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How Much Oil?; Mass Murder of Immigrants?

Aired August 20, 2010 - 18:00   ET



Happening now: One of America's best-known evangelical leaders throws fuel on a simmering controversy. The Reverend Franklin Graham says that President Obama was born a Muslim. Now the White House is responding to that.

Also, huge discrepancies in estimates on how much oil is still in the Gulf of Mexico. Why are government figures so different from those of researchers. I will ask the national incident commander, retired Admiral Thad Allen. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And forensic science is helping to unravel a mystery involving the deaths of dozens of immigrants to the United States? Were these victims of a mass murder?

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

But we begin with what is going on with Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. In less than two weeks, the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, are scheduled to sit down in Washington for the first time for direct face-to-face peace talks in almost two years.

Only a few moments ago, the Palestinian leadership announced they are in fact accepting the invitation from the president of the United States and the secretary of state. The Israelis accepted the invitation earlier in the day, but just getting the two sides to agree to such face-to-face negotiations has been a major undertaking and with an aggressive timeline and an ambitious goal now in place.

The secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, is talking candidly about the difficult task ahead.

Our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, is joining us now. He's with the president on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts.

This has been a difficult ordeal for the Obama administration getting to this very point.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It really has been a difficult ordeal, a lot of negotiations going on behind scenes. Now, those direct talks expected to take place in Washington on September 2. The day before that President Obama expected to hold bilateral meetings with these leaders and also host a dinner.

The White House really sees these developments as a step in the right direction after 20 long months. And while challenges remain, White House aides are optimistic.


LOTHIAN (voice-over): The Obama administration is trying to seize to crucial window of opportunity, jump-starting the long-stalled Mideast peace talks and pushing for success within one year.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: These negotiations should take place without preconditions and be characterized by good faith and a commitment to their success.

LOTHIAN: Skeptics may see this as another drive down a dead-end road, but special Mideast envoy George Mitchell, a veteran of talks in Northern Ireland, says success requires patience.

GEORGE MITCHELL, SPECIAL U.S. ENVOY FOR THE MIDDLE EAST: In Northern Ireland, we had about 700 days of failure and one day of success.

LOTHIAN: The Obama administration has been prodding both sides for months. The president recently held separate Oval Office talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas.

How to carve out borders for a Palestinian state and security guarantees for Israel are two key issues that remain unresolved. Looming over this fragile diplomatic effort, Iran's nuclear threat. "The New York Times" says the Obama administration has persuaded the Israelis that trouble with the Iranian nuclear program means it would take them at least a year if not more to develop a weapon.

At a briefing on Martha's Vineyard, John Brennan, who advises the president on national security issues, was asked about the report.

JOHN BRENNAN, U.S. DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Clearly, we are very concerned about Iran's continued activity in this area, but again, I will leave the assessments sort of off the table at this point.

LOTHIAN: On the peace process, Brennan and other administration officials say there is a strong commitment by all parties to an enduring deal in the region, but Secretary Clinton warned, hurdles remain.

CLINTON: There have been difficulties in the past. There will be difficulties ahead. Without a doubt, we will hit more obstacles.


LOTHIAN: Now, President Mubarak of Egypt and King Abdullah of Jordan have also been invited to hold bilateral meetings with President Obama and also attend that dinner. These are two leaders the administration says have played a critical role in pushing for a peace process -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That's right, Jordan and Egypt, two Arab countries that have full diplomatic relations with Israel. They have their peace treaties with Israel that have been in place for many years.

Dan Lothian, thanks very much.

Let's go to Jerusalem right now. CNN's Paula Hancocks is working this story for us.

You have spoken to the Israelis, Paula. You have spoken to the Palestinians. Do they really believe something is going to come out of this a year from now?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, certainly people think that we are slightly better off today than we were yesterday when it comes to peace talks, but you know that for 17 years Israelis and Palestinians have had direct talks on and off. Of course, recently, they have been off.

There is a huge amount of cynicism here on both sides. People have had hopes and they have had bitter disappointment, so it's going to take more than these direct talks being announced. They are going to actually want to see things change on the ground before they believe that this could actually be the change that is needed.

The fact that it is just a year deadline could instill some hope in some people, because it means that won't just be continual talks for years to come, as there have been in the past -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And they are both going to need to really trust the president of the United States, the Palestinians and the Israelis. And the president is going to have to get involved if there is going to be a deal. I assume that is what analysts in Jerusalem are telling you as well.

HANCOCKS: Absolutely. And the president does have credibility on some sides, on both sides, not as much as he did when he first came into power. The Palestinians adored him when he first came into power. He was like a hero to them. That has been whittled away because they have not seen much happen over the past year or so.

But that could be coming back now. The Israelis have been a little wary of him. Certainly the right-wing government has not necessarily seen eye to eye with the Obama administration over the past year or so. We have seen some pretty rocky times for the two, but he does have to get involved. You do need the credibility of the U.S. administration.

And for the Palestinians they believe the U.S. is the one that can actually convince Israel to make those painful compromises -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Paula Hancocks working the story in Jerusalem, thanks very much. Let's bring in CNN's John King. He is the host of "JOHN KING, USA" that begins right at the top of the hour following THE SITUATION ROOM.

I thought it was significant that they decided to bring the leaders of Egypt and Jordan to this get-together as well, in effect to give the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, some cover.

JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING, USA": And in a sense to give it grandness, to make it a big deal, to try to give them some adrenaline and some momentum at the beginning.

Wolf, you remember this well from the Clinton administration, the last time this got serious in the Clinton administration, when they thought they had the Camp David accords. Ehud Barak was the prime minister then. Yasser Arafat was still the leader of the Palestinians.

In the end, when Arafat was blinking and hedging, the Clinton administration had not involved Egypt, Jordan, others in the region in an intimate detail-by-detail way. And when President Clinton called for help at the end, Mr. Mubarak said, I don't know anything about this. I don't know if I can push him. The Jordanians said, we're not closely involved in this. I don't know.

That indecision and hesitation contributed to the collapse of that deal. So trying to get them involved at the beginning is smart politics, but, as you know, there are questions. Is Netanyahu a weakened leader? Is Abbas a weakened leader? Is Obama a weakened leader? The same questions can be asked about King Hussein and President Mubarak.

BLITZER: Yes. I remember the last time, when President Clinton at the end of his administration, when he failed to get Arafat and Barack to make that agreement, he appealed to the Saudis for help. And the Saudis said, well, why didn't you talk to us earlier?

KING: Same thing.

BLITZER: I think it would have been significant, pretty significant, if the Saudis would have been invited and if they would have come to this get-together on September 1 and September 1, if King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia would have been there. They don't have relations with the Israelis, but that would have been a huge development.

BLITZER: It would be helpful as well. And the question is, can the president expand the circle?

One of the constant frustrations in this issue, this issue seems so just irreparable, is the circles get smaller as the mistrust grows. Can the president -- if he is starting with Egypt and Jordan, can he bring in the Saudis at some point? Can he bring in other members of the Arab community at one point?

Because if you look at the power structure in the region now, what has the conversation been the last several years? It has been about the war in Iraq. It has been about the ascendancy of Iran and sort of the less power for those traditional, whether it is the diplomatic and political power, the Egyptians, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan as well.

This is a huge challenge for the president. You know the issues as well as anybody. And they have not changed. And in many ways, they're harder.

BLITZER: And it's interesting. Hillary Clinton puts a one-year timeline on this. And they think there's about a year window before the Iranians go nuclear, if you will, so there could be a link to that.

Let me make the turn to a fascinating interview you had last night with the Reverend Franklin Graham. You had this exchange with him. I want to play it for our viewers.


KING: Do you, sir, have any doubts about this president's Christian faith?

FRANKLIN GRAHAM, SAMARITAN'S PURSE: Well, first of all, I think the president's problem is that he was born a Muslim. His father was a Muslim. The seed of Islam is passed through the father like the seed of Judaism is passed through the mother.

He was born a Muslim. His father gave him an Islamic name. Now it's obvious that the president has renounced the Prophet Muhammad and he has renounced Islam and he has accepted Jesus Christ. That's what he says he has done. I cannot say that he hasn't.

So I just have to believe the president is what he has said.


KING: It was a fascinating conversation.

I expected when I asked him do you have any doubt about the president's Christianity that the answer would be no. And this is -- there is a great difference in the public demeanor, the public conduct of Billy Graham and Franklin Graham. And the White House, frankly, their official response today was rather muted, but behind the scenes, they were not happy with this.

And one e-mail I received from a top presidential adviser was that Billy Graham's legacy will be as a Christian peacemaker. Franklin apparently wants to play partisan politics.

BLITZER: You're going to have more on this coming up at the top of the hour?

KING: Much more, you bet.

BLITZER: All right, good interview last night. Thanks very much.

KING: Thank you.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is off today.

Among the stories we are working on here in THE SITUATION ROOM, backlash for politicians speaking out about the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero. They are angering some 9/11 families who say they don't speak for them.

Also, an underwater oil plume in the Gulf of Mexico the size of Manhattan? I will talk about that and more with the national incident commander, retired Admiral Thad Allen.

And an Internet pharmacy allegedly filling thousands of illegal prescriptions every month, did state officials turn a blind eye to it? Our Special Investigations Unit is on the story.


BLITZER: Critics of a proposed Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero in New York have been the most vocal in this heated debate, but some supporters of the plan are now making themselves heard, including some 9/11 families.

Our senior correspondent, Allan Chernoff, is working this story. He spoke with some of those families.

Allan, what is going on here?

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, some people who lost family members on 9/11 are opposed to the planned Islamic center, but others are in favor of the project. And they are outraged that politicians are claiming to speak on their behalf.


CHERNOFF (voice-over): Robert Nelson lost his brother on 9/11. He has got a message for politicians fighting the planned Islamic center two blocks away from Ground Zero.

ROBERT NELSON, 9/11 FAMILIES FOR PEACEFUL TOMORROW: Those politicians that are playing political football with the 9/11 families, they don't speak for me. I think this mosque is a good idea.

CHERNOFF: But politicians opposing the Islamic center, Republicans and Democrats, claim they are speaking out for the victims' families.

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Those innocent victims, those families of those who were killed in the 9/11 tragedy.

ALEX SINK (D), FLORIDA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I'm very sensitive to the feelings of the victims' families and friends. And they seem to be opposed to the location of this mosque. CHERNOFF: The majority of Americans are opposed, with the recent polls indicating about two-thirds of voters don't want the center built near Ground Zero. And many 9/11 families do find the Islamic project hurtful, feelings that are encouraging politicians to voice their opposition.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: The mosque should be built someplace else.

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: What you are doing is in fact offensive to most of the families who lost people at 9/11.

CHERNOFF: But such talk makes Robert Nelson furious. He is part of a 9/11 victims groups claiming 250 families as members that says politicians have no right to speak for them in opposing the Islamic center.

NELSON: It is so totally opposed to American values. That is not what my brother died for. He didn't die so that the politicians could go around preaching intolerance and bigotry.

CHERNOFF (on camera): The fact is the First Amendment protects the right to build a Islamic center and mosque right here. It is the first 16 words of our Bill of Rights. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

(voice-over): Those words adorn the desk of First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams, who charges, politicians are acting in a reprehensible fashion by fighting an Islamic developer's constitutional right.

FLOYD ABRAMS, FIRST AMENDMENT ATTORNEY: The politicians are behaving in a manner that is not only unconstitutional if they had their way, but un-American. It is not just outrageous, ridiculous, but it's terribly dangerous.


CHERNOFF: That point, the recent Siena College poll of New York voters found only 64 percent think the developers have the constitutional right to build at the site. More than one-quarter, 28 percent, believe the developers do not have a constitutional right to build near Ground Zero and some politicians are trying to capitalize on that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And we all know, Allan, that when constitutional rights are threatened, it can have a bigger effect.

CHERNOFF: Absolutely.

Wolf, you know, all of us benefit from this. This is what the country was built upon. And these people who are challenging the First Amendment, they really are challenging their own rights.

BLITZER: Allan Chernoff, thanks very much. There is also another twist in the controversy. Some union construction workers are now saying that they don't want to be part of this project.

Our national correspondent, Susan Candiotti, has been working this part of the story.

You have spoken to some of these men and women. What are they saying to you, Susan?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, some of these union workers are saying they don't like it one bit and others telling us they don't have any problem with it. More on that in a moment, but, first, let's set the scene for you.

About halfway down the block, that is the site of the proposed center. You see that sign that says Dakota Roadhouse? Just in front of it is where the proposed Islamic center would go, as well as the mosque. But if you walk to the end of this block and look over my shoulder about two blocks away down here down the corner -- careful of traffic here -- you see all those cranes down there? That is Ground Zero again, again two blocks from where we are standing.

But back here, we are going to show you again the site of this Islamic center. And we can tell you that earlier this day, it was pretty busy THE there, because there was a small group of demonstrators who were demonstrating in favor of this proposal and in favor, they said, carrying signs, of religious freedom.

Now, many people might not know this, but for a very long time, there has been no problem in this neighborhood while people actually have been worshipping inside that site. And it was especially busy today as we said because it is Friday and it is the holy month of Ramadan.

However, a lot of construction workers that we spoke with do not like the idea of working at that site if a union job was offered. Take a look.


As far as I'm concerned, it is not American to do that.

CANDIOTTI: Not American?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right. That's right. That's right. Wrong place. Someplace else. I would not work on that job.

CANDIOTTI: But why not?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The obvious reason. Ground Zero and what happened, plain and simple.

CANDIOTTI: Did you know -- I don't know whether you are aware that they already use it as a mosque. Did you know that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All I know is, you asked me a question. I won't work on it, period.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I disagree with the Islamic center here. I disagree, totally disagree.

CANDIOTTI: Why is that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because they don't like American people. That is what I disagree.

CANDIOTTI: They don't like American people?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don't like it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is just the feeling on the site. Nobody is going to take a job over there.


CANDIOTTI: Now, continuing with of course our unscientific survey, we also talked to someone, a union worker, who says he has no issue, that he said -- to work on this site.

He said jobs are kind of tight right now and if he was offered one, he would take it.


CANDIOTTI: With all the controversy would you consider taking a job if that place is built?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I would take a job, because I think it is the freedom of everybody. It is a freedom. Everybody has their own religion.


BLITZER: Susan, we have heard from some union rank file, but what about the union leadership? What are they officially saying about all of this?

CANDIOTTI: You know, Wolf, I tried to find out. I made a number of phone calls to various union halls, including the sheet metal workers and electrical union and the labor councils, but we got a no comment. In fact, not one person, not one union leader would even come to the phone to talk about it.

In fact one person who really did not want to be identified said, we are not going to make a public comment until we absolutely have to -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Susan Candiotti, good reporting from the streets of New York. Thanks very much.

Are federal officials being too quick to declare that the oil Gulf spill is mostly cleaned up? I will ask the administration's point man in the Gulf, retired Admiral Thad Allen. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And there's a feat that would make swashbuckling pirates proud, treasure dating back to a 15th century Spanish area stolen, stolen in a brazen museum heist.



BLITZER: THE SITUATION ROOM, by the way, is now on Facebook. You can go to Click on the like button to become a fan. You will get the latest show updates, exclusive behind-the-scenes material. Do it if you like Facebook.

How much oil is still in the Gulf of Mexico? It depends on whom you ask. Why are the estimates right now all over the place? I will ask the federal government's man in charge, retired Admiral Thad Allen.

And will these bones reveal a mass murder of dozens of immigrants to the United States? Details of the unfolding forensic mystery.

And the doctor suspected of signing off on thousands of illegal prescriptions for an online pharmacy, our Special Investigations Unit wants to talk to him.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: We want to find out. It has been alleged you've been signing Internet prescriptions for people who haven't signed...-

DR. ROBERT MORROW, FEDERAL DRUG SUSPECT: I don't want to talk about it. Get off the property. Get off my property.



BLITZER: New questions about the Gulf oil disaster and how much crude is still in the water. The government reports 75 percent of the oil has been cleaned up one way or another.

But scientists from across the country are offering very different estimates.


BLITZER: Joining us now is the president's point man in the Gulf of Mexico, the national incident commander, the retired commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, Thad Allen.

Commandant, thanks very much for coming in.

ADMIRAL THAD ALLEN (RET.), NATIONAL INCIDENT COMMANDER: Thanks, Wolf. BLITZER: We are so confused about how much oil is still there. How much oil do you believe is still in the Gulf of Mexico?

ALLEN: Well, let me talk about the oil budget, because there has a lot of conversation about it.

What we were attempting to do is to take the flow rate number that we finally could close in on, which was 53,000 barrels a day, and then we added that up for the number of days that it could have been spilling. And we got 4.9 million barrels.

BLITZER: Four-point-nine million barrels of oil came out that rig?

ALLEN: Correct. And we knew some of it was produced, about 827,000 barrels.

What tried to do is figure out what the fate of the oil was and where it went. And when we added everything we could either -- knew to a virtual certainty it happened to, like we produced it, or there were estimates about evaporation, and you saw, for X, if you will, it was 26 percent left. It was just a starting point to have a discussion.

And I think we need to get as much information. Anybody that can add to this discussion ought to be adding to it. And I think it is all important.

BLITZER: Because 26 percent is one thing, but the study from the University of Georgia says 75 percent is still out there. That's a huge discrepancy.

ALLEN: Well, I think they're starting with a different amount of assumptions, including taking out the amount of oil that was produced. And that's fine. You change the denominator. It gives you a different set of numbers. That doesn't mean they aren't both important and we need to talk about it and move forward.

BLITZER: Here's one quote. "The idea that 75 percent of the oil is gone and of no concern for the environment is just absolutely incorrect," said Charles Hopkinson, president of Georgia Sea Grant and a science professor at the University of Georgia who co-authored this report. So you're saying, what, that there is a legitimate debate under way right now; we don't know the real answer?

ALLEN: Well, what I'm saying is that if you make certain assumptions, you will get to a certain number, and different set of assumptions, will take you another number. What I'm telling the guy that's running the response, while that discussion is going on, we're focused on the response and that's not impacting in any way at all the decisions we're making by going after this oil.

BLITZER: So right now you're standing by the NOAA estimate that all but 26 percent has really been accounted for.

ALLEN: The NOAA estimate is based on the flow rate that was developed by the flow rate technical group that I empowered as the national incident commander under Marshall McNutt, the U.S. Geological Survey and took that number and created entire amount. They're trying to figure out what are the component parts of that. And it's just a discussion that needs to continue and we need as much information as we can about the spill.

BLITZER: Now, there's another issue that has come up, this plume supposedly that has developed under the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. I'll read to you the lead sentence from the "Wall Street Journal." Oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill formed an underwater plume of hydrocarbons the size of Manhattan, scientists said Thursday, raising fears of a lingering cloud of trace chemicals in the Gulf with an unknown long-term impact. Is that right?

ALLEN: That report was made in June. We were aware of it and that actually was the basis of sending NOAA ships out to look for hydrocarbons in the water. This article came out after the fact, and it talked about how they did it and what the implications were.

We're o n a search for oil all over the Gulf right now. And last week I issued an order to aggregate not only NOAA issues, but look at the state and local academic institutions that started a significant search for hydrocarbons. We're not going to know, because we've never had a spill this size in the country before. Thus we keep looking for it and find it and refine all the estimates, whether ours or anybody's.

BLITZER: So you haven't seen plumes the size of Manhattan under the waters of the Gulf of Mexico?

ALLEN: We went out and looked. We've had NOAA vessels out, starting at the well head moving out. We moved away from the well head appreciably. Well, we found trace amounts of hydrocarbons, but since there is a significant amount of oil and you can argue one way or another how much it is. It's still substantial and we need to look for hydrocarbons out there everywhere we can.

BLITZER: Let's talk about these two relief wells that are supposedly still going to be built that will kill this well once and for all. They were supposed to be done by mid-August, but now it's approaching the end of August. What's going on?

ALLEN: Well, we've had a couple of delays related to the weather. We actually had to remove the rigs from the scene for a while. And where we're at right now is the relief well is about 3 1/2 feet away from the Macondo well and about 50 feet above the intercept point. And we held it there. And we're doing a couple of things before we proceed.

We're doing a pressure test. We filled the blowout preventer with sea water so the pressure inside is the same as the outside. For 48 hours we'll look and see if there is any pressure differences. If there aren't, we're actually going to open the BOP and see if we can remove the drill pipe that's there. If we can do all that safely, that should lead us to a point where we can proceed with the bottom kill sometime the week after Labor Day. BLITZER: The week after Labor Day. So now we're talking about approaching mid-September.

ALLEN: Early September.

BLITZER: Early to mid-September, and that's when this well will be dead. When you say the BOP, that's the blowout preventer?

ALLEN: Correct. I always give these dates and caution everybody they're based on conditions going to that. Every time you have a hard time, you have to back off of it, because it's a credibility issue. What we're doing is making sure each step along the way we are taking with an over abundance of caution.

BLITZER: As we speak, no oil now for more than a month has flown into the Gulf of Mexico?

ALLEN: I think it needs to be pointed out, since the 15th of July, there have been no hydrocarbons released in the Gulf. That's correct.

BLITZER: And so everything is safe. Everything is in place. The pressure is good. We don't have to worry about another explosion or anything like that until you do the -- complete the relief well?

ALLEN: Through the first 24 hours of this ambient pressure test, there have been no fluctuation in the pressure would indicate there's a problem with the cement drop. What we want to make sure is when we go into that annulus (ph), the area outside of the well between the well pipe and the wellbore, and we put mud and cement into that, we don't force the pressure up, it does something to the current blowout preventer. So we're going to replace it with a new one that can withstand the pressure.

BLITZER: I guess the question is: is there any danger now between now and the time you finish the relief wells, mid -- early to mid-September, is there any danger of oil coming out of there?

ALLEN: Very, very low. You never say never. But the problem is, when we've got 5,000 feet of the well filled with cement from the top to the well pipe. On top we have the blowout preventer from the original event with the capping stack on top of that. It can be left by itself, but it's subject to weather, hurricane season. While everything's OK right now, we need to get the job done.

BLITZER: What about going back to that same reservoir and drilling once again down the road? Because there's been all sorts of murmuring that's a possibility? Is that a possibility?

ALLEN: Well, I'd leave that between BP and the Department of the Interior. I think that's a policy issue for down the line. We're focused on the response right now. I don't think there's anybody at BP thinking about anything other than the response.

BLITZER: Would you feel comfortable with that personally?

ALLEN: I'd leave that to DOI to make the determination.

BLITZER: The Department of Interior?

ALLEN: Exactly.

BLITZER: And what about resuming deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico? When is that going to happen?

ALLEN: Well, again, that will be a policy decision that's made above my pay grade. What I will say is we've learned a lot about response systems and containment systems and the lessons learned during this spill response should not be lost. As I've said several times, we'd be adding a crime to a crime not to learn from this event.

BLITZER: Well, good luck, Thad Allen. I know you've been working hard and it's been four months exactly since that disaster. And fortunately, there seems to be some serious light at the end of the tunnel. Appreciate it very much.

ALLEN: Thanks, Wolf.


BLITZER: Treasure dating back to the 16th Century stolen in a brazen museum heist. We're going to give you the details. Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: A rare treasure recovered from a shipwrecked Spanish galleon dating back to the 1600s has been stolen from a museum in Florida. Yes, stolen. John Zarrella is joining us with details. What happened here, John?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, let me set the stage. It is a $550,000 gold bar. That's what its historical value is. It weighs about 17 ounces.

Here's the history. In 1622, the Spanish galleon Santa Margarita sinks off of the Florida keys in a hurricane. For the next 350 years it's lost. All of its jewels, all of its artifacts are lost.

In 1980, famous treasure salver Mel Fisher and his team are looking for the wreck of the Atocha (ph). They suddenly stumble upon this other wreck. It's the Santa Margarita. They bring up all the valuables. One of the valuables is this gold bar.

So from 1990 until Wednesday, the gold bar is sitting at the Mel Fisher Museum. Well, let's take a look at the surveillance video. Wednesday afternoon, 5:15, a couple of people come in, a couple of men walk in. You can see in the video one of them begins to walk around the case where this gold bar is held. He seems to be playing with the case. He walks away. He comes back. Suddenly, he sticks his hand in the case, pulls out of the case the bar and sticks it in his pocket, and walks away. The other guy is apparently the lookout. So, now, Wolf, let's take a look at some video of what exactly it looks like up close. There's some pictures of the bar, itself. You can see how you could put your hand inside the case and turn the bar, but there's no way you should be able to get that bar out of the case. Somehow or other, this is Lexan. It's bulletproof plastic that this guy was able to break through to get that bar out.

So, police, the FBI are now looking for two men. There are some pictures of what these two guys look like. Very brazen; didn't wear masks; went right out there right in front of the cameras. You can see them very clearly, what they look like. One is 6' tall, the other 5'6." The insurance company that represents the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum offering a $10,000 reward now for information leading to the arrest and the return in good shape of that gold bar.

So, a half a million dollars for that gold bar, Wolf, and it just walked out of the door -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I suspect some of our own viewers probably know who these two guys are.


BLITZER: And they're going to be running, and the law enforcement will probably catch up fairly soon.

ZARRELLA: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, John, for that.

A grim find sends -- sets forensics experts to work.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely. That is CSI. This is a murder mystery from 178 years ago, and it's finally coming to the light of day.


BLITZER: Will these bones reveal a mass murder and rewrite Pennsylvania history?

Plus an Internet pharmacy allegedly filling illegal prescriptions for years. Our special investigations unit finds out what state officials may have known for about for years.


BLITZER: Kate Bolduan is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What do you have, Kate?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, today marks one year since the man convicted of bombing a Pan Am flight in 1988 was released from a Scottish jail, and U.S. officials are marking the day by blasting the decision to release him. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is among those voicing criticism today. Scottish authorities say Ali al-Megrahi was freed because he'd been diagnosed with cancer and given only three months to live. Two hundred and eighty-one people died in the bombing, many of them Americans.

And Serena Williams, well, she's pulling out of the U.S. Open due to a foot injury. Williams, the No. 1 woman ranked in the world, cut her foot last month. She's won 13 Grand Slam singles titles including the U.S. Open three times.

And check out this video. Nothing but net from about 130 feet off the ground. You'll see it right here. These teenagers are part of -- look at it, look at it, there you go. They're part of an Alabama-based group called the Legendary Shop that specializes in extreme basketball feats.

So what will they do next? Well, they're hoping to attempt a 350-foot shot from an exhibition at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville. I hear it took a mere 25 rides on that amusement park to make that shot. Wolf, I'm sure, what, it will take you 20, 24?

BLITZER: Well, 25 years, maybe. Very nice, impressive. Good to be young and have a lot of free time.

BOLDUAN: Good to be young, Wolf, yes.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Human remains and forensic science. Together, they may rewrite history, revealing what really happened to a group of Irish immigrants in Pennsylvania.

And our special investigations unit tries to get answers about an online pharmacy allegedly filling illegal prescriptions.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Excuse me, Kyle. We'd like to talk to you about the Internet drug business you're running out of this pharmacy.



BLITZER: The FBI is cracking down on a Utah pharmacy suspected of illegally filling thousands of online prescriptions each month, and now we're learning that state officials may have been turning a blind eye to the alleged crimes. Drew Griffin of CNN's special investigations unit is on the story for us -- Drew.

GRIFFIN: Wolf, up until now, these Internet drug pharmacy companies have been getting away with this, selling just about any drug to anybody online with really no threat of being prosecuted. That may now be changing. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GRIFFIN (voice-over): He hardly looks the part of an illegal drug dealer. He drives a run-down Mercedes-Benz, can barely walk, but according to the FBI, 80-year-old Dr. Robert Morrow could be a major player in a nationwide illegal Internet drug trade.

(on camera) Hey, Doctor, Drew Griffin with CNN. How are you?

(voice-over) A drug ring that, according to government documents, spans from Utah across the U.S. and overseas. A drug ring that has been operating for years.

(on camera) We want to find out, you know -- it's been alleged you've been signing Internet prescriptions for people who haven't signed...

DR. ROBERT MORROW, ACCUSED OF SELLING DRUGS ON INTERNET: I don't want to talk about it. Get off the property. Get off my property.

GRIFFIN: Can you explain how that happens?

(voice-over) According to a government investigator, Dr. Morrow's signature appears on thousands and thousands of prescriptions filled this year alone. The government alleges he's paid to write them by the owner of two pharmacies, the Roots pharmacies in both Utah and suburban Chicago. And those pharmacies are at the heart of the illegal prescription drug investigation.

According to the FBI, Utah pharmacist Kyle Rootsaert is near the top of the operation. On August 5, FBI agents served two search warrants on those pharmacies owned by Rootsaert. One served here in suburban Chicago where agents seized boxes and boxes of records.

The federal government says illegal prescription drug abuse is staggering. Listen to this: it's now a bigger problem than heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine use combined.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And these rogue Internet pharmacies that say all you have to do is to fill out a form. You never have to see the doctor. And we will approve your order immediately and send you addictive medications are helping fuel that problem in a big way.

GRIFFIN: No charges have yet been filed. The FBI isn't commenting. The attorney for Roots Pharmacy, the owner Kyle Rootsaert, tells CNN he hasn't had a chance to talk to his client about the search warrant affidavits.

"Keeping Them Honest," we wanted to know why and how the operation had been allowed to operate for so long.

Two years ago, as part of a CNN investigation, I bought Prozac and the addictive muscle relaxer Soma online, no questions asked. And I tracked the drugs right back here to Roots Pharmacy in American Fork, Utah.

(on camera) I want to ask you about selling these drugs over the Internet without prescriptions.

(voice-over) We also confronted Kyle Routesart. He ran from our cameras and took off in this brown pickup truck.

(on camera) Excuse me, Kyle! We'd like to talk to you about the Internet drug business you're running out of this pharmacy.

(voice-over) But it now appears Roots is on the run.

(on camera) This is where we actually confronted the owner of Roots Pharmacy, and you can see just yesterday we're told the sign has been taken off this door.

(voice-over) The state of Utah filed a petition more than a year ago to revoke the pharmacy's license, but a hearing still hasn't been held. Even so, the pharmacy had been operating full blast, filling 200 to 300 prescriptions a day, according to the FBI.

This little second-story pharmacy, a half hour south of Salt Lake City, was a major distributor of dangerous prescriptions, which brings us back to Dr. Morrow.

He also has a history with the state of Utah. He lost his license to dispense controlled drugs from 1999 to 2002, because he was illegally prescribing drugs. He paid a $1,000 fine. He was part of an operation experts tell CNN that was worth close to half a million dollars a month, and untold number of pills.


GRIFFIN: What is so insidious about this, though, Wolf, is once you buy drugs online, you not only get the drugs. You get advertisements and even coupons from literally dozens and dozens of other Internet pharmacies doing the exact same thing. So while this prosecution may be a start, it is really only a drop in the bucket of what's out there -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good reporting as usual from Drew. Thank you.

Researchers say they've discovered evidence of the mass murder of immigrants 178 years ago. Details of what may have happened and why it's taken so long to get to the truth. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Modern science may soon help rewrite Pennsylvania history. Researchers believe they've uncovered evidence of a mass murder of immigrants 178 years ago. CNN's Mary Snow is on the story for us.

Mary, what's going on here?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this started out as a family history project. It's now mushroomed into a team of researchers determined to find the truth about what killed dozens of immigrants during the Industrial Revolution.


SNOW (voice-over): Tucked away in a Philadelphia suburb, a place time has forgotten.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're looking at a stream that is pretty much as it was in the 1830s.

SNOW: Brothers Bill and Frank Watson lead us to the site where they are finding bones and skulls, remains of Irish railroad workers. Fifty-seven of these immigrants supposedly died of cholera at what's called Duffy's Cut back in 1832, but the Watsons and their team are digging here, convinced something more sinister was at play: a mass murder. And they're unearthing evidence of past violence.

SNOW (on camera): So, it's like a CSI case?

FRANK WATSON, THE DUFFY'S CUT PROJECT: Absolutely, CSI. This is a murder mystery from 178 years ago. It's finally coming to the light of day.

SNOW: The intrigue harkens back to their childhood, when these twin brothers would listen to their grandfather tell ghost stories about Duffy's Cut. He worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad.

But their smoking gun: a railroad file their grandfather left behind, stating that information about the 1832 deaths be kept confidential. It was enough to prod the Watsons, both historians, to investigate, but they looked for years without finding anything.

The site is close to train tracks, covering a broad area.

WATSON: We have a general guide to work with in the old Pennsylvania railroad file on this event, but what we needed really was the science, the hard science.

SNOW: Enter geophysicist Tim Bechtel. He used electric currents to map the area. This diagram shows where he picked up spots believed to be are pockets in the soil, linked to decay of remains.

TIM BECHTEL, GEOPHYSICIST: It is useful for any time anybody would like to know what's under the ground without digging or drilling. It's not as good as Superman's x-ray vision, but it has the same uses.

SNOW: And it led the Watsons to what they are looking for now.

WATSON: This summer in 2010 we have made two more discoveries.

SNOW: So far bones of seven people have been recovered, including four skulls, all now in the hands of Janet Mott, a physical anthropologist at the University of Pennsylvania's museum.

JANET MOTT, PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGIST: If you look at a lot of musket shots on skulls, they're not that little ping that you can see, basically, from a modern firearm.

SNOW: The signs of what she believes may be bullet wounds, she's also found evidence of violence in other skulls.

MOTT: Certainly, if they had cholera, it didn't kill them.

SNOW: One theory: that the new immigrants were murdered out of fear they would spread cholera. These researchers are determined to find a mass grave they say would shed light on what they call historical injustice.


SNOW: It's pretty incredible, because so far researchers believe they've identified one set of remains. They used a ship's manifest and a rare genetic anomaly found in a set of teeth that's shared by a family in Ireland. They're hoping DNA tests will confirm their findings -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a story. All right, Mary. Good work. Thanks very much.

That's all the time we have right now. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. "JOHN KING USA" starts right now.