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Lawyer: Fort Hood Suspect Paralyzed; 9/11 Plotters to Get New York Trial; H1N1 Takes Heavy Toll on Minorities; NASA Confirms Water on Moon

Aired November 13, 2009 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: If you're looking for some palatial digs here in Washington, the late Ted Kennedy's mansion reportedly is up for sale and apparently it's too big for his video, Vicki, with seven bedrooms, seven bathrooms and an exercise room designed by Arnold Schwarzenegger. "The Washington Post" says the estate can be viewed by appointment only. The price tag -- somewhere around $6 million.

But you can negotiate.

Remember, for the latest political news any time, you can check out CNNPolitics.com.

And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, a shocking new revelation about the Army psychiatrist charged in the massacre at Fort Hood. His lawyer is now revealing that Major Nidal Hasan is paralyzed.

Also, controversy erupts as the government announces plans for an unprecedented case. The confessed mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks and four others will be brought from Guantanamo to New York City to face a civilian trial.

And NASA announces a stunning discovering -- water on the moon.

Where did it come from and what secrets might it reveal about us and the universe?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. .

We're getting the first detailed information about the condition of Army Major Nidal Hasan, accused of killing 13 people in the shooting rampage at Fort Hood. According to his lawyer, Hasan is paralyzed from the waist down -- apparently result of the gunshot wounds he suffered as police brought the massacre to a halt.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is at Fort Hood with details -- Ed.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Nidal Hasan spent an hour meeting with his attorney Thursday afternoon, but it was the first time he had come face-to-face with anyone from his family since last week's massacre here at Fort Hood. And it was the first time that that family member learned that Hasan will likely never walk again.

COL. JOHN GALLIGAN (RET.), HASAN ATTORNEY: He's not ambulatory. He's paralyzed, at least from the waist down. And my understanding is that there's no immediate likelihood that that's going to -- to change.

LAVANDERA: The attorney says that Hasan's speech is garbled. He's sometimes very difficult to understand and he got tired very quickly during Thursday's hour long meeting in San Antonio. The attorney also says that Hasan does have feeling in his hands, but it's extremely painful at this point.

The attorney would not say which factually came to meet with him yesterday, but they did say that their private moments together were extremely emotional. And he also described the scene around the ICU room where Hasan is being held, he said flow in and out of the room is tightly controlled with three or four guards standing by around the clock -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Lavandera is at Fort Hood for us.

He's been there for several days.

It's being called the single biggest challenge ever faced by the U.S. federal court system -- a trial for five accused plotters of the 9/11 attacks, including the confessed mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The attorney general, Eric Holder, says the five will be brought from Guantanamo Bay in Cuba to face a civilian jury.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: After several years of delay, those allegedly responsible for the attacks of September the 11th will finally face justice. They will be brought to New York -- to New York -- to answer for their alleged crimes in a courthouse just blocks away from where the Twin Towers once stood. I am confident in the ability of our courts to provide these defendants a fair trial, just as they have for over 200 years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The decision has set off a political firestorm.

But what about the families of the victims?

What do they think?

Our national correspondent, Susan Candiotti, has been speaking with some of them -- Susan, what are they saying?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, families always have differences and this is no different. While some relatives think it's a mistake, we heard from others who say trying the 9/11 suspects in a federal court is much better than a military commission at GITMO.

Let's start with one 9/11 victim's father, who saw the suspects for himself at the Naval base in Cuba.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDIOTTI: (voice-over): Eight years of waiting is eight years too long for retired firefighter Jim Riches. He wants the alleged 9/11 conspirators tried in New York. The attack killed his son, a fellow firefighter.

JIM RICHES, VICTIM'S FATHER: I just want to get this moving. You know, justice delayed is justice denied.

CANDIOTTI: Riches is one of a handful of civilians who got a close-up look at suspected terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others at a Guantanamo courtroom last January. That's when KSM told a military judge he was the mastermind of 9/11. "We don't care about capital punishment or a life sentence," he said. "We are doing jihad for the cause of God." RICHES: When they called for jihad against America, they were proud of what they did. And, you know, here I am sitting there. The man that murdered my son is standing there saying that he's proud that he killed my son.

CANDIOTTI: But another relative who lost his son says bringing the terror back to the scene of the crime will bring unbearable pain.

LEE LELPI, VICTIM'S FATHER: If you bring it back here, for me, my feelings, it's -- it's tasteless, it's insensitive and those scars, which have never been healed, are just going to be opened again. So I am not comfortable one iota with this call.

CANDIOTTI: Kristin Breitweiser, who helped push for the independent 9/11 Commission, says New York is ready. She plans to attend the trial as often as she can.

KRISTEN BREITWEISER, VICTIM'S WIFE: I think New Yorkers are certainly more than capable of handling it. And I think, again, it speaks to the very heart of who we are, not only as New Yorkers, but as American citizens. You know, if a crime is committed on our soil, you are going to be given a trial. You will be given access to an attorney. You'll be innocent until proven guilty.

CANDIOTTI: Some worry about massive security needs, with worldwide focus on five terrorists a few blocks from ground zero.

COMM. RAY KELLY, NEW YORK POLICE: We are certainly prepared for any eventuality. We handle a lot of high profile events here. We had the blind sheikh's trial here, other high profile trials and events. That's what we do. So I think we're in excellent shape to handle it.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

CANDIOTTI: And we also asked the families, what about worries that the evidence will hold up?

They say the Justice Department has assured them it will. A jury will decide -- Wolf. BLITZER: Susan Candiotti, thanks very much.

You're getting some mixed reaction there in New York City. Criticism of the decision, though, has been sharp and quick.

Listen to Eric Holder's predecessor, the former attorney general, Michael Mukasey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL MUKASEY, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: A decision that I consider to be not only unwise, but, in fact, based on a refusal to face the fact that what we are involved with here is a war with people who followed -- who follow a religiously-based ideology that calls on them to kill us and to return, instead, to the mindset that prevailed before September 11, 2001, that -- that acts like the first World Trade Center bombing, the bombing of our embassies in East Africa and other such acts can and should be treated as conventional crimes and tried in conventional courts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We're going to be speaking, also, with Alberto Gonzalez, the former Bush attorney general. He's got some strong views of all of this, as well.

The trial of those five 9/11 suspects promises to be unlike anything ever seen before in federal court. It poses huge challenges. We're going to be getting some special insight from our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. That's coming up.

And sanctions and alleged ties to Iran's nuclear program now revealed to be behind the U.S. government's seizure of mosques and Islamic schools.

And the huge implications of NASA's stunning discovery on the moon.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get some more now on our top story -- the dramatic announcement of a civilian -- a civilian trial for five suspected plotters of the 9/11 terror attacks, including the confessed mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, is joining us from New York.

Explain why a civilian court for these five as opposed to a military tribunal.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the -- why the Justice Department made this choice?

BLITZER: Right. TOOBIN: Well, the American legal system is widely respected around the world as a fair venue for the resolution of criminal chases. The decision was made that if we want a judgment for the execution of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his associates to have credibility around the world in the way that Guantanamo Bay never did, we have to give them the full protections of the American Constitution and only then will the verdict be seen as fair and be fair around the world.

BLITZER: So -- so this basically, in part, designed to reassure the rest of the world?

TOOBIN: I think that had -- that had a big part. Guantanamo Bay was a huge issue -- a huge black mark in terms of American international relations. And it is a classic difference between the Bush administration and the Obama administration. And this decision, as we learned today from the prior two attorney generals, is one that the prior administration would not have made. This one did. And we'll see whether they made the right choice.

BLITZER: Because other detainees, including those who were associated with the attack on the USS Cole, will be tried by the Obama administration before military tribunals. And the explanation they're giving is that one operation was done overseas, as opposed to one being done in New York City and the Pentagon and Pennsylvania.

To a lot of folks, that doesn't really seem to make a whole lot of sense.

TOOBIN: It doesn't make a lot of sense to me, either. I think a lot of it has to do simply with the available evidence in each case. Remember, the bombing of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which, of course, too place overseas, those were tried in American courtrooms, not in military tribunals.

So the distinctions the Obama administration is drawing here -- let's just say they are -- they are new. They may be right or wrong, but they're not ones that have traditionally been drawn.

BLITZER: Listen to this exchange, the attorney general, Eric Holder, had at his news coverage earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ...that they will actually be able to stand trial, that they'll be found mentally competent and your harsh interrogation techniques like waterboarding, that they'll still be able to go to trial despite that?

HOLDER: I would not have authorized the bringing of these prosecutions unless I thought that the outcome -- in the outcome, we would ultimately be successful. I will say that I have access to information that has not been publicly released that gives me great confidence that we will be successful in the prosecution of these cases in federal court.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Wow! What -- what is he referring to, access to information that hasn't yet been made public?

TOOBIN: Well, that -- that certainly piqued my interest as well, Wolf. The context of that statement suggests this -- obviously, one of the big problems with this case is going to be the waterboarding. No American courtroom is going to admit testimony -- admit statements that someone made while they were being waterboarded.

What Holder's statement suggests is that there is other evidence of statements made by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other defendant who was waterboarded. There's other evidence not tainted by the torture that will prove their guilt.

But remember, the defense here is going to argue that the waterboarding alone is so egregious that that's going to justify the dismissal of the case. I don't think that motion will win, but those are the kind of legal issues we're going to see sorted out over these many, many months it will take to get this case to trial.

BLITZER: Do Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and these four others, for all practical purposes in this federal courtroom, have all the rights of U.S. citizens?

TOOBIN: Absolutely. They're -- they're -- you're either an American defendant in an American courtroom or you're not. If you are a defendant, there are restrictions on your rights. And that mean including access to the evidence.

And that's what's so important here, because a defendant has the right to prior statements that he made. He may have the right, for example, to the videotapes of his waterboarding, if they still exist. He could broadcast them. He could use them in the courtroom. That could have tremendous propaganda advantage.

He could have access to very secret intelligence matters, which certainly are part of this investigation.

There's something called the Classified Procedures Information Act, CIPA, which limits the public disclosure of classified information. But defendants get access to this sort of information. That's something that's going to be very difficult to manage and very important in this case.

BLITZER: Because that raises the question about classified secret information.

How much access will the -- the defense attorneys have to classified information?

Will they be allowed to put it out in public?

How damaging could that be to U.S. national security if sources and methods of al Qaeda, for example, are exposed?

TOOBIN: And the stakes could not be higher, because there is nothing our government cares about more at this moment than the intelligence efforts to stop terrorism -- wiretapping, bugs, etc. And these are the worst of the worst, as Donald Rumsfeld said.

So they will have access to the greatest secrets, potentially. We'll see how the judge manages that. That's why, it, in particular, some people are worried about whether this case is a bridge too far for our legal system.

BLITZER: Can they get a fair trial in New York City?

TOOBIN: Well, you know, think about this question -- jury selection. This courtroom is about a 15 minute walk from ground zero. All the jurors will have exposure to 9/11 one way or another. Certainly, the defense may ask for a change of venue.

Is there another courtroom in America that would be secure enough for this trial?

A big issue.

But what the government will certainly say here is we will have detailed voir dire of all potential jurors. They'll fill out questionnaires. They'll be questioned under oath and that will be able to ensure a fair trial, just on the jury issue -- and that's only one issue. But, again, that's going to be very tough and the judge it's going to have to take a farm hand and he or she, in that area, like many others, will have his or her work cut out for him.

BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin knows a lot about this stuff.

He's a former U.S. -- assistant U.S. attorney himself.

Jeffrey, thanks very much.

TOOBIN: OK, Wolf.

BLITZER: We're going to get a lot more on this controversy. In the next hour, the former attorney general of the United States, Alberto Gonzales, will be joining us live here THE SITUATION ROOM.

So why did Stephen King put me in his new novel and what other CNN anchorman makes an appearance?

We're going to get answers from the author himself.

And it's not pop music, it's pope music. We're going to listen to the new C.D. from Pope Benedict XVI.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

What's going on -- Alina?

CHO: hey, Wolf.

In Pakistan today, a massive truck bomb exploded outside that country's intelligence service headquarters. Ten people were killed, dozens wounded. This is the second attack this year against the spy agency.

The D.A. in El Dorado County, California is dismissing a letter of apology from Phillip Garrido, calling it a ruse to manipulate his situation and his victims. Garrido, you'll recall, is accused of kidnapping and raping then 11-year-old Jaycee Dugard and holding her captive for 18 years. Garrido does not directly refer to the abduction of Dugard, but in a letter to CNN affiliate KCRA in Sacramento, he apologized "for what has taken place." Dugard now lives in seclusion with her mother and her two daughters. Police say Garrido is the father of those two girls.

Two computer programmers arrested in connection with convicted swindler Bernie Madoff's multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme. Today, federal regulators charged Jerome Ohara and George Perez with helping cook Madoff's books by producing false documents and trading records over 15 years. O'Hara and Perez are also accused of taking hush money from Madoff. One SEC official says without their help, the Madoff fraud would not have been possible.

And it hasn't hit the charts yet, but we're predicting a hit.

Just listen to this.

(MUSIC)

CHO: Well, well. That is Pope Benedict XVI, recorded live at the Vatican, Wolf. The C.D. is apparently a mix of the pope's voice as he prayers and sings a hymn, traditional chants and also original compositions from various artists. I'd like to know who.

Part of the proceeds, by the way, will go toward teaching music to underprivileged children around the world.

Something in the water there, Wolf, between Berlusconi and the pope, they're all singing over there, you know.

BLITZER: I'm going to get that C.D. I'm going to give it to my good friend, Father David O'Connell. He's the president of the Catholic University of America. I think he will like it. I just have a feeling, he's going to like that C.D.

What do you think?

CHO: I think Catholics around the world would like that C.D.

BLITZER: (INAUDIBLE) a lot about Catholics. I like -- I like the beat back there, as well. Some good music.

CHO: Yes, that's right. BLITZER: That cello was -- was really nice.

All right, stand by...

CHO: (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: Alina, listen to this next story, because I want to get your reaction, so pay close attention.

Are you paying close attention?

CHO: I'm paying close attention.

BLITZER: All right. Listen to this.

It's -- I'm not quite sure how to take it, but a CNN colleague and I are getting some cameos in the latest novel from one of the most prolific authors of the horror genre. Stephen King talked about his new book "Under the Dome" with our anchor, Robin Meade, from her sister network, HLN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBIN MEADE, HLN ANCHOR: Wolf Blitzer is in your story.

Is there something scary, innately, about Wolf Blitzer that makes him perfect for a horde story -- horror story?

STEPHEN KING, AUTHOR, "UNDER THE DOME": Absolutely not. Wolf Blitzer is comforting. And that's one of the reason that he's -- he's in the book. We get -- we get used to seeing a lot of news people in -- in our homes. And they become our friends, the way that became my friend, because you're there every morning when I do my exercises. But at the same time, they lend a feeling of real reality, very similar to -- to the story where you say, whoa, these -- I know these people and they're in this story. So that's kind of neat.

MEADE: Now, Anderson Cooper is in here, as well. And I think there's a remark about his silvery hair.

KING: His groovy white hair (INAUDIBLE).

MEADE: Groovy white hair is how you put it. OK.

KING: His groovy white hair, yes.

MEADE: All right.

KING: But I had a chance -- you know, writers are not comics and we don't do impressions, except when we write our fiction, we do. So that one of the -- the lines that always echoes in my head is Wolf Blitzer will say, "the best political team on television."

But the key line, the tag line is, "what's going on?"

I had a chance to use that. MEADE: And you used it right in the story.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That's pretty cool to be mentioned in his novel. By the way, Robin's full interview with Stephen King Monday morning, "MORNING EXPRESS WITH ROBIN MEADE," every weekday, 6:00 to 10:00 a.m. Eastern -- Alina, that's pretty cool, to be mentioned in a Stephen King novel.

CHO: Absolutely.

Are you kidding me?

Yes, it's great. I mean I -- I mean, listen, and not a bad impression of you, either.

BLITZER: Comforting, too.

CHO: Comforting.

You know what my mom says, Wolf?

She loves you.

BLITZER: Oh, thank you. I love your mom, too.

CHO: You're comforting. I know you do.

BLITZER: Alina, stand by.

The Justice Department is trying to seize the assets of an Islamic charity, including four mosques and a New York City skyscraper. The charity is accused of supporting the Iranian nuclear program. Brian Todd is standing by. He's got the full story, including reaction.

And last year, minorities got hit harder by the swine flu.

Why and what can be done about it this year?

Deborah Feyerick will join us with some answers.

And the first lady speaks lovingly of her mother as she speaks out for health care reform and continued support for Medicare. You're going to want to hear what she's saying today. And you'll here it right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Events like this one today...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, a shocking announcement -- the accused masterminds of the 9/11 attacks will leave Guantanamo to be tried in a civilian courtroom in New York City. We're going to get reaction from the former attorney general, Alberto Gonzalez.

Plus, Sarah Palin's new book, "Going Rogue," isn't even on sale yet -- at least in bookstores. But as always, there are leaks about what's inside. And a lot of it appears to be about settling some political scores. Candy Crowley will have new details.

And NASA crashed a rocket into the moon last month and now they've discovered water.

What does it mean for future manned trips to the lunar surface?

An in-depth explanation from CNN's Chad Myers.

That's coming up.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

A troubling trend among minorities in the United States is now emerging. H1N1, also known as swine flu, is hitting those groups pretty hard. The trend is certainly true in Boston, where health officials are taking steps to reverse it. CNN's Deborah Feyerick went to Boston to see for herself.

Deb?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, an alarming new trend is emerging in connection with the swine flu epidemic. Blacks and Latinos are at higher risk of contracting the illness. Why then are only a handful of cities aggressively working to stem the spread of H1N1 in this community?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK: The First Haitian Baptist Church in the heart of Boston feels as it could justly easily be in the heart of Haiti. The service in Creole, the signs in French and the message on this Sunday is universal. The pastor urging everyone to put aside doubts that many Americans have and get the flu shot.

GUERLY LAROCHE, REGISTERED NURSE/CHURCH LEADER: I'm skeptical of the flu vaccine.

FEYERICK: Guerly Laroche is helping administer vaccines to her congregation as part of an unprecedented program by Boston health officials who discovered what they call an alarming trend, blacks and Latinos disproportionately affected by the 2009 H1N1 outbreak in the city of Boston last spring. BARBARA FERRER, EXEC. DIR. BOSTON PUBLIC HEALTH COMMISSION: Three quarters of the people who were hospitalized in the city of Boston with flu were blacks and Latinos, even though they make up less than 50 percent of the population.

FEYERICK: In Boston, health officials say underlying medical conditions like asthma and diabetes may be one factor but there are other reasons as well. There's also the issue of money. Parents can't afford to stay home and take care of a sick child. That means the child goes to school and the parent who may also be infected goes to work. Nationwide, the CDC found 50 percent of H1N1 deaths from April to August were among black and Latino children. Still, Boston is one of the only cities tracking swine flu by race. Officials there now classify minorities as high risk, along with all pregnant woman and children.

Do you think Boston would have a higher morality rate in the minority community were it not for this anticipated H1N1 vaccination program?

DR. ANITA BARRY, DIR., INFECTIOUS DISEASE BUREAU, BPHC: Absolutely. Absolutely.

FEYERICK: Dr. Anita Barry and her team of epidemiologists discovered the trend and nurses like Cindy Theodore targeted churches, tapping into the persuasive powers of pastors to get the word out.

CINDY THEODORE, BOSTON PUBLIC HEALTH COMMISSION: They're in church every week and that's one way to talk to these people and offer them the help.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK: Boston hopes to vaccinate roughly 300,000 people in the high risk category. The CDC recently announced an estimated 540 children have died from H1N1 since the pandemic started in April. Wolf?

BLITZER: Deborah Feyerick, good report, thank you.

From the first lady Michelle Obama today, assurances to older Americans, especially older women, that their Medicare benefits will remain intact under the health care reform proposals. Mrs. Obama spoke out a white house gathering to celebrate women in the military.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: My husband believes Medicare is a sacred part of America's social safety net. And it is a safety net that he will protect with health insurance reform.

I know that many seniors on Medicare are also concerned about the cost of prescription drugs. We've heard about it here. Right now millions of seniors face huge out-of-pocket costs when their spending on drugs falls within that coverage gap. My husband is committed to closing that gap, which will save some seniors, as you heard, thousands of dollars on medications and make prescription drugs more affordable for millions of older Americans.

So what we're talking about -- affordable prescription drugs for Americans who need them, Medicare that's protected today and tomorrow, stability and security for Americans who have insurance, quality affordable coverage for Americans who don't. That's what reform will mean for older women, for seniors and for all Americans.

So that's why I believe in this so strongly. That why I believe in this so strongly. But in the end I'm not here just as a first lady. That's not why I'm doing this. I am here because I'm a daughter. I'm here because I have an extraordinary mother, who is 72 years old -- young. And I know there are countless women in this country who have loved ones who feel the same way about them as I do about my mother. When all is said and done, part of why I believe so strongly in reforming our health care system is because of the difference it will make for these women who gave us life. So simple. These women who raised us, these women who supported us through the years, they deserve better than the status quo. They deserve a health care system that heals them and lifts them up. And that's what my husband is committed to doing, to building that kind of system in the weeks and months to come.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: First lady of the United States speaking earlier today.

The Iranian connection behind the U.S. government's seizure of mosques and Islamic schools. We're learning more details right now. Brian Todd has the information. Stand by.

And a golf course unlike any other. In fact, it's the only one in Afghanistan. We'll take you on a tour of the links.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Back to money and power. There's a Mexican drug lord who has it all and now for the second time, he's made an elite list that puts him in the company of world leaders and giants of industry and investment. Here's CNN's Rafael Romo.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: His name is Joaquin Guzman. Mexican authorities say he's the leader of the cartel which controls much of the cocaine smuggled into the United States from north Mexico. The 52 year old drug lord is in the news once again after becoming number 41 on the list of the most powerful people in the world on "Forbes" magazine ahead of presidents Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Dimitri Medvedev of Russia. His fortune, estimated at $1 billion, also put him on the list of the richest people in the world a few months ago. His status sheds a light on Mexico's drug problem. The country's war on drugs has killed 11,000 people since December of 2006 when current President Felipe Calderon took office.

REP. LORETTA SANCHEZ (D), CALIFORNIA: With the Mexican government engaged in a violent struggle against these well armed drug cartels, frequently resembling advanced military units, the United States and this congress can not ignore our role, in assisting our neighbor and ally in this fight and of course in preventing that violence from slipping into the United States.

ROMO: In a bold move, the Mexican government announced a $2 million reward for information leading to the arrest of each of 24 drug lords whose criminal organization terrorize the country. Joaquin Guzman is wanted by Mexico, the United States and Interpol and the U.S. is offering $5 million for his capture. Part of the problem, according to analysts, is that local police in Mexico are infiltrated by the drug cartels.

MARTIN BARRON, MEXICO SECURITY ANALYST (through translator): We are talking about an infiltration level that goes beyond 60 percent of police departments. That's when we talk about local police.

ROMO: Mexican authorities have acknowledged the problem and say they are working to root it out. In northern Mexico and at the U.S. border, Juarez is the epicenter of drug violence. A group of businessmen is asking the United Nations to send peace keepers in a desperate effort to reduce killings on the territory they call a war zone.

So far this year drug violence killed more than 2,000 people in the border city across El Paso, Texas, which has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. The Mexican government sent 5,000 troops but killings have continued at a rate of seven per day.

Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: A man in Afghanistan has found something worth fighting for, the country's one and only golf course. CNN's Sara Sidner went there to walk the fairways with him. Sara?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the sign on the clubhouse says it all. Attack the course, play aggressively and there are no gimmes. This is golf with no attitude.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SIDNER: Take a few seconds to soak in this golfer's paradise. At first glance, the only hint that this is even a golf course are the pins that mark the holes but it's paradise in Afghanistan because it is this is the only golf course in the entire country. Mohammed Abdul runs the place. He's so serious about golf, he risked his life for the love of the game and this crumbling course.

You said you were captured twice.

MOHAMMAD ABDUL, GOLF COURSE DIRECTOR: Yes, once from Russia and then the Taliban.

SIDNER: Jailed both times on suspicions of spying because foreigners frequent this place. Over 30 years, he and his course coming under attack. When you talk about bunkers on this course, it's the real thing. First the Russians invaded, using this as a military base.

ABDUL: See, I shoot a tongue here and ton there.

SIDNER: I see it. When the Russians left, then came the Taliban. Destruction from their attack is visible. This used to be the gulf club bar, blown up because alcohol was served here. When Abdul returned after fleeing the war, he came to the course to clean it up. First thing's first, he hired sheep to walk the property in case of land mines.

So the sheep walked and in case they were mines, it would be the sheep that got hurt.

ABDUL: Money, money.

SIDNER: Abdul's back again to play and teach.

ABDUL: Put on the green.

SIDNER: Put it on the green?

ABDUL: Yes.

SIDNER: On the ground?

ABDUL: Yes. Nice shot.

SIDNER: If you don't take it into the imaginary green here, you're in for a bumpy ride. Besides the ditches, the rocks and oil and sand green, there's one more thing you have to worry about when you come out here and that's security. The road here is known for kidnappings and robberies. That may explain why today I'm his only client. But Abdul is not giving up his unwavering belief that the Afghanistan's only golf course will see greener pastors.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SIDNER: Mr. Abdul has big dreams. He wants to make it big enough to Tiger Woods will be here but first has to get more money to make his brown course green.

BLITZER: Sara Sidner, thanks very much, good work. It's hard playing golf with the scarf all over you as well. She did a good job, though.

Sanctions and alleged ties to Iran's nuclear program are now revealed to be behind the U.S. government's seizure of mosques and Islamic schools. Brian Todd standing by. He's got new information. You're THE SITUATION ROOM.

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BLITZER: We are learning new details of the government's seizures of multiple properties including mosques and Islamic schools and alleged ties to Iran. CNN's Brian Todd is back with that story.

Brian, what are you picking up?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're learning just how involved U.S. official believe members of the Iranian government were in managing some valuable properties on American soil. The profits from those operations U.S. officials say Iran's nuclear program.

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TODD: A Manhattan skyscraper. Mosques and Islamic schools in five states. Properties controlled by entities that U.S. officials say funneled money to Iran's nuclear program. One of the properties, an Islamic center in Houston where the board chairman makes one thing clear.

FAHEEM KAZMI, ISLAMIC CENTER OF HOUSTON: We are not affiliated with any organizations. We lease this building and that's all I'm prepared to say at this point.

TODD: But the U.S. government's begun legal action to seize those properties and their profits alleging the owners are violating American law. How? Jonathan Schanzer is now with the Jewish Policy Center who advocates a tough line against Iran. He was a treasury department counterterrorism analyst until 2007 and says this step is about U.S. sanctions against Iran.

JONATHAN SCHANZER, FORMER TREASURY DEPT. ANALYST: We have made it illegal for the Iranians to do business in this country. And it is based on that, that these allegations have been leveled.

TODD: U.S. officials have long suspected the owners of those properties, New York based lobby foundation is a front for the Iranian government. And the federal complaint puts Iran's ambassador to the U.N. in the middle of the web. It says in the meetings with the lobby foundation director said it was necessary to increase the profit from the building in Manhattan. That Zhazaee would determine the composition of the board of directors of the foundation and Zhazaee told foundation officials, quote, if there's an issue that needs to be conveyed to Tehran, let me know, I will convey it. Contacted by CNN, an adviser to Zhazaee did not comment. A lawyer for the foundation said they've been cooperating with the U.S. government but will fight these allegations and are confident they'll win. Muslim-American groups, meanwhile, don't buy the government's argument it's only targeting the landlords of these mosques.

They say they're really not seizing mosques and the tenants and the people who worship at these places are OK.

IBRAHIM HOOPER, COUNCIL ON AMERICAN ISLAMIC RELATIONS: Even though the government says they're not targeting the worshippers at the mosque, they're the ones who are going to be negatively impacted.

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TODD: Ibrahim Hooper says that's because of all the media coverage now descending on these mosques especially last night and today which is a Muslim day of prayer, he wonders how many worshippers will stop going to the mosques and he says the timing couldn't really be worse coming a week after the Ft. Hood shootings, Wolf, with all the concern about backlash against Muslim communities there.

BLITZER: Timing is crucial for the U.S. government as well.

TODD: That's right. This complaint has nothing to do with the political considerations here, but analysts say right now the Obama administration is having a tough time getting U.S. allies to crack down further on the Iranian nuclear regime. This could be a way to force things out.

BLITZER: They reject the IAEA's recommendation for enriching uranium outside of Iran. And so the U.S. does this and says we'll raise you one.

TODD: Exactly, the timing is there. There's a lot going on diplomatically between the two countries. This could be a way of leveraging things.

BLITZER: We'll see. Thanks Brian very much.

There are serious questions about the president's signature issue health care reform and when or even if it will pass congress so what if efforts to pass health care reform fail?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: The yays are 220, the nays are 215, the bill is passed.

BLITZER: A historic moment as the House of Representatives passed a health care reform bill by the slimmest of margins. But the battle is far from over.

PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: Now it falls on the United States senate to take the baton and bring this effort to the finish line on behalf of the American people and I'm absolutely confident that they will.

BLITZER: Not so fast.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The house bill is dead on arrival in the senate.

BLITZER: So what if health care fails? It did in 1994 under President Clinton. There are real world consequences. The nonpartisan congressional budget office projects the number of uninsured people in America will jump from the current 45 million to 54 million in the year 2019. And the health and human services department forecasts that national spending on health care would rise from 16 percent of the gross domestic product to more than 20 percent. Then there's the political cost. Democrats will pay the price.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: They control the house, they control the senate, they control the white house. They have been pushing health care reform, it's been a top priority of the president's and if it fails, the country would have a good question, which is can the Democrats govern?

BLITZER: That question could help shape the next congress with health care reform a failure spelling opportunities for Republicans heading into next year's midterm election. Lots at stake right now.

They're accused of plotting the 9/11 terror attacks and now the Obama administration plans to put them on trial in a civilian courtroom in New York City only blocks from ground zero. There's growing criticism and controversy over the move. The former attorney general Alberto Gonzalez, he'll be joining us live here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Plus NASA's discovery of water on the moon and the mystery of the universe it might help solve.

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BLITZER: Sounded like a joke last month when NASA bombed the moon, crashing one rocket into a lunar crater and then swooping another vehicle through the dust it stirred up. Now that experiment has turned into a real success story.

ANTHONY COLAPRETE, LCROSS, PRINCIPLE INVESTIGATOR: I am here to tell you that, yes, indeed we found water, we didn't find just a little bit, we found a significant amount. We found maybe about a dozen of these two gallon buckets full of water.

BLITZER: So how important is this discovery? As it turns out, Chad Myers knows quite a bit about falling water. Tell us what this means.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: There could be water anywhere now in the entire solar system in the universe. We are not the only place that is going to have this and they proved it. Remember, this is the vehicle they crash landed into the moon. Way on the bottom of the moon, Wolf, in a place that is always dark. And in fact it will be that little black spot right there. Why did they want to do it on the dark spot? Because that spot never warms up. 200 degrees below zero where this thing crashed and that was important because they wanted to know in this crater, they wanted to know that this sun, this warm air, never reached this, the water would never have evaporated from here, so they were watching this part of the moon. Here's what happened. They crashed this thing into the moon, there goes the probe, right into a very dark crater on the southern pole of the moon. It splashed up some dust. And the dust, as this flew through it was collected by a spectrometer in the second vehicle. The vehicle picked all those things up. It said OK here's what I found, that is a representation of the spectrometer. If it was just gray dirt it should, the line should have looked like that. The line did not look like this, it looked like this so the color was wrong. All the scientists were saying, what's this? What's this here? What are these big dips in what we expect the color to be? Right through here, and in here, those dips indicated water vapor in that dust. Not a lot of water, just vapor, because when this thing hit, it created a crater in the moon that got to 700 degrees so that ice that was under the surface evaporated, vaporized basically and that second vehicle flew right through it and found it, Wolf.

BLITZER: When man or woman goes back to the moon, they'll be able to get a glass of water one of these days. Thanks Chad for that. Good story.

The U.S. state department is condemning the sentencing of two bloggers to jail time. The online activists had recently posted a video on YouTube that satirized the government. Our internet reporter Abbi Tatton has some details.

What are they being charged with, Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: The crime was hooliganism. But rights groups say the real reason was this, a satirical video posted on YouTube by the two bloggers, featuring a donkey at a press conference. It was a clever dig at the government that raised questions about human rights there. This week the men behind the donkey suits were sentenced to two years in jail after a fight in a restaurant they say was orchestrated by authorities and the verdict was criticized by the U.S. state department as a step backward to the programs towards democratic reform. The press freedom group Reporters Without Borders said that authorities are there are trying to prevent the Internet from becoming a powerful opposition tool. In this case, though, the arrest of these bloggers has got worldwide attention.

So, you can see here this is a protest outside the embassy of Azerbaijan here in Washington, D.C., complete with donkey masks. Azerbaijan, the authorities have not responded to repeated questions from CNN about the trial -- Wolf.