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THE SITUATION ROOM
U.S. Acts to Plug Leaks; Seven-Year Drilling Ban in Eastern Gulf
Aired December 1, 2010 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, the U.S. takes action to cut off the damaging leaks of sensitive documents and considers what it can do about the founder of Wikileaks who is already a wanted man who may be on the run. We are digging deeper into the background of the man who is suspected of stealing thousands of classified cables. A young U.S. soldier who struggled to fit in at every stage of his life.
And with the U.S. drowning in debt right now, a bipartisan panel unveils what it calls the moment of truth, a new blueprint for serious bell tightening for the United States. We look at the potentially devastating consequences if Congress does not act.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Breaking news, political headlines, and Jeanne Moos all straight ahead.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
The founder of WikiLeaks is lying low right now with an international warrant out for his arrest as the U.S. weighs its own options for dealing with Julian Assange. It's acting to stem the flow of classified documents and to flood future leaks. The Obama administration has just announced the new efforts to try to address security gaps, and they're serious. While WikiLeaks says it's been ousted from server space it rented from the internet retailer, amazon.com.
Let's get the latest from our Homeland Security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve -- Jeanne.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the U.S. government is moving on two tracks, continuing its investigation of the WikiLeaks release and also taking steps to ensure it doesn't happen again.
MESERVE (voice-over): The WikiLeak document dump has endangered lives and undermined National Security say U.S. officials, and in an effort to prevent any similar release in the future, the White House is appointing a czar to spearhead a government wide review of how classified information is handled. Even before National Security staff adviser, Russell Traverse appointment, hard questions were being asked says a top counterterrorism official.
MICHAEL LEITER, DIR., NATIONAL COUNTERTERRORISM CENTER: It has certainly driven individuals in the intelligence community and beyond the intelligence community to at least re-examine information sharing and make sure that we are still getting the right information to the right people, but we're not getting excess information to the people who really don't need it.
MESERVE: Amazon abruptly halted hosting WikiLeaks Wednesday, but the classified cables have already been widely disseminated. A criminal investigation of their release continues, but if the U.S. already has an indictment or arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, it isn't saying.
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think it's good advice not to talk about any ongoing criminal investigations around the leaks of highly classified information.
MESERVE: One legal expert says t any prosecution of Assange under the espionage act may prove difficult, because WikiLeaks is in effect a media outlet and may get first amendment protections.
BARUCH WEISS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: What is he doing? He is doing what the press does. Every day in this country, the press talks to government officials like WikiLeaks did, gets information from government officials like WikiLeaks did, and publicize it so that people will know like WikiLeaks did.
MESERVE: Despite a Skype interview this week, Assange's whereabouts are not public. Experts say the U.S. government can likely find him if it hasn't already.
THOMAS FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The normal course of investigation will be to pursue any electronic method of communication he would have, but also human contact, his friends, associates, business partners at WikiLeaks.
MESERVE (on-camera): Of course, Interpol has issued a wanted persons alert at the request of Swedish authorities who want to question Assange about allegations of rape and sexual molestation. The so-called red notice will make it difficult for Assange to leave his current hiding place without risking arrest and extradition to Sweden. Wolf, some people say that could be an advantage to the U.S. If he goes to Sweden, they'll know where he is and will give the U.S. government time to build its case. Back to you.
WOLF: All right. Jeanne, thanks very much.
And we're just getting this in from our state department correspondent, Jill Dougherty. She's quoting a senior state department official as saying that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has now made several dozen phone calls to world leaders to try to deal with the diplomatic fallout from all these documents that have been leaked. The United States government has directly reached out to 186 countries, 186 governments around the world to deal with this issues which is obviously very significant.
Let's assess what's going on with the our CNN contributor, Tom Fuentes. He's a former assistant director of the FBI, our CNN senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, and our CNN national security contributor, Fran Townsend. She serves on the Homeland Security External Advisory Board.
First of all, Fran, some of the problems that Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks is having right now, how much of that do you believe is directly attributable to what the U.S. government is doing?
FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: You know, Wolf, the U.S. government has tremendous capability, but if they were going to try and take down a website, would they use a dedicated denial of service? Not so sure. There are other methods more effective to do that, and by the way, once, if this has been hosted not just on a U.S. server, but of course, it was released to media outlets all over Europe, it doesn't really make much sense.
You know, once it gets out in the cyber world, you make it more difficult by taking it off of the U.S. server, but you don't make it impossible to access the information. And so, not clear to me that this is the U.S. government, although, they absolutely have the capability to do it.
BLITZER: Is it clear to you, Jeffrey, that the U.S. government may have encouraged Sweden, for example, to ask Interpol to get directly involved and seek his arrest on sex charges?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I don't know about that. I don't know that the United States asked Sweden to do this, but this is not occurring in a vacuum, and it is also true that even before this 250,000 document release began, it's Sweden has been investigating this crime. This crime supposedly took place, if it was a crime in middle of August.
This has been an on and off investigation ever since. So, I think Sweden has its own reasons to pursue Assange, and the fact that the WikiLeaks investigation is going on in the United States, it might be a factor, but it also just might not.
BLITZER: Tom, you worked with Interpol when you served for the FBI over the years. How did they go about -- what is their policy? How would they go about arresting him on these allegations of rape that have been formally filed?
FUENTES: What occurs in a case like this is that Sweden is pursuing their investigation, they indict him on these charges, and then, they have their own provisional arrest warrant. They send that package to Interpol headquarters in Lyon, France, and the legal department at Interpol reviews the package to see if the charges are politically motivated as Assange has claimed in interviews or if there's some type of a witch hunt against him or whether there's valid probable cause in the original investigation to support the original warrants by Sweden. If they determine there is, which they have in this case, they issue the red notices. And the red notice is basically an international wanted poster that tells the world that this individual has been charged and will be prosecuted, and if you apprehend him, you will be extradited back to Sweden to face these charges.
BLITZER: And then Swedish court systems would take up the matter.
FUENTES: Exactly. So, Interpol's process in this is to basically say the original warrants are not politically motivated. They meet an internationally-approved legal standard.
BLITZER: The White House today announced a new czar, if you will, a new guy who's going to be in charge of making sure this could never happen again, but we've known about these WikiLeaks problems for months and months and months, and all of a sudden today, they say, you know what, we got a problem, and we got to fix it. I know your work very well plugged in, but it seems to be something that they should have done a long time ago as opposed to waiting until today.
TOWNSEND: Right. In fairness, the guy appointed, Randy Traverse (ph), is a good guy. He's well known in the intelligence community and the counterterrorism community, in particular. But look, let's be honest, one more czar isn't going to solve this problem as you point out has been out there for some time. I think what's motivated this is, my understanding talking to both the officials in the White House and the intelligence community, the president and the intelligence community are enormously frustrated by this.
The intelligence community says, look, we really go to great lengths to prevent this kind of leak from happening to us, but we will suffer in terms of our counterterrorism and other collection efforts around the world because people think we can't keep a secret. We need this fix, and we need attention to the fact that we are fixing it now, and apparently, the president is very frustrated by it.
BLITZER: Jeffrey, you wanted to weigh in? Go ahead.
TOOBIN: Well, yes. I mean, there's also a policy issue here, because, you know, after the 9/11 attacks and certainly after the 9/11 commission report, one of the big suggestions to the federal government was let the different parts of the government connect the dots. Everybody should cooperate. Everybody should share information with each other.
Now, what appears to have happened here is the system got out of control that, you know, some private in, you know, remote Iraq should not have had access to 250,000 state department documents, but the government has, and as Fran knows far better than I, has made an effort to coordinate information. So, now, it seems like they have to make some sort of effort to un-coordinate information and it's hard.
BLITZER: Well, they can coordinate the information, Jeff. They can certainly allow the left hand of the U.S. government know what the right hand of the U.S. government knows and what they're is doing, but the issue it seems to me is that if someone goes ahead and download hundreds of thousands of sensitive documents, some alarm bells should go of in the security system and say, you know what, this is not necessarily appropriate.
TOOBIN: You would think. Much less a private in the middle of Iraq. An alarm bell should go off, but the motivation has been to open up access in recent years, not close it down.
BLITZER: All right. Very quickly.
TOWNSEND: We shouldn't use this as an excuse to not let people share. He's right. Jeff is right. We need the sharing of information, but you don't -- that doesn't mean you don't have the safeguards that you're talking, but we can have both.
BLITZER: You got to watch what's going on.
TOWNSEND: That's exactly right.
BLITZER: And at the same time prevent (ph) it. All right. Guys, thanks. Thank you very much. We're going to have a lot more on this story coming up, standby, including new information about this private first class who is accused of presenting all those documents to WikiLeaks. Standby.
Meanwhile, a big vote in the House of Representatives tomorrow. Jack Cafferty is here. He's got the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The case of New York congressman, Charlie Rangel, is bordering on pathetic. After being found guilty of 11 ethics violations, following a 2-year long investigation, the full House is now set to vote tomorrow on censuring Rangel. It's sort of sad, really, the Ethics Committee overwhelmingly recommended censure last month is the harshest punishment short of expulsion.
The 80-year-old Rangel is asking the House for a lesser penalty. He wants a reprimand instead. Rangel claims that censure should only be used in cases where corruption was proved. There was a time before the guilty verdict that Rangel could have simply walked away from all of this with his reputation intact, but apparently, his monumental ego wouldn't allow him to do that, and now, it's too late.
By continuing to whine publicly about his treatment, Rangel who has served in Congress for 40 years continues to diminish himself. He came out of the Korean War, a decorated combat veteran. He was elected to Congress and he's remained there for 20 terms. In fact, he was just re-elected despite the ethics cloud hanging over him. Among other things, Rangel was found guilty of not paying taxes for 17 years on his rental home in the Dominican Republic, failing to report assets for a decade, misusing a rent-stabilized Harlem apartment as campaign office, and misusing Congressional resources to raise money for a college center named after him.
Rangel has apologized for what he calls honest mistakes and has written his behavior off to what he calls sloppiness. The House Ethics Committee found otherwise. The ethics scandal cost Rangel the chairmanship of the Powerful Ways and Means Committee and more than $2 million in legal fees and probably his reputation.
So, here's the question, why won't Congressman Charlie Rangel just go away? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog.
BLITZER: All right. Jack, thank you very much.
The soldier suspected in the document dump, friends and acquaintances drawing a portrait of an isolated young man who struggle to fit in. We're getting new information on this private first class.
Also, an alleged cartel hit man is arrested and blamed for -- yes, 2,000 murders. 2,000. We're following his tracks through the streets of Juarez where the slaughter apparently never stops.
BLITZER: In a city where the killing never stops, he's blamed for more than 2,000 murders, including the slaying of a U.S. consulate worker. Mexican authorities this week arrested the alleged chief hit man for one of the bloodiest drug cartels. CNNs Ed Lavandera takes us inside the streets of Juarez, Mexico.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just minutes after crossing into Juarez, we hear reports of a new murder. In this modest neighborhood, we climb on to a rooftop to get a better view.
(on-camera): It's just after 9:00 in morning here in Juarez and already we're at a crime scene answering reports here of a woman has been executed in her home.
(voice-over): The woman was shot and stabbed in the head. It's a crime that will probably never be solved, and it's the kind of crime the Mexican government vows will end as high profile cartel leaders are swept off the streets. The latest arrest celebrated by the Mexican government is of this man, Arturo Gallegos Castrellon. Mexican authorities say he's the leader of a vicious street gang carrying out deadly hits for the Juarez cartel.
Gallegos is accused of ordering the murders of an American consulate worker, Leslie Enriquez, who is pregnant and her husband. They were gunned down in the middle of a busy street last March driving home from a child's birthday party. And in January, 15 young kids were killed in the middle of a party inside of this home. Crimes that have shocked even this murder ravaged border town.
LAVANDERA (on-camera): Arturo Gallegos was arrested in one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in all of Juarez. We'd like to take you inside and get beyond the security checkpoint, but this is as far as we can go. But behind this 10-foot cement walls and tall pine trees, you'll find mansions belonging to some of the richest people in this city. But Arturo Gallegos did not go quietly. (voice-over): A violent firefight erupted when hundreds of federal police officers converged on Gallegos. Authorities shut down four major roads surrounding the neighborhood. Gallegos was later paraded before the cameras. Federal officials in Mexico claimed Gallegos is responsible for 80 percent of the murders in Juarez since august of last year.
That's more than 2,000 murders, but not many people believe that claim, including the Juarez mayor.
The federal police have said that he was responsible for 80 percent of the murders that have occurred here recently. Do you believe that number?
MAYOR HECTOR "TETO" MURGUIA, JUAREZ, MEXICO: Well, I don't know. I got a doubt about that number. It's so high.
LAVANDERA: Arturo Gallegos is a mysterious and shadowy figure of the Juarez underworld. We came to Gustavo de la Rosa Hickerson to learn more about Gallegos. HIckerson is a human rights activist and a long-time critic of the drug cartels and corrupt police officers. He has many enemies and moves around with bodyguards. As we sat down to interview him, those bodyguards stood around us, machine guns ready.
Hickerson tells me that Gallegos didn't take the usual path to become a hit man. They're often plucked from the police force. He says Gallegos started as a young drug dealer and quickly and quietly moved up to ranks to assassin. Hickerson says this is a big arrest but fears prosecutors will never convict him of murder.
LAVANDERA (on-camera): In the last 8,200 homicides, he says that they have less than 100 sentences for murder, 100 convictions of murder.
GUSTAVO DE LA ROSA HICKERSON, HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Yes.
LAVANDERA: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE).There's no justice here.
HICKERSON: In Juarez don't have justice system.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): And that is the problem as the murders keep piling up. No sense of justice. In the six hours we spent there, seven murders were reported across the city.
Ed Lavandera, CNN, Juarez, Mexico.
BLITZER: All right. A check on the day's top stories. That's coming up next.
Later, we take a closer look at the man suspected of giving all those secret documents to WikiLeaks, the U.S. army Private First Class Bradley Manning, his past life and current predicament.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Big day on Wall Street today. Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. What's going on, Fred?
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello again, Wolf. Hello, everyone. Well, the Dow soared 249 points. That's the biggest gain in three months. Analysts attribute much of the rally to an upbeat report out today showing 93,000 jobs were added to the private sector last month.
And President Barack Obama is imposing a ban on any new oil drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico for at least seven years in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said today's ban will allow officials to develop better safety procedures and conduct needed environmental studies in the Gulf. Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal, blasted the decision saying more oil companies will just head overseas to do business instead.
And this year's cyber Monday will go down as the biggest online shopping day in history with Americans shelling out just over $1 billion at 16 percent more than shoppers spent last year. The research firm comScore attributes part of the sale boost to have here (ph) than normal promotions and discounts this year. Wolf, did you partake?
BLITZER: I did not, but I think it's only going to get bigger and bigger every year.
WHITFIELD: I know.
BLITZER: As we all know. Thanks very much.
WHITFIELD: I think you're right.
WHITFIELD: All right.
BLITZER: A nation choking on debt. The bipartisan commission offering a prescription, but if Congress won't swallow that bitter medicine, how bad can things get for all of us? Standby.
And an isolated young man who struggled to fit in. We're learning more and more about the U.S. army private suspected of leaking thousands of classified documents.
Plus, imagine watching a future World Cup soccer match with life- size holograms beamed to your hometown stadium. Japan is promising that, but can it deliver?
BLITZER: It's called the moment of truth. That's the report issued today by the president's Bipartisan Debt Commission which warns that the country cannot afford to keep spending more than it takes in. The panel lays out some very, very tough choices, a mix of controversial spending cuts and tax changes that would slash $4 trillion from federal deficits over the next ten years. About 3/4 of the deficit reductions would come from spending cuts. The report proposes some $200 billion in cuts by 2015, and it aims to sharply limit health care costs.
The rest would come from tax measures including the trimming of tax breaks sacred to a lot of Americans. These include the deduction for home mortgage interests and the tax exclusion for employer paid health insurance. The plan would also raise the federal gas tax by 15 cents per gallon. Right now, only a handful of the 18-member panel are ready to vote for the plan, but if it is not adopted, it could still provide some guidelines for Congress to follow down the road.
But what if Washington does not take the very painful steps needed? Let's bring in Mary Snow. She's been looking into that contingency for us -- Mary.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, doing nothing carries risks with it and big risks. One fiscal policy expert we spoke with put it this way. If the U.S. keeps borrowing at the rate its expected to and nothing is done to cut the debt, there will be, in her words, a fiscal disaster at some point where everyone will pay.
SNOW (voice-over): As European countries are roiled by spending cuts to stable bankruptcy, the focus turns to U.S. debt, but the Bipartisan Panel Commission by the president warning if the U.S. does not put its house in order, the reckoning will be sure and the devastation severe. At stake, a national public debt of $9 trillion. Panel member, David Cote, the CEO of Honeywell spells it out like this.
DAVID COTE, CEO, HONEYWELL: So, to put it into perspective, if you had spent $1 million a day since Jesus Christ was born, 2010 years ago, you would still not have spent $1 trillion.
SNOW: While there's debate over what and how to cut to do nothing carries the risk of a collapsed economy requiring an international bailout like what happened recently in countries like Greece and Ireland. The question is, could the same thing happen to the U.S.? Even leading fiscal experts say it's impossible to predict, but --
MAYA MACGUINEAS, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: The whole world is watching right now. And the folks on Wall Street and who lending U.S. money from around the world are watching what we're doing and seeing whether we'll get our fiscal house in order.
SNOW: And Maya MacGuineas, the head of the nonpartisan committee for responsible federal budget says the U.S. doesn't have a lot of time to act. The risk is tied to U.S. dependents on foreign lenders, especially China. If those lenders don't see the U.S. as a safe haven, they could pull back.
David Stockman who served as President Reagan's budget director and has been outspoken on the debt crisis painted a dramatic scenario on "Fareed Zakaria's GPS."
DAVID STOCKMAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE BUDGET DIRECTOR: The worry I have is that we're going down the road to a global monetary conflagration, and if the sell-off in the global U.S. government bond market ever gets under way, it will be, you know, traumatic. It will be a real Armageddon situation.
SNOW: But Greg Ip, U.S. editor of "The Economist," says the rest of the world has no interest in seeing the U.S. collapse into bankruptcy.
GREG IP, "ECONOMIST" MAGAZINE: In the case of the Chinese, they're not buying the treasury bonds as some charitable act. They're doing it in order to, like, prop up the U.S. dollar so that actually makes it easier for them to export stuff to the United States.
SNOW: The bottom line is, it affects everyone. The U.S. -- the U.S. has to pay more to borrow money. That trickles down to higher interest rates for everything from mortgages, car loans, business loans, and ultimately, that hurts economic growth -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It certainly does. All right, Candy. I mean Mary. Thanks very much.
Candy Crowley is joining us now, together with John King. He's the host of "JOHN KING USA." That airs right at the top of the hour. Also, our chief political, our senior political analyst Gloria Borger. OK. Gloria, Candy and John, we're all set.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John.
BLITZER: OK. I know that. Let's talk to Gloria, you are first. This debt commission, they come out with their recommendations. We don't know if they'll get the 14 votes Friday needed in order for it to become legislation, but it does set the stage for the president of the United States to do something.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It does, and we think that they won't get the 14 votes at this point, Wolf. I was talking to somebody who's involved with the commission today. They said that it would be a moral victory if they actually get ten votes.
And, you know, they did get the two ranking people on the Senate budget committee today, one of whom is not running for re-election, I might add, Senator -- Senator Gregg.
But this could be a moment for leadership, and this could be a moment for leadership from the president of the United States. If you remember back to Bill Clinton, and we were all around when Bill Clinton lost the Congress in '94, and he went and gave his State of the Union speech. And he used it as a moment to kind of redefine his narrative to say, "Look, I understood what you spoke about in the election. I'm back. The Bill Clinton you voted for is back." And this could be a moment for Barack Obama to say, "OK, I heard you, and I'm going to work with these opponents." But we've never seen him defeated by a conservative group of members of Congress. His party lost, and so we really have no benchmark. We're not quite sure what Barack Obama is going to be like when he delivers the State of the Union.
BLITZER: We've been hearing about this problem forever, and it's been so hard to tackle. Why?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all because you need three politicians who are brave enough really go up against a lot of constituents who don't like it when you start to talk about specifics who don't care about their political future.
I mean, I don't see (ph) a picture of President Obama, unless he decides not to run, coming out and saying, "OK, I want to raise the Social Security age to 70, you know, over the years. I'd like to cut back on Medicare and maybe make rich people pay." I mean, it just doesn't flow.
And here's why it's so politically unpalatable, as per a recent CNN poll. What's more important to you, we asked: reducing the deficit or preventing cuts in Medicare? Like, I mean, look at those figures. Seventy-nine percent say it's more important to prevent cuts in Medicare, a huge spending expenditure for the U.S.
What's more important: reducing the deficit or preventing cuts in Social Security. Remember, "cuts" is sort of a broad word. No, 78 percent would rather prevent cuts in Social Security than reduce the deficit.
And finally, what's more important: reduce the deficit or prevent cuts in defense spending? A kind of a draw here, but nonetheless, those are the -- three of the big-ticket items, even though Social Security is kind of off budget. But nonetheless. And nobody wants to cut them.
BORGER: We want to reduce the deficit, right?
CROWLEY: That's right. And so that's what makes it tough for politicians. You need politicians with the courage of their convictions who don't care if they get re-elected again.
BLITZER: And how does the current debate over extending the Bush-era tax rates playing into all this?
KING: It makes the math even harder. Now, there are some out there who would argue cut taxes; you'll get economic growth. Sometimes that happens; sometimes it doesn't. George W. Bush cut taxes -- these are the taxes they're debating -- back in 2001. We had a tough economic stretch over that period of time.
The president's plan, if you're just $250,000 or below for families they kept their tax cuts. Taxes went up on everybody else. That adds $3 trillion to the debt over the next 10 years. Three with a "T" trillion dollars.
The Republican plan, which looks like it will carry the day, at least temporarily, extend all the tax cuts over a ten-year period. That's $4 trillion, Wolf, so if you try to reduce the deficit spending in Washington and then the long-term debt, which is an even bigger challenge, and you add $3 or $4 trillion, guess what? You've just made the math harder. And you've got to go elsewhere looking for the money which is to Candy's point.
And remember the last guy who went took everybody to Camp David and raised taxes as a Republican, George H.W. Bush, lost his job. Every Republican remembers that, so many Republicans -- not all -- and some courageous Republicans but many say no way. No tax increases on the table as part of any deficit reduction plan.
Liberals say don't touch Social Security; don't touch Medicare. If you don't have an open mind on those subjects, you cannot solve this problem, period.
BORGER: So where is the politician, to your point, who is going to be a leading indicator and a leader?
CROWLEY: Well, that's one, but you need -- it can't just be the president.
BORGER: Well, right. It's got to be more than the president. The president can set a tone in a way and try to do that, but it's got to be with some Republicans who are brave enough, and as we see, it only seems to be the people who are retiring.
CROWLEY: The majority leader in the Senate.
BORGER: It's not the people who don't want to retire or be retired.
KING: And they -- and they see a next cycle political opportunity. They view the president as weak right now. They view the Democrats as weak now. And the Republicans' short-term speculation is maybe more gains to be had, at least in the Senate in 2012. Maybe they get the White House in 2012. So the short-term calculation, as always, Wolf -- this is a bipartisan disease -- gets in the way of a long-term conversation.
BLITZER: All right. John will have much more on the top of the hour in "JOHN KING USA." Candy will have much more Sunday, I am sure, on "STATE OF THE UNION." Gloria, you're hear with us every day.
BORGER: I'll just have more.
BLITZER: You'll just have more. All right, guys. Thanks very much.
A young U.S. Army soldier who struggled to fit in, in every phase of his life, we're digging deeper into the man suspected of stealing hundreds of thousands of classified documents. And a grotesque piece of history as the sale of a presidential assassin's original coffin is up for auction. Stand by. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's get back to our top story: the WikiLeaks security breach. The damage enormous, apparently. The top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee saying he thinks the State Department right now, in his words, is more interested in damage control than in getting the problem fixed.
Congressman Pete Hoekstra called the officials from the State Department who briefed congressmen today arrogant. He also criticized the Obama administration, saying action is seven to eight months late, given that the leaks were first discovered so many months ago.
Today the president named a new point man at the White House to try to stop the release of diplomatic secrets. Strong words from Pete Hoekstra.
Meantime, the U.S. is weighing what action it might take against the founder of WikiLeaks, but it already has its hands on the man suspected of providing hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks. Brian Todd has been digging into the background of the suspected leaker.
Brian, what are you finding out?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the condemnation of the leaks and of the young man at the center of this is very strong, as you know. The chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, says the leakers may already have blood on their hands. Prospective presidential candidate Mike Huckabee says the leaker is guilty of treason and should be executed.
The chief suspect in these leaks is left to ponder all this from the solitude of a military jail cell as the legal machinery closes in.
TODD (voice-over): The young man suspected in the largest intelligence leak in American history was on suicide watch in a military brig but has been taken off it. That's according to a source close to Army Private Bradley Manning. So far, Manning's being charged with removing classified information from military computers and leaking video of an Iraq air strike to the WikiLeaks Web site. He hasn't been charged in the latest batch of leaks but is a suspect.
I asked the head of his legal defense fund if WikiLeaks has sent any money.
JEFF PATERSON, BRADLEY MANNING SUPPORT NETWORK: They have pledged to make a contribution to Bradley Manning's defense and I believe that's in the process of doing so, and I hope they come through with that. TODD: Still, WikiLeaks has not cited Manning as its source.
Before all this broke, Bradley Manning, according to friends and acquaintances, struggled to fit in wherever he went. Born in Oklahoma, his parents divorced in 2001, and Manning moved with his mother to her native Wales. He's described by friends there as a head-strong, quirky computer genius.
TOM DYER, FRIEND OF BRADLEY MANNING: He was the -- the small, kind of dweeby, pasty American with a very deep southern accent.
JAMES KIRKPATRICK, FRIEND OF BRADLEY MANNING: Well, if he didn't agree with something, he would not make his opinion known.
TODD: Manning dropped out of that school and moved back to the U.S. in 2005. He told others he drifted before being taken in by an aunt who's a lawyer near Washington, D.C. The aunt, who sources say helped Manning find his lawyer, wouldn't speak to me when I went to her home or when I tried to flag her as she drove away.
(on camera) Ma'am, ma'am? Hello?
(voice-over) Manning, according to friends, was gay and felt he was ridiculed in the military for it. In an instant message shortly before he was taken into custody, Manning wrote, "I've been isolated so long. I just wanted to be nice and live a long normal life, but events kept forcing me to figure out ways to survive, smart enough to know what's going on, but helpless to do anything. No one took any notice of me."
But someone in his unit did notice his behavior, according to his attorney.
(on camera) You indicated that they took the bullet from his weapon. What other behavior did he exhibit that led them to be so concerned about his health?
DAVID COOMBS, PFC BRADLEY MANNING'S ATTORNEY: Well, I've only seen very limited documentation of the mental concern by the unit, but his immediate supervisor did document prolonged periods of dissociative behavior, quite a bit of non-responsiveness from PFC Manning. And again, that progressed from the very beginning of the deployment and deteriorated somewhat towards the end of his time there in May of 2010.
TODD: David Coombs told me that, aside from removing the bolt on his weapon and sending him to a chaplain, Manning's Army unit did virtually nothing to help him. A Pentagon official would not comment on that -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian, thanks very much.
Joining us on the phone right now is Pete Hoekstra. He's the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, I understand you were briefed today. Did you get the answers you wanted? Are you convinced this problem has been fixed?
REP. PETE HOEKSTRA (R), MICHIGAN (via phone): Well, Wolf, we got the answers. I didn't get the answers that I was hoping for or expecting.
Over the last week I was very, very critical of the Department of Defense and the intelligence community and the creation of this database and how it was managed.
I was hoping that today when we got briefed they would have come in and said, "Hoekstra, you shot off your mouth too early, too quick. Look at all the controls. You know, we made a mistake, but other than that, we've really got a top-notch security system in place."
And really, Wolf, what I found out today, I haven't been critical enough of the Department of Defense and the State Department in terms of how they manage this database, who they gave it to, and the lack of security associated with it.
It was embarrassing. I was embarrassed for our country. And I'm worried about how many other databases that we have out there with sensitive information that may be compromised each and everyday.
BLITZER: So what I'm hearing you saying is that someone now could do what Private First Class Manning allegedly did, download into a thumb drive or whatever, a CD, thousands and thousands of classified documents? That could happen even as we speak? Is that what I'm hearing?
HOEKSTRA: I'd be -- I didn't walk out of that room confident that we have the security measures in place, and, you know, in cyber space today to protect classified information.
I also didn't see the urgency that I would have expected from the people that were briefing us to get this situation under control.
And the other thing that I didn't see today, I didn't see people stepping up and taking accountability, and responsibility for the lack of work that was done over the last year and the taking responsibility and kind of get after it saying, "Congressman, we see the problem. We are on top of it. It's going to take a little bit of time, but you know, we're working 24/7 to get this thing under control."
BLITZER: Congressman, if we can, we'll continue this conversation tomorrow. I really appreciate your calling us. Thanks very much.
HOEKSTRA: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Much more on this story and other top stories coming up right after this.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is standing by with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour is: "Why won't New York Congressman Charlie Rangel go away?"
C. writes, "Being in Congress isn't a finite term of public service. It's a lifetime identity with pensions, perks and pork. Kind of like royalty. But it's our fault. We keep voting them back in."
D. writes, "Charlie, you're like gum stuck on our shoes. You've had your day in the court of public opinion. Too much time has been wasted listening to your self-righteous babble. Take your generous government retirement, sit down and relax and watch the rest of us try to piece this country back together again."
Bob in Kansas City, Missouri: "Why won't he go away? Because he's like the rest of the long-term jerks. He's drunk with power and thinks the place won't run without him.
Gordon writes, "Warts and all, Charlie Rangel is my hero and not just for his Bronze Star of valor in the Korean War. When Bush sent our soldiers off to seemingly endless wars after 9/11, only Charlie Rangel had the political guts to say we needed to bring back the draft. Today, as our soldiers face the drama of third, fourth and more combat tours, Rangel's recommendation was right. His constituents know who he is and what he's done, and 80 percent still voted for him. Rangel should not betray their vote by quitting."
Rich in Texas disagrees: "I agree with Rangel. They should not censure him. They ought to throw his crooked ass out of the House."
Al in Cincinnati: "Better question: why doesn't the IRS prosecute this crook? If you or I evaded taxes for 17 years..."
Clark says, "His ego. But more importantly, why do his constituents continue to elect him and others like him? The rest of us have to suffer under the consequences of their lack of self-control and morals."
And Mike in St. Paul says, "He's a politician. You have to spray to get rid of them."
If you want to read more on this go to my blog, CNN.com/CaffertyFile.
BLITZER: Tough talk, tough indeed. All right, Jack, thank you.
This man's face may easily be recognizable these days, but there's been quite a bit of trouble with his name. A "Most Unusual" report on the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange. That's coming up.
BLITZER: Seems everyone is talking about Julian Assange these days but not necessarily all in the same way. The WikiLeaks founder's name is being pronounced in some "Most Unusual" ways. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's been like a drip, drip, drip.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: WikiLeaks.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: WikiLeaks.
MOOS: WikiLeaks, founded by a guy named...
LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Julian Assange.
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Julian Assange.
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, THE DAILY SHOW'S "COLBERT REPORT': Julian Assange. A man relentlessly committed to transparency, probably because his skin is see-through.
MOS: Occasionally, someone pronounces it wrong.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: WikiLeaks founder Julian A-saynge.
MOOS: But most of those who get his name wrong are doing it on purpose like Rush Limbaugh.
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: This is not the first leak from Julian Assange.
MOOS: Or Bill O'Reilly.
BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS CHANNEL ANCHOR: The sleaze ball named Julian Assange.
MOOS: Or Jon Stewart.
JON STEWART, HOST, COMEDY CENTRAL'S "THE DAILY SHOW": WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Assange. Shep, am I pronouncing that right?
SHEPARD SMITH, FOX NEWS CHANNEL ANCHOR: WikiLeaks and its founder, this man, Julian Assange.
STEWART: Ah, Assange. Thank you, Shepard.
MOOS (on camera): Now in one case, it wasn't the last name someone got wrong.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Because Jack [SIC] Assange has teased...
MOOS: Did she say Jack Assange? Because his first name is really Julian.
ROMANS: That Jack [SIC] Assange really could have anything even new.
MOOS (voice-over): So why does CNN business correspondent Christine Romans keep saying "Jack" rather than "Julian" Assange?
ROMANS: Because I got my haircut in Paris one time at a place called Jack Dessange, and I can't get it out of my head. I can't get it out of my head.
MOOS: A lot of pundits want Julian Assange's head and not for a haircut.
O'REILLY: And should be executed or put in prison for life.
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER GOVERNOR OF ARKANSAS: I think anything less than execution is too kind a penalty.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Assange should be assassinated, actually.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's pretty harsh talk.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I'm feeling very manly today.
MOOS: Through it all...
COLBERT: This time, Assange took a Wiki leak all over the State Department.
MOOS: ... we've wondered, what's a wiki?
ROBOTIC VOICE: Wiki.
ROBOTIC VOICE: Wye-key.
ROBOTIC VOICE: Wiki.
MOOS: In Hawaiian, the word "wiki" means quick. Note the usage when summoning paramedics in this film clip.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's all good. They're coming wiki wiki.
MOOS: "Wiki" also refers to a collaborative Web site.
The name of the WikiLeaks founder even crept into the White House briefing when press secretary Robert Gibbs flicked a spider, then transferred it to his microphone. Someone suggested a connection between the creepy crawler and you know who.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not worried about Julian Assange?
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Let me know if there's a bigger one (ph).
MOOS: What a tangled wiki web he weaves.
Jeanne Moos, CNN... STEWART: Why Assange, why?
STEWART: I'm sorry, Assange.
MOOS: ... New York.
BLITZER: And coming up, more fallout from the WikiLeaks, the release of those classified documents. John King has a rare joint interview with the spokesman from both the Pentagon and the State Department. Stand by.
BLITZER: It's the first night of Hanukkah. And here in Washington on the National Mall, they lit the national menorah. Let's watch a little bit as they go forward with this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A little windy on the National Mall, but to all of our Jewish viewers out there, happy, happy Hanukkah.
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Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.