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THE SITUATION ROOM
Israel's Prime Minister Draws A Red Line Against Iran; Interview with Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations; Syrian Opposition: Ninety-One Killed In Gunfire, Shelling; Breeding Extremists Inside Libya; FBI in Libya; Ready for a Rough Campaign; Hoffa Under a Driveway?
Aired September 27, 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: And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, the Israeli prime minister draws a chilling red line for Iran at the United Nations.
Does it mean military action is imminent?
I'll ask the Israeli ambassador to the United States this hour.
Also, Syrian rebels scoring new victories on the battlefield, thanks, possibly, to help from expats living right here in the United States.
And a new twist in one of America's greatest unsolved mysteries -- will drilling into a driveway finally uncover the remains of the notorious Teamsters boss, Jimmy Hoffa?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
A truly extraordinary moment at the United Nations today. Israeli's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, on the world stage, literally drawing a red line that he warns Iran cannot cross in its development of nuclear weapons.
CNN's foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, is in New York.
She's joining us now with the dramatic details -- Jill.
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right, Wolf, red lines don't lead to war, red lines prevent wars -- at least that's what the prime minister thinks.
DOUGHERTY (voice-over): In a dramatic speech to the U.N. General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pulled out a chart showing a bomb, then drew a red line near the top. BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: A red line should be drawn right here, before -- before Iran completes the second stage of nuclear enrichment necessary to make a bomb, before Iran gets to a point where it's a few months away or a few weeks away from amassing enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon.
DOUGHERTY: It was a simplistic, but chilling illustration of when Netanyahu insists Iran's nuclear program must be stopped. And he laid out a timeline.
NETANYAHU: By next spring, at most by next summer, at current enrichment rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage. From there, it's only a few months, possibly a few weeks, before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb.
DOUGHERTY: Netanyahu was referring to Iran's growing stash of uranium enriched to 20 percent -- a level that experts say can be further enriched to weapons grade.
The Israeli leader has challenged President Barack Obama to declare his own red line that, if Iran crosses it, could trigger a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.
Mr. Obama is refusing to do that. He argues that Iran is developing the capability to make a nuclear weapon, but may not have made the final political decision to make a bomb.
For now, Mr. Obama wants to use diplomacy and heavy economic sanctions. Netanyahu argues neither diplomacy nor sanctions have worked, only a red line will.
NETANYAHU: And I believe that faced with a clear red line, Iran will back down. And this will give more time for sanctions and diplomacy to convince Iran to dismantle its nuclear weapons program altogether.
DOUGHERTY: The White House, responding to Netanyahu, says, "As the prime minister said, the United States and Israel share the goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
The president made that clear to the world in his U.N. General Assembly speech this week: "We will continue our close consultation and cooperation toward achieving that goal."
(END VIDEO TAPE)
DOUGHERTY: This issue of a red line has created real tension between Netanyahu and Obama. The White House says President Obama is expected to have a follow-up call with the prime minister Friday. And this evening here in New York, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet with the Israeli prime minister -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I'd love to be a fly on the wall in that meeting. I'd also like to be eavesdropping on that phone call tomorrow be the prime minister and the president.
Jill, thanks very, very much.
Let's bring in the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Ambassador Michael Oren.
He's joining us from New York.
He's been spending all this time with the prime minister.
Mr. Ambassador, thanks very much for coming in.
MICHAEL OREN, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Always good to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: So, clearly, the Israelis, your prime minister, has drawn -- literally drawn a red line. We all know what the Israeli red line is. But by implication, it suggests that's not necessarily you need the United States to draw that same red line if the Iranians are going to back down. And you haven't heard the Obama administration do that yet.
Is that the issue right now?
OREN: Well, as the prime minister said to the General Assembly today, Wolf, the drawing of the red line is designed to give diplomacy and sanctions more time to work. We believe by drawing that red line, you won't be increasing the chances of a -- of a military engagement, you'll be significantly lessening the chances of a military engagement, because the Iranians have been presented with red lines in the -- in the past, in the Strait of Hormuz, and they've backed down.
We know the Iranians can see the color red and they're loathe to cross those type of lines.
Now, we're engaged in a conversation with the Obama administration about setting limits to Iran's enrichment process, because that's the part of the Iranian nuclear program that we can actually see and monitor. And that's the part that's in facilities that can -- that are observable and are still vulnerable.
And so the Obama administration is engaging with us in a dialogue about it. You mentioned that the secretary of State will be meeting with the prime minister this evening. The president will be talking with Prime Minister Netanyahu tomorrow.
That's part of an ongoing dialogue that we've had to reach an understanding about this, because as Prime Minister Netanyahu said, we don't have very much time. The Iranian nuclear program is accelerating, not slowing down. And Israel, while it's the first target, it's not the only target of Iran. The target is the world.
BLITZER: Well, what I hear you saying, and correct me if I'm wrong, Mr. Ambassador, that the Israeli red line alone won't stop the Iranians, you need the United States to join you in drawing that red line and then maybe the Iranians would back down.
Is that what I'm hearing? OREN: Well, we've always said that a combination of crippling sanctions and a credible military threat stand the best chance of dissuading the Iranian regime from pursuing military nuclear capabilities.
Having said that, Israel, as you know, is a small country. We're located in the Middle East. We're in Iran's backyard. We're threatened almost daily with national annihilation by Iranian leaders and we have certain capabilities.
The United States is a much bigger country, far away from the United -- from -- from the Middle East, with vastly greater capability that's not threatened with annihilation every day. The United States can quite simply do things that we can't.
And beyond that, the United States has more time, because we're right there, next to the Iranians. And that program is moving very, very fast.
BLITZER: All right, now listen to what Michele Flournoy, a member of the president's campaign national security committee, says in defining the way they perceive -- the Obama administration perceives this so- called red line, because it's very different than the way the prime minister explained it today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELE FLOURNOY, OBAMA CAMPAIGN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISORY COMMITTEE: Well, I think we have laid out a red line. And that is, Iran cannot actually get a weapon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Now, that's very different than what the prime minister says. She's willing to give it more time, as opposed to reaching that 90 percent threshold, which is the Israeli position.
OREN: I think you have to look at the way the prime minister, how he framed it today, Wolf. He said the question is not when Iran gets a weapon or even decides to make a weapon, the question is, at what point can we no longer stop Iran from making that weapon?
And that's what that red line was about. He was drawing a line between the medium enriched uranium and the high enriched uranium. And that beyond that point, it will be virtually impossible for us to stop that bomb, because they will put that bomb together in -- in some small room somewhere in a -- a country that's half the size of -- of Europe. And it would be very, very difficult to -- to actually locate where that bomb was put together.
So we're -- we're actually blowing a point -- drawing a point where -- where the Iranians will understand they cannot go beyond it. And if they go beyond it, they will encounter the consequences. They will encounter a situation where Iranian leaders will have to make a decision whether they will remain in power or have nuclear military capabilities. They can't have it both ways. BLITZER: Because the president has said, specifically, that his red line is we're not going to accept Iran having a nuclear weapon, which is obviously a little bit different, significantly different, potentially, than what you have in mind.
There is an internal report that your foreign ministry apparently has circulated. It was published in the Israeli newspaper "Haaretz" today, saying that there was an opportunity right now for sanctions to be further tightened if the EU, for example, further tighten the sanctions, maybe that could achieve an overthrow, if you will, of the Iranian regime and set back their nuclear program.
What can you tell us about this?
OREN: Well, we would always hope for a political change in Iran and to bring about a reorientation of Iranian policy to make it -- to bring back the -- the friendship that once existed between Iran and Israel, before the Iranian Revolution of 1979. But we can't count on that. And we saw how, in 2009, the Iranian regime brutally suppressed Iranian citizens who were protesting for freedom and democracy in their country.
And the Iranian clock is move -- the Iranian nuclear clock is moving much, much, much faster than that. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Iranians have tripled the rate at which they're enriching to 20 percent. Since last May alone, they've doubled the amount of somtra -- meta centrifuges that have been moved in that -- under that fortified bunker at Qom.
So that clock is moving very, very swiftly. And while we hope the sanctions will bring about a -- a change, a fundamental change in the Iranian orientation, we still have to plan for the possibility that it won't.
Keep in mind that no country has a greater interest in resolving the Iranian nuclear threat through diplomatic means, through peaceful means, than the state of Israel. We have the skin in the game. The red line is designed to promote demo -- diplomacy. And as -- as you heard, the -- the White House spokesman said, we all have an interest in a diplomatic resolution of this problem.
BLITZER: As you know, the president had a one hour phone call with Prime Minister Netanyahu last week. They're going to have a follow-up phone call tomorrow. But, you know, President Obama has been widely criticized for having time to go on "The View" while in New York, but not necessarily meeting directly with world leaders, including Prime Minister Netanyahu.
How upsetting is this to you?
OREN: Well, we understood that there was a schedule difficulty there. We -- we -- we have this conversation tomorrow. We've had a conversation in the past last week. President Obama himself has said he has spent more time in face-to-face meetings and telephone conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu than with any other foreign leader. And so there is a very open channel there at the highest level, but also at multiple levels beneath that. We are in constant conversation with our American colleagues about the Iranian issue, but not only the Iranian threat, about a number of issues that are currently occupying us in the Middle East.
BLITZER: And so one final question, if you can answer it quickly. It's a sensitive one.
If, by next spring or summer, the Iranians are still enriching uranium, will Israel take unilateral military action to stop them, even if the United States is not with Israel?
OREN: Well, I'm not going to go into, certainly, tactical secrets here with you on national television, Wolf. But keep in mind, Israel is a sovereign country. It's a sovereign Jewish country that has a particularly tragic past. And we have the right and the duty to defend ourselves.
That right and duty has been recognized by President Obama. He said only Israel can best decide how to defend its citizens.
Our hope is not to have -- ever have to reach that point. The red line, again, is designed to prevent war. If -- if a red line had been drawn against Nazi expansionism in the 1930s, we wouldn't have had World War II. We saw how red lines worked in the Cuban missile crisis. It stopped a war between the United States and the Soviet Union.
Red lines can work. They are a tool that brings about -- can help bring about a diplomatic resolution to a -- a threat which endangers not just Israel and the Middle East, but the entire world.
BLITZER: You're not only being seen nationally, you're being seen internationally in more than 200 countries...
BLITZER: -- and territories.
Mr. Ambassador, I just want to correct the record on that.
Appreciate very much your coming in.
OREN: As always, thank you.
BLITZER: Meanwhile, in Syria, rebel groups need weapons and now we're learning Syrian expats right here in the United States are helping to arm the opposition.
Plus, a unique look at Mitt Romney, his Mormon faith and the picture you've probably never seen before.
BLITZER: There are quiet moments for people in Syria, but they don't last long. Opposition forces say at least 91 people died in attacks nationwide today. And now, the United Nations, once again, appealing for nearly half a billion dollars to care for hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees.
Brian Todd is here. He's working the story for us. Brian, you're keeping an eye on other money going to Syria, to the rebels, specifically.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We Are, wolf. A group based here in the United States and in Canada is raising money to send directly to the Syrian rebels. That money is often used to buy weapons. Now, because the weapons are not being sent directly from this group, it's legal. But this has still raised some concerns in Washington.
TODD (voice-over): Outgunned at the beginning, Syria's rebels have gradually gained strength taking the fight more directly to Bashar al- Assad's regime and scoring some battlefield victories. Could some of those victories have started from this computer in Washington?
BRIAN SAYERS, SYRIAN SUPPORT GROUP: That's where you can actually identify where they conduct -- where they have a stronghold.
TODD: Brian Sayers heads the U.S.-based arm of the Syrian support group, a non-governmental group dedicated to helping the Syrian rebels.
Why did you want to do this?
SAYERS: Well, I -- you know, I have a son. And he's 18 months old. And I think that I saw too many images of what was going on there, two-year-olds that are, you know, white, pale and lifeless.
TODD: On his group's website, you can donate to the Syrian rebels using a credit card or PayPal. The website explicitly states your money can be used by the free Syrian army to buy weapons. He says they've raised a couple hundred thousands dollars, so far, most of it, from Syrian expats. It's all legal.
Sayers, a former NATO political officer, got the treasury department to give the Syrian support group a license so it can raise money for the rebels without violating sanctions against Syria.
(on-camera) It's a way for the U.S. government to allow donated resources from America to get to the rebels without the government directly arming the rebels. Ironically, Brian Sayers works to get those resources there from an office down the hall which is just three blocks from the White House just beyond those trees.
(voice-over) Sayers is clear. His group's not directly supplying the rebels with weapons. It can't do that legally. He says the money goes to rebel commanders on the ground, people who they vetted thoroughly who buy the weapons. He says those commanders have to sign a proclamation of principles saying they'll follow the Geneva convention and democratic ideals. CNN contributor, Tom Fuentes, says it's still dangerous.
TOM FUENTES, FORMER FBI ASSITANT DIRECTOR: He almost end up with an international "Fast and Furious" situation. We'll send those weapons there and they'll end up in the right hands, and we'll be able to track them later, no, you won't. And that's what we have right now in Libya.
TODD: But how do you know that these people are not just signing your proclamation just to get the weapons and then using it for nefarious purposes?
SAYERS: We use third party contacts on the ground. We use the relationships, the family members, the contacts that are born all Syrian-American.
TODD: But they're also providing intelligence. Sayers and his colleague in Canada, Luwey Saka (ph), communicate with rebel commanders directly. Often after analyzing Google satellite maps of the battlefield.
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
TODD (on-camera): That was Luwey Saka (ph) discussing how to get salaries and other resources to rebels manning checkpoints in Syria. this Is often real-time communication, aid, resources going directly to Syrian rebels on the ground from a private office here in Washington or a basement in Toronto.
The state department contacted by CNN said it was not really thrilled with this arrangement. An official there saying, quote, "further militarizing the conflict is not something the vast majority of Syrians want and then it could lead to greater loss of life" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Has this group, Brian, addressed how Fuentes' concern that after the war, a lot of these weapons would be just floating around and could get into anybody's hands?
TODD: They do. Brian Sayers told me that unlike in Libya, his group is not going to leave Syria right after the war ends. He says that they're licensed to help the Syrian rebels for two years, and they plan on being there on the ground after this war ends to help gather and decommission weapons. We'll see if they really do that.
BLITZER: We'll see. Sensitive important stuff. Thanks very much for that.
Today, the focus is in the presidential race. And they're focusing in on Virginia and veteran voters. Up next, how President Obama's turning Mitt Romney's words against him hoping to score points with vets. Stick around. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Even if we didn't highlight them, you can tell the state campaigns know our key to victory. Just take a look at where the candidates actually go. Today, for example, for both President Obama and Governor Romney it's Virginia.
They're fighting for its 13 electoral votes holding events not just on the same day but at nearly the exact same time. Our White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar, traveled with the president -- Brianna.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Election Day may still be weeks away, but absentee voting both mail-in and in person is underway now in Virginia. And President Obama came here to this conservative stronghold as he tries to keep this state out of the reach of Mitt Romney.
KEILAR (voice-over): In Virginia Beach, President Obama tailored his latest attack On Mitt Romney to the military voters here as he hit his opponent for his recently revealed comments that the 47 percent of Americans who don't pay income taxes see themselves as victims.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I travel around a lot in Virginia and across this country. I don't need a lot of victims. I see a whole bunch of veterans who served this country with bravery and distinction.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: And I see soldiers who defend our freedom every single day. And I see those military families who are wondering whether their loved ones are going to come back home safe and sound. That's who I see.
KEILAR: Active duty military and combat zones do not pay federal income tax and veterans do not pay federal income tax on their veteran benefits. Hammering that theme, Virginia senator, Jim Webb, a veteran and military father.
SEN. JIM WEBB, (D) VIRGINIA: But in receiving veterans benefits, they are not takers. They are givers in the ultimate sense of the word.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: Thank you.
KEILAR: You might not be able to tell by the supportive crowd of thousands here at the Farm Bureau Live Amphitheater, but this part of the state is not an Obama stronghold. Virginia Beach and nearby Norfolk with their concentration of military voters lean conservative.
President Obama is trying to cut into Romney's support here and a recent CNN poll of polls shows him ahead six points. The Obama campaign launched this attack ad Thursday airing in Virginia and a handful of other battleground states.
MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are victims who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them. KEILAR: And as early voting starts up in a number of states, the president framed his closing argument in a positive ad where he talks directly to the camera.
OBAMA: It's time for a new economic patriotism, rooted in the belief that growing our economy begins with a strong, thriving middle class.
KEILAR (on-camera): President Obama reiterated that message of economic patriotism as he put it here on his remarks in Virginia Beach today, pushing a set of newly framed proposals to increase manufacturing jobs, hire more science and math teachers, reduce oil imports and give tax breaks to companies that invest in the U.S. -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brianna Keilar on the campaign trail with the president. Thanks very much.
The attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, is still raising lots and lots of questions, including who was behind it all? Our own Arwa Damon goes into the mouth of the lion for an up close look at the rise of extremists right now in Libya.
BLITZER: Strong words today from the defense secretary, Leon Panetta, declaring unequivocally that the deadly attack on the United States Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Libya was in his words clearly, clearly the work of terrorists.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The reason I think it pretty clearly it was a terrorist attack is because a group of terrorists obviously conducted that attack on the consulate and against our individuals. What terrorists were involved I think still remains to be determined by the investigation. But it clearly was a group of terrorists who conducted that attack against that facility.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A senior U.S. official tells CNN intelligence suggested within 24 hours -- after the attack within 24 hours extremists either affiliated or inspired by al Qaeda may have been behind it. CNN's senior international correspondent Arwa Damon got extraordinary access to what could be considered a breeding ground for extremism inside the country.
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It may look like a sleepy beach front town, but (INAUDIBLE) has a reputation as a home to Islamist extremist militia. Some of them with links to al Qaeda. These militia had allegedly left their bases but continue to haunt the streets. We tried to get access to one of these bases, saw a handful of gunmen there and were told to leave.
(on camera): A pickup truck just swerved in front of us forcing us to stop. Three men got out wanting to talk. I'm assuming about what it is that we're doing here and they seem quite agitated.
(voice-over): One of our escorts was warned that quote "since the extremists no longer control security, they couldn't ensure ours." They were advising us to leave town. In the market most eyed us rarely (ph). Residents say a general strike and demonstration forced the militia to abandon their bases.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
DAMON: But this man tells us it's far from clear they will fade away.
(on camera): While we were filming here a man came over to speak to us, but he was too afraid to go on camera. He wanted us to know that the majority of people here are sick and tired of being in the spotlight because the minority he says is affiliated with al Qaeda.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
DAMON (voice-over): Hussein Misouri, a local journalist says radical Islam has always had a place in (INAUDIBLE). Men from here fought in Afghanistan and estimates are that more than 50 traveled to Iraq to become suicide bombers, the highest number from any town outside of Iraq.
HUSSEIN MISOURI, LIBYAN JOURNALIST: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
DAMON: The city and its surroundings were sympathetic to these groups because they had a common enemy, which was Gadhafi, Misouri explains. They were all trying to bring down Gadhafi. From the onset of the revolution it was the extremists that provided security.
MISOURI: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
DAMON: After liberation was announced says Misouri, there was increasing pressure on al Qaeda in Yemen and other places. Coming to Libya was easy. Among those setting up camp, Saffron bin Gamal (ph), once bin Laden's driver and held in Guantanamo Bay for five years, established the (INAUDIBLE) unit in (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
DAMON: And Abided Basit Azures (ph), alleged to have been sent here by al Qaeda's leader Ayman al Zawahiri (ph). According to security sources these Islamist militia have a common goal, weakening and then infiltrating Libya's security apparatus. In Benghazi there have been more than a dozen assassinations of former military officers. Sources tell CNN that many of them were reportedly on an Islamist hit list to eliminate qualified individuals that could pose a threat. Colonel Hamed Bel Kher of the Libyan Army was recently kidnapped. He says he doesn't know by whom or exactly why.
He got a call from a man who spoke as if he knew him and said he had urgent information to pass on. Outside his home in broad daylight two masked men forced him into their car.
COL. HAMED BEL KHER, LIBYAN ARMY: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
DAMON: When I got into the car they put a black hood on my head and began saying things like, you're going to see, threatening me, he tells us. Later he says he was forced to his knees and told to repent and renew his faith in Islam.
KHER: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
DAMON: He thought he was going to die when the phone rang.
KHER: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
DAMON: I could hear someone say, he's alive. We haven't killed him yet. You could hear his voice, he recalls. And then he was free. The influence of these radical groups has emerged in the capital. Last month they destroyed Sufi (ph) shrines including this one right in the heart of Tripoli. A move typical of selicist (ph) intolerance of other branches of Islam.
(on camera): As the shrine was being demolished, eyewitnesses say that Libyan security forces facilitated the act by blocking off the street. The Ministry of Interior says that it's investigating these charges while also acknowledging that it cannot go after these groups claiming it wants to avoid shedding Libyan blood.
(voice-over): And that is the problem. The government's currently not strong enough to facedown these groups. And they always thrive amid weakness.
Arwa Damon, CNN, Tripoli.
BLITZER: This just coming in to CNN. The United States is now removing more staff from its embassy in Tripoli, Libya, for security reasons. According to a senior State Department official, we're told the move is intended to be temporary. The staff could return as soon as next week. But we shall see. The U.S. removing staff, more members of the diplomatic community from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli.
So what about the investigation into the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya? Our national security contributor Fran Townsend and our intelligence correspondent Suzanne Kelly, they are getting new details for us. Stand by. We'll go to them when we come back.
BLITZER: There have been lots of questions about just how much access the FBI is getting on the ground in Libya in the wake of the U.S. Consulate attack. Joining us now to talk about it, CNN's national security contributor, the former Bush homeland security adviser Fran Townsend. Fran is a member of the CIA's External Advisory Committee. Last month she visited Libya with her employer Nick Andrews and Forbes (ph). Also joining us CNN's intelligence correspondent Suzanne Kelly. Fran, let me start with you. What's the problem with the FBI -- apparently they still -- it's hard to believe, they still have not been able to actually get into Benghazi to start looking around at the scene of this crime?
FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: That's right, Wolf. And you know with every passing moment and day it becomes less and less valuable, right? Because so many people have been through that consulate now and the annex. And so -- but investigators still want to get there. We've heard now, Wolf, with them drawing -- continuing to draw down personnel in Tripoli, there are concerns over the security situation. But we know that the FBI has got personnel on the ground. They're in Tripoli. We know that that there's Marine protection at the embassy in Tripoli. And so they're trying very hard to make sure that they can get out to Benghazi and look at firsthand the crime scene, the physical setup, to understand -- it's the only way to really understand the facts of what happened and how they unfolded there.
BLITZER: Is the problem that the Libyans aren't cooperating? Is there another interagency-U.S. problem going on here? What's the issue?
TOWNSEND: You know, Wolf, I think probably the right answer is all of the above. We know the Libyans today issued a statement saying that they had offered to get the FBI out to Benghazi. They believe they could do that safely. That it was not a security issue. I think American officials though are concerned about security. We've also heard that there have been some interagency wrangling, right, between the State Department who's got to be the interface with the Libyan government, make the request and then facilitate it. And they've got fewer personnel on the ground. The secretary is dealing with the U.N. General Assembly pulling on her time and attention and so we understand that there are multiple things that have sort of slowed down the FBI's investigation and caused some frustration.
BLITZER: Suzanne, what are you hearing about this investigation? What's the latest that you're hearing from your sources?
SUZANNE KELLY, CNN INTELLIGENCE CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well the U.S. official is saying that as Fran mentioned the FBI team has now gone to Benghazi more out of concern for the security of the team according to them. However, Fran touched on a really important point which is going through the crime scene itself to seeing what's leftover, but there's another important point too and that is having access to the people to get interviews. Both witnesses and people who may be suspected of having some sort of relationship with the actual attack itself. So that human source and those interviews are going to be really important for FBI investigators to help piece together what exactly happened that night. And this is something that is intended to take maybe weeks or even months. And for the U.S. to kind of think that they can march in and get answers on this right away is simply not realistic. According to someone we talked to today, Phil Mudd, who has held high level positions both at the FBI and the CIA, he talked about the challenges ahead for investigators but also just why the relationship with the Libyans in this case in particular is so important. Take a listen to what he had to say. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PHILIP MUDD, FORMER FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR: I think over time some of the people who are involved including people from al Qaeda, the Islamic Magrab (ph), the local organization that's an affiliate of al Qaeda might talk. I doubt they would talk to an American investigator directly. That's one of the major reasons you want to build relationships in Tripoli with the local service. And even if they wanted to talk to somebody who is American highly unlikely, who's going to get you there in the first place? In the wake of what just happened, I would not want to have American investigators running around looking for interviewees. I would want to have somebody who is my friend who I sat with in a cafe in Tripoli building a relationship do it for me and that's what is going to take weeks or months.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KELLY: And that's why this relationship between a partnership between the Americans and the Libyans is so important, Wolf. They really need those friends in Libya to get access to the people they need to talk to as well as the crime scene.
BLITZER: Let me bring Fran back into this conversation. Fran, I can't tell you how many people have said to me why is it possible that CNN and other news organizations can send journalists out there to Benghazi, interview a whole bunch of folks, walk around the crime scene, pick up stuff, whatever they want. Arwa Damon and her team, they were there for several days as you well know. Why can they get in there and do this and then leave but U.S. military or FBI or other personnel can't do it?
TOWNSEND: Well, Wolf, for one thing, you know when we go in -- when journalists go in they don't go in as representatives of the United States government, right? We're media personnel and there's a certain respect and sort of safety in that. Anybody who goes in there representing the United States government is -- you know, because it's not just the individual, they are representing our nation and so they are at greater risk. I will tell you though oftentimes in working with the host country's service, in this case the Libyans, we can get direct access. And the FBI investigators I've spoken to have made perfectly clear it's much more effective to be able to be present even if you're doing that interview alongside the host government than to have to do it through passing questions. There's plenty of room for misunderstanding, for a lack of follow-up and information. And so it makes for a much more effective investigation if the FBI can get permission to have direct access along with their Libyan counterparts.
BLITZER: Fran Townsend, thank you. Suzanne Kelly, thanks to you as well. We'll stay on top of this story.
Mitt Romney focused in on military veterans today. We're focusing in when we come back on his faith and a picture of Romney that you've probably never seen before.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Has Mitt Romney's Mormon faith prepared him for a rough political campaign? Our sister publication "TIME" magazine puts that question front and center with this week's cover story "The Mormon in Mitt". In the piece John Meacham (ph) writes and I'm quoting now "viewing Romney through the lens of the Mormon understanding of history helps explain his ambition, his devotion to personal liberty and his comfort with expediency." Rick Stengel is "TIME" magazine's managing editor and he's joining us now. Rick, a very, very intriguing article that goes into how his Mormon faith has impacted his campaign style. Elaborate a little bit.
RICK STENGEL, TIME MANAGING EDITOR: Well one of the points that John makes, Wolf, is that Mormonism in many ways is the quintessential American religion. Joseph Smith saw America as the promise land, as the place where the second coming would happen and it's a religion, basically, based in and vested in the idea of American exceptionalism. On the one hand, that enables -- that should enable Governor Romney to talk about America in that way. The other point that he makes that you were alluding to earlier is that it's a religion that in terms of its existence in America has been based on adversity and prejudice and combating adversity, so that should allow him also to rise to the occasion during a presidential campaign.
BLITZER: It should. It makes him presumably a stronger campaigner out there, given the rough and tumble of a political campaign that's under way. You've also uncovered a really intriguing, pretty good picture that we've never seen of Mitt Romney before. I'm going to put it up on the screen. I want you to explain what's going on in this picture.
STENGEL: Yes, we think it's from about 1968, Wolf. And it was while Governor Romney was on his missionary lead in France as a young man and it was when he was still courting Ann -- then Ann Davies (ph) who was later to become his wife and he and a friend of his made a number of these kinds of photographs of him wooing Ann. It says "I love Ann" on the beaches of southern France and it shows a side of Governor Romney that we haven't really seen before, a romantic, sentimental side.
BLITZER: He also showed us a little personal side of him on the campaign trail today. Let me play this clip and then we'll discuss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And he said I have a young lady that I'm in love with and we haven't been married and I'm going to go off to conflict. Could you marry us? And I said I don't see why not. And called the two of them forward in front of the entire audience brought them up and pronounced the wedding ceremony. I figured I was the governor, I could do whatever the heck I wanted to. And so, I married these two and when I got back to the office they said, you know, there's this thing called a marriage license. Did you know about that, Governor?
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Yes, the soldier was about to be deployed. It's a nice story and it sort of goes along perfectly with what you guys are writing in "TIME" magazine.
STENGEL: Well not that -- we didn't plan it that way, Wolf. And it was a picture that we've had for a while and when John's story was, you know, in process, I realized, hey, you know this was while Governor Romney was on his missionary period, so it seemed appropriate. But, obviously, Wolf, they are trying to humanize him a little more and try to make him more appealing to people, particularly to women voters, and I think certainly that story that we just heard and this picture would help in that respect.
BLITZER: It certainly would. "The Mormon in Mitt" is the cover story in the new issue of "TIME" magazine. Thanks very much, Rick, for joining us.
STENGEL: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: It's one of America's oldest unsolved mysteries, now the answer to Jimmy Hoffa's death may -- repeat may lie underneath a driveway.
BLITZER: The disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa is starting a new chapter. There have been countless tips and fruitless searches for his remains off and on since he vanished 37 years ago. But a new tip has police preparing to tear up a slab of concrete outside a Michigan home. CNN's Athena Jones is taking a closer look at the dig.
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What happened to Jimmy Hoffa? One of America's great unsolved mysteries. The notorious one- time Teamster's union boss with ties to organized crime disappeared in 1975. Now, police plan to drill under the driveway of this suburban Detroit home after receiving a tip from a man who said he'd seen a body being buried here around the time Hoffa went missing. Initial testing showed there is something underneath the concrete. Friday morning, police will take a core sample from the soil there and test it for human remains.
CHIEF JAMES BERLIN, ROSEVILLE, MICHIGAN POLICE: We do believe that he may have seen a body being interred and as a result of that we did the ground penetrating radar. That showed an anomaly (ph). We're going to take it to the next step and check for human remains and if that does, in fact, happen, then we will -- you know we'll start to excavate.
JONES: The sample will be taken to a forensic anthropologist at the University of Michigan for analysis. This isn't the first time authorities have followed a tip like this.
TOM FUENTES, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: There's been a lot of earth moved looking for the remains of Jimmy Hoffa, all negative so far. I mean, you're talking about digging up football stadiums and fields and backyards and basements.
JONES: The FBI isn't commenting on this new dig, but we spoke with former FBI Assistant Director Tom Fuentes who ran the bureau's organized crime program for five years.
(on camera): What are the chances that this is Hoffa buried underneath this driveway in Michigan?
FUENTES: I would say pretty close to zero.
JONES: And why is that?
FUENTES: Because it's not consistent with the techniques they used. If they wanted to dispose of a body when they killed somebody, first of all, they wouldn't do it in a shallow grave under somebody's driveway. Second of all they wouldn't do it in front of a witness.
JONES (voice-over): Police expect to get test results next week, which could bring us one step closer to finding out what happened to Jimmy Hoffa.
JONES: Wolf, we did get a statement from the Teamsters saying quote "The Hoffa family does not respond every time a tip is received by authorities. The FBI keeps the family informed and they will have no comment until there is a reason to comment."
BLITZER: What else do we know about what the authorities think might have happened?
JONES: Well this has been pretty fascinating talking to all these folks about this. They believe that the mob put a hit on Hoffa, had Hoffa killed. Fuentes said one of the working theories was that the people who ordered Hoffa killed would also have ordered his killers killed so that there would be no one left to talk about it. Two other FBI agents I spoke with said that they think the killers would have survived and maybe even been rewarded by the mob -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Athena Jones, thank you.