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NCAA Launches Penn State Investigation; U.S. Water Pump Shut Down By Cyber Attack?; Herman Cain Comments on Libya; Interview with Senator Bernie Sanders; Top Secret Document Found in the Street in Australia; Police Reopen Natalie Wood Death Case

Aired November 18, 2011 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And you're in the SITUATION ROOM. Happening now --

A water pump here in the United States potentially shut down by hackers using Russian computers. Ahead, the shocking government investigation into an alleged cyber-attack, the likes of which this country, the United States of America, may never have seen. Stand by, new information coming in.

Plus, the independent senator critical of President Obama's battle for re-election. We' talking about Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. He's not telling me he isn't yet ready to campaign for President Obama's re-election. We're going to find out. What Bernie Sanders says the president needs to do to win his support? That's coming up this hour.

An embarrassing new questions emerging about the president's security during his trip to Australia this week. How did secret details about the visit apparently end up in the street?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. i'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BLITZER: All that coming up at the breaking news coming out of Penn State University right now. We're learning that Joe Paterno, the former Penn State football coach who was fired amidst chilling child sex abuse scandal accusations involving his former colleague has now developed lung cancer.

We're also hearing right now that Jerry Sandusky's, he's the former assistant coach, that charity is folding. Let's go to straight to our CNN contributor, Sara Ganim. She's watching the story for us. She's a reporter for the "Patriot-News" in Pennsylvania. All right. Sara, first of all, on Joe Paterno, what exactly do we know?

SARA GANIM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, we know that Joe Paterno has been diagnosed with a treatable form of lung cancer, according to his family. This is a statement that they released. I'm going to read it to you, Wolf.

"Last weekend, my father was diagnosed with a treatable form of lung cancer during a follow-up visit for a bronchial illness. He is currently undergoing treatment and his doctors are optimistic that he will make a full recovery. As everyone can appreciate, this is a deeply personal matter for my parents, and we simply ask that his privacy be respected as he proceeds with treatment."

Now, we do have information that there is commotion possibly forming around the Paterno house right now. Of course, we're watching that. We're watching some of the spots on campus where students usually gather to show their support, and we'll keep you updated on that one. But for the moment, that's all we know and that's probably the only official word that we can expect on this.

BLITZER: Sara, what about Second Mile, the charity at the center -- at least, at the center of this accusation, Jerry Sandusky's charity. He's the assistant coach who's been accused of sexual abuse going back decades, if you will. New information that that is now folding?

GANIM: Yes. The information that we have is that they are going to be disbanding, farming out their programs to other charities that do similar things, and this comes after just a few days after the new president and CEO of that charity said that they were going to take a few days to talk to their donors, to talk to the people that they hope, the schools and the other programs that they work, the volunteers, and see if it was viable to keep the Second Mile going in the wake of this scandal. And apparently, this is the decision that has come from that short investigation.

BLITZER: And Sara, getting back to Joe Paterno and being diagnosed with what his family calls treatable lung cancer. What did we know before this about his health? He's what, 84 years old, right?

GANIM: Yes. And he's been the subject of rumors about health for a while. You know, last year, during the season, he had some kind of intestinal thing going on that we weren't really sure what that was, and there were rumors of cancer then. There've been rumors -- he's 84 years old. There's always a rumor about Joe Paterno's health. It's kind of an inevitable thing.

You know, he's been hit a few times. He was hit a few years ago on the sidelines and in practice. He was hit accidentally again this year and had some minor fractures. But this time, you know, it's really the first time that they've come out and said, you know, he's going forward with his treatment. This is what it is. You know, like I said, probably as much detail is we're going to get on this at this point.

BLITZER: Yes. The family says we should respect privacy which, of course, we want to do. Sara, thanks very much.

Let's bring in our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen. Elizabeth, you've done a lot of reporting on cancer, lung cancer. When they say it's a treatable form of lung cancer, what does that mean?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's interesting, Wolf. I ran that term by a cancer doctor just now, and he said, you know what, the word "treatable" doesn't really mean anything medically speaking, because you can treat anything. The question is, will that treatment be successful. And Wolf, when it comes to lung cancer, it is such a difficult, difficult cancer to beat, because often, it's found pretty late.

When you look at all White men who are diagnosed with lung cancer, five years later, only 15 percent of them are still alive. But, as I said, it really depends to a large extent on when it's caught. If you catch it early, you have about a 50-50 chance of being alive five years later. If you catch it late, you have only about a four percent chance of being alive five years later.

BLITZER: Because the first thing they almost always try to do, correct me if I'm wrong, Elizabeth, is if it's early enough, they can do some surgery and try to eradicate it that way and follow up with radiation chemo, but if it's too late, it's too late. Is that the sense, as well?

COHEN: Right. Wolf, that's absolutely correct. About 85 percent of the time, they can do surgery. One, if they caught it early enough, and two, if the patient healthy enough to have a chunk of their lung re-moved, because usually they remove at least 20 percent of the person's lungs.

So, you've got to have -- you've got to be in pretty good respiratory health in order to withstand that kind of surgery. So, as you said, follow-up with chemo and radiation. If they can't do surgery, they will often still do chemo and radiation. These are not easy treatments to endure, Wolf.

BLITZER: Is an 84-year-old a good candidate for surgery?

COHEN: You know, it really depends. I mean, different 84 year-olds have different, you know, health status, but, it's a really. They can do tests to see what their respiratory status is. Certainly, the older you get, the more difficult that is to withstand that kind of surgery.

BLITZER: We wish Joe Paterno a speedy, speedy recovery, only the best, and we're praying for him and his family. Thanks very much for that, Elizabeth Cohen.

Meanwhile, the NCAA is launching an investigation into Penn State University. The group says it will look into how university officials reacted to allegations against the long-time assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky.

In a letter to Penn state, NCAA president, Mark Emmert writes and I'm quoting now, "If true, officials who are in a position to monitor and act upon learning of potential abuses appear to have been acting starkly contrary to the values of higher education as well as the NCAA. The NCAA will examine Penn State's exercise of institutional control over its intercollegiate athletics program as well as the actions and inactions of relevant responsible personnel."

That's statement from the NCAA. Another breaking news story. Another revered college program in the spotlight right now due to other sexual allegations. We just got a statement from Syracuse University associate men's basketball coach, Bernie Fine, who's now on administrative leave by the university. CNNs Ed Lavandera is on the campus of Syracuse University right now.

Ed, tell our viewers who aren't familiar with these sexual abuse allegations on the campus of Syracuse University what's going on?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, these are allegations that surfaced last night coming from two former ball boys that worked for the Syracuse University basketball team during the 1980s and 1990s. One of those men now 39 years old says that Bernie Fine who's an assistant coach here with Syracuse basketball team, in his words, hundreds of times molested him during a 16-year period back in the 1980s and 1990s.

Fine, a well-known, a highly respected basketball coach here in the Syracuse University community just a short while ago, he released a statement as well saying, "Sadly, we live in an allegation based society and internet age where in a matter of minutes, one's life, long reputation can be severely damaged. I am confident that as in the past, a review of these allegations will be discredited and restore my reputation. I hope the late review of these allegations will be conducted expeditiously."

These allegations come as the Syracuse basketball team practicing right now. Wolf, the coach of this time, Jim Boeheim, a legendary figure of the basketball community as one student put it to us today, Jim Boeheim is to Syracuse what Joe Paterno is to Penn State.

So, these allegations very serious, but they stem from -- the allegations were made by this former ball boy that worked with the Syracuse basketball team and aired in an ESPN report last night. You can listen to a little bit of what he told ESPN.


BOBBY DAVIS, ALLEGED SEXUAL ABUSE VICTIM: Probably when I was, you know, sixth grade, 11, 10 years old, and he started trying to touch me and things like that, you know. And honestly, I don't even remember if I thought that was what was supposed to happen, you know. I know I cringed up and didn't want it to happen.

And I was very, you know, like, what's going on, is this -- I just remember being disgusted in a sense, you know, but that's when he started trying to touch me, my private.


LAVANDERA: Wolf, Jim Boeheim, the Syracuse basketball coach vehemently supporting his assistant coach. He's been put in administrative leave because the Syracuse police department has reopened this investigation. University officials say they looked into these allegations back in 2005. According to them, Syracuse police didn't pursue charges because the statute of limitations had passed.

The university says their own investigation didn't turn up, any corroborating evidence in, and they left it at that. Now, these allegations re-surfacing. The Syracuse police department re-opening the investigation. The man that you just heard from there, his step- brother has also come forward with similar allegations. So, we're talking about two people leveling these accusations against the basketball coach here. All of this kind of swirling around, and obviously, a much bigger deal now in the wake of the Penn State scandal as well -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a story this is. All right. Ed, we'll check back with you. Ed's on the campus at Syracuse University.

It's been called a wake-up call for U.S. towns and cities. It could be the first successful cyber-attack on American infrastructure, apparently, some ties to Russia. What's going on? Brian Todd investigating.

Plus, presidential hopeful, Newt Gingrich, says he never lobbied Congress, but a new report shows his think tank, raked in tens of millions of dollars from the healthcare industry. So, what exactly is going on? We're investigating that as well.


BLITZER: Shocking government investigation raising new questions about the safety of water and power systems right here in the United States. Officials are trying to figure out if the failure of an Illinois public water system may, repeat, may be the work of a computer attack launched by hackers outside of the United States.

Let's bring in our own Brian Todd. He's looking into details for us. What you're finding out?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, raising a lot of eyebrows among experts. As you mentioned, what happened last week at a water pumping station in Illinois is now the subject of an investigation by the Department of Homeland Security. The concerns among experts, if a water pumping station was hacked, could this happen to other key facilities like electrical grids, oil and gas stations, and is there any way we can protect ourselves from this?


TODD: It's been unheard of inside the U.S., hackers compromising infrastructure. Now, federal officials confirm they're investigating whether a cyber-attack may have led to the failure of a water pump at a public system in Springfield, Illinois area earlier this month. A local official discussed the incident.

DON CRAVEN, CURREN-GARDENER PUBLIC WATER DISTRICT: There is some indication that there was a breach of some sort into a software program.

TODD: Cyber security expert, Joe Weiss, disclosed the possible hacking on his blog after he obtained a government report from the state of Illinois' terrorism and intelligence center. We asked Weiss what the reports said about the incident when he says hackers breached the so-called Scada System, the tech controls of water pump machines.

JOE WEISS, APPLIED CONTROL SOLUTIONS: When the Scada System was showing abnormal problems, they called in an IT company if you will check out the computer. And sin the process of checking out the computer, in other words, the computer logs of the computer, they found IP addresses that were located in Russia.

TODD: Contacted by CNN, the Department of Homeland Security said it's looking into all of this, but DHS cautions it hasn't reached any conclusions about whether the pump was damaged by hackers or something else.

In a statement, the department says, "at this time, there is no credible corroborated data that indicates a risk to critical infrastructure entities or a threat to public safety." I spoke with Mischel Kwon, a former DHS cyber security official who now consults with the tech security firm, RSA.

How badly can a cyber breach damage a water pump?

MISCHEL KWON, CONSULTANT, RSA: You know in a pump, often, before you turn the pump on, you have to prime the pump. You have to water going through a pump. So, if your Scada machine skips the prime the pump function and goes right to the turn the pump on, it's going to burn the pump out.

TODD (on-camera): Kwon says this should at least be a wake-up call for cities and towns across the U.S. to upgrade their infrastructure protections against hacking. She says, if they don't, they run the risk of being vulnerable to an entire water system being compromised or even a dam opening up, not immediately, but in the future.

(voice-over) I asked Kwon how cities can combat the hacking of their infrastructure?

KWON: The hard part of this is is getting the funding, the appropriate dollars that are needed to take systems that did not -- were created not with security in mind and secure them.


TODD (on-camera): Kwon says that's difficult because these are municipalities, and computer security of this system depends on whether officials can get the public to support funding needed to upgrade the technology. That often means putting it up for public vote, asking taxpayers to shell out the money. It's tough to ask people to raise tax right about now, Wolf.

BLITZER: We know there was a high profile hacking incident outside of the United States not that long ago.

TODD: That's right. That was the Stuxnet computer worm. You know it well. This targeted Iran's nuclear program last year. Experts say it wiped out a pretty large percentage, maybe up to a fifth of Iran's centrifuges and may have delayed it from making an alleged nuclear weapon. That, of course, the IAEA believes it is doing.

BLITZER: Cyber-warfare, it's huge, huge issue right now. Brian, thanks very much.

Meanwhile, there's another investigation also raising serious concerns about the safety of the U.S. infrastructure. This one involving cell phones and other technology made by Chinese telecom companies operating right here in the United States. And now, the U.S. Congress is investigating.

Our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, is joining us with the latest on this story. What do we know about this story, Jill?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, this investigation is looking at a couple of companies, but one of them is a very big high-tech international company based in China, and it's also creating a dilemma because that company also creates jobs here in the United States.


DOUGHERTY (voice-over): Could the phones we use be a Trojan horse for China, a way for the Chinese government to access United States critical infrastructure and carry out economic and military espionage?

REP. MIKE ROGERS, (R) INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: The 800-pound gorilla in the room is Huawei.

DOUGHERTY: Huawei, a $28 billion international company based in China with 120,000 employees worldwide is one of the biggest information communications technology providers in the world. But Congressman Mike Rogers is suspicious. The head of the House Intelligence Committee has launched an investigation into Huawei and other Chinese telecol companies working in the U.S.

ROGERS: Their leadership has former their ties as Chinese intelligence services. It leads one to wonder what is in the all of the code in this particular network? So, would it enhance their ability to steal information? Yes. Would it enhance their ability to conduct attacks on networks? Absolutely.

DOUGHERTY: Huawei says its founder was an engineer in the Chinese army nearly three decades ago, but it denies any ties with Chinese intelligence.

BILL PLUMMER, HUAWEI SPOKESMAN: Huawei as a global leader in the industry, currently serves over 500 operators in over 140 countries including 45 of the world's top 50 telecommunications service providers and hasn't experienced a single security incident.

DOUGHERTY: Plus, Huawei creates jobs in the U.S. 1,500 direct jobs, it says, 500 new ones this year alone. If you add to that purchases from U.S. high tech firms, that means tens of thousands of additional indirect jobs. But, do you ignore security because Americans need jobs? We ask tech expert, Allen Paller.

(on-camera) So, there is a risk? You would admit that, right? So, what's the trade-off here? Where's the balance with jobs?

ALLEN PALLER, CYBERSECURITY EXPERT: There's a major risk. It's called a supply chain problem that wherever we buy technology here or abroad, somebody nefarious could put something into it, big risk. But, deciding not to do business with one company who might do that is cutting off your nose to spite your face because they create jobs.


DOUGHERTY: Right. And it's not just China, Paller says. There are counties all over the world that are trying to monitor telecommunications here in the United States. In fact, he says trying to go after each one of them is like playing a game of Wacamole. What he says, the best solution is to create a high-tech protection for those systems so that attempts like this will not succeed -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. What a complicated world this is becoming. Jill Dougherty, thank you.

In Syria, graphic new video showing a crisis seemingly spiraling out of control. One activist group reporting at least 19 people killed today by security forces, among them, four children. This as another defector group has formed issuing new threats to the embattled Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. We're going to continue to monitor this story for our viewers.

Syria sure to be on the agenda when the candidates take part in CNN's Republican national security debate this coming up this Tuesday, 8:00 p.m. eastern. I'd love to get your input. Tweet your questions for the candidates, tweet them to me, @wolfblitzercnn, @wolfblitzercnn. Be sure to include the hashtag CNN debate, hashtag CNN debate or you can submit your questions through the form we posted on our blog,

With one year to go before the U.S. presidential election, how excited are liberals about reelecting President Obama? Put that question to the independent senator, Bernie Sanders. He's here in the SITUATION ROOM.

And 30 years after what was believed to be an accidental drowning, was the actress, Natalie Wood, really murdered? Police now re-opening their investigation.


BLITZER: Here in Washington on Capitol Hill, another sign of tense partisan gridlock. The House of Representatives rejected a balanced budget amendment to the constitution. The Republicans say that amendment is needed to end spiraling federal deficit spending. Democrats argue it forces the government into a destructive cycle of massive spending cuts.

None of this, of course, inspiring confidence that the Congressional Super Committee as it's called will be able to meet its deadline to cut more than $1 trillion from the federal deficit by Wednesday. That's only five days from now. Let's talk about this with our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger. Gloria, so what happened here.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there were lots of high expectations last July. You remember, you covered the debt ceiling along with the rest of us. And, Republicans and Democrats both felt they're going to get something done on this Super Committee. Take a look at this interview I did with the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell just as they were working out the deal to set up the committee.


BORGER: OK. And then, the next big area is this debt committee as you call it. And, the question is, how do they guarantee absolutely that you get the kind of deficit reduction you are looking for, because we have had, with all due respect, committees in the past and they haven't done so well, one very recently. So, how do you hold their feet to the fire?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) MINORITY LEADER: We haven't had anything like this before. This is a joint committee of Congress. It is not a commission that consists of outsiders. A joint committee of Congress with an equal number of Republicans and Democrats --

BORGER: Right.

MCCONNELL: -- under enormous pressure from the American people, from the markets, foreign countries looking at us to see if we're going to get our House in order, to come up with significant additional savings over and above the initial ones that we will approve before the end of this year, and entitlement reform is absolutely critical.

BORGER: How do you absolutely guarantee that these cuts come?

MCCONNELL: My view is that there is a mathematical possibility, obviously, that the committee could deadlock, a mathematical possibility. I think it's highly unlikely that will happen.


BORGER: Well, I guess, he was wrong, because right now, everybody's pessimistic about it, Wolf, and it's the same old same old arguments between revenues and entitlement cuts. And it seems like a deal is unattainable.

BLITZER: It looks like both sides are already beginning to spin the failure.

BORGER: You know, they're spinning, and then, they're rationalizing their own failure. You have the Democrats saying, look, it's not quite so bad because we don't have the entitlement cuts. We've walled off the poor, and they don't take effect until January of 2013. You have Republicans saying, look, maybe we can undo the onerous defense cuts and it won't be that terrible. But you know what, Wolf, they lose credibility with the American people, with American consumers. We're heading into a holiday spending season, and it could very well affect that and affect their own re-election chances.

BLITZER: So, if they don't reach an agreement, how does it affect incumbents and how does it affect the president?

BORGER: Well, it's going to hurt incumbents. They're already having nine percent approval rating, and the president gets an opportunity to run against the Congress, which is exactly what he wants to do.

BLITZER: All right. I want you to listen to this. Hermain Cain, the Republican presidential candidate, in the last hour, he was speaking to reporters in Orlando, Florida, answering questions. He was asked about that long pause when he seemed to be confused about U.S. policy towards Libya, and he offered this explanation. Let me play the clip.


HERMAN CAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Why should we spend a billion dollars and lead from behind when the countries that had the most to gain would have been the countries in Europe? Most of Libya's oil goes to Europe, but they spent the least amount of money.

So, it gets back to something that I have said from time-to-time. Before I commit U.S. troops, military, or any of our resources, what's in the -- how is it in the interest of the United States of America?


BLITZER: All right, well, that's the wrong sound bite we wanted to play. Gloria, there's another one. We'll cue that one up. But he basically suggests that the Taliban, which is an indigenous group in Afghanistan that got some elements of the Taliban in Pakistan, but he's now saying Taliban is emerging in Libya. Al Qaeda is in Libya, and there are Al Qaeda elements in Libya. If he has new information the Taliban is in Libya, that's news.

BORGER: That would be news. Maybe you can ask him about it at the foreign policy debate?

BLITZER: I think he will be asked about it long before Tuesday night's national security debate here in Washington. But if he's saying the Taliban is emerging as an element, as a force in Libya, that's significant. All right, we'll cue that sound bite up and get it for our viewers. Gloria, thanks very much.

While both sides of the super committee debate, they're scrambling for a deal right now, their colleagues are standing their ground.

BLITZER: And Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont is here in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Senator, thanks for coming in.


BLITZER: Do you want this so-called super committee to reach a deal, a big deal by this coming week?

SANDERS: I want them to reach a good deal, a deal that's fair to the middle class and working families of this country that does what the American people want, which says no cuts in Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, ask the wealthiest people in this country to pay their fair share of taxes, do away with corporate loopholes so that companies making billions of dollars a year in profits start paying some taxes.

BLITZER: But as you know, the compromise in the works has always been there would be some tax increases, which is what you want, but at the same time there would be cuts in what's called entitlement spending, including Social Security and Medicare.

SANDERS: Well, I think that position is way out of line with what the American people want. I just saw a poll today. Seventy percent of Republicans, of Republicans say do not cut Social Security. Numbers are higher for Democrats and independents. In this economic moment when so many people are hurting, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are enormously important. They are life and death issues.

BLITZER: Are you open to reforms in Social Security, for example, raising the retirement age?

SANDERS: No. I'm open to reforms by lifting the cap taxable income so that millionaires contribute more into Social Security so that it will be solvent for 75 years. Let's be clear. Social security has not contributed to one nickel to the deficit. Compare every benefit for the next 25 years has a --

BLITZER: Are you open to means testing for Social Security recipients, in other words, if you're a millionaire, do you still need to get a $2,000 a month check?

SANDERS: Yes, you do. No, you know why -- no, the millionaire should be asked to contribute more into it. Once you start with millionaire, trust me, next year it'll be those making $100,000, and in 10 years it will be those making $50,000 --

BLITZER: So you don't want to touch entitlement spending at all?

SANDERS: I want to make sure that in the midst of recession, when tens of millions of people are desperately hanging on, that you don't cut those people at the knees so that they become even more desperate.

The issue now, Wolf, let's be clear, the richest people in this country are doing phenomenally well, large corporation, record- breaking profits. You do not balance the budget in a civilized democratic society on the backs of the most vulnerable. You ask those people who are doing well whose effective tax rates are lower than in that case to start paying their fair share of taxes.

BLITZER: But you know even President Obama is open to some changes on Medicare and Social Security, for example, adjusting what's called the cost of living index so that there's less of increase every year to deal with -- SANDERS: President Obama is dead wrong on that issue. He should go back and listen to what he said during his campaign. You go and talk to senior citizens and you say, you know, the COLA that you're getting, it's too generous.

BLITZER: COLA is the Cost of Living Allowance.

SANDERS: Right. The Cost of Living, it's too generous. They'd say you're crazy. For two years in a row when prescription costs, health care costs were soaring, we didn't get anything. Zero is too generous? Nobody believes that. And again, the poll that I just saw, 70 percent of Republicans say do not go in that direction.

BLITZER: But based on if everyone took -- the Democrats took your position, there would be no compromise with the Republicans because they are adamant they don't want tax increases.

SANDERS: Then you go -- let's be clear, there is a situation there will be sequestration, which does not --

BLITZER: Automatic cuts, the triggers.

SANDERS: Military and others which do not begin, Wolf, until January, 2013. And then the American people can make a decision in this election, which side are they on? Do they believe and agree with Republicans that you give tax breaks to billionaires and you cut Social Security? If I were a Republican, believe me, I would not want to run on that proposal.

BLITZER: So what I hear you saying, and correct me if I'm wrong, senator, you would rather have what's called the sequestration, the trigger, the automatic cuts beginning in 2013, half defense, half non- defense, rather than some sort of compromise which would deal with entitlement spending like Social Security?

SANDERS: I would rather have no deal than a bad deal. And the deals that I'm hearing -- and in all fairness, I'm not on the committee. But what I'm hearing is revenue, maybe we get it from the middle class, maybe a little bit here and there. I'm not impressed by what I'm hearing so far.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little politics for a second while I have you. How enthusiastic or unenthusiastic is the liberal progressive base out there that helped President Obama get elected in 2008 this time around?

SANDERS: Well, I will tell you. President Obama said vote for me because John McCain wants to cut your Social Security. Now, if Obama comes forward and says, hey, I want to cut your Social Security, how enthusiastic do you think --

BLITZER: He doesn't want to cut Social Security. He wants to make changes, though.

SANDERS: No. Wolf, that is called a cut. You know what it would mean? You know what this change in CPI means? It means $560 a year when you're 75, starting at 65. It means $1,000 a year when you get to be 85. That in plain language, in the real world, is called a cut. And so the president, if he were to support that proposal, would be going back on his word.

The problem that the president has is he ran a brilliant campaign. He inspired a whole lot of people. But people now are nervous. They're not quite sure where he is coming from. He needs to stand up for the working class, the middle class of this country and say I am going to protect you.

BLITZER: Having said that, you look at the Republican field, those eight Republican candidates out there, I'm sure you're not enthusiastic about any of them.

SANDERS: I am not. But here's the point to be made. I don't think it's made enough in the media. If you look at the ideology of these right wing Republicans, more tax breaks for rich, cut Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, deregulate Wall Street after Wall Street caused this horrendous recession we're in, more unfettered free trade so we can lose more jobs to China. Do you know how many people believe in that ideology? Maybe, 15, 20 percent max. The real issue is why Democrats aren't winning by 30 or 40 percent.

BLITZER: Why not?

SANDERS: Because they are not clarifying they reality that -- that's their problem. They have got to make it clear they are on the side of the middle class and working class and differentiate themselves from Republicans. So when the president and other Democrats come forward and say, well, we're thinking about maybe cutting Social Security. The average person says is there a difference --

BLITZER: Do you think, and we're almost out of time, but you think the president has been too wishy-washy?

SANDERS: Absolutely. I think the three previous agreements that the president and the Democrats negotiated with the Republicans have given the Republicans almost everything they wanted. Now is the time for the Democrats to stand up and say we are on the side of working families and the middle class. American people, you decide where you're coming from.

BLITZER: As it stands right now, will you go out in Vermont, your home state, and campaign for the president's reelection?

SANDERS: I certainly that hope I will.

BLITZER: You can't tell me that you will?

SANDERS: No, I can't. I want to hear this president tell me from his heart that he's going to stand with working families and the middle class. And when he does that, he will have an enormously strong support.

BLITZER: Does he ever call you? Does he ever invite you over for a conversation? SANDERS: Not recently, but I have been to the White House on a number of occasions.

BLITZER: Senator, thanks, as usual.

SANDERS: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's get back to Herman Cain, the Republican presidential candidate, made within the past hour or so in Orlando, Florida. He did a little quick Q&A with reporters and asked about some remarks he made the other day in Milwaukee. On Libya, he seemed to be confused about U.S. policy. Today, he had a chance to elaborate, and he said this.


CAIN: What part? Do I agree with the part where we intervene with rockets and missiles? Do I agree with siding with the opposition? Do I agree with saying that Gadhafi should go? Do I agree that they now have a country where you've got Taliban and Al Qaeda that's going be part of the government? Do I agree with not knowing what the government was going to do? Which part was he asking me about?


BLITZER: All right, those are the controversial comments where he say there is a government now about to be formed in Libya that will have Al Qaeda and Taliban. There may be elements of Al Qaeda, experts have said, over these past many months on the ground in Libya right now, there's probably no doubt about that. But the Taliban in the government, Taliban in Libya -- there are Taliban, of course, in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan. But that would be huge news if the Taliban were in Libya right now, even be bigger news if Al Qaeda and the Taliban would be part of this new government that would be emerging in Libya post-Gadhafi. We will continue to monitor what was going on. But that was Herman Cain just a little while ago in Orlando.

Other news we're following, including some news involving the gutter. That's where some top secret U.S. documents involving President Obama reportedly turned up. Stay with us.


BLITZER: The alleged White House shooter compares himself to Jesus. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What's going on here.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. Well, we have obtained video of the alleged White House shooter giving a rambling 20 minute address. In it Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez calls himself a modern day Jesus. He apparently taped the message as a pitch it to "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OSCAR RAMIRO ORTEGA-HERNANDEZ, WHITE HOUSE SHOOTER: You see, Oprah, there is still so much more that god needs me to express to the world. It's not just a coincidence that I look like Jesus. I am the modern day Jesus Christ that you all have been waiting for.


SYLVESTER: Court documents shows Ortega-Hernandez considers President Obama is the anti-Christ of the devil. He has been charged with trying to assassinate the president.

And a record $21.7 billion deal for Boeing. Indonesia's Lion Air has agreed to buy 230 Boeing planes. It's meant to feed the growing appetite for air travel in the world's fourth largest country. President Obama who is in Bali for an economy summit says strong economic ties with Asia means more jobs in the United States.

And an emotional send-off for Regis Philbin. After 28 years of "Regis Live," Philbin signed off for the final time today. He says he's going out a pretty proud and happy guy. We caught up with Regis after the last show, and, Wolf, he threw some love your way.


REGIS PHILBIN, TV HOST: We're going find out, I'll tell you that. I'm not so sure how I will do. But thanks for coming. And my best to Wolf Blitzer. Love him. Love the Wolf.



BLITZER: I love Regis, too. He's great. I saw that Larry king tribute at the Friars' Club the other night. He's a great guy. We wish Regis only the best. We want him one day to come in THE SITUATION ROOM.

SYLVESTER: That would be great. Great idea.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. Congratulations to Regis.

Newt Gingrich on the defense again. Just ahead new reports suggesting he was paid, get this, tens of millions of dollars by the health care industry. We're taking a closer look.


BLITZER: And embarrassing and potentially dangerous security slip-up in Australia. Our White House correspondent Brianna Keilar is joining us in now from Bali in Indonesia. What happened, Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf, the "Sydney Morning Herald" is reporting that a 120 page book basically of logistics for the president's visit to Australia's capital the middle of this week, that it was found just lying on the street, obviously not where it was supposed to be by the paper's national security reporter. It included details, according to the paper, such as phone numbers for top administration officials, for Australian military officials, and also details even down to the seating arrangements of the president's motorcade, including which door of his limousine he would be getting into and out of.

Now, it's unclear how significant this is, how much of a breach this would have been because of when it was found, which was obviously after the fact, but also where it was found. The paper initially said a top secret document was found in a Canberra gutter, and then later retracted that headline, which was very attention grabbing, as you can imagine. They said it wasn't actually top secret. It said in confidence on it. And then it appears the location was a little closer to parliament house, which of course was very much in lockdown on the day of the president's visit and which normally doesn't see the kind of foot traffic the U.S. capitol would see.

As you know, Wolf, the sun just came up in Bali. We're still waiting to see if there's any response from the White House. We haven't had an official response from the Secret Service. But certainly this is something that at the least would be an embarrassment for the White House and you can be sure that some people have been told to definitely keep a tighter hand on some sort of document like this, Wolf.

BLITZER: Very good advice, Brianna, thanks very much. Brianna reporting from Bali. Safe trip home.

And $37 million, that's how much the health care industry reportedly gave to Newt Gingrich's think tank. Will these revelations hurt his campaign? Stay with us?


BLITZER: Just days after learning that Newt Gingrich was paid nearly $2 million by Freddie Mac, there are now reports about controversial ties to the health care industry. Lisa Sylvester is joining us with the details.

SYLVESTER: Hi, Wolf. Well, after leaving public office, Gingrich set himself up as a consultant. And he has done very well. We know that Freddie Mac used his services. And so did a number of health care companies through his for-profit think tank.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Speaker Newt Gingrich.


SYLVESTER: Newt picking up steam in Iowa. One of his main talking points, talking down President Obama's health care reform.

NEWT GINGRICH, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have to repeal Obamacare to get the economy growing again.

SYLVESTER: Gingrich has a hefty background in health care. "Modern Health Care" magazine ranks him as the sixth most powerful person in the industry. In 2003, Gingrich founded the center for health transformation, a for-profit Washington think tank. Its members include the biggest players in the health care industry, including BlueCross/BlueShield, and leading diabetes care company Novo Nordisk.

Gingrich has done very well. His think tank charges its members anywhere from $5,000 to $200,000 in membership dues. A "Washington Post" analysis tallies the amount Gingrich has raked in at more than $37 million since 2003. In exchange, the health care companies gained access to the former House speaker.

MICHAEL BECKEL, CENTER FOR RESPONSIVE POLITICS: This is a common refrain in this city where groups are trying to gain access to find friends and allies so when push comes to shove that they have people on their side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

SYLVESTER: One position that Gingrich has taken though may hurt him in the presidential primary. Gingrich has penned op-eds like this one from June, 2007, advocating an insurance mandate that would, quote, "require anyone who earns more than $50,000 a year to purchase health insurance or post a bond."

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You look throughout the totality of his record, he's been in public life since the 1970s. And he's taken a number of positions that are going to be difficult for those Tea Party activists to swallow.

SYLVESTER: Gingrich has come under fire for privately taking between $1.6 million and $1.8 million from Freddie Mac for consulting work. Publicly Gingrich has railed against the federal-backed mortgage lender. Gingrich has been moving up in the polls, and with success comes scrutiny.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: We see Newt be pretty irascible, be the grumpy uncle when he's on offense. Imagine how it's going to play now that he's on defense. I just think that the Newt swing is in its infancy, and we're going to have many ups and downs between now and Iowa.


SYLVESTER: Gingrich relinquished ownership of the Center for Health Transformation earlier this year. We asked the center to provide more details about its membership roster and its revenues. But we were told, quote, "That it is a private company, and like any other private company, they don't disclose financial records." Wolf?

BLITZER: But Newt Gingrich knows he's been around Washington way too long. He knows fully well that news organizations and opposition research, as it's called, from other campaigns, they're digging into what's called "Newt, Inc." right now. And more of this information is almost certainly going to come out. We'll stay on top of the story for our viewers. He in fact wants to be president of the United States. It's been decades, but officials are looking into the drowning death of the actress Natalie Wood again.


BLITZER: Los Angeles police say they have substantial new information about the death of Natalie Wood. CNN entertainment correspondent Kareen Wynter is joining us from Los Angeles with the latest. What do we know, Kareen?

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. While the Los Angeles county sheriff's department says Wood's husband at the time, Robert Wagner, who was on the yacht the night she died is not a suspect. But still, Wolf, this has not stopped investigators from taking a second look at this mysterious case.


WYNTER: Natalie Wood was one of the most popular sought-after actresses in Hollywood, which made her death in 1981 at just 43 years old all the more shocking, and for some, inexplicable. Sheriff's officials were vague today about what led to the reopening of the investigation after 30 years.

LT. JOHN CORINA, LOS ANGELES COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: Recently we have received information which we felt was substantial enough to make us take another look at this case.

WYNTER: It was Thanksgiving weekend, 1981, when Wood and her actor husband, Robert Wagner, went sailing on their yacht "The Splendour." They were joined by actor and friend Christopher Walken. That Saturday night Wagner and Walken apparently got into a heated argument. A short time later Wagner notified the fourth person on the yacht, Captain Dennis Davern, that Wood was not on board. Today, Davern told CNN he thought she might have tried to take the yacht's dinghy to shore.

DENNIS DAVERN, FORMER CAPTAIN, THE SPLENDOUR: And I said to Robert Wagner, I said let's turn on the searchlight to see if we can see her. And he said, no, we don't want to do that right now.

WYNTER: Natalie Wood was discovered hours later dressed in a nightgown and socks floating a mile from the yacht. The autopsy revealed dozens of bruises on her body. Still, the coroner sought to quash rumors wood was killed or committed suicide, insisting she died of accidental drowning.

Was alcohol to blame? An autopsy showed Wood had an alcohol-blood level of 0.14. Even more perplexing, Wood once told an interviewer her great fear was dark seawater. And her sister Alana later claimed Natalie didn't even know how to swim.

Thirty years later, the question remains, how did Natalie Wood end up floating in the Pacific?

(END VIDEOTAPE) WYNTER: And, Wolf, as for Dennis Davern, who's now changed his story as to what happened that tragic night, well, investigators say they want to talk to him and hear what he has to say this time around. Wolf?