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THE SITUATION ROOM
Iranian Warships In Suez Canal; Police Clash With Libyan Protesters; Borders Files For Bankruptcy
Aired February 16, 2011 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CANDY CROWLEY, GUEST HOST: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, demands for change are spreading and growing louder. New demonstrations from Libya to Bahrain. After the revolution in Egypt, how will the U.S. react?
Also fighter jet politics result in an unusual alliance. House Tea Party Republican then President Obama.
And Facebook is forced to defend another policy. This one played a role in Egypt's revolution.
Breaking news, political headlines, and Jeanne Moos are straight ahead.
Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Candy Crowley, and you're in the SITUATION ROOM.
There is fresh tension and new unrest in the Middle East on multiple fronts. We want to start with the Suez Canals. Two Iranian warships are expected to pass through it tonight on their way to Syria. Iran says it's a training mission. Israel calls it a provocation. The uncertainty sent oil prices soaring.
Meanwhile, In Libya, police clashed with about 200 anti- government protesters demanding the release of a human rights activist. Several people were arrested and the government of Muammar al-Gaddafi responded by staging demonstrations in support of his 42- year rule.
But the biggest demonstrations right now are in the Persian nation of Bahrain, home to the U.S. navy's fifth fleet. About 3,000 people are camped out in the capital venting their anger over the deaths of two protesters in recent days. Bahrain's interior ministry says those involve in the deaths are in custody.
"New York Times" columnist Nicholas Kristof is in Bahrain. He had just interviewed Bahraini foreign minister, and we asked him about it.
NICK KRISTOF, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": This was an interview with the foreign minister. It's the same family, and -- I mean, the point that ruling family makes is change is an ongoing process and that Democratic reforms have been under way and will continue, but that is a long, long way from satisfying the demands of people here that are about where I am right now. We simply want this ruling family to step down and want very, very dramatic changes. Somewhat like saying (INAUDIBLE) Mubarak says that he is going to step down in September. People want much, much more than that.
CROWLEY: And do you get the sense that this is a growing movement? Can the same thing happen here that happened in Egypt?
KRISTOF: Right now, I'm standing in the middle of this roundabout, which is the Bahraini version of Tahrir Square, and there are so many more people than there were 24 hours ago. It's just enormous, but that's partly because the police have been pulled back. And so, right now, people don't feel that there is a major threat of an attack. It's a little unclear that standoff tactic is going to continue, and it may be if there's a greater threat that, you know, a lot of people will pull back as well.
CROWLEY: Would this demonstration have been possible without Tunisia and without Egypt?
KRISTOF: No, not at this scale. I mean, there are certainly enormous grievances in Bahrain that go back exactly for decades, and there have been protests in the past, but the people here have told me just how they were truly inspired by what unfolded in Tunisia and Egypt and that it sort of changed the sense of what is possible. I mean, the grievances are as it happened overall, they're continual, but the sense that people's nonviolent movement can actually overturn and entrench government, that really is new and that is legacy of Tunisia and Egypt.
CROWLEY: We know that the U.S. navy fifth fleet calls Bahrain home. What is the attitude toward the United States there on the street?
KRISTOF: The government is trying to whisper in America's ear that there's a danger here of fundamentalism, of Iranian influence protests that would be harmful to American or western interests, and I just don't see that at all. There are all kind of slogans here. None of them are anti-American. When I ask people about the U.S., they would like to see it (INAUDIBLE) but not very much.
It's not something that people are talking about. Essentially, their concerns are corruption, sharing political power, unemployment, and just resentment that's a way one family dominates this political and economic theme here.
CROWLEY: Give us a sense of the social dynamic that's behind this. Is it similar to Egypt, where you had well-educated middle class that couldn't find jobs? What's the social dynamic there?
KRISTOF: Bahrain is remarkably educated, and many Bahrainis have studied abroad, and that has created a large middle class that is deeply frustrated by the economic position, and it doesn't just want to compare itself to the way Saudis or Kuwaitis are. They don't want to have people dragged off to prison by the police. They want to vote in elections that really make a difference.
One of the differences is that there are women (ph) protesting here in Bahrain, and it actually quite surprised me to see the really large score of women. I spoke to a woman today who had been shot twice with rubber bullets and was hospitalized and came right back on the streets. Women are really very much a part of this moment.
CROWLEY: Nick Kristof, columnist for the "New York Times" just off an interview with the Bahrainian foreign minister. We really appreciate your time. Thanks, Nick.
KRISTOF: My pleasure.
CROWLEY: We want to dig deeper with CNN national security contributor, Fran Townsend. She is former Homeland Security adviser of President George W. Bush. She is a current member of the Homeland Security Department's External Advisory Committee. So, we look at Bahrain and it sounds like a little mini Egypt in so many ways. Here's a monarchy that's been in place for decades and decades.
The U.S. has a military strategic interest here in the navy fifth fleet, and all of these people seem to want him out. Are we once again -- it seems like we're now exposing things that people just sort of haven't even looked at for decades. Are we once again on the wrong side of history?
FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: I actually think Bahrain is somewhat different. There's a different dynamic. You've got have a Sunni-ruling family in a majority Shia population. They had, at least, an election back in 2005 for the parliament, and they've begun some reforms. You know, I've traveled throughout that region, and almost nowhere do you have a sense of more westernization and freedom than you do in Bahrain and perhaps Dubai.
And so, these have been grievances. There have been protests before. There seems to be, as Kristof as mentioned, new momentum behind this. I think that you get the sense that the ruling family is horrified by the murder of the two protesters. I think it's a very powerful sign that they've taken the police into custody. They say they have. We'll have to see if there's prosecution. I think this is a royal family that understands the need to expand freedoms and is ready to engage with the population. I wouldn't write this situation -- I don't think it necessarily has the same ending.
CROWLEY: It may not have the same ending, but a lot of people, you know, saying, listen, yes, we know what Bahrain looks like on the outside, has a lot of western influence in it, but behind that, there is a lot of poverty among Shia that the Sunnis -- it may be more reflective of something like Iraq where a minority elite was ruling a majority party here.
So, there clearly is some anger here, and I just wonder if people out there in the United States and everywhere sort of look at Egypt and say we were supporting this dictator for 30 years. Now, we're behind this monarchy that seems to keep a portion of its people down specifically because of their religion. Do we end up looking bad in kinds of situations?
TOWNSEND: Yes, perhaps. But I really do think, Candy, that the important thing here is we need to be advocates for fundamental values, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of press as opposed to picking sides. I think it's a dangerous game to be picking sides, especially in this part of the world. Although, Nicholas Kristof, says he doesn't see it now.
There has been a history of Iran trying to influence the Shia population in Bahrain, and that is bad for us if they choose to take advantage of the chaotic situation and assert their influence. And so, I think we have to be careful to advocate for values and fundamental freedoms as opposed to sides.
CROWLEY: I want you to standby because we want you to weigh in on another story and bring in our Brian Todd. Now, this is a story about an informant who supplied information used to justify the invasion of Iraq. He now says flatly that he lied. Brian Todd has been working on this. Brian, what are you finding out?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, as you remember, this man's intelligence was a pillar in the Bush administration's case to wage what turned out to be a devastating war in Iraq. When you look back to those days, a very intense debate, this latest admission is even more jarring.
TODD (voice-over): Just weeks before shock and awe, a definitive sounding statement from the Bush administration. It had sound intelligence that justified going to war with Iraq.
COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: We have firsthand descriptions of biological weapons factories on wheels. The source was an eyewitness, an Iraqi chemical engineer who supervised one of these facilities.
TODD: That source came to be known as Curveball. His real name, Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi. Now, he tells the British newspaper, "The Guardian," he made everything up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were all those things lies?
RAFID AHMED ALWAN AL-JANABI, "CURVEBALL" (translated): Yes.
TODD: Al-Janabi who also gave an on-camera interview to "The Guardian" was asked why he sold a complete fabrication to German intelligence.
AL-JANABI: I had to do something for my country, so I did this, and I am satisfied because there is no dictator in Iraq anymore.
TODD: But a journalist who's reported on Curveball's credibility problems says that, too, is a lie. TODD (on-camera): I'm speaking with Bob Drogin from the "L.A. Times." His newspaper broke the story and bob wrote a book on Curveball in 2007. He's joining us on the phone from Cairo. Bob, why did Curveball tell the story, in the first place?
BOB DROGIN, AUTHOR, "CURVEBALL": He told the story because he wanted to get out of a refugee camp in Germany. He wanted to get on the payroll of the German intelligence agency. He wanted to get his wife out and bring them to Germany, and he wanted to get citizenship, and he wanted a Mercedes Benz, and he got all of those things.
TODD (voice-over): According to intelligence sources, Curveball told the German intelligence agency before the war that Saddam Hussein had a secret biological weapons program. The Germans had reservations about his credibility. They never granted the CIA direct access to Curveball.
TYLER DRUMHELLER, FORMER CIA OFFICER: I asked the chief of German station here in Washington. He said, no, we're not going to give you access to it. Don't ask. It will cause too much trouble.
TODD: But the analysis of curveball's information did make its way through U.S. intelligence. There were tense internal debates over his credibility. Enough analysts thought it plausible that it made its way into Colin Powell's speech at the UN and became a key component of the Bush administration's case for a war that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.
TODD: And the key players in this drama still feel the sting of all this, responding to Curveball's admission that he lied. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell sent us a statement saying it's been known for years that Curveball was unreliable, but we should ask the CIA and other agencies why that wasn't put in their intelligence estimates before those estimates were sent to him and President Bush?
George Tenet, CIA director at the time says concerns about Curveball didn't get disseminated far and wide through the agency as they should have been, and that he wasn't alerted to those concerns. President Bush's office would not comment. We did not hear back from Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld offices or from the German intelligence agency -- Candy.
CROWLEY: And Brian, you picked up more on what Curveball has been doing more recently, which makes his credibility erode even more than it already is.
TODD: We sure did. Curveball went back to Iraq. He tried to run for parliament, but he was branded non-credible by other politicians there. He is now backed in Germany. Bob Drogin, that author, says he's had a series of jobs at places like fast food restaurants, but he's gotten fired from those places for lying.
CROWLEY: OK. What did they know that we didn't? Thanks so much, Brian Todd. We want to go back to CNN national security contributor, Fran Townsend. You know, this is my mind boggling. I think people looking at this will go, are you kidding me? I mean, this is a man that we took seriously. I don't have to tell you how many people. How did this happen?
TOWNSEND: Well, let's start with the bold statement of saying Curveball is a sleaze ball, right? We know that clearly now, and what resulted was the Silverman-Rod Commission. There was a commission that went in to all of the pre-war intelligence. What were the mistakes made? And there was an entire system now put in place to ferret out somebody who might intentionally have an agenda to lie.
The vetting of sources is different now. How we talk about the analytic judgments about credibility of sources is far more uniform across the entire 16 agencies of the intelligence community. I mean, our intelligence community is a result of this one individual really going after him. And we should be clear, Candy, his was not the only intelligence, but it was a critical piece.
And because he went about intentionally lying and deceiving the U.S. government, there's a whole set of policies that were put in place in our intelligence community to prevent that from ever happening again. And so, that's the good news. In the meantime, what he did is a crime. And frankly, my question now is why wouldn't the U.S. government try to prosecute him and extradite him to face charges here for having made false statement, intentionally false statements to the U.S. government.
CROWLEY: And just personally, and I know you didn't -- you know, this was not your bail away and you're here just trying to explain to us how this could happen, but isn't it just kind of nauseating? I mean, when you think what happened, how much credibility he was given, it just seems to me that somebody somewhere along the line, and there were people who said, wait, wait, wait, we think this guy is not credible, doesn't it just, personally, do you think makes you ill?
TOWNSEND: It absolutely makes my blood boil, which is why I think we ought to prosecute him because I think we ought to send a message to the world that when we find that someone has done this and we've made judgments based on those lies, we are going to pursue it to the ends of the earth to make sure that people understand they can't do that and get away with it. It infuriates me as I suspect it does many of our viewers, and I think we have to be seen as more than just sort of complaining about it. We ought to do something about it.
CROWLEY: And it's doable to do something.
CROWLEY: OK. Fran Townsend, thanks much.
CROWLEY: The Ku Klux Clan and a propose license plate that stirring up controversy for one possible presidential candidate.
Plus, thousands of people voice their outrage in the streets of Madison, Wisconsin. We'll show you what's going on.
CROWLEY: He's a familiar face here in Washington and a possible Republican presidential contender, but right now, Mississippi governor, Haley Barbour, is caught up in a controversy in his home state over a license plate. We want to bring in CNN's Mary Snow.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Candy, the controversy involves an effort to honor a confederate general who is a Ku Klux Klan leader. Governor Haley Barbour spoke publicly for the first time about a call to denounce the effort, and his answer has only sparked more anger.
GOV. HALEY BARBOUR (R), MISSISSIPPI: I've spoken here many times and over the years --
SNOW (voice-over): On the national stage, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour has had a lot to say as a potential contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, but in his home state, Barbour's comments were brief when reporters asked about a move to create a special license plate honoring confederate general, Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was a KKK leader and slave trader. The state's NAACP had called on Barbour to denounce it.
BARBOUR: I don't go around denouncing people.
SNOW: Barbour added there was little chance the state legislature would approve it.
BARBOUR: The tag is not going to happen. Isn't that what you asked me? Is that what you asked me?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what I asked.
BARBOUR: The answer is it's not going to happen.
SNOW: The governor's answer fell far short of what Derrick Johnson was looking for. He's the president of Mississippi's NAACP Chapter.
You've heard the governor's response, what do you say to it?
DERRICK JOHNSON, PRES., NAACP MISSISSIPPI CHAPTER: Well, I think the governor cannot tap dance this issue. If Mississippi is going to go out of its racial past, we have to address racial issues head on. Any time an organization such as the son of confederate veterans feel comfortable enough to pursue a state-issued license plate, it tells you something about the atmosphere and the political discourse in the state.
SNOW: The Sons of Confederate Veterans is behind the effort to honor General Nathan Bedford Forrest. Besides being a KKK leader, there is also controversy about an 1864 raid at Fort Pillow, Tennessee, whether Forrest condoned the killing of hundreds of black union army members. Greg Stewart of the group says Forrest is being unfairly maligned. He calls him a military genius and told station WLBT --
GREG STEWART, SONS OF CONFEDERATE VETERANS: If we can't hold him up to where he's supposed to be, then nobody else is going to do it.
SNOW: But already, more than 2,000 people have signed up to a Facebook stage stating we will not stand for the public glorification of one of the original leaders of the Ku Klux Klan.
SNOW (on-camera): We did reach out to Governor Barbour asking for an interview, but his office said his schedule was full today, and he was unable to speak with us -- Candy?
CROWLEY: Mary Snow, thanks a lot.
Another Facebook policy is under fire, and this one played a role in Egypt's revolution. It has the world's most popular social network on defense.
Plus, an amazing $50,000 shot or at least it was supposed to be. We'll explained what happened to the money.
CROWLEY: Big financial trouble for a big bookstore chain. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi again, Candy.
Well, the nation's number two book chain has filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Border says it plans to close about 200 stores and lay off staff. It now has about 650 stores and employs 20,000 workers. Border says it will close its worst performing stores and that other locations will continue to run normally. And you can find a full list of those 200 stores on our Facebook page, facebook.com/cnnsituationroom.
Bernie Madoff says banks and hedge funds were complicit in his multibillion fraud. In a jailhouse interview, the convicted Ponzi schemer tells "The New York Times," quote, "They had to know." He also insists his family did not know about his crimes. Madoff is serving a 150-year prison term in North Carolina.
And the royals, they are headed to Canada. Prince William and Kate Middleton will make Canada their first official foreign trip as a married couple. They'll visit Alberta, the northwest territories, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and the National Capital Region this summer. The Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Canada is delighted.
And check this out, at a minor league, hockey game in Indiana. You see it here. A fan made an incredible 175-foot shot for charity. He said he would give the $50,000 jackpot to a local hospital if he made the shot, but wait, wait, the insurance company that was supposed to pay the prize money is now saying that it won't. They say he released the shot past the designated starting line. The owners for the hockey team say that they will make a donation to the hospital, instead. It probably won't be that $50,000, but, man, what (INAUDIBLE) incredible shot can be.
CROWLEY: I mean, maybe all is well that ends well, but he was robbed. It looked good to me.
SYLVESTER: He was robbed.
CROWLEY: Still pretty good. Thanks.
House Republican freshman abandoned speaker John Boehner inside with President Obama on a major military spending bill.
Also, details of what brought thousands of protesters to Wisconsin's state capitol building.
Plus, a move to end military sponsorships of NASCAR. Now, the army is making its case to keep them.
CROWLEY: Some tea party House Republicans intent on cutting spending are siding with President Obama, instead of House Speaker John Boehner. They are voting to kill a controversial program to build an engine for a fighter jet. It's an unusual vote in more than one way. CNN's Lisa Sylvester has popped up again with some more on this story. What's this one about?
SYLVESTER: Well, Candy, you know, give credit to the new congressional freshmen class. They took on the seniors in the House, including Speaker Boehner, and they came out on top slashing millions and halting this defense program.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER: We're broke. We're borrowing 41 cents for every dollar that we spend. We're serious about cutting spending here in Washington. We're broke!
SYLVESTER (voice-over): For House Speaker John Boehner, the country has been living high on the hog, and now, it's time to cut the nation's proverbial credit card, but there are limits to his calls for fiscal restraint. Boehner voted to keep funding a pricey military jet engine that many, including the defense secretary and President Obama have blasted as an extravagant waste of money.
The new F-35 jet engine being developed by GE and Rolls-Royce promised to bring 7,000 jobs to Boehner's state of Ohio. He argued over the long haul having a competitor to existing engine supplier, Pratt & Whitney, would lead to savings. BOEHNER: I believe that over the next ten years, this will save the government money. But let's have the policy debate out in the open on the House floor and let the House work its will.
SYLVESTER: The house did vote today, 233-198, stripping $450 million in funding. Republican congressman Tom Rooney sponsored the amendment. He says it wasn't easy bucking his party leader Boehner who he considers to be a mentor. But policy trumped party. Rooney gives credit to a new class of congressional freshmen who, he says, carried the vote.
REP. TOM ROONEY (R), FLORIDA: I think that's what the election showed us in November, is that, you know, the people want change. You know, this alternate engine fight has been going on here for decades. And, you know, it's almost become part of the paint in these buildings. And, you know, for a freshman to come in here and pinpoint this as an example of the kind of cuts and waste that we're going to put on the chopping blocks is very encouraging.
SYLVESTER: Now Representative Rooney says it's typically tough to get lawmakers to cut defense spending, but he says today's vote should show that really nothing is off limits, Candy.
CROWLEY: These Tea Party freshmen are going to make life really interesting. Usually the budget we all sit there, but they're making it very interesting.
SYLVESTER: And you know what? I think we're going to see a number of these votes, these test votes to see how serious are they, really.
CROWLEY: And we'll be watching. Thanks, Lisa.
One lawmaker wants to use the budget act to cut sponsorship ties between the military and NASCAR. The National Guard, the Army, and the Air Force sponsor different big-name drivers.
Democrat Betty McCollum of Minnesota says the Pentagon has spent $100 million on sponsorships like those over the last decade, and she wants to ban them.
The Army says it alone got 40,000 recruits from the program. It issued a statement saying, "Prohibiting the Army the flexibility to invest marketing and advertising dollars in the second largest sporting venue in the nation would severely limit the Army's ability to reach its recruiting goals, maintain public support, and build for the future."
It is not every day you see thousands of people marching on the Wisconsin state capitol building, so these images certainly got our attention. These people are state workers and their supporters, and they're angry about a proposed change to their union rights. Mike [SIC] Trivey of CNN affiliate WTMJ joins us live.
Mick, what's happening here?
MICK TRIVEY, CORRESPONDENT, WTMJ: Well, Candy, this is a proposal that came out last week. We had a new governor that was elected at the end of last year. He took office in January. And he has proposed some pretty serious changes to the way the state deals with labor unions, and these people are really upset about it.
There are really three different components of this. The first one is asking workers to pay more for their pensions and health care. But the most controversial parts are that it would restrict bargaining with unions to only salary issues and not any other benefits. It would also prohibit the state from collecting union dues from members. That's a shot at the unions; it helps to undermine them.
CROWLEY: Mick, has the governor come out and said anything about this?
TRIVEY: Well, Candy, he did come out today, and he has been here at the capitol, as all of these protests are going on. This is really several days now of protests that have been going on like this.
He came out today, and he said even though there are a lot of very vocal opponents out here right now, he says there are as many or more silent supporters who are in favor of these union cuts, who are not here on the capitol. People who he says are off at work and doing other things where they can't be here to voice their support.
You know, for the Republicans here in Wisconsin, this has really become an issue of needing to save costs, where they say these cuts need to happen in order to try and balance our state budget. Certainly, Wisconsin is like many states where there is a serious budget deficit problem here. The governor has said he doesn't see any option to these proposals.
CROWLEY: Mick Trivey of our CNN affiliate, WTMJ, thank you so much for your time on this one. You all are having budget fights much the same way as the federal government is. We appreciate it.
Fighting words from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. He tells Democrats and Republicans it's time to put up or shut up when it comes to fiscal reform. But what he wants to reform is bound to make a lot of people upset.
Also the U.S. is taking action after an American immigration official is gunned down in Mexico. Details after the break.
CROWLEY: Three powerful federal agencies are joining forces to investigate the killing of a U.S. immigration agent in Mexico. The FBI, Homeland Security and Justice Departments will work with Mexico to find the gunman who opened fire on Jaime Zapata and another ICE agent as they drove on a busy Mexican highway.
CNN'S homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, joins us now with the latest. JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Candy, no arrests yet in the shootings of the two immigration and customs enforcement agents. And no clear picture yet of exactly what happened and why they were shot.
MESERVE (voice-over): The SUV in which two ICE agents were traveling on the side of a Mexican highway. After it was stopped and they were shot. ICE Agent Jaime Zapata was killed. The second agent, wounded, has now been released from the hospital.
In an interview with CNN, the Mexican ambassador to the U.S. says it is still not clear who did this. And he cannot guarantee they will be found.
ARTURO SARUKHAM, MEXICAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: I would never say something as bold as that because I do not have a crystal ball, but what I will say is that Mexican law enforcement authorities and the Mexican government will do anything and everything in their -- in their power to find these individuals and swiftly bring them to justice.
MESERVE: The two Americans were among 30 or so ICE agents permanently stationed in Mexico City to investigate trafficking of drugs, weapons, money and people.
According to sources familiar with the investigation, they had traveled to Monterrey, Mexico, to deliver equipment to police and were on their way back when they were either stopped at a fake road block or forced off the road by a group of gunmen. Mexican cartels, including La Familia and the Zetas have recently brought violence in this part of Mexico, vying for control of critical drug routes to the U.S.
One source says the agents may have been mistaken for a Mexican federal police official who drives the same kind of car. Others say the attackers could have been after the armored SUV. Another possibility: the agents were targeted. The implications of that could be grim.
SARUKHAM: I think it's a serious escalation of the willingness of these syndicates to push back, not only against the Mexican government's efforts to shut them down, but to the very important and very productive corporation that we have unleashed with the United States.
MESERVE: Because this happened on Mexican soil, the Mexican government will lead this investigation, but the ambassador says there will be full cooperation and information sharing with the U.S. He says in the fight against the cartels, the U.S. and Mexico will either succeed together or fail together.
But here's an interesting fact: according to ICE, the Mexican government does not authorize U.S. law enforcement to carry weapons in Mexico -- Candy.
CROWLEY: So they weren't armed?
MESERVE: I've asked that question. I have not gotten a definitive answer. What I'm told is Mexico doesn't authorize the carrying of weapons.
CROWLEY: Thanks. More to come, I'm sure. Thanks a lot.
Today is North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il's birthday, an event the whole country celebrates. The mood there was just -- a few months ago was very different. Tensions with South Korea skyrocketed over the North's deadly attack on a South Korean island.
Wolf Blitzer got the rare opportunity to visit North Korea as the crisis was playing out. He went there with New Mexico's governor at the time, Bill Richardson, who was headed to Pyongyang on a mission to diffuse the crisis that put North and South Korea on the brink of war. Take a look.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): This is a place few outsiders have ever seen. At first glance it looks like any other major city. High-rise buildings, kids playing, couples strolling, people jamming into street trolleys, wide roads with traffic cops, male and female. But this is no ordinary city. This is Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. And we're heading there during one of the most dangerous times in its history.
We land in North Korea late in the afternoon on Thursday, December 16. The North Koreans take us into a room and confiscate our passports and cell phones. On the trip with me, Governor Bill Richardson and four aides.
BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW MEXICO: Whenever I go to North Korea, and this one was probably more apparent, you're constantly watched. Your rooms are bugged. Your telephone is bugged. They don't let you, like, leave the hotel. You have to ask your handlers.
BLITZER: Still, we have extraordinary access to a mysterious country that few outsiders have ever seen. We head to the foreign ministry.
RICHARDSON: This will be our first meeting where we try to ease tensions.
BLITZER (on camera): Ease tensions? Easier said than done.
(voice-over) That morning Richardson has his first meeting with North Korean officials. This one with Ryung Ho (ph), the new vice minister, who's their expert on the United States. He's a former North Korean ambassador in Britain who speaks English well.
CNN is allowed in at the start of the meeting, but then asked to leave. We go outside to get a flavor of Pyongyang.
(on camera) Here we are. This is Kiblesung (ph) Square. As you can see, it's really huge. It's magnificent, and they often have events here, which is totally understandable. These are all government buildings over here. This is a brisk, cold day on this Friday he in Pyongyang. But it's nice.
(voice-over) Our first full day in Pyongyang, but the next day will be critical. Richardson will be meeting with North Korea's chief nuclear negotiator, the man who invited him to visit this country, just as tensions on the Korean peninsula are mounting.
(on camera) The whole world is watching right now. One miscalculation could cause a full-scale war.
CROWLEY: This Saturday wolf Blitzer takes you inside North Korea. He, of course, traveled there, as we said, with then-Mexico Governor Bill Richardson as Richardson led talks with one of the most secretive nations in the world. So be sure to tune in Saturday at 6 p.m. Eastern for Wolf's full documentary, "Six Days in North Korea."
He was one of the first Tea Party favorites elected to Congress, and now Senator Scott Brown is revealing part of his painful past.
And should Facebook users be able to use false names? What if they're activists targeted by brutal regimes? Details of the latest Facebook controversy.
CROWLEY: One top Republican says it's time to raise the retirement age. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Lisa, we meet again.
SYLVESTER: Hi again, Candy.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie says it's put up or shut up time. He says the U.S. is teetering on the age of disaster unless the government addresses its fiscal problems. Christie says it's time for Washington to stop tiptoeing around cuts and entitlement spending.
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GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: What's the truth that nobody is talking about? 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. I did not vaporize into the carpeting, and I said it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SYLVESTER: Christie insists he is not running for president in 2012.
Senator Scott Brown says he was sexually abused several times as a child by a camp counselor. The Massachusetts Republican tells "60 Minutes" he was also physically abused by stepfathers. He says his mother and wife don't even know about some of the abuse. Brown says, quote, "That's what happens when you're a victim. You're embarrassed and you're hurt," unquote.
Ted Kennedy Jr. won't follow in his father's footsteps, at least for now. He tells "The Connecticut Post" he is ruling out a 2012 Senate run. He says he wants to focus on his family. Kennedy says he hopes to go into public service at some point. Some Democrats wanted him to replace outgoing Senator Joe Lieberman.
And Rahm Emanuel is offering as much as $5,000 to learn the identity of a foul-mouthed Twitter impostor. The account, named MayorEmanuel, has more than 25,000 followers. Emanuel's account, by comparison, is just over about 7,000. He says he finds the tweets funny, adding he'll give the money to a charity of the impostor's choice after the election if the mystery tweeter comes forward. And I think he will have some very choice words for that impostor.
CROWLEY: Rahm Emanuel has very choice words for a lot of things, so, yes, probably. Thanks, Lisa.
Now, Facebook's ban on fake names. We will tell you why a top Democratic senator wants the policy changed.
Plus, TV anchors behaving in a "Most Unusual" way.
CROWLEY: Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and other business leaders will reportedly meet with President Obama in San Francisco tomorrow. Details of the talks are not known yet. The meeting comes as Zuckerberg faces growing calls to make changes to his policy on fake identities. Here with the story, CNN Silicon Valley correspondent Dan Simon -- Dan.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Candy, when you sign up for a Facebook account, it comes with a simple understanding that you're using your real name. As you can imagine, it's a difficult thing to enforce, and it's never really become an issue until now.
SIMON (voice-over): As a company, Facebook has never been stronger: its valuation, 50 billion and climbing. It just announced exciting plans for a new headquarters, and the company has been widely credited with helping Egyptian activists overthrow a dictator.
MARK ZUCKERBERG, FACEBOOK FOUNDER: We started off as just this project in college, and we've grown a lot. It's always been our No. 1 goal, is just to serve people and help them share information and stay connected with the people that they care about. SIMON: CEO Mark Zuckerberg last year reflecting on the company's success. But Facebook has not been immune to criticism, especially over matters of privacy. Now it's having to defend one of its basic rules: no fake identities or pseudonyms. Though difficult to enforce, computer security experts generally regard it as a sound policy. But should Facebook allow for exceptions where freedom of speech isn't guaranteed?
Take the example of Wael Ghonim, the Google executive who emerged as the face of the anti-Mubarak movement in Egypt. In November, Facebook reportedly took down his government protest page, because it was determined he wasn't using his real name.
When Egyptian authorities determined Ghonim's role with the social networking movement, he was imprisoned for 11 days.
In a letter to Zuckerberg, Illinois Senator Richard Durbin suggested Facebook re-examine the no pseudonym policy. Quote, "I am concerned that the company does not have adequate safeguards in place to protect human rights and avoid being exploited by repressive governments."
While Durbin's sentiment may be well-intentioned, some worry about a slippery slope if Facebook began allowing exemptions.
HUGH THOMPSON, PROFESSOR: If you do allow exemptions, who decides who gets the exemptions?
SIMON: Colombia University Professor Hugh Thompson has co- authored four books on computer security.
THOMPSON: If that policy was relaxed, maybe a company could even go online, create ten profiles and fake users that never existed, and rant and rave about how great the company is, how great the product is.
SIMON: In a statement to CNN, a Facebook spokesperson writes, "Facebook has always been based on a real-name culture, and we fundamentally believe this leads to greater accountability and a safer and more trusted environment for the people, especially the hundreds of millions of children who use the service. There are lots of places to be anonymous on the Internet. But Facebook isn't one of them."
SIMON: So it appears Facebook is not going to budge on this one. They feel like changing the policy would do more harm than good. On the flip side, though, though it's an entirely different kind of service, Twitter, Twitter does allow pseudonyms -- Candy.
CROWLEY: It does, Dan. And it's just an interesting juxtaposition to see Facebook being asked by a U.S. senator to allow anonymity and, at the same time, you have Rahm Emanuel, also from Illinois, trying to figure out who's tweeting under his name. So, you know, there are two sides to this, but anonymity has been one of the things, I think, that's caused some problem on -- on the Internet. So we'll see how this all turns out. Thanks a lot.
"Broadcast News" and "Morning Glory" have nothing on these TV anchors. The drama on this new set was real and "Most Unusual." Hear it for yourself after the break.
CROWLEY: Sometimes how the news is delivered is the news, especially when anchors are ad-libbing in a "Most Unusual" way, sniping at each other. CNN's Jeanne Moos reports.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's February, the month for sending hearts and flowers, unless you're a TV anchor, in which case it's the month to belittle the guy sitting next to you at the news desk.
BELINDA HEGGEN, NEWS ANCHOR: What have I done? What have I done?
MOOS: She did it to the sports guy for Australia's Network 10.
MARK AISTON, SPORTS ANCHOR: Proudly showing off a little urn.
MOOS: Mark Aiston was talking about a miniature sports trophy.
AISTON: Belinda, I just can't understand how something so small can be so impressive.
HEGGEN: Well, Mark, you would know about that. Thank you very much.
Weather is next with Jane Reilly.
MOOS: Many folks assumed the worst. Those two have issues, but when the sports reporter tweeted his small willy response he linked to his blog, where he posted the video
HEGGEN: Well, Mark, you would know about that.
MOOS: And noted "just for the record, Belinda and I get on fine."
Meanwhile, Belinda Heggen went on Nova Radio and assured folks Mark is always the one making jokes, but this time...
HEGGEN: He just stepped right open into that, don't you think? I just had to lob it back.
MOOS: And speaking of lobbing, watch the snippy remarks going back and forth on Valentine's Day on "Good Day New York" between the medical correspondent and an anchor who doesn't seem to think energy drinks and soda are as bad as the doctor suggests.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Depending on how much caffeine is in there. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're all right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to move on.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You just decide whatever -- you decide whatever you want.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, doctor.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was a great event yesterday...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The equinox. The equinox.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you done?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
MOOS: But those were love taps compared to another encounter on the very same show years earlier.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's that?
MOOS (on camera): It was a classic case of on-air hostility, the standard against which all subsequent talent testiness will be judged.
(voice-over) The segment was titled "Landlords Versus Tenants" but turned into anchorman versus reporter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what do you want now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, if I have to teach you how to be a reporter, Ollie, I'll do that later.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why don't you do that later, Jim?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll give you lessons on how to become a reporter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll give you some lessons on how to be an editor, because I was your boss once.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you were and are no longer. How did that happen?
MOOS: It so happens that the cat fight was so memorable that just the other day "Saturday Night Live" reprised it all these years later.
BILL HADER, CAST MEMBER, NBC'S "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": I'm not going to take reporter lessons from a can of hair spray.
MOOS: This just in: anchor rancor.
AISTON: Something so small can be so impressive. MOOS: ... CNN...
HEGGEN: Well, Mark, you would know about that.
MOOS: ... New York.
CROWLEY: That does it for me. I'm Candy Crowley in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.