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President Obama Announces New Nuclear Reactors; Hamas Official Killed

Aired February 16, 2010 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, investigators are using surveillance tapes to retrace the killers' killing and cunning and deadly operation. Stand by.

President Obama announcing billions of dollars to build the first nuclear reactors in the United States in more than a generation, even as the political battle over nuclear waste heats up.

And a simulated cyber-attack on the United States. Power grids collapse, as the government scrambles to respond. I was there and I was extremely disturbed by what I saw. You probably will be as well.

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

A big victory today for forces battling to take back a key Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan. U.S. Marines seized police headquarters in the center of Marjah, a main objective of NATO's operation now in its fourth day. The Marjah offensive is the largest since the start of the Afghan war back in 2001.

CNN's Atia Abawi is embedded right in the middle with all of those Marines. Their mission is not just to reclaim the town, but also the hearts and minds of its people.


ATIA ABAWI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Roaming the empty streets of Marjah, the U.S. Marines from Unit 1-6's Alpha Company are keeping a watchful eye over the city from Loya Chareh (ph) bazaar.

Some of them believe the Taliban are just hiding, waiting for opportunity to launch attacks. But the Marines say that, for the Taliban, time is running out.

SGT. JOHN TRICKLER, U.S. MARINE CORPS: Once the people are on our side, they have no longer have a place the hide. The kinetic fighting will done, and then it will just be us with the local nationals and all the Afghans trying to join together to make a team.

ABAWI: Right now, very few locals are coming out to join that team. Some fled Marjah before the offensive. Others are staying indoors.

(on camera): The city of Marjah still looks like a ghost town on day four of Operation Moshtarak. The civilians are still encouraged to stay inside their home.

And, so far, it's been a fairly quiet day when it comes to fighting compared to the last few days, but it is suspected the Taliban are biding their time, assessing the movement of the Marines, and it is expected that they will launch some sort of attack hoping to disable the progress of the U.S. troops.


ABAWI (voice-over): A morning lull ended with more sporadic and intense fighting, at one point a 15-minute engagement with incoming fire from several parts of the city. The commanding general says the job's not done yet.

BRIG. GEN. LARRY NICHOLSON, U.S. MARINE CORPS: We are moving in the right direction. Like I say, there's a lot of heavy lifting to do and there's a lot of surprises ahead that we are not even anticipating, I'm sure. So there's nobody dancing in the end zone right now, I can tell you that, but I like where we are at.

ABAWI: And so do some Afghans. "The Taliban never helped us," Abdul Mukim says. "They won't and they can't help us. Instead, they take from us."

Abdul Mukim's property was damaged by the initial military push. He has been promised compensation. And he is glad the Americans are here. He remembers USAID building the canals in Marjah 40 years ago that turned this area into rich agricultural land.

"I am glad the Americans came back," he says. "They built these places in Helmand, but then they left us. They left us when we were being demolished by the Soviets."

Today, Abdul Mukim prays that the battle for Marjah will bring a great change in his life and a better future for Afghanistan. This time, he says, he wants America to stay.

But, first, the U.S. Marines have to drive away others who don't want America to stay and have not yet given up the fight in Marjah.

Atia Abawi, CNN, Marjah, Afghanistan.


BLITZER: Another big story we are following today, nuclear power. The last time a nuclear power plant was built here in the United States, President Obama was still in college. Now he is announcing more than $8 billion in loan guarantees to build two new nuclear reactors in Georgia. He says it will create 3,500 construction jobs, 850 permanent jobs and help the environment.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Even though we've not broken ground on a new power plant, new nuclear power plant in 30 years, nuclear energy remains our largest source of fuel that produces no carbon emissions.

To meet our growing energy needs and prevent the worst consequences of climate change, we'll need to increase our supply the nuclear power. It's that simple.

This one plant, for example, will cut carbon pollution by 16 million tons each year when compared to a similar coal plant. That's like taking 3.5 million cars off the road.


BLITZER: But nuclear power produces nuclear waste. That's a controversial and politically-charged issue.

Let's walk over to CNN's Brian Todd. He is working this part of the story.

All right, Brian, explain to us, because if you want to build nuclear power plants, you got to have someplace to put the waste.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You got to have someplace to put the waste.

Wolf, there are more than 100 nuclear power plants, commercial nuclear power plants, across the United States, most of them concentrated on the Eastern Seaboard. Now, that one site that President Obama announced funding for is actually going to expand an existing nuclear facility near Augusta, Georgia, this facility run by the Southern Company. It's called the Vogtle nuclear power plant.

These two new reactors that President Obama talked about today are going to be on this facility.

Now, what about nuclear waste? Because there are -- there is no centralized site at -- for nuclear wastes in the United States, nuclear waste is kept at more than 120 nuclear storage sites across the United States.

Those nuclear power plants have those, and in addition, they're stored at some other facilities. Nuclear waste storage, though, Wolf, is where the nuclear power issue overall gets even hotter.


TODD (voice-over): Some 70,000 metric tons of nuclear waste stored in so-called casks of steel, concrete and lead at more than 100 commercial nuclear power plants across the U.S. and other locations, 200,000 tons added to the pile every year.

U.S. officials say the spent fuel can be safely stored in these containers for 90 years, but that is storage, not disposal. And it is the disposal problem that has got some in the industry worried.

(on camera): If the nuclear fuel is safe at the sites where it is stored now and if it can be safe almost indefinitely, why do you need a nuclear repository?

JACK EDLOW, PRESIDENT, EDLOW INTERNATIONAL: You ultimately need a nuclear repository, because just like all wastes in a society, we have to put them someplace. We deal with biological waste. We deal with chemical waste. We deal with trash, everyday trash.

TODD (voice-over): Jack Edlow runs a company that transports nuclear material. He is against President Obama's decision to cut funding for the Yucca Mountain project in Nevada. That was supposed to be the nation's underground storage facility for nuclear waste. Why did the president pull the plug?

South Carolina's Republican governor, Mark Sanford, accuses Mr. Obama of what he calls a Chicago-style political payoff to Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Reid is from Nevada, where Yucca Mountain is located, and he is in a tough reelection battle.

GOV. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It is the Obama administration's choice in this instance, based on an election outcome that they might fear in Nevada to make this decision.

TODD: Sanford has political motivation, too. His state ranks third in the country in the amount of nuclear waste stored.

Contacted by CNN, an Obama administration official emphatically denied this is political, saying the president has always been against Yucca Mountain. The White House official says there have been mounting cost overruns for the project and serious concerns about its scientific viability and the security of transporting nuclear fuel to Yucca Mountain from all the commercial nuclear power plants across the country.

An aide to Senator Reid also denied political motivations. He cites Reid's own concerns about costs and security for Yucca Mountain.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: Leave it on site, where it is,. You don't have to worry about transporting it. It saves the country billions and billions of dollars.

TODD: In place of Yucca Mountain, the president has appointed a blue-ribbon panel to study alternatives. The Nuclear Energy Institute, a lobbying group for the industry, is against the decision to cut the Yucca Mountain project, but does support the president's new panel.

ALEX FLINT, NUCLEAR ENERGY INSTITUTE: There are significant developments over the last several decades that can be taken into consideration. France has gone forward with recycling their spent nuclear fuel. They're having a lot of success with that program.


TODD: But one industry executive points out the United States has other types of spent nuclear fuel that cannot be so easily recycled from places like Naval facilities, where they process fuel for nuclear-powered ships and submarines, Wolf. He said that is not so easily recycled as commercial nuclear fuel.

BLITZER: If nuclear waste is stored, is put in a mountain, under a mountain, if you will, what happens to it?


TODD: Well, Jack Edlow says it is kept in a safe storage area and then it kind of naturally decays to its original natural state. That takes hundreds of years, he says, but he says that, really, the underground storage facilities are the safest place, and we have got to figure out a way to put them in something like that in the future.

BLITZER: It's a big question mark, but maybe a blue-ribbon commission panel will come up with a new answer.

TODD: Could be, absolutely.


BLITZER: Thanks very much for that, Brian.

Jack Cafferty has "The Cafferty File" in just a moment.

Also, a simulated cyber-attack so real, it even had its own newscast.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Up to 20 million and counting of the nation's cell phones have stopped working so far today in what officials claim is the largest communications crisis in the cell phone era.


BLITZER: It is called Cyber Shockwave. I was there and what I saw was truly frightening.

Also, a team of assassins take out a top Hamas official inside a luxury hotel in Dubai. We retrace the killers' intricate operation.

Plus, we're learning more about that Alabama University professor accused of gunning down three colleagues, including an alleged armed standoff with police after her brother's shooting death decades ago.


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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Something, Wolf, it would seem, is very wrong when a 94-year-old man dies on death row.

The oldest inmate in the United States on death row died of natural causes in Arizona, according to the state's Department of Corrections. A lawyer for Viva Leroy Nash says the man had been imprisoned almost his entire life, since he was 15 years old. Here's a little bit of his rap sheet. He was sent to prison as far back as 1930 for an armed robbery. He served time for shooting and wounding a police officer. He was sentenced to two life sentences for a robbery and a murder. He later escaped from prison, went on to kill again, later was convicted of first-degree murder, armed robbery, aggravated assault and theft. What a guy.

Nash was sentenced to death in 1983. That's 27 years ago, during which time he filed several unsuccessful appeals. Nash's lawyer says the inmate was deaf, mostly blind, had dementia, and was confined to a wheelchair. The lawyer insists Nash was mentally ill for decades, which should have kept him off death row.

Imagine how what this has cost the American taxpayer. It's estimated that death row inmates typically spend more than a decade awaiting execution, with some prisoners, like Nash, remaining on death row for 20 years and even more.

What's more, the population on death row is aging, in part because of how long the appeals process takes. Some experts question the constitutionality of the extra punishment of holding these inmates on death row for such extended periods of time.

So, here's the question: What does it say about our criminal justice system when a 94-year-old man dies of natural causes on death row?

Go to and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, thank you.

A first-of-its-kind war game, a simulated cyber-attack on the United States, and the government responds to crisis playing out in real time.

Earlier today in Washington, I moderated the event dubbed Cyber Shockwave. What I saw was frightening.

Our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, was also there.

Jeanne, tell us our viewers what unfolded?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, the game was sponsored, first of all, by a group called the Bipartisan Policy Center. It simulated a massive cyber-attack on the United States. Former government and business leaders played the parts of top officials. There was a fake news channel.

The scenario was entirely fictional, but the issues could not be more real.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Up to 20 million and counting of the nation's cell phones have stopped working so far today in what officials claim is the largest communications crisis in the cell phone era.

MESERVE (voice-over): The reason? A cyber-attack. As government officials convene, there is one overarching question.

FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Is this an act of war, not a criminal act?

MESERVE: The infected smartphones show a video of the Red Army, raising speculation the Russians are behind the attack. Meanwhile, the crisis expands.

STEPHEN FRIEDMAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: Incidents of identity theft and online financial fraud have increased dramatically.

MESERVE: Officials discuss the possibility of shutting down the infected smartphones, but government can't do it.

STEWART BAKER, ROLE PLAYER: I'm actually shocked to hear that we don't have this authority. If this was someone with smallpox wandering through the Super Bowl, we would have the authority to quarantine them.

MESERVE: Can the military assist? What powers does the president have?

JAMIE GORELICK, FORMER 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER: We are operating in a bit of unchartered territory, as you know.

MESERVE: The attack is traced to a server in Russia. If the U.S. shuts it down, will the Russians see it as an act of war? And is Russia really behind the attack? Then more grim news: The Internet is infected, the power grid impacted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are also now receiving alarming reports of significant and growing power outages in major metropolitan areas in the eastern half of the United States.

MESERVE: There is discussion of nationalizing the power grid or mobilizing the National Guard to protect it.

BENNETT JOHNSTON, ROLE PLAYER: But keep in mind, there are 160,000 miles of transmission lines. You cannot guard every mile of that.

MESERVE: And the cyber-attack goes on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And in corporate boardrooms and I.T. centers across the country, our nation's leaders are wondering if their networks are really secure and if this crisis might indeed spread into their systems.


MESERVE: The questions raised by the exercise involve vulnerabilities, roles and responsibilities, the legal authorities, private-sector cooperation, public messaging, political fallout, military retaliation, defensive capabilities.

And none of them had simple answers, but the goal of the exercise is to put the issues on the table for discussion and perhaps resolution before there is a real and massive cyber-attack -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And that was a useful exercise they did in that regard.

Let's bring in our homeland security adviser, Fran Townsend. She's our analyst.

You played the secretary of homeland security in this war game today. Were you as surprised as I was at how unprepared the United States government is right now in dealing with this kind of cyber- attack?

TOWNSEND: You know, Wolf, I was not all that surprised.

One, I think we have to be clear, a lot of progress has been made. In the prior administration, we began the process of securing the and domains. And to know that there are vulnerabilities in the dot-com domains is really very important -- 85 percent of the critical infrastructure in this country is in the hands in the private sector.

And, so, the exercise was really not meant to scare people, but to highlight the vulnerabilities, so that there can be a public discussion about how best to balance security vs. privacy.

BLITZER: Was this a realistic -- Jeanne, you were there -- a realistic enactment of how the U.S. government would react to a crisis? All of the sudden, the cell phones go down and the power grids start going down. They don't know who did it. They have got some clues here and there.

What did you think?

MESERVE: Well, I tell you that I have spoken to some people in the administration who emphasized that these were former officials who were playing this game, people who have been out of government, most of them for at least a year.

They are claiming that progress has been made in this interim period, and they feel that some parts of the game at least did not reflect reality. However, as we all know, some of these issues transcend government. They are about international relationships, the private sector. Those things still obviously had a lot of work.

BLITZER: Yes. Well, you had John Negroponte, the former director of national intelligence, John McLaughlin, a former acting director of the CIA, Michael Chertoff, the former secretary of homeland security.

These are guys who were in the government not that long ago, who know what is going on.

TOWNSEND: That is right, Wolf. And that is why I started by saying there has been some progress made both in the prior administration and in this administration.

But there are big questions, legal authorities and retaliation. We have no declaratory policy if we were cyber-attacked in this country. And we need one. We need to understand what the role of the private sector will be.

For example, telecommunications companies, if there is net neutrality, will that go -- will we switch that off to have them assist the government in the time of a cyber-attack? Those questions have not changed and have not been answered. And they need to be.

And there were Democrats and Republicans who sat for this exercise. And it was really important. This was not a gotcha game. This was based on our experience. These are the outstanding questions that need to be answered.

BLITZER: Yes, Jamie Gorelick, a member of the 9/11 Commission, a former deputy attorney general.

These were people who know what is going on in the government. And I can only tell you, as someone who sat through the two hours or whatever it was, it was pretty scary when you think about it, because you didn't know if it was al Qaeda, you didn't know if it was a government like Russia or China, or just a bunch of guys with pajamas on in the basement.

MESERVE: That is reflective of the real world.


MESERVE: And attribution is a really big problem.

BLITZER: All right. I found it all fascinating, also scary.

I want to give -- tell our viewers they're going to be able to see in its -- basically in its entirety. "Cyber Shockwave," it airs this weekend here on CNN, a CNN special, Saturday and Sunday nights, 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

I think you will want to see it, because it is an important, important subject.

A top Hamas official is killed inside a luxury hotel by a team of assassins in an intricate and deadly operation. What the surveillance tapes reveal -- stand by. We have them.

Plus, the question about Sarah Palin that made Hillary Clinton laugh out loud. We are going to show you her response.



BLITZER: Political intrigue and an assassination plot all unfolding inside this luxury hotel. Now international arrest warrants are out for a highly-trained team of killers. And some major new developments in the case of that university professor accused of gunning down three colleagues. There is now new information just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.


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

Happening now: a key Taliban commander nabbed in Pakistan. He is reputed to be closely tied to Osama bin Laden. Could he point the way to the al Qaeda leader at last?

North Korea leader Kim Jong Il turned 68 today. But it is the country's oppression that has one Virginia's woman attention. The balloons she has launched into the communist North have nothing to do with the dear leader's birthday.

And an iReport you don't want to miss -- decades in making, it offers a fresh perspective on the day President Kennedy was assassinated.

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

International arrest warrants are now out for 11 people suspected in the assassination of a top Hamas official inside of a luxury hotel in Dubai.

CNN's Paula Hancocks has details of the hours leading up to the crime and the killers' intricate operation -- Paula.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they've been caught on camera and their pictures beamed across the world. The Dubai police still don't know who the alleged killers are and, more importantly, who paid them.


HANCOCKS (voice-over): Minute by minute, this is the lead-up to the Dubai assassination of one of the founding members of Hamas -- all captured on security cameras and released by the Emirates police.

Ten men and one woman, the alleged hit squad. Some check into the Al Bustan Rotana Hotel and await their target.

This is Mahmoud al-Mabhouh arriving at the hotel, where he will be killed just hours later. After checking in, the man Israeli security sources accuse of being a key link between Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas was followed by two alleged killers dressed in tennis gear, holding tennis racquets. The police say they were checking the number of his room, then they booked the room directly across the corridor.

Leaving the hotel for a couple of hours, al-Mabhouh was again tracked by different teams. Police believe the killers entered his room at 8:00 p.m. using an electronic device to gain entry.

al-Mabhouh went to his room at 8:25 p.m.. His body was not discovered until the next morning. Police say he appears to have suffered electric shocks and may have been suffocated.

These are the suspects -- all caught on camera, sparking an international manhunt. Six were on British passports, three carried Irish passports, one French and one German, say Dubai police.

But Irish and British police have said the names and passport numbers of their alleged nationals are fake. The other countries are checking.

At least four Israelis say they have the same names as the suspects, but deny any involvement and they say they are shocked their names have been used.

The question remains, who ordered the hit?

Hamas and al-Mabhouh's family in Gaza are convinced Israel's intelligence agency, Mossad, is behind the assassination.

Dubai police told the family there were signs of five or six electric shocks on his legs, behind his ears, on his genitals and over his heart. Blood on the pillow also led police to believe he was suffocated.

Israeli sources say al-Mabhouh was smuggling arms to Gaza, so an arms dealer has many enemies.

Dubai's police chief says whoever is responsible will be brought to justice. He says, "If a state starts acting like gangsters, their leaders will be treated like gangsters and they will be brought to justice, whoever and wherever they are."

But even with extensive security footage and photos of 11 of the alleged hit squad, so far no one has been arrested and their real identities may never be known.


HANCOCKS: Dubai police will now be hoping that Interpol will be able to identify some, if not all, of the alleged killers and, also, by publishing all of these photos, Dubai police are hoping that someone somewhere will recognize them -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Paula, for that.

Let's talk about this case with our CNN contributor, Tom Fuentes.

He's the former assistant director of the FBI.

What jumps out at you, because if you've been to Dubai, as I've been to Dubai, you know there are video cameras all over the place.

THOMAS V. FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Right. I think what jumps out at me is that the authorities there are desperate, that they have very little to go on. They're putting these pictures up internationally in the media, hoping someone can identify them. You know, we know about identity theft here in the United States and this is basically an identity theft times 11, with these subjects or -- you had all of the subjects traveling on, probably, fraudulent passports or passports that were stolen or identities that were stolen to obtain a fraudulent passport.

BLITZER: You -- you worked with Interpol over the years...

FUENTES: Yes, I did.

BLITZER: -- in your capacity at the FBI.

If you take a look at those pictures of those 11 -- of the 10 men and one woman, how difficult will it be to find these individuals?

FUENTES: Well, at first they were wearing disguises. So that -- that makes it more difficult. And we don't know how good the resolution is on all of the photographs to be able to identify them.

But it's not going to be Interpol, it's going to be Interpol publishing the pictures, along with the Dubai authorities, for people around the world that may recognize someone as an associate, a friend, a relative -- something, that they may come forward or clues from the theft of the identities. They'll go back to the authorities in each of the four countries that the passports were issued by and try to determine what documentation was furnished when they got those passports, you know, what did they use to convince the authorities of who they were to get those passports issued to them.

BLITZER: You heard the family -- the surviving family members accused the Israelis, the Mossad, of doing this.

Does this have the fingerprints, the technique, the style of the Mossad?

FUENTES: Well, it has the fingerprints of, you know, of basically an organized murder, whether it was done by, you know, a state sponsor such as Israel. It could have been another state sponsor. It could have been somebody he double-crossed. You know, he's not exactly in an honorable business, trafficking in weapons and arms like that.

So there's a number of enemies that he would have that could have set this up, not just the Israeli Mossad.

BLITZER: If you were still in the FBI -- and I assume you have colleagues at the FBI -- is this a case that would be of interest to them?

Would they be following up on this?

FUENTES: Sure. They would be get -- assisting the authorities. The FBI has an office...

BLITZER: The United Arab Emirates? FUENTES: Right. The FBI has an office in Abu Dhabi and -- and the legal attache from the FBI would be assisting, along with the other countries that they have relations with, along with Interpol. So there -- there will be an international effort to cooperate and work together to try to solve the case.

But, again, the fact that you have false or fraudulent passports being used, identities disguised, these people were out of town and they act -- don't have the actual passports, they just have the scanned copy when they came in and out through their immigration. So, it's a very difficult case and, as mentioned, it may never be solved. They may never know the true identity.

BLITZER: Tom, thanks very much for that.

FUENTES: Thank you.

BLITZER: Tom Fuentes helping us.

A University of Alabama professor faces capital murder charges in last week's shooting deaths of three colleagues. Now, there's startling new information about her brother's shooting death 23 years ago.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: All right. This is just coming in. Lots of movement today in the case of that University of Alabama professor accused of gunning down three colleagues on Friday.

There's new information about her brother's 1986 shooting death and it has major revelations.

CNN's Brooke Baldwin has been digging and digging deeper into this story for us -- all right, Brooke, what are you learning now?

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is a stunning development. Just in the last 15 minutes, we have learned here in Boston that was once a missing 33-page Braintree police report -- the report detailing, you just mentioned it -- that 1986 shooting involving then 19-year-old Amy Bishop Anderson and her brother, which was ruled an accident by state police.

They have now located those records. I have a copy of those records. I wish you could see this there. They're handwritten. The current Norfolk County District Attorney's office has reviewed the records and here's what they have found.

They have discovered that there would have been probable cause to not only have arrested Amy Bishop Anderson, but to have charged her with assault with a dangerous weapon, carrying a dangerous weapon, unlawful possession of ammunition. But they say the statute of limitations has run on all of those charges.

And if I may, just in the last couple of minutes, we've been reading this report. And it just gives a little bit of insight into what was happening at the point of the arrest. This is from one of these arresting officers.

Here's what he wrote: "Miss. Bishop seemed frightened, disoriented and confused, but she kept both of her hands on the shotgun at all times. While transporting Miss. Bishop back to the police station after giving her her Miranda rights, Miss. Bishop stated that she had an argument with her father earlier."

That is not in the state police report, which I have read, which was re-released Sunday, which is what the then police -- the chief of police, Braintree Police Chief John Polio had read just two days ago.

I sat down with him this morning to talk more. And it's all fortuitous that this is all coming out today, because he, this morning, sitting in his pajamas in his living room, was telling me, Brooke, look, I have questions now about this state police report.

Was it really an accident?

Was it, perhaps, stemming from an argument with her father?

And he also had questions about the release the day of her arrest.

Listen to just a snippet of that interview.


BALDWIN: We were told when she was arrested, it was sort of a standoff situation, guns drawn.

JOHN POLIO, FORMER BRAINTREE POLICE CHIEF: There were guns drawn. There were uniformed officers who did take her into custody to take her into custody, to bring her in for questioning. That did happen. I could understand why the officers were shook up if they were looking down the barrel of a shotgun.

BALDWIN: And then she was released?

POLIO: Well, she was released because after a conference between my detective, Captain Buker (ph), and the state police, when it was turned over to them, they came to the conclusion that the girl should be turned over to her mother and they would conduct their own investigation, but did not conduct that investigation until 10 days later.

BALDWIN: Do you regret having her released?

POLIO: No. No. Not at that point in time. In hindsight, if I had a crystal ball.

(END VIDEO TAPE) BALDWIN: One final note, Wolf, on the Alabama side of things. We have confirmed with the sheriff's department down there that Amy Bishop Anderson is now listed on suicide watch in a Huntsville jail tonight -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I know you're going to stay on top of this story for us.

Brooke, thank you.

Brooke is all over this story. And it's got a lot of different twists.

Guns flowing across the United States from states with lax laws into states with tougher laws -- we're about to take you inside what's called the "iron pipeline."


BLITZER: All right. New information just coming in right now about that hiker who fell into the Mount St. Helen's volcano crater.

CNN's Patrick Oppmann is there.

He's covering this rescue effort -- Patrick, what are we just learning now?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, after 24 hours of exhaustive and somewhat frustrating searching, a Navy rescue team managed to get into that crater and find Joseph Bohlig. However, it was not the end of the story that they wanted. Mr. Bohlig was dead. He's been transported now to the medical examiner's, where an autopsy will possibly tell whether he died in the fall or -- or survived overnight, as rescue teams tried to research him today.

But, again, Joseph Bohlig, a hiker who had gone pullout Mt. Saint Helen's over 70 times was found dead on this mountain after tragically falling down the curve -- down the -- into the crater after a -- a collapse yesterday.

BLITZER: Patrick Oppmann, with that sad news, reporting.

Thank you, Patrick, very much.

On the gun trail now in our part two of our series on legally obtained firearms falling into illegal hands. Many gun control advocates says it starts at gun stores in states like Georgia, where gun laws are weak.

CNN's Ed Lavandera spent a day with a dealer at one store on the so-called "iron pipeline" -- Ed.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, gun dealers often say they get a bad rap. But when it comes to keeping illegally trafficked guns off the streets, they're on the front lines.


LAVANDERA: Kayton Smith says you'd be surprised the stories gun buyers reveal.

KAYTON SMITH: What made you decide to buy a firearm?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you want to know the truth?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I left New York owing somebody a lot of money and eventually they are going to find me.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Better safe than sorry.


LAVANDERA: The buyer is a legal Russian immigrant. After calling the FBI's instant background check system, the sale is put on hold while the feds look deeper into his background.

KAYTON: OK, so they've got you on delay right now.

If you pull the trigger back, it fires.

LAVANDERA: Kayton Smith and Ricky Duffy run The Gun Shop in Savannah, Georgia. We spent a day with them watching dozens of customers come through The Gun Shop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you boys.



LAVANDERA: According to federal statistics, Georgia is the number one state for exported guns used in crimes across the country. Gun safety advocates say that's created what's known as the "iron pipeline" of illegal guns flowing north from places like Savannah, Georgia, often up Interstate 95 into Northeastern states with stricter gun laws. These states pumped almost 5,000 guns into this criminal pipeline in 2008.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a pattern that we've seen emerging where traffickers tend to buy guns in states with weak gun laws where it's easy for them and bring them back to states like Massachusetts, that have tougher gun laws, and resell these illegal guns on the street for a nice profit.

LAVANDERA: The first step, customers fill out a form declaring they're buying the gun, not someone else. Then Kayton Smith calls for an instant background check. The buyer is either approved, delayed or denied.

SMITH: Thank you very much.

LAVANDERA: That puts Smith and Duffy's Gun Shop on the front lines in the battle against straw purchasers -- people who pretend to buy guns for themselves then pass them onto someone who can't lawfully own a firearm.

Kayton Smith estimates the shop has sold about 4,000 guns in the last three years. In that same time, FBI background checks have denied sales to 83 people at his shop.

(on camera): Do you feel like you're -- you're under a lot of pressure to make sure that doesn't happen?

SMITH: Sure. We don't want to do anything wrong. We want the bad guys to get caught. We don't want to sell any guns to bad guys, ever.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): And about the Russian immigrant whose gun purchase was delayed by the FBI, a few days later, the handgun sale was approved and that's enough for Ricky Duffy. He feels confident the gun is in good hands.


LAVANDERA: Ricky Duffy believes that it's only 1 to 2 percent of all gun dealers that give the entire industry a bad name. He says the key to success is to have a good working relationship with ATF investigators. And the moment they spot something suspicious, to report it to them -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Lavandera, thanks very much, part of his series.

What does it say about the criminal justice system when a 94- year-old man dies of natural causes on death row?

That's Jack Cafferty's question this hour. Stand by. He'll read your e-mail when we come back.

And never before seen footage of the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

Stay with us.



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

CAFFERTY: It was kind of an amazing story.

What does it say about the criminal justice system when a 94- year-old man dies of natural causes on death row?

He'd been on death row for 27 years. Kevin writes: "This is hardly surprising to those of us involved in the criminal justice system. I'm a prosecutor. While the death penalty appeals to the primal eye for an eye instinct in all of us, the reality is, it costs far more to execute someone than it does to imprison them for life due to all the mandatory appeals that they get. After all, lawyers can't work for free and decades of appellate work means a lot of lawyers' fees."

Joe writes: "All inmates should be released from jail upon serving their sentence or reaching the age of 80, whichever comes first. Statistics show as the inmate's age goes up, his or her propensity to commit crime goes down."

Charles in Lawrence, New Jersey: "Capital punishment isn't politically correct no matter how conclusive the evidence, a result of Christian manipulation. But spending millions of dollars over decades to keep God's mistakes alive is. It provides jobs, especially in a state with a privatized prison system. Maybe it's time to make murder a federal instead of a state crime. Timothy McVeigh lived less than four years after being sentenced on federal charges."

Chris in Virginia writes: "Like it or not, Jack, our Constitution grants everyone a system of legal checks so we don't end up executing someone who is innocent. That takes time and a lot of money. Justice would be quicker and better served by our joining the rest of the civilized world and abandoning capital punishment. Life in prison with no possibility of parole is both cheaper and can be corrected should our legal system make a mistake."

Barry in Arizona, the state in question: "If DNA is available, the inmate should be put to death after one appeal."

Rich in Wisconsin: "It means the best business to be in right now is building and housing prisoners."

And Lorrie in Hartford, Vermont says: "It says they must have pretty good health care in the prisons. Maybe Congress should take a look at it."

If you want to read more on this subject, go to my blog at

And next hour, we're going to tell you about a 4-year-old crippled kid who was forced to remove his leg braces by some cretin at the TSA at some airport -- a heartbreaking story and just -- this will -- this will turn you red with anger. It's horrible.

BLITZER: All right. We'll look forward to it.


BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.

Jack Cafferty with The Cafferty File.

A top Taliban figure is captured in Pakistan -- could it be a major break in the hunt for bin Laden?

That's coming up at the top of the hour.


BLITZER: It's a runway model's biggest nightmare -- taking a topple.

CNN's Jeanne Moos has this Moost Unusual look at Fashion Week.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): If there's one thing that can bring a model to her knees, it's falling to her knees -- it's how New York kicked off Fashion Week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not once, but twice.

MOOS: Less than five seconds after Agnes Dean arose drew applause at the Fashion for Haiti Relief show, down she went again -- a perfect excuse to recall our favorite falls, to recall our favorite sprawls, from catching a heel in the pants to falling through the runway. Apparently unaware the center was only paper, someone ran to her rescue.

No one helped the time the great Naomi Campbell went down.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get a photo. Let's get a photo.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is wrong with people?


MOOS: Naomi made her fall into an insurance commercial.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because Naomi Campbell is smart.

MOOS: Jay Alexander teaches models how to walk and how not to. Carmen Electra demonstrated how not to -- then the lady running to her rescue followed in her footfalls.

Most of the time, you can blame the high heels.

(on camera): What we have here is a potential shoe emergency.

(voice-over): A beaded spat come undone could undo a model here at the Pamela Rollins Show. But the shoes here are tame compared to the late Alexander McQueen's.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you see the shoes for (INAUDIBLE)?

MOOS: Armadillo shoes, they were dubbed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And there were a couple of girls that wouldn't do the show because it's just too dangerous.

MOOS: After falling twice in seven inch heels at the show for Haiti Relief, what a relief. Take those heels off. We've seen Miss USAs fall twice in recent years.


MOOS: We've seen models conk their heads. We've seen a martial arts performer make a hole in the runway then watched the model who followed his act fall in.

But there's one classic...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love watching that guy.


MOOS: -- that leaves even the models chortling. Maybe it's the Washington, D.C. anchors...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She never quite recovered after that. There she goes again.


MOOS: -- preserved forever on YouTube, replaying and laughing.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You try walking in those shoes.


MOOS: Laughing and replaying.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want to hold this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold on. Hold on.


MOOS: Fashion can stagger more than just the imagination.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEO TAPE) BLITZER: Happening now, U.S. officials say it could be a turning point in the war in Afghanistan -- a top Taliban leader is now in custody. Some think he might have information about America's most wanted terrorist.