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THE SITUATION ROOM

Interview With Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff; Space Shuttle Discovery's Homecoming Delayed; NORAD Mission Detailed; Energy Bill Provisions

Aired August 8, 2005 - 15:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where news and information from around the world arrive at one place simultaneously, on these screens behind me, data feeds coming in, CNN.com, other information crossing in, in real time.
And happening right now, we are watching several stories around the world.

Bioterror or a nuclear blast? What happens if war comes to the home front here in the United States? It's 1:00 p.m. in Colorado. We will go live to the U.S. military's Northern Command headquarters.

Here in Washington, it's 3:00 p.m. We are following a developing story. Could the military patrol the streets of American cities? Coming up, I will speak live this hour with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. He'll be right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And it's 3:00 p.m. at Florida's Kennedy Space Center, where weather delays Discovery's homecoming. Where and when can the shuttle land?

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin with a fast-moving story, terror threats that led the United States today to close its embassy and consulate in Saudi Arabia. State Department officials say the threats are very real, indeed.

Let's get the latest. Let's go straight to our national security correspondent, David Ensor.

David, what do we know?

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, U.S. officials are saying they have specific and credible threat information, suggesting the U.S. Embassy and consulates in Saudi Arabia might be targeted today or tomorrow, using vehicle-borne explosives.

Officials say the information comes from multiple intelligence streams. Some of it points to the specific time period. Some of it does not. None of it specifies which facility would be targeted, which is why the embassies, as well as consulate in Jeddah and Dhahran have all been closed temporarily. Now, there's been a heightened state of concern in recent weeks about possible terrorism in Saudi Arabia against Americans. There are some indications, though U.S. officials decline to comment, that some of the information prompting this latest shutdown of the facilities may have come from a detainee in nearby Yemen -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, David, we are going to get back to you shortly. Stand by. Thanks very much, David Ensor, with the latest on that.

But what happens the next time terrorists attack the United States? Could that bring troops on to the streets of your city? Planning for a future crisis is under way right now at the U.S. military's Northern Command headquarters in Colorado. And we have exclusive access.

CNN's Kyra Phillips is live at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. Barbara Star is live at the Pentagon.

Let's begin with Kyra in Colorado. Kyra, tell our viewers what's going on where you are right now.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, we are live inside the Joint Operations Center, Wolf, right here at the U.S. Northern Command.

And, every day, we all wonder how safe we really are since 9/11. That's why this command was created. It's all about information- sharing and watching everything that is going on that could affect you and me and everybody else. It's homeland defense. It's homeland security. It's keeping eyes and ears open and listening to those -- to those cues from certain individuals overseas and here in the States.

For example, just getting a feel for this room, right now, men and women in here are monitoring everything that's going on, from the ports, to the borders, to the -- to air -- aircraft in our skies. I mean, they are listening to the FAA over here. Over to my left, you've got the intelligence expert. Jack is talking with FBI, CIA, Department of Homeland Defense.

And then, even in the front row here, the main group of individuals that are monitoring aerospace, land, maritime. You can see them even up on the screen. You can see the way they are watching the space shuttle. You are seeing how they are monitoring the subway stations in Washington, D.C. They are even monitoring where the president of the United States is, and every important individual that runs this country.

And then they all have desks like this. You can sit down. All the monitors, you can see here and everything that they have to take a look at. So, when you talk about the U.S. Northern Command and the news that we've been talking about today, everybody here, they are all war planners. They can respond to any type of terrorist attack.

But where they really want to take pride and what they want everybody to know is how they are preventing any attack from ever happening. They are monitoring the emerging threats. But, right now, we have got a threat against the United States, but we would never hear about it if they did their job and they did it correctly.

BLITZER: Kyra, there's a little confusion, though, it seems to me, on what the U.S. military's Northern Command would do in an emergency, what the Department of Homeland Security would do in an emergency. Based on what you are hearing where you are, who is really in charge?

PHILLIPS: Well, that's a great point.

I mean, Wolf, really, it's -- it's all those agencies working together. For example, homeland defense, OK? If somebody in this room, let's say -- let's talk about over here with maritime, OK? And whoever it is that's monitoring maritime -- today, it's Frank -- and he sees some sort of red flag, that there's a ship coming into this country and there are tons of explosives on that ship. Well, he's going to do everything he can to prevent that ship from coming in here and causing some type of terrorist attack.

Now, you ask about the other role of supporting Homeland Security. Absolutely. If Homeland Security comes to these folks and says, Admiral Keating, commander of U.S. Northern Command and NORAD, I need help, I need support, get me troops, they are on it and they're ready for that.

So, they take on a dual role, homeland defense and supporting Homeland Security -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Kyra, we are going to be getting back to you. You have a lot more to tell us from where you are. Stand by, Kyra Phillips, in Colorado.

The U.S. military has generally had a very limited role here at home, but is that about to change?

Let's go live to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Star.

Homeland issues for the U.S. military, Barbara. As you well know -- and explain to our viewers -- this is very a sensitive subject.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: It is, indeed, Wolf. And as this issue continues to be discussed in the Pentagon, and out in those war-fighting commands, where Kyra is, what's really important to remember, folks here in the Pentagon tell us, is that the law is the law. The U.S. military does not operate inside the United States of America, unless it is under very, very strict procedures.

Generally, these days, as Kyra says, the military operates in support of Homeland Security. If the Department of Homeland Security has a problem, if they need assistance, if they need help, then the Pentagon, at their request, will step in.

The Pentagon, the military, is the place that has the types of resources, personnel and equipment, for example, to handle the aftermath of some major attack. But it is, Wolf, really at the request of the Department of Homeland Security that that would take place -- Wolf. BLITZER: All right, Barbara, thanks very much. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

Here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we are uniquely positioned to bring you several angles of this important story. Coming up, our Kyra Phillips will join us once again with an exclusive report from inside the U.S. military's Northern Command. And, in just a few minutes, the man who can answer the questions about securing the homeland, joining me live here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Michael Chertoff, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we can also bring you lots of information simultaneously. Here's what's incoming right now. We are following lots of stories.

Insurgents attacking Iraqi police in the southern town of Samawa. Look at this. These are pictures we're just getting in to CNN.

In the Caribbean, Tropical Storm Irene is now a tropical depression. We are keeping track of this storm, nevertheless.

And we'll show you the latest -- in fact, right now, the latest pictures we are getting in from NASA. Low-level clouds from Florida kept the shuttle in orbit today. Next chance for a landing, very early tomorrow morning, about 14 hours from now. In fact, NASA will try once again to bring home the Shuttle Discovery.

Our space correspondent, Miles O'Brien, is joining us now live from the Kennedy Space Center with more on what happened today, what didn't happen today, and what's likely to happen in the coming hours -- Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN SPACE CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Wolf.

It was a close call on the weather, but close is not good enough in this racket. There were low-lying clouds coming through this area in the predawn hours. And NASA officials, try as they may, couldn't get comfortable with this weather situation. As it turns out, it was a very marginal call. They went on the conservative side, which is what they have been doing all throughout this two-week mission, as you look at that shuttle belly flop that occurred early on in the mission, as they approached the International Space Station.

That's when they took all those pictures, which gave that interesting information about those protruding pieces of gap filler, which they ultimately had to pull out.

On this return to flight, the first light since Columbia, they are taking every precaution that they can. The shuttle reentry is, of course, what we all remember from two-and-a-half years ago, February 1, 2003, the loss of Columbia and her crew of seven.

The weather here not good this morning. Tomorrow, the projections are for a very similar situation. So, it's quite possible that NASA, desiring to get the shuttle on the ground one way or another tomorrow, quite possible this mission could end up, after two weeks, at Edwards Air Force base in California.

In the meantime, the crew has gone to sleep, Wolf. They thought they would be asleep at their beds at home in Houston, instead, one more night in space -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You better be getting to sleep pretty soon, too, Miles. You have another big day tomorrow.

Miles O'Brien reporting for us from the Kennedy Space Center -- Miles, thanks very much.

Every day, we want you to weigh in on the hot-button issues here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We will some share your e-mail messages each hour.

For that, we are joined by CNN's Jack Cafferty with "The Cafferty File."

Welcome to THE SITUATION ROOM, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, thank you. It's better hours than "AMERICAN MORNING" and I am looking forward to working with you, Wolf.

We lost one of the lions of network news. Peter Jennings, who ran the anchor desk on the ABC nightly newscast for 22 years, died of lung cancer last night at his apartment here in New York City. He did right well for himself, a high school dropout from Canada who wound up as a $10- or $11-million-a-year broadcast anchorman at the very top of one of the big three.

But the three lions have left the building now. Brokaw and Rather retired. With the death of Jennings, the future of these three broadcasts on the three networks very much in question. Audiences for the three shows have been declining for several years, one the reasons, of course, the ascension of the cable news networks, from CNN, which is arguably the best of the lot -- I have to say that -- it's in my contract -- to those wild-eyed miscreants over there at the F-word network, to the network with five call letters and no viewers.

Wolf, you could be on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list, host a nightly program on MSNBC and be perfectly safe. No one would have any idea where you were. Ask Tucker Carlson.

Nevertheless, cable is changing the way people get their television news. The question for this hour is this. Is television news changing for better or for worse? You can send us your thoughts. E-mail them to the Cafferty -- to CaffertyFile, not -- just CaffertyFile -- one word -- @CNN.com. Include your name, first and last, and where you are e-mailing us from. We will pick some of the more interesting ones and read them a little later this hour.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: All right. Jack, you have to tell us the next time how you really feel about some of these issues -- Jack Cafferty with "The Cafferty File."

CAFFERTY: Ah, we just got to tee them up a little. We're just -- we're just going to get their attention.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: All right, Jack.

Coming up, war plans on the streets of America. This is serious, serious news, U.S. troops potentially deployed in your city if terrorists strike. Is it the best way to secure the nation? Coming up, I will speak with the Homeland Security secretary, Michael Chertoff.

Plus, incredible sandstorms -- yes, sandstorms -- blasting Iraq right now. Constitution talks tabled by extreme weather. We will take you live to Baghdad.

Plus, protest mom. She lost her son in Iraq. Now she's camping out in Crawford, Texas. Find out why her story is literally burning up the Internet.

You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to THE SITUATION ROOM.

We are following lots of developing stories right now, but one in particular.

Let's bring in CNN's Ali Velshi. He's joining us from New York.

What do you got, Ali?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We, Wolf, have the final settle on the price of a barrel of crude oil at the New York Mercantile Exchange, an all-time record, $63.94. Oil gained $1.63 in trade today. It hit $64 a barrel not too long ago, for the reasons that you were talking about earlier, for David telling us about that terror threat in Saudi Arabia, for the hurricanes, for the fact that there was a fire at a refinery, a Sunoco refinery, in Philadelphia this weekend. There was another fire at a refinery in Texas.

We can't afford to not have the full oil flow that we are used to. We use 85 million barrels of a day. That leaves only 15 million barrels of excess supply. And that is causing oil prices to -- to get higher. We also see -- saw gasoline hitting $2.99 a gallon in Los Angeles, Wolf. We'll be back with more on oil prices later.

BLITZER: Sixty-three, $64 a barrel, that's hard to believe.

VELSHI: Yes.

BLITZER: But it probably is going to go up.

Thanks very much, Ali. We'll be seeing you a little bit later for that.

We are following a number of other developing stories around the world.

Standing by right now, CNN's Guy Raz in Gaza, Baghdad, CNN's Aneesh Raman in Baghdad.

Let's begin with you, Guy.

It's pretty tense where you are.

Guy? Unfortunately, unfortunately, this is one of the problems of live television.

Guy, we are not getting your audio.

Let's bring Aneesh Raman in instead. And then we'll get back to you.

Aneesh, tell us about these sandstorms in Iraq.

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, of all the things -- and I hope you can hear me -- of all the things that have stalled the political process here, this really is a first, today, a massive sandstorm descending upon the capital, blanketing the streets and canceling day two of talks among Iraq's political leadership to hash out that constitution.

Now, they met yesterday at the home of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. They were to meet today. Day two of these talks will now be tomorrow. But, Wolf, big issues remain -- federalism, the role of Islam, to name two that are still unresolved. And, of course, that deadline of August 15, Wolf, is now just a week away.

BLITZER: Is there a sense that the -- the whole weather situation in Iraq is really going to upend this deadline, Aneesh?

RAMAN: Well, no one quite knows. And I think that they will push on again tomorrow.

But we went out on the streets, talked to some Iraqis who are out working today, Iraqi policemen wearing masks, so they wouldn't suffocate with the sand coming in. And they said, we're out working and we're outside. These men are inside air-conditioned rooms with security. Why can't they get together? Why can't they meet today?

The government says it's a security issue. Visibility was essentially zero this morning. So, driving to work became a security concern. But Iraqis are wondering why these meetings are taking so long to get together, and, it seems, without fruition, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Aneesh Raman in Baghdad, from Baghdad.

Now not all that far away, let's -- let's head over to Gaza. I believe Guy Raz -- I hope we can now hear you, Guy Raz.

Tell us what's going on where you are.

GUY RAZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, behind us, you can see the lights of Neve Dekalim. This is the largest Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip.

Now, in about a month's time, this settlement, along with 20 other Jewish settlements in Gaza, will no longer exist, the Israeli government having had made the decision to begin the process of removing its citizens from this strip of land it first occupied 38 ago.

Now, Wolf, the narrative of this pullout, of course, differs, depending on who you speak with. For Palestinians, it's regarded as a relatively insignificant step, perhaps a small step. For most Israelis, the Gaza pullout is seen as a painful and traumatic event.

What is certain, Wolf, is that the Gaza pullout ultimately is the biggest change in this conflict in a very, very long time. Now, we have had a chance to speak with some of the residents here in Neve Dekalim. Many of them say they are going about their lives as normal. Many of them say that they are going to their jobs, etcetera. But, ultimately, they do realize that the government's decision to remove them from Gaza will actually come to fruition -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Guy Raz in Gaza, thanks very much.

To our viewers, this note. This is live television. Sometimes, there will be technical glitches. We will share those with you. We'll be up front, get used to it if it isn't pretty, as pretty as it always should be.

Up next, the Homeland Security secretary, Michael Chertoff. He's standing by. I will ask him the tough questions about new plans to put U.S. troops potentially on American streets if terrorists attack.

Plus, a CNN exclusive. We are taking you live inside Northern Command Headquarters in Colorado.

And a little bit later, Marilyn Monroe, was it suicide or murder? New transcripts of the actress in her own words, find out what they reveal.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back.

As we reported earlier, a potentially historic shift over at the Pentagon, the United States military drawing up plans to take on a larger role in any terrorist attack here in the United States. This despite laws constraining the military from engaging in U.S. law enforcement.

Joining us now in THE SITUATION ROOM to talk about this new development more, the Homeland Security secretary, Michael Chertoff. Thanks for being our first guest here on THE SITUATION ROOM.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I'm honored and delighted to be your first guest.

BLITZER: Good to have you.

Let me read to you what Admiral Timothy Keating is quoted as saying, the commander, U.S. Northern Command, NORAD: "In my estimation, in the event of a biological, a chemical or a nuclear attack in any of the 50 states, the Department of Defense is best positioned of the various eight federal agencies that would be involved, to take the lead."

I thought that was the Department of Homeland Security?

CHERTOFF: Actually, Wolf, we have a set of plans under what we call the National Response Plan that deals with all the potentially catastrophic issues that we could face -- nuclear, biological, chemical. And we really take a team approach. HHS, for example, Health and Human Services, has a major leading role if we have a biological incident. EPA would have a significant role with a chemical incident.

And obviously the Department of Defense has certain capabilities, including the ability to put a lot of hospitals and a lot of personnel in the field, which would be critical if we had a truly mass event.

What we try to do is build a set of plans in every department that integrates and works together so we have a unified system, across the board.

BLITZER: I'm a little confused, though, about the chain of command. Would it be Michael Chertoff, the secretary of Homeland Security, or Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of Defense, who would really effectively be in charge?

CHERTOFF: Well, of course ultimately it's President George Bush who's in charge. And then of course the chain of command operates within each department, running from the secretary down to the bottom. But the Department of Homeland Security has the responsibility under the president's directives to coordinate the entirety of the response to a terrorist act here in the United States.

BLITZER: Are there new laws that are needed, new legislation, in your opinion, that would sort of solidify the situation?

CHERTOFF: I don't know that there are new laws that are necessary. The National Guard has played a critical role in responding to emergencies for years, and we are comfortable dealing with their capabilities in the context of existing laws and procedures.

BLITZER: Let me go -- move on to the aftermath of what's happened in London. As you know, you were criticized for some of your comments, including in an editorial in the "New York Times" which said, among other things, this: "Protecting the New York subways and subways in Washington, Atlanta and other cities against terrorists is a vital national interest."

Goes on to say, "Michael Chertoff, the Homeland Security secretary, who in a recent unfortunate quotation appeared to dismiss the federal government's duty to protect subway riders, must make this an urgent priority."

Is it one of your urgent priorities?

CHERTOFF: Well, I would say it was an unfortunate misquotation. One of the things I've said...

BLITZER: You're talking about the interview you gave to "USA Today."

CHERTOFF: Right. One of -- one of the consistent things we've said is we have to be responsible for protecting all of the country, but we have to work with the systems and architecture that's presented. So, for example, aviation, which is a closed system, presents different challenges from subways, which is an open system.

So, what we try to do is partner up. We partner with state and local authorities. We draw on their strengths and our strengths and work in a coordinated way so that we give the American public the best protection for the buck.

BLITZER: I was stunned by this CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll which asked the American people whether they would like to see security systems for mass transit imposed like those at airports. Seventy-eight percent favored it, 20 percent oppose it.

In New York City alone, where 4 million take mass transit every day, could you even possibly have the kind of systems at the subway stations that you have at airports?

CHERTOFF: No, you couldn't, Wolf. And I am hesitant to take a poll like that, because you really have to evaluate this kind of issue not in the heat of battle or right after an event, but looking at the way the system operates in the long term.

The reason the subway works -- and I've spent a lot of time on the subway -- is because you come and go very quickly. If people had to walk through portals like they do at the airport, I think it would destroy the system.

So, we have to think out of the box. And some of the things we are looking at now are the kinds of detection capabilities and equipment, whether it be dogs or high-tech gadgets, that would allow us to test and sample for things we are worried about but in an ambient environment rather than a very closed, fixed environment.

BLITZER: All right. Our Homeland Security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, is joining us now.

Jeanne, you have a question for the secretary.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Thanks, Wolf. Mr. Secretary, like it or not, in the public eye, your department is most known for that color-coded threat advisory system. You have talked about wanting to modify it. What are you going to do?

CHERTOFF: Well, one of the things we want to do is talk to everybody who is a stakeholder in the process. That means not only federal actors, state and local government officials and private officials as well.

So we are engaged in that conversation now. We're trying to draw on our experiences, including the most recent experience in which we went up to orange in a very narrow slice of the transportation sector. And I think that, frankly, worked well.

When we are done with that set of conversations, I think we will have some food for thought and we may come out with some modifications.

MESERVE: Did that use of the color-coded system after the bombings in London change your opinion about the utility of the system? And, secondly, when might we see orange go down to yellow for the transportation sector?

CHERTOFF: Well, you know, we have to constantly monitor what's going on in the world. And one of the things I want to explain is that yellow itself has changed over time. The degree of preparedness and our ability to react has gotten much better under yellow in 2005 than it was under yellow in 2004.

As we raise the baseline of preparedness, it may turn out to be that we can go to orange less often or come down from orange earlier. So, I doubt we will come down from orange and transit and go back to pre-July 7. What we may well do at some point is come down from orange and go to something that is much more than was the case before July 7.

BLITZER: We only have few seconds left. A quick answer, if you can. When, if ever, is profiling according to ethnicity or appearance appropriate?

CHERTOFF: I think we want to focus on behavior. It's behavior which is the best test of someone's intentions. And we have studies that look at this kind of issue. And we're giving instruction to people on this issue. We want to focus on behavior and not prejudice.

BLITZER: Michael Chertoff, the secretary of Homeland Security. Thanks for joining us in THE SITUATION ROOM.

CHERTOFF: Great to be here.

BLITZER: Good luck to you.

CHERTOFF: Thank you. You, too.

BLITZER: To all of us.

When we come back, a critical court date under very tight security. Suspects in the July 21 London terror attacks go before a judge. We'll show you what happened.

Plus, President Bush weighing in on the death of TV giant ABC News' Peter Jennings. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where video and reporters from around the world are coming into CNN in real time. We also have the capability to bring in live data feeds from news organizations at home and abroad.

Let's take a look at what's happening right.

We've got developments unfolding, a look inside the secret world of the U.S. military's Northern Command, responsible for defending the homeland. We're going to go there live.

Also, check this out. Caught on tape, an Alabama bank robbery. A man drives up to the teller's window, tells her he has an explosive device, he gets away with money and drives away. We'll watch this story for you.

Look at these pictures. In Atlanta, a water main break is spraying water in huge areas. We'll watch this for you, as well.

But first, let's return to that inside high-tech, top secret command center, the U.S. military's Northern Command in Colorado, which is drawing up plans to deal with terror threats to the American homeland.

CNN's Kyra Phillips has gotten exclusive access. She's joining us live once again from Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs -- Kyra, go ahead.

PHILLIPS: Well, we'll talk about those plans in just a second, Wolf. And it's something that we have talked about in the past. Everybody in this room at U.S. Northern Command, in the Joint Operation Center, they're all war planners. They're always preparing for war. But most importantly, they want to keep anything like that from happening in the first place. It's all about preventing the terrorists from getting on U.S. soil, providing the capabilities to keep it from the outside from coming in, and also from keeping anything happening within the inside.

I hope I explained that right. It gets a little technical. So we're going to talk about aerospace, land, maritime and how right now, all these individuals working the monitors and information here in the United States are preventing anything from happening. If we don't hear about a terrorist attack, that means that everybody here did their job.

But let's talk about the war planning aspect for just a minute. I'm going to bring in the JOC director, Captain Brad Johanson.

CAPT. BRAD JOHANSON, OPERATIONS DIR., NORTHCOM: Thank you for joining. PHILLIPS: Thank you so much for being with us. And we'll start with the terror response first. I want to talk about, of course, the aspect of deterring anything from happening. But you're all war planners. You always are ready to respond to terror, and that is what the Pentagon is talking about today and the expanded role that U.S. Northern Command is taking.

Explain the difference to our viewers. Because we talked about this for weeks and have been in tune to what's going on. And now it's out there and people are talking about it more -- the difference between homeland defense and Homeland Security?

JOHANSON: They are very closely linked, the two missions. And we are a 24/7 operation center here, the United States Northern Command, and we communicate on a very regular basis with the Homeland Security Operations Center, which is the Department of Homeland Security's equivalent, the 24/7 operation center. So they're very closely linked.

Now, most of the scenarios that we kind of see coming, or the possibility of coming, will generally take a law enforcement lead. So they'll be Homeland Security. The desire is to prevent an attack from occurring, but also collecting the evidence in order to prosecute the terrorists, if we're able to get them into custody. For that, the Department of Homeland Security is going to be in the lead as the head of the law enforcement piece of it and the homeland security part of it. So the attack will not take place and there will be evidence collection so that there can be prosecution.

Now, if the scenario is so potentially violent, if it involves...

PHILLIPS: Yes, in a worst-case scenario, then you have the ability to call in the troops.

JOHANSON: Exactly.

PHILLIPS: And trump that and say this is how we need to respond immediately.

JOHANSON: Right. If it's a chemical, a biological or a nuclear event, if it's on board a ship that's coming into our area, if it's not inside the 12-mile territorial seas, the United States Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard are going to work in concert, but it will be a homeland defense lead to prevent that situation from happening.

PHILLIPS: All right. Let's talk about that. Let's move over here, let's move over to maritime. Because you train for these scenarios, if there's some type of terror response.

JOHANSON: Exactly.

PHILLIPS: Maritime right now. Paul is working this. Tell me what you're looking at and what you're monitoring.

JOHANSON: On the left-hand side over here, Paul is looking at what we call our common operating picture for next week's exercise, which features Alaska. We're working very closely with the state of Alaska to prepare for a variety of consequence management and homeland defense missions. So, for example, he's got two red triangles on there. Those are specifically the exercise vessels that could be bringing in chemical or biological or terrorist assets. So we will work closely with the Department of Homeland Security and have the Navy or the Coast Guard, whoever owns the closest ship, stop that vessel, board it, check the manifest and prevent that attack from occurring.

PHILLIPS: Captain, thank you so much. And I know it's not just maritime, but it's also land operations, aerospace. They're also monitoring the path of the space shuttle. They're everything happening on land, like where the president is, where every leader in this country is.

We're going to talk more about that with the commander of U.S. Northern Command and NORAD, coming up in about an hour and a half -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We will be getting back to you. Kyra Phillips reporting from the Northern Command. Thanks, Kyra, very much.

It's August 8. And coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, poll position. New numbers. New numbers just being released on how President Bush is handling his job. We'll tell you how Americans are now feeling. That's coming up in the next hour.

Also, the state of television news. What do think about it? Our Jack Cafferty has your e-mail messages.

And what would it take to scare a shark away? Researchers say they have an answer, and it may protect you against an attack.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Another developing story. CNN's Zain Verjee joining us from the CNN Center with details.

Zain, what's going on?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is a developing story, as you say, but it's out of Saudi Arabia. The new Saudi King Abdullah is pardoning three political activists who are very well known in that country. They were jailed for calling for political reform in the kingdom and they were serving sentences of as much as nine years.

Tributes for one of the giants of TV journalism, Peter Jennings. President Bush says Jennings became part of life for many Americans and will be missed. Jennings anchored the ABC evening newscast for 22 years. He died of lung cancer at his home in New York yesterday.

An Iranian nuclear facility is up and running again over objections from Europe and the United States. Officials in Tehran say they only plan to convert uranium to fuel nuclear power plants. The E.U. and Washington are concerned that Iran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Two American researchers say they developed a shark repellent. It's a combination of a dozen compounds that replicates the scent of rotting shark, driving healthy ones away when it's released into the water. The researchers say it can be used not only to protect people, but also sharks themselves by keeping them away from fishing nets.

This is THE SITUATION ROOM.

BLITZER: Zain, a quick question -- a follow-up on the Iran story. What's the best guess -- the best analysis, based on what you are hearing about Iran's calculations in this -- literally this critical issue rejecting the latest demand of the West?

VERJEE: A lot of analysts, Wolf, just not really sure whether this is brinkmanship on the part of Iran or whether they're really committed to starting their fuel cycle and have it up and running again.

One view -- one perspective that I received today was essentially that Iran is testing the European Union. They are testing the United States to really see if they're capable of holding onto their perspectives in the sense that they want to challenge Iran and its right to nuclear activity. And Iran really calculating -- look, maybe the U.S. is just too bogged down in Iraq and maybe the European Union doesn't really have a backbone.

BLITZER: All right, Zain. I'll see you in a little while. Thanks, very much. Zain Verjee from the CNN Center.

Here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we have the situation on-line every day. Here we'll be watching everything that's happening on the Internet, at least as much as we can and only CNN has teams dedicated solely to cyberspace.

Today, the blogs are abuzz about a mother who says she's very angry and wants the troops home from Iraq. Cindy Sheehan's son died in Iraq last year. Now the mother is camping near President Bush's Texas ranch, hoping to deliver a special message to them.

Our Internet reporters Jacki Schechner and Abbi Tatton are watching the story unfold on the blogs, on cyberspace, on the Internet. Jacki, what are we hearing.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Well, Wolf, she is also giving her message on-line. Cindy Sheehan is now posting on one of the giant liberal Web logs, DailyKos.com. This gets more than half a million hits a day.

She is posting at what she's calling "Camp Casey." You can see that right there, outside of President Bush's ranch in Crawford. It is her message about how she feels. By the way, she has now become affiliated with MoveOn.org, a liberal political action committee, but she is telling her personal story at Daily Kos, saying she was full of rage, feeling helpless. She was on her way to Dallas, instead decided to go to Crawford to confront George Bush. ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: And just quickly, on the other side, an interesting military blogger who is weighing in on this story. C.J. Grisham, a sergeant in the U.S. Army, has posted an open message to Cindy Sheehan, responding to some of the questions that she raised. She asked, "Why did President Bush kill my son?" He responds, "President Bush did not kill your son. This was the work of Islamic militants." Interesting insight from a military blogger there, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, guys. We'll be checking back to you. We have a lot more coming up on what's happening on the Web and elsewhere. Also, we're turning the lens on ourselves here in the world of TV news. Are we and our colleagues getting it right or wrong? Are we heading in the right direction or the wrong direction? Jack Cafferty reading all of your e-mail messages.

Plus, can Hillary Clinton win against one of "People" magazine's most beautiful people? The senator's new challenge. That's coming up.

And the Marilyn Monroe mystery. Did she commit suicide or was she killed? We'll examine newly revealed tapes for clues about her death and her political connections.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Lots of e-mail coming into -- involving our "Question of the Hour." CNN's Jack Cafferty sorting through all of them. He's joining us now from New York with "The Cafferty File." What are they saying, Jack?

CAFFERTY: That's a pretty fancy high-tech video wall you've got there.

BLITZER: You know, only the best that money can buy.

CAFFERTY: I want to get one of those for my house.

The question this week -- or this hour this week -- has to do with the changing face of network news, following the death last night of Peter Jennings from lung cancer. He ran the ABC nightly newscast for 22 years.

Of course Brokaw and Rather have retired. And with the rise of the 24-hour-a-day cable news channels, the question we're asking, is television news changing for better or worse? Here's what some of you are saying.

Mark in Ann Arbor, Michigan, writes: "Jack, I missed you. Oh, and yes, the broadcast networks have winnowed away their lead because they have no news bureaus any more, few reporters, and frankly, CNN ate their lunch. Welcome to the afternoons."

Dave, who's an old viewer from Japan, used to watch the morning show -- and I think it's now probably 3:00 in the morning over there -- writes: "When television news was in its infancy, Edward R. Murrow warned of running broadcasting's 'money-making machine' at full throttle. He thought it would squeeze out serious journalism in favor of ratings. Well, the baby's all grown up now, Jack. Ernie Kovacs said it best: 'I know television is a medium, because it's neither rare nor well done. Present company excepted, of course." Thank you, David.

And Reavis in New York says: "I'm watching SITUATION ROOM for real news, not your cynical and childish comments about the other news networks. Please stick to the news and spare us the nonsense." All right, Reavis.

BLITZER: You really read all those e-mails, Jack?

CAFFERTY: I read a few of them. I actually have a woman named Sarah Leader (ph), who is the architect of this entire operation, and all I do is sit here and try to look pretty.

BLITZER: You know, we're seen live in Japan on CNN Japan, and it's the middle of the night over there right now. So Dave, I think, most be a lonely guy.

CAFFERTY: He is a lonely guy. He has absolutely no life. He used to write to us all the time when I was doing AMERICAN MORNING, which -- that show is on in primetime in Japan. But now Dave is the only guy up in Japan and why he's writing me is beyond me, but hey, we'll read it. You know, it's the first day out here.

BLITZER: You've got a lot of fans from AMERICAN MORNING. We hope they all tune in on THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll get back to you, Jack. Thanks very much.

Coming up next, pain at the gas pump. Is it only about to get worse or is relief in sight? CNN's Ali Velshi -- he's on the story for us. He'll bring us the bottom line.

Also ahead, a screen legend's secrets revealed. New insight into Marilyn Monroe's life and loves and death.

And President Bush does something he's been waiting to do for four years, but will it help boost his political fortunes?

We'll take the wraps off some brand new poll numbers we're getting in to CNN. That's coming up in the next hour. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The hottest political stories coming up in our next hour. Standing by, Mary Snow in New York, Ed Henry up on Capitol Hill, watching new competition for Senator Hillary Clinton. And Suzanne Malveaux is over at the White House following new fuel for the for and against President Bush.

But up first, it's time to check the bottom line on your money, your business, and what you buy for that. Let's go to CNN's Ali Velshi. He's joining us from New York, where it's almost time for the closing bell. Hi, Ali, tell us what's going on. VELSHI: Jack's getting all excited about your fancy technology.

This is what it's come down to with me, getting the oil prices out for you. I've got a big drum here, a barrel, the kind of barrel that oil would be in. And I -- you probably can't see it very clearly, but I am writing with post-it notes the price of oil right now. $63.94, that's a record price for a barrel of oil.

Now, not to kid anybody, Wolf -- nobody ships oil in barrels any more. But it's priced at a 42-gallon barrel of oil.

And this is the highest oil has ever been. It's not just because of the threats in Saudi Arabia against the U.S. Embassy that they've reported. It's the hurricanes. It's the refinery fires. It's the fact that we continue to consume more and more oil. Wolf, we -- the world consumes 85 million barrels per day of oil. That allows 15 million barrels extra of excess, in case there are any problems. So that tells you what the problem is with oil.

Now, I'm going to give you three names, Wolf, and you tell me which ones you like, which one you would choose, not knowing what it is. Saharan Blend, Bonnie Light, or Tijuana Light. Sounds like a beer or maybe a coffee or something?

BLITZER: Tijuana Light sounds pretty cool.

VELSHI: Yes, it's all oil. Those are oils that make up the OPEC basket. That's the way they measure oil in the Far East.

Now, in North America, we use West Texas Intermediates, what we refer to as light, sweet, crude. We also have Alaskan North Slope Oil, which comes from Alaska, obviously. And in Europe, they use Brent Crude.

Now these are all different kinds of oil. Light refers to its weight or its viscosity, its thickness. And the sweet refers to the fact that it doesn't have much in the way of sulfur content. Why does it matter? Because the sweeter and lighter your oil, the more gas you get out of it.

And that means that the price of oil, as we all know, has an impact on the price of gas. And that's why we are seeing the average price across the United States reaching $2.50 a gallon. But in L.A., we spoke to someone who paid $2.99 for one gallon of regular gas today for their car. So that's what we're looking at with oil and gas.

BLITZER: Ali, as you know, the president signed into law the energy bill today. It changes Daylight Savings Time, not this year but next year. Will this really help?

VELSHI: Yes, I mean, it's meant to save energy. It was introduced in World War I to save coal, then in World War II to save gas, and then in the '70s to save more energy when energy prices were very high. Now it's meant to do even more of that. The government says that it does actually reduce our energy consumption. Some people are concerned about it. Parents are concerned that in the early mornings, it means their kids might be out a little early. You know, farmers don't really care much about this sort of thing. They're used to doing what they're doing.

The airlines are whining about it, saying it's going to cost them $150 million a year. And I've got to tell you, Wolf, I have yet to understand why it's going to cost them $150 million a year. Honestly, fix it, change the clock, it's not that complicated. It's going to take a few years before it comes into effect, anyway. You know, it's like everything else. We're really not going to notice. It's going to come and go.

BLITZER: Markets about to close -- let's take a look -- in 30 seconds or so, to be precise. How does it look so far?

(STOCK MARKET REPORT)

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