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THE SITUATION ROOM

Govt. Green-Lights Integrity Test; Times Square Bomber Reveals Motive

Aired July 14, 2010 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: You're in the SITUATION ROOM. Happening now --

Breaking news, the next critical step in ending the Gulf oil disaster now cleared to begin after a frustrating delay. We're following every development on the integrity test as it's called on that new well cap.

Also, the NAACP ignites a huge controversy condemning what it calls racists, racists in the tea party movements. CNN political analyst, Roland Martin, and tea party spokesman, Mark Williams, will face off right here, this hour.

And newly surfaced video believed to be of the man behind that failed bombing in New York's Times Square. He offers a chilling explanation for his action and the need for what he calls a holy war.

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

We're following the breaking news this hour. The government now giving BP a green light to move forward with the critical integrity of that new cap on that well that's been spewing lots of oil into the gulf of Mexico for 86 days. This comes a full day after we all expected the test to begin, and a frustrating communication gap that kept the world in the dark for hours about what was going on. CNN's Chad Myers is monitoring all of this for us. Chad, you got the breaking news from the National Incident Commander, Thad Allen. Update our viewers and tell us what we know right now, because this is a touch-and-go critical moment.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: The oil is not coming out of the top of the pipe anymore. Literally 30 seconds ago, Wolf, the oil stopped coming out. And I'll show you how all that happened. How did all of this occur? Back up a couple of days and back up to what was still a damaged blowout preventer with this pipe that was not able to even be connected at all, the oil always spilled around this old cap. The old cap is gone. The old, let's call it a nipple that was on top of this blowout preventer that also was taken away because it didn't have sealable properties. A new part was brought down. That new part that was brought down has a much larger cylinder to it, and also a very nice nipple on the top that could be attached.

All of the sudden, a new blowout preventer, if you will, it's just a cap, a triple cap, triple stack there, brought down and bolted together. Now, we have good connections. Now, we're not leaking anymore. What's going to go on now? Well, from the top, all of the oil is coming out, they're going to shut down the valves. Shut down the oil coming out of the top of this cap, and then, they're going to check pressures, test pressures all night long. Literally, every six hours, they're going to make sure every single pressure inside of this stack is OK.

They don't want this thing to blow up. They don't want the casing down below to blow up. The pictures you see here, I see oil leaking. I understand these are the choke and the kill lines, but when we move around, this thing is going to keep sliding around, you will see that black almost stove pipe, and it's not coming out. The oil is not coming out from there any longer. The pressures are building up. Oil is coming out from other places, but the almost unabated oil from the main pipe has stopped literally 3-1/2 minutes ago, Wolf. We'll Keep watching.

BLITZER: Yes. That's huge development. Thad Allen said they would, every six hours, shut down some more of those valves, and hopefully, within 48 hours, he said a maximum of 48 hours, they would test the pressure every few hours, make sure it wasn't going to make matters worse. If it worked, no more oil presumably would be coming out. But what you're saying is, right now, they've shut down some of those valves at top of that cap.

MYERS: Yes. Let just randomly go through some of these pictures that we know BP has basically been providing us. And it's the one right over there, on that other side. That's the one that is the closest picture that we have of what was -- we'll just call it the top of the new cap. Right there. It's off to the right. I can't prove it that it's not coming out because you still see oil kind of oozing from some of the screw holes or wherever, just part of this still choke and kill valves that are there. But the oil is not coming out of that 18-inch round pipe anymore.

It has been shut down which means the test has started, which means -- yesterday, we waited for this the entire time. The pressures are, obviously, rising. They're watching it carefully. If the pressures stay low, that's a problem. Oil is leaking out somewhere. They're going to have to let that oil go back again and then collect it like they were. If the pressures keep going up, and everything remains stable, the pressures don't get released. The pressures go up and up and up to almost 8,000 PSI, that means nothing is leaking. The stability is there. Nothing has broken down below the surface of the ocean. None of the casing is gone.

Everything is still -- the entire thing still has integrity all the way down to where the oil is literally coming out of the ground and coming out from 18,000 feet deep, and then they know that they have a good seal. There it is, Wolf. There's the money shot! Can you see it? Are we taking it there? You see it right there, that pipe in the middle, that big black pipe, that's where the oil was coming out. It has now stopped. I know it's coming out other places, choke and kill lines and other vents, but the big story is it's not coming out of the top anymore. BLITZER: And that means the test has started, and we will see what happens. What we're going do is, Chad, I don't want you to go away. We're going to do a before and after of that one of the top of that cap, and we're going to show our viewers the oil that was coming out, and now, you can see it's not coming out, meaning the test has started -- Chad.

MYERS: Something, you know, we were almost in too much of a hurry yesterday to hope that this test was happening. This is what Admiral Allen said would happen if the test was happening. So we're only going from what he said.

BLITZER: Yes, the test has started. All right. Chad, standby. We also want to help everyone understand exactly what this integrity test as it's called is and why it's so critical to ending potentially the Gulf disaster. Chad is with us. He and CNN's Tony Harris talked about that and the frustrating delay in starting it with BP's chief operating officer, Doug Suttles.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DOUG SUTTLES, BP CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER: This integrity test, the reason it's called an integrity test is to make sure that the casing, the wellbore itself, has integrity to hold the pressure in this well when we close it in. So, the test is designed to close it in and monitor the pressure. And if we get a high pressure, that's good news. It would indicate that we have complete integrity. If we get a low pressure, that's an indication that potentially some flow is escaping some place. Clearly, we don't want that to occur, and that's the purpose of doing the test. So, there were a couple of other concerns around ways flow could escape, and we needed to go examine those before we proceeded.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm going to get really specific here (INAUDIBLE) because I just think at this point, I'm really curious and I suspect a lot of people out there watching us are curious as well. Can you describe what the test is, what is it, and are there any dangers from the testing process, itself?

SUTTLES: So, what we're trying to do is when we actually close the well end through this new cap, the pressure will rise because when the well is flowing, it's at a lower pressure. When it's closed in, it's at a higher pressure. So, what's important here is to monitor that pressure both as we close it in, and once we get closed in very, very carefully. And that's, I think, Admiral Allen has described this that the test will last anywhere from 6 hours to 48 hours depending on how it responds. Then at that point, we'll analyze the results and determine do we leave the well closed in or actually do we need to open it back up and try to contain the flow and some of it potentially could still escape into the Gulf of Mexico.

The risk through all of this process is that somehow flow escapes outside of the casing. That's something we don't want to occur, because we never want to take any action which could make things worse. So, that's why it's so important to get this test right.

HARRIS: OK. And is there any danger to the casing from the testing, itself? That's what I'm driving at.

SUTTLES: Right. And that's what we're analyzing. That was one of the concerns raised yesterday is that somehow through this testing process, could the casing be damaged? And that's what we're examining with the experts right now to make sure that we don't believe that's the case, and to confirm that, if we did think it could happen, we might not proceed with the test. So, that's what the teams are studying, as we speak.

HARRIS: I don't have to tell you how anxiously everyone is awaiting the results of the test, and hopefully, the day when you can close these valves and shut that thing down. Here's my question, if you knew at approximately what we're getting at 4:30 p.m. yesterday and that you were going to delay the integrity test, you know how anxiously every news operation is waiting for anything, any nugget of information on progress here, why did it take another five, five and a half hours to inform anyone?

SUTTLES: Well, I think that there are a lot of people involved in the decisions and in the process, and of course, everyone needed to get informed in a line to make the announcement. But I actually agree with you, everyone, absolutely everybody, and I can assure you all of BP want to move on with this as quickly as we can to get this flow stopped, and we need to make sure we get you guys information as quickly as we can, and hopefully, we can get it faster next time.

MYERS: Are the Q-4000 and the Helix producers still pumping oil or sucking oil out of the BOP or are they shut down now as well?

SUTTLES: No, they're capturing oil. So, the Q-4,000 on a typical day will actually capture about 8,000 barrels. As of late this morning, the Helix Producer was up to a rate of about 12,000 barrels a day. And of course, we also have the drill ship "Enterprise" we can bring back in if necessary and put back over the top of the cap, and it's demonstrated it can effectively capture about 15,000. I should also say the Helix Producer is still ramping up. It should ultimately be able to capture between 20 and 25,000.

MYERS: During this testing process, will those two operations ever cease? Will they have to stop because you have to build the pressure up?

SUTTLES: Yes. In fact, the first step in the closing in process to do the test will be to stop production or the containment operations on the Q-4000 and the Helix Producer. That's a very first part in the process, because will stop all flow out of the well as part of that test.

MYERS: During this whole process, would you ever consider waiting for the relief well to get closer before you stop the well, before you literally got to that 8,000 PSI number, so that you were ready to do the bottom kill just in case something really did go wrong?

SUTTLES: Well, we obviously, if we felt that that was a risk, we wouldn't do the test now. The relief well is going very well. We're very close. We're within 30 feet of running the last string of casing. We're only about four feet laterally from the well. Running the casing will take about a week. And then we have about another 100 feet to go which will be measuring very precisely as we go, then we'll start the kill operation.

MYERS: We kind of analyzed this almost like trying to get an IV and you're trying to find some kind of vein that you can't find with a very small needle and that's what you, guys, are doing at 5,000 feet below the bottom of the ocean, is that right?

SUTTLES: Well, in fact, we're almost 18,000 feet from where the floor of the drill ship is where we're starting the operation.

MYERS: Sure. Right.

SUTTLES: But what we're doing is, right now, we drill about 30 feet at a time, run our measurement tools in to know precisely where we are. So, most of the time right now, we're doing measuring work and not drilling, because we want to know exactly where we are. And that operation's gone very well. We have the world's best experts helping us here, and we have a lot of confidence we're going to succeed with that relief well.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: That is Doug Suttles, the chief operating officer of BP speaking with Chad earlier. This is a significant development. That was a little bit earlier, but he gave us some perspective. You and Tony Harris had a good chance to grill him on this stuff. What do you think? Do they know what they're doing, Chad, based on everything you're hearing? I know you really studied this closely?

MYERS: From what I know it was the government that says, the U.S. government said, let's just check this out, and let's not make sure -- let's not blow this thing out from the bottom of the ocean where we can't ever stop it. And so, that's why the slow down of the 24 hours happened at all. But now, we know there has been some success. This right here is the black pipe where the oil has been spewing now for all the days that this new cap has been put on top. So, now that this is gone, now that the oil is not coming out of here, we know from BP, specifically, that would be the first thing we would see when the integrity test had started.

There's still oil coming out in other places to relieve some of the pressure. Wolf, they don't want to get this thing up to 8,000 PSI in one minute. It will be like when you got your water going on all the way full on your faucet and you shut it off real quick, you can hear all of the pipes in your house go bo-bo-bo. They don't want that. They don't want that shutter to be happening especially not at 60 PSI like your water pipes would be, but 8,000 psi. They slowly, slowly, literally, over 48 hours will bring this pressure up and up and up to make sure that every piece of integrity and the smartest and the best people are on this. To answer your question, I believe they know what they're doing.

BLITZER: All right. I want to show our viewers side-by-side, what we're seeing right now, these live cameras, and what we saw just a little while ago, and I want you to look at what we're slowing our viewers. Show or explain what's on the left and what's on the right.

MYERS: On the left, the unabated except for what the Q-4000 and the Helix Producer was sucking out of the bottom of the BOP. So, the unabated oil coming out of the top --

BLITZER: That was before.

MYERS: That was before. On the left is on the before. On the right there is that same pipe, smaller in size, because the camera is farther away, but in the middle, the oil is not coming out of that big black pipe in the middle anymore coming out of other valves and other places, yes, but we know that this was going to be the first indication that the integrity test had started from the mouths of the -- from the BP people, this now is taking place just as they thought so.

And now, even as we look at it, where the oil was leaking out, the one yellow pipe, that was the kill, and the choke pipes, I even believe now some of the oil, the amount of oil has lessened just in the past few minutes, so I can see some oil escaping, but the middle of the screen, right there, that's where all of the big oil was coming out, that now has stopped.

BLITZER: Yes. It's a dramatic move. And quickly, Chad, we just got on Twitter a tweet from BP. I'm going the read it. You tell our viewers what this means. "We have closed in our containment and collection systems through the Q-4000 and Helix Producer to prepare for integrity tests. Earlier, they sent a tweet what we know. We have the green light now to proceed with our well integrity test." So, they've stopped collecting, I guess this means they've stopped collecting oil on the top, is that right?

MYERS: Yes. They've stopped the ships that were sucking the oil from down below through very long pipes, a mile deep, all the way down to the bottom of this blowout preventer. They had attached lines, hoses, if you will to the blowout preventer, to the choke and the kill valves down below. And all they were doing was sucking oil to the top and just not letting it go into the ocean. Clearly, oil was still coming out of the top, some was being collected by that old cap that they had.

So, when that old cap left, a lot of oil went in almost unabated, but now, they're even not bringing any of that oil out anymore which means they closed those valves completely. They're going to close this valve eventually, completely. They're going to pressurize the system and see if it holds.

BLITZER: We'll be watching every step of the way. Chad, excellent work. Thanks very much.

MYERS: You're welcome.

BLITZER: Don't go too far away. We're not going to stay away from this story for very long. Jack Cafferty is off today. Up next, a revenge in Jihad. Chilling new video believe to be the man behind the Times Square bomb plot, explaining his motive and the need for what he calls holy war.

Also, Michael Steele, Sarah Palin and others, they're now weighing in on the NAACP's condemnation of the tea party movement for allegedly harboring racists.

And our political analyst, Roland Martin, and the tea party spokesman, Mark Williams, they are here to debate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: All right. The so-called integrity test has started. You can see these live pictures coming in. They're beginning to shut down some of those valves that have allowed the oil to be spewing out. These are critical hours right now. Thad Allen, the National Incident Commander, explaining just a little while ago that the government, after a 24-hour delay, feels confident that BP knows what it's doing and the test has started. Every six hours, they're going to reassess. They're going to see what's going on. They hope the process will be complete within 48 hours.

If it works, and this is still a huge if, if it works, the oil will stop spewing, at least for now, from that well. These are critical hour we're watching right now. We want to show you, by the way, some pictures side-by-side of what was the oil simply coming out on the left part of your screen, you see only a little while ago, the oil that was spewing big time out of the top of the cap. On the right, you can see that cap, there's no oil coming out. You see oil coming out from elsewhere, from other valves, but the cap looks a little bit smaller as Chad Myers was telling us, because it's a further away shot, but no oil is coming out of the top of that cap.

But there's slowly, slowly out of an abundance of caution shutting down those valves. We'll see what happens, and this is a critical moment we're watching it right now. We'll get back to the story. A lot more coming up, but I want to check in some other important news we're following here on the SITUATION ROOM."

The former vice president, Dick Cheney, is revealing that he underwent heart surgery last week. In a statement just released, he says he had been experiencing congestive heart failure and had a device implanted to improve his heart condition. He goes on to say and I'm quoting, "the operation went very well and I'm now recuperating. I am grateful for the wonderful care that I have received over the years at George Washington University Hospital and that I am currently receiving at Inova Fairfax Heart and Vascular Institute. That's right outside of Washington, D.C. in Northern Virginia." I also want to thank all of you who have included my family and me in your thoughts and prayers."

The former vice president getting a new procedure in his heart just over the past few days. We wish him, of course, a speedy recovery. Meanwhile, chilling new video has emerged of a man believed to be Faisal Shahzad who pleaded guilty to the failed Times Square bomb plot in New York City. In it, in this new video, he explains the motive for the attack and the necessity of what he calls jihad or holy war. CNN's Deborah Feyerick is monitoring the story for us. What do we know about this video, Deb?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I can tell you that sources are telling me and number of people in law enforcement have known about this tape for some time. Faisal Shahzad, you may remember, began cooperating immediately with authorities after he was arrested. Now, the tape obtained by Al Arabiya, an Arabic language station, was made by the Pakistani Taliban. It shows the Times Square bomber in a traditional Pakistani clothes reading from what may be the Koran. In this clip, he explains why he did what he did.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This attack on the United States will also be a revenge attack for all of the Mujahideen and (INAUDIBLE) and the weak and oppressed people of Muslims. For example, (INAUDIBLE), all the Muslim Arab that have been martyred. I will take a revenge on their behalf, inshallah. And I really wish that the hearts of the Muslims will be pleased with this attack and inshallah.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FEYERICK: Now, this is similar to what Shahzad said in court when he pleaded guilty last month. He mentions two terror leaders, Baitullah Mehsud and Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi, both killed by U.S. drone strikes. Zarqawi in Iraq was responsible, you may remember, for beheading American, Nick Berg. Now, I spoke to several terrorism experts and here's what stands out about this new video. First, it clearly shows the Connecticut man was able to make contact with terror leaders in the Pakistani region. Apparently, get his picture taken with one of them and also make this last will martyrdom video apparently promising that others would do just as he has done.

Also, the theme of revenge that you heard. That's very much a tribal code of conduct. Police in New York say that threats by the Pakistani Taliban publicized just after the attempted attack on Times Square now are even more credible. That was threat against major cities in the U.S. The Times Square bomber was apparently photographed next to the current leader of the Pakistani Taliban. He also appeared in a video with a terrorist who killed the team of CIA agents in Afghanistan. So, Wolf, while the content may be nothing more than just mere propaganda, it does appear to physically connect Shahzad to a larger terror network -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks, Deborah Feyerick. Let's dig deeper on this subject with our national security contributor, Fran Townsend. She was the homeland security adviser to President Bush. She worked in the justice department during the Clinton administration. She's also a member of the CIA's external advisory board. You got a video like this, go back to your days in the White House, working in the counterterrorism with the intelligence community, what do you look for when you go through a video like this?

FRANCES TOWNSEND, FORMER BUSH HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: You know, it's a little bit different whether it's somebody you got in custody or not. Of course, when the person is not in custody as Shahzad is, you're looking for hints about where they are and who they're affiliate with. This is quite different. As Deborah says, the most important thing about this is who he is photographed with, not what he's saying. What he's saying is very consistent with al Qaeda, generally, their themes, this notion they pervert the concept of jihad. He subscribes to a version of jihad that most Muslims do not. And so, this is the propaganda, the rhetoric that he espouses in the video.

BLITZER: In this video, he was telling the world, I'm going to go kill myself for jihad, but here is why.

TOWNSEND: That's right. And he talks about it's revenge basically for what he believes are actions against the Muslim Ummah, the Muslim body worldwide which is not subscribed to. I mean, in fact, al Qaeda has killed more Muslims themselves than any other single organization.

BLITZER: Fran Townsend, thanks very much. We'll continue this story. Obviously, as new developments unfold.

Critical pressure tests on that leaking oil well in the Gulf. They are now under way. You heard the breaking news right at the top of the hour.

And the NAACP accusing tea party activists of putting up with racists in their ranks. Now, tea party leaders are firing right back. A heated debate here in the SITUATION ROOM. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get back to the breaking news this hour. We may, repeat, may be at the beginning of the end of this nightmare in the Gulf of Mexico. That critical so-called integrity test on the new well cap has begun. We now know it has started. Let's go back to CNN's Chad Myers for the very latest. You broke the news right at the top of the hour, Chad, that well cap. They have now sealed at least part of it.

MYERS: They have. And in fact, right from Kent Wells right to my blackberry, senior vice president Kent Wells says that the middle ram, the middle ram or the middle part, the middle valve has been shut, and this is the first part of the test. It is now under way. We knew it. We knew what we would see. We knew that this part of the pipe right there would become oil or basically oil and gas-free. It's moving out of the way, but that's right there, hard to see. Oil is no longer coming out. Now, there is still oil, Wolf, coming out in a couple of different places from what's called a choke line and kill line.

This is exactly what we expected. They will not close the other valves for a while. That's the first valve they're going to close. They're going to check what the pressure is doing. And then they're going to slowly close the kill valve, and then, finally, maybe 48 hours from now, turn them all off and make sure all of the valves are completely off and check pressures there. This is going to be a long process. TV people don't like long processes as they want it to be -- they want instant gratification. We are already to that point. We know that at least the first part has started. When the last part is done, then this thing maybe dead.

BLITZER: So when Thad Allen says every six hours they're going to assess the pressure and they're hoping within a maximum of 48 hours to know one way or another whether it has worked or whether it has failed. Walk us through that critical issue of the pressure that they are monitoring.

MYERS: Literally, about every six hours, they will close another valve. It is almost like if you take a hose, and you turn the hose on, but you don't open up the little faucet at the end, the little squirter that you will wash your car with, and all of the sudden, you poke a bunch of holes in the hose. Well, there is not much pressure in the hose as long as there is water coming out of the hose. Every six hours, you plug one of the holes, the pressure in the hose will build up, even though it may leak a little bit, but the pressure in your hose builds up. So they are going to cover up all of those holes one at a time, either in the blowout preventer to start with, which they have. That is the Q-4000 and the helix, that's where are the pipes that go all of the way to the surface and all the oil is being collected up above or being flared off. That is the first part. They have shut those off already. Now they have shut the middle part of the cap with oil still coming out one side and still coming out the other side, but as we go through time, they will watch the pressures go from 1,000 to 3,000, and hold it right there for a while. They will turn the valve a little bit, and bring it up to 4,000 psi, pounds per square inch. Literally more pressure than we could withstand and more power than you can buy out of the most powerful power washing gun you can buy at Home Depot or Lowes. We are talking huge streams of power below, and eventually 24, 48 hours from now, they will have it all closed, or at least they hope. So and they hope that the pressure will stay up there, whether it is 7,000 or 8,000 don't know yet. They hope the pressure stays high. If it does not stay high or if it immediately goes down a lot to 5,000, that means there was a rupture somewhere, and that is the worst possible scenario. That's why they didn't want to go too far ahead yesterday, because of the potential of the rupture. That would be the worst possible thing to happen until the second well gets all of the way down to the bottom of the well and kill it with cement. So the pressures stay up, that is good. The pressures come down, there is a leak, a leak is bad.

BLITZER: Chad, I'm going to go to Ed Lavandera in a second. He's on the scene. He's getting more insight as to what is going on. But I want to once again, put on the screen the before and after of the middle part of that cap.

MYERS: Yes.

BLITZER: And explain to the viewers what is on the left part of the screen as opposed to the right part of the screen, because I think that this is dramatic.

MYERS: Well, for the longest time, we watched the bottom part of the blowout preventer, and much lower than this, and this is four days ago they put the top cap on. This is the oil coming out of the top of the new cap on the left where the word is "before." On the right, it is smaller, but you can see, and you can make out in the middle, kind of the middle bottom, left where that pipe is, and there is no more oil coming out. I know you see milky, chocolate milk coming out in other places, but those are the valves that they have not closed yet. The big story is that the unabated, literally, oil coming out of the top of the new cap has stopped. And so, the pressures are beginning to come up, and as the oil stops coming out of the one, the yellow one on the right, and you can kind of tell that it is a yellow handle, that is the choke line, and behind it where the oil looks like it is coming out from the abyss back there, that is the kill line. Those words are irrelevant. Basically they are holes, they are valves that eventually, they will all be closed. When they are all close and the pressure stays high, the well can be dead. If the pressures don't stay high and something ruptures, the pressures come down again and there is a hole in the system somewhere and we are back to square one.

BLITZER: All right. Standby for a moment, Chad. Ed Lavandera is our man on the scene in New Orleans right now. If it works, great. Ed, if it does not work, clearly, they will have to wait for the two relief wells are completed either in late July or early to mid-August at some point to kill that well once and for all, because that is really the last ditch operation they have. If this doesn't work right now, Ed, they will have to rely on the completion of those two relief wells.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, absolutely. That hasn't changed. Even if you have it contained, you have to kill off the well for good, so that work would continue. But they also have a second scenario here as they wait to see if this containment cap by itself can work, and as Chad mentioned if that pressure starts to drop, they will open up all of the valves again, and remember, they have to -- they say they have enough vessels now in the region to collect am as much as 80,000 barrels a day, so they can hook up the riser pipes back up to the valves and start to bring the oil back to the surface, and that is why they have liked this idea so much. They felt that they had two very good options. Either the cap works by itself, or the second scenario, which they consider just as positive would mean that they could bring in and start collecting the oil in vessels and if the federal government estimates on the flow rate is correct which is as much as 60,000 barrels a day, and if they can collect 80,000 barrels a day, they have the situation covered which means the vast majority if not all of the oil is brought up to the surface. But over the last 24 hours, the scientists on the BP side and the government side really went back and forth to determine whether or not it was safe to move ahead with the integrity test, and Thad Allen talked a while ago about why that was a crucial conversation to have.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADM. THAD ALLEN (RET.), NATIONAL INCIDENT COMMANDER: Well, it is not easy. There are significant perceptions that have been created around the country. I have my own perceptions of how we would like to move forward on this, but I think that in the interest of the American people, safety of the environment, and safety of this project moving forward, it was advisable to take a 24-hour break and make sure we were getting this absolutely right, and understood that the best way to deal with the unknown quantity, which is the condition of the wellbore and the casings moving forward and now we are prepared to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAVANDERA: So, Wolf, as you mentioned, those relief wells will continue. What is interesting about this is that if one of these two versions of the containment cap works, essentially, that first relief well would reach the site by the end of July and would take perhaps another two weeks to get everything killed off, so that we are looking if this does work at saving about a month's worth of extra oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico. So that is why this is such a significant moment.

BLITZER: And it is interesting, Ed, that at 5:00 p.m. eastern and 4:00 p.m. central is when Thad Allen had the briefing saying they had given BP the go ahead to conduct this test that could last as long as 48 hours, and exactly one hour later, 5:00 p.m. central, and 6:00 p.m. eastern, that is when they sealed off part of the cap, and that is when we knew that the test had formally started. Is that right?

LAVANDERA: Right. It is interesting, too, because early on in the day, as many of the briefings as we had originally started to have started the integrity test Tuesday morning and it has been delayed and delay and woke up this morning experiencing the same delay with all of the briefings, but earlier today, BP officials sounded much more confident an felt like they were ready to move ahead. So I imagine that they were ready to get going with all of this.

BLITZER: Ed Lavandera, standby, because we will come back to you. We are going the go to Chad Myers. He is getting more insight as to the breaking news we are following right now. The formal test has started. We are assessing whether this will succeed or fail. Stand by. And we will also go to the white house, because they are weighing in on what is going on and the officials have been briefed by Thad Allen. Standby.

Also, coming up a debate. The NAACP says that the tea party movement harbors racists, and the tea party activists strongly disagree and they're firing right back.

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BLITZER: Staying with the breaking news right now, the Gulf of Mexico, that formal test has started, and to see whether they can stop once and for all the oil, the tens of thousands of barrels of oil that has been spewing from that well in the Gulf of Mexico. The white house is now being briefed by Thad Allen, the national incident commander and we will go to our white house correspondent Dan Lothian for more on this part of the story. What are you hearing, Dan? DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the white house is keeping a close eye on the latest developments and this is something according to the white house spokesman Robert Gibbs that the president has been briefed on throughout the day, and you pointed out he did have a meeting a conference call with Thad Allen and Napolitano and Salazar and other experts giving him the latest information on what they were planning on doing going forward. Obviously at this point, the white house is not commenting on these latest developments, and just waiting like everyone else to "find out if the integrity of that device will stand. That is the key. One white house official giving a readout from that call to the president had earlier today with the scientists there on the scene said that what they are going to be looking for is critical data to make sure that the condition of the well is intact, Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, that is obviously, very, very concerned about what is going on. And all of us are concerned. We are watching this very closely. The breaking news, these tests have started. Every six hours, they will check the pressure to make sure it is okay, and not making matters worse. And then within 48 hours, they say that they should know whether it is a successful operation or not so successful. They have other plan b and plan c in the works if necessary. Dan Lothian, thanks very much. We will stay with the breaking news and take a quick break. We will be right back.

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BLITZER: We will get back to the Gulf of Mexico in a few moments but there is other news we are following. Everyone from the Republican Party chairman to Sarah Palin now weighing in on a fiery controversy ignited by the NAACP. The organization passed a controversial resolution condemning what it portrays as rampant racism within the tea party movement. And joining us now CNN contributor Roland Martin and Mark Williams, he's a tea party express spokesman. Guys thanks very much for coming in. A lot of controversy over the NAACP decision, and the NAACP saying Monday, Roland, that the tea party movement knows that there are tens of thousands of dedicated racists and ultra-nationalists in their ranks. Do you agree, tens of thousands of racists?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first and foremost in how to quantify a particular number, I don't think that you can do that. But we have seen and heard the stories and seen the evidence and people actually carrying the signs expressing sort of the racist language. We have had members of Congress, one of them the esteemed American, Congressman John Lewis who said that clearly what he heard, and you had Congressman Carson (ph), a former police officer from the city of Indianapolis who was alongside him who heard the same racial epithets being called at him, and the point is not is the tea party a racist party, but the resolution says to deal with the racist elements within the party.

BLITZER: But he also said that there are tens of thousands of dedicated racists and ultra nationalists within their ranks.

MARTIN: That was his speech, but not the resolution. BLITZER: That is what the president of the NAACP said on Monday and let me give Mark Williams a chance to respond, because this is a hugely serious response, Mark.

MARK WILLIAMS, TEA PART EXPRESS SPOKESMAN: Well, a real mouthful coming with a man from an organization with the words colored people in the title.

BLITZER: Let me interrupt you for a second. What does that have to do one thing with the other thing?

WILLIAMS: Well, it is a racist phrase. I was taught as a small child not to use those terms.

MARTIN: If you're basing your whole argument on that word, trust me, you're ignoring the reality of the historic nature of the organization. So come on. Don't base your argument on that. That's weak.

WILLIAMS: And that's part of the problem. The NAACP is a bunch of old dusty relics trying to be relevant in the 20th century and they make money off of race baiting. I mean that's plain and simple. The tea party movement however is not a organization. There are thousands of small groups and large groups. It is a movement based on the constitution of the United States. Therefore, it is impossible to be a racist and a tea partier, because the constitution is all about individual rights, civil rights. And what is racist about demanding lower taxes, less intrusive government, no more bailouts and stop the racist politics?

BLITZER: Let me interrupt. Well, Roland, before you respond to that, should the tea party, and the leadership in the tea party movement, Mark, should it be more assertive in responding when they see the ugly photos and the isolated incidents and fringe elements out there making the comparisons to the president of the United States and a monkey for example, and should to leadership of the tea party be more assertive in dissociating and condemning these outbursts?

WILLIAMS: Well, since every tea partier is the tea party leader, there is no formal organization. That is exactly what they do. When these racists along with other description of nuts show up at the fringes of the event, and which they do, because we attract television cameras just like a ball game, hi, mom, they find out quickly they are in the wrong room. One of the signs is spotted by our people, they usually surround that person with American flags and what happens is that after buying the mainstream media myth they will find a happy home in the tea party, racists quickly find out it is all about rights and that is not what racism is about It is about America and the ideal of equality.

BLITZER: Roland, you can respond, but also respond to Sarah Palin, because she sent out this on her Facebook page, she says, "The charge that tea party Americans judge people by the color of their skin is false, appalling and is a regressive diversionary tactic to change the subject at hand." MARTIN: Well, first of all Sarah Palin is in denial from the quantified facts there where you had individuals making comments and having signs. So what she is trying to do is to go all the way over by saying, no racists at all, as opposed to say, what Mark just admitted to, there are some folks who showed up who are racist. Now, I also see that Mark has matured in his view on this. Because on this very network, on "AC 360" in September 2009 when I asked him specifically if someone had a racist sign at a tea party rally, would he tell them to take it down, out of Mark's own mouth, he said no because he would not want to infringe on their first amendment rights --

WILLIAMS: No, I said no, because I'd be on stage in front of 10,000 people --

MARTIN: Mark, Mark --

BLITZER: Hold on, let me --

WILLIAMS: -- wave to the crowd.

BLITZER: -- let Mark respond to that so --

MARTIN: We have Mark on tape. He can deny it now, but he's on tape.

BLITZER: Mark, go ahead.

WILLIAMS: I'm not going to leave a stage to go to the back of the crowd and find one guy.

MARTIN: That's not what you said.

WILLIAMS: It's not my job to police the personal beliefs of everybody in the tea parties.

MARTIN: But it is your job as a leader to lead.

WILLIAMS: I am not a leader of anything. The tea party movement is a grassroots, bottom-up organization.

BLITZER: But you're a spokesman.

WILLIAMS: I've been appointed a leader by the media apparently. Everybody who goes to a tea party is a tea party leader. It's about individuals and human rights. Individual right, not group rights.

MARTIN: Here's where I come from, the people who are on the stage, the folks who organize it, they're assuming a leadership position. The reality is this, Wolf, and here's what I think, Wolf, tea party people make a mistake, there are examples where other tea party leaders, mark wants to deny it, where they have said, you're not going to sit here and pollute our situation where your racism. What the tea party folks should be saying in response to the NAACP is we have actually done that. And in the future, if they're going to people who bring racism, they are not welcome at our rallies. BLITZER: Mark, I'll give you the last word --

WILLIAMS: -- tea party express did exactly what you're suggesting. We did that at the very beginning. I'm not going to preface everything I say, we're not racist, by the way I don't beat my wife. We are what we are. When these vile people show up, they find out we're not a happy home.

MARTIN: I'm glad you're matured on that.

WILLIAMS: -- listening to people like you, Roland, saying that's where they'll find a happy home --

MARTIN: You're not going to lie on CNN. I never said that. And I have said --

WILLIAMS: That's what you're saying right now this interview.

MARTIN: Allow me to finish. I have said consistently the tea party people have a right to assemble, to protest. What I have said, there's no room in that movement for racists. What I said is you should come out and say you're not welcome here.

WILLIAMS: Racists have their own movement. It's called the NAACP --

MARTIN: Oh, that's nonsense, they've done more --

WILLIAMS: -- bunch of old fossils looking to make a buck off skin color.

MARTIN: That's nice, Mark. They've done more to combat racism than you ever have. You can rip them all you want to but they fight for the rights of all American, not just African-Americans.

BLITZER: On that note, Mark, unless you have something for ten seconds --

WILLIAMS: I would just like to know where the National Association of Advancement for Colored People when they're going to grow up and realize this country has to move forward. We're in serious danger. All of our rights are at risk, not just blacks.

MARTIN: -- civil rights movement, it was all about forcing Americans to honor the very constitution you so proudly --

WILLIAMS: -- attacking an organization which is doing exactly --

MARTIN: Root out the racists, Mark.

BLITZER: Roland Martin, Mark Williams, guys, I know this debate is not going away, thanks very much for joining us.

WILLIAMS: Thanks Wolf.

BLITZER: Following the breaking news also from the Gulf of Mexico. Only a few moments ago, BP America tweeted this on Twitter -- watch the live BP ROV feeds. No flow from the top indicates first step of test is under way. That from BP. First step of test is now under way. That's the breaking news we're following. Stay with "JOHN KING USA" at the top of the hour. He's going to have a lot more on what's going on in the Gulf of Mexico.

Other news we're following, a huge surprise from the Palin family. Look who's back together again. CNN's Jeanne Moos will take a most unusual look.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Few, if anyone, saw it coming, apparently not even Sarah Palin but her own daughter, Bristol and Levi Johnston are now back together. The couple is once again headed for the altar. CNN's Jeanne Moos has more on this most unusual reconciliation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Even when Levi Johnston was uncovered on a cover it was less of a shock than this cove are announcing his engagement to Bristol Palin. The news was dispensed with musical accompaniment from "Reunited" to "The Wedding March."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was that theme song? Love exciting and new,

MOOS: Oh, it was exciting and new all right, especially to Bristol's mom.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Craziest part is Sarah Palin doesn't even know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She knows now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought mama grizzly knew where her cubs were all the time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- must we turn this into an attack on Sarah Palin?

MOOS: All we got from Sarah Palin was a written statement on her daughter's engagement to a guy Palin herself isn't so keen on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bristol believes in redemption and forgiveness --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To a degree, most of us --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Struggle to put in practice --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- in our daily lives.

MOOS: Amen. The "US Weekly" folks released lovey dovy video of the reunited couple kissing and caressing. It was after a joint visit with their son that Levi sent Bristol a text message. I miss you. I love you. I want to be with you again. And if texting doesn't sound romantic, how about how he gave her the ring?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He put rose petals all over her bed in the shape of a heart and in the middle of it had put the box with the engagement ring.

MOOS: Sure beats the guy who proposed to his girl the other day at a baseball game dressed up as broccoli.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you please marry me?

MOOS: Next thing you know, they're locked in a steamy broccoli kiss. With the Bristol and Levi cover in hand, we hit the streets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is for real?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my god.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cool.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who gives a [ bleep ]?

MOOS: For those who do give a [ bleep ], the couple plans a small wedding in a month or so.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Camouflage is going to be a big part of this wedding.

MOOS: Bristol told "US Weekly" she wants Levi and baby Trip to wear camouflage vests. Just in case the happy couple needs a couple of suggestions for camouflage wedding wear, have we got a website for them. At tackyweddings.com, you'll find camouflage galore, cameo garters, guys decked out in cameo suits and hunting vests, even cameo wedding cakes. Even if Bristol's and Levi's isn't a shotgun wedding, they could still say I do packing guns. Jeanne Moos --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh.

MOOS: CNN --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh.

MOOS: New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: All right, let's wrap this hour up with some hot shots. In Bangkok, Thailand, a man carrying baskets walks past a graph anytime graffiti covered wall. In Indonesia, women carry offerings during a procession for a religious ceremony. In Hungary where there's a national alert for a heat wave, two boys flip into a lake to cool off. At a zoo in Germany, check it out, a red panda relaxes on a branch. Hot Shots, pictures worth a thousand words. Remember, you can follow what's going on here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm on twitter. Get my tweets at twitter.com/WolfBlitzerCNN, all one word. You can also follow THE SITUATION ROOM on Facebook. Go to Facebook.com/cnnsituationroom to become a fan.

That's it for me. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. "JOHN KING USA" starts right now.