on here in the country. Now this is one of the country's major highways -- this Highway 1 linking the capital, Kabul, with the former imperial capital of Kandahar and the heartland of the Taliban and the heart of the fight. So it's vitally important.
Now, I remember when I was living here. That took a torturous 12 hours to travel. But in 2004, U.S. aid money saw reconstruction on the road. Bridges were rebuilt. Asphalt was laid. It became a five or six hour journey. Now, that journey is back up to nine or 10 hours.
Because it's pockmarked with Taliban land mines and craters; because the bridges that were built have been destroyed again; and because the Taliban own that road -- not America, not the International Security Assistance Forces, not the Afghan security forces. There are Taliban checkpoints on the road. They pull buses over, sift through the passengers and execute who they don't like.
So for many Afghans, who are now forced to take flight instead of driving -- flights they can't afford, that are rarely so light, it's quicker to drive anyway -- this is the symbol of America's mission in crisis in Afghanistan -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: All right. Michael Ware in the middle of it all in Afghanistan.
Thank you, Michael.
Beginning tonight, Anderson Cooper takes you inside Afghanistan "Live from The Battle Zone," an "A.C. 360" special report, only on CNN, the worldwide leader in news.
Well, President Obama has been under attack on health care, education and just about every other item on his agenda. Today, before a friendly Labor Day crowd of union workers, the president was swinging back.
I want you to take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've got a question for all these folks who say, you know, we're going to pull the plug on grandma and this is all about illegal immigrants and -- you've heard all the -- all the lies. I've -- I've -- I've got -- I've got a question for all those folks.
What's -- what are you going to do?
What's your answer?
What's your solution?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Then at the end of the speech, the president sounded like he was back on the campaign trail -- this familiar battle cry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: It just goes to show you how one voice can change a room.
OBAMA: And if it can change a room, it can change a city.. And if it can change a city, it can change a state. And if it can change a state, it can change a nation. And if it can change a nation, it can change the world. Your voice can change the world. Your voice will get health care passed. Your voice will make sure that the American worker is protected. You can build America. I need your help.
Thank you, Cincinnati.
Are you fired up?
Ready to go?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Let's bring in our CNN senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley -- and, Candy, you and I covering Obama, the candidate, certainly very familiar. But it's a tone that we've seen very different than recently.
Why, do you suppose?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, because Democrats on Capitol Hill have been saying to him, you need to get out there; enough of this cool, calm, collected President Barack Obama. What we need to see out there is some kind of passion that matches some of the other side's passion that we've seen in some of these town hall meetings around.
They really want two things on Capitol Hill -- the Democrats anyway -- some sort of guidance on what they will -- what he absolutely does want in the health care bill.
What Democrats don't want is to sort of walk the plank and then find out that the president is not behind them.
So they want to know what specifically he absolutely has to have in a health care bill. But they want him to come down from the 50,000 foot view and get down on the ground and put some of that passion into play here, because that's what pushes people.
So if the president goes out -- a very friendly crowd, as you know, a labor crowd, very Democratic, very pro-Obama -- and sort of revs up that crowd and then it gets played, what -- what really moves Congress more than anything else is the American people.
So if he can move some of those numbers, if he can show, listen, what you saw this summer in these town hall meetings is not really what people want, here's what people want, they want health care now, then that helps move the debate -- or at least that's what the White House is hoping.
MALVEAUX: And this is a friendly audience, as you mentioned, Candy.
But how do you think the message is playing with those outside of this -- this pro-labor, this very friendly audience of Obama's?
CROWLEY: It's -- it's interesting simply because, look, all of these members have been home. What -- we've seen, what, maybe one tenth of the town hall meetings or any kind of meetings that these members have had -- more than 500 of them out there talking to constituents.
My -- my guess is that very few minds were changed over this recess, at least in terms of the lawmakers.
Precisely because they're not really sure what this final package is going to look like. What both sides are sure of is what they want in it and what they can't stand to have in it. And that's where the president comes into play. And that's why his Wednesday night speech at Congress is so important.
MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you very much.
One of the harshest critics of the president's scheduled speech to students accused him of planning to spread socialist ideology. Now that the president's actual text has been released, I'll ask Florida Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer how he feels about the speech now.
The U.S. military teaches allies to fly an American warplane that's used around the world, but will these foreign fighter pilots always be allies?
And she could have faced 40 lashes, but a Sudanese journalist will instead get a different punishment for wearing pants in public.
MALVEAUX: Florida Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer was one of the harshest critics of President Obama's decision to make a back to school speech to the nation's school children tomorrow. He said: "As the father of four children, I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama's socialist ideology."
Well, now that the White House has released the text, what does he think now?
Well, he's live from Talli -- Tallahassee to tell us.
Chairman Greer, thank you for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
You've had a chance to see the president's text here.
Have you changed your mind?
JIM GREER, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN PARTY OF FLORIDA: Well, I haven't changed my mind that -- I was very concerned as a parent last week when the White House was writing lesson plans and telling teachers what they should say to students before the president's speech and what they should say afterwards. And then when the White House said they weren't going to release the text, that concerned me. But now today, that they released the text -- and I've read -- it's an -- it's an upbeat speech, but is it the one the president was always going to give?
You know, the White House should not have...
MALVEAUX: You suspect...
GREER: ...been involved in writing lesson plans.
MALVEAUX: So you suspect that this isn't really the speech that he was going to give?
GREER: No, because clearly last week, there was a plan with the Department of Education. When you ask students to write a letter to the president on how we can help you with your new ideas, Mr. President, that is leading the students in an effort to push the president's agenda.
Now that the White House got their hand in the cookie jar caught, they changed everything. They redid the lesson plans. They released the text. And tomorrow, he's going to give a speech that every president should have an opportunity to give. This was never about the president speaking to children about the importance of education. It was about the White House writing lesson plans.
MALVEAUX: They did change the lesson plan. But -- but you have no information that the White House actually changed the text of the speech.
You don't have any inside knowledge of that?
GREER: No, I don't. But I would anticipate, based on this president being so vocal and so aggressive about his vision of America, where government is in every aspect of our lives, I believe that the speech that he was going to give, based on the lesson plans is different.
And, you know, Suzanne, we have Barack Obama, the auto king; we have Barack Obama, the banker; soon to be Barack Obama, the doctor. We don't need Barack Obama, the schoolteacher.
MALVEAUX: Why are you so...
GREER: And the White House should have stayed out of the classrooms.
MALVEAUX: Why are you so suspicious of the president's intentions?
GREER: Well, the president is very aggressive and very vocal on what he believes government's role is -- government should be involved in solving all of our challenges; government should be involved in our lives in every aspect. And there's no doubt that this -- this president is a great communicator.
What he communicates I don't agree with and it's not the Republican Party's philosophy of governing. But I believe that the White House was developing, clearly, in conjunction with the Department of Education, lesson plans that would have teachers lead students in a direction that, ultimately, at the end of the day, would have involved his public policy issues.
MALVEAUX: I -- I want to read you just, very quickly, part of the speech. He says: "I'm working hard to fix up your classrooms, get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn, but you've got to do your part, too. So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don't let us down. Don't let your family or your country down or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it."
Is there anything in his speech that is socia -- socialist ideology that you had complained about before?
Have you seen anything like that in his speech?
GREER: No. And I think we need to stay focused. The text that was released today, Suzanne, is a speech that every president, whether it's Democrat or Republican, should give to students about the importance of education. There's nothing wrong with it. It's never been about the president talking to them.
It's been about the president and the White House trying to circumvent parents in this country and go directly to students without even making parents aware that there were lesson plans out there encouraging teachers to have students write letters at how we can help the president.
MALVEAUX: Here's how a member...
GREER: That is just wrong.
MALVEAUX: OK. Here's -- here's how a member of your own party put it, speaker of the -- former speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, said yesterday.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: It's good to have the president of the United States say to young people across America, stay in school, study. And do your homework. It's good for you and it's good for America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Do you agree with Newt Gingrich?
GREER: Excuse me.
MALVEAUX: Do you agree with what he said, Newt Gingrich?
GREER: Abs -- absolutely. There is nothing wrong, as I've said since day one, with the president of the United States talking to students on the first day of school, encouraging them to stay in school. I agree with Speaker Gingrich. There's nothing wrong with the president doing that.
It's -- the problem started last week when the White House got involved, instead of focusing on the economy and finding jobs for Americans...
GREER: ...the White House was writing lesson plans for our teachers across this country.
GREER: And that was wrong and that's what brought us here today.
MALVEAUX: I've got to leave it there. But -- but real quick here, are you going to send your children to see the speech tomorrow to school?
GREER: I am. My children have been taught to have the highest respect for the presidency and this president and all presidents. So after reading the text, seeing the Department of Education have told teachers they are not to lead students in the direction that they would have a week ago, my kids will be watching the president's speech, as all -- I hope all kids will. I don't advocate children not watching this president's speech with this text.
Now, who knows what last week's speech might have looked like?
But tomorrow, my kids will be listening to the president.
MALVEAUX: OK. Jim Greer, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.
Thank you so much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
GREER: Thank you. MALVEAUX: It's because of these men that it's such a hassle taking liquids on an airplane nowadays. We'll tell you about their terror conviction by a British jury today.
Plus, Labor Day swimming scare, as great white sharks stalk the coast of Massachusetts.
What are they doing there?
Marine biologists are trying to find out.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
MALVEAUX: Deb Feyerick is monitoring the stories that are coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- hey, Deb, what are you working on?
FEYERICK: Hey, there, Suzanne.
Well, three men have been found guilty of a terror plot that changed the way we fly. They were convicted by a British jury of conspiracy to commit murder by using liquid bombs hidden in drink bottles to blow up planes heading across the Atlantic. This was their second trial. Had their Al Qaeda-inspired suicide plot not been uncovered in 2006, it would have been the biggest terror attack since 9/11. Four other alleged conspirators were found not guilty.
And officials say that massive wildfire near Los Angeles is now more than half contained. Two firefighters died in the Station Fire, which destroyed 78 homes and dozens of other buildings. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of whoever was responsible. Authorities say it was intentionally set.
And San Diego Chargers player Shawne Merriman denies he harmed reality TV star Tila Tequila. He was arrested early yesterday after she accused him of choking her at his home. Calling the allegations false, Merriman claims in a statement he was worried for her safety because she appeared too intoxicated to drive. But on her Twitter page today, Tequila denies she was drunk, claiming she's allergic to alcohol and can't drink -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: So, it's just her name, huh?
FEYERICK: It's just her name. That's right.
GREER: All right, thank you.
Well, the tea party protesters -- we'll check in with Americans holding rallies against high taxes and government spending. From President Obama to the raucous town hall mob scenes to Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who are the political winners and losers of the summer?
The best political team on television weighs in.
And would you be willing to pay to cut the front of the boarding line?
Southwest certainly hopes so. Now the airline is coming in for criticism over what some say is nickel and diming.
MALVEAUX: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, powerful White House czars -- does President Obama have too many?
We are following the backlash over green jobs adviser Van Jones' resignation on Saturday.
And prisoners using cell phones behind bars in extortions, drug deals and escapes and even to order a hit.
How is this happening and what's being done about it?
It's a story you won't want to miss.
And he helped expose those wild parties with American contractors at the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan. Now he is paying a price for blowing the whistle -- a CNN exclusive.
I'm Suzanne Malveaux.
And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
With his policies and plans under attack, how critical are the upcoming days for President Obama and his health care reform effort?
Well, joining me, CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist, Donna Brazile, along with Republican strategist, Tony Blankley. Tony is executive vice president of Edelman Public Relations, which has some health care clients.
I want to start off here talking about Jim Spellman's tea party -- the use of a critical moment here, where "The New York Times" had this to say about President Obama: "With his honeymoon seemingly over and his White House on defensive, Mr. Obama faces what friends and foes alike call a make or break moment in his young administration. Because he has elevated health care to such a singular priority, advisers said he must force through a credible plan or risk crippling his presidency." -- Donna, is this an accurate assessment?
Are the stakes that high right now?
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, this is a very important moment for the president. He's in the home stretch of -- of his first year in office. And expectations remain very high because so many Americans would like to see an improvement in the economy. That -- that -- that is an important concern for -- for all of us. And I think because of that, the health care debate, the debate soon -- hopefully, on climate change and other important issues, including the spending bills -- they will all take on what I call a greater proportion as the American people are really also concerned about the amount of the deficit -- the huge deficit that President Obama inherited when he took office.
They are also worried about Afghanistan and how long our troops will stay there, so as usual the president will have everything in his in box marked urgent, but I believe with the right kind of leadership and a strong message the president will be able to get through this next -- the next few weeks.
MALVEAUX: Tony, what should be at the top of his in box? Should it be Afghanistan? Should it be the economy, health care reform? What should be at the very top? How would you advise him?
TONY BLANKLEY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Unfortunately, for him he has a number of things at the very top. He has to deal with health care, and he has to deal with Afghanistan. His schedule that he established for the pentagon to come up with recommendations hits now, as you know, and his schedule for health care hits now, so he's got to deal with both of those. I don't think it's the next couple of weeks. I don't think the speech is as important as people think. What I do think is critical is that he now has to more on the inside game, he has got to engineer, he and his team, have to engineer something the public will consider to be a success on health care. He's got to get to the vote. That's the job of legislating. The old LBJ kind of technique of a president, and good speeches are helpful. Bad speeches are not, but I think this is a question that will be a measure of how good an operational president he is in Washington, not how good an inspirational speaker he is.
MALVEAUX: I want you guys to take a listen, Democratic strategist Joe Trippi on John King's "STATE OF THE UNION" yesterday and this is how he saw it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE TRIPPI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: This administration has the potential to be FDR and Jimmy Carter and I think the Republicans will do everything they can to make him Jimmy Carter. I mean, to create a failed presidency. That's, unfortunately, what they -- what many of them want.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Do you think there's an element here of sabotage, Donna?
BRAZILE: I hope not, Suzanne. I don't think it's FDR or Jimmy Carter. I think this is an opportunity for President Obama to do so many things to transform our economy to really put us on the path of prosperity again, and I would hope that the Republicans and the Democrats can find common ground on some complicated issues and to give the American people the fresh start that we desperately need, not just with regards to those tough issues and I agree with Tony said. It's not just about the president's ability to give a good speech. We know he can give a good speech. It's about leading at a very difficult time in our country's history and making sure that the Democrats on capitol hill and the Republicans come together in such a way that they can, you know, also get some of this legislation out and on the table and out of congress.
MALVEAUX: Tony works are the losers from this summer? Who would you say just lost out because of the summer season?
BLANKLEY: Well, I think obviously, you know, the president has not had a good summer. Charlie Rangel specifically I think has had a terrible summer. Things are moving I think against him because of the charges of unethical behave yore, and I -- I think speaker Pelosi may be driven to have to take his chairmanship away so he's had a tough one and I would say not a politician but the families of the victims of the pan am flight that went down obviously had a very rough summer when their killers, the killer of their family members got set free and any politicians in Britain and perhaps the United States who get caught up in the aftermath will have a bad fall.
MALVEAUX: Donna, losers?
BRAZILE: Also I said the supreme leader in Iran who put down the demonstrators using violence, I call them a loser. I also believe the bitter movement which continues to challenge the president's citizenship, I consider them to be a loser. I also had honorable mention the judge who released that prisoner to go home to Libya. That was also a very bad moment as well. I put as a winner Judge Sonia Sotomayor. She's my hero, and I thought that was one of the best things that happened this summer.
MALVEAUX: Tony, real quick, your winners?
BLANKLEY: A couple of counterintuitive ones, Joe Biden, not because of anything that he did this summer but I think events are moving his way. As this becomes a fight in the fall in the senate particularly for health care I think Biden's advice inside the white house will become more valued. I also think that with the president's job approval down that Biden is more likely to be out there as a senior surrogate for the president. I think he could have a very good fall and similarly Sarah Palin, although she's not had a good summer herself, I think events are moving her way also. As the heartland is getting very passionate about basic issues and in Washington she's very well positioned to speak to those issues.
BRAZILE: And I wanted to add to that list our American men and women fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. They are winners and we thank them for their service.
MALVEAUX: All right. We do. Donna Brazile, Tony Blankley, thank you very much.
Well, no final dip in the ocean for many in Massachusetts this Labor Day. That is because several great whites are confirmed off Cape Cod. We are going to ask a shark expert what they are doing there.
Plus, threatened with a flogging. She was put on trial for wearing trousers in public. Now a Sudanese journalist finds out her fate.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
MALVEAUX: The sighting of several great white sharks off the coast of Cape Cod prompted a swimming ban at local beaches and Massachusetts state officials, they are warning swimmers to be on the lookout for these dangerous predators. I want to go to our Abbi Tatton.
Abbi, where exactly were the sharks spotted?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Suzanne, things you never want to see while kayaking. We're going just off the coast of Cape Cod here where two kayakers thought they saw a great white attacking a seal several days ago. They alerted authorities. Experts went on the lookout and spotted five large sharks. They managed to tag two of them, great whites both of them. Tagged them with this satellite- based technology that a few months down the line will threat them monitor and see where the sharks have been. That's great news for the scientists. Not so great news for the swimmers in the area bus several of the beaches east-facing beaches on Cape Cod have been closed as a result of these sharks being so close to shore. It's rare to see the great whites in this area but not unheard of. It was 2004 about 40 miles away also on Cape Cod where a wayward great shark went into shallow waters in a lagoon, had to be coxed out to deeper waters, and at that point experts tried to tag that great white but were unsuccessful so they have been hoping for another attempt like this one. Suzanne?
MALVEAUX: All right. Abbi, thank you so much.
Joining us is Greg Skomal. He a senior marine biologist for the Massachusetts division of marine fisheries.
Are you with us now?
GREG SKOMAL, MARINE BIOLOGIST: Yes, I am.
MALVEAUX: I understand you are the one who tagged these great whites, is that correct?
SKOMAL: We have a team of experts here and we're able to get two tags into the white sharks yesterday.
MALVEAUX: How big were they?
SKOMAL: The sharks we tagged, the first one was roughly 10 feet long which would place it somewhere around 1,000 pounds. The other was about 8 feet long, somewhere between 400 and 500 pounds
MALVEAUX: When it comes to sharks, are those pretty big sharks, would you say? SKOMAL: When it comes to sharks in general, those are very big sharks. When it comes to white sharks, they tend to be, you know, about average size.
MALVEAUX: Now say that you tag the two. Are these the only great whites that are there in the Cape Cod area, or do we suspect that there are others that are swimming around?
SKOMAL: Well, we have spotter aircraft in the area where we know other sharks are around so we've been able to definitely count several sharks, probably a little in excess of five or six?
MALVEAUX: What does that mean to tag a shark? Can you follow their tracks or their swimming patterns? What does that mean?
SKOMAL: The tags that we're using are actually are not realtime satellite tags. What they do is they log data while they are on the shark and then they come off the shark at a programmed time and this in this case it will be mid-January. Once they come off the shark, they'll float to the surface and transmit the data that they collected up to a satellite. Then we'll be able to analyze data and look at what the shark did after we tagged it.
MALVEAUX: Is there any concern about the other sharks that you say are out there that have not been tagged? Do you need to tag those as well?
SKOMAL: Well, you know, in the -- our objective is to tag as many as we can. We're interested in learning about the biology of this species in the Atlantic so our goal is to get out there when the days are nice, if the sharks remain in the area, we're going to try to tag them.
MALVEAUX: I understand some of the beaches in the area were closed. Did that happen out of be an abundance of caution, or did you suspect that these sharks were going to go after human beings and attack them?
SKOMAL: The beach closures were actually instituted by local authorities. We didn't have much to do with that. I believe it was a precautionary move on their part.
MALVEAUX: How close were the sharks to the beach?
SKOMAL: The sharks are all within a quarter mile of the beach. I'm sure they extend beyond that, but there are quite a few in that quarter mile from the beach area.
MALVEAUX: Were they close to swimmers? Is that an area where there are beach-goers, swimmers.
SKOMAL: Most of the sharks we're sighting off the wildlife refugee in Monomoy where there doesn't tend to be a lot of swimmers because it's not easily accessible. Instead there's a lot of seals in that area, and we think that's the reason why the sharks are here.
MALVEAUX: Is that unusual to have the seals in the area? What can you do about the seals?
SKOMAL: No. The seals are here now, and they are going to stay. The population of seals has been increasing steadily over the last decade, and I imagine that it's going to continue to.
MALVEAUX: Is there any danger in your mind? Obviously you're following and tracking these particular sharks. Any danger to those who are in the waters or will go back in the water?
SKOMAL: Well, you know, sharks, it's a wild place going in the water, whether it's rip tide, currents, seals, sharks and other animals, so we asked folks to be vigilant and pay attention and realizing you're going into a place where humans don't tend to belong.
MALVEAUX: And Mr. Skomal, finally, when was the last time a great white was spotted in that area?
SKOMAL: We -- we've been looking at white sharks over the last couple of decades here, and so we -- we definitely last year had several reports of white sharks which we confirmed, and even earlier this year, so it's not unusual for us to hear about these white sharks. Just a little bit odd that there's so many suddenly.
MALVEAUX: Okay. Thank you so much, Mr. Skomal. We appreciate it. Stay safe.
Well, is it fair for critics to call President Obama a socialist?
LAURA BUSH, FMR. FIRST LADY: I had no idea whether it's their view. Was it fair when President Bush was criticized, not really so I guess not?
MALVEAUX: Former first lady Laura Bush sits down with an exclusive interview with our Zain Verjee.
And training foreign pilots to fly U.S. warplanes? Could today's friends become tomorrow's enemies?
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
MALVEAUX: The U.S. military is teaching allies to fly an American warplane that is in service in countries all over the world, but will these foreign fighter pilots always be allies? Our CNN pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence has the story from a training base out in Arizona. Hey, Chris.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, pilots are all over Europe and the Middle East are coming here to Arizona to learn to fly the F-16.
LAWRENCE: When an F-16 roars off the tarmac here, you never know who is in the cockpit. He or she could be from pilots from Middle Eastern countries like Bahrain, Jordan and the UAE are coming to Tucson to be rained by American instructors.
MAJ. GABE JOHNSON, ARIZONA AIR NATIONAL GUARD: We're training our allies so they can fly, fight and win with us.
LAWRENCE: The F-16 has become the Honda Accord of fighter jets. They're everywhere with 4,000 flying around the world. They have been used in both Iraq and Afghanistan. But threats are emerging everywhere and the U.S. only has so many resources.
LT. COL. JAY GRIFFIN, ARIZONA AIR NATIONAL GUARD: We've increased the number of international students that we're graduating every year.
LAWRENCE: Now it's up to 70 foreign pilots a year.
MAJ. ATLE BRAATEN, ROYAL NORWEGIAN AIR FORCE: Makes it easier to train and fight later.
LAWRENCE: Each country pays the U.S. government and the pilots are all screened by the state department. But American relations with other nations do change over time, which raises the possibility of training a future enemy fighter. On the other hand, it could help nations like the UAE resist any potential threat from, say, Iran. Before coming here, the pilots get intense English language training because at mach 2, there's no room for misunderstanding.
GRIFFIN: For a student to have to think about what an IP or instructor is trying to tell them, translate it and then translate it back, there's no time.
LAWRENCE: Lieutenant Colonel Jay Griffin says it's strengthening bonds between militaries and a qualified foreign fighter only helps American pilots.
GRIFFIN: We may be employing in combat with the students that we're graduating here.
LAWRENCE: Not every nation is on board. Years ago, the U.S. authorized Venezuela to buy F-16s. But Hugo Chavez's pilots are not a part of the program.
MALVEAUX: Thanks, Chris.
So much for not nickel and diming passengers. An airline that prides itself on not charging extra fees wants you to pay to board early and grab a good seat. Carol Costello explains.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, you want the good news or the bad news first?
MALVEAUX: Good news?
COSTELLO: According to "The Wall Street Journal," the demand for air travel has bottomed out. It has nowhere to go but up. The bad news, it doesn't matter one iota to an air traveler's wallet. That's a no you won't see airline fees going away. Even Southwest has gotten into the game.
COSTELLO: Southwest Airlines just got a little enhancement. That's what the airline is calling its early bird program. If you don't like the airlines no reserve seating policy, the airline will now allow you to board early to grab a plum seat if you dole out ten bucks each way. Already some are saying --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tired of being nickelled and dimed by other airlines?
COSTELLO: The early bird program is nothing more than an extra fee. Something Southwest prides itself on resisting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On Southwest Airlines, we don't charge for stuff that should be free.
COSTELLO: Southwest insists it's not breaking that problem. Early bird, it says, is an enhancement.
BRAD HAWKINS, SOUTHWEST AIRLINES SPOKESMAN: This is a value-added extra that people can decide for themselves if they want to do it.
COSTELLO: Southwest does find itself in a tough position. It's one of the few airlines turning a profit but it's not as fat and happy as it wasn't once. Ben Mutzabaugh covers the airlines for USA Today.
BEN MUTZABAUGH, USA TODAY: They're feeling some pressure from shareholders for not adding a checked bag fee whereas their competitors are making hundreds of millions of dollars off these fees.
COSTELLO: He's not kidding. In the first quarter of 2009 alone, U.S. air carriers charged $566 million in baggage fees. That's more than four times what they collected in 2008. Southwest has tried to save money by cutting back on some flights but says it has to find a revenue source, too, so it won't have to raise ticket prices. Travelers have mixed feelings.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not the amount, it's the concept that you give me $10. What if I give you $50, can I get in front of him?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If that's a way to turn a profit and keep my ticket down, I'm all for it.
COSTELLO: Analysts say early bird will turn a profit for Southwest. One financial research analyst says if 25 to 30 passengers on each flight buy the service, Southwest could rake in $250 million a year.
COSTELLO: Southwest will also put wi-fi on 200 flights come 2010. So far, it's free but that could change. Just depends, they told me.
MALVEAUX: All right. Thanks, Carol. Laura Bush cheers on Dick Cheney. Why she says the former vice president has every right to speak out. It's a CNN exclusive interview.
And a woman who faced 40 lashes for wearing pants in public now learns what punishment lies ahead.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
MALVEAUX: A woman seized by Sudan's morality police for wearing pants in public. She faced a punishment of flogging and she decided to fight. Our CNN's David McKenzie has the story from Nairobi, Kenya.
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, a Sudanese journalist who faced 40 lashes by a court in Sudan has in fact been given the option of a fine but she chose jail time. Lubna al Hussain could face up to a month in jail because of what the morality police called indecent clothing. She was picked up about a month ago by the mortality police with about a dozen other women. But instead of facing her punishment of flogging, she decide today fight the case. There have been a number of court appearance, but in this case, she pleaded not guilty. But the judge says she was in fact guilty of breaking Islamic law. She went against the wishes of her lawyer and is now going to jail.
MANAL AWAD, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: In my opinion, if she paid the money, she would not be in prison. But if she wants to go to the higher court -- what happened today is an unfair trial at all and Lubna has the right to go to another court.
MCKENZIE: While there have been some supporters of the government side, there's been widespread international criticism of this case and of the practice of flogging women. It's gone all the way up to the top of the United Nations. Amnesty International has said that flogging women is abhorrent and that the law needs to be changed. Certainly if the government has hoped that this activist would have gone quietly, the fact that she chose jail time will put those hopes to bed. Suzanne?
MALVEAUX: Thank you.