Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
How President Obama Overruled Military Chiefs; GOP Curveball to Debt Limit Talks; Most-Wanted Mobster in Court; Selling Women For Sex; Interview With Congressman Mike Rogers; Two Men Charged in Alleged Plot to Attack a U.S. Military Facility in Seattle; Cindy Anthony: I Searched for Chloroform
Aired June 23, 2011 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Thanks very much, Brooke.
Happening now, President Obama promises U.S. troops he has their backs, the day after announcing his withdrawal plan in Afghanistan. But his top commanders are openly acknowledging, they were overruled on the pace of the pullout. They're hinting at problems ahead. Stand by.
An accused mob boss, a notorious fugitive, heads to court, facing justice after 16 years on the run. This hour, the fascinating true crime story of Whitey Bulger's capture, on what he faces now.
And a man behind a suspicious package scare over at the Pentagon now is charged with a series of shootings at military sites. Did federal authorities miss serious warnings signs that this U.S. Marine reservist was on the attack?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
But we begin with new reassurances today from President Obama that the U.S. military gains in Afghanistan won't be squandered as U.S. troops begin to leave. Mr. Obama visiting soldiers at Ft. Drum in Upstate New York, a day after explaining his exit plan to the nation.
Many Americans still have questions about the road ahead, the risk, the huge costs, and how the president made his final decision to withdraw all surge troops, some 33,000, by the end of next summer.
Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara is here. Barbara Starr is here. She's been working this story for us.
Two top generals were testifying on the Hill, including the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General Petraeus.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. And now, it is becoming increasingly clear, President Obama's decision on troop withdrawals from Afghanistan had political and economic considerations, military considerations were far from the only factor.
STARR (voice-over): Less than 24 hours after the president's announcement --
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace.
STARR: -- two of President Obama's most senior military advisers openly acknowledged the president overruled their advice about the withdrawal of 33,000 surge troops from Afghanistan by next summer.
ADM. MIKE MULLEN, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: What I can tell you is the president's decisions are more aggressive and incur more risk than I was originally prepared to accept.
GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, U.S. COMMANDER, AFGHANISTAN: The ultimate decision was a more aggressive formulation, if you will, in terms of the timeline than what we had recommended.
STARR: Petraeus made clear he told the president what could happen in the war if those troops are not there for next summer's fighting season. Is it a military problem? He suggests perhaps yes.
PETRAEUS: There is always a process of assessing risk, and it's typically, in a case like this -- as the chairman put it today -- risk at the margin. We're talking about small differences here albeit significant from a military commander point of view.
STARR: CIA Director Petraeus will have to develop a new confidential relationship with the president. So, there was this --
PETRAEUS: The fact is there's never been a military commander in history who has had all the forces that he would like to have, or all the time, with all the money, all authorities, and nowadays, with all the bandwidth as well.
STARR: And questions from a key Democrat who wanted even steeper withdrawals than what the president proposed.
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), ARMED SERVICES CHAIRMAN: You do feel comfortable implementing it and supporting it. Is that an accurate reading?
PETRAEUS: I would be a bit more qualified, Mr. Chairman.
STARR: If confirmed, Congress will be watching closely to see if the one-time commander in Iraq and Afghanistan can really leave behind a nearly 40-year Army career.
PETRAEUS: I wanted this job. This is something that was not a -- you know, a month or two or three in the making. Secretary Gates and I discussed this all the way back last year. I'm taking off the uniform that I have worn proudly for 37 years to do this job, I think, in the right way.
STARR: Now, Petraeus will become a civilian CIA director. But make no mistake: the joint CIA/military raid you saw on Osama bin Laden's compound is just one of the latest examples of the growing CIA involvement with military operations around the world, ranging from Pakistan to Yemen, to Somalia. This would be the new way, Wolf, of doing business in the war on terror.
BLITZER: And you had a little of that exchange between Senator Levin, the chairman of the committee, and General Petraeus. I guess the bottom line is: does General Petraeus fully support the president's decisions?
STARR: Well, he was asked that repeatedly at this hearing, and he kept saying a qualified yes. He says there is more risk than what he had proposed.
And Senator Levin, one of the most influential Democrats on Capitol Hill on military affairs, asked Petraeus if he would have even considered resigning over all of this. Even that that question is asked, Petraeus said essentially no -- you know, the troopers can't take off their uniforms in protest, neither would he. He said it would have to be extraordinary dire circumstances, but, Wolf, it's been a long time since we've even heard that kind of question raised.
BLITZER: Yes. In this particular decision, the president clearly sided with Vice President Biden, not necessarily with General Petraeus.
STARR: That seems to be the case.
BLITZER: We've been reporting that almost 24 hours. Thanks very much, Barbara.
We're going to have more on this story coming up.
Meanwhile, a top Republican leader in Congress is throwing a curveball at Vice President Biden and the Obama administration today. That would be the House majority leader, Congressman Eric Cantor. It's a new setback for talks aimed at raising the nation's debt ceiling with a little more than a month before a critical deadline.
Let's go to Capitol Hill, our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, has the latest.
This was quite a bombshell out of today. Out of the blue, a collapse of Biden's talks with the Democrats and the Republicans.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. These talks are now on hold. That's officially coming from the White House now.
Vice President Biden was supposed to be here this afternoon for a meeting. He didn't even show up after Eric Cantor, who is one of only two Republican negotiators, said he's pulling out.
BASH (voice-over): To the surprise of Democratic negotiators, Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor pulled out of the bipartisan debt ceiling talks, after what several sources tell CNN was a contentious meeting a day earlier over the issue of taxes.
In a statement announcing he's abandoning negotiations, Cantor said, quote, "Democrats continue to insist that any deal must include tax increases."
House Speaker John Boehner publicly backed him up.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I know the frustration that he feels when Democrat members continue to want to bring tax hikes into this conversation and insist that we've got to raise taxes on the American people.
BASH: Democrats say it isn't part about taxes, that behind closed doors, Republicans insist on cutting Medicare, but won't budge on eliminating tax loopholes.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: Yes, we want to remove tax subsidies for big oil. We want to remove tax breaks for corporations that send jobs overseas. That list goes on.
I don't know that that's a reason to walk away from the table when we're trying to find a balanced approach.
BASH: Bipartisan negotiators led by Vice President Biden have been working for nearly two months on how to reduce the deficit by trillions of dollars, a GOP condition on raising the debt ceiling. If that's not done by August 2nd, the Treasury Department says America will default on its loans.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: I think that, you know, we have to act like adults here. We have to do something, as Senator Durbin said, by August 2nd, and we're going to do something by August 2nd. But the Republicans should stop playing chicken and pushing is too close to that line. It's not going to be good for our country or the world.
BASH: Democrats claim Cantor, one of only two Republicans in the talks, did not want to take the heat for negotiating a deal rank-and- file Republicans may not like.
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Leader Cantor clearly got spooked by how this final deal has to come together.
BASH: In fact, in a quickly coordinated message, Cantor and other Republicans said it's now time for President Obama himself to do the negotiating.
BOEHNER: If we're going to meet the president's timetable to come to an agreement by the end of this month, that he needs to engage.
BASH: Now, in truth, Republican and Democrat sources, Wolf, have told us for some time that these Biden-led debt ceiling talks are probably only going to go so far before the president and the leaders in the House and the Senate actually take over. But the fact is this happened so abruptly, the fact that Eric Cantor did this, especially when you're talking about an issue that could potentially scare the markets is actually really surprising and causing a lot of intrigue and drama here in Capitol Hill.
BASH: And, of course, down the street, to the White House.
BLITZER: And we'll see what the White House does -- the president of the United States specifically, to try to revive these negotiations.
Dana, thank you.
Let's get to one of the America's most wanted fugitives right now. That fugitive captured. The accused Boston crime boss, James "Whitey" Bulger due in a California courtroom today. He and his girlfriend were arrested last night in Santa Monica, after 16 years on a run. Bulger was wanted on 19 counts of murder and a slew of other charges.
The notorious 81-year-old fugitive was the inspiration for the film "The Departed." We're total Bulger and his 60-year-old girlfriend, Catherine Elizabeth Greig, did not put up a fight when the FBI closed in. The Feds were acting on a tip they got shortly after launching a new publicity campaign aimed at finding Bulger and Greig. It's a story we've been reporting all week here on THE SITUATION ROOM.
Let's go to Los Angeles. CNN's Kara Finnstrom is over at Bulger's first court appearance outside the courthouse.
When is that actually supposed to start taking place, Kara?
KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, any minute now, Bulger and his 60-year-old girlfriend Catherine Greig are expected to possibly make that court appearance. It could be pushed into later in the day. But we're told to stands by, that it could take place any minute. We have a reporter inside the courthouse, who is continuing to update.
What we understand is the judge will consider whether to grand bond. And most don't believe he'll do so because of the flight risk here.
Also, Bulger could ask for a hearing to try to block his extradition back to Boston. If he doesn't request it, he would in most cases just by extradited because he would immediately on trial where his alleged crimes were committed.
Now, the big question everyone is asking today is how did this notorious crime boss on the run for 16 years ultimately get caught. What FBI agents are telling us is that it all came down to his girlfriend. They tell us, when their efforts to track him down weren't meeting with any success, they decided to create a 30-second PSA that focused on her and unusual traits, such as the fact that she's a dental hygienist who actually likes to get her teeth cleaned once a month. Also the fact that she loves animals and that she's had numerous plastic surgeries and frequents beauty salons.
They hoped some of these things would touch off a bell with different members of -- different folks who watch different audience -- different audiences, rather, I should say, of shows, where they felt there were large groups of women watching -- women that might frequent these types of places.
So, what we're told by agents is that that strategy worked. And on Tuesday, a tipster called them within 24 hours, they had made that arrest in Santa Monica. We did speak with two men who are from the Boston area who had moved across the country out here to Santa Monica about the surprise they felt when they found he'd been arrested.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY LEBLANC, BOSTON NATIVE: He's definitely a legend back there. I mean, you've heard all the stories, things he's done, and, you know, corruption and all that. But a lot of people said, oh, he's dead, maybe they don't want to see him get caught, he may take down the whole FBI if he starts talking.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FINNSTROM: Yes, we have started leafing through the 100-page or so indictment against Bulger and some of the other alleged members of his crime organization. It reads like a crime novel, with lists of different illegal weapons traced back to that crime organization, also -- you know, everything from racketeering to 19 different alleged murders, even details about bodies buried in basements.
So, this is going to be a long court proceeding. And what we're seeing today is just the start -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We just got the booking photo. I'd put it up on the screen, Kara, courtesy of our affiliate. This is an exclusive, WCVB. There it is, the exclusive of the two of them in the -- this is what they call booking photos. They're getting ready to go into court.
The tipster, do we know the tipster saying which show he was watching that gave that person the information that led to the police of going into the place in Santa Monica?
FINNSTROM: No. We did check with some of or FBI contacts. At this point, they're not releasing that information, just saying it's very clear that this tip is related to that PSA, which was seen actually in 14 different cities, including here in Los Angeles. They're not even clarifying that it was here in L.A. that that tip actually was passed along to them.
So, that will be interesting to see exactly what bit of information led them to him. BLITZER: And when Kara says a PSA, she means a public service announcement, which is what the FBI put out. He was the number two most wanted right after bin Laden. And now, he's in jail. His girlfriend is as well.
We'll have more on the story later. Kara, thank you.
We're also getting a new and rare look inside Syria, Damascus right now. The Assad government is trying to show the world a different view of the country than the deadly unrest we have been seeing now for months.
And gangs, they are open for business and allegedly branding prostitutes as their personal property. Stand by for an exclusive.
And very disturbing report on sex trafficking right here in the United States.
BLITZER: Hard to believe but in California police say gangs are selling teenage girls to make money. It's modern day slavery. The CNN Freedom Project is exposing the horrors of human trafficking in this country and around the world.
CNN's Thelma Gutierrez has an exclusive report from California where the police are cracking down on the people who allegedly sell women for sex.
THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Each day, this young woman we'll call Jessica spends hours on the internet posting provocative photos of herself and fishing for clients, people who would pay her to have sex.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mine used to say Latina, barely 18 years old.
GUTIERREZ: Jessica worked as a prostitute in the booming internet sex trade but she didn't work for herself. She says she had a pimp who set a quota of $1000 a day, money that took about ten dates to earn. Jessica told me that she was afraid of her pimp but if she didn't work she didn't eat, saying she once went five days without food.
JESSICA: I thought I was going to die of starvation.
GUTIERREZ: You had to work, not for pay but to get fed.
JESSICA: To get fed.
GUTIERREZ: Jessica is afraid to be identified because she says her pimp is a gang member. Two years ago when she was a 19-year-old runaway she says she became the physical property of a California gang where prostitutes, many of them underage, are often branded with tattoos bearing the gang's insignias or their pimps' names. Lieutenant Valencia Sadaat says law enforcement is beginning to look at prostitutes as potential victims of sex trafficking.
LIEUTENANT VALENCIA SADAAT: Rather than just focus on the women that are out here in the streets, focus on the reason that they're here, the people who place them here.
GUTIERREZ: Three warring gang factions in Oceanside, California, laid down their weapons to form what investigators say is a profitable business enterprise to traffic and prostitute women and girls throughout California.
SERGEANT ADAM KNOWLAND, OCEANSIDE POLICE: This is one of the biggest investigations we've had in Oceanside's history, actually.
GUTIERREZ: Sergeant Adam Knowland says Oceanside Vice Detectives led the 18-month long investigation into the Crips enterprise and found the business was moving away from selling drugs to selling women and the internet was their most powerful tool. This is new territory for the gangs.
KNOWLAND: Very profitable. If you sell your drugs you have to go replenish your supply. Here, you have a girl that you're prostituting out, you don't have to find another girl.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: FBI, search warrant, open up!
GUTIERREZ: The investigation resulted in the federal indictment of 38 people including suspected gang members, their associates, even hotel owners where the alleged prostitution was taking place. Suspects were indicted on multiple charges including racketeering and sex trafficking. As for Jessica, the turning point came after she witnessed another prostitute who was her friend being beaten by their pimp. She says she watched in horror as he sprayed mace in her mouth and forced her to swallow it. Then, she says, she knew she had to escape.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nowadays people see prostitutes, they call them names, they don't know what we're going through, if we were fed last night, if we're being raped.
GUTIERREZ: Jessica says she was abused as a child and never would have resorted to this life if she would have had a family who protected her.
JESSICA: I don't have a dad. I have never had one. I think I waited like 18 years or 19 years for him to call me on one of my birthdays and never did. It's painful.
GUTIERREZ: Jessica says she worries about all the other vulnerable women and girls who get trapped in a life they cannot escape. Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, Oceanside, California.
BLITZER: CNN is going in depth into the problem of modern day slavery. Tune in this Sunday for a documentary on young women and girls bought and sold for sex in Nepal. The actress and activist Demi Moore joins the CNN Freedom Project to present Nepal's stolen children. It airs Sunday night, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.
Could some possible relief at the gas pump be on the way? Just ahead, details of some dramatic new steps the federal government is now taking. Plus, potential Presidential hopeful, Sarah Palin. She is canceling a major trip abroad. We'll tell you why.
BLITZER: Major Supreme Court ruling today here in Washington. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that. Some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Lisa, tell us about it.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there Wolf. Well, it was a big win in the Supreme Court for the manufacturers of generic pharmaceuticals. The Justices ruling, 5 to 4, that generic drug companies are not required to update their warning labels to the same extent as the makers of their brand name equivalent. This decision essentially ends two separate lawsuits alleging severe medical complications from generic drug use.
And new hope or some potential relief at the gas pump. The Energy Department says it will tap 30 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. It's to help make up for supply disruptions from war-torn Libya. Analysts say the move could lower prices by 50 cents a gallon by the end of the summer. Oil prices have already dropped about 20% since the end of April and I will have much more on this story in the next hour of The Situation Room.
And former Alaska Governor and GOP Vice-Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin has cancelled plans to travel to Sudan next month citing scheduling problems. This, according to a CNN source with knowledge of the trip. Palin, who is currently mulling a run for President was supposed to make the trip with Franklin Graham, the son of Evangelical leader Billy Graham. On her Facebook page, Palin writes she has jury duty, apparently. Wolf?
BLITZER: That's a scheduling problem. Couldn't get out of jury duty. Thanks very much.
A U.S. Marine reservist now charged in a series of shootings at military sites here in the Washington area. The information about him and the evidence against him that finally put the FBI on his trail.
And a bold new plan to surrender a major battle in the war on drugs. Should the Federal government simply stop enforcing marijuana laws?
BLITZER: We heard President Obama today over at Ft. Drum in New York promise U.S. troops their Commander In Chief has their back but there's a huge debate over whether the Afghanistan exit plan he announced last night goes too far or not far enough.
BLITZER: Joining us now from Capitol Hill, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Republican Congressman Mike Rogers of Michigan.
Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.
REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI), CHAIR, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Wolf, thanks for having me.
BLITZER: Do you support what the president announced last night?
ROGERS: I don't, and I have a lot of concerns about how he's laid out his plan.
You know, the last of the troops of the surge got here January of this year, so this was the first full fighting season. And remember, it's about late April through October is the fighting season for the Taliban in Afghanistan. So this was the first full fighting season that we've had with all of those troop surge -- all of the troops from the surge on the ground.
And I supported the president in this. I thought it was important that we break the momentum of the Taliban, that we try to break their back. I mean, you're never going to eliminate them, but you want them so weak that the Afghan special -- excuse me, the Afghan services, the army and the police, can defend Afghanistan itself when we leave.
And I think this really puts at risk all the gains that we've made and the possibility for the Afghans to really takeover and be able to fight back against what will be a weakened Taliban if we had done the mission correctly.
BLITZER: Because here's what I don't understand. Administration officials say -- and you know this better than I do -- there are really only, what, 50, 75, maybe at tops 100, members of al Qaeda terrorist left in all of Afghanistan? Is that right?
ROGERS: Well, I mean, I think the number fluctuates. They may be talking about leadership types. And that would be probably accurate.
But here's the problem. It's not just -- al Qaeda is one of the main problems of the Taliban being in charge of Afghanistan. And I support the reasons the president sent the troops there. It was not about al Qaeda alone. That was certainly an element, but it was to break the momentum of the Taliban that allows al Qaeda to be in Afghanistan. That's really important.
And it also is the problem on the Pakistani side of the border. So the one leverage we had about keeping some tough talk with the Pakistanis about stepping up to the plate is we had 100,000 troops there really putting the hurt on the Taliban on the Afghan side. And that was important leverage, I thought, and just, I think, a horrible message for our resolve about fixing the problem.
BLITZER: Because the other number that's been thrown out, as far as Taliban fighters in all of Afghanistan, there may only be maybe 25,000 in all of Afghanistan. I don't know if you know a more accurate number. Some say it's only 5,000 or 10,000 or 15,000. I've heard as high as 25,000.
So here's the question. There are 300,000 Afghan troops, police and military, that have been trained over the past 10 years by the United States and the NATO allies. Isn't it time for the Afghan troops to deal with these 25,000 Taliban fighters and let the U.S. and NATO pull out?
ROGERS: Well, I mean, we do want to pull out. And yes, there will come a time when the military is ready.
Here is the interesting thing, Wolf. The military said don't do this right now. There were lots of folks saying don't do this, commanders on the ground, reports that Petraeus said, hey, this is not what I want to do, and if you do it, we're going to have to go into risk assessment and mitigation of risks.
That's not the kind of talk you want when you're trying to beat an enemy. An so I think it's tens of thousands, but here's the problem. And the same they're talking about pulling out, they're also talking about negotiation with the Taliban, which I think is a terrible idea, by the way.
A, they have never lived up to one of their agreements. And B, these are the same people that, when they were in charge, made it illegal for women to be taught how to read. I mean, this is a pretty brutal bunch. And that allowed al Qaeda safe haven.
What we have just done to the enemy is saying, hey, great, guess what? We've lost our resolve, we're going to come home. I've got an election next year, that's really important to me. Finishing this fight is not. We're going to pull out, we're going to try to negotiate with you.
If you're an Afghan village leader in a small town down around Kandahar somewhere, and you know that the footprint is getting smaller for your security, and the Taliban saying don't forget, I'm going to be back real soon, who is your loyalty going to go through? And that's the kind of thing that's really intangible, and once you lose that, it's hard to get it back. BLITZER: Well, can the U.S. -- and you want to cut the spending, you want to reduce the national debt -- between now and the end of 2014 spend another half a trillion dollars, almost $500 billion to maintain this military operation in Afghanistan?
ROGERS: Well, I don't know if you have to go to 2014, but the problem is I know that leaving today won't do it. The military wanted two fighting seasons, this season and next season. By the time you start the second tier of this drawdown, it's right in the middle of the fighting season, which I really don't understand. That militarily makes no sense to me.
So, what we have to do with the economy is not place it all at the foot of Afghanistan. What we need to do is work on our domestic agenda. We need a pro-growth agenda where we make it so that we can create jobs and grow the economy, while we're cutting in other areas. But the one thing I do know is that it costs this country almost a trillion dollars just for one day's terrorist attack that happened on 9/11, and we still pay a price for that.
So what I do know is if you leave it early, and you don't do this job right, we put ourselves at risk again by allowing a safe haven to reestablish itself in Afghanistan. I agreed with the president last year. I think this is more -- this was a product development from his political shop and not the Pentagon. And really, we need this the other way around.
BLITZER: Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.
ROGERS: Hey, thanks, Wolf. Appreciate talking to you.
BLITZER: And you can read more of my thoughts on negotiation with the Taliban at our new blog at CNN.com/situationroom. Go there, see what I have to say.
Meanwhile, new arrests in an alleged terror plot targeting a U.S. military center in Seattle. New information coming in.
And we'll get a side of the Syria that the government wants you to see in the midst of all the bloody unrest. Our own Arwa Damon will join us live from Damascus.
BLITZER: The magistrate in Los Angeles has just denied bail for the captured mobster James "Whitey" Bulger and his girlfriend. They will be returned later to Boston, where he faces multiple charges. He was on the run for 16 years and captured overnight, together, in Santa Monica.
That's the exclusive photo we're getting from our affiliate in Los Angeles, WCVB. It's a TV exclusive. That's from our Boston affiliate, excuse me, that we're getting right now.
All right. So, no bond. They're both heading back to Boston.
Much more at the top of the hour on this story.
Meanwhile, two men have just been charged in an alleged plot to attack a U.S. military facility in Seattle.
Let's bring in our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve. She's got the latest details -- Jeanne.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they allegedly wanted to attack a recruiting station. The men are identified as Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif, a former prison inmate of Seattle, and Walli Mujahidh of Los Angeles.
When they tried to recruit a third individual, that person went to law enforcement. Authorities then monitored the plot as it developed and last night swooped in to arrest the men shortly after they took possession of machine guns they purportedly intended to use in the attack.
Law enforcement had rendered the guns inoperable. Authorities say the public was not at risk.
Court documents say the men were unhappy about the U.S. military presence in the Middle East. They wanted to kill and they wanted to inspire others to attack by, among other things, getting on CNN -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Some other information, new information about a separate case that's unfolded here in Washington.
MESERVE: That's right, also involving a military facility. The arrest of a Marine reservist last week has now led to charges relating to earlier crimes.
MESERVE (voice-over): Before he was arrested last Friday in Arlington National Cemetery, Yonathan Melaku was not on the FBI's radar. But now he is charged with a string of shootings at military facilities in Virginia in October and November.
A key piece of evidence, a video recovered from his bedroom, apparently shot by Melaku himself. It allegedly shows him firing a gun from inside a vehicle at what looks like the Marine Corps Museum.
According to an affidavit, he says, "That's my target. That's the military building. It's going to be attacked." And when the shooting is done, he yells, "Allahu Akbar!"
NEIL MACBRIDE, U.S. ATTORNEY, EASTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA: Anybody who would shoot a semiautomatic weapon at four different military installations over the course of five separate instances is very serious. These were not junior highers shooting BB guns at a local school. MESERVE: Last fall, ballistics testing linked the shootings at the Marine Corps Museum, the Pentagon, and Marine and Coast Guard recruiting facilities. Shell casings found in Melaku's knapsack when he was arrested are allegedly the same make. The FBI says it has covered a weapon and is doing forensic testing.
Melaku was also purportedly interested in making bombs. Twenty pounds of ammonium nitrate, the material used in the Oklahoma City bombing, was allegedly in his backpack, and a list of other IED components was at his home.
Since U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan was charged with killing 13 people at Fort Hood, the military has been on the lookout for radicalized troops. A Marine spokesman says Melaku showed no signs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were no indications. This was a young and enlisted Marine serving as a reservist that, you know, was attending drills and other functions.
MESERVE: But a military official says one month before the first shooting, Melaku failed a combat fitness test. He later doing poorly on a personal fitness test and at some point was listed as non- deployable. The reason is not clear.
MESERVE: When he enlisted in 2007, Melaku would have been screened for terror ties. None were found. Officials are still investigating whether he has them now since notebooks found in his knapsack allegedly reference al Qaeda, bin Laden and jihadists.
For now, officials are not speculating on his motive -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Any evidence that he was inspired by some of these radical Muslim clerics, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as we know other American jihadists were?
MESERVE: Like Nidal Hasan. We have asked that question, Wolf. We've been told they are looking very intently at a number of things. The investigation is ongoing, but no word yet on whether that' the case or not.
BLITZER: All right, Jeanne. Thanks very much.
Let's go to Orlando right now. There's been some dramatic testimony in the Casey Anthony murder trial. Casey's mother, Cindy Anthony, telling the court she, not her daughter, conducted that controversial Internet search on chloroform.
CNN's David Mattingly is joining us now with more on what happened today.
David, what is the latest?
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this was a big moment for the defense, because up until now, the prosecution had been telling us that it was Casey Anthony who used the family's computer to search for information about chloroform. They say she used the chloroform to sedate her daughter, and then suffocated her with Duct tape over her mouth and nose. Well, now her mother gets on the stand and contradicts information she gave prosecutors during deposition.
And now listen to some of the fireworks that followed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I take it that you did not tell them that you made those searches. Correct?
CINDY ANTHONY, CASEY ANTHONY'S MOTHER: I did tell law enforcement. In fact, I told you during my deposition in 2009 that I made those searches.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You told me at you deposition that you searched for chlorophyll, correct?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you spelled chlorophyll for me. Do you recall that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you recall denying that you made any searches for how to make chloroform?
ANTHONY: I didn't look up how to make chloroform. I looked up chloroform, and I believe we talked about that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you input into a Google search engine?
ANTHONY: Yes, I looked up chloroform and the -- when you look up chloroform, you don't have to look up how to make it on there. It tells you what the chains are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: This is an important point. The prosecution says someone used that computer to look specifically for how to make chloroform. If it wasn't the mother, then who was it?
BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much. We'll stay on top of this story as well.
David, joining us.
Meanwhile, a stark contrast to the bitter bloodshed that has already displaced thousands of people. Just ahead, the first CNN report from inside Damascus, Syria, since the brutal government crackdown began.
BLITZER: Right now, New York State may -- repeat, may -- be on the brink of taking an historic stand on gay rights. A vote on legalizing same-sex marriage could happen sometime tonight, just as President Obama is in New York City and questions remain about his stance on the issue of gay marriage.
Let's bring in Mary Snow. She's in the state capital of Albany with the very latest.
What is the latest, Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, still intense negotiations going on. Unclear if this bill will come up for a vote later today. But, you know, the timing of the president's trip is being noted by gay rights activists up here in the state capital, and they want to listen closely to hear if the president is going to acknowledge their fight.
SNOW (voice-over): As gay rights activists fight for same-sex marriage in Albany, New York, Brett Peterson (ph), for one, is closely watching what comes from President Obama's LGBT fund-raiser in New York City.
BRETT PETERSON (ph), ACTIVIST: I understand politics, and I understand that you just can't walk into office and change everything. But we supported him, and it's time. It's time. The time is running out. I won't support him forever.
SNOW: And the president's views on same-sex marriage are being scrutinized. A 1996 questionnaire published by a local paper recently resurfaced. Mr. Obama, then running for state senate, had responded, saying he favored legalizing same-sex marriages. Asked about it at the White House, spokesman Jay Carney said it was his understanding the president had filled out the questionnaire at the time. And when asked if the president did in fact support same-sex marriage, Carney said this --
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Once again, what I know is what his position was during the campaign and what it is now. You know, he has been very clear about it.
SNOW: During the campaign in 2008, he made it clear he was against same-sex marriage.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: I am not somebody who promotes same-sex marriage, but I do believe in civil unions.
SNOW: Now in office, President Obama has said his views on same- sex marriage are constantly evolving.
That is welcome news to Daniel O'Donnell, the New York lawmaker who introduced the same-sex marriage bill. DANIEL O'DONNELL (D), NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY: The country is moving in the right direction, a direction that says that I should be treated equally by my government. I'm confident that my president will get there sometime soon
SNOW: But some activists aren't sold and are protesting Obama's LGBT fund-raiser.
HEATHER CRONK, MANAGING DIRECTOR, GET EQUAL: This is going to be difficult for the president, for the White House, for the reelection campaign to deal with a president standing up there and collecting checks and not taking a stand on legislation in the very state where he is fund-raising.
SNOW: And many here wonder how the president will deal with the elephant in the room.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a big elephant with a tutu on and a tiara.
SNOW: A colorful way of saying what many here believe, Wolf, that one way or another, the president is going to have to take a stand on this issue and address it -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll see what New York State does in the coming hours.
Thanks, Mary. Thanks very much.
The FBI nabs one of its most wanted fugitives after more than 16 years on the run. We're going to go to the hometown of this notorious mobster to get some reaction. Stand by for that.
Plus, was Osama bin Laden afraid al Qaeda was losing the war on terror against the United States? We're getting new details from letters found inside Bin Laden's compound.
BLITZER: Here's a look at some of this hour's "Hot Shots."
In Spain, a horse rears in a crowd at the San Juan Festival on the island of Menorca.
In France, a crowd looks at a fighter jet displayed at the International Paris Air Show.
In London, children test their spelling skills at the first national spelling bee championship.
And in Mississippi, a new state saltwater fishing record was broken when this 92-pound big eye tuna was caught.
"Hot Shots," pictures coming in from around the world. Months into a brutal crackdown in Syria, a CNN reporter now makes it into Damascus for the first time. And the scene there, quite different from the one at the border.
Let's go to Damascus right now. CNN's Arwa Damon is joining us with more.
Arwa, you have been trying and trying and trying to get into Damascus for a long time. You are finally there. Tell our viewers what you're seeing.
ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this particular part of the capital that we went to, it really is in the center of this city itself, bearing in mind that the demonstrations, when they do take place in Damascus, tend to happen on the outlying areas. So the part that we went to has seen very little, if anything, by way of significant demonstrations.
And take a look at what we saw there today.
DAMON: At one of the main entrances to the old city in Damascus, there is now a massive speaker that is blaring pro-government music.
DAMON: We just heard lyrics saying, "We are your men, Bashar. You're the one who is protecting Syria."
Now, we spoke to the restaurant manager. They're the ones who set up this speaker. And the manager was telling us that the restaurant decided to do it as a symbol of nationalism.
(voice-over): We are escorted by a government minder as we wander through the streets and the heart of the capital. The president's image is everywhere. And in this part of Damascus, at least, he seems to enjoy public support.
(on camera): There is party hats here. There's even key chains, T-shirts that have been printed up.
Now, Abu Ali (ph), who owns this makeshift stand, was telling us that he began really selling these types of products around three months ago, when the uprising first began. And he says that he is doing a very solid amount of business, and that he chose to sell these types of products as a symbol of his patriotism.
(voice-over): Sometimes there is an almost surreal contrast with the images of violence and suffering that have emerged from Syria since March.
(on camera): Abu Ali (ph) has just thrown that confetti into the air, and he was saying that it is a symbol of his happiness, because there's no problems Syria, Syria is a solid country, and there is absolutely no upheaval and nothing to be upset about here, right now. (voice-over): Maybe not here, but people who have fled to the border with Turkey, 400 kilometers to the north, have plenty to be upset about. With just the clothes on their backs, they tell stories of abuse and threats by the security forces and vow they won't return to their homeland until Assad is gone.
Government officials tell us the military was simply targeted armed gangs. And they asked, "Why is the world so focused on 10,000 refugees from Syria when there are over a million Iraqis displaced by the U.S.-led war in 2003?"
And there was anger, spontaneous or otherwise, among some of the people we met in the capital.
(on camera): So our filming here actually just stirred up quite a debate with one woman coming up to us and telling us that they basically wanted all Americans and all Westerners out of their country, that the U.S. and other nations had absolutely no business meddling inside Syria.
(voice-over): It's as if Syria were two countries with its people living in two different realities.
DAMON: Now, Wolf, as we do know, Friday, tomorrow, tends to be a day of widespread protests throughout Syria. So what we have done is we've asked government officials if they will grant us permission to go into these Damascus neighborhoods where those demonstrations have traditionally been taking place. So we'll wait and see if that request is in fact fulfilled tomorrow -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It sounds like very much in Libya, two different Syrias, two different Libyas.
Arwa, we're going to stay in very close touch with you. Be careful over there. Thanks very much for the great reporting.