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McChrystal Relieved of Command; Deep Sea Accident: More Oil Escapes

Aired June 23, 2010 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And you're in the SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, the commander in chief cites a strict code of conducting relieving his top military commander in Afghanistan. Why the president is calling another senior military commander to take over the war.

Breaking news, a big setback in the Gulf of Mexico where a deep sea accident today at a broken well has forced the removal of BP's containment cap allowing more, much more crude to escape. Very worrisome.

And more oil than ever on Florida's beaches, nine miles of shorelines coated with sticky pollution right now, and you're going to see why the governor is calling it heartbreaking. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

President Obama today pulled rank as commander in chief accepting the resignation of General Stanley McChrystal. The ouster of the Afghanistan commander follows critical comments by the general and his aides in a "Rolling Stone" magazine article, but president explained his move this way.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: War is bigger than any one man or woman, whether a private, a general, or a president. As difficult as it is to lose General McChrystal, I believe that it is the right decision for our national security. The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general. It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our Democratic system. And it erodes the trust that's necessary for our team to work together to achieve our objectives in Afghanistan.

My multiple responsibilities as commander in chief led me to this decision. First, I have a responsibility to the extraordinary men and women who are fighting this war. And to the Democratic institutions that I've been elected to lead. I got no greater honor than serving as commander in chief of our men and women in uniform, and it is my duty to ensure that no diversion complicates the vital mission that they are carrying out. That includes adherence to a strict code of conduct.

The strength and greatness of our military is rooted in the fact that this code applies equally to newly enlisted privates with the general officer who commands them. That allows us to come together as one.


BLITZER: The president immediately moved to replace General McChrystal with another battlefield veteran. He nominated General David Petraeus, now the head of the U.S. military central command to take over the war in Afghanistan. The fallout from that magazine article was immediate, and now the stunning fall from power of a highly regarded general.

Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. I know you've been doing some reporting, Barbara. What happened when General McChrystal walked into the White House with that private oval office meeting with the president?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, absolutely stunning developments. As you say, General McChrystal one of the most respected officers in the United States military walked into the oval office this morning. We are told by someone very close to him, he knew he had no support left. He knew that it was time to go. We are told that General McChrystal and the president sat down. General McChrystal offered an explanation of this "Rolling Stone" article and then offered his resignation, and the president accepted it. It was very polite, but it was all over quickly, General McChrystal knowing right off the bat that, simply, there was no support for him left to stay -- Wolf.

BLITZER: He got to be confirmed, General Petraeus now by the Senate Armed Services Committee, the full Senate, he's been confirmed several times in the past, but I assume he's going to face some tough questions not necessarily because of anything he said or done or about his own personal background, but because of the policy. There's criticism, not so much from the Republicans, but from some Democrats.

STARR: Well, look, this confirmation hearing which is now expected early next week will open the door to a number of questions about Afghanistan. There will be questions about the upcoming progress report at the end of the year, about the current campaign that delays in going into Southern Afghanistan, into Kandahar, and perhaps, most of the questions will center around the 2011, the July 2011 withdrawal date from Afghanistan.

That's when President Obama says the withdrawal will begin. We will see if that happens. We will see what General Petraeus has to say about it. He, of course, supports the president, but many commanders say privately that it will be conditions based, that they have to wait and see just how many troops they might be able to bring home by then -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That's what he testified last week before Congress. That July 2011 date is a conditions based. If the conditions don't justify the start of the withdrawal, presumably, it won't happen. If it does, it will. All right. Questions for General Petraeus as early as next week during these confirmation hearings. A lot more on this story coming up later, but there's breaking news we're following on another front right now. Just a day after BP set a new record in collecting leaking crude, right now, oil is flooding into the Gulf of Mexico big time. It follows a deep sea accident which has now forced BP to raise that containment cap to check for damage. Brian Todd is all over the breaking news. He is here in the SITUATION ROOM. Wow! As I say, whenever you think that things can't get worse, they do.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They certainly do, Wolf. Now, we know the containment cap so crucial to capturing the oil leaking out of this well has in fact had to be removed. It is still off at this hour as far as we know. We just have gotten (ph) the phone with BP officials to say it is still off. Now to really show you what this means, we're going to show you some video from about 8:00 a.m. eastern time today when the cap was still on. The oil being funneled to a containment ship at the surface. Yesterday, they collected a record amount of oil including more than 16,000 barrels through this cap.

Now, take a look at what the well looked like after the cap was taken off. That's what it looked like right there. It was -- we believe it was removed between 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. eastern time today. That means for more than eight hours now, the oil has been gushing out like this. Here's how Incident Commander Admiral Thad Allen described the root cause.


ADM. THAD ALLEN, NATIONAL INCIDENT COMMANDER: We had an incident earlier today where they noticed that there was some kind of a gas rising through the vent that carries the warm water down to prohibit the hydrates from forming. Out of an abundance of caution, the discover enterprise removed the containment cap with the riser pipe and moved away until they could assess the condition.


TODD: Now, just what caused that gas to rise through the vent, Admiral Allen says a remotely operated sub, an ROV, bumped into a vent and shut it off. That hits home the very delicate balancing act with all the vessels on the surface and below that are starting to crowd around this well.


TODD (voice-over): Sometimes, up to a dozen remotely operated subs are moving around this well at a given time, and BP and coast guard officials tell CNN, it's also about to get more crowded on the surface. As the team brings in more containment ships to capture as much as 80,000 barrels a day, they say that 25 to 30 vessels will be on the surface or below.

ALLEN: It was in about a three or four square mile area and brings up the issue that's called simultaneous operations. We have to deconflict that.

TODD: We got special access to the place where they do that, inside BP's crisis command center near Houston.

TODD (on-camera): In here is the Sim -Ops room. They call this the air traffic control of this operation on the seas. You can see in the big circle on the top, that's where the wellhead is leaking, and all the vessels there are on top of it. John Sher (ph), my photojournalist is going to shift over to show you that screen there, down on the lower right, or the relief wells that are being drilled. This is a key operation to make sure that the ships essentially don't run into each other and that nothing calamitous happens on the surface.

TODD (voice-over): I asked Sim -Ops coordinator, Neil Cramond, about the difficulties. Dangerous work everyday to make sure these vessels or several of them in a very close proximity to each other.

NEIL CRAMOND, SIM-OPS COORDINATOR: Well, I wouldn't use the term dangerous. I think it's, again, just taking a lot of careful planning and a lot of careful coordination, and having that many vessels all doing different construction or different support activities, and you know, such a small, small area is not normal.

TODD: At full capacity, there will be two primary containment ships into about those (ph) with huge vessels assigned to each one to hold the oil and shovel it to shore. Then you got the vessels drilling the relief wells and other support ships all maneuvering around massive amounts of exposed oil. It's not just the traffic cops in Houston mitigating the danger, tugboats are moving around to the flak (ph) and steer the ships. One of those operators tells us they're using a high-tech tool called dynamic positioning.

SHANE GUIDY, PRES., CEO, HARVEY GULF INTL.: It's a computerized system on board that interfaces with a satellite transponder that gives you a fixed location of where that vessel needs to be at all times.

TODD: Former Shell president, John Hofmeister told me he doesn't think it's dangerous having that many vessels so close together unless the weather turns. He pointed to a recent lightning strike that sparked a fire on board the containment ship, Discoverer Enterprise.

JOHN HOFMEISTER, FORMER PRES., SHELL OIL: You have, you know, pollution where rigs are burning or vessels are burning, and it catches the oil on fire. You could have a real mess on your hands.


TODD: But Hofmeister points out there are ships in the area outfitted with firefighting equipment, including, he says, the capability with chemical compounds that can blast the oxygen white out a fire and kill it. Just want to show you a new image that were just getting in, and we do have word now that the containment cap is near the wellhead, not exactly sure what that means, but it could mean that they're getting ready to put the containment cap back on the wellhead now, Wolf, after more than eight hours off and that oil gushing out.

BLITZER: Yes, let's hope that works. It's a very delicate operation. Let's hope the structure holds up. What about some of the other risks of the surface ships up there? There's a lot of them in a congested area.

TODD: John Hofmeister, and we asked him about that. He said he is worried about other skimming vessels. They're not necessarily under the control of that command center in Houston. There are hundreds of them out there. A lot of them are small operating very near to each other. He says there's a danger of them running into each other, but he also says the crews of those vessels are in some danger, because they're kind of out in the open and working very close to this very exposed oil.

All the carcinogens being given off there. They're worried, he's worried about the health risks. CNN has done extensive reporting about some of those workers coming down with health problems. He worries that it's still going on.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much.

A lot of rattled nerves in Southern Canada today after an earthquake hit the region. Cameras were rolling at this news conference when the 5.0 magnitude quake struck about 40 miles outside of Ottawa. Buildings were evacuated. Some windows were broken. The quake could be felt in parts of the U.S. bordering Canada.

Some major decision to decision a U.S. general especially during a time of war. Retired four-star General Wesley Clark joins me live here in the SITUATION ROOM. I'll ask him what he thinks and whether the president had any choice.

Plus, the story behind the story. Our own Atia Abawi on the writer of the "Rolling Stone" magazine article and what he thinks about the uproar over his report.

And miles of Florida beach turn from white to black as a wave of oil and tar hits Pensacola right now. We're live from the panhandle.


BLITZER: The robotic arms are doing something right now. Maybe, they're putting the containment cap back on. This has been a horrible day as far as the Gulf spill is concerned. We're watching these pictures. We'll update you momentarily. Stand by. Jack Cafferty is running (ph) us right now. He got "The Cafferty File." Jack, just when things couldn't go much worse, they went worse today.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: It looks like that, yes. As oil continues to gush into the Gulf of Mexico, the debate over deepwater offshore drilling is heating. The Obama administration pushing back after a federal judge ruled against the six-month moratorium the president put in place after the BP oil disaster. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says the government will issue a new moratorium that will be less restrictive on drilling. Salazar says we need to pause on deep water drilling. The White House says it doesn't make any sense to keep drilling at these depths without knowing what happened, and that doing so puts a lot of people in danger, but not everybody agree. Many in the offshore industry as well as local politicians have been calling for the ban to be lifted saying that it's hurting business and throwing lots of people out of work. The federal judge sided with the companies which filed suit against the government saying they're suffering irreparable harm as a result of the moratorium. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Senator Landrieu are asking the Obama administration not to appeal with drilling. Landrieu, a Democrat, says she'd rather they find a way forward that would meet the goals of safety and responsibility without jeopardizing an entire industry. And Texas oil executive, T. Boone Pickens, conferring (ph) shutting down all deepwater oil rigs after the BP accident, to shutting down all the airlines after a single plane crash.

Here's the question then: Should deepwater offshore drilling be banned? You can go to my blog, and post a comment.

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

Unguarded comments to the president of a reporter are what led General Stanley McChrystal to lose his command. For some unique insight, let's go live to CNN's Atia Abawi in Kabul. Atia, the writer of this article, Michael Hastings, in "Rolling Stone" magazine, you know him. You've worked with him in Afghanistan for some time. You lived in the same house, I think, for some time. Do you think he had any idea that what he was writing in "Rolling Stone" would lead to this?

ATIA ABAWI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I can tell you right now, Wolf, he had no idea that it would lead to General McChrystal resigning and that a new commanding general would come here into Afghanistan. I just spoke to him tonight. He arrived back from Kandahar, and what he said was that he expected this to cause some uproar for maybe two or three days, but in no way did he think General McChrystal would have to leave Afghanistan. Michael was able to spend 30 days with the general from Paris to Afghanistan, and he was even surprised at the amount of information he was able to get from both General McChrystal as well as the aides and his advisers.

And he said at no time during that time at the bar in Paris or going out to Kandahar did they ever say, don't report this. It was actually after the fact when one of General McChrystal's aides said, what exactly do you have in your article, and he said, well, I can't tell you that, but it's going to be a strong article. And when they asked him questions, Wolf, they would have political ramifications, he said, yes, there will, and they like, we would appreciate it if you didn't write it, and he said, I'm sorry, I'm going to go ahead and write it, but he had no idea that it would lead to what we saw today -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You've spent a lot of time with General McChrystal, Atia, and his top aides, some of the other senior military officers, did you ever hear them either in on the record or off of the record kind of setting make the kinds of comments about the vice president, the national security adviser, Ambassador Holbrooke, Ambassador Eikenberry? Did you ever hear that kind of talk?

ABAWI: Absolutely not. I've been out with General McChrystal on many occasions. I've talked to his aides. In fact, we've had off the record behind closed door discussions, because what General McChrystal liked to do was talk to the people who are out here, who go out in the field, who go out and see things that he can't see wearing a uniform, and we've had extensive discussions, and I have given him my strong point of view, and never, not once did he stray, never, not once did he have anything bad to say with the people that he was working with.

And in fact, let's point to Michael's article right now where he says he felt betrayed by Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador here in Afghanistan. That's not necessarily something that I wouldn't have expected from General McChrystal. I just wouldn't have expected him to say that to a journalist. Because Karl Eikenberry is one of his friends and a man that he trusted.

He felt that he, Eikenberry, and Karzai were a team and in pushing the strategy ahead in Afghanistan and when those cables leaked from Ambassador Eikenberry in the fall stating that he didn't see Karzai as an effective leader and the strategy should not go in place until they feel like he is, he did feel betrayed, but no one ever thought he would vocalize that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Atia Abawi on the scene for us in Kabul. Thanks, Atia. Thanks very much.

A change in command in Afghanistan. General Stanley McChrystal relieved of his duties after appearing to maxim top administration officials. The former NATO supreme allied commander retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark. He is standing by live here in the SITUATION ROOM. We'll talk about today's major announcement by President Obama. >

And history is made at Wimbledon. The astounding details just ahead. Stay with us. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: The Senate is expected to move quickly on the confirmation process for General David Petraeus as the new U.S. military commander in Afghanistan.

Meantime, one U.S. senator had an emotional reaction to the circumstances that led to the resignation of General Stanley McChrystal. Let's turn to our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, who is covering the reaction for us. We're talking about Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Dana, what did he say?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Well, I can tell you, first of all, there is rare unanimity here that the president made the right call and firing General McChrystal, but for Lindsey Graham, he's not just a senator, he is also a lawyer in the military reserves. Though, his reaction was particularly passionate and I want you to listen to it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: The statements of the general, not only were outside the norm, they really did put in question military subordination to civilian control. You know, how you think "Rolling Stone" is a good group to follow you around for a month is a judgment question. (LAUGHTER). The second thing is --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You would feel differently about any of you --

GRAHAM: Let me just say this to these officers who are unnamed, to these officers who are unnamed, you know, I understand you're warriors and you've been shot at, you're brave, but you let yourself and your army down. The language used, the cavalier attitude, the disrespect even though you may have disagreements was unacceptable. This is a low point in my view for the armed forces in a very long time, and I'm glad the president made this decision, and some other officers need to be looked at.


BLITZER: A strong statement from Lindsey Graham, and he speaks with some credibility on this subject. Dana, as far as the policy toward Afghanistan is concerned, is the president enunciated a very bold, strong terms once again. What's the reaction you're getting up on Capitol Hill?

BASH: Well, this whole episode has exposed some concerns on both sides of the aisle. Let's start with the right Republicans. Some of them are actually echoing some of the sentiment, very different language, but some of the sentiment we heard from General McChrystal in that article about the fact that they believe that the civilian leadership from the Obama administration in dealing with this war is dysfunctional and not dealing well with the military. And John McCain, in particular, he even suggested that perhaps more troops are needed in Afghanistan.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: We will do whatever is necessary in order to achieve success, and that in effect means a longer period of time or even an increase in troops as necessary.


BASH: And that is right. On the left, Wolf, we are hearing from some Democrats who are very much against the war that they believe that this momentum exposes what they say already was in their point of view a wrong-headed policy in Afghanistan. It will help them to get votes to cut off funding for the war and also to put a timetable, a firm timetable to bring troops home. I just want to give you one illustration of one of those statements. This is from Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. He called it a quote, "misguided policy in Afghanistan. The massive open-ended military operation in Afghanistan will cost $100 billion this year with no end in sight." So, that's from the left. You see that they are certainly gemmed up. And I can tell you, politically, n talking to senior Democrat sources, they say that this is the last thing they need 4 1/2 months before an election where the Democratic base is already demoralized and looking at the president saying, Afghanistan sending more troops there is case in point of something we didn't sign up for.

BLITZER: Dana Bash getting the reaction on the hill. Thanks, Dana, very much.

The president replacing his Afghanistan commander. Did the commander in chief have any choice? I'll ask the retired U.S. army general, the former NATO commander, Wesley Clark. He's here in the SITUATION ROOM.

And nine miles of shoreline now covered in oil, and you're going to see why Florida Governor Charlie Crist is calling it heartbreaking.


BLITZER: Let's get back to our top story. President Obama naming General David Petraeus to replace the U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal. That comes after McChrystal and his senior aides made remarks sharply critical of several top administration officials. The president says that undermines civilian control of the U.S. military, and he makes it clear he wants to move forward on his terms. Listen to the president.

Well, we're not going to have that sound bite from the president, but we will queue that up and get it for you shortly. But let's talk about what's going on with Fran Townsend. She's our homeland national security contributor, General Wesley Clark, retired U.S. army and former NATO supreme ally commander, and John King, the host of "JOHN KING, USA" that comes up right at the top of the hour. We have that clip from President Obama earlier in the Rose Garden.


OBAMA: I just told my national security team that now is the time for all of us to come together. Doing so is not an option, but an obligation. I welcome debate among my team, but I won't tolerate division. All of us have personal interests. All of us have opinions. Our politics often fuel conflict, but we have to renew our sense of common purpose and renew our responsibilities to one another and to our troops who are in harm's way, and to our country. We need to remember what this is all about, our nation is at war. We face a very tough fight in Afghanistan. But Americans don't flinch in the face of difficult truths or tasks. We persist and we persevere. We will not tolerate a safe haven for terrorists who want to destroy Afghan society from within, and launch attacks against innocent men, women, and children in our country and around the world. So make no mistake, we have a clear goal. We are going to break the Taliban's momentum. We are going do build Afghan capacity. We are going to relentlessly apply pressure on al Qaeda and its leadership, strengthening the ability of both Afghanistan and Pakistan to do the same. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Forceful words from the U.S. commander in chief, but General Clark, did the president from your perspective as a military man, do the right thing or the wrong thing or did he have any choice?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK, U.S. ARMY (RET.): I don't think he really had any choice. I think that there was not a policy disagreement, and these were personal views about people that had become personal and it was out in the public. You just can't do that, and there are lines that you can't cross, and there is even actions under the uniform code of military justice insulting a president and things like this. You can't do it.

BLITZER: So, technically, you are saying he could have been court-martialed?

CLARK: Well, technically, you look at it and you can't do that, and as an allied commander, when you say things like this, it is not just the U.S. troops or the U.S. chain of command, but in front of the whole world, and Secretary Gates said it was a mistake in judgment. It was a mistake in judgment. It is a tragedy. General McChrystal is an outstanding officer and great career and done great things. I feel terrible for him and his family and the president who had to make this tough decision, but I think he made the right decision.

BLITZER: Fran, yesterday, you thought he might be able survive this?

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONSULTANT: Well, Wolf, he apologized and I agree with General Clark, it was a horrible miscalculation and poor judgment in his part, and over the last 24 hours when you talk to the U.S. senior officers who are currently serving who like and respect as does General Clark, the achievements of General McChrystal, everybody was cringe and horrified by the conduct. It really and the president mentioned it is unbecoming of an officer of that rank. And the president acted well within his authority, and I have to tell you that I think it was a brilliant and inspired move to look to General Petraeus who obviously successfully executed a counterinsurgency attack in Iraq.

BLITZER: Yes a very positive move on the part of the president.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Look, Wolf, the article came at a time when there were already deep doubts especially among the Democrats in Congress but even some Republicans in Congress questioning the administration for strategy and some think it is more troops and some think you need to pressure the Karzai government, and some related and nonrelated criticisms of the strategy, and now they have to put up tough votes to fund this war, and anyone else, and even General Rodriguez the deputy to General McChrystal who is widely respected and regarded does not have the stature. General Petraeus has a unique stature in the United States military active service right now because of Iraq, and even Democrats who oppose the surge, and remember had the ad, general betray us, and they took that ad off of the website. He has unique respect, and the funding will come. BLITZER: General Clark, the article's up shot, forget about all the stuff about who said what, but the upshot was that this war is not winnable right now and the U.S. should pick up and get out of there and I'm sort of paraphrasing but if you read the article, and I'm sure you did, but that is what the author Michael Hastings suggests. Here's the question. As a Vietnam War veteran, you understand this situation in Afghanistan. Is this war winnable right now?

CLARK: Well, it is winnable in the sense of trying to come out of it with a permanent setback for al Qaeda and international terrorism and denying al Qaeda the kind of base it could have if we were to have pulled out of Afghanistan. Is it winnable in terms of establishing Afghanistan as the 51st state of the United States? No. Are we going to have the predominant interest in the post conflict Afghanistan, probably not because of geography, but it is possible for the United States, I believe, to achieve the objectives there, which is to decisively defeat al Qaeda and the Taliban.

BLITZER: Well, it is a huge cost, with 100,000 troops in place within a few weeks, and you know this is costing billions and billions of dollars. It is worth it?

CLARK: Well, I think that you have to look at the alternative, and what that is. What we have got to do really is that we have to really come the grips with al Qaeda. They are mostly in Pakistan apparently the leadership, but you can't deal with them in Pakistan without working Afghanistan. So, it is an integrated theatre, and I think that our commanders and our leadership there are putting together a complex and reasonable program with a chance of success. No guarantees, but we are not on a losing team.

BLITZER: And the president reiterated those policies under no illusions I assume. Thank you, all. And John King will have much more at the top of the hour on "JOHN KING USA." Thank you very much.

We told you earlier about the deep sea accident that led BP to raise the containment cap over the gulf well letting a lot more oil escape. Now, there appears to be some movement. Let's go back to Brian Todd. What are we seeing, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, dramatic live video from beneath the sea right now. This is the containment cap, and this is the main leak. Look how close it is. We have been telling you for the last hour or so they have been maneuvering this back into place. It does appear that they are getting ready to put this cap right back on the main leak here and it's circulating some what looks like green dye to help guide this cap in place, and you are talking about close to nine hours that the cap has been off of the main leak, but BP now, as you can see in these live images moving this cap into place with remotely operated vehicles and getting ready to lower it on the main leak and taking time over the last hour to really maneuver it and get it positioned properly. This is a very jagged cut when they cut the riser off, so they have to be careful as they find the right place and the right fixture to lower it on. As you can see, they are getting very, very close to lowering this cap back on this leak. Nine hours as we said almost that this has been off. So thousands of barrels of oil more have been leaking out while this has been off, but it looks like it is going back on any minute.

BLITZER: Let's hope it works. We can't over emphasize how sensitive an operation this is all done by robots, if you will, robotic arms these remotely-operated vehicles. It is a structural problem, and we will watch it, Brian, together with you, and make sure that this hopefully works and they can get the cap back on so at least a lot of the oil can be contained as they go forward with the relief wells that are being dug to end this nightmare at least for now. Let's hope that those relief wells in august really work. All right. Brian, we will stay on top it, and stay with us as we get more information.

A popular Florida beach is inundated with thick globs of oil, miles upon miles of it. We will tell you what the officials are doing about it and how the tourists are being affected. A lot of news is happening today right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring some of the other stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What is going on?

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hello, Wolf. And hello, everyone. A contentious three-year battle between Google and Viacom has ended in Google's favor. Today a federal court ruled the search engine subsidiary YouTube is not liable for copyright infringements by its users. Viacom argued Google should be liable alleging they turned a blind eye to violations on YouTube, but the court says that the company is protected from penalties as long as it addresses violations once it knows about them. Viacom is reportedly planning to appeal the ruling.

Hundreds of people who had to flee a raging wildfire in Flagstaff, Arizona, are headed back home. Officials lifted the evacuation order today, but while the threat to their homes has diminished, the battle is nowhere near over. The three-day-old fire is only 20 percent contained and has scorched 14,000 acres.

A historic day at Wimbledon. American John Isner and Francis Nicolas Mahut played the longest match in the history of the tournament. A back and forth battle that lasted nearly ten agonizing hours, and it is still not over. After tying two sets and going 59-59 in the final set. The two exhausted players decided to quit for the day, and they will try to pick it up again tomorrow. Good luck to them. Ten hours.

BLITZER: Wow. That is amazing, ten hours.

WHITFIELD: People got a whole lot of bang for the buck when they got those tickets.

BLITZER: They have to be in great shape to do that.

WHITFIELD: Yeah, that, too.

BLITZER: Thank you, Fred. A popular Florida beach gets hit with oil and hit hard. We will show you the devastation and tell you how officials are responding.


BLITZER: Residents and tourists in Pensacola Beach woke up to this today, more than nine miles of thick syrupy oil, and it is the largest crude to wash to shore as of date. The Florida governor Charlie Crist is calling the onslaught, heartbreaking. Let's go live to CNN's David Mattingly. He is in Pensacola Beach for us. It is heartbreaking to see it. David, you have been there a while, show us what you are seeing.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we have been seeing the tar balls coming to shore in the panhandle for two weeks now, but nothing like this. When people got up and saw this this morning, it was absolutely shocking here in Pensacola Beach. Let me show you what we are talking about. This crude that comes to shore in the form of tar balls, it mixes in with the sand and during the day in the summer heat it melts and turns into a like chocolate syrup. Let me show you what it looks like right now. It is very gooey just like that and during the day, it is almost in a liquid form, and a lot like what we saw hitting the Louisiana marshes, but this is the oil that is hitting here, and really, it is ruing everyone's vacation who comes here. They can't go in the water. They can't get closer to the water than right here. The governor Charlie Crist was out here earlier today, and this is what he had to say.

GOV. CHARLIE CRIST (I), FLORIDA SENATE CANDIDATE: It is like Jimmy Buffet said, wit we don't want the take the sky is falling attitude, but we want to clean it up, and stay after it, and stay after it, and it is the attitude we have the take.

MATTINGLY: And Wolf, this is again, what the enemy looks like right here. It is killing the tourist season and killing a lot of business for these communities. I want to show you something real quick. This is as close as anyone can get to the beach. We will move around, so we can see this. This long line of people coming to the edge of the tar balls, that is as close as they can get to the water. They are coming out here. They are standing. They're looking. Very quiet out here. It is a very, very sad day here at Pensacola Beach.

BLITZER: It is heartbreaking to think about it and to see it like that. It is true that you actually saw a beached dolphin today as well, David?

MATTINGLY: Well, yeah, a couple of miles that direction today there was a small dolphin that came ashore. It was beached and still alive, and people tried to rescue it, but during the rescue as they were trying to take it away, it did die. They are now going to examine it to see if this oil spill had anything to do with it. They did say that it appeared that the dolphin had come in some contact with the oil, and that there was some oil on the skin on the outside. They don't know if it ingested any, and that will take a couple of weeks and scientific exploration to figure that out, but right now, everyone is concerned right now of the loved wildlife showing up dead in the middle of these tar balls is going to cause a great deal of concern, and of course, everyone looking at this and feeling the pain as this comes ashore here in Pensacola Beach. Wolf?

BLITZER: Heartbreaking indeed. All right. Thank you, David, very much. We will watch the story.

Jack Cafferty is going to be back in a moment with "The Cafferty File."

Then Lady Gaga's baseball antics are no laughing matter to comedian Jerry Seinfeld. The celebrity showdown coming up.


BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack?

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: Should deepwater offshore drilling be banned?

Jerry writes: "No, it shouldn't even though the oil companies need to clean up their act and the gulf. You forget, Jack, we don't have an energy policy yet in this country. People and politicians think the oil will just keep gushing forth forever. Things can change mighty fast. The oil is not going to last forever. It's even rumored Saudi Arabia is running low."

Terry in Illinois says: "I don't think it ought to be banned but numerous changes need to take place. I work in a nuclear plant. The three-mile island incident in 1979 did not cause this much damage, and yet the nuclear industry was required by our government to install extra backup systems, change procedures, have more oversight from the NRC, increase the number of evaluations, increase the amount of maintenance, use conservative decision-making when addressing a problem. The oil industry should be no different."

Suzanne writes from Kansas, "If we don't ban deepwater oil drilling my fear is years from now we'll tell our grandchildren about a time when you could swim in the ocean and could eat fish and their eyes will widen with amazement. BP and other companies have no business in the ocean. What's done is done. All we can do is clean up the mess, focus on the animals and make sure the clowns in suits never have a chance to be remorseful over this kind of thing again."

Gordon in New Jersey: "No but an air force style stand down is a good idea. Where companies are operating with substandard blow out preventers like BP was it's time to shut down those rigs until they can be upgraded with more redundant systems. America can't afford another big leak but neither can we afford to give up offshore oil. Our economy needs the jobs."

Emmett Smith, (no not that one), from Mobile, Alabama writes: "Hell, yes, deepwater oil drilling ought to be banned. We simply don't have the technology yet to do it safely. Any more drilling in water more than 500 feet deep would be like playing Russian roulette."

If you want to read more on this, you'll find it on my blog

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much. Jack Cafferty and "The Cafferty File."

A 38-year-old Indian American could become South Carolina's firm female governor. Nikki Haley wins her party's primary by a huge margin but she says a bigger battle lies ahead. She talks to our own John King. That's coming up right at the top of the hour.

And a celebrity showdown between Lady Gaga and the comedian Jerry Seinfeld. I'm not making this up. Details when you come back.


BLITZER: Here is a look at some "Hot Shots."

In Kabul, Afghanistan, a man plays his flute amidst the ongoing chaos of the war torn country.

In Kyrgyzstan, a woman and her baby return on a bus. Authorities in Kyrgyzstan say that more than half of those who fled to the neighboring country during the ethnic clashes have returned.

In Manila, thousands of fake DVDs are hauled away during a mass destruction of counterfeit and pirated good and in Beijing, look at this, a dancer celebrates the opening of a new retail mall in the Russian trading district.

"Hot Shots," pictures thousand a thousand words.

It's Lady Gaga versus Jerry Seinfeld, the celebrity face-off that began in a most unusual place, the ballpark. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Okay, maybe it's not a showdown on the scale of president versus general. But Seinfeld versus Gaga ain't exactly chopped meat.


MOOS: It started politely enough.

SEINFELD: I wish her the best. You know, you take one "a" off of that and you got gag.

MOOS: Jerry started to rag on Lady Gaga during a WFAN sports radio interview when the talk turned to these pictures, Lady Gaga at a Mets game dressed in a skimpy outfit, giving photographers a certain finger. To get her away from the paparazzi, the Mets gave her a new seat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They escorted her to your luxury box.

SEINFELD: You know, I changed my mind. You're right, this woman is a jerk.

MOOS: Seinfeld's box was empty when Mets management moved lady gaga into it. He only found out later that she had been there.

SEINFELD: I hate her. I can't believe they put her in my box which I paid for.


SEINFELD: You give people the finger and you get upgraded? Is that the world we're living in?

MOOS: The Mets apologized, but Seinfeld evidently felt stung and here you thought Lady Gaga had a monopoly on outrageous outfits. As for that upraised middle finger ...

SEINFELD: Give the finger what is she giving the finger? Speaking of interesting and new, how old is the finger?

MOOS: It was an action Lady Gaga had defended earlier by tweeting "guess I'm just a Bronx cheer kind of girl." Even while dissing Lady Gaga, Seinfeld did put his finger on something interesting about the anatomy of the hand.

SEINFELD: Now the thumbs up is the good finger, right? So you're really one finger from a compliment.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: All right. Who would have thought?

Remember you can always follow what's going on here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm on twitter, you can get my tweets at WolfBlitzerCNN, all one word.

Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. "JOHN KING USA" starts right now.