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Bomb Suspect Tied to Taliban; In Wake of Massive Oil Spill; Push-Button War in Pakistan; The Latest on the Times Square Bomb Plot Investigation; President Marks Cinco de Mayo

Aired May 5, 2010 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in the SITUATION ROOM. Happening now,

Breaking news, an alleged meeting in the mountains of Pakistan. A senior Pakistani official links the Times Square bomb plot suspect to the Taliban.

Also, as that massive oil slick moves closer to the shore, there's a bold move under way to cap the leaking oil well. It's ingenious, but can it work?

And rioters hurling rocks at firebombs on the streets of Athens. Those protests against Greece's painful belt tightening have now turned deadly.

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

There's breaking news this hour about the Times Square bomb suspect. A senior Pakistani official tells CNN that in July 2009, the suspect, Faisal Shahzad, met with one or more senior Taliban leaders. The source says the contact occurred in Pakistan's rugged border region. Let's go straight to our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve. Jeanne, what do we know?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a photograph from Dawn News of Faisal Shahzad as he went through immigration in Karachi, Pakistan, on July 3rd of 2009, that trip, it turns out, is significant. A senior Pakistani official tells CNN that a few days later on July 7th, Shahzad was driven to Peshawar by Mohammed Rehan. At some point, this official said, they headed to the Wazirazan (ph) region where Shahzad is believed to have spent a period of time.

According to this official, Shahzad and Rehan met with one or more senior Taliban leaders while there. In addition, Rehan is believed to have strong links to the militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed which is close to both the Pakistan Taliban and al Qaeda. Rehan, by the way, has been detained in Karachi. At this point, U.S. officials are still saying they are investigating Shahzad's overseas links. They are not saying they have established any.

Meanwhile, a federal law enforcement official says there is no indication that Shahzad had any associates here in the United States, working with him to put together the Times Square plot. So, of course, the investigation is continuing, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jeanne, how did they come up with Shahzad's name?

MESERVE: This is interesting. This from an administration official. He came back into this country, Shahzad, from Pakistan, in February, and he met customs and border protection criteria for secondary screening. It's not that he was on a watch list, just as he pinged on a couple of categories that made him a candidate for an additional look. So, they took a look and they filed a report which is a pro forma thing to do with the FBI and other intelligence agencies. Included on that report, some passenger information including telephone numbers. So, then, we have this weekend.

They're investigating this bomb left in Times Square. They come up with a card transaction, and in connection with that, they come up with a telephone number, and they don't have any name associated with the phone, so they start doing a run not only of that number but all the numbers that have called that phone or that phone has called to, and in the course of that, they get a match with a number that was on that CBP report, and that, an administration official tells me, is how they came up with Shahzad's name.

BLITZER: And, Jeanne, I take it you've also confirmed that Shahzad is now being interrogated by this elite interrogation unit?

MESERVE: Members of that unit. He's not being interrogated by the HIG, as it's called the high value interrogation group, but I am told that some elements of that group are present to assist those who are doing the interrogation, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jeanne, thanks for that.

We're also learning much more about the activities of the suspects in the period leading up to when the explosives-packed SUV was found in Times Square. That includes the purchase of fireworks and alleged components of the bomb. Our national correspondent, Susan Candiotti, has been working this part of the story for us. Susan, what have you learned?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, today, we went to a town in Pennsylvania, and we talked to the owner of Phantom Fireworks. We also spoke with a young store clerk who was as surprised as anyone that he apparently sold a few fireworks to someone who turned out to be an accused terrorist.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I remember him coming in just an unremarkable customer, you know. He didn't pose as any kind of threat or didn't raise any flags. Just seemed like an average person, you know. He said, hi, how are you? He gave me his ID, and I processed his information and he went about his business.


CANDIOTTI: Now, the store says he bought about $100 worth of fireworks, 2000 (ph) rockets and a tube that sprays colorful sparks into the air, silver salutes they're called, and some green safety fuse. They say Faisal Shahzad is on the store surveillance cameras, and they turned over that video to the FBI. But just like bomb experts, the company's officials are scratching their heads over why Faisal Shahzad would have used fireworks as he claims to have told FBI agents to make a bomb.


BRUCE ZOLDAN, PRES., PHANTOM FIREWORKS: There really is nothing that we sell that would make any kind of an impact. The only thing remotely connected would be a fuse, but our fuse, the safety fuse, burns so slowly that it would not be very effective. So, honestly, I think this fella was just barking up the wrong tree when he thought these firecrackers would do something.


CANDIOTTI: Investigators say that Shahzad attached the fireworks next to propane tanks and gas cans in a failed effort to light his contraption. Experts say, if it had worked, it might have created a fireball and could have killed bystanders, but not powerful enough to take down an entire building. The store says it did call the FBI when it saw what happened in Times Square to offer help, and then on television yesterday, it noticed the FBI found some of its fireworks, saw some of them on television that has own fireworks, when it saw them outside the suspect's Connecticut home.

Now, court papers say that Shahzad also called the store the Sunday before the attempted bombing, but the store didn't remember anything about that. So, in other words, as this store owner said, you know, Wolf, that he was apparently barking up the wrong tree if he thought that he could use fireworks to pull off powerful bomb like he tried to do as he is accused of doing.

BLITZER: We're learning a whole lot more by the minute. All right. Susan, thanks very much.

Here's the timeline of the dramatic moments leading up to the actual arrest. By 11:00 a.m. Monday, investigators identify Faisal Shahzad, the owner of the Nissan Pathfinder as their suspect. Ninety minutes later, his name is added to a no-fly list. At 3:00 p.m., he's spotted leaving a store near his Connecticut home. Police plan to arrest Shahzad, but lose track of him for several hours. At 6:30 p.m., Shahzad heads for Jfk Airport. On the way, he phones in a reservation for an Emirates Airlines flight to Islamabad with a stopover in Dubai.

At 7:35 p.m., he pays cash, cash, for his one-way ticket. Emirates officials are unaware that he was on a no-fly list because they had not checked for any updates during the day. About 10:30 p.m. eastern, Shahzad boards Emirates flight 202. At 10:40, a customs agent spots the suspect's name on the flight manifest. At 11:02, the door to the flight 202 is shut. By 11:45 p.m., the door is opened, and when investigators approach his seat, Faisal Shahzad says, and I'm quoting now, "I was expecting you, are you NYPD or FBI?"

Taken from the plane, Shahzad is interrogated, and about midnight admits he tried to detonate a bomb in Times Square.

We've been hearing from passengers on that Emirates flight once it finally landed in Dubai. This passenger describes what happened when the flight was held up at JFK Airport. Listen to this.


MYRA PAGE MCSIBI, PASSENGER: The cabin staff would not answer questions. They were polite about it, but I can say it was very well organized. The entire terminal was evacuated before we were taken from the plane. A thorough search of our bags that we had on board, as well as checked-in luggage, and then it took approximately six hours for us to get out.


BLITZER: Passengers finally figured out what was going on after they evacuated the plane at JFK and watch CNN in the airport. When the suspect was shown on screen, one passenger said, he recognized Faisal Shahzad from the airline.

We just heard about a possible connection between the Times Square suspect and the Taliban in Pakistan. In court documents say, Faisal Shahzad had admitted attending a terrorist training camp in Pakistan. Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence. Chris, were there -- where are these training camps, first of all? And who runs them?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, that's the thing, you know, today's camps are often mobile. They don't stay in one place very long. Several groups run them, but we're starting to weed out those that had no connection to shahzad.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): A defense official says one man supervises more than half the terrorist training camps in Pakistan, and it was allegedly his voice that praised the Times Square suspect. But Corey Hussain Masu's (ph) organization now tells CNN they appreciate the effort but didn't train him. Quote, "the action of Faisal Shahzad was very good, but he has no link with Tehreek -e-Taliban. He might have received training from other militant groups."

A senior U.S. official says Shahzad was not trained as well as someone who could carry out a major attack. He left his truck in a no-parking zone, and it was not packed with the explosive-grade fertilizer used in other terrorist bombings.

JEFF DRESSLER, INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF WAR: If the knowledge would have been better, he would have been able to assemble these devices. He would have been able to build a fairly sophisticated, functioning device.

LAWRENCE: Pakistan's terrorist training camps have evolved from al Qaeda's large, elaborate camps.

LAWRENCE (on-camera): These aren't the sprawling compounds that we saw before 9/11, right?

DRESSLER: No, no. These are much smaller. Those are going to be easy to target by drone strikes.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): Analyst Jeff Dressler says terrorists adapted to those strikes by making their cams more mobile.

DRESSLER: A lot of these training camps where they're learning, you know, suicide tactics and bombing and skills are small compounds, small houses, apartments.

LAWRENCE: Look at the red dots on this map of Pakistan. These are the known locations of terrorist camps early last year, but a record number of U.S. drone strikes started hitting the area. Those attacks and Pakistan's military offensive, shut some camps down, but where you see the green dots, moved them north. Terrorism analyst Jeff Dressler says al Qaeda is now getting local militant groups to join its global fight. Both Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-mohammed had most exclusively focused their attacks inside Pakistan.

DRESSLER: They voiced their concern or desire to focus on western targets in conjunction with al Qaeda. That's a troubling development that is really just happened over the past few years.


LAWRENCE (on-camera): And the logical connection is groups like Jaish-e-Mohammed using people with U.S. passports who can more easily get back into the country. In fact, the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan called it a nightmare scenario and that was before Times Square. And now, officials say, they don't believe there are a lot of people like this, but they admit, they're not sure, and they're working with the Pakistani government to try to identify and locate them -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Chris Lawrence on the -- on the story for us, thank you.

There are several key terror detainees with links to Pakistan. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is the professed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. He was born in Kuwait. He carried a Pakistani passport and was captured in Pakistan seven years ago. He's being held at Guantanamo Bay.

Ramzi Bin al Shibh is the Yemeni suspected of coordinating the 9/11 attack. He was arrested in 2002 in Pakistan. He's also at Guantanamo Bay right now.

Ramzi Yousef was the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. He was arrested in Pakistan two years later, brought to the United States. He was convicted first for an airline bombing and then for the New York attack. He's serving life without parole.

We have a lot more on the breaking news coming up, but there's other stories we're monitoring as well, including four stories of steel and concrete. It's the best hope right now for minimizing the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. We're going to show you how this giant containment camp works. Plus, we have new details of a massive recall of children's over-the- counter medicine. What government inspectors found inside the manufacturing plant. Stand by for that.


BLITZER: Let's go right to Jack for "The Cafferty File." That would be you.

CAFFERTY: Thank you. Thousands of people working to contain that massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. There are serious questions now about future U.S. policy when it comes to offshore drilling. Fishermen, national guard troops, volunteers, the oil company, BP, which is responsible for the leak, they're all battling this oil spill with everything they can get their hands on, but there are growing concerns now that if this oil reaches the shore, it will kill wildlife and damage the jobs of thousands of people in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, and the effects will be felt in those areas for years.

Remember the Exxon Valdez, new offshore drilling has been banned in most U.S. waters since the early 1980s, but just a few weeks ago, timing's everything, President Obama announced plans to expand offshore oil drilling because of our country's energy and economic needs. He said the federal government would start leasing some areas off the coasts of Virginia, Alaska, and potentially Florida to the oil companies. Well, suddenly, that doesn't seem like such a good idea. The White House now says President Obama's offshore plans are not set in stone, and the group of Democratic senators says any new plans for offshore drilling are dead on arrival.

Even some Republicans are changing their tune. Florida governor, Charlie Crist, who was previously supportive of offshore drilling now says it's, quote, "got to be tabled for sure," unquote. And California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has withdrawn his support for a plan that would have expanded drilling off the coast of California.

Here's the question, what should U.S. policy be when it comes to offshore oil drilling? Go to Post a comment on my blog. When these things happen, they're potentially disastrous and are -- the effects are felt for a very long time, Exxon Valdez, but when you look at over the years, the number of wells, the amount of oil we've pumped out of the ground, these things don't come along very often.

BLITZER: Look what three-mile island did for nuclear reactors for 30 years.

CAFFERTY: Exactly. Stopped it dead in its tracks and we still haven't gotten it started again.

BLITZER: All right. Jack, good question. Thank you.

With oil inching closer to the U.S. Gulf Coast, all eyes and hopes are on a giant concrete and steel dome designed to cap the leak from a sunken rig that's spewing some 200,000 gallons of crude each day. CNN's Brooke Baldwin is on the Gulf Coast watching it all unfold for us. Brooke, what is this containment dome? How does it work?

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, think of this containment dome as a big, massive, metal, concrete funnel. And the best way I can sort of explain it is by demonstrating. Imagine you have a funnel just like this, this funnel, this concrete dome, is being taken right now from what I'm hearing it's sort of just now exiting Port Fourchon right now out of Louisiana and entering the big waters here out on the gulf. It will continue for about 50 miles offshore to the leak location, and then what will happen is they'll take a system of piping, so, like, a straw, for example. They'll put the piping inside of this containment dome and then with a ship up above, they'll be able to siphon or essentially suck up what may be 85 percent of this oil that's leaking.

What's key here is that BP has never performed an operation at this depth of water, 5,000 feet under, but this is a first for them. So, keep in mind, they did cap one well this morning, but, of course, that means the volume of the gush has not changed. It is still spilling 210,000 gallons every day -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brooke, we're hearing the oil is still about two miles from shore, but it could hit within 72 hours. Talk a little bit about what you're hearing from experts about wildlife and the ecosystem in that whole area.

BALDWIN: Right, it's devastating. You just heard Jack talk about it. And what's interesting is there are all kinds of species, 400 different species of wildlife found here. And I was fortunate enough, the second I landed here in Mississippi yesterday, I was back up in the air and a helicopter taking a look around some of these barrier islands off of Mississippi, because what I didn't realize is this area off the coast is the most populous area for dolphins in the entire U.S., so a huge concern is for dolphins here and their well-being.

In addition to that, the National Wildlife Foundation, they have found two oil-covered birds, one of which is a brown pelican which just got off the endangered species list. They've also found a loggerhead turtle about 65 miles out. They were just gasping for air near some of this oil sheen. So, Wolf, just because the water looks like this here along the shores of Mississippi and Louisiana, according to some of these wildlife experts, it doesn't mean that the water out there is very harmful -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We're going to stay in close touch with you, Brooke. Thank you.

We're also standing by right now for some new comments from the president about immigration reform. We're going to get you those comments in a few moments. Stand by. He's speaking out about immigration reform.

Also, a new plume of ash bringing new travel trouble to Europe. Airports are closed stranding tens of thousands of people.

Plus, we now know why parents are being advised to throw out some of the most common over-the-counter medicines for children.


BLITZER: Alina Cho's here. She's monitoring some of the other top stories in the Situation Room right now. What else is going on, Alina?

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf. You know, that factory where children's versions of Tylenol, Motrin, Zyrtec and Benadryl is shut down. The Food and Drug Administration says it found bacteria in the facility which, by the way, is owned by a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. Now, over the weekend, a voluntary recall was issued for the products, but an FDA official says the risk of serious problem is remote.

Round two of Europe's air travel nightmare. A new ash plume from the volcano in Iceland has shut down more than a dozen airports in Ireland and Scotland, stranding about 30,000 passengers. London's hubs so far are unaffected. Officials apparently are now using more precise safety rules for closures. They're hoping to avoid last month's widespread airline chaos.

And Nashville's mayor now said the damage from days of flooding in his city could top $1 billion, and officials at the inundated Opryland complex say it will be at least three months before it reopens. Flash floods and storms in the region are blamed for 29 deaths in 3 states. Fifty-two counties in Tennessee alone are seeking federal emergency aid. Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Alina, thanks very much. We'll check back with you shortly.

We're going to get back to the breaking news on the Times Square bomb suspect. We'll also get in to what's being called push-button war. How U.S. drones are hunting down Taliban and al Qaeda insurgents in the rugged mountains of Pakistan's border region? Did he train there? Stand by. We have new information.

And brutal cutbacks are called -- are called for in Greece, in a desperate effort to save the nation from bankruptcy, but they've been met now with violent and deadly protests.


BLITZER: Let's get back to our top story, the breaking news we're following. A senior Pakistani official tells CNN that the Times Square bomb suspect, Faisal Shahzad, met with one or more Taliban leaders in the mountains of Pakistan back in July 2009. That rugged border area known as Waziristan, has been a key target for missile- firing U.S. drones. CNN's Tom Foreman has been looking in to that -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, predator drones have become a major component in our military operations over in Pakistan. Let's look at the system first, and I call it a system instead of simply a weapon, because it's not just about this thing that's flying through the air. It's about intelligence on the ground. It's about satellite images. It's about picking targets. This thing, however, whether you're talking about the predator or the reaper, is capable of flying hundreds of miles, circling for hours and hours, waiting until it is called on to strike, all while being commanded by someone who may be thousands of miles away.

It is an excellent way to deliver a weapon to a target without directly endangering American troops. This is what it does. They fire hell-fire missiles depending on their payload, they may carry two or more, and they can often obliterate their targets when they strike like this. Where have they been used? Well, primarily, if we move in here, you can see that the function -- the primary targets have been here. South Waziristan, North Waziristan, these are hotbeds for both al Qaeda in Pakistan and for the Taliban in Pakistan, many of whom have crossed over have crossed over from Afghanistan here.

In 2004, we didn't know what to make of this. There was only one strike we were aware of. It was down here near this airfield somewhere. We didn't know for sure what this was going to add up to. In 2005, we saw a few more in the general area. As you can see them spread out through here. In 2006, we added a few more beyond that, 2007, still just a few more, but then in 2008, there was a change in policy.

They said let's no longer just go after high value targets like leaders, let's start hitting training camps. Let's start hitting groups of fighters who are opposed to us.

And look what happened to the numbers. Many more in 2008 -- even more in 2009. And by 2010, a great many more.

This is happening because, Wolf, there's a belief in the military that this is highly effective -- a way to get into these mountainous regions that are very hard to get at otherwise and to strike with impunity -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Tom Foreman, thank you.

Let's discuss this and more with veteran terrorism analyst and Rand Corporation senior adviser Brian Jenkins, along with our national security contributor, Fran Townsend. She was the Homeland Security adviser to President Bush, also worked in the Justice Department during the Clinton administration -- Fran, first to you.

These drone attacks, I assume they're effective, but do they breed more terrorists as a result of these attacks?

FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: You know, Wolf, we hear about the increasing number of Predator shots. And I think the thing people don't really appreciate is the specificity -- the targeting of these weapons. It really is incredible, the ability of the intelligence and military communities to put this -- the munitions on target without collateral damage.

Frankly, Wolf, I think now we can -- we can fairly say that there's more collateral damage that's the result of traditional military operations than drone attacks. These drone attacks, it -- it's a little bit of a misnomer to say they don't require or they put -- that they don't put troops at risk, because what happens is you need human sources, you need intelligence operatives. There are all sorts of people you need on the ground, along with signals intelligence, to gather the targeting information to put them accurately where you want them.

BLITZER: Brian, you've just writing a fascinating piece -- and I've been reading your stuff for many, many years -- on what makes someone radicalized -- what makes someone who's maybe a little bit angry all of a sudden become a terrorist.

What's the bottom line in this process?

BRIAN JENKINS, RAND CORPORATION: Well, it's -- it's -- it's a multi- phase process that can take place over months, even -- even years. It often begins with -- with personal crisis -- personal crisis that's just paired with -- with self-recruitment to terrorist violence. At some point, that leads to a questioning and a -- a quest. The kinds of questions, what am I doing here?

Why am I here?

Leads to a quest for answers, a -- a -- a finding of a -- of an ideology that resonates, that turns complaint into political cause and ultimately transform in -- transforms into a commitment to violence.

BLITZER: Because in this particular case, Brian, this was an educated individual, this suspect, an MBA from the University of Bridgeport, a B.A. He wasn't some poor, ignorant suicide bomber, if you will. It was -- it was someone who came from a fairly affluent background in Pakistan.

JENKINS: That's not uncommon, in fact. If we look at the backgrounds of the 9/11 hijackers, many of them came from university environments. They came from families that were middle class or -- or upper middle class. So the idea that a terrorist is going to necessarily come from the bottom sectors of society is simply not true.

Now among those who have been radicalized or self-radicalized in this country, there are immigrants in entry level jobs, there are people who have criminal backgrounds who are radicalized in prisons. But about 17, 18 percent of those who have been arrested for terrorist activities in this country have university educations, many of them advanced degrees.

BLITZER: Interesting -- Fran, I know you've been checking with your sources -- and you have good ones.

What have you heard about a possible specific motive other than just, let's say, hatred of America?

TOWNSEND: You know, the -- the two things that seem to continue is the ties to the Pakistani Taliban over the drone attacks, frankly, in the tribal areas. The other one is the -- the "South Park." You know, this car was parked by the Viacom building. Viacom is the parent that runs the Southcom (ph) series. And Southcom had apologized for one of -- a particular episode that was -- might have been taken as disparaging to the Prophet Muhammad. And so both of those have continued to be looked at by federal authorities.

BLITZER: What, Brian, is the most important thing you think the federal government needs to do right now to tighten up security in the aftermath of what's gone down over these past few days?

JENKINS: I don't think it's so much a matter of tightening up physical security. We're talking about public places. And we can erect security perimeters around public places and terrorists will move to other public places.

I think the lesson here is, number one, the importance of domestic intelligence collection. If we're going to have more and more terrorists attacks that are not centrally directed from abroad, but rather are conceptualized and planned by homegrown terrorists, then we're going to have to have the intelligence in place to pick those up. Thus far, we have been largely successful. Only three out of all of these conspiracies and plots and attempts to carry out attacks here by -- by jihadists -- only three have come up to the point where they've been able to do something, including the failed Times Square attempt.

The other two were lone gunmen -- in other words, individuals acting alone. They were able to avoid attention. The minute they get into a conspiracy, try to acquire weapons or do something more dramatic, in terms of acquiring explosives, as opposed to buying some gasoline or propane, they are picked up by the authorities.

BLITZER: Yes. There's obviously an element -- a tremendous element of skill and professionalism. But there's always a little bit of luck that needs -- needs to be seen, as well.

Brian Jenkins and Fran Townsend.

Guys, thanks very much.

Should people on the federal terror watch list have the right to buy guns?

The issue taking center stage on Capitol Hill in the wake of the Times Square bomb plot. Stand by for that.

And how much would you pay for this painting?

We're going to have details of a record-setting auction.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Want to go right to Alina Cho.

She's getting some new information on this Times Square bomb suspect. He went to Pakistan. He came back.

What are you learning?

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. He came back in February. And we're getting this from an administration official, who tells our Jeanne Meserve when Faisal Shahzad came back into the United States in February, after allegedly doing five months of training in Pakistan, under Customs and Border Protection criteria, he actually qualified for secondary screening. Now Customs agents went through usual protocol, did that screening, sent out a report to the FBI and inteli -- intelligence agencies. And that report included his passenger information, airline ticket information. And key in this report was phone numbers associated with his travel.

Now that is why authorities were able to track him down.

Here is the story the way it played out. Last weekend, when the FBI turned up a phone number in connection with that car transaction -- the buying of that Nissan Pathfinder -- they ran the phone number and this report came up from back in February, when he underwent that secondary screening.

What is unclear at this point is why he qualified for the additional screening.

BLITZER: Because this basically explains how they -- that phone number that they had linked him...

CHO: That's absolutely right.

BLITZER: -- linked -- got him the FBI, the law enforcement...

CHO: That's...

BLITZER: -- the NYPD got on his trail.

CHO: that's absolutely right.

BLITZER: It's amazing how, nowadays, you -- a number from months earlier could be used like that.

CHO: That's absolutely right. They ran that phone number from February and that's what linked him, because at the time, when they got that phone number, Wolf, there was no name associated it. And so they ran it. His name came up. And that's how they found him.

BLITZER: It was one of those prepaid cell phones.

CHO: That's absolutely right, that he allegedly had bought.

Now, we do want to bring to you some other news.

First of all, coming out of Greece, you know, three people are dead following massive riots in Greece. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in a nationwide strike. They are protesting the new taxes and spending cuts required for the country to get an IMF and European Union bailout package that's worth more than $140 billion. Now Greece right now is facing a May 19th due date on debt that it says it cannot pay without that help.

Now, the date and time are set for the final flight of the Space Shuttle Atlantis. NASA says it will lift off a week from Friday at 2:20 in the afternoon, carrying a crew of six and supplies to the International Space Station. There are two more shuttle missions planned before the program ends.

And you are looking at the world's most expensive painting. Take a good look. That's a Picasso. It sold at auction for nearly $106.5 million to a so far unidentified buyer. It's titled "Nude, Green Leaves and Bust," and it portrays Picasso's mistress, Marie-Therese Walter. Back in 1932 is when it was painted. The previous record, by the way, Wolf, was $104.3 million for a sculpture by Jacamedi. I believe it was called "Walking Man." But, you know, pocket change for people like us, right?

BLITZER: A hundred million here...

CHO: Yes.

BLITZER: A hundred million there.

CHO: That's right.

BLITZER: That's Alina...

CHO: A beautiful painting. It better be.

BLITZER: Yes, it better be.

Thank you.

CHO: You bet.

BLITZER: We're getting new comments in from the president of the United States about immigration reform, what he wants this year. We're going to play the tape for you. That's coming up next.


BLITZER: All right. This just coming in. President Obama now pushing immigration reform. He's actually setting a little bit of a timeline.

Listen to this.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We need bipartisan support. But it can be done and it needs to be done. And so I was pleased to see a strong proposal for comprehensive reform presented in the Senate last week. And I was pleased that it was based on a bipartisan framework. I want to begin work this year and I want Democrats and Republicans to work with me, because we've got to stay true to who we are -- a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.


BLITZER: All right, let's talk about it with CNN's John King.

He's the host of "JOHN KING USA," which starts right at the top of the hour, immediately after THE SITUATION ROOM.

The key words I heard there, John, is "I want to begin work this year," not that he wants to complete work this year.

JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING USA": Wolf, that is a huge and critical distinction that is going to disappoint many of his Latino guests at that Cinco de Mayo celebration at the White House where the president delivered those remarks. And it is going complicate the work of immigration reform advocates, who have already a steep hill.

The Democrats have told immigration reform advocates, if you want us to do this this year, beginning in the Senate, you have to help us go out and find two, three, four or five Republicans who will vote with us. And they might need five or six Republicans because not all Democrats, Wolf, want to address this issue this year.

So by saying I want to begin this year, as opposed to a very different, I want to pass legislation this year, the president has changed the dynamics of the debate again.

Last week, he disappointed many of his Democratic allies by saying he wasn't sure there was an appetite in the Congress to do it this year. He is essentially acknowledging that lack of appetite right there, trying to tell these Latino representatives at the White House, whom he promised, Wolf, to do this in his first year in office. We're now three months into his second year in office and the president says he wants to begin the task. They support his goals, but they are going to be very disappointed in that very loose, noncommittal timeline from the president.

BLITZER: And very quickly, John, can we jump to the conclusion that he does want to complete or pass an energy bill this year, based on what we just heard...

KING: It...

BLITZER: -- as far as immigration reform being kicked down the road?

KING: It's a fascinating question. We don't have the question tonight. But certainly, Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, has promised to work with Democrats on an energy bill if immigration was taken off the legislative calendar this year. So it could be an opening on that issue. We'll have to watch how this all plays out.

BLITZER: We'll see you at the top of the hour.

"JOHN KING USA" coming up.

Thank you.

Jack Cafferty is coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM with your e- mail.

Then, the story behind this teetotaling toast. The first -- the former first lady, Laura Bush, tells us about her husband's decision to quit drinking.


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

CAFFERTY: The big story the last several days -- a couple of weeks now. The question, what should U.S. policy be when it comes to offshore oil drilling?

Ryan writes: "It's a very unfortunate disaster.

I'm concerned about the people, the environment and the economic impact.

However, we're in a world of shrinking energy resources and we need oil. We need to get smarter and safer about drilling for oil, but we can't stop drilling."

Sarah in Denver says: "What should our policy be? No new offshore drilling period. Plus, the imposition of new and very stringent standards for the continuing operation of all existing wells."

Bob in Florida: "The first thing, Jack, safety. This oil rig company didn't have a $500,000 remote shutoff safety device attached to the rig. This is a remote that's required in almost every other country in the world, but because of the oil lobby, the U.S. government didn't require this remote safety device. Unless the government gets serious about safety and the horrendous effects on the environment, we should not allow any drilling offshore."

Marie says: "It's like canceling airline tickets because an airplane crashed -- offshore drilling should be allowed under strict security and safety rules and oil companies should not be allowed to get around them based on their contributions to a political party."

Gabe writes: "So far, a half dozen birds and maybe a dolphin versus a track record of tens of thousands of successful wells. You simply have to have a sense of balance, which the extreme environmentalists don't appear to have. We just have to be more careful and have more safeguards. But no matter what you do, eventually bad things will happen."

And Karen says: "Oil is not working for us anymore on so many levels -- politically, economically, environmentally. We are way overdue for sustainable clean energy to bring our country back to what our founding fathers envisioned -- freedom and independence."

If you want to read more on this. Go to my blog at and check it out. Or you can go to this dinner at the Museum of the Moving Image and sit with Wolf tonight and have a turkey sandwich.

BLITZER: Something like that.

CAFFERTY: And with all the big shot executives from CNN.

BLITZER: Speaking of turkey, listen to this tease.


BLITZER: Are you listening?


BLITZER: When it comes to wild turkey, he went cold turkey. Laura Bush gives new details about when her husband quit drinking.

Jeanne Moos will take a Moost Unusual look.


BLITZER: Here's a look at some Hot Shots coming in from our friends at the Associated Press.

In Afghanistan, U.S. Army PFC Germane Chambers (ph) looks out over a fog covered valley from an outpost where he's stationed.

In India, Hindu devotees perform rituals on the banks of the Ganges River.

In the outskirts of Moscow, Russian enthusiasts wearing Soviet-era uniforms ride horses during a World War II reenactment.

And at an ocean beach in San Diego -- look at this -- an animal specialist pulls a baby sea lion out from under a police car. The pup will be taken to SeaWorld to be examined before being released back into the ocean.

Hot Shots -- pictures worth a thousand words.

Former President George W. Bush's last drink -- his wife is telling all of us now about his decision to quit in her brand new book.

CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a Moost Unusual look.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): Remember how everyone used to watch George Bush with an eagle eye whenever he had a glass in his hand to see if this former drinker would let the champagne glass touch his lips, wondering what exactly was in the bottle.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's check it out.


MOOS: Well, now Laura Bush has spilled the Beam -- the Jim beam. She was promoting her book, telling Oprah...


LAURA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Drinking was a very accepted part of our social life in Midland (ph).

OPRAH WINFREY, HOST: You said the three Bs, he did the three Bs.

BUSH: And he liked to drink beer, bourbon and B & B.


MOOS (on camera): Can I get a B & B?

What's in a B & B?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Brandy and Benedictine.

MOOS (voice-over): Actually, that makes four Bs -- beer, bourbon, brandy and Benedictine.

In the movie "W." George Bush was portrayed drinking bottles, cans, shots.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two more shots.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, honey.


MOOS: Dancing on the bar, crashing the car, fighting with George Bush, Sr.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My advice to you, Junior, get yourself to an A.A. meeting.


MOOS: The movie may or may not have exaggerated, but it got one part right, about how George Bush stopped drinking. Laura Bush told Oprah they'd gone with friends to celebrate their 40th birthdays in Colorado Springs.


L. BUSH: And we had the, you know, wild drunken weekend. And it was no different than from any other weekend.

WINFREY: Where you say you heard the same toast (INAUDIBLE) times.

L. BUSH: The same toast over and over.


UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Happy birthday, dear George.




L. BUSH: Then George just woke up and -- and knew he wanted to quit. And he stopped. And he was able to stop.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you all right there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, I can't go on like this. I'm through.







MOOS (on camera): George Bush goes cold turkey on Wild Turkey.

(voice-over): Laura Bush says she never delivered an ultimatum, that she never said the line sometimes attributed to her: "It's either Jim Beam or me."

(on camera): I've joked that George quit the next day because he got the bar bill.

(voice-over): George Bush may have stopped, but the jokes didn't.


CRAIG FERGUSON, HOST: There are rumors in this country that President Bush is drinking again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thanked the leaders. Listen, I called them on the phone. (END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Taking shots at a guy no longer drinking shots.




MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: Remember, you can always follow what's going on here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

I'm on Twitter. You can get my Tweets. Go to That wolfblitzercnn is all one word.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.

KING: Thanks, Wolf.