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THE SITUATION ROOM
Syria's Horror: A Year And Counting; Dems Prepare for Fight in Ohio; Could Afghanistan Killings Inspire Extremists in U.S.? Siri: Not Such a Know-It-All?
Aired March 15, 2012 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM, happening now, a bloody anniversary. Syria's uprising rages on along with the regime's brutal crackdown -- that the violence is turning into a sectarian war.
And FBI and Homeland Security warning just released. The mass killing in Afghanistan could inspire home-grown extremists right here in the United States.
And Siri may not be a know-it-all after all. The personal assistant built in to Apple's iPhone is stumped by a lot of users, and now, a lawsuit is charging false advertising.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Breaking news, political headlines, and Jeanne Moos all straight ahead. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
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BLITZER: Today marks a year since the start of the Syrian revolt and a bloody crackdown that has claimed thousands of lives. The Syrian regime is staging mass rallies in support of President Bashar al-Assad, even as his assault on dissent grinds on. Another 46 people were reported killed today. The opposition is fighting back. This video said to be from the siege into a (ph) province shows the ambush of a Syrian tank. Listen to this.
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BLITZER: But the regime continues to target civilians.
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BLITZER: Here the shelling going on in the battered city of Homs as s the ground shakes, voices call to God, and cry out in pain. Homs has been the epicenter of the revolt, and videos from there have shown so many atrocities apparently committed by security forces. CNN has obtained some of the most disturbing footage yet. About a dozen family members apparently killed in one house in cold blood. CNN's Arwa Damon filed this report, and we should warn you, it shows graphic violence.
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ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The men stopped as they moved across (INAUDIBLE) they smashed through the walls. It's taken them nearly a week to get this far, to reach a house on a sectarian fault line that runs through Homs. "We're rescuing the bodies of the martyrs," the voice on the video narrates.
They've heard that a Sunni family has been killed. What they find, shocking beyond description. The first body, that of a woman. In the room next to it, bodies crowded into a back corner as if they were trying to hide. The dead child's face, a mask of fear, blood splatters the wall. "Let the world see," the voice exclaims.
Look at this massacre in just one house. He curses the Shias, the Alawite, and Bashar al-Assad. The video is said to have been shot in the neighborhood of Sabid (ph) early in February. "Look, people, look," Shaik Abu Ibrahim (ph) says, overcome with emotion as he, too, curses the regime. The camera pans over to show more bodies slaughtered in the back.
Suddenly, on another floor, a tiny glimmer. The child cries out, clearly terrified. He comes into view, having to crawl over a body lying in the doorway. He must have been hiding for days. "Don't be afraid. You're safe now. Don't make a sound," one of men tells the boy. It's not known who killed his family or why, but the men who found the bodies are sure this was a sectarian massacre carried out by thugs allied to the regime.
BLITZER: And Arwa is joining us now from Beirut. Arwa, is this becoming more and more a sectarian war rather than one between the opposition and the regime?
DAMON: You know, it still is mostly between those who support and are against the regime, but there are undeniable sectarian undertones to all of it that are especially prominent in cities like Homs. And the concern amongst opposition activists is that they are only going to continue to rise to the surface the longer this drags on.
They are saying that, for now, they are able to control people, able to control their desire for revenge following such acts of brutality, but they're not going to be able to maintain that control for much longer. And we should also note that this is not the first such massacre to have taken place in Homs. There were at least three other similar massacres that took place in the neighborhood of Karm el-Zeitoun just this year, wolf. BLITZER: because I ask the question as our viewers know by now, Bashar al-Assad as an Alowite, a Shiite sect, and I'm concerned that if it does become a war, shall we say, between the Shiites and Alowites, specifically, versus the Sunni Muslims, who knows how this is going to wind up?
DAMON: And that is a concern that is shared by everybody, ironically, on both sides. The government shares that concern and opposition activists share that concern, but the issue is bringing about an end to the bloodshed before that horrific scenario becomes reality, and that is where we see the international community deadlocked, both sides polarized hardened to one another to such a degree that sitting around any sort of negotiating table right now is just not a viable option.
So, the big question is how to prevent that worst-case scenario from materializing, because most certainly, Syria can't afford to see that happen and nor can the region, Wolf.
BLITZER: Arwa is doing a world-class job bringing us these stories. We really appreciate it. Arwa, thank you very, very much.
The FBI and Homeland Security departments here in the United States have issued a warning that the mass shooting of civilians in Afghanistan could trigger violence right here in the United States. We'll get more on that shortly from our national security contributor, Fran Townsend.
But first, CNNs Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, has new details on that shooting and on the runway attack carried out as the defense secretary, Leon Panetta's, plane landed in Afghanistan. Barbara, what are you learning?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Let's go first to that runway attack, Wolf. It was yesterday at the British-run base in Southern Afghanistan. Defense secretary, Leon Panetta, is about to land when a vehicle full of gasoline containers comes barreling down the runway, crashes, explodes into plane, the driver died of his burns, but we are learning new details today.
The Pentagon says the driver of that stolen vehicle was, in fact, they believe, aiming for the welcoming party for Panetta on the runway. He may not have known they were there for Panetta. He may not have known Panetta was about to land, but a U.S. military official says that the driver drove the vehicle at a high rate of speed at individuals who had to get out of the way to avoid being hit.
The secretary's plane was diverted to another part of the runway. They all had to stay on board until it was safe. Here, for the first time, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta talking about it.
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LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: From the evidence that I've been told, so far, that this individual, basically, whatever happened here was directed at others that were there on the field and not me or my plane or anything associated with me.
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STARR: But an extraordinary security breach nonetheless, Wolf. We have also learned it was 30 minutes between the time the man stole the vehicle and crashed it on the runway where the secretary's plain was landing. Thirty minutes when someone had a stolen vehicle, gasoline on board, a VIP about to land, and the military didn't seem to know very much about it, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Stand by, Barbara, because this is just coming in.
I want to go to CNNs Casey Wian. He has just spoken to the attorney for that soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians. That soldier, we're told, is now in Kuwait under U.S. military custody. Casey is joining us on the phone. Casey, what are you learning?
CASEY WIAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're learning an awful lot more than what we've ever known about this alleged shooting suspect who is now, as you mentioned, in Kuwait. He has retained an attorney by the name of John Henry Brown (ph) who is based in Seattle, of course, near the Joint Base Lewis-McChord where the soldier was stationed out of.
John Henry Brown (ph) well known for representing the barefoot bandit, in that case, not long ago. Now, what he tells me as he spoke to the alleged shooting suspect early this morning. He also spoke with his family yesterday in person. He has a wife, two children, also spoke with other family members who are, the attorney says, paying for the shooter's defense.
One thing we wanted to dispel, there had been reports out there that marital problems may have been one reason behind what this soldier is accused of doing in Afghanistan, gunning down 16 people. He says that that is absolutely hogwash.
There have been absolutely no problems in this soldier's marriage, according to his newly retained attorney, John Henry Brown (ph). Also said, he will be traveling, he believes, to Kuwait as early as next week to meet with his client, and that is if he remains in custody in Kuwait. He also believes there's a possibility that he could be transferred to the United States for trial, eventually.
The one thing he did rule out, he says there is no possibility in his view that there will be a trial in Afghanistan. Also, he mentioned the fact that this soldier had done previous tours of duty in Iraq and that he was injured during a vehicle crash that was caused by an IED explosion. We asked him about the history of Joint Base Lewis-McChord and there have been reports about soldiers who have been treated for PTSD, not getting, perhaps, the proper care.
We asked him if that would be an issue in this trial and whether that was, perhaps, one of the claims that he might be making, that this soldier was sent over to Afghanistan when, perhaps, he should not have been. He said that was an area he would certainly explore -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Have they released the name of this soldier yet?
WIAN: They have not. Obviously, his attorney knows his name. He would not release his name. He says that that is because of the concern for the safety of his family. The family, we do know, has been transferred actually on base for their protection, and there was an FBI report or at least an FBI warning earlier today that, perhaps, there could be some retaliation or at least warning law enforcement to be on the lookout for retaliation.
So, this attorney, Mr. Brown, is definitely concerned about that. The only thing we have in terms of biographical information about the soldier at this time is that he did not grow up in this area. He is from the Midwest, but his attorney would not say what specific state, Wolf.
BLITZER: Casey Wian is on the scene for us. Appreciate it very much. We'll stay in close touch with you.
The airport violence that Barbara Starr was reporting about the violence that the defense secretary, Leon Panetta, encountered may have underscored just how bitter the mood is among Afghans right now. And that was clearly spelled out in talks in Kabul, the Afghani capital. Our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, has details.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Senior defense official say Leon Panetta walked out of his meeting with President Hamid Karzai on the same page, confident they can reach an agreement to keep some U.S. troops in Afghanistan past 2014.
PANETTA: We really did focus on the strategy for the future.
LAWRENCE: But in the aftermath of an American soldier allegedly killing 16 Afghan civilians, Karzai bluntly told Panetta, Afghans don't trust U.S. troops, and the international forces should move out of the villages of Afghanistan and pull back to their main bases.
The defense official says he didn't interpret that to mean immediately, but the presidential palace says Karzai told Panetta, the Afghan forces are now capable of protecting the villages, and Karzai made clear he wants to finish the transition to Afghan forces in 2013, a year ahead of NATO's timeline. And this is all coming less than a day after President Obama said --
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't anticipate at this stage that we're going to be making any sudden additional changes to the plan that we currently have.
LAWRENCE: After Karzai made his demands, the Taliban announced they were suspending their peace talks with the U.S. So, what next?
JAMES DOBBINS, FORMER SPECIAL ENVOY TO AFGHANISTAN: I don't think that the U.S. is going to accede the Karzai's demand, and I don't think in the end, Karzai is going to insist on it.
LAWRENCE: Ambassador James Dobbins was a special envoy to Afghanistan under President Bush. He says Karzai has a history of backing down from ultimatums, and the U.S. has a history of ignoring them, but he does expect growing public pressure, both in the U.S. and Afghanistan, to accelerate their transition from the original deadline of December 2014.
DOBBINS: It may start a little earlier, and it may go a little more quickly as the result of these recent events.
LAWRENCE (on-camera): And just to put a little context on this, a U.S. defense official says President Karzai had sent his own investigative team to the scene of that massacre. They had just come back and briefed him before Karzai made some of these comments, and the official said that briefing clearly was weighing on his mind.
Also, when CNN followed up with Karzai's office, the palace said, yes, he did say that he wanted the transition to happen in 2013, not 2014, but he did not say that he wanted all international troops out by the end of next year -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much for that. Chris Lawrence with the latest.
Meanwhile, an intelligence warning from the FBI and the Homeland Security Department here in the United States. How the violence in Afghanistan may impact Americans right at home.
Also, Apple sued over claims of false advertising. Does the iPhone really do what Apple claims it does in its commercials? We'll test it ourselves. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Wolf, taking care of yourself is rapidly becoming an economic issue of staggering proportions. In fact, you may want to grab a head of lettuce on your way home tonight and get right on the treadmill when you get there. The day is coming in less than 20 years when healthcare costs may consume your entire paycheck.
In other words, illness will one day soon simply become unaffordable. A new report by the Annals of Family Medicine, a doctor's group, suggests that less than 20 years from now, the average American family's medical cost will surpass their entire income. It's no secret healthcare costs have been growing faster than just about everything else in this country from decades now, and while the trend did slow a bit recently, the authors of this study say medical costs are still going up.
As a matter of fact, they're slated to continue to rise about as far as the eye can see. That brings us to the subject of Obamacare. In 2009-2010, healthcare costs grew at a slower rate than any time on record, but they still grew. Obamacare, the critics say, is not enough to solve this problem. The doctors have compiled the report said that Obamacare is a good first step, but that it's not enough to get us where we eventually must go.
The question is this, what does it mean if paying for healthcare costs will soon take your entire paycheck? That's scary. Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile, post a comment on my blog, or go to our post on the SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.
BLITZER: That's very scary, Jack. Thank you.
While the Republican candidates have been hammering one another at every opportunity, the Democrats are now joining in. The Vice President, Joe Biden, went on the attack today slamming the Republican rivals by name, and that comes as Democrats beef up their campaign operation in the key battleground state of Ohio. Our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, is there.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Napoleon, Ohio, a quintessential middle-American town of about 8,000 people --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm calling in support of President Obama's re-election campaign.
LOTHIAN: The push to get President Obama re-elected heats up. Volunteers work the phones to explain the benefits of his signature healthcare law. A factory worker --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've had some people, to be honest, that have hung up on me, but that is OK.
LOTHIAN: A laid-off elementary schoolteacher.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are getting positive feedback, and we're looking forward to making many calls.
LOTHIAN: The chairman of the state's Democratic Party is taking nothing for granted.
(on-camera) How critical again will Ohio be in this election?
CHRIS REDFERN, CHAIRMAN, OHIO DEMOCRATIC PARTY: We pick presidents. It's as simple as that.
LOTHIAN: Ohio picked President Obama in 2008 by 51 percent, and the ground operation across 88 counties that helped him win never folded up shock (ph).
REDFERN: We have a stronger infrastructure today than, perhaps, we did in 2008. LOTHIAN: But what they also have is a president with low poll numbers in a still struggling economy. This NBC News/Marist survey shows 49 percent of Ohio voters disapprove of how the president is handling his job, 45 percent approve. State Republicans say Mr. Obama is vulnerable.
JON STAINBROOK, CHAIRMAN, LUCAS COUNTY, OHIO, REPUBLICAN PARTY: With $4 gas prices, Obamacare, and the failed stimulus, things don't look good for President Obama up here in Ohio.
LOTHIAN: They're pushing that theme of a president who's failed to improve their lives. As the Obama campaign launches what's expected to be the most aggressive effort ever in the Buckeye State. The president flew to Dayton for a basketball game and what amounted to a political lay-off.
OBAMA: Heartland is what it's all about.
LOTHIAN: Then, two days later, the vice president arrived in Toledo, where he delivered a high-profile attack on the president's Republican opponents.
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you give any one of they guys the key to the White House, they will bankrupt the middle class again.
LOTHIAN: In a state where more than 800,000 jobs are tied directly to the auto industry, the Obama campaign is taking credit for a dramatic turnaround, and supporters like the state's former governor are using the bailout to draw a sharp contrast with Republican frontrunner, Mitt Romney, who favored a managed bankruptcy.
TED STRICKLAND, (D) FORMER OHIO GOVERNOR: I believe he'll have serious problems in November as he presents his record to the people of our state.
LOTHIAN: But Republicans argue the president has big problems of his own in this state, and on that list is enthusiasm.
STAINBROOK: you can throw all the pep rallies and campaign stops you want, but you can't get the enthusiasm back that the president had in 2008.
LOTHIAN (on-camera): Republicans here in Ohio have been targeting young voters and independents with this message, that the eventual Republican presidential nominee will do a much better job fixing the economy and getting the unemployed back to work -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Dan Lothian in Ohio for us, a key battleground state, thank you.
A husband and a wife kidnapped at gunpoint by the Taliban. They have now escaped. We're going to tell you how they managed to get away. Also, the Titanic is certainly the most famous shipwreck of all time. Now, the whole ship is for sale. That's coming up right here on the SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: As we told you at the top of the hour, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security right here in Washington have issued a joint intelligence bulletin. It warns that the killings of civilians in Afghanistan could -- could lead to retaliatory attacks by home- grown extremists right here in the United States.
Let's discuss what's going on with our national security contributor, Fran Townsend. She serves on both the CIA and the Department of Homeland Security external Advisory Boards. Fran, give us some perspective. How big of a deal is this home-grown terror warning that has just been released?
FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: You know, Wolf, we periodically see these sorts of warnings based on things that are going on around the world. And we have seen attacks against U.S. military bases in the past, most notably Ft. Hood, I think, most people remember were 16 soldiers were shot and killed by a colleague.
But there have been plots again in Ft. Dix and Little Rock, Arkansas. So, we've seen this targeting. The question we haven't been able to answer. We haven't gotten from our sources yet is, is this warning based on specific intelligence as a result of the shooting overseas in Afghanistan? Not clear.
The other thing is when such a threat warning is issued, Wolf, each base commander has the discretion to raise his defense condition level. That is the security posture. Pentagon has been unable to answer for Barbara Starr and our colleagues here at CNN whether or not and how many base commanders have actually decided to increase their threat posture.
But I think what the message to be taken from this, Wolf is, look, they're taking this very seriously. The Taliban in country has threatened retaliation, and it is reasonable to make sure that we protect our soldiers and their families here at home on military bases.
BLITZER: So, we shouldn't be surprised here in the United States and maybe at U.S. military bases in Europe or in Asia or elsewhere if we see a higher level of security in the coming days?
TOWNSEND: That's right, Wolf. I mean, each base commander is well within his right once this threat warning has been issued to take additional security precautions. And so, people entering and leaving bases ought to leave extra time to make sure that they can deal with any additional security measures.
BLITZER: Sometimes, these warnings are released out of an abundance of caution, other times, as you correctly point out, they're released because of intelligence, because of some evidence, some specific reason that they find that they want to raise the threat level, shall we say.
And what you're saying is you're not sure yet whether this was simply done out of an abundance of caution or whether there was hard intelligence to warrant some kind of threat level increase.
TOWNSEND: That's exactly right, Wolf. We know about the threat for retaliation made by the Taliban inside Afghanistan. We haven't heard any public acknowledgement that there is a particular, specific, and credible threat against U.S. military bases at home or around the world, but it's reasonable given what we've seen and given the very strong reaction to the tragedy that took place in Afghanistan.
That the Department of Defense, the FBI, DHS, are all concerned that there could be retaliatory --
BLITZER: Because I know that experts monitor a lot of these websites on the internet where they could potentially inspire home- grown extremists to go ahead and do something like this. And I know they always watch to see if there's code words or some sort of message out there to go ahead and do something. Walk us through that process a little bit.
TOWNSEND: Sure. What happens, Wolf, is, of course, there are these known al Qaeda websites, you know, there's the media committee inside al Qaeda, and they do issue these statements. They act these hotbeds.
Remember Anwar al-Awlaki who's now been killed by U.S. forces, he was particularly known for his inspiring sermons and sort of messages that he would post on the internet, but he's not alone. There are many others who do the same thing.
And what they do is they use these sorts of tragedies -- I remember when I was in the White House, Abu Ghraib, which was of course a crime, it was not U.S. policy, but that was used by these extremist preachers to sort of inspire those here in the United States, in western countries like Great Britain and around the world to inspire them to take retaliatory action, to inspire them to act you know and to pick up -- to take up jihad against the West.
And so this is the sort of thing one can imagine those extremists preachers might use to inspire action by those who are otherwise just reading these Internet postings. And so those Internet sites are the kinds of things that you're talking about, Wolf, that the U.S. intelligence community and others around the world, our allies monitor.
BLITZER: Yes, we'll be monitoring it ourselves. Appreciate it very much, Fran. Thank you.
And with the fury mounting over the killing of civilians and the earlier burning of the Korans, has the United States already reached the end of the road in Afghanistan? And joining us now from New York, Fareed Zakaria, the host of "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS." Fareed, you've got a special on health care, and I want to talk about it in a moment. But very quickly on Afghanistan right now, a lot of people are frustrated, they're angry. Afghanis are apparently losing patience with the U.S. and the NATO allies. Is it time for the United States to accelerate its withdrawal from Afghanistan?
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN'S FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: Wolf, I don't think this is the right time to do anything like that because it would suggest that we were wavering in the face of pressure. You know these situations. The crisis will blow over. President Karzai is now reacting to domestic pressure he's facing. And so he's making certain demands. As long as we can ride this out, these kind of crises do blow over, but I do think it is worth our asking ourselves more fundamentally than we have yet whether we need to transition to a real counterterrorism strategy.
We're still holding on to this counterinsurgency strategy, which is basically a vast nation-building project. You know we're still trying to modernize large parts of Afghanistan provide them with power and education and good governance in the hope that that's going to stabilize the situation. And I think that the evidence increasingly is that what we really need is a more targeted strategy that kills bad guys. That's where most of the value add (ph) has been in the last few years. That is the way in which we are going to be able to serve American national security interests. So I do think that Vice President Biden has pushing this idea for a while, that we need to take it more seriously, but not in the context of these protests, and not in the context of seeming to waver the minute something is going wrong in Afghanistan.
BLITZER: There's a lot of people are beginning to say, does it really make any difference in the long run whether the U.S. and the NATO allies get out in three months, six months or three years because right now President Obama wants them to stay until the end of 2014. We'll continue this conversation, I'm sure we'll have many opportunities, Fareed, but I want to talk about your special that's airing on CNN Sunday night.
I read the article that's in our sister publication "TIME" magazine, the cover story has nothing to do with your article, "The Richer Sex", but it does have a little headline at the top, "Obamacare is a Mess We Can't Live Without" by Fareed Zakaria. And I know your special, your GPS special Sunday night deals with what we can learn from other countries on their health plans, how we can take the best and improve ours here in the United States. What's the single best most important lesson we can learn?
ZAKARIA: Probably the single most important lesson, Wolf, is that by covering everyone, you create a system that has the potential to work and bring costs down. So if you look at Switzerland, Switzerland had a system 20 years ago pretty much like the United States, private insurers, private providers, private doctors. Remember Switzerland is not what people think of when they think of Europe.
Switzerland is a very free market oriented society and economy. In fact, it scores higher than the United States on the Heritage Foundation's economic liberty index. Twenty years ago the Swiss realized that without an individual mandate, the system just doesn't work because too many people end up in emergency rooms, insurers are constantly trying to kick people off when they get sick, so they put in place essentially a version of Obamacare, an individual mandate.
And at least in their case it has worked out really well. What they found is that they were able to create a system where everyone is in, so the insurers have a buy-in, costs have come down, and in some way, if you look at every country in the world, every rich country in the world, they have all found that the only way you can make this work is to have some kind of universal care. And then of course they have much more state involvement than we do or than the Swiss do, but basically universal care is the prerequisite to making health care work as a market.
BLITZER: I'm looking forward to seeing the documentary Sunday night. It's entitled "Global Lessons, The GPS Road Map For Saving Health Care" Sunday night 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. Thanks very much, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Iran has now reacted to claims it's hiding nuclear activities at one of its military complexes. We're going to tell you what a top Iranian official has to say.
And George Clooney met with President Obama today. You're going to hear what he says about the 2012 race for the White House. That's coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now including Iran's demand for cooperation from the West. Lisa, what's going on?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a top Iranian official says Iran wants more clarity from the United Nations nuclear watch dog group before allowing inspectors into a military complex south of Tehran.
Iran denies it conducted any nuclear experiments at the site, though it is suspected of testing explosives there in the early 2000s, the adviser to the Ayatollah told CNN's Christian Amanpour today that Iran should expect more cooperation from the West if the West wants more transparency. He added that every possibility is on the table in the event that Iran is attacked.
And a Swiss couple held hostage by the Taliban in Pakistan says they escaped after stopping at a military checkpoint. The husband and wife were captured back in July. Switzerland's Foreign Affairs Department says the couple is uninjured and doing well considering the circumstances. The Pakistan Taliban say the couple didn't escape, but was released.
Actor-director George Clooney took his campaign for Sudan to the White House today. Fresh off a trip to the country, Clooney testified to Congress yesterday about what he called a campaign of murder in which villagers are bombed on a daily basis. Clooney was asked today about the upcoming presidential election and his hopes for the outcome.
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GEORGE CLOONEY, ACTOR: I hope they're very good. I'm a Democrat and I'm a supporter of the president, so I hope he has a very good -- I hope he has a successful election.
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SYLVESTER: Clooney is cofounder of the Satellite Sentinel Project (ph). The project uses satellite imagery to watch for air and ground attacks in Sudan.
And if you have money to burn, and perhaps a submarine to use, well, the "Titanic" could be yours. Salvage rights to the famous ship are up for auction, along with more than 5,500 artifacts, some of them you see right there. The auction marks the first time artifacts recovered from the "Titanic" during salvage expeditions will be available for sale. Bids must be submitted by April 2nd, and April 15th, by the way, is the 100th anniversary of the disaster. So a piece of history could be yours, Wolf. I have no idea how much those items go for, but a little piece of history there for you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Lisa, you like George Clooney's beard that he's grown? What do you think?
SYLVESTER: I think if you asked most women that they would like George Clooney any way he comes, beard --
BLITZER: You like a clean-shaven George Clooney or a bearded George Clooney?
SYLVESTER: I'm going to say I'm a fan of George Clooney either way, so George, if you're watching --
BLITZER: I think he's trying to following in my footsteps. What do you think?
SYLVESTER: I think he is. You know what? He's going to have to work on his beard a little bit more before he gets to your stage, though, but --
BLITZER: If he works really hard someday he might have a beard like mine, is that what you're saying?
SYLVESTER: That's right. That's exactly right, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you Lisa. Apple's slick commercials show the iPhone teaching people how to play guitar, but does it really do that? We're going to test it ourselves after one man sues Apple over claims of false advertising. And an incredible shot -- look at this -- taken from 192 feet in the sky. Wow --
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: All right, you've got to see this next report. Apple described Siri as the digital assistant that helps you get things done, but one iPhone owner is fed up with Siri and is now taking it out on Apple. Let's go to New York. CNN's Mary Snow has the details -- Mary.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, a New York City man is claiming that he was deceived, and he's accusing Apple of false advertising, but can Apple be liable for technology that it says is still developing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do I play London Calling (ph)?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A whole lot of love (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A B minor 9th.
SIRI: I found this for you.
SNOW (on camera): How do I play a B minor 9th?
SIRI: Checking my sources. I don't know that.
SNOW (voice-over): Siri is billed as a virtual know-it-all, making appointments, finding restaurants, the possibilities are potentially endless, but sometimes she's stumped.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Could you please tell me where is Columbia University?
SNOW: Paullina Rilif (ph) can't always get straight answers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It has a hard time understanding with accent and I do have an accent.
SNOW: Siri often directs users to a Web search if there isn't an answer, but a Brooklyn man is less than impressed. He's suing Apple, saying he wouldn't have paid $299 for the iPhone 4S if he hadn't seen commercials for it. His lawyer filed a class-action suit on behalf of 100 customers claiming through an extensive and comprehensive nationwide marketing campaign, defendant has conveyed the misleading and deceptive message that the iPhone 4S's Siri feature, a so-called voice-activated assistant, performs useful functions and otherwise works as advertised.
Both the man behind the lawsuit and Apple declined comment, citing the ongoing litigation, but Apple has said Siri is a work in progress, noting on its Web site that Siri is currently in beta and will continue to improve it over time. CNN legal contributor Paul Callan doesn't see it as an easy case to win against Apple, but he says it poses some difficulties for the tech giant, because it's expensive to defend against these kinds of suits.
PROF. PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Apple is a rich target, a big-pocket target for class-action lawyers, so they're going to take their shots, but in the end the courts have been pretty hostile to lawsuits based on what's called puffing in advertising.
SNOW: Now Callan says Apple will make the argument that their ad is routine advertising, not fraud, but if they don't win he says they could stand to lose millions -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Mary, thank you. Meanwhile a new report says very soon health care costs may consume your entire paycheck. It's a very scary thought. Jack Cafferty is standing by with your e-mail, also one way to blow away the competition.
BLITZER: Check back with Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: Question is what does it mean if paying for healthcare is soon going to consume your entire paycheck; dire predictions that that's going to be the case within 20 years. Justin writes, "you know what's awesome? Taking care of yourself -- not being overweight, not eating to excess, being a healthy person. I go to the doctor rarely, annual checkups. When you treat your body like garbage you have to expect to pay for it."
Martha writes "it means that we're still ignoring the elephant in the room. The only solution is a single payer government operated basic affordable healthcare system that will give most people at least a shot at minimal treatment. Some of us might even make it through without going bankrupt."
Cy writes from Virginia, "when insurance company CEOs take home tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation, that money trickles down to the prostitutes in Congress who don't respect average people and couldn't care less what happens to us or the country." Kirk writes "it's a bogus question. All you have to do is look at Massachusetts since the Romney universal coverage law passed. The rate of increase in insurance premiums in Massachusetts is less than half of what it's been in the other states."
Doug in Massachusetts writes "the statement implies the middle class is going to go bankrupt paying for their medical bills. People should be able to get medical care if it's needed and not go bankrupt in the process. If the government allocated its revenues that they receive more intelligently a public option should be viable. The $2 billion a week we waste in Afghanistan could go toward public health insurance."
Craig writes "I can't afford it. Don't have any insurance so I do know what it feels like. It's cheaper for me to just pay for the office visits and the prescriptions myself." And Ken in California suggests "we're going to have to give up a luxury like eating." If you want to read more about this subject go to my blog, CNN.com/CaffertyFile or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page. I'll see you Monday. BLITZER: See you Monday, Jack. Thank you very much.
Taking March Madness to another level, a viral video takes basketball to new heights.
BLITZER: In honor of March Madness, a video showing an insane basketball shot goes viral. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Most basketball players are tall. Sinking one from this height is ridiculous. We've seen basketball trick shots from a ferris wheel --
MOOS: -- and a trampoline --
MOOS: -- but a trio of Michigan guys --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Scott can you bring us some basketballs?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yep.
MOOS: -- took the basketball trick to new heights and shot the swish from three angles.
MOOS (on camera): Of course the question everyone wants to answer is how many tries did it take? Let's crunch the numbers.
How many basketballs did you actually take up in the chopper?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We took about 25 up in the chopper with us.
MOOS (voice-over): Scott Erickson (ph) says they made dozens and dozens of trips dropping around 25 balls each time. Freeze it.
(on camera): You can actually see the ones that missed, scattered all over the place one, two, three, four --
MOOS (voice-over): They finally nailed this one from 192 feet, which is not the highest shot ever made. Guinness says this one is 212 feet, five inches.
MOOS: An Australian trick shooting group called "How Ridiculous" got a basket from atop a lighting tower over a cricket field --
(CHEERING) MOOS: -- after more than 2.5 hours of trying. So the Michigan guys aren't highest but they think bombarding the net from a chopper is still pretty cool. Their last viral video hit was almost a year ago.
MOOS: It was a 10-minute rendition of "American Pie". It required much of downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan to be closed down as they did one continuous take.
MOOS: As thousands of extras lip synced they used a chopper for the last shot of this one, too. They're dedicating their latest video to March Madness.
SCOTT ERICKSON, STATUS CREATIVE: From the altitude we were shooting at, the terminal velocity of the ball was around 100 miles per hour.
MOOS: Which could be terminal to living creatures.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
MOOS (on camera): Did you guys hit any cows?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No cows were harmed in the filming of this video.
MOOS (voice-over): But they say they did hit a few cow patties. Talk about an American pie.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did we clean the ball up?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we just let Scott keep using them.
MOOS: Somebody should have called a foul.
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: That's an amazing, amazing shot. Thanks, Jeanne. Thanks very much. And to our viewers, thanks for joining us, I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. The news continues next on CNN.