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U.S. and Russia Battle over Syria; Syria Crackdown Felt at Columbia University; Wall Street Titans Turn on Obama; Conflicting Health News: What To Believe; Release Jonathan Jay Pollard?; Protecting our Children; Fast and Furious Thieves

Aired June 13, 2012 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN: And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, Syrian forces on the attack and reclaiming lost ground.

This hour, President Bashar Al-Assad's brutal crackdown and the angry backlash against one of his former aides who's now been accepted at Columbia University here in the United States.

President Obama is under enormous pressure right now to free one of the most famous spies in U.S. history. We're taking an in-depth look this hour at a case I've covered since day one -- Jonathan J. Pollard, who gave some of America's top secrets to Israel.

And a truck heist while the truck is moving. It's a real highway robbery all caught on video.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


The Syrian government says it has retaken a northwestern town where the United States fear the Bashar al-Assad regime might be planning another massacre. State-run TV says pro-government troops forced rebels to retreat from Al-Haffa after bombarding the town for eight straight days.

Opposition activists say the Syrian military is pummeling several cities on the ground and from the air.

As the fighting rages, the United States and Russia are stepping up war of words about the Syrian conflict. But Washington may also be sending some mixed messages to Moscow. Our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, is here in THE SITUATION ROOM working this story.

What's going on?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, from the State Department, you're getting adamant accusations against Russia, while the Pentagon is being much more cautious. And at the center of it all are American troops. You may not think that U.S. troops have anything to do with the situation in Syria. Here's why you'd be wrong.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): On Wednesday Hillary Clinton doubled down, once again accusing Russia of sending attack helicopters to Syria.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Obviously, we know, because they confirm that they continue to deliver. And we believe that the situation is spiraling toward civil war.

LAWRENCE: But while the State Department is bluntly laying blame...

VICTORIA NULAND, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: On an hourly basis, we are seeing Russian and Soviet-made weaponry used against civilians in towns all across Syria.

LAWRENCE: They're ducking the issue over at the Department of Defense.

CAPT. JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: But I'm not going to, you know, get into condemning -- the arms sales between two countries here.

LAWRENCE: The reason for the split is as complicated as these squiggly lines. The northern distribution network winds through a dozen countries and represents how most food, medicine and non-lethal equipment gets to American troops in landlocked Afghanistan. Smack dab in the middle, Russia and former Soviet states.

KIRBY: And Russia has been extraordinarily helpful. And we're grateful for the assistance that they've offered with respect to logistics routes in and out of Northern Afghanistan.

LAWRENCE: The Pentagon wasn't always so dependent on Russia. Ninety percent of the traffic used to go through Pakistan. But when that relationship soured, the Pakistanis closed their borders.

LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: And the result of that is that it's very expensive, because we're using the northern transit route in order to be able to drawdown our forces there.

LAWRENCE: And the Pentagon buys from the same Russian vendor that's supplying Syria. NATO buys Russian transport helicopters for Afghan forces.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), U.S. AIR FORCE: Hopefully, the U.S. government will speak with one voice on this issue.

LAWRENCE: But retired Colonel Cedric Leighton admits the Pentagon cannot supply the war without this transportation network.

LEIGHTON: And because of that, they believe that they have to tread very lightly with the Russians and keep their -- their hands free enough so that they can keep the logistical supply line open to Afghanistan. And that kind of ties their hands.


LAWRENCE: And if all this wasn't complicated enough, recently Russia signaled to the U.S. that it would allow the U.S. to start using one of its air bases to also transport troops and supplies into Afghanistan, Wolf. So the Pentagon certainly caught in a bind here on this issue.

BLITZER: Yes. Hillary Clinton making it clear, she thinks the Russians are lying on this, as far as military support for the Syrian regime. And the Pentagon having a less drastic tone, shall we say.

LAWRENCE: That's right. And without the help of Pakistan, Wolf, entirely dependent on that northern distribution network to supply the troops.


Thanks very much, Chris Lawrence.

Here in the United States, the bloodbath in Syria is hitting a prestigious university close to home. We're talking about Colombia University in New York City, where a former aide to President Bashar al-Assad has now been accepted as a graduate student after getting an endorsement from veteran journalist, Barbara Walters.

Mary Snow is in New York.

She's been following this story -- Mary, this has become a huge controversy, way beyond the whole Barbara Walters connection.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it really has, Wolf.

And Columbia University is coming under fire. There are calls for the university to take a stand and drop its admission of a daughter of a Syrian official with her own ties to Syria's president.


SNOW: Her name is Sheherezad Jaafari. Syrian human rights activists in the United States are furious she's been accepted to a prestigious program at Columbia University, angry because of her close ties to Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad.

Jaafari is the daughter of Syria's ambassador to the United Nations. Leaked e-mails show she appeared to have a close relationship with al- Assad, referring to him, at times, as "handsome" and "cute." She provided advice to him on his public image abroad, as Syria waged a brutal crackdown on its people and denied it.

Haya, who is Syrian and prefers not to give her full name, just graduated from Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs. School of international and public affairs. She's demanding Columbia rescind Jaafari's admission.

HAYA, INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS & PUBLIC POLICY STUDENT, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: I was surprised and -- and very disturbed by this decision, because for me, accepting her is not just -- it's not a personal thing. It's accepting what's happening in Syria. It's accepting the genocide and saying that we are going to -- to welcome people who are part of this into our school.

SNOW: Jaafari emerged in the media after ABC's Barbara Walters landed an exclusive interview with Bashar al-Assad in December. Jaafari says she helped facilitate that interview. Walters admits in the months following, she tried to help Jaafari. In a statement, Walters said: "I did offer to mention her to contacts at another media organization and in academia, though she didn't get a job or enter school. The media organization was CNN, but it went nowhere."

Columbia University tells CNN its applicants are evaluated solely on the material submitted, adding: "We understand and share concerns about the brutal regime in Syria."

Sheherezad Jaafari says she was accepted to Columbia because of her qualifications. As for her relationship with al-Assad, she says she was an intern in media circles, not an aide, saying, quote, "I am nothing but a victim for some personal agendas. As an ambitious young graduate student in America, all I was trying to do in this very brief time was to build up my knowledge and explore ways to successful academic options.

What's going on in Syria and to my people saddens me and breaks my heart."

Activists fighting for democracy in Syria aren't swayed.

SARAB AL-JIJAKLI, NATIONAL ALLIANCE FOR SYRIA: What she represents is a -- an outlet for the -- an outlet for the Assad regime to basically extend their reach outside of Syria and perpetuate false messages and false realities that are occurring within the country. She is actively taking part in this activity through her media advice.

SNOW: At Columbia, some students feel she shouldn't be denied admission.

CASSANDRA SCHWARTZMAN, GRADUATE PSYCHOLOGY STUDENT, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: I understand a lot of people must be upset about her prior involvement. But I don't think that that's a reason to -- to deprive somebody of having a really great education.

CARLON MYRICK, TEACHER'S COLLEGE STUDENT, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: If the evidence isn't conclusive or damming enough, I do think that it could be potentially discriminatory to not offer her the opportunity to learn here.


SNOW: But others who feel strongly that Columbia should rescind Jaafari's admission have organized an online petition. And so far, Wolf, it has more than 900 signatures -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary, thanks for that report. Let's go to Wall Street right now and its influence on the presidential race. Mitt Romney spoke to business leaders at a meeting here in Washington today. There's new evidence that he's beating President Obama when it comes to donations and support from the financial industry.

Brian Todd is looking into this for us -- Brian, we're seeing some Wall Street titans who once supported President Obama...


BLITZER: -- no longer doing so.

TODD: That's right. They're turning their backs on him, Wolf, because he has simply turned them off. A lot of the money from Wall Street that fueled Mr. Obama's 2008 campaign is simply no longer there. It's not just tighter regulation and his tax policy that have bothered Wall Street titans. Many say the president's public smack- downs of business leaders have angered them.


TODD (voice-over): Mort Zuckerman is a lifelong Democrat. He worked for President Obama's campaign in 2008. His paper, "The New York Daily News" endorsed Mr. Obama then.

As a wealthy real estate investor, he's tapped into the pulse of Wall Street and the financial sector. His feelings about the president these days may reflect that group, as well.

MORT ZUCKERMAN, CHAIRMAN, BOSTON PROPERTIES: In our system of government, without the leadership of the president -- the presidency, almost nothing happens. And that leadership just has not been there.

TODD: Zuckerman says the president's lost Wall Street, alienated the business community. Many cite comments like this.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They want to give banks and insurance companies even more power to do as they please.


ZUCKERMAN: There is a -- a -- a rhetoric from the president which he sort of blames them for the problems that we have. And I think that is an unfair judgment about the role of finance in this economy.

TODD: Analysts say the president's support for higher taxes for the wealthy and the financial reform law that restricted the banks' trading activity also angered Wall Street.

Those who are turned off are now turning away from him. Deep-pocketed donors from the financial sector, so crucial to Mr. Obama's 2008 victory, are now throwing their cash to Mitt Romney. Bob Biersack and the Center for Responsive Politics tracked the money from political action committees that can raise unlimited amounts of money.

(on camera): The real disparity is fundraising here is between the two super PACs, right, Romney's here and Obama's here?

BOB BIERSACK, CENTER FOR RESPONSIVE POLITICS: That's right. For Restore Our Future, we're seeing more than half of his funds coming from the finance, insurance and real estate sector of the economy, as opposed to the president's, which is a really small proportion. And it's about almost 50 times as much money, in this context, going to support Romney than the money that's going to support the president.

TODD (voice-over): Ken Griffin, a hedge fund manager who donated to the Obama campaign in 2008, is one who switched, giving big money to that Romney super PAC. He's quoted as accusing the president of engaging in class warfare. Zuckerman doesn't donate to political campaigns, but is he about to turn?

ZUCKERMAN: Obviously, I'm leaning in that direction because of my disappointment with President Obama.


TODD: The Obama campaign is pushing back, spokesman Ben Labolt e- mailing us this statement: "Mitt Romney has been actively campaigning on a promise to repeal Wall Street reform, let Wall Street write its own rules again and pursue risky financial deals that put our economy at risk."

Labolt says President Obama still has support from many business leaders who agree with the measures he's taken to try to prevent another financial crisis -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Even with a significant drop in money coming in for the president's reelection campaign from Wall Street, he's still raising a ton of money.

TODD: That's right. Bob Biersack and other analysts say the president and his campaign team very, very good at raising small contributions from all over the country. Biersack says he's raising almost half of his money that way right now.

Some analysts predict he's going to get to a cool $1 billion come November. Some say he may not get quite that far. But he's not going to have much problem raising money overall. He's just not going to get it from Wall Street.

BLITZER: Brian, thanks very much.

Another new medical study shows something we thought was good for us, maybe not so much, after all. The supplements you're taking to strengthen your bones may be causing another kind of health problem.

And will President Obama bow to pressure to release convicted spy -- a convicted spy for Israel?

The Jonathan J. Pollard spy case a hot issue tonight here in Washington.

And charges are filed against Lance Armstrong that could cost the cycling superstar his Tour de France title.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Wolf, periodically, we're all reminded of the horrible national disgrace of child sexual abuse. A few years ago, it was the systemic abuse of children by priests in the Catholic Church. The sins of the church and its priests were covered up for years as the offending pastors were simply shuttled from one parish to another when their deviant behavior was discovered.

Little or no thought was given to the kids who are scarred for life by these violations at the hands of people they had been taught to trust and respect. Now, the eyes of the country are focused on a place called Happy Valley, Pennsylvania. For a lot of kids there, not so much.

It's the home of Penn State University, the late legendary coach, Joe Paterno and another far-reaching child sex abuse scandal, this time, allegedly at the hands of former assistant football coach, Jerry Sandusky. The testimony of what happened to his alleged victims is stomach-turning. Once again, a large trusted institution became a breeding ground for this most horrendous behavior.

And it was allowed to continue, even though, a lot of people who should have known better did. There's also a child sex abuse scandal being uncovered at a prestigious private school in New York City, Horace Mann. The "New York Times" detailed horror stories about three former teachers all dead now who allegedly abused male students decades ago.

The report questions whether the former head of that school knowingly allowed the behavior to continue. And since the piece in the "Times" came out, additional students, male and female, have come forward with allegations of abuse. Some naming teachers not mentioned in the original "Times" story.

But it's not just Horace Mann or Penn State or the Catholic Church, this crap goes on all the time at every level of society. And because children don't vote, don't have any money and can be easily ignored, not nearly enough is done to prevent it.

That's the question. Why haven't we done a better job protecting our kids from pedophiles? Go to and post a comment on my blog or go to our post on the SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Well-said, Jack. Thanks for doing this. Appreciate it very much. Meanwhile, a new study links calcium supplements which many people take to prevent bone fractures to an increase risk for heart attacks. It's the latest in the string of very, very confusing health studies. Lisa Sylvester is joining us right now. Lisa, what is actually good for us nowadays because stuff that we've all grown up thinking was good now turns out to be not so good?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I like to think all my favorites, chocolates, red wine, coffee, that's all good for you, but it seems with medical advice it's here today, gone tomorrow. Every time you look, conventional medical wisdom is getting turned on its head.


SYLVESTER (on-camera): It's hard to keep track. Is coffee good for you or bad?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a caffeine addict, so I have to have at least two cups of coffee every morning.

SYLVESTER: What about red wine?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I refuse (ph) to drink wine. Good for you. Good for your heart.

SYLVESTER: And should you reach for that chocolate or not?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love chocolate. So, no matter what the study says, it doesn't matter.

SYLVESTER: It's the type of conundrum centerized by Woody Allen in his comedy, Sleeper," when he's transported to the future and offered a cigarette.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You smoke this. And be sure you get smoke deep down into your lungs.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's tobacco. It's one of the healthiest things for you body. Now, go ahead. You need all the strength you can get.

SYLVESTER: OK. A scenario that's a little far fetch. Even still, some things labeled bad may not be so dangerous. And some things thought of as good may not be beneficial. A government advisory panel now says a daily supplemental dose of vitamin D and calcium to prevent bone fractures can cause kidney stones in healthy post-menopausal women.

DR. KIRSTEN BIBBINS-DOMINGO: There really isn't any evidence of benefits for the prevention of fractures, and there is also a small but measurable harm.

SYLVESTER: Baby aspirin, a daily dose long thought of as a way to prevent heart attacks or lower the risk of cancer. The new recommendation, take too much of it, and it can lead to gastrointestinal bleeding. Mammograms to screen for breast cancer starting at 40 considered standard advice.

The new recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, women might be able to wait until age 50 and can get screenings every two years assuming no family history. That same panel overturned conventional medical wisdom on PSA prostate cancer screenings for men.

The new recommendation, the radiation and surgery can cause more harm than benefit. Dr. Michael Smith, medical director at WebMD says advice can change as more research is done. The bottom line --

DR. MICHAEL W. SMITH, WEBMD CHIEF MEDICAL EDITOR: Yes. My first advice is to always talk to your doctor, especially with something like supplements. Again, we don't know a lot about them. You really want to make sure that when you take a supplement, it's right for you.


SYLVESTER (on-camera): And when these studies come out, you have to really see if this advice is pertinent to you. What might be good for say a 50-year-old woman, might be harmful to a 20-year-old male. And family history plays a role, too. If you're healthy, no family history of heart disease, you might not need to take that baby aspirin.

But someone with a history of it, well, that's a different story. So, it all comes down to, Wolf, you have to talk to your doctor. Don't just rely on these studies or what you hear. Talk to your doctor.

BLITZER: Yes. It sounds -- it's so confusing because stuff that -- even getting an annual physical check-up, there was a report saying maybe not so important to do it, maybe do it every few years.

SYLVESTER: Yes. And I really think it's going to depend on your baseline of health. Are you a generally healthy person? What's your family history? All of these things factor in, because you know, it's going to change. It's not a one-size-fits-all. And that's, I think, what the study is pointing out. Something that's good for one person may not be good for someone else.

BLITZER: Lisa, thanks very much for doing that report.

It's something I remind myself every day, be very, very careful when you tweet. Prominent first lady is causing an uproar with a controversial tweet related to a candidate who happens to be the president's ex-partner.

And a powerful tornado eyes Venice, Italy. We have the new amazing video coming in.


BLITZER: Fresh charges of doping for Lance Armstrong. Lisa's back. She's monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM. What's going on? SYLVESTER: Wolf, the U.S. anti-doping agency is bringing formal charges against the former cyclist. The move could cost Armstrong his record-setting seven Tour de France titles. the charges mean also that he is immediately banned from competition in triathlons, a sport that he took up after his retirement from cycling. Armstrong calls the charges, quote, "baseless and motivated by spite."

And Henry Hill has died at the age of 69. if You're not familiar with the name, well, maybe this will help jog your memory.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.


SYLVESTER: Yes. That was actor, Ray Liotta, playing Hill and director, Martin Scorsese, hit movie, "Good Fellas." The movie portrays Hill's life as a New York gangster. Now, before he eventually became an FBI informant and joined the witness protection program, Hill died of an undisclosed illness in a Los Angeles hospital.

And check out this incredible video of a powerful tornado near Venice, Italy. Look at this picture. It narrowly missed the actual city of Venice, but with wind speed of almost 90 miles an hour, it was strong enough to rip the roofs off homes as well as uproot trees on a nearby island.

Now, the storm overturned dozens of boats, but fortunately, no one was seriously injured, but that has gotten -- been very frightening for the families that live there in Venice.

BLITZER: I'm sure. Those pictures are very dramatic. Lisa, thank you.

The Israeli president is turning up the heat on President Obama to release the convicted spy, Jonathan J. Pollard (ph) from prison. Will he bow to the pressure? Stand by, we'll have an in depth discussion of a case that I've covered for 25 years.

And it looks like a movie stunt, but this highway heist on a moving truck is real.


BLITZER: Group of congressmen as well as the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, now pressuring President Obama to release the convicted Israeli spy, Jonathan J. Pollard. An in-depth report coming up.


BLITZER: Right now President Obama's coming under increasing pressure to release one of the most famous spies in U.S. history. We're talking about Jonathan Jay Pollard who gave some of America's top secrets to Israel more than a quarter century ago. The Israeli president, Shimon Peres, was expected to push for Pollard's release when he met with President Obama at the White House today. This is a story I've covered from day one. I even wrote a book about it way back in 1989 called "Territory of Lies".


BLITZER (voice-over): Jonathan Pollard was a civilian analyst for U.S. Naval Intelligence with access to some of this country's most important secrets. He started passing some of those secrets to an Israeli operative, receiving monthly cash payments. In 1985 he was questioned about the removal of classified documents and was placed under surveillance. But Pollard and his then wife, Ann, were arrested after trying and failing to gain entrance to the Israeli Embassy in Washington.

Pollard made an agreement with prosecutors. He pleaded guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit espionage. That allowed the Reagan administration to avoid a trial and need to release any sensitive or classified information. In exchange, the U.S. attorney worked out an arrangement that Pollard would receive a substantial sentence, but not the maximum sentence, life. Yet in a stunning turnabout, a U.S. federal judge rejected the plea agreement and did sentence Pollard to life citing the enormous damage to U.S. national security that then Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger (ph) outlined in a classified memo to the court.

Pollard remains at a federal prison in North Carolina. Now, two U.S. congressmen, Republican Representative Christopher Smith (ph) of New Jersey and Democratic Representative Eliot Engel (ph) of New York are circulating a letter on Capitol Hill asking the president to commute Pollard's sentence to time served. "What Mr. Pollard did was wrong", the two lawmakers write. "He broke the law and deserved to be punished for his crime. He has served a disproportionately severe sentence."

But there's also enormous pressure from inside the U.S. law enforcement, defense and intelligence community to keep Pollard in prison. Previous administrations have all refused to release Pollard. Now the pressure is once again on President Obama. But today White House Press Secretary Jay Carney offered a blunt message.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Our position has not changed and will not change today. The -- and I would simply remind you that Mr. Pollard was convicted of extremely serious crimes.


BLITZER: There are many different takes on whether Jonathan Pollard should be freed or remain in prison. Some prominent figures with very strong opinions they are standing by for a serious discussion including one of the U.S. congressmen pushing for his release. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: We want to go in depth right now. The pressure mounting on President Obama to free the convicted spy Jonathan Jay Pollard, the American who gave secrets to Israel more than a quarter century ago. We're joined by three guests. Congressman Eliot Engel, Democrat of New York, he's urging the president to commute Pollard's life sentence to time already served. Also with us the former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow and Joseph Digenova, he's the former U.S. attorney in Washington who prosecuted Pollard a long time ago. Gentlemen thanks very much for coming in. Why do you think he should be released?

REP. ELIOT ENGEL, D-NEW YORK: Well I think it's time. Look what he did was wrong and we all say that it was wrong, but in the history of the United States and no other person who spied for a friendly country got anywhere near the amount of time he got. It's just disproportionate after 25 years his health is failing, so I think both on humanitarian grounds and the fact that it was clearly a disproportionate sentence that he should be released.

BLITZER: Twenty-five years, you were the prosecutor, Joe, you prosecuted the case. As part of the plea agreement you were ready to give him a substantial sentence, but Judge Obi Robinson (ph) gave him life, rejecting your plea agreement. Are you with the congressman that it's time to release him now?

JOSEPH DIGENOVA, FORMER US ATTORNEY: No. It's -- Mr. Pollard's crime was one of the 10 most severe espionage cases in the history of the United States. He compromised technical and human intelligence and it was the kind of thing that required a severe sentence. The judge decided it should be life. By the way, it wasn't life without parole. He was eligible for parole 10 years after he served. He has never applied for parole and no one knows why.

BLITZER: Why hasn't he? Do you know why, Congressman?

ENGEL: I don't know why. I mean I just think it's all semantical. The question is has he been in prison for a disproportionate amount of time and the answer is yes and there is a growing chorus on both sides of the aisle that he should be released. You have people from Henry Kissinger to Jim Woolsey, high Republicans and Democrats saying enough is enough.

BLITZER: I interviewed Woolsey six years ago, the former CIA director, Bill, and I asked him is it enough, should Pollard be freed, allowed to go to Israel and spend the rest of his life there? Listen to what Woolsey the former CIA director told me.


JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: I was opposed to reconsidering when I was in office some 10 plus years ago. After 20 years, that's a long sentence in most of the world. Israel's a friend. I think we ought to look at it.


BLITZER: What do you think? Because you were at Wye River when President Clinton almost freed Pollard, but your boss, George Tenet, the CIA director, said he would resign. He would quit if the president did so.

BILL HARLOW, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC RELATIONS: That's right. When Director Tenet said that because at the time he believed it was inappropriate to reward the Israelis for doing something they should do anyway, signing a peace agreement, by giving them Jonathan Pollard, someone who had betrayed this country. He said that they would sign the agreement anyway and they did, so Director Tenet was right. Now 14 years has passed. A lot of time has passed. He served more time. I must tell you that Pollard has no friends and no sympathy in anyone in the intelligence community that I've ever met. He has served a long time. At some point some president may decide that it's time to grant him some clemency, but I'm not sure that time is right.

BLITZER: Do you agree with Joe that he was one of the 10 worst spies in American history based on what you know?

HARLOW: He was incredibly -- he created incredible damage to the U.S. national security. As you know from somebody who has literally written a book on him, his motivation was not just to support an ally. His motivation was much more venal than that. He was spying in order to make money for himself. And there are reports that he was willing to spy for other countries as well.

BLITZER: But all of these years later the damage that he did, you've concluded, you know what, that's way, way back in history. And if you release him now, he's not going to be able to cause anymore problems, is that what you're saying?

ENGEL: Well that's true. And also the fact that nowhere in American history has anyone who has spied for a friendly country gotten such a disproportionate sentence. And the fact is that the prosecutors at trial -- there was no trial. Let's put it that way. There was no trial. He pled guilty based on a plea agreement where they agreed not to give him the maximum penalty, which is life imprisonment. And then Caspar Weinberger on his own just went against it, asked for it and the judge gave it to him.

BLITZER: But you were the prosecutor, Joe. You were there. You agreed to a plea agreement with Heidi, his lawyer in which he wouldn't get the maximum sentence. There wouldn't be a trial. No need to release classified sensitive information. You were willing to go along with the substantial sentence but not the maximum sentence. So why not release him after 25 years?

DIGENOVA: Well, because the judge made a determination that it was in fact one of the worst spy cases in history --

BLITZER: That was based on the Caspar Weinberger --

DIGENOVA: By the way, Caspar Weinberger didn't do this on his own, Congressman. He was required by law to submit a damage assessment to the court, as is done in every national security case. That was a classified version. It was reviewed by the court. It was reviewed by the defense. The judge made a judgment on that. By the way, it is fascinating to me that the way you posed that question which -- and let him return to Israel. That's the country he spied for.

BLITZER: Let him go to Israel. I didn't say return.

DIGENOVA: That's the country he spied for. And by the way, he became an Israeli citizen in secret while he was spying against the United States. He was to get over half a million dollars over the length of a 10-year spy conspiracy that was supposed to last 10 years. It was cut off because of good work by the Naval Investigative Service. This is what justice system is about. This is not --

BLITZER: Go ahead, Congressman.

ENGEL: Well, first of all, that so-called half a million dollars or whatever it is, was never listed in any of the agreements that were made (INAUDIBLE) something you're talking about now. The bottom line is this. Nobody is saying that what he did was right. But it's been 25 years. And the sentence was disproportionate. And it seems like this is the right time and again it's both sides of the aisle that are saying this.

Caspar Weinberger came in and asked for this sentence after it was agreed that the government would not ask for it. So you know he was betrayed. He betrayed his country. And I have no sympathy for that. But he was betrayed by our government. When you make a deal, you make a deal. He made a deal. And as a result of this deal, remember there was no trial, so no secrets were -- had to be in trial, nothing was leaked. This was all part of a plea bargain. The country made a plea bargain with him. We made a plea bargain with him and then we reneged. It's 25 years --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's absolutely false.

ENGEL: His health --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- is absolutely false.

ENGEL: I didn't interrupt you --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely false --

ENGEL: Please don't interrupt me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First of all he says --

ENGEL: I know you're a prosecutor but please don't interrupt --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We did not renege on any agreement.

BLITZER: One at a time. One at a time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The judge had the right and the duty to impose the sentence. Who reneged on the agreement? ENGEL: Mr. Weinberger, OK? The government said that they would not ask for the maximum sentence and Mr. Weinberger was Defense secretary, went in and asked for it. That to me is a betrayal --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actually, he did not ask for the maximum sentence.

ENGEL: Well you know what --


ENGEL: We're not on trial here. The fact of the matter --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, but the facts are on trial --

ENGEL: The fact of the matter --


ENGEL: No, no --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You may be a congressman --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you can't misstate the facts.

ENGEL: I'm not in your court right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't care what court you're in. When you're wrong, you're going to be called --

ENGEL: No, no --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're wrong on the facts.

ENGEL: I'm not wrong because you say it. You are wrong --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't care whether you agree or not. You're wrong.


ENGEL: Because you're changing your story now. You didn't say that he was given all this money when you prosecuted him. Now you're conveniently coming up with a new treatment --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're absolutely wrong. You don't even know the record. You're absolutely wrong, Congressman.

ENGEL: I know enough --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've studied --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, you know enough all right. (CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know enough to be dangerous.

BLITZER: Bill --

ENGEL: You're the dangerous one. I'm glad I don't --

BLITZER: All right let's not get personal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm glad I'm here in between --

BLITZER: But you've studied this --

HARLOW: I have a little bit.

BLITZER: And what's -- in this debate that we're hearing, where do you stand?

HARLOW: Well, I believe that the congressman's position that nobody has been treated this harshly misses the point that Pollard -- no one has given away as many secrets as Pollard did with the possible exception of the WikiLeaks thing. He passed out secrets that would have taken truckloads to deliver them all at once. So his sentence was appropriately harsh given what he has done. Whether it's time to let him go now or in 10 years from now or five years from now, is another matter, but to dismiss it or to try to portray him as just a victim of the U.S. government I think is wrong.

BLITZER: All right so just to wrap up, you say release him right now. You say you're not so sure about whether to release him right now. Is that what I'm hearing?

HARLOW: Right, but no --

BLITZER: And you say keep him in prison for the rest of his life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Leave it up to President Obama. If he wants to release him in the midst of a scandal over leaks let him release him.

BLITZER: And if he applies for parole after 25 years --

DIGENOVA: Which he has never done --

BLITZER: But do you think --


BLITZER: -- to do so, would you give him parole?

DIGENOVA: Would I give him parole?


DIGENOVA: Absolutely not.

BLITZER: You wouldn't, OK.

DIGENOVA: No, of course not.

BLITZER: I just want to make sure --

DIGENOVA: I'm not on the parole board.

BLITZER: Everybody gets a final --


BLITZER: -- final word. All right guys thanks very much for coming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm delighted Wolf.

BLITZER: Appreciate it. I want to apologize. Also we've had some lighting issues, so we saw the lights flickering a little bit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was lightning.

BLITZER: That wasn't editorial. That was just lightning --


BLITZER: That was just a light flickering.

Yesterday we brought you a story about a man who says he was jailed and beaten after testifying in front of Congress. Now he's talking about exactly what happened. Stand by.

And a hit movie was made about his life. Now modern technology made add another record to the career of the Triple Crown winning horse, Secretariat. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A Cuban dissident who we reported on yesterday has now been released from jail. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM. What else is going on, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf we told you about a Cuban pro-democracy activist who testified to the U.S. Senate that he witnessed another dissident being killed by Cuban authorities. (INAUDIBLE) Garcia Perez (ph) was then captured himself, and his wife says he was beaten in his cell. We have now learned that after we reported on the story, authorities released Garcia Perez (ph) and he spoke about the experience today telling two U.S. senators that he was abused and has no doubt he was arrested for what he said while testifying. Garcia Perez (ph) says he remains more committed than ever.

And be careful what you tweet. The French president, Francois Hollande's (ph) girlfriend is learning that all too well. After getting flak for tweeting her support for a political candidate who happens to be running against Hollande's (ph) ex-partner and the mother of his four children. The first lady of France told AFP (ph) today that her Twitter account was apparently hacked and she insisted she never sent that tweet. The two women though have a strange past so it's creating a little bit of a scandal in France.

And even if you are not a horse racing fan, you've probably heard of Secretariat. The horse won the Triple Crown back in 1973, setting records that still stand today at two of the three races. Now modern video technology may be used to see if he set a record at the third race. Now there were conflicting times in 1973 with independent clockers giving him a time that would still be a record. A Maryland commission is considering this new evidence.

And restaurants (INAUDIBLE) try out a lot of strange food combinations, but this one might be the craziest just yet. This summer Burger King says it is going to be offering a bacon sundae. Yes you heard me correctly, a bacon sundae. It is a sundae with bacon on it. And they unveiled it in Nashville, Tennessee in limited release. It will now be available nationwide. Apparently, it did quite well in Nashville, so it's coming soon, Wolf. You can have your bacon sundae.

BLITZER: Not happening for me. All right thank you. Let's go to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: I am with Wolf, not happening. Question this hour is why haven't we done a better job protecting our kids from pedophiles?

Matt writes "truth is our country doesn't care about children. If we did the academic progress of our kids would be much improved. Fewer children would live in poverty, fewer would be obese, and we wouldn't pass on our debts to them."

Walker in South Carolina writes "this is an impossible problem. Pedophiles don't walk around with printed t-shirts stating I am a pedophile. To my knowledge, there's no psychiatric examination which can unerringly identify who is or will become a pedophile, and in many cases, the pedophile is a trusted member of the child's family, even a parent. The only reasonable means we have for decreasing the risk of pedophilia is continual education in the home and schools, informing our children of what they should do when inappropriate actions are attempted."

Barbara writes from Encino California, "I was born and raised in rural, northwest Pennsylvania and actually attended Penn State University. In the case of the Sandusky trial, it is because folks in that part of the country have elevated the Nittany Lion football program, Joe Paterno and the entire lot of coaches and players to a god like status. Football is a religion to the people in that part of the country. And the sad fact is that all the parents of those kids probably felt something akin to celebrity status because their children were accepted into the Second Mile Program, that's the program Sandusky was involved in, and actually got to touch the robes of the PSU football coach."

L. writes "a lot of people aren't going to like hearing this. One big reason for sexual abuse of kids is because families like to keep little embarrassing secrets hidden. Years later, an adult may reveal the truth. I learned from a senior citizen her mother slapped her as a child for trying to tell her that Uncle so and so had made nasty advances. We've got to encourage children to talk about inappropriate behavior, but more importantly, we must listen to the children who talk about it. The behavior won't stop until we all listen and then take action."

If you want to read more about this and touching e-mails go to the blog or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks Jack for doing that.

Coming up a heist for the ages, thieves attempt to rob a truck while it is speeding down the highway.


BLITZER: The phrase it seems like something out of a movie is often an exaggeration, but the highway robbery attempted by some thieves in Europe is so daring, so crazy, it really does fit the mold of a Hollywood script. Here is CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here is how not to rob a truck. A vehicle pulls up right behind the target at night, headlights off. Two guys pop out of the sunroof and one holds on to the other as the first guy tries to break into the truck. Looks like a heist --


MOOS: -- out of the movie "The Fast and the Furious", only not quite as fast --


MOOS: -- and definitely not as furious. No harpoons, no driver packing heat and definitely no driving underneath.


MOOS: But that's Hollywood. This happened on a highway in Romania as the Romanian organized crime unit was monitoring gang suspects. The video was released after 15 members were busted for stealing about $370,000 worth of TVs, cigarettes and coffee for resale. We went to a New Jersey turnpike rest stop and showed the video to truckers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got to be two stupidest people I've ever seen. Either one of them falls off, they're both dead.

MOOS: Eventually the thief gets the door open far enough to see inside.

(on camera): And they open the door using tools.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've heard of this happening. MOOS: Really?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've never seen it, but I've heard of this.

MOOS (voice-over): But nothing as crazy as this ever happened to Don who travels with his dog, Brandy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just can't get her to drive.

MOOS: From the driver's viewpoint --

(on camera): -- there really is a huge blind spot back here. You've seen those signs. If you can't see my mirrors, I can't see you.

(voice-over): And the Romanian trucker probably never saw these guys though maybe he has now seen the aerial footage. As for the would-be robber --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's he going to do when he gets inside the trailer?

MOOS: Good point, tossing stuff back to his vehicle doesn't seem practical, but once he got a look inside, he decided to abandon the mission. He crawled back the way he came.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To do that in real life.

MOOS (on camera): But this is real life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's got a lot more (EXPLETIVE DELETED) than I got.

MOOS (voice-over): Not quite "The Fast and the Furious" --


MOOS: More like the death (ph) and the nefarious.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: Those guys are nuts, I got to tell you. That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. The news continues next on CNN.