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New Questions About Oil Flow Rate; Making Sure BP Pays; Dying Birds, Endangered Wetlands

Aired June 8, 2010 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Thanks very much, Rick.

Happening now, there are new questions about the amount of oil being captured from the gushing well in the Gulf of Mexico.

Is the new cap on the leak improving a terrible situation?

At least one key expert fears the spill is actually getting much worse right now.

Louisiana officials can't contain their anger and frustration over the damage to the coast and to the wildlife. The governor, Bobby Jindal, shows our Brian Todd about some dying birds and endangered wetlands.

And will a third incumbent U.S. senator be ousted in this primary season?

We should know in just a matter of a few hours, as votes in Arkansas and 11 other states cast ballots on this day. It's another blockbuster day on -- of voting in this, election 2010.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Right now, oil experts are taking a harder look than ever at those live pictures from the leaking well deep in the Gulf of Mexico. There are big doubts about how much oil is being captured and how much is still spewing into the water.

BP now says it's collected more than 42,000 barrels of oil since the containment cap started working four days ago. But at least one expert working with the federal government tells "The New York Times" he's convinced the cap operation potentially has made the spill much, much worse. We're going to be speaking with him here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll take a much closer look at that chilling possibility. That's coming up. Don't go far away.

In other developments, tests now confirm the spill has left low concentrations of oil below the surface, as well as on top of the water. President Obama says that over the course of this disaster, he's learned -- and I am quoting him now -- whose ass to kick. In a televised interview today, the president suggested that if -- if it were up to him, he'd fire the BP chief, Tony Hayward.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have not spoken to him directly and -- and here's the reason, because my experience is when you talk to a guy like a BP CEO, he's going say all the right things to me. I'm not interested in words. I'm interested in actions. And...


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- and -- and we are communicating to him every single day exactly what we expect of him and what we expect of that administration.


BLITZER: Let's go right to the spill zone and the danger to the wildlife and the wetlands. There's a huge amount of concern right now.

Brian Todd has been touring the area, talking with officials, including Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal -- Brian, tell our viewers how it went.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it was very heartbreaking today. We got a firsthand look at the real price of this oil spill at this facility here called Fort Jackson. It's kind of a wildlife rescue center. We saw some 50 soiled pelicans and other birds being treated. The governor came through here, along with members of the Super Bowl champion, the New Orleans Saints, to have a look at this place.

It was really just an amazing sight to see these pelicans that are just almost blackened by the oil here.

Now, BP has said, as you mentioned, that they've collected a lot of the oil over the past four days. They've said about two million gallons of it they've collected over the past four days. But, you know, you get the sense here that it really is ground zero from where the oil is washing up and that whatever they're are collecting still isn't enough.

One thing that they're trying to do is to construct berms along the barrier islands here to catch some of this mess. Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal, has been pressing for that.

I spoke with him a short time ago about the status of that.


TODD: What is the status now of the berm construction?

How much money have you gotten from BP and where does that stand right now? GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: Well, you know, the good news is we've moved forward on the contract without the money. Last week, we signed an emergency contract. They've mobilized two dredges. They've got another five they're negotiating terms with. At least three of those they've agreed to terms. We'll see dirt being moved. You'll see land being built this week. BP, yesterday, we took the senior BP official response -- in charge of the response down here, Bob Dudley, out to see for himself. He actually hadn't gone and seen the oil himself.

So we took him out on a boat, we took him out on the island. We showed him the pelicans. We let him -- we actually had him touch the oil to say, this is the oil. It's toxic. It's not a tar ball. It's not sheen. This is heavy oil.

Thankfully, he took the time to do that. They agreed yesterday to wire us the first $60 million. They committed $360 million. We'll get the first six segments built. They're trying to convince the board to do all 24.

But the good news is we didn't wait for BP. We've said all along, either help us or get out of the way. We're moving equipment. You'll see dirt moving this week.

TODD: I was going to say, when are the berms going to be out there, do you think?

JINDAL: Oh, you'll see -- you'll see dirt literally -- today is Tuesday. No later than Thursday, you'll see dirt being built. If they'd have -- if they -- if the federal government had given us approval when we'd asked, you'd see 10 miles of land being built. But the good news is they're literally assembling pipes as we talk. They're moving dredges even before we got approval. The state hired contractors to go out there with magnetometers to find the pipelines and test the dirt. So all of that work is being done by Thursday, no later than Thursday.

We've asked the Corps for permission to borrow sand closer into the state and then replace that sand within three weeks. If they give me that approval, I could built dirt -- I could build sand booms today. They've not given us that permission yet.

The second request we've had for the board is they do their own dredging. Right now, they're throwing that spoils away. They don't use it. And since they're throwing it away, give it to us. Put it in the Barataria Basin so we can use it to build islands. It's cost- effective. It's a win-win. Right now, they literally dump that out in the Outer Continental Shelf, where it does no good.

TODD: So the Corps, in your view, still has not moved fast enough?

JINDAL: Well, look, we appreciate the first six permits. But we -- we absolutely hoped they would let us borrow the sand. And, secondly, we'd hoped they'd allow us to have a dredging materials they're throwing away. We asked the White House that today. They said they'd look into it.

This makes no sense. Last year, I actually used state money to pipe in dredgings they were throwing away. It's called beneficial dredging. If you know you're going to dredge in one area, if you've got another area that needs dirt to keep the oil out, it just makes sense. Instead of making us going and digging our own dirt, if you're digging the dirt anyway, just give it to us. It's better for everybody.

And so, to me, it's common sense. You know, the right hand the left hand should be working together. The two things they can do for us is let us borrow the sand closer in. Secondly, give us that dirt instead of throwing it away.

But with or without that approval, we're moving forward. You'll see land being built no later than Thursday.


TODD: And so you heard his frustration about how long it's taken to get to this point, where they're building those berms on the barrier island.

Now, we've spoken on and off throughout this with the Army Corps of Engineers, about the governor's frustration. The Corps has always told us, look, whenever they've asked us, we've got to put this through a process. We've got to examine the environmental impact that these berms are going to have. You can't just willy-nilly kind of put these things up there. It takes some analysis. We've moved as fast as we can. The Corps says they have gotten to this as fast as they possibly could have. But, of course, you can understand, Wolf, the frustration of Governor Jindal. He needs it yesterday. He needs it last week. He's not getting it fast enough.

BLITZER: Totally understand. Everyone understands, all of our viewers.

Brian is going to be back later with more. He's got incredible access not only to the governor, but Billy Nungesser, BP officials yesterday.

Brian, excellent work.

Top Democrats here in Washington are proposing ways to make sure BP is held accountable for this oil spill catastrophe and to make sure the company foots the bill, not the taxpayers.

Senators held a hearing today on overhauling the nation's corporate liability laws, including one that might limit how much BP will have to pay in damages.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL), MAJORITY WHIP: I happen to believe if you are engaged in drilling and can create this level of damage, it carries with it a responsibility that you accept liability for the damage. If you cannot accept that liability, stay the hell out of the business.


BLITZER: Let's bring in our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry.

He's monitoring the situation over there -- what is the president, Ed, going do to make sure that BP pays all the bills?

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you know, the president has been all over BP for days now in demanding that they're going to pay all of these bills. But now, he's finally putting some actual teeth behind it, White House aides saying that he's going to support some tough legislation being pushed by Democrats on Capitol Hill, that basically will leave no cap out there in terms of the amount of liability that oil companies could face if there's a spill.

Right now, as you know, there is a cap of only $75 million. That's a paltry sum because, in this case, Robert Gibbs is just saying the bills are already piling up -- billions and billions of dollars. So they want to strengthen the legislation. And all of this is relevant because Democrats like Ed Markey were pointing out today that they believe that BP has been deliberately low balling the amount of oil that's been spilling out of the well, because they would be charged per barrel of oil that's spilling out. So they had an incentive to low ball that in order to limit their liability.

Take a listen.


REP. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: BP is either lying or they're grossly incompetent. And the difference in terms of the impact on people in the Gulf is meaningless. But I think right from the very beginning, their interest was in their own liability rather than in the livability of the Gulf. And there's no way that they didn't know on that first week that it was more than 1,000 barrels.


HENRY: Now, there has been various Democratic plans to either lift that cap to $10 billion or have no cap at all, as the president is now indicating he's in favor of.

Republicans have blocked it so far. But there are Democrats on the Hill who are confident with the president now on board, it's going to be harder and harder for Republicans to block this, because it's going to look like they're on the side of big oil.

And there's one big development coming next week that could help this Democratic effort. The key committee that Ed Markey is on, the House Energy and Commerce Committee, now has called Tony Hayward, the CEO of BP, to come testify next Thursday on Capitol Hill. Obviously going face a lot of heat -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll watch that, obviously, with you, as well.

Ed's at the White House.

We're trying to get to the bottom of all the murky estimates out there right now about the amount of oil still gushing into the Gulf of Mexico.

Coming up, I'll speak with one expert about a new warning that the latest effort to cap the spill may be making -- repeat, may be making the situation much, much worse.

And will Arkansas voters fire Senator Blanche Lincoln today?

We'll have the latest on today's voting around the country.

And the young man whom authorities say confessed to a murder making headlines around the world.

Will we learn more about the case he was linked to, the disappearance of Natalie Holloway?

Lots of news happening today, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Let's go right to Jack Cafferty for what we call The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: That's what we call it.

The U.S. war in Afghanistan, by some counts, is now the longest war in American history -- 104 months since October 2001 and the start of a hugely popular mission in the aftermath of 9/11.

That's longer than World War II. That's longer than Vietnam. It was 103 months in Vietnam from the passage of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution to the withdrawal of the final forces from Saigon.

It's worth noting that some insist that Vietnam is still the longer war because American servicemen were taking casualties there as early as 1961, which was long before the Gulf of Tonkin Revo -- Resolution.

Never mind, though.

At first, Afghanistan seemed like a cakewalk. Within months, the U.S. had driven the Taliban from the capital city of Kabul. Kandahar, the headquarters of the terrorist group, was in U.S. sights. In fact, on the one year anniversary, then secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, said, quote: "The Taliban are gone. The Al Qaeda are gone."

But instead of finishing the job there in Afghanistan, we invaded Iraq. And now, nine years later, the Taliban seem more dangerous than ever. President Obama recently ordered an extra 30,000 troops into the war in Afghanistan. And, of course, sadly, that means the deaths of U.S. service members continue. We passed 1,000 combat deaths in Afghanistan several weeks ago.

Yesterday was the deadliest day for coalition forces in Afghanistan so far this year. But warfare has changed a lot and the military death toll in Afghanistan is nowhere near the 58,000 U.S. troops who died in Vietnam or the 400,000 who lost their lives in World War II.

Here's the question -- technically, the war in Afghanistan is now America's longest war.

Has it been worth it?

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

BLITZER: Good question, Jack.

We'll see what our viewers think.

Thank you.

Another big important test of how angry Americans are about conditions in this country, how much they blame the political establishment. Some of the top races we're following on this day.

In Arkansas, Senator Blanche Lincoln is at risk of being defeated in a runoff contest with fellow Democrat, Bill Halter.

In Nevada, three Republicans are vying to face-off against the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid. A Tea Party candidate is considered the frontrunner. In South Carolina, Republicans may take a big step toward electing the state's first woman governor. They're choosing a nominee to succeed GOP governor, Mark Sanford. He's term limited and, as you know, tarnished by scandal.

In California, women figure prominently in two marquis Republican contests, one to choose a challenger against Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, the other to succeed term-limited governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Let's zero in on Arkansas right now.

Our senior Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is in Little Rock.

Polls are going to be closing in a few hours -- Dana, I guess the question everybody wants to know, can Blanche Lincoln pull it off?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, I asked that question just a short while ago to Senator Lincoln's top campaign aid. And his answer was, "It's a crap shoot."

We were with Senator Lincoln all day today -- or at least at two critical stops that she made. And she was talking to voters. She was all smiles, very happy, very upbeat.

But there is a nervous tension here where I am, at Lincoln headquarters. And I've talked to some Democrats outside the campaign in senior positions. One said that he's not terribly optimistic that she can pull it off. We'll see -- it's a cliche, but it is true, especially in -- with a runoff like this. It will depend on who gets out the vote better.

But we did send -- spend some time with voters, also, as they went to the polls. And we definitely heard the sentiment that she is up against, that they say, look -- many people we talked to said it's time for things to change in Washington and that means voting out our incumbent senator.

I talked to her about that earlier today, when she made one of those stops near a polling station.


SEN. BLANCHE LINCOLN (D), ARKANSAS: Call me old-fashioned, but I think it's more important to talk about who we are and what we want to be as a nation, as opposed to just fighting these petty battles of, you know, throw the -- throw the suckers out and, you know, start all over again.


BASH: But that is exactly what the -- what her opponent, the lieutenant governor, Bill Halter, has been saying over and over again. And he's had some enormous help -- huge help from labor unions who have come down herein full force, spent millions of dollars, not supporting Bill Halter, but really much against Blanche Lincoln, whom they call just too conservative in her votes and her policies as a Democrat.

But, you know, with regard to this Democratic primary, Wolf, it -- even if Blanche Lincoln wins, if Bill Halter wins, whomever wins, they are going have a very tough battle in keeping this Senate seat in -- in Democratic hands. Arkansas is very conservative. And most Democrats say they believe the Republican could possibly -- probably win.

But Bill Halter, his argument is -- he's got this anti-Washington campaign and the Republican congressman, John Boozman, is a sitting -- a sitting Congressman. And so he thinks he's got the best shot.

Listen to what he said.


LT. GOV. BILL HALTER (D), ARKANSAS SENATE CANDIDATE: I'm running anywhere from five to 11 points better against Congressman Boozman in the polls. And I think there's some -- the reasons for that are that I've been very independent here, willing to stand up to special interest groups.


BASH: Now this is still all about Blanche Lincoln. And she says that she is an incumbent who, she believes, will break the tide of anti-Washington anger. Still, she said if she loses, she will not leave the Democratic Party. She told me she will end up supporting her opponent right now, Bill Halter -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana is going to be with us throughout the night, watching what's going on.

Dana, thanks very much.

We'll have extensive coverage.

Let's get a little bit more now on the broader implications of these contests, particularly what they mean for incumbents.

Our senior political analyst, David Gergen, is joining us.

Robert Bennett loses in Utah. He doesn't get the Republican nomination.

Arlen Specter loses in Pennsylvania, doesn't get the Democratic nomination.

Now a third incumbent senator might not get the Democratic nomination tonight.

What does this say to you -- David?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Well, it's more than an anti-incumbent trend, Wolf. Of course, that's there. But the other significance is that if Blanche Lincoln goes down tonight -- and she is in an uphill fight -- as the third incumbent to go down, she would be the third person to go down who is being attacked for going too far to the center in -- while in -- in the Senate.

You know, Arlen Specter had to change parties because he was a -- he was going to be taken out in the Republican primary by somebody running at him from his right, saying he was too much of a moderate.

Bob Bennett went down, a strong conservative. But he got beaten in a Republican -- in -- by the Republicans out there, by somebody more conservative than he was.

And now Blanche Lincoln is facing a fight from somebody more liberal than she is. And the Democratic Party is saying she's gone too far to the center on two issues. She wasn't for, you know, the public option on health care. She took a real beating back here from the progressives in Arkansas. And, secondly, she wasn't for Card Check for unions.

So to have three go down because they went too far to the center is bad news for trying to come up with a bipartisan politics over the next couple of years.

BLITZER: If she loses, it will also say something about former President Bill Clinton, who actually went down there and made a robust effort to get support for her -- David.

GERGEN: That's true, but I also think in this case, Wolf, that -- I think probably Bill Clinton, if she wins, he'll get a lot of credit. But if she loses, I don't think he'll get much blame.

But there is one other element I think that's really fascinating about these races tonight. Every single state you've talked about, right at the center of the conversation is a woman candidate. You know, Arkansas with Blanche Lincoln; South Carolina with -- with a woman running for governor there, Nikki Haley; out in Nevada it's a -- two women are fighting it out for the nomination in the Republican Party; and in California, we have two women who are favorites to win tonight in the Republican nomination for the Senate and for the governorship.

So even while we're not quite looking at this, you know, women have become a much more integrated part of our politics, which is very healthy.

BLITZER: Yes. Well, we're going to have a long night tonight. David will be part of our team, as well.

At midnight tonight on the East Coast, at 9:00 p.m. out on the West Coast, I'll be filling in for Larry King. We'll have a special live "LARRY KING" at midnight with a wrap-up of all the races of what's happening on this important election day here in the United States.

We're just getting in some new higher quality images of that spewing leak in the Gulf. You're going to want to see this. They could shed new light on just how much oil is really gushing into the Gulf of Mexico right now.

Also, check this out -- a vintage plane flips over shortly after landing. The details of what happened -- that's coming up.


BLITZER: We're getting some new high resolution pictures of the oil spill. We're going to show those to you. We've got experts standing by. There's new information coming in.

But let's check in with Lisa Sylvester first.

She's monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Those are the new pictures -- Lisa, we'll get to that shortly, but what else is going on?

SYLVESTER: Wolf, North Koreans are getting their first glimpse of new government leaders today. The country's main newspaper is revealing details about new senior officials appointed yesterday in a rare parliamentary session. Among the changes, the brother-in-law of North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Il, now holds the number two post in the country's leadership. This comes amidst the country's growing economic problems and mounting tensions with South Korea.

And images like this one, reportedly of a burning effigy of the pope, are now coming out of Northern Afghanistan in the wake of protests against four non-governmental organizations accused of spreading Christianity in the country. This is the third major demonstration since Afghan authorities suspended two Christian aid groups. The commission is investigating their activities. The NGOs deny all allegations. Today's protests ended peacefully.

And the main runway at Reagan National Airport near Washington has reopened after this World War II model plane -- take a look at it there -- it flipped over after landing. Now, you can see the pilot and another passenger climbing out of the plane. They were unhurt. The aircraft was part of a group of vintage planes flying in to promote the opening of a new film called "Legends of the Flight." And you can see here another view of the landing from the actual plane. This is pretty incredible -- and, Wolf, I've got to tell you, those two individuals are pretty lucky today.

BLITZER: Now you know why you've got to wear those seat belts tight, because you never know what's going to happen. They are lucky, indeed.

Lisa, thank you.

Coming up, those new high resolution pictures of the oil spill -- you're going to want to see what's going on.

Is it getting worse rather than better?

Then, when BP cut a pipe to cap the spill, one expert is now suggesting the oil disaster was, in fact, made worse. We'll speak with that expert.

And when it comes to the oil spill, is President Obama is starting to sound like James Carville?

James and Bill Bennett, they're both here in our Strategy Session.


BLITZER: We're just learning that the president of the United States will go back to the Gulf region next Monday and Tuesday. He'll be visiting Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. As you know, he's already visited Louisiana.

So the president wants to make sure he's on top of this situation. He wants to be very visible in what he's doing. He's heading back to the Gulf early next week for two days.

There's other breaking news we're following right now -- breaking news that could help us better understand how much oil is really spewing into the Gulf of Mexico right now. Experts have had to rely on some murky, grainy pictures of that gusher deep below the water. Now after days and days of asking, we are just getting in some higher quality images of the leak site. Let's bring in CNN's Joe Johns. He's working this story for us. All right. Joe, tell our viewers what we can now see.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, Wolf, these are the high resolution pictures that a lot of people on Capitol Hill including Senator Barbara Boxer of California have been asking for. These were shot June 3, 2010, as we're told, around 4:30 in the afternoon. It's quite remarkable compared with some of the other pictures we have seen. We see particles inside this gusher that is going up towards the surface. We see at some points there is an ROV moving around over here. A lot more detail. Why is that important? It's important because the scientists who are looking at this can determine better by the way the particles go up how fast this is moving and how much oil is actually flowing into the gulf. The question of course is, is there more video like this and why wasn't it released sooner. Senator Boxer and Senator Bill Nelson of Florida put out a letter just a little while ago which says in part, "BP must not hinder the investigation of this matter by making available only preselected data and/or video for review as we understand has generally been the case to date. If BP delays provision of these videos or only makes available samples of video, the ability of the outside experts to provide truly independent information is undermined."

With me right now is one of the authors of that letter, Senator Bill Nelson of Florida. Senator, tell us, do you think BP is holding back on this and if so, why?

SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: Remember it was Senator Boxer and me that had to literally almost pull it out of them to get the video released in the first place. This was several, several weeks ago. Now Barbara has gotten them to come up with this. We had never seen this before. Do you think that they have captured most of the oil going into the gulf? 50 percent that they say? When you see this you know it's clearly not. That's why Senator Boxer and I wrote this letter today and said we want you to release all of the data so that we can get the scientists to look at it and determine how much is going in and what we have to expect. If this thing isn't plugged until September, how much do we expect to be sloshing around in the Gulf of Mexico?

JOHNS: Why don't you trust BP and what would be their motivation for not releasing this information earlier, if you know?

NELSON: Well of course they get fined on per barrel basis. So what did they say? Originally it was 1,000 barrels a day, then they revised that to 5,000, then they said 12,000, then it may be 25,000. Now Senator Boxer and I have reason to believe from some of the members of this technical committee, you look at that let's get the scientists. Some people are saying that's as much as 100,000 barrels a day going into the Gulf of Mexico.

JOHNS: When I look at your letter here it's pretty polite. It doesn't seem to be a Congressional threat in there. But I guess a question would be if BP doesn't comply with your request what is the Congress prepared to do? NELSON: Well that's certainly ought to be the president and the president ought to take over. He can't take over BP trying to plug the well. They unfortunately, the oil industry is the one that has that technology. And I bet you Joe that changes for the future. Certainly the administration ought to take over and they ought to make sure all these fishermen that are not getting paid, the hotel, motel owners, the restaurant owners, the federal government ought to coordinate and command all of that.

JOHNS: Now I think we also have to make clear that this was after the cut but before the cap went on top. There is presumably much less oil now is actually leaking into the gulf.

NELSON: Well, let's let the scientists look at this in high definition and give us their estimate. Let's let them go in with their specific instruments on flow rate and volume and acceleration of that oil coming out and determine exactly how much.

JOHNS: Since BP did provide at least this, do you think that bodes well for future cooperation?

NELSON: I've come not to be an optimist on getting information out of BP. So let's see.

JOHNS: We have reached out to them today by e-mail, folks in the UK as well as in the United States. I, so far, will not have gotten information back from BP or any statement regarding the release of this new high resolution.

BLITZER: It's amazing. We will show our viewers. I want to thank Senator Nelson as well. We're going to show our viewers, on the left was the spew before the cut and cap operation took place. On the right, look at that. Look at that flow. That's afterwards, after the cut and cap operation took place. Those are the high resolution images we are seeing right now.

Let's bring in an expert to take a closer look at this high resolution video to talk about the fear that the capping process may, we hope this isn't the case, but may have actually made the spill much worse. We're joined by Professor Steven Wereley of Purdue University. What do you think professor when you look at the before and after?

PROF. STEVEN WERELEY, PURDUE UNIVERSITY: When I was at home last Thursday and I was watching the cutting operation when the riser was finally removed, I had serious concerns about how much the flow had increased. I think it's very difficult from looking at the video to say it has increased by 20 percent or it's increased by 100 percent. Very difficult to say that. What I can say is I have strong concerns and I think the flow rate technical group really needs to take this under consideration and in fact that's what we're going to be doing this week is measuring that flow.

BLITZER: You are a member of that flow rate technical group, right?

WERELEY: That is correct. BLITZER: There is another member Professor Ira Leifer from the University of California, Santa Barbara. We are going be speaking with him later. He startled me earlier today when I was reading the New York Times and he said this. "The well pipe clearly is flexing way more than it before. By way more, I don't mean 20 percent. I mean multiple factors." Not 20,000 barrels a day or 25,000 barrels a day, it could be way more. You just heard Senator Nelson say it could be 100,000 barrels a day. Does that make any sense to you?

WERELEY: What I would say is Ira Leifer, Professor Leifer, is an expert at looking at these sorts of flows and when you've looked at them as long as he has, you can identify that the turbulent structure is different for higher speed flows than it is for lower speed flows. I am not such an expert. My expertise is in measuring flows. When I saw the video of the riser being cut, I had serious concerns. I couldn't quantify it in terms of the way that Ira did but I definitely would want to double check and make sure what the flow is.

BLITZER: And there are what? Only 11 members from the outside group of experts but the federal government has put together the flow rate technical group. You guys are going to convene again and come up with a new estimate of how much is spewing right now out in the aftermath of this cut and cap procedure?

WERELEY: That's right. What the flow rate technical group is trying to quantify is all the flow rate at all the important periods of this ongoing accident. So the first thing that we looked at was the flow prior to the cut and cap operation. That is the flow rate prior to June third. The reason that we concentrated on that first is that's the -- that was the flow condition for the first 40 some days of this accident. Now subsequent to that, subsequent to the cutting of the riser, then on that particular day, June 3 and early June 4, then the flow increased due to cutting off the riser. We are going to measure that.

BLITZER: And you thought - excuse me for interrupting. You thought it might increase by 20 percent. But now some are saying it could have been increased by factors of two, three, four, or five.

WERELEY: As far as I know that number of 20 percent came from BP. If you asked me to come up with a number it wouldn't necessarily be 20 percent. I don't know what it would be but it would not be 20 percent.

BLITZER: So your group did not come up with that 20 percent estimate? Because we have heard it from government officials and we have heard it from BP executives.

WERELEY: I guess what I -- I think that the source for that quote is originally BP's and then it was echoed by various government officials.

BLITZER: We shouldn't believe in that. Is that what you are saying?

WERELEY: Well I guess if you asked me to come up with a number, if you asked me what the number was, I wouldn't say 20 percent. I would have to think about it and do some measurements of pressure in the BOP, in the blow-out preventer to figure out what the number would be and BP has not released how they came to this number of 20 percent.

BLITZER: All right. We will have you come back with us tomorrow if you don't mind and we can continue this conversation when you have a chance to take a look more closely at these new high resolution images coming out. We would appreciate that Professor if that is okay with you.

WERELEY: Sure. I would be happy to.

BLITZER: All right. Great. This is very worrisome is and we're going to speak later with Professor Leifer of the University of California Santa Barbara who startled all of us today by saying this is a potentially bigger disaster now in the aftermath of this procedure four days ago, this cut and cap procedure than it was before. This is scary stuff. We are watching it very, very closely. Much more coming up during THE SITUATION ROOM.

Also a big new recall by General Motors. Standby to find out if your car is affected.

And the latest on the arrest and murder confession by a Dutch man who was the long time suspect in the disappearance of the Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway.

Lots of news happening today right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories here in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What else is going on Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there Wolf. Well, Dutch citizen Joran Van Der Sloot was expected to reenact the killing of a young Peruvian woman for police today. Officials say he tearfully confessed to the crime which took place in a hotel room in Lima. Van Der Sloot is the long-time suspect in the 2000 disappearance of American teenager Natalee Holloway in Aruba. U.S. officials have charged him with trying to blackmail her family for details about the location of her body.

And General Motors is recalling 1.5 million vehicles around the world because of a heated windshield wiper system that could cause a fire. The recall affects about 15 vehicle types from the 2006 to 2009 model years. You can see all of the affected models on the wall next to me. GM says there are no known injuries or crashes affiliated with this defect. Wolf?

BLITZER: Lisa, thanks very much. Don't go too far away.

The breaking news we are following. We reported it just moments ago. The president will be heading back to the gulf next Monday and Tuesday going to Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida. We're all over this story. Even as he is now cracking down more on BP, you will find out what he is saying it were up to him what would he do about it and the CEO of BP.


BLITZER: Let's get to our strategy session right now. Joining us our CNN political contributors, the Democratic strategist James Carville, the national radio talk show host Bill Bennett. Can you believe, James? These new estimates that maybe the cut and cap made matters even worse?

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You know what the saddest thing in the world is? I can believe this. Because everything we have found out has all been on the low side and been untruthful. It started out 1,000, then it was 5,000 barrels then 12 to 19. Then that was the low side. Now we are faced with this. I mean I think these people just inherently lie.

BLITZER: You say these people.

CARVILLE: BP, the BP people are putting the numbers out. I don't know and then we are told there are no plumes, there are plumes. I mean, the president is coming down and he has got drop the hammer on somebody. He's got to say look I want these people who lives are suffering. They are being set back. I want them to have the truth.

BLITZER: Listen to what he told Matt Lauer this morning.

PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: A month ago I was meeting with fishermen down there, standing in the rain talking about what a potential crisis this could be. I don't sit around talking to experts because this is a college seminar. We talk to these folks because they potentially had the best answers so I know whose ass to kick.

BLITZER: All right. He's showing some I guess fiery words.

BILL BENNETT, NATIONAL RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: That doesn't solve the problem. I don't go for that. I think that is contrived. Remember they said Bush shouldn't say wanted dead or alive. Bring it on. That's just talk. They're reacting to the thing that he is too sleepy. He has got to solve the problem. We've got address the problem. If you can't believe BP and James may be right that you can't believe BP, then you got believe somebody who's expert. Let's give this to the president. He is not an expert on this. We saw in the New York Times on Sunday just how many mess ups there were in government. Somebody who knows about this kind of thing has to take charge, who knows about this kind of thing, not just a great guy you know on the coast guard like Thad Allen but who can step in there and tell us something we can believe. The people lose credibility and this is going to make worse for us.

CARVILLE: I am sorry. I don't believe anything they say. I'm sorry. I would like to and let me tell you cannot trust these corporations. That's the compromise. That's what happened in the banking crisis. Whoever the idiot that thought of the idea of the unregulated marketplace they ought to all be in reeducation camp in Louisiana cleaning this garbage up, because that's the result of a failed philosophy and we can never go back to that. They're the same people that say this is BP that keeps putting out a different number every day and if the president wants to know whose to kick, he can start right there, and say aren't people entitled to have the right information. Now, I want them to have it and when they get it wrong, there's going to be a price to pay there.

BLITZER: James and Mary live in New Orleans, of course, he has a right to be angry and passionate.

BENNETT: Of course, he does.

CARVILLE: People call me every day. If you knew the calls that people called me. And they say that James doesn't have the facts. This is not a battle of talking point. These are lives that are being affected every day.

BLITZER: If they were happening off of New Jersey or North Carolina or Chesapeake Bay, would the government have reacted differently?

BENNETT: I don't know. I mean I don't think so.

CARVILLE: Of course, they would. Of course, they could.

BENNETT: He's going to be more critical of the government than I am here. I think after Katrina everybody knew that you have to take this kind of thing seriously. There isn't a confidence, it seems, I know James is critical of the market, but the government seems to lack the competence. You read the comprehensive story in "The New York Times" on Sunday, you've got to get people there who knows what's going on and who are credible.

BLITZER: One of the tragedies James was that only BP had the technical equipment.

CARVILLE: That's true. Because we didn't -- because we didn't -- and BP said we didn't have the toolbox. It wasn't the government's fault, it wasn't in permitting this, the government's fault was that MMS was so corrupted that they were putting it in pencil and going over it.

BENNETT: That's part of government, that's the problem.

CARVILLE: Bush and them let it be corrupted.

BENNETT: Bush and them.

CARVILLE: Of course. The response would have been entirely different if it had been off of Nantucket and, by the way, Katrina would have been entirely different.

BLITZER: But this administration has been in business a year and a half.

BENNETT: Of course. And the federal government at this point has to come in and take responsibility. Notice, though, Barack Obama's getting worse greats than George Bush got on Katrina.

CARVILLE: The federal government.

BENNETT: The federal government is getting worse grades that's for sure.

CARVILLE: They knew it was crumbed and they didn't do enough to clean it up. Look at the 2007 IG report, Google the 2007 IG report on MMS and you'll be stunned. You'll be stunned.

BENNETT: The president made a lot of promises and representations. It's time to live up to them.

BLITZER: Love the hat.

CARVILLE: That's the gang. Stephen Strasburg, on tonight, fired up!

BENNETT: A new suit and he's He's going to the big game tonight.

BLITZER: The Washington Nationals. Thanks very much.

All right, we're not going to go very far away from this story. This is breaking news we're following right now. Just how much oil is actually escaping into the Gulf of Mexico? Brian Todd is asking some tough questions. So are we.

And CNN's John King is talking to locals in Alabama right now. Stand by.


BLITZER: Joining us with "the Cafferty file," Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question this hour, Wolf, is that technically the war in Afghanistan is now America's longest war. Has it been worth it?

John writes from Cushing, Oklahoma, "We could be at war in Afghanistan for 100 years and the results will be the same. No military victory there without the dedication and full cooperation of the Afghan government and its so-called army. The place is a bottomless pit for American lives and money. I spent 17 months in Vietnam with the army's 5th Special Forces and I can tell you winning hearts and minds is a very difficult thing to accomplish. We need to bring the troops home, the Taliban will never give up."

Eric writes, "Worth it? It depends on your time frame. Was it worth it to oust the Taliban who harbored bin Laden? Yes. Is it worth it now? Afghanistan is governed by corrupt men who will pass on the government to more corrupt men. No one has ever subdued Afghanistan and to think we'll change the tide of history this time around is naive. We're in a thankless situation, and need to gracefully tip our hats and leave."

Joe in Minnesota, "Many brave soldiers went to Afghanistan in order to take the fight to the enemy. They did this because al Qaeda attacked us. It's plain and simple, if we don't defend ourselves against what happened on 9/11, then when do we defend ourselves? My answer is, yes."

Phil in Washington writes, "Worth it? One American death negates being worth it. Why exactly are we still there? To chase the Taliban and al Qaeda around the mountains? To poison the poppy fields? Obviously we haven't learned a lesson from the Russians. Get the hell out. Bring our brave troops home."

Bill writes, "It's still too early to judge. I think there's hope that some form of democracy will come to exist in Afghanistan."

And Michael in New Mexico writes this -- pardon me - "If you have a vested interest in opium and oil, it would be worth it. But if you believed it was about fighting terrorists, no, it's not worth it. If you think it's about democracy and women's rights, then please pass whatever you're smoking."

If you want to read more on this, you can go to my blog at Wolf?

BLITZER: We'll see you in a few moments, Jack, thank you.

Could the amount of oil gushing from that leaking well in the Gulf of Mexico actually be much, much worse than we think? Brian Todd is investigating.

And you'll want to see the brand-new, high-resolution video we have of the oil spill.