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THE SITUATION ROOM

Syria's Chemical Threat; Interview With Jane Harman; Interview with Jim DeMint

Aired December 6, 2012 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: a warning of imminent use of weapons of mass destruction in Syria, a chilling look at what a chemical attack would look like. Stand by.

Law enforcement tracing your text messages -- how the push for a new law impacts your privacy.

And the living legal nightmare of a man who spent decades in prison, even though he's never, ever been convicted of anything.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A new urgency to the crisis in Syria right now with growing signs the increasingly desperate regime of Bashar al-Assad may be preparing to unleash chemical weapons against his own people.

U.S. intelligence shows Syria has mixed chemical compounds needed to make sarin gas. In an extraordinary move, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met twice today with her Russian counterpart on the sidelines of a security conference in Ireland. There are signs Russia's staunch support for Assad may be faltering as the civil war rapidly evolves.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Events on the ground in Syria are accelerating. And we see that in many different ways. The pressure against the regime in and around Damascus seems to be increasing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: There's growing fear the Assad regime will respond to that pressure with dramatic and deadly force, including chemical weapons. U.S. intelligence believes the chemical in question is sarin, which causes a horrifying death.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is joining us now. Barbara has more on the latest.

What are you hearing, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the priority now at the Pentagon clearly is to figure out what Bashar al-Assad is up to. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): The horror remains unspeakable; 25 years ago, Saddam Hussein unleashed one of the worst poison gas attacks in history. In the town of Halabja, thousands were killed. Now, in Syria, U.S. concerns are growing by the hour that Bashar al-Assad may be planning the same thing against his citizens.

LEON PANETTA, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: The intelligence that we have raises serious concerns that this is being considered.

STARR: U.S. intelligence shows Syria has mixed chemical compounds needed to make sarin gas, a deadly agent that can quickly kill thousands.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The United States and our allies are facing the prospect of an imminent use of weapons of mass destruction in Syria. And this may be the last warning we get.

STARR: The U.S. is not precisely saying what the Syrians are doing, but there are two ways of mixing elements to make a sarin- filled weapon.

LEONARD SPECTOR, MONTEREY INSTITUTE OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: You have to handle it very, very carefully, because a drop will kill you. Often, this will be done at the last minute. Or that's one style.

STARR: There's another way to do it. Two chemicals are placed in an artillery shell separated by a disk. When the shell is fired, the disk explodes, the chemicals mix, becoming deadly sarin. But at some point, the chemicals are on the move.

SPECTOR: Then they have to decide to move it to the place where the delivery system sits. So, it may be artillery pieces in an artillery battery of some kind. It could be an airport or military air base, where the bombers are sitting.

STARR: That may be the final opportunity to strike before chemical weapons are used.

MCCAIN: Time for talking about what to do may now be coming to a close. And we may instead be left with an awful and very difficult decision.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: But, Wolf, consider this. Sarin gas, we're told by the experts, when stored properly, can have a shelf life of some weeks. So these heightened tensions, this concern about what Assad may be up to may go on for some time -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We will stay on top of it with you, Barbara. Thanks very much.

Meanwhile, the protests are heating up in Egypt once again tonight.

CNN's Kate Bolduan is here. She's picking up this part of the story -- Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, a lot of developments in Egypt as well, Wolf.

Embattled President Mohammed Morsi went on nationwide TV tonight and he addressed the deadly protests that followed his decision to put his decrees beyond court review. But far from placating his opponents, he appears to have inflamed their outrage.

Within minutes, the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in Cairo was up in flames.

CNN's Reza Sayah joins us now on the phone from Cairo.

Reza, we want to talk about President Morsi in a second. But, first, you have just arrived at the scene of the fire at the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters, I understand. What are you seeing, and what are you learning about who's responsible for this?

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, let's verify what has happened.

Two hours ago, state media here in Egypt and a Muslim Brotherhood's Web site reported the main headquarters here in Cairo was attacked by protesters and torched. We raced over here. We're in front of the headquarters right now. There's no indication of a fire here, but certainly there's a large group of what appear to be opponents of President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood who are trying to do everything they can to get to this building, and they're being blocked by police.

So we have yet another standoff. If anyone thought that President Morsi's speech would pacify these two sides and calm things down, this is a sign it has not. Earlier tonight, President Morsi delivered a speech. A lot of people were anxious to see if he would make some concessions, back down from his position, and in many ways he did not. I think he tried to do several things. He called for peace and calm. He called on all political factions to get together at the presidential palace on Saturday and talk.

He also issued a stern warning to protesters to stay away from violence. But he didn't back down from his key position, and that is the referendum on the constitution will take place on the 15th, and he didn't reverse the controversial decrees that he delivered a couple of weeks ago that gave him additional powers. He said that will only happen after the referendum, and that speech certainly did not pacify the opposition supporters.

They were outside his palace again calling for his ouster, and now at this hour, a large group trying to get to the Muslim Brotherhood's offices -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: And all the while, it seems the situation in Egypt is just getting worse and worse. Reza Sayah watching it for us on the ground for us in Cairo, thank you so much, Reza.

BLITZER: Let's some get more on what's going on in Egypt and Syria, for that matter.

Joining us, the former Democrat Congresswoman Jane Harman. She's now the director of the Woodrow Wilson Center here in Washington.

It seems Morsi's address he just had on national television in Egypt, Jane, has inflamed the passions, if anything. You were just there a few days ago.

JANE HARMAN (D), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN: I was just there. And I have been in the headquarters that may or may not have been torched.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Of the Muslim Brotherhood.

HARMAN: Your recent report.

But, two steps forward, one step backward. The cease-fire in Gaza was an important development.

BLITZER: The role that Egypt played.

HARMAN: And the role that Egypt played was crucial, and getting an IMF loan or at least a promise of an IMF loan, to help Egypt's staggered economy is also useful.

However, here the process has been very poor. It may be that the contents of this new constitution are pretty good, based on what I have been able to tell. But the way it was announced after 30 of the 100 people left this council and their seats were backfilled, and then this decree giving Morsi powers through the enactment of the referendum, has created enormous mistrust, and I don't think it's going away.

His call for dialogue on Saturday, as I understand it, does not open the possibility that he could change this constitution and include some amendments. I think that might have reduced the tension.

BLITZER: Because the violence is intense.

BOLDUAN: He called for dialogue again today, but it clearly is getting more and more inflamed. What is your sense, Jane, on President Morsi? Protesters are speaking to our folks on the ground. Some of them are saying, this is not what we wanted. This is another dictatorship. What's your sense of it?

HARMAN: It was a fair election, and the opposition, these liberal seculars, as they call themselves, had numerous parties that ran. It was a runoff. Morsi won the runoff. I was an observer.

BLITZER: He got 52 percent of the vote. That is not 100 percent; 52 percent is a bare majority. (CROSSTALK)

HARMAN: That's right. But his group claims -- in this council they only had 51 percent of the seats. Others were represented. Others chose to walk out. Egypt doesn't do politics as well.

I wrote an op-ed on it that you posted last week that basically says they know how to protest and boycott. They don't know how to deal with each other. Actually, our Congress doesn't either. But in this case, this is a toxic development. What the Morsi crowd wants to do -- and you had Morsi's national security adviser on your show last night, Wolf.

What they hope to do is to have a fair vote in a few weeks, have a new constitution, which they claim represents Egypt broadly, and then repeal this decree and elect a new parliament and move along with a democracy. Sounds good, except that a whole bunch of people feel disenfranchised by the way they're doing it.

BLITZER: They're not very happy. You're talking Essam Al Haddad. He was on the show, a national security adviser to President Morsi. He was here yesterday. You have met with him. You know him.

HARMAN: I do.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: He sounds pretty reasonable.

But then when I asked him about the $1.3 billion a year in military aid the U.S. provides Egypt, hundreds of millions of dollars in economic assistance the U.S. provides Egypt, he said this. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ESSAM AL HADDAD, FOREIGN AFFAIRS ADVISER TO EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT: Well, I think U.S. assistance to Egypt is important for the United States more than it is important for Egypt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He thinks it's more important for the U.S. to give $1.5 billion a year, and it's better for the U.S. than it is for Egypt, even though Egypt is the recipient. You understand that kind of logic?

HARMAN: Well, I think foreign military sales help aerospace firms employ people. I think that was that comment.

But I think it's very important for Egypt to get the help. Egypt's economy is stagnant. Getting the IMF loan of $4.8 billion, $6 billion promised from the E.U., and this money from us will matter a lot.

At the end of the day, Morsi has to deliver. And he has to provide food and jobs and employment for his people. That's what will create buy-in.

BOLDUAN: Jane, just real quick, because we never have enough time, I want to quickly just get your take on Syria as we're watching developments there as well. Secretary of State Clinton meeting with the Russian foreign minister, as well as the U.N. envoy to Syria. With so much concern about the threat of chemical weapons at this point, do you think there are any diplomatic options left?

HARMAN: I think the play -- and Hillary Clinton met twice today with the Russian foreign minister, Lavrov -- is to get Russia in the tent with the rest of the world.

Everyone has predicted, when facts on the ground change, Russia will be there. This could be a reset moment for Vladimir Putin, and he could, because of his unique sway in the area, persuade, I would think, the Bashar family to step aside and create a peaceful transition, like the transition in Yemen.

The opposition is now more broadly representative, and I would hope that the Russians would see that being on the wrong side of this just creates more carnage, more opportunity for terrorists to get traction there and won't help Russia.

BLITZER: It's a pivotal moment, as we say.

HARMAN: Absolutely.

BLITZER: A clear tipping point. Glad you're back safe and sound from Egypt.

HARMAN: Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Jane Harman, thanks very much for coming in.

The Jersey Shore about to meet the fiscal cliff. We have grim news for Governor Chris Christie as he visits Washington.

Plus, the controversial place to store your text messages. Police would be able to see them, but who else?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The United States is now only 26 days from the so- called fiscal cliff, a combination of drastic tax hikes, spending cuts some fear will plunge the country back into recession.

BOLDUAN: Only a deficit reduction deal between the White House and House Republicans can stop it. With negotiations stalled, President Obama tried to increase and step up the pressure on Republicans today, visiting a family in Northern Virginia whose taxes would go up by some $4,000 a year if an agreement isn't reached.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're keeping it together. They're working hard. They're meeting their responsibilities. For them to be burdened unnecessarily because Democrats and Republicans aren't coming together to solve this problem gives you a sense of the costs involved in very personal terms.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The president also met with New Jersey's governor, Chris Christie, over at the White House. The Republican governor was here in Washington to talk about Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, and now they're in danger of going over the fiscal cliff with the rest of the country at the end of the month.

Our national political correspondent Jim Acosta has been covering this story for us.

What's the latest with Chris Christie in Washington?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is some of the unintended consequences of the fiscal cliff. After a series of meetings with both the president and House Speaker John Boehner, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had little to say as he left Washington, but as other senators we spoke to are describing it, the Jersey Shore may be running head on into the fiscal cliff.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): He visited the president at the White House, and then he met with senators from his own state before slipping in to meet the speaker of the House.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Going home, guys. See you later.

ACOSTA: But then Chris Christie, a potential presidential candidate who is rarely at a loss for words, departed the nation's capital in near total silence. As it turns out, the New Jersey governor's quest for money to rebuild his state's battered shoreline may colliding with another crisis, the fiscal cliff, in other words, bad timing.

(on camera): Is there any chance that any of this could get caught up in the fiscal cliff talks?

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: It doesn't come at an opportune time because of the fiscal cliff, both the talks and the idea that we're short of money. But, traditionally, what this country has done is treated disasters separately.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Senators from the storm-ravaged states believe the Obama administration will propose roughly $50 billion in relief, far short of what the states want, $82 billion.

(on camera): Is there that kind of money lying around? SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: There's certainly not that kind of money lying around. It's such a complex time right now. We're dealing with a host of issues. We're trying to prevent our country from going off the fiscal cliff.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Senator Susan Collins and some of her Republican colleagues would like to see budget cuts or offsets that would to pay for the massive storm cleanup.

(on camera): Without offsets, is it going to have trouble getting passed do you think in this current climate?

SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: I think it might. I think it might. Can't predict that.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The uncertain fate of the relief money comes little more than a month after the jaw-dropping pre-election image of Christie and the president shoulder to shoulder, a time when Mr. Obama promised to help Sandy's victims quickly.

OBAMA: I want you to cut through red tape. I want you to cut through bureaucracy. There's no excuse for inaction at this point.

ACOSTA: The White House says the president remains committed.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There's no question as the president saw when he was on Staten Island that there is enormous suffering that continues. That's why we're working closely with states and localities to continue the effort to assist in the recovery.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: A top congressional aide tells CNN lawmakers are still waiting to see the administration's proposal, and an administration official tells CNN the White House is still crunching its numbers.

As for Chris Christie, who is up for reelection in New Jersey next year, a top aide to the governor had no comment. Just to get to a staggering sum of money we're talking about here, the $80 billion the governors are seeking roughly equal to the amount of money we'd raise in one year from raising taxes on the top 2 percent. So it's a lot of money.

BOLDUAN: It's a tough time, that's for sure. Jim Acosta, thank you so much.

Get this, Apple products made in America. Details of the tech giant's plans to bring jobs home.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: A Senate bombshell: Tea Party candidate Jim DeMint catches everyone off guard, announcing his retirement from the Senate. So, why is he doing this? What is next? My interview with him straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Happening now: the surprise resignation of a Tea Party favorite. Senator Jim DeMint tells me why he is stepping down.

Your text messages on file available to police -- details of a push for a controversial new law.

Plus, a stunning miscarriage of justice -- a man spends more than 30 years in prison and he was never even convicted.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A bombshell announcement in the Senate today.

BOLDUAN: Republican Jim DeMint of South Carolina caught pretty much everyone by surprise, even his own staff, when he announced he's resigning at the end of the year. DeMint will stay here in Washington, though, in a new role as the head of the conservative Heritage Foundation, a think tank here in Washington.

And DeMint says he believes he can make more of a difference outside the Senate than inside.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: This is a good time to leave, in effect, because I have term-limited myself. I never agreed to be a career politician. I have played a role in stocking the Senate with solid conservatives who are younger and brighter and better spokesmen than I am. And so I know I'm leaving the Senate better than I found it with some real leaders.

But this is an opportunity to do more to get the American people behind them. If we don't do that, it's going to be hard to keep people here in Washington who are promoting the right ideas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: DeMint drew praise from an unlikely source, Democratic Majority Leader of the Senate Harry Reid.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: I have always liked the guy. And even though I disagree with so much of what he's done, I appreciate that I personally believe he does this out of a sense of real belief. It's not political posturing for him as it is for a lot of people. I like Jim DeMint. I wish him well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And I'm joined now by Senator DeMint along with Heritage Foundation founding trustee, the current president -- shall we say the outgoing president -- Edwin Feulner.

Ed, thanks very much for coming in as well.

We're going to talk a little bit about the state of the Heritage Foundation and the state of the Republican Party, but the senator is here, the newsmaker.

You shocked all of us. Why did you do this?

DEMINT: Wolf, after this last election, it's apparent that we need to do more as conservatives to convince Americans that our ideas and our policies are going to make their lives better.

The Heritage Foundation is the premier think tank, research organization. The premier idea group for the conservative movement. This will give me the opportunity to help take our case to the American people and to translate our policies into real ideas.

BLITZER: So you think you could be more influential within the conservative movement as the leader of the Heritage Foundation, as opposed to a United States senator.

DEMINT: There's no question about it.

BLITZER: What does that say about the Senate, though? I thought, being a senator, one of only 100, you had a real -- you know, you had enormous power.

DEMINT: Well, we do. And I think I've had a lot to do with changing the Senate and bringing in some folks who better reflect America to the Republican Party.

But for me, particularly since I spent most of my life doing research, working with ideas and marketing and trying to sell those to people all over the country, this is like coming home, to be able to work with people who are like-minded at Heritage and all over the country.

BLITZER: If Romney would have won, do you think you would have also made the same decision?

DEMINT: I would have thought differently about it, but this, I told Ed four years ago, half-jokingly, that when people asked me to run for president, I said the only president I want to be is president of the Heritage Foundation, because they're about ideas, and they -- their ideas are backed up by solid research.

And Wolf, the thing that breaks my heart is, as Republicans, we're not doing a good job of convincing Americans that we care about every one of them and our policies are going to make our lives better.

BLITZER: The impression is you only care about the rich.

DEMINT: That's the impression. I'm a conservative first, and I believe that, if we do a better job of helping Americans understand what we're trying to do, to showcase every place in the country that our ideas are working at the state level, that that will help those at the federal level who want to carry those policies.

And frankly, if independents and Democrats want to work with us on conservative ideas, I can do that better at Heritage than as a partisan inside.

BLITZER: You've been at Heritage forever, right?

FEULNER: I've been there 35 years.

BLITZER: I didn't realize, based on how powerful he says he's going to be within the conservative movement, do you feel that you've been that powerful in galvanizing everyone out there?

FEULNER: Unquestionably. I mean, we've co-sponsored a presidential debate with you as our moderator.

BLITZER: I remember. It was a great debate.

FEULNER: Great. We are an idea factory. And ideas are the raw materials of what goes on in Washington. And if we can pull together a stronger coalition -- Republican, Democrat, conservative, even some liberals sometimes on the broad issues that face us -- man, and Jim DeMint knows how to do it. He knows the marketing side as well as the issue side. It's going to be an exciting time at Heritage.

BLITZER: It's a big job. It's not just thinking. You've got to raise money. You've got to go out there and speak. You've got a big staff. You've got a lot of work to do.

FUELNER: He does. He's got to administer 250 people. We've got 600,000 members around the country who are going to be really ecstatic when they hear the news of Jim's coming in. It's -- it's an exciting time at Heritage.

BLITZER: Should there be a compromise in order to avoid going over the fiscal cliff? John Boehner is already ready for $800 billion in increased tax revenue. Now, this isn't really raising the marginal tax rate on the wealthy but Calculating deductions, eliminating loopholes. Are you with the speaker of the House on that?

DEMINT: Unfortunately, Wolf, the policies of the President Obama have already taken us over the cliff. If you meet with businesses like I do all the time, they've already pared back their plans and their hiring for next year, anticipating what's going to happen. So we can fix this Christmas Eve, if we want, but we've already hurt the economy and hurt job growth.

BLITZER: Are you with Boehner?

DEMINT: I'm not with Boehner, because this government doesn't need any more money. This country needs less government. We are going to have historic levels of revenue to the government this year, but we've doubled spending in the last ten years.

BLITZER: Everyone's taxes are going to go up at the end of the year if there's no deal. DEMINT: Well, we have already offered to extend current tax rates. That's what we should have done six months ago until we could come to some agreement, some compromise on tax reform.

BLITZER: When you say compromise, where are you ready to compromise as far as taxes are concerned?

DEMINT: How we go about tax reform, there's a lot of room to work together to lower the rates.

BLITZER: Give an example. Give me an example.

DEMINT: I'm not sure where the Democrats are, because they have not offered a plan.

BLITZER: They say, well, their plan is keep the tax rates from 2001, 2003, whatever, make them permanent. The top 2 percent, let them go from 35 percent to 39.6 percent, which is was what it was during the Clinton administration.

DEMINT: It's incredible to me we're even talking about it, because that doesn't solve the problem.

BLITZER: It doesn't solve it. It's a beginning.

DEMINT: It runs the government for five or six days.

BLITZER: It's a beginning. You know, a billion here, a billion there, it winds up being real money.

DEMINT: But the president has known about this so-called cliff for over a year, and he has yet to present a plan that's comprehensive that actually reduces our deficit.

So I'm going to work with anyone who is willing to put a plan on the table, but our party or anyone should not sit down and negotiate with someone who will not put a plan on the table. And the president has not put a serious plan on the table.

BLITZER: Ed, I'd like you to weigh in. We're running out of time. As far as a compromise on the marginal tax rate, 35 percent, going up, let's say 36 or 37 percent, is that acceptable?

FEULNER: No, no, because marginal tax rate increases, if there is any increase in revenue, it just gives them more to play with over on Capitol Hill and more to spend. And when we talk about fairness, when the top 2 percent, $250,000 and above, are already paying 45 percent of total income tax, that's a big question of fairness there, too.

BLITZER: Ed Feulner and Jim DeMint, outgoing Heritage leader and incoming Heritage leader.

BOLDUAN: And who will be the incoming senator from South Carolina?

BLITZER: Nikki Haley, the governor, will make that decision.

BOLDUAN: In a few weeks (ph).

BLITZER: Speaking out, the photographer behind the chilling photo of a man pushed onto the New York City subway tracks. He's talking to CNN's Anderson Cooper. Anderson standing by to join us live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Billions of text messages sent every day. Have you ever wondered what happens to yours?

BOLDUAN: Yes, a lot of questions on that. Most of them simply vanish when you delete them. But now there's a push for a law that would require carriers to store your text messages. And that's raising some serious privacy concerns. No surprise there.

CNN's Brian Todd has been looking into this.

Brian, it really had me thinking.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's really strange, Kate and Wolf. You know, law enforcement, they want to retrieve our text messages. They want the authority to, anyway. Not just the so-called meta-data. That's the -- when and to whom you sent texts to. They want the content, and they want our carriers to store it for at least three months, possibly longer in some cases.

As one prosecutor pointed out to us, these days, the text is often where the evidence is.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Michelle Medoff says she started getting the harassing texts in early November. An anonymous person threatened to send nude pictures of her to her mother, then to a wide circulation. One text said, "I am so close to F'ing sending them to everyone. You are so sexy. You'll be an online star in no time unless you answer me."

The threats came from different cell-phone numbers. Medoff, a model and college student, was terrified.

MICHELLE MEDOFF, TEXT THREAT VICTIM: I was very, very afraid. I mean, that week, I didn't go to a night class, because I didn't feel safe to walk by myself.

TODD: It's those kinds of texts that U.S. law-enforcement authorities want more power to investigate. Several law-enforcement groups, including chiefs of police, sheriff's associations, are pushing Congress to pass a law, saying your carrier has to record and store your text messages. It's not clear how long they want them stored.

Scott Burns of the National District Attorneys' Association, one of the groups pushing for the new law, says his group favors a period of three or four months, maybe longer if an investigation is urgent.

SCOTT BURNS, NATIONAL DISTRICT ATTORNEYS' ASSOCIATION: If you're in the middle of an investigation, and bad guys are communicating back and forth, whether it's a homicide, whether it's evidence of a crime, it's crucial. I mean, 20 years ago, we weren't talking about this. Today everybody has a cell phone. Everybody texts and e-mails and is on social media, and that's where the evidence is today.

TODD: Or not. As of 2010, major carriers like AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile didn't retain any content of customers' text messages. They got rid of them immediately. Verizon keeps them only for up to five days.

(on camera) Why can't law enforcement get the texts from individual cell phones? Scott Burns says it's faster and more efficient to get from the carriers. And he points out that, of course, the bad guys often erase their incriminating texts.

(voice-over) But many believe the law-enforcement benefit of mining texts doesn't outweigh privacy concerns. Chris Calabrese of the ACLU says, with some 60 billion text messages sent every day, there's too much private information that would be stored.

CHRIS CALABRESE, ACLU: And that's not just something law enforcement could get. It's divorce attorneys, other investigators, it's the press. Even if you feel like you have nothing to hide, it's a lot of embarrassing and personal information there.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Experts point out this does become a security issue. If the carriers store your texts for any length of time, they could be hacked into. We contacted the major wireless carriers to see what they think of this proposed law to store our texts. We reached out to Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile. None of them would comment. The Wireless Association, the main lobbying arm for those carriers also would not comment -- Kate.

BLITZER: Have they captured, though, the individual responsible for those embarrassing e-mails, those texts to that model?

TODD: No, they have not. Michelle says that the person had also called her from a couple of different cell phones, which she believes they also sent the texts from. And when she tried to trace them, she found that those numbers were no longer in service. That's another way that these people can get away. They can toss their phones. They can disable them. She says also because the person didn't threaten to kill her, it's not a huge priority for police.

BLITZER: A major decision coming up. Thanks very much, Brian Todd, for that.

The photographer who took those now-notorious pictures of a man about to be hit and killed by a subway train, is speaking out tonight on CNN's "ANDERSON COOPER 360." Anderson is joining us now. Anderson, this man has caused so much controversy. Tell us about it. Tell us what's going on.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. We're going to be talking to him tonight on the program on 360 at 8 p.m., Umar Abbasi. He is a freelance photographer for "The New York Post" who took those pictures that have now obviously been seen around the world and really sparked huge discussions over the last several days about should he have done more? Should the other people on the train platform have done more?

His position all along has been that he -- as he ran toward this, there just wasn't time for him to help the man on the tracks, and he had hoped, by using the flash, that he would -- he would signal the subway train conductor that there was a man on the tracks. That obviously did not happen.

He has also said there were a number of people who were much closer than he was to Mr. Han, who was on the tracks, who did nothing to help, and, in fact, took out cell-phone cameras after Mr. Han had been brought back onto the tracks and CPR was being administered to him.

He was saying he had to yell at the crowd to try to move back. People were just standing around using their cell-phone cameras to videotape his body.

So we're going to talk about more details with Mr. Abbasi about exactly what happened and what could have been done differently, if anything, in fact, could have been done differently.

BLITZER: Yes, because that picture of him, Mr. Han, hanging onto the cliff, the edge over there of that platform, and there were a lot of people. It didn't -- at least to me, I wasn't there, I don't know what I would have done. But to just go over there and try to grab his arms and lift him up.

These are -- this is video of him speaking to the individual who's been charged right now. But, you know, what I can't understand is somebody's lying there, obviously screaming for help, and nobody's going over there to get his arms and just lift him up.

COOPER: Yes. You know, I mean, again, I think it's easy to criticize when one isn't there, and you know, people, you never know how you're going to react in any kind of situation. But we want to talk about -- all about -- all about this with Mr. Abbasi.

BLITZER: Well, I'm looking forward to it. But Anderson, we'll see you at 8 p.m., "AC 360." Thanks very much.

COOPER: Thanks, Wolf.

BOLDUAN: Still ahead, behind bars without a conviction for three decades. For three decades. A miscarriage of justice that continues right now. Details of how it happened.

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BLITZER: It's a stunning miscarriage of justice. A man who spent more than half his life in prison without a valid conviction. Now his case is drawing new attention, new outrage. How can this happen in the United States of America? CNN's crime and justice correspondent, Joe Johns, has been working this story.

How could this happen?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's still being fought out in the courts, but legal observers we talked to called this case highly unusual, a huge breakdown, a classic failure of the justice system to work the way it's supposed to work.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS (voice-over): Behind the walls of this Texas prison sits Jerry Hartfield, a 56-year-old man caught in legal limbo for 30 years, the charges against him overturned long ago.

The story starts back in 1977 when a jury in Texas convicted and sentenced Hartfield to death for a grisly crime: killing a woman with a pickax in a bus station. But three years later, while Hartfield was here on Death Row, the conviction was reversed on appeal. The court said the state of Texas violated his constitutional rights by dismissing a woman from the jury pool because of her reservations about the death penalty.

Richard Dieter heads a group that opposes capital punishment.

RICHARD DIETER, DEATH PENALTY INFORMATION CENTER: He had a trial, but it wasn't a fair trial. He was convicted and sentenced to death by the jury at that trial, but without it being a properly selected jury, the conviction didn't stand, and the Texas courts were unanimous about that. So, they had the obligation then to retry him or to free him. They have done neither one.

JOHNS: The court ordered a new trial more than 32 years ago. One that Hartfield never received. Almost unheard of in modern jurisprudence.

DIETER: I've never seen someone linger in prison for 30 years without a conviction. Without, you know, the basic due process.

JOHNS: So, how did this happen? The state wanted to change Hartfield's sentence from death to life in prison instead of holding a new trial, which was state law at the time.

In 1983, then-Texas Governor Mark White issued a proclamation commuting Hartfield's sentence to life in prison in an attempt to prevent another trial.

(on camera) Then for almost 25 years, nothing happened. The state of Texas assumed the case was resolved, and Hartfield, who has an I.Q. of 51 and can't read or write, never challenged it.

Then in 2006, with the help of another inmate, he filed a motion calling on the courts to either retry him or let him go. At issue was the constitutional right of a speedy trial. (voice-over) In response, state lawyers wrote that Hartfield has not shown he is actually innocent of the crime for which he was convicted. Accordingly, this federal court should find that most of Hartfield's grounds for relief are barred.

Federal courts are now saying the state has to do something, that Hartfield's position is as straight-forward and subtle as a freight train.

Texas attorney general Greg Abbott's office declined an interview, but said the state intends to continue handling the case in the courts.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: We reached out to some of the institutions that played a role in the Hartfield case, including the district attorney's office that, of course, sent him to prison and the federal public defender's office that represented him. Nobody really wants to comment, because they could still play a role, depending on what the courts decide. Sort of legal limbo.

BLITZER: Got a 51 I.Q.

BOLDUAN: He's already behind bars for 30 years. What are the -- when are the courts going to decide?

JOHNS: Yes. You got me, but it's a very, very difficult situation. A lot of people say, well, they commuted the sentence. The bottom line is, it's really hard to commute a sentence that's already been reversed by a court. So this is...

BLITZER: Just stay on top of it for us.

BOLDUAN: Joe Johns, thank you so much. We'll be right back.

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BOLDUAN: Ah, the holiday season is officially here. The national Christmas tree being lit. The president, the first family and many, many celebrities join him.

Wolf is dancing, but you can't see him.

The first family was in the crowd and singing Christmas carols. During his speech, though, at the national -- lighting of the national Christmas tree on the ellipse near the White House, the president made a little joke about life in Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've been lighting the national Christmas tree for 90 years now. In times of war and peace, triumph and tragedy, we've always come together to rejoice in the Christmas miracle.

But our tree has been having a hard time recently. This is our third one in as many years. Our longstanding tree was lost in a storm. And then its replacement didn't take hold. It just goes to show nobody's job is safe here in Washington.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Live pictures here right now at the ellipse in front of the White House with that beautiful Christmas tree. The holiday season's officially here, Wolf.

BLITZER: Lovely Christmas tree. I love this time of the year.

So, do you need a designated driver? Maybe the family dog? Jeanne Moos has the story of three pups in New Zealand who are getting some very special treatment.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sniff this. Dogs giving up the backseat for the driver's seat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just when you thought you'd seen it all.

MOOS: And soon we'd all seen it: video of three dogs at an SPCA branch in New Zealand being taught to shift gears.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here's the gear. Good.

MOOS: And steer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good boy.

MOOS: First on carts, then on actual cars with the controls modified for doggie legs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A.

MOOS: "A" is the command for "accelerate."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Turn. Good boy. Turn.

MOOS: Next week, after two months of training, Quarter will attempt to drive a mini Cooper alone on an empty track, live on New Zealand television.

Just months ago, the idea of a dog driving was considered a joke. A gag Subaru used to advertise cars.

And remember those old "SNL" bits? UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Toonces the driving cat.

MOOS: Let's hope the New Zealand dogs...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Toonces, look out!

MOOS: ... do better than Toonces the driving cat did.

The motorist mutts were celebrated by Gawker with the headline, "Dog Drives Man." Buzzfeed noted, "Finally, dogs who chase cars will have something to do once they catch them." Though David Letterman didn't even need to make a joke to get a laugh.

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, CBS'S "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": Honest to God. Isn't that...

MOOS: He nevertheless did the "Top Ten Signs Your Dog is a Bad Driver."

LETTERMAN: Crosses four lanes of traffic to go after a squirrel. Oh, no.

MOOS: Online posters imagined the future: "I see dogs in cars cutting me off, then flipping me the paw."

(on camera) Look, I know you have a dog license, but do you have a learner's permit? Do any of you have learner's permits?

(voice-over) Now, where were we with the top ten signs your dog is a bad driver?

LETTERMAN: Used your car to mount a Nissan Sentra.

The No. 1 sign your dog is a bad driver: always taking eyes off road to lick himself.

MOOS: Being trained to drive with treats is sure to have dogs heading for the closest drive-through.

(on camera) Do you want to be the designated driver? Who wants to be the designated driver tonight?

(voice-over) Definitely not Napoleon. Driving is his Waterloo.

Jeanne Moos, CNN...

(on camera) I said hit the brake, not eat the cake.

(voice-over) ... New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: Oh, Jeanne.

BLITZER: Very funny.

BOLDUAN: Very, very funny.

BLITZER: "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.