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THE SITUATION ROOM
Volcano Sparks Travel Havoc; Nominee a Political Lightning Rod; Extremism Then and Now
Aired April 16, 2010 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Rick, thank you.
Happening now: just days before the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, I go one-on-one with the former president, Bill Clinton, to talk about growing anti-government sentiment now and the possibility of another domestic terror attack.
Also, 16,000 European flights canceled with air space closed in more than a dozen countries. It's travel chaos all because of a volcanic eruption thousands of miles away.
And a new tool for law enforcement -- get this -- head cams. Now, we see what they see. But there's controversy over potential abuse.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Monday, America pauses to remember the 168 lives lost in the worst act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history. Now, 15 years after the Oklahoma City bombing, there's growing concern about a new wave of anti-government hatred like the kind that drove Timothy McVeigh to mass murder. Is it putting the safety of President Obama at risk? Perhaps the safety of all Americans?
I talked about the threat then and now with the man who was president at the time of the Oklahoma tragedy, Bill Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The other difference -- yes, the Internet has exploded over these 15 years, there's a Democratic president now, you were a Democratic president then, but the other big difference is there's an African-American president.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: Yes. And an African- American president whose father was from Kenya and his mother's second husband was a Muslim. And so, he's had all these attacks from the birthers and others.
I do think -- and he's had a lot of threats and also the members of Congress have had a lot of threats against them. We had a lot of threats. I remember when that guy came from Colorado and opened fire on the White House with an assault weapon, he sprayed the press room. Remember that? Some of the bullets got in the press room. BLITZER: I remember, on the North Lawn of the White House.
CLINTON: And they were so angry at me. And they were madder at me. I was sort of an apostate and he's an outsider. That is the white southern Protestants of which I am one are the heart and soul of the then right-wing movement in America, the right-wing of the conservative party. And also, where a lot of the people who were most they needed (ph). So, they figured, you know, what was the matter with me, I was a traitor to my class.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. There's much more obviously of this interview with the former president. Later this hour, we'll play more of that interview, and at 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour, one hour from now, the full interview will air. We'll talk about the Oklahoma City bombing, where he was when he learned first about it. Could it happen again?
The complete interview, that's coming up at the top of next hour.
For the second day in a row, a volcano in Iceland is creating travel havoc over much of Europe. More than a dozen countries have been forced to close because air space over -- is in threat right now. The volcanic ash is clogging plane engines. That's resulted in 16,000 flight cancellations.
Even medical evacuations for wounded American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have been impacted. They're usually flown to the Ramstein Air Base in Germany, but it's closed, along with Germany's other airports, at least for now. And we don't know when they will reopen.
CNN's Gary Tuchman is in Iceland right now, near the volcano that's causing so much disruption for tens of thousands of travelers.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When we arrived in Iceland this morning, we never thought we'd be able to stand so close to the volcano, but this is it. This is about where the volcano is. The volcano has erupted underneath a glacier.
And that's what you see this flooded agricultural fields here. Ice falls, a lot, mud, many of the farms have been flooded. Some roads have been buckled. But nobody has been killed, nobody has been hurt.
And the problems in Iceland are relatively slight. That's because the Reykjavik airport in the capital, three other international airports in the country, all opened because they're to the west of the volcano. To the east, that's where the problems are.
You see the plume of ash behind the mountain, to the east, they're blowing in that direction, that's where mainland Europe is and that's why they're having so many problems.
Right now, the roads are closed behind me because where the danger is. Here in Iceland, they're used to volcanoes. This one, by the way, the last time it went off was in 1821, almost 190 years ago. And when it did at that time, when it erupted, it lasted two years. They're sure hoping it doesn't last two years this time.
This is Gary Tuchman, CNN, in Hvolsvollur, Iceland.
BLITZER: More than 1,000 miles away, that volcano has stranded hundreds of thousands of would-be passengers. They're right now scrambling for trains, cars, hotel rooms, with many being told it will be days before they can get a flight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I may end not getting to go to Poland and go on down to Munich or Vienna. Would like to get over to Poland, but it may not be possible today. But you go with the flow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were due back in Manchester (ph) yesterday. Our flight's canceled. So, Lufthansa are very kindly, put us up in a hotel. So, we're just coming back to find out more information this morning as to how we can get home.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it's quite difficult because we have to go back to Belgium because we'll miss work. And we have a lot of appointments to change, and it's quite complicated.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The plane hasn't left Canada. So until the plane leaves Canada to come here, then we can't return.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are here, it seems, at 5:00 in the morning. And while watching the plane, they don't know if it's tomorrow, after tomorrow, or Monday or Tuesday. They don't know.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They just don't know anything, basically, but they haven't told us anything either, apart from the fact that we can go on stand by to Glasgow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been our 25th wedding anniversary. So, we've enjoyed ourselves but it does take the edge off the holiday by having this. But, we're just -- the whole of Europe's been hit. So, there's very few options to get home, that's the problem. That's the real difficulty.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
BLITZER: The situation will also have an impact on Sunday's funeral for the Polish president, Lech Kaczynski, who was killed in a plane crash last week. Poland's air space is closed. Some dignitaries who were planning to attend have already canceled, including a Vatican official who was supposed to lead the funeral mass. President Obama is still at least as of right now planning to attend. We'll see if that changes.
Norway's prime minister stranded abroad and governing in part by an Apple iPad. The prime minister was here in the United States this week. He's gradually trying to make his way back to Oslo. CNN spoke with him by phone in Madrid and asked him how he's managing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENS STOLTENBERG, NORWEGIAN PRIME MINISTER (via telephone): You know, it's very normal for a prime minister to travel abroad. So, this is not different from other travels. The only thing is that it lasts some days more than we planned. But we have the Internet, we have the mobile phones and I also use an iPad which is excellent means of communications.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The spokesman for the prime minister says he bought the iPad while stuck in New York on Thursday. Good decision for the prime minister.
There's much more of my interview with the former president, Bill Clinton. That's coming up. We'll talk about the Oklahoma City bombing, where he was when he was first told about it, his initial reaction, and could it happen again. That's coming up.
Also, a Wall Street giant accused of defrauding investors. What makes this case the first of its kind?
And, an Obama judicial nominee becoming a political lightning rod. Details of his chilly reception by Senate Republicans.
BLITZER: Check in with Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, THE CAFFERTY FILE: Wolf, hating the federal government has finally gone mainstream. That's according to a piece in "The Washington Examiner" by political editor Chris Stirewalt.
Quoting here, "After two wars, a $12 trillion debt, a financial crisis and the most politically tone deaf president in modern history, Obama, Americans may have finally given up on big government," unquote. Stirewalt writes how three years ago, the Republican establishment pretty much disregarded presidential candidate Ron Paul, but not any more. The Texas congressman is gaining some serious support along with his son, Rand, who is an ophthalmologist with no political experience but who may have a real shot at a Senate seat in Kentucky.
Stirewalt suggests that the American people are sick of watching everyone from the big banks to the united autoworkers drain the U.S. treasury. He believes that both Democrats and Republicans have misjudged the mood of the public. It's, of course, the tea party movement that represents much of this angst and anger at big government, record spending and deficits and higher taxes. Last year, the tea parties caught everybody by surprise -- almost everybody -- but now, the two major political parties and the media are all tuned in.
Stirewalt says the real meaning of these protests isn't about a politician like Ron Paul or even the activists marching with "Don't Tread on Me" flags. Instead, it's about the people at home who might agree with their message and there are potentially lots and lots of those. The polls showing that nearly a third of Americans consider themselves tea party supporters.
So, here's the question: Do you hate the government? Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We're going to hear a lot more about the tea party from former President Clinton in my interview that I taped earlier today. He had some serious thoughts on this whole tea party movement. I think our viewers, Jack, will be interested.
CAFFERTY: Well, I'm interested. I look forward to it.
BLITZER: Yes. The whole interview airs at the top of next hour. We'll have a little bit more of it this hour.
The Senate confirmation hearing today may be a preview of what's in store for President Obama's next nominee for the Supreme Court. Goodwin Liu is up for a seat on the ninth circuit court of appeals, one level below the U.S. Supreme Court. He's a 39-year-old professor at the University of California, Berkeley. And if confirmed, he'd be the only Asian-American currently on the appeals court.
But Republicans are expressing concern about his statements in support of same-sex marriage and affirmative action.
Our congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar, has more on today's hearings.
How did it go, Brianna?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is a very tough hearing, Wolf. This was -- Goodwin Liu is very much on the hot seat. Republicans have issues with him for many different reasons, but the big one has to do with something he said four years ago.
KEILAR (voice-over): This was Goodwin Liu in 2006, knocking President Bush's nomination of conservative Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, describing what he called Alito's vision of America.
GOODWIN LIU, APPELLATE COURT NOMINEE: Mr. Chairman, liberty is not safe in an America where police can shoot and kill an unarmed boy to stop him from escaping with a stolen purse, and where the FBI can install a camera where you sleep on the promise that they won't turn it on unless they have to. Mr. Chairman, this isn't the America we know and it isn't the America we aspire to be.
KEILAR: And today, at Liu's confirmation hearing to the federal appeals bench, Republicans took him to task for his comments.
SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: This calls into question your judicial temperament. I see it as very vicious and emotionally and racially charged, very intemperate. And to me, it calls into question your ability to approach and characterize people's positions in a fair and judicious way.
KEILAR: Liu called it.
LIU: Unnecessarily colorful language. Let me, if I may, back up and simply say that as with Chief Justice Roberts, I have the highest regard for Justice Alito's intellect.
KEILAR: Asked again --
LIU: I think that that phrase is perhaps unnecessarily flowery language.
KEILAR: For his 2006 testimony and his writings as a college professor, some in support of liberal positions such as same-sex marriage and affirmative action, Republicans say Liu is one of the most controversial and outspoken nominees they've ever seen.
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: They represent, I think, the very vanguard of what I would call intellectual judicial activism.
LIU: I think that the -- whatever I may have written in the books and in the articles would have no bearing on my role as a judge.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How can you say that?
KEILAR: Democrats tried to dampen criticism.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you keep an open mind?
LIU: I would approach every case with an open mind, Mr. Chairman. The role of the judge is to faithfully follow the law as it is written and as it is given by the Supreme Court, and there is no room for invention.
KEILAR: But Republicans remained unconvinced.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: This is not just a matter of your academic skill. It really is -- is this the right job for you?
KEILAR: Clearly, Republicans don't think so, Wolf.
BLITZER: Will they filibuster, Brianna?
KEILAR: So far, they seem reticent to say they're going to do that. They're not committing to that, clearly fearful of looking obstructionist. But they have major concerns here. Liu being 39 years old, this is someone who could have a major career ahead of them on the appellate bench. So, certainly, would have the chance then to maybe be a Supreme Court nominee.
So, what we'll be seeing is, of course, Republicans making a lot of noise about this, possibly raising money about this over this -- but the question of the filibuster, so far not yet, Wolf.
BLITZER: Brianna Keilar working the story on the Hill -- thanks, Brianna.
A federal fraud charge against Wall Street giant, Goldman Sachs -- the government says it did something that cost investors $1 billion.
And President Obama now says he'll veto a financial industry reform bill unless it contains one thing. Details of the president's demand -- that's coming up.
BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Lisa, what else is going on?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf.
Well, Goldman Sachs is denying new federal fraud charges. The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged the New York-based investment giant with defrauding investors in a sale of securities tied to subprime mortgages. The SEC says Goldman Sachs failed to disclose conflicts of interest in a 2007 sale of a so-called collateralized debt obligation. Investors ultimately lost $1 billion. The case is first brought by the new division investigating abuses during the credit crisis.
President Obama puts his foot down on financial reform. He says he'll veto any bill that comes to him without heavy regulations of the so- called derivatives market. Derivatives are complicated instruments such as mortgage-backed securities that triggered the 2008 economic meltdown.
And there's some dispute among Democrats about how far regulation in the Senate bill should go. Senate Republicans sent Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid a letter today, saying all Republicans remain opposed to the legislation.
And former Los Angeles Police chief, Daryl Gates, has died after battling bladder cancer. Gates was L.A.'s top police officer from 1978 through 1992. He oversaw the department at the time of the Rodney King beating by four police officers and the infamous 1992 riots that followed their acquittal in state court. Gates resigned in the wake of the racial turmoil that gained national attention. Gates was 83 years old.
In Arlington, Massachusetts, police say they have their man, but the Nobel Prize he's suspected of taking is still missing. Police say this suspect broke into the home of Harvard professor Roy Glauber while he was away. The 84-year-old Glauber won the 2005 Nobel Peace prize for physics for his research in light particles. He says the medal and other academic awards mean a great deal to him. The suspect has pleaded not guilty.
Hopefully, they'll be able to track down that Nobel Peace prize. I'm sure the professor would want it back. BLITZER: Yes. I wonder if the Nobel committee can give him a new one if that one is lost, because I'm sure it's very, very treasured by that professor.
SYLVESTER: Yes, that's a good question. I mean, you know, we'll have to see, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Lisa, thank you.
More of my interview with the former President Bill Clinton is coming up when we come back. He'll share his thoughts on President Obama and threats against the White House and Congress. Are they part of the job? Something to worry about? Or both?
And the next generation in policing. The dash cam gives way to new technology that brings viewers into the moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Brian Todd on an overnight ride with the Cincinnati police where they're testing out this device. It's a head camera. It goes with the police everywhere they go on the street. We're going to show you how it works and some incredible footage that the police have captured.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We're now with my conversation with the former President Bill Clinton about the new wave of anti-government hatred that exists in this country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: President Obama is different and symbolizes the increasing diversity of America. And both of them and for him, it's like a symbol of -- he symbolizes the loss of control, of predictability, of certainty, of clarity, that a lot of people need for their psychic well-being. And so, I worry about it. Look, he's well-protected by the Secret Service. They're terrific.
And a president -- I can tell you, I never met a president -- and look, George W. Bush had some threats against him of people who strongly disagree with his policy. Some -- Eric Cantor got a threat here. The governor of New Jersey has been at least jokingly threatened by some of the interest groups in New Jersey, Republican governor of New Jersey.
But by and large, in the last 50 years, at least since the early '70s, when we still had some left-wing problems -- by and large, these have been systematically coming out of the far right. And again, I think that all those folks have a place in our political debate, we just have to know where to draw the line.
And I -- and we have enough threats against the president, enough threats against the Congress that we should be sensitive to it. The 15th anniversary of Oklahoma City, I'm not trying to draw a total parallel, I'm just saying that we should be aware of this.
This is a vast echo chamber, this Internet. And there's lots of folks listening. And as I say, some are serious, some are delirious, some are connected, some are unhinged.
And we -- all of us who have any responsibility have to exercise that responsibility so that we're intellectually honest about our political positions, but we're also intellectually honest about what certain words might do to people who are less stable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about this right now in our strategy session.
Joining us: our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist, Paul Begala. Paul was a counselor to President Clinton. And Republican strategist Tony Blankley -- he's an executive vice president for the Edelman P.R. firm.
Guys, thanks very much.
How worried, Tony, should we be about all of this? The president -- former president is very worried.
TONY BLANKLEY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: This is the second time he's done that. Michael Waldman, who was his chief speechwriter, interviewed by PBS years later, talking about the moment after the bombing said he, the president, also very skillfully used that moment to begin the process of making people wonder about the Republican revolution on Capitol Hill. And very subtly and appropriately, by planting the national flag in opposition to that, Clinton began to turn the political tide as well.
Chris Berry, who is doing the interview, said couldn't that be accused of manipulating a terrible tragedy in order to do that. I think this is the second time the former president has tried to use this event. And one other point -- because it's a very dangerous business, accusing people of causing these mass murders -- when Timothy McVeigh was going to death, the "Associated Press" said, the reason he did that terrible thing in Oklahoma was because of the Waco tragedy where the Clinton Justice Department inadvertently killed 76 people.
And so, here you've got the real cause -- now, I don't blame the president for that because he was a lunatic. He was a murderous lunatic.
BLITZER: Timothy McVeigh.
BLANKLEY: Timothy McVeigh. But the fact is that that cause was not Newt's Contract with America balancing the budget and welfare reform, but actual cause was the tragedy at Waco.
BLITZER: Oh, he didn't say that, in fairness to the former president. He didn't blame Newt Gingrich's Contract with America --
BLANKLEY: I was defense secretary then.
BLITZER: No. He didn't blame -- he didn't blame them for creating the environment that caused the Oklahoma City bombing.
BLANKLEY: Yes, he did.
BLITZER: Paul, you were there.
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Me thinks Tony protesteth too much.
There is -- there was in the '90s, there is today, right-wing violence. There it is. It is a fact.
The woman, Carrie Watkins, who runs the Oklahoma City memorial said it is eerily similar to the mid-'90s. Mark Potok, the Southern Poverty Law Center, who tracks hate groups, says it feels a lot like the run- up to Oklahoma City.
Now, the president you just hear what he said. He didn't say anything about Newt Gingrich. He didn't say anything about the --
BEGALA: -- right-wing violence in this country. And McVeigh was a terrorist. That's what he was, a terrorist.
And -- just a second -- and a very powerful and popular conservative television host pointed to his audience and called them a bunch of Timothy McVeigh wannabes. He called them and then his audience clapped. Now, that's terrible to call anybody some kind of a terrorist.
BLANKLEY: Clinton's speech writer told PBS that the president was using this to wonder about the Republican revolution on Capitol Hill --
BORGER: I don't think that --
BLANKLEY: What he did last time.
BLITZER: When you see the full interview, he speaks at length about his passion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sure --
BLITZER: A lot of the tea party protesters, he wants them to be passionate about policy, about politics. It's violence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But look, I've got the press calls.
BORGER: I think what the president is doing is saying, look, there's a tone right now that he doesn't like. And sometimes things go over the line. I would argue that when you have members in Congress scream at you live at the press incident or scream at you baby killer, from the top down, the tone has been set and all he is saying --
BORGER: All he is saying is that you have to be careful when threats are leveled against members of Congress that things are taking a dangerous turn.
BLANKLEY: Both sides -- both sides have violent rhetoric. The anti- war rhetoric against George W. Bush coming from their side was terrible. I didn't hear the former president accuse code pink and all the other people better cool their rhetoric when they were calling the president a war criminal.
BORGER: Who did he accuse here?
BLANKLEY: Who did you think that President Clinton accused? Huh?
BORGER: He's saying, be careful.
BLITZER: I think he's accusing lunatic militia fringe groups.
BLANKLEY: No, he's trying to do again what he did -- I got the press calls in '95. And I got reporters calling me telling me the White House is saying that our Contract with America and us advocating that had caused the killing of 160 innocent Americans. I got those calls.
BEGALA: That's nonsense.
BLANKLEY: He's doing the same thing again.
BEGALA: Here's what he's doing. He's shining a light on these cockroaches. Which is the right thing to do. We in media should do it. Leaders of both parties should do it. There's been an up surge in violence. McVeigh was a terrorist. This animal in Pittsburgh who murdered a couple of cops, three cops, he was a terrorist. He targeted police officers because he was an ultra right whining white supremacist. Not a conservative. He was a terrorist. He was anti- government right winger. We will a right winger murder that abortion provider Dr. Tiller in Wichita. We had an ultra right winder, a Nazi go into our holocaust museum and murder a guard. We had a right wing murder -- wait a second. That guy was anti-neo con. Anti-Bush.
BORGER: I don't think he's blaming Republicans.
BLANKLEY: You don't think so?
BORGER: No, I don't.
BLITZER: I'd like you to watch the whole interview at the top of the hour and them come back and tell me if you think he is. He's very precise. I don't remember the stuff that Michael Waldman, who was one of his top speech writers is saying that -- you remember Michael Waldman. A serious guy. BLANKLEY: This is the transcript.
BLITZER: I'll take a look at that. But I do remember covering that period. And I do remember Timothy McVeigh saying he was moved to this by the way the Clinton administration justice department dealt with Waco.
BLANKLEY: Not because of the Republicans and contracts with America.
BEGALA: Clinton didn't say that. By contrast, you want to talk about your old boss, Newt Gingrich, when a woman in South Carolina pushed them in a car into a lake, Newt blamed liberals. Blamed liberals for that murder by a psychopath.
BLITZER: Sensitive about this. But I want you to watch, all of you, watch the interview at the top of the hour, because we go into extensive details on the very issues that you raised, then we'll discuss. Stand by for that. We've got a lot more coming up. More news and Jack Cafferty.
He's in a tough fight for a U.S. Senate seat, a possible setback for Charlie Crist. We'll hear what he's saying about that. And surrounded by commandos, a wanted man gets away in a breathtaking escape. All of it caught on tape.
Americans speak out about Pope Benedict. Has the sex abuse scandal hurt his popularity? Man: be kind to your eyes with transitions lenses.
BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM. What else is going on Lisa?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there Wolf. Well Florida governor Charlie Crist is downplaying the resignation of a key political adviser. The Associated Press first reported that Connie Mack submitted his letter of resignation after Crist vetoed a GOP- backed education bill.
GOV. CHARLIE CRIST (R), FLORIDA: There's always a price to pay for making decisions in life. In my business, the political world, you take political hits. And that's okay. That's just part of it. But you got to do what you think is right at the end of the day.
SYLVESTER: But Crist is trailing Marco Rubio in a heated Republican primary race for the Senate. Some analysts say the veto could be a sign that he's going to run as an independent.
And in a second blow to the governor, his opponent is picking up a major endorsement. Former Republican governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney announced today that he'll campaign with Rubio on Monday. And his political action committee will contribute $5,000 to the Rubio campaign. A Romney adviser says Crist's veto of that education bill contributed to his decision. Take a look at this. An escape caught on video. A leader of the anti-government movement in Thailand got away from Thai commandos by climbing out of a window of a hotel. You can see him there. And scaling down the wall with a rope. And he fled less than half an hour after the government announced that it had the hotel surrounded. It's been trying for the past month to end demonstrations by red shirt protesters. At least 24 people were killed when one crackdown attempt last weekend failed. Wolf?
BLITZER: That's a serious situation over there, Lisa.
SYLVESTER: He made it down to the bottom. You can see there. Looks like pretty happy, jumping up and down. One got away, Wolf.
BLITZER: Lisa, thank you.
The dash cam has certainly become common place and routine. But not so routine is something else. There's now technology that lets us see what the officer sees as it happens. CNN's Brian Todd will give us a firsthand look.
BLITZER: Confrontations between police officers and suspects are often charged with adrenaline, and investigating what really happened in those moments can be very hard to piece together. But a new device could change policing and criminal trials forever. It's a sort of futuristic device that police wear on their heads. A warning, this report contains some disturbing images. Our Brian Todd went to Cincinnati for a ride along.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we'll show you one device that's been used for many years now and familiar to most Americans. The mobile video recorder also known as the dash cam here in a cruiser in Cincinnati. But right now, police departments across the United States are testing out a new kind of camera, one that is not restricted to the vehicle. But it also raises a lot of serious questions. Does it give police a valuable tool to gather evidence or give them too much power?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're still running towards --
TODD: You're looking almost literally through the eyes of a Cincinnati police officer as she chases down a suspect.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get on the ground!
TODD: The suspect grabs the officer's taser.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's got my taser.
TODD: Goes after her with it. Then charges her backup. Seconds later, he's subdued, no one's hurt. He's arrested and charged with assaulting two police officers. The entire sequence of this incident in late February was videotaped by Cincinnati police officer Mandy Curfiss.
OFFICER MANDY CURFISS, CINCINNATI POLICE: The camera, had it turned into a dead force encounter, it would have been harder for me to articulate what happened. It shows exactly why we did what we did.
TODD: She's one of ten Cincinnati police officers who patrol the street with the camera strapped to their ears. Manufactured by Taser International, the same company that makes the stun guns, it's been trial tested by the Cincinnati police for a couple months and has captured several harrowing incidents.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do it now!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to get tased.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What you got on you, boss?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got two pistols.
TODD: Officers who have worn the device say it's a crucial tool for gathering evidence, capable of moving with them where dash cams can't go. The camera is right here on the left side. Strap it over your ear like this. Communications hub is right here. And a computer that stores the video and the data right here. I've got to hit this button twice for it to record. Should be doing it now. You can see the images that I'm seeing as I look up and down the street. Very important to know, if you don't hit this button twice, it is not going to record anything. So the beat cop has sole discretion over what gets recorded and what doesn't. We spoke about that with veteran Cincinnati criminal defense attorney Steve Adams.
STEVE ADAMS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: That's a problem. It puts too much bias and prejudice against the person that's suspected of a crime or the person that's being interviewed. Or the person that's being interrogated.
TODD: I challenged Cincinnati police Chief Tom Streicher with a scenario.
Maybe a bunch of police are beating on a suspect and none of it gets recorded and they kind of talk amongst themselves, okay, nobody records this, right? People wonder is this being used for the purpose for which it's intended?
CHIEF TOM STREICHER, CINCINNATI POLICE: In the scenario you're talking about, number one, I hope that something like that never does happen. And if it does happen, there's some real serious questions that need to be answered. Very serious questions. I have to tell you also that people's jobs would be in jeopardy here in Cincinnati.
TODD: Streicher's ordered his officers to record every incident that happens. It was pivotal in this incident in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Police respond to a domestic violence call. Davis confronts the suspect from the front door, tells him repeatedly to drop his gun and the man refuses.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put the gun down. [ shots fired ]
TODD: As the videos rolling, corporate Davis shoots and kills the suspect. Because his ten warnings were recorded, Davis was cleared of any wrong doing in an internal investigation. We test out the camera on a ride-along with Cincinnati police officer Melissa Cummins. At one intersection, she tries to talk to a man about his public drinking. Y takes off. Cummins, with us in tow, takes off after him.
OFFICER MELISSA CUMMINS, CINCINNATI POLICE: You better stop or I'm going to tase you.
TODD: The man ignores her repeated warnings to stop.
CUMMINS: Get on the ground! Get on the ground!
TODD: She tases him and books him for obstructing official business. Later we review the video.
What's on the video about the way you handled it?
CUMMINS: Good, I think so. I gave him every chance to stop running.
TODD: Cummins and other officers tell us the cameras are constantly used as a teaching stool, but many see its shortcomings.
TODD: One officer says another concern they have about the ear cameras is that the court system, juries, might come to rely too much on video evidence. They've already seen some of that with the dash cameras. This officer says it's almost believe that if it wasn't recorded it didn't happen and that sometimes cuts down on the credibility of an officer's testimony in court about an event that was not recorded. Still, five police departments across the country have tested out this system. One of them in Aberdeen, South Dakota, has bought a set of these ear cams. The police chief here in Cincinnati says he wants to buy a permanent set for this department.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, excellent report. Thanks very much. New technology. Do you hate the government? It's the question of the hour. Jack Cafferty will be here to read your e-mail. Also, air travelers aren't the only ones stranded by that volcanic ash that's blowing over Europe. It's grounded American war wounded as well. Barbara Starr will examine how the pentagon.
BLITZER: Let's go back to Jack for "the Cafferty file." Jack?
The question this hour is do you hate the government?
Chuck writes, "Government at all levels becoming increasingly onerous to the point of being downright abusive in its quest for money. The root cause is the elected officials that pander to their constituencies by voting for increasingly more expensive programs, benefits, and entitlements. I'm at the point I will vote against any incumbent, regardless of party."
Steve writes, "Yes, I do."
Jan writes, "Hate the government? Move to Somalia, they don't have a government. It's a capitalist utopia, no taxes, but no public works, transportation, police, schools, medical care, et cetera. No military, either. Just militias. The perfect place for a government hater."
Judy in Arizona, "Hate's a pretty strong word. I don't hate it. I'm just tired of those less-than-1,000 people who are making the decisions for millions, displaying a superiority attitude that said the American public is stupid and couldn't possibly know what is good for us. Johnson writes, I don't hate the government, I hate Democrats and Republicans. The tea party people aren't helping either. When did this country lose its common sense?"
Regina writes, "No, I don't hate the government. It's made up of you and me. The path it's on, the path determined by well-meaning decisions with unanticipated consequences is wrong and we need to fix what we have done, reduce the size of the government, reduce the scale of entitlements, reduce the federal footprint over states' rights. I'm 39 years old, I have been apolitical all my life, but not anymore, it's just too much. And lee writes, I love my country. The government can go to hell."
If you want to read more about this, got a lot of e-mail, find it on my blog, CNN.com/Caffertyfile.
BLITZER: All right, Jack. Good work. Thank you.
My full one-on-one interview with the former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, that's coming up, right at the top of the hour. We're only a few moments away. You'll see the full interview for the first time.
Plus, the volcanic ash that's closed Europe's airspace is impacting medical evacuations from Iraq and Afghanistan.
BLITZER: Despite efforts to reduce nuclear arsenals, what if the president one day has to order a nuclear attack? Almost two decades after the United States stopped testing these weapons by exploding them, how can it make sure the warheads actually work? Our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, takes us on an exclusive tour of the U.S. Nuclear testing facility in Livermore, California.
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the only place in the world where you can get to the nuclear phase of a weapon without blowing up a bomb.
The U.S. stopped testing nuclear weapons by blowing them up above ground or below ground 18 years ago. Now, it's virtual testing, thanks to the world's largest laser at Lawrence Livermore national laboratory. It generates temperatures and pressures found only in stars and in nuclear weapons.
This is an actual target, in its actual size.
That little red thing?
The little red thing in the middle and that's where the isotopes get ready to be blown to bits.
So how does this little tiny target explain how a nuclear weapon is functioning or isn't?
Because we can model different parts of the physical processes that go on inside a nuclear weapon, without testing.
This is the heart of the operation, it's the control room. And right now, this team is getting ready for a laser experiment later on tonight, from this room they use 2,000 computers and 60,000 control points.
This is the purple machine, 100 trillion floating-point operations per second, where we pull together all of the physics that's necessary to model a nuclear weapons reliability, and safety.
With the world's most powerful supercomputers and explosive testing facilities, the scientists here at Livermore analyze all of the country's nuclear stockpiles to make sure they're functioning correctly. We're in the high explosives applications facility, where they carry out about 1,000 explosions every year. This is Brian Crackiola, and he's the operations. So tell us what this is.
What you see here is a mock-up in our tank of what we call a scaled thermal experiment. Because when and if the president has to press the button, we need to know that the weapons are going to work.
Blowing up some materials inside there, how does that help you test nuclear weapons?
Okay, well, nuclear weapons, like anything else, age, you know? They're created by man, all right? There are things that can go wrong with them, and so we test the high explosives here to ensure that they're always safe and reliable.
Can we in essence look in?
Sure. It vibrates the atoms at the rate of a million billion per second. That is so fast that heat can't be conducted, shock waves can't be conducted.
There's a big debate right now where people say is this testing really sufficient to be absolutely sure that that nuclear device will go off? How do you answer that?
Well, we -- we probably look at these weapons today more extensively than we did even when we were doing nuclear testing. There are hundreds of ways that a nuclear weapon could fail. We've found failure modes in the stockpile that we could never have found with nuclear testing. Because we're able to do these massive simulations, the largest calculations that man has ever done.
This tank here is really cool. You know, we call this laser a long- pulse laser. You know, we're finally at the place with this -- this laser facility, with our computers, and with other facilities, for the first time to do this kind of experiment. I think this is why President Obama probably has more confidence in -- or one of the many reasons he has more confidence in going forward with his new policy.
BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world.