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THE SITUATION ROOM
Ft. Hood Massacre Missed Red Flags; New Mammograms Guidelines Confusing; Death in Protests in Iran; Changing Weather
Aired November 21, 2009 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN ATLANTA CORRESPONDENT: Again, we're watching here. This is Robert Bennett from Utah speaking now. It's been a contentious day there and you want o stay tuned to us throughout the evening for that.
Meantime, I'm Don Lemon from the CNN World headquarters in Atlanta. We'll see you back here at the top of the hour or when that vote does happen.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN SITUATION ROOM: New investigations into one of the most disturbing questions in the Fort Hood massacre. Could it have been prevented? This hour I'll talk to an influential congressman who calls some of the missed red flags frightening.
Plus, new guidelines on when to get mammograms leaves any women confused. Are women in their 40s being put at risk? I'll talk to a congresswoman who appears, she wouldn't be alive right now if she had followed those recommendations.
And hunger is on the rise in America. A stunning new report says 49 million people in this country including 17 million children had trouble getting enough food last year. I'll speak with the Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in "The Situation Room."
This week hearings and investigations began into the massacre of 13 soldiers at Ft. Hood, Texas. The number one question, why didn't anyone in charge see it coming? I spoke about that with Congressman Pete Hoekstra, he's the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, thanks very much for coming in. I know you're getting ready to catch a flight. Are you satisfied with the answers you're getting so far from the executive branch of the U. S. government whether the Pentagon or the Administration, the Army, as far as his investigation is concern?
PETE HOEKSTRA, U. S. CONGRESSMAN: No, Wolf, I'm really not. And I think I probably share some of the same frustrations that Senator Lieberman has. I applaud the Senate for holding public hearings. I hold them -- I applaud them for doing the hearings. There's no indication at all that that's going to take place on the House side and I think they really do have to take place. You know, we had a briefing today, but way too often with the questions that we ask, the answers were, "Sorry, Congressman, we don't have an answer for that today." And you're kind of thinking, well, this is two weeks after the incident. You would think that this would be investigation 101. I think the Administration has to be more forthcoming. They have to -- you know, they have to give us partial information even if they haven't got the whole -- even if they haven't connected all of the pieces themselves. We're used to getting partial information. They need to be more open.
BLITZER: We're hearing from our Producer, Carol Cratty, among others. Let me be precise because this is very sensitive information, suggesting perhaps that the left hand of the U. S. government doesn't know what the right hand of the U. S government is doing or what they know. That when Major Hasan first came to the attention of investigators, due to his communications with this radical cleric in Yemen, officials looked at his personnel file, but they said there was nothing suspicious included in it. None of the warning signs that we all know about. How could this be, Congressman?
HOEKSTRA: Well, Wolf, you know, if we go back to 2001 after the 9/11 attack, the big issue was that the right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing. They weren't communicating. Now that -- you know, now we look and we say "Sure, we've got an organization called the Director of National Intelligence. "At the macro level, these people are now working together better. But i think that at the lower levels of these organizations, I can unequivocally say we still have problems, whether it's on this case or other cases. I don't think there's any doubt in my mind that these problems still exist, and they are persistent.
BLITZER: We know he was in touch with this one radical cleric in Yemen. Is there any evidence he was in touch with others?
HOEKSTRA: Again, that's one of the answers that we would like to have, and we're unwilling to get it. I think the other thing that you're seeing here, Wolf, is that a lot of the information we're getting is actually coming from the press. They're digging into this quicker and in some cases more thoroughly, and they're providing information that, you know, we haven't had access from the Intelligence community or from the Department of Defense or the FBI. The media, the press is actually going out and doing a very good job in keeping congress informed and keeping the American people informed. I can't tell you how frustrating that is in our part but at the same time, I appreciate the work that they're doing.
BLITZER: Is it your sense, at least based on what you know right now, and there's obviously a lot you don't know, a lot that none of us really knows, that he was this one individual perhaps inspired by Jihad, but he wasn't part of a formal Al Qaeda or Islamic terrorist plot?
HOEKSTRA: Well, wolf, we need to understand that he may not be part of the formal Al Qaeda organization, but he clearly fits in with their model of how to terrorize the world. I've been studying this phenomena of lone wolf, individuals radicalized through the internet for the last four or five years in depth. They've been -- they understand this concept in Europe. Only in America have we been unable, unwilling to recognize this phenomena. It is real. It is prevalent in Europe. We now need to understand how extensive it is here in the United States.
BLITZER: Have you heard anything about Major Hasan wiring money to so-called charities in Pakistan?
HOEKSTRA: Well, there were press reports out today indicating that he sent $20,000 to $30,000 to the Islamic relief charities. These organizations frequently are front organizations for terrorist organizations in these other countries. If that report is accurate, I don't think it's at all unlikely that some of this money would have made it back into the Middle East, might have made it back to Pakistan or Afghanistan. But we don't have, you now, the reporting from the Intel community that will either verify that or debunk that story.
But, again, this was a guy that was living frugally, making a good salary. You know, we really do want to know where he went with his money. Who did he give it to, and what front organizations may have received it, and where would they then have sent it?
BLITZER: Congressman Hoekstra, we'll stay in close touch. Thanks very much for your help.
HOEKSTRA: Great. Thank you. Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Confused about the new mammogram guidelines? One lawmaker is blasting them. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said self- examination saved her life. She's a breast cancer survivor. She's here in "The Situation Room."
In Iran, remember the protests over the presidential election? Some of the demonstrators have now been sentenced to death. I'll speak with a foreign affairs editor of "The London Daily Telegraph" about Iran's hard-line regime.
And we're often at the mercy of bad weather, but what if experts could actually control the weather.
WOLF: New guidelines on mammograms are affecting tens of millions of women and creating confusion and concern among so many of them. A government task force now says women in their 40's don't need yearly breast cancer screenings. A member of the congress who survived breast cancer strongly opposes all these recommendations. Congressman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida says early detection saved her life.
WOLF: Thanks very much for coming in. When you saw this report and read it, I assume you were shocked that women in their 40's no longer should routinely get an annual mammogram or even do these self-exams.
DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ CONGRESSMAN, FLORIDA: These are very disturbing recommendations. As someone who found my own breast cancer through a breast self-exam and had a mammogram and knowing that there are tens of thousands of women from 40 to 49 years old in this country that are diagnosed with breast cancer every year and that it's often diagnosed at a later stage and is more aggressive, to say that women in that ten-year age gap should not get mammograms is just totally inappropriate.
WOLF: And you were how old when you ...?
WOLF: You were 41.so you would have fit in this category.
WOLF: They do ay that women who have a history of breast cancer in their family should get these mammograms. Did you have a history of breast cancer in your family?
SCHULTZ: I didn't have a history of breast cancer in my family. I had two great aunts. It turned out that ultimately I was diagnosed -- I was having the breast cancer gene mutation, but the bottom line is that instead of making things more clear or women, this task force recommendations are making things clear as mud. Totally confusing women. The American cancer society, Susan G. Komen Foundation, all the major cancer organizations, continue to recommend and disagree with these findings that women older than 40 should have a routine mammogram every year, and that will save lives.
WOLF: What's I guess worrying to you and to a lot of folks out there, this study that was released has the stamp of the U. S. Government on it. And it sounds very authoritative .they're basically saying all these mammograms, all these exams, they're simply putting lot of women needlessly through some mental anguish, if they feel something, f they see something, they have to go through mammograms or biopsies and could ause them all sorts of pain.
SCHULTZ: That is so patronizing. I mean, to assume that women, armed with more information about their own breast health would simply get hysterical and have anxiety and not know what to do and not make a sound decision in consultation with their health care professional is patronizing. We need to make sure that women get more information, not less, and make sure that women are screened because we know that early detection and screening saves lives. We've actually had a drop since women have gotten screenings and mammograms older than 40 drop in the death rate of women. And we know that's directly because of the early detection.
WOLF: Now, there's some concern out there in connection with the current health care bill, its connection with health care insurance in general. If the U. S. Government puts out a recommendation like this and says, "You know what? Women in their 40s don't need mammograms which can be expensive." Health insurance companies are going to say, "We're not paying or anymore mammograms, so forget about it." How worried are you about that?
SCHULTZ: It's important to know this is not the U. S. Government's recommendation. The Department of Health and Human Services has not endorsed these recommendations. this is simply an independent task force that is providing these recommendations to the U. S. Government. And they are, I know, contemplating them and reviewing those recommendations.
WOLF: But having said that, even if there is a recommendation like this, that could convince health
That's the most troubling part about this is right when we're trying to reform our health care system, change it from a sick care system to one that's focused on prevention, this task force is recommending that women 40 to 49 years old don't have preventative screenings to potentially detect breast cancer early and insurance companies could start to use that as a standard practice for coverage decisions. Especially because health insurance companies are what's driving health care.
BLITZER: How's your legislation moving forward? Because you have specific legislation that you hope can fix this.
SCHULTZ: The early act, which is my legislation that would help educate young women about the importance of focusing on their breast health. If these recommendations go forward, all the more reason we'll need to educate individual women because then they're going to e need to be armed as individuals with all the information they need to know whether they're going to need to get a mammogram or not. But I'm hopeful these recommendations will be put aside where they belong.
BLITZER: We'll see if they will or they won't. The Debbi Wasserman Schultz, Congresswoman. Thanks for coming in.
SCHULTZ: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: So, how close is Iran to a nuclear weapon? New observer says it could be a matter of months. I'll ask him what the United States and the International community can do about that, if anything
And massive storms that's smashing into cities and towns, leaving devastation and misery in their wake. But what if -- what if we could control the weather? CNN's severe weather expert, Chad Myers, explains.
BLITZER: In Iran, five more people are sentenced to death for their roles in protests that followed last summer's disputed presidential election. Te hard-line regime in Tehran sentenced three other protesters to death last month.
And joining us now, the Foreign Affairs Editor of "The London Daily Telegraph," also the author of a new book entitled " Khomeini's Ghost: The Iranian Revolution and the rise of Militant Islam." Con, thanks very much for coming in.
CON COUGHLIN, AUTHOR, KHOMEINI'S GHOST: Pleasure, Wolf.
BLITZER: This book is about the revolution back in 1979. Is it possible that there's another revolution in the works right now against the Ayatollah and against Ahmadinejad?
COUGHLIN: A lot of people would like to think so, but my fundamental thesis is that Khomeini's revolution of 1979 is still alive and kicking. And what we've seen this summer during the elections is the ghost of Khomeini's revolution, basically suppressing attempts by the pro-reform movement to change the way the country's run.
BLITZER: So the pro-reform movement, we saw those young people on the streets of Tehran and elsewhere, very dramatic mages that we all recall, is that going to result in what?
COUGHLIN: Well, people would like to see change. People in Iran want to see change. The problem is, the regime that Khomeini set up is so deeply entrenched, it's protected by the evolutionary guards, by the besieged militia, by the security forces. It's very difficult for these young, pro-reform people to counter the deeply entrenched Khomeini regime.
BLITZER: But the Shah had that kind of regime as well. He was deeply entrenched with his police and his military.
COUGHLIN: Well, the key with the Shah, Wolf, that the army one day woke up and said, we're not going to fight for you anymore, and that was the end of the shah.
BLITZER: And that's not going to happen now?
COUGHLIN: Well, I can't see that. It's very difficult to read precisely what's going on within the inner sanctions in Tehran. But the pro-reform guys and girls, I should say, have been very, very brave, but they've also suffered enormously, about 500 people have been killed. The repression is still going on today.
BLITZER: We hear horror stories of what's going on in terms of incarcerations and torture, executions, even.
COUGHLIN: Precisely and when there's a case this week of a doctor who reported torture in one of the prisons and now he's died of mysterious circumstances. I mean, this is a very brutal regime and anyone who tries to stand up to it and says we want a different kind of government is suppressed.
BLITZER: The -- I guess, you know, the President of the United States was sort of criticized by some during the demonstrations for not speaking out more assertively and supporting the anti-Ahmadinejad people who were getting out there on the streets. What are the folks in Iran, based on your reporting, think of President Obama?
COUGHLIN: Well, I think that there are two different kinds of people in Iran. There's a regime which I think has been deeply rattled by his whole strategy of opening his hand to friendship to Tran. And the regime doesn't know how to handle this. They're used to being part of the axis of evil under George Bush. Now there's an administration in Washington that wants o reach out to them. And I think for that reason, it was very difficult for Obama to support the pro-reform people because the big game for him is to try and get somewhere on the nuclear front and helping and supporting the pro-reform people is going to undermine -
BLITZER: The reformists, do they like President Obama?
COUGHLIN: Well, what we know as reform and what they have as reform is very different was their prime minister under Khomeini, he's a Khomeini loyalist. He's a loyalist to Khomeini's revolution. Even if he were to get in, even if they got rid of the current president, I don't think we'd see a radical change in the way Iran is run.
BLITZER: This outreach to Iran by the new U. S. President and others to try to deal with the nuclear program there, is that going to result in anything, or is this simply, from your reporting, from your perspective, a waste of time?
COUGHLIN: Well, wolf, we've been talking to the Iranians or six years. Mr. Obama has now been in power for coming on a year. He's had a policy of engagement, that means we've lost yet another year to try and bring Iran to heal, all the time the Iranians are working on their nuclear program. Time is of an essence and I just think we're reaching a point now here we're running out of time.
BLITZER: How much time is left?
COUGHLIN: Months. I mean, I think that's all there is now.
BLITZER: So the Iranians, you think, are just playing for time?>
COUGHLIN: I think they're playing for time. They went to Geneva on October the first, they signed a deal or beat a deal to give over 75 percent of their enriched Uranium they've no backed away from that. That's not going to happen. We now have to start a new round of negotiations. All the time the nuclear facility at Natanz is working. They're getting closer to having self-contained capabilities to build a bomb. How much more time does the west need to wake up to the fact that Iran is a growing threat?
BLITZER: Will we wake up one day and the Israelis and/or the United States will have destroyed Iran's nuclear facilities?
COUGHLIN: if the Iranians carry on like this, that's where we're heading because there's going to be a very rude wakening here in the West, in the White House had they realize just what the Iranians are up to. Only a couple of months ago the existence of a new enrichment facility at Gom was revealed by the president. I suspect there are other facilities whose existence will be revealed shortly. And when you piece that all together, we will reach one conclusion -- Iran has a nuclear weapons program, and we've got to do something about it.
BLITZER: Con Coughlin, thanks very much for coming in. Your new book is entitled "Khomeini's Ghost: The Iranian Revolution and the rise of Militant Islam.">
COUGHLIN: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: From tornadoes to waterfalls, much is at the mercy of the elements. But what if we could control the weather? Let's bring in our Meteorologist and Severe Weather Expert, Chad Myers taking a closer look. It's a good question, Chad.
CHAD MYERS, METEOROLOGIST AND SEVERE WEATHER EXPERT: It is a great question, and the Chinese now have really tried to do this. Couple weeks ago they enhanced a snow event. A very large snow event. They got 12 inches of snow in the areas that they tried to enhance. Now, we have to realize how big China is. 3,000 miles across, 2,000 miles North to South, essentially almost the same size as the U. S. when it comes to that. So what could e do to a storm to affect it?
Well, you have to realize how big or for that matter how little we really are, Wolf. How little we could affect a storm that goes all the way up to Canada and all the way down here past Northern California. If we put some things into the storm, could we really slow it down? Could we make it bigger? Well, sure, maybe in a very small semi-insignificant area compared to the entire size of the storm. But it is possible - and let me show you what the Chinese are doing. They are literally shooting silver iodide from these cannons up into the sky and here it is. It's raining now. Now, they did not make a snow storm. This storm was going to storm anyway probably around ten inches of snow.
Even the Chinese are saying, we probably enhanced it by 20%.they shoot this silver iodide up into the cloud, or they take it the way the U. S. used to do it, don't really do it too much anymore, used to take these canisters up into airplanes and fly them through. Here's actually what it looks like. It looks like a sidewinder on the end of a plane, and that would shoot out the silver iodide or in some spots it would shoot out ice crystals. But the silver iodide works much better and why?
Because when you shoot it out of the cannons, this silver iodide gets up Into the clouds and that's a particle for the snow to form on, an extra particle for the snow to form on. And so there can be more snow and there was. Was there a lot of extra snow? I think that's kind of hard to describe and considering how small man is or how small -- let's say there's Vegas, there's L. A., how small, even if you shot all the way across L. A., could you really make much snow fall or rain fall east of there? Yes, for a small area. The only problem is, if you take and make ten inches of snow here, what could have been six inches of snow in flagstaff may be nothing because you've used all the moisture? So can we control it? Sure, a little bit, and their trying, but I don't think it's as big of an issue. They're in the middle of a drought. They're trying to enhance the moisture to get rain back on the surface of China. They're trying it, we'll see.
BLITZER: When I hear you saying tiny little baby steps, in the science of tiny.
MYERS: We are so little compared to the earth. Think about when you fly from D. C. to Atlanta, because I know you go back and forth a lot, how much land do you see own there without people? Just trees for days and hours and hours of the flight. So we really don't have that much of an effect on making weather different yet.
BLITZER: Chad Myers, thanks very much. Appreciate it. Good explanation.
BLITZER: Hunger now on the rise in the united states of America a stunning new report says more than 49 million people in this country are having trouble getting enough food. I'll speak with the Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack. Shocking numbers, including 17 million kids.
And growing concerns about Pakistan's nuclear bombs. If Taliban attacks are stepped up, would U. S. troops step in to secure that deadly arsenal? I'll ask the Pulitzer prize-winning investigative analyst, Seymour Hirsch. He's here in "The Situation room.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: Hunger is a grim reality for a growing number of Americans. Get this, 49 million people in the United States of America, including almost 17 million children, had trouble getting enough food last year.
In an annual report, the Department of Agriculture says more than one- third of these had what the government calls -- and I'm quoting now - "very low food security". That means that at times they were forced to cut back on meals or skip them altogether.
Let's discuss what's going on with the Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the former governor of Iowa.
Mr. Secretary, thanks very much for coming in. And I read this report, and I said to myself, how could this be in the richest country in the world that so many millions of Americans, including so many million children, are at times hungry in our country?
TOM VILSACK, SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE: Well, Wolf, it starts with poverty. And interestingly enough, a substantial majority of those 49 million Americans, many of them are employed. They're working part- time jobs, two part-time jobs, low-paying jobs. And the result is that they have a hard time at the end of the month being able to stretch that food dollar, even with the additional food assistance. So it starts with poverty, starts with unemployment, starts with a difficult economy. Fortunately those numbers would be substantially higher were it not for the SNAP program that the USDA is involved in.
BLITZER: What's the SNAP program?
VILSACK: It's the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. People used to know it as food stamps. Part of the stimulus package was to increase financing for that program. The WIC program, which is Women and Infant Children, helps about 9 million people. The SNAP program helps about 35 million, and the school lunch and school breakfast program, again, over 30 million children.
BLITZER: But clearly something is wrong. Because you expect to hear about hungry children and hunger in Congo, let's say, someplace in Africa, but you don't expect to hear these kinds of numbers here in the United States.
VILSACK: Well, there's a difference. When we talk about hunger in those developing countries, we're talking about a chronic situation, something that's occurring every single day. Here in America, what we're talking about is during the month, you may have one or two days where there may be difficulties. And fortunately, most of the children in this country are sheltered from this. We still have a substantial number that we have to address. But adults are the ones who are making sacrifices so that their children can eat.
BLITZER: But there are children who are hungry.
VILSACK: There indeed. There are indeed. Roughly 1 million children are very low food security, which means that at some point in time during the month, they're skipping a meal. They're cutting back on what they eat or they're going hungry.
BLITZER: These are little kids?
VILSACK: These are kids anywhere from one-year-old to 18.
BLITZER: It's still just shocking, 1 million kids, at times, every month are hungry.
VILSACK: It is -- that's the reason why we were talking to the senators today about the need for additional resources in the school lunch and school breakfast program. Because that is one place where we actually do get youngsters meals, and we're going to try to improve the access to those programs, as well as the nutritional value of those programs.
BLITZER: What do you need as the secretary of Agriculture to make sure there is no hunger in the United States?
VILSACK: We need a growing economy. We need a comprehensive effort involving not just my department but lots of departments of governments and state governments. We need states to aggressively promote the SNAP program. They are the ones who administer this program through their human services department. We need simplification in terms of application process for involvement in these programs.
Sometimes our school lunch and school breakfast program have applications which can discourage people from participating. So we need simplification. We need additional access, and we also need, frankly, to increase the nutritional value of these programs.
BLITZER: Because the other side of this is obesity. That so many poor families out there, they can't afford to buy healthy food, so they buy unhealthy food. And as a result, there's a huge obesity problem for young kids.
VILSACK: There is. And it's a twin problem. Part of it has to do with the fact that we don't have much physical activity as we used to for kids.
BLITZER: In schools?
VILSACK: In schools today. You would be shocked to know that just about half of the youngsters in this country actually have physical educational opportunities in school. In high schools, only about one- third of high schools meet the physical education requirements and recommendations. So we've got to get more active. We've got to get engaged. And frankly, this is a wake-up call for the United States. It's a wake-up call for all of us to understand that there are food shortages in families. That this is an issue that needs to be addressed, as is the nutrition issue.
BLITZER: We're counting on you, Mr. Secretary, to fix it.
VILSACK: Well, I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to talk about this because I think the more people are aware of it, the more the food banks will receive assistance, the more nonprofit organizations will kick in, as they have. The more focus we put on this, I think the greater the chances are that we'll reduce those numbers over time.
BLITZER: Good luck.
VILSACK: Thank you.
BLITZER: With the death toll rising, why are so many Americans refusing to get the H1N1 flu vaccine if, in fact, they can get it? CNN's Brooke Baldwin takes a closer look at the emotions behind a startling new poll.
Plus, I'll get a very personal perspective on the dangers of swine flu from Father David O'Connell, the president of the Catholic University of America. He's here in Washington.
And are Pakistan's nuclear weapons in danger from the very soldiers assigned to guard them? We'll get some answers from the Pulitzer prize-winning investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh.
BLITZER: After Taliban attacks against some very sensitive targets in Pakistan, there are growing concerns right now about the safety of that country's nuclear weapons and the questions about what role the American military might play to try to keep them secure.
I spoke about that with the investigative journalist Seymour Hersh of "The New Yorker" magazine.
BLITZER (on camera): How worried should we all be about the safety of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal?
SEYMOUR HERSH, "THE NEW YORKER": When I began working on this four or five months ago, I would have said don't sweat it immediately. In the short run, the military's very solid. They have good control of the weapons. But as you've seen in the last month, once the American- pushed offensive that's underway, that's going on right now, in Waziristan, once that began, the terrorists, if you will, the Pakistani Taliban, God knows who's doing all the bombings. It's not clear.
BLITZER: It happens almost every day.
HERSH: Every day, but they hit some very sensitive spots. They hit the Pakistani equivalent of our Pentagon. They attacked --
BLITZER: You mean Rawalpindi?
HERSH: Absolutely. They got a general on the street. They clearly had advanced information about it. They hit an intelligence facility. They obviously had, perhaps, somebody on the inside. So what you've seen, as sort of a fifth column, it's clear that the opposition, the Taliban, if you will, or their various radical groups that support them, have people inside the military, inside the system that are sympathetic to them.
BLITZER: Because this is what you write. And in jumped out at me when I read your article in "The New Yorker." the principle fear is mutiny that extremists inside the Pakistani military might stage a coup, take control of some nuclear assets, or even divert a warhead. That's the principle fear that you concluded?
HERSH: Well, that was the fear that I initially was thinking about, what I was told about. That began all of the talks this spring. We intensified --
BLITZER: That there would be a coup?
HERSH: It was more of that, than the idea of a Pakistani Taliban coming and grabbing something. They probably -- they're not very educated, very sophisticated, or the notion of Al Qaeda, they might have to eat a bomb. You know what I mean? They wouldn't necessarily know what to do with it.
So the thought was that somebody on the inside, who's sympathetic, a Muslim first, a Pakistani second, is the way they put it in the military very often. And somebody of that belief, a group of officers, might go and take control of a facility that has a warhead.
BLITZER: You would think there was a series of security controls, that even a small group of influential people couldn't do something like that.
HERSH: You wouldn't think they could get inside their version of our Pentagon and start a firefight and kill - 22 people were killed in that fight. They occupied it. They clearly got access. So somebody helped them get in. And so I would say in the last month, the notion that this is a serious issue and that the United States is right to be worried about it, I think, is even made stronger.
BLITZER: How many bombs are there, do we believe in Pakistan?
HERSH: The guess is between 80 and 100. When we first looked at this issue -- by the way, we've been dealing with Pakistan on this, Pakistanis, of course, have denied heatedly any outside influence, which they should and all knew they would.
But since 9/11, since President Musharraf, after 9/11, if you remember, George Bush's notion, you're either with us or against us. Since 9/11, in the months after that, or the year after that, we did a lot of help.
BLITZER: You mean the United States government?
HERSH: Absolutely. We went in and we helped them secure command and control. We helped them get some idea of how to make sure the arsenal is safe. I'm not saying we saw warheads, or had any insight. But now, I think, in the most recent run, we've probably I have been told, there's been what amounts to a virtual look at some of their facilities. Not by computer. Again, we're not running around touching bombs.
BLITZER: They're very sensitive about their sovereignty, the Pakistanis. And they're very sensitive about your article. Let me read to you what the State Department spokesman said. Actually, I'll play a clip, from the State Department Spokesman, Ian Kelly, reacting to your article. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IAN KELLY, SPOKESMAN, U.S. STATE DEPARMENT: The U.S. has no intention of seizing Pakistani nuclear weapons or material. We see Pakistan as a key ally in our common effort to fight violent extremists and to foster regional stability.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Clearly very sensitive to this notion the U.S. could go in and seize Pakistani nuclear material.
HERSH: Well, the idea is not so much we could do that. The idea -- the idea that the main thesis that we've done, that sort of expands the little bit of insight we have, is we've had personal -- general admiral talks between our people and their senior people about the idea that in case extremists grab something. And there's a lot of worry about control, we're there to help. We have a unit there. We have a special operations unit and others --
BLITZER: When you say "there," where is it, in Pakistan?
HERSH: My assumption is in Pakistan, or very close to it, that we can get there quickly. And my assumption would be in Pakistan.
BLITZER: Sort of like a nuclear weapons SWAT team?
HERSH: Well, we've been doing this a dozen years. We have a special teams. We have called a FEST team, we have a NEST Team, we have a lot of teams that have been practicing about going in, in a crisis and getting rid of bombs if we have to. Most of the time they're called in, it's for negative reasons. We think a bomb might be loose and it's not true. So the idea is we're there. We'd like the Pakistanis to understand that we're there to help.
And, of course, the problem with all these agreements, one of the things that comes across in this article, is many people have figured out, is that whatever the Pakistanis tell us, the reality is they're not very interested in helping us. Yes, they smile and say yes.
BLITZER: Is it true, based on your reporting there, and you were just there, that there's a growing anti-American attitude. Not along the rank and file, but I'm talking among the elite, those who make these kinds of decisions?
HERSH: You bet. The attitude is very hostile.
BLITZER: And is there a greater Islamic fundamentalism that you noticed? Because last time you were there was five years ago. You're back now. You're meeting with the same kinds of people. What's the biggest difference you spotted?
HERSH: Well, you know, it's hard to extrapolate from a two-week visit. It was interesting. Four or five years ago every place I went, I would be offered Johnnie Walker Black Label, and no drinks. And that seems to be a silly thing except I started asking Pakistanis --
BLITZER: Because alcohol in a Muslim country is a no-no.
HERSH: It wasn't a no-no five years ago. It was in the hotel bars, it is not in the hotel bars anymore. Nobody offered it to me. And just from a small, little look-see like that, it means nothing. But I talked to five or six people who are now living in America or in Canada, who go back and forth to Pakistan. They all say the same thing. It's moved appreciably. It's much more careful about any entertainment they do that involves drinking is done more privately. There's CDs, radical CDs available all over, even in the most eminent areas of the well-to-do areas of Islamabad.
There's a lot more radicalism available, just like we've seen in other parts of the Arab world. This doesn't mean -the country's secular, you should understand. In an election they'd go secular tomorrow. There's a great middle class in Pakistan. There is a great upper class that want more and want to be more accepted. You do have the notion that we are driving them in a policy, particularly these offensives against the Pakistani Taliban in Waziristan, the one in Swat Valley. Not that they like them, but they don't like the idea that we are pushing on it.
BLITZER: Here's a question I want you, as an expert who Vietnam, won a Pulitzer prize, have been watching the situation about as closely as anyone, the president is about to make a decision whether to deploy another 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 or 40,000 troops to Afghanistan. What do you think?
HERSH: Well --
BLITZER: Good idea?
HERSH: I think he's in a bind. If he doesn't do it, who lost Afghan? If he does, the fact is, it's going to take an awful lot more than 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 or 40,000 troops. The Russians, after their disaster there in the 1980s, their estimates were 400,000 troops. McKeirnan, the commander before McChrystal, the Army general we now have, he told Gates - so I understand - 400,000 troops. It's going to take an awful lot of troops to get, at best, what would be a longstanding stalemate. And then the question you have to ask yourself is -- and this is a tough question for the president -- do the Taliban want to come and knock down buildings in New York, or do they just want us to get the hell out of their hair?
I'm serious about that. How much of a direct threat are they? Are they interested in spreading jihadism around the world, coming to America, attacking us? That's a tough question. Some may be, but an awful lot of them may not be. So there may be an option short of that, which is to begin to negotiate with the various Taliban groups that aren't that extreme.
They're very mercantile society. They like to make money. Maybe there's other ways short of having all-out warfare. So this is a very tough decision. And, you know, Wolf, my job is to jump all over the bones of every decision he makes, not to tell him what to do. I just criticize all of them. That's what we do for a living.
BLITZER: You want to do the reporting. Remember troops it took back in 1991 to liberate Kuwait, a small, tiny little country? Half a million, 540,000 U.S. troops. And Rumsfeld had this idea you could do it, you know, like Iraq, with 150,000, 200,000, a much bigger country. Afghanistan is huge. I've always wondered how you do it on the cheap, if you will. You either do it, or you don't do it.
HERSH: You can't do it with 50,000 troops more. If you want to really pacify the country, and stop it, and get control, it's going to take 100s of thousands.
BLITZER: All right. Another good article by Sy Hersh, thanks very much for coming in.
HERSH: Glad to have me. (END VIDEOTAPE)
BLITZER: Thousands of people have died from the H1N1 virus. And yet, in a new poll a majority of Americans don't want the vaccine. Why? Could anyone be blamed for failing to educate the public?
BLITZER: Have you gotten, or do you plan to get, the swine flu vaccine for yourself or your family? A fresh poll has shocking answers when people are asked about their vaccine intentions. CNN's Brooke Baldwin explains.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The message from the CDC is clear.
DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL: This year's flu vaccine, the H1N1 vaccine, is being made in the same factories, by the same companies with the same safeguards, as the vaccine that we use every year and that has an excellent safety record.
BALDWIN: The CDC says nearly 3,900 people are believed to have died from the H1N1 flu in the first six months of the epidemic. Despite that fact, the majority of Americans still don't want the vaccine, according to the latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll; 7 percent surveyed receive it had, 35 percent want it, but 55 percent say no, thanks.
Poll numbers show the top reason people didn't want the vaccine? Fears of dangerous side effects. So who's to blame for failing to properly educate the public on H1N1? Some say the government and the media.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think they've also scared everybody.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How so?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, putting out so many numbers about the swine flu and not comparing it to the seasonal regular flu.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, how many deaths. But they don't say how many people die from the regular flu.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've heard everything I need, you know, wanted to know about it on television or radio.
DR. LAURENCE MURPHY, PEDIATRICIAN: The shot may not work.
BALDWIN: Even this pediatrician isn't convinced that the H1N1 vaccine is safe. Dr. Lawrence Murphy isn't offering it to his patients and doesn't plan to unless the government can prove the benefits outweigh the risks. MURPHY: I wish they had said it's available, we worked hard, here it is. If you want it, it's at the clinic on Saturday morning. Go get it. If you don't want it, be in touch with your physician.
BALDWIN: On the other hand, John Boudrot wishes had he gotten the shot. It may have saved him from spending all of September in a coma after getting the virus. Boudreau wants Americans to learn from his mistake.
JOHN BOUDROT, H1N1 PATIENT: There's a vaccine for H1N1. Obviously, it's difficult to get your hands on today. Parents need to get their children vaccinated as soon as possible. Nobody wants to go through what I've been through the last eight weeks.
BALDWIN (on camera): We should point out CNN has confirmed with the National Institutes of Health that so far officials there have not seen any serious side effects of the vaccine in clinical trials, but still, 55 percent of Americans don't want it. Brooke Baldwin, CNN, Washington.
BLITZER: The H1N1 virus is indiscriminate about its victims. I spoke with the president of the Catholic University of America here in Washington, Father David O'Connell. His family came face to face with just how dangerous the virus can be.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: It's very painful for you. Your younger brother came down with swine flu. Tell us about what has happened. Because millions of people come down with swine flu, but this is a special case.
FATHER DAVID O'CONNELL, PRESIDENT, CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF AMERICA: Yeah, I was watching on your program the other day, 2 million Americans have contracted swine flu.
BLITZER: Mostly very mild.
O'CONNELL: Yeah. He's a teacher at Nazareth the Academy in Philadelphia, a girls' school in Philadelphia, a high school. And he came down with a urinary tract infection. Took him to the hospital. They indicated that he had a mild case of pneumonia, and before you knew it, they were diagnosing him as having swine flu and pneumonia in both lungs. He was in an induced coma. He's been in the hospital for three weeks. And just today had a tracheotomy operation performed to enable him to breathe with ease.
But it's amazing. You know, at Catholic University, I have been working on this issue since May to prepare ourselves for it. And you just don't expect it to happen so close to home, and it did. And it really was -- it's been a nightmare.
BLITZER: How is it working out? I mean, what's the prognosis for your brother? O'CONNELL: I talked to the doctor late last night, and his doctor said the prognosis is good. They're going to take him off the ventilator. He went into respiratory arrest shortly after the diagnosis. So he had to be put on a ventilator. He was going to be taken off the ventilator. The tracheotomy will be able to move with him, but he's going to have to learn how to walk again. His muscles have become so weak. It's just unbelievable. He's going to be laid up for months.
BLITZER: What a sad, sad story. We wish him, obviously, a speedy recovery. And we hope he's going to be fine. This is obviously very, very painful for you.
Quickly, with all the fear of germs and swine flu, the Catholic Church, Sunday's communion, shaking hands, drinking from a common cup, are you making changes as a result of that concern right now? I'm sure it's come up.
O'CONNELL: Many of the dioceses have decided not to extend the chalice at mass on Sundays, with the precious blood, with the sacred wine, in order to prevent any kind of transmission of germs. And even what we call the kiss of peace, the handshake during the mass, many dioceses have asked people not to do that. I know at Catholic University we decided to do the same thing as well.
BLITZER: Which sounds smart.
O'CONNELL: Yeah, I think it is smart.
BLITZER: We wish your brother the best and good luck.
O'CONNELL: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Father David O'Connell is the president of Catholic University of America. Full disclosure, I received an honorary degree from Catholic University a few years ago, and gave the commencement address. It was a great day in my life. Thanks for that.
O'CONNELL: It was a great day for us, too.
BLITZER: Thank you.
BLITZER: With a new strategy for Afghanistan still undecided, two men tasked with helping carry out that strategy, General Stanley McChrystal and Special Representative Richard Holbrooke, wait at Kabul's airport. That story and more in the week's best "Hot Shots." That's coming up next.
BLITZER: Here's a look at some "Hot Shots" coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.
In Germany, this student held up a typewriter, while protesting for more financial support for schools.
In Kabul, the representative for Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke and General Stanley McChrystal waited for at arrival of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
In London, an ice sculptor put the finishing touches on ice penguin to promote holiday shopping.
And in Saudi Arabia, check it out, pilgrim sat as pigeons flew above Mecca's Grand Mosque.
"Hot Shots," pictures worth 1,000 words. I'm Wolf Blitzer. Join us weekdays from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. Eastern, and every Saturday at 6:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN, and at this time every weekend on CNN International.
The news continues next on CNN.