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THE SITUATION ROOM
Terrorist Bombing at U.S. Embassy; Attack on Egypt's Presidential Palace
Aired February 1, 2013 - 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, a bloody suicide bombing at a United States embassy raising new questions about security for Americans abroad and the motives of the group behind this terror attack.
Violent chaos in the heart of Egypt's capital as protesters throw firebombs at the presidential palace.
And a murderer serving a 60-year sentence is mistakenly allowed to walk out the front door of a jail. You won't believe why he was transferred to that jail in the first place.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
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BLITZER: We begin with a terrorist attack aimed at the United States, a suicide bombing right in the heart of Turkey's capital. It was a deadly attack that could have been a whole lot worse. Let's go straight to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She's got the latest information -- Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, good afternoon, Wolf. You know, this attack was relatively contained, but no one is resting easy.
STARR (voice-over): The suicide bomber struck a perimeter checkpoint at the U.S. embassy in the Turkish capital, killing himself and a local guard. Several U.S. and Turkish personnel were struck by flying debris.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: A suicide bombing in the perimeter of an embassy is, by definition, an act of terror. It is a terrorist attack.
STARR: There was chaos in the moments after the attack, but this time, security measures worked.
VICTORIA NULAND, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: The level of security protection at our facility in Ankara ensured that there were not significantly more deaths and injuries than there could have been.
STARR: The gated complex includes glass doors, reinforced windows, and a series of checkpoints and metal detectors.
NULAND: This is one of the compounds where we have been making steady security upgrades over the last decade.
STARR: Even so, a new embassy compound is being planned. And in the wake of the attack at a small U.S. outpost in Benghazi, Libya, security at U.S. compounds around the world was reviewed and strengthened. Turkish officials say this attacker belonged to a radical leftist organization responsible for a previous attack on Turkish forces.
JAMES JEFFREY, FORMER U.S. AMB TO TURKEY: They do not have very significant capabilities. It tends to be stand-off attacks with RPGs, small arms. They've done some assassinations of Turkish officials.
STARR: But some say the anti-U.S. group opposes the deployment of patriot missiles in Turkey to defend against weapons fired out of next door Syria.
ASLI AYDINTASBAS, TURKISH JOURNALIST: There is a sense in Turkish left in particular that the Arab spring and, in particular, the Syrian war is something United States is stirring up for regime change all around the Middle East.
STARR: Just after the attack, the U.S. ambassador made clear the ties with Turkey remain intact.
FRANCIS RICCIARDONE, U.S. AMB TO TURKEY: To determine after events like this only more to cooperate together so we defeat this problem that we're having (ph).
STARR (on-camera): Now, this attack might not have been the work of al Qaeda, but it's escaped no one's attention that there are growing number of small violent extremist groups in the region very capable of the money and the organization to carry out attacks against U.S. interests - Wolf.
BLITZER: Obviously a very, very worrisome development. Barbara, thank you.
All right. This just in. We have a new secretary of state in the United States. John Kerry has just been officially sworn in as the secretary of state by the Supreme Court justice, Elena Kagan. The ceremony, private ceremony, taking place in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee room up on Capitol Hill.
John Kerry, the secretary of state now. In a farewell appearance before state department staffers and diplomats, the former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, took note of the latest trouble and warned of very tough challenges ahead.
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HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Of course, we live in very complex and even dangerous times as we saw again just today at our embassy in Ankara where we were attacked and lost one of our Foreign Service nationals and others injured. I know that the world that we are trying to help bring in to being in the 21st century will have many difficult days. But I am more optimistic today than I was when I stood here four years ago.
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BLITZER: Our chief national correspondent, John King, is here in the SITUATION ROOM. John, like me, you met Hillary Clinton, what, 20- plus years ago in Little Rock, Arkansas, when her husband was running for the Democratic presidential nomination. She's been running for 20 years basically nonstop as well.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: She has been, Wolf, in our country and around the world sort of a living, breathing example of the evolution of women in politics, women in power. A lot of that quite successful, the most powerful woman in American history, without a doubt, I think the most powerful woman in American politics at the moment, without question.
But you remember this. There was a big controversy back when she was Hillary Rodham Clinton as the first lady of Arkansas. Some southerners (ph) took offense to her using her maiden name, some southerners (ph) took offense to her working -- being a working mom, if you will. She was active with the children's defense fund.
I was there at an event in Chicago in 1992 where she caused a huge stir campaigning for Bill Clinton when she said, "what do you expect me to do? Stay home and bake cookies and have tea?," essentially saying she had a law degree, she had a brain, and she planned on using it. A lot of housewives took offense to that. A lot of conservatives attacked her for that, and she had to explain it.
Look, she saved his campaign during the Jennifer Flowers (ph) outbreak. She saved his presidency during the Monica Lewinsky outbreak by standing by him but then became a force of her own when she left in the Senate and then helped the Obama administration. She's been so critical in the last two Democratic presidential administrations. One, of course, her husband, now, for this president.
It was a big question mark when he won. He was a historic figure, the first African-American, but never been a CEO, didn't have as much experience in the United States Senate. So, a remarkable figure. The question now is, of course, what next?
BLITZER: I give him a lot of credit, the president, for reaching out to his formal rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, trusting her to be his secretary of state. Obviously, she's done an excellent job over the past four years. I can't -- she'll rest a little bit, write a book, do some speaking, do some good deeds. I don't think this is the final chapter in her political life. KING: There's no question it's not the final chapter. The question is, what is the next chapter or what's in the next chapter as plural, if you will. She says she wants to finally remember what it's like to not be tired, well, that's going to take a while. She's (INAUDIBLE) a lot miles. But within months, you know the political group is going to come to her and say, you know, Madam Secretary or Madam Senator or Mrs. Clinton, choose your title.
Look at this. Look at the Democratic field. The nomination is yours for the taking if you want to run. She always says her number one goal is to empower women around the world. Well, she's going to -- someone is going to give her a pretty compelling case in just a few months. You can be the first female president of the United States.
It's going to be a tough, tough, tough personal decision. She'll be active otherwise, but she'll get back in helping women. She'll continue to work in Global Affairs by do some stuff with her husband, the ex-president around the world. But within a year, she's going to have to make a very important personal decision about whether -- remember, she leaves so popular. We remember her from when she was so polarizing.
And now, she's so popular on a bipartisan basis. One of the questions is, does she want to get back into that environment (ph).
BLITZER: Yes. If her health is good, and I hope her health is good, I think she will be in that fight. But we'll see.
KING: It's going to be hard to say no. It's a pretty compelling case.
BLITZER: You've known her for 20 years. Thanks very much.
Chaos, meanwhile, tonight in front of Egypt's presidential palace. A fire broke out at the entrance after protesters hurled Molotov cocktails. Security forces answered with teargas and water canon. Violence has rocked Egypt now for more than a week as protesters have been challenging the Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi.
Let's go live to our senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman. He's back in Cairo on the scene. What's the latest, Ben?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we have, Wolf, is ongoing clashes in the area of Itihadiya palace, the seat of the Egyptian president. According to medical sources, at least one man was killed, shot with live ammunition in the head and chest, and more than two dozen people wounded.
In addition to that, Egyptian TV has broadcast live pictures of a protester, a man who was stripped semi-naked and then beaten brutally on the ground, an indication that the situation here is increasingly volatile. There are also clashes going on south of Tahrir Square, near the American embassy. And what we've heard from the Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, is that he says the security forces are going to use -- or act decisively to protect government institutions. He's blaming the opposition for this -- today's outbreak of violence, saying that the opposition needs to pull its supporters away from the presidential palace. However, what we saw on the ground was that the opposition really doesn't have any control over those who are involved in this violence. It seems to be very much driven by a deep- seeded hatred for the Muslim Brotherhood-led government of Mohamed Morsi.
Many people increasingly frustrated with the government. They came in, saying that the first 100 days would be days of great achievement. As far as most people are concerned, things have only gone from bad to worse here in Egypt.
BLITZER: And quickly Ben, the U.S. embassy in Cairo is, what, a block away from Tahrir Square where a lot of these demonstrations are going on. Is there any indication that there's any anti-American effort under way, any threat to the U.S. embassy in Cairo?
WEDEMAN: No, it doesn't appear to be the case. It's really very much a question of clashes between Egyptian riot police and the young demonstrators, protesters, street fighters in the area. Ironically, Wolf, the U.S. embassy has been closed most of the week for normal business because of these clashes.
However, they did try to reopen yesterday for normal business. Of course, Friday is the day off here in Cairo.
BLITZER: Ben Wedeman watching what's going on in Cairo. Thank you, Ben.
A manhunt, meanwhile, here in the United States underway this hour for a convicted murderer mistakenly released from custody in Chicago. How could this happen? You won't believe how he got there in the first place.
BLITZER: A manhunt is now underway for a convicted murderer who was mistakenly released from custody. CNN's Ted Rowlands is in Chicago where it all went down. He's joining us now with the latest. Ted, how can this happen in the United States of America?
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, a lot of questions, Wolf, tonight for the folks here in Chicago. It has been almost two days now since Steven Robbins (ph) was let out of jail and they still have no idea where he is.
ROWLANDS (voice-over): Convicted murderer, Steven Robbins, was allowed to just walk out of Chicago's Cook County jail. He's serving a 60-year sentence for murder in Indiana. He's not eligible for parole for another 16 years, but tonight, he's free and prison officials have no idea where he is.
Ross Rice is the former spokesman of the Chicago office of the FBI. He says Robbins is potentially dangerous because he is desperate.
ROSS RICE, PERICULUM CONSULTING: this wasn't a planned escape. So, he was probably as stunned as anybody when the door opened up and he walked out. He has nowhere to go. He has very little funds. He has no way of communications with anyone.
ROWLANDS: What exactly happened is unclear. Indiana prison officials say paperwork sent with Robbins was very clear that they wanted him back.
VOICE OF DOUGLAS GARRISON, INDIANA DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS: In this case, the release paperwork has clearly stamped on it, do not release this offender from court.
ROWLANDS: Robbins is 44. He has the name Nicole tattooed on his neck. We got ahold of Nicole, his ex-wife, in Indiana.
VOICE OF NICOLE ROBBINS, STEVEN ROBBINS' EX-WIFE: I know he's a good guy. I'm scared for him because they might kill him, but it's their mistake. He's not no serial killer or nothing like that.
ROWLANDS: The same thing happened in 2009. Twenty-eight-year- old Jonathan Cooper who was serving time for manslaughter in Mississippi was brought to Chicago and inadvertently let go after a court appearance. Cooper turned himself in.
And in December, two prisoners used bed sheets tied together to escape through a window from Chicago's downtown federal prison. It took almost three weeks to get those inmates back into custody.
ROWLANDS (on-camera): And Wolf, it's hard to imagine why Robbins was brought here to Chicago in the first place. It was over a warrant from a case that is 21 years old, a case that had already been dismissed by the district attorney and Robbins apparently tried to deal with it from prison, sending in paperwork.
His request was denied to deal with it from prison because he didn't have the $5 processing fee with his paperwork. So, they went and brought him all the way here just for a quick hearing to deal with a 21-year-old warrant that was out for him in a case where, as I said, the charges have already been dropped.
BLITZER: They've got to get their act together over there in Chicago. Something's wrong. Thank you very much for that, Ted. Keep us inform what's going on.
Alabama authorities have just released the first picture of the suspect holding a five-year-old hostage in an underground bunker for what's now a fourth day. Let's go straight to CNNs Victor Blackwell. He's on the scene for us. Victor, what do we know about Jimmy Lee Dykes?
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we know that he's been in that bunker here in Midland City for more than 72 hours now, and we're getting the first look at him. The photograph shows a man who's 65 years owed, 6 feet tall, about 170 pounds, we're told, with white hair and a beard.
We know that this is the man, police say, on Tuesday climbed aboard a school bus and shot the driver and took that kindergartner. We're also seeing today that the bus, the crime scene, is being moved. It was moved earlier today. Again, as we said, it has been treated as a crime scene for the past few days.
The Dale County School Board came and sent a truck to move it back to the school lot. So, that part of the investigation is continuing, but they are still inside that bunker, Wolf.
BLITZER: What's the latest? Has there been any movement at all in terms of hostage -- in terms of the hostage situation, continuing negotiations talks?
BLACKWELL: We know that there are local, state, and federal authorities here negotiating. As we know, they're speaking through this PVC pipe that goes more than 20 or 30 feet into this bunker, but we learned something else today that there was possibly a relationship, a meeting between the alleged shooter, JIMMY lee Dykes and the man who was killed, Charles Poland (ph).
We're told that the bus route that Charles Poland (ph) drove ended at the private road and led up to Dykes property and we've learned over the past few days that he was very protective of his property, would walk around with a flashlight in one hand, a gun in the other. And because Poland turned around in his yard -- or turned around at the end of his drive every day, that might have been the catalyst for what happened on Tuesday.
BLITZER: Let's just hope that little five-year-old is OK. We're praying for him, obviously. Victor, thank you very much.
New details about an FBI raid on the office of a friend and supporter of the embattled U.S. senator, Robert Mendez.
And deer antler spray, star athletes face some scrutiny for allegedly using it. What is it? We'll explain.
BLITZER: The closing bell signaled a new milestone on Wall Street today. The Dow Jones Average rose more than one percent to top 14,000 for the first time since 2007. All three major indexes posted gains for a fifth straight week. Investors were cheered by fairly positive reports on jobs, manufacturing, and construction. Here's CNN business correspondent, Christine Romans.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I think you can call this a modest start to the year for job creation. A 157,000 jobs created and the unemployment rate ticking up to 7.9 percent where there was a surprise for being these numbers, Wolf. Look at November, the month the president was re-elected, November, 247,000 jobs created. Remember all that drama about cooking the books? It was an actually a very strong, strong end of the year in terms of job creation. A couple of places where we also see jobs creation, construction jobs 28,000. That's likely because of rebuilding after superstorm Sandy. Also, the housing market is beginning to recover.
You're seeing housing activity again. We also saw health care jobs added, 22,000 of those. And we also saw retail jobs hold in there, even as a payroll tax expiration, the holiday expiration for payroll taxes. Many people have worry that you see retail jobs get hit. That just didn't happen overall. With the calling of the Super Bowl for economic news, here's why. We saw so much information, some of it conflicting, Wolf, about what's happening in the economy.
GDP over here on the bearish side of the ledger. GDP at the end of the last year actually shrank. That's a concern. Jobless claims rose in the most recent week. Consumer confidents got hit a little bit in January, but durable goods, home prices, the fed, private sector job growth, all of those are lining up in favor of continued growth in the U.S. economy -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Christine, thank you.
President Obama reportedly will be changing offices in the coming months, at least, for a temporary period. RealClear Politics says the president will move out of the White House oval office into a nearly identical replica across the street in the Eisenhower executive office building. The current oval office was built during President Franklin Roosevelt's term. It's due for a major, major renovation.
Sad news from former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura, their 12-year-old Scottish Terrier, Barney, has died. In a statement just released, the Bush's say Barney guarded the south lawn entrance of the White House as if he were a secret agent and they add, I'm quoting now, "he wandered the halls of the west wing looking for treats from his many friends."
An interesting note, President Bush painted the famous portrait of the first dog featured here. Barney, we'll miss you.
Netflix is taking a gamble on house of cards. The actor, Kevin Spacey, is here to talk about his role and why the series is such a risky move.
BLITZER: A bold and risky move by Netflix. The company is branching out into original programming combining the technology of Silicon Valley with the creativity of Hollywood. So, we put our correspondents from both beats on the story.
DAN SIMON, CNN SILICON VALLEY CORRESPONDENT (on camera): I'm Dan Simon in Los Gatos, California.
NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (on camera): And I'm Nischelle Turner in Hollywood.
SIMON: Here at Netflix headquarters, the once troubled company, is now going after new users by creating their own original programming.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a powerful friend to have right now.
TURNER (voice-over): This program, "House of Cards" stars two- time Oscar winner, Kevin Spacey, and is produced by award-winning director David Fincher, who helmed hits like "Fight Club" and the "Social Network" among others. Spacey plays a congressman hoping to become secretary of state but after being passed over by the president, he sets out on a methodical path of revenge.
SIMON (voice-over): It's poised to shake up the TV industry but you won't see this drama on any broadcast or cable network or even a premium channel like HBO. "House of Cards" is exclusively for Netflix subscribers. And the whole season will be available at once. So viewers won't have to wait a week with the next episode.
TURNER: The video streaming service spent $100 million on the Washington-based drama.
LACEY ROSE, SR. TV WRITER, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: Now it's saying, I want to be like the ABCs or the CBSs of the world. I want to be the place that you watch content first and they've got the deep pockets to be able to spend to make that happen.
SIMON: Netflix stock has been recovering after its public relations fiasco 18 months ago when it spun off its mail-order DVD service into a separate brand and raised prices. Since then, licensing deals with the likes of Disney and others have convinced billions to subscribe to its Internet streaming service at $8 a month. The company's stock just had its biggest single day spike since Netflix went public more than 10 years ago.
DAN CRYAN, RESEARCH DIRECTOR, IHS: In terms of pure consumption volume, we've already consumers are watching more movies digitally than they are physically. That actually happened in 2012.
SIMON: A big reason for that? Netflix is on practically every device.
JORIS EVERS, NETFLIX SPOKESPERSON: We license the content that we know that our members are going to love to watch.
TURNER: With four more original series to be released this year, Netflix is betting big on its new strategy. But if it pays off, it could change how and where audiences consume new shows.
ROSE: It certainly has to make the Showtimes and HBOs of the world a bit nervous. It's another player in an already crowded field.
SIMON (on camera): So the bottom line is Netflix's recent success shows that consumers want to watch content whenever and wherever and obviously the more revenue they get, the more they can invest in new shows like "House of Cards".
TURNER (on camera): And Netflix does have competition nipping at its heels. Amazon.com is buying into this new Hollywood model, too. They're actively looking for original content scripts and on Thursday announced 11 new pilots in the works.
For my colleague, Dan Simon, I'm Nischelle Turner, CNN, Hollywood.
BLITZER: Excellent report from two of our correspondents.
Kate Bolduan and I had a chance to sit down and speak with the star of "House of Cards," Kevin Spacey. That interview in a few seconds. First, though, here's a clip from "House of Cards".
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KEVIN SPACEY, ACTOR, "HOUSE OF CARDS": This is the memo I've drafted on our Middle East policy we've been developing. I want to borrow from Reagan, I'd like to coin the phrase, "trickled down diplomacy." That way --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to stop you there. We are not nominating you for secretary of state. I know he made you a promise but circumstances have changed.
SPACEY: The nature of promises, Linda, is that they remain immune to changing circumstances.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A dramatic clip. Kevin Spacey is joining us now. He's the star of "House of Cards."
Kevin, thanks very much for joining us. I want to get right to the questions. You've been in a lot of political films. You played a campaign operative in "Recount," lobbyist Jack Abramoff, "Casino Jack," now the House majority whip in "House of Cards." So you've almost become synonymous with Washington politics.
Here's the question. What's drawing you to -- drawing you to these political roles?
SPACEY: Well, I'm not only -- as you know, Wolf, I do a lot of theater and therefore I can do Shakespeare and more classical work, but I'm very driven by the opportunity to examine current situations and current things that are happening in our world.
And I guess when I look at the two other films that you mentioned, "Recount" which was about the Gore/Bush election in Florida, and how many days it took us to find out who our president was, and the lobbying industry and what it has done in terms of Washington politics and examining that in the Jack Abramoff story in "Casino Jack." I think these are really important subjects for us to understand, to see how we got where we are, and to see maybe in terms of Washington politics can we make it a better than it is.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And almost -- reality is almost as outrageous as art, so you can't even make this stuff up half the time.
SPACEY: Look, you're right, Kate. Because I would come back to the hotel in Baltimore where we've been shooting the first season of "House of Cards" and I'd watch, you know, this last election cycle that you all were, of course, a large part of and I'd watch the news at night and I'd think, you know, our story lines are not that crazy.
They're really not.
BOLDUAN: Yes, so let's talk specifically about this role in "House of Cards". Your name -- The character is Francis Frank Underwood, and to prepare you worked with the current House majority leader, Kevin McCarthy and the House minority whip, Steny Hoyer.
What did you learn from them? Take us a little bit behind the scenes. What did they tell you?
SPACEY: Well, first, they were both very generous with their time in allowing me to come to the Capitol and sort of follow them around and see in some sense just what it is on a day to day structural basis to try to control 218 congressmen to vote the way you want them to vote and, of course, as we've just seen with the least productive Congress in the history of the United States, that's not an easy task.
So I wanted to understand a lot of what it is to actually whip. What it means to whip. You know, I think that there's something like, maybe 62 deputy whips who were out there talking to specific congressman about why they should vote in a certain way on a certain bill. I got to go to a whip meeting, which was very informative. And they were both very upfront about answering my questions. You know, obviously, a lot of it was off the record but I found it very, very helpful.
And, you know, it's an extraordinary building. I got to go into the congressional cloakroom, you know, right outside the dome, and it's a pretty remarkable place. And, you know, when you watch even a current film like "Lincoln" and you see even a president who was as beloved and in some sense has been almost put in a saintly spectrum in terms of how we view him in American politics and in our history, he was there doing backdoor deals to try to get the votes that he needed.
So it's a very interesting opportunity for us to examine a fictional Congress, a fictional majority whip who, while he might be devious and diabolical, he, I believe, is going to prove to be very effective. BLITZER: Do you ever think about making the transition from being a movie star, an actor, to politics? I believe there once was a guy named Ronald Reagan who made that transition.
SPACEY: Yes. And he did rather successfully. I think perhaps the difference that I would feel is that I am a person who likes to set a goal and then achieve it. I like to get things done. I think if I ever -- I couldn't imagine entering politics because I think it would be walking into a profession knowing that you were going to spend the rest of your life being frustrated.
BLITZER: Kevin Spacey's "House of Cards." I can't wait to get into it. I'm looking forward to it. A lot of people have been comparing it, Kevin, to "Homeland" and I'm obsessed about that program. So I'm looking forward to seeing what you guys can do in "House of Cards." Thanks for joining us.
BOLDUAN: Thank you so much.
SPACEY: Thank you for having me, guys.
BOLDUAN: See you.
BLITZER: Deer antler spray. That's right. Deer antler spray. Some star athletes are accused of using it but what is it? You're about to find out.
BLITZER: We have some new details about our raid by federal agents on the office of a key supporter of Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey. Menendez has been trying to fend off allegations that he made non-disclosed trips to the -- to the Dominican Republic and hired prostitutes there.
Let's go live to CNN's national correspondent Susan Candiotti.
Susan, what are you learning?
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, tonight we've learned more about this week's FBI raid on the offices of one of Senator Menendez's biggest campaign supporters.
CANDIOTTI (voice-over): The FBI's interest in Florida eye doctor, Salomon Melgen, did not begin this week but what scrambled agents to obtain a search warrant in part was when a shredding truck showed up at the doctor's office, a law enforcement source tells CNN. The FBI has not commented on why it removed boxes and boxes of material from the complex, simply calling it a law enforcement activity.
Agents from the Department of Health and Human Services were also on hand for the search. Dr. Melgen, a longtime friend of Senator Bob Menendez, helped bank rolled his campaigns and those of other Democrats over the years. Melgen not only owns a home in a luxury resort in the Dominican Republic, he also has a stake in a company called ICSSI. The company has a contract reportedly worth millions to manage security and operate expensive scanning equipment in the D.R. but a dispute over whether it unfairly shut out competition has put that contract on ice.
At a Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee last July, Senator Menendez appears to be throwing his weight behind his friend's company.
SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: You have another company that has American investors that is seeking to -- has a contract actually given to it by the Dominican -- ratified by the Dominican Congress to do x-ray of all of the cargo that goes through the ports which have been problematic and for which in the past narcotics had been included in that cargo and they don't want to live by that contract either.
CANDIOTTI: The senator's office says he's always tried to bring attention to drug trafficking, adding in a statement, "Stemming the growth of narco-trafficking is a key challenge in the region, a fight from which Senator Menendez will never back down."
CANDIOTTI: Now he has an even more powerful role as new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. We've also called Dr. Melgen's attorneys to ask him about his businesses but have not heard back. In a his previous statement, one of his lawyers said they don't know why the FBI is interested in Dr. Melgen -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Clearly the story is not done with, not going away.
Susan, thanks very, very much.
Another story we're following. Take some deer antler fuzz, grind it up, turn it into pills or a spray. It may be a formula for success for some companies but for some star athletes it could be a formula for serious trouble.
Now a pro golfer, Vijay Singh, is facing scrutiny along with a Baltimore Ravens star, among others.
Lisa Sylvester is looking into this product for us.
Lisa, what are you finding out?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, Wolf, this is one of those water cooler stories. People are asking, what in the world is deer antler spray and why is it causing trouble for some athletes?
SYLVESTER (voice-over): It is called deer antler spray or sometimes referred to, deer antler velvet.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Deer antler spray? I have no idea.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's to spray in the air so that deer antlers don't come near you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something for hunting?
SYLVESTER: According to "Sports Illustrated," which broke this story, deer antler spray is a sports supplement that has been marketed to some of the nation's top athletes by a company called S.W.A.T.S. or Sports with Alternatives to Steroids. Deer antlers go through a growth stage where they are covered in fuzz. That velvet naturally contains a hormone called IGF-1. It is an insulin-like protein that is used to promote growth.
S.W.A.T.S. told "Sports Illustrated" that it can take the deer antler velvet, freeze dry extract it, and turn it into a spray form or a pill. Owner Mitch Ross claims the products can help boost performance and help muscle recovery. Ross says they have a long list of well-known customers.
CHRISTOPHER KEY, OWNER, S.W.A.T.S.: The main players want to make -- perform at a higher level.
SYLVESTER: But IGF-1 is banned by the major pro-leagues, the NCAA and the PGA Tour. After the story broke, pro golfer Vijay Singh acknowledged using the substance but in a statement, he said, quote, "When I first received the product, I reviewed the list of ingredients and did not see any prohibited substances. I am absolutely shocked that deer antler spray may contain a banned substance and am angry that I have put myself in this position."
S.W.A.T.S. also says Baltimore Ravens' linebacker Ray Lewis has also used their product, a claim he strongly denied.
RAY LEWIS, BALTIMORE RAVENS' LINEBACKER: I've never, ever took what he says whatever I was supposed to do.
SYLVESTER: In a statement, the company says, quote, "We have always been about aiding athletes to help heal faster and participate in an optimum level of play in a lawful and healthy manner. We never encourage the use of harmful supplements and/or dangerous drugs. But even with all of the controversy, it's not even certain whether taking the deer antler velvet as a pill or spraying it in your mouth will have any effect whatsoever.
Dr. Joshua Cohen of George Washington Medical Center explains why.
DR. JOSHUA COHEN, GW MEDICAL FACULTY ASSOCIATES: IGF-1 is a protein. It's a peptide and in general terms pep tides need to be given typically as an injection. As you know, for example, insulin is a peptide and people who take insulin give themselves an insulin injection.
SYLVESTER: So one question, is this product safe? Well, Dr. Cohen says IGF-1 is essentially a growth hormone and IGF-1 is given to patients by doctors for legitimate medical reasons. For example, if there's a problem with the pituitary grand that regulates the growth hormone in children. But too much of this hormone he says could lead to glucose intolerance, vascular disease and the potential risk of tumors forming.
But certainly this is a phrase -- this is a product that we had never heard of before but now because it has been linked to such high- profile athletes, people are asking questions. And I should say also, Wolf, that we tried to get a sample of this from the S.W.A.T.S., this particular deer antler velvet, a lot of places were sold out -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I'll stick with Dr. Cohen.
SYLVESTER: Yes, I'm not sure if it's terribly safe.
BLITZER: I sense he knows --
BLITZER: He knows what he's talking about.
SYLVESTER: All right.
BLITZER: Thanks, Lisa. Thanks very much.
If you ever wanted to visit the Grand Canyon, now is your chance without ever having to leave the comfort of the home.
BLITZER: An update on the condition of the pilot who lost consciousness mid-flight.
Lisa Sylvester is here. She's monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
That can be pretty scary.
SYLVESTER: Certainly, Wolf. Yes, a spokesman for the Alaska Airlines says the captain was likely suffering from the food poisoning or the flu, and is feeling better today. The first officer was forced to take over the flight from Los Angeles to Seattle during the incident and safely landed the plane at the closest airport in Portland, Oregon. A doctor on board treated the pilot until medical personnel arrived.
In other news, the Taliban are calling Prince Harry a coward for controversial comments he made to the media just before completing his military tour in Afghanistan and leaving the country. The third in line to the throne talked about having, quote, "the taste of blood in his mouth waiting to attack insurgents," and compared having his finger on the trigger to playing video games. An Afghan government official also admitted the comments could risk damaging relations.
OK, you've got to watch this. Now take a look here. So, oh so close. Oh, heartbreaking. Wow. Had that gone in, golfing star Phil Mickelson would have joined an elite group of just five players who've managed the break 60 on the PGA Tour. It happened on the final hole of the first round in the Phoenix Open. Mickelson still managed an amazing 11 under par 60, but said it was crushing to have missed that magical 59.
That is so amazingly close.
All right. Have you ever wished you could visit the Grand Canyon but just haven't has a chance? Well, now Google is bringing the Grand Canyon to you with more than 9,000 extraordinary 360-degree panoramic images including the famous meteor crater. Look at these gorgeous pictures captured using its street view trekker, a wearable backup system that can function in locations only accessible by foot. And Google plans to take the trekker to more unique locations around the world.
I am guessing you probably have been to the Grand Canyon at this point?
BLITZER: I have.
SYLVESTER: That's gorgeous. That's a nice little way of getting out there, seeing it. If you haven't been able to actually get on the ground.
BLITZER: If you can't actually go there, it's a good way to see it. A better way to go there is just go there.
SYLVESTER: It is beautiful. It's one of my favorite places, Wolf.
BLITZER: Me too. Thank you.
It was exactly 10 years ago today that the space shuttle Columbia broke apart killing all seven astronauts on board. We're going to talk to the widow of the shuttle commander. That's next.
BLITZER: A white streak across the sky, the first sign that something was horribly wrong 10 years ago today when the space shuttle Columbia broke apart minutes before landing, killing all seven astronauts on board.
Here is CNN's John Zarrella. JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it is hard to believe that 10 years have passed since the Columbia accident, and today here at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, a memorial service and wreath laying. Members of the family, friends and NASA officials were on hand.
I had an opportunity to sit down and talk with Commander Rick Husband's widow. The past 10 years have been anything but easy.
ZARRELLA (voice-over): Columbia was about 210,000 feet up, 16 minutes from landing when the spacecraft began coming apart. Unknown to the astronauts and the NASA team, the vehicle had been fatally damaged. A chunk of foam from the external tank had come off during liftoff and punctured the left wing. At the Kennedy Space Center, Shuttle Commander Rick Husband's widow Evelyn feared the worst.
EVELYN HUSBAND-THOMPSON, COMMANDER'S WIDOW: I remember looking up at the sky and thinking, is that it? Is that the end of Rick's life.
ZARRELLA: Seven astronauts died that February morning 10 years ago, leaving behind family and friends. In an instant, Evelyn Husband was a single mom with two young children, without Rick, it was hard.
HUSBAND-THOMPSON: God created families to have a mom and a dad. And so when Rick left, he was a great dad. Just an amazing man. It was usually challenging to try to raise them as a single mom.
ZARRELLA: There has been healing, Evelyn says, but it is not done.
HUSBAND-THOMPSON: But it's a lifelong process. I don't think that pain ever completely goes away.
ZARRELLA: Perhaps the greatest memorial to Columbia sits in that building across the water. On the 16th floor of the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center, in here 84,000 pieces, 40 percent of the vehicle found so far. NASA and the families decided to preserve the debris and not entomb it so scientists and teachers could borrow it, study it, learn from it.
Mike Ciannilli, in charged of debris preservations, says this is also a place NASA workers come, especially the young ones to feel why failure can't be an option.
MIKE CIANNILLI, NASA DEBRIS PRESERVATION: But when you actually walk amongst Columbia and you talk about the accident, and you talk about the lessons learned and how you can do the best job you can do to help prevent this from ever happening again, it's very powerful.
ZARRELLA: There is no longer an active search for Columbia debris, but every once in a while some is found. The last time was 2011. During a severe drought in Lake Nacogdoches in eastern Texas, surrendered a tank from Columbia. As Ciannilli says another piece returned home.
ZARRELLA: This day of remembrance was for more than just the Columbia crew. The people here also honored the crewmembers who died on the space shuttle Challenger and the three astronauts who died in the Apollo I fire -- Wolf.
BLITZER: John Zarrella, thank you.
Happening now, a suicide attack on the United States embassy in Turkey. A rare joint interview with the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs.