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Hurricane Barrels Closer to U.S.; Where is Moammar Gadhafi?; Gadhafi Fighters' Scorched Earth Campaign; Freed From Gadhafi's Iron Fist; 'Strategy Session'; U.S. Journalist Who Spent Months in Solitary Confinement Freed From Libyan Jail

Aired August 25, 2011 - 17:00   ET


JOE JOHNS, GUEST HOST: Happening now, millions of people up and down the East Coast are bracing for this -- Hurricane Irene is barreling toward the United States, hammering the Bahamas along the way. This hour, a new forecast for where and when Americans will be hit the hardest. We're tracking this huge storm from every angle, including space.

One East Coast governor is warning the flooding alone could make this one of the worst natural disasters in the region in a century.

And the battle for Libya explodes at the Tripoli Airport. An apparent message from Moammar Gadhafi urges his supporters to keep fighting.

Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Joe Johns. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

It's a devastating one-two punch of pounding rain and powerful winds. The Bahamas have been taking a beating and now Irene is posing the biggest hurricane threat to the United States in six years. A hurricane warning was just issued for coastal North Carolina. The East Coast could start feeling the storm tomorrow evening.

Various forecasts show a 700 mile stretch of coastline could be affected over the next several days.

Navy ships were ordered out to sea, where it's safer during a storm. Some mandatory evacuations are already underway in North Carolina. Officials are warning millions of people as far north as New Hampshire to stock up and take this hurricane very seriously.

Governors in five states have issued emergency declarations.

Irene has been walloping the Bahamas, with winds of up to 115 miles an hour.

CNN's Jim Spellman is covering the storm for us in Nassau -- Jim, how is it looking out there?

JIM SPELLMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Joe. Finally, the winds have died down a little bit here. It was 12, 14 hours of driving winds, pounding rains, just -- just for hour after hour. It wouldn't let up. This storm was so huge.

Fortunately, though, here on the main island in the Bahamas, Nassau, Paradise Island, where so many people (AUDIO GAP) but fortunately have pretty much come out of this unscathed. No major damage reports here that we can see. No reports of serious injuries or deaths (INAUDIBLE). Some of the outer islands here in the Bahamas, however, spotty communications. The government here is still trying to get an accurate assessment from those more remote places to see how they're doing. They fear that there's going to be a lot of damages there. The storm came close to some of those islands and there is less infrastructure there to protect them and less places for those folks to go in the storm -- OK, Joe.

JOHNS: Interestingly, Jim, one thing we do know that seems to be working is the e-mail. Just a few minutes ago, you e-mailed me this notice, which came from the National Emergency Management Agency out there where you are. And they basically tell us that it is the out island where the problems are. A lot of power lines down, a bridge out here and there. A report from Cat Island that all power lines were down and no tele -- telecommunications.

So it sounds like the large islands have done pretty well, the smaller islands, either we don't know or they have had some problems.

SPELLMAN: That's right, Joe. And it's probably going to be another, at least into tomorrow, when they're able to really do assessments. People can only get to those islands by boat. It's already hard to communicate there. And you know the first thing to happen is (INAUDIBLE) on these more remote islands, they don't even know what they're really facing yet.

We're trying to send out these marine (INAUDIBLE) but really, until tomorrow, when they can get out there in boats, maybe get some planes out there to these small landing strips, it's going to be tough for them to know the real impact of Irene on the Bahamas -- Joe.

JOHNS: And we will certainly be waiting for that weather to clear so we can get a better idea of all that has happened in the Bahamas.

Thanks so much.

Jim spelling in Nassau.

The National Hurricane Center is issuing a new Irene forecast at this hour.

Let's go to our severe weather expert, Chad Myers, and CNN's Hurricane Headquarters -- Chad, how is it looking where you sit?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: A couple of things new, Joe, in this advisory. The first thing is, it is not going to be a category four any longer. The winds do not get forecast to 135. The reason why I believe is it is because all day today, the storm has not been that organized. There hasn't been a big eye. It hasn't gotten really any stronger. And so the forecast wasn't to be a strong three by now, headed to a four. It's barely that three at this point in time.

So the best wind, the highest wind will be 120, not 135. That's some good news.

The track, though, has been shifted slightly to the left, the center of the track. The center of the cone has been shifted slightly to the left, taking it directly over Morehead City, just to the south/southwest of Ocracoke Island, where the governor is pleading people to get off. And then right smack dab over the Sound and out about Virginia Beach, back into warm water. Maybe some slight strengthening as it moves very close to the Delmarva. That would be Ocean City, Maryland. And then on up into, really, driving it right into Hudson, the Hudson River, right into New York Harbor.

Now, of course, we still have that left. We still have the right. It just depends on which way it could go. But new hurricane warnings just issued. I'll get rid of all that other red and give you a yellow. Hurricane warnings issued from the Virginia/North Carolina border all the way down to the Little River Inlet. And then tropical storm warnings from there all the way down to Edisto Island -- Joe.

JOHNS: OK, so, just putting a finer point on it, you're talking about a possible landfall somewhere around Morehead City --

MYERS: Correct.

JOHNS: -- or up as far, say, as Cape Hatteras?

MYERS: That's correct. It still could turn to the right, although the models have been in much better agreement today, which means that we don't have one model just bearing to the left, going to North Carolina and -- and into Raleigh and another one heading out to sea. They're all kind of agreeing with each other now, which gives the Hurricane Center a little bit more confidence on what's going on.

They move it up ahead, too, because we do care, again, as the secondary landfall, very close to -- that would be Ocean City. That would be about an Ocean -- about Cape May Lewes Ferry and then right along the beach, right at Wildwood and driving right into New York Harbor.

Now, as it gets over and if it stays over New Jersey and the piney woods there, we may lose some intensity before it gets to New York City. That would be great. The only bad news with this location is that for hours and hours and hours, the wind will pour water and push water into New York Harbor, making the rivers, the Hudson and the East River, go up. That also could happen right along, of course, the south areas there, the south beaches of the south island there of Long Island. Water could go up. The surge could be higher.

JOHNS: So for people along the Eastern Seaboard, this is a no joke scenario right now.

What will change it and mitigate it to make it less severe, in your view?

MYERS: There could be something called shear. Shear is wind that tears a thunderstorm apart. Now, when you talk about shear when we talk about severe weather in the Plains. Severe weather shear can make tornadoes because that storm is all by itself and the shear helps. When a hurricane wants to be all by itself, spinning around its own eye, there's no shear.

When you get shear, it kind of blows it apart and those storms can't rotate around each other. That will lower the intensity and not make the wind as high.

There will be some shear that starts to get into this storm. And that's why that number right there is only 85. That's why it doesn't get to category four at this point.

But I will warn you, Joe, this is in very warm water. We could be easily back talking about category four by this time tomorrow, as it gets organized overnight. That's not out of the question.

JOHNS: Right. So just because goes down, doesn't mean it's not going to come back up?

MYERS: That's exactly right.

JOHNS: Yes. Great.

Thanks so much, Chad Myers.

And we will be watching for more information from you.

Here in Washington, officials say Sunday's dedication of the new Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial remains on schedule, but severe weather unleashed by Hurricane Irene could affect many people traveling to the event. Amtrak has canceled service south of Washington from Friday all the way through Sunday. And many airline flights are likely to be delayed or canceled. So check it out before you go.

U.S. Navy ships are on the move in the kind of operation you might see in a war zone. But this is all about protecting the East Coast fleet from Hurricane Irene.

Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence -- and, Chris, they're trying to get them out of the path of danger.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Joe. You know, the bulk of the U.S. military's East Coast-based fleet all comes from this one part of Virginia. And today, we saw dozens of ships all leaving, heading out to see from this one area, just to get out of the way of this storm.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): The U.S. Navy versus Hurricane Irene -- that's one battle the military not prepared to fight. The imminent arrival of the storm has virtually cleared out the world's largest naval base. The U.S. Navy ordered 27 ships to sea, including an aircraft carrier.

CAPT. MARY JACKSON, COMMANDING OFFICER, NAVAL STATION NORFOLK: It's important that they go early so that they're able to -- to get ahead of the storm and stay outside of the destructive lenses.

LAWRENCE: Look at what Irene has done to the Bahamas so far. It could overwhelm the Navy's pier, since the low lying Norfolk area is vulnerable to storm surge and the winds could literally rip and pull a ship out to sea.

JACKSON: It can get very dangerous to have loose ships from piers if they stay in ports.

LAWRENCE: The fleet is heading hundreds of miles east. So the storm will pass between the ships and the east coast of the US.

CNN producer Larry Shaughnessy is on board one of those ships and he called us from the deck of the USS Ross.

LARRY SHAUGHNESSY, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: As the storm passes the Carolina and Virginia, all these ships will start to turn inland and start heading out behind the storm.

LAWRENCE: No one knows how bad the damage could be, which is why sailors and Marines are mainly concerned for their families and homes.

SHAUGHNESSY: One of the sailors that I spoke with said that he and his wife couldn't decide whether she should go to Knoxville, Tennessee, where her family is from, or stay with the children in Norfolk, about 10 miles from the ocean. The concern being if she leaves, they won't know what happens to the house.


LAWRENCE: Well, the Navy is already making some contingency plans in case these ships are going to be needed after the storm, so that they can move to an area that, say, maybe would need help with a rescue or recovery mission.

The Virginia National Guard has also put several hundreds of its troops on alert. And the North Carolina National Guard has assembled some special teams with experts in things like communications, power generation and security, all ready to help with this storm comes in -- Joe.

JOHNS: So they would certainly be among the first responders if there was a real serious problem on the East Coast. These would be the people presumably untouched and -- and ready to dig in and -- and lend some assistance?

LAWRENCE: That's right. The one thing with a hurricane that you get, Joe, that you don't get in, say, like the earthquake we had just a couple days ago, is you get warning. You have time to position some of these people, put people on alert. And you have time to get the resources and equipment together ahead of time, get it in a safe place and then you can quickly get it out after the storm comes through.

JOHNS: Chris Lawrence at the Pentagon.

Thanks so much for that.

We'll be checking back in with you.

Now to the battle for Libya. Moammar Gadhafi's diehard fighters shelled an empty passenger plane at the Tripoli Airport today, the third plane destroyed in the last 24 hours. One of Gadhafi's sons tells CNN he wants to negotiate a cease-fire to save Tripoli from what he calls "a sea of blood." Saadi Gadhafi reportedly had been captured by rebel forces, but appears to be free now. His father apparently is sending a message to supporters from wherever he's hiding. An audio message attributed to Moammar Gadhafi urges loyalists not to surrender to the "rats," his word for the rebels.

Fresh fighting in the streets of Tripoli. A rebel commander says he sent more troops to buildings near Gadhafi's seized compound. He said the ousted strongman may be holed up there.

The Libyan rebels have made claims before that have proven to be flat out wrong.

Could they be closing in on Gadhafi, though?

Stand by for a live report from Tripoli.

And New York is preparing for a possible hit by Hurricane Irene. We'll look at the damage and the chaos that could be unleashed by a monster storm in America's biggest city.


JOHNS: Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Here's an interesting idea, Joe.

Maybe Washington will finally listen now that some in corporate America are taking an aim at their bank accounts.

This has the potential to get interesting. More than 100 CEOs now have signed a pledge to stop all political campaign contributions until lawmakers stop the gridlock.

This could be a standoff that lasts to eternity.

Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, is leading the movement. He says it seems like lawmakers are only interested in their reelection.

He's absolutely right about that.

And that the lifeblood, of course, of reelection is money. In just one week, Shultz has gotten more than 100 business leaders on board, including CEOs of AOL, Whole Foods, Intuit, Zip Car, J. Crew and billionaire investor Pete Peterson. Shultz says his initiative has, quote, "triggered a national dialogue and a groundswell of support," unquote. And he hopes that ordinary Americans will join in, too.

The pledge has leaders agreeing to stop all campaign contributions until the lawmakers strike what he calls "a bipartisan, balanced long-term debt deal that addresses both it into entitlements and revenues." The CEOs are also agreeing to look for ways to speed up job growth.

It's unclear how much impact Shultz's pledge is going to have, but it's worth noting that a fairly small number of Americans make up the bulk of political donors in this country. Less than .5 of 1 percent of Americans give more than $200 to candidates and political parties. And those donations make up 65 percent of all the contributions.

So here's the question. More than 100 CEOs so far have signed a pledge to not make political donations.

How do you think that will affect Washington?

Go to and post a comment on my blog or go to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM'S Facebook page.

It's an interesting idea. If nobody gave them any money, I wonder what would happen to them.

JOHNS: That's for sure. You know, a fascinating idea. And you have to take them seriously that they're genuine about it.

But the question is, when are they going to stop paying their lobbyists to work Capitol Hill?

CAFFERTY: Well, yes. There's a whole other group that are -- and the bunglers.

JOHNS: Exactly.

CAFFERTY: You're right. But you know, If you want to empty the Potomac River, you've got to start with the first teaspoonful of water coming out of there, so.

JOHNS: Got it right.

Thanks so much, Jack.

OK, we'll see what people say.

Libyan rebels have control of 80 percent of Tripoli, sending Moammar Gadhafi into hiding. But the ousted Libyan leader is refusing to tell his fighters to lay down their weapons.

Listen to a clip from that audio message, apparently from Gadhafi, to his supporters.


MOAMMAR GADHAFI, LIBYAN LEADER (through translator): Do not be afraid of bombing. You will not be hit. Do not be afraid at all. They are just stun grenades to scare you.

Do not be afraid at all.

Do not surrender Tripoli.


JOHNS: So let's bring in CNN international correspondent, Nic Robertson, in Tripoli -- and I guess, Nic, the million dollar question still is where's Gadhafi and whether they've gotten any closer to locating him?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I guess you could say, Joe, that they've narrowed down a couple of places he is not this afternoon. Rumors abound here about where he is. We were told, in the middle of the afternoon, that a rebel commander -- we were told by the commander himself he dispatched extra troops to surround a couple of apartment buildings where Gadhafi and his sons were held up. That's what he believes. And we went to take a look and the apartment didn't seem to exist. We were told, OK, there's another rumor that he might be surrounded in another area of town. We went over there. That, we were told, turned out to be not Gadhafi himself holed up, but some people who were loyalists to him, we were told. Later on this evening, we saw an apartment out there on fire. We were told that was Gadhafi's spies that had been shot at and the apartment set on fire.

So they have -- the rebels have narrowed it down by one or two places. The reality is, they don't seem to have a clue. He could be about anywhere here. And the rebels are really just scratching around with rumors at the moment. Of course, they may have some key information, they're not sharing it with us and we're not seeing it acted out on the streets if they do -- Joe.

JOHNS: So a lot of wishful thinking, what do you think, perhaps optimism, that they're closing in on him, but no real information?

One thing that we heard just the other day was all this fighting around the airport and concerns that he might be trying to make his way there to get onto a plane. Anything new?

ROBERTSON: Nothing new on that. I mean, Gadhafi and his family have a farm that's close to the airport. There were concerns that he might be holed up there, that he might, as you say, be trying to get to that airfield or another airfield where he is used to keep his private jets, down by the seafront here, a military airfield. But those may have been his plans, but he doesn't seem to have executed them.

The reality is, the -- the rebels here have been high on rhetoric. We heard them tell us that they captured three of his sons. High on rhetoric, but low on delivery at the moment, at least in terms of Gadhafi. Maybe this rhetoric is the design to get his -- his loyalists to put down their weapons. But it's certainly not leading to his capture right now. So they're not -- they're not able to deliver on that. And it could be some time -- Joe.

JOHNS: What about these messages that come from Gadhafi and presumably are broadcast?

Is there any way of sort of tracking through the radio stations to try to find out where they're getting this tape or this signal from that he's putting his voice out on?

ROBERTSON: You know, I guess you could say it was a little bit like trying to track where Osama bin Laden was getting his messages handed off and delivered. It's too easy, these days, to record something on a phone chip, pass the phone chip to somebody. They upload it somewhere else. It gets e-mailed to a broadcaster. And before you know it, it's all over the airwaves. So it's probably very, very hard to catch him by that mechanism.

What amazes me about his broadcast is, this is a man who doesn't seem to still see reality staring him in the face.

Don't give up the fight, is what he's saying to his loyalists. Yet one of his sons has been e-mailing me, saying I've got a plan to negotiate a cease-fire to avoid the bloodshed in the capital. This is a very dysfunctional family at the very least, right now -- Joe.

JOHNS: Right. And those e-mails continue.

Have you been responding to them?

Have you been saying anything back when you get these e-mails?

ROBERTSON: You know, I try to ask questions. I try to ask questions about, you know, there were rumors that Saadi Gadhafi, who's been sending me the e-mails, was going to be captured or the rebels were trying to capture him in one of the hotels downtown.

When I asked him about that, he said they arrived too late.

But, you know, there's a lot of questions that I asked that are just not being -- that are just not being answered at all.

What I was told is that his efforts are still ongoing to negotiate the cease-fire, that he wants to do it with the help -- a couple of big explosions there, just -- a very big explosion, actually, over my shoulder. It's not clear what that was at all, Joe. But that was -- that was quite a loud explosion.

So the bottom -- the bottom line -- and I can hear people loading their rifles and weapons down there, a lot of rebel gunmen preparing their weapons.

We'll try and find out what that big explosion was. It sounded like an echo of an explosion then another explosion itself.

JOHNS: So it's an ongoing --

ROBERTSON: I'm not clear exactly what it was.

But --

JOHNS: It's an ongoing situation.

Perhaps I should go ahead and let you go.

Just check out your own personal safety.

And we'll be checking back in with you, Nic Robertson.

Thanks so much for that reporting.

He languished for months in solitary confinement. We'll hear the story of one American journalist who escaped from a Libyan jail.

And the family of a U.S. man who was kidnapped in Pakistan makes an appeal to his captors.


JOHNS: Wolf Blitzer is off today.

I'm Joe Johns.

Here are some of the stories we're working on for the next hour.

As Hurricane Irene barrels toward the U.S., New York braces for the eye of the storm. The surprise earthquake that jolted the East Coast also left thousands without cell phone service.

How can be this avoided next time?

And, as Steve Jobs exits the company he co-founded, we'll take a look at the man who will be the new head of Apple.

Stand by.


Fire and smoke and shelves flying -- that's the scene at the Tripoli International Airport, one of the battlegrounds where pro- Gadhafi forces are making a last stand.

CNN's Arwa Damon is the only Western journalist at the airport.

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're up in the control tower on the tarmac at the Tripoli International Airport. We have to stay a bit low because the rebels say there's a sniper who's been shooting at them.

But we wanted to show you this, that smoldering airplane. This airport complex has been bombarded relentlessly by Gadhafi loyalists using various kinds of artillery and Grad rockets. And if we come over to this side, you can actually hear the sounds of explosions, gunfire. But if we move around, you can see even more of the wreckage that has been caused by the Gadhafi loyalists' assault on this airport complex.

Now, If we come over to the other side of the air control tower, you can see the wreckage of an aircraft that was hit overnight. And the rebels say that the assault on this airport complex is so intense, for a number of reasons.

First of all, the senior and commanders here believe that Gadhafi loyalists are trying to keep huge swathes of land that the rebels don't control free so that they can perhaps try to sneak Gadhafi himself through them. But also, the rebels believe, that Gadhafi loyalists are employing a scorched earth policy. They want to demolish anything that they possibly can. They're still facing a fierce and intense battle at this airport complex from Gadhafi loyalists.

Arwa Damon, CNN, at the Tripoli International Airport.


JOHNS: Arwa Damon joins us live right now.

And Arwa, I have so many questions for you. It seems pretty clear that they're trying to get control of the airport here. The question is, who has the upper hand right now?

DAMON: Well, the rebels do still have full control of it, and they've got pretty heavy perimeter defenses that have been set up. They are also trying to fire their own outgoing artillery to keep those Gadhafi forces at bay. But they're really getting quite bogged down by their efforts to protect the airport. It's something that they're finding incredibly frustrating, because it's preventing them from going out there, trying to hunt down these loyalists, and more importantly, trying to hunt down Gadhafi himself.

JOHNS: Now, let's talk a little bit about that RV you have behind us there. It's fascinating. This is Gadhafi's RV? What does a dictator need with an RV?

DAMON: Well, I think that's a question that I'm not going to be able to answer at this stage. But, yes, actually rebels have been saying that this is an indication that even though they are getting quite bogged down, they're still able to move up.

Today they were able to get to one of Gadhafi's farms that's located around 15 minutes away from here. They got into quite an intense fight there, but they have managed to clear some parts of this sprawling farm complex.

They drove this up earlier in the day, honking like crazy, laughing, smiling. They were going through it. We were able to get inside earlier in the day. And you do see things like kitchen utensils, various toiletries, a bed that has been made. One of the rebels pulled out a gas mask from the back room. He says that that's where he found it. But there's no real personal item that were inside it.

The rebels have now spray-painted it with "Zintan Revolutionaries," because that's where these rebels are from. And over here, actually, there are two golf carts that they pulled out of that same complex.

The rebels are trying to jump-start them. That's to drag them all of the way to this -- to the airport on the back of one of the trucks.

And they say that they were really surprised by the level of luxury that Gadhafi appeared to be living in. One of the young rebels was saying that he couldn't believe how much their leader had, while all this time, his own people were suffering so much.

JOHNS: Arwa Damon, that's certainly a very visual representation of the kind of luxury he was living in. Golf carts and an RV, a pretty extraordinary picture there for us this evening. Thank you so much for that.

Moammar Gadhafi is still on the lam, but the new edition of "TIME" magazine looks at the world after the fall of his 42-year regime. "TIME" managing editor Rick Stengel joins us right now.

And Rick, I guess the first question is, what happens from here in a post-Gadhafi Libya?

RICK STENGEL, MANAGING EDITOR, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Yes. I mean, that is the big question.

I mean, they will eventually find him. He will eventually flee. But the larger issue is, what happens to Libya post-Gadhafi?

It's a country that doesn't have many institutions. It was ruled by this guy who was never actually institutionalized in authority.

On the other hand, it's a small country, which is a good thing. It has a lot of oil revenue, which is a good thing. It cuts both ways to not have institutions. They can actually start creating a kind of democratic Libya right from scratch.

JOHNS: And do you have a sense about a timetable here in this country? A lot of people questioning whether it will be two years, it will be five years, or 10 years before we see stability. And what will be the hallmarks, if we can say right now, to be able to predict some type of a stable Libya?

STENGEL: Right. I mean, again, what they have going for them, too, is a small population and a lot of oil revenue.

What they also have going for them is the European Union's interest in Libya. France, America, and Great Britain now have vested interests in trying to create some kind of democracy with institutions in Libya, and they will help. They will help with money. Their own oil revenues will help.

I think it's possible, Joe, to put a timetable on how long it will take. It's very hard to create democratic institutions in a country that never had them before. And again, we're still not exactly sure who the rebels are and whether there are a Thomas Jefferson or a George Washington or John Adams among them. We certainly hope so. So that really remains to be seen.

JOHNS: So many people we've talked to on this program and others have said they believe this is certainly the end of Moammar Gadhafi. Do you subscribe to that view, as well, that there is absolutely, positively no way he will be able to return from power given the scenario we're seeing on the ground right now?

STENGEL: Yes. And I'm not supposed to give such a short answer, Joe, but I think -- and if you look at our cover of the kind of fading away of Gadhafi, his era is over.

He will not return. Maybe he will end up in South Africa, or some other place, but everybody is prepared for a new dispensation, a new government, a new form of leadership.

Again, one of the things that people have been talking about is that Libya has a lot of tribes. But I think the general consensus is that Gadhafi himself played up tribal differences in order to secure his own power. And I think in a post-Gadhafi Libya, I think there will be some unanimity, there will be trans-tribal organizations that grow up. And I'm optimistic about what can happen there.

JOHNS: The cover picture of this week's "TIME" magazine is simply stunning. The face of Moammar Gadhafi and the top of his head, blowing away in the sand.

Thanks so much, Rick. And we will be looking forward to see you next time.

STENGEL: Thank you, Joe.

JOHNS: The former head of the International Monetary Fund plans to revisit the past now that prosecutors are dismissing sexual assault charges against him.

And see what happens when a police car is involved in a head-on collision.


JOHNS: Mary Snow is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Mary, we're hearing from the relatives of a U.S. man who's gone missing in Pakistan.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Joe, relatives of an American man abducted in Pakistan are making an appeal to his kidnappers. In a statement released today, the family of Warren Weinstein asked those holding him to either contact them or allow Weinstein himself to reach out to family members. The 70-year-old Weinstein was kidnapped from his home in Lahore this month.

Casey Anthony has begun serving a one-year probation sentence for check fraud. Florida authorities say Anthony has met with her probation officer, but they're not revealing her whereabouts because of death threats against the 25-year-old. Anthony has been in hiding since she was released from prison last month after a jury acquitted her in the death of her 2-year-old daughter Caylee.

Former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn is expected to visit IMF headquarters in Washington next week. Strauss-Kahn resigned as the IMF's manager director in May after he was charged with sexually assaulting a hotel maid in New York.

Prosecutors are dismissing those charges because of questions surrounding the accuser's credibility. She's still pursuing a civil case against Strauss-Kahn.

And the Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office has released video of a head-on collision between a deputy's cruiser and an SUV that was traveling on the wrong side of the road. Take a look.

The account occurred Saturday. The sheriff's deputy suffered minor injuries. The driver of the SUV was charged with driving under the influence.

Very fortunate the injuries weren't worse -- Joe.

JOHNS: That is just unbelievable. I mean, good grief. And everybody got out of that OK?.

SNOW: Minor injuries, yes. They're very lucky.

JOHNS: Could you imagine how much adrenaline would jump into your throat if you pulled around and saw that? Just stunning.

Wow. Great.

Thanks so much, Mary Snow.

SNOW: Sure.

JOHNS: Dick Cheney's new book reveals he had wanted to bomb a suspected nuclear site in Syria. Did he have more insight into the future problems in the Middle East than some people thought?

And Steve Jobs is an undisputed corporate giant who arguably changed the world. We'll look at the man taking on the challenge of replacing Jobs as Apple's CEO.


JOHNS: Former Vice President Dick Cheney is out with a new tell- all book that reveals deep splits within the Bush administration.

Here to talk about it, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and Republican consultant Alex Castellanos. They're both CNN contributors.

What everybody is talking about right now is this new book by Cheney, which essentially says, among other things -- I think the headline that we all jumped on today was, in 2007, years after Iraq and Afghanistan started, there was this apparent nuclear plant in Syria, and they found out about it. Cheney advised the president, let's go blow it up. The president said no.

Nonetheless, I mean, when you look at that, and you look at the totality of what the Bush administration has done, now we have the Arab Spring, now we have democracy rising, apparently, or perhaps in the Middle East.

Did George W. Bush have it right?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think you could make a pretty good case that he did. George Bush got out there before anyone and said, is democracy something reserved for us alone? Is freedom something that belongs to other people?

And one thing you can credit the Democratic Party, they led on civil rights in the United States. They said this freedom thing belongs to everybody. It doesn't matter what your last name is, doesn't matter what your color is.

The Bush administration did the same thing globally, and it's going to come back to pay big dividends to us. It's already doing that with the Arab Spring in the Middle East now.

JOHNS: Now, this is a volatile question though, because people on the left, Donna, still believe that the Bush administration did a lot of damage to the reputation of the United States. And you know, internally, externally, what have you.

Do you think the notion that Bush had it right is ever going to fly anywhere but on the right?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I think there are some people who not only were very close to the action during the Bush years, but also very supportive of the United States intervening in the affairs of other countries, who will always believe that what we did in Iraq and perhaps other places was justified simply because they wanted to go in there and to prove whatever points they had.

I do believe that this Arab year, this is not just a spring, because now we're coming to the end of summer. This is about the people in those nations.

They want change. They want new governments. They want the ability to elect their own leaders.

And I don't think the United States should involve itself in the affairs of these countries. And, you know, I'm looking forwards to reading Condoleezza Rice's book, which will come out in November, to see her interpretation of those events and whether or not Dick Cheney is telling the truth.

CASTELLANOS: The communications revolution has changed everything. You know, now with Twitter, Facebook, people can communicate and organize bottom, up. The Bush administration, I think, was ahead of history in seeing that democracy is the future.

JOHNS: Now let's talk about Rick Perry here on the campaign.

BRAZILE: That's looking backward. That's not looking forward.

JOHNS: Well, listen, one of the things that happened today is that Rick Perry went on the radio and, among others things, he was asked about Martha's Vineyard. He said he wasn't sure he knew where that was.


JOHNS: He's called Washington, D.C., a seedy place. More of the kinds of Rick Perry comments we've been accustomed to.

And I think we have a radio cut from some of his remarks. Let's listen.


GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: With all due respect, anybody that's out there, either directly or indirectly, criticizing me because I speak plainly, I call it like I see it, look, I'm not an establishment figure. Never have been, and frankly, I don't want to be.

I dislike Washington. I think it's a seedy place.


BRAZILE: Stay in Austin. Stay in Austin, Texas. Stay in Dallas. Stay in Houston. Great places, great cities. I totally agree.

But Washington, D.C., is a great city, wonderful city, wonderful people. I'm proud of this city and proud of what the city is doing this weekend in preparation to unveil the King Memorial.

So, Rick Perry, stay in Texas.

CASTELLANOS: He may never get to be an establishment figure, but he is running for president, which last I checked, is kind of the top of the establishment. He does have to watch what he says. Rick Perry, when he holds that six-shooter and tries to shoot somewhere else, he ought to be sure it's aimed the other way.

JOHNS: This stuff plays certainly to the right. The question is, when and if he ever has to move to the middle in a general election, what's he going to do?

CASTELLANOS: And there's a tremendous anger at government and these populist sentiments that are out there. He represents -- he captures that. It's the same way that elected Republicans to Congress. He's certainly trying to capitalize on that anti-Washington sentiment.

BRAZILE: There's a tremendous disappointment not just with government, but everyone. I mean, Wall Street, the media, corporations. People are just fed up because they're tired of the acrimony and they're looking for real leaders. And I don't know if Rick Perry will fit the plate, so to speak.

JOHNS: Donna Brazile, Alex Castellanos, thank you so much for coming in. See you again soon.

After enduring months of isolation, he is now enjoying freedom. We'll tell you the story of an American journalist who escaped from prison in Libya.

And as Hurricane Irene churns towards the U.S., the East Coast prepares for a hit from the storm.


JOHNS: An American journalist is a free man after months of isolation in Libya, and he's talking about his escape from jail.

CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty has his dramatic story.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Joe, Matthew VanDyke is an aspiring travel writer, and now he's got an adventure story you wouldn't believe.


DOUGHERTY (voice-over): For six months languishing in solitary confinement, 32-year-old freelance journalist Matthew VanDyke had no contact with the outside world. His mother tells CNN they still don't know why he was arrested by Gadhafi's forces, knocked unconscious, and thrown into Tripoli's notorious Abu Salim prison, shown here in a YouTube video.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He awoke to the sound of a man in the room above him being tortured.

DOUGHERTY: Then, early Wednesday, Matthew VanDyke tells in the chaos of fighting in Tripoli, he heard prisoners yelling and banging. He thought, "This is it. They've come to lynch me."

But someone hammered off the lock on the door. He and the other prisoners were free. He grabbed some sandals and fled.

Thirty harrowing hours later, he made it to a rebel safe house and called his mother in Baltimore. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I waited almost six months to say him say, "Hi, mom." And that's what I heard yesterday when he was on the phone. So it's just an unbelievable feeling.

DOUGHERTY: His fiancee tells CNN she was worried, but she had faith he would survive.

LAUREN FISCHER, MATTHEW VANDYKE'S FIANCEE: He traveled in other countries. He has been embedded with U.S. troops. So I knew -- I had confidence that he knew how to handle himself. And that made it easier for me.


DOUGHERTY: VanDyke says despite everything, he has no problems with Libyans. In fact, he says he is determined to stay in Libya and see the end of Moammar Gadhafi.

JOHNS: The Libyan capital is littered with guns and bodies. We're giving you a firsthand look at the lawlessness on the streets.

And getting ready for Hurricane Irene, what you need to know for the monster storm, next.


JOHNS: Jack joins us again with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Joe, more than 100 CEOs have signed a pledge not to make any political donations. How will that affect Washington?

Aaron on Facebook writes, "Unfortunately for us, there a lot more than 100 CEOs in this country. That small handful right now doesn't compare to the scores of others who continue to legally bribe our lawmakers, but I suppose it's a start."

Dale in Pennsylvania says, "Without these big-name corporate donors, so-called real politicians will have to see how Ron Paul does it. I think it's a good idea, and will eliminate some of the special interests. I take my hat off to these CEOs."

Carla writes, "Not at all. There will be 200 standing in line to take their place, influence our so-called leaders, and own a little piece of Washington."

Doug in Massachusetts, "It's a phony ruse led by the Starbucks CEO to gain sympathy for Obama's desire to raise taxes. This PR stunt will not affect Washington at all. It would take a direct hit from a moon-sized meteor to affect Washington."

James writes, "It won't, at least until oil companies and other really large firms join the list. The politicians won't care until that happens, but the effort is a good start."

Bob in Florida writes, "A nice warning shot over the bow. However, the idea is more symbol than substance, because I don't think Congress would notice much. They haven't been listening to the voters anyway."

And Russell in Iowa, "We're halfway there. Now all we have to do is stop them from writing the legislation. And then we might have a shot at a functioning government instead of a corporate vending machine."

If you want to read more on the subject, go to by blog,, or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM'S Facebook page.

You read that often, don't you, Joe?

JOHNS: All the time, Jack. I absolutely have to.

CAFFERTY: All right.

JOHNS: Thanks for that.