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Rescue Drill Reaches Chilean Miners; Comedic March on Washington?

Aired September 17, 2010 - 17:58   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, GUEST HOST: A series of high profile terrorists is overshadowing Pope Benedict's controversial visit to the UK. Investigators say that six men are in custody. CNN's Atika Shubert joins us from London with more.

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is the second day of the pope's visit here, and as you can see behind me, Suzanne, there is plenty of security and perhaps with good reason. During the first event this morning at a catholic school, the pope was notified about several terrorist arrests that were made.

We understand from Westminster City Council that several of the men who were arrested were working here as street cleaners and we understand from the police that the men were between the ages 26-50 but that is all of the details that we know.

Police have not confirmed whether or not these arrests were directly linked to the pope's visit here, but they did say that the arrests triggered a review of his security, and his itinerary.

And in the end, however, police say they were satisfied with the security arrangements and his itinerary went ahead as scheduled. The pope spokesperson did make a comment about the arrests earlier this morning, and this is what he said.


FEDERICO LOMBARDI, VATICAN PRESS OFFICE: We are totally confident in the work of the police of Scotland Yard and then we have no particular political participation, and the police have already said that the information they have until now collected demonstrated there is no need to change anything about the program of the pope.

SHUBERT: As you can see, there are plenty of people here come to support the pope. More than 100,000 came out and when he arrived in Scotland on Thursday, but the big day for his critics will be on Saturday. That's when thousands are expected to take to the streets in protest against the pope. And there will be plenty of security -- Suzanne.


MALVEAUX: Than you, Atika. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, a breakthrough in Chile. There is new hope for 33 miners that are trapped for more than 2,000 feet underground for more than six weeks. We are going to tell you about the dramatic development that has rescuers saying the end may finally be in sight.

Also, execution controversy in Virginia. Last-ditch efforts are being made now to halt the first execution of a woman in the state in nearly a century. We are standing by for a clemency decision from the governor's office that could come any minute.

And you are called to -- quote -- "freak out for freedom." Comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert schedule competing rallies in Washington to take political satire to a whole new level.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

First, bombshell allegations. There's a nuclear scientist and his wife who are now accused of trying to sell U.S. nuclear secrets to Venezuela. The scientist allegedly promised an undercover agent that he could help Caracas build a nuclear bomb within the decade.

Our CNN homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, is following the develops for us.

And, Jeanne, the couple worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Tell us what do you know.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, the nuclear physicist involved here allegedly passed these nuclear secrets to someone he thought was a representative of the Venezuelan government, but the contact was really an undercover FBI agent.

U.S. officials say the government of Hugo Chavez had no involvement, was not aware, and officials have no information from this investigation that Venezuela has any plans to build a nuclear weapon.


KENNETH GONZALES, U.S. ATTORNEY: This indictment doesn't allege that the government of Venezuela or anyone acting on its behalf sought or was passed any classified information. Nor does it charge any Venezuelan government officials or anyone acting on their behalf with wrongdoing.


MESERVE: But what a story. From 1979 until 1987, Pedro Leonardo Mascheroni, a 75-year-old naturalized citizen from Argentina, worked on nuclear weapons programs at the Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico. His wife, Marjorie Roxby Mascheroni, also indicted today, worked as a technical writer and editor there between 1981 and 2010. According to a 22-count indictment, Mascheroni told the undercover agent that with his help Venezuela could have a nuclear bomb in 10 years to deter or retaliate against a U.S. invasion and that his program would produce an electromagnetic pulse weapon that would wipe out electric power in New York City, lasers capable of blinding satellites, an above-ground reactor to produce nuclear energy, and another secret underground reactor to produce and enrich uranium for weapons.

The government alleges that in 2008 and 2009, he left material at a dead drop, including a 132-page document purportedly detailing his weapons development program for Venezuela. Both Mascheronis were arrested today. If convicted, they could face life in prison.

MALVEAUX: Do we know, Jeanne, what the motivation was?

MESERVE: Well, in the indictment, Pedro Mascheroni is quoted as saying he was doing this for money. But he also allegedly said he and the Department of Energy were -- quote -- "enemies," and at one point he is quoted as telling his wife that he was not an American anymore.

According to older court documents, while he was working at Los Alamos, he got into a dispute with his supervisors over a laser fusion program. The documents also say he was investigated for alleged security infractions. In 1987, the Department of Energy withdrew his security clearance. A year later, he was dismissed. He sued the University of California, which at the time ran Los Alamos. He lost that suit.

Suzanne, that is the latest.

MALVEAUX: OK. Jeanne, thank you so much.

Obviously, the question, how much of a threat is this?

Joining me now is CNN national security contributor Fran Townsend. Fran is also an external board adviser to both the CIA and the Homeland Security Department.

Fran, thank you so much. What do you make of this case?

FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: You know, Suzanne, going back to the 1990s, there was the Wen Ho Lee case, where he was alleged to have tried to provide data to the Chinese government.

The restricted data that is alleged in the indictment that this couple were trying to pass are the most sort of secret, the most important Sort of secrets that we have in the nuclear program, And so there is a tremendous effort since the Wen Ho Lee case at Los Alamos, by the way, to actually monitor those who have access to that sort of information, monitor both through signals, through informants, to try and identify spies before they are able to pass this information.

It sounds from what we know so far that the FBI took this very seriously. And, by the way, the electromagnetic pulse attack is one of those things most greatly feared by the government and monitored, because, of course, you imagine being able to launch such an attack, have the capability where you could wipe out the electrical grid in an urban area and the sort of chaos that that would cause.

I think that this is the sort of thing -- and it also sends a deterrent signal to others who would think about misusing their access to this sort of information.

MALVEAUX: Fran, real quick, how difficult is it to prosecute these kinds of cases?

TOWNSEND: you know what? If they have got this taped, if they have got the documents that have marked restricted data on them, it shouldn't be that hard. Usually, the tougher part, Suzanne, is identifying those who have access and misuse it.

MALVEAUX: OK. Fran, thank you so much.


MALVEAUX: We appreciate it. Have a good weekend.

To Chile now, where a major breakthrough is being reported in the effort to rescue those 33 miners trapped underground for more than six weeks. Now, just a few hours ago, rescue workers reported that they had successfully drilled a bore hole to the miners' location some 2,000 feet below the surface.

Now, that hole will need to be widened before the miners can actually be brought up, but officials say that it could be ready by the end of next month.

Our CNN's Karl Penhaul is covering it for us. He joins us now by phone.

Karl, you have been on this since day one. This seems to be very encouraging news. What is the mood there? What are the miners doing, the families doing? How are they responding to this?

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, the miners were reported to have been jubilant. They had been listening to this drill, the so-called plan B drill, getting closer to the area of the mine where they are trapped for the last two days.

And then when it finally came through the roof of the workshop area, they were said to be jubilant. But, of course, that jubilance was matched here on the surface by the rescue workers themselves. That drill or certainly the drill bits being used in that plan B supplied by a U.S. company, a Pennsylvania-based company, and two of the workers there came down.

We were talking to them. They said it was exciting to get down there. They said they were very nervous, because they didn't know if anything was going to go wrong at the last moment. They said it has also been exhausting, because, as the pressure is on, they have been working around the clock. They say they have slept about 10 hours in the last three days.

So, a lot of mixed emotions here, but I think also realism that this is in a sense the beginning of the end, but the end is still a long way off, because this hole now has to be widened from 12 inches diameter to 26-inch diameter, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, Karl, do we have a sense of whether or not most of these men are small enough to get through this hole, or does it have to be widened for most of them? We understood before that some of them would actually have to lose weight in order to be able to get up a hole that was going to be dug down into the mine.

PENHAUL: Yes. Certainly, the hole obviously has to be widened to the 26- or 28-inch diameter to stand any chance of getting the miners out. And that is a process that could take many more weeks. That is a process that could take us until the end of October, start of November.

But, by that stage, because the medics here on the surface are keeping a close eye on the men's diet, and each day, the men are measuring their own midriff, their own bellies, with a tape measure, then the medics know that they are getting into shape to come out of that mine on the day when the rescue is feasible.

In talking to the mines minister, he said he believed that all the men would now be able to fit into a cage that is being designed. The men will be strapped into that cage. They will be oxygen pumped into that cage. The men may even be blindfolded for the trip up, because they are going to be traveling from half a mile underground in very claustrophobic conditions.

But the good news on that cage as well is that now they have got a design for a new winch and they could haul the men to the surface once the time comes in anything from between 10 to 15 minutes. That compared to about two hours only a couple of weeks ago.


PENHAUL: So obviously, the technological challenges are certainly being overcome, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Excellent, Karl. Appreciate that reporting. And, obviously, we wish them the very best. Thank you, Karl.

Well, the rising Tea Party movement is stirring up some surprises at the polls.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Tea Party candidates are beating in some cases Republican candidates.

MICHAEL STEELE, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: And Republican candidate in some cases are beating Tea Party candidates, so what is your point?


MALVEAUX: The Republican base insists it is not worried by the Tea Party primary victories, but should it be?

Plus, protecting consumers. President Obama taps Elizabeth Warren to get a key new agency off of the ground, but progressives warn there will be hell to pay, in their words, if she doesn't end up in charge.

And Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, they have got a message for you.


JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": Take it down a notch for America.




MALVEAUX: After a string of upset primary victories, the Tea Party is proving it is a force to be reckoned with, so will these freshly brewed Tea Party Republicans energize the Republican base or sharpen the Democrats' appeal to the moderates instead?

Our CNN's Soledad O'Brien, she is taking a close look at a key New Jersey race as part of our series "See How They Run."


O'BRIEN (voice-over): These days Anna Little looks like any political candidate.


O'BRIEN: All hugs kisses and red, white and blue. She can even belt out a descent version of "God Bless America." But she is not what the GOP had in mind for this year's midterm elections.

(on camera): Are you a Tea Party candidate?

LITTLE: I am a Republican candidate. I am Tea Party-approved.


O'BRIEN: It's like a stamp? Tea Party-approved.

LITTLE: Yes, it is a stamp.


LITTLE: The Tea Party is not an organized party. They are a loose organization of Americans. They refer to themselves as taxed enough already.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Little used Tea Party support to beat the favored GOP candidate in a primary the party never thought it would need. Now this Tea Party Republican is pushing the GOP to the right on key issues.

LITTLE: Thank you very much.

O'BRIEN (on camera): When someone from the Tea Party enters the race, it sort of shakes up the race.

DAVID LUBLIN, POLITICAL SCIENTIST: It also brings some problems. First, they are not organized and they are suspicious of organization. They also are perhaps more right-wing than the country as a whole on a number of issues. And that causes problems, too, that, are they making the party less electable.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Michael Steele is the chairman of the Republican National Committee.

(on camera): Tea Party candidates are beating in some cases Republican candidates.

STEELE: And Republican candidate in some cases are beating Tea Party candidates, so what is your point?

O'BRIEN: My point is, as the person who is in charge of the Republican Party, how concerned are you about the Tea Party?


STEELE: I want a good Republican nominee in November to defeat the Democrats.

O'BRIEN: Can they the Democratic candidates?

STEELE: Sure, they can. And they have. And they will.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): The Tea Party may also be creating some opportunities for the Democrats.

TIM KAINE, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: I think that many of the policies that they advocate are very, very extreme parties.

O'BRIEN (on camera): So, then does that make you feel positive about your chances for beating them?

KAINE: Well, any time your opponent is showing energy, you can't be complacent about it. But I will say this. There are races that we are going to win in November that we wouldn't have won because of the extreme nature of the candidates that the Republicans are nominating.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): This Jersey Shore mayor believes her conservative views will sell in Ocean Grove, a vacation town founded by Methodists. LITTLE: I do consider myself a right-wing conservative. The health care law that we have now, this is not a solution. This is an extension of the problem.

O'BRIEN (on camera): Abortion?

LITTLE: Well, I believe life begins at the moment of conception.

O'BRIEN: Position on taxes?

LITTLE: Frankly, taxes are the downfall of our economy.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): But those views may not appeal in other parts of the district, which is 40 percent racial and ethnic minorities and voted overwhelmingly for President Obama. Little faces 11-term incumbent Representative Frank Pallone.

O'BRIEN: Position on abortion?


O'BRIEN: How about taxes?

PALLONE: Well, I think that we need tax relief.

O'BRIEN: The environment.

PALLONE: Oh, I'm a huge advocate of environmental protection. Her policies and the Tea Party policies are just outside the mainstream.

O'BRIEN:(voice-over): William Owens, the leader of the Tea Party Express, says Anna Little's politics may simply represent the new middle ground.

WILLIAM OWENS, TEA PARTY EXPRESS: People are finding their right more so than their left. And right doesn't mean some extreme idea. It is because the current administration is so far left, you know, moderate just might be right.


O'BRIEN: Congressman Frank Pallone says he doesn't see how Tea Party politics can win over black voters, who have a history of supporting Democratic candidates.

And the Tea Party Express leader you saw just there a moment ago, he told me he thinks that black political apathy is probably to blame for the folks having a disinterest in the Tea Party, rather than his party's ability to have any kind of universal appeal -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right, thank you, Soledad.

Comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are announcing plans to hold competing rallies at the National Mall in Washington next month.

Our CNN entertainment correspondent Kareen Wynter is covering this story for us.

Kareen, this is amazing. It's taking political satire to a whole new level. Explain to us what is going on here.

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: That is right, Suzanne, a whole new level.

Well, scoot over, politicians. It is now TV personalities, that is right, TV personalities, who are hosting their own marches on Washington.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God called us here to this place, at this time.

WYNTER (voice-over): We have seen the Million Man March, the Million Mom March.

GLENN BECK, HOST, "GLENN BECK": I testify to you here and now, one man can change the world.!

WYNTER: Glenn Beck's Rally to Restore Honor, and now:


STEWART: Tonight, I announce the Rally to Restore Sanity.



WYNTER: On Thursday night's "Daily Show," host Jon Stewart announced plans for a political rally on the Washington Mall on October 30. And while there were laughs, Stewart wasn't exactly kidding.


STEWART: It is happening, a real gathering. We will gather. We will gather on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., a million moderate march, where we take to the streets to send a message to our leaders and our national media that says, we are here! We're only here, though, until 6:00, because we have a sitter.



WYNTER: While Stewart called on American moderates to gather and -- quote -- "take it down a notch," his Comedy Central cohort Stephen Colbert quickly announced plans for a mock counter-rally.


STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": My fellow Americans, two score and four days from now, on October 30, 2010, I am calling for the nation to join me on the Washington Mall for the March to Keep Fear Alive.



WYNTER: The Stewart-Colbert rallies are a satirical response to Rally to Restore Honor in August.

Colbert, who portrays a conservative talk show host modeled after Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly, poked fun at Stewart's moderate motto.


COLBERT: Ladies and gentlemen, it is on, October 30, on the Mall, because now is not the time to take it down a notch. Now is the time for all good men to freak out for freedom.


WYNTER: Stewart and Colbert have said for years they don't have real political ambitions, but they have certainly have political influence. The National Park Service confirms to CNN that a permit request for the rallies has already been filed.

And a grassroots wave of support appears to be growing. A Facebook page for Colbert's mission to Restore Truthiness has more than 57,000 members. And a Web site for the rally posts that more than $200,000 have already been raised by supporters.

So, while the rallies might be based in humor...


STEWART: We are going to have signs down there for you, if you don't have time. Of course, you can bring your own, but here's a quick one: "I disagree with you, but I'm pretty sure you're not Hitler."



WYNTER: It seems the joke is not lost on thousands of fans.


WYNTER: Suzanne, that duo, they are just too much.

Now, big announcements from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert regarding their upcoming rallies. They are far from over. A rep from Comedy Central tells CNN you can expect even more announcements regarding event details, special guests, and even speakers. And it will all be revealed in the coming weeks -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: So, Kareen, this is absolutely real? This is going to happen the end of October?

WYNTER: No joke.

MALVEAUX: No joke.

WYNTER: No joke.

We have to stay tuned, though, for the big announcements coming up.


MALVEAUX: OK. Way to keep watching.

Thank you, Kareen.

A check of some of the other day's -- the day's top stories is next. A huge merger could be happening. We're going to tell you if the world's biggest airline will be flying high.

Plus, she is loved by some consumer groups, but bankers may feel differently. Elizabeth Warren says she is out to protect you from the mortgage scams and credit card abuses. And now she has got a brand- new role in the Obama administration.

Stay with us. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.



MALVEAUX: Well, controversy is growing as Virginia prepares to execute a woman for the first time in nearly a century.

And can you trust what you see in the newspaper?


MALVEAUX: In just hours, the ruptured BP well will be plugged up for good.

I am now joined by Don Van Nieuwenhuise, who is a professor of petroleum geoscience at the University of Houston.

We know that there is still an enormous amount of oil in this reservoir. Should it be tapped into again? What do you think?

DONALD VAN NIEUWENHUISE, GEOLOGIST, UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON: I think what they are going to do is probably just plug the well that they have drilled now. But, eventually, they will -- they will drill into the well. And this final procedure will secure the well.

The reservoir, although it's relatively large, if it's onshore, that far offshore, it's a relatively small field. So, economically, it may be difficult to produce. MALVEAUX: Is it advisable? Is there any possibility, once this is sealed, that something could go wrong and we could get another leak from this particular well reservoir?

NIEUWENHUISE: This well, once they seal it, will be very securely sealed. What they have recently done is also put a lockdown sleeve on the top of the annulus, and that's sealing it from the top. Now they're going to seal it from the bottom. Basically the well is very well sealed right now.

But for the long term, they wanted to make sure the annulus was sealed so that they couldn't get a leak through that, maybe 10 or 15 years down the road. And so now, the -- when they get done with this, the well should be actually safer than the rocks around the well.

MALVEAUX: What have we learned, do you think that, from this catastrophe that we saw that developed from this oil leak?

NIEUWENHUISE: I think one of the biggest things that we learned is that the oil industry can handle these types of blowouts, but our response was a little bit slow.

I know some of the first attempts to contain the oil failed, but you have to realize that the industry doesn't get that many practice runs, and what they were trying the do in the beginning was anything that might work to try to contain that oil. And as they progressed through time, they had more equipment on site. They had more elaborate bits and pieces or parts to put on the wellhead to control the well, and things started to work better once they got that sealing cap on.

MALVEAUX: You say that it took a little bit longer than they had hoped. I mean, to a lot of people it's unacceptable the time that it took and the amount of oil that leaked and the environmental damage. If this happened again, what -- what would be the ideal timetable to plug up that leak and to be successful here, not to have this kind of thing happen?

NIEUWENHUISE: Well, I think that the key -- you just said it -- was to not let it happen in the first place and to make sure that not too many shortcuts are taken, and that all of the well-control devices that we have are maintained and used properly.

On the other hand, if something like this does happen again, a number of the companies have already committed to building a consortium where they'll have equipment that's universally needed for kill operations or well-control operations on the beach so that they can be deployed much more quickly than they were this time.

And I think they could cut off a couple of months on the time frame just having everything ready and in place to go. Also, they learned a lot on how to contain these types of wells through this process, so I think they've learned quite a bit.

MALVEAUX: Is it time to lift the moratorium on deepwater drilling? NIEUWENHUISE: Personally, I think yes, it is time to lift the moratorium. I think the -- a lot of the companies have looked very closely at all their procedures to make sure that they're doing everything properly and following the guidelines that are there.

I think in a lot of cases, we have a lot of back -- backdrops or secondary backups when we drill wells. And a lot of these things, we took shortcuts, cut corners on this BP well, and it was just too many of them in a row, and that's probably why this happened. So a lot of companies are checking their BOPs, making sure everything that's there for safety is up to snuff and up to standard and ready to operate appropriately.

MALVEAUX: Don Van Nieuwenhuise, thank you so much for joining us in THE SITUATION ROOM. Appreciate your time.


MALVEAUX: She has helped oversee a $700 billion bank bailout and drawn the ire of some bankers in the process. Well, now Elizabeth Warren has been hand-picked by President Obama to get a new consumer agency off the ground. What it means for you next.


MALVEAUX: Many Americans are reeling from high credit-card fees and spiraling mortgages. Now President Obama has tapped Harvard law professor and bank bailout overseer Elizabeth Warren to get a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau up and running.

CNN's John King, the host of "JOHN KING USA," joins us now.

John, you spoke with Elizabeth Warren today. Obviously, she is at the center of a firestorm of controversy, her appointment or kind of her temporary appointment, but she is going to try to get some things done.

JOHN KING, HOST: She is going to try. We had a very fascinating conversation. And she says No. 1, that she's had testy relationships with the treasury secretary in the past, Tim Geithner. She says she thinks they're in the same place, and they'll work it out going forward.

No. 2, Suzanne, I've tried repeatedly. Many of her supporters out there are worried that this takes her off the table to be the permanent director of this new Consumer Protection Agency. I tried repeatedly to get her to answer the question, "Is that and a done deal? Will you just be in temporarily?" She refused to answer it.

But listen to this, in the conversation early on, she says she's taking this job temporarily, but she did have a different option.


ELIZABETH WARREN, ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT: What it means is that I'm going to focus on getting this job done starting right now. We really have the option, and I should probably be candid about this.

Nomination was on the table as something under discussion, but what nomination meant is that we spend a year and a lot of energy fighting and, No. 1, I don't get to talk, which bothers me, but No. 2, I don't get to work. And it delays that long getting started on this agency.

So instead, the law is clear on this point. It says the treasury has the power to get this agency up and running.

You know, millions of American families are hemorrhaging money right now -- today and tomorrow and next week -- on tricks and traps and predator products. We're going to fix that. That's what this agency is about, and we're not going to wait a year to get started.

KING: Why don't bankers like you?

WARREN: Well, I don't know. I thought they did. No?


WARREN: No. All right. So, come on, I shouldn't be cute. There are bankers sure who don't like me. Some of them haven't met me. Some of them have seen enough. But the reality is it depends on where the problems are. There are some bankers who like me, people who want to put out good, simple products that folks can understand and understand the price, understand what the risks are, exercise their own personal responsibility about whether or not they want to do it.

Those are bankers, I think, who are going to welcome this consumer agency. Because they are actually going to have a better shot in a competitive marketplace when they're not competing against bankers who figured out how to make their profits on tricking people and trapping them.


KING: She said she'll get to work next week. On Tuesday, a meeting to talk about new mortgage disclosure rules to make the documents easier to understand. And she also, Suzanne, answered some of the critics on Capitol Hill, to say, "Hey, wait a minute. The president, by doing it this way, there's no confirmation hearing. Where's the transparency? Where's the oversight?"

She said don't worry. She'll be plenty available -- available to everybody, and they will see just what she's doing.

MALVEAUX: What about Senator -- Senator Chris Dodd, who says, look, you know, whether or not -- he questions whether or not she has legitimacy, because she hasn't been through the Senate confirmation process? Does that bother her? Does it concern her? Does she really have the authority to really push through an agency that's got some teeth now?

KING: There's no question she knows that the doubts on Capitol Hill will overshadow her and will follow her, and she's going to have to answer them. She believes she has all the tools necessary, and she says if you read the law carefully, it gives the Treasury Department the power to get this agency up and running before there is a director.

Here's where the pressure will come in. And she wouldn't answer this question. Those who say, OK, fine, do this but give us the director. Nominate somebody to fill the agency as soon as possible.


KING: Or wait until sometime next year after the election, maybe as far as away as next June or July. I said, "Would the president move more quickly?"

She said, "Let me get started, and we'll see." That's what people like Senator Dodd are upset about. They don't want her to de facto run the place. They just created this job. They want the president to nominate someone.

MALVEAUX: And you asked her whether or not the bankers like her or dislike her. Very pointed question there. But the president has really made Wall Street the bad guy in this scenario. People have noticed that. Does this work for him politically in favor to have somebody go after those banks, or does this potentially set up a time where he needs to call a truce with Wall Street?

KING: It could work both ways. There are a lot of cynics out there who say the president did this now because the left was clamoring for Elizabeth Warren and the president needs to excite the liberal base for the elections coming up in just a few weeks, so a lot of the cynics say that.

Does the president want an aggressive watchdog? Yes. Is the president worried that there is a narrative out three that he's anti- business and that that affects his relationship with the business community? Yes. So you have in some ways competing goals here. She will have a lot of scrutiny in this, and it will be very interesting to see just how outspoken she is, and if she gets way out there, whether the administration tries to reign her in.

MALVEAUX: All right, John. Looking forward to the rest of your interview. Appreciate it.

A woman convicted of taking part in the murder of her husband and stepson, is scheduled to die by lethal injection next week in Virginia, but the two triggermen were sentenced to life in prison. We're going to tell you about the growing controversy as the execution date nears.

And he is best known for portraying Borat and Bruno. Well, now Sacha Baron Cohen gets ready to play a rock music legend. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


MALVEAUX: Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring some of the other top stories that are coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Hey, Fred, what are you working on?


Well, British police arrested six men on suspicion of terrorism today but wouldn't say if this is connected to Pope Benedict XVI's visit there. Some reports say the arrests involved a threat to the pontiff. Officials say they reviewed the secure plans for the pope's visit and are satisfied. The Vatican says it's not particularly worried about the arrests.

And good news for some workers laid off by General Motors. The company says it will invest $483 million and add nearly 500 jobs to its engine plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee.

The employees will be brought back from those who previously lost their jobs at GM. The company says the investment and new jobs are pending talks with local and state officials.

And Natalee Holloway's mother met with the man suspected in her daughter's disappearance this week. Holloway went to see Joran Van Der Sloot at the Peruvian prison where he is being held for another woman's death. Joran Van Der Sloot reportedly told Van Der Sloot that she doesn't hate him. He replied that he understood but couldn't say any more.

Van Der Sloot was arrested twice in connection with Natalee Holloway's disappearance in Aruba but never charged. He insists that he is innocent -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right. Thank you, Fred.

A programming note now. Bill Clinton will be in THE SITUATION ROOM next week. Tune in Tuesday to see Wolf Blitzer's wide-ranging interview with the former president. That is Tuesday at 5 p.m. Eastern.

Virginia's supreme court is being asked to halt the first execution of a woman in that state in nearly a century. We're going to give you the details of the crime and tell you why her attorney says she should be spared.

And if a picture is worth a thousand words, what does a doctored photo say about the newspaper that published it? You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


MALVEAUX: The actor Sacha Baron Cohen will play rocker Freddie Mercury in a biopic set to film next year. Now, that is according to Mercury, who was known for his flamboyant performances, helped make Queen one of the biggest bands of the '70s and the '80s. You have to love them. Their hits included "We Are the Champions" and "We Will Rock You." Mercury died of AIDS-related complications in 1991. Cohen is best known for starring in the movies "Bruno" and "Borat."

A doctored photo is causing major embarrassment for a prominent Egyptian newspaper and raising questions about a cozy relationship between the media and the government in that country. Our senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, is here with the details.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, this is a classic case of the new media running circles around the old.

Egypt's old newspaper has been caught with its proverbial hands down.


WEDEMAN (voice-over): It's the newspaper of note in Egypt, "Al Ahram," published since 1875. And now the state-supported paper is at the center of a storm of scorn after it published this photo, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at the head of the pack of Mideast peacemakers.

(on camera) It reads "The Road to Sharm el-Sheik," implying that the 82-year-old Egyptian president was the driving force behind renewed peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

(voice-over) There's just one problem. The photo is a doctored version of this picture taken at the White House earlier this month. Egyptian blogger Wael Khalil discovered the digital dirty work.

WAEL KHALIL, BLOGGER: We felt it was going to be a ha-ha, local joke, a look what they're doing kind of thing. I'm a bit surprised that it's picking up. This is the work we know. This is the regime we know. There is no surprise there.

WEDEMAN (on camera): Friday the paper's editor wrote that the picture was meant to be expressive, underscoring Egypt's historic role in the peace process.

(voice-over) If a picture is worth a thousand words, what this doctored picture has to say about the editors is not very flattering.

KHALIL: They wouldn't care about professionalism. They're not accountable to the general public, and the same goes for the government, if I may say so.

WEDEMAN: "Al Ahram's" photo flop has inspired other Egyptians to try their hand at PhotoShop with their own take on their long-ruling strong man.


WEDEMAN: For years Egyptian newspapers, especially the state-run ones played an old game. It's called "praise the leader." It looks like the game doesn't work so well anymore -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Ben.

John King speaks to President Obama's new point person on crafting a new approach from protecting consumers from abusive practices by credit card and mortgage lenders. That interview with Elizabeth Warren is just ahead on "JOHN KING USA".

Now, we are awaiting word from the governor of Virginia on a clemency request for a woman on Death Row. That story just up ahead after this quick break.


MALVEAUX: We're awaiting word from the governor of Virginia on a clemency request for a woman on Death Row. If next week's scheduled execution goes ahead, it would be the first time in decades that a woman has been executed in the state. Our Brian Todd is looking into this story.

Brian, this is a very controversial case. Tell us what you're learning.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're learning a lot of details about the case, Suzanne. Still awaiting for word from the governor. We've been told all day it's coming. Haven't gotten that word yet.

At the center of this highly-charged case, the first woman scheduled to be put to death in Virginia since 1912.


TODD (voice-over): From Virginia's Death Row, Teresa Lewis sings for divine intervention.

TERESA LEWIS, ON DEATH ROW (singing): I need a miracle.

TODD: No miracles yet. Lewis is waiting to hear from Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell on a possible stay of execution. If the supreme court doesn't intervene, Lewis will die by lethal injection next Thursday.

I spoke with Lewis as the governor weighed his decision

(on camera) Because of the sensitivity of the case at this point the questions are limited to just a couple of predetermined questions for Teresa Lewis. We're also not allowed to bring cameras into the facility where she's being held. So we're speaking to her on the phone from her unit on Death Row in Virginia.

If you could say anything to the governor at this point, what would you tell him?

LEWIS: If would tell the governor, if I could speak to him one- on-one, how sorry I really am, for allowing this to happen to two people that I loved very much. And I -- and I just wish I could take it back. And I'm sorry for all the people that I've hurt in the process. TODD (voice-over): Lewis pleaded guilty to the 2002 murders of her husband, Julian Lewis, and her stepson, C.J., in their mobile home in Southern Virginia. But this was a crime of conspiracy, and Lewis herself didn't fire the shots. The two men who did, including lead triggerman Matthew Shallenberger, only got life sentences.

The judge called Teresa Lewis the head of the serpent, but her attorneys say her IQ is in the low 70s, near the level of retardation, and they say Lewis has dependent personality disorder, making her vulnerable to coercion by others.

(on camera) Is it your basic contention that she was manipulated into this crime?

JAMES ROCAP, TERESA LEWIS'S ATTORNEY: Yes. She -- Shallenberger has stated and the experts that have examined her agree that she -- she was being used by Shallenberger, not the other way around.

TODD: Shallenberger had had an affair with Teresa Lewis before the killings. Her attorneys cite a prison letter from Shallenberger to another woman, saying the only reason he slept with Lewis was "so she would give me the insurance money she inherited after the murders." Matthew Shallenberger later committed suicide in prison.

On the idea that Lewis was manipulated, prosecutor David Grime says this.

DAVID GRIME, PROSECUTOR: I can frankly say Teresa Lewis is as evil a person as I've ever met.

TODD: Grime says his investigation showed Lewis herself took an active role in the plot, that she connived, manipulated everyone: from her late husband, to her lover, to her children. And he says tests his side conducted contradict those which indicated she's near retardation.

GRIME: Her functioning ability is way beyond that.

TODD (on camera): You think she was faking?

GRIME: Well, she certainly wasn't, as one of the experts said in the habeas proceeding, she certainly wasn't motivated to score accurately and high on those tests.


TODD: Lewis's attorney says the contention that she's faking a low I.Q. is silly. He says one expert specifically tested to see if she was faking that and found that she wasn't.

We're still awaiting word from the governor -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Brian.

Well, you can follow what's going on in THE SITUATION ROOM and with me over at the White House. I'm on Twitter. You can get my tweets at

I'm Suzanne Malveaux in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.