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THE SITUATION ROOM
Fear of Terrorism at Sochi; U.S. Bans Carry-On Liquids on Flights to Russia; Snipers Attack U.S. Electric Grid; Top U.S. Diplomat Caught on Tape; GOP Targets Donors using Fake Web Sites; GOP Says No Immigration Reform This Year
Aired February 6, 2014 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN: All right, Jake, thank you.
Happening now, Olympic terror threats -- we have new details of the ongoing investigation. And we've just learned the source of the latest threat.
Why is this one being taken so seriously?
Power to kill -- an exclusive look at what explosives hidden inside a toothpaste tube can really do.
How easy it is to make this deadly device?
Caught on tape -- a top American diplomat making a shocking remark about a top U.S. ally.
Who was the target of her profane outburst?
And canine hostage -- Taliban militants release video of a military dog captured in Afghanistan.
Does it belong to the United States?
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
But we begin with the breaking news. The eyes of the world are on the Russian city of Sochi and the Winter Olympic Games. But growing fear of terrorism is certainly looming over the competition, as we learn the U.S. is investigating now multiple plots against the Games, including the latest involving explosives hidden inside toothpaste and cosmetic tubes.
Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is joining us -- Jim, you're learning about new action that is now being taken to try to counter some of these plots?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. This is the first security measure in response to the revelation of a new threat of bringing explosives onto airliners contained in toothpaste tubes. And it came within 24 hours of this threat first being revealed to the public. This is what we're learning right now from the TSA, the Transportation Security Administration. They have directed that no liquids, gels, aerosols and powders of any size be permitted on flights from the U.S. to Russia. The particular measure directed just at flights from the U.S. to Russia. So something unusual here that this check will take place at the gate of those flights rather than at the TSA checkpoints that serves many flights around the world and around the country. So different from the 2006 liquid bomb plot, when all liquids were banned on all flights in the US.
Additionally, we're told by the TSA that people traveling to the Russian Federation will need to personally check in at airline desks, including Delta. They won't be able to use online check in. These measures showing how seriously U.S. security officials are taking this particular threat.
I am told that U.S. authorities are now tracking a number of terror threats related to the Olympics and they're taking them all seriously. But the threats have varying degrees of credibility. The urgent challenge right now, assessing whether the threats are purely in the planning stages or something that the attackers have the means to carry out.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): CNN has learned U.S. authorities are working with Russia and other countries tonight to try to disrupt several plots related to the Olympics. Beyond the toothpaste tube terror threat, it sparked a warning to airlines flying to the gates.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: There are some specific threat leads that we have. But at the same time, it's difficult to ascertain whether these are aspirational, whether this is what the terrorists would like to do, or whether this is operational, whether they've actually put this into effect, whether they have the means of carrying this out.
SCIUTTO: U.S. officials are concerned the intelligence regarding the threat of attackers using toothpaste or cosmetic tubes to hide explosives originated from the group led by this man, Doka Umarov, who leads Chechen terrorists who have publicly threatened the Games.
REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX), CHAIRMAN, HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: The plot itself originated from the leader of the Chechen rebel extremists, Umarov. That's where this plot actually hatched out of.
SCIUTTO: While U.S. officials have increasing confidence about security inside the Olympic venue, transportation hubs leading to the Games, including planes, trains and automobiles, are still seen as softer targets and more vulnerable.
Today, Russia's deputy prime minister insisted Sochi is safe.
DMITRY KOZAK, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER, RUSSIA (through translator): I would like to repeat once again that the level of security in the city of Sochi is not worse than New York, London, Washington or Boston. SCIUTTO: That is little reassurance to some. Chechen terrorists have struck in the air before. Black widow bombers are believed to have brought down two jets in Russia in 2004.
However, the intense security focus by Russian and international authorities now may make it more difficult for a similar plot to succeed again.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I can't think of a case where there's been a serious warning publicly and then something actually happened. None leap to mind.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
SCIUTTO: Concern about the toothpaste threat led French officials to arrest two Chechen women this week in France.
They, however, found no evidence the women were a threat or had plans to travel to Russia.
There are, however, continued concerns about intelligence cooperation with the Russians, Wolf. And what I'm told is that when it comes to threats outside of Russia, there's pretty good cooperation. But inside Russia, that's where U.S. officials have serious concerns about whether the Russians share everything that they know. And, of course, with the Olympics inside Russia, it creates a major concern for Americans traveling.
BLITZER: Yes, I know they're also very -- it's in addition to the so- called toothpaste bombs. They're worried about suicide bombers going after softer targets, maybe not in that so-called ring of steel, but outside, to embarrass Putin, if you will.
SCIUTTO: Exactly. I mean you have a situation where any attack around Russia during the Olympics would, in effect, be an embarrassment. So that shows the seriousness here and the difficulty of tamping down all these threats.
BLITZER: One source telling me, quote, "We'd be very lucky to get through this without an attack."
So it's obviously a source of grave concern.
Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.
The U.S. is standing by
To respond by land, sea and air to any terror attack on the Sochi Games if asked.
And we're getting an inside look at how that might play out.
Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is working this part of the story for us.
What are you picking up -- Barbara? BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it the worse does happen, it will be the State Department that will be in charge. But behind-the-scenes, classified plans are being put in place across the government.
STARR (voice-over): If there is an attack at the Olympics that kills or injures Americans, the U.S. will activate an extensive response plan.
PETER BROOKES, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: If something does happen, you're going to see the information systems of the United States government light up.
STARR: It begins here in Sochi, at a U.S. operations center where dozens of security personnel are on the ground. Agents will accompany American athletes to every venue. But if terrorists strike, they will shift gears. FBI agents will gather information and evidence, intelligence personnel will try to find out what the Russians know.
In any aftermath, communications from Sochi to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow will be around the clock. U.S. diplomats will talk to Russian counterparts, making arrangements to help any Americans who need it. But the U.S. will have to defer to Moscow.
BROOKES: This is Russia's show. This is Russian sovereign territory and international coordination is going to be critical if there is a disaster or an attack on the ground.
STARR: The Pentagon emphasizes it would only move in if Russia asks for help.
CHUCK HAGEL, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We want them to know that if they need our help, we want to help.
STARR: The major military job, evacuate American citizens if there is no commercial aviation.
HAGEL: If we need to extract our citizens, we will have appropriate arrangements with the Russians to do this.
STARR: The U.S. European command in Stuttgart, Germany now has direct communication with Russian military commanders in the Sochi region. The two Navy warships, Mount Whitney and Taylor, now in the Black Sea off Sochi, could use helicopters to quickly evacuate U.S. government VIPs and provide communications for other U.S. assets.
In Ramstein, Germany, U.S. C-17 transport aircraft stand by with medical teams that could be in the air six hours after getting orders.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
STARR: U.S. officials say the Russians have told them they will medically treat and stabilize any Americans who are injured and then they will call for an evacuation -- Wolf. BLITZER: All right, Barbara, thank you.
With the new warnings of explosives possibly hidden inside a toothpaste tube, we wanted to see how much damage that kind of device could actually do. The result of our test is very disturbing.
Brian Todd is here with an exclusive look -- Brian, tell us what we did and what you're finding out.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we have found that it does not take much -- 6.3 ounces of an explosive, not much more than the amount of toothpaste in these two carry-on sized containers, can blast a hole in the fuselage of a passenger plane.
Here's a look at what that amount of explosive did in the test that we commissioned.
TODD (voice-over): Explosives hidden inside a toothpaste tube can be powerful and potentially deadly.
TODD: This bomb in a toothpaste container blew off a car door, sent parts of it across the quarry in Southwestern England, where CNN commissioned this test, with the help of Sidney Alford, an expert who helps first responders understand explosives.
What kind of damage could this bomb do?
SYDNEY ALFORD, PRESIDENT, ALFORD TECHNOLOGIES: I wouldn't like to be in an airplane in which that exploded, not even a big one.
TODD: For this test, Alford used an explosive called RDX, a white crystalline powder. He mixed it with another ingredient to create a paste. In this container, he filled about three quarters with his explosive concoction, the rest with toothpaste.
ALFORD: It smells and tastes like toothpaste.
I have presented this in such a way that somebody giving it a casual inspection will probably pass it.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
TODD: The size of the container Alford used is the size that you have to place in checked baggage at an airport. But Alford says two smaller containers this size, which you can carry on a plane, can also be used. These tubes would have to be attached or placed very near each other to create a similar explosion that can be detonated by a heat source -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And we also know that this is not just some, you know, kind hypothetical kind of development. There has been a case -- a reported case that's been well documented where a toothpaste bomb exploded a plane?
TODD: Absolutely, there has, Wolf, 1976, October 1976. Anti-Castro Cuban operatives hid explosives in a tube of Colgate, brought down a Cubana Airlines flight over the Caribbean. More than 70 people were killed in that bombing. It didn't take much and it didn't take a very big container.
BLITZER: And I know you have much more in our next hour on the tests that we commissioned.
BLITZER: Brian, thanks very much...
BLITZER: -- for that very disturbing report.
Brian Todd reporting.
Up next, we're getting new information out of the White House right now on the Sochi threats. Our senior White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is standing by live. We'll go to her in just a moment.
Also, it's not just the security fears visitors are finding Sochi hotels unprepared for. Guests, in some cases, construction is unfinished for them. You won't believe what happened to our own Ivan Watson. And he's in his hotel. We're going to check in with him. We're going live to Sochi.
And a top American diplomat using some very undiplomatic language speaking about Europe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (OBSCENE WORD OMITTED) the EU.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The Obama administration is closely following the threats to the winter Olympic Games in Russia. The president has been briefed on suspected plots and U.S. contingency plans. Our senior White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is joining us now with details. In light of these new threats that we're reporting about, how much concern, Brianna, are you hearing that there is inside the White House?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the White House is certainly concerned. They are closely monitoring these potential threats. But the White House and officials here still think that travel for Americans to Sochi, Russia is safe, just as President Obama told our Jake Tapper last week before tonight's ban on all liquids in carry-ons on flights to Russia and before that DHS warning that explosives could be concealed in toothpaste and cosmetics tubes.
White House press secretary, Jay Carney, saying just this afternoon that this latest threat was issued out of an abundance of caution.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I would note that over the years, certainly since 9/11, there have been many threats to aviation that have resulted in us sharing information with airlines. And our job has always been to provide information to our partners so that collaboratively we can best mitigate the threat, and we're doing so again in this case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Now, carney also said today that if the administration receives new information here in the coming days, the coming weeks that that assessment of security has changed. The state department stands ready to issue a travel alert. The president, at this point, Wolf, is receiving very regular briefings on the security situation at the winter games just this week in the situation room.
He met with Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, his CIA director as well as Pentagon and FBI officials and his directive to them was to make sure that they're cooperating with Russian officials to make sure that the games are secure.
BLITZER: All right. Brianna, thanks very much. Brianna is over at the White House.
Let's bring in our senior international correspondent, Ivan Watson. He's on the ground in Sochi for us where the last of the American athletes right now are arriving. Ivan, how concerned are they about all these threats out there, their own personal security?
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I saw dozens of members of team USA arriving at the airport today. Everybody said, "yes, you know, this has been on our minds, but we're really going to focus on enjoying the Olympics and focus on competing to the upmost of our capabilities." I caught up with Maia and Alex Shibutani. They are siblings who will be competing together in ice dancing and asked them about some of the security fears.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WATSON: While you were flying, there were some more security alerts about possible explosive toothpaste. I mean, did that get to you? Does that stress you out?
MAIA SHIBUTANI, TEAM USA ICE DANCING: Yesterday, we were doing practicing and then we are traveling all morning. So, no, we haven't heard about that, but I think that, really, our job here is to just focus on what we can control and what we can do and that's how we're going to perform at our first Olympics.
(END VIDEO CLIP) WATSON: Now, I also talked to Leonid Sergeev. He's the CEO of Sochi Airport. He said, you know, we have taken security precautions. No pastes, liquids, or creams allowed in carry-on on planes coming in and flying around Russia. Special equipment to scan the luggage that's been checked in as well. He says he thinks it's safe. Other Russian officials say that Sochi is just as safe as Washington, Boston, London, or New York as well.
I do have to add, Wolf, while I was at that airport, there were American athletes coming in, the hockey team from (INAUDIBLE) Lithuanians coming in. Everybody was excited. I started to really feel that Olympic spirit despite the security jitters, people were excited about getting here and looking forward to competing -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Beyond the potential terror threats out there, Ivan, we've also heard some really awful horror stories about hotels not being ready to handle all the visitors who are coming in. You turn on the drain in your shower and sort of dirty, disgusting water comes out. What's going on in those hotels?
WATSON: I mean, I don't know if these are horror stories. This is kind of the conditions you experience when you travel around the developing world. What I'm surprised at is seeing it quite to this extent here in what's supposed to be an Olympic City, and we're experiencing this firsthand again and again, our CNN team. I experienced it firsthand again today.
We've had a lot of trouble trying to get rooms that we had paid for long ahead of time that were booked. I was carrying around a key for three days to my room and returned from a trip to try to get into my room with my team, with their other two rooms, and there were people staying there. They'd been brought into the rooms even though we booked them, we had the keys.
It has taken hours for us just to get our own rooms. Now, the Olympic committee insists this is just three percent of all of the tens of thousands of rooms here in the Olympic City, but I talked to some senior government officials who've been brought in to kind of deal with this emergency.
They say this stems from hotels up in the mountain cluster that were not ready on time, that were supposed to be built by subcontractors and then guests who were supposed to stay up in the mountains have been brought down here to the coastal area and they have overrun the journalist dormitories down here and that has simply collapsed this system, this man told me, where we're actually seeing receptionists not use computers to check in people, but writing on little scratch of paper.
So, that is part of the collapse that journalists are seeing. We'll have to see what happens to travelers, to families of the athletes. Hopefully, they get a better reception.
BLITZER: Yes. They've had seven years to get it ready. I was told earlier today by Mike McCaul, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee that maybe 10,000 Americans are supposed to be in Sochi right now. When you add up the athletes, the coaches, the trainers, all of their family members and all of the spectators, the fans who are coming, maybe 10,000 Americans are going to be in Sochi over the next two weeks. That's a lot of Americans.
All right. We'll check back with you, Ivan. Ivan Watson in Sochi for us. We have much more in this story coming up.
There's other important news we're following, including a California power station attacked by snipers exposing how vulnerable the entire U.S. power grid might be.
Plus, a top American diplomat sparking an international uproar with some shocking remarks about Europe.
BLITZER: We're learning new details of the latest threat to the Sochi winter Olympic games, explosives hidden inside toothpaste or cosmetic tubes. The U.S. is alerting airlines with direct flights to Russia about the threat. And as CNN first reported, we now know where the threat originated.
And Fareed Zakaria, the host of "Fareed Zakaria GPS" is joining us now. Fareed, let's talk about security, Sochi, the Russians. I spoke earlier with the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Mike McCaul, and he told me this. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE MCCAUL, (R) HOMELAND SECURITY CHAIRMAN: I can tell you the plot itself originated from the leader of the Chechen rebel extremist, Umarov. That's where this plot actually hatched out of. There have been reports that he's been killed since then, but the issue is the plot has been hatched. It is out there. You have really two threats going on. One is the aviation sector and one would be the suicide bombers within Russia which I think there's a high probability that one of those will probably go off again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: High probability. One of those would go off. Either using some sort of explosives in a toothpaste, containers, along those lines, or suicide bomber. He says internally the Russians, really, aren't cooperating much with U.S. intelligence. Here's the question, can the U.S. really trust Putin right now?
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: Well, they can trust him certainly in the sense that he has a huge incentive to make sure that these games go off smoothly. So, I think that it's very unlikely that he's going to do something that will in some way magnify the threat -- the danger is that they won't ask for help when they could actually use a lot of the help, particularly, the sophisticated technological help that U.S. intelligence agencies would provide.
BLITZER: Here's a clip from a Russian official. This is the deputy prime minister, Dmitry Kozak. And listen carefully to what he says about security in Sochi right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DMITRY KOZAK, RUSSIAN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I would like to repeat once again that the level of security in the city of Sochi is not worse than New York, London, Washington, or Boston.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Those cities are, of course, New York, London, Washington, or Boston, they were the scene of terrorist attacks, as all of us know. Do you think he was deliberately mentioning those cities or just random on his point -- on his part?
ZAKARIA: I think the point he was trying to make is that they have not created that kind of police state in Sochi that, you know, the level of securities, what you'd find in a major city, which is frankly deeply troubling, because those cities, as you say, have had terrorist attacks but they are not adjacent to massive insurgencies and ongoing civil wars.
The odd thing about Sochi is this is the only town I can think of where you've had a major international sporting event which is essentially next door to a 20-year insurgency that has only gotten more radical, more violent, more vicious. So, one would hope that Sochi has a lot more security than New York, or London, or Paris because the Russians chose to locate the winter Olympics in what is really a war zone.
BLITZER: Because what I've heard from experts here in Washington repeatedly over the past several days, Fareed, is that area immediately around the Olympic Village, the so-called ring of steel probably will be OK given the enormous amount of security personnel the Russians have poured in. But immediately outside, in some of the softer potential target areas, there could very likely be some sort of terrorist attack.
ZAKARIA: Well, it's the point you made earlier, Wolf, which is there are so many opportunities, whether it's toothpaste or, you know, all kinds of very simple technologies that can now create an incident. It probably wouldn't be something that would kill lots of people but it would be a place where the whole world is watching. So even a small attack would get magnified manifold and remember, the traditional metric of terrorism is you want a few people dead and a lot of people watching.
Sochi provides that opportunity and there is this huge cadre of Islamist terrorists who have been ruthlessly oppressed and suppressed by the Russian army over the last 20 years and Chechnya and Dagestan and Ingushetia, and this whole Central Asian area. So, yes, I'm very worried, precisely because it doesn't need to be very elaborate. It could be something very simple but it will have seismic effects.
BLITZER: Certainly will. Let's hope it doesn't happen.
Fareed, thanks very much. ZAKARIA: Pleasure.
BLITZER: We're going to have much more on the terror threats and the horror stories coming out of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in a SITUATION ROOM special report, "Trouble in Sochi" that airs right at the top of the hour.
A top U.S. diplomat's private phone call leaked to YouTube is now causing an international stir.
Our foreign affairs reporter Elise Labott is following this story. She's here in the SITUATION ROOM with details.
What's going on?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Well, Wolf, we're talking about Victoria Nuland, the top U.S. diplomat for Europe, assistant secretary. This is about a phone call she was having with the U.S. ambassador of Ukraine, Jeff Pyatt. And I've got to say, for a diplomatic reporter like me, it was a fascinating conversation.
You know, there's been a lot of turmoil -- political chaos in Ukraine and Nuland and Pyatt we're talking about a power sharing deal that they're trying to broker behind the scenes between the opposition and the government and Nuland was very candid about what candidates the U.S. wanted to see in the government and she expressed a lot of frustration about the European Union who the U.S. feels is dragging its feet a little bit and putting pressure on the Ukrainian government.
And then she basically said that they thought the EU shouldn't be involved and the U.N. should send in an envoy.
Let's take a listen to a little clip of this phone call.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VICTORIA NULAND, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: He's now gotten both Serry and Ban Ki-Moon to agree that Serry could come in Monday or Tuesday.
GEOFFREY PYATT, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: OK.
NULAND: So that would be great, I think, to help glue this thing, and have the U.N. help glue it and, you know, (EXPLETIVE DELETED) the EU.
PYATT: Exactly. And I think we've got to do something to make stick it together because you can be pretty sure that if it does -- if it does start to gain altitude, the Russians will be working behind the scenes to try to torpedo it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LABOTT: So not so such diplomatic language from this diplomat but if you know Toria Nuland, Wolf, you know she's very plain-speaking, tough-talking diplomat. The State Department not denying that the call took place but they are saying that Toria did -- apologize to her colleagues at the EU.
BLITZER: How did this phone conversation get leaked?
LABOTT: Well, the U.S. is pretty clear that they think the Russians did it. You know, that there's been a lot of tension between Russia and the United States over Ukraine. The U.S. is accusing Russia of trying to use undue influence on the government here and the Russians are accusing the U.S. of meddling.
And a call like this certainly makes clear that the U.S. was involved in some way and what the State Department is saying is they're calling this a new low in Russian trade craft, which is code for espionage. So it's really interesting. I mean, on one hand, the United States is upset that its diplomats are being bugged but at the same time it doesn't really have a lot to say because of the NSA revelations.
BLITZER: You would think they would be using a secure line on a conversation like that one. Clearly not so secure.
Elise, thanks very much. Thanks for that report.
When we come back, Democratic donors unknowingly giving money to GOP candidates all because of fake campaign Web sites made up by a major Republican group. This is an investigation you will see first right here on CNN.
Plus, he may be the first prisoner of war who isn't human. Just ahead what the Pentagon is saying about this military dog who allegedly ended up in Taliban hands.
BLITZER: CNN has learned new details about a shocking political scheme. A GOP group is making fake campaign Web sites where people think they're donating to Democratic candidates but the cash actually winds up in Republican hands.
CNN Investigations' Drew Griffin has been looking into these Web sites.
Drew, how could this possibly be legal?
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: You know, that's a big question. And when you see what happened, Wolf, to a guy named Randy Frails, a lot of people are going to be asking the same thing.
Frails, he's a very busy attorney we met in Augusta, Georgia, where during a very busy day in December, he just went online, tried to make a quick donation to his Democratic congressman, a guy by the name of John Barrow, who's running for re-election and that's when he says he got tricked by one of these Republican Web sites.
RANDY FRAILS DEMOCRATIC DONOR: I Google his name and things of that nature and I'm thinking that I'm at the right Web site. I see his lovely picture there as you can see. I see -- I see his lovely picture right there.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): The site Johnbarrow2014.com, well, it sure looked like the re-election campaign site for Democrat John Barrow. At least it did to Frails, who fumbled for his credit card while answering yet another call, this one from his wife.
FRAILS: So all I see is the blue. John Barrow for Congress, donate.
GRIFFIN: And he did. $1,000, then the surprise.
FRAILS: George Bush's picture pops up and says congratulations, something to the effect, that you donated to help defeat John Barrow. And I tell my wife, oh, my god, you know, I just donated to the wrong Web site.
GRIFFIN: Frails believes he was tricked by a deceptive Web site. But that's not what the people who created it think. Johnbarrow2014.com is one of at least 15 Web sites about Democrats that the National Republican Congressional Committee has built in what at least their spokesman, Daniel Scarpinato, thinks is a masterful stroke of online ingenuity.
Use Democrat candidates, Democrats' names and Democrats' images to get the Republican message out.
DANIEL SCARPINATO, NATIONAL REPUBLICAN CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE SPOKESMAN: Democrats have made a big to-do over how they're leading Republicans on the digital and online campaign front, and so we were pretty shocked, actually, that they had left a lot of URLs sitting out there for their candidates. And we figured, well, if they're not going to use them, we will.
GRIFFIN: The NRCC bought up hundreds of URLs on potential weak Democrat candidates, then created sites like Johnbarrow2014. Google searches looking for information on these Democrats goes to the fake Democrat URL sites. Tricky? Deceptive? Scarpinato insists it's pure genius.
SCARPINATO: Well, I -- we're very proud of this program.
GRIFFIN (on camera): You don't think scooping up the URL names of Democrats, buying up all this potential Democratic access and then using the Democrats' names to -- and I will say, it's deceptive, deceptively deliver the Republican message -- is sleazy?
SCARPINATO: No, I think they dropped the ball.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Montana Democrat congressional candidate John Lewis, obviously, has a different opinion. He's one of the Democrats the Republicans built a Web site about. Johnlewisforcongress.com.
(On camera): They are creating a Web site that at first blush is designed to look like your Web site.
JOHN LEWIS (D), MONTANA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Yes. I mean, I've seen a lot of unfortunate uses of deception in the last few elections and it's just another in a long string of that.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): The NRCC insists the sites aren't meant to fool anyone and if you just read them, you'll quickly find out the truth about who produced the site and, more importantly, the NRCC says the truth about the Democrats that they're trying to defeat, like John Lewis.
LEWIS: Montanans know who I stand for and they are going to see right through a Web site that is based on deception.
GRIFFIN: The Republicans' response, Democrats do it, too.
SCARPINATO: They regularly do attack sites on our candidates. They might look a little different but --
GRIFFIN (on camera): But they don't look like campaign sites of your candidates.
SCARPINATO: Well, there's a lot of nasty attacks on our candidates out there so I think that while the strategy might be a little different, I don't think either campaign committee has given up on getting information out there online.
GRIFFIN: So Wolf, do the Democrats really do this, too? The Republicans say yes and point to a state Democrat site in Florida that was really mocking a Republican. The national Democrats say it's not the same thing and it's not them. The Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee, the DCCC, gave us this statement.
"It's not the DCCC's practice to make Web sites that could be confused with the opponent's site."
And as for Randy Frails, the attorney in Augusta, Wolf, he did get his $1,000 back but it took weeks. We asked the Federal Elections Commission if this was legal, is this under investigation, no comment. The Republicans are expanding the program -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank god they've got a winner here but clearly this is really why so many people all over the country just hate all of these politicians, especially these politicians in Washington, because it is clearly deceptive.
Drew, good report. Thanks very much.
Just ahead, fresh concerns about the vulnerability of the U.S. power grids. We're going to tell you about a power station right here in the United States that was attacked by snipers.
And the Taliban released a hostage video. But they didn't capture a human, they captured a dog. We're going to have details. That's coming up.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: New and escalating fears about the security of our nation's power grids. We now know that a group of skilled snipers attacked a power substation in California last year knocking out 17 transformers before disappearing into the night.
CNN's Dan Simon is joining us now with details.
Dan, clearly this was a very serious attack.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And some are concerned, Wolf, that this could be some kind of dress rehearsal for a very large attack.
SIMON (voice-over): It was captured on surveillance video. You can see a brief streak of light. Perhaps a flashlight carried by an attacker. Then come the sparks. They are bullets hitting the chain link fence that surrounds the Pacific Gas and Electric or PG&E substation in San Jose, a station that feeds power to Silicon Valley.
California Congressman Henry Waxman says it shows our electrical grid isn't adequately protected from both cyber and now physical attacks.
REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: This was an unprecedented attack on an electric grid substation using military style weapons.
SIMON: The April attack occurred just before 1:00 in the morning. The snipers first went into an underground vault and cut telephone cables. A half hour later they sprayed the substation with bullets for nearly 20 minutes knocking out 17 transformers, according to PG&E.
When police arrived the shooters were gone but they found more than a hundred shell casings from a high powered assault rifle. No fingerprints. It seemed like a professional job.
To prevent a blackout, energy workers rerouted power. But it took nearly a month to make the repairs.
WAXMAN: Under slightly different conditions there could have been a serious power outage or worse.
SIMON: It was a little known attack and it's not clear what the motives were. But now months later some are trying to bring it to the forefront, arguing that if similar shootings happen throughout the nation at once collectively they could take out a large chunk of the electrical grid leaving millions in the dark.
Jon Wellinghoff is the former chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. I spoke to him by phone.
JON WELLINGHOFF, FORMER CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION: This is more about the larger issue of physical security of these high voltage substations nationwide and the need to ensure that some defensive measures start being put in place.
SIMON: He suggests measures such as opaque fences instead of open chain ones that you can see and shoot through. And more sophisticated surveillance cameras to help identify suspects.
SIMON: Now the case of San Jose, the FBI says at this point they have no connection to terrorism, but we should point out since they don't have any suspects yet, it's not possible to discern a motive -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Dan. Dan Simon reporting, thank you. Meanwhile, new signs from House Republicans that any action on the key issue of immigration reform may be unlikely this year. The House Speaker John Boehner is laying the blame squarely at President Obama's feet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: There's widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws. And it's going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's bring in our chief political analyst Gloria Borger to talk about this.
Pretty strong words. It looks potentially like comprehensive immigration reform not going to happen this year.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it does and it probably won't. And the use of the word "trust," Wolf, is very deliberate by the House speaker. You don't say we don't trust the president unless you know that he's vulnerable on that particular issue of trust. And if you look at the president's polls over the last six months, you see when people have been asked, do you believe the president is honest and trustworthy, his poll numbers have gone down by about a dozen points.
A lot of that is due to the problems with Obamacare. If you like your health insurance, you can keep your health insurance. And so clearly what the speaker's trying to do is lay the blame at the president's feet somehow for what I believe is a real failure within the Republican Party to be able to come up with some kind of comprehensive plan.
BLITZER: Because if you look at our new CNN/ORC poll --
BLITZER: -- that just came out, we asked should a bill allow some illegal immigrants to stay in the United States, eventually apply for citizenship, 81 percent of the American public say they favor that.
BLITZER: Seventeen percent say they -- overwhelming support for such legislation. BORGER: Right. So there's a problem inside the Republican Party right now. There are some Republicans who would like to have a more comprehensive approach to immigration reform that would lead to a path to citizenship. There are other Republicans who say absolutely not. You want to do smaller measure, you want to do it piecemeal.
But there's a political calculation here, too, Wolf. The Republicans say, look, if you focus on immigration reform, you're taking the focus away from Obamacare. That's what they want to talk about in the 2014 midterms. And they also believe, look, if they get control of the Senate, which is clearly a possibility, that they'd have a better shot if they control the House and control the Senate of getting done what they want on immigration.
So lots are saying put it off. And I think you see the House speaker there agreeing with that, at least saying no large approach.
BLITZER: The Republican Congressman Teaberry from Ohio.
BLITZER: Patrick Teaberry says this, right now Jesus himself could be the speaker and get 218 Republicans behind something.
So what's his bottom line?
BORGER: I think Jesus night be able to get a majority of the -- of the Republicans. But what he's saying is, look, they're all over the place. And Boehner, as you know, has talked about getting immigration reform done. He's hired people on his staff to get immigration reform done. I think what he said today is a tacit acknowledges that nothing that is a large plan is going to get done, maybe they do something on the Dream Act, for example, but nothing that's comprehensive.
BLITZER: Gloria, thanks very much.
BLITZER: When we come back, wrenching video of what may be the first ever canine prisoner of war. We're going to tell you what the Pentagon is now saying about this dog allegedly captured by the Taliban.
And at the top of the hour, our SITUATION ROOM special report, "Trouble in Sochi." You're going to see just how powerful and potentially deadly a toothpaste bomb could be.
You're going to want to see the shocking video when we come back.
BLITZER: The Taliban in Afghanistan have released video of what they say is a captured American, although their hostage is not a human, it's a military dog. The Taliban spokesman telling "The Washington Post" the dog was captured after a firefight between U.S. forces and Taliban fighters last December in Afghanistan. He goes on to say the dog carried the rank of colonel, was of high significance to the Americans. The Pentagon says the dog belongs to another NATO allied force, not the United States military.