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THE SITUATION ROOM

Message From Bin Laden; American Hostage In Iraq; Wilson Pickett Dead At 64; Haleigh Poutre May Not Be In Persistent Vegetative State

Aired January 19, 2006 - 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. in Washington, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where we're now learning at least one major United States city is beefing up security following Osama bin Laden's latest audiotape. They are direct terrorist threats at America and on Americans.
Osama bin Laden in that new tape. He says plans for attacks against the United States are already under way.

Here in Washington, officials are studying the tape and how best to respond. Will heightened concerns lead to a heightened awareness and a rise in the terror threat level?

And a mother's appeal for her daughter's life. It's 1:00 a.m. in Iraq, where the first female American journalist to be kidnapped in Iraq faces a looming deadline. In a CNN exclusive, her mother sends this message to her daughter's captors: "Set Jill Carroll free."

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

It came suddenly after more than a year of silence. Now there's a new message from Osama bin Laden, an audiotape first aired on the Arabic network Al-Jazeera warning the United States that new attacks are being planned.

As authorities assess the new threat from al Qaeda, our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, is standing by. But let's begin our coverage this hour with our national security correspondent, David Ensor -- David.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the voice on the tape makes a chilling threat, and we now know the voice is indeed the leader of al Qaeda.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ENSOR (voice over): After a technical analysis at the Central Intelligence Agency, an official there says the voice is indeed that of Osama bin Laden. On it, the al Qaeda chief threatens bombings like the ones in London last year and Madrid will take place inside the United States soon.

OSAMA BIN LADEN, AL QAEDA (through translator): As for similar operations taking place in America, it's only a matter of time. They're in the planning stages, and you will see them in the heart of your land as soon as the planning is complete.

ENSOR: Counterterrorism officials say they believe the audiotape was recorded last month. They say the tape appears to be an attempt to reassert himself after over a year of public silence.

Bin Laden's vague offer on the tape of a truce for the United States if it pulls out of Iraq and Afghanistan is, intelligence analysts say, aimed at bolstering his image in the Muslim world and not, in their view, a serious offer.

The tape grabbed the attention of U.S. intelligence from the top down and very likely came up at a White House meeting attended by the nation's top two intelligence officers, though aides say the meeting was already scheduled.

A key question now: Is bin Laden still in a position to order up attacks, or is he just a figure head who can only hope to inspire them?

JOHN PARACHINI, RAND ANALYST: He is sort of like a snake that's gone quiet but you never know when he might strike. But if we look at the attacks that have occurred in recent years, it's not been from the core people associated with bin Laden and al Qaeda, but rather with people in the broader global jihadist movement who are inspired by the call to jihad by bin Laden.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ENSOR: Most importantly, the new audiotape showed for the first time in over a year that Osama bin Laden is still alive, still issuing threats. Al Qaeda may want that crystal clear, following attempts last week by CIA airstrikes in Pakistan to eliminate his top deputy and others -- Wolf.

BLITZER: David Ensor. Thanks very much.

The CIA says the voice is real, but how real is the threat from Osama bin Laden? The national threat level now is at yellow, meaning elevated. Should the country, though, be going on a higher alert?

For that, let's turn to our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve -- Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Department of Homeland Security officials say there are no plans to raise the nation's terror threat level or increase protective measures. Although a spokesman for the U.S. Park Police says there is heightened awareness as a result of the tape's release, neither the Park Police, the New York City Police Department nor Washington, D.C., officials had any plans to change their security posture because they are not aware of any specific threat information.

Indeed, counterterrorism and intelligence officials say there has been no increase in so-called chatter and no intelligence to suggest that any terrorist plan is operational or ready to be put into place. Al Qaeda's desire to strike the U.S. again has been a given. The tape does not change that. In the words of one Homeland official, "We continue to maintain a very high level of vigilance, recognizing that the threat is real and terrorists continue to look at ways to exploit vulnerabilities" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Jeanne Meserve reporting.

While federal officials say there's no specific new threat from al Qaeda, local authorities, at least in one major city -- that would be Los Angeles -- are already stepping up their precautions.

Let's bring in our Brian Todd. He's in the newsroom. He's got more -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we contacted the L.A. Police Department earlier today and the L.A. mayor's office. We recently got this statement from the office of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, prefacing it with the statement that he believes there is no known direct threat to Los Angeles.

The statement reads in part, "As a precautionary measure, the Los Angeles Police Department has deployed additional resources at LAX and posted signage indicating that bomb-sniffing dogs and searches will occur frequently. A more visible police presence is also posted at LAX." That, of course, the major international airport in Los Angeles.

The statement goes on to read, "The Port of Los Angeles and the Department of Water and Power have also been notified and will take additional precautionary measures as well."

We have to note that of all the cities we called -- we called the police departments in eight major American cities -- Los Angeles is the only one so far to announce any kind of a significant change in their posturing at this point. The mayor's office says that they are going to be working with the joint terrorism task force, and they hope that coordination and communication with all the agencies will be on point as they deal with this latest threat from Osama bin Laden -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting.

Thank you, Brian.

This note: coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM this hour, I'll get White House reaction to the bin Laden threats and the so-called truce offer that he makes. I'll speak live with the president's deputy national security adviser, J.D. Crouch. He'll join us live from the White House. That's coming up shortly.

Few people have studied Osama bin Laden as closely as CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen. Nearly a decade ago, he produced bin Laden's first television interview. He's written two books on the al Qaeda chief. The latest is entitled "The Osama bin Laden I Know."

Peter Bergen is joining us in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Peter, what do you make, bottom line, of this new audiotape that was just released today?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, I think the medium is the message in the sense the real message is, I'm alive. And they wanted to get a tape out saying that the leadership is still viable after this attack last Friday in Pakistan which appears to have killed a number of senior al Qaeda leaders.

BLITZER: The suggestion, though, from Al-Jazeera, as well as from U.S. counterterrorism analysts -- we just heard from David Ensor -- is that this tape was made in December, which would be before this most recent attack against that building along the Pakistani-Afghan border, which was a week ago tomorrow.

BERGEN: Indeed. Well, they may have had it on the shelf, sort of rushed it to get it out there as a result of Friday's events. But it seems that the tape was made some time in the last several weeks.

BLITZER: The tape was made -- and so they just pick a good time to release it? Is that what you're thinking?

BERGEN: Well, this was -- this was a good time. They had taken a big hit on Friday. Whoever was killed in that attack, it appears -- you know, the head of the weapons of mass destruction program for al Qaeda may have been killed, and others.

This was certainly a blow to them. And they wanted to get the message out that we're still in business.

BLITZER: Well, he says he's still in business, but what about the actual threat that he makes that there are preparations under way in this country for another major attack? How seriously should U.S. law enforcement, U.S. national security, homeland security officials take this threat?

BERGEN: Well, it's interesting that Brian Todd's piece talks about Los Angeles International Airport, where they're taking more measures.

BLITZER: The mayor is taking some steps to beef up security there.

BERGEN: That's a place that al Qaeda tried to attack in December of 1999, and it's had a pattern of going back to places that it didn't get the first time. So I think that's a sensible precaution.

But as a general proposition, you know, to say you're planning something is just -- you know, it's very easy to say. Of course they're planning something. They haven't changed their minds about the United States. They want to attack us. But their capabilities, I think, have been quite damaged. And I think their capabilities we've seen in Spain and London remain pretty strong in Europe. But, you know, other than the case in Modesto, California, where a group of men are alleged to have planned attacks on U.S. military bases in California and a group of synagogues, that's the only case I can think of right now where we really have evidence of active terrorist plots.

That's a quite different picture than we're getting in Europe.

BLITZER: One final question. The fact this was an audiotape, only his voice, not a videotape, we don't see him, we only hear him, what, if anything, should we make of that?

BERGEN: I just think there are clues on a videotape, even one that's carefully shot, to just not reveal the background. On a videotape, you can tell, for instances, are somebody's clothes well pressed, you know, this might be an indicator of a more urbanized environment.

The last videotape we saw from bin Laden, his clothes were well pressed. It was a well-lit production. Intelligence analysts might have gleaned something from it.

An audiotape has less of those problems as far as al Qaeda is concerned.

BLITZER: Peter Bergen, thanks very much.

Peter Bergen is the author of the new book "The Osama bin Laden I Know."

Appreciate it, Peter.

BERGEN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is standing by in New York for "The Cafferty File."

Hi, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf.

The United States is now demanding that the United Nations do something about the growing nuclear threat from Iran. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wants the matter referred to the Security Council for the possible imposition of sanctions. Russia and China, because of their financial dealings with Iran, are opposed to sanctions.

The European Union says it's mulling a Russian proposal that Iran simply be reported to the council for discussion. That's a step that would lack any legal weight and would have no potential for any consequences, as in sanctions.

So the time has come once again for the U.N. to prove to the world that its initials stand for something besides "Usually Nothing." Here's the question: What should the United Nations be doing about the Iranian nuclear threat?

You can e-mail us at CaffertyFile@CNN.com -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good question. Thanks very much, Jack, for that.

Up ahead, if Osama bin Laden's threat is real, that plans for attacks against America are already in motion, how should the United States respond, especially if officials don't know when or where the threats are focused? Coming up, I'll speak live with President Bush's deputy national security adviser. He'll join us from the White House.

And she appeared on CNN in hopes of saving her daughter's life. Mary Beth Carroll's daughter, Jill Carroll, is being held hostage in Iraq. The mother spoke exclusively to our Soledad O'Brien. We're going to have that interview for you.

And the New York subway system may be noisy, but New Yorkers say it's one of the last places they can find some peace and quiet from people talking on cell phones. But guess what? That soon could change.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Jill Carroll is the first female American journalist to be kidnapped in Iraq. If all female Iraqi prisoners are not released, the terrorists are warning, she will be killed.

Today, Carroll's mother sat down for an exclusive with CNN's Soledad O'Brien. The mother says she talked with CNN because she wanted her message to be heard around the world. Mary Beth Carroll had a statement for her daughter's captors.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARY BETH CARROLL, JILL CARROLL'S MOTHER: My daughter, Jill Carroll, was taken hostage on Saturday, January 7, in Baghdad, where she works as a reporter. Jill's fairness in reporting and her genuine concern for the Iraqi people made her the invited and welcomed guest of many Iraqi friends.

A video just released gives us hope that Jill is alive, but has also shaken us about her fate. So, I, her father and her sister are appealing directly to her captors to release this young woman who has worked so hard to show the suffering of Iraqis to the world. Jill has always shown the highest respect for the Iraqi people and their customs.

We hope that her captors will show Jill the same respect in return. Taking vengeance on my innocent daughter who loves Iraq and its people will not create justice.

To her captors, I say that Jill's welfare depends upon you. And so we call upon you to ensure that Jill is returned safely home to her family who needs her and loves her. Jill's father, sister and I ask and encourage the persons holding our daughter to work with Jill to find a way to contact us with the honorable intent of discussing her release.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: That's the statement.

CARROLL: That's the statement.

O'BRIEN: The friends that we talked to have said passion over and over again, passion. She's so passionate about her work, and that's reflected in your statement. Tell me what brought Jill into Baghdad.

CARROLL: Well, Jill has always been interested in people of other countries, and she's very interested in the Middle East and the politics of the Middle East. We could see the war was coming in Iraq, and she didn't want to be a parachute journalist, someone who just comes in opportunistically; she wanted to get to the Middle East early, learn about the people of Iraq, learn about the culture, and the customs and the politics so she could report well and accurately with deep background information.

O'BRIEN: And she spoke Arabic fluently.

CARROLL: Well, she didn't when she went there. For years she studied very hard and went to school. When she didn't have enough money, she engaged a tutor, an Arab tutor, who wanted to learn English, and she also spent a lot of time in Iraq at friends -- Iraqi friend's homes, where I think she really sharpened her skills speaking Arabic.

O'BRIEN: As a parent, on one hand, you want your child to find a passion, which she clearly had as a journalist, and obviously in the Middle East. On the other hand, you must have been absolutely worried all the time about her safety. CARROLL: Of course. But her passion was so important. She is a young woman of convictions, and a very strong young woman. And if that's where her passion brings her, I can only be supportive of her and be proud of her for what she's doing.

O'BRIEN: But when she called you up and said, hey, mom, I'm going to Baghdad, and I'm going to report on the war that's coming. What did you say?

CARROLL: I said, Jill, don't be complacent. You've been there a long time. Don't be complacent, remember how to keep yourself safe. She's the expert. She's been in Baghdad for two years. She knows better than I or anybody else I think in that case what she needs to do to keep herself safe.

O'BRIEN: All her friend that we talked to said she was very careful, that she was passionate, but also very, very careful. Did you ever talk about security with her, or do you sort of leave it at, you know, mom says be safe.

CARROLL: Yes, we did, for sure. And we talked about even the eventuality of her being kidnapped, and that gives me some comfort now to know some of the things that she had knew and had talked with other about people vis-a-vis kidnapping, and also I told her frankly how I felt if she was kidnapped, what I would be thinking, and supporting her and knowing that she was doing what she loved and what she thought was very important to do, and that that would give me and her family comfort at this time, and it does.

O'BRIEN: So she knows what you're thinking, and you know what she's thinking.

CARROLL: I think. I think. And I feel also after being in Baghdad for two years, that she knew what she was doing, she knew what the dangers were, she knew what the risks were, and she chose to accept those, because what she was doing to communicate to the world the sufferings of the Iraqi people was important.

O'BRIEN: What kind of stories were her passion, were her focus?

CARROLL: Well, you know, she did everything from interviewing the Sunnis to Shias. She traveled all over Iraq, doing the political scene, but also some of the stories, I remember, are about the schools that were being rebuilt and how some of them were falling apart and how that affected the education of children; and also was very moved by a family that she kept subsequently in contact with after doing the story who had a child who was injured. So she had a very deep compassion, I think, for Iraqis, definitely for all human beings, but Iraqis in particular, because of course that's where she was.

O'BRIEN: Our interview is being simulcast on CNN International, which airs in every single Middle Eastern country.

So, if her captors are listening, what do you want them to know? What do you want to say to them?

CARROLL: Well, that they've picked the wrong person. If they're looking for somebody who is an enemy of Iraq, Jill is just the opposite, and her Iraqi friend can attest to that.

And I think she was a wonderful ambassador, is a wonderful ambassador, to the United States for the Iraqis and Iraqi people.

O'BRIEN: And if she can hear you or see you, what do you want her to know?

CARROLL: Well, what she already knows. Those things have been said, and she knows that we love her and we support her. She knows that we can be strong for her, and we know that she's a strong woman, and that her strength of character and her mind will get her through this.

O'BRIEN: A number of prominent people have come forward, also joining in the cause for her release, and a number of Iraqis as well. More today actually we've heard about. That must hearten you.

CARROLL: Tremendously. There are so many people on the ground in Iraq, her Iraqi friend, friends in the press corps, Iraqi officials, who have seen the injustice and the horror of this brutal act and have stepped up, at some risk to themselves, to speak out for Jill, and I think to speak out for the Iraqi people, who don't want to be represented to the world as people who are supportive of this kind of horrible brutality.

O'BRIEN: How do you as a mother hold up?

CARROLL: Well, shock. I think that I'm in shock right now, and I know that falling apart is not going to help my daughter, and I could say her father and her sister are the same way. And I think when this is resolved, we'll all fall apart. But for now, I think it gives me a lot of comfort to know that if I can stay strong, her father can stay strong, her sister and all her relatives can stay strong, this is good genetic stock, and Jill is strong, too, in captivity.

O'BRIEN: We hear that about her. Good luck to you. We're hoping for the very best, along with you and everybody else as well.

CARROLL: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Mary Beth Carroll, thank you for talking with us this morning. Truly appreciate it.

CARROLL: You're welcome.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And we're hoping for the very best as well. Good luck to Jill Carroll.

Coming up, more on the new threat from Osama bin Laden. How real is this threat? What should be done? We'll ask the president's deputy national security adviser, J.D. Crouch. He's standing by live at the White House.

Plus, cell phones poised to become more mobile than ever. We'll show you where subway passengers may soon have service.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's go right to CNN's Zain Verjee. She's standing by at the CNN Center in Atlanta with word of a death -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, The Associated Press is reporting that one of the most popular soul singers of the 1960s is dead. He was a real soul pioneer. Wilson Pickett has died of a heart attack at age 64.

The Associated Press there quoting his management company, giving us that information. They go on to say that he had been suffering from health problems for the past year. He was a member of the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and actually known more popularly as the "Wicket Pickett." As I said, he really became a star in the 1960s and really helped develop what many say was a much more aggressive, a raw style of soul music.

CNN, Wolf, has confirmed that independently, that the soul pioneer and singer Wilson Pickett is dead -- Wolf.

BLITZER: "Mustang Sally," "Midnight Hour," great, great music. Wilson Pickett a great singer.

Thanks for that word, though. Our deepest condolences to his family.

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft lifted off from Cape Canaveral today, beginning a 10-year, three-billion-mile mission to Pluto. What exactly will it do when it gets there?

Let's bring in our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner. She has the answer -- Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, wanted to show you some really cool stuff online on some of these Web sites.

First, from the Applied Physics Lab from Johns Hopkins University, there's some really neat animations that we wanted to show you. This is what happened after it takes off. See if you can take a look at that.

How cool is that? Some really neat stuff. And you can follow along, because there's not going to be any video coming back from this New Horizons.

The other thing you can do is take a look from NASA at the video of it taking off today if you missed the launch. Obviously, we've been waiting a few days for the weather to be absolutely right for this. You can see how cool that is incase you missed any of it.

Again, there's a couple of Web sites that you want to see for this. Those: Animations from Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Labs online, and then from NASA itself you can catch that video. You can see where this is right here on the Web site -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jacki, for that.

Coming up, how should the country respond to Osama bin Laden's violent terror threats when there are no specifics on when or where those threats might emerge? My interview with President Bush's deputy national security adviser, J.D. Crouch, that's coming up next.

An 11-year-old allegedly beat into a coma by her parents now on life support. Her guardians want to remove her from that support, saying she's long been in a permanent vegetative stage. But that may no longer be the case. We're going to tell you what's going on.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Back now to our top story, that chilling new message from Osama bin Laden. The audiotape first aired on the Arabic network Al-Jazeera. It says it's planning -- he says he's planning already for another attack on the United States.

The CIA says the voice is indeed that of the al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden.

Let's get the White House reaction now from the president's deputy national security adviser, J.D. Crouch.

Dr. Crouch, thanks very much for joining us.

J.D. CROUCH, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Great to be here, Wolf.

BLITZER: Did you see this latest audiotape from Osama bin Laden coming?

CROUCH: I have had a chance to review the transcript of it.

And I think it -- you know, I think it's a very strong reminder of what the president has been saying, that al Qaeda is going to continue to plot against the homeland of the United States, and is -- is trying to go after it.

That's why we have been very aggressive in going after the al Qaeda senior leadership.

BLITZER: So, have you -- officially, you have confirmed that it is authentic?

CROUCH: I think the CIA, based on their initial analysis -- and I think they're still looking at it, Wolf, but I think their analysis is that they think it is authentic.

BLITZER: Do you know, do they have a good sense when this tape was made, this tape?

CROUCH: I think they're still analysis on that.

Obviously, there are some references in the tape that give some indications of time. But it's hard to know. And, so, it's going to take a while before we have a more detailed understanding of what -- both what the tape means and when it might have been produced.

BLITZER: So, I guess, definitively, this audiotape puts to rest a lot of the speculation, since we hadn't heard from him in more than a year, that he might have been killed or died?

CROUCH: Yes. I mean, obviously, if -- if it, in fact, authentic -- and, as I said, I think the CIA's initial analysis, it is -- it would obviously do that.

BLITZER: How seriously are you taking this threat from the al Qaeda leader that there are plans afoot in the United States right now for another strike?

CROUCH: Well, you know, we -- have we been saying all along that we think al Qaeda is -- is serious about trying to attack the homeland.

And, obviously, we -- we run down every potential lead and plot. And, also, it's why we're very much on the hunt against the al Qaeda senior leadership to keep them off balance.

BLITZER: It is prudent for communities -- we already see the major of Los Angeles beef up security at LAX, at the port in Los Angeles, as a matter of precaution.

Would it prudent for communities around the United States, major cities, whether Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Las Vegas, potential targets, shall we say, to beef up security right now?

CROUCH: You know, I think that Secretary Chertoff hasn't made a recommendation at this point. I think we're working on that.

But I think it's looking like we are probably not going to be changing the security level, simply because we don't see in this particular document a particular threat. It's a general threat.

We have seen these threats come before from his second in command, from others. But, obviously, it's important that local, state and local officials stay coordinated on this and with the federal government, and that we stay vigilant.

BLITZER: What about, Dr. Crouch, this truce that he proposes in there, saying that he's a man of his word, he can be trusted, and it's an opportunity to end it all by engaging in this truce? What do you make of that?

CROUCH: Well, you know, he has uttered things like -- similar things like this before.

I mean, I think, you know, our basic position is that, you know, we're not going to negotiate with terrorists. Our job is to try to put terrorists out of business and try to keep them from hurting Americans and hurting our friends and allies around the world.

BLITZER: What about last Friday's attack on that building along the Pakistan-Afghan border? Have you confirmed definitively who died, who was killed in that attack?

CROUCH: I don't think there's any confirmation on that. Obviously, I know there have been things that have come out of Pakistan. But all I know at this point is what you have seen, you know, in the press.

BLITZER: But do we know one way or another whether Ayman al- Zawahiri, the number two to Osama bin Laden, whether or not he was killed?

CROUCH: Like I said, I don't think there's any -- there's a full understanding of that at this point.

BLITZER: But there -- but you do -- can you confirm that other senior al Qaeda operatives were killed?

CROUCH: Not at this point, no.

BLITZER: So, you have no way one way or another?

CROUCH: No. I think -- you know, I think there's still -- it's still ongoing. And we will have to, you know, determine in the future. Sometimes, these things take time to determine.

BLITZER: But can you tell us if you had good intelligence going into that attack that these senior al Qaeda operatives were there?

CROUCH: Well, obviously we are not going to -- I'm not going to talk about our intelligence sources and methods, Wolf.

But I think it's important that reassure the American people that we're very much on the hunt against senior al Qaeda leadership. We think it's, obviously, not only from the standpoint of bringing them to justice, but also to make sure that, if they, in fact, are planning any attacks on the United States or our allies, that we try to interrupt those attacks.

BLITZER: What, if anything, can you tell us about the efforts to try to secure the freedom of Jill Carroll, that 28-year-old journalist who has been abducted in Iraq?

CROUCH: Well, first of all, all our of hearts, as with all hostages, go out to her, to the families of the people that are affected by this horrific hostage-taking.

Secondly, I can assure people that, as with all hostages, we have a very focused and determined effort and do everything we possibly can to get their safe return.

BLITZER: I know the United States doesn't negotiate with terrorists, doesn't make concessions to terrorists. But what about engaging in a dialogue, perhaps with third-party intermediaries, to try to secure her freedom? Where do you stand on that?

CROUCH: I think it's very clear. We don't -- we don't negotiate with terrorists. We're doing everything we can. We are using all of our intelligence resources, all of our contacts on the ground, to try to figure out, you know, where they are and to secure their release.

BLITZER: Let me move on to a couple other issues before I let you go. I know your time -- your time is brief.

The former U.S. military commander in Iraq, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, was quoted in the "Stars and Stripes" newspaper on January 4, the military newspaper, as saying the country, Iraq, is on the verge of a civil war.

That was pretty surprising to me, knowing his background. Do you disagree or agree with him?

CROUCH: Yes.

We don't see that, Wolf. I mean, I think you have seen an amazing progress over the last three years, with three elections in Iraq, each one garnering more support, broader, more voters, a broader cross-section, each one with a lower level of violence.

We see a lot of progress there. Obviously, there's a lot to do, as the president has said. And we're going to have to adjust our strategy as we go forward. But the key is a political solution that brings the Sunni community, the Shia community and the Kurdish together in a strong government. And that government is being formed right now.

BLITZER: Last night, Senator Hillary Clinton delivered a national security speech in Princeton, New Jersey.

I want you to listen to this excerpt of this charge she levels against the Bush White House. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I believe that we lost critical time in dealing with Iran because the White House chose to downplay the threats and to outsource the negotiations. I don't believe you face threats like Iran or North Korea by outsourcing it to others and standing on the sidelines.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You want to respond to Senator Clinton?

CROUCH: Well, look, I think, you know, President Bush's view of the threat of a Iranian nuclear weapons program has been pretty clear.

The president has been talking about this since literally the beginning of the administration. And I think it's -- I think it's also important that we bring to bear all of the international community's potential power and resources and influence on this problem.

It's one of the reasons why we have been supportive of the European Union and the E.U.-3's efforts to find a negotiated solution to this.

But, as Secretary of State Rice said today, there have been ample opportunities given to the Iranian regime to negotiate a solution for this. And now we this has to go to the U.N. Security Council.

I also want to be very clear that, you know, we have a lot of faith in the Iranian people. Our concern is with the Iranian regime and their attempts to acquire nuclear weapons.

BLITZER: J.D. Crouch, he's the president's national adviser joining us live from the White House. Dr. Crouch, thanks very much.

CROUCH: Thank you.

BLITZER: And still to come here in THE SITUATION ROOM, an 11- year-old in a vegetative state -- now some startling new developments are changing the thinking on her controversial case. We will tell you what's going on.

And this note: Coming up in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour, we will show you what's being down across the United States to protect Americans in the wake of Osama bin Laden's new threats.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We want to update on that shocking story we have been following, the young girl in Massachusetts allegedly beaten into a coma by her parents. The girl is life support. But that could soon change.

Our Dan Lothian joining us now live from Boston with the latest details -- Dan.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN BOSTON BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Wolf, this really has been a tragic roller-coaster case, in and out of courts, a splintered family, a young girl near death, and a possible murder charge. Now another significant turn.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN (voice-over): Doctors had concluded 11-year-old Haleigh Poutre was in a permanent vegetative state. But now it appears that may not be the case.

ALLISON SUDYKA AVRETT, BIOLOGICAL MOTHER OF HALEIGH POUTRE: Some changes -- she's responding to some things.

LOTHIAN: The Department of Social Services, which has custody of the child, confirms there has been significant change in her condition, and that she's breathing on her own. Haleigh was hospitalized last September, after authorities said her adoptive mother and stepfather abused her, allegedly kicking and beating her with a baseball bat and causing a clot in the brain.

This case ended up in the state Supreme Court last year -- her stepfather, Jason Strickland, who is charged with assault, trying to block attempts by DSS to have Haleigh removed from life support. If she dies, he could be charged with murder.

His lawyers argued for parental rights. But, this week, the high court rejected that, paving the way for life support to be removed. Now new developments have put plans for that on hold. The girl's birth mother, who gave her up seven years ago, after allegations of neglect and during a difficult time in her own life, is cautiously optimistic.

SUDYKA AVRETT: There's hope now. She's fighting.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN: What makes this case even more complicated is the fact that the birth mother and adoptive mother, Holli Strickland, are sisters. Strickland, by the way, was also charged in the beating.

But she was found dead, along with another relative, not long after Haleigh was hospitalized. It's being investigated as a murder/suicide.

By the way, the DSS plans to hold a press conference tomorrow afternoon to update us on the girl's condition -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Oh, what a sad story. Thanks very much, Dan Lothian, for that.

Let's go to New York now -- Lou Dobbs getting ready for his program that begins right at the top of the hour.

Lou, what are you working on?

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you.

Coming up right up, we will be, of course, bringing all the day's news to you. And we will be taking a look at why the White House has effectively told Osama bin Laden to go to hell with his offer a truce. And I will be talking with two of the world's leading experts on U.S. intelligence and the war on terror. We will be discussing the significance of the bin Laden tape and the hunt for the world's most wanted man.

Then, two powerful labor unions have joined up with the biggest business lobby in the country to roll back border security legislation and promote the Bush guest worker program. Some say that program is nothing more than amnesty.

And we have been reporting all week on the Catholic Church and its support of illegal aliens and their fight against border security legislation. Tonight, we will examine why the Catholic Church is involved in this political issue and what should happen to any and all churches in this country and religious institutions that get involved in politics. Is it time they lose their tax-exempt status? We will have the special report -- all of those stories, a great deal more, coming up here on CNN at 6:00 Eastern.

We hope you will be with us -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Lou. We will be joining you.

Up next here in THE SITUATION ROOM, a dangerous protest with an unusual demand. We will show you what it's all about.

Plus, millions of people may soon have cell phone service where they never did before, but is it necessarily a good idea? Ali Velshi is standing by with the "Bottom Line."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back.

At least 10 people are wounded in Tel Aviv, victims of a suicide bombing.

CNN's Guy Raz has the latest for us -- Guy.

GUY RAZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the work of Islamic jihad, the sixth time the militant Palestinian group has carried out a suicide bombing inside Israel in the past year., this time, a crowded pedestrian mall in south Tel Aviv, a working-class neighborhood near the city's old bus station.

The bomber was wearing a backpack. He was spotted by a passing police officer. At that moment, the bomber detonated his bomb vest inside a crowded cafe, shattering right through that snack bar, leaving dozens of people wounded.

Now, it's the first time suicide bombers have struck inside Israel since the incapacitation of the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon. Now, the Palestinian Authority has condemned the attack, calling it -- quote -- "an attempt to sabotage the upcoming Palestinian parliamentary elections."

But the interim and untested Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, now faces his first major test -- Mr. Olmert demanding that his counterparts in the Palestinian Authority immediately disarm radical militias, like Islamic jihad and Hamas -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Guy Raz reporting from Tel Aviv for us -- Guy, thank you very much.

Let's check back with Zain now for a closer at some other stories making news -- Zain.

VERJEE: Wolf, at least 15 people are dead and dozen more are wounded in a two-pronged attack on a busy Baghdad commercial district today.

An official with Baghdad emergency police says that a car bomb and a suicide bomb detonated almost simultaneously. The car bomb targeted an Iraqi police patrol. The suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowded coffee shop. It's still unclear, though, who carried out the attacks.

Reuters is reporting that the Nigerian kidnappers of a U.S. oil worker say that their captive is seriously ill. The American is one of four foreign workers abducted by a Nigerian militant group about eight days ago. They were taken from an off-shore oil field that is run by Royal Dutch/Shell.

A fire official says an R.V. park has been evacuated in southwest Oklahoma City, where a fire burned through an area of grass and trees. The R.V. park is across the Oklahoma River from -- from where the fire is actually burning. The flames also touched off piles of old tires and abandoned cars, sending up a column of black smoke, smoke that you -- you can see literally for miles. Firefighters hope to stop the fire at the river.

A Florida man is facing a misdemeanor trespassing charge after climbing a radio tower behind the "Miami Herald" building this morning. He spent four hours at his perch 60 feet above the tower to protest the disappearance of his brother back in 1962. The brother and two others vanished during a fishing trip in the Bahamas. Their boat was recovered, but their bodies were never found -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain, thank you very much -- Zain Verjee reporting from the CNN Center.

Cell phone service may soon be coming to New York City's subway system.

Ali Velshi is joining with us the "Bottom Line" -- Ali.

ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Wolf.

You wouldn't know it from knowing me, but New Yorkers are known for being loud and for speaking their mind. And, soon, you're not going to be able to escape that, even underground. New York's Transit Authority is considering four bids involving -- one of them involving CNN's parent company, Time Warner, to make platforms at 277 of New York's 468 subway platforms capable of cell phone use.

The reason they're only doing 277 of them is that that's the number of underground stations in New York. At the rest of them, they are above ground. You can already get cell phone service.

Now, the good news is, this step into the future is not going to cost taxpayers or subway riders any money. It's likely to cost about $100 million to do it. But the winning bidder will cover those costs and the maintenance of it. The New York Transit Authority, which is fresh from that damaging strike in decent, stands to make some money off of the leases that they get from the cell phone company.

Now, here's the key. They're talking about letting people use cell phones on the subway platforms, not in -- in the tunnels. Now, that might come as a relief to those who thought that the subway ride to or from work might actually be one of the quietest times of the day in New York.

The Transit Authority isn't getting all hung up about the annoyance factor. It says that providing cell phone access is about a service, giving riders the access to 911, for instance. Now, this is not brand new. Here in D.C., you can use your cell phone on the subway, in the subway cars.

Boston has got a system coming in. So does Chicago and San Francisco. So, it's something that's catching on all over the country. You will see it in New York soon -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Ali Velshi, reporting for us.

If you have ever used your computer at work to shop online or -- or pay your bills, you want to listen to what is coming up. A new FBI study reveals, computers at nine out of 10 employers are vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, is joining us with details -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Yes, Wolf, we might concentrate on the security of our personal computers at home, but what about the computer you sit at all day at work?

Well, this is a survey here, the computer crime survey from the FBI for 2005 of over 2,000 employers, organizations, government agencies, different companies. And they respond that nine out of 10 of them have been under some kind of computer crime incident in the last year.

Now, what are we talking about? Amongst the most are viruses that attack computers, behind that, spyware. This is unwanted software that collects personal data about you. It's often hard to detect where these attacks are coming from.

But these two lines here, these are the -- this is the United States and China, responsible for 50 percent of the attacks here -- all of this information at the FBI Web site -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thank you very much.

Up next, what should the United Nations be doing about the Iranian nuclear threat? Jack Cafferty is standing by with your e- mails.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty's in New York with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Wolf, the United States now demanding that the United Nations do something about the growing nuclear threat from Iran.

The question this hour is, what exactly should the U.N. be doing about this supposed Iranian nuclear threat?

Michael in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, writes: "The U.N. continuously demonstrates its ineptitude in taking any steps that might lead to physical confrontation. Economics, which includes the economics of graft, trumps defending world safety."

Sean in Long Island, New York: "The U.S. is trying to use the U.N. to effectively deal with Iran. And that shows progress in our tumultuous relationship with the U.N. The fact that the U.S. and the European Union are working together in the negotiations is also a positive sign.

But they will be hard-pressed to get Russia and China on their side. The U.N. must use this leverage from the E.U./U.S. coalition to back Russia and China into a corner and prove to Iran the international community stands together."

Mark in North Bay, Ontario: "While I agree Iran should be dealt with by the United Nations, I don't feel the U.S. has any right to request it. After years of the U.S. slamming the U.N. over different points of view, such as Iraq, the only reason the U.S. is making the request now is because the United States cannot afford to invade alone. I say the U.S. ought to keep out of it."

Ray writes: "If the United Nations is to reclaim any sort of credibility, considering its previous scandals, oil-for-food, charges of rapes by peacekeepers, it must demand adherence by Iran to the standards of inspection. Otherwise, the U.N. and the rest of the world are doomed to third-rate blackmail."

And, finally, Bill in Huntington, West Virginia: "What problem with Iran? Not to worry. Israel will take care of it, with the clandestine support of the USA. Case closed" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I don't think that is going to happen this time, Bill in Huntington, West Virginia.

You know, the Osama bin Laden audiotape, coming, as it does, right now, raises lots of questions. We are going to have a lot more coming up, Jack, at 7:00, but a quick final thought from you.

CAFFERTY: I just find it ironic. The last time we heard from him, right before the elections. This time, it's right before the hearings on wiretapping Americans' telephones without getting a court order or a warrant. Coincidence? I don't know. Maybe.

BLITZER: We will talk about it at 7:00.

Jack, thanks very much.

We are back here in one hour. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Lou Dobbs getting ready to pick up over coverage -- Lou.

DOBBS: Wolf, thank you.

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