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THE SITUATION ROOM
Clinton: Iran Exporting Terror; Report: Gaps in U.S. Food Chain; Hospital Radiation Overdose; Terror Suspects' Final Destination
Aired December 11, 2009 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Then the opposing view popping up on legal blogs like this one: "I do consider any judge who belongs to Facebook lacking in the judgment necessary to be on the bench."
A little harsh, perhaps.
Whatever the view, some in the Florida legal community are suddenly finding themselves less popular. Attorney Markus says he's been unfriended multiple times since the opinion came out -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Abbi, thank you.
We'll get back to you, as well.
And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gets tough on Iran, firing a strong verbal shot across the bow, accusing Tehran of supporting, promoting and exporting terrorism.
Also, a food safety fiasco that one lawmaker is calling appalling and potentially deadly -- we're looking at the gaping holes in a system putting all of us, potentially, at risk.
And a drug tunnel so elaborate it's equipped with telephones and even an elevator. CNN's Anderson Cooper is digging deeper. He takes us inside later this hour.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
A rather dramatic shift in U.S. tone toward Iran, as the country continues to defy international demands regarding its nuclear program and tries to increase its influence in South America. Just last month, Iranian President Ahmadinejad visited Brazil, Bolivia and Venezuela, seeking stronger ties in the U.S. sphere of influence.
Today, the secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, strongly warned Latin American leaders that flirting with Iran is a rather bad idea. And she slammed Iran with some stark language.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We hope that there will be a recognition that this is THE major supporter, promoter and exporter of terrorism in the world today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Let's go straight to our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty.
What else is the secretary saying -- Jill?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I tell you, I was struck by the vehemence of Secretary Clinton's remarks. The U.S. and Iran are at loggerheads on so many issues right now -- Iran's nuclear program, the crackdown on democracy demonstrators and now the mysterious disappearance of an Iranian nuclear scientist.
DOUGHERTY: (voice-over): The Iranians are furious and they blame the United States. Iran's foreign minister claims he has proof America is responsible for the abduction of Shamram Amiri. The Iranian nuclear scientist was based at a university in Tehran. This past summer, he traveled to the Muslim holy sites of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. Then, Iran says, he disappeared. A few months later, the West revealed Iran was building a secret nuclear enrichment facility near the city of Qom. When asked whether the scientist is in U.S. custody, U.S. officials are tight-lipped.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have got no information on that.
DOUGHERTY: An American scientist says his guess, it's more likely Amiri defected.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He could make himself very valuable to some Western intelligence agency. Either the Americans, the British or the French would probably help him get established in the West, might help him get his family out.
DOUGHERTY: But in a broadside against Iran, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday there's no mystery about the stranglehold Iran's Revolutionary Guard military corps has over the country.
CLINTON: The Revolutionary Guard of Iran, which is increasing its control over the country because of the elections, which were a stark example of the abuse of human rights in action, is deeply involved in the economy, as well as the security issues of Iran.
DOUGHERTY: Meanwhile, the U.S. and other countries are moving closer to punishing Iran for not halting its nuclear program. Defense Secretary Robert Gates telling troops in Iraq...
ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I think that. You're going to see some significant additional sanctions imposed by the international community.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
DOUGHERTY: The U.S. and its allies say patience with Iran is running out and an end of the year deadline is looming, with the U.N., the European Union and others saying if Iran continues to not cooperate, they're ready to take necessary action -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Tough new language coming from the Obama administration toward Iran -- the clock ticking toward this end of month deadline.
All right. Thanks, Jill, very much.
In his first extensive interview since unveiling a blueprint for sending 30,000 more U.S. Troops to Afghanistan, then begin withdrawing some of them in 18 months, President Obama is defending that plan. He's telling CBS's "60 Minutes" there is a clear reason for his controversial deadline.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "60 MINUTES," COURTESY CBS NEWS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are people that say why set a deadline, I mean Senator McCain, most prominently.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes. Right. And the answer is that in the absence of a deadline, the message we are sending to the Afghans is that it's business as usual, this is an open-ended commitment. And, very frankly, there are, I think, elements in Afghanistan who would be perfectly satisfied to make Afghanistan a permanent protectorate of the United States in which they carry no burden, in which we're paying for a military in Afghanistan that preserves their security and their prerogatives. That's not what the American people signed off for when they went into Afghanistan in 2001. They signed up to go after Al Qaeda.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: In other news, the CIA isn't commenting directly on recent reports that Blackwater contractors joined in secret raids against people suspected of being insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. But an agency spokesman did tell CNN the CIA routinely uses the contractors within the guidelines of U.S. law. A government source says CIA Director Leon Panetta has ordered a review of contractors to ensure their use is on the up and up.
A new deal for wealthy nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least half by the year 2050, that's being circulated at the United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen. The draft proposal leaves cost and specific emission goals for world leaders to work out later.
Also at the talks, China's negotiator is blasting his U.S. counterpart for saying Beijing shouldn't count on any American climate aid. China's vice foreign minister calls the comment -- and I'm quoting now -- "extremely irresponsible" and says the U.S. climate envoy lacks common sense.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty.
He's here with The Cafferty File.
I don't think those two guys like each other, do you -- Jack?
CAFFERTY: Why, what did -- they have an -- they're having some kind of document they're circulating in Copenhagen that has no teeth whatsoever.
BLITZER: Yes. Details to come.
CAFFERTY: You can work on this at -- at your convenience later.
BLITZER: Here's -- here's what we're going to do. Stand by for details.
All right. The arrest of five American Muslims in Pakistan just the latest example of a growing and alarming trend of homegrown terrorism. The Homeland Security secretary, Janet Napolitano, says: "Home-based terrorism is here and it will be part of the threat picture that we must now confront." That's a quote.
The experts say recent cases make 2009 the most dangerous year since 9/11. They include a Chicago man charged with planning the Mumbai terror attack; the mass murders at Fort Hood, Texas, which some suspect was a terror attack; major arrests of Americans accused of plotting with al Qaeda, including one New York bomb plot; extremism suspects leaving here, joining foreign networks, like Somali-Americans going to fight in Somalia; and the FBI rounding up homegrown terror suspects in Dallas, Detroit and Raleigh, North Carolina, claiming they broke up plots to attack a synagogue, government and military buildings.
Meanwhile, unless the Congress acts before the end of the year -- and it doesn't look like they will -- three provisions of the controversial anti-terrorism Patriot Act are set to expire -- the parts that grant law enforcement domestic surveillance powers without warrants.
Some say the fact that Congress hasn't acted on the Patriot Act so close to the deadline is crazy. They suggest the threat has been clear in places like Fort Hood and that we need to protect ourselves.
But critics claim the Patriot Act disregards civil liberties, goes against our Constitutional freedoms and should be allow to die a natural death.
So here's the question -- with the rise in homegrown terrorism, should the Patriot Act be allowed to expire?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog.
I should point out, the whole thing won't expire, just these portions that apply to domestic surveillance without going through the -- the court.
BLITZER: Because when they passed it originally, there was a timeline...
BLITZER: ...put in there for that.
BLITZER: All right. Thanks, Jack.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
It's the system we all count on to keep our food safe, but now there are serious concerns it's not working and all of us could be at risk. Stand by.
Also, can going to the hospital actually make you sicker?
One man tells us about his radiation overdose after a routine procedure. There are new fears it may not be an isolated incident.
And we're learning those -- that Pakistan was not -- not the final destination of five American men now under arrest there, suspected of plotting terror. We're uncovering new details. We'll share them with you.
BLITZER: Just days after a major beef recall, there's a troubling report from a watchdog group about checks and balance in our food supply. Critics say it's a shortfall that could endanger public health.
CNN's Mary Snow is here working this story forum -- for us.
What's the problem here -- Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the problem is the FDA is responsible for finding causes of contamination. But government auditors say the FDA, in some cases, is missing critical information.
SNOW: (voice-over): Just as recent salmonella concerns led to a recall of more than 20,000 pounds of beef, a new report finds gaping holes in the government's system to trace the food supply. Food facilities are required to register with the Food and Drug Administration to enable the FDA to trace food sources and remove contaminated products from the supply chain quickly, if need be.
But an audit from the Department of Homeland Security inspector general finds that of 130 facilities surveyed, nearly half didn't provide accurate information about who to contact in an emergency. And it found more than half the managers at those facilities were unaware of the registry requirements.
It's something Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, who chairs a House subcommittee on agriculture, says is unacceptable.
REP. ROSA DELAURO (D), CONNECTICUT: It's shocking. And it really is appalling because this is about safety. This is about public health. When you -- when you have negligence like this, then you put the public health at risk. And, you know, this costs lives.
SNOW: A salmonella outbreak among peanut products earlier this year has been linked to nine deaths. In another outbreak, officials believed tomatoes to be the source of illnesses, only to find out weeks later that jalapenos in Mexico were to blame.
DELAURO: Who's guarding the -- the store here?
That's what the issue is.
SNOW: DeLauro blames negligence at the FDA in the prior administration and supports legislation that would give the FDA greater power to enforce rules. And the FDA, in a statement, says: "The FDA agrees with the findings of this report. We are hopeful that the food safety legislation currently moving through Congress will go a long way toward resolving many of these issues."
A program was put in place after 9/11 to protect the food supply from bioterrorism -- a threat that seems remote to nutrition expert Marion Nestle, author of "Safe Food."
MARION NESTLE, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: Right now, we don't need to be worried about bioterrorism. We have plenty of our own problems with our own food supply that we can't seem to get a grip on.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
SNOW: Now, how to solve this?
The inspector general's report recommends that the FDA be allowed to impose fines against facilities that don't provide accurate information. That's something also -- there's a similar provision in pending legislation.
BLITZER: Do we know how many people died from this?
SNOW: Yes. And these numbers may be startling. Officials say that 5,000 people die each year from contaminated food and beverages and that 30,000 are hospitalized each year.
BLITZER: That is startling.
Five thousand dead?
Thirty thousand seriously injured?
SNOW: Each year.
That's a serious problem.
All right. Mary, thank you.
BLITZER: There's growing concern that radiation overdoses at a Los Angeles area hospital -- and, in fact, a series of hospitals -- may not necessarily be isolated accidents. Now investigators are looking for a possible problem with the equipment itself, which is used in hospitals, in fact, across the country.
CNN's Ted Rowlands is working this story for us -- now, Ted, you found someone that received an overdose of radiation.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, here in Los Angeles, this guy tells a pretty tough tale, saying that he went in and had this procedure done, lost his hair and has had other medical complications since then. It isn't clear whether or not this radiation overdose is responsible for those complications, but he thinks they most likely are.
Here is his story and here's the story of what is now becoming a larger and larger probe by the FDA.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).
ROWLANDS (voice-over): Zacki Belgian was given eight times more radiation than he needed when he received a C.T. brain profusion scan at Cedar Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He lost his hair after the scan, has problems what cataracts and now says he's worried about his future.
ZACKI BELGIAN, BRAIN SCAN PATIENT: I have pain here, right on two sides of my eyes. I have a rash in my mouth all the time. My gums are bleeding all the time.
ROWLANDS: Belgian is one of more than 300 potential victims in a widening FDA investigation of imaging scanners that may have been incorrectly programmed. When and by whom is still unclear.
The problem came to light at Cedars, but has been found at two other hospitals near Los Angeles and at Huntsville Hospital in Huntsville, Alabama, where this week they announced 60 patients may have been over radiated. DAVID SPILLERS, CEO, HUNTSVILLE HOSPITAL: Well, we've got all hands on deck. And there's a lot of information being developed at this point.
ROWLANDS: Because the problem appears to be embedded in the computer protocols inside the scanners, hospitals around the country have been told to check the settings on their imaging scanners.
DR. JONATHAN FIELDING, L.A. COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT:
And those protocols are widespread. You know, I don't think we know exactly what transpired. But if the protocols are the problem, then one would think it would be a much broader problem.
ROWLANDS: In this letter sent to victims, Cedars Sinai says the radiation level on their scanner, which was manufactured by General Electric, "did not match the manufacturer's recommended settings." It's unclear who, if anyone, changed it.
GE tells CNN: "Although G.E. Healthcare continues its internal investigation, we confirm that there were no malfunctions or defects in any of the G.E. Healthcare equipment involved.
Toshiba manufactured the scanner used at Providence St. Joseph Hospital in Burbank, California, where 34 patients were believed to be over radiated. In a statement to CNN, Toshiba says: "We are cooperating fully with the FDA and the site (ph) and working with the facility to investigate this matter."
Nobody can be sure what, if any, long-term effects this amount of radiation could cause. But for Zacki Belgian and the hundreds of others, it's not a comfortable position waiting to find out.
BELGIAN: Well, I don't know I'm going to live next -- one more year, 10 years. I have no idea. But there's something for sure, that something is going to happen.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ROWLANDS: And, Wolf, to be clear, all of these patients and victims here had the exact same procedure. And the procedure is vital in determining whether or not somebody has a stroke. About 150,000 of these are done across the country each year. And the -- the -- the advantage of this far outweighs any risks that are possible here.
But there still is this issue of, why are they being over -- over radiated?
And, clearly, the FDA is now looking at all of the hospitals across the country, asking them to check their machines and make sure that this isn't going on elsewhere and affecting other people.
BLITZER: I hope so. It sounds prudent, indeed. This is a serious story, as well.
Thank you, Ted. Anyone who drinks needs to see the results of a new study linking alcohol to an increased risk of one type of cancer.
Plus, Anderson, Cooper takes us inside a drug tunnel unlike anything we've seen before. This one has phones, electricity -- even an elevator.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hydraulic equipment would...
BLITZER: Deborah Feyerick is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM -- Deb, what's going on?
FEYERICK: Hey, Wolf.
Well, new warnings about breast cancer. A study finds that even moderate drinking can increase the risk of breast cancer recurrence in survivors. The study said that breast cancer survivors who drank an average of at least three or four alcoholic drinks a week -- listen to this -- have a 34 percent higher risk of the cancer returning.
The tills are ringing and that signals a strong start to the holiday shopping season. The Commerce Department says retail sales rose 1.3 percent in November. That's more than double the increase analysts had expected and higher than the 1.1 percent increase in October.
Diane Sawyer is saying good-bye to early mornings. Today her co- hosts held back tears as they toasted her last day on "Good Morning America." Later this month, Sawyer will take over for Charles Gibson on ABC's "World News Tonight." She will be only the second woman to solo anchor a major network evening news show.
And, finally, baby makes 19 -- that's right, 19. An Arkansas mom featured on the TLC reality show, "18 Kids and Counting!" has given birth to her 19th child. TLC says she was in the hospital recovering from a gallstone when she was taken to the O.R. for an emergency C- section. Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar's baby daughter, Josie Brooklyn, is in stable condition. She weighs one pound, six ounces.
But 19 kids?
I don't even know what to do with that number.
FEYERICK: Oh my god. There's -- I don't even know.
Where do you begin?
BLITZER: We should also congratulate George Stephanopoulos for moving over to "Good Morning America" to...
BLITZER: ...to replace Diane Sawyer.
FEYERICK: Of course, a good friend.
BLITZER: I've known -- known him for a long time.
Good luck to George.
Good luck to Diane Sawyer.
Good luck to Chris Cuomo. He's going to be co-anchoring "20-20."
So a lot of things moving around over there.
FEYERICK: A lot of changes. Absolutely.
BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much.
Five Americans in custody in Pakistan suspected of wanting to be terrorists. Up next, we have some new information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM about what they might have been up to and where they were actually headed.
U.S. Troops on the ground in Afghanistan -- their job, to win battles and win over the Afghan people. Still ahead, a success story.
And they're accused of faking their way into a White House state dinner. Now it seems this Virginia couple tried to pay a debt with a phony watch.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, five Americans in custody in Pakistan and under suspicion of plotting terrorism. We're now learning that Pakistan may not have been their final destination. Here at home, we're learning more about the men from people who know them.
Word today that a key Al Qaeda operative was probably killed in a missile strike this week in Pakistan. They say it was an unmanned drone that did it.
And details of proposed health care reform revealed -- one little known provision, though, could limit coverage for costly cancer treatment. Stand by. We have details.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
An interrogation report is revealing some startling new details about five American men arrested in Pakistan, suspected of plotting terrorism. It turns out Pakistan was not -- not their final destination. CNN's Arwa Damon is in Pakistan.
She's seen the new report -- Arwa, what are you learning?
ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Pakistan, as you just mentioned, most certainly not their final destination. These details are about the trail that they were planning on taking, as well as their final destination.
We spoke to Pakistan's minister of interior for more details.
DAMON: (voice-over): These are now young men at the focus of an investigation spanning continents. They vanished from the United States at the end of last month. Interior Minister Rehman Malik says authorities were quickly on their trail.
REHMAN MALIK, PAKISTAN INTERIOR MINISTER: Well, in fact, we have very good cooperation with the FBI I have received a communication giving details of five individuals who had already left the US. And that was a good clue.
DAMON: Pakistani authorities say they tracked the men to the City of Sargodha.
MALIK: According to the investigation, they had gone to one of the organizations which is, in fact, on the watch list, Jamat-ud- Dawah. And probably they said we don't want you because we always deal or we -- we take people only with references.
DAMON: Each day, police say, they are putting more pieces of this bewildering puzzle together. The interrogation report released by the police questioning them in Sargodha says they were headed to Pakistan's tribal areas and then on to Afghanistan.
None has yet been formally charged. And the mother of one of the men told us he came to Pakistan to get married.
Police have their own theory -- that they came to wage jihad. As the interior minister acknowledges, some parts of Pakistan provide accessible ground for those seeking a path to terror.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's not forget that al Qaeda had been operating for years and years on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Historically speaking, if you see these terrorists brought in, and Afghanistan, there are all those remnants. Somewhere they had a connection with that war.
DAMON: Wolf, what worries the Pakistanis is the influx of young men increasing in recent year, seeking jihad, and this as the country is trying to cope with its open homegrown militants.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah, we've seen several of the young men go to Pakistan for this training. Now we see some apparently coming from the United States to Pakistan. Arwa, how do the Pakistani authorities think they can combat terror in their own borders?
DAMON: They're realizing at this point they're not going to be able to fight in battle alone. As the minister of the interior was telling us, Pakistan needs to seal off its borders, but it cannot do it without the cooperation of Afghanistan. It can't clamp down without the cooperation of its neighbors and they're going so far to say without the help of the United States. This is a fairly big step, giving the lack of trust, which is something that both countries are going to have to work on to be able to bring a certainly level of security to this error.
BLITZER: Giving the history that's easier said than done. How receptive would the Pakistanis be to getting help from the United States in this effort?
DAMON: Well, Wolf, the Pakistanis have been always been reluctant, even though acknowledge they are already getting help in the form of training of the Pakistani military because of the increasing, rising tensions between both countries and because of the unprecedented levels of anti-American sentiment here in Pakistan, but what the minister of the interior is saying is what they want to see is more openness in terms of sharing intelligence and in terms of sharing drone technology. The Pakistanis are saying they're more than happy to go after the senior al Qaeda operatives, militants within their own borders if the United States provides them with the intelligence and the technology, but it's a very complicated situation here.
BLITZER: Very sensitive and complicated, but the stakes are enormous for both countries. Arwa Damon on the scene for us, thank you.
Let's talk a bit about this with Clark Kent Ervin, the former inspector general, director of the Aspen Institute's Homeland Security Program and a good friend. Clark, thanks very much for coming in. How big of a deal is this, do you think?
CLARK KENT ERVIN, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY INSPECTOR GENERAL: I think it's a really big deal. There's no question it's a lot harder for foreign terrorists to get into the United States post 9/11 than it was before 9/11. Not impossible, but harder. Therefore, al Qaeda is putting a premium surely on people who are already here and people who have a food in both camps, can easily travel between the United States and other countries.
BLITZER: We've seen other examples before these five individuals just detained in Pakistan. Let me go through some of them, David Headley, an American citizen of Pakistani background was charged in Chicago with helping plot the 2008 Mumbai attacks, Najibullah Zazi arrested in September, prosecutors say he traveled to Pakistan for explosives training with two friends from New York and Bryant Neal Vinas, a convert to Islam in January pleading guilty to receiving training from al Qaeda after traveling to Pakistan. So there seems to be a trend here. ERVIN: Exactly. Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain says all roads lead to Pakistan. That's a bit of an exaggeration in the American case, but as you say, there have been four cases recently in the United States just in the last few months. So there's no question Pakistan is ground zero as far as counter terrorism is concerned. I just returned from the Pakistan/Afghan border, and there's no question what's going on there the increase in our troop presence in Afghanistan is doubtless inflaming mum his opinion around the world.
BLITZER: So what should we be doing as a result of that?
ERVIN: Well, there's a good news story here, there are really two good news stories. One of course is whatever these young men were planning has been foiled, obviously. The second piece of good news, just as in the case of the Somali instance just a few weeks, months ago, we know about this, because their own family members became concerned about them when they went missing, reported this to their local mosque and the Council on American Islamic Relations, and then the mosque and that organization in turn did what they should do, they reported to law enforcement authorities and then our law enforcement authorities and intelligence officials worked closely with their counterparts in Pakistan. That's what should happen and that what's got to happen.
BLITZER: You heard this report from Chris Lawrence our Pentagon correspondent earlier that apparently the CIA used a drone to kill a high-ranking al Qaeda operative, supposedly the number five guy in al Qaeda. The external affairs minister some are calling them. This would be a big deal.
ERVIN: It would be a big deal. You know, the conventional wisdom is President Obama has a softer approach to counter terrorism than President Bush. He certainly has softer rhetoric but the fact is he's actually intensified the drone campaign in Pakistan, so I think we're going to see more of this on the Pakistan side of the border.
BLITZER: If the Pakistani government decides that these five young Americans should be sent back to the United States, can they be charged with anything here in the U.S.? What would the authorities do with them?
ERVIN: Obviously it depends on what the evidence shows, but the evidence appears to point to material support for terrorism, an intention to commit acts of terror against our troops overseas in Afghanistan. That apparently is what they were intending to do.
BLITZER: Conspiracy, in other words. They wouldn't be let go, they could be held and charged if the Pakistanis extradite them to the United States?
ERVIN: I'm quite confident they could be charged. We have to nip this in the bud. One of the good things that our law enforcement authorities have done since 9/11 is being proactive, is to make sure that this doesn't happen.
BLITZER: Tangentially related. The homeland security secretary Janet Napolitano apparently has told congress that Eric Holder, the attorney general, never consulted with her, no one consulted with her about the decision to send Khalid Shaikh Mohammed to New York to stand trial in connection with the 9/11 terror attacks. Is that surprising to you?
ERVIN: It's very surprising to me. I'm shocked by that. It's the first I've heard of it. It's a huge decision, and I wonder about the wisdom of it, frankly. It's going to make New York even more of a terror target.
BLITZER: So you don't like the decision?
ERVIN: I think it's a wrong decision. It makes sense to try certain lesser terrorists in our American court system, but this is the key plotter for 9/11. If there was ever a rational for military tribunals with all rights properly according to them, not the rights of American citizens but due process, it seems to me that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was the one against whom a military tribunal should have been used.
BLITZER: He's boasted about it.
ERVIN: He has, and he'll made it a huge propaganda when the trial takes place.
BLITZER: Clark, thanks for coming in.
ERVIN: Thank you Wolf.
BLITZER: Hundreds of people are arrested in a major immigration sweep, details of where and who specifically was targeted, that's coming up.
Plus a standoff that stretched on for days comes to an end as police move in.
BLITZER: Getting right back to Deborah Feyerick. She's monitoring some other top stories.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, 280 people have been arrested across California in a major crackdown on suspected illegal immigrants with criminal records. The head of immigration and customs enforcement says the agency has renewed its focus on rounding up illegal immigrants with criminal histories.
Pope Benedict says he's deeply disturbed over a report over showing that the Irish Catholic Church covered up child sex abuse by clergy for decades. The pope made the statement after meeting with Irish bishops at the Vatican. He promises that the church will do all it can to make sure such abuses don't happen again.
Police moved in on protesters who have been occupying a building at the University of California at Berkeley since Monday. Many were asleep when police burst in. 65 people were arrested. The protesters have been demonstrating against state funding cuts that have led to course cutbacks and fee increases. Police say they took action after protesters began breaking into locked classrooms and promoting an all- night party.
And let the Oscar buzz begin, Titanic director James Cameron's much hyped new movie "Avatar" had the world premiere in London. Critics are hailing the 3D scifi epic calling it, quote, breathtaking and a fantastic tour de force with astonishing visual effects. The movie could top the $1.8 billion Titanic made globally at the box office back in 1997.
BLITZER: Those are 1997 dollars which are worth more than 2009 and 2010 dollars. Let's see how it does. Thanks very much. A lot of people will want to see the films.
The Salahis said to have faked their way into a White House state dinner, but now it seems the Virginia couple tried to pay a debt with a fake designer watch. What's going on here? Let's go to Abbi Tatton.
Abbi, we're not making this up.
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: We aren't Wolf. First of all, this wasn't just any old watch. This was a Patek Philippe, similar to this one, a watch that's advertised online in some cases for a couple hundred thousand dollars, if it's real, that is. If it's fake try less than $200. In the case of the Salahis, guess what it was? Last week Tareq Salahi handed over his watch to a judge in Virginia as payment to landscaper Mike Dunbar who had taken the couple to court for $2,000 they owed him but when the watch was sent to Pennsylvania jeweler Ray Kozi for appraisal, Kozi tells us it just took him all of three seconds to spot that it was a fake. In Kozi's expert opinion, worth no more than $100. Our call to the Salahis' lawyer was not returned. The landscaper's lawyer says the Salahis now have sent a check to cover that $2,000, and he did call the bank right away to make sure the check didn't bounce. What a story.
BLITZER: Yes. That's a pretty interesting story. Thanks very much, Abbi.
Five Americans are accused of terrorism overseas, which begs the question, with a rise in home-grown terrorism, should the patriot act be allowed to expire? Jack Cafferty will read your email. That's next.
And a loophole you'll want to know about in the proposed health care reform bill in the Senate. It could have a big effect on anyone undergoing big-ticket medical treatment.
Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's get right back to Jack Cafferty. He's got the Cafferty file. JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes I do. The question this hour, with a rise in home-grown terrorism, should the patriot act be allowed to expire? Three parts are due to expire at the end of this month.
Jeremy in Albuquerque, New Mexico, "I think not. The balance between security and liberty are well known to many Americans. Our conflict with violent Muslim extremism is ongoing, the threat remains. My view is that if you are not plotting terrorist attacks on or from our country you have nothing to fear from the patriot act."
Mark in Anna, Illinois writes, "I don't know about the patriot act but those five men should be allowed to expire."
Frank says, "Let it die. It never should have been implemented. It's nothing but scare tactics. I have worked in intelligence at the highest levels of government. You know what the problem is? We hire people with no common sense. Don't believe me? Look at the TSA release. Look at the investigation of the Ft. Hood shooter. CNN and the press did more in a week than the intelligence professionals did over months."
Jerry in Pennsylvania says, "Should the patriot act be allowed to expire? No, no, no, 3,000 times no, for each of the lives lost on September 11th."
Rick says, "I'd love to see the internal debate in the Bush administration on the patriot act. I'll bet there were other things they felt they could accomplish in the guise of national security so amend it or kill it."
Rich writes, "The patriot act will be allowed to die by a congress that is more concerned with the rights of terrorists than the rights of Americans to live."
Jim in Texas, "Jack, absolutely. It was redundant from day one, and passed solely to limit the civil liberties of Americans. Our intelligence agencies were tangled in turf wars on 9/11 and correcting that was the sum total of the corrections we needed to make. While we're at it, abolish the office of homeland security, another legacy of the incompetent Bush administration."
Finally Woody says, "The patriot act should never have been implemented. We see a boogie man behind every door. We have never acted this way before. It seems that we have become a nation of sheep. What are we afraid of?"
If you want to read more on the subject, go to my blog, CNN.com/Caffertyfile. You can spend the whole weekend there.
BLITZER: Some people probably will.
CAFFERTY: Well, I hope not. It's not that good.
BLITZER: Pretty good. We have a lot of smart viewers.
CAFFERTY: We do have a lot of smart viewers.
BLITZER: Jack is coming back in the next hour.
Questions swirling about the new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and its heavy dependence on winning over the Afghan people, but there are real-life examples. Other pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is there.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The stunning beauty of Afghanistan's Panjshir valley. The peaks have kept these extremely independent safe. Neither the invading Soviets or the Taliban were ever able to control the region. Because the area is now relatively secure, U.S. troops stationed here are able to concentrate on encouraging the local Afghan government to take responsibility for the citizens, a major priority of the new counterinsurgency strategy. Army Major Ian Murray is part of a reconstruction team living here in the valley.
MAJ. IAN MURRAY, U.S. ARMY: We get to actually get out and work with the government officials and the local people and make sure that the basic services are provided to them. We are focused on building schools and providing some basic electrical power through the micro hydro-projects and building clinics.
STARR: You do not have Taliban or insurgent activity here?
No, no Taliban or insurgent activity and no instances here in the valley.
STARR: We are taken to visit a school that the U.S. helped to build. Boys and girls attend separately as they do across Afghanistan. It is a freezing cold day, and these boys have walked miles to get here in the early morning. This cold remote valley is a place of great history to both the Afghans of the Panjshir and to the United States. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks the first CIA jaw breaker team landed here with trunkfuls of cash and within days the war against the Taliban would begin, a war that still goes on today.
All up and down the valley, you still find rusted hulks of Soviet armor and artillery, a testament of the will of the Panjshiris to resist the will of the outsiders which is to make sure that the people in the valley are willing to accept the U.S. troops. Here the soldiers have their own security force and local fighters who have sworn to protect the Americans, fighters who once fought the Taliban and the soviets.
Barbara Starr, CNN, the Panjshir Valley.
BLITZER: President Obama increasing the use of unmanned killer drone aircraft in Pakistan. We have details of an attack that supposedly killed a high level al Qaeda operative. Standby.
BLITZER: Where there is a will, there is a way. Seal off the border and drug traffickers will find new ways to get the illegal product from Mexico to the United States. New ways like the vast underground tunnels in Tijuana that CNN's Anderson Cooper explored.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a commercial warehouse in Tijuana. We are just on the other side of the U.S./Mexican border, and you can see right over here, the border is right there and those are the trucks actually coming across the border right there. The border fence is right there about 50 feet from where I am standing. This looks like a regular commercial warehouse. The tunnel is hidden, it's concealed inside of the warehouse. But if you first step inside of the warehouse, you never would know that anything illegal was going on here.
The secret entrance is extraordinary. Let me show it to you, it is a small warn of rooms and you come into what you think is a regular bathroom and there's a toilet and tile floor and looks like the bathroom is under construction, but this entire floor is attached underneath to a hydraulic lift. The entire floor lowers down. You can see it is about six or seven inches lower than the wall. If it were in the full upright position, you would not even know that this is a dropaway floor.
To get underneath the bathroom floor to show you the hydraulic equipment that the Mexican authorities have actually created a hole here and they have put in a ladder, so I have to climb down. Now, over here is the hydraulic equipment that is attached to the bathroom floor above, so that the toilet that we saw is just above here in this room. They basically, and this is kind of hydraulic lift that would be seen in an auto body store, a car normally put on that and the entire bathroom floor is attached to this to lower the floor any time they wanted an entrance into the secret tunnel.
There is large pieces of wood that were discovered here. Obviously, these pieces of wood would be taken deeper into the tunnel, would be used to shore up the sides of the tunnel. There is also four large blocks of Styrofoam, and authorities believe it is used to muffle the sound of the drilling. This is the most sophisticated tunnel they have ever discovered and the most sophisticated one I have ever seen. There are light bulbs in it, so there is an electrical system, and there is an air vent so there is cool air circulating and fresh air circulating which is important the deeper you go. There is even a phone system. The phones still work. That way people inside of the tunnel can communicate with anyone up above.
But what is really remarkable here is what I am about to show you. This is the motor works for an elevator, and primitive no doubt about it, but they brought it down here, and this is the elevator itself, and it is basically a large cart on wheels, and we are going to take you down to show you what happens then. You really get a sense going down into the tunnel the amount of work that it took to build this. Look, you can see the bore marks that were used to tunnel deep underground and it must have made a lot of noise, and this is solid rock they are digging through, and they used clearly heavy machinery. This is all Jackhammers, mining equipment.
We are now 90 feet deep, and the electrical system is in place, and there are plugs here and an electrical box and still the ventilation system, the lights, still, and the lights still work down here, and the phones are even this deep underground. All right. We have probably already crossed into United States, because as I showed you up there in the warehouse, it is a short distance from this warehouse to the border, so we are probably already now into the United States.
Question, of course, where was this tunnel going, and where in the United States was it going to pop up? This tunnel was not finished because the authorities discovered it in time, but it is 900 feet underground and it is tall enough that you can stand almost straight up. I'm 5'10", so, this is six feet here. This is solid rock they drilled through, so it took an awfully long time and you can imagine the conditions down here even with the ventilation system and the primitive electrical system down here, it had to be a daunting challenge.
So the authorities are pretty sure a major drug cartel is behind it, but not sure which one. This might be evidence, because a lot of the sandbags say Sinaloa, Mexico, and there is a large drug cartel there, the Sinaloa drug cartel, but at this point they simply don't know who is responsible for digging this tunnel. At the end of the tunnel, there is a lot of equipment stored here. This tunnel was not finished and U.S./Mexico authorities raided it in time. There was no exit point into the U.S. there was still apparently digging somewhere and the authorities are trying to figure out exactly where the end point was going to be, but no telling how many other tunnels like this are being built right now somewhere along this border.