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Rebels Fight To Seize Key Syrian Hub; "How Guns Won"; Chick- fil-A President Opposes Same-Sex Marriage; Supreme Leader Marriage; Gun Control Problem; Intelligence Operations

Aired July 26, 2012 - 17:00   ET





BLITZER: A ruthless seesaw battle for control of one of Syria's most vital cities. Rebel fighters aren't backing down from government forces even with more than 150 new deaths reported just today. Tanks and security forces are barreling through the streets of Aleppo while looming helicopter gunships fire from overhead.

CNN's Ivan Watson is inside Syria. He'll join us just in a few moments. But first, we're hearing from the U.S. counter terror chief who's here in Aspen, Colorado, and he's raising concerns about the security of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile. CNN intelligence correspondent, Suzanne Kelly, is covering this forum here. What's going on? What's the latest information? What are you hearing?

SUZANNE KELLY, CNN INTELLIGENCE CORRESPONDENT: Well, there was some concern this morning not opened (ph) an appearance here at Aspen and spoke on the forum and was asked a question about chemical weapons and whether the U.S. knows where the chemical weapons are.

And there was some concern over the way he'd answered that question when David (INAUDIBLE). I think we have that. Let's take a listen to that.


MATTHEW OLSEN, DIR. NATIONAL COUNTERTERRORISM CENTER: Are we able to identify where those weapons are? Are they safe? Are they secure? Are they falling into the wrong hands? It's an important question for us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have -- you got any preliminary conclusions on that?

OLSEN: No. Not really. Again, this is a very sensitive time in this situation. So, it's an important question that we're following.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KELLY: Now, really interesting detail here, Wolf. And I just spent the last half an hour or so talking with one-on-one with Matt Olsen and what he said he was trying to say there was that it's not that U.S. officials don't know where these weapons are, it's that they have challenges on the ground and intelligence in Syria, and it's difficult for them to be 100 percent sure ever that they know that the government in Syria has control over the biological and chemical weapons.

BLITZER: But did they say anything about the U.S. or others have a plan to deal with these chemical weapons, and there are plenty of them in Syria, if in fact the Syrian regime, A, loses control. They go to wind up in the hands of al Qaeda or others or if they start using chemical weapons against their own people,

KELLY: Well, it is a concern for them. And we did talk about the fact that they're worried about that border and people crossing that border. Members of al Qaeda in Iraq, for example, specifically, crossing the border and going into Syria and trying to get their hands on those weapons, so that is active concern for them.

Of course, he didn't talk about the status of how the U.S. is planning to deal with that once, you know, once that becomes an issue.

BLITZER: But he gave us sort of an ambiguous answer whether or not the U.S. knew where these chemicals were, whether in fact they were secure. Is that what I'm hearing?

KELLY: Well, that's what we heard in the panel this morning, and that's where the misinterpretation came in. He tells us that what he actually meant to say was that the U.S. does believe that the Syrian government knows and has control of all of those weapons, but that it's difficult for them to know for sure.

So, I think -- and you know, this is the same thing I've heard from other U.S. officials and other people on background in the last couple weeks is that it's very difficult because of the challenges. The U.S. has very little human intelligence on the ground in Syria is what we're hearing.

And that because of those challenges, it's hard to know for sure whether they have control -- the Syrian government has control of those weapons.

BLITZER: It's a huge issue.

KELLY: It is a huge issue. Yes.

BLITZER: -- of those chemical weapons. Thanks very much, Suzanne Kelly. She's here in Aspen with us. CNN's Ivan Watson is in Syria right now, and he's following the fighting in Aleppo. Ivan, are both sides gearing up for a big battle in Aleppo on Friday?

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And, wolf, in the cycle of violence over the last 17 months, Fridays have always been the bloodiest, deadliest days of the week because that's often when the opposition gathers in mosques and then pours out and that's when the clashes occur with the Syrian security forces. We just got off the phone with a rebel commander in one town to the north of Aleppo, and he says, as we speak, he's sending an additional 300 fighters into Aleppo to bolster the current rebel forces there.

He insists that the rebels are on the offensive now, not hunkering down on the defensive. Another town we visited today out of 22 rebel brigades, 18, a commander said, were in Aleppo. And they're preparing for the worst.

They're setting up medical clinics in apartments, in homes, in that city knowing that they may not be able to get their wounded out to clinics outside of the city walls. We're expecting a bloody day on Friday.

BLITZER: I know you also spent, as you say, some times in other villages around Aleppo. Aleppo, the commercial heart of Syria right now. What else did you see, Ivan?

WATSON: Well, we're about six miles to the northwest of Aleppo in a town called Anadan, utterly devoid of the civilian population. They've all fled. That town is totally battle-scarred. We saw at one point a helicopter circling overhead coming from the direction of Aleppo and definitely making fighters nervous as it circled overhead.

They don't really have the weaponry to battle Syrian government aircraft. Though, we were shown a surprising amount of heavy weaponry that the rebels have captured. Vehicles with mounted mortars that can shoot 120-millimeter rounds that also have anti-aircraft guns. One fighter claimed he'd shot down a helicopter a couple weeks ago, even captured armored personnel carriers.

These are not the rebels I saw four months ago. These guys now have much heavier weaponry. But unlike Libya, these guys go running around shooting their guns off in the air to show off. They don't have enough bullets to do it. They're saving it for the real battle.

BLITZER: We're also hearing, Ivan, that one community in Syria -- we're talking about the ethnic Kurds, they are beginning to take matters into their own hands. They're breaking with the regime. What are you seeing? What are the signs that this could impact the entire conflict? What's the latest?

WATSON: It could definitely complicate matters. The Kurds make up about 10 percent of the population, long-oppressed, even denied citizenship by the Assad regime. But they've largely sat out this uprising for about the past 16, 17 months. In the last week, we've seen one of the strongest of the Kurdish political factions which is closely affiliated with the Kurdish stand worker's party or PKK, claiming control over a number of Kurdish communities.

Today, we drove through one of those Kurdish villages and went through a Kurdish/PKK checkpoint. They're armed guys with shotguns. They had the PKK flag. The trouble is, the PKK is the sworn enemy of Syria's neighbor to the north, Turkey. And Turkey's Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, issued a threat. He said that if the Kurds -- if what he considers a terrorist organization sets up mini-statelets (ph) lets along the Turkish border with Syria, then that could give cause for Turkey to intervene militarily into Syria and vastly complicate what is already a great big bloody mess -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That's a horrendous situation. Ivan Watson is right in the middle of it. He's reporting exclusively for CNN inside Syria. Ivan, be careful. Thanks very, very much.

Let's turn now to my exclusive interview with the man behind the raid that took down Osama Bin Laden. We're talking about U.S. navy admiral, William McRaven. He's talking about it for the first time here at the Aspen Institute National Security Forum co-sponsored with CNN and the "New York Times."

We're also spending some time talking with Admiral McRaven on other critical issues, including Afghanistan. In this part of my discussion with Admiral McRaven, I asked him about those night raids in Afghanistan and the thousands of troops risking their lives for a country that doesn't always seem to appreciate the U.S. and NATO effort.


BLITZER: How do you deal with that? When you're dealing with someone, you have a mission to do and the host country occasionally not only says bad things but isn't necessarily all that receptive to what you're trying to do?

ADM. WILLIAM MCRAVEN, COMMANDER, U.S. SPECIAL OPERATIONS: Yes. Well, it is a sovereign country. And, we absolutely respect the Afghan sovereignty. I don't conduct operations in Afghanistan anymore in my role as a U.S. special operations commander. That's the per view of General John Allen whose role is the ISAF commander and then General Jim Maddis and his role (INAUDIBLE) report to the secretary and the president.

So, what I can tell you is that on the night raids in the course of our operations in Afghanistan, we are completely partnered with the Afghans now. And that has really mitigated a lot of, I think, the senior Afghan concern about these night raids. The night raids are important from -- for a lot of reasons.

Tactically, the enemy, as we say, beds down at night. So, they will stop in the compound at night and it makes it easier for us to locate them. Also, at nighttime, the local population is not moving around as much. So, frankly, the opportunity to have an unfortunate civilian casualty is lessened by the fact that it's at night.

But, we absolutely understand the Afghans concerns about night raid. Nobody wants somebody coming into their house in the middle of the night. Having said that, we are working with the Afghans, within the Afghan legal system, to be able to execute raids both daytime and where required nighttime in order to get after a target that is beneficial to the Afghans and to the United States. BLITZER: In recent months and maybe it's been longer, there have been incidents where Afghanis dressed in military uniforms have killed American troops. Raising the question, do you trust these guys that you go on a sensitive night raid with? Because they're armed, they're loaded. They may be totally loyal to the Taliban.

MCRAVEN: We trust them 100 percent. And the fact of the matter is when you spend time with the guys we spend time with, I mean, you realize they are just as patriotic, just as committed, just as tough, just as courageous as the American soldier that's partnered with them. So, for the folks that we work with, I don't think trust has ever been an issue.

That's not to say that there aren't people out there that aren't trustworthy. And we have to recognize that and we need to always, I think, be a little bit on-guard. But the Afghsans are wonderful people. Candidly, I think we've done a good job of partnering with them, and I think we'll continue to do that as we go forward.

BLITZER: When all troops, U.S. troops are out by the end of 2014 starting next year, you're going to be withdrawing those numbers big time, you think that that country is really going to be a stable, friendly country to the United States?

MCRAVEN: Well, again, that's, one, I'm not sure all U.S. troops will be out by 2014. That's certainly a decision by the president and President Karzai.

BLITZER: But I thought they've made that decision already?

MCRAVEN: What they made is that there's going to be a long-term strategic agreement between United States and the government of Afghanistan.

BLITZER: So, they'll negotiate how many troops, trainers and others might stay afterwards, special operations forces, for example.

MCRAVEN: I think that is the case, yes.

BLITZER: Because I heard the same arguments, the same points being made when the U.S. was withdrawing all of these troops from Iraq. Even after the U.S. withdrew all of these troops from Iraq, there would still be continued U.S. military presence in Iraq.

But guess what? There's no continued U.S. military presence in Iraq right now, because the Iraqis did not want to give the U.S. military immunity for Iraqi prosecution. And I suspect, I could be wrong, that the Afghanis probably won't want to do that either.

MCRAVEN: Again, that's a policy decision, Wolf. Not in my lane, so to speak.


BLITZER: We're going to have more of this exclusive interview with admiral McRaven. That's coming up in our next hour, our brand new 6:00 p.m. eastern hour. Among other things, we're going to talk about that raid that wound up killing Osama Bin Laden as well as gays serving openly now for the first time in the U.S. military. How is that impacting U.S. special operations forces, 66,000 troops under the command of Admiral McRaven.

Is this working out, gays and lesbians serving openly among these special operations forces? You're going to want to hear what he has to say. That part of the interview coming up in our new hour, our 6:00 p.m. eastern hour.

President Obama wades back into the gun debate saying guns belong in the hands of soldiers, not criminals. Now, in an interview with our own Piers Morgan, Mitt Romney is responding.

Plus, police release photos of the man they believe abducted the baseball icon, Cal Ripken, Jr.'s mother. You're going to see those. That's coming up.

And there are sky divers and then there are stratosphere divers. Just ahead, the man who survived a test jump from 96,000 feet.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty's here with the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Wolf, that horrific massacre in a Colorado movie theater has revived the debate over violent whether films contribute to violence in real life. Film director, Peter Bogdanovich talked to a Hollywood reporter about this. He says violence and movies way over the top.

Quote, "Violence on the screen has increased tenfold, it's almost pornographic. In fact, it is pornographic. Video games are violent, too. It's all out of control. I can see where it would drive somebody crazy," unquote. Bogdanovich knows violence. His first film, "Targets" in 1968 showed a sniper killing moviegoers at a drive- in theater.

Now, he says, there are other ways to talk about violence without showing people getting blown up. Bogdanovich believes there's been a general numbing of the audiences because there's just too much murder and killing on the screens. He says people have become insensitive to it, and as a result, there's a general lack of respect for human life.

Meanwhile, the "New York Times" reports how Warner Brothers Studios, which put out "The Dark Knight Rises" has a decades long history of violent films starting with gangster movies way back in the 1930s, Warner Brothers which shares a parent company with CNN is also responsible for films like "Bonnie and Clyde," "Clockwork Orange," "Dirty Harry,' Natral Born Killers," and "The Matrix."

There have been alleged copycats crimes following the release of several of these violent Warner Brothers films. As for the aftermath of the Aurora tragedy, background checks for people wanting to buy guns in Colorado have spiked by more than 40 percent. And in multiple theaters around the country, screenings of that same Batman film accompanied by panic, evacuations, and even gunshots being fired.

So here's the question, what, if anything, ought to be done about violence in movies? Go to and post a comment on my blog or go to our post on the SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, jack. Thanks very much.

Friday's massacre at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, as you just heard, is bringing that entire debate over gun control front and center. President Obama addressed the issue head-on in a speech before the National Urban League in New Orleans last night. Listen precisely to what he said.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I, like most Americans believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual the right to bear arms, and we recognize the traditions of gun ownership passed on from generation to generation. That hunting and shooting are part of a cherished national heritage.

But I also believe in a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals.



BLITZER: OK. Just to be precise, he didn't say guns belong in the hands only of soldiers, not of criminals. He said AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers and not criminals. Earlier, I misspoke on that. I want to just be precise he's talking about AK-47s, not guns. Mitt Romney responded today in an interview with CNN's Piers Morgan in London.


MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that the effort to continue to look for some law to somehow make violence go away is missing the point. The real point has to relate to individuals that are deranged and distressed and to find them, to help them, and to keep them from carrying out terrible acts.

Timothy McVeigh, how many people did he kill with fertilizer? With products that can be purchased legally anywhere in the world. He was able to carry out vast mayhem. Somehow, thinking that laws against the instruments of violence would make violence go away I think is misguided.


BLITZER: And the full interview, by the way, with Mitt Romney and Piers Morgan, Ann Romney participating as well, as you saw, that will air later tonight 9:00 p.m. eastern only here on CNN, "Piers Morgan Tonight." You're going to want to see that interview. But let's bring in Rick Stengel right now. He's the managing editor of our sister publication, "Time" magazine, which highlights the issue of gun control in an article entitled, "How Guns Won?" in the magazine's latest issue. You see the cover right there. What happened here? What's the bottom line conclusion in your cover story, rick?

RICK STENGEL, MANAGING EDITOR, TIME: Well, the bottom line, Wolf, is it's a great story by Joe Klein. And Joe Klein talks about why there is this consensus among Democrats and Republicans to basically do nothing about guns, and it comes from the semi-automatic weapons ban that was part of Bill Clinton's crime bill in 1994.

And both sides, in effect, we say overlearned the lessons of that bill. A lot of Democrats lost the seats and Republicans thought that this is necessary for our fundraising and for winning in the future. That's why nothing has been done since and probably nothing is going to be done now.

BLITZER: And you listen to the precise words how the president framed his position on guns before the National Urban League last night. It was very, very specific. When you heard that, what did you think?

STENGEL: Well, I thought, it's a good question. I mean, thought he wanted to talk to both sides. He wanted to talk to conservatives who are afraid of the government taking their guns away by saying, look, the Second Amendment is settled law. Everybody this is part of our DNA as Americans.

And he wanted to talk to people who are more progressive, who think that needs to be more regulation of guns and saying that sense of all. That, in fact, you know, military weapons like AR-15 have no sporting purpose and there's no real reason that they should be allowed for people to buy them.

BLITZER: The cover story in "Time" magazine. Rick Stengel is the managing editor. Thanks, Rick, thanks very much.

STENGEL: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Authorities suspect poison was used in the death of a British businessman. We're getting new information. Who killed him? The wife of a prominent politician is being charged with murder.

Plus, the Olympics opening ceremony hasn't even happened yet, and we've already got a huge upset. We have details. That's coming up in the SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: The wife of a well-known politician is charged with murder. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. Lisa, what's going on?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Chinese authorities suspect her of poisoning a British businessman, quote, "over economic interest." The details of which remain unclear, but it's been a source of embarrassment for the communist party. Her husband was a prominent party member before being kicked out over a power struggle.

And at the moment, he is under house arrest. The businessman's body was cremated before an autopsy could be performed.

And police in Maryland have released these photos of a man they believe abducted baseball legend, Cal Ripken, Jr.'s mother, Violet. She was found late yesterday unharmed in the backseat of her car where her hands ties after being kidnapped from her home at gunpoint. The man appears to have used her credit cards, but police are still looking for motives.

And, still a day before the Olympics opening ceremony, but there's already been a huge upsets. Spain's men soccer team was stunned today, losing 1-0 to Japan. Grant (ph) of the team is composed of all the same players that won back-to-back Euro Cup championships and the 2010 World Cup, but Spain's Olympic squad had still been expected to win the gold, which will be tougher now after this early loss.

And another sign of just how serious college football has become. According to ESPN, a rising eighth grader -- yes, we're talking a 14- year-old, has committed to play at the University of Washington after high school. It's just a verbal commitment because the school can't offer anything in writing until February of 2017.

But the school thinks so highly of this quarterback, they are trying to sign him five years before he graduates. They are just getting younger and younger, Wolf.

BLITZER: That's amazing. All right. Lisa, thank you.

So, what are the three biggest threats facing the United States today when it comes to national security? I'll pose that question to someone who knows the risks very well. The former national intelligence director, Dennis Blair. He's here in Aspen, Colorado at this forum.

And more fascinating details emerging right now about North Korean leaders and the new leader's very mysterious marriage, including reports that he has a three-year-old son.


BLITZER: The fast food chain Chick-fil-A is facing not only protest but possible bans in some U.S. cities after the company president stated his opposition to same-sex marriage. CNN's Mary Snow is working the story for us. Mary, what's the latest?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, the focus on Chick-fil- A and its company's stance on same-sex marriage is taking a new turn with a debate over First Amendment rights, as city officials step into this controversy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SNOW (voice-over): The grand opening of a Chick-fil-A restaurant in Laguna Hills (ph), California was met with protest. Gay right supporters calling for boycotts after the president of the chicken restaurant chain said he opposed same-sex marriage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Those kinds of messages and that kind of rhetoric is very, very hurtful to our families.

SNOW: Chicago is the latest city to yank the welcome mat.

MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL (D), CHICAGO: Chick-fil-A's values are not Chicago values. They're not respectful of our residents, our neighbors and our family members.

SNOW: Mayor Rahm Emanuel echoed sentiments of a city official who threatened to block construction of a Chick-fil-A restaurant. The chain has become a lightning rod for controversy after its president, Dan Cathy, made it clear he believes marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

DAN CHTHY, CHICK-FIL-A PRESIDENT: I think we're inviting god's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, you know, we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.

SNOW: Chick-fil-A says the company has always applied quote "biblically-based principles and it is closed on Sundays". It declines to comment on vows to block their restaurant saying in a statement "The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation and gender." But Boston's mayor isn't sold repeating his message to the chain to stay away.

MAYOR THOMAS MENINO (D), BOSTON: I don't want an individual who will continue to advocate against people's rights and that's who I am and that's what Boston is all about.

SNOW: But can politicians block businesses because of the words of a company president? Lawyers say they have no legal ground to stand on. One Christian radio host calls it disturbing.

LARRY ALEX TAUNTON, AUTHOR, "THE GRACE EFFECT": I mean it seems to me that these are bullying tactics. Diversity is celebrated provided that you are towing the line of the radical left.

SNOW: Also supporting the restaurant chain is former presidential candidate Rick Santorum and fellow Republican Mike Huckabee who is calling for Chick-fil-A appreciation day next week. On the other side some gay rights advocates are organizing a national kiss in to protest Chick-fil-A.


SNOW: And Wolf another mayor is now weighing in. That's New York's mayor. A spokeswoman telling us in a statement "Mayor Bloomberg believes that government shouldn't treat people differently based on who they love, which is why he lobbied so aggressively for marriage equality. Similarly, he believes that government shouldn't treat businesses differently based on their owners' personal political views" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So in other words he's saying the owner or the president of Chick-fil-A, he has a right to believe whatever he wants. That shouldn't necessarily impact the -- Chick-fil-A's opportunity to do business in New York City. Is that what he's saying?

SNOW: That is what he's saying. And not taking the stand that the mayors of Chicago and Boston have taken.

BLITZER: Mary thanks very, very much.

A very bloody day in Syria unfolding as well, our own correspondent Ivan Watson, he is inside Syria. He is traveling with rebel fighters inside the war-torn country. At the top of our next hour we're going back to Ivan. He will be live. He's got new information.

And the stratosphere diver who survived a test jump from, get this, 96,000 feet.





BLITZER: All right that's the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. You just heard it right there, Kim Jong Un on a ride at an amusement park in Pyongyang. It is rare and it is fascinating video, but the details emerging about the so-called supreme leader's marriage are even more intriguing. Let's bring back Lisa Sylvester. She's following this part of the story. Lisa, what are you learning?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, we are certainly seeing more of the private side of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the woman we now know is his wife. North Korea of course has always been a reclusive country, but here you see these pictures of Kim at an amusement park in Pyongyang and it was just a few weeks ago when video footage of a woman by Kim's side surfaced.

Well now she has been identified by North Korean state television as Ri Sol Ju (ph), his wife, and according to the South Korean Intelligence Service they have actually been married since 2009. There are also rumors circulating in Korean media that they may, may even have a 3-year-old child. But the intelligence service hasn't been able to confirm that.

But take a look here. You know this certainly falls in the category of something you just don't see everyday. North Korea Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un on an amusement park ride. Definitely this has all the looks of a photo op. But are these signs of greater openness? One North Korean expert puts it this way. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PHILIP YUN, NORTH KOREA ANALYST: Even though it is really a dictatorship, it's like a big ship. You can't change things on a dime and you've got to get people conditioned and used to the fact that Kim Jong Un has a wife and this is the way they normally roll things out.


SYLVESTER: Let's go back to that video again. If you look closely at the video, you can see a lot of the men wearing some suits. Some of them actually wearing ties on that ride and of course between the music, the enthusiasm of the state television broadcaster, this is all making for a very colorful some would even say quite frankly, Wolf, a little bizarre moment here that we're seeing -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, when I was in Pyongyang for six days back in December 2010 I went to that amusement park. You can spot it all over the city. It's obviously one of the most popular areas in Pyongyang. It was built several years ago. But, you know what, if he's now been confirmed that he's married, may even have a child as you point out, I guess that's politically very significant because it says to the people of North Korea there will be yet another generation from his father, his grandfather, now him, and now a son if you will, a child. So this generation of leaders will continue. That's very, very important politically by all accounts, Lisa.


BLITZER: That's what some of the experts have told me over the years.

SYLVESTER: And one other thing about that is that you know seeing him, he's believed to be in his late 20s, so seeing him now with a wife, possibly even a child, that that sends a message that essentially he's a grown-up. That we're not talking a child here, we're talking about somebody who is clearly in charge and trying to set that -- make that very well-established, Wolf, as well.

BLITZER: Yes, all right. Well, congratulations to Kim Jong Un and his lovely bride, even though they may have been married for a few years. Thank you.

We're learning more about a lab technician accused of infecting perhaps thousands of people right here in the United States with Hepatitis C. He's worked at hospitals in at least eight states and concern is spreading right now across the country.


BLITZER: At the White House today President Obama held his first cabinet meeting since January. He avoided reporters questioning about gun control after the Colorado massacre. But the president did talk about it last night. And that made some of his fellow Democrats shall we say a little bit uncomfortable. Let's bring in our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash. Dana, what's going on? DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Uncomfortable is a good word for it, Wolf. We've been reporting since late last week that gun politics are dicey politics for Democrats. And that was oh, so evident in the halls of Congress today.


BASH (voice-over): President Obama breaking his post-movie massacre silence about gun control.

BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We should check someone's criminal record before they can check out a gun sell. That a mentally unbalanced individual should not be able to get his hands on a gun so easily. These steps shouldn't be controversial. They should be common sense.

BASH: Shouldn't be controversial? Common sense? The president's fellow Democrats see gun control as political dynamite. Still, Obama is the party's leader. So do his Democratic colleagues agree?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know how anyone could disagree with what the president said yesterday.

BASH: Harry Reid agrees, but, wait a minute, he can actually do something about it. Reid controls the Senate agenda. So CNN's Ted Barrett asked the next logical question. Will Senate Democrats act?

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: With the schedule we have, we're not going to get in a debate on gun control. But I'm very happy. I'm glad the president made the statement because it's something that needs to be done. But we're not going to address gun control.

BASH: OK. No time this year, what about next year?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you win majority next year, would that be a good time to do it --

REID: Nice try -- nice try.

BASH: Over in the House the Democratic leader was prepped and ready for a question about the president's gun comments.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: I thought his comments were very thoughtful, provided leadership.

BASH: Nancy Pelosi is a seasoned pol (ph) who wants the majority back. That means retaking conservative districts where guns are popular. Watch this delicate dance.

PELOSI: We all recognize the importance of the Second Amendment and the need to -- and also the need to reduce violence in our communities.

BASH: We took the president's remarks to rank and file Democrats, Joe Crowley (ph) is from New York City where being anti-gun isn't so dangerous politically.

REP. JOSEPH CROWLEY (D), NEW YORK: But when something like this of this magnitude happens, I think it begs the moral question, let's talk about it.

BASH: But Arizona's Raul Grijalva is a Democrat from the kind of pro- gun district his party is panicked about losing. Still --

REP. RAUL GRIJALVA (D), ARIZONA: I thought it was an important ice- breaker to have this discussion.

BASH: Is this a tough thing --

GRIJALVA: I think it's a tough thing because NRA carries with it a threat. A threat that if you speak against any point on gun control, you automatically face a political threat.


BASH: So you see there the reluctance by Democratic leaders here in Congress to move on gun legislation. You might be wondering what about the Republicans? After all they still run, very much run the House of Representatives. Well, House Speaker John Boehner simply said today a couple of times actually to reporters that if the president has specific proposals, he would be glad to look at them, Wolf. I think in football (INAUDIBLE) you would call that a punt.

BLITZER: Yes. So bottom line in all of this and you've been reporting this for days. There's not going to be any action, any significant action, maybe not even insignificant action between now and November when it comes to guns in the United States.

BASH: I think the chances of that are slim to none and that's pretty high.

BLITZER: All right, Dana, thanks very, very much.

Let's go back to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: So the other question is what, if anything, should be done about violence in movies.

Marilyn writes "how about putting back some boundaries, enforcing ratings, enforcing curfews. No good comes from little children watching R or PG movies at 2:00 in the morning. The outcome of this tragedy in Aurora might still have been 12 killed, but there wouldn't be children placed at risk by their parents and enabled by the movie theaters."

D. in Minnesota writes "no one actually gets hurt in the movie, Jack. It's all fake. Now psycho idiots who shoot up theaters that's a different story. What a deliberate question though. It is like finding a way to blame 9/11 on the plane and not the terrorists."

Dave in New Hampshire "it's not just movies, Jack. Video games now way over the top, all this violence we are shoving down the throats of our kids has to have an effect on their minds. The other part of the dilemma is news and the coverage of war. Do we really need to show video of helicopter gun ships killing combatants over and over and over? How many times do we need to show the simulation of the killing of bin Laden."

T. writes "violent movies ought to be required to show at least five minutes of interviews with victims of violence including hospital footage with the doctors and family members who care for them and with the loved ones who survive them in the event that they're killed. In this way, people would be reminded that violence is not entertainment, but rather has tragic, painful and life altering consequences."

Rich writes "while watching a movie, a madman starts killing people. Was it the movie that caused it, no. The movie was just the venue he chose. He could have picked a McDonald's and the people would have been just as dead. Movies don't kill people. Idiots kill people."

C. in Massachusetts suggests "just don't go see them."

And David in Tampa writes "if you take out the gun violence, the NRA gets PO'ed. If you substitute sex for violence, more people will go. After all sex sells, but the Christian right will get PO'ed. If you replace sex and violence with intellect and art everybody gets PO'ed and stays home. Maybe that's why I don't go to the movies any more."

If you want to read more on the subject, lot of interesting mail came in on this. Go at the blog, or through our posts on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack thanks very, very much.

Dennis Blair (ph) the former director of National Intelligence here in the United States, he is standing by. We have some important issues to discuss. We will be right back.


BLITZER: The man behind the raid that took down Osama bin Laden sits down with me for the first time, shares his enormous pride in what he considers a truly historic operation. Listen to this.


ADM. WILLIAM MCRAVEN, COMMANDER, U.S. SPECIAL OPERATIONS: I think when the history is finally written and outlined and exposed on how the CIA determined that bin Laden was there it will be one of the great intelligence operations in history --


BLITZER: That's Admiral William McRaven. We're going to have my interview with him in the next hour. But joining us now here in Aspen, to talk a little bit about more -- little bit about that and more the former U.S. Director of National Intelligence, Admiral Dennis Blair, retired from the U.S. Navy. Was this one of the greatest intelligence operations in history as Admiral McRaven says, the killing of bin Laden?

ADM. DENNIS BLAIR (RET.), FORMER DIRECTOR OF NAT'L INTELLIGENCE: You mean the intelligence that led to --

BLITZER: The intelligence that led to it --


BLITZER: Because you were intimately involved over the years until you --

BLAIR: Right.

BLITZER: -- retired in 2010 in gathering a lot of that intelligence.

BLAIR: I -- it took us 10 years, Wolf, and that's longer than any of us would have liked. It was the sort of grinding, detailed, multi agency intelligence that eventually will get results. And in that sense, I think it was -- it was classic. But I wish we had done it faster and I wish we had been able to take him down sooner.

BLITZER: Because you retired in May of 2010.

BLAIR: Correct.

BLITZER: Did -- was this compound, and I don't want you to violate any national security secrets --

BLAIR: Right.

BLITZER: We all know with this compound in Abbottabad was that on your radar screen during any of the time that you were director of National Intelligence?

BLAIR: Our filter was a little wider than a town when I was watching it. We were following a number of leads, and thank goodness one of them turned out to be right.

BLITZER: But you didn't specifically follow -- you didn't know about Abbottabad.

BLAIR: I'm not going to tell you.

BLITZER: You may have known.


BLAIR: Not going to tell you that either.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about you were quoted in "The New York Times" in a piece on President Obama's so-called kill list that the process of designating terrorists for kill or capture (ph) and I want to read to you what you said.

You said at the time -- this is May 29th -- "the steady refrain in the White House was this is the only game in town, reminded me of body counts in Vietnam." Those of us who lived through Vietnam, we all remember the body counts in Vietnam.

BLAIR: Right.

BLITZER: Explain what you meant because that quote always jumped out at me and was a little confusing.

BLAIR: Right. Well I think you have to judge your -- we have to judge our progress against bin Laden and against the al Qaeda organization in terms of capabilities that we take away from it. Multi team, 9/11 raids, small raids, individuals, that's how you measure whether we're making success against them --

BLITZER: Was the criticism --

BLAIR: -- not how many of their people we killed.

BLITZER: Was that a criticism of the White House strategy --

BLAIR: It is a criticism of the national strategy which was focused on counting things, not on outputs and putting our resources against results.

BLITZER: Would you rather be capturing these terrorists or killing them?

BLAIR: In every case, I would rather capture one because we can get more information from them.

BLITZER: But in the case of bin Laden, if you would have captured him alive and brought him to Guantanamo or some place else that would have been a nightmare presumably down the road, wouldn't it?

BLAIR: Well every outcome would have had its own -- has it's own thing, but I don't know if he would have talked or not and if we had a chance of getting him to talk, that would have been good.

BLITZER: But wouldn't -- if the United States is holding bin Laden, all of his supporters out there they would have really gone shall we say on the war path to try to get the United States to release him for some sort of -- and do whatever they were doing. They were trying to do bad things to begin with, but wouldn't this have energized them? Wouldn't -- in other words, wasn't it better that he was killed in Abbottabad than captured?

BLAIR: I don't think that what al Qaeda was trying to do was any different from a dead Osama bin Laden than from a live Osama bin Laden.

BLITZER: So that wouldn't have made a difference --

BLAIR: (INAUDIBLE) would have tried to do anything they could, and they didn't. They couldn't do very much.

BLITZER: In your opinion, what is the biggest national security threat facing the United States right now? BLAIR: Our biggest threat I would say is a failure to use our position of great power to establish some rules of international conduct which will make it the kind of world that we want to live in. We are the big leader. We've got to set the rules, get everybody to go along. We have an ability to do that. That will take care of the individual threats as they come along.

BLITZER: That's a good starting off point for our next conversation here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Admiral, thanks very much for coming in.

BLAIR: Good to see you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Appreciate it very much.

BLAIR: Right.