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Capping the Gulf Oil Leak; George Steinbrenner Dies

Aired July 13, 2010 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Possible outcomes range from complete containment of the oil to more damage to the well casing, potentially, potentially making the leak even worse.

CNN's Chad Myers is monitoring it all for us. He has got a great appreciation of what is going on.

Explain to our viewers what we are seeing and learning right now, Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: We have been looking at the bottom of the ocean here for all day long for the final valves to be shut off on a new, basically, a cap, but it is a real cap, not that thing that had a hose that was hooked up to it that went all the way up to the top of the ocean, then hooked up to a ship that was sucking the oil out.

This cap literally is like a bottle cap. Now, it is a bottle cap with three valves that they will slowly shut down hoping that the blowout preventer did not lose enough integrity that the whole thing blows up on the bottom of the surface of the ocean. That is the good news, I guess.

They are hoping that that does not happen. If something like that happens, then all of the sudden we have another out-of-control well that the only thing would stop it would be to complete those relief wells that they are drilling already right now.

So here is what happened if you remember. Coming out of the top of this blowout preventer a long time ago there was a pipe. It went up to the surface. It bent over, fell over and kinked when the entire thing exploded on the surface of the ocean. That kink was then cut off, but not very well. They could not get a good seal. That piece of brass you are seeing above the word developing story, that is the new part that they lowered all the way down to the ocean yesterday and put it on top of this blowout preventer.

It is smooth. It is casing. There it is. And that it's right there. That's that piece of brass that will be the new hookup. See how smooth it is? That is -- another piece will go on top of that -- 150,000 pounds worth of steel will go on top of that and connect it literally to the blowout preventer.

So, now they have valves that could completely close, could completely shut the well down, and that would be the best-case scenario. If they only can get it partially stopped, that would be OK. And then they would hook up another hose and suck the oil back up to the surface.

They don't want to do that, Wolf. They want to shut down this well altogether, because if they can shut it down only halfway and then a hurricane comes and there is a ship up there sucking the oil, the ship has to leave and then again, we have oil coming out unabated. This a permanent solution if it works.

It's going to be 8,000 PSI. When they shut those valves, there will be 8,000 PSI inside that old blowout preventer. And when that happens, then literally you could blow the whole thing out ahead. There goes the old cap. There goes the broken part right now that is no good anymore, because it just doesn't work. They could not seal it. A brand-new seal came down.

That's the brass part we just looked at. That's the new top. That's the 150,000-pound three-valve system, and when they shut it down, then from top to bottom, all these valves on top, the oil literally could stop flowing for the first time in what 85-something days.

BLITZER: That would be great news.


MYERS: That would be amazing.

BLITZER: They have still got to clean up the Gulf of Mexico and the beaches. That could take years if not decades. They will have a huge job ahead of them.


BLITZER: But right now, we still see the oil gushing off the top.

And just to make it clear, once they close the valves, the three valves at the top, if it all works as we hope, the oil will stop gushing from the top, and it will be quiet?

MYERS: That is correct. That is absolutely correct. They don't want to do it too quickly, though. They want to make sure that when the blowout happened, when the explosion happened at the surface that this blowout preventer that is down below the new cap still has integrity.

So, they are going to slowly increase the pressure overnight tonight and into tomorrow to make sure that the whole thing doesn't just explode underneath the new cap, and then you just have oil coming out all over. They don't want to get to that point. They want to make sure that that blowout preventer was not severely damaged from the initial blowout that they had two-and-a-half months ago.

BLITZER: All right, we are going to stay on top of this. I don't want you to go away, Chad, because if we see the valve starts to close this hour and the oil stops gushing, I want you to come back and you will explain to our viewers. This is a complicated and very sensitive operation.


MYERS: We will know that is going to happen, because we have other pictures of not only valves. We have pictures that show gauges of pressure. And when the pressure begins to rise, we will know that the pressure is rising only because the valves are closing, so we will have kind of the first -- we will have a look at the oil stopping before it actually stops. I will certainly shout to you when that happens.


BLITZER: Do you have access where you are to all the pictures that we have from these underwater cameras, Chad? Because I am looking at some of these pictures and I used to see just within the past hour oil gushing, but for some reason I am missing it right now. I don't know if this is something that is significant or maybe we're just missing a camera angle. I don't know if you can see all those shots.

MYERS: Yes, I can see them, and so can all the public. If you go to BP live pictures, live cameras from the bottom of the ocean on Google search, you will find the link that will have 16 separate feeds from the surface of the bottom of the ocean floor.

And some of those are very random pictures, but the one that I am looking at, two pictures, two of them, that actually show literally gauges from zero to 15,000 PSI. Right now, that needle is on zero. When it starts going up, we will know they are shutting the valves.

BLITZER: All right. We're not going to go far away from this. Chad, thank you.

It is almost impossible to overstate how critical this operation is right now to ending this Gulf oil disaster.

CNN's Brian Todd talked about it with the national incident commander, retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, in Houston.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How big is this day? This is maybe the biggest day in the operation so far you think?

ADMIRAL THAD ALLEN (RET.), NATIONAL INCIDENT COMMANDER: Well, it's one of the biggest days.

We are going to learn a lot today about the condition of the well, the amount of pressure and potentially the flow rate will not only help us in containing the oil, but it's really going to give us a lot of information, going to help us learn how to kill the well in addition.

TODD: If that ceiling cap is tight enough, do you think you can -- this could be the day that you shut down that well maybe for good? ALLEN: Well, we know that it will be a good seal. The question is what is the pressure inside the cap itself? And the variance in pressure could be indicative of a lot of things, but one thing we would be worried about is low pressure would tell us that maybe there is a problem with the structural integrity of the wellbore, the casings itself.

We might have hydrocarbons way out into the formation. We're going to watching that very closely.

TODD: You said yesterday that once the testing of the well is complete, then the collection efforts will resume. Now, that's a little confusing, though, because if the well is tight enough, you won't necessary need to do the collection efforts, right?

ALLEN: Well, obviously there is a decision point. Do you want to shut the well in and can that be sustained, or do you want to have a little bit of risk mitigation and continue to produce the oil?

As long as the hydrocarbons are captured and not going into the environment, it is little bit of a tradeoff between what is a long- term state of just shutting the well in vs. continuing to produce the oil? That is a little bit of an insurance or a hedge against the fact that the pressure might cause a problem someplace else.

Those are decisions that have to be taken based on the reality of the tests as we look at them.

TODD: Who is going to make the call? Take us in the control room again. Is it going to be you? Is it going to be Secretary Chu, Mr. Wells? Who is going to make the call as to whether this is working and you can keep it shut, or you're going to need more containment?

ALLEN: Well, first of all, we're going to have to have good data. And the data is going to have to be presented. We're going to have to understand the data in the context of the tests.

There's going to be have be discussions about what the data means and the implications. And there are very likely going to be different interpretations of that. And what we're going to do is try and achieve a consensus among the technical team, talk to BP.

This is nothing that somebody is going to sit in a corner and make the decision by themselves. I certainly, as the national incident commander, am going to take a lot of counsel from Secretary Chu and his scientific support team, all the people who have been working here for so many months in support of all of us. And this necessarily requires a little bit of collaboration with BP on how we interpret what we are seeing down there.


TODD: But are you going to make the final call here?

ALLEN: Well, there will be some discussions. But, in the end, the way we effectuate any decision in this is it's a communication from the federal on-scene coordinator to BP directing a removal action under U.S. law and regulation. So the final effect of this will be an order from me to BP.

TODD: How much pressure are you feeling right now, knowing that you've got to make that call at some point and that it could determine the direction of this operation?

ALLEN: Well, that call will really be a reflection of all the inputs from the scientific community and all the best minds in the United States that we can get here working on this. So, wherever we are at, I will feel confident that it won't be a Thad Allen decision. It will be a whole of government decision in the best interests of the country.

TODD: The question a lot of people are asking, now that this containment cap is on, why did it take so long to make this particular move?

ALLEN: Because we had to make the containment cap.

This was specifically engineered. In fact, there are a variety of containment caps or top hats or whatever you want to call them. None of these existed before this spill occurred, and as fast as they have been able to engineer and build a device and test it, we have put it out there.

The first one was a very elementary riser insertion tool, if you remember. That was an inelegant way of recovering some of the oil. But a lot of this stuff -- the reason we have had success in the last 24 hours is they have had time to engineer the equipment, test it, simulate its operations, and do desktop exercises to understand how this would all come together.

And they started from ground zero in building some of this equipment. So, it was not anything that was decided not to be a good idea. We knew it was a good idea from the start. The question is, how do you build it, test it, and get it to the scene?

TODD: What do you say, though, to the people who say, gee, they are making this up as they go along; they are throwing stuff against the wall and seeing what sticks?


ALLEN: Oh, I think -- I have talked to some other leaders in government, some other oil-producing companies. I'm not going to name them.

I think, all the way along, we have been reaching out and making sure that best industry standards are being followed, and this is what would be technically logical in the current situation. I think everybody is in agreement that the course they followed has been what most anybody in the industry would have done.

It's just very difficult. It's at 5,000 feet. There's no human access, and it's never been done before.


BLITZER: Five hundred and fifty-three miles of Gulf coast shoreline is now oiled, according to the Unified Command Center. That includes approximately 313 miles of the Louisiana coast, 99 miles in Mississippi, 66 miles in Alabama, and 75 miles in Florida.

And take a look at this. Almost 84,000 square miles of water now off limits to fishing because of the disaster. That is about 35 percent of the entire Gulf of Mexico.

Jack Cafferty is off today.

Up next: registered sex offenders traveling to known sex tourism destinations on U.S. passports. Our Special Investigations Unit is demanding answers.

Also, Iran says this scientist was kidnapped and tortured by the U.S. He's been missing for months. Now he has suddenly turned up, but the mystery surrounding this case is far from over.

And they have traveled on their own passports for years. Now members of the indigenous tribe find themselves stranded in New York and in a growing dispute with the State Department.


BLITZER: Let's update you on what is going on right now.

You see these are live pictures. The oil continues to gush from the top of that well, even though there is a new cap. There are valves that are still open, three of them atop that well. They are going to start slowly, presumably very soon, to shut down those valves, hoping to end this nightmare, at least for now. We are watching this very, very closely. Stand by. We are all over this story.

Meanwhile, there is a new government report that finds that thousands, repeat, thousands of registered sex offenders are being issued United States passports and some of them are fleeing to foreign countries known for illegal sex tourism with children as it is called.

Abbie Boudreau of CNN's Special Investigations Unit is investigating this story for us.

Give us the details. It's pretty shocking, Abbie.

ABBIE BOUDREAU, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT: Well, Wolf, the Government Accountability Office was asked to find out the number of sex offenders who were issued U.S. passports and then to come up with case studies of some of those people.

Now, according to the report, out of the 16 million U.S. passports issued during fiscal year 2008, about 4,500 were issued to registered sex offenders. The report also uncovered that at least 30 of them were federal employees, government workers from the Department of Treasury, NASA, the U.S. Postal Service, and from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So, what is the State Department saying about all of this, Abbie?

BOUDREAU: Well, what they say is it calls the GAO document very misleading.

A State Department spokesman just told us earlier today that there are no legal grounds to deny a sex offender a passport and -- quote -- "rigorously adheres to the U.S. law in issuing passports."

But in the report, the State Department did indicate to GAO that it is interested in looking at any proposed legislation that could give it the authority to deny passports to sex offenders.

But, Wolf, we learned there is a law that the State Department to deny passports to people convicted under the sex statute, which is a law that was put into effect in December 2008 that focuses on sex offenders who travel to foreign countries for the explicit reason of committing sex crimes overseas,.

Now, when GAO asked the State Department about the sex tourism law, the department says it was not aware of that statute.

BLITZER: Are there circumstances, Abbie, when the State Department can deny a passport?

BOUDREAU: Yes, there are some circumstances.

For example, if you are behind in child support or if you have an outstanding felony warrant or if you were convicted of certain drug trafficking crimes, the State Department could deny you a passport.

But otherwise, it does not seem too difficult to get a passport if you have a criminal history. There was even a case, Wolf, where a sex offender was issued a passport by the State Department while he was in prison and that was perfectly legal.

BLITZER: Did the report say where some of these sex offenders who get U.S. passports are heading?

BOUDREAU: Well, it found several cases where they traveled to locations known for sex tourism and many of the offenders traveling to Mexico, which the GAO says is considered a destination for sex tourism.

And here is what makes this so dangerous, Wolf, is that in many cases like this, according to the GAO, Mexico does not have a sex offender registry, so there is really no way to track the offenders -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A disturbing story, as I said.

Abbie, thanks very much -- Abbie Boudreau of our Special Investigations Unit.

There is new evidence from Uganda indicating that those terror attacks that killed dozens of soccer fans on Sunday could have been even worse.

And another twist in the story in the story of an Iranian scientist with knowledge of his country's nuclear program who seemingly vanished during a trip.



BLITZER: A young man from Yemen is back home after being held by the United States for eight years at Guantanamo Bay.

In releasing Mohammed Odaini, the Pentagon bowed to a May 26 ruling by a federal judge who said he should be freed and repatriated, adding there's no evidence, no evidence that he has any connection to al Qaeda. He went on to say this -- and I am quoting the judge -- "Respondents have kept a young man from Yemen in detention in Cuba from age 18 to age 26. They have prevented him from seeing his family and denied him the opportunity to complete his studies and embark on a career. The evidence before the court shows that holding Odaini in custody at such great cost to him has done nothing to make the United States more secure."

The U.S. suspended reparations of Yemeni detainees after a Yemeni al Qaeda affiliate was implicated in the failed Christmas Day bombing of a U.S.-bound plane. While the Pentagon honored the judge's decision on this case, it says the suspension remains in place. Strong words from that federal judge against the detention of that Yemeni.

We are following the critical developments right now in the Gulf of Mexico, dramatic developments, a test that could lead, could lead to the total containment of the oil leak, could start any moment now. We will have the latest.

Also, new twists and turns in the case of a missing Iranian scientist believed to have knowledge of the country's nuclear program -- his sudden appearance deepening the mystery.

Plus, the death of Yankees owner, George Steinbrenner. We will take a closer look at the impact he had on the game he loved.


BLITZER: Let's get back to our top story right now, the critical test on a new cap on that gushing oil well in the Gulf of Mexico.

It could start at any time, possibly result in complete containment of all that crude that continues to spew from atop that well.

CNN's Brian Todd is monitoring all of this from Houston, where BP has its command center.

Update our viewers on the very latest. We got the pictures, Brian, showing that the oil continues to flow from atop that cap.


TODD: That is right.

We just got some pictures, Wolf, that show just that, that it is flowing pretty freely out of the top of the cap. We got some other pictures earlier where we were not so sure about that, but the one you are referring to now clearly shows that they have not yet shut down the choke and kill lines, they have not yet shut down the valves, those three ram valves that are critical to this operation, for when they shut those down, that is when they are going to start the testing of the pressure of the well in earnest.

We just spoke with BP officials a short time ago. They were not able to tell us if that testing has started in earnest. What we do know is that they have done some seismic testing of that area near the leaking wellhead. They have run acoustic sensors around there. They have cleared vessels out of the surface area in order to run those acoustic sensors.

That testing has been complete. Then it is the preparation for the pressure testing and that should be under way. We were led to believe that it would start the last hour. It may in fact have, because BP officials are not quite sure what to tell yet about any possible results or whether it has begun really in earnest.

But I think as long as you see that oil leaking out in that underwater camera, you can pretty much surmise that those choke and kill lines and those valves have not yet been shut down, so the pressure testing probably has not yet started yet in earnest.

BLITZER: So once they close those valves, presumably if all goes as everyone hopes, we won't see any more oil leaking from atop.

The pressure test, Brian.

TODD: Right.

BLITZER: Do we know how long that that test goes on for?

TODD: Well, they said it could take as little as six hours to get some results from it. It could take as long as 48 or more hours.

This is really unchartered ground for a lot of these researchers and these officials here. They have never done this at depths like this before, 5,000 feet below the surface. So, they are going to probably, you know, leave a large window there before they can give us some results.

There are some critical numbers to remember. They say that if they get pressure readings of 8,000 to 9,000 pounds per square inch, that is a good sign. The higher the pressure, the more they can tell that this cap is holding, that the well is strong enough to hold the cap and to hold the oil in.

If the pressure is about 6,000 pounds per square inch or less, then that is not a good sign. That is a sign that it is leaking from elsewhere in the well and that they are probably going to have to let some of it out and try to siphon it up for containment ships. So, those are the readings that they're giving us. Those are the barometers for whether this test is going to be successful or not.

BLITZER: Brian Todd is outside the BP command center in Houston.

Brian, thanks very much.

We just want to see that top of that oil well, the oil stop spilling out, and then everyone, everyone can focus in on cleaning up the Gulf of Mexico, which could take years, if not decades.

Meanwhile, other important news we are following, another bizarre twist in the very unusual case an Iranian scientist with knowledge of his country's nuclear program. He vanished during a pilgrimage to Mecca and was missing for months amid allegations he was abducted, even tortured, by the U.S.

Now he's suddenly turned up here in Washington, D.C., but the mystery of where he has been is far from solved.

CNN's Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence has been working this story for us.

So, what do we know, Chris?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're hearing that this scientist is now saying that the Americans drugged him in and over the past year asked him all kinds of questions about Iran's nuclear program, but multiple U.S. officials tell us that is simply not true, that he asked to come here and has been speaking freely.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): He is an Iranian scientist who came to America. And, if you believe Iran, Shahram Amiri was kidnapped by U.S. agents.

But one U.S. official says it makes no sense forcing someone to defect.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Mr. Amiri has been in the United States of own free will, and he is free to go.

LAWRENCE: Amiri disappeared last year in a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. Monday night he took refuge in the Pakistani embassy in Washington asking to go home. Why there? The U.S. and Iran have no diplomatic relations but there is an Iranian section there in a separate building.

Iranian TV broadcast this video a few months ago showing him in the U.S. claiming he was tortured. It did not show a second slicker video where he is living free and clear in Arizona.

AMIRI: I am in America, and intend to continue my education here.

LAWRENCE: In a third, Amiri is back to saying he has just escaped the CIA captors.

AMIRI: I was not prepared to betray the country under threats or bribery of the U.S. government.

LAWRENCE: Amiri worked at a U.S. university that is connected to Iran's powerful revolutionary guard. Pakistani diplomats say he was not a top scientist in Iran and he didn't have access to sensitive information, but a former U.N. weapons inspector said --

DAVID ALBRIGHT, INST. FOR SCIENCE & INTERNATIONAL SECURITY: He asked to come here and he provided useful information on nuclear weaponization activities in Iran and namely in the process of making nuclear weapons, themselves.

LAWRENCE: David Albright says it is possible Amiri was a double- agent, but more likely that Iran put pressure on his family who did not come with him to the U.S. So, what now? Ironically, once he is back in Iran, he may end up an unlikely hero.

ALBRIGHT: If Iran threw Amiri in jail right now, it would be an admission that he had defected, so they have the treat him well to back up the story that somehow he was kidnap and tortured.


LAWRENCE: On the other hand, some sources say that Iran really does not care what the world thinks and that Amiri could be in danger. There was a report on Iranian TV that CNN had offered Amiri $10 million just to appear on our air in some sort of interview, and CNN spokesman said there is absolutely no truth to that report. And Wolf, probably the craziest thing about that story is that CNN would have $10 million laying around.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We would not offer him $10 to appear on our program.


BLITZER: Standby, Chris. Let's dig deeper on the story with the national security contributor Fran Townsend. She was the homeland security adviser in the Bush administration and worked in the justice department in the Clinton administration and member of the CIA external advisory board. Is it conceivable based on what you know, Fran, that he could have been kidnapped, brought to the United States, tortured and questioned?

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: No. I mean, look, this is not -- this is the stuff spy novels and movies, but not the stuff of reality. He was in, what we know from the public facts is that he was in Mecca, and on the Hajj, and we know that the government of Saudi Arabia takes the responsibilities in that Hajj quite seriously and he may have approached someone and willing to cooperate or offered information. He winds up in the United States. There is no way he is brought in by the CIA or any other federal facility against his will. Even when the feds want to bring somebody into the U.S., it requires documentation, and he would have to go through customs just like you and I do, he would have gone through immigration, and so it is not possible that he would have been secreted into the country by the intelligence authorities. Frankly, Wolf, he had to have some relationship to agree to come into the United States, and he changed the mind. I think it is pressure on the family. If he came here without them, they are in the most danger by virtue of his video.

BLITZER: And that would be understandable but if he goes back under these circumstances and had cooperated with the U.S. intelligence community, the Iranians may throw him in jail or worse.

TOWNSEND: Right. But there is also concern on the American side, Wolf, because of course, there is what we call the counterintelligence problem. They want to know, and the Iranians are going to question him whether it is under duress and in jail or cooperatively, want to know, how did you make contact with them, and what kind of questions did they ask and what could you tell from that, and now there are things that he could tell them about experience with the U.S. authorities that will help the Iranians.

BLITZER: But the U.S. could stop him from leaving if they wanted?

TOWNSEND: That's right but we don't do that. This is someone that we did not have criminal process, so if he wanted to leave, as Secretary Clinton said, he is welcomed to go, but it is going to be dangerous for him.

BLITZER: Thank you, Fran.

Major league baseball here in the United States holds its all star game tonight, but the sport is now in mourning. We will tell you about the passing of the legendary Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.


BLITZER: A private funeral and public memorial are being planned for Yankees' owner George Steinbrenner. He died this morning of a heart attack a week after his 80th birthday. Steinbrenner was the longest tenured owner in major league baseball, and he was a larger than life figure. He made a tremendous impact on the game. Let's talk about him with CNN's John King who is the host of "JOHN KING USA" which starts at the top of the hour and CNN's Richard Roth who is joining us from Atlanta right now. Richard, first to you, what was the impact of George Steinbrenner on baseball?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, it is tremendous. He signed Jim "Catfish" Hunter on New Year's Eve in 1975 and really started the whole explosion of free agent baseball talent that carried over into ore sports. He built the brand of the New York Yankees and the most famous brand sports team in the United States arguably around the globe compared to some soccer teams. He was as you mentioned larger than life and a New York figure for all of the times that we lived through in the 70s and the 80s and the 90s. And he had an awful way of dealing with employees and also stepping in and doing charitable work, but he wanted to win. He said that winning was more important than breathing. It was his stepping up to the plate, if you may, to back up the words that other owners talk a little bit and don't put out the money, and I'm sure that the Red Sox learned a lesson from him and started to spend more in Beantown, right, John?

BLITZER: Well, let's talk to John about that, because he is a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan, but he did have an impact on baseball and the Red Sox.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Richard is exactly right and George Steinbrenner if you grew up a Red Sox fan, he was the owner that you loved to hate, but you had such great respect for him, because he cared first and foremost and second and third, fourth, fifth and sixth about winning and about the tradition of the Yankees and the Red Sox had an owner in the 70s Tom Yawkey who was a great man and a family man and they didn't have the money and they wouldn't spend the money that George Steinbrenner had, so there was resentment of Red Sox nation about why they couldn't do it. Just before George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees was the infamous trade that made Red Sox' fans pound their heads is the trade for Sparky Lyle, and they dubbed the New York Yankees the evil empire, and it was about George Steinbrenner. They liked and cherished the rivalry and he was a man who fundamentally changed baseball and put the franchise back on the map, and if you grew up where I grew up, those are the hated Yankees in a respectful way.

BLITZER: So Richard - go ahead Richard.

ROTH: People accused Steinbrenner of taking the spotlight away from major league baseball and he would do a trade in the middle of the World Series and all of the newspapers would cover it and here he has died on the day of the all-star baseball game in Anaheim which is definitely stealing the spotlight certainly in a lot of cities, and so even in passing he triumphs over major league baseball.

BLITZER: Well you both agree I take it John first to you that he was good for baseball.

KING: He was good for baseball in terms of raising the profile of the sport again. He relished competition. He relished the spotlight and as Richard said, he picked the moments to do big things that other owners would grumble about and he relished the rivalry with the Red Sox. He is the guy who signed Wade Boggs and Roger Clemens away from the Red Sox and he loved to be photographed with them, because he knew those photographs would wind up in the New York newspapers and as well as the Boston newspaper.

ROTH: Well, look, you want to wipe away some memories, but he was not perfect. He was suspended from baseball after paying money to a gambler to dig up dirt on one of his own players Dave Winfield, and he also had some campaign contributions, law violations with Richard Nixon. He made a lot of humanity contributions behind the scenes that people are not aware of and New York and American cities need these larger than life personalities. I think that corporations as we know can tend to be pretty in the dark owners flying around on corporate jets and these luxury suites and nobody knows them. But everybody knew George Steinbrenner, and he was the boss despite Bruce Springfield sharing of that title.

BLITZER: And we remember Steinbrenner and George Costanza on Seinfeld. Guys thanks very much. Richer Roth joining us. John King will have a lot more coming up at the top of the hour on ""JOHN KING USA."

So do you know where your prescription drugs are really made? Stand by. A new study says an increasing number are coming from China. We're going to show you why that's raising some serious safety concerns.


BLITZER: Some disturbing new developments are now emerging concerning popular medications you might be using and probably are. Could there be some dangerous health risks involved in Lisa Sylvester is monitoring this for us. What is going on, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I have covered a number of food and drug safety stories, but this is troubling, and it's something that many Americans may not be aware of. First, nearly half of all drugs that Americans take are imported from overseas according to an independent study for Congress, and many of the drugs are increasingly coming in from China where the plants there are rarely if ever inspected.


SYLVESTER: Every time you pop a pill for a headache, there is a good chance that the key ingredients came from China. 61 percent of all ibuprofen sold in the U.S. and 94 percent of the tetracycline used in most antibiotics in the United States are made in China according to a recent report by an independent Congressional commission.

MIKE WESSEL, U.S. CHINA ECONOMIC COMMITTEE: Their regulatory authorities are rife with corruption. The production at local provinces, they are gauged on how well their economy does, and not how safe the products are that they supply to us.

SYLVESTER: In 2008, 81 Americans were killed after being given a tainted blood thinning medicine called heparin that came from China. Colleen Hubley says that her husband was one of them.

COLLEEN HUBLEY, WIDOW: I watched my husband and best friend slip away before my eyes.

SYLVESTER: Two years, what has changed? Very little. In recent Congressional testimony, the FDA admitted it does not have adequate resources to prevent another heparin crisis, and it does not have the ability to control the safety of imported pharmaceuticals and it does not have the adequate authority to keep out unsafe drug shipments at the border.

WESSEL: Because of the risks in the system, it is a ticking time bomb.

SYLVESTER: U.S. drug factories are rigorously inspected by the FDA but the same is not true in China where there are language barriers and lax quality standards. The report found from 2002 to 2006 an average of 15 of the 714 drug factories that ship to the U.S. were actually inspected by the FDA. And the ones that were received advance notice that inspectors were coming.

JOSHUA SHARFSTEIN, FDA PRINCIPAL DEPUTY COMMISSIONER: These foreign inspections are challenging and expensive and ultimately, we need to do more of them and in fact, the numbers are going up, but not, we are not going to be able to get to every plant every year.

SYLVESTER: The FDA is working on a system where countries like Australia and those in the European Union share inspection information, since they say it is impossible for one country to do it alone. They have added two offices in China and one in other countries. But the FDA lacks authority to recall pharmaceutical drugs and even if they catch the tainted drugs they cannot seize or impound or destroy the drugs, so ultimately, it is the U.S. drug companies which is the last resort. PhRMA says they are required to test.

LORI REILLY, V.P., POLICY AND RESEARCH PHRMA: They are required to test it whether they receive from China or elsewhere and before they put it in the product, both before and after.

SYLVESTER: That system relies on U.S. manufacturers to catch the problems, but most of the time they do, but heparin slipped through the cracks and the results were deadly.


SYLVESTER: In the case of heparin, that is a case never been solved. U.S. investigators know that someone deliberately tainted the heparin, but who were the individuals responsible and how was they did it we don't know. So that is troubling, because when there are problems the U.S. does not have the same investigative authority in China that it has here, and so getting to the source to a problem is much more difficult.

BLITZER: Thank you for bringing this important story to our viewers Lisa, appreciate it very much.

Time is running out right for the Iroquois national lacrosse team to have a chance to compete in the world championships in England. We are going to update you on a passport dispute that is preventing them from leaving the country.

And it is a most unusual old twist on monkey see, monkey do. We will explain right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: A passport dispute is threatening to keep the Iroquois tribe's national lacrosse team from attending the world championships in Britain. This issue has become more about sports. Let's Britain in CNN's Mary Snow. She's covering the story in New York. The team was ready to go to Kennedy Airport to fly off the Britain, but there's been a snag. What happened?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes they are not on their way Wolf. They're still in New York, and time is running out. The lacrosse world championships start Thursday in Manchester, England. The dispute over their passports remains at an impasse.


SNOW: They are the Iroquois national lacrosse team. Members are from the U.S. and Canada, and they play until their own flag. They are not supposed to be practices in New York City. On their way to England for the world lacrosse championships they met a road block. The team says they were told the U.S. government wouldn't recognize their confederacy for passports.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the passport of our country. We have our sovereignty. It's been recognized since 1977, people have been traveling on the passport even before the team was formed in 1983.

SNOW: The team's executive director says the British government won't grant them visas unless they can guarantee they'll be allowed to return home. The state department blames the stand still on new security measures applied to passports.

P.J. CROWLEY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We are trying to see if there's a way to help them. The easiest way to accomplish what they want to accomplish is get them a U.S. passport. We've been willing to do that for a number of days and we stand ready to do that today.

SNOW: But team members are only willing to go so far. When it comes down to getting a passport or missing the tournament, how many people are willing to miss this tournament? The decision is unanimous, with team members against gets U.S. passports. One of the coaches, Freeman Bucktooth explains why.

FREEMAN BUCKTOOTH, IROQUOIS NATIONALS: It's not making a stand, but doing the right thing, have people honor our passports, have the governments honor what we have. We're one of the oldest governments in the world.

SNOW: Team members headed to the airport hopeful that a resolution would be worked out. They're receiving support, including from New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who notes his state has a significant Native American population. Richardson wrote a letter to secretary of state Hillary Clinton, and Janet Napolitano, secretary of the department of homeland security, asking for their assistance. But by the time the team reached JFK, there was still no agreement, and the team didn't board any flights. PERCY ABRAMS, EXEC. DIR. IROQUOIS NATIONALS: We're just being hopeful at this time. The players are here, they're prepared to be proposed and to fly, and we're doing our best.


SNOW: Wolf, by going to the airport, the team says it was ability to prevent losing their airline tickets. They say they were able to rebook their flight for tomorrow without a penalty, and now they're just hoping someone will step in on their behalf within the next 24 hours. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yeah, this is ridiculous. They should be able to resolve this and let these guys play in the world championship. Stay on top of this, Mary. Fill us in tomorrow on what's going on. Thanks very much.

SNOW: Sure.

BLITZER: Monkeys trained to fight the Taliban? CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a most unusual look at some unusual reports.


BLITZER: A report on a Chinese website puts a most unusual new twist on the trained monkey. CNN's Jeanne Moos explains.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We've seen a cowboy monkey riding a dog. We've seen them serve as waiters, bringing bottles and ashtrays, we've seen orangutans box, we've seen monkeys walk on stilts, but this we've never seen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Taliban trains monkey terrorist to attack you.

MOOS: That's according to the "People's Daily Online" out of China. From there the story ended up as one of those memorable animations featured on a Taiwanese tabloid web site. Taliban fighters are supposedly taking orphan monkeys and teaching them to identify American uniforms and shoot. Sounds like something out of the "Planet of the Apes." Jihad monkeys screamed the "New York Post." "Monkey See, Monkey Kill." Even a monkey should shoot a hole in this story, but instead we let an expert on primates take aim, Dr. Shawn Evans. Your basic reaction to the idea of a jihad monkey, holding a gun, pointing it at American soldiers is --


MOOS: Sure they can be trained. Watch how protective this pet is when American soldier pushes his owner, but Dr. Evans says training an impulsive monkey is incredibly difficult. It's possible to teach simple tasks, or switching on lights and opening doors for the disabled.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good girl. Okay. All right.

MOOS: But identifying and targeting an enemy without the monkey shooting your side?

EVANS: I think it's a preposterous suggestion.

MOOS: Likewise a U.S. defense official did not find the reports credible. "The People's Daily" says the CIA was the first to try to training monkey soldiers during the Vietnam War, yew bananas and peanuts as a reward. Nuts, you say? Probably. A CIA spokesperson said she didn't know anything about it but they have sent monkeys into space. For instance, Ham took an 18-minute flight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A hero of space, happy to be back among friends.

EVANS: Yes, they did send monkeys into space, but they weren't in charge of the aircraft.

MOOS: Imagine having something this impulsive, in charge of a machine gun or a mortar. One blogger imagined a jihadi monkey yelling bananas Akbar.


MOOS: Make the terrorists should stick to monkey bars, rather than monkeys.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York City.


BLITZER: Remember you can always follow what's going on in THE SITUATION ROOM on tweeter. My tweets at, all one word. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. "JOHN KING USA" starts right now.