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THE SITUATION ROOM

Program Monitors U.S. Muslim Sites For Radioactive Materials; Italian Judge Issued Arrest Warrants For 22 CIA Officers Who Allegedly Kidnapped Muslim Cleric; U.S. To Reduce Troop Levels In Iraq; Executed Man Could Be Exonerated; Lindh's Lawyers Ask For Reduced Sentence, "Munich" Controversial

Aired December 23, 2005 - 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: It's 5:00 p.m. here in Washington, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where news and information from around the world arrive at one place at the same time.
Happening now, monitoring Muslim mosques, homes, and businesses here in the United States for signs of radiation that may be tied to a possible dirty bomb. Is this activity legal? Is it warranted?

In Iraq where it's midnight, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announces a troop cut. Are American forces really headed for the exit door, or is it a revolving door?

And it's 11:00 p.m. in Munich, where the massacre of Israeli Olympic athletes triggered a bloody response. Now, decades later, it's all in the controversial new film from director Steven Spielberg. We'll take a closer look.

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

In our "CNN Security Watch," government officials confirm to CNN the United States government has for years been monitoring predominantly Muslim sites here in the United States for suspicious radiation levels. The secret testing in Washington and several other cities around the country is aimed at finding any radioactive material.

Let's go straight to our America's bureau CNN homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve standing by -- Jeanne?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a dirty bomb in the hands of terrorists, one of the government's worst fears, and one of the prime targets is the nation's capital.

According to several government officials, since shortly after 9/11, the FBI, supported by Energy Department nuclear emergency support teams, has conducted radiation monitoring without warrants on more than 100 Muslim sites in the national capital area, as well as locations in New York, Chicago, Detroit, Las Vegas, and Seattle, including mosques, businesses, and homes.

FBI officials say there is no nuclear or radiation monitoring program that is specifically targeting Muslims. And while not confirming the existence of the program, they say all investigations and operations conducted by the FBI are intelligence-driven and predicated on specific information about potential criminal acts or terrorist threats and are conducted in strict conformance with federal law.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations calls the development disturbing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIHAD AWAD, COUNCIL ON AMERICAN-ISLAMIC RELATIONS: We would like to see evidence or even, you know, small pieces of evidence that causes the government to be concerned about the Muslim community. The Muslim community has no -- had no link with 9/11, had no link to terrorism. This is the most peaceful minority that you have and it's being targeted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MESERVE: Government officials say search warrants or court orders are not needed because the monitoring is done outside from areas authorities consider public property, like parking lots -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jeanne Meserve reporting, thank you very much, Jeanne.

And to our viewers, please stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.

In Italy, a judge has issued European arrest warrants for 22 purported CIA officers who allegedly kidnapped a Muslim cleric. That abduction is said to have taken place almost three years ago in Milan where authorities were investigating the cleric for possible terror links.

Prosecutors allege a CIA team seized the man, known as Abu Omar, and flew him to his native Egypt where he was supposedly tortured during interrogation. A former CIA analyst says the Italian military secret service approved the overall operation. The Italian government has denied any such authorization.

To domestic spying now and the uproar over wiretaps without court orders. President Bush insists his authority to order such surveillance comes from the U.S. Constitution and from Congress, which approved the use of force after 9/11.

But in an op-ad article in today's "Washington Post," the former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle takes strong issue with that. He states -- and let me quote this -- quote, "Categorically that the subject of warrantless wiretaps of American citizens never came up." Daschle says he did not and never would have supported giving authority to the president for sure wiretaps. And he says he's confident that the 98 senators who voted in favor of authorization of force against Al Qaeda did not believe they were also voting for warrantless domestic surveillance.

There are more pieces in the long paper trail created by the Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito. Among other things, in a 1985 memo released today, Judge Alito called for overturning Roe vs. Wade, not in the, quote, "frontal assault," but rather picking apart abortion rights piece by piece. Let's get some more specific details, our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux standing by -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, really at issue here a 1984 memo to the solicitor general, also creating quite a stir. The issue here is whether or not government officials should be granted blanket immunity from lawsuits if they, in fact, approve domestic wiretapping without seeking a warrant ahead of time.

Alito in that memo says that he believes they should be granted that immunity. And the big question here, Wolf, is whether or not this is even relevant. At least there are some members of Congress who believe it is. Democrats who, in January, will be holding congressional hearings to see whether or not the president himself overstepped his bounds when he also granted authority for domestic wire-taping program, rather wiretapping program, without a previous warrant.

One senator, Senator Patrick Leahy, releasing this statement saying these new documents fill in some more blanks and deepen the impression of activism that colors Judge Alito's career. Checks and balances are areas of deep concern.

Now, the White House strongly disagrees with this take on this, as well as some legal observers who have also taken a look at this memo. Steve Schmidt, a White House spokesman, simply saying, despite Democrats' attempts to link this memo to reports of NSA activities, National Security Agency activities, the two have nothing to do with each other. Judge Alito's memo, regarding a purely domestic threat, is completely different from NSA's efforts to thwart threats from foreign terrorist organizations.

All of this, Wolf, simply underscores just how hot civil liberties has become, a political topic here in Washington, and also foreshadows perhaps how this will play in the debate over Judge Alito.

BLITZER: And what about this 1995 memo on abortion rights, overturning Roe vs. Wade? What are officials at the White House saying about that?

MALVEAUX: Well, officials aren't really commenting on that. They're not really saying that that is necessarily relevant or new information, earlier that came out. And they say that this is something that was actually released three weeks ago, created quite a stir, but that they have already made it very clear that they believe Judge Alito's own personal opinions have not played in this particular debate. They believe that it should simply move forward.

BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux at the White House, thank you very much. Let's go right to CNN's Zain Verjee. She's got a developing story she's following from the CNN Center.

What's going on, Zain? ZAIN VERJEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Wolf, CNN can report that a plane with 18 passengers and five crew members aboard disappeared from radar early on Saturday morning after receiving -- after leaving Azerbaijan's capital of Baku, that according to airport officials who spoke to CNN.

Basically, the Antinov (ph) jet was headed to a place called Aktau. That's in western Kazakhstan. And both the city of Baku and Aktau are around the Caspian Sea. And they're very key to the region's thriving oil industry. There's a lot of foreign investment in this region.

Azerbaijan is a country in southwestern Asia that lies between Russia to the north and Iran to the south. We are getting more details, and we will report it to you when we do receive them.

Again though, Wolf, a plane with 18 passengers and five crew members has disappeared from radar early on Saturday from the Azerbaijan capital of Baku.

BLITZER: All right, Zain, thanks very much. We'll watch that story together with you.

Now that the Iraqi election has come and gone, President Bush has authorized a slight drawdown in U.S. troop strength in Iraq. There are some indications that it's just a first step, but let's get some specific details. For that, we'll turn to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr -- Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, indeed, the strategy for 2006 in Iraq: a slow drawdown of U.S. troops from that country. But for those who are left, they will be focusing on training the Iraqis.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD RUMSFELD, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: How many jumps do you have?

STARR (voice-over): Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made it official, the first real reduction in troop levels. It's fairly modest. Two Army brigades, 7,500 troops have had their orders for Iraq cancelled.

RUMSFELD: Because the conditions here in Iraq have evolved favorably, we've made a decision to reduce our brigades from 17 to 15 and to increase some of our assistance to the training and equipping and -- of the Iraqi security forces.

STARR: Even so, the current expectation is there will still be close to 100,000 U.S. troops in Iraq through most of the coming year. And even those units that shift from combat to training Iraqi forces will still find much of Iraq a war zone.

(END VIDEOTAPE) STARR: Wolf, U.S. commanders say that the plan now is to review U.S. troop levels in Iraq every three or four months, but they insist that this is not in response to domestic political pressure. Rather, it's an effort to put pressure on the Iraqis to get more of their security forces to take responsibility in their country -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So will there really be significantly fewer troops, U.S. troops, in Iraq in the coming year, 2006?

STARR: It's a mixed bag. It's going to be very careful to watch this. And what commanders say is: Don't focus on the numbers; focus on the capabilities and what these troops are doing.

But just consider this. One of those brigades that has had its deployment orders cancelled, already they are saying that some small numbers of those troops will indeed go and help train Iraqi forces. So the military combat units that are coming out may, in fact, be replaced slightly by more units focused on training.

A bit of a shift in what the forces are doing. They still believe they can bring down the overall numbers in the country, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much, Barbara Starr reporting for us.

Let's go up to New York. Jack Cafferty standing by with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: All right. As Barbara was just reporting, some of the soldiers are coming home from Iraq next year. That's good news.

And while the rest of us at Christmas time deal with the more mundane aspects of the holiday season, trying to get around in New York City for three days with that transit strike during Christmas shopping, putting up the tree, cooking big family dinners, maybe we should take just a minute here to thank the men and women who are stationed overseas all around the world for the work they do each and every day and for the sacrifices they make.

There are hundreds of thousands of them. They're in Iraq and in Afghanistan and in Germany and in Korea and in more than 100 countries worldwide. And we owe you, big time. So merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, happy and safe New Year.

Here's the question: What message would you send to U.S. troops overseas? You can e-mail us at CaffertyFile@CNN.com.

BLITZER: I think it's fair to say, Jack, that no matter what people think about the war in Iraq, they love the troops who are doing their job.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, thanks very much. Up ahead, with an innocent man executed in 1992, right up to his execution, Roger Coleman always maintained he was innocent of a rape murder. Could new tests now prove that was, in fact, the case?

And it's being called potentially one of the greatest frauds in modern science. The South Korean scientist who says he cloned the world's first human embryos and the world's first cloned dog resigns in disgrace, this after his employer says he faked results of stem- cell lines he claims to have created.

And searching for Christmas fun? Try controlling the Christmas lights at someone else's home. A new Web site lets you do exactly that. We 're going to show you what's going on. We'll even do it ourselves, because you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Ever since the death penalty was reinstated in the United States some three decades ago, there have been raging debates over state-sanctioned executions. Opponents of capital punishment say the government shouldn't be in the business of putting people to death. Supporters have said no inmate has been executed who wasn't actually guilty. That assertion could soon change with a case that's coming out of Virginia.

Let's get some specific details. Brian Todd's in the newsroom with that -- Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, an official in Virginia Governor Mark Warner's office confirms to CNN the governor is preparing to sign an order for new DNA tests that could exonerate a man executed in 1992. Officials in the governor's office say the evidence that would be tested is now in the hands of a California doctor who was hired by the defendant. And they are working out final details where a third more objective party, a forensics lab, would do the testing.

If this testing is done and it exonerates the man in question, death penalty opponents say it would be the first time an executed convict is scientifically proven innocent since the death penalty was reinstated in the United States in 1976.

But officials in the governor's office stress the evidence could also further implicate Roger Coleman in the crime. Coleman was convicted of the 1981 rape and murder of his sister-in-law, Wanda McCoy. He maintained his innocence until the very end, claiming he was elsewhere when the crime occurred.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT COLEMAN, CONVICTED KILLER PUT TO DEATH: I'm innocent. I did not kill Wanda McCoy, and I did not rape Wanda McCoy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who did?

COLEMAN: I will fight to prove I'm innocent until I'm either free or dead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Governor Warner's aides say he hopes to sign the order for this DNA testing before he leaves office on January 14th -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Governor Warner, as you remember, a lot of viewers will remember, Brian, did commute a death sentence a few weeks ago. Is he having second thoughts about the whole death sentence in the state of Virginia?

TODD: Well, right, Wolf, we covered that story when he commuted that sentence a few weeks ago. No, his aides insist he is not having an epiphany here. They say he is doing this now after getting several requests from major media organizations to look into the case. And it is worth noting that 11 death row inmates have been executed in Virginia since Warner took office nearly four years ago.

BLITZER: All right, Brian, thank you very much. Brian Todd reporting.

Coming up, they're determined art thieves with very fine taste, a Picasso and a Chagall. And it was all caught on tape. We're standing by for new details.

And it's a SITUATION ROOM exclusive. The columnist, Robert Novak, he'll talk about his role in the CIA leak probe, his thoughts on President Bush. It's his last day here at CNN after 25 years. You're going to see the interview I conducted with him, 7:00 p.m. Eastern tonight, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's go back to Zain Verjee at the CNN Center in Atlanta with a closer look at some other stories making news -- Zain?

VERJEE: Wolf, the Associated Press reports the Federal Aviation Administration says it may require mandatory inspections of all sea planes, like the one that crashed in Miami Beach, Florida, on Monday. That plane went down after its right wing separated from the fuselage. Twenty people were killed. There are about 25 other sea planes of the same model now in operation.

It can be hot and it can be bumpy, but for millions of New Yorkers it was a relief to experience rush hour on the city's buses and subways today. The system was back to normal after transit workers ended a three-day strike, but they still don't have a contract. And there could be another strike if talks break down.

More now on a story we first told you about in THE SITUATION ROOM yesterday. Wal-Mart says it'll appeal an $172 million judgment awarded to thousands of its employees in California. The employees say Wal-Mart violated a state law requiring the company to give them lunch breaks. A jury agreed. Wal-Mart says the company made mistakes, but is now 100 percent in compliance with the law. And police in Southern California say the thieves in this surveillance video knew exactly what they were looking for and they got it. It took them only seconds to steal two artworks valued at almost $90,000 from a gallery near Palm Springs. The stolen works are a Picasso linoleum cut of a woman looking out a window and Marc Chagall's lithograph, "The Tribe of Dan." The gallery owner says that the thieves broke in minutes after the last employee left -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Smart thieves, I guess. Thanks very much, Zain. Thieves with taste.

Let's go to CNN's Jacki Schechner. She's got more on these Picasso and Chagall windows. What are you getting?

JACKI SCHECHNER, INTERNET REPORTER: Well, Wolf, if you want to take a closer look at the artwork that went missing, you can do that at the Modern Masters Fine Art Web site, this being the Picasso and this being the Chagall.

Now, this is being handled locally by the police department in Palm Desert, California, that general vicinity. But art theft is in general being handled by the FBI. Now, they've launched this section of their Web site specifically geared toward their art theft program. And they have "Be on the Lookout for the Artworks Below." They've compiled a list of the top ten artworks that you should be looking for.

It's got everything from a Caravaggio that went missing in 1969 and is yet to be recovered, and it's also got this famous painting, "The Scream," which actually was lifted at gunpoint in August of 2004. Six people have been charged in that crime and yet the artwork, Wolf, still not found.

BLITZER: Jacki, thank you very much for that.

Coming up, he trained with Al Qaeda and served on the front lines with the Taliban. The American, John Walker Lindh, now serving a 20- year sentence. But should that sentence be reduced?

And coming up in on our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour, a SITUATION ROOM exclusive, my conversation with Bob Novak about his controversial role in the CIA leak story, about his 25 years at CNN, and lots more. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the hot shots coming in from our friends over at the Associated Press, pictures likely to be in your hometown newspapers tomorrow.

Baghdad, a gathering storm. Thousands rally after noon prayers, many denouncing last week's elections. Allegations of fraud are widespread with many Sunnis threatening to boycott the new parliament.

Havana. Cuban President Fidel Castro addresses the Cuban parliament a day after calling the new American diplomat in Havana a gangster.

Jakarta, Indonesia. Christmas terror warnings. Hotel security men dressed as Santas search a car. The country is on edge amid new threats of terror attacks during the holidays.

And New York City. It's not just the transit workers back on the job. Solo guitarist Don Witter (ph) jams in the subway this morning.

Those are some of the today's hot shots, pictures likely to be in your hometown newspapers tomorrow, pictures also likely to be worth a thousand words.

Lawyers for the so-called American Taliban, American John Walker Lindh, was captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan, have asked the Bush administration to reduce his 20-year sentence. They say it's much harsher than penalties handed out to some of the other enemy combatants.

The Justice Department says it welcomes any additional material from Lindh's lawyers, but the circumstances of his case, which shocked many Americans, are certainly well-known.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (voice-over): It was a path which took him from a wealthy California community to terrorist training camps and ultimately to the front lines as a soldier for the Taliban. John Walker Lindh told FBI interrogators he became interested in Islam when he saw the movie "Malcolm X" at age 12.

By 16, he had become a Muslim. And a year later, he went to Yemen to study. Still a teenager, he moved on to Pakistan.

JOHN WALKER LINDH, CONVICTED TALIBAN FIGHTER: I was a student in Pakistan studying Islam. And I came into contact with many people who were connected with Taliban.

BLITZER: This video was obtained by CNN immediately after Lindh was found by U.S. forces following a bloody revolt at a prison holding captured Taliban fighters where a CIA officer was killed.

In interviews with U.S. interrogators and with CNN, Lindh said he first joined a radical group training to fight Indian forces in Kashmir, then moved onto an Al Qaeda camp, where he even met Osama bin Laden.

Lindh was on the Taliban front lines when the U.S. bombing began after 9/11. He told CNN he fled and was taken prisoner. By his own account, Lindh seems to have shied away from combat.

In the end, the government dropped most charges, including one of conspiring with Al Qaeda to kill Americans. In a plea deal, Lindh confessed to illegally helping the Taliban in carrying explosives. In October of 2002, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison, with credit for time in custody reducing that to a possible 17 years.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: In appealing for an early release, Lindh's lawyer cites the cases of other captured combatants, including Louisiana-born Yaser Hamdi, who was caught soon after Lindh. Hamdi was freed after a legal battle without being charged and flown to Saudi Arabia. He had to give up his American citizenship.

Does John Walker Lindh deserve a break himself? Joining us now from San Francisco is Lindh's defense attorney, James Brosnahan.

Mr. Brosnahan, thanks very much for joining us. Why do you believe that 20-year sentence should be reduced?

JAMES BROSNAHAN, LINDH'S ATTORNEY: Well, Wolf, what you just showed were the facts as they were presented in 2001, the facts as we now know them, which are now established, are, one, John never fought any American troops at any time. Two, he had nothing to do with Al Qaeda. Three, he was a member of the 55,000 Taliban army fighting the Northern Alliance, which was allied with the Russians and was actually -- the Northern Alliance was an enemy of America, if you go back into the '80s.

And so, under those circumstances, I think it's fair to look at his sentence as a very harsh one. Then you look at tons of...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Let me interrupt, Mr. Brosnahan. Let me interrupt. Why did you agree? You voluntarily entered this plea agreement, in which he knew he was going to get 20 years.

BROSNAHAN: Well, I think there a couple of very good reasons for that. One, the government dropped all the terrorism charges. Number two, we were going to have to go to trial eight miles from the Pentagon and the jury panel at that time had a lot of attitudes that would have made it extremely difficult for us to try the case in a lot of ways we wanted to try the case.

But three, since that plea, hundreds of Taliban soldiers have been sent home to Afghanistan, as you just mentioned. Mr. Hamdi was sent back to Saudi Arabia after serving -- he was in jail for about two-and-a-half, three years.

So the question is one for the American people of basic fairness for a teenaged -- he was 19 when he went over there -- young man who had a genuine religious experience -- nobody doubts it -- never fought Americans. On that basis, we think this president or some president will see the fairness of it and we're hoping that that happens.

BLITZER: Did you make a mistake -- did you make a mistake because of the plea agreement? Should you have held out and gone to trial and pleaded not guilty?

BROSNAHAN: No, I don't think so. I think anybody that was close to that case and understood the venue that we were in, the government took him to Northern Virginia, where, of course, the Pentagon had been attacked, as you know. Many, many people in the Pentagon died. Many of them died. And under those circumstances, it was the thing that we should do.

BLITZER: Because potentially, he was facing life in prison, potentially maybe even the death sentence, is that right?

BROSNAHAN: Well, certainly people -- we took a survey, and 38 percent at that time wanted to give him the death penalty. But it wasn't on the table. He was never, by the way, an unlawful combatant. He never...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Well, yesterday, we asked our viewers -- Jack Cafferty asked our viewers to e-mail us what they think, should he get a reduced sentence. And I got to tell you, it's not a scientific survey of anything, but he was flooded with e-mails. And most of those e- mails, if not all of those e-mails, say 20 years was nothing. He should have gotten a lot more than that.

BROSNAHAN: Well, you see, that's the issue. Over time -- I believe that Americans are fair in their hearts when they understand the facts. We have to distinguish at this time in America between those who are trying to kill us -- and we need to deal with them -- and those who have no animosity or no intent to do us any harm.

We can't just throw those people in jail as though they're all the same people. And John has no intent, and never had any intent, to harm any Americans at any time. When people understand that, I think that some president is going to treat this fairly.

BLITZER: Did he meet Osama bin Laden when he was there, when he was a Taliban fighter? Did he actually -- because there are wide reports he did meet with Osama bin Laden, he was there literally on the front lines.

BROSNAHAN: Not the way you're saying it, no. He was training to be a soldier in the Taliban army. That's very different than training to be an Al Qaeda fighter. And Osama bin Laden came to the camp and was with hundreds of people.

So you have to make a fair distinction here. And I think Americans want to know the facts about it. This is a very -- this is a good young man. He's an interesting young man. He's a bright young man and a religious young man. And he deserves a fair day.

BLITZER: In his statement to the court on October 4, 2002, he said, "I went to Afghanistan because I believed there was no way to alleviate the suffering of the Afghan people aside from military action. I did not go to fight against America, and I never did."

But he does acknowledge he was a military -- he was a fighter for the Taliban, which, as you well know, was fiercely anti-American.

BROSNAHAN: Well, no, no, don't mix those two, if I may, Wolf. The Taliban was fighting the Northern Alliance and the United States spent $3.5 billion to fight the Northern Alliance in the '80s. So, when you sort out the history of Afghanistan, those people that know it understand what John did.

BLITZER: But that was in the '80s, when the CIA was aligned with the Mujahedeen because of the anti-Soviet elements.

BROSNAHAN: Right.

BLITZER: He didn't go in the '80s. He went after 2000, when the Taliban was aligned with Al Qaeda and when the Taliban was fiercely anti-American.

BROSNAHAN: I think the danger for John is that people will mix- up what has happened since 9/11. Remember, John arrived at the front to fight the Northern Alliance on the 6th of September, 2001. Now, having no connection with New York, the Pentagon, or any of that, but he's being blamed for it and, I think, unfairly.

BLITZER: But the Northern Alliance at that point was clearly aligned with the U.S. in the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan. They were trying to get rid of the Taliban regime, and there were links between the Northern Alliance, at that point, when he was there, and the United States.

BROSNAHAN: This is a great discussion, and it deserves probably an hour. But at that point, no, Wolf, the Northern Alliance was not aligned with the United States. As a matter of fact, even after 9/11, the United States was hesitant to unleash the Northern Alliance because they're a bunch of warlords.

BLITZER: They may be a bunch of warlords, but they're ruling Afghanistan right now, including the foreign minister, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, and others in Afghanistan are among very close U.S. allies right now.

BROSNAHAN: No, you are right. They are now our warlords, Wolf. They're our warlords. But on September 6th, when John got to the front, they had nothing to do with the United States.

BLITZER: Are you at all confident that you can do this, that you can get that 20-year sentence reduced?

BROSNAHAN: Yes, because, as people understand that this young man is being blamed for things he had nothing to do with -- I mean, like you, I know a lot of Americans. They don't want to hurt someone for no reason.

And I think, yes, there will come a time when some president will understand the fairness of this, and we're going to keep doing it. I understand people's positions and attitudes. I respect their right to feel that, but this young man should have his sentence reduced. We're not asking for a pardon; we're just asking for a reduction.

BLITZER: James Brosnahan represents John Walker Lindh. Mr. Brosnahan, thanks very much for joining us.

BROSNAHAN: Thank you, Wolf. Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: Thank you.

And still to come here in THE SITUATION ROOM, it's a season to give. Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider is handing some stocking stuffers out to politicians. You might be surprised who gets what.

And the story of "Munich." At the 1972 Olympic games, 11 Israeli athletes were gunned down, murdered, followed by Israeli hunting down and killing those thought responsible for the Munich massacre. Now a new movie by Steven Spielberg takes on a very difficult subject. We'll tell you what's going on.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Our Zain Verjee is standing by at the CNN Center in Atlanta with a closer look at some other stories making news around the world.

Hi, Zain.

VERJEE: Hi, Wolf. In South Korea, authorities are awaiting the results of DNA tests to determine the extent of the fraud committed by that nation's most famous scientist. Hwang Woo-suk resigned from his teaching post today after an expert panel found that he falsified DNA tests to support claims about his stem-cell research. Now, Hwang's other claims are in question, including his claim to have cloned a dog.

A court in the Hague has convicted a man of war crimes in connection with gas attacks on Kurdish villages in Iraq in the 1980s, but it was not Saddam Hussein or any other Iraqi. Rather, the court convicted a Dutchman who sold Iraq the chemicals used in the attacks. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

It's been almost a year since a tsunami killed more than 200,000 people. It wiped out communities from Indonesia to Somalia. A consortium of U.S. aid agencies has raised almost $2 billion for relief and funding. But according to a report from the group, less than half the money has actually been spent.

The report says that that's partly because of the aid projects are going to take years to complete, but there have also been disagreements over exactly where to rebuild and how to go about doing it. And in some cases, so many community leaders died that it's been so hard to convert that cash into action -- Wolf.

BLITZER: How are people in South Korea reacting, Zain, to that incredible story?

VERJEE: Wolf, they're shocked and they're angry. I mean, this was a man considered a national hero. They're utterly disappointed, and now they look at him only as a national disgrace.

You know, the government really wants to make South Korea, to make Seoul a capital of future technology in stem-cell research. So this really is a terrible piece of news for them.

Also, the scientists in South Korea are going, "Oh, you know, goodness." They're really worried because they're concerned that their work will be viewed by the rest of the world much more skeptically. And they're going to work a lot harder to gain that credibility back -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Zain. Thank you very much, Zain Verjee reporting.

Decades after the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic games and Israel's bloody and occasionally bungled campaign of retribution, the director, Steven Spielberg, has now come out with a controversial new film which seems to condemn the biblical concept of an eye for an eye. CNN's Brian Todd is back now. He's got a look at the new movie called "Munich" -- Brian?

TODD: Wolf, this is one of those extraordinary films about a period that, for many of us, was a lifetime ago, but a time in which we dealt with many of the same issues surrounding terrorism that we face today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Terror as we know it, live in color, in our living rooms, an age where the perpetrators of these acts draw capital from their televised images, an age that many believe began more than three decades ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Early this morning, armed Palestinian guerrillas raided the sleeping quarters of the Israeli team.

TODD: September 1972, the Summer Olympics in Munich. Terrorists from the Palestinian group Black September capture and kill 11 Israeli athletes, an event many of us watched and still seemingly can't comprehend, even as we hear its grisly outcome from ABC sports anchor Jim McKay (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're all gone.

TODD: It is at this point that Steven Spielberg picks up the story. In his newly released film, "Munich," Spielberg depicts the secret Israeli operation to track down the Palestinian masterminds of the Munich attack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to kill them, one by one.

TODD: But rather than present a straight historical drama, Spielberg seeks to capture the moral angst of the man in an Israeli hit squad, one of several that came to be known as "Wrath of God" teams.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Strange, isn't it, to think of oneself as an assassin?

TODD: As the agents take out their targets and mistakes are made, Spielberg seeks to humanize the terrorists and, through his characters, asks fundamental questions about terror and retribution. Does the counterstrike achieve its desired goal of deterrence and better security? And...

STEVEN SPIELBERG, DIRECTOR: When we face terror, we have to respond to it, but how do we ensure that we didn't become what we're going after. I mean, that's sort of the key in our story.

TODD: A story that has brought Spielberg his share of criticism from, among others, victims' relatives. But one terrorism expert believes the director's observations about retribution have merit.

BRUCE HOFFMAN, RAND CORPORATION: What can often happen is it locks a government and a terrorist group into an endless cycle and almost repeated litany of tit-for-tat violence that just continues to escalate, in some instances, almost out of control before it exhausts itself.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: A predicament for which Spielberg doesn't pretend to offer a solution, even as the fall-out from his film puts Israeli officials in a box. One top Israeli representative in the U.S. quoted as saying the movie is presumptuous. While the foreign ministry does not disavow that statement, a spokesman said the ministry does not act as a movie critic -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us. Thanks, Brian, very much.

Up next, they've given so much in service to this country. So what could you give back to the troops this holiday season?

And my interview with Bob Novak on the CIA leak investigation and much more. He's tough, he's blunt, and he's only in THE SITUATION ROOM on this, his last day here at CNN. That's coming up in our 7:00 p.m. hour. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to THE SITUATION ROOM. And welcome back to Jack Cafferty in New York in THE SITUATION ROOM via satellite.

CAFFERTY: Do I get as much time as Novak did?

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Yes, on your last day at CNN after 25 years, we'll give you 12 minutes.

CAFFERTY: I don't want 12 minutes.

The question is: What message would you send to U.S. troops overseas, this being Christmas season and all of that?

Before we get to that, I've got an interesting note from a guy named R.W. in Olathe, Kansas. He wrote: "Tell me how, only a few days after Democrats and Congressman Murtha were vilified for calling for troop withdrawals, Donald Rumsfeld does the same thing and is acclaimed for his vision by the conservatives? When Murtha suggested withdrawals, it was 'cowardly' and 'emboldened the insurgents.' When Rumsfeld does the same thing, he strikes fear in the hearts of the insurgents that we are winning."

Interesting take on that subject.

All right, on to greetings for the troops overseas. Cheryl in Fridley, Minnesota: "As the mother of an active-duty marine stationed in Pakistan and a retire marine, I would like to say the following to our servicemen and women. You are all our children, and we thank you for your service to our country. You'll be in my thoughts and prayers this holiday season. God keep you safe."

Carroll writes from Lufkin, Texas: "Having spent the Christmas of 1968 in Vietnam, I wish, for all our servicemen and women, some ease from the emptiness and loneliness of being away from home that I felt so deeply."

Bruce in Minneapolis, Minnesota: "You all have done a job well beyond what we sent you to do. You should be proud, because we are so very proud of you. Know that many are working to bring you all home safely. We are petitioning our representatives to get it right and get it done."

And Kelly in Ithaca, New York writes "that we care. The vehemence with which we, the American people, disagree about the war is an indication of just how much."

Some nice thoughts at this holiday time.

BLITZER: Very appropriate indeed, Jack. Thanks very much. Jack, we're going to get back to you at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, as well.

Up next, meet a man who will let you light up his life or at least his house via the Internet. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: On Fridays, our Bill Schneider usually presents the "Political Play of the Week." But with Christmas just a day or so away, he's giving his spirit a little bit more of a holiday theme on this day. Bill joining us now from a record store in L.A.

What's going on, Bill?

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, how about a little music for the holidays? Now, I could sing "Jingle Bells." But we thought we'd try another idea.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: 2005 is the year of the iPod. Why not give public figures the gift of music, MP3 downloads for the holidays?

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: We didn't win.

SCHNEIDER: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger seemed to lose his political clout this year. He might enjoy listening to "Better Days" by the Goo Goo Dolls.

Failed Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers could have used a little musical advice from Shakira.

(MUSIC)

SCHNEIDER: On the other hand, John Roberts sailed right through. He must be doing something right, says singer Billy Currington.

Congressman Duke Cunningham admitted accepting more than $2 million in illegal gifts, including Oriental rugs, a Rolls Royce, and a 19th century Louis-Philippe commode. Now he'll have lots of time to listen to "Luxurious" by Gwen Stefani.

Here's a sentimental favorite for retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Sarah Brightman's rendition of "Time to Say Goodbye."

SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR, SUPREME COURT ASSOCIATE JUSTICE: Thank you so much. Thank you.

SCHNEIDER: Condoleezza Rice certainly does get around. She may enjoy hearing Alabama sing, "I'm in a Hurry to Get Things Done." She's from Alabama, after all.

You know how Vice President Cheney went to Texas to raise money for Tom DeLay? The Pussycat Dolls are singing Cheney's song.

PUSSYCAT DOLLS, MUSICIANS (singing): I'm gonna stick wit you...

SCHNEIDER: Reporter Judith Miller refused to testify about her White House sources so she went to jail. Keyshia Cole has a musical idea for her, "I should have lied."

KEYSHIA COLE, MUSICIAN (singing): I might as well have lied to you...

SCHNEIDER: Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush seem to have found each other. For them, we'll download Tim McGraw singing "My Old Friend."

TIM MCGRAW, MUSICIAN (singing): My old friend...

SCHNEIDER: And finally, we'll download a song to recall the sense of loss all Americans feel this year. Let's listen to Louis Armstrong sing...

LOUIS ARMSTRONG, MUSICIAN (singing): Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans, when that's where you left your heart?

(END VIDEOTAPE) SCHNEIDER: And speaking of Louisiana, do you know a former Louisiana governor once wrote a hit song? That's right. Governor Jimmie Davis, who was a country music superstar, wrote and recorded "You are my Sunshine" back in 1940. And I just bought it across the street at Amoeba Music.

Wolf, who says music and politics don't mix?

BLITZER: They don't, but you got a good point there. Bill, while I have you out there, you've been away from Washington for a few days now. You're in L.A. What's the biggest difference politically, the attitude towards what's happening in the nation's capital, when viewed from Washington as opposed to when viewed from L.A.?

SCHNEIDER: Well, everyone I've spoken talks about Washington is amazed by the chaos that appears to be going on in Congress. What in the world is happening in Washington? The Patriot Act is dead, then it's alive, it's alive for a month, it's alive for six months. They don't know what's going on, but it looks like a lot of shenanigans to people here.

BLITZER: Probably is. Thanks very much, Bill Schneider, joining us from L.A.

Are your neighbor's Christmas lights driving you crazy? Interested in turning them off? Now you can, sort of. One man in North Carolina is letting anyone in the world flip the switch on the thousands of lights adorning his home, and it's all being done online. Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, has the story -- Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, we're currently looking at a fairly unimpressive picture of B.J. Sintay's North Carolina home. But it is covered in 30,000 Christmas lights and the controls of those lights are online.

And look at this. I am actually controlling these lights right now, even though B.J. isn't even at home. Thirty thousand lights here and 24 switches. Wolf, what do you want to see? What should we switch on right here?

BLITZER: I want to see the trees.

TATTON: I'll do the trees then. I'll give you the bushes, as well, as we're talking. Now B.J. -- you'll see this message, "We're sorry," coming up some of the time, that's because over a million hits a day he's recording at this site. It started as just an e-mail campaign. He was telling people about it. And now it's really, really spread. People as far away as Pakistan have been controlling. They queue up, and they get one minute at the controls here.

Now, B.J. is trying to raise money for charity. You can sponsor one of these 30,000 lights, and the money goes to the Ronald McDonald House.

One of the most popular things to do on this site is to switch all of the lights off at once. That's what he was telling us. We'll do that right now. The site is ControltheShow.com -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Amazing, indeed. If you don't have Christmas lights, you have them right now. Abbi, thanks very much.

We're here weekdays in THE SITUATION ROOM, 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern. We're back at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. That's just an hour from now.

Remember, a CNN original, Robert Novak, he'll be my guest in THE SITUATION ROOM. This is his very last appearance here on CNN.

Kitty Pilgrim, filling for Lou Dobbs, picking up our coverage -- Kitty.

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Wolf.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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