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THE SITUATION ROOM
Keeping U.S. Airports Safe; Ties Turning Sour; Lawmakers Threatened
Aired March 24, 2010 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in "The Situation Room." Happening now -- one of Washington's most critical foreign relationships is being put to the test right now in a rather dramatic way, ties between the United States and Israel suddenly turning sour. Is the White House giving the Prime Minister of Israeli, Benjamin Netanyahu, the cold shoulder. We're going to the White House.
Also, some lawmakers who voted for health care reform are now receiving threats. Some of them even fear for their safety and their family's safety as well. The House Democratic Whip, James Clyburn, is among those being threatened. He's going to be here in "The Situation Room," this hour, to talk about it.
And how many calories are in that burger or that taco? The raw numbers will soon be staring you in the face. Details and a little- known provision in the health care reform law.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in "The Situation Room."
The strained relationship between the United States and Israel is getting even more complicated by announcements of new Israeli housing projects in contested areas, the latest coinciding with the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's meeting with President Obama. Our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry, is joining us now.
Ed, yesterday, that long session they had at the White House as we were on the air here in "The Situation Room" went on and on, but it was extraordinary, because we had no pictures, no reporting, no read- outs. Basically, no nothing.
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. The whole thing shrouded in secrecy, and also interesting, there was a second meeting, actually. The first meeting, you're right, dining room off the oval office. Very cozy. Lasted about 90 minutes, and I was in this position here, and I heard the motorcycles from the Israeli delegation revving up. They were going to be leaving in a moment or two. This was around 7:00 p.m. last night, and the gates of the White House actually opened up so the delegation could leave, and then there was a change in plans.
The Prime Minister decided there was something in that meeting with President Obama that led him to want to think it over a little bit. So, the President went upstairs to the residence, and we're told that the Prime Minister asked to use the Roosevelt room with his staff to sort of mull some things, and then he sent word to White House staff that he'd like to meet with the President a second time. President came down from the resident. They had a second meeting. It had in the oval office, and you know, no one here will really go into detail about it.
Now, our colleague, John King, heard from an Israeli source that the Prime Minister spent several hours today on the phone with some of his coalition back home, again, discussing things, and I can tell you, White House aides here say that what President Obama asked in those meetings is that there be some concessions made by the Israeli Prime Minister, but he won't get into detail. Was it on settlement? Was it on another issue? But the bottom line is that today, the Prime Minister is following up with a meeting with Former Senator George Mitchell, as you know is the President's Mideast envoy, so there's a whole lot of drama going on right now -- Wolf.
BLIZER: I guess since this is the second visit by the Prime Minister Netanyahu with no cameras inside, is he getting the deliberate cold shoulder from the President?
HENRY: The White House is trying real hard to push back on that notion. I pressed Robert Gibbs yesterday. Why would there be no media coverage of this? Other reporters were saying the same thing today, just sort of pressing Robert Gibbs. They're standing behind it. They are just saying this is the way they decided to do it. They were not trying to send any signal or anything like that. Take a listen to Robert --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We've handled different visits in different ways, and this is the way we felt most comfortable handling this one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: But now Representative Eric Cantor, who as you know is a very prominent Jewish Republican on the hill today said, look, this is a cold reception, much cooler than when he was on the hill yesterday, the Prime Minister with lawmakers in both parties where they were there. They had pictures, trying to show that this alliance is strong. White House, again, insisting that this is still a key ally, but they decided to have these talks behind close doors, not in front of the cameras -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much for that, Ed Henry, working the story at the White House.
There have been several major crises in U.S./Israeli relations since Israel's independence back in 1948. The Eisenhower administration threatened Israel with a cut-off of U.S. assistance and with United Nations sanctions unless it withdrew from Sinai and Gaza following the 1956 war with Egypt. After Israeli/Egyptian peace talks collapsed in 1975, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger announced a quote, "reassessment" of U.S. policy toward Israel, creating a major chill at the time. President Ronald Reagan suspended military aircraft shipments to Israel following its air strikes against the Iraqi nuclear reactor and Osiraq back in 1981. Reagan's U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick was told to vote in favor of a United Nations Security Council Resolution condemning Israel. And in 1992, when Israel refused to stop settlement construction on the west bank, President George H.W. Bush and his Secretary of State, James Baker, threatened to block billions of dollars and loan guarantees for Israel, so there is a history of what is going on right now.
Let's bring in CNN's John King. He's the host of "John King, USA" which airs right after "The Situation Room." getting ready at the top of the hour. Also joining us David Gergen, our senior political contributor/analyst as well, and Mary Matalin is joining us from New Orleans, our political contributor.
You've covered this story for a long time, so have I, John. there have been tensions. I suspect they're trying as desperately as they can, the Obama administration, to get a commitment from the Israeli government to stop construction of new housing units, not only in the west bank but in East Jerusalem. So far, they haven't gotten that commitment.
JOHN KING, CNN's John King, USA: They have not gotten that commitment. They want the Israelis to say whatever happens in Jerusalem is subject to final status negotiations. Stop the construction. Get back to the bargaining table. They also want some other concessions and statements from the Israeli government directly from the Prime Minister to create a climate where the Palestinians would be willing to come back to those conversations. Wolf, I think you have to go back to the George H.W. Bush administration to have the depth of mistrust between the United States and the Israeli leadership to be where it is now.
And I spoke with the Israeli diplomatic source that Ed mentioned a few minutes ago. He said the Prime Minister was closeted with a few close aides and phone calls back home to people in his very conservative coalition trying to find some maneuvering room, and he said, we really want to rebuild trust with President Obama. Rebuild. I mean, they concede it's broken, but he also said, quote, "They're asking us to do the impossible." So, the Prime Minister clearly feels he has very little room to maneuver because of his own very tough domestic politics.
BLITZER: That's because as you know that coalition government that the Prime Minister has, he has a lot of right-wingers in that coalition and that government could collapse if he were to make a promise to stop construction of new housing units in East Jerusalem.
DAVID GREEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, he clearly has a very fragile coalition. And, you know, as part of his coalition that made the surprise announcement by Joe Biden was there, the hardliner in his own coalition. So, that clearly is a problem. There are many American-Jews who also feel, ones associated with APAC, that no Israeli Prime Minister with any government would make all the concessions that the Obama presidency has been -- administration's been asking. So, we put them in an impossible position to start with. They feel they then said no.
They, then, feel President Obama backed down. President Obama clearly is not willing to back down as much this time. And I totally understand that. But I think this is heading for -- the chemistry between Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama has never been good. And now, I think there's a real breakdown between the administration and the government, and they've got to get it back together soon.
BLITZER: Mary Matalin, you served in the Bush administration. You worked very closely with Vice President Cheney. How do you think the president -- what do you think of the way the president is handling this crisis right now?
MARY MATALIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Going back to George H.W. Bush and that level of conflict or as John referenced, this is a different time. There are larger issues. The peace plan is one thing. I think this is an impediment. I think to say that this didn't send any signals, that's either disingenuous or naive or ignorant, of course, it did. And yes, BB (ph) has his politics, but we have larger issues than we did in those other times where there is distress and that is Iran. So, this undermines obviously Israel and this impartiality relationship, it's not impartial, always tips against Israel, but the larger issue of Iran, this sends a bigger signal to a global effort or undermines the global effort to get what we need to do relative to Iran's nuclear ambitions.
BLITZER: What are you saying, Mary, that because of the tension between the United States and Israel, this sort of encourages Iran to do what they're doing? Is that what you're saying?
MATALIN: I'm saying in the broader world where we're all -- when Israel is in such jeopardy and the larger Arab world, many in the larger Arab world, do not see this -- are taking advantage of this impartial or moral equivalence approach to the peace talks. They are leveraging this to distract from the -- what we need to do and have a global effort to do in cooperation to do to sanction or whatever we need to do to stop, slow down, impede, hopefully eradicate, this Iranian threat. Israel's on the front line, but this is much bigger, and we're in a different situation than we were in previous years.
And, you know, at the end of the day, Israel is our friend. It's a critical, strategic ally, and it's clear what Obama's doing, but it's slightly ham-handed. You can have your secretary of state do what she did and ream him out and everybody got the message. But this is a -- this is one of those chicken fights that's not good for us and --
BLITZER: There has been a new development. I've been covering the story for a long time, a new development, last week General David Petraeus, when he testified before Congress, he's the head of U.S. Military Central Command, which oversees the Middle East, he made the point that, you know, U.S. military interests are at stake in this inability to solve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict because so many people in that part of the world associate the United States with Israel, and they blame the U.S. for what Israel may or may not be doing in East Jerusalem or the west bank. KING: And that's one source of the administration's frustration. You remember the big Cairo speech, the president hope to improve the U.S. image in the Arab world, and they think this is the key to it and has been the key to it for generations. Could you try to get some progress in the Israeli/Palestinian dialogue to create a different security environment in the region? One of the point that I find fascinating, Wolf, you've been covering this longer than any of us, in the past, it has always been the politics of Israel that if the U.S. president is mad at you, that causes you problems at home.
The Israelis think this a little different, because unlike President George W. Bush, President Bill Clinton, and going back in time, Barack Obama, while he's popular in most places around the world, is not popular in Israel and that complicates this because Netanyahu may have more room to maneuver here at home and not have to be so compliant with the White House demands.
GREEN. Very quickly. I think what Mary's comment and your comment just illustrate how much we're on a knife edge. If we're too tough on Israel, it complicates the situation to kind of get our solution with Iran. If we're too easy on Israel, General Petraeus just telling us it threatens our troops. That's the knife's edge. That's why this is the hard --
BLITZER: That's why we'll stay on top of this story. John will be back right at the top of the hour, "John King, USA.". He's got a big guest at the top of the hour.
KING: The Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, and a fascinating conversation we're going to have about the economy, about the China challenge, and many other issues.
BLITZER: Right at the top of the hour, "John King, USA." Thank You.
KING: Thank you.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty coming up next with the "Cafferty File."
And then terrorists plotting suicide attacks on oil facilities. We have details of a mass arrest.
Also, disturbing threats against U.S. lawmakers because of their vote for health care reform. The house democratic whip, James Clyburn, is among those who have been targeted. Someone faxed a picture of a noose to his office. He's here to talk about it.
And the raw numbers on your favorite restaurant foods. They'll soon be staring you in the face, thanks to health care reform.
BLITZER: Get right to Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty file." -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As you are well aware, i'm sure, health care reform is now the law of the land, and part of that law is that everybody -- everybody -- has to have insurance. If you don't, you could be fined. The law creates penalties in the tax code for people who don't have health insurance. For example, by 2014, an adult who doesn't have insurance would have to pay $95 or 1 percent of their income, whichever is higher. In 2016, that penalty increases to almost $700 per person and a little more than $2,000 per household or 2.5 percent of income, whichever is more.
The penalty is only enacted if you go more than three months a year without health insurance, and it doesn't apply to everybody. Some people are exempt, those at the lowest income levels, people in prison or objecting on religious grounds or members of native American tribes. Massachusetts has had a similar penalty system tied to its health care insurance system for a few years. In 2008, Massachusetts fined about 1.5 percent of all taxpayers. Critics, including some Republicans, say the system means the internal revenue service will need to hire many new agents and that the IRS will be quote, "more deeply involved in our lives than ever before" unquote.
The democrats say that the internal revenue people have been able to implement other new taxes without major problems, no kidding, and President Obama insists that the only way to make insurers cover everyone is for everyone to be required to buy health insurance. Did you get that? Here's the question. Should the government be able to force you to have insurance? Go to cnn.com/caffertyfile, post a comment on my blog.
BLITZER: Yes. It's a great question. And some of these state attorneys general, they're filing lawsuits now saying this unconstitutional to mandate this kind of insurance.
CAFFERTY: Yes. The land of the not so free is what this is.
BLITZER: That sounds they are. Jack, thank you.
Reaction to the passage of health care reform is turning eerily sinister right now. Several House Democrats say they've been threatened, and some of their offices have been vandalized. Capitol hill police have briefed lawmakers on what precautions they need to take right now to protect themselves and their families. Let's go to Capitol Hill, the House Majority Whip, the number three Democrat in the House of Representatives. James Clyburn is joining us from South Carolina. Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.
REP. JAMES CLYBURN, (D) MAJORITY WHIP: Thank you so much for having me, Wolf.
BLITZER: I wish it were under different circumstances. But listen to this voice mail, this audio, that was left in the office of voice mail of Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak of michigan, who is fiercely anti-abortion, but voted for the health care bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOICE OF UNKNOWN FEMALE: Congressman Stupak, you are one big piece of human (EXPLETIVE WORD). And think about this, there are millions of people across the country who wish you ill, and all of those thoughts projected on you will materialize into something that's not very good for you. We don't have to do anything but sit back and wish. Go to hell, you piece of (EXPLETIVE WORD).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. How big of a problem, Congressman, is this? I know you've been briefed by law enforcement, Capitol Hill police, among others.
CLYBURN: I had a long chat a few minutes ago with Bart Stupak as well. You know, Wolf, I have seen this before. These kinds of things happen when people in positions of authority do not do what they can to tamp this down. We saw the other day, Sunday, members on the floor cheering when people were up in the balcony, cheering. That should not be. We're giving aid and comfort to these people, and this stuff gets ratcheted up. We, in this Congress, have got to come together in a bipartisan way and tamp this foolishness down. It doesn't make sense. That's not what a democracy is all about.
BLITZER: I know that your office received a fax with a picture of a noose on that fax.
BLITZER: Are you among those Democrats right now who are receiving extra security protection?
CLYBURN: No. They never tell me when it gets up or down. But as the majority whip, I do have security, that protection, and I don't know exactly whether they've ratcheted it up or not.
BLITZER: Who are the others? There's, like, ten members, ten Democrats, who are receiving --
BLITZER: Extraordinary security protection right now, is that right?
CLYBURN: I think it's more than that. I know -- I think I know of more -- more than ten. That's been receiving these kind of threats. You may recall last august, people had a swastika painted on their offices. They received phone calls in their office, and the same kind of thing. The problem is when that stuff was out there in the congressional districts, it seemed to be a little bit isolated. But all those people from all those congressional districts came here to Washington on Saturday, and it became centralized, and they all targeted on those office buildings over there, and, you know, all it takes for one misstep, somebody overreacts to something, and you've got a very serious problem.
We've seen that before, more than once, and so I've been asking all of the members to do something in a bipartisan way to try to tamp this down.
BLITZER: The Republican leader in the House, John Boehner, did issue a statement. Let me read to you some of it. "I know many Americans are angry over this health care bill and that Washington Democrats just aren't listening. But, as I've said, violence and threats are unacceptable. Call your congressman. Go out and register people to vote. Go volunteer on a political campaign. Make your voice heard, but let's do it the right way." That was a statement that Congressman Boehner, the leader of the Republicans, released. Is that good enough for you?
CLYBURN: let me say this, Wolf. I don't know of anybody that's angry over this health care bill. Who is angry over getting rid of discrimination against women --
BLITZER: I know, but Congressman, excuse me for interrupting. There are plenty of people who are very angry right now. They think this is an affront on their freedom. Their liberty. They don't like the government stepping in and getting more involved, so there is anger out there. I'm sure you've felt it.
CLYBURN: I know there's anger out there. But I'm saying that I don't think this anger has got a whole lot to do with this health care bill. I've been here. You know, I organized these things back in the 1960s. I've looked in these faces, and I don't think that those people who were out there calling m names, spitting on students, throwing ketchup in their hair simply because they wanted to have a hamburger at a lunch counter.
They were there because of an ingrained hate that they've got for people who don't look like them. I don't know of a single member, non African-American, except one, who was not called a name for some reason. So --
BLITZER: Let me get back to the question, congressman. Are you satisfied that John Boehner and the Republican leadership in the House are doing enough to try to cool it?
CLYBURN: I've said before, and I'll say again. I really believe we need to come together in a bipartisan way. I think the leadership of both -- Democrats and Republicans need to show unanimity on this issue, and let's begin to work together to tamp this down. I think if you do it in a bipartisan way, it will send a signal out there to those people that neither one of us will condone what they're doing.
BLITZER: James Clyburn is the number three Democrat in the House of Representatives. Congressman, good luck and thanks for coming in.
CLYBURN: Thank you so much for having me.
BLITZER: And as I said earlier, I wish it were under different circumstances.
CLYBURN: Thank you.
BLITZER: More than 100 terror suspects arrested in a massive crackdown. Are there ties to al Qaeda?
Plus, thousands of restaurants will soon be required by law to show you exactly how many calories are in the food you order, and it's all because of the new health care reform law.
BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of other top stories in "The Situation Room" right now. Lisa, what do you have?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
U.S. officials say a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner is now a senior Taliban commander in Afghanistan. The man was released from the U.S. military prison in December. A Taliban operative tells CNN the ex- Gitmo inmate has now been tapped to replace a senior commander who was captured by Pakistani forces last month.
And Great Britain is warning its citizens their passport information could be compromised if they travel to Israel. British officials say there's evidence the Israeli government forged British passports found on suspects in the murder of a Hamas leader, and they're telling British travelers to hand over their passports to Israeli officials only when absolutely necessary. No reaction from Israel. It has a policy of neither confirming nor denying involvement in security matters.
And it was a White House power lunch today between a Washington veteran and the newest member of the U.S. senate, you see them there. Vice President Joe Biden hosted Senator Scott Brown, the Massachusetts Republican who won the seat held for decades by the late Ted Kennedy. Brown's office said the senator and the Vice President, they discussed jobs, the economy, and also some lighter topics like the Boston Red Sox -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Scott Brown a huge fan of the Boston Red Sox, as he must be. All right. Lisa, thanks very much. Nice to see they had lunch
$10 billion of your tax money. $10 billion, not million but billion, and all of it -- all of it -- may be going to waste. A government project that's been in the works for decades is now just a giant hole in the ground, and some people are blaming the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid. David Mattingly traveled to Nevada to check out the monument to waste. That monument is known as Yucca Mountain.
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You want to get to the now-defunct nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain? Hold on.
UNKNOWN MALE: We're going to be turning momentarily onto a road that's a little bit rougher.
MATTINGLY: Ten miles across the high Nevada desert, I find all roads to Yucca lined with stones and potholes. That doesn't sound good.
UNKNOWN MALE: I may have just done in a tire.
MATTINGLY: I feel like I've been kidney punched. What do we got? Oh, man.
UNKNOWN MALE: Sidewall.
UNKNOWN MALE: Yes.
MATTINGLY: It pays to have a backup in case of a blowout.
UNKNOWN MALE: That's the problem with these rocks. It just poked a hole in the side.
MATTINGLY: Too bad nobody thought to have one for Yucca.
MATTINGLY (on-camera): The entire time this work was going on with this mountain, did anybody say anything about what they could use it for if the nuclear repository didn't work?
UNKNOWN MALE: No. That stuff has started very recently and people talked about that.
MATTINGLY: 25 years, $10 billion, there was no plan "B"?
UNKNOWN MALE: No.
MATTINGLY: It was supposed to be the solution to the scourge of the nuclear age, the one-best place to store radioactive waste. It was talked about for 50 years. Studied for almost 30. With five miles of tunnels drilled at a cost of more than $10 billion. But when Nevada Senator Harry Reid convinced the president to kill it, Yucca Mountain became the Mt. Rushmore of government tunnel vision.
MICHAEL VOEGELE, NYE CO. YUCCA MT. CONSULTANT: For years, there's never been a fallback. There's never been a plan B; totally focused on just little incremental steps to move Yucca Mountain forward.
MATTINGLY: And now, we're looking at a mountain that's a monument to all this red tape?
VOEGELE: That's right.
GARY HOLLIS, CHMN., NYE CO. BOARD OF COMMS.: I probably could use it as a landfill, put garbage in it.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): County Commissioner Gary Hollis says the closing of Yucca Mountain slams the door on 4,000 construction jobs in Nye County, Nevada; as well as 1,500 permanent jobs once the facility was supposed to be up and running.
(on camera): Did you have a bigger revenue source in this county than that?
HOLLIS: Are you kidding me? It'd take a whole lot of cows to make up for $140 million.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): Laughable, yes. But a $10 billion hole in the ground is no joke.
Senator Reid is now asking the General Accounting Office to explore non-nuclear uses for the massive Yucca tunnel, something that had never been looked at in the history of the project.
(on camera): How far away is the opening to the tunnel?
(voice-over): I went to Nye County, Nevada, hoping to see what was happening after the shutdown. The trip was a disappointment.
(on camera): This is Yucca Mountain right here -- right here in front of us?
VOEGELE: Absolutely. This is the west side of Yucca Mountain.
MATTINGLY: This is Yucca Mountain right here in front of us, this big long ridge, just keeps going this way. Those tunnels we talked about that are burrowed into the mountain, they are not in this area. They are a couple miles over that way.
(voice-over): The Department of Energy no longer allows access. This is as close as I could get.
VOEGELE: They're volcanic rocks.
MATTINGLY: An astonishing example of government waste, now completely hidden from public view.
David Mattingly, CNN, Nye County, Nevada.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: $10 billion taxpayer dollars going to waste.
A bipartisan coalition of House members has, though, introduced a resolution meant to keep the Energy Department from halting the Yucca Mountain project. The measure also aims to preserve scientific data on the project. Tomorrow, a blue-ribbon panel meets to review alternative solutions for America's nuclear waste program.
This is a huge, huge problem, with enormous political ramifications as well.
More than 100 terror suspects arrested in a massive crackdown. Are there ties to al Qaeda?
BLITZER: Saudi Arabia has just announced the arrest of more than 100 people accused of plotting terror attacks, including suicide attacks on oil facilities in the Saudi Kingdom that could cripple exports of Saudi oil and have a huge financial impact on the world economy.
Our national security contributor, Fran Townsend, is here. She's been looking into this story for us. She was the homeland security adviser in the last Bush administration.
What are you hearing about this? Because this is very worrisome. FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: This is very worrisome, Wolf, and I talked to Saudi security officials earlier in the day, after the arrests were announced. Interestingly, of the 101 arrested, more are actually Yemenis than Saudis.
BLITZER: Who live in Saudi Arabia?
TOWNSEND: No, they cross the border.
The Saudis have made clear that these individuals were launched from Yemen, into Saudi Arabia, where they were going to plan these attacks -- not only against oil facilities, but security facilities. They also tell me that they were tracking the movements of security officials.
And remember, now, it's about six months, eight months ago that there was an attempted assassination on the head of their security service. So, of course, the Saudis took it very -- are taking it very seriously.
Really, Wolf, we ought to remind our viewers, this is the same group, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, that are based in Yemen, whose fundamental inspiration comes from al-Awlaki, the preacher in Yemen.
BLITZER: The American-born preacher.
TOWNSEND: Exactly. Who was an inspiration to Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter, who clearly was an inspiration and recruited Abdulmutallab, the Christmas Day attempted bomber. So, this is very, very serious. This is an enemy not only of Saudi Arabia, but directly -- a direct threat to the United States.
BLITZER: I know they are looking for this guy, this radical cleric. When I say "they," I mean the United States and its allies in the region. Is he that hard to find?
TOWNSEND: Well, Wolf, it's not like he doesn't know we're looking for him now. And so, the interesting thing is, out of these 101 people that they've taken into custody, obviously, the first order of priority is what they can find out about al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula based in Yemen.
BLITZER: So, they're interrogating these guys.
TOWNSEND: Absolutely. And they're looking for information if they can track down al-Awlaki. Saudi Arabia has got the most competent security service in the region, and frankly shares as much information with the United States intelligence services as do our British allies. Most people don't realize that. And so, this is potentially a real source of intelligence for the United States and our allies.
BLITZER: And having been to Saudi Arabia as I know you have, they don't read the Miranda rights to these suspects once they pick them up. They start interrogating and trying to get some real-time information. TOWNSEND: They do, Wolf. But I'll tell you, you know, they have this whole rehabilitation program where they involve the families and try, you know, sugar works, too.
BLITZER: We'll see. We'll see what happens. But this is a disturbing story.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
Speaking of sugar -- counting calories, whether or not you want to. You'll soon be seeing exactly how your meal adds up, thanks to health care reform.
BLITZER: One part of the new health care reform law that hasn't received a whole lot of attention but you'll soon be seeing its impact in restaurants across the country, as they show you exactly how many calories you are about to eat in the food you order.
Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow. She's working this story.
Mary, tell our viewers what this is all about.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you can now have some guilt as you eat those burgers. Chain restaurants and vending machines will have to post calories, and you'll be able to see how close you come to the daily recommended limit of 2,000 calories per day per adult.
SNOW (voice-over): Order that Big Mac, and now you'll know you're consuming 540 calories. Add a soda and fries, and it could be as high as 1,160. A medium latte with nonfat milk at Starbucks, 168 calories. A salad at Chipotle can start out at 165 calories but can be as high as 800 depending on what you put on it.
Listing calories will now be required at restaurants across the country that have more than 20 locations -- a little-known provision of the health care reform bill. It's something already being done in New York City. But does it make a difference? We asked some New Yorkers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not even thinking about calories when I get two apple pies and I eat them in two seconds. With me, it doesn't matter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'd be surprised when you walk into some of these restaurants and something you think is healthy like a salad turns out to have 1,500 calories. I appreciate knowing that.
SNOW: The city's health department nudges New Yorkers to choose less, weigh less. It's analyzing data from 12,000 New Yorkers to see if posting calories is having an impact. Cathy Nonas says the results are incomplete, but --
CATHY NONAS, NYC DEPT. OF HEALTH: Twenty-five percent of them have said, of the people who actually see the total calories, 25 percent of them say that it affects their purchase. Preliminary data says that in many respects it does.
SNOW: But Brian Elebel, an assistant professor at NYU, found something completely different. No big change. He conducted a much smaller study of roughly 1,100 people in low-income communities.
(on camera): Why did you pick lower-income neighborhoods?
PROF. BRIAN ELEBEL, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: So, we chose low-income communities because these are the communities that have the greatest health problems more generally. And the obesity is a bigger problem in these communities than others. They have less access to healthier foods to begin with.
SNOW (voice-over): While he says he's hopefully the calorie counts will start showing a difference, city health officials say it's not just the eating habits they are hoping to change.
NONAS: And what we're hoping is that the calorie posting and what we've seen is that it puts a little pressure on the chain restaurants in order to reformulate and offer people healthier items.
SNOW: Now, the National Restaurant Association is applauding the calorie postings, because now, there will be a national standard replacing state and local rules. But it won't happen right away. The Food and Drug Administration must now come up with specific regulations, and it has a year to do that -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Mary Snow, working in the calorie story for us. Thank you.
And you just heard Mary mention that a McDonald's Big Mac has 540 calories.
Here the calorie counts of some other popular fast-food items. We did the checking. A Whopper from Burger King has 670 calories. A Taco Bell Chicken Soft Taco, 200 calories and a crunchy hard taco with beef, 170 calories. A regular cheeseburger from Five Guys, 840 calories, and one slice from a small Domino's pepperoni pizza, 200 calories.
What about some popular drinks? A Grande Vanilla Frappuccino from Starbucks, 310 calories, and a 12-ounce can of regular Coke, 140 calories. But don't worry, Diet Coke fans, your drink of choice has zero -- zero -- calories.
Baby slings -- millions of new parents can't do without them. But now, a certain brand is being recalled after several infants died -- details straight ahead.
And an ominous incident at the home of a congressman's brother just days after the lawmaker voted in favor of health care reform.
Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's get back to Lisa Sylvester. She's monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
What do you have, Lisa?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
Well, the U.S. Supreme Court has granted a temporary stay of execution for a condemned Texas inmate who is requesting DNA testing of evidence in his case. Henry "Hank" Skinner was originally scheduled to be executed by lethal injection this evening for the 1993 murder of his live-in girlfriend and her two sons. Larry King has an exclusive interview with Hank Skinner's wife. That's tonight at 9:00 Eastern.
A popular manufacturer of those widely used baby slings is now recalling more than 1 million of them after three infants died. The Consumer Products Safety Commission is urging parents to immediately stop using the Infantino LLC slings for babies under the age of 4 months because of suffocation risks. The company is offering free replacements for its SlingRider and its Wendy Bellissimo models.
For more information call 1-866-860-1361 or visit the firm's Web site at www.infantino.com.
And just days after voting in favor of the health care reform bill, a conservative House Democrat may be dealing with angry constituents. The FBI is investigating a suspicious incident at the home of Representative Tom Perriello's brother in which a propane tank line was severed. A source told "Politico" Monday that a tea party activist intended to post the congressman's address online, but posted his brother's by mistake -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's very worrisome what's going on. I know we're going to be covering it thoroughly.
Thanks very much, Lisa, for that.
Jack Cafferty is next with your e-mail.
And remember, at the top of the hour, "JOHN KING, USA." You'll want to see his rare interview with the treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner.
BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, "THE CAFFERY FILE": The question this hour is: should the government be able to force you to have health insurance? Whether they should be able to or not, that's what they're going to do. Michael in Dallas writes: "The government forces me to give part of my income. It tells me how fast to drive. It forces everybody who needs a license to work to prove we're good enough.
In some areas of the country, government can tell how and where we can build our houses, how well we must tend the lawns and even what colors we might paint them. We're forced to have liability insurance to drive, government allows mortgage lenders to force us to have homeowner's insurance.
As government ends up picking up the tab for those without health insurance and in need of care, why shouldn't it be allowed to force us to have health insurance?"
Barbara writes: "I'm failing to find the logic in being required to buy insurance when I can't afford the premiums. And if I could, I likely wouldn't be able to afford to use it with the co-pays and deductibles. There's something not right about being required to buy something I can't afford to use. Or am I missing something here?"
Rob writes: "All communist states can demand anything from their citizens. You must be confusing us with another democratic country to ask such a question, comrade."
Terry writes: "Governments need to act in the common good. Health care insurance is a necessity to safeguard against unanticipated financial risk or ruin. Most states require car insurance. I don't hear Americans complaining they need to carry public liability or face a penalty and/or an inability to register their cars."
Sean in Maine writes: "Nothing like the government using the Internal Revenue Service to force you to fork over your money to a giant insurance corporation. No matter who wins the elections or what progress we seem to make, Corporate America always -- always wins. It's unbelievable."
If you want to read more on the subject, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/CaffertyFile.
BLITZER: Look forward to doing it, Jack. See you tomorrow. Thank you.
Up next: chat roulette, an unlikely online sensation. Jeanne Moos takes a most unusual look.
BLITZER: He's the new star of the Chatroulette crowd. So, what's Chatroulette, you ask? Some might call it a most unusual meet-and- greet, and anyone with a computer is invited to join in.
CNN's Jeanne Moos reports.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Chatroulette is the latest thing.
MOOS: And the latest thing on Chatroulette is dueling piano players.
MOOS: This is the story of how a nobody calling himself Merton become so beloved --
MOOS: -- that a real star, Ben Folds -- put on a hoodie and got on Chatroulette during a live concert in an "Ode to Merton."
MOOS: But first, a little Chatroulette 101.
(on camera): So, this is Chatroulette. I have a camera trained on me. They have a camera trained on them. You basically go from person to person chatting with strangers. And if you see someone you don't like, you click "next."
(voice-over): You run into nice people, you run into naked creepy people. And if you're lucky, you run into Merton.
MOOS: He wants to stay anonymous. All we know is that he's from Colorado and plays improv piano.
MOOS: He's been serenading Chatrouletters, seducing them into typing back.
MOOS: Merton told the Web site Mashable --
MERTON: It's been primarily targeted at girlfriends in the past. My guy friends don't want me to sing songs out there more about them.
MOOS: No, these guys didn't seem to mind. And when people mistook Merton for alternative rock star, Ben Folds, Ben paid homage by playing Chatroulette in concert, leaving one guy sign --
MOOS: -- and the guy gave up his name, Ben brought in the crowd.
BEN FOLDS, MUSICIAN: Bobby. Bobby, you win.
MOOS: What does Merton say about Ben's ode to him?
MERTON: I love it. I think it's so funny.
FOLDS: You know, we're really having a good --
MOOS: And that may well be where Chatroulette is headed.
MERTON: No one ever takes me seriously. And now, you guys are laughing hilariously.
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN -- New York.
BLITZER: Thank you, Jeanne Moos.
Tomorrow, I'll be over at the White House for a rare sit-down interview with the White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. That interview will air tomorrow right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Remember, you can always follow me on Twitter, at WolfBlitzerCNN -- all one word.
Thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
CNN's new show, "JOHN KING, USA" starts right now.