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U.S. Anti-Terror Tactic Breached; President Obama Flies Into Climate Distress

Aired December 17, 2009 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: Terrorists who spread fear should be very, very afraid themselves. More suspects die by U.S. pilotless planes, but should the U.S. also beware? Insurgents find a way to compromise one drone tactic using software costing -- get this -- less than $30.

A father close to ending his agony sees his suffering continue. In that international custody battle, David Goldman does not get his son back. He is speaking to CNN.

And President Obama is set to fly into climate distress. Before the end of the climate change summit, which side will you side with in this debate?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Those stories are coming up, but we begin with breaking news unfolding right now and it concerns a very disturbing question of enormous importance to the United States, indeed to the entire world.

Is there a push right now to overthrow the leaders in Pakistan? We are going to play some of the interview I had with the Pakistani ambassador just a little while ago.

But Nic Robertson is standing by to give us some background first. Nic, you spent a lot of time in Pakistan. You know the situation over there well. There are these reports under way that perhaps a coup is in the works.

In fact, let's discuss. Let me play for you my exclusive interview with the Pakistani ambassador here in the United States, Husain Haqqani. We spoke just a little while ago. And we had this exchange.


BLITZER: The defense minister of Pakistan, I'm told, has been prevented from leaving the country to go on a trip. He was supposed to go to China, prevented from leaving the country, the defense minister of Pakistan.

Is that true?

HUSAIN HAQQANI, PAKISTANI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Well, I have read the reports myself, just as you have read them.

And I will ascertain the truth from Islamabad as soon as I can. The only thing I can say is that the supreme court has only given one constitutional ruling, which is that cases that have been established in Pakistan against various public figures, that they have to be reinstated because they were arbitrarily terminated.

But the fact of the matter is that many of these cases, including the cases against Zardari, were not proven or decided even after a lapse of 10 years. So, even if these cases are reinstated, it does not mean that everybody is guilty or should be presumed guilty.

And those who are trying to make them sound or who are presuming that they are guilty and acting on it, I think will certainly be told by the court at some point -- I hope so -- that this is not the case. You can try them back. That's what the supreme court wants. The trials should reopen.

But that does not mean everybody should be treated as if they are guilty, including the defense minister.

BLITZER: When I hear a report that a defense minister has been prevented from leaving his own country to go on a routine mission overseas, the word coup comes to my mind, that there is a coup in the works right now.

And this is a very sensitive subject, given Pakistan's important role in fighting the terrorists, the al Qaeda, the Taliban, many of them in Pakistan right now, and given the fact that Pakistan has a nuclear arsenal. Is there a coup in the works against President Zardari and his government?

HAQQANI: I hope not, Wolf.

Pakistani has suffered from past coups. Everybody in Pakistan, including our top military leadership, has made it clear that the military should focus on defending the country's frontiers, and the elected government should run the government in accordance with the constitution, and courts should adjudicate criminal and constitutional matters in accordance with the law.

I hope that everybody will play their constitutional role and the country will not go down the road of coups. That has been disastrous for our country in the past.


BLITZER: Wow. What an exchange, when he says, "I hope not," when I asked him if there is a coup in the works right now.

Nic Robertson is here. Gloria Borger is here. Dan Lothian is over at the White House.

That did not sound very encouraging, to hear Husain Haqqani, the ambassador, say he hopes there is no coup under way. But apparently they -- some folks are detaining the Pakistani defense minister, preventing him from leaving the country.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And you have to read into there is a reason for it. What we know when you stand back from this and look at what is happening in Pakistan, we know that the political leadership there is shaky.

We know that there is, among some quarters and particularly in the military, that there is a dislike for President Zardari, that his sort of opposition, if you will, Nawaz Sharif, is trying to sort of reclaim back power.

We know that the two of them are at loggerheads. And we know that the army would rather have Nawaz Sharif in power. Is that really happening? We can't read that at the moment, but be sure that Pakistan's political leadership is in a delicate situation.

BLITZER: And let me go quickly over to the White House, Dan Lothian, our White House correspondent.

I know you are checking with officials over there. What are you hearing, if anything? It is obviously a very sensitive subject.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is sensitive subject and it's breaking, Wolf. And so far I have reached out to a couple of administration officials, not getting any reaction yet.

But, as you pointed out, this is obviously a sensitive region, as the president has been meeting over the last few months leading up to his decision on Afghanistan. Some of these high-level meetings that he has held in THE SITUATION ROOM here at the White House have focused specifically on Pakistan, as you pointed out, an area where it's believed some of these terrorists are harbored, are hiding out, moving into Afghanistan.

And so this is an area that is all part of this effort by the administration to go after the terrorists as they have been ramping up sending an 30,000 troops to that region. And so, a stable government, not only in Afghanistan, but in Pakistan, is certainly critical for this mission, Wolf.

BLITZER: And it comes at a time, Gloria Borger, when we are getting these reports. "The New York Times" had a front-page report this morning, we have confirmed it, that there were extensive harassment operations under way supposedly in Pakistan against hundreds of U.S. officials, diplomats, contractors, military personnel, and others because of the resentment at least some feel in the Pakistani intelligence community, in the military community against the U.S. right now.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, I think there has been a lot of tension there. We have heard it from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said specifically to Pakistan, you have got to start going after al Qaeda yourselves. We all believe that Osama bin Laden is somewhere there.

And I think now as we are ready to commit more money to Pakistan, to fighting al Qaeda as part of this Afghanistan policy that Dan just spoke about, who runs Pakistan is so crucial. I think the big question is, I don't know the answer to this, is, would a military government be more of an ally to us in an odd way than the current regime?

BLITZER: It is a good question, but Elise Labott, our producer over at the State Department, she has been checking with her sources over there.

Elise, what are you hearing?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN PRODUCER: Well, Wolf, first of all, we spoke to spokesman Ian Kelly just moments ago. And he called the ruling an internal matter for Pakistan. He said the U.S. respects the decision of Pakistan's supreme court, and that a civilian-led democratic government is really integral to the whole security and stability of the region.

And when asked, Wolf, how this decision was -- this decision was going to affect relations with Pakistan, he would just say, we expect that, regardless of the fallout from this decision, Pakistani leaders will act in accordance with the constitution and move forward.

And this is the whole thing, Wolf. The U.S. is not going to interfere with Pakistan's constitutional process, especially right now, with all of the anti-American sentiment and the idea that a lot of Pakistanis think that the U.S. is interfering in Pakistanis' internal affairs.

And, basically, Wolf, the U.S. doesn't see this as a coup. I spoke to a senior official who follows the region also just moments ago, and this person said we understand that every country has its constitutional issues. And this is a young democracy. And as it sorts out and consolidates its democracy, it really has to handle this through constitutional means.

But, Wolf, the U.S. has really been very concerned about this ruling and what the impact could be moving forward. But what we are seeing now -- and I know Nic can talk more about it -- it's a lot of leftover baggage from the Musharraf era that President Zardari has not been able to dealt with.

And a lot of laws that President Musharraf passed were seen as unpopular to the Pakistani people, and now this ruling is based on constitutional measures that were adopted that were illegal. And so now the U.S. is really going to be hands-off.

BLITZER: All right, Elise, stand by, because we are getting this information in as well from GOTV in Pakistan.

They are saying in Pakistan that the defense minister, Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, has been placed on the exit control list, meaning he can't leave the country, even though he is supposed to go the China, due to what they say are some pending corruption charges.

Nic Robertson is still assessing what is going on. It may not be a formal coup, but when you tell the defense minister of a country you can't leave the country, there's indications that something is going on.

ROBERTSON: And international experts, when they look at Pakistan, believe that there is a large amount of corruption there. So you have to say, what has he done, the defense minister, if these charges are being leveled against him? What is happening behind the scenes there right now?

We know that President Zardari has kept a lot of the powers that President Musharraf had, powers that he should have given back to the government. When I interviewed the day he was elected, I said, are you going to give these powers back?

And he looked me in the eye and said he would. And it's been more than a year. And that hasn't happened. So, that creates animosity

But let's take another step back and look at President Zardari's relationship with the military. President Zardari is a Shia, the military mostly Sunni Muslims. When the United States and Europe looks at Pakistan to support the effort in Afghanistan and along the border with al Qaeda, they want these sort of extreme elements in the military and the intelligence services to stop supporting al Qaeda and the Taliban there.

President Zardari is not in a good position to do that. The former president, Nawaz Sharif, could have much more influence if he was to come back, over the army in that context.

BLITZER: And he is the widower of Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister who was assassination in Pakistan, which set in motion his eventually being elected president of Pakistan.

All right, we're going to stay on top of this story. Guys, don't go away.

Concern from Pakistan. The defense minister of Pakistan has been detained at the airport, prevented from leaving. Is this a sign of a coup or not? We spoke with the Pakistani ambassador to the United States. You heard what he says, his words not all that hopeful. He simply said, "I hope not," given the long history of coups in Pakistan.

We will continue our coverage of this and a lot more right here in THE SITUATION ROOM right after this.


BLITZER: Let's get right to Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: San Francisco could become the first city in the country to require radiation labels for cell phones. Mayor Gavin Newsom is backing a proposal out there that would require stores to post the radiation levels next to each cell phone in a print size at least as large as the price. They would also have to tell customers what the radiation levels mean.

So far, scientists don't agree whether cell phones pose a health hazard, and the Federal Communications Commission insists that all phones legally sold in the U.S. are safe.

Not surprisingly a cell phone industry group disputes the idea that cell phone radiation is dangerous. They point to research from groups like the American Cancer Society that cell phones are unlikely, in their words, to cause cancer, and from the World Health Organization that cell phones aren't a public health risk.

But not everybody is so sure. One advocacy group says only recently have studies taken a look at radiation effects of people who have used cell phones for more than 10 years. They point to research in other countries that shows increased rates of brain and salivary gland tumors, especially on the side of the head where people normally use their cell phones.

In any case there are 270 million cell phone subscribers in the U.S. And, if this should become law in San Francisco, well, California often leads the rest of the country when it comes to some of these kinds of things.

Here's the question: Should cell phone stores have to post radiation levels? Go to and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Sounds like a good idea to me, Jack. What do you think?

CAFFERTY: Couldn't hurt.

BLITZER: That's what I -- that's right.


BLITZER: The more information, the better.

CAFFERTY: Couldn't hurt.

BLITZER: In an international custody battle reaching from France to Mexico to the United States, a father illegally snatches his son in Texas with the help of -- with the help, I should say, of police, even though the boy begged not to be taken. We have video on what is going on.

But let's bring in CNN's David Mattingly.

David, tell us what has happened in this case.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it is bad enough just watching the video, a little boy on a school bus being ignored as he pleads with officers to let him stay with his mother, begging them to help him and keep his father away. Listen to what he was saying.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are not going to let him do anything to you.

JEAN PAUL LACOMBE DIAZ, 10 YEARS OLD: I want to stay with my mother.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are not going to let him do anything to you.

LACOMBE DIAZ: No, please. No. No. No. No. No. Somebody, help me, please. Someone, help me, please. Someone, help me, please!


MATTINGLY: But where it is upsetting in this international custody fight is to find out that the father allegedly lied to the judge in San Antonio who allowed this to happen. He is accused of presenting Mexican court documents that turned out to be incomplete and misled the judge to believe he had custody, when he did not -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Because this case has been going on, as you know, David, for years. The father lost all the rights when he took the child to France for two years. Why didn't anyone look into this part of the story appropriately before this happened?

MATTINGLY: Well, the mother clearly blames the judge on this.

But the judge and others say he acted properly based on the information presented to him. The attorneys representing the father now have their own attorney, who says they were working with certified court documents from Mexico and had consulted with attorneys in Mexico.

I am told they were very unhappy, Wolf, when their client missed a court date and they are now no longer representing him.

BLITZER: What about the officers, David, who were at the scene, heard this child screaming, don't take me away, don't take me away? He appeared so scared of his father.

MATTINGLY: Well, we have been asking that question, and here is what the constable there himself had to say. Listen.


MARK VOJVODICH, BEXAR COUNTY CONSTABLE: At the time that the officers had and the information the officers had at the time they made their decisions, unfortunately, that was the correct decision at the time. It may not have been the right decision in the long run, but there's no way that my officers would have known that at the time.


MATTINGLY: He says it was the right decision. But everyone in law enforcement and child welfare that I have talked to about this say that, when the officers were confronted with this kind of situation, they should have called child protective services, and they did not.

For now, the father is now wanted on kidnapping. He and the boy have not been heard from for almost two months -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a distressing story. David, thanks very much.

Police say he fell off a pickup truck during a dispute with his fiancee. A day later, pro football player Chris Henry is dead, and there is an outpouring of grief.


BLITZER: We're going to follow up on the breaking news out of Pakistan. The Pakistani defense minister has been prevented from leaving the country. He was supposed to go on a scheduled visit to China. He is being held up at the airport. Is this a sign of something going on, potentially a coup? We are watching this story for you. We will have an update for you momentarily. Stand by.


BLITZER: Chris Henry, as some of our viewers know, he was known for a history of trouble off the field. He had been described on the Bengals' Web site as being one of the best comeback stories in the NFL.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton.

I know there has been a lot of outpouring of grief on the Web, Abbi.


You don't have to be a Bengals fan to feel this deeply. Chris Henry was featured -- one of the featured players in HBO documentary "Hard Knocks" earlier this year that followed the Bengals' training camp.

If you saw it, you knew of Henry's troubled past, of multiple arrests, suspension from the team. And he knew the second chance the Bengals had given him. And if you had seen this documentary, you could see how hard this young player was working.


CHRIS HENRY, NFL PLAYER: I just changed my whole life around, man. I stopped hanging out with a lot of people I used to, stopped going a lot of places. And I told myself I wasn't going to make bad decisions anymore and I was going to be smart about everything.


TATTON: The man that had given Henry that second chance was the Bengals' owner, Mike Brown. This is Mike Brown delivering the news earlier today.


MIKE BROWN, OWNER, CINCINNATI BENGALS: We knew him in a different way than his public persona. It is a terrible tragedy that, just at the time when he was running to daylight, if you will, his life was snuffed out.


TATTON: Wolf, that is the way that fans and the teammates are reacting online. This is just someone that everyone was rooting for -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a story, a sad story, indeed, sad that it ends this way.

Abbi, thank you.

Let's get back to the breaking news we are following here in THE SITUATION ROOM, what is happening in Pakistan. What we know for sure is that the Pakistani defense minister is being detained at the airport not allowed to leave the country. He was supposed to make an official visit to China.

Nic Robertson is here. He's been digging into this story.

What are you learning, Nic?

ROBERTSON: Wolf, I talked with Pakistan's high commissioner to London, their ambassador there. And he tells me it's not just the defense minister. There are 278 people, government officials and government ministers, who have been put on this exit control list.

The supreme court made this decision yesterday, and this is the first indication we have seen of how it is playing out, that the defense minister was not allowed to leave the country. So there are many other ministers and government officials that are caught up in this.

I asked the high commissioner what he thinks this means. He believes and he's concerned and he used the word worried that he thinks the supreme court may be acting under the influence of the military in Pakistan, though he says right now the supreme court says they are supporting the government, but he says their actions don't seem to indicate that. And he is at this moment a concerned man about what is happening in Pakistan.

BLITZER: We are going to stay on top of this and see how it plays out with the president, Asif Ali Zardari, who has been close to the U.S., see what happens on this front, lots at stake, given the nuclear arsenal, the role that Pakistan plays in the war against al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Stand by.

Meanwhile, no end in sight to one father's agony. In that international custody fight, David Goldman went to Brazil thinking perhaps he would be coming home in the coming days with his son, but a court now, the supreme court in Brazil, stopping that. David Goldman speaking to CNN, that's coming up.


BLITZER: Happening now: Five years later, a father travels to Brazil believing he will be bringing his son home at last, but once more hopes are dashed. CNN's Brian Todd has this gut-wrenching story.

Turmoil today on the Senate floor, as two senators butt heads. We are going to tell you what got Senators Al Franken and Joe Lieberman so testy with each other.

And another Democratic wrinkle in the health care reform bill. Senator Ben Nelson takes a stand on abortion funding.

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

A long flight to Rio de Janeiro, and then big disappointment for a New Jersey father who thought this time he would be bringing his son home. David Goldman has been fighting for custody of 9-year-old Sean Goldman for five years.

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us now with the latest on this heart- wrenching international custody case.

Brian, what is going on?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, just hours ago, Brazil's supreme court halted the return to David Goldman's son to him. This was just hours after Goldman had arrived in Brazil from New Jersey hoping to take the boy home for the holidays.

Just yesterday, a lower court in Brazil had upheld a previous ruling which ordered 9-year-old Sean Goldman returned to his father. Now, this case began in 2004, when Goldman's wife took the boy on what was to be a vacation to Brazil. She never returned. She remarried and retained custody of him there. The mother has since died, but the boy's Brazilian relatives have fought David Goldman for custody, saying that he, the boy, would be traumatized if he returns to the U.S.

Now, just a short time ago, during a telephone interview on THE SITUATION ROOM, it was David Goldman who seemed traumatized by this ruling.


DAVID GOLDMAN, GRANTED CUSTODY OF SON: I, really, in my heart of hearts, can't imagine that Brazil wants to be viewed as a country that can take a child, keep him away from a parent, and try to turn him against that parent, and then demand the child speak that only a young, tender vulnerable and psychologically abused age of 9.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TODD: It is not clear now whether the high court's ruling is a permanent order or if the boy is being ordered to stay during the appeals process. Now David Goldman's congressman from New Jersey, Chris Smith, is with him in Brazil. Smith told Wolf just a short time ago they want to appeal this case before the entire Brazilian Supreme Court.

Smith suggested the justice who made this ruling has done this before, and Wolf, as you heard him imply, that that justice may have some bias in this case.

BLITZER: Has the little boy, Sean, who's 9 years old -- he was 4 years when his mother took him to Brazil. Has he stated his preference what he wants?

TODD: David Goldman has said that the boy has testified or at least has spoken to court-appointed psychologists saying that he wants to return to the United States, but the boy's maternal grandmother has told the Associated Press that he wants to stay in brazil, so this case is -- you know, gets -- at least for public consumption gets even more confusing.

BLITZER: It is a heart wrenching story no matter what you think.

All right, thanks very much, Brian, for that.

Right now along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the United States is pursuing fighters so hard they won't stop fighting. One tactic for this dangerous area, using pilotless planes.

Today at least 15 people were killed in drone attacks in Afghanistan's border region. A local official says the first strike killed two suspected militants. Intelligence officials say a second strike killed 13 people.

Meanwhile, we're learning that video used by these drones to track insurgents was hacked, hacked by insurgents.

CNN's Elaine Quijano is watching the story for us over at the Pentagon.

Elaine, explain what's going on.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, U.S. officials confirmed that there was a security breach of live video feeds from drones flying over Iraq.

Now all it really took was some inexpensive software that anyone can download off of the Internet.


QUIJANO (voice-over): The software in question cost as little as $25.95 made by a Russian company the SkyGrabber program allows the users to take advantage of unprotected communications links. And as the "Wall Street Journal" first report and an official confirmed to CNN, insurgents used the program to intercept live feeds from U.S. military predator drones monitoring targets in Iraq.

ALAN PALLER, RESEARCH DIRECTOR, SANS INSTITUTE: What was surprising was that the military computers, the military drones weren't using hardened technology.

QUIJANO: A senior Defense official did not deny the breach, but insists the problem is an old issue for the military, one that's been addressed and fixed. Yet another official said this is sometimes a risk the military is willing to take because encrypting slows down the real-time video feed when multiple people need to watch simultaneously.

Still, one expect says this is exactly what happened in Bosnia years ago and should never have happened in Iraq.

P.W. SINGER, AUTHOR, "WIRED FOR WAR": We assumed that our enemies would be dumb. We assumed they wouldn't catch up to our technology. We assumed because they were in a place like Iraq or Afghanistan, they couldn't pull it off? Well, what happens when you assume?

QUIJANO: In fact a 2005 CIA report notes Saddam Hussein was suspected to be doing the same -- monitoring the U.S. installations after Iraqi hackers located and downloaded the unencrypted satellite feed from military drones.

As for these latest breaches, a U.S. official says no American troops or combat missions were compromised, but P.W. Singer, author of "Wired for War," says the breach should serve as a wakeup call.

SINGER: There are other potential adversaries out there that have much, much bigger budgets, certain large nation states, and the kinds of things they're going to do make this look silly.


QUIJANO: Now one of the highest profile uses of drones has been in Pakistan where they've been used to hit al Qaeda and Taliban targets on that side of the border. Now informed sources tell CNN that those drones are not vulnerable to this software, because those drones do have the latest encryption technology and they are used in a much more limited capacity than the military drones. Wolf?

BLITZER: Elaine Quijano is working that story at the Pentagon.

Other stories we're following, major measures passed by the House but stalled in the Senate. The holdup some on the House side are finding increasingly frustrating.

Let's bring in our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, to explain what's going on here. Jessica?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, how bad is the squabbling in Congress among Democrats, between the House and the Senate? Well, the good news is not this bad. That's Taiwan. Here in the U.S., Democrats who control Congress aren't throwing fists, thank goodness, and they agreed upon enough to pass the following bills this year. A stimulus bill, as we all know, credit card reform act to help consumers, a law that ends pay discrimination against women, some help for distressed homeowners, and temporary assistance for the unemployed are among some of the accomplishments that have come out of Congress.

But on plenty of the biggest ticket items, Congress is just kicking the can down the road, largely because the Democrats can't agree, so they're putting big issues off to another day.

Here's a quick review of some of the measures that the House of Representatives which just went home for the holidays has either passed or vows to pass in the new year, but the Senate is nowhere near taking up.

OK. The House passed a $150 billion job creation bill. The Senate, eh, they'll deal with it later. The House passed financial reform. The Senate, your turn. There is the climate bill, the House passed that long ago. Hello, Senate?

Parts of the Patriot Act, that's always a lively fight. The House extended the current law until February 28th. The Senate will get it to later. There's immigration reform, now both Houses are planning to take that one up next year.

And the huge one, the debt limit. What's this? It's the amount the U.S. can borrow. Congress has to approve an increase because we're spending so much money that this is an explosive issue, so rather than take it on now, the House passed a temporary increase leaving the big debate for next year.

As Scarlet O'Hara liked to say, "Tomorrow is another day." And the House of Representatives is waiting and waiting and waiting on tomorrow for the Senate to act. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes, they might have to wait for a while. How frustrated are the House Democrats that they've been working so hard and they've kept waiting, shall we say, by the Senate?

YELLIN: Yes, well, you hit the nail on the head. The majority whip in the House, Congressman Clyburn, actually, expressed a little bit of the frustration that some on the House side seems to be feeling with their brethren in the Senate. Let's listen.


REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC), MAJORITY WHIP: We've created momentum to get this thing going over to the Senate. Now all of a sudden people are acting as if the Senate happens to be the only game in town. The Senate is not the only game in town.


YELLIN: Now he was talking specifically about health care reform, but that could apply to a slew of issues. Again, a lot of frustration between the House and the Senate, a lot of disagreements among Democrats. At least they're not throwing fists like in Taiwan. Wolf?

BLITZER: At least that's the good news. Thank you very much.

The framers of the Constitution, by the way, wanted it that way. Fast action relatively speaking in the House, slow things down in the Senate. That's the way they wrote the Constitution.

Meanwhile, it's the billion-dollar question. Are U.S. contractors in Afghanistan spending your tax dollars wisely? Details of questionable charges and a Pentagon audit.


BLITZER: Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Fred, what's going on?

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, again, Wolf. Hello, everyone.

Well, the centerpiece of an ambitious underwater museum planned by Egypt, this nine-ton peace of granite, was lifted out of the Mediterranean sea today off Alexandria. The stone was originally part of a temple entrance in an ancient Cleopatra era city believed to have been sunken by earthquakes.

And a rod turns into a river in a Baltimore neighborhood. Water gushed for hours there after a massive water main break. Cars were partially submerged and a number of residents have been unable to return to their homes as you there. Officials say the main broke probably due to age.

And residents of an Oceanside apartment complex in northern California were ordered to evacuate today. Authorities say erosion has put their cliff-top homes in danger of sliding into the Pacific Ocean, as you there. Chunks of the cliff fell into the ocean and official say just 10 feet is left between the 12-unit building and the cliff's edge.

And a breakthrough for scientists, thanks to a submersible robot. For the first time they have watched a deep sea volcano erupt. We could see the molten lava 4,000 feet beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean near Samoa. The images could shed new light on how the ocean's crust was actually formed.

Pretty fascinating stuff, especially when we get to see the images, Wolf, whatever images we are able to see.

BLITZER: Well, we'll look for them. Thanks very much, Fred, for that.

The health care reform debate falling into turmoil and partisan tension.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I must say that I don't know what's happening here in this body, but I think that it's wrong.


BLITZER: Can efforts to overhaul the health care system be saved? The best political team on television is standing by.


BLITZER: I just want to clarify what's going on over the past hour since our exclusive interview with the Pakistani ambassador here in the United States, Hussain Haqqani. CNN has been doing a lot of reporting chasing down what is going on in Pakistan down to the fact that the Pakistani defense minister has been detained.

He is not being allowed to leave the country right now, but we have no evidence that a coup is actually under way in the country. The defense minister, as I said, has been kept from leaving because officials there say he's under investigation for potential corruption.

You heard Nic Robertson report that just a little while ago.

CNN wants to make clear that we have no hard evidence that a coup is occurring in Pakistan right now. We will continue to monitor this situation, what is going on with the defense minister, and other officials who are being prevented from traveling outside the country because of allegations of corruption.

Arwa Damon is our correspondent in Islamabad. She's joining us now with more, some perspective, Arwa, on what is going on.

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. And what you mentioned there with the defense minister being barred from leaving, what we are hearing or being reported on local media is that he was on an official trip to China. He is however on a list that was released by the National Accountability Bureau of individuals who benefited from the NRO.

The NRO is the National Reconciliation Ordinance, and it was that ruling that was put into effect by former president, Pervez Musharraf, that on Wednesday the Supreme Court here declared illegal. It was basically an amnesty order that protected thousands of politicians and bureaucrats accused of anything from murder to abuse of power to corruption, from being brought into the courts from having these charges brought back up against them.

What we are hearing on the ground here is that these are unprecedented historic times for Pakistan because it's the first time that the judiciary is able to stand independent of the government and that the people here are finally getting the type of accountability that they have been looking for ever since this ruling was passed back in 2007. At the time, the NRO enraged ordinary Pakistanis because they said that it was protecting the country's elite while it was the poor that suffered the consequences.

A bit of context about what this NRO exactly is. Well, as we were saying, it was passed by former President Pervez Musharraf and was widely believed to be a result of a deal brokered between him and the late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Among those it protected were also Miss Bhutto and Pakistan's current president, Asif ali Zardari, both of whom face charges of corruption. Zardari, of course, was Benazir Bhutto's husband.

Now what this does do and it is important to point out here that Zardari at this stage does retain his immunity as president, but many of his senior members within his current government could be forced to step down as these cases against them are reopened. And it also paves the way for the opposition which is already calling for President Zardari to step down to challenge his immunity and also to challenge his eligibility to run this country -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Some good perspective from Arwa Damon in Islamabad.

Once again, no -- we have no hard evidence of any coup under way, although we are reporting that the Pakistani defense minister is being barred from leaving the country. He was supposed to go to China on an official visit, being barred because of allegations of corruption.

We'll stay on top of this story for you, but let's move on to some other important news we're following including efforts to get a health care reform package passed by the United States Senate.

Let's bring in our best political team on television, CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger is here. Our senior political contributor, Bill Bennett, host of the conservative national radio talk show, "Morning in America," Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor, Donna Brazile, and our CNN senior political analyst, David Gergen.

Let me play a little clip of what happened on the Senate floor just a little while ago.


SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: The senator has spoken for 10 minutes.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: I wonder if I could ask unanimous consent for just an additional moment.

FRANKEN: In my capacity as senator from Minnesota, I object.

LIEBERMAN: Really? OK. Don't take it personally.

MCCAIN: I just saw, I've been around here 20-some years, first time I have ever seen a member denied an extra minute or two to finish his remarks. And I must say that I don't know what is happening here in this body, but I think it is wrong.


BLITZER: All right. That is a pretty serious exchange, David Gergen. Al Franken, the junior senator from Minnesota, denying Joe Lieberman the right to speak for another minute or two, and you heard what John McCain said.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, John McCain is scolding him, scolding Al Franken. I think that Al Franken went beyond the traditions of the Senate. There is normally -- it is a club after all in the eyes of the traditionalists, and this is very personal.

Joe Lieberman said I don't take it personally, but in fact, it was intended to be personal, and I think it reflects the frustration, the anger, the boiling resentments, and a sense among many in the Senate that maybe this thing is going to slip away from them.

They are in a situation right -- I don't know what Donna things about this, but I think the growing sense is that Harry Reid's commitment, vow to get this passed the Senate before Christmas is in serious jeopardy.

BORGER: I think it looks largely personal, but Majority Leader Harry Reid spokesman told one of our producers at CNN that actually, Al Franken was just following orders that Harry Reid just really wanted to enforced. Very strict time limits on everybody because they need to get through this. They needed to get through this debate.

Now, John McCain did come on the floor and react that way because that isn't usually the case in the Senate, as you know, David. Time limits are not usually strictly enforced, but they're saying this is just part of the process to get this debate moving.

GERGEN: You do agree that there's an awful lot of boiling resentment.

BORGER: I do. Absolutely. Totally, totally, and that's one of the reasons I bet John McCain rushed the floor, right?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I want to say this because I know both Al Franken and Joe Lieberman, and I don't believe that this was a matter of Senator Franken being personal. He was instructed to keep all the speakers to 10 minutes and he was just following the instructions.

Earlier in the day, Wolf, he cut off someone else. So he was -- there's no time for any use requests and they're working around the clock, which is also unusual for the United States Senate, which they were staying longer. But this was really just Al Franken following the rules.

BILL BENNETT, HOST, MORNING IN AMERICA: Nerves are getting frayed and getting unraveled up there. This is -- there's such a thing as comedi (ph). This is a breach of comedi. Tough week for the Liebermans, by the way. Mrs. Lieberman as well as Senator Lieberman. And he was very surprised, you could see in his reaction. It shouldn't happen. He asked for a moment. A moment. Not five minutes. A moment.

BORGER: I think everything that happens can be misconstrued on the floor of the Senate right now. It's just a very, very tense environment as everyone is saying and whether it was intentioned one way or another, it was certainly taken in a bad sense.

GERGEN: I think the larger picture, though, is here, whether in fact they can get this bill done or not.


GERGEN: And right now I don't quite understand the -- all of the underlying play here. But the fact that every day of delay, and if this thing goes beyond Christmas, it could really jeopardize the bill.

BLITZER: Guys, stand by because we're going to watch it, the clock is ticking.


BLITZER: Towards Christmas, and the U.S. Senate trying to get some action.

John Cafferty and the "Cafferty File" are next. Should cell phone stores have to post radiation levels? Jack standing by with your e-mails.


BLITZER: Checking with Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack?

CAFFERTY: The question this hour: Should cell phone stores have to post-radiation levels?

Michael in Fort Hood, Texas, he's a soldier at Fort Hood: "I think not only should there be a warning about cell phone radiation but also a warning that cell phone use leads to IQ deficiency. As a soldier, I am more concerned about being killed by an idiot texting going 75 miles an hour or trying to drive with his feet than any threat on IED could ever pose."

Kenny in California: "The cell phone has become an economic giant. He who tells the truths about radiation so close to one's brain over an extended period will be rendered a severe smiting by the colossus of wireless telecommunications. Most knowing scientists would rather hang up on the subject."

Kevin in Washington: "An as electrical engineer, I would call the entire scare over cell phone radiation nonsense. The microwaves put out by cell phones are less than a quarter millionth of the wavelength of ultraviolet radiation. The lowest frequency of electromagnet energy that can ionize cells thus corrupting their DNA. I wish people crying wolf about cell phones would simply take physics 101." Jordana writes from Amherst, Massachusetts: "I'm an elementary school principal. Children's usage of cell phones needs to be considered. If we don't start by notifying the public of some potential risks, we'll have an entire generation that has not been protected."

Tom in Texas writes: "California once again leading the nation in nuttiness. The carcinogenic plasticizers in cell phone cases are likely to be more dangerous."

Monte in Boston writes: "My old roommate represented a cell phone company in a lawsuit alleging a link between phone use and cancer. And while she never divulged any privileged information, she did start using an earphone device pretty thereafter, and that was enough for me."

Matthew in Orange, California writes: "Yes, they should. I'm an idiot and I should be informed of things that are obvious to people of intelligence. Please hold my hand."

If you want to read more on the subject, check my blog. You'll find it at

BLITZER: And we always do want to read more and we will, Jack. See you tomorrow. Thank you.

We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Here's a look at some "Hot Shots." In Romania, a child looks at the grave of a fighter. In Madrid, a taxi driver holds a Spanish flag in protest. In Slovenia, American Tim Burke competes in the World Cup Triathlon. And in France, Santa Claus poses with a killer whale.

Some of our "Hot Shots" this hour.

Just want to update you on what we know what's going on in Pakistan right now. U.S. officials are telling us they have no evidence of a coup under way in Pakistan, although we do know that the Pakistani defense minister has been detained at the airport. Not allowed to leave extensibly because of corruption charges.

We'll stay on top of this story. In the meantime, I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Up next, "CNN TONIGHT."