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THE SITUATION ROOM
Feds Lost Two Terror Suspects; Bags of Cash to President Karzai?; Gruesome Symbol of Syria's Horrors; Shackles and Tubes to Force-Feed Detainees; Florida's Orange Juice at Risk?; Interview with Senator Corker
Aired May 16, 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: Jake, thanks very much. Happening right now, terror suspects lost and found. They were in a federal witness protection program, but where are they now? Damage control over at the White House has President Obama takes steps to defuse scandals. Can he save his second term agenda? I'll speak with the senior adviser of the president.
And an exclusive inside look at how the U.S. military now force- feeding hunger striking terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Why defense lawyers insist it's all inhumane.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
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BLITZER: We begin with a story first reported on CNN. Two former participants in the federal witness security program, one identified as a known terrorist and the other a suspected terrorist were at least for a while lost, yes, lost, by the U.S. marshal service. The Justice department now says they've been accounted for, but the incident raised and a justice department inspector general's report raises some very, very disturbing questions.
Our chief Washington correspondent, Jake Tapper, the anchor of CNNs "The Lead," broke the story earlier today here on CNN. Tell our viewers what we know right now because this, as I said, was very disturbing.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: The Department of Justice inspector general was researching the witness security program, what people probably know better from TV and movies, the witness relocation program and found a whole bunch of holes in national security having to do with it. So, they put out this interim report.
Those holes included the fact, most importantly, that the marshals and others in justice department that were in charge of putting people in the witness relocation program, when they gave new identities to these individuals who had been suspected terrorists or related terrorists in criminal cases against terrorists, they were not informing the proper individuals in the national security apparatus what these new names were.
So, what happened was the inspector general told that to the justice department. They scrambled. They tried to figure out what was going on. They tried to account for all of the thousands of people that have been on the witness security program. And while they were doing that, they realized that they could not account for two individuals, known or suspected terrorists, who entered the witness security program and had left it.
Now, the justice department cautions -- they caution that these two individuals are not a national security threat. They are accounted for as you reported. We don't know what that means accounted for. That could mean, yes, we think they're in Pakistan or it could mean they're in this jail in this country. We don't know. They won't say. They say they pose no threat and they're out of the country.
But it really shows again the fact that this national security apparatus that taxpayers spend hundreds of billions of dollars on, there still are big problems when it comes to sharing information.
BLITZER: In this case, between the martial service and the FBI, for example.
TAPPER: Exactly. I mean -- and the people who put together the terrorist watch lists. I mean, the inspector general report noted that it was possible for known or suspected terrorists to fly on commercial airplanes in or over the United States while this problem was going on, and it was a problem until 2012. We're just learning about it now.
Terrorists, the government, law enforcement knew their names, knew who they were, but because they didn't give the new names in the witness relocation program to the people who do the terror watch lists, it was possible that -- you know, and thank God nothing happened, but it shows more incompetence when we had the Democratic chairman of the house Homeland Security committee just issued a statement condemning this lack of information sharing as well.
BLITZER: So, how is the justice department reacting to this inspector general's report?
TAPPER: Well, let me read a comment that they gave out. They said, "The justice department agrees with the inspector general's audit report that the WITSEC, that's a Witness Security program's requirements for admitting and monitoring participants needed to be enhanced for terrorism-linked witnesses." So, that is their statement.
They're not disagreeing that the enhancements needed to happen. They're saying that the inspector general gave them 16 improvements to make for national security reasons and they have completed 15. There's a 16th that they're working on. But when you read the inspector general's report, it's rather chilling.
They say, in July 2012, the marshals stated that they were not able to locate two former federal witness security program participants identified as known or suspected terrorists and that through its investigative efforts. It's concluded that one individual was and the other individual was believed to be residing outside the United States.
It is again the kind of stove piping, not sharing information. We saw it as recently as the Boston marathon terrorist attack where the FBI had information on Tamerlan Tsarnaev that they were given by the Russians and they did not share it with local law enforcement.
BLITZER: We should be grateful to these various government inspectors general. They're doing an excellent job looking at the work of government. Jake, good reporting. Thanks --
TAPPER: Thank you.
BLITZER: -- very, very much.
The clouds hanging over President Obama's second term agenda became all too real once again today when rain started falling during his Rose Garden news conference with the visiting prime minister of Turkey. But, President Obama has been taking steps to get on top of the scandal surrounding his administration. Today, he pushed Congress to boost funding for U.S. diplomatic posts overseas.
And that follows the release of e-mails aimed at quelling the controversy over the response to the Benghazi terror attack last September 11th. President Obama once again voiced anger about the IRS targeting conservative groups, and he appointed a new acting head of the IRS one day after pushing the acting commissioner to resign.
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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will be putting in new leadership that will be able to make sure that following up on the IG audit, that we gather up all the facts, that we hold accountable those who have taken these outrageous actions. As I said last night, it is just simply unacceptable for there to even be a hint of partisanship or ideology when it comes to the application of our tax laws.
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BLITZER: Certainly right on that. Our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, is here. Gloria, the president seems to be and his aides in pretty much full damage control mode right now. But they still have a lot of work to do.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: They do have a lot of work to do. You saw the president out there talking about volunteering, that he was looking into increasing embassy security, more funding for embassy security as if in regards to Benghazi. Look, this is a fight in Washington right now, Wolf, over who controls the agenda.
You'd think the president of the United States would control the agenda, but what we're seeing is Congress, particularly, Republicans now with more than a half dozen committees in the House alone investigating these sorted problems, wrestling away control of the agenda from the president.
Now, today, senior White House advisors had a meeting at the White House inviting back old communication czars, say, from the Clinton days, Democratic strategists trying to get their sense of what their next steps should be to get ahead of this story because they're really worried about breaking through here. Some of the advice they got was take the president out of Washington, let him talk to the American people.
Someone even suggested how about having a town hall meetings. He was pretty good at those during the campaign or those are kind of unscripted, Wolf. So, you never know what's going to happen, but the real advice was get him out of Washington and let him talk directly to the American people and not through Republicans.
BLITZER: Well, speaking of Republicans, I'm going to play some sound, some clips from Republicans speaking out today.
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SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) MINORITY LEADER: This is runaway government at its worst. Who knows who they'll target next?
SEN. MIKE LEE, (R) UTAH: IRS, AP, Benghazi, tend to confirm a lot of our worst fears about our government. They tend to tell us what we don't want to believe, but that sometimes might be true, that your government is targeting you, that your government is spying on you, and that your government is lying to you.
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BLITZER: All right. There seems to be a pretty clear narrative coming out of these comments.
BORGER: Well, first of all, everybody is talking about your government. Members of Congress, remember, are part of your government and their popularity rating is down, what, in the single digits. But, having said that, let me also say that all of these problems play into that, into that narrative which is that your government is incompetent at best and venal at worst.
The IRS story, the story that Jake was just talking about the witness protection program, this plays into this narrative that President Obama is a big government Democrat who gave you health care, is now trying to have government police the borders, and that that is not good for this country.
Now, even before, Wolf, even before all of these scandals, when you take a look at the numbers of trust in government, less than a third of American public trust the government to do the right thing all or most of the time. That was before this past week. I bet those numbers are going to be headed south.
BLITZER: I suspect you're absolutely right. Gloria, thanks very much. Gloria, by the way, has an excellent column on CNN.com. And I highly recommend to all of our viewers on the whole IRS fallout, CNN.com.
Coming up, I'll speak with one of President Obama's senior advisers, Dan Pfeiffer. He'll be here in the SITUATION ROOM. We're going to talk about the White House strategy for dealing with all of these controversies and a whole lot more.
Also, he's been one of President Obama's toughest critics, but there is one area where Senator Rand Paul sees eye-to-eye with the president. My interview with Senator Rand Paul. That's coming up next.
And a CNN exclusive, inside Guantanamo Bay. Our own Chris Lawrence, he is there for us right now. He takes us inside the infirmary where prisoners on hunger strikes are being kept alive.
BLITZER: So, as the White House takes steps to overcome a series of scandals, can it manage to fend off Republican attacks and even in the process win some Republican support?
BLITZER: And Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is joining us right now. He's the key member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senator, thanks very much for coming in.
SEN. RAND PAUL, (R) KENTUCKY: Glad to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: The president wants to learn the lessons of what happened in Benghazi last September 11th. And among other things, he said the U.S. has to beef up security for diplomats around the world. Listen to what he said.
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OBAMA: I'm calling on Congress to work with us to support and fully fund our budget request to improve the security of our embassies around the world.
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BLITZER: Are you with him on that?
PAUL: Absolutely. And in fact, I'd go one step further. I think some of these embassies need to be under military control and not state department. I think one of the mistakes we made in Libya and I don't think they've yet recognized this mistake is is that Benghazi was a lot more like Baghdad than it is Paris. I think we treated the embassy and consulate in Benghazi sort of like Paris, a marine here, a marine two.
Actually, worse than Paris in the sense that we had an unofficial militia guarding our ambassador. So, I think, really, Benghazi still they haven't learned the lesson. I would put it under military control rather than state department control.
BLITZER: Who's responsible for that blunder?
PAUL: You know, I think ultimately the buck stops with Hillary Clinton if not the president. The other thing is, ultimately, for six months there were these requests for security, for additional security, and Ambassador Pickering said, well, it didn't ever rise up to the level of Hillary Clinton. And I say that's precisely her culpability. That's a decision that should have risen to her level. And I do fault her for not getting involved enough in one of the most troublesome countries on the planet?
BLITZER: Now that the White House has released the e-mails, the transcripts of the e-mails, leading up to those so-called talking points, the various iterations of those talking points that led the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. to go out on the Sunday show and make the suggestions that she was making about demonstrations and all of that, are you satisfied now that you've gone through all those e-mails that there was no political cover-up?
PAUL: Well, I'm still unclear why -- I think there was a cover-up or a misdirection campaign by the president and his people. I'm still unsure why they were trying to do it. Did they think anybody was going to believe this had nothing to do with terrorism? But I guess, the thing that troubles me is when Hillary Clinton came before our committee. She said she had nothing to do with the talking points.
Now, when you look at her e-mails, though, it looks like her spokesman, Victoria Nuland is all over this, saying, gosh, you've got to remove the terrorism quotes because there could be political ramifications. And this is Hillary Clinton's spokesman. So, unless, Hillary Clinton's spokesman doesn't speak for her, this really does draw Hillary Clinton into this. And, it puts her fingerprints all over these talking points.
BLITZER: Well, there's no apparent evidence that Victoria Nuland directly got instructions from the secretary of state, right?
PAUL: Well, I think what she says in the e-mails is that she discussed it with the state department leadership.
BLITZER: She does say that.
PAUL: Well, I'm wondering, who the state department leadership is if it's not Hillary Clinton --
BLITZER: Well, it could be a deputy secretary, it could be assistant secretaries. There's other layers of leadership.
PAUL: Yes, maybe, but the thing is is that we're in a situation where this is occupying you would think almost every moment of concern. It's a huge disaster. An ambassador has been killed. You have Hillary Clinton on the phone at 2:00 a.m. with Greg Hicks over in Libya.
So, you have to wonder that somehow she's no longer involved in the loop with her spokesman who is talking about how to -- the political judgments of the talking points. I just find it stretches credulity to think Hillary Clinton wasn't involved with the talking points.
BLITZER: So, you obviously still have a lot of questions on that issue. Right now, we are learning, CNN's Barbara Starr, a Pentagon correspondent, that the U.S. military does have a plan if they can locate those responsible, the terrorists who killed Ambassador Stevens and the three other Americans to actually go in on the ground in Libya with, I assume, special operations forces and capture or kill those terrorists. Would you support that?
PAUL: I support anything that we can do to bring the people to justice who killed the ambassador, yes.
BLITZER: You wouldn't have a problem sending troops on the ground. Let's talk a little bit about the attorney general of the United States. I'll play a clip for you. This is the president expressing his strong support for Eric Holder at a news conference he had with the visiting Turkish prime minister. Listen to this.
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OBAMA: Mr. Prime minister, you're right. I have complete confidence in Eric Holder as attorney general. He's not standing attorney general and does his job with integrity and I expect he will continue to do so.
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BLITZER: Do you have confidence in the attorney general?
PAUL: You know, I'm a strong believer in the First Amendment protections for the press. I think there needs to be a very high bar that has to be crossed before you would take records from the press, particularly, taking them without a judge's warrant and without the knowledge of those you've taken the records from. At the same time, I'm a big believer that if you're a government official and you divulge government secrets, that you should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
But I think most of the information, if it's going from a government official to the press, I don't see why you can't subpoena through a judge or a warrant the records of the government official and get all of the information you need to know, bring that government and official under oath and under a lie detector test and have them explain to you did they release the information? And, we have a high standard in government, a higher standard than the public.
But we also have a high standard for protecting the media from government coercion. So, I'm disappointed that they went after these records from the Associated Press. I think at the very least you should ask a judge for a warrant and present your evidence.
But even that, I'm very wary of going after the media with the full force of government, because I think that independent nature of the media that we need to present both sides and keep government accountable is endangered by this kind of affair.
BLITZER: But you know Eric Holder says he recused himself from that decision. He left it to the deputy attorney general. So, does that give him an out?
PAUL: You know, Secretary Clinton didn't make the decisions either for no security. I think sometimes we have excuses for things that we should have participated in. I don't know why exactly, and I think he wasn't clear exactly why he recused himself in this particular case. But ultimately, the buck stops, you know, with who runs an organization.
And the issue to me is more important than Eric Holder and his department. The issue is about freedom of press, about judge's warrants, and about the threshold forgetting records. As a society, we've been making it easier and easier for the government to look at your e-mails, your bank records, your visa records.
I want more protections for the individual, for the press. But I really think that we have to be careful about giving government the ability to look at our records.
BLITZER: For the record, Attorney General Holder says he recused himself because he, himself, was interviewed by investigators as part of that leak investigation. So, he thought it would be inappropriate to be part of the decision-making process.
We got to leave it there. Senator Rand Paul, thanks, as usual, for joining us.
PAUL: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Coming up, lots more news here in the SITUATION ROOM. Is the Tea Party movement making a major comeback right now? Just ahead, why the latest IRS scandal may be the best recruiting tool its activists have seen in the past few years?
Plus, millions of dollars in cash payments, yes, millions, in suitcases. The U.S. reportedly giving for The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, cash to Karzai. I'll speak about that with the senator who is now personally demanding an explanation from President Obama. Senator Bob Corker is here in the SITUATION ROOM. All that and a lot more coming up. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: All right. This just coming in to the SITUATION ROOM. Another departure over the Internal Revenue Service a day after the acting commissioner, Steven Miller, was forced to resign. We're now learning from an internal IRS memo that Joseph Grant, the commissioner of the tax-exempt government entities division has announced his plans to retire as well. That's the division responsible for targeting those conservative groups seeking tax exempt status. The targeting of those conservative groups by the IRS is certainly energizing the Tea Party movement across the country. Our national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, is here in the SITUATION ROOM looking into this fascinating part of the story. What are you seeing?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the IRS mess has not only created a headache for President Obama, it has also given a big shot in the arm to some of the biggest critics of this White House in the Tea Party.
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN, (R) MINNESOTA: Thank you everyone for being here. My name is Michele Bachmann --
ACOSTA (voice-over): The Tea Party is back with a vengeance. Thanks to the political targeting scandal at the IRS, Tea Partiers have their best recruiting tool in years.
JENNY BETH MARTIN, TEA PARTY PATRIOTS: Government agents have used the IRS as a weapon to silence speech.
ACOSTA: At a news conference on Capitol Hill that drew top Republican leaders, Tea Party groups across the country shared their stories of enduring what they described as years of harassment from the IRS to receive tax-exempt status.
DIANNE BELSOM, LAURENS COUNTY, S.C. TEA PARTY: We really have no money. So, the insanity is, you know, the pages of documents that we sent them for someone to take the time to go through that, I mean, it's not like -- there's no money we have anyways to start with.
ACOSTA: Just as the tea party's momentum had been slowing in recent months, activists in the movement are feeling emboldened.
NIGER INNIS, THETEAPARTY.NET: Does this pump additional fuel into our engine? Yes, it does.
ACOSTA: Now, Tea Party leaders in Congress are questioning whether the IRS can be trusted to enforce the individual mandate in Obamacare that requires Americans to carry health insurance or pay a tax.
PAUL: I'm quite worried that your medical records now will be evaluated by the IRS.
ACOSTA: Democrats say that's just another GOP attempt to undermine the law.
REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) MINORITY LEADER: Any issue that comes up, they will try to exploit.
ACOSTA: The chair of the Tea Party caucus, Michele Bachmann, is making not so veiled references to Watergate.
BACHMANN: We need to know what the White House knew and when they knew it. ACOSTA: Even though she cautions it may be too soon to talk impeachment. When we attempted to clarify that, Bachmann staffers tried to end the interview.
BACHMANN: The reference is actually one where we need to get an answer to the question. What did the president of the United States know, what did his administration know, what did his counselors know, what did his political operatives know? When did they know it? We don't have answers to any of those. We haven't even scratched the surface yet. We haven't even begun.
ACOSTA: is it Watergate all over again?
BACHMANN: This is far worse than Watergate. This isn't an enemy's list. These are direct actions that were taken against Americans who sought to exercise their free speech rights under the First Amendment.
ACOSTA (on-camera): Of course, the president today said there is no comparison, but Tea Party leaders argue they don't need big rallies in the streets anymore. They have members of Congress who are on their side, which is why it was no surprise when one top GOP lawmaker today introduced a bill that would block the IRS from enforcing Obamacare.
And Wolf, within the hour, we're expecting House of Representatives to take yet another vote to repeal Obamacare. That obviously won't be signed by the president or passed in the Senate, but it's a sign the Tea Party is back in charge.
BLITZER: Yes -- Michele Bachmann, she's taken a relatively low key stance nationally over these past few months. All of a sudden, she's coming out.
ACOSTA: That's right. Our Dana Bash had to chase her down the hallway just recently to get an answer from her on a particular story. But Wolf, take a look at that event that happened earlier today. Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, other top Republicans on Capitol Hill were at that Tea Party news conference.
If this news conference had taken place two weeks ago before this IRS scandal, I doubt very much that any of those lawmakers would have been there. This has changed the game for the Tea Party.
BLITZER: Certainly has. We'll see where it goes from here. Jim Acosta, good report. Thank you.
On a day when a suicide car bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan killed at least 12 people including six Americans, there's simmering anger up on Capitol Hill over several aspects of U.S. policy towards Afghanistan, especially one involving the cash relationship with the Afghan government.
BLITZER: And Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee is joining us right now. He's the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senator, thanks very much for coming in. SEN. BOB CORKER, R-TENNESSEE: Wolf, always good to be with you.
BLITZER: The last time you and I spoke, you were pretty outraged about these reports that the CIA over the years have been providing bundles, bags full of cash, millions and millions of dollars to Hamid Karzai, the Afghan leader so he could distribute that money, do with it basically what he wants. You wanted an explanation from the president. You wrote to him.
You got no explanation. On Tuesday, you wrote another letter saying "these secret payments lack any kind of accountability, encourage the very kind of corruption we're trying to prevent in Afghanistan and further undermine U.S. Taxpayers' confidence in our government. Since my original letter, President Karzai has claimed that the CIA station chief in Kabul assured him the payments will continue."
Have you received any reaction, any word yet from the administration about these bundles of cash?
CORKER: Well, you know, Wolf, two days ago we got word from the administration. I'm the ranking member on Foreign Relations and one of the missions of the State Department that we oversee is to try to create the rule of law and certainly to fight corruption with the countries that we work with.
And I was told that this really was not my business, that this was not in our jurisdiction. Of course, I think it's in all of our jurisdiction. But since that time I think it's my understanding they've decided maybe that wasn't a particularly good response and that they are developing something and are going to send it back.
But, again, Wolf, Afghanistan is a country that's just route with corruption. And this administration has been -- I'm talking about the Afghan administration has had tremendous issues with corruption. It's my understanding that it's possible that not only are these cash payments going to the president of the country, this is a democratically elected president that we deal with and send billions of dollars of money to their country for normal routes.
But on top of that, the fact that we're actually taking suitcases full of cash and giving it to this democratically elected leader and possibly to relatives in other parts of the country, to me that is totally the antithesis of the thing that -- what this country represents.
I understand that sometimes when you go into new countries like -- what we're doing in Syria. I understand there may be routes that we have to take. This is a very different situation and something that to me flies in the face of our sensibilities in this nation, and I do want a response.
It's been a long time now. This country is getting ready to go through another election in the next year or so, and to me this is not the way we need to be dealing with the country.
I thought John McCain brought up a great point yesterday after I questioned the -- the undersecretary, and that is, what if other countries were doing this? In other words, if we knew that Russia or Iran or some other country was delivering suitcases full of cash to the Afghan president, how would we view that?
So I don't know why we're doing this. I want an explanation. And since we talked about this in public, I want a public explanation as to why our country would be engaged in this kind of behavior if we're doing that.
BLITZER: Yes, on the surface it does sound outrageous, 11 years or more after the U.S. went into Afghanistan still handing out millions of dollars in cash to the leader of Afghanistan for him to do with what he wants. It sounds outrageous. Maybe they have an explanation.
Once you get some explanation from them, if you'll share it with us and the American public, Senator, we'd be grateful.
CORKER: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
BLITZER: Thank you, Senator Corker, for joining us.
CORKER: Thank you.
BLITZER: And coming up in our next hour, I'll speak live with President Obama's senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer. We'll talk about the White House strategy for dealing with all of these controversies. Dan Pfeiffer here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Up next, though, a CNN exclusive. Tubes, liquids and shackles. CNN gets a firsthand look at the drastic measures, and they are drastic, that U.S. officials are using to try to keep Guantanamo Bay detainees on a hunger strike alive.
Plus, horrifying video as a baby in a stroller rolls off a train platform and onto the tracks. You're going to see what happens. That's coming up as well.
BLITZER: Here is a look at some of the other top stories we're monitoring in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
New Orleans Police have arrested a second suspect in that Mother's Day shooting that injured 19 people, three of them still in critical condition. Police say the two suspects are believed to be involved in gangs. The first suspect who was taken into custody last night is facing 20 counts of attempted second-degree murder. Bail was set at $10 million during his first court appearance today.
At least six people are dead and rescue workers are searching for seven people still missing after 10 reported tornadoes pummeled north Texas overnight. The victims and the missing were last seen in a Habitat for Humanity neighborhood of more than 100 homes most of which were destroyed. A survey team found damage indicating an EF-4 tornado. That's the second most severe on the scale. A new report suggests lowering your salt intake below the currently recommended 1 1/2 teaspoons per day may be unnecessary. This following a decades-long push to reduce salt consumption because of links to heart disease. Researchers have now determined there isn't enough evidence to say whether lowering salt consumption actually increases or decreases your risk of health problems, and in some cases, if you don't have enough salt, it may actually have adverse effects.
Horrifying surveillance video from Philadelphia shows a baby in a stroller rolling off -- rolling off a train platform onto the tracks. You can see the mother jumped down, grabbed the baby and handed her to a man standing above. Take a look at this. Philadelphia Transit Police were able to stop an incoming train in the meantime. By the way, the child was hospitalized with a laceration to the forehead. No charges are being filed. Fortunately the kid is OK.
Coming up, it's one of the most -- horrifying stories to come out of Syria and there have been so, so many. A rebel killing and eating a soldier. "TIME" magazine interviewed the man. You're going to find out what he says he did. That's next.
Then we have a CNN exclusive for you. A firsthand look at the drastic attempts under way right now to force-feed prisoners on a hunger strike at the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
BLITZER: It's a grisly symbol of the horrors that Syria is going through right now, the brutality of a civil war that has left tens of thousands of people dead.
We should warn you that this is very graphic material. A video that begins with a Syrian rebel leader cutting out the organs of a dead Syrian soldier.
Joining us now is Aryn Baker, the Middle East bureau chief of "TIME" magazine, our sister publication.
Aryn, thanks very much. Tell us about this gruesome video that "TIME" magazine obtained. Describe what's going on.
ARYN BAKER, TIME MIDDLE EAST BUREAU CHIEF: Well, in the video, the commander, he goes by the name of Abu Sakhar, he has found a man, a soldier from the Syrian army, dead by bullet, I've been told. And he took a knife and he cut out a hole in the chest and pulled out the lungs and the heart. And while being videotaped, he held up the lung and said, you dogs of Bashar, this is -- this is how we will treat you, I'll eat your hearts and your livers, and he took a bite on the video. And it was meant as a message to the regime.
BLITZER: And you authenticated this video. You reviewed it, you've interviewed this individual, El Hammad, the man in the video who appeared to be eating the organs of this dead Syrian soldier. What was his justification, if you will? BAKER: He had -- he tells me that he had discovered on this soldier's person a cell phone with videos on it. And he looked at one of the videos and it showed that soldier raping and abusing three women. So he used that as justification. He said this is the revenge that he would take and he swore that this is what would happen to anybody that was on his turf that was doing such things.
BLITZER: So what does this video, and it's pretty gruesome as we point out. It's awful. What does this tell us if anything about the rebels, the kinds of people that are within the ranks of this group?
BAKER: Well, Wolf, I think it stems beyond just this group. And the whole Syrian war is a very gruesome, very -- it's got violence on an intimate scale. And a lot of it is being videotaped. So what this tells us about the rebels, this is one guy who did something very extreme, but we're seeing across the board from both sides torture, beatings, rapes, all this is showing up on YouTube.
It is videos that are used to send threats to the other side, defiance, revenge, but all of it is televised.
BLITZER: And all of this -- this televised, all this video out there on YouTube and elsewhere, it's going to fuel even more violence, isn't it?
BAKER: Absolutely, Wolf. I mean, it starts this tit-for-tat thing. It also raises the bar on what is and isn't morally acceptable. I mean, once someone has actually performed an act of cannibalism on screen as a sign of revenge, I mean, what goes next? And there will be more and more such things. I think it just feeds into this cycle of violence and then the consumption of this violence on YouTube afterwards.
BLITZER: Just when you think it can't get more brutal, it does indeed.
Aryn Baker from "TIME" magazine. I'll put the cover of the new issue up on the screen right now. There it is, the cover story on "The Angelina Effect," what's going on as far as Angelina Jolie is concerned and breast cancer. An excellent, excellent cover story in "TIME," and excellent article Aryn Baker on the situation in the Middle East.
Aryn, thanks for coming in.
BAKER: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: A CNN exclusive, a firsthand look at the drastic attempts to force-feed prisoners on a hunger strike at the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay.
And later a race against time to save Florida's $9 billion orange crop. Thousands of jobs have already been lost. What's killing the trees?
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: We're getting a rare exclusive look at the drastic measures being taken inside the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba to keep dozens of inmates on hunger strikes alive.
Our Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence is joining us now from Guantanamo Bay. He's on the scene for us. He's got some amazing details. What are you learning, Chris?
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, just a few hours ago, we got inside the actual medical clinics of the detention center, and for the first time spoke with the doctors who are overseeing this very controversial practice.
LAWRENCE (voice-over): CNN got a firsthand look at the shackles, tubes and liquids now being used to feed 30 detainees who refuse to eat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This then goes in the nostril.
LAWRENCE: A tube goes up their nose, down the throat and into their stomach. Then supplements are pumped in for 30 to 45 minutes. Some of the 100 hunger strikers refuse food, but will drink supplements if ordered to. But these 30 have to be forced.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's kind of a tough mission. This is kind of an ugly place sometimes.
LAWRENCE: That's the detention group's senior medical officer speaking for the first time since the medical profession condemned tube feeding.
(On camera): Are you concerned that the American Medical Association has come out against this practice?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Again, there's lots of politics involved. I'm sure they have, you know, internal politics that they need to answer to as well.
LAWRENCE (voice-over): He has to remain anonymous for security reasons, but as a doctor he stands by the methods used at Guantanamo Bay.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very easy for folks outside of this place to make policies and decisions that they think they would implement.
LAWRENCE: The hunger strike marks its 100th day Friday and shows no signs of stopping. CNN obtained handwritten letters from one of the detainees. One reads, "Be tortured and stay detained." Another quotes a French writer about how your very existence becomes inactive rebellion. He sounds hopeless when he writes, "The commissions are a joke. If you lose, you go to prison for life. If you win, you're held indefinitely for life."
CAPT. ROBERT DURANO, GITMO SPOKESMAN: We don't have a goal to, quote, "break" the hunger strike. We do have a mission to preserve life through lawful means.
LAWRENCE: But defense attorneys say shackling a detainee and snaking a tube into his stomach is inhumane.
CORI CRIDER, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR SAMIR MOQBEL: You don't get farther than about here into your throat before the tears just start streaming down your face.
LAWRENCE: Gitmo officials showed us the numbing gel they offer so the tubes are thin and lubricated.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody's expressed to me that this hurts.
LAWRENCE: Attorneys claim their clients say otherwise.
CRIDER: He said he'd never felt such pain like that in his life.
LAWRENCE: The number of detainees now being fed this way has reached its highest point in seven or eight years. Military officials claim that the majority of those on a hunger strike are feeling peer pressure. They don't want to eat in their cells where other inmates may be able to see them. But once they actually get to the clinic, they do voluntarily drink that liquid supplement -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Amazing stuff that's going on at Gitmo. Chris Lawrence on the scene for us with that exclusive report. We'll check back with you tomorrow, Chris. Thank you.
It's being called President Obama's worst week. We're going to talk to a senior White House adviser to the president, Dan Pfeiffer, he's standing by live. Lots to discuss.
And billions of dollars and thousands of jobs at risk right now. You're going to find out what's threatening Florida's massive orange crops.
BLITZER: A tiny bug creating huge problems for Florida right now, costing potentially billions of dollars, thousands of jobs, and possibly even your orange juice.
CNN's John Zarrella is on the scene for us.
John, what's going on?
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, if you like Florida orange juice, a piece of advice, drink up now. This is Bob Ross New River Groves, and he always has plenty of Florida oranges. But maybe not for much longer.
ZARRELLA (voice-over): The last Florida oranges of the season are being picked. On some trees, blossoms that will become next season's fruits already are opening. The sweet smell permeates the grove. But the aroma masks a deadly problem.
DAN RICHEY, CEO, RIVERFRONT PACKING COMPANY: We cannot take this lightly. It is the most serious disease we've had to face in the last 50, 100 years.
ZARRELLA: It's called citrus greening. It has the potential, agriculture officials say, to bring the state's $9 billion a year industry to its knees. An industry that supplies 70 percent of the nation's orange juice.
ADAM PUTNAM, FLORIDA AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER: It has now reached an infection rate where it is present in every citrus producing county in Florida, and every citrus producing state in America.
ZARRELLA: And this tiny bug, the size of a gnat, called an Asian citrus cylid is the culprit. As it feeds on the leaves of citrus trees, it deposits a bacteria, not harmful to humans, that causes misshapen fruit and can kill a tree in three years. There's no cure. At one time Florida produced 300 million boxes of oranges a year. Not anymore. The disease was first discovered here in 2005. Since 2006, nearly 8,000 jobs have been lost.
(On camera): Nearly every year the production of oranges is falling, 140 million boxes this year. Now growers say that's not just because of citrus greening, but it's a primary reason. And agriculture officials say there is a tipping point. If the number of boxes falls below 100 million, then the industry begins to become irrelevant.
RICHEY: It's a trickledown, it's everything from the guys that produce the cartons that you put the juice in to the harvester that picks the fruit.
ZARRELLA (voice-over): At the U.S. Department of Agriculture lab in Fort Pierce, researchers are looking into several possible solutions. Including a spray-on antibiotic that would be absorbed by the tree and then kill the bug.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I admit, I lose sleep at night worrying about it. Are we going to find the answer soon enough.
ZARRELLA: So how is it such a small insect could destroy an industry? Well, these bugs live less than two months. And during their lifespan, a single female cylid can lay 800 eggs, making pesticide ineffective. Right now this little bug is slowly squeezing the life out of a very big industry.
ZARRELLA: Now there's a full court -- there's a full court press going on around the world to try and find an answer to this problem, Wolf. Tens of millions of dollars being spent on research. But so far, no luck -- Wolf.
BLITZER: John Zarrella on the scene for us. John, thanks very much. All of us do in fact love Florida orange juice.