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Are U.S. Military Engineering Secrets Falling Into China's Hands?; Islamic School Teaches Young Muslims to Hate America; Trump on bin Laden Raid
Aired May 11, 2011 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
American stealth technology left behind in bin Laden's Pakistan compound. Now, there is growing concern U.S. military engineering secrets are falling into the hands potentially of China.
Also, a rare look inside of a closed world. A strict Islamic school and madrassa where young Muslims are taught to hate America. The next Osama bin Laden may be among them.
And Donald Trump now is speaking out since first time he was the butt of joke at the White House Correspondents dinner. Now, he's talking about bin Laden's death and he says there's one thing he doesn't understand about the mission.
Breaking news, political headlines and Jeanne Moos -- all straight ahead.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Osama bin Laden's Pakistan compound wasn't just a hiding place. It was, in fact, al Qaeda's command and control center. A Senior U.S. official tells CNN data and documents taken from the compound show there was two-way written communication between bin Laden and other terrorists. And our sources are also saying that what's believed to be bin Laden's handwritten journal was also seized and it is being combed through right now by U.S. intelligence officials.
While the raid yielded a trove of treasure material, it also may have inadvertently leaked some of America's top military technology.
CNN's Brian Todd is working this part of the story for us.
Brian, tell our viewers what's going on.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're learning some incredible new detail on the classified stealth helicopters that were used in the bin Laden raid. And there are new concerns tonight that some of that technology may soon fall into the hands of the Chinese, if it hasn't already.
TODD (voice-over): In their haste to get out with the body of Osama bin Laden's, Navy SEALs detonate their disabled helicopter. But one crucial part of the chopper is left behind, largely intact -- the tail rotor assembly left outside of the compound's wall where it crashed.
Pakistani troops were seen hauling it away. Now, serious concerns that America's chief technological rival will learn some key secrets from the wreckage.
PETER HOEKSTRA (R), FORMER HOUSE INTELLIGENCE CMTE. MEMBER: We ought to just assume that the Chinese are going to get this technology. They're going to get it all.
TODD: Former Congressman Pete Hoekstra, who was ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, is certain the Pakistanis will share the technology from that tail section with their close allies, the Chinese.
HOEKSTRA: They'll reverse-engineer it. They'll have the latest technology at minimal cost.
TODD: Contacted by CNN, a senior Pakistani intelligence official denied a report that China approached Pakistan for access to the wreckage and said Pakistan would not make it available to the Chinese.
Aviation experts say they've never seen this kind of stealth helicopter in operation before. They believe it's a modified Black Hawk with a key component covering the rotor blades.
(on camera): This is key to making a unique stealth aircraft, right?
DAN GOURE, LEXINGTON INSTITUTE: This disc is unique to this helicopter. What you see here is a device that has two purposes. One, to reduce the noise from the rotor blades. But, secondly, also to reduce the possibility of it reflecting radar waves back to a missile attack that might be able to go after the helicopter.
TODD: Experts say the sound suppression technology makes distinguishable differences. We'll show you examples. First, what a standard Black Hawk helicopter looks like. This has a rhythmic kind of whoosh-whoosh sound.
Now, we'll show you what a stealth helicopter sounds like from an earlier test program. Experts say this sounds a lot more vague.
You may not be able to tell whether this is another vehicle entirely or helicopter, you may not be able to tell whether the helicopter is moving towards you or moving away.
(voice-over): Experts say that the small wings called stabilizers are also unique to this chopper. They are usually at a hard right angle. But these are angled off, analysts say, to avoid radar detection.
The Chinese have a huge interest in this technology. They are developing a stealth fighter jet called the J-20 which they've already test flown.
TODD: Contacted by CNN, a Chinese official here at Washington said he had no information on whether his government has tried to get access to the tail section of this helicopter. U.S. officials are not commenting on reports that they have asked the Pakistanis to give the wreckage back, Wolf.
BLITZER: We are also getting new details of the crash-landing that that stealth helicopter made in that -- at that compound.
TODD: That's right. A senior Pakistani intelligence official has told CNN that when that U.S. chopper crash-landed, they initially -- the local Pakistani military units, initially thought that it was one of their own assets that had crashed. They called all the military bases nearby. It wasn't until sometime later, this official says, that they were able to confirm that it was the presence of a foreign aircraft inside of Pakistan. Who knows when that was? The SEALs might have been long gone by then.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very, very much. Stealth technology, very, very sensitive stuff.
BLITZER: Al Qaeda is vowing bin Laden will not die in vain.
CNN's Stan Grant shows us where some young people in Afghanistan are being taught bin Laden's message.
STAN GRANT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here, boys pray early and pray hard. This is a rare look inside of a closed world, a strict Islamic school, madrassa, in a poor Kabul neighborhood.
Outside, the day is just dawning. But these students, some as young as 6, are already locked into a trance-like rhythm -- over and over, they recite the Koran.
"There is no God but Allah," they chant.
But there's another lesson here, a fierce lesson of hate. These boys' minds are poisoned against the United States.
Do they like the U.S.? No, they say. Should they leave Afghanistan? Yes, they say. We want our country to be peaceful. They are the devil.
"The Americans are making the Taliban and Afghans fight each other," this boy says, "and then they watch. When they see us fighting, Americans are happy."
It's a message they get straight from their teacher, the imam himself.
IMAM, OMER-E FAROOQ MOSQUE (through translator): God says we can never be friends with unbelievers. What do they know about our religion? We can never be friends.
GRANT: It's a chilling reminder that despite 10 years in this country and hundreds of troops killed battling the militants, the U.S. has failed to win the hearts and minds of so many. In fact, young hearts are hardened here, raised on anti-Western propaganda.
Here, the words of slain al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden live on.
"We can never be friends. Americans are doing suicide attacks and blaming Osama bin Laden," he says.
(on camera): For these boys, this is the only world they know. For many of them, it may be the only world they will ever know. They are not learning about math and science here. They are not learning about the world. They are learning only about one thing -- God, Islam.
IMAM: A child is like a tree. It will give fruit. When children come to see me, I train them the right way.
GRANT (voice-over): That way is the way of strict Sharia law. Those who are banned from the school, they told me women should be behind doors at home. To go outside without a veil, they say, is filthy.
They would fight for Islam. Indeed, authorities fear they are being trained to do just that.
Earlier in year, weapons, explosive devices, even suicide bomber jackets were uncovered. The previous imam is now in prison, linked to a Pakistani Taliban network.
The mosque is under constant scrutiny even if the new imam denies any claims the boys were being taught to fight.
These boys stand by the old imam as well. To them, it is an American conspiracy. What they say often sounds fanciful. What matters is they believe it.
"They kidnap mullahs and take them far away," he says. "I have seen on television Americans putting needles into the chests of people and pulling out the other side. That's what they are doing to mullahs."
Like children the world over, these boys like to play with toy guns. But war here is no game. The enemy is the United States and they believe God is on their side.
Stan Grant, CNN, Kabul. (END VIDEOTAPE)
BLITZER: Hard to believe nearly 10 years -- 10 years after the United States went into Afghanistan, thousands of people killed, a lot of them, 1,500 American troops dead, half a trillion dollars at least spent, these schools are still operating, teaching this kind of hatred of the United States. Ten years into this war, it's shocking stuff. What it says about the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan speaks volumes as well.
Let's bring in Jack Cafferty. He's got some other stories he is working on.
Related -- I'm sure shocking to you as well, Jack, that these kids are being taught to hate the United States and the public school, in the capital of Afghanistan, after all the United States has tried to do to help that country.
JACK CAFFERTY, CAFFERTY FILE: It's fairly predictable, I would think. Isn't that where Hamid Karzai and that Western friendly government holds (INAUDIBLE) -- we are never going to change those people's minds. That's not what I'm going to talk about.
Despite insisting that we shouldn't be, quote, "spiking the football" when it comes to the killing of Osama bin Laden, it looks like President Obama has decided to include the death of the terrorist leader in his narrative for his re-election campaign. Last night at a fundraiser event in Austin, Texas, the president talked about his usual campaign topics -- the economy, health care, new energy sources. He spent some of the speech talking about killing Osama bin Laden in Pakistan 10 days ago. It was the president's first political speech since bin Laden's death. And audience member at one point screamed out, "Thank you for getting bin Laden."
Political analysts believe bin Laden's death will give the president a fundraising boost -- just as his approval ratings have gotten a nice bounce. But will the magic wear off and his campaign being it the right thing to do?
The Obama re-election campaign could point to the bin Laden raid over and over again to promote the president's foreign policy and national security credentials, the very ones that a lot of people questioned less than two weeks ago. But the president has got to be careful, tread lightly. In yesterday's speech, he carefully credited the troops and intelligence officers for catching bin Laden, but critics of the president say that he has taken too much credit for the killing.
The question is this: Should President Obama use the death of Osama bin Laden as part of his reelection campaign message?
Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, thanks very, very much.
In the middle of a disaster, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers faces a grim choice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL PONDER, ATTORNEY FOR FARMERS: What we have is a situation that's -- some questionable moral ambiguity. You know, how do you choose one set of homes and livelihoods over another?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: But the choice was made and now, the Corps is facing criticism and a lawsuit.
Also, rape victims lash out at the Peace Corps. Former volunteers say they were blamed and silenced. And they want Congress to do something about it.
Plus, Donald Trump says there is something he doesn't understand about the mission that took out bin Laden. He is speaking out for the first time since he was the butt of jokes at the White House Correspondents dinner.
BLITZER: Mississippi River flood waters are reaching historic levels as they move South. The river has already topped a previous record of 58 feet in Natchez, Mississippi. It's expected to crest there 10 days from now to 64 feet. That's 16 feet above flood stage.
The unfolding disaster has the Army Corps of Engineers back on the spotlight, which hasn't always been flattering.
CNN's Casey Wian takes us in depth.
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Major General Michael Walsh of the Army Corps of Engineers made the most controversial call yet in response to the historic flood along the Mississippi River.
He ordered Missouri's Bird's Point Levee blown up, diverting water away from several towns, but flooding 130,000 acres of farmland, wiping out an estimated $300 million in crops.
BRYAN FRAZIER, FARMER: Sick to your stomach. And farm is all I ever have done.
MAJ. GEN. MICHAEL WALSH, ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS: Certainly, I know many of the people who own land there and I was talking to them. And they understood the difficulty of the decision that had to -- had to be made.
WIAN: But the Army Corps now faces a class action lawsuit from farmers.
MICHAEL PONDER, ATTORNEY FOR FARMERS: What we have here is really a situation that's -- some questionable moral ambiguity. You know, how do you choose one set of homes and livelihoods over another?
WIAN: The Corps says it was a difficult decision and there were no good option.
JIM POGUE, ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS: Sacrifices are going to benefit hundreds of thousands of people all through this region.
WIAN: Congress gave the Corps that kind of power after the devastating Mississippi River flood of 1927 which left hundreds dead and at least 500,000 homeless.
GEORGE SILLS, ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS, RETIRED: The entire Mississippi Delta was under water at that time. And so, Congress did two things. They granted them the authority and gave them a mission to do flood control, but they also gave them immunity from anything that they do that's -- that happens to be wrong.
WIAN: Subsequent major floods in 1937 and thereafter brought criticism but nothing like the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In 2009, a federal judge ruled that the Corps' failure to maintain a shipping channel led to massive flooding in New Orleans.
JOSEPH BRUNO, ATTORNEY FOR KATRINA VICTIMS: They need to be evaluated, they need to be investigated. We got to make sure this doesn't happen again.
WIAN: The government has appealed the ruling.
Congressman Bennie Thompson was part of a congressional inquiry into the Corps after Katrina. His district stretches along 280 miles of the Mississippi and he met with Army Corps officials this week.
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D), MISSISSIPPI: Before Katrina, they were a closed operation, kept it to themselves. And that was an issue. But I have seen some effort on the Corps' part since then to reach out.
WIAN: Now, the Corps seems eager to show their worth as the flood of 2011 moves South.
(on camera): This is floodwater from the Mississippi River and one of its tributaries, the Yazoo River, which is expected in the coming days to overflow this levee. Now, what the Army Corps of Engineers has been doing over the past few days is laying nearly four miles of this polyurethane sheeting on what was the dry side of this levee. The idea is it will help prevent erosion from damaging farmland on the other side.
(voice-over): Working to save farms here -- farms there, gone. And more tough choices to come.
Casey Wian, CNN, Vicksburg, Mississippi.
BLITZER: Good report, Casey. Thank you. Horrific crimes committed against former Peace Corps volunteers while serving abroad. The victims tell their harrowing story and explain why they feel completely betrayed by Peace Corps officials. That's coming up next.
And, later, for the first time since the operation against bin Laden, Donald Trump is now speaking out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, REAL ESTATE MAGNATE: Now, enhanced interrogation, you know, we so politically correct. And nobody wants to say it. Nobody ever wants to use the word. Isn't another word for that torture?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The Peace Corps is known for exporting American altruism and volunteers around the world on humanitarian projects. But on Capitol Hill today, rape victims portrayed a very different Peace Corps, one that was indifferent, even hostile to their plights.
Our congressional correspondent Kate Bolduan is joining us.
This is pretty amazing stuff that happened today.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Amazing and shocking really, Wolf. As you just mentioned the Peace Corps is all about promoting peace and friendship ruined the world. But today, it was painted as an organization more concerned about its own reputation than protecting its own volunteers.
BOLDUAN (voice-over): Kirsten Conan (ph) was working for the Peace Corps in Niger in 1991 when her nightmare unfolded.
KIRSTEN CONAN (ph), FORMER PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEER: At some point, my sister left to go get something at the store. After she left, he raped me. And when he left he said he was going to -- he was going to go back and bring his friends.
BOLDUAN: But Conan says her experience after that seeking help from the Peace Corps was worse than the assault itself.
CONAN: I trusted the Peace Corps. I believed medical the Peace Corps. I believed they would take care of me. And they didn't.
BOLDUAN: Conan isn't alone. Between 2000 and 2009, more than 1,000 volunteers reported sexual assaults in countries around the world.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Men dragged me into an abandoned courtyard and the violence began. They started by raping me and they forced other objects inside of my body.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For the next 15 hours, he raped and beat me. For a long time I prayed to live, and after that, I prayed to die.
BOLDUAN: These women all say the Peace Corps blamed them, the victims, for the attacks. That's why they came to Capitol Hill, demanding change in how the agency protects volunteers and handles complaints of serious crimes, including murder, which happened to 24- year-old Kate Puzey.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the future, there will be another volunteer like my Kate who wants to do the right thing. Honor Kate's sacrifice by doing the right thing now so that future volunteers can serve safely.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have never been so incensed and so enraged at an agency.
BOLDUAN: Lawmakers outraged by the testimony had tough questions for the director of the Peace Corps who apologized and promised he's already making changes.
AARON WILLIAMS, DIRECTOR, PEACE CORPS: There's no need for one of our volunteers to feel unsafe in a situation. We have to listen to the volunteers.
REP. ANN MARIE BUERKLE (R), NEW YORK: So, can you tell us what changes have been made? Because we heard from a panel this morning that when they expressed their concerns to their superiors, they were ignored.
WILLIAMS: Well, I think, first of all, that we have established a policy of listening to volunteers.
BOLDUAN: Now, it may surprise you, but the women testifying today said that they still support the Peace Corps and its mission. They say they just know that Congress must now step in to mandate change, and Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams says some of the new measures already in place, that they're already working on, include more training for staff and more support and increased support, strengthening support, for victims, Wolf.
It was a really emotional and very difficult hearing to watch today.
BLITZER: I think that unless they fix this, they should just shut down the whole agency. It's ridiculous. Women, American women, go to these countries, they get raped and the Peace Corps does even do anything about it? This is -- this is out of the question.
BOLDUAN: Some of the members of Congress said the exact same thing, because of funding, the women sitting on the panel said they do not want Peace Corps to be shut down. They just -- it needs to be changed yesterday.
BLITZER: No one should serve in the Peace Corps until they fix this, and get security for these women that go on our behalf around the world.
Thanks very much.
BOLDUAN: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: After years in political exile, a former power player wants to make the ultimate comeback.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: There are some people who don't mind if America becomes a wreck as long as they dominate the wreckage. But you and I know better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Newt Gingrich announces he is running for president of the United States, but he comes with lots of baggage.
And Donald Trump is back testing the presidential waters, and he's questioning one aspect of the bin Laden raid.
Plus, a baseball legend and his secret ties to the FBI.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRICH: I'm Newt Gingrich and I'm announcing my candidacy for president of the United States because I believe we can return America to hope and opportunity. We, Americans, are going to have to talk together, work together, find solutions together, and insist on imposing those solutions on those forces that don't want to change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Newt Gingrich announced he is running for president of the United States. He did it in a way few ever dreamed he would do it when he was the Republican speaker of the House 16 years ago. He told the world on Twitter and YouTube that is the candidate.
Our national political correspondent Jessica Yellin is joining us now with more.
He brings a lot to the table, a lot of strong ideas, but also a lot of political baggage.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That it right, Wolf.
Newt Gingrich has been in the public eye for a long time. And in his announcement, the former speaker incorporated references to his time working with Ronald Reagan, the fall of the Soviet Union, and even the Tenth Amendment. Not the typical announcement, but no surprise really from the former speaker, one time historian, and perpetual ideas factory, Newt Gingrich.
YELLIN (voice-over): Newt Gingrich has been called the conservative movement's philosopher king, a bomb thrower, even crybaby during the government shutdown. His best known as architect of the 1994 Contract with America which helped propel the Republican Party to its first majority in 40 years and make him speaker of the House.
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Those of us who ended up in the majority stood on these steps and signed a contract.
YELLIN: Under his watch the GOP clashed with the Clinton White House over spending cuts, which led to two government shutdowns. To Gingrich's surprise, the public turned its rage on the GOP.
GINGRICH: It's very difficult to work with a president who seems to be primarily driven by his political advisers to engage in public relations stunts.
YELLIN: During the impeachment of President Clinton, then- Speaker Gingrich lashed out at the White House.
GINGRICH: What you have lived through for 2 1/2 long years is the most systematic deliberate obstruction of justice cover-up and effort to avoid the truth we have ever seen in American history.
YELLIN: What he didn't mention: at the time he was having his own extramarital affair with a Congressional staffer. He's now on his third marriage.
Ethics problems dogged Speaker Gingrich, and he resigned, leaving Congress in some disgrace. But then a comeback. Gingrich spent a decade writing books, opinionating on FOX News, and pushing his endless stream of policy ideas. Sometimes those ideas square with Tea Party values.
GINGRICH: I think that you -- you have to migrate to a system that is Social Security based on personal contributions.
YELLIN: But not always.
GINGRICH: In order to have an American energy policy we need to replace the Environmental Protection Agency with a new, fundamentally different environmental solutions agency.
YELLIN: Many Republicans acknowledged Gingrich the candidate has some big hurdles to overcome.
YELLIN: Now, Wolf, Gingrich is the first of the top-tier Republican candidates to actually get in the race. Keep in mind leading contenders like former governors Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty have only formed exploratory committees. Gingrich says he's running. Right now he has high name recognition, a vast Rolodex, and a passion for policy debate.
But Wolf, even some of his supporters question whether Newt Gingrich has the discipline it takes to run for president and win.
BLITZER: We'll see in the coming months how he does. Thanks very much, Jessica.
Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger. Gloria, I know you spoke to a lot of GOP strategists. What do they think of Gingrich's chances?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, they've known him forever, Wolf. Completely known quantity here. He's regarded as a man of a million ideas, and as someone said to me today, five of them are good; and he keeps throwing them out there.
So they think that he -- he's very much a virtue in the Republican Party, but as Jessica was pointing out, there's this question of discipline. Newt Gingrich can be very inflammatory. He doesn't like to, as one source said to me today -- he doesn't like to live in the shadows of the debate. He likes to live in the center of the debate.
You remember when Sonia Sotomayor was nominated for the Supreme Court, he called her a racist. He said she should withdraw her nomination. He loves to tweet. And, you know, sometimes the things are pretty inflammatory.
So they're worried about that. They're worried that he doesn't represent the new Republican Party, that he's been around for too long. And they also worry, Newt -- Wolf, they also worry that he's going to lecture people rather than listen to them.
BLITZER: How does he see himself?
BORGER: Well, I've covered him for a very long time. I covered him when he was actually speaker of the House. He views himself as a transformational figure in American politics. Ironically enough, of course, so does Barack Obama.
He does deserve an awful lot of credit for helping Republicans to gain control of the House of Representatives in 1994. They hadn't had control of the House in 40 years. So he kind of led them out of the wilderness, and I think right now, Wolf, that's what he thinks he's going to do again: lead the Republican Party out of the wilderness.
BLITZER: What's the biggest problem he's going to face?
BORGER: I think it's the discipline issue. I also think there's a personal issue here, as Jessica was pointing out. He's had three marriages. He had an extramarital affair during the Lewinsky issue, and that -- you know, that seems hypocritical to a bunch of voters. Will the social conservatives really go to Newt Gingrich? He's spent an awful lot of time in Iowa. Will he be able to raise the money that you need to raise to run for president?
He's very much a wild card here, though. He is going to make or break himself in this campaign.
BLITZER: Speaking of wild cards, Donald Trump.
BLITZER: He was in New Hampshire today, speaking out on the bin Laden mission. Let me play a little clip for you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, REAL-ESTATE MOGUL: We had a great victory last week with the killing of bin Laden. That was great. And enhanced interrogation really led us to that.
Now, enhanced interrogation. Another thing, you know, we're so politically correct. And nobody wants to say it. Nobody ever wants to use the word. Isn't another word for that "torture"? And you know what? The people that I watched jump off the World Trade Center, that was torture. OK?
So we catch this guy. They shoot him. Then they clean his body. They give him a religious ceremony. They take 45 minutes, they take -- why? I don't understand it. OK. I don't understand it.
And in terms of torture, in terms of enhanced interrogation, we wouldn't have caught bin Laden without it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Really the first time we've heard him in depth since the president made fun of him over at the White House Correspondents Association dinner. You know, you get the sense he's seriously thinking about throwing his hat in the ring.
BORGER: Yes. At least he's not talking about the birth certificate any more. Right?
He is seriously thinking about throwing his hat in the ring. I mean, he's talking about the issue of enhanced interrogation here. You and I have spoken about this a lot over the last week. It's clearly an issue that's not going to get resolved. The fact that Donald Trump is talking about it makes me think that, of course, it's going to continue to be an issue that's raised politically, because when you talk to people in the administration, they say enhanced interrogation or torture or waterboarding, whatever you want to call it, had nothing to do with the capture of Osama bin Laden.
BLITZER: Well, I will say this. We have a debate, a Republican presidential debate, in June, next month...
BLITZER: ... in New Hampshire. If Trump is here, if Newt Gingrich is there, it's going to liven up quite a bit.
BORGER: The more the merrier. I'm all for it.
BLITZER: We'll see how that goes. Thanks very much, Gloria.
The late George Steinbrenner, he certainly was a formidable force in Major League Baseball. But also a powerful source for the FBI. His secret chapter is revealed. That's coming up.
And later, a revelation from Bristol Palin. She looks so different these days. What's going on?
BLITZER: Just getting some new information in the -- from the Transportation Department about a surge in the number of reported errors in the sky. Our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, is working the story for us. What's going on?
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, there was a 50 percent increase in operational errors made by aircraft controllers in fiscal 2010. Now operational errors are when a controller allows two planes to get too close together.
The inspector general for the Department of Transportation wants to know why there has been such an increase, and he's going to launch an investigation, which is expected to take about ten months. Now the FAA contends that most of the inquiries is attributable to a new reporting system known as the air traffic safety action program. It's a voluntary system that lets controllers report errors without fear of punishment in most circumstances.
The system is designed to help the FAA collect more data to recognize safety trends and address them. This, of course, comes, however, on the heels of all those stories about sleeping or distracted air-traffic controllers, and we will see if the inspector general concludes that an inattentive work force had something to do with the increase, Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll see what happens. Nine months it will take to figure this out?
BLITZER: Long investigation. Thanks very much.
Newly-released FBI reports reveal a fascinating side of George Steinbrenner very few people knew about. The documents show the late Yankees owner secretly helped the FBI for more than a decade, assisting the agency in several serious investigations.
CNN's Mary Snow is in New York. She's following the story for us. So what do we know here, Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Really fascinating, Wolf. We know from these files that George Steinbrenner was linked to two cases. And a Justice Department memo states he provided the FBI with, quote, "valuable assistance."
It was part of an effort to get a pardon before a conviction over an illegal campaign contribution that the files were a source of embarrassment for the late Yankees owner.
SNOW (voice-over): The late George Steinbrenner had become a larger than life character far beyond New York as owner of the Yankees for more than 30 years. What wasn't known and what FBI files now reveal is that Steinbrenner assisted the FBI on national security cases.
What he did exactly is unclear since specifics on the cases were redacted in the documents. But it's a chapter in Steinbrenner that was life unknown to veteran sportswriter Bill Madden, author of "Steinbrenner Unabridged: The Last Line of Baseball."
BILL MADDEN, AUTHOR, "STEINBRENNER UNABRIDGED": I think the one thing that was a surprise was George the spy. George was a lot of things, and as my book points out rather graphically, he was a very complex human being.
SNOW: Part of Steinbrenner's story revolves around Richard Nixon. Steinbrenner was convicted in 1974 for conspiring to make illegal contributions to Nixon's campaign, which got him suspended from baseball for a period of time. The Yankees owner sought a pardon. And in making the case for clemency, his lawyers noted his cooperation with the FBI.
In one case he was said to allow an undercover agent to receive calls at his office over a three-year period. In another, his lawyers wrote, "Mr. Steinbrenner knows that he placed the lives of his family and himself in jeopardy through being involved in a terrorist matter. He knows he made the right decision because the agent stated this information was very valuable to the United States. It's unknown what terrorist matter his lawyers were talking about in the 1970s, and Steinbrenner's roles aren't made clear.
MADDEN: I would say that there's probably a very good chance that they were exaggerated. Remember, it's very hazy as to exactly what George was doing and how or when this was all going on.
SNOW: In the documents, Steinbrenner's lawyer also revealed that Yankees Stadium was offered to the FBI and the New York City Police Department in the mid-1980s. A gambling raid was in the works, and law enforcement needed a place to process hundreds of arrests. In the end, the plan to use the stadium was scrapped because of the weather.
(END VIDEOTAPE) SNOW: Now, Steinbrenner's first petition for pardon was denied in 1979, but President Reagan did ultimately pardon him in 1989. And we did reach out to George Steinbrenner's sons, Hank and Hal, who now run the Yankees, but a representative for them said they had no comment -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Did anything come of these FBI cases that we know of, Mary?
SNOW: You know, it's very vague in these files. But in one of the memos it does state that there was an undercover operation and that he had assisted the FBI, and it led to an arrest and ultimately a conviction.
BLITZER: Interesting stuff. Thanks very, very much, Mary Snow in New York.
A check on today's top stories coming up next. Then, Bristol Palin's new look. She responds to a report she had plastic surgery on her face.
And later, the controversy over Will Smith's movie trailer. We're going to tell why you New Yorkers want it out of their neighborhood.
BLITZER: A new sighting of the Libyan leader, Moammar Gadhafi. Lisa Sylvester is back. She's got that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM.
What's going on?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Wolf.
Well, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi appeared on state TV today. His first public appearance in two weeks. The video was broadcast as speculation about the dictator's fate intensified around the world.
Also today, NATO released this video of a precision air strike on a building in the besieged Libyan town of Misrata. NATO officials say Gadhafi's forces were using the building to attack civilians, and a rebel spokesman says opposition fighters have recaptured the Misrata airport, a strategic location that would provide access for humanitarian aid. But a government official insists Libyan forces are in control of the airport.
And in Syria witnesses are describing a nightmarish scene in the rustic city of Homs. Residents tell CNN security forces shelled the town, and gunfire rang out for two hours. There are snipers on rooftops and tanks in the streets. Human rights groups say hundreds of pro-democracy protesters have been killed since March. The government claims many security personnel have also died.
In Yemen security forces reportedly opened fire on protesters in two cities there today. Eyewitnesses and doctors say three people were killed and dozens were injured. A senior security official denies that. He says armed gangs were attacking civilians, and Yemeni forces were simply trying to stop those attacks.
And a deadly earthquake has hit southeastern Spain. The 5.3 magnitude earthquake struck today near the Mediterranean coast, about 200 miles from Madrid. Government officials say seven people were killed. At least one person died when a building collapsed.
And sad news to report from the world of sports. Former NBA player Robert "Tractor" Traylor has been found dead in his apartment in Puerto Rico. That is according to his team's official Web site. It says the 34-year-old athlete is presumed to have died of a massive heart attack.
And Sarah Palin's 20-year-old daughter, Bristol, is explaining a noticeable change in her appearance. Take a look here. A recent photo showing her face looking slimmer fueled speculation that Palin had plastic surgery. Well, she now tells "Us Weekly" that she had corrective jaw surgery in December. Palin says the surgery was needed to realign her jaw and her teeth. Pretty remarkable change there.
BLITZER: It looks like her jaw's not as robust as it was before, shall we say.
SYLVESTER: Well, I think it's pretty obvious. Anyone who looks at these pictures will know, you know, something was up.
BLITZER: She's so young.
SYLVESTER: Yes, 20 years old.
BLITZER: Why does she need that?
SYLVESTER: I don't know, I don't know.
BLITZER: She was adorable before. She's, you know -- I don't know. She's not improved much after that.
SYLVESTER: I heard that she likes her look so she's pleased with the work...
SYLVESTER: She was cute before.
BLITZER: A 20-year-old. Never mind.
Let's check back with Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question this hour: "Should President Obama use the death of Osama bin Laden as part of his re-election campaign message?"
Susan in Idaho writes, "No, this was not a political action. This was an end to a project begun by the Bush administration. What happens to the economy, jobs and our way of life ought to be the catalyst for re-election."
Paulette in Dallas writes -- Dallas, Pennsylvania, "Why not? He did get the job done within two years of being elected and without any loss of American life."
Bobby in Jackson, Mississippi: "It's national security and foreign policy all rolled into one. Nothing can be off the table in 2012, but I don't think they should overplay it."
Robbie writes, "No, but he will, and some media liberals are already proclaiming his god stature. This will be used to deflect from his inability to constrain spending, create jobs or reign in government and Wall Street corruption."
Randy writes, "No, he ought to get a jumpsuit and a 'Mission Accomplished' sign."
Gregory in Dallas: "The president can't run on his campaign promises or his record. Portraying him as a Texas cowboy gunslinger is rather absurd. However, 51 percent of the population will believe anything seen on television as long as you repeat it 24/7."
Pete in Florida writes, "Gee, should George W. Bush have strolled across an air flight carrier flight deck decked out in a flight suit just like he'd flown a mission against Saddam Hussein and proclaiming himself and Republicans as the only people who could keep America safe while conveniently forgetting that 9/11 happened on his watch and that he'd given up on catching bin Laden? Obama earned his tough on terror spurs. He has every right to speak of his success."
And Larry in Springfield, Ohio, writes, "He'd better. After all, it's only one of three things that he's gotten right since he was elected. Along with killing the pirates and picking the right first dog. He needed Ted Kennedy's help to get that one right. So yes, when a resume's that thin, you better use everything you can."
You want to read more, go to my blog: CNN.com/CaffertyFile.
BLITZER: See you tomorrow, Jack, thank you.
New details are emerging about bin Laden and his control of al Qaeda before his death. That's coming up at the top of the hour, on "JOHN KING USA."
But up next here in THE SITUATION ROOM, you're going to find out why this movie trailer has New Yorkers so upset.
BLITZER: Let's take a look at some "Hot Shots" coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.
In Greece, riot police patrol the streets after releasing tear gas during violent demonstrations.
In Jerusalem, a World War II veteran dances during a Veterans Day celebration marking the victory over Nazi Germany.
In France, a man wears a spacesuit during the Cannes Film Festival.
And in India, look at this. A young jaguar seen by the public at the zoo for the first time.
"Hot Shots," pictures coming in from around the world.
Movie star's trailers don't usually stir up controversy, but most trailers aren't as big as Will Smith's. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When actor Will Smith...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will, Will.
MOOS: ... takes a break from shooting the latest...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Men in Black."
MOOS: ... he retires to a gargantuan trailer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's bigger than my apartment.
MOOS: It is anything but trailer trash.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The most pimped-out trailer I've ever seen in my life.
MOOS: A second story rises at the press of a button. Check out the staircase.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's pretty hilarious.
MOOS: Couches, big screens, granite and marble. A satellite dish.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's awesome.
MOOS: One person's awesome is another person's...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Awful.
MOOS: And a few people said awful things about Will Smith's trailer to "The New York Post," which dubbed it "The monster that ate Soho." Well, if it ate Soho, better work off the calories.
Did we mention Will has a second trailer? This one's a gym.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shut up. Knock it off.
MOOS: We kid you not. There's a full gym in there.
(on camera) Can I work out?
(voice-over) Anybody home?
(on camera) I was going to ask if I could work out quickly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, you can't.
MOOS (voice-over): Most folks we talked to didn't begrudge Will his trailers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, he's the man, you know what I mean?
TOMMY LEE, ACTOR: What you doing?
WILL SMITH, ACTOR: You used to drive that old busted joint. See, I drive the new hotness.
MOOS: Actually, this hotness is called "The Heat" by its manufacturer, Anderson Mobile Estates.
(on camera) Forget Will Smith. The trailer's the star.
(voice-over) It attracted gawkers and stalkers.
(on camera) You came down to see the trailer?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, came to see the trailer.
MOOS (voice-over): But in the end, coverage of the naysayers...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This has just taken over the whole neighborhood.
MOOS: ... caused the city to order the trailer moved. Columbia Pictures said, "We regret any inconvenience. The trailer will be relocated to private property." Filming went on as extras gathered to shoot an Andy Warhol party scene.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a pretty sweet looking trailer, right? Where's my trailer?
MOOS: Don't expect to see this trailer in the trailer for "Men in Black 3."
SMITH: New hotness.
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you think about them moving your trailer? Come on.
MOOS: ... New York.
BLITZER: Always some controversy in New York. That's a big trailer.
Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.