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Justice Thomas' Wife Calls Anita Hill; Maine Case Set Off Alarms Nationwide

Aired October 20, 2010 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Yes. You're in the "SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, the former vice president Dick Cheney is called a traitor, a traitor for the Bush's administration's outing of a covert CIA officer. I'll speak with the former spy, Valerie Plame and her husband, the ex-ambassador, Joe Wilson. They're now the subjects of a brand new movie.

And a massive oil spill has been lying under a New York City neighborhood for a century. Residents say they're paying a terrible price.

And do you worry about your money and valuables when you pass through an airport checkpoint? A TSA supervisor facing theft charges for allegedly stealing from passengers.

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

Her graphic complaints of sexual harassment almost derailed a U.S. Supreme Court nomination 19 years ago. Now, Anita Hill has received an out of the blue message from the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas with a strange request. Brian Todd is looking into this story for us. Brian, tell us what happened.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Justice Thomas' wife made an appeal to Anita Hill that clearly surprised Ms. Hill and left the rest of us asking why this? Why now?


TODD (voice-over): It can only be described as bizarre and somewhat random. Nearly two decades after accusations of sexual harassment almost sank his Supreme Court nomination, Justice Clarence Thomas' wife calls his accuser. In a voicemail to Anita Hill, Virginia Thomas wife says I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband.

Hill didn't speak with us or our affiliate. She gave the voicemail to officials at Brandeis University where she teaches. They gave it to the FBI, which is not commenting. In a statement, Hill says, "I certainly thought the call was inappropriate. I have no intention of apologizing. I stand by that testimony." Mrs. Thomas defended the call saying she was extending an olive branch in hopes of getting pass what happened in 1991 when millions watched Justice Thomas' confirmation hearings.

ANITA HILL, FORMER AIDE TO CLARENCE THOMAS: He spoke about acts that he had seen and pornographic films.

CLARENCE THOMAS, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT: It is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks.

TODD (on-camera): Virginia Thomas' media representatives told us she couldn't do an interview with us. We've tried several different ways of reaching her. We want to ask for a little bit more about the Anita Hill phone call, but also about a non-profit group that she runs called Liberty Central. Now, in tax records and when you call them on the phone, they do list this as their address and they give a suite number, but this is a UPS store.

TODD (voice-over): Nothing wrong with that and there are no loss against Virginia Thomas being political active, but some legal analyst raise questions about ethics. Liberty Central can raise unlimited amounts of money and doesn't have to disclose its donors. Its website says it's non-partisan, but its first ad is against the Obama tax plan, and Virginia Thomas is an outspoken conservative who's addressed tea party rallies.


TODD: Her activism breaks new ground for spouse of a Supreme Court justice. I asked American University law professor, Stephen Wermiel where it might get sticky.

PROF. STEPHEN WERMIEL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL: Is her organization involved in issues that may end up as lawsuit? Do they have a position on health care, for example, which clearly is going to end up in the Supreme Court in the next couple of years.

TODD: Liberty Central's website has postings against the Obama health care plan, and Virginia Thomas has spoken out against it.

THOMAS: I think we need to repeal Obamacare.


TODD (on-camera): CNN checked with the Supreme Court earlier this year after Mrs. Thomas founded Liberty Central. A court spokeswoman told us Virginia Thomas had notified the court of her new group, but the court's legal office had reviewed her involvement. The spokeswoman said those discussions would not be made public, but one person who had been with Liberty Central told the "Washington Post" this spring that Mrs. Thomas was told her work was not a conflict of interests.

Wolf, most analysts believe that Justice Thomas will be careful about accusing himself from cases where, you know, her group advocates for certain issues, but we may never know. He doesn't have to disclose that.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much for that. Let's continue our analysis of what's going on. Gloria Borger is coming into the SITUATION ROOM right now, our senior political analyst. Our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin is also joining us. He's the author of the best-selling book "Benign, Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court." You know Justice Thomas. Do you suppose he's happy that this has once again been brought up, this 19-year-old story?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I've been puzzling about that all day, Wolf. And I think there are - he's torn on this issue, because in part, look, every comedian in the country is going to be talking about hair on coke cans tonight. That can't be something that he is going to enjoy. However, he and Virginia are fighters.

Clarence Thomas is mad about his confirmation hearings every single day for the past 19 years. He is enraged about this. He has always wanted to fight back, and the fact that he is, his wife is seeking an apology, his probable reaction is more power to her.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, but do you think actually, Jeff, that if she had said to him, you know what, I think I'm going to call Anita Hill today. And I think I'm going to tell her to apologize to you that he would have thought that that was a good idea?

TOOBIN: You know, those of us who think --

BORGER: I can't imagine it.

TOOBIN: In this sort of political rational world would say no, but you know what, Clarence Thomas is a Supreme Court justice. He's not running for anything. He doesn't need public support. He is angry. He is angry at Anita Hill. He's angry at liberals. He wants this issue settled in his favor. And if he -- and if his wife wants to confront Anita Hill, my sense is, he'll give a speech in a year, and he'll say, more power to my wife.

BLITZER: She's an outspoken conservative activist.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: Nothing obviously wrong with that, but it's sort of unusual, isn't it, that for a justice of the wife -- a spouse of the Supreme Court justice to be out there as visibly as she is?

BORGER: Well, you know, I remember during the John Roberts' confirmation hearings, there was a question about his wife who was on the board of a pro-life group. Spouses are allowed to have separate lives in this day and age in which we live. And, however, I think that Virginia Thomas and Clarence Thomas and any professional couple is aware of the perception of a conflict of interests.

And I think that what this does for Justice Thomas, and Jeffrey could speak to this better than I can, is that he's got to be really careful about whether he recuses himself on some political issue that in fact his wife has been out there campaigning on. For example, as was mentioned in Brian Todd's piece, the question of repealing health care. I mean, she says it ought to be repealed.

BLITZER: Does he need to think about recusing himself from these kinds of cases, Jeffrey?

TOOBIN: The chance of Clarence Thomas recusing himself from the health care reform case is zero. He is committed on these issues. They are a team. And by the way, in fairness to Virginia Thomas, she was a political activist before she met Clarence Thomas. So, you know, the idea that she sort of piggybacking on his career, that's not fair. But she and her husband are a team, and they are aligned and they are going to keep fighting in their own way on identical issues through their different vehicles.

BORGER: Well, you know, the interesting thing is, as you point out, is that they do think the same way. If they were a couple in which he was conservative and she was more liberal and she was a liberal activist, then you might have more of a question, but, it's clear if she affects him in any way, he probably already agrees with her, right?

BLITZER: And very quickly, Jeffrey, Brandeis University gave the voicemail tape to the FBI. Is it possible she did something wrong here?

TOOBIN: I don't think so. I -- you know, Anita Hill has been the subject of a lot of harassment over the years. It's understandable that she turned the tape over to the university police. But I don't think this is illegal or criminal issue, but it's still awfully interesting.

BLITZER: Yes. Certainly is. All right. Thanks, guys, very much.

A federal task force investigating five big mortgage companies had uncovered some bad foreclosures, but the U.S. Housing secretary says the probe has not yet found any systemic problems with processing at least so far. The uproar is over what's called robo signing where banks rubber stamped foreclosures without even looking at homeowner's records.

Sounding the alarm first, one attorney in a small town in the state of Maine who noticed something fishy in his client's paperwork. CNNs Mary Snow traveled to Maine, and she's joining us now with details. Tell us what happened, Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the attorney you're about to meet says he suspected for a while that foreclosures were going through without being properly reviewed. And it wasn't until he took on a case in rural Maine that he was able to connect the dots.


SNOW (voice-over): It's an unassuming house in rural Maine, but beyond its small frame is a foreclosure fight that set off chain reactions of banks halting foreclosures in nearly two dozen states, and it all started with this man, Attorney Tom Cox. THOMAS COX, MAINE ATTORNEYS SAVING HOMES: I didn't know this case would do it. I thought it was going to take a lot more effort.

SNOW: Among the stacks of foreclosure cases that Cox volunteers to work on, he noticed a red flag in the first line of the affidavit.

COX: All he's telling us here is that he's a signing officer. He signs papers. And that was a first clear signal that there's a problem.

SNOW: Cox tracked down the signer from mortgage servicer GMAC named Jeffrey Stephan who worked outside Philadelphia. Cox then traveled there in June to take a deposition.

COX: I asked him, do you have personal knowledge of what is contained in your affidavits, and when he said he didn't. As a lawyer, that's just staggering.

SNOW: Stephan also admitted to signing 6,000 to 8,000 documents a month. The case moved to Maine District Court. GMAC tried to prevent Cox from sharing the deposition. A judge said no to that request and also found the signer acted in bad faith. GMAC, now Allied Financial, became the first of several banks to freeze some foreclosures. An Allied Financial spokeswoman tells us any case with the defective affidavit is being reviewed and fixed before moving forward.

SNOW (on-camera): The family that lives here admits they haven't been able to pay their mortgage in the last two years. They've fallen on hard times. They couldn't keep up with the payments, but they've been able to stay here, because their case is now turned into a lengthy legal battle.

SNOW (voice-over): And Cox fights on. While Allied Financial says it hasn't found any errors in its review of documents, Cox says he's troubled by what he calls an abuse of the legal system. And there's another thing driving him, his past. He once worked for a Maine bank where he had to call in loans and execute foreclosures.

COX: It was not pleasant work to do. So, this has been a chance for the last couple of years to do what I think is really good work, and maybe to make up for some of the difficulties I caused for a few other people back in the 1980s and 1990s.

SNOW: In 2010, he says he never expected a fight over a modest small home would have such big implications.


SNOW (on-camera): Now, Bank of America, the nation's largest bank announced earlier this week that it's at resuming foreclosures in 23 states after it did its review. Allied Financial says it's taking foreclosures on a case-by-case basis, but if you ask Thomas Cox, Wolf, he says that he doesn't believe the problems are going to be over any time soon.

BLITZER: Probably won't be. All right. Mary, thanks very much.

Nearly half a million public jobs are now on the chopping block as Britain's government announces massive budget cuts to deal with a major deficit. It vows to be ruthless and to leave no stone unturned in the search for waste.

And joining us now from Downing Street in London, our own Richard Quest. What's the reaction, Richard, to these huge cuts in government spending in Britain?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the government had done a very good job, if you like, of forecasting, making a bad situation seem absolutely catastrophic and disastrous. They'd suggested that these cuts might be as bad as 40 percent across many departments. So, when they came out today and said 19 percent, there was not exactly relief, and there have certainly been some protests in London tonight.

But the country knew they were coming. What's happened in London as you can see tonight from the evening newspaper, this is the "London Evening Standard," benefit act. Again and again, the message has gone out from the government that we could no longer afford the level of expenditure that was being put out by the UK administration, and so tonight, a new dose, if you like, a cold shower, a new realism in Britain that the good days are not only over, the austerity has arrived.

BLITZER: Do you believe what all that does settle (ph), Richard, that they're actually going to go ahead and slash half a million government jobs in the UK?

QUEST: Yes. I do. 490,000 jobs over four years. They say that the jobs will be picked up by the private sector. It's -- but it's not just -- not all of it. It's the way in which if you start to really dig into the details, you see the number of government programs that are being cut, housing in some cases cut by 50 percent to 60 percent. You see for instance the home office, the treasury, the chancellor's office behind me, Number 11 Downing Street, a 30 percent cut in administrative cuts of the treasury.

So, this is wide. It's suede. It's deep. Ultimately though, what the government says is it's necessary, the position, because there are two sides to this argument, Wolf. The opposition is quite clear. They say, this is reckless, it is dangerous, and it will lead Britain back to double-dip recession.

BLITZER: Why can they get away with it in the UK, these dramatic cuts in government spending, but here in the U.S., it's almost impossible. They always talk about cutting/spending, but it rarely happens. What's the difference?

QUEST: The difference is, Wolf, it hasn't happened yet in the United States. If you ask, and also the economy is much larger, the debt is its a reserved currency, the debt is long-dated. There all sorts of technical reasons, but, Wolf, look at what's happening with the cities. Look at what's happening with the states. Look at the cutbacks that are happening further down the pyramid, and ultimately, at the top, at the federal level, the spending cuts will have to come into force. Everybody knows it. It's the elephant in the living room. It's just a question of when somebody finally says the time is now.

BLITZER: Richard Quest reporting for us from London. Richard, thanks very much.

It's bad enough you have to take your shoes off, take your belt off, and empty your pockets, but get this, an airport screener, a supervisor is actually charged with stealing cash from passengers. How he allegedly did it? That's coming up.

His wife was outed as a CIA operative. Now, Joe Wilson has strong words about Dick Cheney. He calls the former vice president a traitor. My interview with the couple, that's coming up.

And the massive oil spill under New York City. Allan Chernoff will explain.


ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Last year, New York State estimated there's about 14 million gallons of oil trapped over (ph) the ground of this neighborhood. The oil companies are extracting it at the rate of about a million gallons a year using little pumps, one of which is located in that shed.



BLITZER: Going through the security line at an airport, you put your wallet out there. You put your purse out there. You got a lot of cash, maybe some valuables inside, some jewelry. Do you ever worry about what could happen to those valuables? Well, get this. There is a shocking development. The TSA supervisor now being charged with stealing.

Let's bring in our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve. She's tracking this story for us. I'm worried about that all the time, but what is now happening, Jeanne?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: well, Michael Arato wasn't in his Transportation Security Administration uniform today. He was in handcuffs and shackles entering a Newark, New Jersey courtroom accused of theft and bribery. Arato was a TSA supervisor at the Newark airport, the checkpoint leaving to Air India Gates. According to court documents, he and one of his employees often targeted non-English speaking women returning to India.

Arato allegedly took cash from their carry-on bags as they went through screening, sometimes as much as $700 in a shift. In other instances, the employee committed the theft but then split the money with Arato to keep him quiet. And little more than three weeks this fall, the government claims Arato pocketed more than $3,000 in bribes.

How did it work? Well, sometimes, someone would be tagged for secondary screening. One of these people would talk to the traveler and distract them while the other one went through the bag and took the cash. According to the affidavit on one occasion, Arato stuffed some of the money that had been stolen into his pocket, and he then turned around and displayed his middle finger to a security camera -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Wow. Has the other TSA screener been arrested, Jeanne?

MESERVE: No, he hasn't at this point because he has been cooperating with authorities in this case. Arato was supposed to surrender to authorities yesterday morning but only turned himself in last night after traveling to New York and then telling authorities he considered harming himself. Today, he was freed on $100,000 bail put up by a sister. The TSA says it has a zero tolerance policy for theft in the workplace. Everyday it says it gets complaints of theft, loss and damage from travelers about 35 a day.

And between May of 2003 and October of 2009, 330 transportation security officers have been terminated for theft. Roughly half of them for theft at checkpoints, but Wolf, to put this in a little perspective, there are currently about 50,000 TSOs working and about 2 million people a day going through U.S. airports -- Wolf.

BLITZER: After this report, though, I suspect everyone is going to be a little bit more cautious going through the TSA screening process and watch their stuff as it's going through to make sure nothing is stolen.

MESERVE: And they should.

BLITZER: Good advice. All right. Thanks very much.

The former U.S. ambassador, Joe Wilson, is calling Dick Cheney a traitor. He says the former vice president played a major part in outing his wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA spy. Wilson and Plame talk about that huge political scandal and more. That's coming up.


BLITZER: Dick Cheney accused of treason, as a new movie "Fair Game" debuts in the coming days about the real life spy scandal that occurred here in Washington. You're about to hear some very harsh charges. Speaking out, Valerie Plame, the former CIA officer who was outed during the Bush administration, and her husband, Joe Wilson, an ex-ambassador who disputed claims about Iraq's so-called weapons of mass destruction.


BLITZER: Are you still bitter after all of these years?

VALERIE PLAME WILSON, FORMER CIA OFFICER: No, absolutely not. I think that we're in a great country, and the justice system did the best that it could. I would have liked to have seen justice served further, but I think bitterness is really a wasted emotion. We're delighted with the movie. It's an important story to tell of that time and place in our history, and we made our lives personally and professionally out in New Mexico.

BLITZER: When you say you would have preferred justice serve further. What does that mean??

PLAME: What it means is I think there were -- it's very clear that there were other people involved in the betrayal of covert identity. There was -- as the prosecutor said, Patrick Fitzgerald, there clearly was a conspiracy to defame Joe Wilson, and there was a cloud over at the office of the vice president. So, there are a lot of things that were not able to come out.

BLITZER: And Joe --

JOE WILSON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR: Scooter Libby was convicted of obstruction of justice which basically means that the prosecutor was unable to get to the bottom of the conspiracy, because Scooter Libby obstructed as ability (ph) to do so.

BLITZER: The first person to release the identity of Valerie Plame was Richard Armitage, who was the deputy secretary of state.

WILSON: Rich was one of the three. The other two were Scooter Libby and Karl Rove.

BLITZER: You firmly believe that?

WILSON: Well, it's not that I firmly believe it, but it's been said by Bob Novak, said by Matt Cooper. Judy Miller talked about being with Scooter Libby at the St. Regis Hotel, and her notes have Victoria Flame which obviously was her interpretation of Valerie Plame. So, I think it's all been documented, Wolf. It all came out in the Scooter's trial.

BLITZER: Let's talk about sources and methods, because at the time, you and lot of people at CIA and elsewhere were concerned that sources and methods. Some of your contacts when you were an active agent for the CIA could have been compromise. All of these years later, is there any evidence that sources and methods and some of your contact were compromised?

PLAME: Well, that's exactly why it was so insidious what happened, because it's not just me and my career, that's one thing, but the entire network of assets with whom I've worked with over the years was compromised, was put into jeopardy, and in some cases, their lives are really --

BLITZER: And do you know for a fact that that has happened?

PLAME: A damage report was done by the CIA. I never saw it. I know in some cases what happened to certain assets. I don't know in others.

WILSON: We have international friends who found that their relationship with us caused them problems with their government.

PLAME: Even though it was completely --

WILSON: Even though they were completely social friends.


BLITZER: Your friends or her friends?


BLITZER: Because all of a sudden, they discovered that your wife was really a CIA officer.

WILSON: That's right. That's accurate.

BLITZER: Let's talk about some of the people involve. You mentioned some of them. I want both of you to give me your quick reaction when I mentioned their names what you think about them. Dick Cheney?

PLAME: I think he has an extremely dark view of the world. And his idea of the 1 percent doctrine which was, you know, if there's a 1 percent chance of a terrorist attack or something affecting our national security, we're going to do everything to prevent it. That sounds good, except what it really means is it undermines the very values that we as a country hold dear.

WILSON: Traitor.

BLITZER: Scooter Libby.

PLAME: I think he's someone who was doing everything he could to protect his boss, Vice President Cheney, and he was left out to dry.

WILSON: Traitor.

BLITZER: You say that Scooter Libby is a traitor and Dick Cheney is a traitor. That's a serious word.

WILSON: Absolutely.

BLITZER: And you know as a diplomat what that means?

WILSON: Absolutely. They betrayed the --

BLITZER: Betrayed the United States.

WILSON: National security of our country.

BLITZER: All right. Go ahead and explain why you --

WILSON: By betraying the identity of a covert CIA officer whose identity is kept secret because it's in the national interest, that identity be kept secret in order for her to be able to acquire foreign secrets on behalf of our country. BLITZER: And Scooter Libby, maybe, but is there evidence that Dick Cheney did?

WILSON: There's a cloud over the vice president. That's a Pat Fitzgerald quote.

BLITZER: But it doesn't necessarily mean he, himself, told anyone publicly that Valerie Plame is really a CIA...

WILSON: He is the one who basically gave the instructions, and that also basically has been documented by their July 14th flight back from Roanoke, Virginia, when he was in the front cabin with Scooter and Kathy (ph) Martin, and they got off the plane. And that's when Scooter made a phone call to Judy Miller at Andrews Air Force base that was about a 23-minute phone call.

BLITZER: George W. Bush?

PLAME: I think, just as he thinks history will judge him, I believe that, as well. I think we might have different interpretations of what that will look like.

WILSON: I agree with that. I will let history judge him.

BLITZER: You don't think he's a traitor?

WILSON: I don't know. I don't know what we knew. We were unable to get that. We were unable to get that in criminal court. We're unable to get there in civil court, because the Supreme Court denied us the right to go ahead and pursue civil charges against him, or a civil case against them.

BLITZER: The new movie is entitled "Fair Game." Sean Penn plays Joe Wilson. Naomi Watts plays Valerie Plame. Here's a little clip from the film.


NAOMI WATTS, ACTRESS: My name is everywhere, my real name.

SEAN PENN, ACTOR: Those in the highest office sought to destroy the career of a covert agent to punish me for telling the truth.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your wife is a traitor.

PENN: How dare you talk about my wife? You don't know her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We know where you live.

WATTS: People have threatened to kill my husband, to hurt my children.

PENN: We've got to strike back. They'll bury us if we don't.


BLITZER: How close is this film to reality?

PLAME: It's not a documentary, but it is a really good, accurate portrayal of what we went through, both personally in the political maelstrom that we live through. The director, Doug Limon, really wanted to make it as follow events. Of course, it has to be telescope, because this happened over a series of years as you know. But -- and you want to tell a story, and I think it's very powerful.

BLITZER: What do you think?

WILSON: I think it's an accurate representation of the time that we lived through.

BLITZER: Because it's a drama.


BLITZER: And did they make up stuff in there?

WILSON: Well, of course, they did. Sure. Sure.

PLAME: There are things that I can't talk about, sources and methods, my operations, precise details. Obviously, the screenwriters needed to...

WILSON: Well, they obviously dramatized it, which is what they do when they make feature films.

BLITZER: But basically, it's close enough to reality that you're comfortable with it.

WILSON: I'm comfortable with it.

BLITZER: And you're comfortable with it?

PLAME: Absolutely.

BLITZER: How comfortable are you with Naomi Watts playing you?

PLAME: I could do much worse, huh? She's a fabulous actress. And who ever thinks that you're going to have a movie made. The whole thing has been really surreal, but she and Sean both deliver great performances. They've worked together before, and I think that chemistry, which exists in real life, is there on screen, as well.

BLITZER: How comfortable are you with Sean Penn playing you?

WILSON: Well, it's hard for me to judge, because I see myself from the inside. But both my wife and my son think that he does an accurate portrayal. My own view is I have better hair, and that I eviscerate my dinner guests more adeptly than he does in one scene in the movie.

BLITZER: I guess he's not a good enough actor to capture that, that kind of evisceration. Is that what you're saying?

WILSON: He's a very fine actor.

PLAME: Same intensity.

BLITZER: The movie, once again, is called "Fair Game." Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, they play our two guests, Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame. Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

WILSON: Thanks, Wolf.


BLITZER: We've asked for a reaction from the former vice president. We hope to get that. We'll share it with you, as well.

By the way, I also asked them about Anna Chapman. She's the attractive Russian spy who is in New York. She's now on the cover of a Russian men's magazine. You're going to hear some of that interview, in Jeanne Moos's report later this hour. Stick around for that. You might enjoy it.

There's a massive oil spill under New York City. The cleanup is under way, but it won't be over any time soon.


BLITZER: Fraud in the Afghan election. Kate Bolduan is back. She's monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What's going on?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Get this number: 20 percent, Wolf. More than 20 percent of the votes from last month's election in Afghanistan have been thrown out. Afghanistan's election commission says 1.3 million votes were tossed. This comes after allegations of ballot box stuffing and bribery. These parliamentary elections have been seen as a test for the country's struggling democracy. President Hamid Karzai pledged to cut corruption when he was re-elected last year.

And Pope Benedict XVI has announced he's creating 24 new cardinals. The incoming cardinals are from all over the world, including two from the U.S. This is the third time that Pope Benedict has created new cardinals. They are the highest level of Catholic clergy under the pope, and select his replacement after he dies.

Wolf, my dear, I hope you're listening to this.


BOLDUAN: Today is Information Overload Awareness Day. Put down that BlackBerry. Put down that iPhone. Experts are urging people to understand how everything from e-mail to text messaging, social networking and Web surfing can actually slow us down. They suggest people check their e-mail five times a day. Good luck with that. And not respond immediately to every message. Other tips: ignore less important e-mails and turn off your BlackBerry when you get home. I speak from experience. I can't get you to turn off the BlackBerry when we go out to dinner.

BLITZER: That's not -- that's not happening at all. We check every five minutes. Let alone...

BOLDUAN: Maybe next year.

BLITZER: Thanks. We're in the news business. We have to know what is going on.

A huge oil plume trapped underneath New York City. Some people say it's having a frightening impact on their health. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: And now a massive oil spill many people have never even heard of. I didn't. Even though it's been lurking underneath a neighborhood in New York City for more than 100 years. Some people living on top of it say the cleanup is taking far too long and they've paid a serious price.

CNN senior correspondent Allan Chernoff is in New York. He's joining us now. He's working the story for us. What going on, Allan?

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it is a giant underground oil plume extending into a residential neighborhood in Green Point, Brooklyn. At some points, it's three feet underground; at others, as much as 50 feet below. It's not easy to extract, but the cleanup has been going on for three decades. Residents complain their health is at risk.


CHERNOFF (voice-over): On this block of Diamond Street in Brooklyn's Green Point neighborhood, cancer is a stalker. Residents suspect it's the result of the oil that sits beneath their homes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, this is another girl. She had stomach cancer. This one here had colon and stomach.

CHERNOFF: Lifelong resident Theresa Breznick (ph) counts the rosary cards of the people down the street who have been stricken by cancer, 40 victims in all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The emissions that are coming out of the ground. Some of them have been known to be benzene fumes, which is a known carcinogen.

CHERNOFF: The oil plume lies entirely underground, across more than 50 acres of Green Point, industrial and residential blocks.

The EPA says the biggest hazard for people living here is chemical vapors that could rise into homes. (on camera) BP, ExxonMobil and Chevron own much of the property in this area, but these companies didn't cause the oil spill here. The spill actually dates back to the 1860s, when refineries dotted the entire neighborhood and operated for a good century.

Today, the only active oil facility is this BP terminal.

(voice-over) But the oil companies, as current owners, prodded by the state and federal governments, are responsible for the cleanup. So far, it's taken three decades.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We still have a long way to go. It's still going to be a long time before they get most of the oil out of the ground water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ExxonMobil uses technology referred to as pump and treat.

CHERNOFF: Led by ExxonMobil, companies are extracting oil from the top of the water table while pumping out ground water, which is treated, then drained into the nearby Newtown Creek.

Just like in the Gulf, there is booms to collect any oil that still seeps into the creek.

(on camera) Last year, New York state estimated there's about 14 million gallons of oil trapped below the ground in this neighborhood. The oil companies are extracting it at the rate of about a million gallons a year, using little pumps, one of which is located in that shed. But at that rate, it's going to take well over a decade to clean up this entire neighborhood.

(voice-over) Residents say oil companies need to respond faster.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not seeing the results in any lifetime. I'm 62 years old. I don't know if I'm going to make 82.


CHERNOFF: The oil company has declined to appear on camera. BP told CNN, "We continue to work with the Department of Environmental Conservation to optimize recovery."

ExxonMobil said, "We are continuously working to enhance our remediation activities and accelerate the recovery of underground petroleum products."

And Chevron said, "We are going to be there as long as it takes to develop a long-term solution" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Is there any action, Alan, being taken right now to speed up the clean up?

CHERNOFF: Indeed, there has been legal action. The attorney general of New York has sued along with environmentalists. And there has been some movement along those lines. In fact, BP now has seven wells. They're increasing that number by four by the end of the year. So they will be pushing the oil out faster by the end of the year -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Chief justice John Roberts says it is a good thing for people to see what goes on inside of the court, but will the court give the go ahead?

And Russia's most famous spy reveals, shall we say quite a lot. Jeanne Moos finds it most unusual. Stay with us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Allan Chernoff, thank you.

Cameras in the Supreme Court. The chief justice, John Roberts, says it would be a good thing for people to see what goes on inside, but will the court give the go-ahead?

And Russia's most famous spy reveals, shall we say, quite a lot. Jeanne Moos finds it "Most Unusual."

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: The Supreme Court is two weeks into its newest term, but it may be quite some time before we get a look at what actually goes on inside. At a forum in his home town of Buffalo, New York -- my home town, as well -- the chief justice, John Roberts, was asked about live broadcasts of court sessions.

Listen to his answer.


JOHN ROBERTS, CHIEF JUSTICE OF SUPREME COURT: Five of us, I think, want to be very careful. We don't want to do something that we think might injure the institution. So broadcasting is something that does come up. And it's something we consider from time to time. And I think, you know, I don't know which direction the court's going to go. There are arguments on both sides.

I certainly appreciate the argument that it would give people a chance to see what we do. I think that would be a good thing for people to see what we do, but there's also a concern that it might affect what we do. In any number of ways, you know, whether it's lawyers who are going to be more interested in showboating, whether it's justices who might affect how they approach the case, not just -- I'm not really concerned about justices showboating.

But, you know, if you've been to the court, there's a sharp dynamic. You don't want to think -- I don't want to think twice before asking a question thinking, "Well, how is that going to sound?" you know. I just want to get the question out, and if it doesn't sound right, to keep moving on. So, it's an issue that obviously we haven't come to rest on it. It's certainly something that is brought up frequently, and I just think you need to keep in mind the court moves very slowly on things like that.


BLITZER: An exposed Russian spy now getting some more exposure. Stand by.


BLITZER: Kate Bolduan is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now, including the latest on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." What's going on, Kate?

BOLDUAN: Well, Wolf, the Obama administration filed an emergency request to stop the military from allowing openly gay troops to serve. It's a strange legal position for this White House, because ultimately, it's in favor of repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." But the administration says that changing the policy abruptly could harm the military.

After a recent court order, the Pentagon is already advising recruiters to accept openly gay and lesbian recruits.

The 21-year-old student accused of slashing the throat of a Muslim cab driver is in New York has been released on $500,000 bail. The court requires Michael Enright wear an electronic monitoring device, stay in New York state, attend alcohol treatment and have a curfew. The taxi driver, Ahmed Sharif, who survived, was slashed across the neck, face, shoulder and hand.

Now attention parents, another 2 million strollers are being recalled. Graco is recalling the Quatro and Metro Life strollers. They caused four infant deaths from strangulation and six injuries. It's only the latest recall from Graco. Just this year, they've recalled 1.5 million strollers, 1.2 million high chairs, more than 200,000 cribs -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Kate. Thanks very much.

A Russian spy had her cover blown in the United States, but she's getting a whole different kind of exposure right now.


BLITZER: A Russian spy whose identity was uncovered several months ago is now getting even more exposure in a most unusual place, a men's magazine. CNN's Jeanne Moos reports.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's not where you'd expect...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wish I had that body.

MOOS: ... to spy a Russian spy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's not undercover anymore.

MOOS: Anna Chapman went from her busted spy mug shot to her cover shot in the Russian version of "Maxim."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's hot. She's definitely hot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like my wife more.

MOOS: She was the spy the media couldn't resist, digging up old tape.

ANNA CHAPMAN, RUSSIAN SPY: I was so excited.

MOOS: Everyone was so excited by her looks she became an action figure. You can even play poker with her using this iPhone app.

After being arrested, she and nine other spies were swapped for Russian prisoners. And now she's maximized her assets in "Maxim."


MOOS: But the U.S. has its own beautiful spy, and when we sprang the "Maxim" cover on her...

BLITZER: Take a look at this picture over here on the new issue, the Russian issue of...

PLAME: Now we know why she was hired.

MOOS: Outed operative Valerie Plame noted her Russian counterpart is 20 years younger. As for her own offers.

PLAME: I was asked to be on "Dancing with the Stars," but I politely declined.

BLITZER: But nobody asked you to be in "Penthouse" or "Playboy" or "Maxim?"

PLAME: That e-mail, I think, got lost in, you know, in all the e-mails I get every day.

BLITZER: But she does have actress Naomi Watts playing her in the new film "Fair Game," featuring Sean Penn as her husband.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you have, like, lovers all over the world? Do you have a gun? Have you killed people?

MOOS: The way female spies are portrayed in other films bothers Plame.

PLAME: It's very much sexuality, physicality, how good she is with an AK-47 and, you know, this is your best weapon. MOOS: But in "Maxim," Anna is wielding a handgun.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Her grip is completely off. I go to the shooting range. I have a boyfriend who's an ex-Marine. I've been trained. This chick is definitely not.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She looks like Jessica Rabbit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): I need some money, too.

MOOS: Oh, Anna's getting some money. She's a cross between an Austin Powers girl and a Bond girl.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you doing here? Looking for shells?

SEAN CONNERY, ACTOR: No, I'm just looking.

MOOS: Same goes for fans of Anna, and judging from his comments to Leno, fan club includes Vice President Biden.

JAY LENO, HOST, NBC'S "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": Do we have any spies that hot?

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me make it clear, it wasn't my idea to send her back.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: You can follow THE SITUATION ROOM on Facebook, by the way. Go to to become a fan.

That's it for me. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.