Return to Transcripts main page


Nation Remembers Fort Hood Victims; D.C. Sniper Nears Execution; Bill Clinton Pushes Health Care Reform

Aired November 10, 2009 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're watching what's happened at Fort Hood, a memorable day, indeed, as the president of the United States and the first lady and others went to pay their respect to these 13, these 13 fallen heroes.

We have been watching the final salute, the final salute to the victims of the Fort Hood massacre, President Obama offering comfort, urging his troops to carry on.

This is a time when the entire country is mourning, mourning those 13 and hoping the 30 or 40 others who were injured recover, and recover completely.

We saw the grief in all their faces at this memorial for these 13 fallen Americans. The president promised that their killer will face justice in this world and, he said, in the next world.

And he tried to help soldiers understand the horror that happened in their own backyard.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a time war, yet, these Americans did not die on a foreign field of battle. They were killed here on American soil in the heart of this great state, in the heart of this great American community.

This is the fact that makes the tragedy even more painful, even more incomprehensible.

For those families who have lost a loved one, no words can fill the void that's been left. We knew these men and women as soldiers and caregivers.


BLITZER: The president of the United States speaking just a little while ago at this memorial service at Fort Hood in Texas.

Our chief national correspondent, John King, is there on the scene.

John, I understand you have a special guest with you.


The ceremony wrapped up just a short time ago, and you may have seen Colonel Michael Lembke. He's the chaplain of this installation, Fort Hood, and he joins us now, the chaplain of the III Corps.

Just help me understand the moment for you and the significance of this moment, after the horror that happened here just a few days ago.


It's -- it's a solemn day, certainly a somber day for us, but not a day without -- without hope. These -- these memorial services are -- are terribly, terribly important to the Army family, to the families in -- in specific, that we that we honor their service to the nation and that we commit ourselves to continue on.

KING: Your job is in part to counsel the families and the comrades of those who are fallen on the battlefield.

How much different is it? How much harder is it for them to -- to try to come to grips with the fact that it happened here in their community, where they are at home, where they are supposed to be most safe?

LEMBKE: You're right.

And the -- the president said that very well in -- in his speech, that you would think you're going to be -- be safe here, that you -- you think the trouble is -- is someplace else, and then it comes home. That -- that -- that makes it a little bit different, but, in general, you know, there's nothing, sadly, unique about grief and loss.

So, our chaplains are with the families now. We're committed to that kind of one day at a time to listen to them, as I said in my remarks, the importance of listening, and from that, we gain the wisdom to move on.

KING: And -- and how much more difficult is your job, in the sense that this is not the Taliban, this is not an insurgent in Iraq, this is not a member of al Qaeda who fired the bullets; it is a major in the United States Army?

LEMBKE: Well, my -- you know, my focus is on our wounded warriors who were -- were here today, and certainly honoring the memory of -- of those people who served. And you heard some of their stories today.

So, that -- that's the focus for the chaplains, is to care for the wounded. And -- and, today, you saw a prime example of what it means to honor the dead.

KING: What does it mean to the families, do you think, and to this base to be here to hear from the president?

LEMBKE: Well, I'm sure you will probably talk to the families. I just speak for myself.

What a tremendous honor. We had last Friday the -- the chairman -- chief of staff of the Army and the secretary of the Army were here all day long, stayed for the vigil. To have the president here today is just almost beyond words. KING: And we're watching the flag being folded there just ahead -- or just in front of the III Corps headquarters. Talk about your challenge in the days and weeks ahead. You have the families here. You mentioned we have the wounded warriors here, the heroes who responded, even though many of them were shot themselves, trying to help those who were wounded.

They are in the full attention now. The commander in chief is on their post. There are people here. What is your challenge a week and two weeks and a month from now for the families and the wounded?

LEMBKE: Well, I'm -- I'm glad you asked that, John, because that's very, very important.

And we're -- we're working on that now. You know, of course, my line is the chaplain, so, that's -- that's who I'm focused on, working with the hospital chaplains. Those guys are specially trained to work in those settings, also chaplains that we call family life chaplains trained to work especially with kids, and spouses. You know, we can't forget about the kids and the extended families, and then those chaplains who are specifically designed to work on the grief issues with the families.

That will set the immediate way ahead. And then we are going to be getting together, the chaplains, in the next couple of days, to talk about, as you say, that next couple of weeks, that next month to develop the -- the strategies on how to -- how to best respond to the needs of the Army in a tough time.

KING: And if there's somebody out there, somebody who maybe doesn't live near a military installation, doesn't quite understand, but has been touched and moved by what has happened in the last few days and is saying, "How can I help?" how can they help?

LEMBKE: Well, again, you know, my -- my own theology would suggest, you know, prayer is a -- is a big thing. That's certainly not a -- a trite phrase.

I can't give any specifics right off the top of my head of ways they can help. But, locally, I would suggest, you know, for folks to be involved, say thanks to a soldier when you see him in the airport, say thanks to an airman or a sailor. Go into a recruiting station in your hometown and say thanks. You know, that's what today was all about, is saying thanks to the service of these -- of these fine people, saying thanks to their families, saying thanks to those who continue to serve and committing to go ahead.

KING: Colonel Lembke, we thank you for your time today. I know it's a busy and important day for you. We appreciate your taking a few moments with us.

LEMBKE: Thank you.

KING: And as we go to Wolf in Washington, you see the president and first lady near Marine One. They are at the Army airfield here at Fort Hood, Texas. They will soon be making their way back to Washington -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. They are boarding Air Force One, John, right now, getting ready to fly back to Washington.

From that memorial service, us you pointed out, they went back to the hospital on the Fort Hood base to meet with some of those who could not come to this memorial service, some of those who are critically injured, and some of them in serious condition still right now as a result of that rampage Thursday, when a gunman opened fire, a gunman allegedly who was in fact a United States military officer, a major, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, opened fire and killed 13, injured at least 30, maybe 40 other American troops.

You see the final conclusion of this military memorial service. They are continuing to fold that huge flag that flew over -- that was over this -- this base, as the president, the Army chief of staff, the base commander and others spoke so movingly of these 13.

This was a day to remember the 13 and those wounded, some of whom risked their own lives to help fellow soldiers.

Ed Lavandera is on the scene for us. He's over -- over at the base at Fort Hood.

Ed, you have had a chance to speak with a lot of soldiers there. This is a day they will always remember.


You know, we have been here since Thursday covering this story. And a couple of things I was struck by this afternoon, as we were listening to the memorial service -- we're just on the -- just outside the gate of Fort Hood.

And you could hear -- when they started singing "Amazing Grace," you could hear the song echoing across the grounds here, as this -- John King had talked a lot about how quiet it was inside, but across this entire area, very still. You could hear the -- the song beautifully echoing throughout the grounds here of Fort Hood.

And I thought it was also kind of a good moment to -- to reflect on one of the things that we have heard a lot from soldiers. And I have had a chance to speak with many people who were not only there in the moments after the shooting or -- or survived the shooting and are watching people cope with what they are struggling with here after this incident, and what you hear over and over again is how people salute each other and applaud each other for the way these soldiers acted in the aftermath of this shooting.

We have heard from people who describe the -- the heroic efforts of ripping off their own clothing to use as tourniquets, to -- to apply to the wounds, to get everyone out as quickly as possible. And it seems to be really one of the things that I think a lot of the people who were there in that moment last Thursday are really pointing to -- to find solace, that they hang their hat on that and they say, you know, look at the way we reacted in the moments after that, and that really shows us just how strong we are.

BLITZER: Yes. We will continue to speak with those soldiers, their family members, their dependents, so many others in the course of our coverage today.

Ed, stand by.

This day is certainly about remembering the victims, but investigators are staying very focused right now on the alleged Fort Hood gunman and whether clues about the massacre were in fact missed.

Our CNN's Brian Todd has been following the investigation.

And a lot of folks are wondering if they connected the dots or if there was a big failure earlier in -- down the road. Brian, tell us what you're learning.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And we're still trying to get a lot of that information together, Wolf, pulling together several components of this investigation.

One thing I can tell you that we have just gotten in now from a federal law enforcement official, the individual -- this official says the individual who made the decision not to pursue a further investigation of Nidal Hasan after a series of communications that were intercepted between Hasan and an individual overseas who was a suspected terrorist sympathizer, the person who made the decision not to pursue Nidal Hasan after those communications was intercepted was an employee of the Defense criminal Investigative Service who was assigned to the Joint Terrorism Task Force.

We're going to have more on that component of the investigation in just a short time.

Meanwhile, I did also speak today with a classmate of Nidal Hasan's at military medical school who told me of a PowerPoint presentation that Hasan gave in the summer of 2007 that made several people in the room uncomfortable.

Now, even though several people in the room objected, Hasan's superiors let him finish the presentation. It was supposed to be about environmental health, but, instead, Hasan went off on the war on terror. The classmate says it was similar to another PowerPoint that Hasan gave at Walter Reed Army Medical Center that summer.

Now, according to one excerpt of that that is featured in today's "Washington Post," Hasan said the military -- quote -- "should allow Muslim soldiers the options of being released as conscientious objectors to increase troop morale and decrease adverse events."

Now, I asked the classmate whether any of Hasan's superiors who were present disciplined him or counseled him about that. He says he does not believe they did, Wolf -- so, questions being asked about that part of this, these PowerPoint presentations that clearly made both classmates and superiors uncomfortable. Did anybody pursue it? Did anybody counsel him? No indication at the moment that they did. BLITZER: Yes. And there's going to be a lot of second-guessing on that.

You have also found out some potentially crucial information from investigators on another front. What -- what are you learning?

TODD: This -- that's right. This is from a briefing we got late last night. Senior investigative officials tell us they took notice of Hasan late last year, when they began intercepting about 10 to 20 communications between him and a suspected terrorist sympathizer overseas who was the subject of an investigation.

The officials would not identify that person, but sources familiar with the case tell CNN the person being monitored was radical Imam Anwar al-Awlaki, who was mentioned in the 9/11 Commission report as having developed a close relationship with two 9/11 hijackers.

Still, the investigators say Hasan's communications were consistent with his research as a psychiatrist. They concluded he was not involved in terrorist activity, but they continued to monitor his communications. Investigators say there were military officials who knew about the communications overseas, but they were not Army officials.

It's unclear whether those dots were connected with Army officials who might have known about Hasan's PowerPoints or other, you know, behavioral aspects of his tenure at Walter Reed, Wolf. We're trying to see whether anybody connected the dots here. Not clear whether someone did.

But, again, to go to the top of our report, we can confirm now that the individual who made the decision not to pursue Hasan when they did those communications intercepts overseas was an employee of the Defense Criminal Investigative Services.

BLITZER: I suspect he's -- he's rethinking, he's thinking hard and long about that -- that decision, whether he made the right decision.

TODD: Right. It is important, however, to point out they found nothing really threatening in those communications. It was consistent with his work as a psychiatrist, so you do have to make sure you mention that...


BLITZER: Now, those conversations that were monitored...

TODD: Right.

BLITZER: ... they were not monitoring Major Hasan. They were monitoring someone else.

TODD: That is...


BLITZER: And -- and his conversation just happened to come up.

LEMBKE: That is right. And that person who we're -- sources tell us was this imam, Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemeni cleric believed to, I believe, I think, have been in Yemen at the time. They were monitoring him. He was the -- Hasan was not the subject of that investigation.

BLITZER: Brian Todd is investigating, continuing our reporting on this.

Brian, thanks very much.

We heard President Obama promising, the alleged Fort Hood gunman would be brought to justice. What is Major Nidal Malik Hasan up against? We're going to discuss his legal battles. That's coming up.

Also, no reprieve for the D.C. area sniper -- he's only a few hours from being executed. We will remember the random deaths, the sheer terror that rocked this city back in 2002.

And Bill Clinton's been there, done that, but he's trying once again, trying very hard. The former president gives Senate Democrats a push toward passage of health care reform.


BLITZER: Very moving memorial service at Fort Hood in Texas. We will get back there, have much more.

But let's check in with Jack Cafferty right now. He has got "The Cafferty File."

I was very moved. And I know you were as well, Jack.


The story we're fiddling with here, you could headline -- call it CBS News vs. the White House. CBS is reporting that President Obama intends to give General Stanley McChrystal most, if not all, of the 40,000 additional troops he's asking for in Afghanistan.

CBS says the president has tentatively decided to send four combat brigades, plus thousands of additional support troops. According to CBS, the troop buildup would last for about four years, until the Afghan military doubles in size.

This surge, if you will, would mean the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan would grow from the current 68,000 to probably more than 100,000 by the end of the president's first term. The White House insists the CBS story is false. They call reports that the president has made a decision about Afghanistan -- quote -- "absolutely false." They say Mr. Obama still hasn't received or reviewed final options with his national security team.

So, who is telling the truth here? It comes down, I guess, to the word of the Obama White House against the network of Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite. Of course, CBS News also saw Dan Rather step aside in 2005, after apologizing for a report that questioned President George Bush's National Guard service. Rather said that report was based on false documents.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press seems to support the CBS story, saying President Obama's nearing a decision to add tens of thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan, but not the 40,000 that General McChrystal wants. Some officials have dubbed the likely troop increase McChrystal-lite, since it would fall short of the general's request.

Here's the question, then. CBS News says nearly 40,000 additional troops will be sent to Afghanistan. The White House says the story is false. Who do you believe?

Go to Post a comment on my blog.

BLITZER: You know, Jack, that CBS News story was prepared by David Martin, the Pentagon correspondent for CBS News, one of the best reporters in Washington. He's been at the Pentagon for years.

I remember, in the early '90s, when I was the Pentagon correspondent for CNN, he was the Pentagon correspondent for CBS News. And the most dreaded words I used to get from the desk when I would get a phone call saying, "David Martin is reporting" -- and...


BLITZER: And I got nervous right away, because he is one excellent, excellent reporter, as I can personally attribute, given the competition we had during the first Gulf War and beyond.

CAFFERTY: Well, and the...



BLITZER: We shouldn't sneeze -- we shouldn't dismiss this reporter at all.

CAFFERTY: Oh, no, no.

And the implication from your bosses when they would call you with that information is, "Blitzer, why don't you have this," right?

BLITZER: That is correct. That is correct.


BLITZER: And I worked very hard to match those stories that David Martin was breaking. He used to break them regularly.


BLITZER: So, I mean, he's one reporter I really admire, as you can tell.

CAFFERTY: And it would not be out of the ordinary for somebody inside the Pentagon, if the story is true, to have leaked it to somebody at CBS, in an effort to perhaps try and hasten a decision on the part of the White House. So, we will have to see how it sorts out.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, thank you.

CAFFERTY: Meanwhile, other important news we're following here in Washington on Capitol Hill.

Democrats worry if fellow Democrats will support health reform, so leaders say it's essentially time to bring in the political big gun. That would be Bill Clinton. The last president to push for universal coverage today talks to Democratic senators about what is at stake if they don't pass health reform.

Our senior congressional correspondent -- actually, our congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is up on Capitol Hill working this story for us.

Brianna, what do we know about the former president of the United States meeting with these Democrats behind closed doors?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Democratic senators we spoke with said this wasn't about specifics. This was President Clinton coming to speak with Senate Democrats and telling them the necessity, both politically and economically, of moving forward and delivering an overhaul of the U.S. health care system for Americans.

And after this lunch with Senate Democrats, former President Clinton told reporters about his message for them.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Whatever their differences are, I just urged them to resolve their differences and pass a bill.

And I also believe, you know, people hire us to come to work in places like this to solve problems and to stand up and do it.


KEILAR: Now, Democratic senators that we spoke with said it was very meaningful to hear this from the person who tried to push through an overhaul of the U.S. health care system, and was unable to do it, 15 years ago.

They said that President Clinton told them this is a once-in-a- lifetime opportunity. And they also said that what he told them basically in a nutshell is, don't let perfect be the enemy of good. You may not get everything you want, but you need to pass comprehensive health care reform and come back in later years and make changes, if you need to -- Wolf. BLITZER: Brianna, as you know, the president keeps insisting he wants this done before the end of this year, but a Democratic leader in the Senate today said, that might not happen.

What do we know?

KEILAR: That's right, Wolf.

And, up until now, Democrats both at the White House and here on the Hill have said they want health care reform, not just to pass the House and the Senate, but for a final bill that would come out of those negotiations between the House and the Senate to be passed and to go to the president's desk. That's what they have said they have wanted.

There have been some hints recently that that timeline could be slipping, but, really, the first definitive and candid acknowledgement of that by Dick Durbin, the number-two Democrat in the Senate. He was asked today, are you talking about moving this -- you know, passing this and getting it to the president or just getting it out of the Senate?

Here's what he said.


SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: Getting it out of the Senate.

Now, if we are -- if we are fortunate enough to get it done earlier, then who knows. But I would say our goal is to make sure it's out of the Senate this year.


KEILAR: Now, I spoke with Senator Harry Reid's spokesman. And he told me the desire is still to get this done in total by the end of the year.

But I think it's a logistical question, Wolf, at this point, when you look at the Democrats trying to get their moderates on board. They are still waiting on some numbers to be crunched. And this is going to take about three to four weeks of debate. There's a question about whether they can truly and logistically move this through the Senate and through the whole Congress by the end of the year.

BLITZER: It's a huge question, indeed.

Brianna, thanks very much.

Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger.

You know, someone have pointed out, Gloria, this current Senate is very similar to the Senate that former President Clinton dealt with in '93-'94.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. You know, Bill Clinton came to the Senate today as a cheerleader, but when you take this trip down memory lane, Wolf, it's really interesting. If you look in 1993, the House had 258 Democrats, today, 258 Democrats. The Senate under Bill Clinton had 56 Democrats. And Barack Obama has a slight advantage there, 58 Democrats, plus two independents who caucus with the Democrats.

But, you know, there were similar divisions also within the Democratic Party when Bill Clinton was president. He had his liberals who wanted a single-payer plan and said, you're not being liberal enough. He had moderates who said, you know what, your health care plan is not good for small businesses.

So, you know, they had the same problems. And what -- what Barack Obama has done is, he's adopted, not the Bill Clinton model, but the Ronald Reagan model. He didn't send up a bill. He decided to do it a different way and let the Congress work out the details. We will have to see if that was a good strategy, Wolf.

BLITZER: We will know either late this year or early next.

BORGER: We will.

BLITZER: At some point, we will see how this plays out.

Gloria, thanks very much.


BLITZER: His lawyers tried everything to keep him alive -- the D.C. sniper, John Allen Muhammad, set for execution, now only a few hours away. We now know how Virginia's governor answered an 11th-hour plea for mercy.

And rarely do you ever see anything like this. A woman falls on to the train tracks, and a fast-moving train is seconds away.


BLITZER: Alina Cho is monitoring some other important stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Alina, what's going on?


Three Florida teens accused of attempted murder for allegedly setting their friend on fire will be charged as adults and will not be released on bond. Officials say the teens attacked 15-year-old Michael Brewer last month after he told police that one of the suspects stole his father's bicycle. Brewer is in critical condition right now, with burns over 65 percent of his body. Two other teens have been charged as juveniles.

An emotional court battle over the fat of a British baby with debilitating birth defects is over. The baby's father, who was fighting his own wife and the hospital to keep the boy on a ventilator, has agreed to let the child day. The 13-month-old baby suffers from a progressive genetic condition that prevents him from ever breathing on his own.

And some incredible video we found of a woman who fell on to the subway tracks in Boston. It happened on Friday. Take a look. There, you can see passengers frantically waving to the oncoming train. A transportation official quickly called the driver, who then immediately pulled the emergency brake.

The train came to a screeching halt, as you see there, just short of where the woman had fallen. The woman, who says that she had been drinking, is OK. She walked away with just a couple of scrapes.

I think that's what you call a close call there, Wolf -- back to you.

BLITZER: Yes. She's a very, very lucky woman, indeed.

Thank you, Alina, for that.

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

Happening now, inside the Taliban. A former high-ranking Taliban official talks to CNN about the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and the possibility of striking a deal with the militants.

And we get reaction from a civilian officer who worked with the State Department in Afghanistan, then says he resigned to protest U.S. policy there. You're going to hear what he says the U.S. needs to do to fight al Qaeda and save lives.

And the tragedy at Fort Hood, it's prompting painful flashbacks for families of other fallen troops. Many of them are now reaching out for help.

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

Without mercy, he took lives in a shooting spree that paralyzed the greater Washington, D.C., area. Now the sniper mastermind John Allen Muhammad hopes his own life will be spared, but guess what? It won't be.

Muhammad will be put to death just in a few hours. The Virginia governor, Tim Kaine, denied an 11th hour plea for clemency. Muhammad's lawyers say they won't file any more appeals.

What began in October of 2002 was a reign of terror. People were randomly shot and the killers took police on a deadly game of cat and mouse.

I remember covering this story oh, so vividly, and the I also remember the dread I felt traveling around Washington like so many others. They felt that same dread.


BLITZER: Montgomery County has been traumatized by five killings in less than 16 hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shot while mowing his lawn.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now they don't know the motive. Just the randomness I think is baffling police right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... know of no relationship between the victims.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A murderous spree and a single shot. This time, it took the life of a woman who was simply as a service station vacuuming her van.

DEIRDRE WALKER, FMR. ASST. POLICE CHIEF, MONTGOMERY COUNTY: In that first 24-hour period where so many shootings occurred in Montgomery County, you know, this level of violence to us spoke to somebody who had snapped, and we were waiting for what we called a hot confrontation. We were waiting for this person to actively engage the police or, you know, shoot himself, and that didn't happen.

There was nothing. We felt like the first couple days, we were chasing a ghost.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Word of another shooting. Whether it is connected...

October 3, 2002, he had four shootings early in the morning, a very short space of time. I think from about 7:40 or 7:41 to 9:58, was the last shooting, and then there was a break of several hours. Then there was a shooting later that night. So you had five shootings in one day, and that's when people really started to realize that something is going on here.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All hell breaks loose. It's like a war zone.

You know, I live in Montgomery County and, you know, family was calling me. "Who is this? What's happening? Do they have any leads?" And I'm telling them no. And the police say they don't have a clue.

VITO MAGGIOLO, CNN ASSIGNMENT EDITOR: I called the assignment desk, and I said to the assignment editor at the time, Michael McManus (ph), I said, "There's been a shooting in D.C., and I think it's the sniper."

Michael checked with the D.C. Police, and they said, no, this is not related. And I told Michael they are wrong. This has all the characteristics of what we've been hearing all day out of Montgomery County. I said, "Send somebody up there and shoot the scene, because I bet my bottom dollar it's this person." And in fact it was.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did school officials tell you guys?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They were just telling us to be quiet and be calm, because a little boy got shot when his mother was dropping him off from home. CHIEF CHARLES MOOSE, MONTGOMERY COUNTY POLICE: Someone is so mean- spirited, that they shot a child. Now, all of our victims have been innocent, have been defenseless, but now we're stepping over the line because our children don't deserve this

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I was out at police headquarters that morning when our desk called and told us they were hearing on the scanner that there had been another shooting. Chief Moose was out and about that morning in the parking lot doing live shots with the various network shows. And I immediately ran over to him and said, "Chief, we understand there's been another shooting," and a look crossed over his face. He pivoted and he went right back into police headquarters.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Apparently a tarot card left at the scene of the shooting Monday in Prince George's County, Maryland, the shooting at the middle school. And written on the tarot card, say law enforcement sources, was, "Dear Policeman, I am God."

COOPER: We begin with what might be a new development in the string of sniper shootings in the Washington, D.C., area. We underscore, "it might." This story is unfolding as we speak.

The pictures now coming in from Manassas, Virginia. There was a shooting here a short time ago. One witness reported hearing a single shot as a man was pumping gas.

October 9th, there was a man named Dean Harold Meyers who was shot and killed, and someone reported seeing a white minivan leaving the scene, and that became sort of a red herring. Police put that description out. A lot of reports poured in and, of course, a white minivan is something that's pretty common on the highways.

WALKER: So we basically created a situation and, in good faith, in trying to push out the information, we created a situation where the witnesses heard a shot, boom, they saw a white van. And then they -- that's the information.

And they would be adamant that the shot came from that car, so now we're in a situation where, well, do we discount the closest thing we have to an eyewitness? So it was very challenging in that regard.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We're getting word that around 9:30 a.m. Eastern in Fredericksburg, Virginia, there was another shooting incident, this one at an Exxon gas station.

JOHNS: These guys were not in custody, whoever had done the shooting. The police had no idea where they were. They had pretty much given up going, you know, from street to street to street.

There we were, getting ready for the 6:00 news, and thinking these people are so bold, where are they going to stop? How far are they going to go?

And we knew there was a fascination also with the media by that time. So stepping up in front of the TV camera -- and I don't think I'm the only person who felt this way -- I really wondered whether that high- powered rifle was going to be trained on me or one of my colleagues. For me, this was "NBC Nightly News" in those days.

TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: We begin with NBC's Joe Johns -- Joe.

JOHNS: Tom, it would be the boldest attack so far...

And listening to Tom Brokaw read the lead-in to me, I thought to myself, what's the first thing that happens? Do you feel the bullet or hear the shot?


BLITZER: The last day in that piece was October 11th, but the killing did not stop there. Three days later, a 47-year-old woman died in a gunshot at a Home Depot parking lot in Falls Church, Virginia, just outside Washington. Five days later, a 37-year-old man survives a shot in a lot in Ashland. Five days after that, John Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo are found sleeping in a car in Maryland and they are arrested.

We're going to have much more on this reign of terror later tonight on CNN's "ANDERSON COOPER 360."

Sarah Palin has something to sell. She has a new book that's coming out and plans to sit down with Oprah. But is that enough to erase her mistakes, guarantee a political future?

And the alleged Fort Hood gunman now has a lawyer. How difficult will it be to defend such a high-profile suspect? We'll discuss legal strategy and challenges. That's coming up.

And he says he quit his State Department job in protest of the Afghanistan War. I'll ask Matthew Hoh about his call for a U.S. withdrawal even as the president right now is considering sending in thousands of additional troops.


BLITZER: Let's get back to our top story, the fallout from the Fort Hood massacre.

Joining us now, our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, and Mikey Weinstein, the president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a former JAG officer, a military lawyer.

Mikey, how many legal hurdles does he have right now? This is not necessarily going to be very easy for this defendant, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, to deal with these charges. It seems like there were so many eyewitnesses who saw it unfold.

MIKEY WEINSTEIN, PRESIDENT, MILITARY RELIGIOUS FREEDOM FOUNDATION: There's no question, Wolf. You know, having been a former JAG for a decade, this is a senseless murderous massacre, and he's going to have to try to find some sort of -- I'm not sure whether there will be an insanity defense, or diminished capacity, but clearly what this man did was a horrible, terrible crime. That does not excuse the fact that the military needs to ask itself some very hard questions as to what's happening, and this is what our foundation has been fighting for five and a half years, which is unbridled -- you know, religious intolerance within the ranks.

BLITZER: All right.

Well, maybe we'll get to that, but I want to focus in on the legal hurdles, Jeffrey. Give us a little sense. He's now hired a lawyer. He's got a military lawyer and a civilian lawyer who is helping him.

What kind of strategy do they do?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: Well, there are a lot of choices that need to be made by the prosecution here, starting with, which court is he prosecuted in? This crime obviously took place on a military base.

It can be brought as a court-martial, or it can be brought as a criminal prosecution in federal district court. One thing we know is that it won't be in Texas state court. They don't have jurisdiction over this. But this is going to have to be a negotiation between the Department of Justice and the Department of Defense over which side wants to prosecute him. Both of them have the death penalty, but there are pluses and minuses to both scenarios.

BLITZER: Well, that's a good point, Mikey. What are the major differences between a military trial and a civilian trial?

WEINSTEIN: Well, there's a number.

First of all, you still have the requirement -- you're presumed innocence, and you have to show, you know, beyond a reasonable doubt that there is guilt. There's a different number of people in the jury.

And remember, in the military, there's a completely different criminal code. It's called the Uniform Code of Military Justice. And in the military, you know, for instance, disobeying an order, many constitutional rights are severely abridged, Wolf, in order to provide the necessary lethality that is generated by the good order and discipline that this UCMJ brings to bear here. So there's a different criminal code in a military court-martial. Same standard, but different than in federal district court.

BLITZER: I assume, though Jeffrey, if he pleads insanity, that's the strongest case his lawyers will have, presumably.

TOOBIN: Well, certainly some sort of mental defense seems to be about the only one available. Any sort of defense based on the idea that, you know, they somehow got the wrong guy seems unlikely to succeed.

Insanity is often discussed, often invoked and rarely successful. The courts have had a hard time for decades defining what insanity is, but in recent years, certainly since the Hinckley case, the would-be assassin of President Reagan who was acquitted because of insanity, the defense has gotten narrower and narrower. And so, yes, that's probably his best hope, but it's not a very good hope, I don't think.

BLITZER: Does -- if you were representing him -- you were a JAG officer, Mikey, for 10 years. If you were asked to represent him as defense attorney before a military trial, what argument would you make? What would you -- knowing the facts as you know them?

WEINSTEIN: The first thing I'd have to do is focus on, you know, whether there's a diminished capacity, whether there's an insanity available. I would try to get as many tests as I could get done to take a look at what caused the situation here.

It's a very grim case for the defendant, obviously. This appears to be very open and shut. But I can tell you, nothing is ever open and shut when you go to court.

It's also very, very common to have both military and civilian counsel, and many civilian counsel are not used to the differences that occur in a court-martial. There are differences. The standard of proof is the same, but as I said before, you have a completely different criminal code because we're dealing with -- I think the famous Latin phrase is "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" Who will guard the guards?

And that's our military. We have a special code for them, and not every litigator is familiar with all of the vagaries there, Wolf.

BLITZER: He's going to face the death penalty, I assume, either in a civilian or a military court, Jeff. In a civilian court, I know it's not unusual for someone to plead guilty and hope that as part of a plea agreement, and avoiding a full-scale trial, you get sentenced to life in prison, let's say, without the possibility of parole.

Would something along those lines happen in a military court?

TOOBIN: It could happen. There's plea bargaining in the military system, as there is in the civilian system.

The similarity is the prosecution has to agree to a plea bargain. And it's hard to imagine that given the magnitude and horror of this crime, there is going to be much option for plea bargaining.

One thing to consider in thinking about which court he goes in, the last time someone was executed based on a court-martial was 1961, as I understand it, so it's a long time ago. The system is not really in place for an execution.

Now, there haven't been many executions in federal court recently. Certainly Timothy McVeigh is the best known recent example. But I think the fact that it is so rare to have someone executed in a court- martial trial suggests that that may be a road that the government decides not to do, but there's no hurry in this decision. Certainly the defendant is not going anywhere, and the court -- the Department of Justice and the Defense Department can take their time in deciding which approach is the right one.

BLITZER: And we're going to be speaking with his defense attorney that he hired tomorrow here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Guys, thanks very much.

WEINSTEIN: Wolf, I can tell you...

BLITZER: Mikey Weinstein, unfortunately, we're out of time. We'll leave it for the next time to complete that thought, but thanks to both of you very much for coming in.

WEINSTEIN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Families in grief and thousands of others feeling their pain. You're going to see how many military families cope with the loss of a loved one killed or injured while serving. And our John King talks to the brother of one of those victims.

And the idea of negotiating with the Taliban. Our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, he speaks exclusively with a former Taliban official on the possibility of a deal with the West.


BLITZER: The memorial service wrapped up about an hour or so ago. Our chief national correspondent, John King, is at Fort Hood in Texas with a special guest.

John, tell us who's there.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it has been an exhausting day and a moving day for the families of the fallen and the families of the wounded. And we're privileged at the moment to have with us a Chief Petty Officer Ronald Fiveash. He is in the United States Navy, came all the way from Bahrain, where he is stationed in the Middle East.

Because your brother, sir, Staff Sergeant Paul Martin, was shot four times. I want to talk to you about the service and about speaking with the president.

But first, how is your brother doing?


KING: Four bullet wounds?

FIVEASH: Four bullet wounds. Yes, sir.

KING: And he's hospitalized still?

FIVEASH: Yes, sir. He's at the Thornton (ph) Hill Medical Facility here, and he's recovering pretty well, sir.

KING: You've had time to speak to him. What is his memory of the tragic massacre? FIVEASH: He has some memory, and then some parts fade out because, you know, he lost a lot of blood. And he was saved by some first responders, but, I mean, his memory is pretty good though.

KING: Have you talked to him at all about his thoughts of the assassin being a member of the United States Army here?

FIVEASH: No, sir, I haven't.

KING: You have not had that opportunity?

FIVEASH: No, sir, I haven't.

KING: Why was it important for you to come all the way, a 19-hour trip from Bahrain, where you are stationed, to be here for this service today?

FIVEASH: My brother. I will be here for him. I know he will be here for me, so I had to come.

KING: And you were with the families up front. You had a chance to have a moment or two with the first lady and the president of the United States. Tell me what they told the families today.

FIVEASH: It was, you know, their prayers go out to us. And the president and the first lady, they were real sincere. I mean, it was -- they really care, so it was great.

KING: About how much time did they take to spend with each of you?

FIVEASH: They took quite a lot of time in taking photos with the family, so it was a great opportunity for the family of the wounded soldiers.

KING: All right. And being with the families up front, what was it like to be part of the service honoring your brother and those who were wounded, but, of course, also paying tribute to the 13 who played the ultimate price here?

FIVEASH: It was really touching. And the ceremony, as a whole, it was really genuine, it was really sincere. It was a great, great ceremony.

KING: You were serving overseas when this happened. And you received word of it. You're serving at a time war. You told me a bit earlier you had been deployed yourself into the war zone.

What is it like to be in the United States military right now? You know you face threats on the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan if you're training or exercising overseas, in Bahrain or elsewhere. But to hear that this happened on an Army post here at home?

FIVEASH: You know, we're trained for different situations, and you just have to react and overcome. So it's just part of our training, and that's what we raised our right hand to do, to serve this country, and that's what I'm going to do. KING: Chief Petty Officer Ronald Fiveash, we thank you.

FIVEASH: Thank you.

KING: And please ensure your brother he is in the thoughts and prayers of anybody at CNN and I'm sure everybody out there watching.

FIVEASH: All right. Thank you, sir.

KING: Take care.

Wolf Blitzer, back to you in Washington.

BLITZER: All right, John. Thank you. And thank him for us as well.

CBS News says it knows how many more troops will be going to Afghanistan. The White House says the story is false.

Jack cafferty wants to know. What do you think?


BLITZER: Here's a look at some "Hot Shots," pictures likely to be in your newspapers tomorrow.

In Washington, senators turn their attention to Senator Joe Lieberman during a Budget Committee meeting.

In El Salvador, children eating have a meal at a temporary shelter set up after raging flood.

In France, workers march and blown on horns to protest job cuts at a telecommunications company.

And in China, visitors walk past a snowman built in the forbidden city after a heavy snowfall.

"Hot Shots," pictures worth a thousand words.

Let's go back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Not much of a snowman.

BLITZER: A little.




CAFFERTY: The question this hour, CBS News says nearly 40,000 additional troops will be sent to Afghanistan. The White House says the story is false. Who do you believe?

Jeff in Massachusetts, "Right now the Obama administration's word isn't worth very much, whether it be his unfulfilled campaign promises or his recent health care gaffes, their credibility is slipping and slipping quickly. Heck, I'd take Dan Rather's word against his at this point."

Nancy in Tennessee, "Pretty brazen of CBS News to report what the president has decided to do without backing up their claim with official proof. It makes you wonder which CBS News anchor will take the fall for this false or overzealous reporting. I don't believe President Obama has made a decision yet. Everyone has been waiting for his response, and I'm sure the correct information will be provided to all the news agencies, not just CBS."

Joy says, "I choose the White House, only because I want to believe we wouldn't send more troops and hope that CBS is mistaken. I'm still angry at General McChrystal for shooting off his mouth, leaving President Obama hanging. Generals have been fired for worse."

Chris in Kansas says, "It's not CBS versus the White House. It's the source versus the White House. It's not the first time the Pentagon has used the media to pressure the president."

Mike in Denver, "Neither. Even if CBS is dead-on with their information and numbers, at this point the White House would change the numbers just to undermine the credibility of CBS for breaking the news. The sad part is our military is caught in the middle."

Dan in St. Louis says, "The question is not about who's telling the truth, but rather whose job it is to make this decision. Answer: The president. Since when does the media get to decide a decision has been made and then generate ratings by claiming a scoop? The president should be allowed to make and then announce this very important decision on his own timeline, not one dictated by pressure from private sector businesses desperate for revenue."

Jeff in Atlanta says, "It has to be false. Everybody knows Obama can't make a decision."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.