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Chile Digs Out; Supreme Court Examines Gun Law; The Latest on the Assassination in Dubai; Is It the Right Time To Leave Iraq?; Bomber's Shocking Last Words

Aired March 1, 2010 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, a desperate effort to find survivors after Chile's catastrophic earthquake. The death toll topped 700. Two million homes have been damaged or destroyed. We are on the scene of a rescue effort and we're with U.S. scientists right now who say this country is due for a massive earthquake as well. We're going to show you areas at risk.

New twists in the case of a top Hamas operative killed by an apparent hit team in Dubai. CNN learned two of the suspects later entered the United States.

And in one of Chicago's roughest neighborhoods, people are constantly looking around, fearing drive-by shootings. But now that city's handgun ban is headed to the United States Supreme Court.

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

Rescuers are looking for signs of life in the rubble, as Chile digs out of a catastrophic earthquake. Big-city high rises in ruins. Small towns are almost wiped off the map, the death toll as of right now, 723. Millions of people have been affected, losing power, losing communications, and losing their homes.

I want to show you some amateur video taken as the quake struck on Saturday. It shows the absolute terror felt by so many as the ground shook in the predawn darkness. Watch this and listen.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go cut the power.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. OK. Take it easy. We are together here now.



BLITZER: Wow. You can hear the terror in the screams.

Our special correspondent Soledad O'Brien is now in the hard-hit city of Concepcion, some 70 miles from the epicenter.

All right, Soledad, tell us what you're seeing, what you're an eyewitness to right now, especially the massive fire I understand that's still going.


People have been looting the supermarkets really throughout the day and then looting pretty much anything. And that's been a huge problem because a lot of the search-and-rescue (SPEAKING SPANISH), they're fire department members, which means, while they are doing search-and- rescue, they are pulled away from their positions on the firefighting team.

So, you're seeing a fire that started off with some looters in a supermarket, then moved to looters who started looting a clothing store. And eyewitnesses told us several of them said they saw exactly what happened. Looters went in, discovered there was nothing else to steal from the clothing store and so they set the clothing store on fire, massive structure.

You can see it just burning out of control. And then they drove off in their cars. And so firefighters have been on the scene trying to figure out how to get in and how to best control the fire. But by the time we left, smoke was filling the air and it was really burning out of control.

Looting has been -- well, it's making the streets really chaotic here. And it's a very angry kind of looting. Some people will claim, we don't have bread, we don't have water, but that's not what they are stealing. They're just sort of breaking into windows, breaking like a locksmith's shop and stealing all the keys, and breaking into a Kodak photo shop and stealing all of the displays.

It's just really bizarre to see, with officers, military officers, on sort of every corner. They don't do anything. They just sort of stand there while looters pry their way into buildings and just take whatever they can.

Some homeowners and some business owners have then blocked themselves in with tires and whatever else they can gather that has fallen off of the buildings in the earthquake to try to block their businesses, holding sticks and bringing out their (INAUDIBLE) and saying, you know, if the government's not going to protect us, then, guess what, we're going to protect ourselves.

BLITZER: Well, what about that, the government? Is there no evidence the police are anywhere nearby or the military?

O'BRIEN: The military's here. They are definitely sort of taking over a distribution center. They opened up some of the grocery stores and cleaned them up and then brought the food to a distribution center. So, there is really sort of nothing left to steal in the food stores. Many of those stores had been looted before.

But I got to tell you, you really don't see their presence a lot. You see water cannons roll through the streets, and they fire hoses at people who are looting, but the looting is on every corner where we are in Concepcion, everybody, literally, little kids, teenage boys, older people, and some people in a very organized fashion who sort of threatened us as we were shooting that we probably didn't want pictures of them or we would be in trouble.

It's really -- these are not people who are just sort of grasping for anything to save their lives. We're only 48-plus hours into this earthquake. They're just taking the opportunity. I asked somebody, why are you stealing things? Why? What did you take?


BLITZER: I think we have lost our connection with Soledad. But you get the gist, looting simply out of control. She's in Concepcion right now, not far from the epicenter.

The quake that struck Chile was exponentially much more powerful than the quake that leveled Haiti's capital of Port-au-Prince. Are we overdue here in the United States for a catastrophic earthquake?

Brian Todd is joining us now. He's over at the U.S. Geological Survey in Reston, Virginia, outside of Washington.

What are the experts telling you, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we wanted to talk about the seismological reasons why the earthquake in Haiti, as you mentioned, far weaker on the scale than the one in Chile did so much damage.

And we're here at USGS to talk to Mike Blanpied. He is a seismologist here. He's also with the Earthquake Hazards Program at the U.S. Geological Survey.

And, Mike, thanks for joining us, first of all.

One way we can talk about the differences here is a shake map like this one that can illustrate the intensity of the shaking and how widespread it was in the Chile earthquake vs. one that we are going to put also up to illustrate the one that occurred right underneath Haiti.

But why, seismologically, did this one cause such less damage than the one in Haiti did?

MIKE BLANPIED, U.S. U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY: There's really two reasons. And one of them is the earthquake itself and one of them is the state of the infrastructure. This was a huge earthquake, one of the top five or six in the last century. It broke from the epicenter here hundreds of miles along the coast of Chile. This map shows in orange colors the very strongly shaken areas where the shaking was strong enough to damage structures and then the weaker shaking in these softer colors off of here.

Now, one of the reasons that Chile was buffered from this earthquake was the fact that it was a little bit off the coast and a little bit deeper, but the shaking was still quite strong. Had Chile had a vulnerable infrastructure, the devastation would have been far worse.

Chile has a modern infrastructure, good building codes, and so they were relatively protected.

TODD: Right.

And, conversely, the epicenter in Haiti was basically underneath Port- au-Prince.

BLANPIED: That's right. The Enriquillo fault that runs past Port- au-Prince created a magnitude-7 earthquake, about the same size as that that struck the San Francisco area in 1989, during the World Series.

TODD: Right.

BLANPIED: But, in this case, it was a direct hit. It was a bullseye hit on Port-au-Prince, a very vulnerable city without modern codes. And, as a consequence, so many buildings came down, so many people died.

TODD: And we're going to go over to this map, Wolf. We're going to show you basically the tectonic zones around the world here.

And what a lot of people are asking, Mike, is that earthquake in Japan on Friday the 26th, which was less than 24 hours before the one in Chile, this was about a 7.0 that didn't do too much damage. But people are asking, is there a connection? Could this one have triggered the one in Chile?

BLANPIED: We don't know that there is a connection. We don't believe so. The Pacific Ring of Fire produces earthquakes and volcanoes all the way around this area. This is where the plates of the Earth are interacting, sliding and grinding past each other.

And that causes magnitude-7 earthquakes, maybe a dozen a year or more and occasional magnitude-8 or 9 earthquakes. Each one of those causes shaking that spreads over the Earth, but there's really no understanding scientifically about the relationship between a moderate-magnitude earthquake in Japan and something that happens thousands of miles away.

TODD: And, Wolf, you had a question for Mike as well.

BLITZER: I guess the question a lot of Americans are asking, what about the continental United States, or Alaska and Hawaii, for that matter? Are we due for this kind of earthquake?

TODD: Well, we have a map to illustrate that. We can step over here, the seismic hazard for the United States.

BLANPIED: Yes, this map shows the seismic hazard zones of the United States. The colors of this map are those areas that have a particular seismic hazard. This is a map that the USGS produces.

And it goes into creating the building codes. So, where we have the higher seismic hazards, we have the stronger building codes. And we have -- as you can see, there is a zone of hazard, the red colors that run right up the West Coast of the United States all the way to the Canadian border.

We actually have our own Chilean earthquake or Sumatra earthquake lurking off the coast. There is a zone from about Northern California past Oregon, Washington up into British Columbia that is a subduction zone. It's where the plates are colliding together, as they are off the west coast of South America. And there is the potential for an 8, 8.5 or even a magnitude-9 earthquake there that would cause substantial shaking and a tsunami.

And, so, of course, in that part of the country, we need to be preparing for large amounts of shaking and preparing the coast to be able to warn the citizens in case there would be a wave coming at some point in the future.

BLITZER: I notice, though, Mike, that it's not just the West Coast that has got some danger areas.

BLANPIED: That's right. There is actually seismic hazard in probably about 39 of the states. About 75 million Americans are at risk for seismic shaking.

There's one zone that's of particular interest now. We are coming up on the 200th anniversary of the New Madrid Seismic Zone sequence. Back in the winter of 1811, 1812 there was a series of several magnitude-7 or greater earthquakes along the Mississippi in the area of Memphis.

These earthquakes caused substantial shaking of the land and the sparse population at the time. And if those earthquakes were to occur again today, as we expect that they will some day, they will cause substantial shaking for a broad swathe of the country that now includes the cities of Memphis, Saint Louis, Evansville, and so forth.

So, this is an area of particular concern. We want to make sure that our buildings are safe, that our citizens are prepared throughout the country wherever we have this earthquake -- wherever you have the earthquake hazard and make sure that people are prepared and that the buildings don't fall down, as we have seen has happened in some parts of the world.

BLITZER: Good explanation, Mike. Thanks very much.

Brian, thanks to you as well. We will stay on top of the story.

Jack Cafferty is coming up next with "The Cafferty File."

Then, a controversial gun law goes before the U.S. Supreme Court, reigniting the debate over gun control. We are going to show you what's at stake.

And the brazen assassination of a Hamas leader, why was it done in Dubai? There are new twists and turns in that high-profile hit.

And violence is rising in Iraq only days before a crucial election. What does it mean for President Obama's exit strategy? I will ask the bestselling author of "Fiasco" and "The Gamble." Tom Ricks, he's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: President Obama needs to go Chicago-style on health care if he wants to get his signature legislation through Congress.

Al Hunt writes for Bloomberg News that the president has not been tough enough in pushing for the things he wants -- quoting now -- "That's not the Obama style. He tends to be patient, persistent, sometimes charming. Although from Chicago he doesn't practice the arm-twisting politics the city is known for" -- unquote.

Hunt goes on to say that when it comes to health care reform, time isn't on the president's side. Actually, he has just got a few weeks now, since the bill needs to pass before Congress goes on spring break at the end of the month.

And Hunt writes that Mr. Obama will need to use forceful persuasion in order to get wavering Democrats in both the house And Senate on board. Meanwhile, this call for the president to use more Chicago-style tactics comes as critics are charging the White House is loaded with too many Chicago insiders. Almost all of the president's inner circle hail from Chicago, including Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, top advisers David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett, and, of course, the first lady, Michelle Obama.

Some blame the paralysis in Washington on the so-called Chicago mafia, saying they don't have enough experience to govern at the executive branch level and that they are not listening to what the American people want.

And, in particular, a lot of fingers are pointed at Rahm Emanuel, who is now known as Rahmbo, saying that he's gone too far with his abrasive manner and cursing. Here's the question. Is there too much Chicago in the White House? Go to and share your thoughts with us.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty on Chicago.

Speaking of Chicago, Chicago's ban on handguns now at the center of a closely watched U.S. Supreme Court battle that gets under way tomorrow.

CNN's Kate Bolduan is in Chicago. She shows us what it's about -- Kate.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is one of the most important gun rights cases in our nation's history. And it's putting the spotlight squarely on Chicago.

(voice-over): In one of Chicago's roughest South Side neighborhoods, a rare safe haven for some of the city's most at-risk youth.

DIANE LATIKER, FOUNDER, KIDS OFF THE BLOCK: They walk looking backwards. If you would stay here two days, you'd realize our young people walk looking backwards every time, because of drive-bys.

BOLDUAN: When Diane Latiker opened up her own home to start the nonprofit Kids Off the Block seven years ago, she was fighting to stem the tide of gang activity in her neighborhood.

Now, Latiker says, she's just fighting to keep the kids alive, up against some of the worst gun violence the city has ever seen.


BOLDUAN: And it has grabbed headlines. According to city statistics, Chicago has the highest rate of youth homicide in the country: 36 killings in the last school year alone -- 36 reasons Latiker supports Chicago's handgun ban.

(on camera): So, why have the ban in place if people are going to get them anyway?

LATIKER: Because I would rather something be in place than nothing be in place.

BOLDUAN (voice-over): That ban is now being challenged in a case that has made its way to the Supreme Court, a case brought by another Chicago community activist, 76-year old, Otis McDonald.

OTIS MCDONALD, CHICAGO ACTIVIST: We wouldn't want to go down to the right here.

BOLDUAN (on camera): Why is that?

MCDONALD: Because that's a hot area, where drug dealing and stuff goes on.

BOLDUAN (voice-over): McDonald says, like Latiker, he too fears for the safety of the community, but argues it's his constitutional right to protect himself and his family from the violence. He wants the handgun ban lifted.

MCDONALD: That's all I want. It's just a fighting chance. Give me the opportunity to at least make somebody think about something before they come in my house on me.

BOLDUAN (on camera): The supreme court almost two years ago struck down a similar ban in Washington, but because D.C. is a federal district, the court left largely unanswered how gun laws apply to states and cities.

When it comes down to it, why take on this ban?

MCDONALD: We are in a war. Simply that. The innocent law-abiding citizens against the drug dealers and gang bangers, that's what it is. That's what it boils down to.

BOLDUAN (voice-over): But Diane Latiker fears making handguns legal again will only mean more guns on the streets and more names she will have to add to this memorial.

(on camera): How many are in there now?

LATIKER: Two hundred and one.

BOLDUAN: You said you were five short?

LATIKER: Yes, we are always behind. We are always behind.

BOLDUAN (on camera): The court's ruling has the potential of overturning decades of gun control laws across the country and may finally answer the question, where does the power of the Second Amendment lie, with the individual or the government? -- Wolf.


BLITZER: Kate Bolduan in Chicago, good report. We will watch the Supreme Court tomorrow.

We are also just learning right now about a new U.S. connection to that shocking assassination of a Hamas leader in Dubai. CNN's Paula Hancocks is digging deeper for us. We will speak with her in Dubai.

And new video from that suicide bomber who killed seven CIA employees and contractors and what appears to be -- appears to be a startling confession.



BLITZER: After the killing of a Hamas operative, two of the suspects escaped to the United States. How did they get out of Dubai and into this country? We have new information. We're going to Dubai.

And is it the right time for the United States to remove all its troops from Iraq? A week before crucial elections in Iraq, violence, though, is on the rise. I'm going to speak with a critic of the war who may now be having some second thoughts. Stand by.

A stunning revelation found in the last words of that suicide bomber who killed seven Americans at a base in Afghanistan.


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

Happening now: gridlock again, with one U.S. senator standing between hundreds of thousands of Americans and their next unemployment check. Why is the Kentucky Republican Jim Bunning blocking the bill?

Also, we're going to take you to the small town that was banking on a big expansion of a neighboring U.S. Army base that fell through. Now lives are ruined.

And $140 for one Tylenol capsule, $1,000 for one toothbrush. We're going to show you some of the truly outrageous medical charges, how hospitals right now here in the United States are getting away with it and why this is such a huge problem for health care in the United States.

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

But, first, more twists and turns in the case of a top Hamas operative killed by an apparent hit team in Dubai. Authorities there have raised the number of suspects to 27. And CNN has now learned that two of those suspects entered the United States, one with an Irish passport on the day after the January killing, the other with a British passport in mid-February.

But why did the killing take place in Dubai? For starters, it's a wealthy, wide-open crossroads in the Middle East and Persian Gulf and a hub for money-laundering and smuggling.

CNN's Paula Hancocks picks up the story from Dubai.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If we didn't know before, we are now aware that Dubai has an extensive security footage system -- 27 suspects and one Hamas target were picked up on camera numerous times by Dubai police. The only shot that's missing is when the police claim the alleged assassins drugged and then suffocated Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.

But what was a Hamas leader and a supposed key link between Iran and Hamas doing in Dubai?

THEODORE KARASIK, SECURITY ANALYST: The rule is, though, from the authorities is that you can come here, but leave your weapons and your political ideology at home.

HANCOCKS: Hamas won't comment on why al-Mabhouh was in Dubai. Israeli security sources tell CNN he was an arms smuggler between Iran and Gaza. Dubai police believe he was just in transit. DAHI KHALFAN, DUBAI POLICE (through translator): Listen to the lie. Some countries said he came to have talks with Iranians in Dubai. I say he could have gone to Iran, where no one would know his whereabouts, and have secret talks and reach a deal.

HANCOCKS: Dubai was built on foreign money and has been open to investment for years.

SAUD MASUD, HEAD OF RESEARCH, UBS: Their regulatory you can call it cushion has been there for people to just come in and set up shop and transact fast.

HANCOCKS: And with a vast pool of foreign investment comes a melting pot of foreigners.

(on camera): It's very easy to be anonymous here in Dubai. With up to 93 percent of the population being expats, i.e. non-Emirate, it's very easy for any nationality to simply blend into the background.

KARASIK: Dubai sometimes functions as a rendezvous center. This is not only true for perhaps in smuggling of weapons, but also in negotiations with pirates for the Gulf of Aden. It's seen as a brokerage center.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): The door is open to all in Dubai. Religious locals brush shoulders with tourists from around the world. The Dubai police force, by publicizing its findings, is trying to deter similar murky crimes being committed on its territory.


BLITZER: And joining us now from Dubai is Paula Hancocks, who's been covering this story for us -- Paula, thanks very much.

What about these two individuals who went by the name Evan Dennings and Roy Allan Cannon?

They supposedly left Dubai, went to Europe and them came to the United States.

Is that what you're hearing?

HANCOCKS: Yes, Wolf, that's exactly what we're hearing. Now, we know that Evan Dennings -- if that is, in fact, his real name, he may have stolen that identity -- traveled on an Irish passport. Now, he got to Dubai on the 18th of January. That was the day before Mahmoud Al Mabhouh was assassinated. He left on the 20th. That's the day after -- actually, the day that the body was found. And on the 21st, the Dubai police have records that he went to the United States.

And, also, Roy Allan Cannon, on a British passport -- now, again, we don't know if this is a fraudulent passport. He was one of those that came here on a forward planning trip back in 2009. Back in November he was here. And on February the 14th, he entered the United States.

Now, here's the key factor here. Any non-US passport holder has to have their fingerprints taken and also has to have their picture taken when they go into the U.S. So certainly the sources that we're talking to are saying that they are hoping they'll be able to track these two down at least through those fingerprints.

Now, we don't know if they're still in the U.S. They could well have left, not on the same passports, but on other documents -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Do Dubai police, Paula, really believe they can apprehend these suspects?

HANCOCKS: They really do. And they've actually added another suspect today. We've just spoken to Dubai police and they say there are now 27 suspects. They haven't given us the nationality of this latest addition.

And they did tell us -- we just spoke to the -- the chief of police yesterday. He said he has DNA of at least one of these suspects.

Of course, we have the passport pictures. We have the passports, many of which are fraudulent, so that could be tricky. But he does say that some of them traveled on real passports. Some of them used their real names.

Now, he hasn't specified which ones, but one would imagine it will be far easier to track down those that used their real names -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And we're also learning new details about the actual assassination -- the actual death of this Hamas official, right?

HANCOCKS: That's right. Dubai police have confirmed to us that Al Mabhouh was drugged before he was suffocated. Now, he says that the assassins used a drug called Succinylcholine. Excuse me if I'm not pronouncing that correctly. But basically what this drug does is that it relaxes a patient's muscles during surgery or when they're on a ventilator. So Dubai police are telling CNN what they have done is they have injected him with this particular drug and then they have suffocated him -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Was the intention apparently to make it look like some sort of natural death as opposed to an assassination?

HANCOCKS: Now, this is what Dubai police are telling us. And, medically, it would make sense, the fact that they are planning to make it look like a natural death, thinking that then they could make an easy getaway and, in that respect, maybe they wouldn't have to worry about the extensive security camera footage that we have seen.

But the fact is, they are picked up so many times on this security camera footage. The system is extensive within the airport, within the hotel. And we have heard from some experts that, actually, some of these suspects are looking up at the cameras at certain moments, are smirking at certain moments.

Did they assume that they had got away with it because they were trying to make it look like an accident?

BLITZER: Paula Hancocks is covering the story for us in Dubai.

We'll check back with you, Paula.

Thank you.

Violence rising, an important election looming -- what does it mean for plans to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq?

Tom Ricks has written two best-sellers on the war. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

That's coming up next.


BLITZER: Less than a week until a crucial election, violence is on the rise right now in Iraq, even as the U.S. moves to -- toward a troop drawdown.

Should the Obama administration rethink its exit strategy right now?

Let's talk about that and the elections with Tom Ricks.

He's a senior fellow at the Center for New American Security here in Washington and the author of two best-selling books, "Fiasco" and "The Gamble." Excellent books, indeed.

Tom, thanks for coming in.

You've been a frequent critic of the way this war was conducted in Iraq, over the years, yet you -- you wrote a piece in "The New York Times" the other day which sort of -- I said, I jumped back and I said, whoa, Tom Ricks is saying don't just keep the schedule for withdrawal, but keep the troops longer there -- keep them there longer than the Obama administration wants them in Iraq. This is a -- a dramatic change for you.

TOM RICKS, CENTER FOR A NEW AMERICAN SECURITY, BLOGGER, FOREIGNPOLICY.COM: Yes. I don't think it's a great idea to keep the troops in Iraq, I just think it's the least bad idea. I worry that if you leave too quickly, that you could have the conditions of a civil war that could become a regional war.

And I worry that by trying to keep to a timetable, the Obama administration is repeating one of the mistakes of the Bush administration -- rushing to failure. We have done it again and again in Iraq and I worry we may do it again.

BLITZER: And you say keep the troops a little bit longer -- unknown how long. But don't -- because they're all supposed to be out by the end of 2011. And all combat forces are supposed to be out by the end of this August.

RICKS: The combat forces thing is a joke. They're going to have six or seven combat brigades in Iraq, but they're going to call them advisory and like -- and help brigades (INAUDIBLE)... BLITZER: Trainers.

RICKS: Yes. I mean -- and then, I actually think we're going to have 30,000 troops there for many, many years to come.

BLITZER: Really?


BLITZER: Because you -- at the end of your article, you write this: "The best argument against keeping troops in Iraq is the one some American military officers make, which is that a civil war is inevitable and that by staying, all we are doing is postponing it."

RICKS: Yes...

BLITZER: You -- you...

RICKS: My response to that is, OK, it buys you some time. That's not a bad thing if the alternative is a civil war. Maybe you can't avoid a civil war forever. Maybe it is inevitable. I don't feel like gambling to find out.

BLITZER: General Odierno is in charge of all U.S. military operations in Iraq. He's hinting that maybe troops will stay a -- a little bit longer, they won't be able to make this withdrawal schedule.

But I interviewed the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad, Chris Hill, the other day. And I asked him if the schedule can be met, the schedule the Obama administration has put forward.

Listen to what he told me.


CHRISTOPHER HILL, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: I mean we work on this every day. There's a lot of transition involved and a lot of things going from military to civilians, military to Iraqis. But we are on schedule.


BLITZER: "But we are on schedule," he says. So he seems to think that schedule is going to happen.

RICKS: Something will happen. They'll -- they'll get a lot of troops out this year. But there's a lot of fancy footwork going on that his comments kind of put a smokescreen over.

General Odierno has made it clear to the president and the secretary of Defense he wants an additional combat brigade past the August 30 deadline. Odierno also would like, I think, a larger military presence.

I think that we have a real gap right now developing between the military and civilian officials in this country about the nature of the future American presence.

BLITZER: Is there a split between Odierno and Chris Hill?

Is that what you're saying?

RICKS: Between Odierno and Chris Hill. I think, also, between the uniformed military generally and Obama officials who say, look, this president was elected to get us out of Iraq and that's what he wants to do.

BLITZER: The elections are this Sunday. And a lot of people are going to be wondering, will these be free and fair Democratic elections or not.

What do you think?

RICKS: I think there will be a lot of accusations of fraud, especially from the Sunnis; a lot of accusations of Iranian interference.

The real thing that worries me is not so much election day as the three or four months that follow it, when they try to put a new government together. Remember after those purple fingalore (ph) elections back at the end of '05, it was the period of government formation in '06 when the civil war began then.

You have all the same conditions now, except one big change -- the Americans won't be around to stop the civil war this time.

BLITZER: So you think a civil war is still possible despite "Newsweek" magazine -- I don't know if you saw the cover of the new issue. They seem to think it's a done deal, it's -- it's going to be -- it's going to be a positive democratic excellent Iraq that moves forward.

RICKS: I don't know what they're smoking over at "Newsweek" these days.

BLITZER: You saw that cover of "Newsweek" magazine.


BLITZER: It was a very upbeat piece that the surge has worked, stuff is -- is really moving in the right direction.

When I take a look at Iraq, I deeply worry about that Iranian influence, among other factors.

RICKS: And so does General Odierno. I was struck by some of the comments that he's made. In a very good column by David Ignatius in "The Washington Post" the other day, it listed the Iranian acts, including meeting with Ahmed Chalabi to discuss the various Shiite candidates and who they were going to support.

BLITZER: Ahmed Chalabi all of a sudden reemerging as a major player in Iraq right now, to the dismay of a lot of officials here in Washington.

Tom Ricks, thanks very much.

We'll talk next week maybe.

RICKS: You're welcome.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens on Sunday in the elections.

A chilling message from a suicide bomber -- and released -- released weeks after he killed seven CIA employees in Afghanistan. He says he wasn't planning on attacking so many people. His videotape explains why that changed.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Shocking last words and a newly released video from the man who killed several Americans in an intelligence outpost in Afghanistan. You won't believe what he had to say.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

She's working the story and has details -- all right, Barbara, tell our viewers what happened.

BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, it is hard to believe -- a suicide bomber who knew more about the CIA, maybe, than the CIA knew about him.


STARR: (voice-over): It seemed to be a startling admission from the suicide bomber who killed seven CIA employees and contractors. Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi knew ahead of time he was about to meet some of America's most secretive intelligence operatives and analysts.

In a newly released 43 minute video, al-Balawi says he was only planning to kill his handler, Jordanian Army captain, Ali bin Zeid, the man he says he duped into believing he was loyal to the U.S. in Jordan, even as he continued to work for Al Qaeda.

Al-Balawi says, quote: "We planned for something, but got a bigger gift -- a valuable prey -- Americans, and from the CIA."

HUMAM KHALIL ABU-MULAL AL-BALAWI: I left my family and I left my training.

STARR: Who told al-Balawi, a self-proclaimed jihadist, the CIA was waiting for him to show up at an operating base in Afghanistan?

A U.S. counter-terrorism official tells CNN the U.S. assumes the Jordanians prepared al-Balawi so he would not be surprised to see Americans at the meeting, but that he would have been offered few specifics about their identifies. But no one can explain how al- Balawi knew the meeting included the CIA. By any measure, that would have been very closely held.

A Jordanian source told CNN any information given to al-Balawi by their man had to have U.S. approval. The source would not go into detail about those communications.

He was coming with valuable information. Some of his previous tips had checked out.

But would the U.S. have really risked telling al-Balawi specifically that he was about to meet the CIA?

Why tell him such sensitive information?


STARR: And, Wolf, still unanswered, why was al-Balawi not searched before he, as a suicide bomber, could get so close to so many CIA employees -- seven all told?

And why were so many CIA employees in such a potentially risky situation?

Now, of course, we know a fatal situation, because this man was a double agent -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Is there an answer why he wasn't searched?

They didn't frisk him as he was going in?

STARR: They did not frisk him. But they say -- sources are telling us that they wanted to get him inside the base, where he could not be seen publicly on a public road or something, to search him there.

But I have to tell you, other analysts we talked to say that really may have been the fatal flaw, that they should have made some effort to search him before he got inside the base wall.

BLITZER: Good point.

All right. Thanks very much for that report, Barbara Starr.

Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What else is going on -- Lisa?

SYLVESTER: Hi there, Wolf.

Well, the top commander in Afghanistan is visiting a town that was a Taliban stronghold two weeks ago. General Stanley McChrystal was in Marjah, along with the provincial governor, seeing firsthand the results of a massive multinational offensive against the Taliban. The two week old operation is the largest since U.S. forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001.

And we are following that HAZMAT situation at an IRS facility near Ogden, Utah. An IRS spokesman says an unknown substance was discovered this morning and a hazardous materials team was sent out. At least two people were taken from the building on stretchers. The FBI is also investigating. And we will bring you more information as we get it.

The man accused of kidnapping Utah teenager, Elizabeth Smart, is one step closer to trial. A federal judge has ruled Brian David Mitchell competent for the proceedings. The 56-year-old Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee, allegedly abducted Smart from her bedroom in June, 2002, and held her for nine months. Barzee struck a plea deal in November and is now cooperating with prosecutors -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Lisa.

Thank you.

The unemployment crisis is taking on some new urgency right now. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are about to lose their benefits. Some federal workers have already been furloughed -- all because one U.S. senator is blocking a critical bill.

We're going to show what's going on.


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

CAFFERTY: The question this hour, is there too much Chicago in the White House?

John in Illinois writes: "I live in Illinois. The stench of the graft and corruption can be felt all the way down in my little town of Sparta. Through back room deals with Chicago politicians, my taxes currently support bus service for Cook County -- 540 miles away."

Riv writes: "As someone from Chicago, I have to say I've grown weary of the term "Chicago politics." Nobody outside Chicago seems to know what it really means, so it's now become shorthand for something a politician that did -- did that the speaker or writer doesn't like. It's a lot more complex and nuanced than that. I don't necessarily agree with Jack here, but I think the answers he'll get will reflect the way non-locals tend to paint Chicago with a broad brush."

Jeffrey writes: "Not enough Chicago when it mattered -- at the start. He should have strong-armed through the original proposal on which he had campaigned" -- talking about health care reform. "By leaving it up to Congress to just come up with something for him to sign, the process resulted in a bill that nobody likes and will be ineffectual at solving the problems. I don't think any amount of strong-arming now is going to get this thing passed."

Marion in Alabama writes: "Obama's main problem is he surrounded himself with yes people from Chicago, just like Jimmy Carter did with the Georgia crowd."

R. in Alaska writes: "Is there too much Chicago in the White House? Is the sky blue? That style of government doesn't belong in DC. It doesn't even really belong in Chicago. It is 2010, after all. Personally, I'm getting real leery and very weary of the huge push to pass the health care bill -- no transparency, no C-SPAN sessions, no bill available on the Internet, many flaws, many fights, many excuses not to start over and get it right. Let's hope the whole bill sinks quickly beneath the waters of Lake Michigan, with a few deadweight politicians chained to it."

Connie in Huntley, Illinois writes: "In my opinion, you can never have too much Chicago anywhere."

And Silas in Boston: "Forget Chicago tactics, Jack. It's time for Barack Obama to meet Tony Soprano."

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

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, thanks very much.

It's fortunes are tied to a nearby Army base. Now the small community is an Army ghost town -- how the boom turned bust.

Plus, text messages that disappear without a trace -- there's an ap for that. CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a Moost Unusual look.


BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the Hot Shots coming in from our friends at the Associated Press -- pictures likely to be in your newspapers tomorrow.

In Gaza City, Hamas security forces demonstrate their skills during a graduation ceremony.

In Turkey, workers protest lay-offs from a state liquor and tobacco company.

In Israel, people wear colorful masks and costumes to celebrate a Jewish holiday.

And in Pakistan, a young girl poses for a snapshot.

Hot Shots -- pictures worth a thousand words.

Looking to cover your tracks -- how about a text message that self- destructs?

CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a Moost Unusual look.




JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): When Tiger Woods was texting his alleged mistresses, he never imagined his messages would one day end up being animated for all to see.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Quietly and secretly, we will always be together.


MOOS: But now, the quietly and secretly part stands a chance. Introducing TigerText. Their slogan -- to cover your tracks.

JEFFREY EVANS, TIGERTEXT FOUNDER: I said wouldn't it be great if you could send a text and it would just self-destruct in 30 seconds?


MOOS: Sound familiar?


MOOS: Remember how the "Mission Impossible" team used to get their (INAUDIBLE) assignments?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This disk will self-destruct in five seconds.


MOOS: The makers of TigerText say their iPhone ap allows you to automatically delete text messages from the sender's phone and the receiver's phone.


MOOS: You set the time from delete on reading, the message disappears a minute after it's read to a month later. And it also vanishes from the server.

EVANS: When it's gone, it's gone.

MOOS: In the TigerText demo, someone messages, "How did the job interview go?"

The reply, "I told you, don't send me stuff like that."

"Don't worry, I set it on delete on read."

There's a countdown until the message vanishes, replaced by Tiger Paws.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know, TigerTexting?

Maybe we can call it something else.

MOOS (on camera): The makers of TigerText say they're not referring to Tiger Woods, they mean the ones with four legs.

(voice-over): Supposedly because they're hard to track. PCWorld called it the ap for spies and cheaters.

EVANS: It's not about salaciousness, it's about the need for privacy.

Jeanne, how many times have you sent a text message and closed with the words, "Please delete after reading?"

MOOS: And it's not just for the iPhone.

(on camera): TigerText is coming soon to a BlackBerry near you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Truthfully, I think it's very sketchy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's very sneaky.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow! I don't know. I kind of like it. People should be able to have their privacy.

MOOS: The biggest catch is that both sender and receiver need to have the ap for it to work. If only Tiger had it.


WOODS: Can you please take your name off your phone?

My wife went through my phone and may be calling you.


MOOS: One Web site called TigerText the "morning after pill" of messaging.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think I'll get it. If it...

MOOS (on camera): You're -- you're laughing...


MOOS: You have a guilty laugh.

(voice-over): Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.