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Unrest Spreads to Libya; Big Picture on Mideast Uprisings; Does Christie's "No" Mean Yes?; From Transparency to Private Conversations; Sen. Brown Reveals Sexual Abuse; U.S. Tensions With Pakistan at a Boil; 'Incalculable Value' of Aid to Egypt; From Protests to Power?; CIA: Bin Laden Could Go to Gitmo if Caught; Armenian Gang Members Busted; Boxing Star Packed Punch in Senate Race

Aired February 16, 2011 - 17:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, GUEST HOST: Happening now, violence and defiance against the longest serving strongman in the Arab world -- Libya's Muammar Gadhafi is the newest target of unrest spreading across the region.

Plus, a political brawl over fighter jets -- why did the House speaker push so hard for a multi-billion dollar project that the military doesn't want?

And a lot of Republicans are refusing to accept his no for an answer. We'll tell you why New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, is generating even more presidential buzz right now.

Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Candy Crowley. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

It could be an important new front for the pro-democracy movement rocking the Muslim world right now. Libyan police clashed with anti- government protesters in the country's second largest city overnight. This kind of dissent is rarely tolerated by long time strongman, Muammar Gadhafi. The Libyan leader once was considered one of America's most dangerous enemies.

Could he be the next Arab leader to fall?

Our Brian Todd is looking into this new unrest.

So, boy, I mean it's hard to believe something could topple Muammar Gadhafi. That he's been there so long.

How serious is it?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, Candy, these protests in Libya do seem relatively small in scale. But we have obviously learned, over the past few weeks, how quickly demonstrations can snowball.

One of the protesters' demands in lib yes, the release of a human rights activist.

A source close to the Libyan government tells CNN Libya is not Egypt, this is not an organized revolution. But out of all these countries who have recently had protests, Libya is right between Tunisia and Egypt, where long time leaders, as we know, have just been tossed out. Libya also has an economy that is underperforming. And this is a country that has been living under the thumb, as Candy mentioned, of a well-known dictator, Muammar Gadhafi, for quite a long time -- Candy.

CROWLEY: How does Gadhafi compare to Ben Ali and Mubarak, the rulers who were forced out in Tunisia and Egypt, obviously?

TODD: Well, as we point out, he's been in power for longer than Mubarak. Gadhafi in power now almost 42 years. Mubarak had 30 years in power. A short time ago, I spoke to a Libyan expert from Johns Hopkins University. He said Gadhafi may be more willing to use brutal force to put down any opposition if he needs to.


PROF. MARIUS DEER, JOHN HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: Gadhafi has nothing to lose except his power and he's going to fight until the end. And he's very ruthless. His -- his record is a very bloody record in terms of quelling opposition and putting down people who protest against him.


TODD: Since 2003, Gadhafi has been more accommodating to American concerns about terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. But for decades, he was a real thorn in the side of the U.S., even before that infamous Lockerbie bombing in 1988 -- Candy.

CROWLEY: It was pretty clear what was at stake for the U.S. in Egypt.

TODD: Right.

CROWLEY: But what's at stake -- what are the U.S. interests in Libya?

We've been so alienated from them for so long.

TODD: That's right. And not many people in this part of the world know a lot about Libya. They obviously don't have the Suez Canal. But when it comes to oil, Libya is a far bigger player than either Tunisia or Egypt. Libya has twice the underground reserves of the U.S., but produces less than a quarter as much oil.

A new government more open to foreign investment could build Libya into an oil production powerhouse, although in the short-term, any unrest in Libya could put a squeeze on oil supplies.

Europe is Libya's biggest oil customer right now. U -- the U.S. relatively small customer. But, of course, the prices are all tied together. If the oil from Libya affects prices in Europe, they affect prices in the U.S., as well.

CROWLEY: Brian Todd.

We can't escape that it's all interconnected.

TODD: It is interconnected.


TODD: Fascinating stuff.

CROWLEY: Thanks so much.


CROWLEY: Checking some other hot spots of protest right now.

In Bahrain today, thousands gathered peacefully for the funeral procession of a man killed during unrest. The government says those who were involved in the recent deaths of protesters have been taken into custody. The king of the small Gulf nation is promising reform, but some demonstrators want the royal family removed from power.

Thousands also turned out in Iran today for the funeral of a man killed in anti-government protests. The Tehran government has cracked down on demonstrators and some lawmakers are calling for key opposition figures to be executed.

The Obama White House is keeping track of the big picture in the Middle East and noting that every country where we're seeing protests is a little different.

We want to bring in our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry -- Ed, what's the administration saying about the newest uprisings, which are hard enough just to keep track of it?

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is, Candy. You know, it's interesting, it was Jay Carney, the new White House press secretary, his first briefing today. And right out of the box, he said the president is watching very close these developments you were just talking about -- Libya, Bahrain, all through the Middle East, as well as North Africa.

But he was also very careful, Jay Carney was, to say what you just suggested, which is that, as the president noted at his news conference yesterday, there is not a one size fits all approach to these protests, that each country is different. And the administration is going to be careful not to dictate to each government about what to do here.

But by the same token, the administration is not shy about making sure to pass on some advice to these governments about ensuring the rights of the protesters.

Take a listen to Jay Carney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We need to do it in a way that reflects what we believe, what the president said are these universal values that each government needs to respect. And that -- those are freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of movement, freedom of assembly, freedom of access to information, the Internet in particular, and -- and to respond to those demonstrations in a non-violent way.


HENRY: Now, also, let's remember, the president was pretty blunt yesterday in telling the heads of these various governments that they have got to be careful to embrace change, not get caught behind the curve, if you will, of what's happening so rapidly in the Mideast and North Africa.

Now the president, yesterday at that news conference, never mentioned the name Hosni Mubarak, but maybe he didn't have to -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Ed, let me just push you to another subject, just because seeing Jay up there today in his first day as White House press secretary, what was the feel in that room?

He's a former colleague.


CROWLEY: It's not often we see a former colleague up there as one of the other guys.

HENRY: Yes. He talked about that balance and said he understands, look, the White House press secretary's office, as you know, is about equidistant between the Oval Office and that Briefing Room and the podium where Jay was today. And that's important because there's a balance in this job. And as a former journalist, he's going to have to feel his way in terms of how much he's going to help us, in terms of figuring out what's really going on inside the administration, while sill -- still trying to sell a message for this president.

The other interesting development today was that on the same day that Jay Carney had his first briefing, Bill Burton, who lost out, the deputy press secretary here, announced that he is going to be leaving the White House on Friday. He's going to be starting a political consulting firm with Sean Sweeney, another White House aide that's going to be leaving. Interesting. They'll will probably get some political consulting business here in Washington, but maybe Chicago, as well. They both worked for Rahm Emanuel, who is poised to, perhaps, become the next Mayor of Chicago. So they may be using those connections as well -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Lots of connections when you work in the White House.


CROWLEY: That's for sure.

HENRY: There's no doubt about it.

CROWLEY: Thanks, Ed.

Appreciate it.

HENRY: thanks, Candy.

CROWLEY: The House speaker insists he wants to cut spending.

So why did he push so hard for an expensive program that no one in the military wants?

Thousands of protesters march in Wisconsin's capital to defend the rights of state workers.

And Republican Governor Chris Christie is laughing off the persistent buzz that he's a presidential contender.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I threatened to commit suicide.


CHRISTIE: I did. I said, what do I have to do short of suicide to convince people I'm not running?

Apparently, I actually have to commit suicide --


CHRISTIE: -- to convince people I'm not running.



CROWLEY: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is telling Washington politicians that it's time to put up or shut up. The Republican rising star spoke here in Washington today. And the more he says no to the possibility of a presidential bid, the more some fans are clamoring for him to say yes.

Our CNN's Jim Acosta has more on Christie's big speech -- Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, he says he's not running for president, but it's unlikely Republicans will let them off the hook that easy. That's because there is a new situation coming out of New Jersey and his name is Chris Christie.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Conservatives are all but calling Chris Christie a Jersey sure thing for 2012.

CHRISTIE: I look at what's happening in Washington, D.C. right now and I'm worried.

ACOSTA: For starters, this Republican governor in deep blue New Jersey closed an $11 billion deficit in his own state budget without raising taxes. In a speech at a conservative think tank, Christie took a swipe at President Obama's recent call to invest in electric cars while the national debt skyrockets.

CHRISTIE: Ladies and gentlemen, that is the candy of American politics. Those are not the big things, because let me guarantee you something, if we don't fix the real big things, there are going to be no electric cars on the road.

ACOSTA: Christie, who sometimes pokes fun at his generous size --

CHRISTIE: Don't think I'm sleeping on some cot.

Take a look at me. You think I'm sleeping on a cot? No.

ACOSTA: -- has become a GOP heavyweight after little more than one year in office. Party activists cheered when he clashed with powerful teachers' unions and went toe to toe with a town hall heckler.

CHRISTIE: You know what, it's people who raise their voices and yell and scream like you that are dividing this country.

ACOSTA: Critics complain Christie is pushy. The governor responds now is the time for impatience. Problems like fixing Social Security, he insists, won't wait.

CHRISTIE: Here's the truth that nobody is talking about. You're going to have to raise the retirement age for Social Security. Oh, I just said it and I'm still standing here.


CHRISTIE: I did not vaporize into the carpeting.

ACOSTA: Christie wasn't among the potential White House contenders at last week's Conservative Political Action Conference, but got a shootout anyway.

ANN COULTER, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: Well, if we don't run Chris Christie, Romney will be the nominee and we'll lose.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello. The party is here.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ACOSTA: One potential hang-up for Christie might be summed up as the "Jersey Shore" factor.

Christie's response -- forget about it.

CHRISTIE: What it does is takes a bunch of New Yorkers, who are most of the people on Jersey Shore are New Yorkers -- it takes a bunch of New Yorkers and drops them at the Jersey Shore.

ACOSTA: There is one problem for Christieites -- he insists he's not running.

CHRISTIE: And I'm not stupid. I see the opportunity. I see it. That's not the reason to run.


ACOSTA: The opportunities are there. But when we asked a source close to the governor if Christie has set up a national fundraising machine or sent staff to early primary states, the response we got, Candy, was, quote, "No, no, no, no."

Of course, there really isn't any other Republican whose off to a flying start at this point, either, so there's still time to catch up -- Candy.

CROWLEY: I'm not so sure it's just his fans that won't take no for an answer here.

ACOSTA: That's right.

CROWLEY: But we'll keep trying.

ACOSTA: He could use Tony Soprano to whack all the speculation at this point.

CROWLEY: That's true.

Thanks, Jim.

ACOSTA: You bet.

CROWLEY: Meanwhile, the White House seems to agree with those like Chris Christie, who say that issues such as reforming Social Security are important, but how is it -- but how it is proposing some of these problems be dealt with is raising some real questions.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney addressed that concern today.


CARNEY: One of the lessons we've learned in -- in history -- in recent history, anyway -- about tackling these big, difficult issues is that it helps to have quieter conversations about -- about some of the issues, so that, as the president said, when an agreement is reached, first of all, we can get there, and then we all get into the boat at the same time, so it doesn't tip over.


CROWLEY: Bringing in now our CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger.

Many moons ago, I seem to recall a campaign that talked about transparency and having health care hearings in the open and not behind closed doors, now we're talking about Social Security quietly.


CROWLEY: Is this the transparency we were hoping for?

BORGER: Well, it's not transparency they have been talking about. You know from covering Washington a long time, as I know, that the only time these public meetings are held is when people want to position themselves or the outcome is already known. In this particular case, we have a very dynamic situation here.

I mean, remember back a year ago, and I know you do, because we were commenting on it at the time, when the president had that health care summit for like an entire 10 hours in which people postured, spoke about -- about health care reform and what came out of that? Absolutely nothing.

So this White House is saying that, look, you know, we have to have some private meetings actually to try to get something done. Well, lo and behold, of course, they do. Of course.

CROWLEY: Because actually -- you don't really want to see them arguing themselves into some sort of agreement is the bottom line.

BORGER: And they are not going to do it in front of us anyway so why not admit it, right?

CROWLEY: So maybe we can look at the positive side, and I'm never accused of doing this, but are they -- you know, could it be that both sides are moving toward some at least mechanism to start talking about this, or am I just Poly Anna?

BORGER: Poly Anna. Well, it's hard to know, Candy. It's really hard to know at this point. Both sides understand what needs to be done. We just heard Chris Christie talk about it, raising the retirement age for Social Security. We heard the president talk about it yesterday, maybe some kind of grand compromise on tax reform and entitlement reform.

But this is a new political world we're living in. The House Republicans know they have to do something on the deficit and entitlements. They are not quite sure, the leadership is not quite where their flock is going to be on all of this.

And this is a White House that sees itself as transformative. And so if you want to be transformative, then you want to take on the big issues. He didn't do it in this budget. But the real question is will they be able to do it before 2012, or does it have to wait until after 2012? And right now, Candy, they can't even agree on how to extend the funding for the federal government or how to raise the debt ceiling.

CROWLEY: The budget from last year.

BORGER: So they have to get through those things first.

CROWLEY: So, look, this is clearly legislative chicken. The Republicans are saying, well, the president is the leader, he should put some ideas out there, and put that big old target on his back. And he's saying, well, we all have to get together and see what we can agree on.

BORGER: In that boat.

CROWLEY: Right, all get in the boat together.

BORGER: Right.

CROWLEY: Do you think the Republicans have to come up with entitlement reform in some way, shape or some large package?

BORGER: Right. OK. I'm going to push the metaphor now to a ridiculous point, but somebody's got to row the boat, OK? And at this point, the president may have backed the Republicans into a corner.

Yesterday, they came out and said, you know what, we're going to do entitlement reform and they said -- they promised real entitlement reform. So within a month or two we're going to see exactly what the Republican budget, is and it could be a starting point for something real, or not.

CROWLEY: Quick, give me the odds that they will actually settle something on Social Security before the next election.

BORGER: Something small. Something small. Raising the retirement age over 10 years, say, but not -- I don't think a big thing.

CROWLEY: Not a big old comprehensive --

BORGER: Maybe, I don't know.

CROWLEY: Gloria Borger, thanks.


CROWLEY: One Pakistani official called it coldblooded murder. Ahead, growing outrage in the country over the shooting deaths of two people allegedly by an American contractor.

And three powerful federal agencies now joining forces to investigate the shootings of two U.S. Immigration agents in Mexico. We're getting new information in the case. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: A startling new admission by a prominent U.S. senator that he was abused as a child. Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown tells CBS News that he was sexually molested several times by a camp counselor. In the "60 Minutes" interview, Brown also details how he was physically abused by his stepfather.


LESLEY STAHL, CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: You tell us that you were actually sexually abused, more than once.

SEN. SCOTT BROWN (R), MASSACHUSETTS: Yes. Fortunately, nothing was ever fully consummated, so to speak, but it was certainly back then very traumatic.

He said if -- if you tell anybody, you know, I'll kill you, you know. I will make sure that no one believes you. And that's the biggest thing, when people find people like me at that young vulnerable age who are basically lost, the thing that they have over you is they make you believe that no one will believe you, you know.

STAHL: So you never reported it?

BROWN: No. My mom will read about it for the first time. My wife --

STAHL: Didn't even know.

BROWN: -- has read about it. No, no one -- I haven't told anybody. That's what happens whether when you're a victim. You're embarrassed, you're hurt.


CROWLEY: Scott Brown, who was elected to Ted Kennedy's Senate seat, writes about his childhood traumas in a new book. In a statement today, Brown says his book is about overcoming obstacles and he hopes people will be inspired by his message.

Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Lisa, what have you got?


Well, United Airlines says its fleet of Boeing 757s is flying again. The airline had grounded the 96 planes yesterday for unscheduled maintenance on their computer systems. Fifteen flights were cancelled yesterday, but they say flights were operating 100 percent normally today. The Federal Aviation Administration says the maintenance checks were related to a 2004 rule.

And beware of the Barney and "Sesame Street" lobbies. That is a warning from likely presidential candidate Rick Santorum for his fellow Republicans. The former senator says he tried to cut funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting but faced backlash. Some of the GOP now want to cut all funding to the CPB. In response, Democrats organized a press conference with some of the "Sesame" characters.

And Florida's governor is turning down $432 million from the Obama administration for a high-speed rail project. Republican Rick Scott says the government is, quote, "addicted to spending and that taking the money would be a recipe for disaster." Scott is the third Republican governor to turn down federal funding for high-speed rail.

And this is something that is always amazing to watch video like this. Take a look at it, a spacewalk outside the International Space Station. Two Russian cosmonauts were expected to spend about six hours on the mission. It is their second trip outside the space station in less than a month, and they are out there installing equipment for experiments on lightning and earthquakes.

Always like to see video like that, Candy.

CROWLEY: It's geeky. Always gives me goose bumps actually. It's amazing.


SYLVESTER: -- at the heart of it, got to be a little bit of a geek to like this stuff.

CROWLEY: Well, and it also wasn't always so --


CROWLEY: -- you used to see people wandering around --

SYLVESTER: A whole other world out there and nice to seat pictures being brought. Great what technology can do these days, Candy.

CROWLEY: Very cool, very cool.

Thanks, Lisa.

Rising tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan right now. We will look at anger of a U.S. military contractor accused of killing two Pakistanis.

And what if Osama Bin Laden were captured and there was no place to put him? We'll look at latest over the future of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

And find out why Israel says it's being provoked by Iranian warships.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CROWLEY: Heightening tensions this hour between the United States and Pakistan following the fatal shooting of two Pakistanis allegedly by an American contractor.

Our CNN foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty has the details -- Jill.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, you know, this is a dispute that neither the U.S. nor Pakistan needs right now, and it's reached the highest levels of government.


DOUGHERTY (voice-over): Aftermath of a shootout that now threatens U.S. relationship with a crucial ally in the war on terror.

This is the man at the center of the storm, Raymond Davis, an American working at the U.S. consulate in Lahore, arrested after shooting two Pakistani men to death. Davis claims he was defending himself against attempted robbery as he drove through the city.

The Lahore police chief calls it coldblooded murder. According to the police report, one of the victims was shot in the back, and each victim was shot five times.

The incident has set the already uneasy relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan at a boil.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Obviously, we're concerned about the loss of life. You know, we're not callous about that. But there's a broader principle at stake that I think we have to uphold

DOUGHERTY: The Obama administration says Davis has diplomatic immunity, and by international law should not be prosecuted in Pakistan, but the Pakistani government claims he does not have full diplomatic immunity.

The killings have enflamed many Pakistanis already angry over U.S. drone flights against terrorists that have killed civilians.

With a nod from the administration, Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who has a long relationship with Pakistan, flew to Lahore to, as he put it, lower the rhetoric. Kerry vowed the U.S. Justice Department would conduct its own criminal investigation if Davis is released. A U.S. official, however, tells CNN that does not necessarily mean Davis will be prosecuted.

Meanwhile, details about the shooting and about Davis' position at the consulate remain murky.

P.J. CROWLEY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: He has - provides technical services to the - a member of the administrative and technical staff of the U.S. embassy in Islamabad. I'm not going to go any further.


DOUGHERTY: Any further. So tomorrow, Thursday, the higher court in Lahore will be holding a hearing specifically on that issue of diplomatic immunity, and the State Department says the U.S. will present petitions that are insisting that Davis does have diplomatic immunity and that he should be released - Candy.

CROWLEY: Oh, heightened tensions for sure.

Thanks so much, Jill Doherty, at the State Department.

Now, to the revolution in Egypt. America's top military officer is warning Congress about the risks of reducing financial aid to Cairo.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen says it would be foolhardy to make quick judgments about the U.S. relationship with Egypt during this uncertain period.


ADMIRAL MIKE MULLEN, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: Our global commitments have not shrunk. If anything, they have grown, and the world is a lot less predictable now than we could have ever imagined. You need look no further than Tahrir Square to see the truth in that.

Foolhardy would it be for us to make hasty judgments about the benefits, tangible and intangible, that are about to be derived from forging strong military relationships overseas, such as the one we enjoy with Egypt. Changes to those relationships in either aid or assistance ought to be considered only with an abundance of caution and a thorough appreciation for the long view, rather than in the flash of public passion and the urgency to save a buck.

The $1.3 billion we provide the Egyptian military each year has helped them become the capable, professional force they are, and, in that regard, has been of incalculable value.


CROWLEY: So there is clearly a lot of uncertainty about how Egypt's revolution will play out long term.

Our CNN's Arwa Damon joins us now from Cairo.

Arwa, I know that a couple of the opposition groups met today as they sort of begin this march towards a new government.

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Candy, and they're calling it the National Salvation Council, that includes members of the Muslim Brotherhood, some members of opposition groups, though not all, and representatives of the various youth groups, though, again not all, bearing in mind that the demonstration does not have a leader.

Nothing much came of the meeting in terms of no concrete conclusions, but they were debating their various demands, and according to one of the Muslim Brotherhood members who was in attendance, they say that the current cabinet is simply an extension of the old regime. They want to see an interim cabinet put into place, and, more importantly perhaps, they're again calling for a mass demonstration on Friday.

They are saying that this is not only to celebrate everything that they have achieved so far, but also as a declaration and a warning that they will not relent until all of their demands are met. And, Candy, of course, those include various constitutional amendments, as well as an end to arbitrary detentions and human rights violations.

CROWLEY: You know, Arwa, so many things are now coming to light that happened over the course of that amazing 18 days, and some of them fairly ugly, and you are now, I know, on to a - one case that involves torture in one of Cairo's most famous museums.

DAMON: That's right, Candy, and this is a story of one young man that happened on February 4th. He briefly left the demonstrations in Tahrir Square. They were peaceful on that day, when he was picked up by the military police.

He says he was beaten, interrogated, and then he was moved to a location very close to the Hilton Hotel. That is just on the outskirts of Tahrir Square. It is where a lot of the media are based.

There, he was dragged down the road, which for some reason was empty of civilians and perhaps just had the military presence in it. He was again interrogated and beaten. Then, he was released, picked up by another unit, subjected to even more torture, and at one point they said they were going to take him to a hospital.

They put him inside an ambulance where there is a nurse but two soldiers as well. The beatings continued. At that point, he's driven to the museum.

This is the museum that is in Tahrir Square. It is the one that - right out front. You have numerous soldiers. We see them acting fairly friendly with the crowd, but inside this museum he said that he was beaten until he was almost unconscious.

Human Rights Watch is raising quite an alarm bell about his story and various other stories of torture that are coming to their attention, saying that while at this point it is not systematic, it most certainly is worrying. They really want to see these types of cases, first of all, brought to light, but also, more importantly, to see an end to these types of human rights violations, something that is very critical if the military wants to continue to hold on to the goodwill of the people - Candy.

CROWLEY: Certainly, since the military were almost seen as the good guys in this, and certainly we're hearing a lot of bad guy stories recently. I know you'll be on this for us.

Thanks so much, Arwa Damon, in Cairo. A new crackdown on organized crime. This isn't the mob we're all familiar with. We will take you inside the big bust.

And a big protest and heated demands. This is not the Middle East. It's downtown Madison, Wisconsin.


CROWLEY: Rising tensions between Israel and Iran. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now - Lisa.


A provocation - now, that's what Israel calls plans for two Iranian warships to pass through the Suez Canal on the way to Syria. Israeli officials say the move shows insolence and self-confidence. Iran says this is a training mission for navy cadets to defend cargo ships and oil tankers.

In West Virginia, three deputy U.S. Marshals were shot while serving an arrest warrant. Officials confirmed that one of those deputies has died from his injuries. Another is still recovering, and the third one has been released.

They were serving a warrant at a man's home for drug-related charges.

And a federal court has sentenced a pirate to nearly 34 years in prison. The Somali man pleaded guilty to the 2009 hijacking of a U.S. flagship and for taking the captain hostage. He says he's sorry and wants forgiveness.

The attack happened near the Horn of Africa. Navy Seals rescued the captain, Richard Phillips - Candy.

CROWLEY: Thirty-four years seems like such a random number, like 35 or 30. Thirty-four somehow strikes me as random, but, nonetheless.

Thanks, Lisa.

The CIA director is now weighing in on what would happen to Osama Bin Laden and other suspected terrorists if they are captured, but does it directly contradict President Obama's longtime promise to close Guantanamo Bay?

Plus, the House Speaker's push for an expensive military program despite, his pose (ph) to cut spending. We will tell you why.


CROWLEY: Is President Obama's longtime promise to close Guantanamo Bay now in limbo? Certainly it seems that way.

Joining us in today's "Strategy Session," two CNN political contributors, Democratic strategist Paul Begala and Republican consultant Alex Castellanos.

Let's just take a quick trip down memory lane here and see the evolution of the Guantanamo Bay policy. Take a listen.


OBAMA: This first executive order that we are signing, promptly to close the detention facility at Guantanamo, consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States.

Make no mistake, we will close Guantanamo prison, which has damaged our national security interests and become a tremendous recruiting tool for al Qaeda.

LEON PANETTA, CIA DIRECTOR: We would probably move them quickly into military jurisdiction at - at Baghram for - for questioning, and then eventually move them probably to Guantanamo.


CROWLEY: Now, "them" in this case is Osama Bin Laden.

That was today, Leon Panetta. What would you do if you suddenly caught Osama Bin Laden and some other top terrorists? We will probably move them to Guantanamo Bay.

So, we're a year past when the president said he'd close it. Is there any political harm to Guantanamo Bay remaining open? It used to be this was the symbol of American - you know, all the things we did wrong, and it sent all the wrong world to - all the wrong message to the Muslim world.

What - any - any blowback, or is it we're done with that?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, I still think it's still the economy, not Guantanamo. But coming back to that, the president was very clear about it. He's not been able to keep that promise.

There's a trope on the right, which you're probably going to hear from Alex, that, oh, that's proof that Bush was right. No. It's proof that the quagmire that President Bush got us into was even worse than we had thought. It's the nature of a quagmire. You can't get out.

It's completely Bush's fault. He took people, he put them in Guantanamo, then he tortured them. Because he tortured them, we can't prosecute them in a - in a court of law, we can't turn them loose, we can't send them to another country, because other countries don't want them. So it's - it's the nature of the quagmire that Bush has got us into, like so many other quagmires - the deficit, Iraq.

I'm serious. It's proof, actually, that, if anything, Barack Obama underestimated how terrible a president George W. Bush was.

CROWLEY: So no damage to President Obama, but all to President Bush?

BEGALA: (INAUDIBLE) get over -

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Very inventive, I think, explanation.

To his credit, President Obama, I think, since becoming president and signing that first executive order, has read the files, how dangerous some of these people are and apparently a lot of Democrats have, too, because it was, I think May 19th of last year that Democrats on the Armed Services Committee said let's not bring any of those people back to the United States ever, and Republicans joined them in that vote.

Political harm to Obama? It doesn't make him look like a flip- flopper. It does make him look weak, and the president needs to convey strong leadership.

CROWLEY: So what do you think politically speaking? Is this something that - and I think Paul is exactly right. People are worried about their jobs.

CASTELLANOS: (INAUDIBLE) damage but it makes the president of the United States look weak.

CROWLEY: Let me move you on to Jay Carney, first day. I don't know if you saw any of it, but it got me thinking, and we all went, oh, it's Jay Carney's first day. Does it matter? Does it really matter who the face of the White House is?

I mean, we all take notice because that's who most reporters talk to. That's their first port of call.

BEGALA: I think it matters, sure. I think it does, and I think -

CROWLEY: Can it -

BEGALA: I think as a full-time political hack (ph), I think it's really interesting and good that there's a former journalist there. Tony Snow, God rest his soul, a former journalist did a fine job for President Bush. He brought a different perspective.

I think Jay is likely to bring that kind of perspective. I watched. I thought he probably did a good job and god bless him. I was a big Robert Gibbs fan, too, even all the president hated him, it suggested he was actually doing his job if all you guys hated him. But I think Carney will do great.

CASTELLANOS: It does make a difference for an administration. He's the point man on the squad. He's the first guy I think often to take the bullet. He has to do some of the unpopular things to spare the president from having to get in the line of fire, so - and Jay Carney, an experienced hand. You know, he was on the Air Force One with George Bush in the middle of a crisis, knows how to handle himself there. Well versed in foreign affairs so I think it's a good steady hand there in the administration.

CROWLEY: And can you - can you wreck a president's chances about - I mean, I understand - I mean, I look back and there hasn't - there have not been that many journalists who have gone on the other side of the podium. I think Ron Nessen -

BEGALA: Nessen, right.


BEGALA: Nessen, Snow and (INAUDIBLE) -

CASTELLANOS: (INAUDIBLE). There are press secretaries that don't have credibility with the press. If you're not close to the president, if you're not talking to the president, if the press doesn't think you're communicating something from inside the Oval Office and you don't have that access, the administration can become disconnected from the press corps and they can turn into an adversarial relationship.

CROWLEY: Let me - you know, Chris Christie gave this big speech today and he's the big buzz in Republican circles, and I asked people to sort of look and say, well, what's trending now on the Internet, and what was trending was Justin Bieber's talk about the Canadian health care system and how he'd never become an American because it's so great in Canada. He was talking that he's pro-life.

I'm wondering how much the Internet scares old political pros.

CASTELLANOS: I don't think Justin -

BEGALA: You're a big Justin Bieber guy, I know. He's got the whole "Tiger Beat" magazines centerfold.

CASTELLANOS: I don't think he's going to win a Republican Primary for president, and I don't think, you know, at the age of 16, I don't think he's gotten his medical degree yet. If he did, he'd know a little bit more about the Canadian health care system.

You know, we're seeing the power of the Internet in so many different ways now. Look at it in Egypt -

CROWLEY: It's a serious question because this -

CASTELLANOS: By the way, that's how the Tea Party organized here, so whether it's in the entertainment business or whether it's in politics, people now have more information and power than they've ever had. That's why we're seeing this populist revolt that's worldwide.

BEGALA: Yes. I think it's a good point. We've democratized media, and I think that's a good thing, but occasionally it's a bad thing. But it's way more good than harm out of giving people a better platform to - to share their opinions, and in this case, of course, he's right. Canada has a much better health care system than - than we do. Canadians are happier.

CROWLEY: Begala and Beiber, there we go.

BEGALA: Yes. Well, you know, we're - we're very tight. I often walking down the street and am mistaken for Justin Bieber.

CASTELLANOS: The median wait in Canada for surgery is four weeks, Paul.

CROWLEY: Paul Begala, (INAUDIBLE). We'll carry this on in the Green Room. Thanks very much.

We are getting some new information from inside Bahrain where some of the biggest protests are playing out right now. Could it be the next domino to fall?

And he's the reason in large part that the U.S. went to war against Iraq. Now the informant known as Curveball is confessing his claims about weapons of mass destruction were a lie.


CROWLEY: Federal and local authorities joined forces today busting dozens of members of an Armenian gang in Southern California on a wide range of criminal charges.

CNN's Ted Rowlands is here with the details. Hey, Ted.


This was a massive bust. A hundred and two members or associates of the gang, Armenian Power, were taken down this morning in four states following a two-year operation called Power Outage. The FBI released some interesting video this morning. It shows some of the officers that went out on this assignment early this morning in the rain.

This gang has international ties and is allegedly involved in a lot of classic mobster activities like extortions, kidnappings for ransom, some - some drug running as well. But they're also accused of sophisticated schemes including bank fraud, identity theft and credit card skimming. In fact, one of the things they're accused is placing sophisticated credit card readers in retail stores and then using that information to steal people's identities and open up bogus accounts.

Clearly, they fancy themselves as gangsters. Almost all of them have nicknames, which are listed in the indictment. They include Capone, Thick Neck, and Little Mike.


STEVEN MARTINEZ, FBI ASST. DIR. IN CHARGE, LOS ANGELES DIVISION: Armenian Power's reach is global, meaning that their top echelon members maintain ties to their international counterparts dealing with high level Russian, Armenian, and Georgian organized crime figures based outside of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROWLANDS: Seventy-four arrested this morning. About 25 suspects still at large. The Feds say, Candy, that this is an extension of a concerted effort to wipe out organized crime.

CROWLEY: Wow. Ted Rowlands, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

The King of Bahrain is trying to hold onto power as pro-democracy fever takes hold in his country. I'll talk to a veteran reporter covering that unrest.

And we'll meet the international boxing star who's owed a favor or two by the Senate Majority Leader, and he's cashing in.


CROWLEY: A bit of political quiz. What does Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have in common with an international boxing star? A lot. When it comes to down to Manny Pacquiao, you may even say in some ways the senator is indebted to him.

CNN's Carol Costello joins us now with the details - Carol.


Manny Pacquiao is in town this week. And let me tell you, the man is a star. Yes, because of his boxing prowess, his upcoming bout in - in Nevada, and cash strapped Nevada has many there singing happy show tunes.

But Manny Pacquiao was more than a boxer. He's a politician who knows his way around - around Washington, D.C.


MANY PACQUIAO, BOXER: OK. Welcome to my town.

COSTELLO (voice-over): If you don't know this guy, where have you been? Pound for Pound, the Philippines Manny Pacquiao is arguably the greatest boxer in the world. He's rich and famous, worth by some estimates $70 million. And as it turns out, he's quite a force in American politics.

I was invited to ride along with Pacquiao as he made his way to D.C., at the invitation of America's Senate Majority Leader.

(on camera): So what are you going to do in Washington?

PACQUIAO: To meet Harry Reid - Senator Harry Reid.

COSTELLO: And what will you say to Mr. Reid?

PACQUIAO: Well, I'll just talk about politics.

COSTELLO: Will you offer him advice?

PACQUIAO: Yes. COSTELLO (voice-over): Actually, this is payback time for Senator Reid. Pacquiao campaigned for Reid when Reid was on the road to the tough re-election campaign.

(on camera): There are those who say that you are the reason Harry Reid won. Are you?

PACQUIAO: I help, you know, I help him a little bit.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: For me, of course, I was happy that he was there. But I'm kind of like Marlon Brando "On the Waterfront." I could have been a contender, you know? So it was a big shot in the arm for my campaign.


REID: Sure.

COSTELLO (on camera): It turns out there are around 80,000 Filipino-Americans who live in Reid's home state of Nevada. Reid won in November by 30,000 votes. Pacquiao's promoter says, you do the math.

(voice-over): That's great for Harry Reid, but what does Manny Pacquiao get out of it?

BOB ARUM, BOXING PROMOTER: Well, Manny Pacquiao now established a relationship with Harry Reid. And Manny Pacquiao is now a lifelong buddy of the Senate Majority Leader of the United States.

COSTELLO (voice-over): Did I mention Pacquiao was also a congressman in the Philippines? And like the maestro he is in the boxing ring, he maneuvered Harry Reid into something more than a public thank you.

REID: I - I forgot to mention that. He is going to the White House. He has a meeting with the president.

COSTELLO: Arranged for Filipino Congressman Pacquiao by U.S. Senator Reid. Now that's a knockout punch.


COSTELLO: OK. It certainly is. As Manny Pacquiao left Washington, D.C., so many people were trying to get pictures of him, there was a four-car accident.

Another tidbit for you, Manny Pacquiao's English improves if he likes the questions. He seemed to pretend to have trouble finding the words about what he'd say to Harry Reid when I asked him that question, but he had no trouble at all speaking English - perfect English, I might add, when I talked to him about boxing.

So, you see, Candy, he is a true politician.

CROWLEY: He really is. I'm going to say, I've had that happen to me many of times.

Thanks so much, Carol. Appreciate it.